August 31, 2004
Who'd want to work in gaming ?
Today Acclaim closed its doors for good. Acclaim weren't the first games company to fold and they won't be the last. They are however one of the biggest to fold so it sends a shudder through the industry.
Games companies are nothing special, just as likely to fold as any other company I guess - but it makes me wonder where it will end. Computer Gaming should be a profitable business - but it's also a hit and miss business. Titles that have no right to succeed (in the eyes of critics) often do well, and critically acclaimed (no pun intended) titles often fail miserably. This makes it more like gambling for many companies, not a great way to run a business (however the Film industry are experts at it...)
Are games too expensive to buy ? yes, I think they are - Personally I think they should cost about the same as a special-edition DVD movie, not the price of a box-set of movies. DVD found a great price-point with the public, we should take note of that. A few years back there were some US$20 games released that sold amazingly well - people didn't seem to mind if the game wasnt perfect, all they wanted was $20 worth of entertainment out of it.
Are games too expensive to make ? I don't know. Most game developers complain about not getting paid enough, and yet the budgets skyrocket. Perhaps the goals are too high for the current marketplace ? Or perhaps the non-development costs are killing us (licensing, advertising, etc) ?
Personally I'm always grateful to have a job and get paid a wage. I enjoy my work (more than I can say for many people I know) and the hours are actually reasonable when averaged over a year. I know there are people who will disagree, but thats true of any job out there. I just cross my fingers and hope that the industry survives (interestingly, I think that if the big industry fails then small startups will be able to compete again, and the industry will restart).
I send my best wishes to the people who have lost their jobs at Acclaim and hope that they can find work elsewhere, or that they can find another industry to work in. Meanwhile the rest of us will do what we can to avoid the same fate.
August 22, 2004
Where did all the schwag go ?
Now and then I get reminded that schwag isn't what it used to be... (and that people spell it differently). Over at NerdWorld the author of a blog is complaining (tongue in cheek) that he isn't getting swag, including not getting a copy of Transformers PS2 Game from Atari to review. Now since I'm no stranger to schwag/swag I know how he feels - but it's just plain weird that he wants the game I just finished producing as schwag :-)
Over 5 years (1996-2001) I collected a massive amount of schwag as I traveled around the world going to gaming conferences (GDC, Sony Devcons, Xbox Devcons, etc)
Just ask my wife - I haven't bought any clothing for the top half of my body for 10 years, with the exception of some souveniers and stuff for formal occasions.
Why ? Because I have dozens and dozens of T-shirts from those conventions (some still never worn!). and I gave most of the ones I collected away after each conference!
What else have I received (either for me or the company I work for) over the years? ...
- 3d video cards (pretty much every brand, from crap to brilliant)
- Entire PC's (seriously!)
- Sound cards
- Games (usually PC games)
- Cups, Mugs, Pens, Keyrings
- Joysticks (good ones, MS Sidewinders)
- a keg of Beer (!)
- and heaps of desktop toys and figurines.
These days it's dried up a great deal, companies are not trying quite so hard to bribe developers. Yes, sometimes they are bribes. In some cases they are justified (e.g. 3d cards being supplied so you could guarantee support for them, same deal with the PC's) but in other cases it's more about making relationships.
In fact, one guy that I kept in touch with changed company 3 times and took me along (figuratively speaking) by keeping in touch and sending out cool stuff from the new company. This meant that when the shit hit the fan during development I found myself contacting him rather than giving up on the hardware he represented.
Which brings me back to the orginal point... where has all the schwag gone ?
Anyone out there still getting cool stuff ? I've kind of dried up since 2001 because I've changed roles (now a Producer) and because we've stopped making PC games (which is where all the good schwag is!)
Reviewers get great schwag - free copies of games. In fact I've always wanted to be a DVD reviewer because I could save a fortune on my DVD collection... but then I'd be forced to watch stuff I'd never watch otherwise.
August 10, 2004
AGDC, and monkeys
Ok, I'll admit it, not only am I currently searching for a topic to talk about at AGDC but I'm trying to think of a way to get the word Monkeys into the title :-)
A couple of ideas I'm fleshing out:
1) A talk about how we use Bugzilla to both track bugs and to do day-to-day project management at a micro-level (rather than at the Gantt level). Or more specifically, how we use it, how we could improve our usage, how it helps and where it hinders. (thanks to Alex for that idea)
2) A sequel to last years Monkey Madness talk. However I'm not sure I've got enough new stuff to fill out the whole talk at this stage.
There are a bunch of other things I'd love to talk about, but don't have enough to cover a whole session at this stage - maybe I'll just rant to the people I end up having lunch with (again!).
Of course given that I havent settled on a topic there's always the possiblity that the AGDC will give my slot to someone else, so I'd better hurry up!