TriplePoint Rolls the D.I.C.E. Summit This Year

Out in the vast desert of Las Vegas, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences® (AIAS) hosted the 2010 D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit and the 13th annual Interactive Achievement Awards ceremony, and the TriplePoint team was in attendence. Julia Roether, Joe Ziemer and I joined in the event to learn from video game industry leaders, connect with likeminded individuals…..and enjoy that dry, ultra dehydrating weather that only Las Vegas can provide. Overall, we found that the D.I.C.E. Summit is a can’t miss event with informative and thought-provoking discussions from seasoned industry professionals, and we’ve included some of our key findings from the summit below.

One of the most interesting portions of the summit were a series of “Hot Topics” presented by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR). Adam Sessler, Host of “X-Play” and Editor-in-Chief for, led debates on a few different themes, including a discussion on casual games with David Jaffe of Eat Sleep Play and David Crane of AppStar Games. Crane weighed in on the casual market saying that it will likely collapse on itself because development studios have to compete not only with the large scale publishers of the world like EA, but also the average teenager who is creating games in their basements without financial risk. Sessler also spoke with Dan Connors of Telltale Games and Richard Garriott of Portalarium about the importance of storytelling. Garriott expressed that most games with storylines have failed to integrate this properly. Additionally, Sessler spoke with Chris Taylor from Gas Powered Games and Mike Capps of Epic Games about the challenges of being an independent studio, and Taylor joked that his kids probably wouldn’t go to college because of the financial risks he’s had to take in order to finance the studio’s games.

You can also view brief video clips from the Hot Topics session here:

The D.I.C.E. Summit also featured a series of informative presentations from industry leaders, including Jesse Schell, a professor of game design at Carnegie Mellon University and head of Schell Games, who clearly gave the favorited talk at D.I.C.E. this year. Schell spoke about the impact of social games on Facebook platform over the last year, as well as the future of games beyond the online platform. He talked about the convergence of game-like interactions happening offline, and being incorporated into everything else that we do. He also projected that in the future, censors will detect everything in your life and will be used to engage people in gameplay. You can view Schell’s full presentation here:

The 13th annual Interactive Achievement Awards ceremony took place on the final evening of the summit to pay tribute and recognize the individuals and products that have contributed to the growth of the video game industry. It was truly a pleasure to watch Jay Mohr host the event as he jabbed at well-known industry executives with his sharp, totally uncensored comedy. In the end, we found the D.I.C.E. Summit to be a must-attend event for video game industry professionals both for its engaging and insightful content, and its focus on fostering relationships and growth in the industry.

Pretty, Pink and Pretty Smart: Computer Engineer Barbie’s Strides Send Girls on the Path to Silicon Valley

Computer Engineer Barbie (image courtesy this week’s American International Toy Fair, the Mattel Corporation announced Barbie’s latest career as a computer engineer. Decked out in a binary-print tshirt, leggings and sensible(ish) shoes, Barbie sports a Bluetooth headset and carries a pink laptop (with “Barbie” written in ASCII on the screen, cleverly enough). The Barbie® I Can Be…™ Computer Engineer Doll was created by Mattel to inspire a new generation of girls to become part of this growing profession. Let’s hope Barbie can use her computer engineering skills to inspire more girls to become part of the video game profession, a subset of the computer industry that currently has women comprising only 5% of its ranks.

Barbie’s inspiration notwithstanding, women have already begun taking a more active role as both developers and consumers of video games. The Guildhall at SMU, a graduate video game education program, has recently announced that 20 percent of their incoming class is female, and the Electronic Software Association’s most recent survey of gamers has asserted that 43 percent of online players are women. (The latter statistic could most likely be attributed to the popularity of casual games, but also may include games such as World of Warcraft, which has a surprisingly high female gamer population.)

For those who are interested in becoming part of the rising tide of women in the video game industry, the Frag Dolls blog has posted a list of 50 games industry women from whom to draw inspiration, including Corrinne Yu, the Principal Engine Programmer for Microsoft’s Halo Franchise Team and the first female Technical Lead for Microsoft Game Studios, as well as noted game designer Jane McGonigal and Fiona Cherbak, current head of the Women in Games Special Interest Group (SIG) for the International Game Developers Association (IGDA).

Fiona and the Women in Games SIG are spearheading initiatives to help inspire girls and women to take a more active role within the video games industry. Most recently, she and the SIG have created GameMentorOnline to “meet the growing need for peer-to-peer mentorship support in games,” as well as the Games2Girls Program Committee, (chaired by gaming industry veteran Margaret Wallace), which is working in conjunction with the Games Research Lab at Columbia in NY to develop course curriculum to help promote video games as a profession to middle school girls.  Other important programs include the Indie Women’s Game Design Competition, with winners to be announced at GDC 2010, and the Women in Games Preservation Committee, which showcases important women in games through its database and Wiki.

Join Barbie and the thousands of real-life women who are breaking the mold in the computer engineering and video games industries, one pink high heel at a time. For more information, check out the Women in Games SIG, or attend sessions at the upcoming Game Developer’s Convention in San Francisco.

Social, Casual or Both? PopCap Sells Cows, Gives Away Free Milk

So strangely compelling...
So strangely compelling...

In terms of wide-sweeping brand recognition, Popcap is to casual gaming what Nintendo is to gaming in general.  Your Grandma knows about Nintendo, but your Mom might know a PopCap game or two.  Founded a decade ago, the company does a spectacular job of keeping their games in the public eye and maintaining a friendly, unassuming aesthetic.  It’s as if making boatloads of money is the pleasant side-effect of cranking out highly addictive puzzlers, and to be clear, casual games are doing big business.  Most of their games are available on multiple platforms, with free versions hosted at  Because the games are both robust and replayable, it’s no surprise that their perennial favorite Bejeweled 2 hasn’t left the Top 10 Highest Grossing list on the App Store since that category was unveiled six months ago . Continue reading Social, Casual or Both? PopCap Sells Cows, Gives Away Free Milk

“Zero” Marketing is the Best Marketing: Dark Void Zero and Instant Nostalgia [Updated]

[As noted on Giant Bomb, a Zero or “0” in a game’s title establishes that it’s a prequel or remake, ala Resident Evil 0, Perfect Dark Zero and Metroid: Zero Mission.]

Dark Void Zero is a little game with huge potential – the lovechild of retro fan-service and innovative marketing has become a very compelling title, and is likely to lead the charge for similar games. Available today for a $5 download on the DSiWare Store, it’s clearly designed to build hype for its full-priced “big brother” Dark Void, ironically released today for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC – everything except the Wii. The two games are as different as their native consoles – Dark Void is a 3rd Person Action game (think Gears of War + jetpack) while Zero is a 2D action/platformer with a decidedly old-school look and feel. While it’s easy to write off Dark Void Zero as nothing more than a puffed-up, buyable advertisement, the game’s nostalgic details make it worth a second look.

Cheesy-yet-awesome "box artwork" for Dark Void Zero

Continue reading “Zero” Marketing is the Best Marketing: Dark Void Zero and Instant Nostalgia [Updated]

Purposeful Wandering: Exploration in Gaming

I game slowly, and I don’t mind admitting it.  I play games methodically, ponderously, and I like to fully explore an area before moving on.  Strangely enough, though, I’m no completionist, at least in the sense that I don’t strive for every last achievement or feather or flag.  No, I’m fueled by a combination of curiosity and cautious preparedness.  I don’t want to rush into that next boss fight under-equipped, and I certainly don’t want to hurry past a rare item. I’d love to say that my commitment to exploration is a product of child-like wonderment, but in truth it’s been nurtured by years of gaming.

Wandering off the beaten path has been advisable in gaming since the hidden warp pipes of Super Mario Brothers (1986).  Super Mario World (1990) introduced the Ghost Houses, which always featured a boring “normal” exit, as well as at least one hidden exit that would reward the player with goodies like access to the invaluable Top Secret AreaDonkey Kong Country (1994) furthered my curiosity by including hidden rewards in just about every level, highlighted by nothing but a sole banana above a seemingly bottomless pit.  More often than not, the digital road-less-traveled yields a rocket launcher, health upgrade or shiny new motorbike

Gotta Turn Those Blue Squares Pink : Super Metroid

It’s a chicken-and-egg relationship that I’ve grown to love, and when my patience and thorough searching leaves me empty-handed, it’s incredibly frustrating.  I feel betrayed when I knowingly walk an in-game mile in the wrong direction and find naught but an invisible wall.

Continue reading Purposeful Wandering: Exploration in Gaming

Gifted Gamers Give Back this Holiday Season

Childs Play logoThis holiday season, while many of us were busy making lists and checking them twice, gamers across the nation were giving back by participating in events that benefited kids who won’t be home for Christmas or otherwise wouldn’t receive gifts. In the spirit of the season, we wanted to highlight some of the ways that gamers have been bringing – and can still bring – a little bit of gaming joy into the lives of those in need of a good dose of cheer.

Recently, some of the TriplePoint team attended Ümloud, a fundraiser for the popular Child’s Play charity. For a small donation, gamers formed bands and played Rock Band on stage at one of San Francisco’s most popular clubs (a short video can be seen here).

On December 9, Nyko Technologies got into the giving spirit this season, participating in the Gamers United party. Nyko provided several of their latest gaming accessories for the Teen Lounge in the Mattel Children’s Hospital of UCLA .

Game players who have been looking for a fun and easy way to contribute have been logging onto Facebook and playing BioWare Labs’ latest creation, Gift of the Yeti. Every time Gift of the Yeti is played this holiday season, BioWare will donate to Child’s Play (up to a total of $10,000). Facebook gamers have also been helping to feed and educate children in Haiti through Zynga‘s “Sweet Seeds for Haiti” program by purchasing sweet potato seeds in the popular game Farmville.

For those still looking to make a difference this season, you can still donate games, consoles and gaming accessories to the following charity organizations:

  • Child’s Play: Created by the team behind the popular gaming site Penny Arcade, Child’s Play has donated over 5 million dollars in toys, games and books to children’s hospitals across the US, Canada, UK and elsewhere. You can donate through PayPal, or even purchase items through that will be delivered directly to the hospital of your choice.
  • Toys for Tots: Toys for Tots collects new unwrapped toys and distributes them to needy children in the communities in which toys are collected.
  • Gamers United : A group dedicated to highlighting the many positive ways in which gamers contribute to society, its beneficiaries include Child’s Play, Toys for Tots and the Good Shepherd Center of Los Angeles, a center for homeless women and children.

Another way to get directly involved is to contact your local children’s hospital or community center. Most accept donations of your gently used games and gaming consoles (keep in mind it’s best not to donate “M” rated games), or better still, volunteer! Often, time is the best gift you can give.

There are so many ways in which gamers can spread the joy of videogames while making a valuable contribution to those in need. Make a difference in the lives of others, and you might be surprised how great it feels.

Top Ten Video Game PR Moments of 2009

It’s December, and ’tis the season to sit back with friends and family, have some eggnog, and organize an entire year’s worth of events into convenient, easily understandable list form – preferably condensing it to no more than 10 events, otherwise you’ll be… hey what’s that over there? That’s right! It’s a list of the ten most defining PR moments in the video game industry in 2009. What better way to get into the season of unabashed navel-gazing than to summarize the most successful, and failed, attempts at bolstering one’s public image.

#10 – OnLive Streams GDC 2009 – Cloud computing was all the rage this past March when OnLive announced that it had been in stealth mode for seven years and was close to achieving the un-achievable – streaming intensely complex video games to any television or PC. With a major funding announcement combined with a near-fully operational playable prototype, OnLive stole the show with little effort. A perfect PR storm, hardly anything else came close to generating the amout of buzz OnLive did at GDC 2009. Since then, however, we’ve heard hardly a peep, and GDC 2010 is just around the corner. Will it be another seven years until we hear from OnLive again?

#9 – 2K fouls EA at the line – A good thing to keep in mind when promoting your own game is that you should focus on promoting your own game. Never talk badly about a competitor, keep them close for they are your enemy. Such logic was not in mind when 2K Sports community manager Ronnie Singh accused EA of developing a patch for NBA Live 10 before the game was released, saying that their incorporation of community feedback was an exageration. Flame war! These two companies battled it out for days in blogs and on Twitter. Sadly, no one came out on top, and both groups ended up looking silly. What happened to being the bigger person?

Continue reading Top Ten Video Game PR Moments of 2009

Micro-transactions and MMOs: The New Capitalism

Micro-transactions have taken center stage lately as a hot-button controversy in social gaming, particularly on Facebook. But the debate over micro-transactions in other genres, particularly massively multiplayer online (MMO) titles, has been going on for quite some time, even prior to the advent of Facebook. The reaction to micro-transactions as elements of game play in MMOs has often been virulent, with proponents on both sides attempting to sway the other to their point of view.

Why such strong feelings toward one game element? For many MMO players, particularly those in subscription-based games, the use of micro-transactions comes down to a concern about fairness. For the hardcore “raiding guild” players, why put in so much effort and hours of play time into a game, only to have others succeed in the game by buying their way into it? For average MMO players, incorporating micro-transactions into core game play can also create an in-game society of “haves” and “have nots,” with some the players unwilling or unable spend the cash to be a viable part of the game universe.

Auction page from Audition 2, a F2P game from Redbana
Auction page from Audition, a F2P game from Redbana

One could posit the theory that—for Western gamers at least—the issue is really not about fairness, but that micro-transactions violate the virtually sacred principle of what we consider capitalism, or at least its idealized “American Dream” version: “work hard, and ye shall be rewarded.” To many MMO gamers, micro-transactions violate that principle by offering rewards to the user who merely pays extra cash. In some ways, it could be argued that this is a more pragmatic (or realistic) view of capitalism, i.e., “pay money, get what you want.”

It’s not just the players—the micro-transaction debate is an ongoing headache / concern for game designers, particularly those in the West, who have long struggled with the dilemma. In the past, Western designers have steered clear of incorporating micro-transactions into their mass market MMOs to avoid throwing off game play balance and risk losing their loyal customers. However, free-to-play games (F2P), which are supported through micro-transaction purchases such as enhanced character customization, special clothing and weapons, have long been popular in Eastern markets like Korea and China and are now rising in popularity in the Western world. With the increased success of the F2P model, game designers are taking a closer look at this model as a new means of monetization, customer retention and attraction of new users in order to survive in a new era of gaming.

The solution to this dilemma will most likely be a combination of the subscription-based model with a judicious use of micro-transactions, enabling both the idealized and pragmatic versions of in-game capitalism to coexist to the benefit of end users. Ultimately, all successful MMOs will need to include some content in the form of micro-transactions as an additional revenue stream as well as a method by which to obtain and retain users. As an example, one has only to look at Blizzard’s juggernaut World of Warcraft, which recently introduced two vanity pets for purchase (the first micro-transaction that has been offered in this game).

Capitalism in its ideal and real forms can indeed mesh in an MMO economy; by offering convenient and cosmetic enhancements that do not impact core game play on a micro-transaction basis, developers can give gamers the opportunity to purchase items that allow them to express their individuality and personality while still enjoying the fruits of their labor. This solution works for both gamers and game designers, as enhanced content can be added relatively quickly, provide entertainment and ultimately keep the player as a long-term customer.

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

TriplePoint Speaker Series #3: Dan Hsu

Last week we were joined by Dan Hsu, former Editor in Chief of EGM and Co-Founder of the recently launched, Bitmob. Dan spoke with us about his extensive experience in game magazine publishing, the challenge of incorporating casual game coverage with a hardcore voice, the role he feels community has in the editorial process, what he believes the future of video game reporting will be, and much more. Please enjoy the video, and be sure to check out the unique community features Dan is developing at his new site, Bitmob.

Is Video Game Print Media Dying or Evolving?

gameinformer11This week I came across a short article titled, “The Fallacy of the ‘Print is Dead’ Meme”, by Michael Josefowicz. Josefowicz, a veteran of the print media industry, explains that the ‘Print is Dead’ is a meme that is generally perpetuated on a basis of anecdotal generalization by a small but very vocal group of ‘info-junkies,’ who constantly scour the web for up-to-the-minute news and obscure information. Being an ‘info-junkie’ myself, I’m intrigued but skeptical of any argument favoring print media and wonder what it means for video game media.

One of Josefowicz’ most telling arguments is that the “Print is Dead” meme grew prevalent during a “disruptive change in the communication ecology.” In other words, due to the rapid change in how information is exchanged, certain individuals benefitted by garnering a larger audience while others gradually lost their audience. Assuming the shift in audience size is not a result of better or worse content, this is an effect of certain people manipulating the digital pathways of information better than others. New media evangelists benefit from this and defend their newfound digital pathways in any way they can… hence their argument that digital media is putting all other forms of communication to bed.

Continue reading Is Video Game Print Media Dying or Evolving?

TriplePoint Second Annual GDC Party a Success!

View from the TriplePoint Balcony
View from the TriplePoint Balcony

TriplePoint held its second annual GDC party at our offices on Union Square, and this year was even bigger and better! Hundreds of guests from the video game industry – including journalists, developers, publishers and investors – turned up to take a respite from the frenetic pace of GDC and enjoyed drinks, a live DJ and our fabulous balcony view of San Francisco.

The main office featured drinks and the musical stylings of San Francisco’s DJ DTek.  The conference room was turned into a Rock Band venue where heated battles ensured between “aspiring” singers and musicians. The highlight of the evening was our penthouse balcony overlooking Union Square, where guests gatherd to take in the breathtaking views of San Francisco and network with their fellow industry vets.

Mingling in the Main Office
Mingling in the Main Office
guests mingling at the triplepoint party
More guests in the main office
Guests on the TriplePoint balcony
On the TriplePoint balcony
DJ DTek rocks the house
DJ DTek rocks the house