The Future Is Online

17 10 2008

Paul Mayze (COO of Monumental Games) and Mario Rizzo (Realtime Worlds‘ Business Development Manager) will be speaking at this year’s GameHorizon Conference at Centre For Life in Newcastle. The subject:

If online is the future of gaming, what does it take to be successful in this space? and how can you make the transition to online?

The event is on Thursday 23rd October, it’s free, and there’ll be food, drink, and networking afterwards. If you’re thinking of getting your business online, this looks like a a good place to be as they take a new look at MMO’s and Online Gaming. Register for the event here.

Recession Proof Earner?

26 09 2008

NPR ran a piece the other day headlined with the abominably delicious pun “In Tough Economic Times, Video Games Console

It’s a rather fluffy piece, but is a non-specialist press pointer to an important trend: Entertainment does well during times of recession, and games are growing much faster than any other form at the moment.

Boing Boing pointed to this with the headline “Games are recession proof earners?“, but I’d really like to see more comprehensive figures comparing them to other media over the next few years.

(CC image by crowolf)

Studio Closures

11 09 2008

It’s been a sad week for UK game development, with NCsoft shutting the UK development studio and cancelling the unannounced MMO they were working on. The designers I knew working on the project are very sad, telling me only that it was an exciting project and they’re absolutely gutted to see it end.

There have been quite a few studios closing down over the past few months, with Pivotal also recently going in the UK. Microsoft have announced that US outfit Ensemble will be shuttered after Halo Wars is done. SEGA Racing was also closed in the UK this April, though Codemasters quickly snapped everyone up to form their own racing studio.

Gareth Edmondson of Ubisoft Reflections cites studio closures and consolidation as a sign of industry maturity. If so, it’s one that has been ongoing for 9 years or so, and I doubt it’s so cut and dry. Often closures and redundancies have been signs of bad production practices, such as scaling problems faced by companies that only work on one project at a time.

It seems the credit crunch is biting the games industry hard. It’s also the case that entertainment does well in times of recession. I expect to see the strongest players doing marvelously by the time the world is maneuvering back out of the present financial crisis, but am worried about developers. It’s highly likely that, big publishers doing business how they do, studios will only see a mite of the proceeds.

(CC image by Jasoon)

The End of “Gamers”

22 07 2008

Ian Bogost has an article up on the newly relaunched EDGE Online (replacement for Next-Gen), talking about ideas of who gamers and what games are. He’s particularly cogent near the end:

When we acknowledge videogames as a medium, the notion of a monolithic games industry, which creates a few kinds of games for a few kinds of players, stops making any sense. As does the idea of a demographic category called “gamers” who are the ones who play these games.

It’s taking some people a very long time to comprehend just how much the industry is fragmenting and expanding; I suppose old memes die hard, and we’re going to need a lot of speech like that above before a lot of people get it. I speak to some very progressive developers nowadays who are convinced that the AAA, boxed product, two week sales window is the road to extinction, and there’s a good chance they’re right. Of course, the people who play those games will still want that kind of content, but it seems like new forms of production and distribution will eventually trump all of the old school studios.

I got stuck into the comments there, and commenters over there seem okay so far too. Here’s hoping the standards stay up 🙂

(CC image by Steve Rhodes)

Rating Systems

2 05 2008

PEGI ratings

The BBFC intend to launch a rating system for online games and films in just a few months, much faster than the two years or so stated to implement the full recommendations of the Byron review. It seems the BBFC are going to work with PEGI, and this TechRadar interview with BBFC chairman David Cook goes into some detail on it (warning, site has popups):

Tanya Byron has recommended pretty much the same thing online as she has recommended for physical product, which is that games to be rated 12 and up should come to the BBFC. So there are two routes we could go here. We could either set up something which we are already doing – called BBFC Online – as a competitor to PEGI Online or we could feed into PEGI Online, given that PEGI Online already recognises BBFC symbols.

In early April the same site interviewed Patrice Chazerand from IFSI (the body in charge of PEGI), who also seems to be a pragmatist:

“The UK public probably couldn’t care less about the competition of two game ratings agencies – they care about getting the right information,” he added.

Maddeningly, just when it seems all the sulking could end, DSGi have announced that they’ll be rolling out their own in store game ratings system. Why? It seems utterly pointless and confusing for a retailer to expend resources on a third rating system when they could put more oomph into raising awareness of BBFC and PEGI ratings.

It gets worse. Here’s how the rating panel will be selected:

The Currys panel will be selected from the winners of in-store competition, the retailer has said.

and what the system will feature:

The sticky labels will feature a “squabble-ometer” and a laughter scale.

Not only is this going to be cringeworthy, but by the sounds of it, despite their line on games expanding into a family activity, the way they’re pitching it is all wrong. It’s crazily simplistic to reference the “games are for teenagers” meme as dying then imply that they’re for kids. A patronising, proprietary ratings system that regards games as “family fun” instead of entertainment for all ages, including adult only titles, is going to do absolutely nothing for games or anything else.

On reflection, DSGi’s system sounds like it might be exactly the kind of crashingly irrelevant rubbish that people just ignore. Here’s hoping.

Rest in Peace, Gary Gygax

6 03 2008


Gary Gygax was at GDC this year. Sadly, news comes via nearly everywhere that he just died. From Terra Nova:

May he rest in peace proudly as one of the very few people whose creations will outlive them.

(Edit: XKCD has done the sweetest tribute I’ve seen).

CC image: D&D circa 1970, mattdork

SCi Cut 25% of UK Workforce

6 03 2008


Reducing them to a total of 800 employees, they are axing 14 projects. No announcements as to which ones yet:

SCi announced its restructuring plans after suffering an £81.4m loss from operations in the six months to December 31, 2007, compared to a loss of £17.9m in the same period in 2006.

Off to GDC 08

14 02 2008

GDC 08

Pixel-Lab will next week effectively pack up and be off for 10 days to the States.  David & I will be attending GDC, the largest games industry conference, and are exited that as a company we will be there in force.

I am speaking at the IGDA Government & Associations Summit on the Monday, and at the IGDA education event on the Monday & Tuesday.

As well as having tonnes of meetings on regional support, tv and virtual world cross overs, pitching our new training, and generally getting about.  If you are going make sure to add us on MyGDC, if not we will see you when we get back.

apologies for lack of posting next week 🙂

GAS Idea Takeaway
The goal of this seminar is to identify what issues are best addressed by government and support organizations and to find strategies to deal with them. It is also a networking opportunity for the participants. The seminar is also intended as a source of inspiration that lasts.

Intended Audience
A broad definition of the intended participant is: someone who is involved with developing the structural factors for game developers, but not necessarily developing games herself. This includes civil servants in cultural-, economic development and technology fields, trade associations, policy-makers, researchers (cultural studies rather than tech or design), active IGDA-members (chapter organizer).

Education Event – Session Description
This 2-day summit will focus on nuts & bolts practices in curriculum and teaching methods for game development education. There will be two tracks, one aimed at novice educators just entering the game education genre, the second for experienced educators looking for additional tools teaching game design and development. There will be lectures, model curricula, case blasts, post-mortems, interactive hands-on sessions as well as great opportunities for networking and discussion throughout the workshop. Attendees will leave with useful examples and ideas on how to best develop and/or reinvigorate game development curricula in their institution.

Idea Takeaway
The goal of this workshop is to address educational issues by sharing examples of best practices in teaching and curricula. It is our hope that participants will collaborate and help create guidelines for the growing community of educators teaching video game design and development.

Intended Audience
The workshop has value for teachers, students and developers interested in a dialog between education and industry professionals. This workshop is aimed at higher education practices.

Dr. Richard Wilson, new CEO of TIGA

31 01 2008

Richard Wilson, new CEO of TIGA

Richard Wilson (previously Head of Business Policy at the Institute of Directors) was unveiled as the new CEO of TIGA, The Independent Game Developers Association here in the UK, at the trade body’s annual awards dinner.

Wilson, ex Torie researcher, takes up the position in March, succeeds current CEO Fred Hasson.

“The appointments board was unanimous in selecting Richard for the post,” said TIGA chairman Ian Baverstock.

“He, like our current CEO Fred Hasson, has no previous games industry experience but has an impressive public affairs background and understands issues relating to industrial sectors.

“We think he has the right qualities to build on TIGA’s achievements to date and take the organisation forward.”

“I am delighted to have been appointed CEO of TIGA. It is a lean, innovative and effective trade association that does a magnificent job in serving the interests of UK games developers,” Wilson said.

“Fred Hasson has been an outstanding CEO and it is an honour to follow him in this role. I am looking forward to campaigning vigorously on behalf of TIGA members, further enhancing TIGA’s effectiveness and raising the profile of the UK games development sector.”

Richard was previously Director of Communications at the Royal Academy of Engineering (2006– 2008). As Director of Communications he had responsibility for the management of the Communications Department, the Academy’s public and media relations, the development and delivery of the Academy’s publications, the design and delivery of the Academy’s programme of events and oversight of its awards portfolio. He was also Secretary of the Associate Parliamentary Engineering Group. Richard was Head of Business Policy at the Institute of Directors (IoD) between 1998 and 2006. Here he played an important part in the work and management of the IoD’s Policy Unit. He authored numerous policy papers, delivered keynote speeches and was a regular media spokesman.

Prior to joining the IoD, Richard worked at the Conservative Research Department (1996 – 1998), where he provided support for Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet Ministers and MPs. Between 1995 and 1996 Richard worked as a political researcher for Andrew Lansley (now the Shadow Secretary of State for Health) and co-authored the book Conservatives and the Constitution.

Richard was educated at Reading University, where he gained a Ph.D. in political theory. He also taught politics at Reading University. Between 1999 and 2002 he was a governor of Christ the King Primary School in Berkshire. Richard is currently the Chairman of the Better Payment Practice Group, a public-private partnership that aims to improve the payment culture amongst businesses in the UK. He is also an independent director of the board of ‘Improve’, the Sector Skills Council that aims to raise the level of skills and training in the food and drink industry.

Tshirts in development

14 12 2007

We took these as our tshirts were in development.  Thought we might share: