My hard drive is empty, and I love it – Why the Cloud Makes Sense

I haven’t got any emails in my Outlook inbox. I have about 10 files in My Documents. My iTunes is a lonely, desolate place, used sparingly to upload music to my iPhone. I haven’t owned a boxed PC game in years, and I certainly don’t own any notepaper.

This is thanks to being introduced to the Cloud – a term on a very superficial level that refers to things being kept on external servers and streamed via the internet. Its concept and execution are much more complex, and as a result better explained by Cloud Expert James Urquhart at his blog The Wisdom of Clouds (hosted by CNET).

Basically, it means that I am not effectively shackled to one computer.

If I – hypothetically – knock a glass of 40-year-old Banff scotch over my laptop, I can set it aside to dry and continue on another computer. I can keep writing thanks to WordPress saving my progress on a server hundreds of miles away. I don’t even need to break my place in my David Bowie marathon, as Grooveshark restores my 100-song playlist, and picks up where I left off. I keep chatting to my colleagues via Digsby – which, of course, saves all my login details and contacts in just the order I like.

And, when I’m done writing the post, I save the draft, and know I’ll be able to check on it in a few hours – with no need to make sure I’ve saved it in the right format, put it on the USB key, or really done anything, actually.

Sadly, for now it’s far from becoming the core of our computing world – in fact, there’re still major players like Oracle who still don’t quite get it – and there’s a degree of worry over its security, some of which is stuck on the worry of committing all of your files to a server you don’t own and cannot kick when it stops working.

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t consider taking advantage of it. As said, Google Docs can compliment, if not totally replace the Office suite. Dropbox – as you imagine – creates a box of folders that lives online that you can constantly link to and access anywhere in the world. Evernote is the Mossberg-approved notebook that can save just about any file to, again, a store in the cloud. Flickr is one of the oldest and most reliable image-hosts – so much that I’ve been a Pro member for several years, keeping thousands of personal, professional photographs safe. Unlike the five or six dead hard drives I’ve had since then.

And, of course, GamersGate keeps every game I own in one place. But I’m not meant to play those at work.

So, as you can see, Cloud Computing is very much here to stay, and is rapidly approaching the point when I can’t work do any work because my computer isn’t working properly.

Wait, damn.

Virtual Goods and The New Digital Retail Revolution

Earlier this week, New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Center played host to a convergence of two trade shows, as both the 107th American International Toy Fair and Engage! Expo welcomed a diverse group of exhibitors and speakers.  For certain attendees, the pairing of Toy Fair with the Engage! Expo, a conference that focused primarily on virtual goods, might have at first seemed somewhat out-of-place.  Beyond the giant stuffed animals, puzzle games, and highly popular robotic hamsters that populated much of Toy Fair, Engage! showcased  leading entrepreneurs in the new digital retail phenomenon – the virtual goods industry.

As reported by Inside Network and covered here on, this year, the virtual goods industry is projected to drive $1.6 billion in revenue in the U.S. alone.  While the ability to purchase virtual goods has existed in online communities for quite some time now, the phenomenon that is social gaming hasushered in a brand new audience for microtransaction purchases – the general consumer.

While traditional retailers and toymakers struggle to survive the stormy and rather unpredictable economic recession, the virtual goods industry is booming.  Selling non-physical items, the providers of virtual goods have seen just as much (and presumably more) success than long time brands and veterans of the physical toy industry present at the Javits Center this week.  The reason for such success is simple – the provider of the virtual good, which can be looked upon as a modern toy manufacturer, is smarter and armed with more consumer information than the producer of the antiquated physical retail toy.

Continue reading Virtual Goods and The New Digital Retail Revolution

Crush the Castle: an iPhone App Success Story

I’m a lucky man – every day I get to work with and talk to some of the most excellent people in technology, both client and reporter-side.

Hence I’m not sure why I was so surprised when, out of nowhere, a chance encounter with Armor Games founder Daniel McNeely led to working on the iPhone version of one of my favorite flash games, Crush The Castle.

The challenge, however, was getting press for a game that while recently, significantly updated, was months old. Great as a game is, many PR firms would have said that the press (and the consumer) can tend to have a short memory – and that if something is considered ‘old news,’ it’s mostly left to the dogs.

However, this is ultimately what we live for – not so much the thrill of the chase , but to get great things in front of great reporters, bloggers and journalists. Being bad at PR is A) giving up and B) being unable to make something awesome palatable to the press. If you approach every single writer with the same fluffy, hypey pile of marketing linguistics, talking about ‘amazing’ this and ‘stunning’ that, you’re probably not going to get far. If you approach them like a human being and say “Hey, this game’s great. It’s about this, does this, and if you want a code, let me know.”

Guess what? It works. Crush the Castle is living proof – Joystiq and WIRED love it, TechCrunch so much that they put it on the front page – and the Washington Post picked it up, too.  The Unofficial Apple Weblog and Destructoid feel the same way.

And PR moves the needle, too – from the afternoon of the 30th January to today, the first of February, the game had earnestly skyrocketed from Number 80 on the paid app charts to 60 – staying rock solid over the weekend and even poking its head above 58 at one point.

What made it even sweeter was Armor Games’ contribution to the Haitian relief efforts – as part of the Apps For Haiti project, 50% of a week’s profits went to helping those suffering via the Red Cross.

All in all, a success – castles crushed, apps sold, and people helped.

Sword and Poker, the iPhone and the Addiction to Success

Gaia Co.’s Sword and Poker, a seemingly benign and innocent mixture of poker, RPG and Final Fantasy’s Triple Triad, is a pox on my productivity.

I simply must put time into it every day, further delving into the dungeon to stop Chaos, the god of something-or-other that is largely irrelevant to the game and my need to play.

Oh no! Mummies!

It’s a simple enough game – you place cards on a 9×9 board to make poker hands. These, in turn, do damage to your opponent. In the single player mode, you gain items that mitigate and cause damage, change the cards on the board, and even steal them from your opponent. All of these elements, combined with the slow dungeon crawl of killing monsters to reach the end of a floor, are all puzzle pieces that make up the overall experience of the grind – the need to gain more.

World of Warcraft’s success (though partially derivative of Everquest) distilled digital MSG in the form of the grind – leveling, gaining gear, gaining items, gaining something valuable that gave you noticeable improvements to your former/prior something. Be it your ability to shoot bigger and kill things in Borderlands, how much damage two pairs will do in Sword and Poker, or even how accurate your passes are in Fifa 10, the grind has become unavoidable.

It has, as a whole, seeped into the collective development consciousness as a way to keep people playing a game long past its initial shelf-life. Even the Xbox 360’s must-lauded achievement system ties into the deep-seated need for completion in gamers – to the point that egoist gamers can even turn their gamerscores into blogs. The Facebook RPG juggernaut Mafia Wars puts you on a constant treadmill of percentages and ‘jobs,’ frustrating you with ever-decreasing amounts of energy that can only be restored through time or seemingly trivial amounts of actual money.

While this all seems rather seedy, it might help one day to recognize the power of the progress bar, the percentage meter and people’s completionist natures. My former colleague Jon Blyth, an unreasonably talented writer, wrote some time ago about the thrill of a slowly growing progress bar, referring to it as “precious sense of progress” that he can easily get in video games, while this sense of progress is often much hazier (or non-existent) in the real world.

What if colleges added percentage meters towards your degree? Wouldn’t it be nice to know how much classes contributed outside the abstract concept of the credit system? Or how about banks encouraging people to save as little as $100 a month, with each contribution adding to the percentage meter? Take Withing’s tweeting scale – why not harness a Wifi-enabled scale to slowly grind out those extra pounds, towards an established weight-loss goal?

While a salesman may lament the idea of more quotas in his life, it might be possible to use these vague, ludic constructs to get us addicted to self-completion – being a better saver, a fitter human being, or even a better person.

Late Night Madness, 3D TV and Fist Pumping on Broadcast Television

AP Photo/Matt Sayles

With all the buzz of 3D TV emerging out of last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, including ESPN and The Discovery Channel announcing plans to introduce two channels with 3D content, a veteran network was making plenty of headlines of its own.  By canceling Jay Leno’s 10 p.m. prime time talk show, a failed experiment that generated low ratings, NBC has found itself in a bit of a late night quagmire.

According to a CNN report, “The Jay Leno Show” ultimately had the plug pulled due to issues with affiliates, who had complained of terrible lead-in numbers for local news broadcasts. Now, NBC must figure out a way to incorporate its current set of late-night hosts (Conan O’ Brien, Jimmy Fallon, and the returning Leno) into the limited block of time that makes up its late night programming schedule.  Rumors have circulated that Leno will move to 11:35 p.m., O’Brien to 12:05 a.m., and Fallon to 1:05 a.m., but nothing has been finalized and the parties involved do not seem pleased.

Continue reading Late Night Madness, 3D TV and Fist Pumping on Broadcast Television

Talking Madden, Tiger Woods, and the Future of Sports Gaming with Kotaku’s Owen Good

Owen Good,

In terms of respect in the gaming industry, sports videogames sometimes get, for lack of a better term, “the shaft.” Despite the massive annual sales and worldwide appeal of perennial juggernauts such as EA Sports’ Madden and FIFA series, sports videogames arguably do not receive the proper attention in terms of critical analysis and recognition that they deserve from the gaming community.

One person who has made recent breakthroughs in the way sports videogames are received and covered is Kotaku’s Owen Good.  Owen is the voice behind Kotaku’s sports coverage, satiating readers’ appetites for in-depth coverage and discussion of issues within sports gaming through daily updates and his Saturday sports column, “Stick Jockey.”  To further explore the latest issues in sports gaming, Owen was able to sit down with us and share some of his thoughts.

TP:  How did you find yourself in your current role as the leading voice behind sports coverage at Kotaku?

OG:  Somewhat by happenstance, really. Brian Crecente (the site’s editor in chief) and I were both reporters at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, starting within about a week of each other in 2001, come to think of it. We kept in touch after I left in 2004, and in April of last year, he needed a weekend editor and asked somewhat out of the blue if I’d consider it. The role was more part-time then than now. In July of this year Brian expanded my duties to make the job more of a full-time position. Shortly after, both he and the deputy editor, Stephen Totilo, saw that I was writing consistently about sports games, having a great deal of interest in the subject both as a gamer and as a former sports writer. Recognizing that it’s a potential growth topic, we three quickly agreed on creating a Saturday sports column for me. Others at Kotaku will write about sports — Luke Plunkett, especially — but since the column’s debut in August, “Stick Jockey” means I’m the de facto face of sports gaming for Kotaku.

TP:  Sports videogames seem to be frowned upon by other gaming journalists.  Do you agree that there is a certain bias against sports videogames in the journalism community and if so, why?

OG:  I wouldn’t say there’s a demonstrated, overt bias in the specialty press as much as there is a passive, albeit strong neglect. Sports games are a lower priority in general interest games publications and sites, that’s fair to point out. And, speaking for Kotaku, were we to consider only our readers’ reactions, we probably wouldn’t make much of an effort on the subject either. If you were to take these as your only measures, there’s a definite chilling effect seen both in reader comments and the pageviews for sports topics compared to other subjects, and that’s because the typical hardcore gamers who comprise our readership came to gaming for shooters, role-playing games, action/adventure titles — something other than sports. I view this as more of an opportunity; and so does Kotaku’s editorial leadership. We should present sports gaming in a useful and accessible way to all readers, but I think if you’re looking to make a hardcore gaming audience interested in sports games, you’re going to be frustrated. Instead I’m trying to grow our site’s reputation with and exposure among sports gamers, who maybe aren’t as inclined to visit general-purpose gaming blogs. But there’s no question it is an underserved readership. A game like Madden isn’t successful because 10 teenagers buy a million copies each year.

TP:  How do you combat such a bias?

OG:  I’m happy to write about sports games any day of the week. But as my column shows, there has to be buy-in from the editorial leadership of a magazine or site. They have to see the value or at least the potential in sports game coverage, and then give that copy mainstream play within the rest of their report. Kotaku’s taken a progressive stance on both counts.

TP:  In your opinion, what is the single greatest innovation in sports gaming in the last 10 years?

OG:  This probably goes back even further than 10 years, but I think it’s 3D gameplay. Seems a little basic but it completely remade our expectations of the genre. The means to create an accurate league, game, or season simulation, in the math anyway, has been around since Microleague Baseball on the PC in the 1980s. Full 3D motion-captured animation finally brought the gameplay up to TV-like realism and created what we now know as the modern sports simulation — which marries statistical accuracy with on-field verisimilitude, both under control of the player. Prior to this, even a title like the beloved NHL ’94 was more arcade than lifelike in its gameplay. Other than 3D animation, the core components of a sports title — single game, season mode, player creation and roster management, full league licensing — have been around for most of the past two decades.

TP:  Recently, microtransactions have worked their way into the sports gaming scene.  EA Sports introduced the ability to purchase stat upgrades in Madden 10.  Furthermore, EA Sports will offer Tiger Woods PGA Tour soon in a free-to-play, browser-based version, encouraging players to purchase in-game objects.  Do you see this trend continuing, and will it be healthy for sports gaming?

OG:  To directly answer the question: yes, it will continue. While I don’t think they do a whole lot to invigorate sports gaming from a consumer’s perspective, microtransactions certainly don’t harm it. In games like Madden and NCAA Football, we’re not talking about paying to access major features or expectations of a game that should be in the retail code, and the performance boosts are for singleplayer only. I bought all the upgrades for my dynasty in NCAA Football 10, and justified it as a role-playing decision — elite programs make hard-cash investments in attracting and developing their personnel, don’t they? Opening up an extra recruiting pipeline is not even the kind of core game feature where you say, well, if the game was $70 it would be included. At the same time, it’s an extra revenue stream and if that helps keep the price fixed at $60, as a gamer I can tolerate it.

TP:  You recently mention NFL 2K5 as an overlooked game of the year possibility in 2005. Through EA’s purchase of the NFL license for use in videogames, this franchise has taken on an entirely different form since. Through eliminating direct competition, do you feel that financial strategies such as EA’s acquisition of the exclusive NFL license inhibit progress and innovation for sports gaming in general?

OG:  There are two things at work here. One is that EA’s exclusive deal showed up at the same time as the Xbox 360; Madden was rushed to that console and its underperformance on the current generation correlates to that deal, and so everyone blames the deal. Which, to be honest, has its own shady history, as the retired NFLers’ lawsuit drew out in litigation. Without defending Madden 06 to 08, I think this is mostly a knee-jerk reaction, because the same people who rip EA for being lazy in that franchise turn right around and rip MLB 2K, and pine for MVP Baseball the same way they do for NFL 2K5. It has a lot to do with the hypercritical and anti-overdog sentiments native to a lot of hardcore gamers. But the truth is you can’t reasonably expect to transform a sports video game — with much more rigid gameplay boundaries —  on a one-year development cycle the way you can something like BioShock or Grand Theft Auto on a two or three-year cycle. It’s easy to say direct competition assures a better overall product for the general gaming public, but it seems to be an expectation only of sports games, and I’m not sure that its absence means someone’s holding back bona fide game-changing features. I think they’re just harder to execute in this genre once every three years, let alone every year.

TP:  Which sports games currently take up most of your time?  Do you prefer taking the battle online, or playing locally against friends?

OG:  I grew up in North Carolina before we had major sports teams, and I’m a proud alumnus of N.C. State, so the Atlantic Coast Conference is the big league of my youth, and I love both NCAA Football 10 and NCAA Basketball 10. But I’m more of a singleplayer guy. The game you play online is much more mercenary and I don’t have the skills to beat anyone other than a few friends I already know. I also strive to build accurate season simulations — with a few exceptions. In hoops, I love creating myself as a deadeye 99 shooter, automatic even from 25 feet.

TP:  What do you see as the next true step/revolution in videogame sports?

OG:  I think it’d be easy to say motion controls. But honestly, I think most sports gamers gravitate to these sims because the feats of athleticism are so difficult to replicate in real life. Performing some approximation of hitting, pitching or tossing a touchdown pass, either in Natal or with Sony’s motion control, actually holds little appeal for me as a gamer. That’s not to say sports games won’t or shouldn’t develop for that capability. But I think the next step, and the more achievable one, will be full broadcast integration. I can easily see this happening in other sports titles, and EA Sports just sent out a survey about NCAA Football 11 that indicates it’s at least considering such a thing for that title. We’re midway through the current console generation’s lifespan, roughly, so we aren’t going to get increased processing power or memory and the visuals or content that come with it. But as sports gamers increasingly expect to play the kind of game they see on the television, a way to deliver that immersion will be in the use of actual networks’ graphics and sound packages. NCAA Basketball 10 is not a perfect game but, in using two networks’ presentation assets, it is to me this year’s most visible innovator, and at least one major sports title should emulate its proof of concept in the coming year.

How to Pitch Me: Chris Abraham, AdAge, SocialMedia.Biz

Over the past few years, I’ve come full circle.  First a journalist, now a PR rep. In this time, I’ve become fascinated with the pitching process – the gentle art of getting to know a writer and essentially identifying unique angles that will hopefully interest the journalist. Some consider it a dark, subversive art, but others, like my good friend and reporter Chris Abraham, realize its part of the process, and embrace it.

Chris writes for AdAge’s Digital Next,, and a multitude of smaller blogs and guest-posts. He has more than 10,000 Twitter Followers, and insists that I don’t annoy him with multiple emails in the span of an hour.

So, allow us to take you once again into the mad world that is a journalist’s head, and see what his solutions are for the newspaper industry, PR as a whole and, of course, Tiger Sharks.


What do you most want out of a pitch? How do you like to be pitched?

I need any pitch to be as simple as possible for me to respond to.  If you don’t have my in 3 minutes the most you’ll get from me is a tweet. Too many people have crap gifts or they don’t have any gift at all — or any activation request: why do I care?  Even if I know you — I recently blogged for a friend — I will become very frustrated if your pitch requires me to download PDF files, JPG files, sort out EMBED code, find quotable text, and everything else. Things work well if you collect all of that content — premasticated, if you will — into an online Social Media Release (for example).

So, if you’ll notice, you have EVERYTHING available there for the taking — no ZIP files, no PSDs or PNGs — everything is “stealable” from the site — copy and images and videos and so forth – because we’re painfully aware that if you don’t have someone in a couple minutes, you lost them to “never” or “later.”

Also, I’m a sucker for getting a book or a galley in the mail — if someone sends me a book, I always read it and try to blog it — I don’t respond well to PDF downloads or telling me about a book and expecting me to blog about it — I will be more devoted if it comes via FedEx or UPS and even more points for a signature and an author business card — but that’s just me.

What makes a good PR professional?

You in particular do a great job because you treat me like royalty and you also pester me, which I don’t consider pestering because you basically act as my personal assistant until the call is scheduled, the interview is conducted, and then you ping me with great follow-through until my post is posted — and you never criticize me for writing whatever I want — you’re always grateful — also, you have high-caste clients and I always want to get onto a call with someone cool.

What grinds your gears about how PR pros treat you?

I think WORD or RTF or ZIPPED attachments are terrible.  Pitches that have a “no reply” email address suck. Pitchers that don’t reply right away when I reply to their pitch suck.  Stingy or guarded PR reps suck. PR professionals who use CC or BCC and don’t have their outreach sorted out to a professional level suck. PR professionals who don’t ASK me for anything won’t get anything.  This isn’t flirting.  I can’t read minds.  Also, when a pitch is obviously a cut-and-paste — the “real” written part and the pasted “stock copy” — generally different fonts, different sized — usually a serif personalized paragraph followed by the stock email — send to everyone — that is in Verdana. You know what I am talking about — it is hypocritical — they’re pretending to be authentic but they’re really just popping a small message and a really long, annoying, “why should I care” pitch in there.

What can PR pros learn from writers, journalists, etc. about how to do their jobs better?

PR pros need to learn one thing: bloggers are not below the line.  Bloggers need to be treated with as much attention and grace and follow-through as any journalist at the FT — no matter what their “caste” or their “” stats — you can’t treat a Power150 dude good and then a mommy blog bad — they all need to be treated with respect and with as much courtesy as anyone else.

Also, the initial email should only ever be a “so, here’s what I am doing, are you interested” and not complete pitch. Get to the point.

What’s your absolute, downright worst journalist-PR experience?

Well, I have been pretty lucky because I have a thick skin and because I spend more time learning from bad pitches than I do getting angry or frustrated.

How can the flacks of the world endear themselves to you, and build a gods-honest relationship with you?

I don’t know — how have you been able to make me take an hour of my time off to answer some silly questions?  Probably by appealing to my ego (33%) and to my curiosity (33%) and to my interests (33%).

Do you think that social media really is that key to the ‘future of journalism’?

I think community and conversation is the future of journalism.  I am platform agnostic.  What journalism did wrong is this:  journalists, reporters, and papers have started to let their contempt for their readers to show.  They fancy us a bunch of dumbasses who don’t care any more about civics and duty and politics and so they have therefore holed themselves up with the Academy and have tried to write and teach for the readers they wished they had rather than the readers they are losing every day.  After a while of inviting your priest and your teacher to your backyard BBQ, you get tired of them telling you how you shouldn’t be drinking beer or eating pork so you stop inviting them to the party — journalism and print media don’t give people the gift they want, they try to give us the gift they think we should have — and with social media the company store is no longer the monopoly that it once was.  That’s the basic tenet of market capitalism: give the market what it needs, right?  Well, the “stewards” of “our culture” are realizing that they cannot “maintain the culture” for us and also make a profit from advertising and profit.

What’s annoying or encouraging you about journalism and writing in general?

I am reading some really awesome books, all telling the end of advertising as we know it: “Making News in the Digital Era” by David E. Henderson; “The Chaos Scenario” by Bob Garfield; “Twitterville” by Shel Israel; and “No Size Fits All” by Tom Hayes & Michael S. Malone — some very amazing insights into what’s going on right now and what’s coming up in the short-term future — it isn’t really the future, per se, but just a clear look into the tip of the wedge of the present.

How would you save newspapers?

I would turn every newspaper into its very own “AOL” — and I would make news an important PART of the new virtual online community, but I would basically convert the paper into something that news papers have always served as, along with churches and the lodge, which is the hub around which a city spins — and this community would mean that journalists would become only 50% of the equation — the rest would be “citizen” hosts and guides and also paid online facilitators, path-finders, and moderators — experts in their city.  There is a market for this and a lot of the opportunity had been stolen by Yelp and other highly-targeted and highly-relevant national sites — because newspapers were too busy being holier than thou and not becoming an answer to what was, indeed, needed by that community that the paper publicly professed as being important to them.

What’s your favorite movie?

My favorite movie of all time is Being There, starring Peter Sellers.

You have to fight an animal over 150lbs – which one do you choose, and why?

I would choose a Tiger Shark because I think I could take it and even if I couldn’t take it, I think being eaten by a shark is a noble way to go.

Microsoft’s Masterstroke and the Banned of Brothers

On November 10th Google News was filled with stories of Microsoft’s trigger-happy banning of a large chunk – if not the entirety of – those of the Xbox LIVE community who chose to mod their console to play ‘backups’ – in layman’s terms, copied Xbox 360 games. Microsoft claimed that over a million consoles had been banned –most likely due to console-modding, possbily due to misconduct, which ironically created a gigantic used market for modded Xbox 360s.

However, there has been a degree of misinformation about the extent of the bans, the degree of the suspensions themselves, and the exact reasoning behind the “who, what, when and why” of the situation.

The modification itself refers to the iXtreme Firmware (nothing we’d link here), a modification that involves essentially re-flashing/tricking the drive into believing that a game copied to a dual-layer disk is a playable, Microsoft-approved game. The availability of the mod created a gigantic community of game-rippers and hackers, updating the firmware, populating the internet with games, and policing themselves. The community was so established that they’d created automated programs to monitor games, comparing their structures to retail copies.

However, this remarkable yet egregious self-policing was not enough to beat Microsoft. One might wonder how they avoided it for so long, in fact, the community and the firmware existed for years, but Microsoft never banned this many people at once, or, at least, never admitted they did.

This begs one question:

Why now?

The answer is simple. While many outlets caim ‘Microsoft bans X amount of players,” the headline should read that they are simply banning the accounts. To quote CNET’s Daniel Terdiman (and by proxy, InformationWeek):

“…Even if someone has been banned, their Xbox will still play offline games …”

And, furthermore, from a statement from Microsoft:

“All consumers should know that piracy is illegal and modifying their Xbox 360 console violates the Xbox Live terms of use, will void their warranty and result in a ban from Xbox Live.”

These bans are, simply, referring to a ban for the console from Xbox Live. While bad behavior – offensive messages, racism and the like – will lead to a banned gamertag, the million-strong bannings are on modded consoles, leaving the gamertags in tact.

One need only look at the date – November 10th – and the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to understand that Microsoft didn’t wake up one day and decide to execute a million bans. Nobody knows how they did it – some postulate a hidden signal to Xbox HQ inside one of the many early leaks of triple-A titles, others simply think that Microsoft worked out the enigma code behind the firmware.

However, banning a million consoles days before the biggest game release of the year does one thing – it forces those who want to play Modern Warfare 2 into buying a new console, knowing that they’ll receive instant redemption and instant gratification. In fact, Microsoft was even good enough to release a bundle with the game – on one hand to attract new customers, on the other to bring the prodigal pirates back into the fold.

Intentionally or not, Microsoft has converted former criminals into paying customers, and in doing so has sent a powerful warning to current and future pirates.

Selling the Farm: Virtual Goods Summit 2009


Unless you have been living under a social media rock for the past few months, you (or if you are not willing to admit it, “someone you know”) have most likely participated in the latest sensation to hit the games industry – social gaming.  Redefining the market and shifting demographics of those traditionally associated with gaming, companies such as Zynga, Playfish, and Playdom have charged into the space by storm, and as made evident at last week’s Virtual Goods Summit 2009, are here to stay.

Uncertainty looms for the future of social gaming hits such as "FarmVille"
Uncertainty looms for the future of social gaming hits such as FarmVille

There are skeptics who believe social gaming could potentially just be a current trend.  With simple gameplay mechanics and questionable depth, maintaining active users beyond a few months could pose a challenge to even the most successful of social gaming companies currently finding success in the casual market. A potentially more dangerous threat to such companies lies within questionable corporate practices, which has led to some recent backlash as exposed last week by TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington:

“In short, these games try to get people to pay cash for in game currency so they can level up faster and have a better overall experience. Which is fine. But for users who won’t pay cash, a wide variety of “offers” are available where they can get in-game currency in exchange for lead gen-type offers. Most of these offers are bad for consumers because it confusingly gets them to pay far more for in-game currency than if they just paid cash (there are notable exceptions, but the scammy stuff tends to crowd out the legitimate offers). And it’s also bad for legitimate advertisers.” Continue reading Selling the Farm: Virtual Goods Summit 2009

NaturalMotion Tackles the App Store with Backbreaker Football

It took less than 24 hours for NaturalMotion to make an impact on the App Store, as Backbreaker Football has already breached the top 50 for all paid games.  The first in-house game from the development juggernaut that produces the animation technologies euphoria, morpheme and endorphin (rapidly adopted in both the  game and movie industries by companies such as Rockstar Games, LucasArts, Disney, THQ, CCP, Bioware), Backbreaker Football offers a mobile football experience that can be rivaled by none.

The game, which utilizes the iPhone/ iPod touch’s accelerometer controls, presents football in full 3D glory.  Backbreaker Football’s amazing replication of bonecrushing tackles is sure to please both pigskin fans and mobile gamers alike.  Directly inspired by a mini-game taken from NaturalMotion’s  Backbreaker (currently in development for Xbox 360 and PLAYSTATION 3),  Backbreaker Football truly brings a console-like experience to the iPhone/ iPod touch.


As a standalone title, the action and gameplay speak for itself.  Not only is Backbreaker Football an elite application, but its release marks the unique opportunity to showcase aspects of a future console title on an entirely different platform.  The opportunity for NaturalMotion to create both a superior application, as well as officially introduce the world to the powerful gameplay associated with the future Backbreaker console title, serves as a win-win situation for anyone with an iPhone/ iPod touch.

Backbreaker Football


To view the vicious tackles, you can find a link to the trailer after the break..

Continue reading NaturalMotion Tackles the App Store with Backbreaker Football

Kanye West Hates Gamer People

(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Last week, the social media world was taken hostage by Kanye West.  Yes, the Chicago-native rapper, music producer, and singer managed to not only become the topic of conversation around water coolers everywhere, but more importantly, Mr. West seized complete control over social networks, and in particular, Twitter.

Whether or not you tuned in to the MTV Video Music Awards (we all know he did), many of you are familiar with the media-sensationalized Kanye tirade in which “The College Dropout” interrupted pop singer  Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech for “Best Female Video.”  What you may not be familiar with is social media explosion that subsequently occurred as a result of Mr. West’s profession of love for Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video.

I, along with the rest of the TriplePoint team, have spent a good deal of time figuring out the best way to utilize social media to spread client and industry news.  In order to adapt to the changing landscape of media, we “PR folk” are constantly seeking the best methods for distributing such news and having it reach the masses.  Over the last year, Twitter has emerged as a leading source of news information, and the @TriplePoint feed continues to deliver the latest news on not only our clients, but the gaming industry on the whole, as well as other social media trends, insights, etc. From my observations, the opportunity to reach audiences on Twitter was greatly inhibited last week by the eloquent phrase, “I’ma let you finish, but…”

Continue reading Kanye West Hates Gamer People

NYC Gaming Industry Brings Social Networking Offline

Last week was certainly a busy week for the gaming industry here in New York City.

Worlds collided on Monday night as Mediabistro hosted its “Flacks ‘n’ Hacks” party at New York City’s Arctica Bar & Grill.  A wide variety of professionals in both the public relations and journalism fields converged to battle it out in an intense “Flacks vs. Hacks” Guitar Hero competition.  All virtual music rivalries aside, the event enabled PR representatives and journalists to converse with one another, going beyond the walls of cyber-talk and meeting one another face-to-face.

On Tuesday night, the gaming action headed to the Lower East Side for the monthly New York Gaming Meetup, co-organized by Brad Hargreaves of GoCrossCampus and sponsored by TriplePoint.  This month Gallery Bar was host to live presentations of the latest games and technology stemming from the NYC area. Demos from Lior Messinger  (LiveStream), James Prucey  (Canned Bananas), William Stallwood and Dain Saint (Auditorium), and Naveen Selvadurai (foursquare) were complemented by opportunities to talk with a diverse group of members within the NYC gaming community.

Just a short cab ride away, No Idea Bar was the gaming hotspot on Wednesday night, as the NYC IGDA hosted its monthly “Drink Night”.  Catering more towards local, independent developers, an enthusiasm for both gaming and free drinks was on display amongst the attendees.

In the changing social networking landscape, where much of the communication occurs online, these networking events are pivotal in building personal relationships with one another and also serve as a bridge between the media and public relations professionals.

Perhaps of more significance is the contribution that these networking opportunities make towards building up the New York City gaming community.  As the gaming industry becomes increasingly larger in numbers and sheer presence on the East Coast, it’s nice to step away from the screens and meet folks who actually make the games happen.  The drink specials may have been questionable, but the level of interactivity and exchange of ideas made these events a huge success for everyone involved.

Cipher Prime, Winners of the 2BeeGames Indie Game Competition for <i>Auditorium</i>
Cipher Prime, Winners of the 2BeeGames Indie Game Competition for Auditorium
TriplePoint's Andy Rosenberg and Joe Ziemer at Mediabistro's "Flacks N' Hacks" Event
TriplePoint's Andy Rosenberg and Joe Ziemer at Mediabistro's "Flacks 'n' Hacks" Event

Paradox Shines at E3 2009


At this year’s Electronics and Entertainment Expo, Paradox Interactive held a powerful presence, showcasing three of its upcoming PC Strategy titles, East India Company, Hearts of Iron III, and Majesty 2.

All three titles made a lasting impression on media and fan attendees alike, and were nominated for “Best of E3” Awards from multiple outlets.

Of particular highlight, IGN nominated both East India Company and Hearts of Iron III as “Best Strategy Game” contenders. The readers of Voodoo Extreme also found a great deal to look forward to in these upcoming titles, nominating all three for the “Best PC Strategy Award” in the site’s E3 2009 “Reader’s Choice Awards”.

Unfortunately, only one title could win, but Paradox Interactive was happy to take home the award for East India Company.

With a great amount of momentum coming out of E3 2009, Paradox Interactive looks forward to satisfying PC fans soon with the releases of these highly-recognized titles! The wait won’t be long, as East India Company will release on July 28, with Hearts of Iron III shortly following on August 4th.

Munich Gaming, April 1-3, 2009


In addition to Berlin (Quo Vadis) and Cologne (Games Com), Munich also has a big gaming conference. The Munich Gaming second-annual event combined a symposium and consumer event, and took place this month.

Despite the global financial crises, which is affecting the German games business, the event was seen as a success by both the visitors and the organizer. Visitor numbers were up from last year. The Munich Gaming event showed once again the importance of Munich as a European media and trade fair center.

The first two days of Munich gaming were exclusively for a business audience. The third day was open to anyone interested in the latest media trends, and of course, in gaming. The event location was the largest and most modern Cineplex in Munich’s city center. 1200 visitors attended 27 panels and listened to 135 speakers. In addition to providing lectures on topics such as “Communities and eGames” and “Child Welfare in Online Games,” Munich Gaming aims to bring together people of different ages and levels of knowledge. A LAN party for parents, an eSports tournament accessible to anyone, and the German Video Game Awards were parts of this three-day event. Despite being only two years old, Munich Gaming has become an important event for the Bavarian internet, media and gaming industries.

Continue reading Munich Gaming, April 1-3, 2009

USA Today, Reuters Reserve Spot To Talk Target

Earlier this week, Target announced a new nationwide game reservation program that will allow its guests to reserve notable games by purchasing a $1 reservation card.

Here’s what some outlets are saying …

USA Today
“Retail chain Target is joining GameStop and Best Buy in starting a reservation program that allows consumers to reserve popular titles, according to a statement from the company. … Of course, Target isn’t the only one who incentivizes for reserving copies of games . GameStop often includes various perks for pre-ordering, such as exclusive, in-game items. Readers, what do you think of Target’s strategy?”

“Target already lets customer place preorders for video games on its website. But Thomas said it the in-store reservation program has an added benefit  — it will hopefully bring shoppers into its stores more frequently. They can come into its stores to make the reservation, to pick up the game when it’s released, and then again to use the gift card.”