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Hey! You got your Games in my Internet! Hey! You got your Internet in my Games! mmmmmmmmm

For those of you under 40, search for “you got chocolate in my peanut butter” and marvel at 80s vapidity.


I’m about to regurgitate what gamers already know. If not in the brain, then in the gut. But sometimes it’s healthy to cough up what you think you know, lay it out on the desk in front of you and give it a serious review.


Everyone knows that people love games, but a Nielsen study done late last year is striking. Its conclusion is that, well, Online Games is fucking massive. It’s #2 only to social networks in time spent. It’s the #1 content consumed online, though they qualify their video numbers by saying they don’t measure all video streams (they do include YouTube and Netflix and the like).


Content on the Internet now: (ranked by most time spent)*
1. Games
2. Editorial (news, blogs)
3. Video (TV, Film, man getting hit in the balls with a hammer)
4. Audio (music, podcasts)


This got me thinking…


The “Internet” is the backbone/delivery system of this content. PCs and mobile are the screens. Social networks and sharing services are the free ecosystem that provides and supports relevance to each of the content categories listed above.


With this in mind, what is Games’ future value?


Content on the Internet soon: (ranked by most time spent)**
1. Games or Video – As networks and studios provide more video content “online” the competition with games on Time Spent will be fierce. Games will win on quality time. Video will win on bulk of time spent…It’ll be like the boring Page View argument — “Yes, that’s a valid page view, but is it a valuable page view?” But instead we’ll hear, “Yes, that’s time spent, but is it quality time?”
2. Editorial
3. Audio


So two big moves this way come, and one massive opportunity for someone:


* The mobile screen will be the primary interface, with PCs providing niche, “power-user” experiences. HTML5, app stores and elegant online services will continue to give us everything we need to be productive (even artists/designers!) and have fun on-the-go — minus the big screen and the mouse, which will always be needed. Games on your home computer will go even more fringe as home computers, even laptops, go fringe. It’s no secret that this is a huge threat to all content providers, game makers included.  The old-guard Games industry is NOT ready for this transformation to mobile. Look at EA’s mobile offering (below average, but improving). Look at Zynga’s (as it is, ahem).
* Games will have some real competition for time spent. Since Games already gets underestimated and misunderstood as a market by mainstream business, this means it will only have to fight harder for respect as Hollywood steals the limelight. Nothing new there. Oh, by the way, this is a hope, not a complaint.


But I do think it’s a fundamental question, whose answer will be in the form of the biggest company of this decade. Who will be the mobile provider of the free social ecosystem that provides and supports relevance to each of the above content categories? Mobile Facebook is the likely catalyst, but that’s not a sure thing. Could a game network be the ecosystem? Could 2014 be all about Hi-5 vs. Zynga/MySpace.






One more striking thought, though:


Consider video, editorial, music and games. The four cornerstones of online content. Then consider the primary ways of monetizing that content online…


Ads, promos
Subscription services


The only medium to touch on all of these revenue generators is games. Music gets close but the music itself is not a good vehicle for ads and promotions. Even more striking is this…Not only has the Games market leveraged all of these generators, it’s thrived with each of them. WildTangent, AOL and countless others love in-game integration, Pogo thrives on subscription services, Steam made a billion bucks on Downloads in 2010, Zynga/Facebook use the dollars from microtransactions to wipe the oil stick on their Bentleys.


That. Is. Amazing.



*Nielsen Netview Aug 2010  ||
** Pulled from Ben’s butt

Games postmortem: Games we’ve made — Zombie Roadtrip!

This was a tough one to push out.

Zombie Roadtrip was the result of game design by committee at its worst. There were too many cooks in the kitchen here and the roast came out burned — but kinda tasty anyway! I like playing ZR a lot and believe that the scope’s feel, with the zoom-out, is an exceptional touch. I also like the easy weapon switching, and the “Protect the Puppy” levels, of course.

Unfortunately for everyone it took too long to make. About 9 months. There’s lots of blame to go around for that, but the fundamental issue here is that has never made a game like ZR before. When you cater to a demo of 35-50 year old women there aren’t a lot of zombies wandering around. Once we understood what could make the game work we had already pissed the dev off to no end, and that’s a shame.

Zombie Roadtrip isn’t doing very well on the site. We expected that. But I know it will do well when we syndicate it.

Give it a whirl — and while you do, know that every single pixel was a struggle!Oh yeah, and pass it on to your teenage nephew…

Games postmortem: Jigsaw Puzzles and Broke

I co-produced one with my boss, Greg Mills — Jigsaw Puzzles, developed by the talented Batovi team. It’s a standard jigsaw game with a plethora of features. So many, in fact, that we give Greg a hard time. Let’s just say he likes to give gamers options…


Our game Broke is still in beta, but it’s solid. The game is a little slow to start for some, but give the Pro difficulty a try. It’s a must for old Breakout fans. Plus it has a little social commentary thrown in, thanks to the original design spec by John Benyamine. Check it out to see what I mean. The devs, QB9, did a great job on the art and design. It was a tough game to make but they pulled it off.

Social games are as dead as Facebook wants them to be, which is not-at-all-dead

Alex St. John is at it again.


For over a decade now I’ve watched him grow as a businessman and continue to effectively elicit responses with smacks across the collective face of anyone who cares about the game biz. Much needed, of course, since Games enjoys some of the most brilliant people alive and some of the most tunnel-visioned, not-in-my-house curmudgeons. Sometimes those traits can be found in the same person.


Summed up, St. John believes that social gaming is a mess.


While I completely agree that there’s a lot of unfounded hype in the whole social game market, I disagree on one fundamental point he makes. He seems to be arguing that the old school market works better and is where things will end up again when the almighty dollar dictates the ending.


Half true. Money will write the ending to today’s fading social games market. And that ending will be the emergence of social gaming as the biggest money-maker in games.



Well, the fact is the games market has fundamentally changed. Folks who never played games before now implicitly expect to play with their friends in a passive, non/pseudo-competitive way. They want those social hooks that only linked communities can provide. Who’s best positioned to offer that kind of game?


So once FB gets into the games business, they will be the game to beat. And guess who’s best positioned to be #2? Yahoo, AOL, Google and MS. Why? Because they have the eyeballs and the tools to link people together. If the big players create social games for their services and treat them with the same priority as they do email, chat and search then they’ll make a mint.


The old-school downloads business will continue to be a tertiary way to monetize, if that. Anyone who depends on it will fade away.


Simply put, St. John is dead-on at how ugly things look in the social games market right now. But the result of this mess will be a market ruled by premium services, microtransactions and ads. The biz that embraces these revenue streams and rotates the largest pool of people around their games experiences will win.


Who will step up first? Google Me likely. But I anticipate they will make fundamental mistakes that only an MSN, AOL or Yahoo would anticipate. Namely, how to offer a service that isn’t siloed, but is rather a persistent presence across the service.


Yes, I’m saying the portals have a chance to own a much larger chunk of the games market because they run traditional homepages. Crazy talk, I know. And, hey, they may not step up, leaving the dollars on the table for someone else. But my guess is that Google’s move into social games will open some eyes and set off a new, segmented social games market where at least one social game will exist on every site with enough visitors to convert to players.


The games we’ve made for

Professionally, this year has been a treat in one way over most others. Part of my job at has been to produce original content exclusive to AOL. We’ve made some excellent titles that folks seem to enjoy. It’s a great feeling, and a real honor, to be on a team that entertains millions of customers!

One of the most satisfying and surprising parts of the job is how, as producer, I get to riff on the hard work of people much smarter than me — the programmers. When they code they commit to the fun. Me, I sit around and talk theory. They sit around and execute theory. The only “edge” I have on them is that what they show to me at any given moment is the best they can do to deliver a good time. They often must lay bare their efforts to a critical eye and wait for the consequences.

But, frankly, it’s not much of an edge for me.

I’m usually left in awe of how the vision becomes material due to someone who throws characters and digits at a keyboard, that then go to a screen, that then get saved to a hard drive, that then get tested (x100), that then get uploaded to production, that then delight people of every type.

I’ve always been a developer’s producer. I love them. They’re the reason things work for all of us.

Here are four examples of how they can create a moment for us to relax in.


Microsoft’s new phone OS – the Sony PlayStation of the mobile games world?

Years ago Nintendo sat on top of the game console world. Sega had a share of the market, but Nintendo really bowled people over with new takes on the old platformers. People were hooked.

Then along came Sony.

Before the PlayStation came out I worked at Rizzoli, a bookstore in Soho (since shuttered). With a liberal dress code I wore my Nintendo t-shirt to work one day. Right before store closing, a guy in an expensive suit and ridonkulous tan sauntered up to the register. He took one look at my shirt and pssh’d.

“They are so going down,” he said.
“Pardon me, sir?” I asked, all too accustomed to the arrogance of Soho shoppers, and wondering what beef with the world this bozo was going to take out on the minimum wage monkey.
“Nintendo will fold under Sony’s PlayStation.” His wife came up behind him and did her best to excuse her stupid husband with a “boys will be boys” smirk.
“I doubt it. Nintendo makes good games,” I said. Correct, as usual.
“I’m an SVP at SCE and I can confidently say Nintendo will be #2.”
And with that he looked down his nose and walked away from the guy who just made .0215 cents (before taxes) while ringing up his impulse-buy books.
He was right. And, as usual, so was I. PlayStation kerplowed the world and redefined gaming. They went to #1. For awhile. Now they’re #3. Such is life. I wonder where SCE SVP Man is now.

The point? Besides the historical insight into Soho shopping in 1992, I think we could be looking at a similar shift with the introduction of Windows Phone 7 Series.

It’s familiar isn’t it? The big player in the space in an upstart innovator (iPhone=Nintendo) who stole the crown from a stale gaming market (Sega=Symbian). They seem unstoppable, but what if a big player in entertainment steps in with a better gaming experience at a better price point? That could be Microsoft’s role in the upcoming shake-out. If the hype is even half right, MS is going to release their best mobile OS yet. That may mean nothing, but it may also mean they can carve a massive chunk out of the iPhone’s ridiculously large market share. I mean Apple sells 90-95% of mobile apps. On one device. Uh, there’s room for competition there.

It won’t come from Nokia. They learned their lesson. It won’t come from Google. Their attempt to get into games has been…wait, have they even tried? Nintendo could but don’t seem to want to. They’re a toy company after all.

But Microsoft…well. Microsoft has the urge, the resources, the experience and with W7 Mobile (maybe) the weapon to clear the battlefield and make us re-evaluate what we put in our pocket.

Good times.

I, for one, will be checking out what they have under their raincoat at GDC. I may even miss the iPhone summit to be there.