O Canada

canadaLast week I traveled to Vancouver on business and as usual there is an interesting story from the trip.

We initially flew into Vancouver to meet with Electronic Arts and various clients but we had also scheduled a meeting in Seattle (Roughly 2 hours away) so we jumped into the rental and drove towards the border.

We arrive at the border crossing and did not realize that we were in the “Nexis” lane which is equivalent to a FastPass into the US. So the line was roughly 40 minutes long and we did not realize we were in the wrong lane. We found out soon enough.

Once we realized our mistake it was too late. We tried to move over to the middle lane and it took a good 5-10 minutes to pull over. Once we made it into the proper lane we heard obscenities directed at us that would make a sailor blush. This coming from the most unassuming people you could imagine. Think of grandmothers and grandfathers in their late 70’s early 80’s.

So we have our meeting with Sony and head back to the border that same day. It is about 10:30 PM at night and there were no lines going back into Canada.

The guard at the initial post reviews our documents… smiles and asks us to pull over into one of the stalls and exit the vehicle, enter the building and get in line “a”.

We pull in just to see the contents of the car next to us completely removed from the vehicle. So this already looks like it is going to be a lot of fun.

Once inside we are interviewed separately… What are you doing here, where are you going, what states have you lived in since you were 18.

Once they interviewed both of us we were asked to remain seated while they ran full background checks on us.

In the meantime an individual was in our same waiting area and he was called up. Once he was at the counter he was told that he can never enter Canada and he was not welcome based on information that came up during his background check.

Needless to say I was not worried as I have no record to speak of but still being in that position and the demeanor of the border patrol it made me uneasy for a moment.

After a few more minutes we were handed our passports and sent on our way.

The morale of the story is to just fly to Canada and stay in the same country for the duration of the trip.

Spore Creature Creator

SporeI recently took a trip to London for business to discuss social media strategy with members of the Eidos Interactive team as well as our friends at Electronic Arts (Europe) at their new offices in Guildford. Aside from getting a sneak peek at some of the great upcoming titles one in particular was very interesting!

I have mentioned Spore before but as the launch of the game gets closer more is revealed. To recap the games premise, you nurture and guide your creature through five stages of evolution: Cell, Creature, Tribe, Civilization, and Space. One of the most amazing elements of the game is the creature creator which allows for endless customization options that can then be uploaded into the game.

While onsite at EA this was the tool that we were able to spend some time with. You have 228 drag-and-drop components to choose from that allow for a variety of unique creations. You have the ability to customize their look and feel from skeletal structure through eyes, legs, tails, colors etc… Then you can take them to the edit area to control the background, add babies, rotate them 360 degrees, preview animations and movements and take pictures of your creations.You manage a majority of your creations through the Sporepedia and have the option to upload your characters for others to see (My Spore User Name is TheBlackFin).

Now the creature creator has been released I highly recommend either playing with the trial or purchasing the creature creator to get a feel for the game. Also your creations can then be uploaded into the game upon release. From everything that I have seen so far this looks like it is going to be a great game. I am not a big PC gamer but Spore will definitely be on my list to pick up when it is released later this year.

Here is one of my original creations from our visit:

TheBlackFin - Creature onsite copy

Here is one of my first creature creations from the trial:

TheBlackFin_Spore Creatures

Skate 2 & Skate It

skateIt is now official to discuss that Electronic Arts Skate franchise will release 2 new titles.

Skate It for the Wii leveraging the Wii fitboard will arrive late in 2008 and the highly anticipated Skate 2 for the 360 will hit stores in 2009.

In mid April I was in Vancouver meeting with various EA teams at their Blackbox Studio including members of the Skate team. I had the opportunity to play an early build of Skate 2 on the 360 and it was phenomenal. More details to come once made public by EA.

Otherwise, Vancouver was great. In fact some of the best coffee that I have had in a long time was at Caffe Artigiano.

Xbox 360 TheBlackFin Retail Game Library

aunlockedOne of my good friends recently posted his game library as part of his blog. So following that lead here is my collection of Xbox 360 and PS3 Retail titles. I also have 40+ Arcade titles that may be listed later. I have recently acquired a PS3 as well and those titles are also outlined below.

185 Xbox 360 Retail Titles Owned (Game Reviews I have written are highlighted below). I own 8 PS3 titles and 22 Wii titles

Xbox 360 Library

  • Afro Samurai
  • All Pro Football 2K8
  • Armored Core 4
  • Armored Core For Answer
  • Army of Two
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Assassin’s Creed 2
  • BattleField: Bad Company
  • Batman Arkham Asylum (Collectors)
  • Battlestations Midway
  • Bionicle Heroes
  • BioShock
  • Bladestorm: The Hundred Year’s War
  • Blazing Angels
  • Blazing Angels 2
  • Blue Dragon
  • Burnout Paradise
  • Call of Duty 2
  • Call of Duty 3
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  • Call of Duty World At War
  • Cars
  • College Hoops 2K6
  • College Hoops 2K7
  • College Hoops 2K8
  • Command & Conquer 3
  • Conan
  • Crackdown
  • CSI: Hard Evidence
  • Dark Sector
  • Dead Rising
  • Dead Space
  • Devil May Cry 4
  • Dragon Ball Z Burstlimit
  • Dynasty Warriors: Gundam
  • Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2
  • EA Sports Fight Night 3
  • Earth Defense Force 2017
  • Eragon
  • Fable II
  • Facebreaker
  • Fallout3
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  • Farcry
  • F.E.A.R.
  • F.E.A.R. 2
  • FIFA 06 RTFWC
  • FIFA 07
  • FIFA 09
  • FIFA Street 3
  • Forza 2 Motorsport
  • Fuzion Frenzy 2
  • Gears of War (Collectors Edition)
  • Gears of War 2 (Special Edition)
  • Ghostbusters
  • Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
  • GI Joe Rise of Cobra
  • GRID
  • Guitar Hero Aerosmith
  • Guitar Hero Metallica
  • Guitar Hero Worldtour
  • Guitar Hero II
  • Guitar Hero III
  • Gun
  • Halo 3
  • Halo 3 ODST
  • Halo Wars
  • Hawx
  • Head Coach 2009
  • Hellboy The Science of Evil
  • Hot Wheels: Beat This
  • Iron Man
  • Jumper: Griffins Story
  • Kameo
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Left 4 Dead 2
  • LEGO Batman
  • LEGO Indiana Jones
  • LEGO Indiana Jones 2
  • LEGO Star Wars II
  • LEGO Star Wars: TCS
  • Lord of the Rings Conquest
  • Lost Odyssey
  • LOST PLANET
  • Lost Via Domus
  • Madden NFL 06
  • Madden NFL 07
  • Madden NFL 08
  • Madden NFL 09 (Collectors Edition)
  • Madden NFL 10
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
  • Mass Effect
  • MLB 2K7
  • Medal of Honor Airborne
  • Mercenaries 2 World in Flames
  • Mirror’s Edge
  • Monopoly
  • Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
  • Naruto: Rise of the Ninja
  • NBA 2K6
  • NBA 2K7
  • NBA 2K8
  • NBA Live 06
  • NBA Live 07
  • NBA Live 08
  • NBA Live 09
  • NBA Street Homecourt
  • NCAA Basketball 09
  • NCAA Football 07
  • NCAA Football 08
  • NCAA Football 09
  • NCAA Football 10
  • NCAA March Madness 07
  • NCAA March Madness 08
  • Need for Speed Carbon
  • Need for Speed Most Wanted
  • Need for Speed Pro Street
  • Need for Speed Undercover
  • Need for Speed Shift
  • Ninja Blade
  • Ninja Gaiden II
  • NHL 07
  • NHL 08
  • NHL 09
  • NHL 2K6
  • NHL 2K7
  • NHL 2K8
  • NHL 2K9
  • Oblivion: Game of the Year Edition
  • Open Season
  • Overlord
  • Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End
  • Prey
  • Prince of Persia
  • Prototype
  • Quake 4
  • Rainbow Six Vegas
  • Rainbow Six Vegas 2
  • Resident Evil 5
  • Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Conspiracy
  • Rock Band
  • Rock Band 2
  • Scene It? LCA
  • Section 8
  • skate
  • skate 2
  • Soldier of Fortune Payback
  • Sonic Superstar Tennis
  • Sonic The Hedgehog
  • Sonics Ultimate Genesis Collection
  • Soul Calibur IV
  • Spider-Man 3
  • Spider-Man: Friend or Foe
  • Splinter Cell: Double Agent
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars Republic Heroes
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
  • Street Fighter IV
  • Surf’s Up
  • Tenchu Z
  • Terminator Salvation
  • Tetris Evolution
  • TimeShift
  • The Chronicles of Riddick Assault on Dark Athena
  • The Darkness
  • The Godfather
  • The Orange Box
  • The Simpsons Game
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09
  • Tom Clancy’s ENDWAR
  • Too Human
  • Transformers The Game
  • Unreal Tournament III
  • Viking: Battle for Asgard
  • Viva Pinata
  • Wanted: Weapons of Fate
  • Wartech: Senko No Ronde
  • Wolfenstein
  • X-men
  • X-men Origins: Wolverine

PlayStation 3

  •  Dead Space
  •  Gundam Cross Fire
  •  Little Big Planet
  •  Ninja Gaiden: Sigma
  •  Resistance: Fall of Man
  •  Resistance 2
  •  Metal Gear Solid 4
  •  Haze

Upcoming Titles that I am going to pick up upon release:

  • Splinter Cell: Conviction
  • Bioshock 2
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Dragon Ball Raging Blast
  • LEGO: Rock Band
  • Army of Two: The 40th Day
  • Singularity

 

 

Madden 09 Cover Athlete

Favre-1I know this is slightly delayed. I was in San Francisco attending a session during the Web 2.0 conference as well as visiting our friends at the Electronic Arts Redwood City campus.

As you may or may not know the Madden 09 Cover athlete was announced on the David Letterman show. This edition of Madden represents 20 years of Madden and what better way to celebrate than to put one of the all time greats on the cover.

Brett Favre is your Madden 09 cover athlete. So I guess no Madden curse this year unless you count a year without Favre for the Packers… Right Scott D?

Look for Madden 09 in August.

Game Review – Army of Two

ArmyofTwo360packshotTo preface this review I want to state for the record that I really enjoy co-op shooters. So this review has a positive slant from the word go because I am a fanboy of any game that allows you to blow stuff up with your buddies in real time. Electronic Arts did a great job with Army of Two as it is just a fun game. If you want to have a good time blowing things up with your friends definitely give this title a go.

Story: You represent two Ex-Army Rangers who are now working as private contractors for a corporation called SSC. Through 6 campaign missions you will step jump, co-op riot shield, go back-to-back and co-op snipe your way through a legion of enemy AI, Heavies (Heavily armored AI) and quasi boss battles in addition to a number of extra objectives that will earn you cash. But enough about the story let’s talk about the gameplay.

Gameplay: Army of Two leverages some of the better elements of co-op game play. Similar to Crackdown, Gears of War and Halo 3 while building on what has been done in the past. You can interact with your partner in a number of ways.

The best tactic in tight situations is for one of you to power up your Aggro meter. Once full one of you will start pulsing read while the other becomes transparent. This basically translates to one of you will draw the enemies fire while the other can stealthfully take out the opposition. You can also enter the Overkill mode which slows everything down or speeds things up depending on if you were the initiator.

Some of the other fun partner based elements are the ability to swap weapons so you can focus on support and aggressive roles, as well as the ability to partner in a few other game modes including the co-op riot shield where one of you wields a shield while the other shoots, step jumps, back-to-back when overwhelmed by enemies and co-op sniping.

One of the more interesting elements is the drag and heal function. Like Halo and Gears your health will recharge while in cover, but adding to the revive option in Gears you can actually drag your fallen friend to cover while they can lay down suppressive fire while being dragged to a safe location for healing. This can also be an area for bragging rights or degrading your partner. E.g. let’s just say my friend Elijah earned the field medic achievement fairly quickly while playing with me :) call it aggressive game play or just the overall inability to evade bullets we will never know.

One of the best elements of the game is actually the enemy AI. Depending on the difficulty setting they will change positions when fired upon, flank your position and basically try to destroy you in a multitude of ways. I was impressed.

One of my only gameplay complaints is when I am standing next to an enemy (Similar to the issue in Crackdown) it is very difficult to get a lock on an enemy which ends up in spinning and shooting which is not the ideal experience (especially when you are going for achievements and already have the melee achievement).

Weapons: The weapons selection ranges from Primary, Secondary and Special weapons. Your primary is chock full of assault rifles and heavy machine guns while your secondary set includes pistols and SMG’s with your specials focusing on sniper rifles and RPGs. You have the ability to upgrade some of the weapons with additional elements not to the level of COD4 but can you “pimp” your assault rifle with gold in COD4? I don’t think so.

Online: One of my biggest complaints of the game is with session timeout on the versus multiplayer. Out of 8 online sessions I only made it to the end of one session before running into server issues. I have confirmed other players have experienced similar time outs.

The main element of versus is to complete various objectives and earn more money than the opposing team of two. I felt as though there was more that could have been done here. One suggestion would be to allow for teams of Contractors to battle different enemy insurgents or Heavy’s or even sub bosses in a more team based approach like a traditional slayer match similar to GOW, Halo, and COD4. This would allow for more replayability as I am more likely to continually play a team based shooter than an objective based one.  To be honest this is one of the weaker elements of the game.

Achievements:  Your first play through of the campaign will most likely net you roughly 300-350 achievement points depending on if you are focusing on changing weapons once you receive the equivalent achievement. Note that even if you die and have to restart from a checkpoint your kills are registered so you do not have to start over. A number of achievements are based on achieving a number of kills with a specific type of weapon. Others are mission specific and there are a few that are tied to the online versus mode. I have been able to clear 700 points in about 12 hours of gameplay.

Pros:

  • You and a friend blowing stuff up
  • Aggro System
  • Enemy AI is impressive
  • Game Play Based Achievements
  • Ability to “Pimp” your weapons
  • Partner Elements (Back to Back, Co-op Riot Shield, Weapon Swap etc.)
  • Ability to “mess” with your partner (High Fives, Trip Them, Etc..)
  • GPS System
  • All weapons in a category will unlock once you clear certain difficulties

Cons:

  •  Online mode and lack of team slayer type options
  •  Weapon lock-on in close combat
  •  Vehicle Controls are lacking and feel forced
  •  Expected more interation with the environment (crumbling walls)
  •  Session timeouts in online versus modes
  •  Not enough money offered for objectives (If I were risking my life to disable multiple aircraft on a carrier while enemy fire surrounds me I would expect more than $6,000)
  •  Lack of a language filter (I am just saying…)

Rating: I give this a solid 8 out of 10 and a definite pick-up if you well have a friend that wants to play with you

Dead Space

One of the other game titles that I am very excited about in 2008 is the new EA title Dead Space. It was recently announced that the game will launch on October 28th of this year and the games site DeadSpaceGame.com just launched.

Dead Space is a new IP launch for EA and is the first Sci-Fi Horror game that the company has ever launched. It follows Isaac Clarke and is a survival horror epic. Isaac, a space engineer who works for the Concordance Extraction Corporation (C.E.C), a company that repairs “giant mining ships”. His company receives a distress call from the USG Ishimura, a “Planet Cracker” class ship that takes dead planets, and destroys them to extract valuable ore for the company.

In the assumption that the ship has had a mechanical failure, Isaac soon realizes that this is no ordinary distress call. He soon finds that the ship has been overrun by a mysterious alien race. This routine check becomes a race for his life….

The game features some familiar aspects such as we learn the story of what happened through in-game assets similar to Bioshock, and the main character Isaac is not a soldier. He is a common man and his tools are his weapons which leads to simple, brutal and effective combat. He is no super soldier which gives his character a sense of vulnerability which adds to the games believability (If you call deep space mining and alien infested ships believable). This title is definitely not a shooter. You will be outnumbered and low on ammo so the main point is to survive.

Regarding gameplay, that is where this title will really excel. Since this is not a fragfest you might ask how will you “survive”. Simple… dismember anything that moves with your plasma cutter. Yes, you will sever arms, legs, heads and just about anything that protrudes from the alien “Necromorphs”. This as you can imagine is a very complex system as there are multiple animation sequences that have to be considered meaning that you can dispatch an enemy in a number of ways. So this is the element of the game that will receive the most attention from the EA team.

Definitely check out the site to view, rate, share and comment on a large collection of Dead Space media including screenshots, concept art and trailers. The site features a daily blog from the Dead Space development team as well as video diaries showcasing the games origin.

dead_space

Interview with Major Nelson

During GDC 2008 I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb of the Xbox Live team. Larry is the Director of Xbox Live Programming and is the author of one of the most popular gaming blogs on the web. Between posts, blogcasts and twitter Major keeps everyone up to date on the latest information on all things Xbox.

The focus of the interview was to get Larry’s thoughts on the keys to his success as well as his thoughts around social media and the future.

TheBlackFin: You have one of the highest trafficked blogs on the web today. What has been the key to your success?

Major Nelson: Since the beginning this has been about being a part of the conversation. With any blogging the ability to connect with the audience with relevant content is the key to success.

TheBlackFin: Describe some of the interesting trends that you have seen with your blog from the time you originally published it through today.

Major Nelson: The integration of the gamertag has been key since the beginning . The ability for gamers to publish their gamertag and tie in to the Xbox achievement system and publically display their gamerscore has been one of the most important elements to building community around Xbox gaming.

TheBlackFin: How do you think your blog has enhanced the Xbox Live brand?

Major Nelson: The blog has allowed us to have a conversation.  As one of the highest trafficked gaming blogs doing podcasts and blogging it has enabled real time communication. As you know this audience is rabid about information and they want to consume it in almost real time.

TheBlackFin: In your opinion… What impact has social networking and community in general had on the gaming industry?

Major Nelson: Social Networking has had a phenomenal impact on the industry. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Xbox Live is a premier social network. Everyday hundreds of thousands of users log on to play with their friends, compare gamer scores and connect with other gamers. With the integration between the consoles and Xbox.com it extends the experience beyond the console.  Also a lot of external applications are now picking up gaming data… you see different applications on MySpace and Facebook.

TheBlackFin: What publisher and game title has been successful in deploying a good social networking gaming experience?

Major Nelson: Without a doubt it would be Bungie and Halo. Online and offline what bungie has done to include the community has just been amazing.

TheBlackFin: What are your predictions around social networking trends and gaming in the next few years?

Major Nelson: I think we are going to see more of the game/web interaction like Bungie has done with Halo and Electronic Arts with Skate. Look at how they take in game data and spray it back to the web and allow users to collaborate with it. What Bungie has done is the tip of the iceberg. More and more publishers are recognizing the value of having a seamless experience between the game and the web.

Me with “the Major” @ GDC 2008
Tom Edwards with Major Nelson

GDC 2008 – Expo Day 1

GDC2008The 2008 Game Developer Conference has been a great conference so far. Most of the major industry players are here. Microsoft, Sony, Electronic Arts, Disney, Ubisoft, Activison and a host others. After the first few days of the conference focused on a number of sessions and events today marked the beginning of the Expo portion of the conference.

The technology that was on display was cutting edge and amazing. From motion capture demonstrations to the latest in animation technology including demonstrations by Natural Motion of their Dynamic Motion Synthesis Euphoria product which will be big role in the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Grand Theft Auto IV. To a host of demonstrations from organizations that are looking to take gaming to the next level. From brain wave centric gaming to you as the controller the evolution of gaming is close at hand.

G4 and the X-Play team are here broadcasting as well as Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb. This has been a very informative event thus far and I look forward to tomorrows sessions, hitting the expo floor again and meeting with the EA team.

There will be more photos posted in the photo gallery soon.

Me with a Big Daddy from Bioshock
Tom Edwards with Big Daddy from Bioshock - Blog

GDC 2008

GDC2008I confirmed today that I will be attending the 2008 Game Developer Conference February 18-22 in San Francisco.

I am very excited about attending as outside of the networking and expo portion the key areas that I am interested in are the business and management topics of “Make the Community Part of Halo” and advertising and games.

The “Make the Community Part of Halo” discussions are very key as it talks about the bungie.net experience and how they worked to make community an integral part of the game itself.

I have worked with Microsoft Game Studios, Ensemble Studios and of course Electronic Arts on the Skate and NFS ProStreet titles fall along the same lines. So if you are attending the event let me know and we will schedule some time to sync during the conference.

The Halo 3 Marketing Machine

While flying to New York today I was reading an industry magazine and came across a Halo 3 cross-promotional ad that caught my attention. Outside of this ad featuring Halo 3 & 7-11, the teams at Bungie and Microsoft are collaborating with a number of brands and agencies, including the same team that brought you 7-11’s transformed into Kwik-E-Marts, to kick off a Halo 3 go-to-market campaign that will be assaulting mainstream audiences faster than Master Chief can blast a covenant elite with a dual-wielded mauler.

It looks as though Halo 3 inspired Mountain Dew will be flying into 7-11 sometime in August. This promotion will also see Halo 3 Slurpee cups and Master Chief emblazoned bags of Doritos. The Doritos campaign will be tied to a voice cameo contest for the upcoming Ensemble Studios Halo Wars title. I have been very impressed with 7-11’s strategy over the past year. You would not think that a convenience store would have this type of marketing prowess but the proof is in the tie-in’s… Spider Man, the Simpsons, and Halo. And this only accounts for campaigns launched in 2007.

Regarding Halo’s GTM strategy, other brands will also leverage Master Chief to help cross-promote their offerings. Pontiac, Burger King and even a Halo 3 sponsorship for an upcoming music tour featuring acts like Linkin Park are just a few of the publicly available elements of the upcoming campaign. All of this does not include the Microsoft centric items such as Halo 3 branded Xbox 360’s, controllers and Zunes.

What this tells me is that the point is no longer to just make a game that entertains. The main goal now is to develop something that can transcend a niche genre and break through to the mainstream. It happened with Pac Man in the 80’s, it has happened with the Electronic Arts Madden franchise which is the best selling franchise of all time and now Halo is primed to cross into the mainstream by following the road taken by many a Hollywood blockbuster… meaning directly into kids meals at Burger King and on the bag of chips you eat in your living room… while playing Halo 3. Who says marketing doesn’t work?

MasterChief

20,000 Points

It is finally official. I have reached the 20,000K gamerscore mark!!! I have expressed in the past that I am an avid gamer and I enjoy the work that we do with various gaming studios such as Electronic Arts.

One thing about me is that I am very competitive and focused on results. I like to set goals and subsequently achieve them. This coincides very well with the Xbox 360 achievement system as you get a very measurable ROI metric out of your gaming experience.

Gaming is a lot like marketing in that you select a specific vertical that you want to target. For example, I like to focus on sports and retro titles. Then I formulate a plan based on the market segment that I have selected. I review the achievements that are available with each game prior to playing to predetermine ratios around potential time spent on pursuit of the goal vs. actualization of the achievement and then move towards the execution phase of the plan. Once the plan is put into motion it is very easy to then determine success of the strategy. And it is just a lot of fun to have the achievement pop-up on my screen once I have earned the achievement.

So is a 20K gamerscore required to be a good marketer? Not at all… All it shows is that you spend a lot of time looking at a screen. Speaking of which I have to thank my wife and children for allowing me the “small” amounts of time that I spend on…. market research. I also would like to thank the guys at EA for giving me the hookup on the best EA titles.

Thanks again! On to 30K!!!

Microsoft + Electronic Arts = In-game Advertising?

Coming to you live from Oklahoma City. Wi-Fi in a hospital room, who would have thought it was possible? No I am not in the hospital just blogging from one. So Microsoft and Electronic Arts have partnered together to sign the largest in-game advertising deal to date. Initially the campaign will be rolled out to the Sports titles like Madden, Nascar, Tiger Woods and Skate.

The reason this is possible now is how connected most gamers are. Think about some of the current titles in your library. You can get up to the minute ESPN feeds and updates now when the game fires up in NBA Live 07 and other EA titles. These feeds are a precursor of what’s to come. In reviewing research for this post it turns out that there are 4.4 million connected gaming console households. With 46 million game consoles in homes and another 148 million people with access to gaming consoles these numbers will continue to increase. So needless to say it is very appealing to advertisers to want to reach this segment of the population as this is a key demographic for positioning products and services.

All of the major consoles now have an online presence with Xbox leading the way online and the Wii attracting scores of new gamers. The industry is definitely in for additional growth online. So this all leads to the million dollar question… er the $600 million dollar question (market projection in 3 years)… Do you want ads in your games? It is nice to see the Dodge ads on the billboards in Crackdown and it does add to the realism in games, but how would you respond to something that interupts game play?

Personally, I like the subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) product placement approach in most films. It is about characters interacting with name brand products but not about the product itself. This to me has more impact and would make me more likely to remember the reference than stopping in the middle to see a pop-up or ticker during game play.

So whether you are a fan or not, In-game advertising is coming and in a big way. There are too many dollars and distractions these days to not take this medium seriously. What do you think? Are you for, opposed or just in-different to in-game advertising? In the end it will be your dollars that do the talking.

EA Skate Round 2

For most of this week I will be in Vancouver, British Columbia. Today I was on-site at Electronic Arts Blackbox location. This is the studio responsible for the upcoming Skate release. If you recall back in June I posted about my first experience with the alpha build of Skate. Today I played one of the latest builds and all I can say is WOW.

The realism of the game is incredible. The movements are based on physics vs. animation so it gives the skater a natural flow that is not common in most of the current titles. The “flickit” controls are clean and really allow the user to have complete control but also gives you almost an unlimited ability to pull and sequence tricks.

The most impressive aspect of the game though was the ability to capture and manipulate in-game video footage from within the game. The game will cache the last 20 or so seconds of your run. If you pull off a wicked combo you can simply go to the replay option and begin adjusting camera angles, speed of replay, and apply different effects to your clip. Then the clip will upload to the soon to be launched Skate video gallery that is powered by community server. You will be able to share your clips with friends or for all of the skate community to see. You can also view some of the top clips from within the game.

The beta should drop on August 21st via the Xbox Live Marketplace. Definitely give it a go. You will be able to save video from the demo and it will carry over to when the game releases in September.

San Francisco & EA’s Skate

For most of this week I will be in San Francisco, beautiful city btw. Today I am on-site at Electronic Arts in Redwood City. It is always good to see the EA team, the core group that we work with are a great bunch of guys. We are working on a community project tied to the upcoming Skate game that is very impressive. The marketing site done by Blast Radius is already up and running.

I played an alpha build of the game today and was very impressed. Not only is it a fun game, but it takes skateboarding to the edge in terms of the realism of the game compared to other titles that are out today (Tony Hawk series). The “Flickit” controls were very responsive (Think Fight Night 3’s analog controls), I was able to pull a number of tricks but the level of difficulty is there giving it a feeling of real skating and not an arcade simulation. It is not simply hit a button perform a trick. There is a flow to the moves and a seamless transition between tricks if done well. The graphics were impressive and it has a real sandbox feel in terms of roaming the different cityscapes in freeskate.

One of the great features of the upcoming Skate game will be the ability to record in-game footage and upload it to the upcoming community server based site. It will allow a level of Web/Game integration that we have yet to see in a next-gen title.

skate-promo-450x197