All posts by TheBlackFin

Chief Digital Officer, Agency at Epsilon & Principal at Blackfin360, LLC.

iPhone

apple-iphoneI have taken the plunge and traded in my Samsung Blackjack for an iPhone. For the most part I live on my phone so I had concerns around how the iPhone would support my e-mail addiction. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to connect to our exchange server. Simply input the incoming and outgoing server as well as credentials and you are set up.

Activation was simple as it actually occurs through iTunes so your time in the retail store is minimal. So far I have been very impressed by the sleek design,but even more impressed by the multiple options in terms of functionality (iPod,Safari YouTube, maps, etc…).

For those of you waiting for the nextversion to “work the bugs out” I would recommend going ahead and taking the plunge. I am very glad that I did.

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One Console

While flying to San Francisco today I read an article that got me thinking… It discussed the fact that it is inevitable that a unified gaming platform is coming. It referenced past examples of commodification (when an item that previously was not a commodity becomes one). The primary example was the cell phone and how it started as a status symbol and they were expensive and all they allowed you do was make calls. Now they are small, play music, record video and for the most part are no longer status symbols… essentially a commodity. 

History shows that technology always becomes commodified and follows similar life cycle patterns. This is now happening with gaming consoles. Gaming consoles today do more than the market wants or needs. Now they serve as your media hub for movies, pictures, the web, etc… Once you reach the point in a products lifeccle where you are positioning more features than the market needs you begin to commoditize your offering. 

The current splits between systems also greatly impact publishers as they have to decide whether they are going to release a title across the major first party systems or go with a proprietary system and receive additional compensation. This model is counter productive in some ways as additional resources are utilized not in the creation or enhancement of the gaming experience but to ensure the game ports to the specific format. Also there is more content being released that is not necessarily competing directly with other titles on other systems. This in turn dilutes the publishers efforts as they are not receiving the type of market penetration that is conducive to larger profit margins.

In esssence these factors will lead to the inevitable which is a one-console future. The article stated that this would not occur because we want one but because the market cannot sustain itself. What would happen if this were the case? You would see a drop in hardware cost and an increase in manufacturers as this would de-emphasizes the importance of the hardware (Think TV’s in recent years) and allows game publishers with 100% market penetration which would lead to cheaper games as publishers would not have to split resources between two versions of the same game. This would also create more of a channel approach to distribution.

What are your thoughts? Is a unified console a reality? Can the market continue to sustain the current fragmentation? If it were based on the current generation consoles I would call it the WiS360… or the PSWii60.

CSDC Live Blogging

This weekend was the first annual Community Server Developer Conference. With around 100 attendees from all over the world discussing development on the Community Server platform as well as sneak previews of upcoming Telligent products it comes as no surprise that there are live updates from the event. 

Kevin Harder was keeping everyone not attending in person up-to-date via his blog. Here are the posts from Saturday morning session and afternoon and here is the post covering Sunday’s sessions. There was a lot of really good information around Community Server including dynamic skinning and theming, and many sessions highlighting items from the upcoming Community Server 2008 release including groups, widgets and the newly created CS web services stack. Other sessions highlighted our upcoming CMS Graffiti, and one of the items I am very excited about, Enterprise Reporting.

The sessions were recorded and will be available very soon.

csdc

Shutout

nhl_2k8This post is short and sweet. For the past few years Rob, myself, Scott Dockendorf, and Kevin Cunningham have played the various Xbox 360 NHL 2Kx titles. (6, 7 and now 8). During this time Rob and I have teamed up against the duo of Kevin and Scott “The Butcher” Dockendorf.

The series have gone back and forth with one team gaining a lead in the overall standings only to have the series even again. But never during the hundreds of games that we have played together has there ever been a shutout… Until today.

Final score Rob/Tom (Calgary) 8… Scott/Kevin (Calgary) 0

This post is not to boast, but to capture the event in all of it’s shocking glory as we chronicle the never ending series of games and to serve as a humble reminder of the fact that yes Scott and Kevin… You were shutout on this day :)

Microsoft Marketing Services

Microsoft has a lofty goal. Within the next 4 to 10 years they look to have advertising account for 25% of Microsoft’s business. Based on recent revenue that would be upwards of $12 billion dollars a year. That represents a couple billion more than Google made in total last year. Think about that for a moment.

Why the sudden interest in advertising? Well to start you can look at the strides Google has made in the space with the AdWords model over the past few years. Combine that with Steve Ballmer’s view that there is an increasingly blurry line between software, media, and advertising and the fact that Microsoft spends $3 billion a year on advertising it’s various products and brands and you can begin to see why this is becoming such a central focus within Microsoft.

It’s great to have a goal, so the next question is how will Microsoft strive to achieve a 12 billion dollar yearly run rate? It will be a major transition going from a software services model to a marketing-services/audience company. It looks as though acquisition will be the plan of attack. Looking back to the recent acquisitions of Avenue A/Razorfish, AdECN, in-game ad serving company Massive and mobile network Screen Tonic shows the initial steps in this direction. There are also many rumors swirling that Microsoft is targeting a deal with Yahoo. Microsoft currently has a goal of 30% of the market where their current search share is 11% and Yahoo currently owns 23% whereas Google owns 56.5%. 

It is true than many agencies outsource the technology pieces and focus on being a strategic partner. Microsoft looks to be focusing on all sides of Marketing-services and advertising. Avenue A/Razorfish highlights the desire to learn more about agency style work while they simultaneously are working on gaining market share in online advertising. This is an interesting move considering that Microsoft is a very partner driven company to date. Product implementation and customization services are handled by Microsoft Consulting Services and various partners from the partner program. And currently Microsoft leverages the services of Young & Rubicam and MRM Worldwide to handle the advertising for its various lines of business. It will be very interesting to see how the acquisitions will go on the Marketing-Services side.

If any team can do it (funding and understanding of technology) it is Microsoft. They have always followed a second to the market mentality, or make it better and faster and endlessly market it. Agency style marketing is not in the corporate Microsoft DNA so it will be very interesting to watch over the next few years.

MySpace & Community Server

Over the past year we have been working with the MySpace.com team to position Community Server as the engine to the MySpace.com forums. Recently the MySpace.com team launched the Community Server powered forums.

From a scalability perspective this posed some unique usage scenarios as MySpace features 70 MILLION users. So when potential clients ask about scalability of the platform we can point to MySpace.com as the example.

The MySpace.com solution went through heavy optimization and is deployed across MySpace.com’s vast server farm to support that level of load. For our more traditional high load sites the CS product team is working to fork the Community Server codebase to introduce new best practices associated with high load communities that will add a lot of value moving forward. Look for this release to coincide with the Community Server 2008 release. 

In the following video our resident film maker Adonis Bitar has published the latest Tellicast discussing our recent partnership with GoDaddy’s “Metropolis” initiative and I talk about how MySpace.com is leveraging Community Server as well as some tips on which Community Server license makes the most sense based on your community size.

MySpace

Tellicast – Halo 3 Launch Event

Recently I talked about the Halo 3 Pre-Launch Event at the Microsoft campus in Las Colinas. Me, Scott Dockendorf, Karthik Hariharan and Adonis Bitar (disguised as Jason Alexander) attended the event. It was a great time and our resident film maker Adonis Bitar put together another great Tellicast chronicling the misadventures of various Telligenti. Enjoy the craziness that was the Halo 3 Pre-Launch Event!

Game Review – Halo 3

Halo3finallogoIf there was any doubt as to what the game of the week is for me this week it is Halo 3.

Last night Rob Howard, Deryl Dorsett, Elijah Hardin and I all joined forces to blast our way through 2/3 of the campaign mode. The best part of it was that we did it with the phenominal 4 player campaign co-op option.

This is an unprecedented feat for a console based game as Gears of War and Crackdown before it offered some of the best co-op play that I have seen on a console. The 4 player Halo 3 co-op surpasses them both. With a seamless approach and the ability to easily invite your friends all 4 of you can blast the covenant and flood while easily maintaining where your teammates are. The best part for me was the ability to get very aggressive with my play style knowing that someone will survive while a few of us charge in and take out as many enemies as we can.

The Bungie team really did a great job with the game. From the graphics, weapons, and vehicles to the matchmaking system for the online multiplayer matches…the game definitely lived up to they hype. But to me the best feature of the game is the ability to seamlessly play with 3 of your friends through the campaign mode while occasionally causing an incident of “friendly fire“…. sorry Rob it was an accident… really :)

Other games I am playing this week. Skate, NHL 2K8 and Dynasty Warriors: Gundam with my 5 yr. old son.

Microsoft Dallas Halo 3 Pre Launch

Last night I was one of the lucky few to attend the Microsoft Dallas Halo 3 Pre-launch event. This was an invite only gathering to preview and play Halo 3 before the launch and to just have a good time fragging people left and right. The event started with the obligatory swag bag with Halo T-shirt and led to the waiting area prior to entering the gaming lounge.

Once inside the smoke machines were going, the Halo soundtrack was blaring and rows of chairs facing large screens with team slayer mode running for multiple 8 player per sessions. Tournaments, multi-player, and campaign were all options that you could participate in. There were also many door prizes from Microsoft Vista and Office Ultimate to Halo branded goodies. It was great to have early access to the Microsoft team as well as playing one of the most anticipated titles prior to its release.

The graphics were amazing, the new weapons were fun, the controls were sensitive and the ability to customize your Spartans was one of the features that I definitely enjoyed. One of the highlights of the night was going old school in the warthog as the gunner and fragging people left and right. The “beat down” melee attack is still one of my favorite ways to take down an opponent.

I was not one of the few waiting at midnight for the title. I had a good fill during the event to hold me over to the next day, but this morning I did pick up my reserved Legendary Edition of Halo 3 and look forward to once again taking the controls of Master Chief.

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Me at the Microsoft Dallas – Halo 3 Pre Launch Event

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Legendary Edition Halo 3 Helmet on my office shelf

Target & Halo 3 Early?

While making a quick stop at a local Target to pick up an office copy of NHL2k8 something interesting caught my eye. I looked at the top shelf behind the plexiglas and to my surprise and bewilderment I saw what appeared to be actual copies of Halo 3 (This is a week prior to the official launch). They were pristine and neatly displayed, ready to be bought. I immediately asked the associate if I could see one of the copies to confirm that they were in fact the real deal… They were…

As he handed me one of the most highly anticipated releases in recent memory a voice went off in my head…. I HAVE to tell him the release date… So as I stood there with the game in hand and 20 feet from a register I say the following… “Isn’t the release date the 25th???” With that said a look of shock then horror came over the associate. Within a minute we were bombarded by a team of Target employees each one grabbing all the neatly stacked copies and taking them to an undisclosed location.

From what I understand the copies had just been placed into the case and no units had been sold. Also, the pre-sale of major releases can be met with fines, and possible firing from some organizations so I felt as though I had to clear my mind and reiterate the date. I was later told of a thread regarding Xbox Live and Halo that threatened to ban Live accounts that were not authorized to play the game prior to the release date which has subsenquently been refuted by Microsoft.

Regardless, the early Halo 3 titles are now safely locked away for another week without a single thank you from the team that almost made a monumental mistake.