Whilst in Arrakis

The Future Will Be Better Tomorrow

Stephen Elop in charge of games at Microsoft

 

I am officially wrong about my prediction of Gabe becoming the CEO of Microsoft. Stephen Elop was put in charge of Nokia so he could sell it. Maybe his mandate at Microsoft is the same. If I was them I would offload the Xbox to Valve and get their software distribution platform in return.

24 Hours after Landmark

Valve and Microsoft

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“If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.”
-Sun Tzu

So,

I once blogged that by Q2 2014 Microsoft would have acquired Valve and that Gabe Newell was a serious contender for the top job at the world’s largest software company. Not quite.

Back then I did correctly assume that Ballmer would be pushed aside, but MSFT’s disorganization (apparently a new CEO could be announced “soon”) and rapid deterioration of their core business took me by surprise. My expectation of Valve being acquired is being turned upside down, with now looking likely that Microsoft might look to offload their Xbone to Valve or to another player (but at this point it seems that the move of Steam onto Linux hardware is going well, so Valve might not be particularly interested in loading its balance sheet with hardware that competes with its partners, even if it would certainly come with a big dowry as well.)

Microsoft’s cash cows are under attack. Windows 8 is not being adopter by consumers and (more importantly) shunned by developers. Unlike Apple or Valve they do not control any meaningful share of the software distribution market. Their online units have been losing $1bn/year since forever. Their mobile OS relies on paying developers to port second-rate apps since nobody uses it. PC sales are falling fast because users are switching to phones for their productivity. Consumers do not want to interact with a Kinect. Microsoft fought the war on for the living room without realizing that the battleground was outside, in the mobility of computing and not shifting from a chair to a sofa talking to HAL9000.
One of their biggest success is patent licensing to Android. It’s a big business, but it’s not a $300bn company.

Blackberry had its best quarters when it was no longer relevant. The next six quarters for Microsoft could be incredible. Not sure what comes next for them.

Microsoft sold 3m Xbones in 2013. Steam has 7m concurrent users and 70m accounts.

No large developer can afford to make a top franchise exclusively for the Xbone/PS4. The numbers just do not add up. So they will never be able to have a product that Steam doesn’t have as well that drives hardware adoption.

Nintendo this week slashed their sales forecast by 2/3rd for the console and by half for the 3DS. Basically they are done for in the hardware business (at least globally. They might keep some devices for the Japanese market).  As a comparison Apple sold 173m iPads last quarter. There are 150 million smartphones in the United States only.

Will console units hit 100m units globally and then stop? If that is the case then would the only solution for Sony and Microsoft be to move away from hardware and offer a software client a la Steam? What is their mobile play?

Mini Left 4 Dead 2 review

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Infinite ammo. Infinite zombies. Zombies that die with a single shot even if it’s a shoulder hit. Hotel corridors with magic smokeless fire that you cannot see through. There is not a single fire extinguisher in sight. And the fire is magically localized, does not spread, and is even present in the fire escape stairs where according to logic there shouldn’t be anything that can catch (or sustain) fire. You can’t climb over obstacles. You can only do baby jumps.

Nobody will call you out because your magic castle is made by the wrong type of bricks, but suddenly in a hotel you notice there are no fire extinguishers.

Bittorrent and the meaning of ‘malware’

This is an email exchange between me and Bittorrent. Enjoy. I removed last names and other personal details.

Guys,

maybe was not clear enough before.

You engage in scumbaggy deceptive practices and hide behind the thin veil of but it’s legal and others are doing it. I am sure nobody at the senior level of your customers approved ads based on semi-malware and blackhat SEO practices. [1]

On top of this lack of strong consumer protection laws does not automatically translate into a license to be a shithead (or partner with one that does) with somebody else’s search functions. The fact that an antivirus does not flag it up means jack shit. Conduit is indefensible, no user would ever agree to install that if they understood what that piece of software does.

We do not engage in dark patterns and deceptive, unethical practices, and avoid like the plague those who do (i.e. you).

So in short, fuck off and die.

-Rodolfo

PS. this thread is now posted on my blog - if you really feel compelled to respond (but please don’t) do so in public and not on my email. I really do not want to hear from you ever unless it’s a TechCrunch article that announces you stopping doing this shit.

On Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 8:19 PM, John  <@bittorrent.com> wrote:

Hi Rodolfo,

We don’t peddle Malware.  While it is true that we work with Conduit as a search partner, we QA every advertiser that we choose to promote on our network.  Our team verifies that the content is legal and runs against an anti-virus to see if viruses come up.It should also be noted that other torrent clients like Vuze also work with Conduit and other search partners.  I state this because if you look at the Vuze client, you’ll notice that they’re advertising [x] in their “games” section, and your project is with [x].

While Vuze is a great product and a good torrent client, BitTorrent owns 80% of the torrent client market.  So that’s why reached out to you and believe that a meet at [x] would be worth your time.Let me know if you’re available.Thanks,John

 

John email: @bittorrent.com cell:     Skype:LinkedIN

On Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 11:15 AM, Jason  <@bittorrent.com> wrote:

———- Forwarded message ———-

From: Rodolfo Rosini <@.com>

Date: Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 2:58 AM

Subject: Re: [x] – Let’s Meet

To: Jason  <@bittorrent.com>

Thanks. We do not work with companies that peddle malware.

http://forum.utorrent.com/viewtopic.php?id=141506

On Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 8:06 AM, Jason  <@bittorrent.com> wrote:

Hi Rodolfo,

I see that Storybricks will be attending [x]. We’d like to meet to talk about potential user acquisitions opportunities.

BitTorrent has a premium ad network that is owned-and-operated, which connects high quality advertisers to our sophisticated male audience of 170M users worldwide. We serve over 6 billion impressions/month, and run high volume user acquisition campaigns for game companies like Kabam, Kixeye, Bigpoint, and Covus Crobo.How’s your availability between the 3rd-5th?Thanks,Jason

Jason

BitTorrent, Inc.

303 2nd Street, S600

San Francisco, CA 94107

[1] Ok I can believe that one company that you list as customer did actually willingly engages in this kind of hanky-panky. That does not make it acceptable to me.

Disney Infinity not so infinite perhaps

Some numbers are out and it seems that Disney Infinity did not outperform Skylanders on the basis of units shipped (but both companies did not publish a regional sales breakdown so the truth could be more nuanced. Additionally a started kit for Infinity could run in the hundreds of dollars).

I mean yes, they have sold a million units. And imagine these were $75 units. $75m in sales is not bad. But then compare it with the crowdfunding campaign of Star Citizen that took in $26m so far and suddenly the accomplishments of a global $123bn company with the best franchises on the planet suddenly feel not quite there yet.

My argument at the time (‘Why is Disney hiding Infinity?’ - The Kernel) was that a lot of these units went to collectors in the same way Beanie Babies or Furbies sold a lot of units when it launched, only to collapse months later when the rage was over and these units went back on secondary markets at a discounted price (at least Disney Infinity make sure to “lock” your purchase to the hardware so you can’t resell a used unit without an expensive lawsuit in a country with strong consumer protection laws). Sure, it made money but it was never organic demand and sustainable growth.

I dug a bit into Amazon’s reviews and they seem that the jury is still out if this game will be a billion dollar franchise for Disney that can glue their (successful) transmedia activities with video games.

Here’s the Amazon US aggregate reviews:

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And here the Amazon UK reviews:

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And these were the best PS3/Xbox ones. The Wii reviews were actually worse.

The most striking example of the current state of the game came from this review from one of Amazon’s Top 1000 reviewers:

“The whole effect is of a poorly executed, rushed game, with a rapacious commercial model which fails to deliver upon the promises made by its visual design and the history/quality of the intellectual property used.”

Ouch.

Android piracy is the issue

(In my opinion) Android piracy of (games) is the (biggest) issue (between piracy and discoverability).

Wired ran an op-ed last year about the issue of Android games and piracy. Since then I have spoken privately to several game companies that published simultaneously on iOS and Android.  According to them the numbers are the same: piracy on Android is 80-90% and the revenues on Google Play are a fraction of those on iTunes. And here’s the kick, even completely free apps are pirated.

Discoverability is not a hard problem. It’s just an issue of costs and virality. But pirated games cause greater problems than just loss of revenues. Multiplayer games need to address cheating clients, logs need to be scrubbed because the data coming from pirated games skews the picture. I know of a widely used games analytics company that is not able to remove pirated clients from their logs thus gimping their service.

Poor discoverability is a tax on installs but Android games piracy is a tax on creativity that limits the types of games you can make.

UPDATE: Tim O’Reilly responds

Nobody cares about your investors

Airtime, the Sean Parker-founded startup (“the platform for great video conversations” or whatever) that became a zombie in September 2012 is an example of why your users do not give a flying fuck of who your investors are. From a press release:

“Airtime’s investors, who have so far put in $8.3 million into the effort, include a pretty stellar list of backers, with the celeb sparks that could give a mass-market consumer play just the kind of attention it needs to succeed. It includes the Founders Fund, Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, SV Angel, Yuri Milner, Ashton Kutcher, will.i.am, Scott Braun, and TechCrunch’s founder Michael Arrington.”

Nobody cares. And nobody did.

Let’s talk about penises. Chatroulette had them. Airtime did not. Snapchat has them. 4chan has them. Canvas does not. Vine has them. Et cetera, you get the picture.

You are not in charge of what people want to share on your network, and the more anonymous and removed from Linkedin/Facebook the more it becomes about genitalia. And if you put roadblocks around it your users will move somewhere else instead of bothering with a product that kinda allows them to share stuff except sometimes it does not when it’s other stuff.

What some in the games industry do not understand

With the new Xbone announcement and Microsoft’s bumbling attempts at dealing with the press there has been a lot of discussion about sale of second hand games. And speculation. And ad hominem attacks.

All the ones I read were flawed, because they all shared one assumption. That in 5 years from now there will still be such thing as a game store.

Video games stores will follow the same trajectory of music stores.

There is no future for them.

(Sony and Microsoft fighting for dominance in the current console generation)

David Foster Wallace, depression and suicide

So,

a few days ago I posted on twitter a video of a speech of David Foster Wallace dispensing some interesting pop wisdom about choice in a commencement speech. It was a bit too touchy feely for me but overall was good. Today was looking for a quote and found a transcript the original speech and realized that the text in the video had been heavily edited. All the grit about suicide[1], atheism and any controversial theme had been scrubbed out to make a more ‘palatable’ version. The original version is much more interesting especially considering the comment about that “most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger” coming from him.

Read the original here.

[1] Wallace committed suicide by hanging himself on September 12, 2008.[23] In an interview with The New York Times, Wallace’s father reported that Wallace had suffered from depression for more than 20 years and that antidepressant medication had allowed him to be productive.[20] When he experienced severe side effects from the medication, Wallace attempted to wean himself from his primary antidepressant, phenelzine.[21] On his doctor’s advice, Wallace stopped taking the medication in June 2007,[20] and the depression returned. Wallace received other treatments, including electroconvulsive therapy. When he returned to phenelzine, he found it had lost its effectiveness.[21] In the months before his death, his depression became severe.[20] Numerous gatherings were held to honor Wallace after his death, including memorial services at Pomona CollegeAmherst CollegeUniversity of Arizona, and on October 23, 2008, at New York University—the last with speakers including his sister, Amy Wallace Havens; his agent, Bonnie Nadell; Gerry Howard, the editor of his first two books; Colin Harrison, editor at Harper’s Magazine; Michael Pietsch, the editor of Infinite Jest and Wallace’s later work; Deborah Treisman, fiction editor at The New Yorker; as well as authors Don DeLillo,Zadie SmithGeorge SaundersMark CostelloDonald Antrim, and Jonathan Franzen.[24][25][26]

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