Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday game tidbits

Looks like my annual shopping recommendations and awesome deals post isn't going to happen this year, so check your local papers for whatever happens this Sunday before Christmas.

There some 50%-off deals at ($20 Crackdown isn't bad).

What else?

PopCap games are 50% off.

Other than that, all I've got is if you buy Viva Piñata Party Animals online at Toys R Us, you get the original Viva Piñata free, and free shipping:

(So I made maybe two of you out there happy.)

Aside from that, enjoy this Call of Duty 4 holiday map video, from the find folks at Infinity Ward:

Monday, December 03, 2007

Activision Blizzard Webcast

I'm online listening to the Activision Blizzard Webcast, and will be sort of live blogging, so refresh often.

This thing has been the works for at least a year.

Blizzard has an revenue of $1.1B, and operating income of $517M (and break even on all other activities).

There are more than 9.3M World of Warcraft, and claims to be the leading Western entertainment franchise in Asia.

Awe, he's saying nice things about Activision brass.

Activision slides aren't advancing.

The merger deal is appealing to respective company's shareholders. Go figure.

Activision is touting their IP pipeline -- Guitar Hero IV, Call of Duty 5, their entry into racing (by acquiring Bizarre), new Tony Hawk, James Bond, new Marvel titles, and new Dreamworks titles.

Activision is spelling out the market growth opportunity for the merger -- "margin expansion opportunities", and "operating models providing more leverage", etc.

Planning to be the "only publisher positioned to capitalize on all online and offline properties" -- there's a nod to leveraging the [expletive] out of mass market IP and sequels.

CFO Thomas Tippl is up to present the transaction structure and terms of the deal.

They're looking at 3-4 points margin expansion over the next two years for each of Sierra's and Blizzard's markets in the next two years.

They're claiming the mantle of "Most valuable Pure Play competitor" in the market -- easily double Electronic Arts.

There is an acknowledgment this merger brings together "the best development resources in the industry".

Now they're opening up to general questions.

(I got distracted after this, so check out Joystiq and Kotaku for summaries. I'm actually curious as to whether there will be any knock-on effects from this merger.)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Wanna work in the games industry?

So, I've been a bit cagey about my new gig in the video game biz.

I have my reasons, but I may as well shake things up:

"Hi, my name's Adam Creighton, and I'm a Senior Product Manager for Emergent Game Technologies."

Emergent is an impressive video game middleware and services company. More than a once trick pony, Emergent has a lot of experience and offerings for people making games, and people offering services and looking to partner for new ways to get their products, technologies, and services out there.

They're also one of the few (only?) of the many game companies with whom I've spoken that "get" there's a lot to be learned from the business and technical world from folks outside of the games industry, adn they're actively hiring for it. No, the games industry may not go ITIL or Six Sigma any time soon, but there are a lot of process and technical problems that have already been solved by the tech sector years ago.

So, why break my "never talk about my day job in my blogs" rule?

Because this is a video game blog. And I now work for a video game company.

And they're hiring like crazy.

Whether your technical, business, managerial, artistic, or whatever, check out the available jobs.

Interested? Get a hold of me here, or via LinkedIn or Plaxo Pulse.

And stay tuned -- there's another reason I'm coming clean about me and Emergent.

The Xbox 360 Dashboard Update

(OK, I've had too many requests for this, so here's a shortish version.)

Microsoft is readying its next Dashboard update for December 4th, and it's a doozy.

You can find the straight list of features here, or a slightly differently packaged one here (which worked better for me). And if you want to an in-depth breakdown of video FAQs, go here (DivX, baby!).

There is a ton here. If I had to back up and extract some themes from the bulleted lists, I'd say "Social Growth" (Messenger, friends, etc.); "Increased consistency across Microsoft Products, Services, and Accessories" (XBL, Zune, Big Button, etc.); "Audio Video Performance and Functionality Enhancements" (DivX, media handling and streaming, etc.); and "Usability and Aesthetic Improvements" (a bunch, and some nice touches that could be considered "unnecessary").

The MSDN blog poster "IndieGames" gives some insight into the pretty impressive engineering feat showcased by the Dash update:
"Did you know our system update package is only 7MB in size? Or that the entire 360 O/S resides on a tiny 16MB filesystem and when running it is only given 32MB of system memory?"
As much as I dislike what I belabor as Microsoft's poor corporate decision to not guarantee a hard drive will be present on every console, the mother of necessity has pushed the team to do some cool stuff. And they're not dumping 5GB of game data on your hard drive, a la the PS3. (Allegedly.)

The other thing this got me to thinking about is in the rush to "own the living room", it really struck me that Sony is competing with the O/S, software, and media intersection might of arguably the bar in the industry. Puts a different spin on the competition for me.

Oh, and while I acknowledge the engineering feat here is impressive, I'm going to take quick issue with the MSDN blog poster's statement "Maintaining a twice yearly ship schedule is difficult."

Yeah, and water's wet, so cry me a river. Try maintaining a twice a year ship schedule on a multimillion code line, mainframe and distributed, six thousand concurrent transaction per second system. Or 12 releases of varying sizes across 7 services (my last gig) in less than a year. Or being a doctor. Or a divorce attorney. Or sewer employee. Or ...

Now just bring down the overpriced Xbox 1 games that are going to be available for download, and I'll be happier (and you'll make more money, Microsoft; unless you don't care if the downloads to cannibalize sales from brands you don't own, and won't realize any revenue from, anyway).

Ooh, Crotchety Game Dude is back!

Anyway, good stuff coming, and'll probably get better for gamers everywhere.

Activision + VU Games = WTF (I mean, "Activision Blizzard")

Seriously, I didn't see this coming.

There's going to be a live Webcast Monday at 8:30 a.m. (Eastern). I'm guessing the Sunday press release is to head off leaks and rumors.

Vivendi Universal Games (VU Games, the interactive adjunct of Vivendi Universal), owns Blizzard Entertainment (who owns the Warcraft MMO, and the Diablo and Starcraft universes) is merging with Activision, and they're calling themselves "Activision Blizzard".

As an aside, this is an interesting elevation of the Blizzard brand. I almost wish they'd pulled an Infogrames, and elevated defunct Sierra like Infogrames elevated the defunct Atari brand (which isn't Atari to me, but I'm a purist). But the Blizzard brand is actually alive, and has more market and consumer pull.

This is a "mega-merger" for this vertical (and most others, at ~$18 billyun), and makes for interesting times in the publishing / developing landscape.

And it opens all sorts of opportunities for "If they mated" style jokes (the folks at Joystiq and Kotaku have been awake longer than me, and beat me to the "Guitarcraft" and "elves on skateboards" jokes. Personally, I'd like to see "World of Bournecraft", but that didn't require a merger. "Brutal Legend Bee Game" requires a merger. "Marvel Ultimate King's Quest Alliance" requires a merger. I could go on.

Anyway, here's the press release.

More on this tomorrow.