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Back from Vacation on the High Seas!

Hey all, I’m back from vacation! Thankfully no one knew because it looks like the blog posts I scheduled to post while I was gone all took effect, and my ‘blog every day’ challenge continues.

My wife and I went on our second Disney cruise this past week! It was so much fun. Our first cruise was actually our honeymoon two and a half years ago, and would you believe that’s also the last time I took a vacation?

Needing a nice vacation, we took to the seas again, this time for Halloween on the High Seas — with Disney Cruise Line again. They do such a nice job, focusing on every little detail. I highly recommend DCL if you’re looking for a family-friendly, high-quality cruise. Plan well, and they’re really not as expensive as you might think.

Okay, so what does this have to do with video games, you ask?

I peaked into the kid’s play clubs when no one was looking, and I got to see what was up. They’re actually still rocking the old Wii consoles. I was a little shocked to see such an older console, and one that actually didn’t do well at all for Nintendo, on the flag ships of Disney’s fleet. Yet at the same time, there aren’t many other consoles that would really work well on the ships either. The Wiimotes can be tucked away into nice protective-kid-proof sleeves, and the kids can flail around with dumb motion controls all they like.

I did also see what I think might have been other consoles playing the Disney Infinity games. I think they were Xbox’s from the looks of things. I couldn’t get too good a look because the staff gave me the ‘you look a little big for an 8 year old’ stare. I wanted badly to go in and play, but it was strictly for kids only. My wife rolled her eyes when I complained about not being able to participate in the Wii Tournament.

While I was gone, I didn’t miss games one bit. In a weird way, I got a twinge of what it’s like to have that feeling I’m sure my parents had — that quintessential “go play outside” mentality. And sure enough, I think the majority of younger kids did play outside in the pools and never once wanted to go inside to the video games or the activities. I felt like the youngest group of kids were at the pools constantly, then a pocket of kids were also at the pools maybe in the 6-8 range, then the 8-12 were once again inside playing games.

Thankfully, I spent most of my time floating around in the much quieter adult area/pool. 😎

So now that it’s time to get back to reality, I’m perusing the gaming sites and I notice a lot happened while I was gone! Nice to see I have lots of material to cover and games to play during this early-October quiet before the massive, massive end-of-the-month storm of game releases.

12

The MMO Recession & Playing the RL MMO Economy

Sorry for how horribly slow things have been around here. It’s really a mixture of a few things:

(1) I’m really ramping up my other websites and those businesses. Making money is kinda fun.

For one of my businesses I’m consulting for small companies and business others to help them understand how they can market themselves better online. In many cases I end up doing the work for them, and I collect a monthly retainer as their consultant. Pretty fun stuff.

The other two businesses are polar opposites of each other. One is generating passive income, but taking a ton of time to ramp up. The other takes a ton of active participation but actually does incredibly well financially — I just can’t scale it. So I’m spending time working on those. In a way it almost feels like I’m playing a RL MMO.

(2) MMOs are a huge part of my regular commentary, and MMOs are in a bit of a recession. This is the ‘crash’ I predicted a few years ago when I (along with many others — I don’t want to pretend I’m special for seeing this coming) saw the industry speeding off in a direction toward F2P and garbageware me-too themepark games.

We still have the steady few:

  • WoW remains king of the themepark model
  • FFXIV has done a great job of being true to itself and continually improving
  • EVE is EVE
  • Elder Scrolls makes headlines, but I think their actual player count is suspect

I’m looking at the MMO list lately of games coming out… we’re in a bit of trouble if this is the hype list on MMORPG.com:

Crowfall has Wildstar written all over it. Pantheon is DoA but somehow making headlines. Chronicles of Elyria is ambitious, but low-budget. Star Citizen is already playable in some form, but sort of a ‘womp womp’ experience. Epocylipse the AfterFall and Dark And Light? Who? What? Camelot Unchained is the only game even on a 3 year horizon that looks good to me.

I’m playing a lot of Pokemon, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix (currently on RE:CoM), BF1, and of course WoW to fill that void of having no MMO. Time to settle in, because this might be a long, long recession before someone makes something worth dedicating any serious amount of attention.

So while the MMO scene is a real hoot, I’m actually having fun playing games. I am in no way hurting for something to play, which is a massive departure from the days between MMOs when staring at a blank wall was the alternative.

You Can Start By Being The Best (Or Trying)

Sorry guys, we had a great last week with all of the E3 news to comment on and then I went dark. I once again blame my rising side business and desire to spend some free time actually playing games.

I have a bit of a cross-dimensional post for you today. As you guys know, I work in marketing. I work with a decent number of clients (~150 give or take depending on the season). I’m responsible for the marketing strategies for most of them, as well as my company. We do a lot of work on the internet with advertising, building websites, growing brands, getting leads and reaching new audiences, yada yada. I started to noticed a trend these past few weeks.

Client: “How do I rank for ‘best doctor in Los Angeles’?”

Me: “You can start by being the best doctor in Los Angeles.”

Client: “Isn’t there something else we can do instead?”

Here’s another one from today.

Client: “How come so and so is higher than me in search engines?”

Me: “So and So has built a brand. People talk about him more on the internet. There are news reports, blog posts, tweets, facebook likes, newsletters, comments, and conversations going on about So and So. Google and ‘the internet’ are able to parse So and So more naturally and understand that So and So sells better widgets. If you want to be first in people’s minds (and in search engines) as a widget seller, then you need to be the first widget seller that comes to mind when people think about your industry.”

Client: “That sounds expensive.”

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Yeah, so internet marketing sucks when you work for an agency that will take anyone on as a client. Other than that important lesson (Really, pay attention kids: Avoid agencies. Work for a company. Avoid internet marketing.), I tied this back to games while on my commute home. Screw you 91 freeway and caltrans.

This is one of those painfully obvious posts, but in my mind it comes together all eloquently and epiphany-ish.

Presentation matters. Building a brand matters. Building a community matters. Having a quality product matters. Blizzard releases a me-too product and obliterates even the thought of failure in people’s minds. No one is even thinking, “is Overwatch good?” or caring that it’s a straight up copy of so many other games. Why? They are gods at what they do. They build a masterful product (even when it’s copycat), brilliantly position that game in the market space, and print their own money on the roads they pave for themselves. I needn’t go on.

Why do some Kickstarters for games fail? The game could be phenomenal. The idea could be even better than Warcraft. Did you present it the wrong way? Did you make people care? Or better yet, SHOULD they even care? That’s one people skip far too often.

Fooling people doesn’t end well either. You can pretend to be something you’re not, slap on a beautiful facade, wow us with your graphics, and even have a team of marketing savants drum up all sorts of demand. 2-3 months later everyone quits playing, bad mouths your company, and you play catch up for the next 6 years making F2P games or doing licensing deals until people are willing to forgive you at our sheer boredom.

We’ve seen a transition away from companies making great games to companies making games they think a large group of people want. To me that’s as absurd as my client wanting to be perceived as the best before actually/even trying to be the best — or worse, knowing he will never even try but wanting to fool people into thinking he is anyway. It’s backwards, and it will fail.

In hindsight I think this made a whole lot more sense in my head, but hey this is where I dump my thoughts.

9

Gambling Isn’t Quite Like Gaming

I’m back from Vegas! Sorry for a slow few days around here. While in Vegas on a 4 day business trip I was able to try my hand at gambling for the first time. I looked for some fun slot machines, took my 5 dollars, and tried my luck.

The one I found had pirates on it and it made cannon sounds. I cautiously put in a dollar. Hit the button. And lost my whole dollar. I then went to the PENNY slots, put in my dollar, and lost 75 cents. It was then that I figured out a penny slot could still bet 75 cents at a time. So I found a true penny slot that let me literally play 1 cent at a time. I ended up playing for 30 minutes betting anywhere between 1 and 10 cents per bet.

At one point I thought I won the jackpot. I got 3 skull and crossbones and the thing started making all sorts of sounds. Nope, I just won 40 free plays. I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be starting up my own gaming studio.

In the end, I lost my $5 but had 30 minutes of trying to figure out the most effective way to maximize my bets. While sitting in the gross, smoke filled casino gambling away my pennies I was thinking about how this could relate to video games. It really didn’t. I wasn’t “playing” anything here. I was pushing one button and hoping. But the business model felt akin to some games monetize. Hearthstone, for example, is essentially gambling. You put down your money and hope good cards come out. Many games are the exact same way.

I walked away still feeling the same way: I like to know that the money I spend on entertainment is guaranteed, or at leave highly likely, to entertain me. Sure, I take a “gamble” on seeing a movie every now and again that I may not know a lot about, but I still do my best to do my homework. For example, I love Disney so I knew I would enjoy Zootopia (I did, best movie I’ve seen in a long, long time.) I was skeptical about Batman vs. Superman, and sure enough the reviews were scathing — I skipped it.

Video games are the same way, though I do take more gambles in order to give you guys my thoughts. I tend toward buying games I know I will enjoy.

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