Monday, December 28, 2009

Hottest trends in games 2010

A year ago I suggested that the following five trends will have an impact to the games industry in 2009:

1. Tinkering
2. Networked experience
3. Alternative revenue models
4. Massively competitive co-ops FPSs

5. Networking mini games adding value

The list was relatively accurate. Tinkering definitely was and is an aspect in games. For example XBLA games, Scribblenauts and indie scene all brought up different approaches to tinkering and collaborative experience design. Networked experience most definitely was one key trend, though a bit differently that I anticipated. Nexon's Combat Arms reached 1M players in Europe and plenty of FPS titles were released. Also 2009 was successful year for Facebook games, especially Zynga remained in the news thanks to Mafia Wars, Farmville and others.

For the 2010, I went though my Twitter posts and put together a new list of trends and issues we most likely are about to see in 2010. I continue with the same idea as last year. By looking back you can see the future.

1. Indie
One can say that indie was a hot trend already in 2009. There definitely is an increasing amount of attention and interest towards indie games. Besides the games themselves, I think one especially interesting thing is storage and sharing. Those providing easier access, easier distribution solutions and easier business opportunities for SMEs and other independent developers will make an impact to the industry. I also believe that indie games will have a greater impact to mainstream games by adding richer variations than before. Thanks to new options for self-publishing and business opportunities for indie developers the attitude towards taking risks and opportunities to put out indie games will become easier. The key here is storage and sharing / distribution.

2. 3D gaming
Yes, just when we have get used to HD it is time to step forward. Avatar movie has given new hopes for Hollywood studios regarding 3D technology and when the movie industry is pro-3D, so will be games. Hilarious 3D movies and Virtual boy 3D were niches at their times in the 1990s. Now with bigger muscles (=bigger players) things will start to happen. Amongst others Nvidia is promoting 3D gaming. I think 3D will not add valuable experience for all games but it should be easily foreseen how 3D could add value for example to FPSs or adventure games. Still there are few hardware issues to be enhanced but we are getting there.

3. Persistence in games
Facebook games, casual browser games and virtual world/casual MMO developers seek for the next think to jump into with relative low risk level but clear competitive edge. I believe persistent game play will be one such differentiation factor. Persistence has been a thing under discussion for quite some time already especially in MMOs. When people communicate and entertain themselves with multiple gadgets and gaming devices and their media use is fragmented, persistence can add nice twist to gaming. You don't have to be a hard core gamer or a geek to play games over longer period of time. Persistence will add randomness and variety to the game experiences. The game will continue when you are offline but in a way it does not matter if you are offline for a day or a week.

4. Learning + games
Learning in games or serious games is another things that is far from novelty. Edutainment products appeared already at the end of 1980s as the next semi-big thing. Things holding back edugames has been their vague role in the market (commercial games or education software?), weak or non-existing distribution network and common ways to either do educational material formally or make business out of it. At the moment edugames are not really commercial games but not exactly teaching material either. Obviously there will be both but someone should start inventing and formalizing the picture to make a difference. In 2010 more funding will be directed to learning technologies. I sincerely hope that the development would be more startup than university driven.

5. Touch, Point, Gesture
Nintendo Wii brought point and gesture interface to the common crowd and iPhone successfully introduces touch screen (and gyroscope) for gaming. Project Natal and PS3 Motion Controller add more twist to gesture interfaces. Despite Microsoft's and Sony's efforts I expect to see more innovations in mobile regarding to point, touch and gesture. I also believe that this will be one area where games break out of the "games sector" and introduce playful interaction to other application areas as well. There are several examples already how simple game interactions have been utilized for example in advertising and information sharing. Entertaining and natural interaction is what is needed to navigate through vast amount of data and information.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Random thoughts of game business and funding

From me November was the month of funding. I was a member of the jury in Nordic Game Program (game development) and Live2011 project focusing on digital art projects. Both sessions made me to think of the gap between business knowledge (/business focus) and games development practices.

Nordic Game funds are given out in two rounds per a year. There were 84 applications on the second round of 2009 and eight applications eventually got funded. The level of applications was high and competition fierce as always. Even if the criteria has been the same for years already, the center of funded projects tends to change from a round to a round. Naturally this has a lot to do with the scale of projects submitted. Certain trends stand out on every round -- something it is location based gaming, other times casual iPhone or Facebook games or children's games. This round several innovative or experimental projects got funding including Kung-Fu Live (tracking players' movement with a camera), Rapture (collectable card game goes iPhone and Facebook), Uplause Crowd Game (massively multiplayer crowd playing game), Dream Machine (classic adventure with claymation style) and Pinball DJ (music interaction concept for handhelds and mobile). Besides those also few social games and MMOG were funded.

A couple of days after Nordic Game award gala I spend one day with Live2011 student projects. There the focus was more on digital art so necessarily no business values were expected but still games, web sites or animation projects submitted to the competition didn't seem to have any answer on how to monetize or fund the project -- except applying for grants, stipends or other cultural funds. That made me to think of ways to improve the business side of game industry. People have kept repeating for years already that game industry should be taken seriously. That it already is multi billion dollar business and employing thousands of people. Bigger than music or box office sales bla bla bla.

It is definitely more passion than business intelligence driven. There are lots of entrepreneurs doing their own share to enrich the range of games available. The founders of game companies often include designers and techies who started the companies because of passion. Many game developers work with games because they love games, games programming or game art. Not because they just need a job. The state of mind is very different compared with many other industries. This is also one weakness of game developers. Too often technical skills outreach business knowledge. Even companies developing brilliant games around the world fail just because of that. While possessing a great deal of enthusiasm and talent, they rarely share the same desire for negotiation, operations, finance, management or operations.

I would love to see the business side to flourish with the same creativity and passion seen in games. One way to do that is to aim higher. Even if the companies were founded amongst friends (with certain skills) to do something fun and hopefully beneficial, without business thinking or goal settings the dream can easily fall into pieces. This is often the result of a fact that the game industry has a higher than normal set of the right people in the wrong places.

So what there is to be done? There are lots of business opinions and ideas to be found from various books. Harvey Mackay in his book "Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt" outlined a formula for success. Success = focus + determination + goal setting and courage. I would add that success also has a lot to do with social connections, networking and practicing. And changing direction when needed. I feel this is something game developers should seriously consider if they want to keep up with the competition.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Multiverse and idea bubbles

Yesterday I joined Idean 10 years party in Helsinki. Idean is user centric design company which has come a long way with user interface design and ideation work within last 10 years. As a company Idean delivers also an interesting story of entrepreneurship. In the beginning of their path, they had good mix of will, luck or coincidence and trust (from seed funder) to get things going even if they hadn't a clear image what the direction would be. This was actually one of the idea bubbles (see below) I found inspiring and something I will take further.

Idean was kind and generous enough to invite Joseph Pine to give a talk at the event. Joseph Pine is famous for The Experience Economy book he wrote together with James Gilmore in 1999. He gave the same presentation in Amsterdam earlier this year so check out the video & slides if you are interested to know more about multiverse.

Besides writing books Joseph Pine is consulting and spurring executives around the world. In Finland he is working at least with Elisa (telecom), Lapland tourism and Lappset (playgound equipment for kids). In his presentation he summarized his previous three books [to put it short: ] and focused on multiverse discussion which will be described in detail in his next book.

Pine referred to Stan Davis who coined term “mass customization” in his book “Future Perfect“ and started playing with theory of existence (universe). That space and time are forms of existence in the real world and matter its substance. He picked up a word "no-matter" from Stan Davis' book and started from there. If there is no-matter there must be no-time and no-space as well, right? Well.... Anyway. he managed to define no-space = virtual and no-matter = bits but no-time is a bit trickier one. Pine talked about some sort of continuum (past-present-future). I was thinking merely multitasking and mixing real time and asynchronous communication to add "flexibility" to time in some sense. Basically he illustrated the dichotomy or duality between real and virtual as well as various "forms" within virtual and real.

I find it rather complex model to describe that there is real and virtual and various technical solutions enable hybrids such as augmented reality. Maybe hybrid reality would be enough? But of course Mr. Pine's model is one ideal or sort of framework and a way of thinking. So maybe I am too practical here. The presentation inspired questions regarding the role of a man in this multiverse, persistence and noise regarding to service design and experience or user-generated content and the definition of authenticity. Pine & Gilmore wrote a book about that: what authenticity means to the postmodern consumer, and how companies can render their offerings as “really real.”.

Even though I didn't get that much out of the presentation it is always good to exercise your brains and listen to different speakers. Even if the message would not shake you that much there is always some idea bubbles or red ribbons to be combined what whatever you and working on at the moment. I am very much thinking of experience of gamers at the moment and playfulness on the Internet in more general sense.

So besides being inspired by coincidences related to startup's, I also met cool people at the party, got some alternative views of what makes online gamers tick and got a couple of good but random ideas :) Now it is up to me to refine them further with the help of red ribbons, idea bubbles, insights and thoughts.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

IGDA Finland November event, Finland Game Jam kick off

Do you want to know how the leading game studios do their demo? Or are you interested in Global Game Jam event which shall take place in January 2010? Game Jamming will happen in over 50 location around the world at the same time. It will be 48 hours of sweat, ideation, game mechanics, coding, sound and graphic design, team work and networking.

Remedy Entertainment will give a demo of Alan Wake and Gorm Lai will talk about Global Game Jam (GGJ) event. The talks will take place at the IGDA Finland Presentations session (venue: K13, time: 5PM). At 7PM the crowd will move to Cuba Cafe for after session networking. We will also show some GGJ videos and games at the bar. Join us on 17th November!

More information from:

Friday, October 02, 2009

MindTrek - there and back

MindTrek conference is the only conference in Finland providing good crossover of anything and everything to do with digital media. This year MindTrek attracted nearly 800 participants. Sunny Thursday was well spent at the conference. I chatted with people, followed start up lauch pad session and had good time at the party (thanks Jussi & other friends!). The organizators of the conference had invited some bloggers (TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, The NextWeb, StartupMeme, Techpulse360, ChipChick, and to cover the event. If you want more indepth report from the event or open innovation environment Demola – check out the blogs. Of course MindTrek has also good Twitter coverage and good stories at other blogs. For example Katri Lietsala blogger about Chris Messina presentation (in Finnish!). You can also find a video of the talk titled ”Identity is the platform” from the web.

Another keynote speaker came from Google. Mr. Jyri Engeström talked basics about snack size media. You can find his slides from Slideshare.

Start Up Lanchpad was a combination of ”real” start ups and companies that are already stabilizing their business. Pitching is not traditionally a Finnish way of selling your business idea or product. We truly have to learn several lessons still but I was actually pretty excited and impressed by the pitches. In my opinion the jury didn’t always address that relevant questions (except Mrs. Sharon C. Ballard – I liked her clear, relevant, tough and well put questions). Still it was really interesting to see new products (software and hardware) presented in pitch-format. My absolute lanch pad favourite was Kamu World. One member of the jury questioned the unique quality of Kamu World without AR-aspect which according to Jussi Laakkonen was mainly targeted at hard core users of Kamu. I think both brand image and Kamu character are differentiating Kamu from the competitors. It is true that interaction and gameplay is in line with other Facebook games / application but then again – Facebook games and applications are still evolving. I expect games in social networking services to evolve greatly within the next few years. At the start up lanchpad competition Kamu World is competing against f.ex. Virtual Air Guitar, Epooq and MultiTouch screen. The results will follow shortly.

So: this year my MindTrek experience was a bit of this and that – I wish I would have had more time to follow game related presentations but oh well – maybe next year. Last night I had to rush to Helsinki to be ready for an interview at 7AM. I talked about future of gaming at the morning television show at MTV3 channel.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Online video rules ok

Interesting research data from comScore (with US focus).
  • The top video ad networks in terms of their actual delivered reach were: Tremor Media Video Network (19.5 percent penetration of all online video viewers), BrightRoll Video Network (16.2 percent penetration), and (14.8 percent penetration).
  • 81.6 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
  • The average online video viewer watched 582 minutes of video, or 9.7 hours.
  • 120.5 million viewers watched nearly 10 billion videos on (82.6 videos per viewer).
  • 44.9 million viewers watched 340 million videos on (7.6 videos per viewer).
  • The average Hulu viewer watched 12.7 videos, totaling 1 hour and 17 minutes of videos per viewer.
  • The duration of the average online video was 3.7 minutes.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Eig09 Innovation keynote

This might be of marginal interest but those into online gambling & iGaming might find it interesting at least.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Popular social networking activities

Even though I do not totally agree that "to be an Early Adopter of Technologies Goes Mainstream" this is an interesting article.

"For decades, the adoption and use of the latest technologies was limited to a subculture: Whether called “tech enthusiasts” or “gadget geeks,” the implication was that most of the world got along fine with older, established products and services, while a smaller group pursued the most leading-edge technology." But now Forrester Research suggests that we’re all gadget geeks now."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Finnish gamers in the limelight

Hello world from Stockholm Sweden. Today I am visiting Jadestone and Paf in Stockholm. Last week I gave a presentation on "video gaming trends" and I am about to put those thoughts into a slide set format shortly. I have also been putting together a presentation for EIG09. And what's EIG you might wonder? EIG is the European iGaming Congress and Expo that will be held in Copenhagen mid September. I was asked to give an Innovation keynote (focusing on online gambling and future of iGaming). It has been fun to put the presentation together. I will put both of the slide sets to Slideshare as soon as I have given the presentation / finalized the trends slides (mid September most likely).
IGDA Finland season 09-10 will start officially next Tuesday. We have really superb season coming up. We'll start with Everyplay session on September the 8th. Everyplay is a social games startup. Currently they are developing Kamu World for social networking sites (Facebook at first). It is a new virtual hangout featuring playful Kamus. Check it out! Early version of it is already online and Finnish speaking readers might also like to check out newest Pelaaja magazine. September issue focuses on Finnish game development scene and there is a couple of words about Everyplay and the future of gaming as well. All in all IGDA is a perfect context to catch up what's the latest with Finnish game developers and well as to network with all the bright minds. More information about the event from Igda Finland site. IGDA will also organize Presentations series. The first session will be in October and focus on Global Game Jam. Finland will get our own Game Jam next January! More information available in October at

Another nice games related event is Social Gaming night at Villi Wäinö (Kalevankatu Helsinki city centre). It is held every Tuesday at 7PM by Jolly Dragon.

Btw. I noticed that I have been writing this blog since Feb 2006 and managed to put together some 200 posts. I started using Twitter in in Dec 2008 and I have already sent over 400 posts. The benefits of both blogging and microblogging are starting to show. I will continue doing both also in the future. Check out Twitscoop.

Btw2. Found this pic. Mobile social networks (UK).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Assembly09 post mortem (from my viewpoint)

Four sunny summer days were well spent indoors at Assembly09. I was promoting a game concept & prototyping competition, meeting friends and following compos. There was high number of fast and extreme music entries, some nice fast graphics entries and - as expected - some amazing entries to 64 and demo compos. Some of my favorites (any category) were Proof of Concept, Frameranger and irrelephant. Check out all Assembly Compo entries from Assembly TV.

For those who don't know: Assembly is one of the biggest demo scene & gaming events in Europe. Assembly Summer gathered ~6000 participants out of which 500 are girls! Awesome - Go girls! Assembly is about participating in compos (in music, graphics, programming demos etc.), hanging around with friends, playing games (lots of WoW and and CS players around), chatting, staying at the Arena 24/7 for 4 days and eating lots of junk food. It must be overwhelming experience for the youngest participants which were not much more than 10 year olds. It was also nice to see some people staying overnight with their small babies. That was kinda cool - Go Next Gen!

Besides gaming and compos there was ArtTech seminar running on various topics. I followed indie sessions. Cactus gave a good preso [the same (?) as at GDC09], Blueberry Garden show didn't give that much new ideas and Petri Purho was such a Prince Charming as always. He were basically going through a set of really funny and cool indie games. My favorite was the "get that f**ing raccoon out of the gears!" game (EnviroBear), turning levels thingie (Punishment) and Cactus stuff (Psychosomnium) of course. If not groundbreaking new ideas, at least we got good laugh by watching Petri playing.

Paf Concept & prototype competition will be running until the end of August09 and the results will be out by the end of September. Assembly compos were dominated by men but I truly wish to see entries from girls to this concept competition. All in all -- it is all about good new ideas!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Editing a book and preparing for Assembly09

I am putting together a book focusing on three pioneer countries of the 1990s in digital networking (wired/wireless). The book focuses on 15-29 year olds in Japan, South Korea and Finland and shares very interesting hands-on examples of digital networking and how it is changing the work life as well as ways to spend spare time. It will be out next year! We will also be sharing quite a bit of research data and articles online. More about that later. One relevant / related data from comScore: "Social networking has become a mainstream online activity among all age groups, with 80 % of the total U.K. online population having visited a site in the category in May09. Penetration was highest amongst 25-34 year old Internet users, 89 % of whom visited the category during the month, followed by 15-24 year olds (86 %)."

"15-24 and 25-34 year olds averaging 5.4 hours per user per month compared with 3.7 hours per month among users age 55 and older. Social networking was the second most popular online activity in the U.K. based on average time spent per user (4.6 hours), trailing only instant messaging (8.6 hours)."

Age Profile of U.K. Social Networking Site Category Visitors
May 2009
Total U.K., Age 15+ - Home & Work Locations
Source: comScore World Metrix
Age Segment % Reach Average Hours per Visitor
Total U.K. Internet Audience 80% 4.6
Persons: 15-24 86% 5.4
Persons: 25-34 89% 5.4
Persons: 35-44 79% 4.3
Persons: 45-54 77% 3.9
Persons: 55+ 67% 3.7

*Excludes Internet activity from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.

This is also interesting: "Kids from two to 11 years of age are spending 63 percent more time online than they did five years ago, says a report released Monday from Nielsen Online. Children in that age range were online an average of 11 hours in May 2009 versus just 7 hours in May 2004." (Source: Nielsen/Cnet)

I am also preparing for Assembly09 which is just nine days away. I (together with the Paf crew) have been putting together concept & prototyping competition. I am especially hoping that women will see that competition as an opportunity. A prototype of a game is always a bonus but not a must. All in all -- Assembly is really fantastic event, I would recommend anyone just to check it out. It is quite pricey (35 euros) but there is lots of things happening, concerts and dj sessions every night etc. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A cup of coffee and some exergaming in South Korea

Five years ago I was in the lead of a research project titled Exergame at the Technical Research Centre of Finland. Back then we estimated that exergames will become a big business within the next 5 years. Our guessing came true. Nintendo Wii is one of the most exposed example of it. Then again I would say that Wii is just a start. I am expecting to see more exergame innovations appearing especially for mobile terminals. Smart phones and iPhone has changed the idea of a cellular phone and with cheaper components phone manufacturers can integrate gyroscopes and measument techniques into portable devices. Naturally things will also evolve in pc and console gaming. Sony and Microsoft (Natal) are behind Nintendo but still already far away in developing their own motion control solutions for games.

Within the last few days exergaming has been on the headlines around the world. In Finland playful Move and Play exhibition is currently on at Heureka science center in Vantaa, Korean Arirang today tv show had an interesting story on Xergames (click the link & register to see the video starting at 40:45). Additionally Nintendo will launch Wii Sports Resort shortly (at Times Square in NY). I also received a press release claiming that: "Kids as young as three years old are picking up the joysticks and clicking away at computers, especially if they have older siblings whom they wish to emulate. It's important to catch kids at an early age to teach them about fitness". My Gym promotes children's fitness centres in the US and provides information regarding nutrition and everyday exercise. Basically My Gym and exergames have the same goal and somewhat similar means to reach the goal -- being: positive feedback, easy access, casual exercise, playful and fun context, self-acting state, instant feedback and measuring performance.

I am happy to be a part (or additional power behind the scenes) of a R&D project focusing on novel exergame solutions. The project is run by MoFun (the creator of Circus game) and Technical Research Centre of Finland. I also heard that social gaming initiative is about to start in Finland. Even though it focuses more on social gaming for adults than actual fitness gaming or exergaming -- I am sure you cannot 100% separate those from each other. I will write more about the initiative as soon as it is up and running.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gamers' Night at the Movies

Night at the movies got totally different intrepretation when IGDA Finlandinvited IGDA volunteers to experience big screen gaming at Sello Bio Rex movie theater. After the last screening ended in the night, gamers started entering the building. Three screening rooms were reserved for game playing until next morning. Gamers got to choose which NES, PS3 or Xbox 360 games they would prefer playing and did so until it was already sunny and quiet Sunday morning outside the theater.

Movie theatre gaming was an immense experience! Playing Deadspace on a big screen truly was scary but also Ghostbusters and GTA4 did well on a big screen. Besides horror, shooting and adventures, social games such as SingStar was played along with NES classics Mario and Chip 'n' Dale.

Movie theatre gaming was an event to remember and positive feedback is a reason enough to arrange the event again. Besides tournaments and party gaming we might also experiment 3D gaming next time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

User inclusion in games

User Inclusion in games development, focusing on development process

Friday, May 08, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obsessed with customers

The business of iGaming (= online money gaming and/or gambling) has changed forever. Internet is normalizing gaming for money and bringing new customers in. At the same time customers are more digital-savvy, expecting more and faster but also willing to take part in building the total experience in return for perceived value. The role of the consumer is being transformed from passive buyer to active co-creator.

The recognition of consumers as active players extends the locus of core competencies from companies inner knowhow to the enhanced network. According to IDC Global’s recent study, 75% of Retailers and 58% of consumer products manufacturers rank consumer centricity among top 3 keys to success. At the Indian Gaming 2009 conference one of the leading slot machine manufacturers, Bally highlighted that: “now more than ever innovations must be built on customer needs and on a solid foundation of dependable, scalable, and efficient technology backed up by strong professional, technical, and customer-support services”. Along the progression of social media business money gaming providers too have to realize that consumers expect more dynamic changes and possibilities to interact and participate than ever before. The huge rise of microblogging service Twitter or social networking service Facebook are good manifestations of this. People want to share, stand out from the crowd and have their opinion heard. In iGaming that is very crucial lesson to be learned. By the general development of the Internet the potential customer is now potentially anyone who finds (money) games interesting.

Competence is a function of the collective knowledge. Ways to make online money games’ interesting is to facilitate dialogue and consumer engagement among dynamic consumer communities and heterogeneous individuals--all eager, and some able, to co-create their own experiences. Consumers are moving toward instant gratification and getting used to the idea of an active dialogue with providers of products and services. Money gaming operators have to utilize that dialogue in design, marketing, consumer support and testing. Additional challenge is speed which is becoming even more central source of competitive advantage. Thing have to happen now, instantly and interactively with the customers.

To adapt and succeed in the current economic environment companies need to build a new set of capabilities: cross-platform innovation, real-time interactive communication channels with consumers, open collaboration and supporting digital processes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Adult gamers are boring

Just reading Nielsen report "The state of video gamer - PC game and video game console usage Q4/08". I found this figure interesting. Look at the "Usage min % and Age group. I have assumed that 360 and PS3 compete off the same target group but that is not the case according to Nielsen. Also it is quite surprising that the Wii target group is 6-11 yrs. After all Wii is the family-party-fitness-workplace console. Active user % is also surprisingly high for Wii.

  • Good portion of PlayStation 3 console usage occurs during the television prime time hours
  • Top games played by 25-54 year old (women or men) are BORING! Someone should help them to find better games from the web ;)
  • Most popular PC games are pre-installed Windows card games at the age group of 25-54
  • Chessmaster Challenge is getting closer to WoW nr. of unique users - BEWARE!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The shape of things to come - IA Inc. map of the net

New version (#4) of the Web Trend Map is out "mapping the 333 most influential web domains and the 111 most influential internet people". They are currently after comments for the draft. If you have something to say, better say it now!

Just some quick comments:
  • Pirate Bay has rather impressive building on the map!
  • There aren't that many microblogging, gadget/widget stuff on the map. Let's see if the picture will be different next time.
  • Additionally I was wondering aren't (teen) virtual worlds influental at all? At least I couldn't find them. Blizzard (WoW) and Disney (line of MMOGs amongst other services) on the map, but Sulake or Neopets/Nickelodeon isn't despite of their (obvious) influence to virtual communities and networking.
  • China and Japan are somewhat on the map but Korea isn't. Maybe some Koreans should correct that, after all Korea is the birthplace or capital of MMOGs and home of CyWorld and Baegsoo - both very impressive services.
  • Indeed WordPress is so much bigger than Blogger
  • Next time I also expect to see some Finnish services on the map (well - Dopplr has some Finns directing the service)
  • Barack Obama on the map?!
  • Newspapers seem to be pretty nicely on the map (go Aftonbladet!) but for how long... Also do newspapers have better web presence than tv-channels?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Some hope for Danish game development

I am currently living in Denmark where the economical recession is really doing lots of damage. Already at least three very relevant and interesting game companies have had to close their doors due to lack of funding. That’s how it goes – no money – no games I am afraid.

There is something positive though. Limbo project (PlayDead) just got relatively nice funding of 11 million Danish kronas (~1,5 million €). Limbo got funds from Danish CAT Science by RUC, FAHU and Vækstfonden. I get to know Limbo more than a year ago through Nordic Game Program where I am at the Expert group evaluating the applications. Limbo charmed us too but whereas Nordic Game funds are good incentive for the developers it is (naturally) remarkably smaller than VC funds. And without these bigger funds development of a project like Limbo would be so much harder and slower.

But what’s so special about Limbo? First of all it is very much designer / artist driven project. When you look at game video or screen shots it is clear that the visual style is one of the key drivers of the game development. GameDaily wrote an article from IGF09 (btw: Blueberry Garden won – congrats!) where they described the style as “Scandinavian” referring (also) to developers like Petri Purho (Crayon Physic Deluxe), cactus and Niflas (Knytt). Could Limbo’s style be similarly Scandinavian? On the other hand it is a bit Japanese and has certain Ico-feel (black-white, blurred edges, hazyness). Also Samorost comes to my mind for some reason. The story is quite unique (Scandinavian? Remember The Brothers Lionheart / Bröderna Lejonhjärta? – Limbo is about a boy who is looking after his dead little sister in Limbo – mythical space in between heaven and hell.

I met Arnt (artist/designer behind Limbo) at the Nordic Game Jam. After meeting the designer the project felt even more clear and justifiable. Limbo seems to be based on a strong vision and demand to keep all the strings at their (PlayDead) own hands. According to Danish press big game companies have contacted PlayDead but they want to stay indie. I have nothing but respect to that – that is the way to innovate and reshape the game industry piece by piece. I hope Limbo will be stimulating Danish game industry, bringing hope to other developers as well.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

IGDA Finland Presentations: Killer games from Finland

If you are in Finland (Helsinki) on March 10th, I would warmly recommend you to join IGDA Finland Presentations session. We have an excellent line-up of speakers talking about iPhone gaming (Zenbound is doing well!), Finnish MMO development (Tweehouse) and indie innovation Crayon Physics Deluxe. It won Seamus McNally Grand Prize last year and is great!

Presentations will be held at Diana auditorio from 5.30 to 7pm. Check out further information from IGDA Finland. After presentations we'll continue the evening at Cuba Café.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

iPhone - the future of mobile gaming?

According to comScore over 32% iPhone users have downloaded at least one game to their phones. iPhone users differ from random mobile phone users and their user profile is also different but still: gap between 32% and 3,8% (mobile phone users downloaded a game) is huge. Is iPhone the future of mobile gaming and will Apple save developers from porting their games to various mobile platforms?

comScore also shares the following data: 34% of those who downloaded a game in Nov08 used a smart phone. 14% of these are iPhone users. Mobile gaming - especially iPhone gaming - has set up high hopes for the massive growth of mobile gaming revenues. No wonder - the device is cute, it has a big screen, interesting technical features and many iPhone games truly fit well to the casual sector following titles like Bejeweled, Buzz and Zuma.

Still there is room for growth. comScore estimates that 8,5 million persons downloaded mobile games in Nov08 (which is 3,8% of all mobile phone users as mentioned already). 8,5 million might sound a lot but if you compare it to MMS and video messaging (28%), receiving SMS advertising (24%), browsing news (18%) or using e-mail on mobile (17%) it is not that high number after all.

Are iPhone games all about casual fun, mazes and puzzles? Do they have some magic power in them? In a situation where close to 1/4 of iTunes applications are games there ought to be good examples to choose from. iTunes provides different lists but at first it is not clear would ”New and Noteworthy” be better pick than ”What’s Hot”. New and Noteworthy doesn't have any free games. Moreover Hot, Staff Favourites and similar lists evidently promote chargeable games. Top Free Apps (Finland) top 3 is Towerbloxx, Moving Maze3D and Pole Position. But heyhey - these are the same games that are popular in Facebook!?

It soon becomes clear that a typical iPhone game doesn't utilize iPhone's technical features and that the lists are full of console game brands, advergames and iPhone versions of known titles. On the other hand this evidently is the way to go. There is very limited information available about the games. Many free games have a word "free" on their title and the icon should also give some hint what the game is like -- or not. I decided to download Cube Runner because the icon was interesting and Cube Runner sounds like fun. But wait - I expected to get some further information when clicking the icon but instead the game was just added to the Applications list. Next surprise hit when I opened the game. It wasn't anything I expected it to be based on the icon. Instead it reminds me of one poor 3D game I had on my Sony Ericsson back in 2003. Is this it? Where's the magic?

In the name of reasonableness I have to say that this IS the way things tend to evolve on every new platform. First games are golden oldies from 80s or recycled ideas from hit games available on online portals. Well-known brand help players to choose from the set of icons. On the other hand unique or experimental games can get lost in the mass. Marketing-wise one doesn't get too far with awesome icon design or by placing the game to "games" category. Luckily I happen to know one special and unique game which just passed the sieve of Apple. That game is Zenbound (Secret Exit) which truly has magic in it. But when looking at iPhone games in general, I would claim that for the time being the "magic" is largely generated by the device and easy to use Appli store.

Friday, February 20, 2009 testing

Watched Social Gaming Summit 2008 videos
Customer acquisition strategies: recommendations, buzz, low entry barrier (easy access). David Perry said 10% users spend money for 3 months.

(And tested but Twitter, Blogger, MySpace, Facebook... are too different from one another. either provides crappy blogs or too long Tweets ;) Good idea anyhow - just have to find how to benefit from it the most).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pelikone pelikilpailu 2009 (competition)

Hi, just wanted to remind all Finnish readers / indie game developers >> Pelikone competition is on. If you are developing a flash game why not to submit it to the competition?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Casual vs HC MMOs

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Monday, February 02, 2009

Nordic Game Jam (Copenhagen)

Nearly 160 game developers jammed 48 hours during the last weekend in Copenhagen at the Nordic Game Jam (and over 1600 developers around the world!). First Game Jam was arranged at the IT University in Copenhagen in 2006. This year IGDAs Education Special Interest Group got inspired by the event and machinated Global Game Jam network. Over 50 locations take part to the Global Game Jam. The theme was “As Long as we have each other we never run out of problems”. Additionally each location had additional constraints. The constraint for Nordic Game Jam was that the games should be language independent.

Copenhagen had the biggest game jam with nearly 160 participants. People competed in two categories: Bring from Home and Global Game Jam. At the Bring from Home it was ok to bring a game that is 99% finished as long as they work develop, improve or polish the game during the weekend. The theme for the Bring from Home track was humor. The idea at the Global Game Jam track was to just show up with or without a team. The event would start with a brainstorm and group creation session.

The biggest winner of Nordic Game Jam was Make my Head Grow (Denmark). It won best audio, best visuals, innovative controls, audience award at the jury’s award. At the Global Game Jam track In One Piece puzzle game won the audience award and Sheep Away got the jury’s award. Petri Purho (Kloonigames) won the most innovative game title with his 4min33sec which was a tribute to John Cage’s avant garde piece 4´33” from the 1970s. 0 - - 0 had the best audio at the Global Game Jam track and Chopper + tank = bees won for the best visuals.

I think Unity could also be listed amongst the winner because Unity was probably the most often used game development tool at NGJ. Check out what type of games were developed during the weekend.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

GuppyLife pre-registration is now open

GuppyLife will be released in English shortly. The pre-registration is now open! GuppyLife is a MMO / virtual world targeted at tween girls. It has been out in Danish since October 2008. GuppyLife has several unique features starting with the 3D style and Guppy AI. If you are interested to know more, check out and pre-register to the grand opening of the English version of GuppyLife.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Measuring and visualizing the Internet

Lately I have been checking out Quantcast internet statistic tool and IBM's Many Eyes data visualization tool. I have to give props to both -- both of them are really interesting and valuable tools for many. At Twitter I gave some criticism to Quantcast regarding provided data about gender of the users. Even if it is hard to get exact information of the female and male users at a particular web service, Quantcast gives a lot of very interesting data / estimations. Definitely worth checking out.

I didn't play with IBMs Many Eyes myself, just checked out what type of visualizations other users have done so far. I searched "internet" related data and got a long list of graphs from internet penetration to use of web services. Check out the pics. Naturally one challenge with internet-related data is that data about web services from 2007 means the data is already badly outdated. The other pic "age vs. internet use" is an autobiography but it inspired me to look for similar data. We did an extensive survey on youth and social internet in Japan, South Korea and Finland. The data was gathered 2006-2007. Should be possible to look at different age groups (from 15 to 29), compare them with each other and generate similar maps of the data. I already know there are big differences between teens and 20-something when it comes to use IM vs. e-mail. Supposedly social networking and online gaming would also make differences between age groups or genders. I have to do my own Many Eyes and post the data to my blog at least!

Friday, January 09, 2009

% of girlgamers on the rise - 31% of WoW players female

I spent some time browsing comScores data from 08. Lately I have been looking at MMOs and girls' online activities. I have posted quite a few messages to Twitter on the subject (check out souplala if you are interested to find some data about girls' online activities and MMOs).

comScore also provides somewhat interesting data regarding girl gamers. They indicate significant user growth among teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 17 and women between the ages of 55 and 64.

I was also a bit surprised that no more than 31% of WoW users are female but considering the huge number of players (nearly 12M) it might not be that surprising after all?

The last graph is not 100% relevant for this post but I though of putting it there anyhow. Even if it does not talk about gaming or SNSs it nicely highlights some differences between female and male consumers. If consuming virtual items is anyway in line with this it reveals something about general interests and potential activities online.