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 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.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sure we can! Game design for all

Finnish Center for School Clubs (Kerhokeskus) is about to arrange a game design competition for youth (8-21 year olds). In this case games are seen as a way to be creative in digital worlds and a way to boost up media education in new ways. That might be very true but such a competition is still a big challenge -- especially when the age range is so wide. Anyhow, the competition will begin in May 2007. One related topic is Boku introduced by Microsoft a few days back. Boku is "an educational game designed to help children as young as five years old exercise their brains by doing programming. Boku is a cute little cartoon robot head with big, soulful eyes who hovers over a cartoon grassy field" according to InformatioWeek.

Microsoft has created a graphical language to move around the Boku island, play games, and eat brightly colored fruit. Boku runs on Microsoft Windows and the XBox, and is currently being tested internally. That's a somewhat bad news to the game design competition as it would be nice to utilize some cool software to enable kids to design their own games without a broad knowledge of programming languages. But perhaps we'll come up with an alternative. MIT's Logo is somewhat sort-of similar to Boku and GameMaker, 3D Rad and such are already available.

Besides Boku there seem to be a number of other things under way at the Microsoft Research.

Oh, and by the way... I had a change to test Housemarque's new PS3 downloadable game. It'll be out in May'07 and even though I don't usually get excited about such games, it stuck in my mind and I am honestly eagerly waiting for the release of it!