A little bit ago a full trailer for the Ready Player One movie was released and let me tell you, the resulting discussion from everyone made a whole bunch of old feelings resurface. Namely just how much the book sucked and how awful a thing it is despite its popularity. If you don’t know what Ready Player One is or haven’t heard of it, here’s a quick summary: it’s the future and the actual world sucks, but there’s a virtual world called Oasis where everyone can go and be different people. The creator of Oasis hid an Easter Egg in the virtual world somewhere and whoever finds it inherits control of all of Oasis, so there are people who dedicate their lives to finding this Easter Egg so they can become the world’s most powerful person.
Last Thursday were the Game Awards which are basically the video game version of the Oscars – a selected group of games journalists vote on the best games of different genres released over the year, along with other categories like vocal performances, soundtrack, etc. The Game Awards only loosely resemble the Oscars though as they are a work in progress. From 2003 to 2013, Spike TV produced the Video Game Awards (VGAs) and much like anything you’d watch off of Spike TV it was mostly a trainwreck every year. Spike “cancelled” the Video Game Awards in 2014, which led Geoff Keighley – a games journalist who usually produced and hosted the VGAs – to create and fund The Game Awards on his own. Since this is only the fourth year he’s done it, he is still working the kinks out of the system but it has gotten progressively more professional since Spike stopped being involved. Of course we haven’t reached Oscar level of professionalism yet though – for example, you’d never see this happen at the Oscars, but it sure did happen live last Thursday!
I briefly touched on the new mobile game South Park: Phone Destroyer in the first post I did for this blog. Since then I’ve put a lot more time into it and I’m actually enjoying playing it a lot. The game itself is a weird tower defense/RPG/beat-’em-up/card collecting hybrid where you, as the New Kid, have a deck of cards that you use with your phone to summon other South Park denizens. Collecting cards and upgrade items allows you to make your cards stronger like an RPG, and the main campaign is a side-scrolling beat-’em up where the cards you summon automatically attack enemies on-screen. If you, as the New Kid, die from enemies on screen, the level ends a la tower defense – but as long as you’re alive you can keep summoning your cards over and over ad nauseum to complete the level. It’s surprisingly fun and engaging for a free-to-play mobile game as one person observing me play it actually said “wow, that looks like it needs attention like an actual game and not a phone game.”
In late 2008, Bobby Kotick – the CEO of Activision Blizzard – was quoted as saying the following after his company decided not to make sequel follow ups on certain intellectual properties they acquired: “With respect to the franchises that don’t have the potential to be exploited every year across every platform with clear sequel potential that can meet our objectives of over time becoming $100 million plus franchises, that’s a strategy that has worked very well for us.” This caused an uproar in the gaming community – using the word “exploit” in your strategy for games was not something you want consumers to get wind of. But Kotick’s vision of “exploiting” yearly franchises was something that would be pretty regular in the years to come – not just for Activision but for other companies. Running games into the ground while they’re popular and milking every last cent out of the consumer before throwing the IP onto the trash heap and moving on was profitable for the big names.
“As a service” business models have become all the rage in recent years. If you haven’t heard of “as a service” as a business term before or don’t know what it means, I’ll give you a quick explanation. In general, most things you spend money on were finite products: you pay to McDonald’s $5 and get a cheeseburger value meal or you pay Best Buy $20 and get a DVD. As the great Homer Simpson once thought: “Money can be exchanged for goods and services!” And a lot of what you buy is the “goods” portion of that. The “services,” up until recent years, have mostly been things like mechanics, or hair stylists. You go to a professional who can do something you can’t, you give them money, and then they perform the service – you get your car fixed, or your hair cut, or whatever it is you want done.