Tuesday, June 28, 2011

AARP under right wing attack

The AARP, traditionally a strong supporter of medicare and social security and a pain in the ass to conservatives wishing to cripple or eliminate these programs, is currently under the same kind of low-political and propaganda attack we just recently saw leveled at PBS.

If you appreciate the AARP but are under 50 years of age, you might want to show support now by becoming an associate member for $12.50.

As a little fore-warned is fore-armed reading, the right is quoting this article BADLY out of context and in very misleading ways. if you think you might have to discuss it with someone, its worth reading in its entirety...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Just because you say it often, doesn't make it true....

One of the most common of logical fallacies in modern society is the Availability Heuristic. This is the tendency in the human mind to believe most strongly that which is most available in memory. This biases us towards decisions based on the most recent experiences, and the easiest ones to remember.

Its not an unreasonable bias to be built into us as animals. The most recent experiences have the greatest likelihood of pertaining to where we are right now. Furthermore, repetition increases memory and the speed at which memory is recovered, and this too is reasonable. If something happend 10 times recently its a lot more likely to be relevant then something that happened just once.

Generalities are also easier to remember then specifics. It can be argued that this too at one point in time was adaptive in that we are unlikely to encounter the exact same situation twice but we might well encounter many that have important things in common.

Unfortunately, today we live in a finely crafted soup of experience designed specifically to drive our decision making in directions those who pay for the soup want us to go. From all of the above comes a very simple and well known advertising maxim: the more times people hear your message from apparently different sources, and the simpler that message is, the more likely they are to base their decisions upon it.

The Bush administration raised this to a fine art in the political arena by coordinating many right wing radio and talk show hosts around daily messages. Each day they would send all these people a short list of bullet point "messages of the day' to tell their listeners, with the Fox news network at the center driving it home. (http://www.opednews.com/wade_071604_outfoxed2.htm)

A less directly coordinated, but no less insidious, effort has existed since the 1970s and has continued to exert its influence to day. (An examination of its approach to Welfare as an issue can be read here: http://www.publiceye.org/welfare/Decades-of-Distortion.html)

To me, one of the most insidious distortions that has been created through continued repetition of a falsehood is the idea that this is a "Christian Nation."

Nothing could be further from the actual truth. This nation was founded by expatriates from Europe, a place of legitimate Christian nations-- which is to say nations whose Kings claimed their right to rule on Christian religious precepts and which defined Christianity as their state religion.

In stark contrast, our founding fathers did *not* by and large identify themselves as Christians, but rather were part of a movement that has come to be called "enlightenment deism" by theologians and historical scholars. This was founded in the notion that god was represented in the natural order and could be found there, and not in institutions and religions created and run by men. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism)

They enshrined that belief in one of the most amazing and daring propositions of their day: that *all* men were created equal by their maker, and that freedom of religion was an individual right that should be held totally separate from the matters of governance. By doing so, they were declaring war not just on England, but on all the European notions of state religion.

This is NOT a Christian nation, nor has it ever been one. This is a nation that exists independent of any religion. That it happened to be majoritively occupied by Christians, at its founding or today, was not a reason to make that the state religion.

That was what our founders thought. Thats what the constitution says. And if you didn't know that, maybe you should read it again.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Non-news and real-news in the industry.

In the non-news category we have this totally incorrect but sure to be talked about blog....


The idea that this is some kind of end-run of one giant around another is entertaining, but also complete and utter bollocks. Anyone who actually researched and thought about the situation could see that.

Jobs is no fool. There is a reason why Apple allows HTML5 on their
platform but does not allow web Flash content.

HTML 5 is played under the control of the browser, which means they
have total control and can chose to block anything that interferes
with their business. Flash on the web is played by the Flash plugin,
and is under the control of Adobe and *not* apple. The Flash plugin
could be used to load arbitrary third party content onto the iOS
device and there is nothing they could do about it.

Jobs relented as far as allowing Adobe AIR apps because they cannot be
used to load third party content onto the phone and thus are not a
threat to Apple's control.

Microsoft taught the industry that the key to ultimate power is in
the hands of he who controls access to the user. Jobs learned that
lesson well.

Now in the real news department we have this salvo by Microsoft:

Make no mistakes, this is total FUD. The two "independent" reports cited in the article were released on the same day, less then 2 hours apart from each other (the writer acknowledges this correction in the comments below his article.) But it is important because it marks Microsoft's first offensive on a very real battlefield. Microsoft fought long and hard to kill OpenGL on Windows because they could not control it. And they had just about succeeded in getting the entire industry to relent and use the APi they *do* control, D3D.

But the unlikely partnership of Apple and Google have re-opened the entire fight for the desktop with HTML5. And a critical part of this is WebGL. So critical that IE9, while supporting much of HTML5, is conspicuously lacking this feature. This is a battle Microsoft could lose, they are losing market share as is to Chrome. The perception that they lag behind in features could accelerate that loss.

Microsoft is responding true to form. What they don't want to do, they attack with misinformation and fear tactics to scare customers and try to kill the market for. They did this relentlessly with Java. I'm sure they have done it many other times.

Expect their next move to be an "alternative" WebD3D based on the "industry standard" (in the sense that they own the industry currently) Direct3D API for desktop apps.

What happens after that will be up to consumers.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"You are at a cross-roads, you can go east or west."

We are at a potential cross-roads in online games in the United States, and its important the consumers understand the stakes.

Here's a simple question:

Its a given in a capitalist society that either you run a business to make money or you don't have a business very long.
Therefor in business, the primary motivator for any decision is "how do we make money."

Would you rather the developer of your favorite game's primary motivation be to provide an entertaining game that motivates and keeps subscribers, or a game that motivates you to "buy stuff."?

To put it simply, do you want to be entertained or sold to? Because thats the real choice. Ironically, as an important online developer, I find myself in the position of the salesman today when I really want to be an entertainer.

What do YOU want me to be?

Either way, you the consumer *will* be paying for it or there will be no more games. Your choice of ways to pay makes the difference in what we as developers become.

Yes Virginia, AOC is in trouble

This month, Age of Conan went to a mixed F2P/Micro-Transaction/Freemium model.

There has been a lot of arguing back and forth as to whether this is some brilliant financial strategy, or a desperate hail mary attempt to keep the game alive.

Unfortunately, all the real data suggests the latter.

Despite the gushing exuberance of Micro-transaction supporters, if you actually push them you will find their statements are based on little to no actual data. This isn't entirely their fault, the industry has purposefully kept meaningful data to itself. The wide-eyed perceptions being much better for business and funding.

As an actual participant in the industry, I've worked pretty hard to get a realistic picture. Based on what reliable information is available, what is said behind closed doors, and my own experiences, this is the picture I've come to:

Fact: Peak concurrently connected users (PCCU) is the metric that drives your operational costs. Thats what you need to support on your back-end.

Fact: F2P games are typically measured in DAU or Daily Active Users. DAU is 2 to 4 times PCCU as a rule.

Industry Knowledge (backed by real experience): Only 3% of your users of an F2P/Micro-transaction game ever spend anything. The result is that an F2P game is considered successful if it generates between $3.00 and $15.00 per DAU per month, which is $6.00 to $60 per PCCU. The vast majority being in that $6.00 to $10.00 range. (Thats successful games, unsuccessful games generate far less.)

Fact: By contrast, subscription games typically generate $5.00 to $15.00 per account. PCCU is reliably 5% to 10% of total accounts. That means a guaranteed income of $50.00 per PCCU on the low end to $300.00 per PCCU on the high end, with the majority actually being in the $150 - $300 range.

Conclusion: Subscription games generate roughly ten times the income per PCCU than do micro-transaction games.

So, how do people like Zynga make money in this market?

The answer is that casual game developers design and build their games to use absolutely *minimal* server resources, and thus support maximal PCCU per box. When we built ZooKingdom our target was 10,000 CCU per server box, and only one server box to support that 10,000 users. With Oregon Trail, we went to 30,000.

So called "hard-core" MMORPGs however are not built this way as a rule.

Instead, they are typically built to handle between 300 and 1,000 CCU per server box and require clusters of boxes to support a single virtual "server".


The simple fact is that the economics don't work. The ONLY way it makes economic sense for an MMORPG to go F2P/Micro-transaction is if your subscription sales are so low that you have unused capacity on your servers. In that case, any incremental income you can get for that capacity is worth it.

But for that to be the case, you have to have fundamentally failed first as a subscription game.

The other argument you hear is that players will 'demand" free to play and micro-transactions in the hard-core MMORPG space. Not only is there strong existence proof evidence to the contrary (WoW and DCU just to name two games being very successful right now with subscription pricing), but in fact there is even evidence that the subscription model will play in traditionally casual markets such as mobile.

(See this article for one example of such a success: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2011-06-01-order-and-chaos-online-makes-USD1m-in-20-days#justposted)

Addendum 2: If you needed any further evidence my call was right...