categories ... such as games

Halo Reach pulls in 200 million dollars in first day

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/16/10 02:04 PM

That’s the dollar estimate in the first 24 hours in the US and Europe. That’s compared to 170 million for Halo 3 when it was released in 2007

As is the tradition with these things, Microsoft made the obligatory comparisons to Hollywood movies, sizing up the initial “Halo: Reach” sales against the three-day opening weekends of “Iron Man 2,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Toy Story 3,” and declaring the video game “the biggest entertainment launch of 2010 in the U.S.”

Of course a movie ticket is ten bucks and Halo Reach costs 60. Still, that’s a lot of people willing to shell out 60 bucks for a game.

By the way, this is my new favorite video ever:

Comments | Filed Under: games halo microsoft

Google to take baby steps toward social networking

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/15/10 05:49 PM

We’ve been waiting for the alleged “Google Me” project to surface for a while now. Supposedly it was going to be Google’s Facebook killer, a social networking site that took on Zuckerbergia.

This despite The Goog’s not so stellar track record of launching Big New Products like Google Wave and Google Buzz (maybe the problem was how much those names sounded like laundry detergents?).

But Google Me never seems to get here. Like killer bees and the widespread adoption of the metric system, it’s always about to arrive.

Now Google’s Eric Schmidt says social networking on Google will be subtle and incremental. You’ll be able to pull in stuff from Twitter or Flickr, find out when someone saw your YouTube video. And play Farmville. Always with the Farmville. We’ll never escape Farmville.

Comments | Filed Under: google facebook twitter flickr social media Web Culture games

Angry Birds will let you cheat…for a price

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 12:12 PM

Angry Birds is probably the most popular mobile phone game of the last year (read comedian Paul F. Tompkins’ take on it). In the game you launch a variety of birds at a variety of buildings in order to destroy these green pigs and reclaim your eggs. Or something. It’s strange but it’s a lot of fun, in part because it’s so challenging. But now players can get an extra advantage in the game by purchasing a new character, the ultra-powerful Mighty Eagle, for an additional fee. We’ve seen this in games before: the game is cheap or free (Angry Birds costs $3) but upgrades cost extra. They hook you, then they reel you in.

Here’s the video that previews Mighty Eagle:

Comments | Filed Under: mobile games angry birds Web Culture business

Microsoft engages in Fort Gay bashing

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/09/10 12:30 PM

Josh Moore lives in the very small town of Fort Gay, WV. He signed up to play on the Xbox Live network and entered his hometown as part of his profile.

“But was subsequently accused of violating Microsoft’s LIVE Code of Conduct. Among other things, the code stipulates that you shouldn’t “create a gamertag, profile content, or in-game content that other users may be offended by, this includes comments that look, sound like, stand for, hint at, abbreviate, or insinuate any of the following: profane words/phrases, topics or content of a sexual nature, hate speech (including but not limited to racial, ethnic, or religious slurs), illegal drugs/controlled substances, or illegal activities.”
Apparently someone spied Moore’s city name, was offended (or assumed Moore was trying to offend), and reported it to Microsoft.”


So his account has suspended. Now Microsoft has apologized to Moore and the town.

But this stinks in a couple of ways. First, the idea that “gay” is an offensive word. And second that Microsoft wouldn’t take 5 seconds (fewer if they use Google Instant!) to check if the town was real.

Comments | Filed Under: games microsoft

Amazon poaches key game exec from Microsoft

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/07/10 11:59 AM

This is kind of weird considering that Amazon is not exactly known for making original games. Nonetheless, Andre Vrignaud who served as MSFT’s Director of Game Platform Strategy and helped develop the hugely popular Xbox Live program is going over to Amazon. Maybe he wanted to work in downtown Seattle instead of way out in Redmond. Or maybe Amazon is getting ready to do something big with games, the cloud, and the Kindle. The Kindle? I know. Weird.

Comments | Filed Under: games microsoft Amazon kindle

Play tech's Great Game

Posted: 08/31/10 06:00 AM

So we read lots and lots of tech headlines at this show. Facebook’s after Foursquare’s market; Apple’s after Microsoft; Google’s after everyone—the constant maneuvering and strategizing feels sometimes like a giant game of Risk. Now it is, literally.

This map belongs to the folks at Web 2.0 Summit, an invitation-only conference on the Internet economy. Even to them, it can be hard to see the big picture with so many players jostling for position. As Web 2.0 blogger John Battelle puts it:

The narrative is so rich, it struck us that it lends itself to a visualization – a map outlining these points of control, replete with incumbents and insurgents – those companies who hold great swaths of strategic territory, and those who are attempting to gain ground, whether they be startups or large companies moving into new ground.

You can make comments on the map, and pretty soon, the mapmakers promise, you’ll be able to play the game. Let’s hope the rules are not too complicated.

Comments | Filed Under: maps games economy web 2.0 jb

The Internet Tycoon Instruction Manual

Posted: 08/20/10 06:00 AM

Christian Sandvig is Associate Professor of Communication, Media and Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and a Faculty Associate of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

I learned almost everything I need to know about the network neutrality debate by playing the old game “Railroad Tycoon.” Remember those games? Railroad Tycoon was a popular series by Sid Meier (master of the simulation genre and the creative force behind Civilization) first launched way back in 1990. Most important for understanding network neutrality, the Railroad Tycoon series – especially the third one – often baffled gamers who thought that the games would be more about… well… railroads.

You see, the games, just like the US railroads that they simulate, often emphasized the second word in their title (Tycoon). The GameSpot review of Railroad Tycoon III declared that it “has something for anyone with a fondness for trains or making loads of money.” An outraged gamer named BarryD told MetaCritic that “It is quite simple to gain a boatload of money by buying industries and not laying any tracks” [except the bare minimum]! In an arch warning to model railroad enthusiasts everywhere, BarryD wrote that in this railroad game “there is a lack of focus on railways.”

Well there we have it. BarryD unintentionally gives us a pithy summary of the Gilded Age in American history. This is the period when we built our first national transport and communication networks, and robber barons and railroad tycoons like Vanderbilt and Morgan became the richest men on earth thanks to building the only railroads and then exhibiting a profound “lack of focus on railways.”

Caption: Railroad Tycoon? Or a portrait of Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts? [The Box Art for the original Railroad Tycoon] Image source: Wikipedia

It may be hard to conjure this distant past, but Adelbert Hamilton, writing in 1884, tells it like it was. The “railroad managers,” he writes, see it as their “duty” to “adjust the rates of transportation as to regulate the prices” of the goods that they convey. That is, not content to be in the railroad business, the tycoons leveraged their control over railways into “oil, coal, meat, and many other staples,” including land development. Hamilton writes that deals between railroads and privileged shippers impose “200 or 300 per cent [sic]” surcharges on goods they don’t want delivered.

Cattlemen, as just one example, depended on the railways to bring their product to market, but railroads launched their own pricier stockyards and declined to stop at the yards they did not own, even when they sat adjacent to the track. When this practice was declared illegal, the tycoons launched a strategy of traffic discrimination where the railroad would “prefer itself” (that is, it would improve service for stock destined for the yards it owned) whenever it was transporting livestock.

David Weinberger’s Future Tense blog post last Friday made clear what was at stake in the network neutrality debate. Adding to that, we can see that network neutrality is a new gloss on this old Gilded Age story. When you talk to your friends on your cellular phone, a cellular carrier like AT&T would rather “prefer itself” than let you use Skype. Comcast would rather “prefer itself” and have you watch all of your movies using Comcast On Demand, not download your torrents. (Even legal ones.)

Back when railroads ran the economy, or much of it, they did so to further their own interests. In general terms, we got out of this mess by establishing novel new independent commissions to apply a set of legal rules called “common carriage.” (The “carriage” originally referred to a horse-drawn carriage.)

These commissions, like the Interstate Commerce Commission in the US, wrestled with problems of fairness in transport, energy, and (drum roll) communication. Indeed this very system evolved into the modern Federal Communications Commission that today sits thinking about the newfangled idea of “network neutrality.”

The common carriage idea, in a nutshell, is this: We have some networked infrastructures that are essential to all kinds of other activity. These common carriers are companies that carry something very important for us (like Hamilton’s livestock or your phone call). They could be taxis, railroads, airplanes, railroads, telephones, telegraphs, or something else.

We don’t want these infrastructures to take too much of an interest in what they are carrying. We want them in the carriage business, not in the business of examining my cattle (or my video) to see how it might make them more money. No one can be turned away from a common carrier (non-discrimination), and they have to work together even if they don’t really want to (interconnection). We also ask them to publish their conditions of service, schedules and fares (transparency).

Here’s the thing: We took a sharp turn away from common carriage, mostly as a result of Bush administration policy at the FCC. We’ve used some version of these rules since England in 1348. (Really!) But the Bush FCC decided the Internet doesn’t need common carriage. Thus the entire so-called “network neutrality” debate is a way of fighting our way back to normal. As I’ve hope I’ve convinced you with all of the cattle and railroading, network neutrality problems are common carriage problems (as I have also written elsewhere in this PDF).

David Weinberger’s post is nostalgic for a geekier, open, and more transformative Internet of days past. Me too, but the Internet’s destiny isn’t the issue. Larry Downes, posting here on Wednesday wants us to think about this as a technical issue related to specific characteristics of cell phone networks and Internet protocols. Yet a common carriage regime has served us well for all kinds of diverse technologies from telegraphs to taxicabs.

In April, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced his intent to reclassify the Internet as a common carrier (in FCC-speak, a “telecommunications service”). But instead of simply returning to common carriage, he wants to take a tiny little step back in that direction.

It was absolving the Internet from common carriage in the first place that was a radical move (as legal scholar Barbara Cherry has written). Yet in the bizarre language of partisan politics today, the FCC’s passing glance at the common carriage rules caused a joint Republican statement proclaiming the idea radical.

Why would Google want to strike a deal with a carrier (Verizon) to see that its goods get preferential treatment? (Or in Wired’s extremely evocative phrasing, why did Google become “a Carrier-Humping, Net Neutrality Surrender Monkey?”). These are the enduring dynamics of networked infrastructure, not some new particular wrinkle of Internet technology that demands its own phrase.

As danah boyd playfully pointed out in May on her blog, we already hate most of these companies as though they were regulated monopolies and we often feel inextricably tied to them and unable to switch. Let’s adjust the regulations to match the user experience.

Let’s treat these problems as the enduring challenges that they are and return Internet infrastructure to the common carrier regime. Let the commission sort out the details, but please leave the railroads to be railroads and the Internet to be the Internet.

I never want to play a computer game called Internet Tycoon.

Comments | Filed Under: net neutrality Christian Sandvig games fcc

Eyeball video game controls. For when any kind of motion is simply too taxing.

 by John Moe // Posted: 08/04/10 11:25 AM

Microsoft’s Kinect system is coming soon. It’ll be great for when you simply can’t be bothered to use a controller. But what if physical movement is out of the question?

Some engineers in Austin, Texas have figured out a way to play Super Mario Bros. with their eyes.  They put electrodes around their eyes - these electrodes track the movement of their eyeballs. Apparently, it’s pretty tough to look places other than straight ahead at the screen, so no one has gotten past the first level.

Comments | Filed Under: video games games microsoft kinect

p0nd

 by John Moe // Posted: 07/13/10 05:10 PM

So I heard about this game this morning and soon found it to be unreachable. Enough people got interested in it to overwhelm the servers. Fortunately, I found some mirrors and played it, fell into a bit of a weirded out zen lull, and then was jarred at the end. Worth a play. Weird as anything. Bunnies show up sometimes.

It’s called p0nd.

Comments | Filed Under: games

3DS and Move

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/16/10 01:03 PM

At the E3 expo yesterday, Nintendo premiered the 3DS, a handheld 3D gaming gizmo. Like their long standing DS line but in 3D. What’s noteworthy is that it doesn’t require glasses (a huge stumbling block if this 3D revolution we’re being fed is to actually take place). It features a little sliding bar at the bottom where you can adjust how deep you want that extra D to actually go. As with all things 3D, is it a fad or The Wave Of The Future? Can’t tell but there sure is a lot of investment being made in The Wave option.

Meanwhile at the same conference, Sony tried to stay in the game with it’s new controller called Move, a motion sensing controller for use with PlayStation. It’s kind of like a cross between the motion sensing Wii remote and the body motion sensing Kinect that Microsoft showed off the other day. Nintendo’s Wii has been kind of eating the other guys’ lunch for a while but console games and accessories have been selling poorly as a category for a while.  I’ve seen some word that Move is more responsive than Kinect but it will be less expensive too, starting at $49. It’s interesting to note that while console video games used to compete to see who could make the most realistic graphics, now the focus is on the controllers and the living room experience. Wii led the way with that, offering a motion based controller while deciding that the graphics were good enough.

Comments | Filed Under: games nintendo sony 3d

Kinect: video game gamechanger or just a misspelled word?

Posted: 06/15/10 04:00 AM

We’ve been hearing about Microsoft’s Project Natal for about a year now. The idea is to have a video game controller without the controller itself. Cameras are set up that monitor your body so you’re free to participate in the game without pushing any buttons. If you’re running track, really run. If the game wants you to pick something up, reach out into near space and pretend to do so. It’s a neat concept but many of us have been wondering how it would actually work in the real world. Monday, Microsoft brought the reality incrementally closer as they presented the project, now renamed Kinect for Xbox 360, and demonstrated several games that will be available when it launches on November 4th.

Beyond the Kinect demo, they also announced that ESPN will carry live sports over the Xbox 360 and that the Zune music and movie service will be available on that unit to work with Kinect as well. To cap things off, they also presented a new Xbox 360 that’s smaller and has more memory.

We talk to Dean Takahashi from the floor of the conference to get his reaction. Dean writes about gaming for Venture Beat and has written two books about the Xbox. We also check in with Chris Klug from Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center about what Kinect might mean for gamers and non-gamers alike.

And we hear about the most annoying iPhone app ever: Vuvuzela.

Comments | Filed Under: games microsoft

Farmville is the cigarettes of gaming

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/08/10 11:44 AM

That’s what I tweeted yesterday on news that the TurboMegaGigantopopular game Farmville is coming to the iPhone. “We want to destroy the last shred of productivity Americans can manage and rip families apart,” the president of Farmville said but not really. Today, Larissa pointed out this article where Dr Dominic Micklewright, from the University of Essex compared the health of gamers to athletes.  The gamers have the reaction time of a fighter jet pilot, but the lung function of a 60-year old smoker.

Comments | Filed Under: farmville games iphone zynga

Zynga Owns You. And Now Your Slurpee Too.

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/24/10 10:03 AM

Tech Crunch reports that 7-Eleven has struck a deal with Zynga to brand various products in the stores with Zynga games like Farmville, Mafia Wars, and YoVille. The items will feature codes that you can redeem to, I don’t know, buy a cow or kill a guy or whatever YoVille is. BUT! The big story here is that Zynga says 10% of the US population is now playing Farmville. 10 %! So look out at the street, if you see 10 people, one of them is worried over their digital pig. What have we become?

Comments | Filed Under: facebook games slurpees zynga

The Coming Gamepocalypse

Posted: 05/20/10 08:00 AM

There has been an explosion of location based games recently. Talking about services where you use your phone to report in to a network about where you currently are. Then you can earn points or prizes from the businesses nearby. The businesses are happy to do it since the games are likely to keep you coming back. And the game developers figure that you may want to live in a world where you’re constantly living a video game.

We talked to Jesse Schell about this. He’s a on the faculty of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University and is author of The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. Jesse foresees what he calls a “gamepocalypse” coming where your whole day is a series of video games. Your toothbrush will report in wirelessly to a computer network on how good of a job you did brushing. Your cereal box will let you earn points and discounts for eating more cereal and recommending it to your friends. And that’s just breakfast.

Jesse says the upshot of all these games will be that our great great grandchildren will know exactly who we were: what we watched, what products we used, how we behaved, because everything is stored on a hard drive somewhere and retrievable.

Sometimes our show really puts the “tense” in “Future Tense”. As in: the thought of my great great grandkids knowing how much time I spent watching American Idol makes me quite tense.

Comments | Filed Under: games

Our whole world will be a series of games

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/19/10 01:29 PM

We’re talking to Jesse Schell on tomorrow’s show. Here’s a video of a speech he gave not that long ago. It’s about what he thinks your future will be. Lots of games but it doesn’t sound all that … fun. You should probably watch this.

Comments | Filed Under: games

Half of all games will be 3D by 2012, claims Ubisoft

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/19/10 12:33 PM


The game manufacturer made this rather bold prediction during an investors call. Before we dismiss this as nonsense, know that Nintendo is coming out with the 3DS by Christmas and there’s an aggressive push by developers and hardware companies to make gear and 3D games for Xbox and PlayStation. The wager is that the games would be more immersive and thus more attractive, you’re on a battlefield instead of looking at one.  Still, let’s follow the money: in order to exist, the entertainment industry needs us to constantly buy new things and to do that they need to convince us that those things are necessary and about to be popular and life changing.

Here’s Roger Ebert with a different view on 3D.

Comments | Filed Under: games

For the love of pinball

Posted: 04/26/10 09:58 PM

On today’s show I visit the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda, CA.

(See photo in the archive)

Comments | Filed Under: games history jg

today's show

What will we do with all this "white space"?

09/26/10 11:15 AM

There’s a vote coming up this week in Washington that will have a big impact on how you use the internet, what’s available to you, how much faster you’ll be able to get things online. On Thursday, the FCC is expected to open up unused parts of the broadcast spectrum, a lot of people call it “white space”. This is space that was positioned to be something of a buffer between television stations but such padding is proving less essential since the conversion to digital TV.

On today’s show, we talk to Glenn Fleishman from Wi-Fi Networking News and The Economist about how the spectrum works and what kind of new space we’re talking about. We also check in with Tim Wu from Columbia Law School about the companies that will look to use the space and what it all might mean for you and me as internet consumers.

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