Articles of Interest

GDC always makes for a big Articles of Interest! Let’s get to it:

The subscription-based MMO market grew by 22% in Europe and North America in 2008. Revenues reached $1.4B. WoW, of course, represents the bulk of that amount.

Quite the avalanche of news around OnLive, the new digital distribution service that will supposedly make consoles (and indeed, clients in general) irrelevant. Dean Takahashi kick-started things with the most enthusiast writeup I’ve ever seen published by a professional game journalist on ANY subject. There was plenty of followup; the two best articles I’ve found are a positive take on the implications of a service like OnLive (not necessarily OnLive itself) by Soren, and an article by Richard Leadbetter that challenges the technical feasibility of OnLive on multiple fronts. Both are very worth reading. My take? OnLive is awesome — revolutionary even, if it works as well as claimed. But I’ve spoken to several gifted engineers who I trust, and none of them believe it. Conclusion: OnLive is probably cranking up the hype in hopes of leveraging it to sign key partnership deals and to raise funds that will enable the company to eventually turn the hype into reality. But who knows… maybe my sources (and Leadbetter) are wrong. I really doubt it, but maybe.

Another sign that the economy hasn’t hit the games industry too badly: over 17K people attended GDC, just shy of last year’s numbers. (Great job, Meggan!) Kim has been kind enough to identify some of the best things at GDC this year — check out his writeup.

Nintendo is proving that it is ready to take DLC & Wiiware seriously by adding SDHC support to the Wii and by making it possible to launch games directly from a SD or SDHC card — no more shuffling!

For those of you who appreciated my post on long-lead PR, Seth Godin has some related advice. “The idea of a ‘launch’ and press releases and the big unveiling is nuts. Instead, plan on the gradual build that turns into a tidal wave. Organize for it and spend money appropriately. The fact is, the curve of money spent (big hump, then it tails off) is precisely backwards to what you actually need.”

At GDC, Qualcomm announced the launch of the Zeebo console, which is intended for emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Zeebo has positioned itself as a piracy-free alternative to traditional consoles because all content is downloaded via 3G wireless. Zeebo is also much cheaper than its next-gen competitors, but also appears to be pretty underpowered even in comparison to the Wii. From what I’ve seen, most forum posters from target markets like Brazil seem totally unimpressed. They’ve pointed out that a PS2 is no more expensive but is significantly more powerful (and has a better library of games that they can pirate!) They’ve also pointed out that 3G is currently unreliable, even in some major urban areas. There were other criticisms; bottom line, I’m not seeing the excitement yet.

Information about the sales of XNA Community Games is finally coming to light. There is at least one game that has sold nearly 10k units for $31k revenue (Word Soup), but most games appear to be doing far worse. The sales of certain key titles, like DBP winner CarneyVale Showtime, have not been announced yet so perhaps there is more to this story. That said, it appears that the interface and merchandising challenges facing XNA Community Games have really stunted its early growth — I’d expect to hear much more about “big winners” early in the life of an ecosystem that has benefited from so much overt promotion and community interest. That was certainly the case with XBLA and with the iPhone.

Sony is offering to match the development costs of qualifying independent PSN games in return for their exclusivity. Sony will also aid in design and marketing, and will not claim ownership of the game’s IP. An inevitable (but educated) move, given the competition from XBLA.

Facebook and MySpace social MMO YoVille has reached 7.8M monthly active users, monetized via microtransactions and banner advertisements. Two months ago I’d never even heard of YoVille

Interesting excerpt from a new book, “Team Leadership In The Game Industry.” I enjoyed the case studies.

There’s more to life than games:

Someone made a song about Paul Krugman (the Nobel Prize-winning economist and editorialist for the New York Times.) This part alone makes the whole thing worth listening to:
I mean, don’t you have some influence?
Why aren’t you secretary of the Treasury?
For God’s sake, man, you won the Nobel Prize.
Timothy Geithner uses TurboTax.

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