Should YouTubers Be Considered Journalists?

Much in the same way that bloggers rose a decade ago to disrupt the media landscape by giving readers immediate access to information over their print brethren, YouTubers have arrived in a similar fashion to give a new, younger audience a fresh perspective on the games they love. Though YouTubers have been around for the better part of a decade, it is only in the last year that this surge of user-generated content has come to the attention of game publishers and developers as they scramble to understand how to work with these personalities. Like the bloggers of yesteryear, this influx of influential talent has led PR professionals and their marketing colleagues to learn more about this next generation of game changers but which camp are YouTubers in? Should they be approached like editors? Do they have the same ethical guidelines as journalists? Are they supposed to behave like reporters in the first place?

In the last month, this notion that YouTubers should adhere to similar ethical standards as editors—i.e. not accepting money for content—has been argued both for and against by many in the industry. Lumping all YouTubers into one batch, though, is a step in the wrong direction toward understanding this novel segment. With journalism, all reporters are held to a universal standard, but this is not the case with YouTubers as there are couple different types of personalities to contend with. Instead, when evaluating a YouTuber, it should be done on a case-by-case basis as each one has their own set of rules; some aim toward being pure entertainers, much like a daytime TV talk show host, while others portray themselves as unbiased and critical, much like journalists, in their assessments of games and yet they still do what they do for entertainment purposes.

On the pure entertainment side of the spectrum, look at popular personality PewDiePie. He doesn’t present himself to be a critical voice in the games industry; his videos are mostly comprised of himself and friends enjoying themselves while playing an assortment of games. By no means is PewDiePie proposing that you should buy X game or stay away from Y genre, he just wants to entertain—and he does, to the tune of two million views per video on average.

Is it unethical for an entertainer to accept a branded deal for content creation specifically? If the entertainer posits themselves as just that—an entertainer, much the same way as, let’s say, a comedian does—then it is this author’s opinion that it shouldn’t be an issue who sponsors the entertainer so long as it is clearly disclosed to the viewer the same way it has been done in television for decades.

On the other side of the coin, you have personalities like Total Biscuit who certainly come with their fair share of opinion and whose audience is craving this sort of critical feedback to base their purchasing decisions on.

Could one who proposes themselves as a critical voice in the YouTube community accept promotion for content creation? While accepting payment to create a positive sounding video could be considered a conflict of interest much the same way an editor would never accept money for a positive review, a YouTuber of this variety may still accept branded deals in the guise of voice acting, using sponsored products, and other promotional considerations outside of specifically creating positive videos about games they wouldn’t otherwise play. Branded deals for a critical YouTuber could be viewed the same as an outlet taking ad money from a publisher to keep their site running. While editors can argue that they themselves do not sell ads and that there is a clear separation between editorial and sales, this distinction isn’t transparent when it comes to YouTubers. Again though, any sort of paid promotion should be clearly disclosed to viewers and readers so the audience is aware of the situation.

Simply put, YouTubers are indeed a different beast and should be held to the ethical standards of disclosure, especially when there is money changing hands. Furthermore, these actions should be made clear by both parties involved. This is where the similarities between journalistic ethics and YouTubers end, though. No matter how critical a YouTuber may be, they are still in the business of entertainment and though some critical YouTubers will not accept money for content creation—and personally I feel this is a great thing if one is positing themselves as a serious critic—a YouTuber may still opt to take branded deals, something a journalist simply cannot do.

It is necessary for an audience to determine the validity of a YouTuber’s content and for a PR pro to keep these things in mind when researching who to reach out to regarding a game or product. If a personality has a reputation for not properly disclosing when they take payment for content creation then they’re not a good target for your game as people will question the integrity of the YouTuber’s words in their videos, much the same way a journalist would be questioned if they were caught taking money to write positive articles. Clear disclosure is the ultimate ethic that all of us in the business of brand awareness, whether it be paid or not, should abide by.

Can Console Gamers Ever Embrace an All-Digital Future? Not Without Help From the Big Three

When Xbox One was revealed in May, it was touted as a living room centerpiece and the quintessential go-to for sports and set box interactivity on a scale of integration not yet seen before. In reaction to the inaugural reveal, the gaming masses all cried out in a cynicism that shook the world. “Where are the games?!” the gamers cried. “We don’t care about enhanced TV!” they lamented. One particular provision for the next-gen console was most loathed though—the requirement for the Xbox One to be connected to the internet once a day.

While consoles have seen their own versions of DRM before, such as online pass requirements for used games, Xbox One’s (now deceased) requisite to connect to the internet would have been the first true form of DRM to ever grace consoleboxes and their users. The outcry rocked Microsoft so heavily that the Redmond-based behemoth did a complete one-eighty after E3 and reversed many of its previously announced policies, including that scorned daily online check-in. With Microsoft’s concession, it was a triumphant moment for the everyday consumer, but it also proved something else substantial: console gamers are not ready for a future where digital distribution is the de facto method for purchasing and playing games.

While the notion of not being able to lend out games, or to not even have a lovely retail box adorn your shelf, seems absolutely preposterous to console fanatics, this same concept of digital distribution is one that is cherished—and even preferred—by PC gamers around the globe. How is it that two groups of consumers can be so headstrong and passionate about gaming and yet have two radically different opinions on the subject of how they purchase their games?

Years ago, PC gaming was much like the console: you went to a store, you purchased a box with a disc in it, and you put it into your computer to install and play. One caveat was that often a serial code would have to be entered, something that console users didn’t see until this current generation, but other than that the two platforms were near identical. Same humble beginnings yet two starkly different audiences, so what gave?

You could posit that Valve, and its own platform Steam, have played a large part in swaying consumers to embrace digital distribution, but it wasn’t always this friendly between Steam and its users. Anyone who remembers the launch of Half-Life 2 in 2004, with its then novel idea of connecting to the internet to activate the product as a requirement, will recall just how bad Valve botched the launch with servers not working and how furious consumers were because they couldn’t play the game they purchased. Since that time, Steam has proven to be a viable platform because Valve has consistently shown consumers that they have the infrastructure and bandwidth to make this work and, in exchange for an all-digital storefront, Steam is able to discount its titles significantly when warranted. These two factors are key to understanding why a PC gamer has no problem with not owning a disc.

But whereas PC gamers have Steam, and countless other digital distribution platforms, which invites competition, console gamers only have three: PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, and Nintendo’s digital storefronts across its platforms. Unless one of the big three goes full throttle into digital, it will be a long time before the console gamer can be convinced that their hard-earned cashola is worth spending on zeroes & ones instead of a multi-layered plastic circle purchased at GameStop.

You see Microsoft’s Games on Demand sale going on right now and think, “that looks a lot like what Steam does” so clearly Microsoft knows the power of digital distribution. Sony has been known to have sales of its own on PlayStation Network. However, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo also have strong ties to retail, and as such may be reluctant to move forward with a larger digital presence. Microsoft almost took the plunge with its DRM policy, but withdrew it, and without the support of the big three it will be much harder to change the culture and attitude of the current console gamer.

An all-digital future could flourish on console, and PC gaming has proven that it’s an existence consumers have come to love, but it’s a long way off. Console gamers are reluctant to give up their physical copies, but it may not be because of the prestige of holding onto something (though for a smaller percentage, that could be the case) but rather because no company on the console side has proven to them that there is a significant benefit to utilizing digital distribution.

Valve took a chance on digital distribution and it paid off in spades, the first one of the big three to follow suit will be the winner of the next generation.

Come for the food, stay for the games—an interview with Joystiq Editor-in-Chief Ludwig Kietzmann

While the concept of “media relations” is just one of many key aspects within the world of PR, it is undoubtedly a more crucial component. However, in all our time speaking with journalists and setting up interviews, we seldom get the chance to really question those editors back in a formal Q & A of our own. After agreeing to an interview because he’d “love to inflict transcription on someone,” I had the chance to catch up with Joystiq Editor-in-Chief Ludwig Kietzmann over a San Franciscan brunch where, between delicious cinnamon French toast bites, we discussed his views on where the games industry is going and how PR pros can get his attention. And one more thing, journalists, this transcription thing you all do—I tip my hat off to you.

David: Thank you for taking the time to chat, I’m sure you’re very busy. You are busy, right?
Ludwig: Umm…I don’t think I have anything to do today. I was going to do my laundry; I probably wanted to clean my apartment.

D: Were you going to do anything with the website at all?
L: What website? Oh crap, that thing… I better go.

D: Well first off, you’re brand new to San Francisco in a sense. You’ve been here how long now?
L: Well I’ve been here multiple times through 6 or 7 years, I usually cover GDC, so I’m familiar with the city but this is my first time living in it. I’ve been living here for about two months and, in one of those months, in the apartment that I’m going to stay in forever.

D: Forever? Sounds like you’ve staked out your district, very cool. Why San Francisco? You came all the way from South Africa, you could have went to New York.
L: I could have. I could have gone to any place in the middle of U.S—Chicago. I could have gone to Las Vegas or Miami. San Francisco seems like the obvious choice because it’s really the industry hot bed. I mean I think there’s a lot of contacts here, a lot of events, a lot of coworkers… oh yeah Dave Hinkle – he works here, it’s nice to have some back up for him rather than have him cover everything.

D: Dave Hinkle… I don’t know about that guy sometimes [laughs].
L: I don’t know, I’m getting to know him for the first time now [laughs], and in close proximity. But like I said, it makes sense to me. We needed someone to cover the news cycle in this time zone because we try to have this side updated throughout most of the day. It slows down obviously when everyone goes to sleep, that’s really convenient. And the city, it’s one of my favorite cities in the U.S. Of all the major cities I’ve visited, I really like this one. I like the weather. I like the architecture, the very nature of the neighborhoods.

D: You’ve been in this… game, as it were, for quite a long time. What are some of the favorite types of games you like to review? What are your favorite genres, if you had to pick a few?
L: I like a lot of genres. I wouldn’t specifically lock myself down to specific stuff because, usually, I’ll be interested in certain aspects of all kinds of games. I find it that the games that are most fun to review are the ones that are sort of middle-of-the-road. We could sit down and write a dashing review like, “Oh my God this game is amazing. It blew my mind, it blew all parts of my body, I can’t believe that the amazing stuff of this game is almost perfect.” Or the game was like, you slam it because you hated it, you hated everything about the game. Those kinds of reviews come out really easily but the ones that are, you know, a little bit more mixed, you really have to think about what you’re going to say. How are you going to convey what’s good and what’s bad about it, sort of give the game a fair chance to be judged whether or not it was successful or what it wanted to do. Those games are the most interesting to review, and those are usually my favorite games—ones that are bold but imperfect.D: What is it that you would want to see more of from developers and publishers, from a journalistic standpoint? What can they do to help you guys do your job? And also from the development side, is there anything that you would like to see that hasn’t been done yet or something that you don’t see enough of?
L: If they want to make my job easier, they would let down some of the barriers. There are many channels you need to go through, which are very regulated and strict and slow. Giving us the access to games and inviting us to studios, showing us how the game is made—we don’t necessarily have to write about everything, we aren’t looking for every single little detail to throw on our front page—we want context and see how a game is shaping up; it increases our understanding of the game. That’s how Hollywood works; Hollywood doesn’t keep quiet about certain aspects of the movie. Like “we can’t tell you who is the actor, we know who it is, but we aren’t going to announce it until two weeks before the movie comes out.” That never happens with Hollywood. They are excited to talk about their movie. I want game development to be like that, more open so that we can see stories that are interesting, have some more transparency so that we can spot those things and write about them and aid the profile of the game; I think that’s a win-win scenario.

As for development, I think the biggest danger facing popular big-budget games right now is that it’s sort of designed by a committee. I feel like there are so many factors that need to be considered in terms of budget, and reach, and satisfying the audience. Studios are almost too terrified to try things that might rub ten percent of the players the wrong way. What may have been an interesting idea gets watered down because there is a need to placate everyone. That pipeline of game design which goes through a bunch of people who test the game and make sure that everyone will be happy with it—that makes a good game, it makes for a good game design, it’s important but you could really stomp some of your passionate ideas flat though. You lose out on spikes, and I think games with spikes that maybe rub you the wrong way sometimes will make you feel some kind of emotions whether it’s frustration or elation. That’s something that you lose when you smooth it all out and put it on a nice curve. Those games are valuable, but I think that the expensive crazy ideas are something that will eventually lose. We’ll see [crazy ideas] in indie games…

D: Definitely. There’s been a huge surge of those in the last couple of years. We’ve seen Limbo, Braid, we have Fez coming out, there’s a lot of creativity out there from a lot of developers that aren’t afraid to try things because they don’t have that high budget. They also don’t have those fans.
L: Exactly. The only studios that maybe don’t get enough credit for making crazy big budget games are some of the Sony studios, like The Last Guardian and Shadow of the Colossus. Those are unusual ideas to be spending a ton of money on. Mass Effect, I think, deserves more credit because they are spending a lot of money…

D: Are you saying they don’t get enough already [laughs]?
L: They are spending a lot of money on things that players might have not even seen. That is the most impractical kind of game design that there is. I would be very surprised if we kept seeing games like Mass Effect, like especially to that scale. Ubisoft Montreal, honestly, they do a lot of sequels but one of their games is a historical action game with multiplayer. You know, Assassin’s Creed. Yes, it’s a popular franchise but, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a very unusual concept and they went with it and that is something to be celebrated.D: Tell me, what is the most outrageous pitch you’ve ever received? There’s got to be one out there.
L: You know, there was one recently where someone pitched us interviewing Vern Troyer because he’s a gamer, he can totally talk about games—he has opinions about games, “wouldn’t that be fun to talk about on Joystiq dot com?”

D: So does Ice-T!
L: Right, so does everyone who’s played a game. But because they’re a celebrity now it becomes a pitchable thing.

D: But he is probably the shortest person you might have interviewed.
L: Oh, you know, I should have gotten him because I definitely want to interview someone who is shorter than I am. For once.

D: Where is the game industry headed right now? There’s been a lot of news lately, what are some of the trends that you’re seeing? How do you think gaming will evolve as an industry within the next 5 years?
L: Umm, I think better graphics—I’m kidding. Better algorithms, cooler AI… no, kidding. What’s going to happen I think is that we’ll see a lot more established franchises transition into venues that you don’t normally associate them with, like iPhone—which is a super wide platform—free-to-play stuff, casual-oriented stuff… you’ll see that happening because I think the elephant in the room of the game industry, as it were, is that there are way too many games and you run into the point where there’s a limited pool of resources from your customers that only have X number of hours and X number of dollars in their bank account. Whenever someone buys a sixty dollar game it means they’re not buying the four other games that came out on the same day, and that just isn’t sustainable. And that’s why you’re seeing studios going under, like Bizarre and Black Rock Studio, because that sort of system is rejecting them even though they still have good products and the critical acclaim is there, and even sometimes the marketing is there yet it doesn’t work because you’re just dealing with limited resources.

D: And too many choices.
L: And that’s the problem, the industry is sort of almost over-delivering for the needs of the players and if they could just scale back—not necessarily the ideas—but just scale back in terms of the quantity of games they put out and that some executive approves, because they think it’s a hole that needs to be filled in the market… that’s the problem, that’s why platforms like iPhone are ultra-wide and easily accessible to many people who are more supportive of more games. I don’t think you’ll ever lose hardcore games because the people who make them want to make those kinds of games, you know, just as a creative impulse.

D: So for the PR pros out there, what kinds of subject lines get your attention? Is my “all caps and lots of exclamation points” system not working out for you?
L: [laughs] So, here’s an important thing—and you’ll be surprised that this does not always happen—having a game title in the subject line. I need to know that I’m reading about a game, I need to know that immediately. I think subject lines that are tailored to me, and by people who understand what Joystiq usually covers, that’s how you’ll get our attention. We get a lot of headlines and stuff, or emails and pitches, of things that if someone had read [Joystiq] they would know that we would never write about it.

D: Any examples that you can think of off the top of your head?
L: Like movies, I get stuff about movie stars being in town and if I’d like to interview them and I’m like “well no,” obviously, because we don’t do that. We have a hardcore focus on Joystiq so I think that should guide pitches coming in. Having a prior connection with a public relations person also helps a lot, don’t just kick down my door with a pitch immediately, introduce yourself and tell me who you are and what kinds of games your company is dealing with…

D: You mean, have manners and be proper?
L: Right! And set some sort of context before you blast some email at me, if I know people I’m looking out for emails from them and I know what they represent and what they’re interested in; that’s really valuable. And if you’re wacky, just make sure that you’re not so wacky to the point where it becomes hard to decipher any information from your email.

D: Well that’s about it, thanks for your time! Anything else you’d like to add?
L: Be optimistic! Exclamation point!

How Bloom Energy Bloomed

Have you heard of Bloom Energy lately? Perhaps you’ve just heard of them within the last week or so? For a company that has been around for the better part of a decade, Bloom Energy has gained quite the momentum only recently and in a very short period of time. So what’s all the fuss about? Bloom Energy recently announced to the world that it has created an efficient, clean, and renewable energy source. To be more specific, they have taken fuel cell technology and improved upon it to allow for an energy source that can, eventually, sustain itself while powering houses to buildings to Silicon Valley campuses. And the best part: these Bloom Energy Boxes are portable. Imagine, being able to power remote villages incapable of harnessing traditional means of power with this “magic box” of sorts? With the world focusing on becoming greener, it’s an exciting time to say the least.

With this in mind, why is it that Bloom Energy has fell through the cracks for so long? Unless you’re really into being green, are an industry analyst, or track venture capitalist investments, chances are you may have not been aware of Bloom Energy and its prospect over the last 8 years. Though Bloom Energy has raised over $400 million in VC funds, it had not shown its product once to anyone, which to some VC may be a bit on the unnerving side considering the amount of money being thrown with no return on investment in sight. It wasn’t until a debut on 60 minutes that any secondary means of media attention were gained. A combination of the company’s secrecy plus a well placed exclusive with a mainstream outlet created a flurry of media attention. A press conference was called for the following Wednesday and needless to say, a media circus ensued, allowing the masses of everyday, electric bill paying folks to get a glimpse of what the future of energy production has in store.

So much visibility within a short amount of time can definitely be attributed to a well played PR and marketing strategy. Much like a highly anticipated game coming upon its release date, a few well-placed preview opportunities with notable and reputable outlets will generate a large enough buzz, calling for the rest of the blogosphere to stand up and pay a little more attention. This is the power of good PR, something a firm with great media relations can attain for its clients. Yes, that’s a hint.

Developer Support Is a Bigger Factor in iPad’s Success Than Some May Think

Yesterday, Apple unveiled its much anticipated and highly rumored iPad to the masses and easily stole the media thunder from President Obama’s State of the Union address as well as becoming a top trending topic on Twitter, not including all the joke references to feminine hygiene products. After all the hoopla settled though, many tech editors started to really break down exactly what was revolutionary about the iPad and the general consensus seems to be that, well, there is nothing incredibly outstanding.

At first glance, the iPad looks like a pageant winner. It boasts the same sleek, attractive contours as the iPhone, which has lured many to purchase it based on aesthetics alone. iPad’s larger screen with its 1024×768 resolution is, of course, very much welcomed in a society that loves to do everything bigger and better. And lets not forget about that enticing price point beginning at $499. Apple could set its retail at twice as much and fanatics would still buy the new peripheral in a heartbeat.

Take away the glitz and glamor though and you still just have a glorified iPod Touch:

– there is no camera present (which means no augmented reality)

– no ability to run multiple applications simultaneously

– Adobe Flash is not supported

However, does this mean that developers will be deterred from creating new apps specifically for the iPad? Not necessarily, but the success of this new device may largely depend on developers making iPad specific apps to help differentiate it from the iPhone/iPod Touch as well as other gaming platforms. Between the three aforementioned downfalls of the iPad, the third one may perhaps be the most hurtful. The Android OS as a gaming platform is already starting to gain momentum despite its OS limitations (mentioned a couple months back). What further distinguishes Android in the gaming space is its ability to run Flash, which could prove to be a major game changer in the mobile gaming industry. With iPad lacking this now almost crucial feature for the next generation of mobile gaming, there’s not much else that separates it from its mobile Apple cousins. Sure, iPad packs a much larger processor, but if the console wars of the last five years have taught us anything it’s that stronger hardware capabilities do not equate to increased 3rd party support which is necessary to drive higher console sales.

Undoubtedly, many developers will initially hop on the iPad app bandwagon but if sales of these apps are lackluster we may just be seeing more iPhone/iPod Touch ports appear on the iPad instead. Though Apple hasn’t given developers anything truly novel to work with, the appeal of success is still there and it may be game developers that really help to shape the future of Apple’s new toy.

Tech Toys, Santa, and Potatoes: Chatting with Engadget’s Ross Miller

Ross Miller, Engadget

In our continued efforts to turn the tables around on journalists all over the tech industry and put them in the interview hot seat, today’s spotlight is with Ross Miller of Engadget. Currently, Ross is an Associate Editor for the leading tech blog and is Engadget’s only contact in California. He has been reporting on all sorts of gadgets and gizmos for the better part of a decade and has an extensive tech-related educational background. We had the opportunity to chat with Ross about his work at Engadget, some things to look forward to in 2010, and poker winning strategies.

TP: First off, thank you for making time for this interview. With the holidays and CES just around the corner, things sure are chaotic.

RM: Very much so. My inbox has begun to rebel against me. It’s creating passive aggressive labels just to get my attention.

TP: Tell us a little bit about your position at Engadget. How did you come to be there?

RM: A lot of it came about as a stroke of luck. The abridged version is that around 2005 while in college (University of Georgia) I was looking for a summer job. The university radio station and newspaper weren’t as keen at hiring, so I took a cold call for then-small time gaming blog Joystiq, with nary a resume bullet point. By some stroke of luck I got the gig, we got bought by AOL a year later, and then towards my graduation back in December ’08 I started helping Engadget out in preparation of CES 2009. Just after that I got hired as Associate Editor and moved out to San Francisco in April 2009.

TP: What are your favorite kinds of gadgets to review and which types do you tend to stay away from?

RM: As much as I love LED-flashing TARDIS model on my desk, I think I could go my whole life without another novelty USB device. What really excites me more than anything else is the mobile industry. Even in just the span of a couple years, the technology has grown leaps and bounds, and I’m really looking forward to what next year brings with especially the Android platform.

TP: Are there any gizmos you’re really looking forward to checking out in 2010?

RM: I’m interested to see how Microsoft and Sony’s gesture controls, a.k.a. Project Natal and yet-to-be-officially named “PS3 motion controller,” pan out. In no way do I think either solution will replace the standard controller — there’s too much tradition and precedent there — but as a complementary input method, I remain cautiously optimistic developers will find some interesting and creative uses. Surely there’s been enough trial and error with Wii titles, right?

TP: When did you first realize you were a true techie?

RM: That’s a tough question, I think everyone around me realized it before I did. If an abundance of math and science classes don’t count, probably my moment of no return was when I realize I could program my TI-83 calculator to make games, and more importantly, function as a cheat sheet for exams. That was probably my first all-in-one pocket computer, in retrospect.

TP: Engadget has been named the blog of the decade by Adweek, how do you feel about that? Do you ever use it as a pickup line?

RM: Oh, all the time! Unfortunately, it usually ends with my fiancé making some disparaging innuendo involving low-power Atom processors (if you don’t get that joke, it’s for the best, really). To be honest, I’m just about to hit my first year with Engadget, so I really don’t take any credit for its incredible popularity. I am a lucky cog in phantasmagorical machine running on unicorn tears, and that reader’s choice award is yet another reminder of how fortunate we are to have such a supportive and passionate readership.

TP: For the PR pros out there, what is the best way to get your attention? What do you look for in a pitch?

RM: Just get to the point, really. I’ll sort through literally hundreds of emails in a day, and if I don’t see a key noun (company, product, technology, etc.) within the first three words, there’s a risk it’ll get lost in the shuffle. Spare the superlatives and give us the facts. If we’re making a dream list here, also take a few minutes to think if this is really something that falls under Engadget’s domain. I understand that there’s a pressure to get your clients’ news out there, and I’m not going to call out any specific company or firm, but constantly blasting us every little newsbrief isn’t going to get our attention. Some of the best PR relationships I’ve established started with a little bit of discussion on what we will and won’t be able to cover, and those are the people whose names always stand out, despite sending less messages.

TP: What’s this thing you have with potatoes? Is it possible to use potatoes to help win a poker game? Could be useful for CES.

RM: Haha. So when we were writing Engadget profiles for the redesign, I actually made a list of different closers I could use, just to lighten up the paragraph a bit. I don’t recall the others, but that struck me as one of the more absurd and relatable options. It’s actually a quote from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, specifically Life, the Universe and Everything: “It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.” As far as poker’s concerned, your best bet is to draw eyes on a spud and pretend to talk to during hands. People will think you’re crazy, and that facade might work to your advantage. And if you are actually crazy, well, it still might help your game.

TP: You’ve been in San Francisco for almost a year now, what is the strangest thing you have witnessed in the City while living here?

RM: I don’t even know where to begin. In my first month I found myself inadvertently walking in the Bay to Breakers parade, which is miles-long walk chockfull of elaborate costumes and a dash of streaking. Still, if I had to pick one instance, it’d have to be the recent SantaCon 2009: Total Santarchy. Thousands-strong red tide pub crawl? The things that I saw, I’m afraid I can’t even tell to my family pictures.

TP: You can only live and play in one SF district for the rest of your time here, which one and why?

RM: Given my work schedule, I’m still trying to find time to check out the city, so my view of each district is very incomplete. If I’ve gotta pick one now, I’d have to say Mission District just for the sheer geographical size and variety of bars, dance clubs, restaurants, and shops. Ask me again next year, I’m sure I’ll have a different answer at that point!

Don’t Throw in the Towel for Google Just Yet: Android vs iPhone as a Gaming Platform

boxingWho hasn’t heard of Android lately? Chances are you have at least heard of Verizon’s DROID (running Google’s Android 2.0 OS) since its massive ad campaign started a little more than a month ago. DROID does a whole bunch of stuff that the iPhone may struggle with doing, but there is one thing in our industry that DROID just doesn’t do well at all: act as a viable and profitable gaming platform—at least not yet.

Android is an appealing gaming platform for developers. It offers open-development whereas iPhone has a proprietary, closed system. The app approval process for Android Market is a walk in the park compared to the iTunes App Store, and Android Market’s registration fee costs $25 against Apple’s $99 SDK requirement. So why aren’t developers jumping on the Android bandwagon by the boatloads? Simply put: consumers aren’t paying for apps on their Android handsets like they are on their iPhones.

Econ 101 will tell you that money lies with the market and at the moment, there is not much of a gaming market for Android. Developers have openly discussed the dismal revenues being generated by Android when compared with iPhone’s shining profits for the same apps. Gameloft recently stated that they sell 400 times more apps for the iPhone than they do for Android. Gameloft even went on to announce that they were cutting back investment for the Android platform (yet a few days later rescinded the statement and reaffirmed support). Why the sudden move to reinvest in Android? Possibly because market trends suggest that Android devices could be a serious contender in the near future.

AdMob recently released statistics showing that 75% of U.S. web traffic browsed on smartphones were from either an iPhone or Android device. Of that 75%, Android is holding on to 20% of the web traffic and shows signs of gaining a bigger market share. Android devices are now being distributed by multiple handset manufacturers and available on most wireless service providers, whereas Apple is the sole manufacturer of phones with the iPhone OS and has an exclusivity deal with AT&T for the moment, therefore limiting its rate of growth. With these factors in mind, it will only be a matter of time before the number of Android users starts to catch up to the number of iPhone users in the U.S., therefore building a substantial base market for Android Market.

With the Android install base set to massively grow, here’s the big question: when are all the sweet Android games coming out? The audience will be there, Android Market is equipped to handle app purchases with ease, what’s the hold up? Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle to Android becoming a worthy adversary in the mobile gaming arena is the operating system itself.

Android can only run apps from its onboard memory. On DROID, that’s 512MB. On every other Android device, it’s only 256MB. The Android OS also runs off this same onboard memory, leaving even less space for apps. Furthermore, SD cards can’t be used to store apps on Android either. iPhone can utilize most of its hard drive for storing apps, currently ranging from 8GB-32GB of capacity. Sega’s Super Monkey Ball was one of the first apps launched for the iPhone last year, weighing in at 36MB, and if you could play it on Android, that would already take up a good size chunk of the app space available to you. Fast forward to today’s apps where graphic intensive games like 2XL’s ATV Offroad are 100MB+ and you can already see the problem with porting these bestsellers to Android. Sure there are much smaller apps available but the capacity, or lack of, in Android devices is what ultimately hinders it from being a major player in the gaming space. Even at only 10MB per app, just a mere handful could be purchased and kept on any Android device. How can a featherweight compete against a heavyweight?

Android has a lot of potential for the mobile game arena. If Google addresses some of the OS technicalities, Android could pack on some serious pounds and add gaming to the list of things DROID does.