Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Whining gets you free stuff

I started thinking about this a few weeks ago, when the article about the guy that sent his xbox to be repaired and lost all his signatures and custom artwork on it. I had been talking about how complaining on the Internet has become the easiest way possible to get free stuff in the real world. In the example of the guy that sent back his xbox - would you trust a semi-valuable non-replaceable item to a huge box-shop? The 360 repair technique is a difficult thing, because of how semi-unique the condition is currently. I've had plenty of irreplaceable items such as signed books, baseball cards and photographs over time.

If he wanted to continue to use his 360 instead of having to replace it and make the other case a complete collector's item that he left on a shelf, he was going to have to send it in for repair. That isn't to say that any level of risk would be associated with it. The folks that do the repair aren't going to really be looking at what the note said that he sent with it, or really any promises that were made. I wouldn't be surprised if that case isn't sitting off to the side where someone replaced it with a stock case because they liked the artwork.

And we get to the current news that Bungie is going to do "something special" for this guy because he lost the signatures and case, and happened to whine about it on the Interwebs. Everyone feels good. How many folks do you think are going to do something special to their xbox now before they send it off in hopes of getting something cool and free?

Now we get to where this one gets interesting to me personally - I blogged months ago about how I felt that the Live Search Club service was really just a scam, because I got tagged as being a cheater on the service. I chalked up the experience as a growing opportunity and went on my merry way. I still believe that Microsoft could save themselves millions by just requiring that the players pay S&H for the products that they win. It would keep the folks just looking for a fast buck from trying to cheat as much, and it would help to speed up the processing time for the requests. That said, I relegated that I was not going to see any of the rewards that I had signed up for.

Then last week, out of the blue, I get a package from Microsoft. Much to my surprise, it was a copy of Kameo: Elements of Power from Live Search Club. Taking as a win that I actually got something from the time and effort spent on the service, I'm relatively pleased. The next day, I end up getting "Project Gotham Racing 3" in the mail from Live Search Club. Now, I was supposed to get these rewards in mid-October, and it was early December that I was told I was getting nothing. Now it's March and I mysteriously get 2 rewards, after a spike in my blog shows that people were sure interested in my "Club Live Scam" blog entry. While I didn't get everything, I sure can't complain about getting something at this point.

And, I can claim myself as one of the masses that whined on the Internet and got free stuff.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Uneducated Parents

There are at least 2 or 3 different things I want to post up about right now, and at least one of them I was planning on writing on this morning, but this one took the cake for me.

This mother is upset because she didn't do any work on her part to make sure her kids were playing safely on the Internet, and is now angry at Microsoft's Live service.
"Jennifer says the damage to her children from this incident has already been done... And she has banned her children from using X-Box Live to protect them from becoming prey to online predators."
This is just obscenely idiotic on the part of the parent. They failed to do their job, trusting it to a large corporation blindly, and are upset enough to fly off the handle. If the kids had burned themselves on the stove, would they blame GE? I'm guessing the answer is yes.

The "best response" that this parent could do is use this opportunity as a learning experience and a chance to teach her children. Yes, they got to see someone's "naughty bits", and I'd assume they were male instead of female naughty bits. They'll see 'em again sometime. They didn't get contacted to meet somewhere, they didn't get harmed. To me it would be a good way to introduce them about how important it is to be careful with what they say and do online, and how to act. It also would be a good learning experience for her to go out online, or offline for that matter, and research how to keep her kids safe on the Internet. It's not the nice happy playland full of only fuzzy animals, there are terrors that lurk there. The terrors have lurked on the Interwebs much longer than the ideals of fuzzy little woodland creatures in a nice garden.

Taking a step back, and I don't think at any point I'm going to defend not only what she did in reaction nor what she did beforehand, but the article never says what ages the kids were playing, or what games they had been playing. My kids have non-live enabled accounts on my 360, and they play on those accounts. That said, at some point I'm sure they are going to be interested in having live accounts created, or something equivalent to that. I'm sure at some point the "picto-chat" feature in the DS will become an issue when we're traveling, or once they have their own email addresses that they will get something they really shouldn't. As a Father, and generically as a parent, my role is to protect my children. This extends to while we are at parks, around the house, and now online. There are monsters out there looking to exploit them, and it's not going to go away just because they can't use their 360 online anymore. The best I can hope for is to protect them while they are young, and educate them along the way so that they can make good educated decisions for themselves as they grow up.

Not just take their toys away because I'm scared of the boogie man coming around.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Too Much of a good thing?

So, I was reading an article about the Ratings of Publishers (link), and there is a quote in it that really got me thinking -

Should both of these publisher deals go forward (Activision-Blizzard and EA-Take Two), the result would be two huge publishers who collectively publish over 250 console and handheld games every 12 months, a significant percentage of the market in any given year.
250 titles in a year? And that's just two of the publishers in the business right now! The question is really starting to become "how many games will you really play in a 12-month period?" Now, understandably, I won't play 250 different games in 2008. I probably bought more games in 2007 than I should have, which isn't unusual when I get new game systems. I bought games I don't play, because my kids play them, so that adds some. But how many games really can be put out by the industry each year that are worth playing? It's pretty historic that outside of the "ultra-classic games" like the original Super Mario Brothers or Sonic the Hedgehog - and I mean the 1991 and 1992 releases - people don't flock to buy "bargain" games. So how many various titles can you really expect to be bought in a calendar year per person. If you look at the software "take rate" per console, I think you get a pretty clear understanding of "not that freaking many" - Microsoft boasts that the 360 has a somewhere around 7 titles per console sitting on a shelf. So, people who bought the 360 have bought on average 3 titles per year since the console's release. That includes such "AAA" titles as Halo3, Gears of War, Rainbow 6 Vegas, Rock Band, Guitar Hero 2 and 3, Rainbow Six Vegas, Project Gotham 3 and 4, Forza 2, Mass Effect, BioShock, Call of Duty 2, 3, and 4, along with others that I could spend an hour listing off. I listed 15 titles that I would consider the "hot games" for just 1 system, many of which came out in the last 12 months.

You have to add in that currently there are at least 6 unique systems to consider (PC, 360, PS3, Wii, DS, PSP). So let's do quick math - figure on the top end that the average for all systems is at least 5 each per year. That gets us to 30 titles bought per "complete family unit" - meaning if a family had all 6 systems that they would have bought around 30 games in a year. That's a lot of games to play through, especially if they are all long-playing games like RPG's which can be expected to have 100+ hours to playtime. Then realize that Activision, Vivendi (aka Blizzard),
EA and Take Two pumped out a combined 250 titles last year alone. That's a lot of games to put out on shelves to be considered for purchase. And that's just 4 of the major publishers, of which there are nearly 70 unique publishers out there.

It all comes down to - how many games can you really play in a year, I mean really? And how many gamers go back 1+ year to get "platinum hits" or spend the time to replay that really awesome game from 2-3 years ago? Replay value is gone, because we have so many other games out there to vie for our attention.

I think I need to dig out my Dreamcast soon... or maybe my Saturn.