Tuesday, February 28, 2012

iTunes has games, but so does Steam...

Whenever I give real-life presentations during conferences, I often tell my audience about gaming 'new' platforms and gamestores. Steam is an initiative from Valve, the guys that made the hit series Halflife, but relatively unknown to non-gamers. I started using Steam about three years ago and it works really well. It has a fairly large community of 40 million users - of which about 3 to 4 million are continuously online, depending on the time you play your games.
One of the cool things I like about Steam is that you can make screenshots of your favorite in-game moments (kills, wins, leaderboards etc.) using F12. After your match, you can upload your pictures to the Steam cloud and share them on Facebook. This is yet another example how gaming is becoming more and more social. Of course within Steam you can also create various friend lists for your favorite games and see your trophies and achievements per game.
Steam is a 100% digital store, so you buy the games through their online store and download them. Since you account is 'in the cloud' you can always access your games from any PC as long as you remember your username and password (!). The fact that all available games are digitally available, you can also buy and play games that are sold out in real-life retail stores and load of 'golden oldies' from the back-catalogue. That is one of the smartest things of Steam: you can relive and replay those classic games you loved to play for weeks and weeks!

Well - that was just a small and personal description of Steam for non-users and non-gamers, now check out the rest of the facts in the info graphic below!

I guess the rest is stated below... ;-)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Marketing Game... effective or not? Neurology

Buy-ology: does marketing communication work or ... not really...?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to GROW? - I Know!

My webinar about growing your business through digital tools & digital media is scheduled for March 1st at 15:00 CET (that's 9:00 a.m. in New York so bring your headphones to university or to your office ;-).

I haven't figure out yet how I will tell my story, but most likely just from my living room in Amsterdam without any slides (my presentation is on Slideshare anyway)... just telling you my story of how I began in 2009 and where I am now in 2012 using free digital tools and digital media to promote me and my company BrandNewGame...

Be sure to tune in upcoming March 1st at 15:00 CET (9:00 o'clock a.m. in New York)!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Play Your Game: The New Grad Experience at EA

If you never considered working in the gaming industry or for Electronic Arts in particular, check the video... it shows you why EA is such a cool company to work for (according to 4 employees).

It's a hundred percent promotional video for EA, but I think they deserve that after releasing games like Fifa, Command & Conquer and the Battlefield series... ;-)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

PlayStation Vita revisits Commercial 'Double Life' - 1999

Remember this commercial for the PlayStation...? It was EPIC!

Now check out this commercial for the PlayStation Vita:

It's similar ... ;-)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

PlayStation Vita Launch: innovation or recreation?

One of the funniest things that happened during the launch of PlayStation Vita was that the PR-lady introduced the new PSP saying: "I played with it last night and just couldn't stop... it really felt great in my hands..." of course all 640 present nerds (me included) laughed out loud (LOL) and clapped their hands. This was one of the highlights of the presentation of Sony PlayStation.

I don't want to make this posting a 'hatemail' because I love the power of PlayStation and really admire Sony, but during the presentation yesterday they tried to highlight ALL product features instead of picking just a few eminent benefits compared to modern smart phones, like the iPhone.
That's what bothered me most I feel. To name one example, PlayStation claimed to 'start the social gaming revolution', but the social gaming revolution has already started thanks to companies like Zynga with all of their 'social' games on Facebook and Spil Games with all of their gameportals around the globe... and to be honest: Battlefield and Call of Duty with all of their multiplayer features are social as well and what about World of Warcraft where you have to slay dragons with hundreds of fellow gamers in epic battles....?

The intentions of the people of PlayStation was not to be arrogant I'm sure, but promoting the fact that the PSVita has a camera on the front and on the back and that it can be connected to the internet seem outdated Unique Selling Points in my opinion since my iPhone has both of these features...
To help you to an insight on the most stunning USP's, I summed them up below in my comparison of the PSVita with my iPhone...

The advantages of PlayStation Vita compared to an iPhone:

+ Compatible with PlayStation 3 content: play anywhere and even play against PS3 players
+ 'Scratch my back' touchscreen controller for innovative gameplay
+ Physical controllers instead of 'just' touch-screen controls.

The downsides of PlayStation Vita compared to my iPhone:

- It's a lot bigger than my iPhone
- Extremely high priced games compared to 90% of all iPhone games
- PSVita was lagging behind and now just caught up instead of setting a new barrier

Other features are Augmented Reality games and motion controlled features, but that's just tech-shizzle and in my opinion seldom ads great fun to my game-experience. The fact that Microsoft has opened up to all programmers in the world also means they cannot think of enough sound and useful applications of the Kinect-technology. I keep saying that the only good example of Augmented Reality is Layers... but of course I am slightly exaggerating... ;-)

So all in all I am really sceptic if Sony's latest toy will be the big hit they need so much... I know great things will happen soon with the Sony Entertainment Network (formally known as the PlayStation Network), but until then - I don't think the PSP Vita will meet Sony's expectations... I guess Nintendo's unique selling point of providing a safe gaming playground for children is why their Nintendo 3DS is still selling so well. They have a clear focused strategy which will probably help them through these tough years of play...

Now, the retail price for the PSVita is € 249,- which is fair I guess, but games will cost you in between 20 and 50 euro's...

Please form your own opinion and check out the promotional video:

Interactive painting

Forget Play-Doh and stains on your carpet, on children's clothing or even on your walls and ceiling!

Monobanda introduces interactive painting!

Check out the video and be amazed of the easyness and beauty!

Light Canvas from Monobanda on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine and Games...? How I met your mother in 2020...

Today's computer and video games provide interactive environments not offered by other forms of entertainment. From game consoles with Internet connectivity to social and multiplayer online games, gamers increasingly engage with each other as they play, and form strong relationships with players around the world. Gaming has always had social components of course, even starting with Pong on the Atari 2600 that one could play together with a friend, sitting on the couch. I remember playing games like Police Quest and Gabriel Knight for hours and hours with my cousin behind my fathers computer (an IBM 8086). Later we rented a Nintendo N64 or Sega Megadrive at the video store. More recent I played Buzz on my PlayStation 2 with 7 friends during New Years eve and it is these playful and epic experiences in which relations tighten and bonding starts en evolves. 

For some, online games offer the opportunity to connect with others in a way akin to dating websites. Online games enable players to interact with others through chat features from the very beginning, and the central areas of the game environment are often crowded with hundreds of other players. Over time, connections between players blossom into love more than one might expect.
Pete and Hannah Romero, for example, met online playing Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft. After spending a great deal of time playing together, Hannah traveled to Los Angeles to meet Pete. A year later, they married. The Romeros are not alone. Stories from others who found love through games show up in chat rooms and forums across the Internet. Psychological studies and investigative news stories about the role of games in the future of online dating are also becoming more common.

Picture by: Bonny Makarewicz for The New York Times

Games also provide inspiration for creative marriage proposals. For instance, when Gary Hudston decided it was time to propose to his long-time girlfriend Stephy, he turned to a customized version ofPortal 2. Gary shared his idea with Portal creator Valve Software. Valve then helped him get a script recorded by Ellen McLain, the voice of the game's popular villain, GlaDOS. After his collaboration with Valve and two level designers from the Portal 2 community, Gary presented his girlfriend with three levels of the game. After Stephy completed the final level, GLaDOS proposed to her on Gary's behalf. Skip to 3:46 for the actual proposal... the intro is quite long... The scripted event was made possible by two Dutchies (at least by last-names) called Doug Hoogland and Rachel van der Meer. 

One gamer known as DimmuJed turned to the in-game design tools of Sony Computer Entertainment's Little Big Planet. Using Little Big Planet's popular Create Mode, DimmuJed developed his own game level featuring a proposal to his girlfriend. Yet another gamer asked developer William Thurston to create a customized version of the iOS game Foozle that included his proposal.
These are just a few of the stories demonstrating the powerful connections video games can create among players. With 72 percent of Americans playing computer and video games, 50% of all 600 million users on Facebook logging in to be able to play their favorite games and over 200 million people playing Angry Birds, it is likely that stories of gamer romances will become even more common...

Monday, February 13, 2012

PlayStation to become biggest global TV network

After the news end of last year about YouTube dedicated HD TV-channels and Google TV, PlayStation announces that it will rename it's current 'PlayStation Network' to SEN: Sony Entertainment Network. I saw an incredibly cool presentation last week at the 'iMMovator-conference' about connected television where Sony unfolded their plans for 2012 and beyond.

As I predicted in my book 'A Brand New Playground' the 'game consoles' develop into home entertainment systems that are connected to all the content in the world through the internet. The video below shows you how PlayStation was already providing all sorts of content in 2010. It organized consumer content (photo's, music and video's), but was also connected to content providers like Hulu and Mubi (arthouse movies) and loads of other stuff. It's nice to know that currently more than 50% of all PlayStations are connected to the internet, which is about 30 million PlayStations globally...

Now in the near future PlayStation will largely copy Apple's functionalities: the PlayStation will be the core of content that will be accessible by all Sony devices and screens in your household. The cool thing is that they decided to make it an 'open system' based on Android. Hooray for Sony - well done.
Now finally we can access Sony pictures, Sony music and Sony PlayStation content with all kinds of devices and a specially designed remote control with touch screen and a complete abc on the back will help you to navigate through all that content! Sony also promised to deliver full internet access instead of just limited versions of YouTube and Google.

The main difference is that with Google TV on the Sony televisions you can actually watch two layers of content at the same time: internet + television content. Technically these two cannot be integrated as of yet, but the layers are so well integrated that it will feel as 'one' stream of content. The 'older' internet television force you to choose between either 'TV-content' or 'internet content'... the future televisions (connected televisions) will enable you to multitask like you never had before and make your tablet your third screen while sitting on the couch instead of your second screen... ;-)

I will be visiting the release of PlayStation Vita tomorrow where we will hear more undoubtedly!

Meanwhile read some more on the Sony USA website 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thank you reader! -> 50.000 pageviews for my blog

Just a moment of a big THANK YOU to all my readers in the past 3 years.

I grew from 3.000 unique visitors in 2010 to 5.000 unique visitors in 2011 and hope it will continue to grow in 2012 to ... I don't know... 8.000?

Apart from the unique visitors we served 45.000 pageviews in 2011 compared to 18.661 in 2010.

Please spread the word and link your website or blog to mine so we can increase traffic for both of our websites!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Future of Kinect and Alternate Reality

Although a lot of brands (Microsoft, PlayStation, Layer) and trending websites promise a great Alternate Reality and 3D future. I am still full of doubt whether Alternate Reality will change our future in the upcoming 10 years.
When I visited the E3 in LA and ECTS twelve years ago in London there were already 'virtual reality' helmets with which you could walk through virtual worlds and play basic games. But the technique made us sick and to this day the technique still lags... It just doesn't work that well and doesn't really add that much to our real-life experience.

I recently saw this video review of Nelly Playz testing the Kinect Star Wars game and I have to agree with him...: What fun is to play with a light saber if you're not actually holding the light saber in your hands? In this particular case PlayStation Move has an advantage, because you are actually holding something in your hands that 'could be' a light saber. Also because thanks to the device (controller) in your hands the PlayStation system is able to detect distance and movement (Move) in a better way than Kinect can with just two camera's. I expect that if Xbox 720 comes with a 'surround'-camera system the recognition of movement, speed etc. will improve and so will the customer experience. I hope Microsoft is actually developing their Kinect 5.1 system behind the scenes as we speak.

According to the research below done by Ypulse millenials aren't that enthusiastic about AR either...  

AR Apps Are Like QR Codes: Confusing!
Even Tech-Savvy Millennials Are Baffled

NEW YORK, NY February 1 -- Augmented reality (AR) has become the futuristic media of the moment, but many consumers, including young, tech-savvy Millennials, are having a hard time figuring it out. In fact, only 11% of high schoolers and collegians have ever used an AR app, according to Ypulse the leading authority on youth.

“During the holiday season, retailers like Macy’s and brands like Starbucks tried to get customers in the spirit with AR apps. They’re fun and clever, but as with QR codes, Millennials don’t always get the point,” says Melanie Shreffler, Ypulse’s editor-in-chief. “They need to see value in using AR to make the effort to download and use the apps.”

AR apps have to be interesting enough to get users to download them, and they also need to be engaging enough to get users to come back to the apps again and again. But mostly, they have to work right the first time. “Millennials love technology and like a challenge, but fighting with apps to get them to work like they’re supposed to isn’t their idea of fun,” says Shreffler. "If they become frustrated trying to use one AR app, it could negatively affect their opinion of augmented reality technology in general."

Among students who have used AR apps
34% think they’re easy and useful; 26% think they’re easy but not useful; 18% think they’re useful but not easy; and  9% think AR apps are neither useful nor easy to use.

More students think AR apps are easier to use than think QR codes (60% vs. 51%, respectively). According to Ypulse’s Shreffler, “That’s likely because brands and companies that offer the apps have devoted a fair bit of their promotional efforts to explaining how to use AR, whereas retailers seemed to slap QR codes everywhere in the hopes that shoppers would figure them out.”

AR- More Flash Than Substance: So far, Millennials’ impression of AR apps and QR codes is that they’re more flash than substance. Until the technological kinks get worked out and retailers and brands begin to employ AR and QR codes in ways that impact our day-to-day lives, they’ll remain a novelty.

Methodology: The data presented in this release were drawn from 1,300 interviews conducted among members of the SurveyU panel between May 20 and May 30, 2011 and 1,336 additional interviews conducted between December 8 and December 23, 2011.

Respondents were selected from among those who have registered to participate in surveys for SurveyU, a Ypulse-owned online research panel. Quotas were established based on gender, state, class year, and race. The data have been weighted using National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data to reflect the demographic composition of U.S. high school and college students.

Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation in the panel rather than a probability sample, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sample error, coverage error, and measurement error.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

No Facebook without the Dutch

Some facts about the Dutch and the way we connect to the world, did you know the founder of Atari was a Dutch guy from origin...? And did you know that the late Steve Jobs has worked for Atari as well? Some more 'don't need to know but still nice to know'-facts in this two-minute video by the Dutch Scheepvaart museum in Amsterdam.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Superbowl - The Game of all Games...!?

In Europe this is not such a big thing, but I know that the US is talking about it for weeks before the event, so I'd thought I'd repost this item by Adage...

This is where games and gamble meet: the stats and bets!

We have the European Cup of Soccer later this year and I will be posting some facts and figures about that as well, so it seems only fair to give my readers in the US some R.E.S.T.E.C.P.T. as well ;-)

I'd thought I add a good NFL (or NCAA) picture to it as well - courtesy of EA Sports ;-)

And a great video on YouTube accompanied with some Eminem sounds (excuse me for the cursing in the lyrics) that show us the hardest and greatest hits! This is how we do it ;-)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Playing the Samba: All you need to know about Social Games in Latin America

By Morten Geertsen

Ten years ago social gaming in Latin America was not much more than a bunch of empty servers: Yes, it is not the wildest exaggeration to say, that it was almost absent. However, with the expanding internet access and usage in most of Latin American countries, this has changed. Social gaming has not only reached a decent level of popularity, but is seen as something far beyond just a weak trend. Players in the region are increasingly embracing social gaming. And even though the penetration figures are not yet as high as in the United States, the social gaming market is growing up fast, making it widely discussed in studies and eyeballed by foreign marketers, branding experts and game developers, who’re seeing the contours of possible success being sharpened.

While being trapped between the traffic lights – the smoke and dirt of Mexico City’s streets surrounding me – I decided to write about the current situation of social gaming in Latin American with particular focus on Brazil.

The powerhouse of Latin America
Latin American social gaming scene has been helped by the growth of Latin American countries in recent years – with the economy of Brazil being the main attraction, when foreign marketers are taking a look at this area. Brazil is by far the biggest market in Latin America, accounting for 35 percent of this market, which in itself makes up five percent of the worldwide market.
Studies show that the market for social games in Brazil can be expected to grow as large as $238 million by 2014, according to a study released by social research firm SuperData. That’s a significant increase from the $136 million the market is expected to be worth by the end of this year. In that same time frame the size of the social gaming user base in Brazil is expected to grow to 52.3 million.

Earlier this year SuperData released a study showing that virtual goods revenues across all of Latin America are expected to rise to $517 million by next year, with Brazil leading the way, followed by Colombia and Mexico. “With social game revenue growing more than 36 percent over the past year alone, there are real opportunities to capture market share and make the most of this first-mover advantage,” Janelle Benjamin, SuperData’s Director of Research, says in a recent statement.

Localizing with Mentez
A challenge for foreign developers and marketers is localizing social games to the Latin American market. Localization seems indeed to be an essential factor, when marketers want to penetrate the market. To give an example of this, 95 percent of the Brazilians only consume social games in their own language, Portuguese! The existence of local, cultural references is also essential to successfully capture the Latin American audience. Juan Franco, co-founder of Mentez, explains: "Localization is difficult for U.S. developers without help. Many of their games are filled with cultural references – like the Super Bowl and the Fourth of July and Halloween – which mean nothing to Brazilians. So it's not as simple for U.S. developers as translating their games into Portuguese and dropping them onto Orkut."
Mentez is the dominant game publisher in Latin America. From the company’s office in Sao Paulo, it localizes and distributes pre-existing titles for Latin American audiences. The company has a team of artists and product managers who build virtual items that resonate with gamers in Latin America and help craft changes in the games so that they have a Latin American look and feel. The publisher also has a PR team that helps the game get coverage in Latin American publications, and it runs banner ads inside their other games. It also takes a cut on virtual item revenue, so Mentez has a vested interest in seeing the game succeed.
Mentez publishes four out of the five most popular games on the Google-owned social network Orkut in Brazil and its portfolio reaches 22 million active users every week. One of those games, Wonderful City Rio, with game play very close to games such as Vostu’s MegaCity and Zynga’s CityVille – but yet adapted to the Latin American market.

Pointing out the Payment Problems
Although Brazilian users are avid social game players, monetization can be a problem given the lack of adoption of traditional payment methods. For this reason, both Vostu and Mentez have developed alternatives methods of payment. They now use prepaid card offerings that are available at tens of thousands of retail locations across Brazil. Tutudo, a Latin American micro-transactions company, has developed a prepaid card network that has significant penetration and is available to developers not affiliated with Vostu or Mentez.
According to Franco, "in emerging markets like Brazil, 50 percent of the 100 million people who are connected to the internet don't have credit cards -- and so PayPal doesn't work here. So gamers need other ways to pay. With Paymentez, they can walk into an Internet café and use cash to buy virtual credits. Paymentez has over 100,000 retail points of sale. That's just one more hurdle U.S. developers don't have to worry about when they partner with Mentez. They can sit back, get their checks in the mail, and enjoy a bigger footprint worldwide."
Currently the average revenue per paying user in Brazil is $1.87, approximately $0.50 less than in North America. The most popular form of payment is local electronic wallet solutions, such as Payseguro. The largest social network in Brazil is Orkut, which boasts 66 million active users, nearly 60 percent of which hail from Brazil. Games based on platforms other than Facebook, such as Orkut, are expected to reach $5.6 billion in revenue by 2014.

Thinking outside the “Facebox” – Orkut and other social networks
If we zoom out for a bit – now looking at social gaming in a global context – the market seems to be maturing. In addition to a top-heavy marketplace, where big firms dominate and claim the bulk of revenues, the overall space is also increasingly crowded. This forces companies to spend more on marketing, which in turn shrinks the margins between acquisition cost and average revenue per user. One strategy to escape this predicament is therefore to look for other markets that are less mature.

"If you currently only have your game on Facebook, you can double or triple your revenue by working the international markets," says Franco. "The U.S. is a very tough market that's dominated by two or three big companies. So it's very difficult for a smaller developer to compete in the U.S. on the Facebook platform these days. I believe that, for those good developers with good skills and good ideas, exploring international markets could be the best way for them to succeed." This multiplicity of vibrant social networks thus creates a significant opportunity for social game developers willing to port their content to new networks and localize for non-English speaking region.

There exist two major social networks in Latin America. Facebook, who owns every country in Latin America except Brazil and attracts more than 97 million visitors. (In Chile, Facebook even reaches 90.9 percent of all online users, ranking as the most penetrated market in Latin America.) And Googles Orkut, who dominates Brazil. For many years, Orkut was Google’s most successful venture in social, and Google is taking steps to make Orkut a great distribution channel for a broader array of developers looking to target the Brazilian market. Combined with a more mature payment landscape, Orkut presents a potentially lucrative opportunity for social game developers looking to reach the 75M+ internet users in Brazil.

Big but still growing
The Latin American market of social gaming has become bigger the last three years. According to Daniel Kafie, CEO and founder of Vostu, the global advertising market for social gaming is expected to rise to US$ 1.6 billion in 2012. In Latin America, the social gaming advertising market actually reaches US$ 350 million, according to the executive at IAB Now Argentina. A lot of its growth can be traced to the Brazilian economy. However the interesting factor for marketers is more the potential of growth of this industry rather than its current size. To Bloomberg Businessweek Mentez CEO Franco states that since social games are a new business in Latin America, "there is an opportunity for companies like Zynga to be aggressive in that market." Brazil, in particular, "is a huge opportunity," he says. "It's the hottest market in the world today" for social games. This article has highlighted the importance of localization, when making social games seem interesting and relevant to the Latin American audience. Mentez’ major success can be subscribed to the fact that they help companies in exactly this regard – localization. Also the payment problems have been pointed out. However several companies have succeeded in overcoming this problem by implementing alternative payment methods.

3 Latin American games you should try
In ePig (what a name!) you meet Eddie, a cute and adventurous piglet who can jump, surf and dive. Eddie is the star characters of the ePig series, which consists of seven games for iPhones and iPads. In one of the games, ePig Surf Lite, Eddie has to surf the waves without hitting any rocks and sharks. The better you get at moving your device, the fastest Eddie’s boards are. This game is free, so it’s a great way to start before making your move to the full version or to the other games.

In Freaking Inkies the main characters, the Inkies, have invaded your library, and you have to chase them. It means you have to splash them with paint, by combining two colors if necessary. Although it sounds simple, there’s a lot of variety in each level, including Zombie Inkies trying to eat brains. The visual part of the game is particularly enjoyable, and the depiction of each character is nothing less than hilarious…
Finally, in Plock you are challenged to break the cute colorful blocks, by either matching two or more of the same color or by using one of the bombs that you may have earned. Its classic mode is a one-minute match, in which you have sixty seconds to break as many blocks and earn as many points as possible. Once you’re done, Plock’s tease means you will probably want to try again and again!