Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year 2008!

Stylish and funny advertisements and signs from Lusaka.

"[Death] watch repair" on the wall of a building which was never finished.


At the Photo Space 2000 they do not only take your wedding picture, they also provide a wedding dress (for free)!
Boom is best for Whites [musungu].
Some of you might remember Nokia N-Gage side talking but what do you say about "hair talk"!
Happy New Year! Enjoy and focus on things that matter!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mobile-geeky-localized-immersive entertainment

Nice report from Nokia: Future of Entertainment - global study.

Method:
- 9 000 consumers (16 - 35 year olds)
- 17 correspondents from The Future Laboratory’s LifeSigns Network
- 10 experts

* Data collected July-September 2007
* Report out November 2007

The report has defined and described the trends related to future of entertainment. The future of entertainment is digital, mobile, geeky, immersive, local(ized), ... Actually there are several interesting findings and "most popular" lists for those who are after some views and ideas of the future of (mobile) entertainment. It was interesting to notice that WoW is not on the list of virtual worlds (probably due to Nokia's definition / exclusion) and that Flickr is not until at the third place.

But instead of giving a summary, it would be more useful to read it through from your own viewpoint and draw own conclusions.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

IMGA 2007 awards

IMGA 2007 Nominees has been published. It's good to see positive (graphically, technically, conceptually) improvement in mobile games. Mobile games might not yet be on the same level as for example Silent Hill Origins for PSP which was what I did last weekend. Finns can read my review from Tilt.tv and others should just try it out - it is scary ;) Anyhow, it is excellent to see how mobile phone has more and more efficiently been utilized as a gaming platform.

It is also good to see an "edugame" Doggy Spanish by Come2us on the list.



That game reminded me of Vilja Helkiö's diploma work Katakana Challenge at Helsinki University of Art and Design. Katakana Challenge is a funny game to teach Japanese Katakana words.

Edugames of some sort were weird-marginal-odd sort-of-games for a long time. At first they were about mixing 60% of this (information) and 40% of that (fun) or adding some humorous twist to education. Nope, that did not worked too well. Luckily current edugames (if I can call them that?) are more about putting information into playful (fun, "gamish") frames. It works nicely as you can see from Doggy Spanish or Katakana Challenge. These types of games might be reality in some sort of education already after a couple of years!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Grannies into games in the US

According to an NPD Group study, 63 % of the US population plays videogames. HC gamers are still males ages 18-34 although "casual games" are somewhat changing the focus.

"Of the people who said they played videogames, 30 % claimed to have played more frequently this year than last, with 40 % spending about the same amount of time playing games each year. The majority of gamers claimed that they saw playing videogames as a way to relieve stress. Both "light" and "heavy" gamers valued gaming as a family activity". (From Gameindustry.biz)

I wonder how the definition of a game has changes within few years due to SNS and other internet-related trends, entertaining game-like applications, advergames etc. How should we define or sort games into various categories? Who defines a game; the player or the designer/industry? Hard core or casual gamer? Is this relevant anymore?

What definitely is interesting is that there is not a clear division between serious and fun. Information overflow, dynamic processes and networking has made it a reality that things should be fun and easy. Social networking is networking but moreover about poking and sending gifts. Finding your place in various on- and offline communities. Learning or working in not advancing from A to B anymore, it is about starting with B, chatting with peers about C and F and maybe playing with A after checking out how D looks like. It is about fun, visual or audiovisual, instant and reactive communication with a number of communities and networks. After that it really does not matter if this or that s a game or a non-game.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Mellan moralpanik och teknikromantik"

Swedish Ungdomstyrelsen just published a book about youth and digital games titled "Unga och nätverkskulturer –Mellan moralpanik och teknikromantik". The book is based on a survey of 2900 16-25 year olds. Their finding is well in line with VTT's Exergame research (2005-2006). Either Undomstryrelsen's study or VTT's Exergame study did not establish any connection between poor physical shape and playing games.

The researchers also suggest that gamers do not drink as much alcohol and can better handle stressful situations than non-gamers. There are also other interesting notions. The only challenge (or problem if you will) is that it is an anthology, a compilation of different viewpoints and writers' backgrounds. Thus it is up to the reader to comprehend the background of the writers as well as to build up the overall picture of the book. There could be even bigger differences within the articles from real moral panics discussions to positivism if trying to cover the discussion as a whole. Anyhow: interesting book, worth browsing (in Swedish only!).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Media, education and mumbo jumbo...

Ministry of Education (MinEdu) funds research on children and media (education). For example MediaMuffinssi program has been started with the aid of MinEdu's contribution. Mediamuffinssi is publishing books and other material for parents and children as well as organizing e.g. Pelixi-competition for children and youth to encourage them to make their own games. Anyhow. One of the most recent outcome of the intiative is "Media effects on minors - review of international research and practices of media education and regulation" report (in Finnish only) published today.

It is good that we have some level of discussion around the topic. It is just so sad to notice how far the officers of MinEdu and some researchers really are from the real world. The suggestions are good ones alright but many of them have already been realized! How can you make suggestions when you apparently do now know what is out there already? To put it another way: If the suggestions are not topical anymore - what is the value of the report?

The suggestions:
1. More funding for national research projects (media education, media psychology)
2. Media culture center should be founded (btw. this was suggested already a few years back in another report by MinEdu)
3. Media education for schools (yes -- good -- by whom, when...)
4. Accessible media education (in relation to this: they are suggesting to fund games which are suitable for children to put it short. Guess what? We already have that by Nordic Game Program).
5. Coherent and media neutral legislation
6. Materials for teaching, intervention and precaution
7. Support for parents
8. Virtual (online) youth and mental health work
9. Structural progress to improve wellbeing

The suggestions are nothing new. Certainly there are always more things to be done. I agree but please! For me the event (room full of middle aged women, not a single soul with insiders with of teenagers' online existence) only emphasizes the chasm between "adults" and "youth" and/or "resolutions" and "reality". At such events, meaningless "wisdom" is been spead to the ignorant listeners.

Instead they room full of people should discuss what is currently happening at the online communities from the viewpoint of media education or child welfare or ask from the youngsters. But no -they go around and around the same topic over and again. Elämä on parasta huumetta ry, Pelastaa Lapset, Mannerheimin lastensuojeluliitto and youth workers from 30 biggest towns in Finland have started their online services (SNS) years ago -- in 2002-2005. That must be news for the writers of the report. But is is just sad - just sad.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

“Killing time at the Facebook while doing homework”

When I was reading Tuija’s blog I remembered Business 2.0 magazine’s cover from March 2007. I bought the magazine from SF airport on my way back from GDC where Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo talked about communities, game3.0 and stuff related to the web2.0 hype. Still it was visibly hard to foresee what was about to hit us all some months later.

At that time everything was 2.0 and social media was all over – and still is. In March 2007 Business 2.0 magazine listed 25 hot startups to watch. The list of 25 hot startups includes companies such as: StumbleUpon ($1.5M), Bebo ($15M), Revision3 ($1M), Metacafe ($20M), SoonR $6M), Tiny ($2.8M), Adify ($8M), Vitrue ($5M), Janrain ($1M), SuccessFactor ($45M), Rearden ($100M), Spot Runner ($60M), SimulScribe ($5M)…

A lot of video related ideas –obviously thanks to the success of YouTube. The list contains also a few companies that have been more on the limelight than the others. With Meebo ($9M) users can access all of their instant messaging applications in a single browser window. Meebo is obviously doing conveniently with their localized websites. Also Slide ($20M) is doing very well – thanks to Facebook (and MySpace). Most likely Slide would not be as big without Facebook because the idea of “sharing” has been lifted to another level with FB. Joost ($45M) broadcast-quality Internet television service has at least got a lot of publicity. And Logoworks ($16.8M) got acquired by HP. Congrats!

Obviously the interesting thing is that not even a magazine which is focused on “2.0” was able to foretell the success of Facebook which happened just few months later. Now it is clear that it should say Facebook at the 2007 box. Another interesting thing is that Facebook is also lacking from the list of 25 hot startups. Facebook was founded in 2004 – which is around the same time as some of the other companies on the list. What about Dogster, Dogbook etc. pet-related communities which are doing well? Even in Finland ii2 which is supposed to be one of the most popular online communities for youth (even though many of us have never heard of it…) has a popular service Petsie.fi which is a Hot-or-Not service for pets basically.

Is it really that hard to foretell the future of digital service business? When pondering the future of digital services I remembered a Google video I watched a year ago. It is a panel of university students chaired by VC guru Guy Kawasaki. It is well lead panel but what is even more interesting is what the students say about things (to come). The panel was held in fall 2006, at the time when students were already starting to move from MySpace to Facebook.




Lessons learned from “25 hot startups”. Venture capitalists do not know either. Benchmark Capital funded many of the Top 25 startups on the list and so far only few of them have been really successful.

Lessons learned from the video: youth are interested about the possibilities of digital communication because they just are and because all of their friends do the same. They are active in many ways. They have presence in several online communities, they send huge amount of text messages (one girl sent 4000 SMS a month!). They do not care about the browser or other minor details – but they do know brands like Google and iTunes. They know what they want. They want things to go smoothly and without any extra hassle. If IE doesn’t offer possibility to open Tabs, block pop-ups or suit for their purposes they will switch to Firefox and so on. In general they “do all” with the communication devices and are available 24/7 via various mobile and online channels. Contacts are important thing but it is also fundamental to separate “Friends” from “friends”. These youngsters had 100-700 friends at MySpace or Facebook out of which they pick their “Top 8” or “best friends”.

Will Dogster be the hot online application in 2008? Most likely not but what will be the next big thing? We have seen friend-lists services where you get in touch with your idols and publish your music (MySpace), share your photo archive with the world (Flickr), have your 15 seconds of fame or put up illegal copies of your favorite TV series (YouTube) and create own applications, poke your friends, send gifts and write or draw to your friends wall (Facebook). Maybe it will be something to do with mobile virtual communities, 3D music shop, intelligent recruiting service, TripAdvisor 2.0? Something appealing to general public and be linked with people’s basic needs in some way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Diggs for the "wrong" purpose

Rating and ranking things, videos, sites, news... is one thing very central to today's social media. Finland is full of digital knowhow and inspiring people: When Finland would be scoring at the Digg for some positive news?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Mobile SNS -- Google vs Nokia?

I attended 'Social Networking Services - Hype or Money Spinner?' seminar earlier today. Hall of fame of Finnish SNS developers (managers, researchers...) plus "SNS gurus" Scott Rafer and Joseph O´Sullivan were talking about SNS: case studies, revenue models, SNS eco-system and way to build value for user community/brand/media.

I do not have the full coverage from the event because I couldn't stay for the afternoon. Anyhow, I would like to share some of my notes from the event. Also some videos will be available at: http://station.goodmood.net/finpro

For SNS developers efficient utilization of networking and social "doing" is a must (obviously). Developers should ponder whether to focus on vertical, horizontal and/or exlusive communities. Meaning: do you build your own SNS, utilize existing service(e.g. FB) or focus on specific niché or exclusive group of users (Smallworld, vampire freaks, doctors network and such).

Nr. 1 revenue model still is advertising, which is boring. Sulake and other online game(ish) services have done a great job in developing novel revenue models, e.g. selling virtual items, in game advertising etc. Despite the case, majority of SNS seem to focus on increasing their subscription rate or number of active users in able to sell more banner ads. Yihaa!

Business people seemed to be really excited about the new networking activities happening within various business networks. They were eagerly telling how they use LinkedIn or Facebook. That is great alright, but from a youth researcher's viewpoint it is funny to notice how little "SNS gurus" know about youth and their media use. They acknowledge that 0-25 year olds haven't experienced a world without the Internet. Then why is it so difficult to follow what the kids are doing online. These web2.0 trends are definitely a cultural issue. It is not just about Myspace or Facebook, it is about a paradigm shift from homepage driven static web to dynamic social hint networks where it is relevant to leave your own mark, rank and rate things and build your reputation which is not your online reputation, it is YOUR reputation per sé -- nicely blending web presence with the real world one.

It was also entertaining by Nokia's presentation. Nokia is trying to expand their business from mobile phones to "online company". That is totally cool, a thing they really should get a hold on. Nokia has been restating their approach which currently is: 1) providing interface to mobile internet, 2) creating mobile services and 3) renewing the way of working by focusing on "tribes" inside the company and with partners.

The development surely is interesting and very worthwhile as it is already now starting to be less relevant if you are logged in via PC, PDA, iTV, PSP or mobile phone. As long as you are logged in and communicating within your online communities often as long as it is convenient for you. Most of you know that where as Nokia is expanding from mobile to the web, Google is expanding from web to mobile. Who would succeed? Both? If I would bring to a head I'd say this is a race between an elephant and a chameleon. Of course that is not totally the case. Instead of size it is more about grasping the moment, understanding the mobility at its best, make it simple, NECESSARY and act fast! Nevertheless the race between Nokia and Google will be an interesting one.

Google basics: offices in 26 countries, 15,916 emplyees (~10 new employees per day on average), 158 domains and more than 100 languages, R&D in the USA and Bangalore, focused on buying expertise and companies, "Open" approach, selling advertise space (AdSense).

Slogan: "Don't be evil"
Mission statement: "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

Known products or services: Gmail, Google earth, Google search, Google alert, YouTube, Blogger...

Nokia basics: R&D presence in 11 countries, production facilities in 9 countries, offices in 30 countries, 68 483 emplyees, "Closed"approach, selling mobile phones and appliances.

Slogan: "Connecting people"
Mission statement ("sort of" because I couldn't find the official one if there's any): "Dedicated to enhancing people's lives and productivity by providing easy-to-use and secure products like mobile phones, and solutions for imaging, games, media, mobile network operators and businesses."

Known products or services: N-Gage [sidetalking;)], Nokia phones, Nokia networks, MyNokia?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mobile gaming revenues 9% down, but generally doing well

"Mobile-gaming market suffered a reversal of fortune in the second quarter of 2007 as revenues for title publishers declined by 9 % sequentially, compared with 11 % growth in the first quarter." [iSuppli Corp].

iSuppli suggests that because the current crop of mobile games is centered on casual players, one way to encourage a new demographic to play games on their mobile handsets would be to develop titles that support networked and/or multiplayer gaming.

Despite the short-term setback, mobile gaming revenue is expected to nearly triple by 2011, growing to $6.6 billion, managing a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23.2 percent from $2.3 billion in 2006.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Game software sales up to 52% in Finland

According to Finnish Game software and multimedia association Figma, game software market has gone up ~52% in Finland. Last year the sales (January-September) were 30,7 MEUR where as now the sales have gone up to 46,6 MEUR. Console games generated 61% ("third" generation console games 23%, "second" generation 32% and handheld games 6%) and PC games 39% of the market.

1,3 million games have already been sold but the typically over 50% of the yearly sales is done during the last quarter! I wish Finnish game developers get a good share of sales as well.

I guess the biggest thanks goes to Shigeru Miyamoto's "Wife-o-meter" approach to game design, social games for all (Buzz, Singstar) on PS2 and WoW.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Play = communication = learning = creativity

Experience economy has been topical since the beginning of 90s. In 1992 professor Gerhard Schulze wrote about Erlebnisgesellschaft (experience economy) and noticed the rising importance of 'experiences' in our society. In 1996 Michel Maffesoli in his book "The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society" linked the discussion of neo-tribes with postmodern time and described what he perceived to be the transient, spontaneous and affective communities that make up late modern consumer-based societies.

This came even more evident after internet became widespread everyday tool for many with different channels and short- or longterm groups or tribes. In 1999 James Gilmore and Joseph Pine (“The Experience Economy”) and Rolf Jensen ("The Dream Society. How the Coming Shift from Information to Imagination Will Transform Your Business") linked the discussion of neo-tribes and experience economy with business.

That was the real kick-off for “experience economy” era and end of information society as technology-driven office-desk community. Where as information was technology, experience is content, participation and emotions. Speed, real time interaction, profit responsibility and experiences have become ideals which will lead to the stage where decision and action is not controlled the same way anymore and where cause-effect start losing its meaning.

Communities, UGC and playfulness all focus on packaging, sharing and delivering the information in an interesting way. People want to have fun, they want to contribute, rank and rate things. They want to stand out, build reputation and have their 15 seconds of fame.

I was involved in Virtahepo project (2005-2006) where we studied how youth workers could utilize the net more 'youth-friendly' way. We made a survey (N=1572) at Habbo Hotel (Finland) and asked what kids (10-18 year olds) would like to do at the online youth house. They wish to have surveys (20% girls /20% boys), one to one discussions (20% / 11%) , games (19% / 35%,) events (15% / 14%)... etc. That was something current Netari-environments Habbo or IRC-gallery could not provide. It seemed difficult to think of any service which would combine all these things together.

Now when talking about the possibilities of elearning or edugames, digital youth work arenas and casual gaming -- it is clear which service is answering many current needs of flexibility. That is of course Facebook. It is a service where people can create something by themselves, modify, share information, add applications, communicate or distribute content, do networking with people from best friends to acquaintances, form groups, play together, share ideas, arrange happenings and invite people to join.

I would claim that Facebook type of "gaming" will be a new trend in casual gaming. It also gives a lot of potential to edugaming, virtual youth work and ways to link benefit with pleasure. People who really are not into nerdy things or gaming like to play with their friends at the context of Facebook where it is not really Playing, it is hanging around and communicating with friends. Also one can compete with their actual friends, not just with random people who have played Zuma for 24/7 for the last five months with unattainable high scores. Playing is not only Game-games, it can also be a "game" to send a fish to someone's acquarium or to compare super hero, TV-program or favourite drink ratings. Anything and everything from hard core to casual gaming, from "Who wants to be a millionaire?" to poker tournaments.

TechDigest has listed 101 more cool Facebook applications. It gives a nice overview of the scale of F-applications. The interesting thing is that many of these applications are mixing benefit with pleasure – offering possibilities for communication and variety of information in a game/fun/experience/entertainment format.

An addition to this because I just learned from another blog:
"Facebook developers recently added a Daily Active Users metric to their Applications page, and those numbers drastically changed my thinking of what games are currently working on the social network." INTERESTING!

"In fact, most FB games attract everyday usage of around 10% or less."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Call for (Finnish) researchers: Youth & SNS

Just a quick note (mainly) for Finnish readers-- we (Finnish Youth Research Network) have collected quantitative data from Japan, South Korea and Finland. The focus group is youth from 15 to 29 year olds and the topic of the survey social networking (online & mobile), users as content creators, web communities, attitudes and trust, etc. Anything and everything related to media use from the "social media" viewpoint. We hope to utilize the data as efficiently as possible. If you are interested to use the data and write an article -- let me know before 1st of Nov. >> skangas [@] welho [.] com.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

FPS / pro- / money fusion gaming

Money gaming is not just gambling or pro-gaming tournaments. So far money gaming has been conventional gambling or "winner takes it all" type of pro-gaming. Now at least Kwari is trying to introduce a bit different approach with their money skill gaming. Kwari is a FPS where every time you hit another player you make money and vice versa. Also e.g. doing damage to yourself, breaking crates or picking up additional weapons have a cost attached. There are different jackpots to go for. Kwari is a skill game where (if I understood correctly) there are no subscription fees but people would pay for ammo and additional weapons.

Another a bit different approach to money gaming is Moola. "Moola is something like a free super-jackpot game show, which allows anyone to become a millionaire on the internet, rather than watching others do so on TV. "

Both Kwari and Moola are now on beta. For me it is not that interesting to see whether or not these games will be successful. I find it more interesting just to look at such "genres" or variations and ponder the future of money-fun game mixtures. What types of "fun games" will have money aspect in them and in what way and how much current money games can contain aspects from fun games (skill, casual...) not to raise a discussion on targeting to youth, game addiction and responsible gaming.

Other "pay for money" games: e.g. SkillGround, Tournament.com, Pogo and Bet on Battles.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

News from GameBiz

"Sales of the PlayStation Portable have increased by over six times on the previous week's figure, according to Media Create."

If one title (Crisis Core: FF VII) can do this to PSP, I wonder what LittleBigPlanet will do to PS3 :)

Also:
"Nintendo stock has become the second most valuable in Japan. As noted by Reuters, Nintendo sits behind only Canon to become the second most valuable traded company. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group has a bigger market value than Nintendo, but shares are currently suspended due to a imminent share split."

And:
Goozex launched a new Facebook application designed to promote and support gaming communities on Facebook. Facebook members can share their own game reviews, ratings, and personal libraries for more than 23,000 game titles.

These and other interesting news from: Gamesindustry.Biz.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Exergaming from the North

I get to see a bit of Ruska (autumn colors) while wisiting Rovaniemi (near arctic circle). Unfortunately I lost my luggage and did not get it back until in the evening. Due to which my presentation ("Music as play" >> response is the medium -- music, rhytm and/or sound as a way to interact with a game or other kinds of interactive software) was not the best I can offer but people seemed to get something out of it which is of course the most important thing.

I also met some of my fellow students from the dawn of media studies. We had fun when listening artists like Desert Planet, Huoratron and Dj Scotch. Before Tivoli (the bar) we did some exercise. Asko Alanen from Smartus was kind enough to give us a tour at the Smartus Playground. This was the first time I actually got to test the playground and I was pretty excited. There were not that many variations of games but it has a lot of potential. There were still a number of issues to consider starting from usability to interestingness (longevity) of the play. Anyhow we went back to the playground on the next day and talked with the kids playing at the yard. They were really excited even though --evidently-- they had played the games for a number of times already. Motivational factors were similar to other digital games -- to beat one's own record, to top the high score and to have fun. At the moment the most obvious target group is junior level kids but with a bit different approach, design and placement I am sure this could work well with a bit older youth, families or other groups as well.

At the moment SmartUs playgrounds can be only found in distant places in Finland (from the Helsinki viewpoint) and few places in Europe (see Smartus website). If you are into exergaming or novel ways of exercise, "stealth exercise" or related, I recommend to test the playground. It is also effective reminder that one does not necessarily need a mobile phone to do "mobile" or digital exercise. In this case simple plastic card (exercise credit card for kids ;D) is all you need.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Boring puzzle & women's explosive clothing

Lately I have been talking about new approaches in game design. How to understand the users (gamers), how to renew the business with modete risk and create something new? Even though I know a lot about the users it is not always easy to reach the target nor to present somewhat novel idea to the cynical gamers. It is always good to remind how difficult it actually is to try to understand the end users.

For example:
Joystiq.org wrote about Neves game on DS: "The original Japanese Lucky Puzzle is a classic example of a wolf in sheep's clothing. With only seven pieces, players had to construct a variety of shapes and objects. Neves is attempting to capture the brain teasing market that the DS seems to dominate. Like other brain games on the platform, the game is immensely easy to pick up and play. Multiplayer is also a surprising and fun addition to the game."

Sounds good?

And what do consumers have to say about this?

"Seems boring." (FI)
"Don't worry, the final build will feature explosions and naked women too =P" (Leo)
"Will the final version also include women whose clothing explodes off their bodies?" (lessbiasedthanmost)

Another funny chain of comments referred to difficulties people had with the voice recognition on Braintraining.
"Blue! Blue! Bloo, Bluu, Blew...*some time later* Paper, Paper, PAY-PURR, PAIPIR, pay-parrr...*some time later*" (Kye)
"How on earth are they going to put voice controls in it? =p "Select piece number eight... move left, left, left, up, little bit to the right..." ?" (bm)

Yes, it is a question of pitching, usability, marketing, game design, focusing on right target group etc. But still.. if we end up with "gaagaa-guuguu" or naked women in a puzzle game -- something should be re-evaluated! Anyhow - funny comments! I had a blast -- in a Monday afternoon way!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

IGDA Finland Presentations #1

Place: Pääposti Auditorium (Postikuja, C), follow the IGDA signs
Date: Tuesday 11th September
Starts: 17.30
Ends: 19.00 — the chat will continue at the System Rock!


The first ever IGDA Finland Presentations (sponsored by Remedy) session will focus on money. We will give you tips how to get a share of 300 000 €’s for your game! You’ll also learn how the others have done it.

Erik Robertson from Nordic Game Programs will give you last minute hints how to get funds from the Nordic Game Program and beat the rest of applicants from other Nordic countries!

The second speaker is Ilari Kuittinen from Housemarque. He will talk about their experiences and future visions of downloadable console titles.

The last presentation of the evening will be held by Timo Vuorensola. Rautataivas crew would like to share their thoughts about Rautataivas game and find out possibilities for cooperation!

See you there!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Highligts from last week

FUN:
* Elite Beat Agents for DS
* Trauma Center - Second Opinion for Wii

SURPRISE:

Helsinki Casino was full late Monday evening. Maybe that's everyday for others, but totally new experience (1st time!)for me

LETDOWN:
SuperMarit Bombastic cancelled

WAIT FOR:
* Ars Electronica 5-11 Sept. in Linz
* First IGDA Finland Presentations on 11th Sept at Helsinki
* Media studies @ Univ. of Lapland 15 years PARTY! 21st Sept.
* MindTrek on 3-4 Oct. in Tampere

TESTING:
FaceBook applications (Egotics, TrendHunter, Pictogame's "I kick you")

SOCIAL JARGON TOP 10 (BY GUARDIAN):
Dopplr (travel), Extate (intelligent search), Garlik (identity), MindCandy (gaming), Moo (print on demand), OnOneMap (search), Touch Local (directory), Trusted Places (local UGC), Zopa (P2P lending) and Zubka (Recruitment).

Sort-of-Finnish-versions: Vailoma (travel), Faimous (intelligent search), MoiPal (gaming), Igglo (search), thinglink (directory), Oma Kaupunki (local UGC), IRC-galleria (P2P) Jaiku (moblog).

When I saw this Habbo-like front page of pdma conference I was excited! Finally someone has put effort on organizing a conference on innovation online. Unfortunately that is not the case, but Habbo for adults approach is nice anyway.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

Who will win: Zuma or Facebook?

Park Associates has put out somewhat doubtful information regarding the popularity of casual games. As much as I tend to think positive and like casual online games, I find it somewhat difficult to digest the news.

Park Associates is right about casual games being current and cool topic at the moment. Anyhow it surely is quite a challenge to compare registered users (e.g. Second Life), actual users (e.g. LinkedIn) and non-registered users (casual game sites) against each other. Most of casual game sites run solely on advertising revenue and do not ask for registration. It is true that you can buy the games in a "try-before-buy" matter but I would say it is exaggerated to say casual game sites have more mature revenue models. Additionally I wonder how Park Associates actually compare SNSs with casual game sites? What type of sites actually belong into this category (btw)? Fun games, money games, puzzle games, short games, simple games...?

Whatever the case, this is surely an interesting topic to discuss. According to Park Associates: "While developers and publishers look to sites such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace as inspiration for community features in upcoming games, research shows that 34 % of US internet users play games online on a weekly basis (and according to one study more than half are females), compared to 29 % who visit online video sites and 19 per cent interested in social networking."

That's something!

[Partial source GamesIndustry.biz]

"Sex in Games" by Samsung

Trance Vibrator for Rez (PS2) was used as a sex toy though it was not explicitly marketed as such. It is one of the many examples Brenda Brathwaite has used when talking about Sex in Games. Now Samsung is giving their's contribution to the topic by filing a patent for device which measures body temperature.

According to Gizmondo.com: "A cell phone that lets lay-deez know if they're running a higher-than-normal chance of getting pregnant is the latest idea from Samsung. Samsung has filed a patent with the US Patent & Trademark Office for a portable device for user's basal body temperature (BBT) and method for operating the device. An ultrasonic or laser-based distance sensor, and an infrared ray temperature sensor installed around the speaker of the phone measures the distance of the phone to your ear and the temperature inside your eardrum. Then, software inside the phone processes the measurements and transforms them into BBT records, before recommending that, yes, you can have hot, crazy rumpo with no consequences, or yes, you've got a chance of making Junior if you get busy tonight." Yep!

Samsung is active in another games-related field as well. They filed another patent for mobile phone-gaming device. N-Gage déjà vu? Mobile phone manufacturers seem to be persistent about turning mobile phones into portable gaming devices. Samsung seems to believe that one button gaming will be followed by richer audiovisual game experiences. And that mobile phone manufacturers have a way to compete against Nintendo (DS) or Sony (PSP). It seems quite far fetched that they could actually compete against current wireless consoles but... Samsung has done tremendously well lately so who knows? And there are many lessons learned from N-Gage.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I still remember what I did last summer

...or was it fall? Anyhow, I confess spending hours and hours in gaining more weight and lowering the age of my brains. I was totally obsessed by Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training and Big Brain Academy. Every waking hour on a bus, at work, at home... was potential time for extreme training - truly HC! After my brains remained 20 year old for several weeks, my brains weighted nearly the maximum weight and I got a pile of platinum coins from different tasks, I started growing tired of it.

Last Friday Dr. Kawashima came back to my life. More Brain Training game was waiting for me when I got home. Is this the end of relaxed evenings and lazy mornings? Is this the beginning of another gray era of measuring weights, making pairs, memorizing stuff and calculating up and down?

After playing the sequal for four days, I am somewhat relieved to find that More Brain Training is too similar with the first one. Coin calculation is somewhat copied from Brain Age and tasks where you have to memorize numbers is practically same as the one at the original Brain Training. Dr. Kawashima is still the same amusing guy with a number of tips for the gamers. This does not mean that the game is a lousy one. It still offers a nice set of brain training activities, but for me it is too similar with the original Brain Training exercises.

If you would like to experience the fun of brain training but do not own NDS, check out Pelikone web site which was launched at Assembly a week back. Pelikone has some puzzle games too. My favourite Pelikone puzzle is Roadmania, but still... it is not nearly as entertaining as Dr. Kawashima... so... maybe this is not the end of our relationship after all :)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Assembly for tourists

If you consider visiting Finland next summer (beginning of August), do include Assembly computer festival to your itinerary. You don't have to be into games, digital music, youth culture or anything like. Assembly is a huge experience for tourists as well. Or perhaps you would prefer moving your office to Arena for four days ;)? The atmosphere is something completely different and out of the ordinary. This year over 5000 participants (~20 countries) settled to Helsinki Arena for four days and competed in different compo categories (from music and graphics to programming). Also Finnish Dance Gamers and GuitarHero gurus were there as well as working members from Finnish game developers association. Pelikone.fi web site was released. It is yet another "user generated games" site. (You'll find most recent ones (=Uusimmat) and Most popular ones measured by number of plays (=Pelatuimmat) and Most popular ones measured by the rating (=Parhaimmat). Also cool IRC-Galleria page was set up for Assembly.


The first photo is an overview of the Arena (from 2004) and the cute pink cuff is from this year ;)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Games as a [sort of] sporting event

As an addition to my previous post, the NY Times writes about World Series of Video Games Tournament.

"Wiewers flicking channels looking for a ballgame or golf tournament may instead encounter a couple of young guys rocking out on plastic guitars, or some (literally) disembodied digital boxers throwing uppercuts, or a fanciful animated wizard casting a spell."


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Manly men play In the Groove

The odour of sweat and persistent THUMP THUMP sounds ascertained me to be at the right place. On Saturday and Sunday the best of the best Finnish dance gamers were competing for the Finnish Champion title.

It was small surprise that basically all competitors were male. It was also interesting to see how casual but sportmanlike the guys were. They were resting and stretching before their turn (2 songs at a time) and supporting other players after their shot.

The competition would have been a good wake up call for those who consider gaming to be bad for your health or antisocial activity. This time we didn't see those doupters in the audience, just dance gamers and a bunch of people following the competition. BTW Finnish Dance Gamers Association was added as a affiliate of Finnish Dance Sport Assocation (May 2007).

The competition was played with In The Groove arcade machine. For those who don't know, a short introduction to dance games might be useful. DanceDanceRevolution and In the Groove are the best known dance games on the market. Konami (Japan) has been the father of dance games and it actually acquired Roxor (developer of In the Groove) last year. In the dance games a player is stepping on the up-right-down-left panels when the corresponding arrow on the screen reaches the right spot. In the Finnish Championships competitors were evaluated according to their accurancy (hitting the right panel at the right time) percentage. Every song has a unique stepping pattern reflecting the rhythm of the song.

Ok.. but back to the competition. There was A (bar and no-bar > to lean on) and B category. Rangifer (red clothes) won the B-category. My absolute favourite was Hardcore of the North - Säkkijärven polkka remix played on Saturday. Unfortunately I don't have a video of that but WOW! It was super!


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Puzzle for the clever

Would you like to win 2 million $? All you have to do is to solve a puzzle. "Eternity II" will be lanched on 28th July. It is a puzzle with the $2million prize (online demo available).

¨Unlike most puzzles, which only have one correct way of completing the final solution, there are thousands of ways that Eternity II can be solved to win the $2 million prize. The puzzle consists of 256 square pieces that are bordered by coloured patterns which must be aligned across the whole puzzle.¨

You can check the demo version from Eternity II website. It is really compelling game. My best time is 1.49.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Adult female gamers Do exist!

Greeting from Åland! The streets of Mariehamn are full of snails and crowd attending Rock Off festival.

I was browsing eCOGRAs study on eGaming when I came across very interesting data regarding female players. I have guessed that women find online leisure games (played just for fun, killing time) more interesting than gambling/money games but according to eCORAs study "online" is the key word here. Online enables easy access to games (both leisure and gambling), social interaction and relatively low risk for female players. According to the study 54.8% of online casino gamers are female and what is most interesting is that we are not talking about 'young adults' here, the online casino queens are ~46-55 year olds. [Internet poker is 73.8% dominated by young male (26-35 year olds).]

And similarly to leisure games, there are profound differences between how and why men and women gamble online. My observations: internet is everyday life tool also for (adult) women, women do kill time and get entertained online (earlier it was strongly pointed out that women are occupied with children, cooking, housekeeping and do not have time to have fun with games), women and men get motivated or excited with different issues (level of risk, social interaction, relieve of boredom...).

I also believe that online gambling sites will move towards Social Networking Services and leisure games in many ways. This will put up exciting possibilities both for game developers and researchers. This is an interesting data to be discussed further at SuperMarit Bombastic!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Back on track -- user generated games

After long & relaxing holiday I am currently focusing on innovation methods and pondering what values people get from playing games [Easy to play, social interaction, excitement, fun, entertainment, relieve boredom, gaining something, reputation, bonuses, branding], what are the motivational and risk factors in games and what type of horizontal innovations [Everyday life >> leisure >> games >> wellbeing] could be developed. I will share my thought of that a bit later.

This time I wanted to put forward YoYo Games which is somewhat related to GreatGamesExperiment and Kongregate. Lessons learned? This is clearly a trend and it surely is evolving (which make it interesting to follow). It remains to be seeing how different user generated games (portals) are from mainstream publications/concepts and will truly innovative concepts/games be posted to such portals. In the music industry (e.g. MySpace) it works well but games industry has totally different operational logic. Anyhow it is nice to see the trend of user generated games (incl. MyGame.com, Pictogame.com & related) growing!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Highlights from CultureTechnology (Korea)

CultureTechnology07 was one of the most diverse conference I have attended for a while. Interactions between technology and culture were looked from different viewpoints ranging from online games to digital cinema and from virtual performances to music shows. Albeit it was challenging to follow (due to variety of viewpoints and theoretical approaches) it was very inspiring! In a way "out of the box" thinking for me. It was excellently organized, so big thank you to KAIST and their cooperators!

The highlights:

- Social Networking Services (SNS) are huge and highlight interesting trends in online cultures

- CyWorld have 16 million users (out of 48 million population)

- The success factors are somewhat similar to other online communities: friend list/relationships (il-chon), guestbook, photo scrap book, avatar and testimonials (il-chon pyung)
- Daum.net is the largest portal (e commerce) site in Korea (23 million members) by Daum Communications

- The company provides e-mail (Hanmail.net), an online community (DaumCafe), an Internet search engine (DaumSearch), and multi-media content (Contents Plug)

- Unemployed youth (Baegsoo) is an interesting group creating of novel type of virtual lifestyles

- Baegsoo.com is a site for unemployed youth in Korea

- Online wasn't as visible in the streets/malls as it was in 2003 when I visited Seoul for the first time (It seemed that consoles are gaining more popularity but still pc online gaming has its strong foothold in Korean game culture)

- Jake Song (XLgames) was talking about the success factors of Korean online games. According to Mr. Song: high speed internet, weak console market, together culture, PC Bang culture (founded by ICT specialists fired from bigger corporations due to financial crisis at the end of the 90s) and every developers were the key factors why the success of games such as Lineage and MU amazed westerners in 2003 (those were the first big MMOG hits)

- Mr. Song sees the future of online games to focus on storytelling, user generated content, realism (Ai, physical and visual) as well as technology (interaction, emotions etc.)

- Content is advancing technology not the other way around (anymore)

- Presentation slides available: http://culturetechnology.org/

Images:
** Seoul by night
** Excellent dinner
** MGame's Holic was on beta at COEX mall. (It was really interesting format and nice set of minigames utilizing computer vision).
** 2.0 is everywhere :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Finland 7 points"

Interactive Entertainment Today listed Europe's top 50 game studios. Remedy was the only studio from Finland (with 7 points). Finnish mobile game developers have been well on view but there are still things to be done before they top the charts.


I think this list is a good reference point when trying to come up with better processes, higher quality products, technical innovations or original IP. And how can you come up with better processes or learn from the professionals? If you live in Finland, I warmly welcome you to the IGDA Finland lecture series this fall. We'll have an excellent line of speakers and we deal with practical issues on game development and lessons to be learned from other professionals.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mobile Games 2010

Nokia's Mobile Games 2010 report is out now. 'The Mobile Games 2010 report looks at how mobile gaming could be like in year 2010 from three points of view: games and players, technology, and business. The study was done by interviewing about 20 mobile game publishers, developers, operators, and inviting experts to write articles on the topic.'

Another view to the topic was given by Robert Tercek at GDC07. I met Robert at the E3 (in 2003) for the first time when he chaired an excellent mobile game session. I have been a fan ever since. The GDC keynote titled 'The first decade of mobile games' offered good points to the questions: 'What can we learn from the first decade of this new platform?' and 'What will come next?'. These two presentations/reports give a good overview of the history as well as current / future trends of mobile gaming.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fête - Fête

The summer is finally here as well as various summer events and parties. The week started at the sunny terrace of Merimakasiini. I was having a dialogue/presentation with Marjo Laukkanen about the possibilities of social media, online communities and game-like services for youth work. The Youth Department of the city of Helsinki already has Netari (online facility for the youth) at the Habbo world and now they are looking for ways to reach more youngsters via the net. We tried to highlight that online world is not a separate world from the everyday life but an extension and not all of the online worlds are alike. Some support anonymous real time communication, some services are a way to show off etc. We created a list of terms to highlight the contradictions (see the image). In the evening I joined the IGDA Helsinki crew meeting. I am excited to be involved in the activities and I'll hope to get a "lecture/presentation series" up and running this fall. The Finnish game industry is growing and maturing rapidly. There are a lot of knowledge to be shared and IGDA lecture series is a perfect way to share the findings and experiences. I really hope developers agree with me on this. We'll see.

One manifestation of the vitality of Finnish game industry is high level game releases. Bugbear and Housemarque were celebrating their newest releases FlatOut Ultimate Carnage and Super Stardust HD on Wednesday. Super Stardust HD is already out (for PS3) and FlatOut (XBox 360) is to be relased on June 22nd in Europe.

On Thursday I discussed about the Millennials and the changes in working environment. The event was organized by Youth Academy and we really had a great discussion. My key point was that young people are applying communication practises of past time into the working life. Blogs, wikis, P2P networking, Rating, Ranking and Reputation and openness are just a few issues companies should seriously consider as MeWe/Millennial/Y-generation is already utilising these possibilities in the working life as well. But companies still do not have clear ideas about the social media phenomena, they do not know how to look at blogs, should they control "P2P / viral communication" and what to do when youngsters do not care about hierarchies or official procedures but instead do things proactively and ask from online networks and friends instead of some "gurus". Forum Virium Helsinki organized nice barbeque party in the evening. And on Friday I chatted with Finnish A-Clinic Foundation. They are creating really interesting "Shadow World" service for youth whose parents are alcoholics. It is yet another novel kind of attempt to utilize social networks and game-like worlds to deliver an important message and enable trusty interaction with youngsters in a same situation as well as with experts. Wine Tasting party at the beautiful balcony of Suze's brand new home was a perfect ending for the week :)

As a final reminder for all you girlgames and game designers out there, be sure to register for SuperMarit Bombastic! See you there in September.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Defining digital games

Is it PlayStation or Playstation? What is fragging? How would you define "spawn point"? What are the common modifiers for genres?
David Thomas, Kyle Orland and Scott Steinberg just published an additional reference guide to the "Video Game Marketing and PR" book. They are trying to describe all terms relevant to the game industry professionals and journalists.

Should be useful, interesting! Check it out: The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Some notes from DigiFrance event

I am going to attend CultureTechnology symposium in Seoul at the end of June. I will talk about content crossing mobile and online as well as virtual and real from the European (game industry/culture) perspective. While looking for the latest facts and figures of the industry I noticed DigiFrance event organized by French cultural center. I though of checking it out whether it would offer some extra ingredients to my talk.

Mark Ollila talked about Nokia N-Gage which has transformed from an ugly handset into a pretty interesting software platform. Nokia is transferring social media trends (from PC Internet) into the mobile, like possibilities to Browse and Try or Modify and Review (~UGC) the content. There are at least two challenges: the limitations of the user interface and the lack of functional distribution channels. At the moment it is a bit hard to find interesting mobile content (though it exists!) and the mini joystick or keypad is not always the easiest mode of interaction.

Jani Kajala from Rovio was sure that mobile platform differences will vanish by the development of technology. He also believes that the future wireless device is mobile (cellular) phone (or multimedia computer as Nokia calls it). At the moment I find it hard to imagine a situation when I would pass on from cool and easy to use NDS with Stylus to a bulky Nokia N95 with relatively small keyboard. But time will tell... Mobile game developers certainly have a lot to do before they reach the sales of NDS.

What else? Online gamers can be divided into four groups (killers, achievers, socializers and explorers) said Stéphane Natkin. And according to Apaja online game portal's CEO Inka Mero, Apaja has invented a novel kind of online gaming which involved casual gaming, social aspects and avatars ;) What a novelty! What ever the case they seem to be doing pretty well with their portal (games like TicTacToe, card games, worm)! Their average player is pretty much the same as other free casual game portals have: F50/M50 and 30% are over 30 years olds.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pick of the day: GameTheory Pod & coffee table gaming

While Finnish Nyt Pelittää blog is dying away there are other excellent sources for games related information. I just came across GameTheoryShow which is yet another nice podcast on games.

Another "pick of the day" is Microsoft Surface -- coffee table gaming. Retro is cool, social gaming is the thing to do and... most probably the device is also easily approachable -- designed for all in a sense. If looking from "sure she can!" (gender) viewpoint it is also relevant that the device is not only for gaming, you can actually do a lot with it. You don't have to be a geek to sit at the Surface table. I am not discussing about the potential patent issues (I believe Nintendo has patented some sort of touch screen type of interaction if I remember correctly). Anyhow: cross media, multi device, social interaction -- that's the way to go!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Photo + template = game

Pictogame is another quite funny service enabling users to create their own content (in a way). Pictogame offers super simple solution for amateur game creators. One just needs to choose a photo, pick a template and add some instructions and/or a title and that's about it. I made a simple brick game. It might not be that cool but I "did" it within one minute!
>> http://www.pictogame.com/game.php?game=yXaGHX8XVYQz

At this point there are just four templates (two of them have F and M versions) to choose from -- therefore Pictogame is quickly experimented. I would quess it would be more interesting if one could create interactive animations, cards, games, quiz... as easily. It would be nice to send a unique birthday card to a friend instead of just picking one animated greeting card from Blue Mountain or to get funny mini game in the middle of a hectic workday.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nordic Game 07 focused on creativity and social networking

Music/rhythm games - a bit neglected game genre - was nicely brought up at the Nordic Game 07 conference. Japanese designers Masaya Matsuura (e.g. Parappa the Rapper) and Keiichi Yano (e.g. Gitaroo Man) gave very inspiring talks about their motivation, inspiration and challenges when creating music games. I am not going through all the points here but perhaps one way to summarize their thoughts is to quote Matias Myllyrinne from Remedy: "Good games just don't sell well" ;) [yes I know, out of the context and probably not even a direct quote]

Last summer Gitaroo Man Lives! for PSP was one of my favourites and I am a big fan of Mr. Matsuura so I was really excited! Yano's Inis Corp. just published their sequal to Osu! Takakae! Ouendan male groupie rhythm game in Japan. They have also released Elite Beat Agents for the US market around the same theme if you are interested to check it out.

It was no surprise that social media (user generated content, modding etc.) was well on view this year. I actually did not get that much from the presentations but it does not lessen the relevance of the trend. Social aspects in games will most likely generate new revenue models as well as ways to extend the life span of a game or enrich it another ways. I would warmly urge game developers to consider different forms of engagement when thinking about social aspects in games. One simple model of it can be found from an article by Mark Ghuneim: Terms of Engagement: Measuring the Active Consumer (2006). His paper reviews the topic well. The "Type of Engagement" image is from the same source.
It was also nice to get an addition to my collection of "x.0 tag clouds". Tommy Palm from Jadestone kindly shared his vision of mobile games 2.0. Such collection of terms is a nice way to open up the discussion (do i agree, what is missing...) and it should be food for thought for those pondering the future of mobile gaming.

Naturally social is much more than MMOGs, social interaction or collaboration in games. EveOnline is an excellent example of another kind of "social gaming". Keynote by their CEO Hilmar Pétursson (what a cute little hobbit he was with his Icelandic accent) was a good one. He talked about the challenges of controlling such a large online world but also gave interesting examples of gamers' creativity at EveOnline. Another approach to online gaming was presented by Austrian Avaloop. Perhaps they did not have that informative presentation but it surely was fun! The Beta-tests of PaperMint are over and the "art-hang around-game" type of online community is just about to be released (in German). PaperMint is a fresh approach to the discussions of "what's game" and "what is online gaming". I wish all the best to the bright minds of Avaloop!

Housemarque's Super Stardust HD (a PS3 network title) brough yet another type of social gaming into view. Many small Nordic game companies and startups had joined the conference this year. The value of discussion either around SuperStardust HD or around games in general is very valuable and essential part of "social gaming". I am sure such cosy events as Nordic Game (800 participants this year) give excellent possibilities to developers and researchers to get in touch with their idols and colleagues in a casual atmosphere. Maybe next year we'll see successful MOBILE social networking games (PocketPal from IronStar) at the conference?

Friday, May 11, 2007

From version numbers to user-centered approach

People talk about user-centered design and "users as innovators" in a same sentence with technical terms and version numbers. Is the future of digital media still technology driven? Are we still lacking alternative perspective of the future of digital media?

Last October Stephen Baker (BusinessWeek) was leading a panel which task was to define web 3.0 at the Monaco Media Conference. They came up with key points such as:

"1) Easier, cheaper, and more pervasive. Only a fraction of humanity has anything to do with Web 2.0. Others stay to the sidelines because they find the technology too confusing or expensive, or they don't see the relevance. Bring another billion or so people into Web 2.0, and Metcalfe's Law alone will make it a radically different phenomenon.

2) Always on, everywhere. We've heard (and written) this one for a while, but it's true: As Web 2.0 follows us every step of our lives--in some cases whether we want it to or not--and the dynamics change.

3) Controlling our data. In the next gen, we'll have developed all kinds of systems to wrap our personal data with various types of protection. Some will be shared widely, some narrowly, some not at all. And new systems of reputation and ranking should help us figure out which data sources to take seriously and which to shun."

Another opinion of web 3.0:







Image: Leiki Ltd's vision of Web 3.0.

Is the automation of networking or tagging the next step? Are we after automatic tagging or empowering the consumers? Maybe consumers would like to do something unforeseeable? Something beyond computer AI?

By and large, should we discuss about interoperability and cross media (multiplatform) services instead of the future of the web (as pc internet)? Many mobile phones already provide an access to the web, game consoles and handheld devices are wired... And the major trends related to the future of mobile, digital television or console are somewhat parallel with the future of web.

Monday, May 07, 2007

TV Licence -- Worth of every cent!

May 7th 2007, 6.30 pm. An ordinary lazy Monday in Finland. Eurovision song contest is just five days away. It will be held in Helsinki and hosted by Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE).

The same YLE opens up a "window of the world" to the Finns. We get to see all the exiting wonders, news and stories from different parts of the world. Just for 208,15 € a year! Today YLE channel 1 offered EXITING "technical failure" and YLE channel 2 SHOWSTOPPING "Just a moment, please". Worth of every cent! This is Living! ;)








Friday, May 04, 2007

Facts and Figures of game industry

I have spent the last few days surfing at the Internet and looking for facts & figures about the digital games industry. am not even after some super specific data. I just look for a) free (because many $$$$$ market analysis are just nicely packaged free data) , b) somewhat realiable and c) (globally) comprehensive data of to market sizes, differences, trends etc. The ESA (US), Elspa (EU), CESA (Japan) and KoGia [ex-GameInfinity] (Korea) are an ok sources for information though...

I am a bit suspicious about the data given by the ESA as they do not state too clearly where they get the data. CESA does annual quantitative study (~1000 people) and Kogia & Elspa graphs and figures are based on the market data. Besides these industry associations, I was able to find one report which is actually quite ok. It is OECD The Online Computer and Video Game Industry report. It was done already in 2005 so it does not contain the most up-to-date information. For example...

Nowadays there surely are more than two (notable) game studios in Finland. It is true that in the beginning of 2000 only Remedy (Max Payne) and Housemarque (Supreme Snowboarding) had sold 1M+ (++). Now Bugbear (FlatOut, FlatOut2) has gained respect by crossing the 1M (sold games) milestone as well. And companies like Sulake, RedLynx and Sumea are all doing fairly well. One signal of the growth of the industry is a directory compiled by Finnish Game Business, R&D Center Neogames (yes, another signal) of Finnish Game Companies (2006). We have also our national "Elspa" titled Figma prodiving sales figures (data gathered from importers).

From Koninginnedag to Nordic Game 2007

While many other countries celebrate May Day (Vappu in Finland), Dutch have their own Queen's Day celebrations. These two parties have many similarities (Funny clothers, huge crowds wandering around, heavy drinking, parties) but due to the weather conditions Finns party indoors where as Queen's Day is a huge street party spreading around Amsterdam. We were fortunate to have our own "local guide" to make our stay even nicer -- so many thanks Tanja :)

Next party will take place in Malmö Sweden on 15-16 May. Sweden's gift to the international gaming community Erik Robertson is one of the masterminds behind the great event. My top 3 picks from Nordic Game 2007 event:

1) Housemarque will release their SuperStardust HD

2) After GDC07 CCP Games' mighty dizzying party is definitely a thing to wait for ;)

3) Masaya Matsuura (VibRibbon, Mojib Ribbon, Parappa lallaaa! I love this company!).

Oh yes, and lovely Babsi is there again and hopefully also Super girls from SuperMarit! Hope to see you all in Malmö within a few weeks!









Monday, April 23, 2007

Sulake acquired Dynamoid - hot or not?


Does it matter who owns the online community you are engaged with?

Majority of Finnish teenagers belong in either Habbo or IRC-Galleria. Habbo is an online world where you can create your own stuff (home page, decorate your room, plays, stories, soap opera...) . IRC-galleria is a photo gallery and an arena to make one's presence felt. It is a great place to boost up one's spirit by gaining rating and (positive) feedback of one's appearance. The consensus of opinion is that kids go to Habbo and teens are more into IRC-galleria.

Now when Sulake (Habbo) acquired Dynamoid (IRC-galleria) it is interesting to see how the teens will react. Does it really matter which company is behind YOUR nr. 1 community? How relevant is the brand (or the company brand behind the service)? Reputation seem to be a focal keyword when talking about online communities. Reputation is one of the "3 R's" for the consumers but what about with the service providers?

Are teens satisfied with this "one stop shop" approach or are they after alternatives? "I don't want to be a part of Habbo-thing but IRC-galleria is cool" -- or vice versa? Or does anyone care who actually is behind the online service? MNEs (Nestlé, McDonalds) or dominance (Microsoft) is no-no IRL but I quess we still do not know what's the case in online space. Of course in this Sulake-Dynamoid case we are not talking about the same thing par excellence. But still... the connection of two of the hottest online community services in Finland is interesting from the viewpoint of user experience.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Espace from the Milkatraz

Just though of mentioning about "Get the Glass!" online game. It takes an eternity to load (which is really no-no for an online service) but looks really nice (Flash 3-D) and is somewhat interesting if considering it as a sort of beneficial game (serious game if you like). Many of the notions I had are already discussed by Hillel at the Jackson Fish blog. Thus I suggest to check out that instead.

Another somewhat interesting new service (currently on Beta) is BarbieGirls.com by Mattel. It is "an online community where girls can create their own Barbie dolls and interact with one another in a manner reminiscent of Second Life". We have seen virtual paper dolls (e.g. StarDoll) and online communities but I dunno... It is good to define a target group but this pink girly stuff is so from the '90s. Not to mention online communities are greatly about communication and collaboration. The chance to meet boys at the Barbie World is not that great, I suppose. Whatever the truth I quess this will pave the way for "girl game 3.0's".

Circle Trip on Multitasking Media

At the beginning of this year I decided just to give a few presentations, five at the maximum. For the last two week I have been lecturing in Helsinki, Espoo, Hämeenlinna and Joensuu. Yes, that's four already not to mention those few others I have given in Helsinki and Keuruu. It is just so easy to say 'yes' but a lot of work to come up with a good presentation. Thanks to Mikko Honkakorpi I have adopted Mr. Kawasaki's guidelines. He is talking about pitching but his points are also useful when preparing a general or academic presentation on e.g. gaming or trends of digital media.

I though of sharing some of the things I found interesting on the way.

Online entertainment is without a doubt the right place to look for new ideas when searching for digital innovations and signals of the future of digital media. Kaisa Coogan & I coined a term Communication Acrobatics in 1999 when we studied how Finnish youth utilized their mobile phones and the Internet. With communication acrobatics we described the supreme and agile skills the youngsters had on using digital media and channels at need. Multitasking describes a way of handling several communication, information and entertainment channels at once. Many teens have different circle of friends on mobile, Messenger, Habbo, online games, MySpace, e-mail (for those few who still use spam-mail), IRC etc. etc.

Three issues defining the utilization of social media are 1) radical trust, 2) 3 R's: Reputation, Ranking and Rating and 3) collective intelligence (compare with Eric von Hippel's users as innovators -theories). We also had a good discussion on multimodality (thanks to Charalampia Sidiropoulou!) and visions / ideas media theorists and futurists such as Raymond Williams, Marshall McLuhan, Walter Benjamin and Alvin Toffler have coined already in 1930's - 1970's. For example the basic precept of McLuhan is that the rapidity of communication through electric media echoes the speed of the senses. McLuhan also argued that it is the speed of electronic media that allow us to act and react to global issues at the same speed as normal face to face verbal communication. That might not sound that extraordinary but remember that McLuhan was visioning these things at the end of 1960s when radio and television were the state of the art of consumer electronics and window of the world "networking".

In Joensuu we were invited to visit NetWork Oasis. It is a novel type of collaboration and working environment. Innovation is currently one of the most frequently used bullshit bingo words. Thus it was really inspiring to see some fresh ideas in real life. One interesting factor related to Oasis is that it is located in Joensuu. Joensuu is at the fringe -- 440 kilometers (273 miles) from the capital (Helsinki) and the industry has been more focused on electronics or metal industry. NetWork Oasis is still under development but things seem to go smoothly. They will also have their own software products on the market. One nice solution was an integrated "who's in" and "skills-wills" solutions. With a glance you can see who is currently working in which part of the Oasis (because there are no office rooms, one can work anywhere - anytime). Also the solution helps you to find just the skills you are looking for. NetWork Oasis is a brave, interesting and admirable attempt to create something new - thumbs up! Those looking for new ways to spur people to innovate in the office -- check out NetWork Oasis's ideology and solutions.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Videogame Marketing and PR Vol. 1: Playing to Win

I just received a copy of the Videogame Marketing and PR book in a PDF format.

'The definitive guide to mastering the essentials behind making, marketing and promoting product to the world’s fastest-growing, most exciting entertainment business – the $13.5 billion computer and videogame industry (what is this? SW+HW combined globally or something else?) – is finally here. Everything you need to play with the pros is right at your fingertips. The future of interactive entertainment is clearly headed towards easieruser interfaces and more accessible games. People want to play what they want, when they want.'

The name of the file 'Sell more videogames' is inviting especially since I wrote an entry on Burger King games to the Nyt pelittää blog (yes, it's in Finnish) and got a number of comments related to the topic in general.

At this point I cannot share the wisdom related to how to top the charts, improve review scores or inspire millions of fans. Anyhow while browsing the pages I noticed a number of 'future predictions'. They are always interesting and I have written about the future of games before so here we go. Maybe this will help to figure out what type of games to make in able to top the scores?

'The kicker being that convergence is inevitably the future – just not of the kind most companies envision, pumping millions into ill-advised Hollywood spin-offs without understanding that it’s the theme and end product, not name-brand talent or red carpet premiers, which ultimately
drive videogame sales.'


'This year, next year, 2012 – every single one of these now seemingly avant-garde concepts will be commonplace.'

“I just hope people realize that you can break out of the mold and do stuff that’s
cool and original. Dating simulators – that’s the future...”
— Jeronimo Barrera, Producer, The Warriors/Bully

'In terms of the future of game marketing, I’m sure the new bullsh*t bingo words are “UGC” and “social networking.” Consumers want to create or tailor marketing messages to be meaningful to them specifically.'

'For mobile providers, connected gaming across various platforms is the future.'

Lessons to be learned? New innovations are old ideas? The same old same? When are we starting to really consider WHO is the gamer? For whom are we actually designing games? Project Horseshoe is a nice source for such information. Check out their ideas of building innovative games.