AFK: Wipeout HD Fury Looks Fantastic

Today’s AFK moment comes to us from Edge editor Alex Wiltshire and his keen eye for in-game photography.

Wipeout HD Fury may not look like much, but that’s until you slow down the action and look at it from a few different angles. The result is on his Flickr page, bursting with color and futuristic sleekness, worthy of any desktop.

If you want to know what the kids are playing and why, click on for a few more photos.

AList shares AFK: Wipeout HD Fury Looks Fantastic


[Alex Wiltshire’s Flickr]


Twitter Lacks Midas Touch For Advisers

From The Wall Street Journal:

Droves of financial advisers who flocked to the micro-blogging site as a route to new clients haven’t gotten the results they wanted. Others are confronting a host of compliance issues around what advisers can say in such a public arena.

“Twitter seems to be just a bunch of noise, and the type of clientele we want to attract – the typically older, high-net-worth investor – is not going to find me on Twitter,” said Fred Dent, a financial adviser at Raymond James Financial Services Inc. in Mclean, Va., who goes by @dentfred on Twitter.

Consider this a discussion thread based on the fact that financial advisors aren’t singing Twitter’s praises. How about our industry, either in marketing itself or video games in general? How successful do you feel the industry is at adopting Twitter?

Will Retailers Push Back On The Big Box?

IndustryGamers has a fascinating piece on the era of the big box and its impact on retailers.

Of particular note is a table they have on the site looking at the profit certain items have per cubic inch, which is a valuable metric for all retailers.

Looking at the table above, one has to wonder if retailers will start pushing back in favor of products that are smaller and more profitable. Further, with their large size and lack of profitability per cubic inch of space they take up, these products are prime candidates for excessive discounting, which can materially hurt publishers as they must reimburse retailers for these discounts. In one recent case, in order to make room for the slew of peripheral based games this holiday season, a retailer discounted a music peripheral product by $90 – an unheard of amount.

Music-based games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, even Wii Fit, have a much smaller profit per cubic inch than they re regular disc-based brothers.

Is there anything publishers can do to either innovate in the packaging of these games, or to better communicate through marketing the importance of having these first-run instruments make it into gamers homes?

Wii Sports Resort Dominates UK Charts

Wii Sports Resort, the subject of last week s exclusive analysis, is still holding the number one position in the UK for two straight weeks, according to Chart Track {link no longer active}.

This follows first-four-day sales of 350K units in Japan, and what retailers are saying is a blockbuster opening in the U.S. (to be confirmed when NPD releases July data sometime next week).

Nintendo is looking for their first truly big hit of the year in Wii Sports Resort, especially after disappointing revenue numbers and a slowdown in overall Wii hardware sales.

Life Outside Of Games For Sackboy

The adorable star of the PlayStation 3 hit LittleBigPlanet is making his move out of games and into toy shelves with a line of real world products by Impact International.

From ToyNews: {link no longer active}

The deal will see the toy company produce a range of plush items, bean toys, mugs, bobbleheads and bags, all featuring LittleBigPlanet’s iconic character Sackboy.

Brazier and Co have signed up to produce a range of PVC figurines for LittleBigPlanet, including a limited edition themed Sackboy.

In addition, poster company GB Eye Limited will develop a range of posters, 3D posters, postcard packs, badges and stickers for LittleBigPlanet, God of War, InFamous, MotorStorm, WipeOut, Killzone and Resistance.

This news impacts the UK, Ireland and the Middle East, and we’re surprised it s taking Sony this long to get an American production and distribution deal for similar items for the U.S.

Whereas many of today s games focus on upselling consumers on virtual goods and expansion packs, this deal should prove to be very profitable in bringing a great character into the real world.

It’s a wonder we still haven’t seen Nintendo really capitalize in a much bigger way with their IP.

Video Of The Day: ComicCon Jackass

Keith Apicary of fansite Screw Attack hit the show floor at this year s ComicCon, and the results are today s video of the day.

We almost feel guilty for laughing.

{video link no longer active}

Sony Introduces Loading Screen Ads

While catching up on some video games this weekend (folks, it’s all part of the job), we noticed Wipeout HD has a few extra features of note for potential advertisers.

During the game’s loading screens, a small rectangular video started playing with designs that looked like they fit in with Wipeout HD’s sleek, futuristic styling.  We didn’t even know it was an advertisement until the State Farm logo appeared promoting their site and a way to save moolah.

Now Sony and Double Fusion are talking about how deep these integrations are going, with Wipeout HD declared a pilot program for future endeavors.

From IndustryGamers: {link no longer active}

“By introducing high-resolution dynamic video ads into WipEout HD, Double Fusion is responding to advertiser demand and offering an engaging ad format while pushing in-game ad innovation to a new level,” said Jonathan Epstein, CEO of Double Fusion. “The title is one of the most popular and visually stunning available on the PlayStation Network and a perfect vehicle to connect advertisers to a captivated audience. It comes as no surprise that advertisers have already signed up for WipEout HD even before the launch of the new video ad units in the game.”

The integration we saw over the weekend was actually probably one of the least-offensive in-game campaigns we ve ever seen.

The design very closely follows the game s futuristic tones, and the ad didn’t take place during the game, but in between the necessary loading screens all gamers are used to.  Additionally, we think that’s the perfect time to try and engage the audience as those loading screens make gamers literally a captive audience.

Let s see how the high-definition integrations look, and we promise to have our iPhone ready to take video of when it does happen.

Palm Pre Marketing: Creepy But Effective?

We’ve all seen the evening commercials for the Palm Pre, starring a very calm, almost creepy young woman waxing poetic about stop lights and her day.  After watching her for thirty seconds, it s a bit tough to fall asleep because, frankly, she’s a little unsettling.

Click play, if you dare.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.  Creeped out? Then mission accomplished, or so says the creative team behind the commercials.

From Ad Age: {link no longer active} “We weren’t trying to creep people out, but one thing I have learned now in this digital age is people can be as rude as they want as long as they don’t have to look you in the face,” [Gary Koepke, co-founder and executive creative director at Modernista] said. “The Pre is probably being talked about more than other phones right now because of the marketing and advertising, and that’s a good thing. Could the ads work harder to show exactly how the phone works Yes, but we knew it would be polarizing people to have a woman not shout at them and tell an interesting story.”

The old adage is any publicity is good publicity, but does it really pay to try and split your consumer base right down the middle from day one   We’re hyper critical of the ad, as we think the Palm Pre is a great phone, but that commercial shows nothing of its features.On a related note, sales of the Palm Pre are looking to stabilize at around 30K units per week after its hot launch period earlier this year.  By comparison, iPhone sales in Q2 topped an average of 390K per week.

Chevy Volt Coming In At $40K?

Beware, Chevy, the lessons of Sony.

When the Chevy Volt was first shown off as a concept car in 2006, it was hailed as the future of the American auto industry.  The combination of high technology, lower gas consumption and a price of around $20K looked to be the perfect storm to take on Toyota and the Prius.

Fast-forward a few years later and that $20K has doubled to around $43,000 for a Chevy Volt.  From Ad Age: {link no longer active}

The Volt’s retail base price will be about $40,000, the person familiar with the program said, because “dealers need a couple thousand reasons to pick up the phone and order one.” That means that GM will sell the Volt – at a loss – to dealers for somewhere in the mid- to upper $30,000s. Transaction prices, the source said, are projected to average about $43,000.

For those in the video game industry with a keen eye at this generation s console wars, the story can’t help but remind people of the PlayStation 3 launch.

High technology also came at a tremendous cost to Sony, with some estimates pegging the actual cost of each PS3 at $800, far below the MSRP Sony placed on the PS3 of $599.  Sony wouldn’t make a profit on any hardware sales for quite some time.

Let’s continue with the parallels.

GM needs to do more than cross its fingers on warranty costs, though. At $40,000-plus, the Volt will be a tough sell in a Chevrolet showroom. By comparison, the Prius starts at $21,750, including shipping — putting it in a similar price range to other Toyota cars shoppers may be considering.

Unfortunately, the original PS3 price of $599, even with Sony taking a loss, was absurdly high for most consumers.  Sony’s main competition, the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, both came in at a couple hundred dollars less.

So what s GM to do   Looking to the future…

That leaves GM with an urgent need to cut costs on the Volt. Dave Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., estimates that in five to 10 years, technological advances could cut the cost of the pack in half, to about $4,000 to $5,000. With those and other savings, GM might get the base price down to $30,000, Mr. Cole said.

Chevy can take solace in recent reports showing Sony has managed to reduce PlayStation 3 costs by about 70 percent.  The estimated cost of each unit is $260, a far cry from the bath Sony was taking on the $800 cost just a couple of years ago.

Unfortunately for Sony, those couple of years have been enough to see one competitor bolster its Xbox Live online offering in very engaging ways that will (by our account) lead to unprecedented consumer loyalty in gaming, and the other competitor come back from the dead to be the market leader with the Nintendo Wii.

No amount of marketing dollars has helped Sony make any clear run at either competitor, so at the end of the day, more often than not, it’ll come down to the product and its price when looking for success stories.  Those are the foundations that marketing can then take advantage of, but if they re not there, can marketers really do their jobs effectively?