Category Archives: User-Generated Content

Wisdom, Deferred

Back in August 2007, I wrote the following about the XBLA 1st party (aka MS-published) title review process:

I’ve put systems in place to hopefully help reduce the risk of my own tastes (or lack of vision) from polluting the portfolio. I can’t really discuss the details, but they include a sort of “wisdom of crowds” feedback loop, in which indie submissions are screened and rated by a group of my colleagues within Microsoft (who are asked NOT to discuss the submissions with each other before rating them — mainly to avoid group-think.) The wisdom of crowds can make my forecasts more accurate, and it can help compensate for any subconscious biases I have. Unfortunately, what I don’t believe it can do is help me identify future mega-hits (i.e. “the next Geo Wars“.)

The process I referred to in that post actually kick-started in March of 2007, so it’s been about 18 months since I started changing the way that the XBLA team reviews incoming submissions from independent developers. If you had asked me way back then when I expected to be able to judge the results of the process change, I would have said “a year from now, at the latest.” Turns out, I would have been way off. A year and a half later, only six games that we have reviewed under the new process have launched on Marketplace. Many of the games greenlit in the few months following March ’07 are still in development and/or finally nearing release.

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Licensing IP, the Web 2.0 Way

First: my apologies for using the phrase “web 2.0″ in the title of this article. I couldn’t resist.

Anyway, here’s a random idea I’ve been tumbling. Could major IP holders (like Marvel Comics, Fox, etc) work with user generated content services (like Kongregate, XNA Creators Club, etc) to make their IP available to hobbyists and small businesses under explicit terms, in controlled conditions, for a non-negotiable revenue share? If managed correctly, how much profit and “brand excitement” could this generate, and would that outweigh any “sales cannibalization” and/or “brand damage” caused by the community?

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Games as Platforms Wrap-up

Kim has already responded to my most recent post with a concise wrap-up. To avoid belaboring things, I’ll do the same.

This still seems to me like a case of “take no chances” vs. “take full advantage of the opportunities.” Kim argues that the FS team is already capitalizing on most of my ideas, but that’s not actually the case. For example, he notes that the FS team already helps third parties advertise, but my whole point was that FS can offer both free venues (as they do now) and premium venues — deriving more revenue in the process. Isn’t that a good thing?

At the end of the day, this is a bit like a liberal and ultra-liberal arguing about politics. We’re both platform fanatics. More to the point, we’re suckers for a vigorous debate. …But you’re still wrong, Kim. ;-)

Stay tuned till next time, when we’ll tackle the even thornier subject of peanut butter: “creamy or chunky?” It’ll be a battle royale!

Games as Platforms

Yesterday, I wrote that Microsoft should be doing more to tap the aftermarket for goods and services related to Flight Simulator. Kim, my friend and coworker here, took notice and essentially argued that I was wrong because: A) the 3rd party after-market is good for sales of Flight Simulator, and B) Microsoft could never think of and/or develop most of the aftermarket things that have arisen.

Permit me a bit of grumpiness. I hardly need reminding that 3rd party extensions, especially of the user-generated type, can be very good for business, nor that 3rd parties will think of & do things that Microsoft could not. My point was this: platform monetization strategies (be it for games, websites, or anything else) don’t need to begin and end with “releasing an SDK” or “building a community.” Yes, you can greatly increase the penetration of your platform (in this case, sales of a game) by encouraging 3rd party / hobbyist support of it. And sometimes, you can earn even more by remaining active in the aftermarket. You just need to be smart about it.

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Group Storytelling

I have an idea for a web 2.0 game (mmMMMmmm…. buzz words.) It came to me while I was struggling with writer’s block.

“Group storytelling” has been around for a while. The basic idea is: one person starts telling a story, then the next person continues the story in whatever manner they please, with or without regard for the intentions of the first storyteller. I remember telling chain stories in elementary school, and I remember participating in chain stories on message boards (back in the days of modems and BBSs.)

So, imagine Digg.com meets group storytelling. People submit the beginnings of stories. The community votes on the winner. Then people submit subsequent portions of the story, and the community votes on those. Mix, pour, repeat, until the story ends.

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Haloid

I stumbled onto an interesting mashup of Halo and Metroid (plus a little Matrix) via Penny Arcade. But the mashup itself, while impressive, didn’t inspire me to write this post. What caught my eye was the commentary on the mashup by its creator, Monty. Let me quote the relevant portion:

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GameSpy Writeup of “Sharing Control”

A partial transcript of the session can be found at GameSpy.com.

The panel exceeded my expectations, for which I have to sincerely thank the panelists. PS. Ray Muzyka is a master of understated humor.

Sharing the Wealth

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that lately, when someone asks me for advice on building up their community-centric media project, my answer often includes the following question: “What are you doing to drive financial value back to your users?” I say embarrassed because this question invokes tragicomic memories of failed dot-com startups; you know, the websites that paid you money for websurfing (“make pennies per day!”) Or, for that matter, more recent sites that prove the classic pyramid scheme is alive and well.

Past failures and frauds aside, there’s clear evidence that creating economic opportunities for users can result in big bucks for businesses. This has long been obvious outside the entertainment industry — eBay, Google (adSense), and Amazon (Marketplace) all make a ton of money by riding the efforts of users. But in entertainment, many people remain fundamentally opposed to sharing the wealth. Why bother, they ask, when users aren’t demanding it? (see MySpace, YouTube, etc.)

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15 Minutes of Fame, Times Infinity

Last week was an interesting one for enthusiasts of user-generated content.

“You” rock

Time Magazine named “you” (as in everyone) the person of the year. Not surprising, but notable in a “cultural signpost” kind of way. Do “you” feel good about yourself yet?

You rock (with a little help from Microsoft)

Microsoft officially launched XNA Studio Express and the Creators Club, then followed with a number of interviews that declared an unambiguous commitment to UGC. Just a few short years ago, most people in this industry thought that users were good for nothing more than their wallets (plus the occasional UG multiplayer map.) Now Microsoft is dedicating real resources to helping regular people make video games from scratch.

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Whither Viva Piñata 2

Today my buddy Rhys called me out for criticizing Viva Piñata a couple weeks ago, then playing it for significantly more time than I initially intended. (I’d have kept my indulgence a secret, but the Live achievements system sold me out.) So I’ll admit it: I’ve played Viva more than any other 360 game I own. So sue me.

Many other people have written detailed descriptions of why they like this game, so I’ll pass. Instead, I’d like to focus on what I think the Viva Piñata franchise could become, and what that means for gaming in general. In short: I’d like to see Viva Piñata 2 (assuming it’s ever made) focus more on self-expression and social networking.

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