Articles of Interest

If you’ve ever been curious about the Xbox and G4W certification process (what it entails and why it matters), the XNA team has published a detailed article on the subject via Gamasutra.

Interesting article that explores the flaws inherent to annual performance reviews, and proposes an alternative way of giving feedback to employees.

Sandy Pentland, one of the MIT Media Lab’s most well-known professors, was recently interviewed on the subject of nonverbal communication (and what it means for businesses.) Fascinating stuff.

In the “didn’t see that one coming” category, PC game distributor and developer Reflexive Entertainment was recently acquired by Amazon.com. Reflexive is the developer of the XBLA game Wik & The Fable Of Souls, among others. It’s unclear to me how, of all the online game distributors, Reflexive managed to woo Amazon, but my very serious props to them!

Wagner brings our attention to a notable debate: people who make a living selling virtual goods within Second Life are complaining about the great many freebie items that are depressing all item values and hurting their profitability. But really, this shouldn’t be surprising. In a free-for-all market with no barriers to entry, the price of most goods will quickly be competed down to their variable cost of production… and the variable cost of a virtual item is zero. Inevitably, only those goods associated with strong IP (and/or having extremely high development budgets, which set them apart from other goods) prove saleable. Sound familiar? It should, because it applies to many video game ecosystems.

Gamasutra has posted an article about missing gamers, aka those 25 to 35 year olds who used to play video games but no longer do. Most of the article won’t surprise you, but I appreciated this one bit: When we introduced one group to Xbox Live and its community features (with something of a twinkle in our eye) we were surprised at the lack of enthusiasm. “How do I update my status, though? And how about adding pictures and links?” The bottom line here seems to be that most games platforms have a “come join our community” ethic, but members of this group of would-be gamers already have well-established, functioning networks of their own. They respond much better to services that enhance and amend these existing groups, both online and in real life. When they discover that games can “come to their community” they are much more willing to invest some time and money.

7 responses to “Articles of Interest

  1. Re: Reflexive and Amazon, I suspect it’s vice versa (Amazon wooing Reflexive), David, because that space is just unbelievably hot – witness BigFish’s $83 million in funding. It’s actually one of the few areas of gaming where a lot of the big players are cashflow positive right now – which is nice. And I’m presuming this is all about Amazon adding a ‘games’ tab to the digital downloads part of their site, perhaps.

  2. Hey Simon — I totally get why Amazon would be interested in online game distribution, but my question is, of all the online distributors, why Reflexive? Not that they’re a bad choice, but I wonder what put them over the top.

  3. Hi david,

    Is the XNA Game Quality team going to be involved with XNA community games as well?
    One of my worries for XNA Community is that it turns into the Iphone App store where you have 1500+ games clogging up the system, many of which are of very poor quality.

    There is no proper filtering either, so good games don’t really get any more exposure to xbox gamers, which imo stimulates developers to just put more low quality games on there.

    I’ve seen a XNA video online stating that the publishing process for XNA community games will only be 48 hours. That is almost nothing compared to the XBLA certification process time (which is often several months). How will this maintain a level of quality on the system?

    It would be really interesting to get more in-depth information as to what the difference between XBLA and XNA community is going to be.
    Especially since right now it sounds like it will be a breeze to get onto XNA community, while XBLA certification is still a bit of a nightmare for small developers.

    If you can say anything about it anyway.
    Take care.

  4. Why Reflexive? Cos they’re available and reasonably sized and not public traded or VC funded up the wazoo, I reckon.

  5. Hi Jay,

    I don’t feel comfortable speaking for the XNA team, but I can say that obviously the community games ecosystem will be much more open than XBLA, and the XNA team is *very* aware of the need to provide mechanisms via which quality content can bubble up. All I can say is keep your ears open, as I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from XNA. :-)

  6. awesome, thanks David.
    I use XNA myself, so I know it has great potential.

  7. Hi Jay, quick answer to your question. There will initially be two dominant filtering systems. First, Microsoft will select a small number of high quality games to promote on the Community Games channel. Second, starting this winter you will be able to trigger downloads from xbox.com marketplace. The impact of this for community games will be HUGE. Every fan site, indie games review site, and forum post that mentions a game can now include a link to download the free trial. Reading through the web at work I may be reading Penny Arcade and Jerry mentions the 5 community games I’ve got to try – with links. Clicking the links, I go to Xbox.com and click for free download. When I get home and power up my box, those 5 games will automatically start downloading. Very cool. This is especially important for the development of niche games. Someone’s ultra-realistic but low-res scuba diving game probably won’t make the top 5 games by any filter, but may be huge on a scuba geeks forum. Same for a game for 2 year olds that uses the rock band drums or a super-hard-core strategic war game simulation of the civil war in agonizing detail. Yes, a better filtering system on the box would help, but beyond the top game, I believe that the individual communities on the web will drive more and more interesting traffic to individual games.

    Hope that helps…

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