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)

Death of Leipzig Greatly Exaggerated

27 08 2008

The lingering death of E3 seems to be creating instability elsewhere, with European event organisers fighting it out to provide a better successor. As reported by MCV today, the MD of Gamescom organiser Kölnmesse is talking his show up, claiming it will replace Leipzig:

“It was to be expected that the Leipzig trade fair would try to keep the topic in its 2009 programme as well by announcing its date. But they will have to do it without the industry for the most part. The lead trade fair will take place in Cologne in 2009 and beyond.”

“From Leipzig we are bringing the clear message that the games industry will be exhibiting in 2009 in Cologne at gamescom.

We have met with broad approval, and the industry is looking forward to gathering in Cologne. Whatever happens in Germany in 2009 outside of Cologne cannot claim to represent this sector.”

Bullish, especially considering that Leipzig had record attendance at over 200,000 this year, and so many game developers have been talking it up as a good balance of trade and consumer shows during the long death rattles of E3.

However, GamesCom has the backing of the German publisher’s association, the BIU. Additionally, bad transport links have always been the Achilles’ heel of Leipzig, and and may be a big enough opening for Cologne to successfully attack. We’ll see.

For now, The Inquirer has some interesting details that aren’t being reported elsewhere:

Well, while the Leipzig organization owns the “Games Convention” IP, Kölnmesse was a bit more devious and hooked the BIU by offering it free-of-charge ownership of the GAMESCom event. So not only can Kölnmesse claim the backing, it will be the de facto official gaming entertainment tradeshow in Germany because it’s owned by BIU and regardless of whether it turns out to be a steaming pile of you-know-what.

So now, much like what happened in the UK, there’ll be two major gaming tradeshows in Germany that will eat each other up and ruin the fun for everyone.

There’s a massive opportunity in the wake of E3. Hopefully, these shows aren’t about to mutually strangle each other instead.

Stealth Outsourcing

26 08 2008

The most interesting thing I’ve read today is Gamasutra’s interview with Japanese outsourcing firm Tose. The company owns a little bit of IP, but the vast majority of work done in its 29 year history remains secret. The overall impression the anonymous interviewee gives is of a company that is humble, yet proud of the work they do.

I’ve seen similar attitudes from UK studio owners who do work for hire; AAA development gets prestige but can be volatile, whereas lesser projects can keep a business dependable in the long run, even if it is in the shade when it comes to publicity. While IP ownership is advisable for any studio, no IP is guaranteed to be successful, and banking solely on it is a high risk approach. Tose seems to take a very safe approach, and as a result employs around 1000 people.

(CC image by me)

Games Move Further Into TV, Film

15 08 2008

A couple of news items about games and film caught my eye yesterday, the first in particlar indicating that machinima is quickly jumping towards the mainstream. Starting with the relative obscurity of something like the demoscene, it’s now moving via games and youtube to become a much better known and expected thing.

Mark Rein of Epic Games writes about Blockade Entertainment this week, a studio set up to create animation using game assets. Technology has improved to the point of being visually acceptable (Though of course nowhere near the standards of Pixar), and games companies are understanding the potential value of their IP a lot more deeply. For instance, EA are looking at film licensing for Spore. Will Wright:

“With Spore, we’re looking way outside the game space, such as TV, movies, etc. We’re basically planting the seeds to spread Spore out to a much wider group of people than would ever play a computer game,”

The image above is from the execrable Doom film, which is pretty representative of screen projects based on games so far. With a greater number of people getting into the space, especially any like Wright, things are bound to get more interesting. Games technology has also at least advanced to the point where it can express drama even if making in interactive is still a grail.

EA no longer the world’s biggest publisher

3 12 2007

Activision and Vivendi Games to merge


In a surprise deal over the weekend, moves have been made to creates the world’s biggest publisher, called Activison Blizzard

(worth a total of $18.9bn) in the most surprising news of the year, Electronic Arts has been dethroned as the games industry’s biggest publisher, ousted by a new company formed following the merger of Activision and Vivendi Games.

The two companies said that the massive power-shifting deal will create ‘the world’s largest pure-play online and console game publisher’ – a company called Activision Blizzard, which will boast the highest operating margins of any major third-party video game publisher.

Creating the goliath company brings together a raft of Activision’s properties, including Guitar Hero, Call of Duty, the Tony Hawk series and a range of licences that includes Spider-Man, X-Men, James Bond and Shrek, with Vivendi’s slate of games which includes Blizzard’s world-popular World of Warcraft and its Diablo and StarCraft stablemates and the likes of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro.



23 08 2007

Oxford based middleware provider NaturalMotion have been working closely with quite a few developers worldwide, including RockStar and LucasArts, to integrate fluid procedural animation into their games. Today, they announced their own game IP: Backbreaker.

It sounds like it’s going to be more an arcade game than a sports simulation, which certainly suits the disaster-porn-esque rough and tumble of colliding bodies that NaturalMotion’s software is so good at. Indeed, the entire trailer for it focusses on tackling.

While it’s not necessarily my kind of game, I’m pleased to see it. The UK has slipped to 4th biggest game developer in the world from 3rd. The dollar rate is squeezing UK developers. We still have the development talent and critical mass to launch new IP, but it’s a fire that needs fanning.

Power of New IP

14 02 2007

Ubisoft’s vice president of publishing, Jay Cohen, has told that the company is planning to focus heavily on new IP as a means to secure its position in the market.Speaking in an interview conducted at the DICE Summit last week, Cohen described new IP as the “cornerstone” of Ubisoft’s strategy, adding, “In fact, I think we’re at three new IPs every three years� That’s sort of our target.”

As Cohen observed, Ubisoft’s intellectual property portfolio currently includes Rayman and Red Steel, plus forthcoming title Assassin’s Creed. “So every year, you’re going to be seeing something that’s going to be brought out by Ubisoft.

“If we can keep doing that, they’re sustainable, and they’re ours. We can take them with us no matter where we go.”

Cohen said that companies which rely on licensed properties over new IP can end up with difficult problems to overcome.

“For example, look at SEGA 2K Sports,” he offered. “They had the NFL license, and now they don’t. Boy, they’re kind of screwed… That’s a big hole in somebody’s business plan. All because the license ran out or the licensor took it back.

“You can’t take Rayman away from me, or Red Steel, Assassin’s away from us. And we think that’s what it’s going to take to continue to succeed,” Cohen concluded.