Articles of Interest

Via Kotaku, “Only 20% of games that begin production will ever finish. Of those 20% that are finished and released to the market, only 20% of them will ever realize a significant profit.” I’d be surprised if these stats were significantly different five+ years ago.

During my IGDA Leadership Forum lecture, I mentioned that a wide variety of studies had called into question the value of bonuses for white collar employees. Dan Ariely has posted some information about related research of his own. From that post: “people offered medium bonuses performed no better, or worse, than those offered low bonuses. But what was most interesting was that the group offered the biggest bonus did worse than the other two groups across all the tasks… We found that as long as the task involved only mechanical skill, bonuses worked as would be expected: the higher the pay, the better the performance. But when we included a task that required even rudimentary cognitive skill, the outcome was the same as in the India study: the offer of a higher bonus led to poorer performance.”

PlaySpan has raised $17m for its virtual goods platform and online payments system. “PlaySpan indexes all of the items in a game and markets them to gamers based on relevancy. It takes into account a player’s character and experience level, then offers a virtual good just when a player needs it most.” PlaySpan’s “PayByCash” division has 70+ payment solutions in 180 countries, and offers a prepaid Ultimate Game Card that is available in 20k stores.

There is ever more evidence that video games are great pain management tools. The latest: Snowy Game, a “basic 3D environment where players move along a snowy path and fire snowballs at nonmoving targets. They wear a virtual reality headset that ensures the patients aren’t viewing their therapy, and the challenge focuses their mind on aiming instead of the physical discomfort. The cool imagery takes their mind away from the burning pain, and the ‘shooting’ keeps their minds occupied. This sort of pain management benefits not only the patients, but the staff dealing with burn victims. (Emphasis mine. BTW, for insight into burn-related pain and the way it causes psychological pain to both victim and hospital staff, I refer again to Dan Ariely, who wrote a remarkable paper on his own experience as a burn victim.)

Keith Bakker, founder of Amersterdam’s Smith & Jones Centre (which treats gaming addicts) suggests that 90% of people seeking treatment for game addiction are not actually “addicted,” but instead suffer from severe social problems such as isolation, school bullying, etc. Totally unsurprising to me, and I’m very glad to see someone speaking out on this topic.

Russell Carroll has written a thoughtful review of Wii Music, which has been trashed by most critics. From his review: “Then there came that moment, after an hour plus of rehashing and playing the same song over and over again, where we really did jell together. It created the same sensation of accomplishment that I got when doing piano recitals and band concerts years ago. We really sounded pretty good. However, in watching the video, we saw areas where we could do better. That’s just one of the great moments in the game. An even more amazing moment comes as you push past making a particular song sound great and start making it sound like it is yours.”

There’s more to life than games:

While I certainly don’t agree with him on everything, I am increasingly impressed with the no-nonsense, intelligent positions taken by Congressman Ron Paul. Check out these two Q&As with the Congressman on Freakonomics.

We need to ask ourselves why we live in a society in which it is even conceivable that a holiday sale at Walmart could cause shoppers to smash down the doors of the store and trample an employee to death. (Seems like I read a story of this sort at least once every couple holidays. I know that these are isolated incidents, but they highlight our national, unhealthy obsession with shopping.)

194 responses to “Articles of Interest

  1. That article on Kotaku is a bunch of crap. Note the source behind the article, EEDAR , a data analysis company. But note that while they are trying to sell you information, the President of the company sites Secrets of the Game Business by Francois Dominic Laramee for his “20% of games make a profit” quote. This is not the kind of information trail that should be propagated by one of the better game development blogs. Just look at the microcosm of games that you have something to do with, and you will know that the 20% completion is a bogus number.

    I am a jaded, old time game developer with a ton of experience from Dynamix and GarageGames, and even though I know the industry is screwed up in a lot of ways, these numbers are released as a scare tactic to get press. Well, it worked, Kotaku, Gamasutra, and a ton of other blogs repeated it like it was gospel. It isn’t.

    -Jeff Tunnell

  2. Hey Jeff, nothing wrong with being a jaded, old time game developer — you keep the rest of us honest. ;-)

    So, tell me why you think the 20% figure is crap & a scare tactic? Before reading the figures in question, I’d always heard that in the home console market, only 25% of games return a significant profit, so the 20% figure seemed within the ballpark of reasonable to me. In fact, depending on the market, 20% seems generous (for example, I expect far fewer than 20% of iPhone games to return a “significant profit,” at least until Apple fixes some of the iPhone’s merchandising problems and potentially not before Apple amends some of its pricing policies.)

    If this turns into a bigger debate than I’d expected, we could always go through the exercise of estimating the industry’s % profitability based on NPD data. Of course, we don’t know the development budget of every game in NPD, but we could guess.

    Anyone else have thoughts on / insight into this?

  3. The article is compounding the numbers, saying that 20% are completed and of those only 20% make a “significant” profit. I am saying the 20% completion number is wrong. I am also wondering what their definition of significant is. Taking two questionable numbers and multiplying them arriving at 20% of 20% or 4% of all games started being profitable is the problem. I don’t agree with that number, and that is the one that I am calling out as a scare tactic.

    Maybe they arrive at that number by saying that any game idea that ever pops into a producer’s head counts as a game being “started”. But, I know that 80 out of every games started at EA, Activions or any other profitable publisher are not cancelled. Even counting experimental prototyping, the cancellation numbers are not that high.

    Maybe they are counting all of the free Flash games that kids in garages learning to program release. Maybe they are looking at all of the Indie games being created in Torque, and adding those into the mix. Whatever their methodology, I don’t believe it.

    -Jeff

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