Friday, May 15, 2009

2009 Sloan Follies Video

Congratulations to the organizers of the 2009 Sloan Follies. It was a great, well run affair. I'm impressed by how funny many of the skits were. 

Here is my contribution, which I'm pleased got good laughs at the show:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Game Console for the Developing World

John F. Rizzo, CEO of Zeebo, was on the "digital distribution" panel at the the MIT Sloan Business in Gaming Conference last Friday. The Zeebo is a game console designed for the developing world.

It was launched recently in Brazil, and they plan to follow-up with launches in other developing countries, such as India and Russia. It operates on a card slightly larger than for a mobile phone. The idea is that it will download games over the 3G network instead of distributing by disc.

Here's a video on YouTube of the Zeebo:

In Brazil it costs about $200 (US), and they plan to reduce the cost to about $149 (US). You may think that is a lot for a product aimed at a developing country, but you need to consider that consoles such as the Xbox cost as much as $1000 (US). Contributors to the high price include high taxes to begin with, plus the fact that the same product is taxed at each point in the distribution channel. (for example, it is taxed when the importer imports it, then when he sells to the wholesaler, and when the wholesaler sells to the retailer.) Additionally, the $1000 price generally means that the store built in financing charges and you can pay over time, say $100/month for ten months.

You may ask, as my girlfriend did, what's so important about getting gaming consoles to the developing world? Well, probably benefits in at least three categories:
  1. Education. Educational games can be played on this, which is important for teaching skills not available. For some people this (and their phone) will be their main contact with a computer. This could be a great platform for teaching programing, language, or anything else that requires a skill-set and is hard to teach in a developing country.
  2. Work creation. Like the iPhone apps, this provides a venue for independent developers, at least for now.
  3. Proof of concept. If a project such as this is profitable, then it encourages others to develop technology for the developing world.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alternate Reality

Susan Bonds, the CEO of 42 Entertainment gave the opening address at the MIT Sloan Business in Gaming conference last Friday. She gave us very engaging accounts of how her company has designed amazing alternate reality games (games that combine online and offline elements), which serve as powerful marketing. 

For example, for a Nine Inch Nails album release, they planted a thumb drive with an unreleased track in a bathroom at a concert. A fan found it and posted it online, and other fans performed spectrographic analysis on it to find a NIN image embedded in the static. That led to websites purportedly  sent back from the future (with warnings from the fictitious "US Bureau of Morality") and a whole intricate puzzle story about the rise of an authoritatian anti-art government coming to power. The game recruited fans into a "resistance movement" against the anti-art future goverment.  One creative element was that when the CD's were released they were heat sensitive to reveal text on the disc surface after being played. The game ultimately ending with some fans attending a secret NIN concert. 

You can see some of their case studies here on the 42 Entertainment website. In another game, to promote Batman Dark Knight, one part of the game had fans go to a real bakery to pick up a cake under a false name. The cake had a ringing phone in it, which was then used to provide directions over the rest of the game. 

The Twitter tag for the conference was #MITBig