Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why Isn't Nintendo on the iPhone?

According to a ScreenDigest report, the mobile gaming market is on the verge of exploding to a €2.6 billion market, which is European for "our currency is far more valuable than yours ($3.6bn)". It's an area at that EA and Gameloft have seized, enjoying a completely new source of incremental revenue. Even Sega has re-released the insta-classic Sonic the Hedgehog for the iPhone. But where, oh where, is Nintendo in this mix?

Are you in the business of a medium or a larger strategy?

I read a lot of Chuck Palahniuk. When I'm not reading his depraved work I read a lot of case studies. I'm always intrigued with the ones on corporations who've overly focused on a proprietary medium, versus a more holistic view of what their business is strategically about.

AOLBook and Union Pacific Air/Rail
Had AOL been thinking about expanding it's ubiquitous AIM application into more modes of social connection, we'd all be using AOLBook instead of Facebook. Union Pacific Railorad was by far the largest railroad in America during the dawn of aviation, and they were completely married to their rails. Had they decided their business was about moving people and not just moving people on railways they would have seized the opportunity to buy upstart Pan American airlines with their massive capital and of course profited nicely in the long term.

Amazon is about books
Jeff Bezos is clearly a student of business (or professor of I guess), and quickly decided to port their Kindle software to the iPhone application despite it cannibalizing their sales of Kindle hardware. I suspect for Bezos, it was simply realizing they are in the business of selling books, not hardware, thus any method that can potentially bring on more book sales was a worthy effort.

Nintendo is in the hardware business?

Contrast Amazon to Nintendo who despite a highly successful release of their Wii game console has fallen off $45/share since Q4 2008. Console launches are really pricey. Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation have all openly commented on taking massive hits in the opening years of a console in the hope that the market grows to a point to fill in the deficit. A great way to fill voids is to simply resell old products, and there's no better opportunity there than to take old NES titles and port them to the mobile market. Like Mario bouncing repeatedly into the coin blocks for easy money, Nintendo with minimal effort could keep ringing the register with sales of its revival games. Nintendo has the opportunity to increase their revenue substantially by simply digging into their game archive and rereleasing classic NES titles (I'm talking about you Zelda). However Nintendo will never concede their titles to a non-Nintendo platform. even to Apple with whom there's always been lurking concept of partnership.

It can be argued that Nintendo, being a console first, would be canabalizing its own business, but I'm not suggesting they port over existing current Gameboy titles (although I think that's still a good idea). Rather I'd emphatically argue that they should release classic Nintendo games for the mobile market which their is no canabalizing factor.

Most EVERYONE between 18-35 carries their cell phone at all times, but few carry their mobile game system, if they even own one. If the video game market was capable of surpassing the movie industry a couple of years ago, the mobile game marketing with it's ubiquitous hardware – the phone – presents a major opportunity. With a mobile gaming market in it's infancy an entree from Nintendo could dominate for years. But they're in the business of selling Gameboys, not games.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ten of the Best Villian Brands

10. The Dharma Initiative

Source: Lost (tv show)
Why it beats the enemy's: They actually have taken the time to create a brand.
Part of the Uniform: Check. Dr. Candle gets a little fishy if you're not rocking your uni.
Brand Confusion: Sewer grate.

BRANDING LESSON LEARNED: Pay attention to Others in your market.

9. Mumm-Ra

Source: The Thundercats (cartoon)
Why it beats the enemy's: Doubtful.
Part of the Uniform: Oh yeah. Right there are the chest.
Brand Confusion: Skeletor – he's gota chesty seal thing too.

BRANDING LESSON LEARNED: Keep your brand close to your heart.
[Unrelated: Best discovery for the advancement of humans! While researching this piece I found this "thunderpedia" that is, you guessed it, a wiki for all things Thundercats.

8. Stay Puff Marshmellow Man

Source: The Ghostbusters (movie)
Why it beats the enemy's: This might be a tie. It's a good start when you're ready for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but the Ghostbusters may do a better job on daily tactical execution of branding.
Part of the Uniform: Sorta.
Brand Confusion: Philsbury Doughboy

BRANDING LESSON LEARNED: The puffier the marsh the sweeter the mellow? I really have nothing here.

7. The Umbrella Corporation

Source: Resident Evil Series (video game)
Why it beats the enemy's: I don't think so. It's an umbrella.
Part of the Uniform: Negative. Non-zombies (they're not
zombies!) don't "sport" brands. The dude to the right scared me everytime I fired up the game.
Brand Confusion: L3 Communications

BRANDING LESSON LEARNED: Keep your brand focused. Expanding your brand into pharma, military, science, etc makes for a really disjointed brand perception.

6. The Rogues - the warriors (http://warriorsmovie.co.uk/gangs/)

Source: The Warriors (movie)
Why it beats the enemy's: Menacing Bulls vs. Skulls? Tie goes to Skulls.
Part of the Uniform: Check. It's a gang, they tend to take logos kinda seriously.
Brand Confusion: The Misfits

BRANDING LESSON LEARNED: Immerse yourself in your brand because "I just like doing stuff like that!"

5. Cobra Kai

Source: The Karate Kid (movie)
Why it beats the enemy's: It's hardcore, and wasn't generated minutes before the Tri-Valley Tournament. Clearly, Daniel looks scared.
Part of the Uniform: Check, sensei.
Brand Confusion: Shelby Cobra GT500

BRANDING LESSON LEARNED: "STRIKE FIRST. STRIKE HARD." Be an innovator... I think your head accidentally ran into my innovation.

4. The Decepticons

Source: Transformers (cartoon)
Why it beats the enemy's: Dead heat.
Part of the Uniform: Check!
Brand Confusion: Mostly from their direct competitors, the Autobots, which is pretty unfortunate from a branding perspective.

BRANDING LESSON LEARNED: Offer more than meets the eye.

3. The Riddler

Source: Detective Comics #140 (comic)
Why it beats the enemy's: It's not. A bit over-saturated on the brand. Just because a logo is good, doesnt' mean you should use hundreds of times over on the same piece of collateral.
Part of the Uniform: Check!
Brand Confusion: Matthew Lesko, author "Free Money". Nearly identical uniform, and both rip off the government.


2. The Joker

Source: Batman #1 (comic)
Why it beats the enemy's: It doesn't. When the Joker gets
a jokermobile, jokerlight, jokerrangs or joker-sharkspray we'll talk.
Part of the Uniform: Uneasy check
Brand Confusion: Queen of Hearts

BRANDING LESSON LEARNED: Always leave a card.

1. Cobra

Source: G.I. Joe (cartoon, and god do I wish it'd stay that way)
Why it beats the enemy's: No logotype required.
Part of the Uniform: Check
Brand Confusion: Caduceus


Cobra is the clear brand winner. Their brand is fairly literal to the point, you see a (great) cobra illustration and they're "Cobra". They're also very organized around the brand: corresponding logo adhered to every employee's outfit; their CEO – Cobra Commander – lives the brand, going so far as to wearing a cowl with their brand identity emblazoned and yells the brand name when attacking
the "market".

So that's how I'm calling the best villain brands. Got better additions? Disagree with having Stay Puff (no logo, but a physical representation of a brand) but not Darth Vader? Holler in the comments!


Monday, July 20, 2009

Top 10 Most Deceptive Nintendo Box Art Covers

  • No Showboating Here

    Even as a kid I really should've known that video games couldn't outpace the systems they were built to play on. But game after game, I was deceived by box cover art. In the 1980s, my only source for video game value was Nintendo Power and box art. Some manufacturers had integrity. Kung Fu* said "I'm going to kick you below the belt*. Duck Hunt reminded us all that we had to be warry of blocky explosions of gun fire. The next 10 screens outline the less scrupulous manufacturers.

  • #10 | Friday the 13th

    The cover is pretty clear here. Jason Vorhees is going to come and kill in in rage of 80's technicolor axe killing action. It also implies that at some point in the game you will presumably see Jason, and that he wants to kill you very badly. I rented this game from Erol's, shocked that as a minor I could rent a game that made for an R-rated movie. The joke was on me, you never see Jason. Instead you wander around Camp Crystal Lake aimlessly for hours on end. And in the event you're lucky enough to see Jason (above), Jason basically wants to techno dance with you in an empty room. Sweet.

  • #9 | Toobin'

    WTF is this?! "Hey everybody! I'm cruising down the river with a beer in my hand, hitting some fish with my tube and people be cheering me on. As an indication of how much fun I'm having, the box designer let my foot violate the border. I'm a toobin' rebel!" This game was clearly so epic that they even made a Gameboy version. I can't even talk about this one anymore because it's actually making me angry.

  • #8 | Dragon Warrior

    I spent some serious time with Dragon Warrior, but check out the mythical-y cover with the knight at the base of the dragon's lair. Sweeping cape, Captain America shield, Nintendo seal of quality. Now juxtapose that against the screenshot of the Slime balls. "Oh no a blue hershey's kiss draws near! Command?" Chew 'em computer, chew 'em.

  • #7 | Batman

    The box art clearly shows the Tim Burton Batman movie logo. So color me surprised when I find out the actual game has some dude all decked in purple. Way to ignore any nexus to either the movie or comic book Batman. I can't even imagine the glorious conversation at Sunsoft. "But boss, it's so hard to get Batman's dark black outfit to read against dark city backgrounds." Boss retorts, "Well son, you try a contrasting color like purple?" Had I any commonsense, I would've noticed Sunsoft telegraphing the movie by randomly putting a purple rule at the top of the box art.

  • #6 | Wall $treet Kid

    First, there's the Archie comics illustration, which is actually done some justice in the game. But I fully expected Stanley the "Crafty Consultatnt" to be macking on my girl Ruth. Wait. Why are they advertising that the game "features Ruth and Stanley"? This isn't like a cross-over event with Luigi and Link here. I just felt misled at the outset when I was promised that I needed to "use it... or LOSE IT!" But really any in-game play that has copy that reads "Company divides into shares of equal amounts" doesn't bode well for killer gameplay.

  • #5 | Megaman

    Fortunately this game worked out to completely rule. But look at the box, it looks like I'll be playing on a "State-of-the-Art" Tron grid with "High Resolution Graphics". And I have this Colt .45 looking pistol should I need to Schwarzenegger a bro. Actual gameplay? You're Mario with a helmet and rocket-enabled arm... which is frankly very cool. But knowing that having a gun-integrated-arm may have helped the box designer.

  • #4 | Bayou Billy

    Honestly, I could re-title this post "Ten Misleading Box Art Covers from Konami", because the Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A folks are NOTORIOUS for misleading covers. Bayou Billy came out a year after Crocodile Dundee, and suffice to say they were a little more than "inspired" by the character. And that'd be fine if the game came anywhere close to getting to a knife wielding backwoodsmen who is SO Springsteen he even has a bandana on his thigh. Kudos to the "bad guy" in the top screenshot roshambo'ing Bayou Billy for not being Crocodile Dundee.

  • #3 | Dr. Mario

    Oh sweet! I'm Mario and I'm a doctor and get to inject pills into these crazy gremlin things, presumably un-gremlining them or more rad still, gremlinating them! Hardly. Tetris but with pills. It would be years before I trust another Mario game... or a plumber with a moustache telling me to trust him, as he was a "doctor".

  • #2 | Rambo

    DUDE! On the cover, you're EXPLICITLY telling me there will be copious gun play brought on by me - ultra muscly Rambo. Actual gameplay: I look like the Karate Kid in hot pants. And what's this? No gun? So I just have to take out dudes with my bare hands? Well that'd be cool. No not that either?... You're telling me I spend the majority of the game stabbing jungle snakes. Jungle snakes.

  • #1 | Joust

    "DESCEND NOW MYTHICAL HELLSPAWN OSTRICH!" Here's how dull Joust truly is. I just used the same screenshot for both views above, just flipped one horizontally. And did you notice? Of course not, because that's all you do in this game. Move left and aim to hit some stuff, now time to move right and hit some stuff. The fact this gem didn't even have a soundtrack didn't exactly help gameplay either. A neighborhood kid and I played this every day for a week. We got in a fight every day for that same week too. Not. a. coincidence.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Custom Action Figures - Only $5 million per!

I had this idea for a web-based custom action figure builder that goes something like this. You'd have an online interface similar to the Mii (from the Wii) or Xbox 360 (from the Xbox 360) and you could craft your own action figure and packaging. I had to include packaging as a custom option, because the really the packaging is just the coolest part. After doing a fair amount of research it appears that it'll cost round about $5 million dollars to get going. Now taking orders!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Business of Rejecting iPhone Apps

Despite a technical framework to deploy streaming video on the new 3GS, who's really blocking the apps from the store - AT&T or Apple?

After a protracted discovery phase, mobile has finally found it's place in the world, and it's not janky flip phone games or ringtones, rather rapid content delivery. The lone video of the Virginia Tech shootings was caught on a video-enabled phone. Michael Jackson's death brought Twitter to its knees (twice). The first images of the plane crash in the Hudson were posted to TwitPic. In each of these instances the first, if not only, media capture around these events came not from news vans, but citizen journalists. They didn't do it for money or fame, but to simply share what was happening in the world.

Sensing this emerging wave of mobile content, a company called qik (thanks to killer coworker @stevenmaguire for sharing) developed an application to access the video fed from mobile phones and stream it live through their site at qik. Simply point, shoot and stream.

Consider the alternative for web streaming: the copious effort required to take an HVX on-site, plug in to a laptop and then rely on available wifi, PCS mobile card or a hardwire, then connect to your streaming server of choice. Or. or, you could just launch the qik app and hit stream from your iPhone 3GS, already connected to 3G or wifi and be ready to go. But, you can't do that because the app has been rejected. Great app that truly supports and benefits the larger community, no malicious code or porn, so why was it rejected?

There's no doubt the heart of the issue with qik is predicated on bandwidth. As noted in the above video, XM/Sirius, SlingPlayer and Skype all faced repeated rejections over streaming bandwidth concerns. When it comes to bandwidth it's easy to blame AT&T, but they don't own the app store. That's Apple. So why would Apple reject an app on bandwidth? That really doesn't seem like the kind application facet they should worry about. Moreover, it positively stresses to their carrier partners that there needs to be continual upgrades to the networks as they have no intent on pulling back.

As a young Barak Obama requests above (Ed. note: not really Barak Obama) sign the petition (link below) and help empower the next wave of mobile content, in real-time, streaming video.

Sign the Twitition

p.s. priceless introduction of date, time, newsie front page info a la Dr. Emmit Brown.

p.p.s. Want to buy that unbelievably awesome iPhone lens/mic attachment that also looks like a Sony camera and Xbox controller GOT.IT. ON.? Pre-order: http://www.wantowle.com/Want.html

Friday, July 3, 2009

Innovation at the Rate of Conceptulization


Last week, I was turned onto the Posterous social media distribution platform from Jeremiah Owyang, which impressively allows clients to email their service from an authenticated email address and then push the content out to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, WordPress, Blogger, etc. The really impressive part of this application is what their servers do once an email is received. If the email contains video it pushes the video content out to your accounts with YouTube and Vimeo. If the email contains photos it pushes them out to Flickr, etc. Then it ties the whole distribution together by posting the content, video links, photos, etc out to your content outposts of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. At the personal level it's a great way to broadcast across channels. From a business perspective it's the missing piece to the marketing puzzle to vastly simplify the issue of message distribution.

Upon picking up the new iPhone 3GS last week, the first gaping problem I saw with the phone – and my ability to use it with Posterous – was that for any video over 1 minute the only way to get it off your phone whilst out-and-about was YouTube upload. Anything over a minute and you can't use email to transmit the video through to Posterous. Not to mention you were forced into YouTube. To then take a video then add across content outposts required a multi-step connection, which is sub-par when you're mobile. So I wrote Posterous.

Unbeknown to me, Apple just released the iPhone SDK for 3.1 (beta) on Wednesday, which now allows for access to the video files which in turn will allow 3rd party apps access to the files to upload and/or edit. Sure enough the good folks at Posterous wrote back yesterday, in a day no less, to report they already had app in alpha stages to handle this very issue.

Within a week of recognizing a need to extend the video functionality of the (impressively solid) iPhone, Apple had updated their SDK and Posterous is well underway to deploy an app to handle this very thing. When technology is developed at the rate of complaint, you know we've hit a technology singularity.