Do You Really Need a Smart Phone? I Mean… Really?

I heard that Google has released its newest Nexus smartphone and short googling on “nexus iphone” gets me series of threads where Google vs Apple wars are going pretty heated. There’s video reviews that point out how “Nexus obviously is better on this and that feature” and “iFony fanboys” (as some guy commented – heh) shouted back.

Over and over.

I have a really, really basic cell phone. It cost like… I dunno 30 eur? 50 eur at top I’d say. Can’t even remember. I use 2 features of it: (A) phone (aka talk with people) and (B) text messages (aka send text messages to people).

Maybe 3rd one is the calendar that tells me when somebody’s birthday is… but that’s pretty much it.

For game development, I simply haven’t seen much use for smart phones.

I know many game devs have smarty phones (and I’ve mentioned this topic earlier), but now as Nexus was released I started to ponder again: for what would game producers (indie or not) need a smart phone?

Baby Stores Are True Schools of Marketing For Game Developers

I’ve visited a baby gear shoppe a few times (first time that I can recall) and these stores sure know how to sell. We purchased baby bath (among other stuff) and it’s pretty amazing what these stores do saleswise. They are selling everything and anything. It was quite eye-opening and I immediately started pondering what opportunities game distributors must be missing.

Let me break down the “baby bath” (10 dunno how many euros it cost) sales.

  • The actual baby bath: there was several options ranging from 10 eur to at least 20 eur (and my guess is that there’s higher priced options as well). Some models had different plugs and their shape was different. This was bit like up-selling in games: “buy the basic version for 10 eur, but if you get the collectors edition for 20 eur you can have this nice thing with you”. Why there’s no collectors edition for indie games – like with some sort of extra perks or something to praise with others? Maybe even limited collectors edition or something. Could work?
  • Baby bath “thing that makes it stay higher so your back won’t hurt”. Cost (can’t remember) but let’s put 20 eur here again. So, after you purchase the actual product you can also purchase a thing that makes the baby bathing better for your back. This reminded me bit of a cross-selling in games (“buy this game, but also buy this other game because you want it”), but I wonder if there’s any other ways to do cross-selling in games. Selling mouse pads or game t-shirts is pretty tricky since the margins are probably so low that it doesn’t make much sense. Some sort of membership or additional things outside the game could be considered here. (Any ideas?)
  • All the other stuff… all sort of soap, rubber ducks and stuff – they’ve got it. People who go to the store to buy a baby bath come out with a truckload of stuff in their hands. I think some game distributors have managed to do something similar. In Valve’s Steam, at least for me, it’s easy to end up picking some games and just buy them. The process is painless, simple and… convenient. If I want to get some fun lil game, I probably can get it from Steam pretty easily. This is something that indies probably have hard time doing (if they don’t have a huge catalog of games), but definitely something that portals can manage. If they have things to sell… somebody will buy it.
  • They were not selling for the baby… they definitely were selling for parents. Babies probably know anything about some sort of squicky toy lying somewhere in the bath (room). Maybe at some point they understand this, but I kind of feel that 80% of the “nice stuff because baby needs it” parents buy are pretty much useless. And after people get their second baby, they end up selling tons of baby gear they thought they’d need. Not basing this on personal experience – just a hunch telling me after seeing all the baby bath stuff in the shop. -Game devs can benefit strong brands. I’ll give an example. I think I’m not a “true Tolkien fan(atic)” (really), but I do have the books (one of them tice), all the extended edition movies, Middle Earth pen & paper RPG (somewhere), Battle for Middle Earth video game (best multiplayer RTS ever made btw), Lotr Conquest video game (or something like that, can’t remember the game – tested it just once), Lord of the Rings board game (and one expansion to this), Lotr Confrontation board game, Middle Earth Quest board game (just bought)… and probably some other stuff related to Middle Earth brand. Stuff worth hundreds of euros. And seriously – I’m not a Tolkien fan fan. I don’t run naked around hills screaming “precious” or anything like that. I don’t know where Fangorn is located but I do like Tolkien stuff. So – if you can “brand” something… those fans will come buy your stuff. No matter what you sell. (Note to self: stop buying Tolkien stuff)
  • Loyalty discount: Store gives you credits that you can use later to get a discount. Pretty simple idea. “You get credits for your purchase, and can use those credits next time you come here”. I actually found it slightly irritating (I could have just got the immediate discount to be honest) but I guess that’s one thing to consider.

Bottom line: I’m so in trouble when it comes to baby purchases.

Social Games Gold Rush

Here’s a very simple question to anyone who is thinking leaping in the social games (whatever that means) bandwagon:

Would EA/Microsoft/[insert big company name here]/Google/Apple clone my idea and beat me?

Big players have money. If they smell money somewhere, they’ll come there. iFart wasn’t the most popular iphone farting app. There was some other (which name nobody can remember – including me) that was dominating the fart apps, but then iFart came and pretty much cloned the app (changed something to make sure it doesn’t look like a clone) and did better SEO and better marketing – and got the first place. Funder of iFart was actually a marketing guru dude (who isn’t really into gaming at all) and he doesn’t have a big corporation (Apple/Google big) but compared to the other farting app developer, he was a bigger player with bigger marketing.

This same thing happens everywhere.

So, how this thing about “ask the question works”?

Here’s an example. If you would like to do a new innovative social game… you can then ask this question. “If I was to do this new social rpg. Would Zunga clone my Book of Face RPG with better marketing, bigger budget and eventually ruin my biz?”

If the answer is yes, don’t come back later saying I didn’t warn you.

Should you stop… and do nothing?
Sadly, the previous question might lead to a situation where you start thinking “RTS? EA… FPS? EA… 3D Simulation? EA…” and so on.

Which is good.

That means now we are getting closer to what indie dev means.

Nobody has made a zombie MMO, and big corporations didn’t the subject. Well, small indie studio did it (it’s not typical mmo, but tons of players anyway). And now it’s been online for quite a time already. Nobody has created 3D zombie MMO and for some reasons no big corporation is touching the subject. Maybe they thing there’s too little market potential or something. Well, small indie studio started doing it (should be out this summer I believe).

Can you find any big gaming corporation doing any 2D RPGs for hardcore gamers? No, they are busy doing Diablo clones with 3D graphics. Well, one small studio has been doing this type of RPG development in a basement filled with spiders for over a decade, and has been doing pretty darn well.

One guy stopped working at Lionhead and started doing his resource management games, all in 2D. And this guy has been be doing pretty well.

So… should one do “social games” (dunno what that means)?

Well, possibly. If you can find a good angle on things and do something that others might not be able to clone (I don’t know if that means creating a social zombie game that’s so grouse that big corporations won’t touch), or that has something that they cannot clone (people are one thing that are not so hard to clone – just some food for thought). “Working for free” cannot be cloned either by big corporations.

There’s many ways to be unique.

Your thoughts? Are you into this “social gaming” stuff?

Goals For Year 2010

For the year 2010, I have very simple goals.

Personal goals for the year 2010
1. Release Dead Wake
2. Learn how diapers function.

That’s it.

After I get these 2 successfully covered, I’ll set more goals, but for now – I’ll stick with these two.

Industry related thoughts for the year 2010
I have some thoughts about couple of things:

  • Spotify will either (1) leave this planet (go bankrupt, filled with juridical issues) or (2) become a huge, huge success that everybody love. I kind of feel that #1 is going to happen, but hope for the #2.
  • Every real game dev pro will tell people how “social games” and “farmville type of games” will be a huge thing and define there future and stuff. Some other people think differently… but can admit that there might be something going on. My guess is that there will be tons of spam in Facebook by the end of year. Maybe some devs actually make it and some good stuff will come out of this.

Both of these things will be shaping the digital distribution and the future of gaming, although I don’t know in which direction.

We’ll see.

Now I have Dead Wake to finish.

Post Mortem of Year 2009 – Looking Back

Year 2009 is over – has been for a few days now – and to me this means taking a look back in time. In the upcoming post I’ll lay my plans for the future, but now it’s time to take a look at my own predictions for the year 2009 and see how they went.

Industry related 2009

  • I anticipated that Valve’s Steam would publish “program crafted for indies to publish their games”. While this didn’t exactly happen, nowadays they have the Indie Genre. I think they had this genre earlier… but at least they are getting more and more indie games in their distribution.
  • World of Diablo never happened. Maybe later…
  • Big Fish Games has acquired more developers but I think people like them. It’s good portal to go with. Right folks?
  • 89% DX9 support was quite close: about 92% was the figure in December 2009.
  • DX11 supported Crysis 2 has not been released yet… but I guess the devs have put some info out and this has been discussed.
  • Not sure if Windows 7 was delayed, but I think people actually liked it and went buying their products.
  • Alan Wake was not released, but it’s anticipated to arrive in summer. (Too bad they ditched the PC version. Oh well.)

This is actually pretty fun to do these random guesses educated observations and see how things go – I definitely recommend you to do the same.

Own goals 2009

  • Daily updated blog pretty much happened, and I like this way of updating the blog. One year I tried doing “longer posts” but it didn’t feel natural and updating the blog somehow was just not good. With smaller pieces… this is more fun. Trafficwise there’s room for more ;)
  • Dead Wake release did not happen (definitely not in first quarter of 2009 as planned). I’m slightly disappointed that I couldn’t manage to release the game yet, although I am happy that I attended IGF first time and although there has been many technical issues (surprisingly Dead Wake ranked worst in technical excellence, and best in visual arts) I’m getting there… It’s been a huge learning process and great fun to see the game shaping.
  • Prototyping: I did try some experimental gaming but felt that prototyping actually requires more time, thus it’s away from other development – and I stopped this.
  • Insiders press release service is in wide use and we have new different sparring program going on.

I’ll be doing another post about the plans for year 2010.

Cross-Buying

Long time ago in a far away Galaxy I got interested about the Battlestar Galactica board game and eventually bought it (40 eur). I liked it very much, and eventually bought the DVD boxes of the series (100+ eur). Then… I also ended up buying the Pegasus Expansion (another 40 eur).

Total cost: close to 200 eur.

The fact that I had couple of friends paying too helped… but it was quite interesting to note how all this worked. I got interested about the game, then I had to see the movies, then I bought more stuff for the game…

One guy put it this way (it was about a Tolkien based game):

I watch the movie, I want to play the game, I read one of the books I want to play the game, I play the game, I want to watch the movies, or read the books. if our game group continues in this vain we will never stop playing.

Brands. IPs.

Priceless in a long run.

Peter Steve Jackson Comments The Impact of Music

I was checking in the Lord of the Rings DVDs (was checking to see if there was background music available to listen) and just happened to spot Peter Steve Jackson commenting music in movies. Jackson mentioned that visuals and characters can affect to what the viewer sees, but the music is the key to determining what the viewer feels at certain point.

I don’t recall the exact words though (was reading Finnish subtitles you know), but I think this message makes a valid point. If you think of games that have background music – they definitely impact on what player can feel in the course of the game. Naturally there’s things like experiencing the joy of victory and thrill of challenges, but I think music indeed can greatly affect on what players feel in the game.

It can create suspense (I’m thinking of some horror games). It can also create that “action feeling” (Kane & Lynch – in my opinion – does this nicely during action scenes where they start to play rock music for action scenes).

Your comments?

Announcing My Grandest Project So Far

I have been secretly collaborating with a new project that I want to announce now. Here’s some information:

  • Title: (To be decided later)
  • Genre: Action, Simulation, Family Gaming, Adventure (According to many comments…)
  • Players: 1+
  • ESRB Rating: RP (Rating Pending)
  • Release date: March 2010
  • Development team: me + wife

Key features:

  • Awesome physics
  • Sandbox mode
  • Ultra-realistic AI
  • Spectacular effects
  • Procedural sound effect creation

System requirements: Diapers. Patience. Time. Tons of other stuff.