XBLA Prices Rising

XBLA Prices Rising

$15 is fast becoming the rule, not the exception.

We’re all for the digital download movement, and are intrigued by any development happening even at this very early stage. That’s why we love Kotaku’s analysis of the prices of Xbox Live Arcade games and its accompanying chart.

As Microsoft has expanded its Xbox 360 userbase and is throwing more weight behind digital distribution (two straight years of Summer of Arcade sales promotions help), prices have also increased.

The average price of Xbox Live Arcade games on the Xbox 360 has risen by a $1.74 since the Xbox 360 launched in November of 2005, according to Kotaku’s study of prices for more than 200 XBLA games.

One of the most interesting points found is that the $5 price point is no longer popular and may be phased out altogether, while the $15 price point is increasingly popular.

This is almost the reverse of Apple’s App Store, where applications quickly hit 99-cents due to a very open and streamlined approval process. Apple doesn’t have a huge problem to fix there (yet), but it may want to keep an eye on what its old nemesis is doing in the space and how they’ve been able to maintain this kind of price point strength.

[More analysis and chart at Kotaku]

AFK: Weezer In 8-Bit

Pterodactyl Squad pays 8-bit homage to Weezer

Pterodactyl Squad pays 8-bit homage to Weezer

Our AFK breaks will be where we show something that’s inspiring, exciting, intriguing, or just plain cool, and hopefully you’ll pass it along to your colleagues.

If you’re into music, chances are you know Weezer and you’ve heard some of their hits, including “Buddy Holly” and “El Scorcho.”

Some intrepid musicians decided to pay tribute to the Los Angeles-based band by taking some of those hits and crafting them into clever 8-bit versions, giving them a chance at some free publicity while reminding us of some of the band’s catchy tunes.

Our favorite has to be the Castlevania-inspired Island In The Sun remix.

May not make it into your playlists, but it’s worth a listen just to appreciate how whole mediums can mashup.

[Download the album from Pterodactyl Squad]

Trouble With Warcraft, China Easing

Never fear, Chinese WoW fans.

The Chinese government put a damper on the over five million Chinese players of World of Warcraft when the game’s publisher switched network providers two months ago.

Due to a licensing snafu and content approval process, the most popular MMO game in the world has been offline for 40 percent of its customers for the past several weeks.

Thankfully for genuine players and gold farmers alike, World of Warcraft has been allowed a partial relaunch on July 30. Yahoo! explains why it’s only partial:

But the government agency in charge of regulating print and online publications found some content during its checks that it will require Blizzard or NetEase to modify. The game will have to be resubmitted for approval after the changes are made, an employee at the agency, the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), said by phone earlier this week. He declined to estimate when the game will receive approval or to say what content must be changed.

Past content changes include having skeletons change into human bodies, and removing bones from the game’s locales.

“It’s to promote a healthy and harmonious on-line environment,” anonymous staff said, according to [Guangzhou-based newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily].

So healthy, harmonious environments don’t include walking skeletons? Whatever you say, churchy!

[Yahoo! and PCWorld have the info] {link no longer active}

AFK: We Want This Conference Table

AList shares AFK: We Want This Conference Table

Since when does a table lead to 137 blog posts?

Our AFK item of the day comes in from Because We Can, creators of sustainable interior design and custom furniture based out of Oakland, CA.

They recently got an order for a 16′ long conference table from Penny Arcade.  Luckily enough, BWC loves the Penny Arcade brand and decided to spend some extra time in building what has to be the greatest table in the history of conference rooms.

Check out the images for a look at the final product, based on one of Penny Arcade’s comic strips, and watch the video if you’re curious about how they put it all together.

And, yes, the moon does glow in the dark.

[Pictures and background at Because We Can]

Twitter More Effective Than You Think

Twitter haters, beware -- It may be more useful than you think

Haters, beware — It may be more useful than you think

Twitter is all the rage, but plenty of naysayers are hopping on the Twitter backlash, questioning the benefits marketers receive from being on the microblogging platform.  You may want to turn their attention to a recent article in SearchEngineLand which shows Twitter could be underreported in Google Analytics data by as much as 1600 percent.

From SearchEngineLand:

“Based only on referrers, at best, Google or any analytics program would have said Twitter sent two visits. But because I used tracking codes, I was able to overcome the lack of referring data and see that Twitter (itself or via applications or web sites using Twitter data) sent nine visits. That means analytics packages might be undercounting Twitter visits by nearly 500 percent.”

“Meanwhile, Bit.ly was showing those 58 clicks to the page. Let’s say it wasn’t filtering out some of the robots. I can still see that there are 32 visits that the log files recorded, all with the tracking codes that never existed until I tweeted the link with them. So those are all Twitter-derived visits. That means an undercount by a standard analytics tool depending on referrer data by 1600 percent.”

SearchEngineLand has already pinged Google to find out what they’re doing about the problem, and outlines several ways to prevent the undercounting from affecting your referral stats.

[Lots more data and discussion at SearchEngineLand]

Hasbro Future Tied To Virtual Worlds


Hasbro's Digital Future -- Littlest Pet Shop

Hasbro’s Digital Future — Littlest Pet Shop

The first Transformers movie netted Hasbro, creator of the action figures tied to the movie, over $500 million at retail.  The company is also very pleased with how sales are going tied to the second Transformers movie and the upcoming G.I. Joe movie.

But it’s looking at virtual worlds for its future growth.  From Virtual Worlds News:

“Being able to experience our brands in the online world is critical as the category is growing by about 19 percent a year and is expected to be a $2.5 billion category in 2011,” [Hasbro] CEO [Brian] Goldner said in [a recent earnings] conference call. “This includes virtual worlds and online gaming for both kids and adults.”

Hasbro touts its partnership with EA through Club Pogo and its Monopoly and Boggle brands as a hint of its future goals, and is positioning Littlest Pet Shop as a potential flagship for girl consumers.

The hunch that Hasbro looks at popular toy-and-website company Webkinz as a model isn’t farfetched.  Sources tied to Webkinz estimate that company’s earnings at $750 million, and the kids-focused virtual world Club Penguin sold to Disney in 2006 for $700 million.

[More on Hasbro’s future at Virtual Worlds News] {link no longer active}

Advertising’s Digital Push Continues

Xbox Live Dashboard with Toyota Ad Integration

The Digital Push Continues — Xbox Live with Toyota

Josh Bernoff takes some time to analyze the ongoing push of advertising towards digital mediums, not the least of which is video games.  From AdvertisingAge:

The result is that digital, which will be about 12 percent of overall advertising spend in 2009, is likely to grow to about 21 percent in five years. Along the way overall advertising budgets won’t grow much.  This is huge.  It means we are all digital marketers now, since digital is at the center of many campaigns anyway.

The signs have been there for quite awhile, and companies like EA have been at the forefront of taking advantage of the increased engagement clients are seeing with audiences in virtual spaces.

Microsoft has been making significant strides as well, two of which are extremely notable.

First, if you have an Xbox 360, boot it up and see if you notice anything new on the dashboard.  Chances are there’s an embedded video playing alongside some of the featured game slots as soon as you log into Xbox Live.  These are extremely eye-catching, and most of them have ties to digital downloads (games, themes, contests) that offer additional chances at engagement.

Secondly, 1 vs. 100 is a game, currently in beta, that has Xbox 360 players answering trivia questions in a visually appealing game show presentation, complete with their avatar as one of the stars of the show.  The best part for potential clients?  Those commercial breaks that occur every several questions, with tens of thousands of gamers happy (enough) to watch them in exchange for the free game.

We’ll keep you posted as this develops, and we’re very curious to see how Sprint and Honda are enjoying their 1 vs. 100 advertising at the gaming forefront of this advertising push to digital.

[Full analysis at AdAge]

Column: What Is This EVOLVE Theme All About?

This year the theme for the second annual [a] list summit is EVOLVE. Without elaboration this may seem a little nebulous. Let me see if I can help put this in context.

At last year’s summit we were honored to have Mister Jordan Weisman lead off the discussions with a talk about providing entertainment in our marketing communication. It was his opinion that in order to stand out marketers need to add value to their communication. He argued that for a game consumer there is no better value proposition than entertainment.

Our consumers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of advertising directed to them. Everywhere they look some company is touting their product. Traditional approaches are falling flat. Just five years ago a flash banner ad was commanding near a one percent  click through rate. Now that same flash ad is lucky to get a .1 percent. TV viewership is in steep decline, print is dead and no one is spending any time on our beautiful flash websites anymore. How do we get our consumers to pay attention?

We must EVOLVE our message. Jordan was on to something. With web 2.0 consumers define your brand whether you like it or not. There are a mass of niches on the web. So many people in so many places talking about your brand you can’t possibly reach them all directly. How can we have influence over these discussions so that more of them are positive than negative?

The assertion is that by providing value in your message your consumer will become more receptive to it. If you entertain your consumer with a hilarious two minute viral video then that little pre-order message at the end is a bit easier to accept. If you give a core fan five exclusive screenshots for sharing your new trailer with his friends you can empower his word of mouth.

This is the theme we will apply to each and every talk, panel and discussion topic at this year s [a] list summit. We have some of the most respected professionals in our business assembled together to discuss marketing executions (i.e. broadcast, online, viral etc) and how to add value to those executions.

EVOLVE to us is exciting because it opens up a whole new way to think about advertising. We can get much more creative in our approach. No longer does the formulaic approach of, do your print ad, shoot your TV spot build your banner campaign cut the mustard anymore. Today we are challenged to build compelling, entertaining campaigns that don’t simply tout the three core features of your new shooter, we tell stories, incentivize pass along, make people laugh or just amaze. I for one would have it no other way.

So I hope this year while you’re sipping that Zin or Cab at the event you re also inspired by our speakers. They re thinking about this EVOLUTION going on in our business and are willing to let you in on their successes and their failures. Together we can all share best practices and hopefully continue to fuel the tremendous growth this industry has enjoyed for many years to come.

Look forward to talking with you all.

VOD: The Daily Show On iPhone Fart App War

Apple should have known this was coming, with its loose standards and the availability of tons of 99-cent apps for the iPhone.  And we ve never seen it put funnier than on last night’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

A little background, courtesy of Business Insider:

“iFart” maker InfoMedia is taking “Pull My Finger” maker Air-O-Matic to court in Colorado, seeking a declaration that it is lawful to use the term “pull my finger” — a common flatulence-related expression — in its marketing materials. It also seeks legal fees and “other relief” as the court deems proper.

Now they’ve taken the fight to the (basic cable) airwaves with an extremely funny segment on The Daily Show.  Without further ado, our video of the day.

{link no longer active}

Halo Turns Ten

Master Chief sure has grown up…

Microsoft Game Studios and Bungie are celebrating a milestone today as Master Chief and his Halo series turn ten years old. If there’s any proof the original IP is still worth an investment, it’s in Halo.

The series was announced in July 1999, and an early E3 2001 demo prior to the Xbox launch was met with some skepticism.

Fast forward a few months later, and Microsoft Game Studios would have its last laugh. Halo: Combat Evolved helped launch the Xbox as a new video game platform to be reckoned with, and created a new franchise star in Master Chief.

Since that time, the trilogy of Halo games have sold 24.8 million units, and has twice broken the record for the biggest entertainment opening of all time with Halo 2 and Halo 3. The latest in the series, also the first on Xbox 360, took in over $170 million in just 24 hours.

And despite rumors that the third game would be its last, the Halo cash cow continues mooing, with Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach expected this and next year.

Ten years later, we have to wonder where the Xbox would be without this landmark series. What do you think?