UK Games Archive

30 09 2008

I’m pleased to see this being set up by one of my local universities; I was present for the launch of GameCity and the announcement of this:

An archive to preserve the history of videogames is being set up by university experts.

Nottingham Trent University says the global videogames industry is worth about £22bn and steps are needed in order to record its development.

The archive will be housed at the National Media Museum in Bradford and put together by researchers from Nottingham Trent University.

The collection will include consoles, cartridges and advertising campaigns.

The archive will chart the history of videogames from Pong in 1972 to present-day blockbusters.

A lot of people won’t appreciate just how necessary this is, yet as Dr. James Newman points out countless works from other media have been lost over time due to a lack of these kind of efforts. A minority of people in the comics community have been agitated for years over the lack of a similar archive for comics, while important indie work piles up and gets forgotten.

Despite similar efforts for film, plenty of celluloid film has simply rotted away, and that’s somewhat due to it languishing under copyright law for decades at a time. That games are a retail product will no doubt make that less of a barrier to collecting and archiving important games and the media surrounding them.

(CC image by Brainless Angel)

Aerosmith: GH Worth More Than Any Album

18 09 2008

Interesting and rather provocative quote on MTV Multiplayer, from CEO of Activision Bobby Kotick:

“[Their] version of ‘Guitar Hero’ generated far more in revenues than any Aerosmith album ever has,” said Kotick. “Merchandising, concert sales, their ability to sign a new contract [have] all been unbelievably influenced by their participation in ‘Guitar Hero.’”

An Aerosmith rep was not able to confirm Kotick’s statement by press time.

Obviously, this needs a pinch of salt.

Nonetheless, games are syncretic media, and ascending. As such, we can expect them not only to adopt practices from other media industries, but to start eating up parts of the industries themselves.

(CC image by justj0000lie)

EA Acquisition of Take-Two: Cut

17 09 2008

Take-Two’s shares tumbled 24% this week on the news that EA was no longer interested in buying them. “Strategic mistake” seems like an understatement.

The most interesting part of the whole thing is that, while Take-Two own Rockstar, their latest contracts with Sam and Dan Houser end next February. This is being reported with full on, end-of-the-world-gloom for Take-Two, but I don’t think it’s quite so bad.

Even at such a high level and after a bidding war, how much would salaries for the Housers be as a percentage of Take-Two’s profits? Probably miniscule. Even if they don’t retain Dan and Sam, they do get to keep the Rockstar brand. While the Housers are becoming celebrities and carry a lot of value among game developers, it’s likely that the studio name is worth more.

Too late for Take-Two shares though, which have fallen to levels around where they were before EA expressed interest, and before GTA IV was released. Without some serious work over the next year, it’s likely the company will shrink, which is fairly shocking given that they’ve made the highest profile release of the year.

Though EA are apparently no longer interested in Take-Two, they will of course still be trying to expand to a size where they can’t be taken over themselves, so Ubisoft remain a likely target.

(Image: Wall St., in GTA IV)

Press in Flames

10 09 2008

A quick update on EA’s marketing stunt from Monday:

Photos of the petrol station are on Flickr, and Games Radar has a couple of pictures of the resulting queue.

MP Lynne Featherstone has waded in and demanded an apology. One again from the BBC:

“Whilst a lucky few might have got free petrol, hundreds of residents have faced misery”.

The Liberal Democrat said: “Trying to recreate Venezuelan-style fuel riots on the streets of London is completely irresponsible and downright dangerous.

“Hundreds of local residents have faced misery on their daily journeys this morning.

“They deserve an apology for being the victims of such an ill thought-out media stunt.”

Ill thought-out is hardly the term, more inconsiderate. Even in that respect though, the whole stunt is well thought out. Localised negative effects, in EA’s eyes, are probably a very small price to pay for the amount of coverage they’ve got for this. Google is teeming with news results, some of which have video. All of them have something like “The stunt was by Electronic Arts, to promote the Mercenaries 2: World in Flames game.”

It’s hardly surprising that it got shut down early due to traffic disruption, not to mention the British Government’s crackdown on firearms over the past decade or more making it very risky to tote an imitation gun in public. Nonetheless, using a commodity to hack a common motive and attach a brand is clever even if it did annoy lots of people. Opportunities to do something that effective are rare, or at least rarely used.

(CC image by Evan Hamilton)

Inflammatory Marketing

8 09 2008

This is disruptive yet amusing. Electronic Arts took over a petrol station and gave away over £20,000 worth of fuel to UK drivers. Why? To promote a game of course. They have made national news and done something that people will talk about a lot. The resulting marketing will be worth way more than an equivalent ad spend.

There are plenty of local residents unhappy with the disruption, and plenty of contented motorists. The BBC quoth:

Prince Davis, 37, who queued patiently for a quarter of an hour for free petrol, said: “This is a genius idea, whoever thought of this should be promoted.

“I’ll definitely be buying the game, you’re never too old to play computer games.”

Louise Marchant, from Electronic Arts, said the scenes of queuing mimicked aspects of the game.

She explained: “It’s set in Venezuela, you play a mercenary and fuel is used as a currency.”

(CC image by Sam Hailstone)

TT Games Work Goes Into Lego Batman Cartoon

28 08 2008

Less than a month ago I blogged about Jon Burton of TT Games saying they’d like to make telly programs and possibly films.

It turns out that “further in the future” meant “about a month”, with breaking the story today that an animated short is to be made with the assets from Lego Batman. However, it seems Warner have given the project to a third party:

“We’re looking to do… a Lego Batman series. I think they’re looking at doing a one-off initially,” he said. “And they’re basically able to utilise the assets, because our team has brought Lego characters to life.”

Earl added that Traveller’s Tales had no involvement in the production of the show, which is “being done by a separate studio in the States.”

“My understanding is that they will use the engine, the Maya files where the characters come to life, but they’ll be creating animated… I think it’s a 20-minute cartoon. I’m personally quite intrigued to see how it comes out. Lego, every time they’ve had a new brand out, they’ve done some CGI stuff as well, but I think this will be quite different.”

Infovore: Playing Together

28 08 2008

Tom Armitage has given a talk on games and social software entitled “Playing Together” at NLGD and also at Develop. We unfortunately missed it at the latter because we were running Games:EDU a couple of rooms away, but Tom has now posted text and images.

It’s a really broad ranging talk with some great thinking on what humans are and how we use games. It moves through the kind of social circles we engage in, how social software has drawn on playful experiences to cater to those, how people in turn find new ways of playing with things and each other, and what videogame designers might be able to learn from all of this. The large structure makes it difficult to quote from, so I suggest you go and read the whole thing.

And what do you discover about Nike+? You discover there’s a metagame to it. People start syncing late – filling up their run data and then only syncing at the last minute – to disguise how much they’re doing. They mess around!

Nike+ is ticking so many of our boxes: it’s asynchronous; it’s designed perhaps best for small groups; it turns running into a social object, putting it online. It’s a really great example of future for social play.

And it goes where I am: it’s a game that I don’t have to learn how to play. I already know how to run.

(CC image of volleyball by flyzipper)