Besides being extremely handsome and agitating, I also enjoys writing about all things business related. My education consists of Bachelor's degrees in both Management and Marketing along with a good education from the school of hard knocks.
My true business passion lies in small business and all things virtual. My very first college paper was an economics paper on virtual economies and was poorly written. Now my writing is merely sub par. My inspiration and interest in all things virtual really started with the book Play Money by Julian Dibbell. It is a fascinating look into the underground economies that run behind the scenes.
My online work includes a business blog called Gerbil Voodoo that covers all things business related and a blog title Video Game Mojo. My online portfolio also includes two e-commerce stores, angrybirdsmarketplace and tissottimepieces. Both of which are partnerships with a good friend of mine who does most of the heavy lifting.
Feel free to drop me a line telling me how awesome I am or more realistically how awful my writing is. Hope to hear from you soon!
The much anticipated release of ArenaNetís Guild Wars 2 is finally here. The game has been in development for years and promises to make a big impact in the world of massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMOís). The game includes many MMO tropes such as leveling, crafting, and both player vs player (PVP) and player vs environment (PVE) content.
What sets the game apart from other games in the market space is the way in which it approaches these things. The most important differences lie in the character leveling aspect of the game. There are three key areas to focus on; the leveling curve, the event system (no more quests), and the dynamic level adjustment system.
As anyone who has ever played an MMO knows leveling is at the crux of the game. Guild Wars 2 is no different in this aspect. There is however, a difference in how long reaching these levels will take you. Traditionally in games such as World of Warcraft (WoW) the amount of experience required to gain a level would raise exponentially over time.
An example of this in WoW the time it would take you to go from level 89 to 90 would be roughly equivalent to the time it took you to get from level 1-82. Thatís a massive amount of time required to reach the maximum level. In Guild Wars 2 they have introduced a kinder and gentler leveling curve. The goal is to provide a sense of accomplishment to players even if they are casual gamers. Having spent days playing Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC) just trying to get half of a level helps me appreciate this change.
Traditionally MMOís have based leveling on the completion of quests. These are generally tasks assigned to you from non player characters (NPCís) in the game world. They may ask you to bring a letter to someone, clean the bad guys out of a camp, or most boring of all ask you to kill x amount of something.
More recent MMOís such as Rift have started to embrace new ways to level. The introduction of world events and instant adventures in games allows players to join forces with others to complete certain tasks. Guild Wars 2 eschews the quest system entirely in favor of the aforementioned event system with some additional tweaks.
In Guild Wars 2 dynamic events actually have an effect on the game world. If you fail to stop an attack on a city then that city will be useless to the player base for a time. This is in contrast to the classic quest system as it actually has consequences. The end result of dynamic events is easy grouping and playing with a purpose.
Dynamic Level Adjustment
The introduction of world events and instant adventures provides great opportunities for advancement but they also offer one big problem. As a result of participating in these, especially in Rift, you can out level an area. This essentially means that your character is too powerful to gain any useful experience from finishing quests or battling creatures in the area. This forces the player to move on to the next area and miss out on interesting side stories that would otherwise enrich the world.
Guild Wars 2 obviously recognizes this and has found a rather simple but awesome solution in the way of dynamic level adjustment. This simple feature may be the most important aspect in the entire game as it will encourage players to finish as much of the game as possible not matter what level they are.
The way it works is straight forward. Assume you have a player that is level 60 and you want to venture with your friends in a level 20 area. Upon entering the area the game will reduce your attributes and stats to that of a level 21 character and allow you to earn xp at a regular rate (level cap +1).
This leveling works the other way also when participating in PvP. Anytime someone enters a marked PvP zone they will automatically be given level 80 attributes even if they are only level 20. Itís still not recommended to enter these battlegrounds at such a low level because you will not have the skills or armor available that higher level players will have. It is still great to have the option though.
Guild Wars 2 has taken the time to look at the problems that face MMO gamers today and have put forth quite an effort to provide solutions. All the reasons mentioned above plus no monthly subscription has made the game a must buy for myself and countless other fans of the genre. Now get out there and help save Tyria!
Electronic Arts (EA) released their quarterly financial statements for quarter (Q1) of 2012 earlier this month. Along with the straight up financial data they also provide a presentation that highlights some of the areas where they are doing well and some of the avenues they are pursuing for growth. Their overall plan is dedicated to what they call three strategic pillars. They emphasize Brands, Platform, and Talent.
For the sake of this particular article Platform is key because it is the area that focuses on making the brand digital. Now, letís take a look at some of the numbers pertaining to digital sales. The first financial area of note pertains to sales by platform.
A quick breakdown of their sales by platform in Q1 shows that PC numbers account for about 45% of sales with year over year (YOY) growth at 62% while tablets and smart phones are at 16% with YOY growth of 86%. The tablet and smart phone numbers are indicative of the general shift in consumer behavior. Electronic Arts didnít create the demand for this market but they have taken advantage of it.
The next breakdown comes in the area that refers to type of digital sales for Q1. These include full games, DLC, ads, and mobile. DLC accounts for an impressive 40% in this category which resulted in an 87% YOY increase. The smallest number to be found comes from full releases which only accounted for 10% of sales and has seen very little growth over the last couple of years.
The final and most interesting part of the report details growth by specific games. FIFA 12 and Battlefield 3 lead the way in terms of digital revenue for the company. FIFA 12 is on pace for about $161 million in digital sales compared with only $79 from FIFA 11, an increase of over 100%. My guess would be that FIFA Ultimate Team is the main reason. However the digital release of Euro 2012 probably helped quite a bit also.
The Battlefield series is a bit more difficult to compare across generations as they are all very different games. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 accounted for $66 million in digital sales last year while Battlefield 3 is on pace for over $180 million.
The one additional metric that they throw in is Free to Play (F2P) growth. In Q1 the average weekly revenue was $6.3 million compared to $.4 million three years ago.
Interestingly to me is that the Madden series isnít listed as measurement. Perhaps with the upcoming release of Madden NFL 13 we will see the game make a big bang with growing Madden Ultimate Team revenues. Other omissions are breakdown for Origin and specific platforms such as Facebook. Perhaps going forward all of these will be dissected more.
Overall when all is said and done it seems pretty clear that digital is the future for Electronic Arts. Rumors about NBA Live 13 will be available on Xbox Live, if at all seem to point to this possibility. NBA Live would provide a good test for EA as there will be nothing to lose on the title. Also one of EAís bosses, Frank Gibeau, basically came straight out and said it.
"We're going to be a 100% digital company, period. It's going to be there some day. It's inevitable"
When games come around that offer me a choice between male and female characters it seems more often than not that my choice is to play a female. When asked why my initial answer is because if my time is going to spent staring at my characters backside it may as well be something worth looking at. But that was never truly the real answer. No, the genuine answer escaped me until somewhat recently.
The answer is quite simple, male protagonists are a dime a dozen in video games today. Grand Theft Auto has always had a male lead with Niko Bellic playing the role in GTA IV. Read Dead Redemption had perhaps my favorite lead character in John Marston, and it also had his not so awesome son to take his place. And the recently released Sleeping Dogs has Wei Shen, the badass character not the professor from the University of Minnesota. Other games such as Dead Space, Halo, and every single COD clone also have a strong male presence at the helm.
There are some notable exceptions to this rule. Joanna Dark from Perfect Dark is one along with Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider franchise. Overall though female leads are quite rare. To make matters even worse women are generally meant to be saved in video games and are often the crux of the whole story. Take a look at Princess Peach for an older example.
It is with this in mind that the idea of a female character appeals to me. Games such as Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Dragons Dogma all center around a ďchosenĒ one overcoming the odds to save the world against impossible odds. By choosing a female hero it feels as though the odds are truly stacked against you. Every time someone doubts my in game ability it seems like a direct challenge that is to be overcome by my Fem Shep.
For some reason having a male Shepard somehow feels like cheating though that is clearly not the case. Like it or not, we still live in a male dominated society when it comes to war and competition. This mindset seems to flow into the game worlds with which we are presented. As far as Iím concerned that is fine with me. It simply provides a greater sense of accomplishment for me when my female protagonist finally slays the dragon to save the world.
One of my fondest gaming memories as a child was learning about the Konami code. It was the first real cheat code that me and my friends were aware of. Every time Contra was booted we would enter the code and listen for the reassuring sound that accompanied it. The result was that we had thirty lives in which to beat the game.
This was pretty much the extent of cheats that we had in games with the exception of the monthly issue of GamePro which would provide a handful of other useful secrets such as this Pro Tip: "To defeat the Cyberdemon, shoot at it until it dies." This really helped me as I tended to stop shooting at it and waited patiently for it to off itself.
Of course the world of gaming is quite different today as every game has a wiki or FAQ available with minutes of its launch. This can come in handy when stuck on some seemingly impossible mission or when searching for the final collectable on a vast map. This accessibility can also prove as a crutch at times for many players, me included.
Recently, while playing through Arkham City, I found myself looking at an FAQ anytime a mission foiled me a couple of times. It just seemed like a waste of time to constantly try only to fail again. The end result was me getting through the game quicker but also becoming more annoyed with myself for my lack of persistence in game.
It is almost always more satisfying to finally best a challenge by ourselves with no outside help. Dragonís Dogma was one game where this came through for me. My first battle with a Chimera left me wondering what my party had done wrong. However, when I finally put the right group together and killed that beast it was one of the most satisfying moments in recent gaming memory for me.
Currently Sleeping Dogs has been my gaming addiction and it is my goal to avoid using online help at all costs. And up to this point it has been successful. The main reason for this is that the world of Hong Kong, both virtual or in real life, is completely new to me and the wonder associated with discovery is really the most important part of this game. Once the main story is completed I may visit GameFAQís to find anything that has been missed but only time will tell.
What are your thoughts on using game guides or FAQís to complete games?
Sleeping Dogs is the latest in a long line of Open World games and it carries on the tradition quite well. The game is set in a virtual version of Hong Kong and as with its predecessors includes plenty of stuff to do outside the main story arc. And as with other games such as Grand Theft Auto (GTA), Saints Row (SR), and Red Dead Redemption (RDR) it is often the side distractions that really make the games enjoyable.
Sleeping Dogs is really no different in this regard as it provides plenty of side missions to keep the player busy. There are statues to be collected and returned, briefcases to be plundered, and cars that need to be brought to the chop shop. There is one distraction in particular that has piqued my curiosity more than any others.
In Sleeping Dogs you can watch and bet on cock fights. This is interesting to me for several reasons. For starters, no game has ever allowed me to do this before. There may be games out there where this is an option but this is my in game introduction to the spectacle. Secondly, the inclusion of the cock fights has really helped the immersion. And on top of that, one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld revolves around cock fighting.
My first trip to the fighting grounds involved a broken GPS that insisted my location was in the middle of a Freeway. This seemed quite illogical to me given the illegal nature of the activity. After driving around for a bit I found the entrance to shady arena. There was a gentleman standing there who was taking bets on the upcoming fight so I approached him.
Before placing my wager the two contestants showed me their birds and both insisted that theirs was the better of the two. My first bet was placed on the beastly looking black bird which proceeded to let me down. Not to be deterred I placed another bet, this time again on the new black bird. Alas, it was not meant to be. This bird was just as much of a pansy as the other and proceeded to go down in about thirty seconds.
After that I headed back to the market to find a new bed for my apartment. What more can be said, these side distractions can be addicting. Maybe next time Little Jerry Seinfeld will be at the cock fights and he can win me some money.
Ever since online worlds came into existence there have been people trying to figure out how to work the system to make real world money. Historically very few games have offered official ways to make money in game. The ones that have however certainly provide for genuine opportunities to succeed if you have the time and devotion.
Perhaps the best examples of legally making money in online games come from the world of Second Life (SL). The world of SL is almost entirely user created and allows for people to buy and sell virtual goods for Lindens which can be converted to real money. The most famous example of this in game economy is one Anshe Chung. Anshe became the first SL millionaire in 2006 by buying and selling virtual land.
The introduction of Diablo IIIís real money auction house (RMAH) a couple of months ago has provided a new generation of gamer with a straightforward way to convert game time into real world earnings. It is still early in the cycle of Diablo III but users are already reporting modest incomes from the game.
In instances where there is no officially sanctioned channel to make money players have been resourceful and found numerous ways in which to make the games pay. In the past it was not uncommon to find World of Warcraft (WoW) characters for sale on the auction site Ebay. These characters would consistently sell for hundreds of dollars with a purported record sale of around $9,000.
Ultima Online is one of the oldest graphical massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG,MMO) out there. In as such it has seen its fair share of virtual entrepreneurs looking to make real world cash. Items such as armor, weapons, and even castles have provided sources of income for numerous players for 15 years.
In his book, Play Money, author Julian Dibbell describes in detail his quest to make millions selling virtual loot with Ultima Online as his primary source of income. He describes camping out waiting for land to go on sale and tracking daily auctions among other things. When all is said and done he was on pace to make about $47,000 per year. Thatís a pretty good chunk of change for most people.
With all this money to be made what is stopping you from becoming the next virtual goods millionaire? To put it mildly, there are some very important factors to consider if you choose pursue a career dealing in virtual goods.
1. Time Investment
Letís get straight to the crux of the situation. Making money whether it is in computer games or in the real world requires time. The first step of course is research. One has to find the right game to work with and then the right items to buy and sell. Also, you have to take into affect variables such as timing and overall market conditions. In Mr. Dibbellís case he could make far more than $47,000 per year by utilizing his time on his freelance writing work. If you are serious about making money this way then you cannot treat it as a part time hobby.
2. Low Barrier To Entry
This item is both a positive and a negative. A barrier to entry is simply anything that would keep someone from entering a specific market. For example, if someone wanted to sell a new cola a large barrier to entry would be advertising cost to get the name out there. With the RMAH of Diablo III there are very few barriers. All you need is a copy of the game and a Battle.net authenticator. On the plus side this means that anyone can do it, even you. On the down side, this means that anyone can do it. Even if you are more efficient and offer better service people still have to wade through all of the offers to find you.
3. Never Ending Supply and Demand
In both the real world and virtual worlds economies run on the basic idea of supply and demand. Generally speaking, more demand equals higher prices as does low supply. This works well in a world where goods take time to create and supply is limited by raw materials and capacity. In virtual worlds such as Lord of The Rings Online (LOTRO) raw materials have a never ending supply.
Think firewood as an example. You can only cut down the tree in your back yard once before it is depleted. In LOTRO that same tree can be chopped up an unlimited amount of time assuming you have the patience. The end result is a glut of raw goods that essentially keeps prices low on all but the rarest of items.
4. Cost of Production
In economics the cost of production theory of value states that items have a value that is commensurate with the factors of production. The three major factors are labor, capitol, and land. In the case of MMOís both labor and land are all but taken out of the equation because all of the land is available to anyone and the labor cost generally consists of equipping an axe and pushing a button. By eliminating two of the major factors involved it drastically reduces the cost of goods sold.
5. Legal Issues
This is the grey area that can make doing any type of online business risky, not just virtual goods. For starters, those that sell virtual goods or characters outside of game worlds are often in direct conflict with the end user license agreement (EULA) that they agree to with a company before even playing the game. This can result in permanent bans and loss of all in game monies and assets. Marc Bragg can attest to this firsthand as he lost between $4,000 and $6,000 in assets as a result of a banning from by Second Life owner Linden Labs.
Other complications can arise from technical glitches or legal issues pertaining to jurisdiction. Blizzardís rmah in Diablo III has reports of errors costing players hundreds of dollars in real world currency with no real solution provided. As far as locality is concerned it is important to remember that games can be hosted in say the United States while the product seller can be located in Africa and the buyer can reside Russia. This can make it very difficult to seek a remedy for anyone that is wronged during an online transaction.
There have been many reasons listed as to why it can be difficult to make real money dealing in virtual goods. And all of these reasons should be taken to heart when considering this type of venture. However, it is important to note that these challenges can be overcome with foresight and perseverance. As Mark Twain once quipped, ďIt usually takes me two or three days to prepare an impromptu speech.Ē