Over $150M invested in Europe into social games, VWs, casual MMOs & games

Jussi posted an excellent writeup of how there’s been over $350 million invested in social games etc worldwide, and commented that he the European side wasn’t really included in his sources.

But I’ve been tracking the European side for a while, and since I’m preparing a new MMO / Education startup at the moment, I’ve recently been refreshing my data.

So, here it is: my version of Jussi’s post, but the EU-only version :)
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ION08: Web 2.0 – How I learned to stop worrying and love the internet

No writeup from me (hey, I was giving the talk, I can’t do *everything*), but there’s already a good almost-transcript up over at massively.com which gets the gist of things pretty well.

To go along with that, here’s the full slides from the talk (6 Mb). The originals were Keynote (OS X only, much better software for actually giving presentations – has some special features that Powerpoint 2007 still doesn’t have), but I’ve exported them to PowerPoint so that everyone can easily read them – so some of the fancy anims have disappeared and some graphics might be slightly skewed.

Download: Web 2.0 – how i learned to stop worrying v1.1

Antiquated RSS feeds (Scott Hartsman, I’m looking at you)

I found Scott’s blog the other week, and liked it.

So, I added it to my feed reader.

Now, I’m removing it, because the way he’s got his RSS setup – http://www.hartsman.com/feed – is unreadable (literally – only the first 100 words or so of each post is included, the rest is all missing).

Incidentally, this is why – after many years of using the site as a primary news source – I no longer read Gamedev.net (feed) : a site that resorts to hiding its information and news behind extra links, sacrificing usability to gain advertising money, is not one I have time for. There are plenty of people who’ll provide the info I want in an easy manner, without this jumping through hoops.

Sigh. I have a feed reader to read feeds, not to get a “free sample of your brilliance” that I then have to go to a web browser to be allowed to actually read in full…

Are you pro-Community, or anti-Community?

Web 2.0 strategies often say “we can’t compete with our users, there’s too many hundreds of millions of them, and actually – collectively – they outmatch us in almost everything we do. So we’re going to bring them into our company, we’re going to let them develop the products, we’re going to let them take our technology and decide what other uses it can best be put to. And we’re not going to beat them over the head with copyright laws, because we can make so much money from the vastly increased volume of users that we get from this that it’s a virtuous circle. If we get too hung-up on controlling our data, and limiting access to our systems, and preventing people from accessing stuff “until it’s ready”, we actively prevent our community from helping us”.

Think about that: many of us, on a daily basis, are actively preventing our communities from helping us.

GDC08: The BioWare Live Team: Building Community through Technology

Summary

Speaker: Derek French

Given the title, this talk came far short of my expectations. At the end of the talk I also felt extra annoyed that it felt like half the talk was just waffle, mostly towards the end with lots of repetition of the same vague opinions over and over again.

HOWEVER … when I came to clean up my notes and post them here, I realised that there were a lot of concrete good points, and it was just that it got waffly at the end.

If you don’t bother reading everything below, there’s one thing I want you to read (NB: I have cut out big chunks of the talk where the speaker waffled too much, so the reading below should be information-heavy).

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GDC08: Virtual Greenspans: Running an MMOG Economy

Summary

Speaker: Eyjolfur Gudmundsson, CCP

I want a full-time economist working for MY company.

And: CCP staff should give more of the GDC talks, they’re good. And entertaining.

In the midst of a week of depressingly dumb comments (on the topic of economy: what possessed Matt Miller to argue against microtransactions because accountants like to see x million players times y dollar per month and find microtransactions unpredictable?), it was a joy to go to an intelligent, extremely well-informed, rational talk with valuable lessons for the future.

EDIT: photos now added inline; better quality images of almost the same graphs can be found in the official Eve Online newsletters (2007Q3 and 2007Q4)

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GDC08: Thinking Outside the Virtual World

Summary

Speaker: Michael Smith, MindCandy

Another half-hour-long introductory topic talk from the Worlds In Motion summit. Short but sweet. A nice overview of lots of different things going on in the use (and sales) of real-world goods as part of online games / virtual worlds. Misses out plenty of things, but does a good job of giving a taster of the sheer variety that’s going on right now.

Like Adrian’s talk from yesterday, I would have loved a second follow-on talk – now that everyone’s been brought up to speed – that explored where we could be going with these, and looking at how these have been used in more depth / detail.
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Liveblogging GDC 2008

In case it’s not obvious enough, I’m tagging all my session-writeups this week with “GDC 2008” (HTML | RSS).

Mostly I’m covering online-related and social-networking related topics, but jumping around between GDC Mobile, Serious Games, Worlds In Motion summit, Independent Games, and the Game Design, Production, and Business tracks.

GDC08: The power of Free to Play (Adrian Crook)

Summary

EDIT: Slides + voiceover on Adrian’s site now – freetoplay.biz

A good introduction to people wanting to start paying attention to what’s been happening in MMO industry for the last 5 years. Didn’t delve into the recent changes in the last 1-2 years, more dwelling on the fact that the last 2 years have seen the cash-cows of the first wave of changes (F2P itself) delivering revenues that were no longer just “bestseller” status for a normal game, but were actually now much bigger even that that.

So, for instance, apart from a brief outline of FoodFight, there was no coverage of the way games have been colonising social networks, or where this seems to be heading next.
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Game data accessibility and XML feeds

Sometimes, it’s the little things you do that get noticed

Last year I would have ranted about how retarded it is that game data is either entirely inaccessible to the web, or only accessible to an “official” website. …This year, however, is all about the positive. Rather than rant about no one providing such a feed, this is an un-rant about someone providing such a feed.

Dungeon Runners!

I found this via a news post about character sheets being viewable online at 3rd-party sites, making the assumption this meant an XML feed was available, and then digging through the forums until I found the post with a link.

This is really cool, I should tell you, just in case you don’t get that.

Receptions like this help keep us motivated to keep doing more of them :).

GDC08: Web 2.0 + Games meetup

After the success of the totally unofficial and informal meetup at AGDC, I thought I’d ask around if anyone wants to do another one of these at GDC…

a couple of us are going to get together and chat about the head-on-collision between games and Web 2.0. Come along
and see if you can outdo everyone else by picking an even larger number and sticking it on the end of a word (why stop at Games 3.0? Let’s go to a hundred!).

There will be no free drinks. No free food. And definitely no cabaret/live entertainment/superstar DJ’s. But hopefully there will be some interesting and friendly people with a shared interest here.

Have a look at the quick report I did for the AGDC07 meetup to get an idea for what this might be like.

At Austin GDC, I expected about 5-10 people, and we had about 30. I have no idea yet how many people would be interested at GDC.

EDIT: details…

Time: 20:00-22:00
Day: Wednesday 20th February

Courtesy of Mike Leahy (http://www.egrsoftware.com): The space is called “The Bubble” @ 73 Langton St. SF 94103 which is near 7th/Folsom.

If you’re coming and haven’t emailed me (amartin at ncsoft.com) please drop me a mail to say so – we should have plenty of spare room, so RSVP isn’t required, but on the off-chance we get lots of people, RSVP’d will get priority.

Nice and easy from the convention center: go south-west along Howard St for 3 blocks, then take a left on Langton St (circa 10 minute walk) :

Google maps directions

What Web 2.0 means for the games industry

“In reality, one size has never fit all, but when players didn’t have so many choices, they had to put up with it. Now they don’t. No longer can publishers rely on retailing strategies designed to make money by forcing players to buy what the publishers want them to buy, when and where the publishers want them to buy it. These strategies are aimed more at wooing retailers with slotting and promotion allowances than at wooing customers, and they just won’t fly anymore. In the future, retailing strategies are going to have to be like those of Amazon.com or the one-hour eyeglass shops, which are designed to sell the consumers what they want to buy. And they do it by making it easier, better, less cumbersome to do so.”

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Nothing to see here, unless you care about culture?

Too busy to write at the moment (if I weren’t, I’d be working on followups to the entity systems posts).

So, in the meantime, go listen to the ever-brilliant Lawrence Lessig. I’ve just been listening to his 2006 talk on Free Culture. There are too many memorable, insightful, or funny elements for me to be able to sum it up; I’ll just say it’s one of my favourite LL talks amongst those I’ve seen.

“This is not about (quote) “piracy”. If I thought this fight was about your right to get access to Britney Spears music for free, I’d be on the other side, because I don’t think you should get access to Britney Spears music … at any price”

Internet as Platform – Marc Andreessen is wrong?

“Often wrong, never in doubt” is the tagline on Marc Andreessen’s blog. With a recent post of his, on the “three kinds of platforms you meet on the internet”, I think the first part of that tagline is ringing true :P – Marc is talking nonsense with his claims that “[a Level 3 platform is] much better for the developer [than a Level 2 one]”

It’s great that he’s trying to “disentangle and examine the topic of Internet Platform”, but … seriously, there are good analyses and bad analyses, and this one rings jarringly false to me.

To save you reading the whole thing initially, here’s Andrew Chen’s summary:

The fastest summary:

* A Level 1 platform’s apps run elsewhere, and call into the platform via a web services API to draw on data and services — this is how Flickr does it.

* A Level 2 platform’s apps run elsewhere, but inject functionality into the platform via a plug-in API — this is how Facebook does it. Most likely, a Level 2 platform’s apps also call into the platform via a web services API to draw on data and services.

* A Level 3 platform’s apps run inside the platform itself — the platform provides the “runtime environment” within which the app’s code runs.

And which companies are working on Level 3 platforms, other than Marc’s Ning?

* Salesforce.com

* SecondLife

* Amazon (through AWS)

* Akamai

Which is fine, but I need to add Marc’s statement that

I call these Internet platform models “levels”, because as you go from Level 1 to Level 2 to Level 3, as I will explain, each kind of platform is harder to build, but much better for the developer. Further, as I will also explain, each level typically supersets the levels below.

  1. Are they monotonically harder to build?
    • Yes
  2. Do they typically superset the levels below?
    • Yes
  3. Are they “much better for the developer”?
    • Hell no

Marc has written a very programmer-centric post here. He’s identified that, technically speaking, the different classes of platform are “bigger” than each other and obey a transitive, non-commutative, superset relationship. Natural consequences of that are the first two items I hilight in his claims above.

But he’s then made the mistake of conflating this with *entirely unsubstantiated* business concepts of “better”. As the developer of one of these “level 3” platforms he contends are “best”, it’s no wonder that he wants to believe that it is a *logical* conclusion that the business advantage comes forth just as the technical conclusions are logically sound. But wanting to believing a thing doesn’t make it true. And whilst I genuinely believe he could have provided a decent argument that makes it true *for his business*, I think it’s not only an illogical claim, but actually false, in the general case.

Specifically, I would like to know how a level 3 is “better for the developer” than a level 2?

And I’m sorry, but I’m going to stop calling them “levels”; they are only levels in a programming sense, not in a business sense, and to name them that way implies something is globally true that only applies to one aspect of them.

Going from class 2 to class 3, you:

  1. have to do more work
  2. pay more in ongoing costs
  3. provide no appreciable benefit to any user who is also a competent developer

To give an example of a valid way of making the “3 beats 2” argument work is that you could argue that if your target-market is people who can’t write code at all then the third point above is irrelevant, and that actually you ARE adding value.

But for all the other users – and, let’s be fair here, Marc chooses *Facebook* as one of his examples of class TWO, not three; Facebook, where pretty much any idiot can (and does) write a facebook app within a matter of days or hours – point three above means you aren’t adding any value at all by moving to class 3.

Hosting is incredibly cheap these days, and developing basic functionality is incredibly easy – as mentioned, look at the proliferation of non-programmers and what they’ve done on FB. Reducing the dev cost and hosting cost over and above a level 2 platform seems to have very little actual point to it.

And, worst of all, with a level 3 platform, you make it into an “all-or-nothing” proposal, completely about-face from what has driven the proliferation of Web 2.0. You create a walled-garden of proprietaryness, where every user is dependent upon your ongoing existence. Facebook expressly does not do this.

Even when people use your service because they have no choice but to limit themselves to your walled-garden, you will scare away vast swathes of the best users because they will be rightly suspicious that yours is a proprietary platform that they cannot exist without.

I would rather contend that class 2 apps are the best of all. Why? Because:

If I develop an FB app, and FB disappears tomorrow, I can still run my app all over the web with almost literally no changes to code.

On the other hand (and I know many examples of where this has prevented people from using SL, even though LL have taken many steps to blur this and insulate people from the problem, including open-sourcing pretty much everything)

If I develop something in SL, and Linden implodes tomorrow … I lose my entire ability to conduct business.

I think it’s telling that even in Marc’s post it’s clear he was struggling to find examples of class 3 platforms. I think it’s disingenuous to even put SL in that category, since it is (as noted) moving so strongly and rapidly towards being something different – they’re even talking about allowing anyone to run the servers themselves. If they’re a poster-child for level 3 being “much better for the developer”, then why are they running full-tilt for becoming something that would only fit in his level 2?

RPG Vault – Online Worlds Roundtable #15

Inteviewed for RPG Vault’s latest Online Worlds Roundtable – http://rpgvault.ign.com/articles/817/817490p3.html

“Web 2.0 businesses compete directly with the games industry on multiple levels, and anyone who doesn’t spot that and act accordingly will suffer. If your game doesn’t embrace – or deliberately and carefully reject – Web 2.0, you’ll that your users have created the space you *didn’t*, and someone else is monetizing it. And they’re probably making more revenue than YOU are from providing the core service in the first place!” – Adam Martin