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Sunday, June 2, 2013
One thing I forgot to address in my last piece on the end of used video game sales was the plight of consumers who depend on the revenue from selling their used games in order to justify their purchases.
Those people are going to get screwed.
So the question was asked: if used game sales are eliminated (or heavily curtailed) in the next generation of game consoles - i.e., if games move to a licensing model like every other piece of software - how will it affect the price of new titles over time? I'm going to argue that it will affect prices, but not by all that much, and not for the reasons you might think.
Friday, May 31, 2013
What's the big deal?
It's basically a PC with standardized hardware. From a technical perspective it's almost identical to the PS3. Because Microsoft is writing the tools for the platform, it will be better for developers than the PS3.
Sure, Microsoft botched the landing a bit. They were the first to admit that used games were going to be a problem on their new system. But here's the thing: with online passes, used games are already a problem for consumers. And I would be shocked if Sony isn't going to do the exact same thing on their new platform. All Microsoft is doing is making the online pass model the default.
Which they should. Far more than piracy, used game sales are killing the AAA game industry. Resale is one of the reasons all other software has gone to a licensing model. Digital assets don't depreciate. They're not like cars, where a used model is not going to last as long and is going to cost more to maintain than a new one. They're not even like operating systems or office suites. Games last forever. They don't break down. They're only useful to one person for so long - eventually, you beat the game and want to move on.
With that model and the ability to digitally resell (something that's likely to go mainstream in the next few years due to recent legal decisions), there will tend to be nearly perfect availability of used games, movies, etc. identical in every way to the new ones. It means that anyone that buys my game becomes a competitor, selling the exact same product at the same or a lesser price a few days to a few weeks later. That's something that doesn't and can't happen with physical products, which accrue wear and tear with time and use.
Which is again why everyone will eventually move to a license model. Saying that's what they're doing - and suggesting that the re-license fee will only be something small like $10 - suggests Microsoft is just being honest and generous to boot. Let's not go nuts and string them up for it.
Disclaimer: I was involved in the development of a successful triple-A title, Red Faction: Guerrilla, from 2005-2008. I no longer work in the electronic entertainment industry.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Big news - lots of conveniences, new features, and support for Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts.
Friday, March 29, 2013
So I tend to be the contrarian voice over at DMing with Charisma, and recently we had an exchange which I'll excerpt as follows:
Me: If people are forgetting to RP, that means that there aren’t sufficient rules to support RP, or it’s not compelling for the players to engage those rules. It’s a failure of design.
Him: I’m not going to respond ... because I’m fairly certain I can’t do it with civility.
In fairness, I probably deserved that. It was a strong statement and I should have gone into a lot more specific detail - which is what I'm going to do here. But to do that, I'm going to have to use...
Thursday, February 28, 2013
I've been doing a more-or-less-weekly open indie game series at the local store on Sundays. I post a schedule with a different game each week, and if there are enough interested people, we run it. If there aren't, we don't.
Monster of the Week was a bit over a week ago, and it was a lot of fun.
Monster of the Week (MotW) borrows Apocalypse World's "color-first" ruleset to simulate ensemble-cast monster-hunting TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, and Supernatural. The playbooks are very evocative (always a plus for this type of game) and cover most of the character archetypes from those shows pretty well. You can check them out for free at the Generic Games site.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
We've got eight episodes up and a backlog of 12+ that will go up gradually as I clear it. Most of the start is kind of random, but it's gradually settling down and getting more structure.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
So things have been going pretty well lately. At first, it was really weird because my brain kept telling me it couldn't be right and the bottom was about to fall out, but after a day or two of that not happening (and some encouragement from friends), awesome just seems to have become the new normal. Here's a brief rundown of stuff that has happened lately:
- I've been given some new responsibility at work - system architecture design on a project that's central to our flagship product. It's a lot of pressure and a lot of new managerial/organizational responsibilities, and I'm rightly a little apprehensive. But it feels really good to know that people wanted me on that project, in that role.
- Karen is also kicking butt and taking names at work. She's performing a full year ahead of where they expect her to be in her residency. But then again, if you know Karen, you expect that kind of thing.
- I've been invited to play with the Winds of the Blue Ridge, an incredible wind ensemble in Roanoke. From what I've seen in one rehearsal, they're at a level comparable to some of the better college bands - certainly as good as any group I've ever played with. It's an honor and a pleasure to have the opportunity. That doesn't mean I'm going to skip out on the Blacksburg Community Band, though. The BBCB is a wonderful social outlet and I don't think I could ever leave.
- The friendly local game store is doing well enough that the proprietor - a friend of mine - can lay back a little and stop working 60+ hour weeks. This is the first time that the place has been truly financially healthy (the closing of the other game store in our little college town didn't hurt) since I've known him, and I am tremendously happy for him. Not to mention the fact that it's one of the places I regularly hang out with friends, so I've got a selfish interest in its continued success!
- Along the same lines, my Friday night gaming group pretty much good to go with our new podcast (announcement forthcoming). We've got a domain, a blog, weeks worth of recordings, and an intro and outtro. I just need to start putting up shows and do some pub work. This is the biggest question mark of all the things going on, because I don't know whether we're going to get any kind of audience, but I sure as hell am going to try.
- Our Live Gamescreen app is reaching V1 maturity and will soon have rule support for "Powered by the Apocalypse" games.
- I've just run the first session of my recurring "indie game series", a set of one-shot RPGs at the game store on Sunday nights. The first game was Monster of the Week and it was a ton of fun. I'll have to review it at some point.
- I've also gotten news that a couple of co-workers are having babies and that some friends of ours have just gotten engaged. I am wonderfully happy for all of them - congrats!
Friday, February 8, 2013
I've updated the Live GameScreen software page. It's something my friends and I have been developing for almost two years now - a cross-platform immersion tool for tabletop RPGs. Best of all, it's free!
Go visit the product page for more info and screenshots.
Planned near-future updates include improved usability for FATE games.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
I've already commented on this over at Whatever, but it bears printing here, too.
Games Workshop recently took a self-published novel off Amazon because it mentioned "Space Marines". They claim that since "Space Marines" are a trademark within the sphere of board games, they can extend it to all other media as well.1 This is obviously not true; Space Marines figure in all sorts of science fiction, much of which predates the existence of Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 product.
If you want a litany of the company's numerous abuses against its own retailers and fans, feel free to follow the link to my comment on Scalzi's Blog. But this particular incident also speaks to something deeper and darker about intellectual property in the United States.
IP law is currently designed to favor the bigger guy. The way IP should work is obvious: I create something, I have an exclusive period in which I can market and sell that thing. The way IP actually works is that I create something, and then I must defend it tooth and nail against those who would steal it or claim it as their own. What I can defend and what I cannot is defined by byzantine laws that permit Fox and Blizzard to use other people's ideas while at the same time a snippet of a copyrighted song playing in the background of a YouTube video is enough to have it taken down (or at least deny its creator ad revenue). It is also defined by my ability to pay court costs to defend my intellectual property against those who would simply steal it because they have better lawyers and more money.
And that's just trademark and copyright. Patents are a whole 'nother can of worms. It is literally impossible to enter certain markets for computer software and hardware because so much of the available technology - including things as simple and obvious as clicking on something to buy it and pinch to zoom - are patented by the big players. Worse, key technologies are defended by consortia designed to give the big players a permanent oligopoly (e.g. the MPEG LA, which basically holds a patent to all digital video).
Until these laws are changed, companies like Games Workshop are going to have to go after everyone they can, no matter how ridiculous, just to stay afloat. Otherwise they risk losing the rights to their IP or having another Blizzard come along and rip them off. The small authors and creators that suffer as a result are just collateral damage.
1 Alternately, they appear to have a British trademark that applies to written material; not sure how this applies to an American author selling through an American company, though.