Category Archives: technology

Free Online Sports Games: The Future?

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran an interesting feature on the rising popularity of free online sports games.  In tough economic times, free browser-based sports games are catching on with consumers looking to save money.  Games such as MLB Dugout Heroes, a free online baseball game produced by OnNet Inc. (with the MLB license), have found success with those looking to jump into a quick and fun gaming experience on their PCs.  

 

The future, Conan?

The future, Conan?

 

There are certainly lower entry barriers to playing sports games online on your PC as opposed to home consoles.  For example, one does not need to invest in an expensive console setup to enjoy playing an interactive sports game.  However, as a lifelong console sports gamer, I am not ready to trade in my controller for a mouse and PC.  The experiences in such games, despite being affordable and easily accesible,  are nowhere near as deep as they are on established console sports games.

Nevertheless, the article is a great read on a new phenomenon occurring in the sports gaming world.  This is a definite read.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124278562887337713.html

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MI6: Peter Moore and EA Sports are Feeling Casual, Should We Feel Good?

We know he is all about getting physical! Did Richard Simmons just buy a Wii?

Last week, San Francisco managed to squeeze one more video game conference out:  the MI6 Video Game Marketing Conference.  EA Sports President Peter Moore addressed a crowd eager to hear how EA Sports is planning to tackle the emerging casual market.  Now, for the hardcore fans of Madden, Fifa, etc., Moore explained that the future is bright  (did you expect him to say anything else?)  The more interesting aspect of Moore’s presentation was its focus on targeting the casual market.

The casual market, which has been a cash cow for Nintendo this generation, is one that EA Sports looks to go after as it readies itself for the release of EA Sports Active, a Wii Sports/Fit competitor that offers one thing that Nintendo couldn’t to soccer moms, grandparents, and well, anyone else who owns a Wii – the EA Sports branding.

peter-moore

Photo Courtesy of Venture Beat

As Venture Beat reports:

” The average player of EA Sports Active will “probably be a woman, 35, with two kids at home,” who wants to stay fit, Moore said. Someone from the team demoed the game on-stage, quickly playing through a running game, a boxing game, and more. EA Sports Active will be customizable, both in the type of sports you play and the intensity of the workout, and it will include a a stretch band, as well as a tool for attaching part of the Wii remote to your leg (so it can track track the movement of your whole body). But why would someone play this instead of Wii Fit? Moore compared the difference between the two products to that between eastern (Wii) and western (EA) fitness. Whereas Wii Fit emphasizes things like proper form and balance, EA Sports Active will “make sure you actually risk breaking into a sweat.”

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?  By going after the casual market, EA Sports will have a chance to profit off of a consumer base that is (going by the success of Wii Sports) eager to implement gaming into its “lifestyle”.   I think this is a smart strategy by EA and a great opportunity for them to extend the EA Sports brand name.   Here are my only concerns.

While I am all for introducing new users to sports video games, I am not quite comfortable with having titles such as EA Sports Active, Wii Fit, etc. try to position themselves as tools for exercise.  I’ll admit, I have not seen enough of EA Sports Active to make a judgment as to whether Peter Moore’s claim that the title will induce “sweat” is true or not.  I have seen Wii Sports and Wii Fit in action, and let me tell you, you aren’t looking like this after a few rounds of Wii Boxing:

Second,  as someone who looks forward to every new detail in the more hardcore EA Sports titles, I am a bit concerned that by focusing on the casual market, EA may take some attention (and resources) away from new Maddens, Tigers, and Fifas.  I hope EA Sports can give the appropriate attention to its loyal consumer base that it deserves.  Will the casual 35-year-old Mom with two kids appreciate improved physics and enhanced QB vision as much as a “Maddenite” would?

I’ll be keeping a close eye on EA Sports Active and am hoping that in the end, both the hardcore and the casual are satisfied.  Because who doesn’t want to look good in spandex, right?

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New Killzone 2 Interactive Ad: Game Advertising Perfected?

Hey, it’s been a bit of a rough PR week for Sony. We all know by now that the PS2 is the target of a long-rumored price break originally thought to be intended for the PS3. While a $99 PS2 would have been awesome back in 2002, it’s fairly easy to say that Sony has some work to do in convincing the gaming public that PS3 is a great platform for… wait for it… wait for it… gaming.

Today, Sony takes an excellent step in the right direction.  Releasing over the PSN network today,  Behind the Bullet is a free download which essentially turns a 30-second commercial into a three minute interactive experience.  The Bullet Journey ad, featured for a while now on U.S. television, follows the path of a bullet during a battle between the ISA and Helghast (yes, I am a huge Killzone 2 fan, so it may get a little nerdy soon).  The ad, a joint project between Guerrilla Games and Deutsch,  is impressive not only in how it manages to display the scope and drama of a battle in Killzone 2, but also for the fact that it uses the Killzone 2 in-game engine entirely.  No CGI folks, so we don’t have to rehash any E3 arguments.  Let’s not go there.

Now players get to take control of the advertisement through the download on PSN.  Viewers of the ad will be able to manipulate the camera to follow the bullet.  In addition, the interactive ad will feature highlighted scenes and commentary from the director and visual artitsts involved on the project.  Breaking through the clutter of traditional advertising, Behind the Bullet lets users become part of the ad.  This creates a whole new level of immersion, and in a day and age where user-generated content is all the rage, Behind the Bullet lets the viewer become the director.  This form of interactive advertising promotes a level of user engagement that fits very well with the gaming audience it intends to reach.

Are there any flaws to this approach in advertising?  Well for one thing,  this ad is more targeted for those who already own a PS3.  After all, you need to have access to the PSN in order to view it.  This may not sell consoles immediately, but it should help promote Killzone 2 and extend its user base.  This in turn should help boost the positive word-of-mouth marketing already going for Killzone 2.  And since Killzone 2 is a PS3 exclusive, ultimately Sony has to hope Killzone 2 is the “killer app” that will push PS3 off shelves.  In a market crowded with excellent games and under tight economic constraints, games no longer have to launch as system-sellers.  The “Halo effect” perhaps is a phenomenon that died last generation.  Now, more planned-out, longer campaigns, such as the launch of the Behind the Bullet over a month after the release of the game, can be more effective in promoting and selling games and consoles.

I could easily see sports video games taking a similar approach in interactive advertising in the future.  Who wouldn’t love to follow the pigskin as in lands in the hands of a receiver for a Superbowl-winning touchdown grab?  In any event, I’m excited to download this today and try it out for myself.  Killzone 2 has been just as compelling to play as any sports game this generation, and my hunt to secure a 1:1 K:D ratio (uber-nerdiness time) is all but .02 away from success (for those not so good at math, it is at .98 right now).  I don’t need to be sold on Killzone 2 and PS3, but many in the gaming world still do.  Sure the PS3 is not $99, but Sony is trying new things with advertising, something that anyone in this industry can respect and in my opinion, emulate in the future.

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FYI: MI6 Video Game Marketing Conference Hits SF Next Week

For anyone who doesn’t know yet, San Francisco hosts the MI6 Video Game Marketing Conference on April 8. The website does a better job at summing up what the conference is all about than I could, so here’s an excerpt.

With a focus on how marketing drives the fundamental monetization of Video Game IP, The 4th Annual MI6 Conference will explore new and innovative ways game publishers, studios, and consoles are increasing revenues across traditional and non-traditional spectrum.

From driving retail and digital sales, to brand partnerships and integration; from hard-core to casual gaming, MI6 will arm game marketing professionals with the ideas, inspiration and information to help their companies maximize the value of their products.

And check out this awesome list of panelists:

Quincy Smith: CEO, CBS Interactive
Kai Huang: President and Co-Founder, RedOctane
Christoph Hartmann: President and Founder, 2K
John Pleasants: President of Worldwide Publishing and COO of Electronic Arts

Oh yeah, and Rob Corddry will be hosting MI6! FTW!

corddryMI6

Yours truly, fresh off and still somewhat recovering from GDC, is going to attempt to make it out to MI6. For anyone remotely interested in video game marketing, this seems like a great opportunity to explore the business behind the sports games we love.

For more info, check out: MI6 Conference

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GDC 09 in Pictures…

Wow. What a week. The Game Developers Conference may have wrapped up, but I still have a little left over from the week-long event to post about. The big news coming out of GDC seems to be the announcement and unveiling of “OnLive”. OnLive, a digital distribution service that has been in development for the past seven years, will hypothetically allow you to instantly play games on “any device” through streaming, could shake up the industry if it takes off. MacWorld has a nice article that will fill you in on what we know so far about it:
http://www.macworld.com/article/139646/onlive.htm.

OnLive was one of the many things I got to see as I browsed the GDC floors. Have a look at what else I saw.

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Will OnLive change gaming? It’s way to early to tell. But this little device pictured below sure shook things up at GDC.

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One thing for sure is that the gaming industry is going strong. GDC brought together developers, publishers, and consumers to San Francisco to share the latest in gaming. It was a great experience, and I hope that this is only the first of many GDCs I attend.

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Shaq Twitters and So Should You!

I’ve recently become addicted to Twitter.  It is a great way to network with people across all industries.  For me personally (@AndyTheGiant), I have been able to connect with many people across the video game industry that I would not have been able to had it not been for Twitter.   shaq-hed

I also can follow the latest updates from my favorite athletes, including Shaq (@THE_REAL_SHAQ).  The big man does a great job at extending his personal brand and connecting himself with fans through Twitter updates.

When I was an intern at the NBA, I pitched that more athletes needs to have blogs  (such as Gilbert Arenas’s Agent Zero blog).  Activities such as blogging humanize athletes and stars alike.  Twitter takes it to the next level.

When using Twitter, athletes, celebrities, and up-and-coming video game marketing superstars like myself have a chance to connect with one another on an equal level.  We all are limited to 140 characters.  We all have the same tools at our disposal to talk to one another.  Ahh, it is almost an Internet utopia.

Video game developers have taken advantage of Twitter as a way to give updates to the community, and also receive feedback on products.  Twitter can be an extremely effective marketing tool, one that goes beyond sending out messages, encouraging dialogue between consumers and a product.

Sure, this could all fade as soon as advertising and spammers creep their way into the Twitterverse.  But for now, I am enjoying the benefits of “tweeting” and you should too!

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