Apple Namechecks Nintendo, Sony At IPod Event

In yesterday’s Apple media event entitled “It’s Only Rock and Roll,” Apple made it clear where they see a bit part of the iPod’s future: games.

The Cupertino-based manufacturer of the iPod Touch and iPhone spent 15 minutes out of the hour-long event discussing the gaming market, even taking a moment to swipe at Nintendo and Sony in the portable gaming space.

Amongst Apple’s complaints about the traditional video game console makers: no multi-touch screen, the price of those games are far too high, there is no app store and there is no iPod.

Unfortunately for Apple, not all of that is 100 percent true. The Nintendo DS doesn’t have a multi-touch user interface, just a touchscreen which is controlled with single taps and drags of a stylus, but the Nintendo DSi has a DSi Shop through which small games are purchased and downloaded.

The new Sony PSPgo, which launches on October 1, also has the PlayStation Store, with a new suite of low-cost games coming out soon called Minis as a direct response to Apple’s app store. Lastly, both systems can play music files through memory sticks or SD cards.

Still, the attention Apple paid to gaming in yesterday’s event shows they re not here to play — they re here to win. Apple touted its over 21K games and entertainment apps and a revival of the iPod Touch marketing campaign that calls it the funnest iPod ever. It’s going to be pretty tough to compete with messaging like this:


The Beatles: Rock Band Lands On Tonight Show

The Tonight Show has been a late night mainstay for decades now, through Steve Allen to Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. MTV Games, EA and Harmonix have persuaded current host Conan O’Brien to allow The Beatles: Rock Band to be the first video game to break through to the popular show.

Dhani Harrison, son of The Beatles George Harrison, was the guest on The Tonight Show and the game was demonstrated by Conan, a couple of band members and Harrison, and we’ve embedded the video for you below:


Dante’s Inferno Marketing Stunt Offers $200 To Bloggers

Dante’s Inferno is continuing their marketing push for the Hell-themed game with real, verified $200 checks being sent out to bloggers in fancy wooden boxes, asking journalists to make a choice and deal with the consequences.

Either cash the check and give into greed through avarice, or don’t cash the check and give into greed through prodigality. So what did Joystiq and Kotaku do upon receiving it

Joystiq opted to donate the money to charity on behalf of EA, while Kotaku lit the check on fire at Kotaku HQ. So, kids, remember, some good can come out of evil marketing (as well as several blog posts).


The Beatles: Rock Band DLC Details

The Beatles: Rock Band came out yesterday and with it a whole new opportunity for DLC content to come out the door. How will MTV Games, EA and Harmonix market the new songs and albums

“DLC songs which don’t end up in historical venues will have custom dreamscapes, yes,” said Dare Matheson, lead artist at Harmonix. “There will be visual themes and elements that will stretch from the on-disc dreamscapes into the DLC dreamscapes, but everyone is custom, unique, and fully-crafted for the song it will accompany. It’s a bargain!”  [Joystiq]

The fact that the music is remastered from The Beatles original recordings should be reason enough, but Harmonix seems to be going the extra mile to ensure every $2-song is worth it, visually as well as aurally.

Madden NFL 10 Hits IPhone

It s a testament to EA and their Madden brand that, if a Madden game never gets released for a console, that console isn t long for the world (we’re looking at you, Dreamcast grave). But when the football behemoth marches onto a new platform, it s sort of like a video game bar mitzvah; iPhone, you re a man, my son.

From Joystiq:

EA Sports is rushing Apple’s App Store with a brand new game that takes full advantage of the iPhone’s (and iPod’s) touch screen. Unlike the console variants, the handheld Madden 10 experience is more accessible to the casual player. Beginners will be able to get by without thinking about the playbook, as the game automatically recommends appropriate plays. The action slows down when the quarterback has the ball, and color-coded icons appear on the screen, indicating the likelihood of making a completion.

Madden is now in the App Store for $7.99, and will be one of the first truly huge video game franchises to make its way onto iPhone.

The Quaint Benefits Of A Smaller Market

Harmonix, creators of Rock Band, yesterday released The Beatles: Rock Band to much fanfare from Beatles maniacs and video gamers alike looking forward to a new experience.

The Boston-based developer did receive a gracious proclamation from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announcing September 9, 2009 as Video Game Innovation Day in the state.

From the proclamation:

Whereas On this day, Harmonix Music Systems, the Cambridge-based inventors of Rock Band and developer of the original Guitar Hero games, is releasing The Beatles: Rock Band, a game that will not only bring the creativity and joy of The Beatles music to countless people, but will introduce the Fab Four to new generations of fans

Boston may not be as industry-heavy as San Francisco or Austin, but it s the little things that count. Until you grow tired of living in, you know, Boston.

(Just kidding, fellow Bostonians)

Gamer: A Gamer’s Review

Lionsgate’s sci-fi action movie Gamer had an $11.2 million fourth place this past weekend, with a mostly male, mostly under-25 audience contributing to the final tally.

Co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, also co-directors on the movie Crank, were responsible for helming the Gerard Butler movie, and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it does lend some insight into how Hollywood looks at gamers.

From Kotaku:

[Hated the] Stereotypes: Furries. Check. Obese wheelchair-bound gamer. Check. Teenage violence-loving shooter fan. Check. While Gamer offers a fascinating take on the beginnings of a dystopian future, it doesn’t really explore how those changes are reflected in the people who play these new, life-altering games. Instead of creating a new character set for this intriguing timeline, Gamer falls back on the classic stereotypes of what people think gamers are. Not taking the time to fully explore the impact of future games and how they might alter humanity is one of the movie’s biggest missed opportunities.

Is the disconnect between the reality of today s video game consumers and the way they re portrayed in movies such as Gamer still too vast, or is this blogger being hypersensitive to the portrayal? And does this affect the movie’s overall marketing by more negative word of mouth

Video Of The Day: Halo 3 ODST Extended Short Film

Microsoft continues to tease the Halo fan with its Halo 3 ODST marketing, giving the brand some big screen treatment in a short, two-and-a-half minute commercial that s making its way onto YouTube and gaming blogs over the past week.

If you haven t seen it, check out the extended short film Microsoft just released below and see if that isn t the perfect way to get gamers psyched for their new Halo adventure later this month.

AFK: The Beatles: Rock Band Fan Videos Begin

Today’s AFK is a simple video with a short take on The Beatles: Rock Band from a true fan s perspective, but it s also a reminder that there is an audience beyond the average gamer that is, in this example, a Beatles fan first, a video game player second.

These videos are what game makers and marketers dream of coming out at a decent clip to keep brand awareness out there for a good long time to come.

Feature: The Marketing Of The Dreamcast, Ten Years Later

This piece comes to us from Peter Moore, current president of EA Sports, but better known to hardcore gamers as the face behind the Dreamcast launch that had its ten-year anniversary yesterday. In this piece, Moore waxes poetic about the marketing behind the console’s launch and the unfortunate demise that would occur just 18 months later. Reprinted with permission of EA, originally on It’s In The Game.


EA Sports president and former president of Sega during the Dreamcast launch Peter Moore.


9.9.99: Ten Years Later

I trust my employers here at EA will allow me the indulgence of reminiscence and nostalgia on this day, 09/09/09, the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Dreamcast here in North America. It certainly doesn’t feel like a decade has gone by since this innovative console ushered in the era of online gaming, albeit through a 56K modem, and thus changed the face of interactive entertainment forever. The memories of course are bittersweet – we all know how this movie ended – but I was fortunate to have worked at that time with some of the most amazingly dedicated individuals, all of whom were galvanized around a single goal : prove the naysayers wrong, launch the console with a bang, get to a meaningful installed base within the first twelve months, and keep the momentum going in the face of the upcoming stiff competition.

With the Dreamcast’s online capabilities, we coined a phrase “We’re taking gamers where gaming is going”. In our heart of hearts, we worried that we would not be there for the entire journey, but it was with great pride that with our Sega Sports games in particular, that we ushered in the era of connected interactive entertainment. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that the Dreamcast and it’s online network laid the ground for what we all take for granted today – online game play, linking innumerable gamers from around the world to play, compete and collaborate, as well as enabling new content to be delivered in addition to that which was delivered on the disc. As rudimentary as those first dial-up game play experiences were, we proved that it could be done, and that gamers were clamoring for competition that extended past whomever was sat next to you on the couch at the time.

Why EA Never Developed On Dreamcast

Over the years, I have been asked many times whether EA’s decision not to develop and publish games for the Dreamcast was a major contributing factor in its early demise. That we will never know. But it is hard to argue with EA’s rationale at the time and the ultimate outcome – get in position for the impending arrival of the Playstation 2, deploying all resources against the newest version of Sony’s already wildly successful video game platform. You can’t argue with the results. EA came out of the blocks strongly in support of the PS2, and enjoyed tremendous success throughout the key years of that console’s life cycle. If there was one irony to come out of this, it was necessity of investment in a sports label to bolster the Dreamcast lineup. Conventional wisdom in that period was that the first party should have a sports brand (Playstation had 989 Sports and Xbox would have XSN), and the Dreamcast was no exception. Thus was born Sega Sports 2K – named after the Y2K phenomenon that had us all paranoid that our computers were about to burst into flames on 01/01/00…

It’s Thinking: Marketing The Dreamcast

And what a launch line up we had. 18 titles was probably 3 or 4 too many, but we had all genres covered, featuring classics such as Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure, NFL 2k and Ready 2 Rumble. All were brought to glorious 3-D life through the Power VR graphics chip. The “biggest 24 hours in retail entertainment history” occurred on 9/9/99, with day one sales totaling just under $98m.

To support this outstanding portfolio of games, and the need to explode out of the blocks at launch with the console, we knew we needed a disruptive, attention-grabbing campaign that would get gamers talking and drive anticipation. Thus was born the “It’s Thinking” campaign, where we urged you to “Not think out loud, it might hear you” informed you that “Outsmarting it will only make it smarter” and warned you that “You know it’s alive. Worse. It knows it’s alive.”

Quirky and slightly dark, the ads generated more PR than the media spend – always the metric of a successful campaign…The media plan came to a crescendo on launch night as we debuted “Apocalypse” during the MTV VMA’s, still ten years later one of the more dramatic and lavishly-produced video game commercials. My eternal thanks will go to the teams at Foote, Cone and Belding, our advertising agency at the time, and Access Communications, the PR agency who were in our corner for every round of this enthralling and exhilarating fight.

The Final Days

Allow me this forum to correct one misconception about the final days of the Dreamcast. As we emerged from the Christmas selling season of 2000 and collated the sales data in the following January, it was evident that we were falling short of the critical mass target we had set ourselves for continued investment (read: ongoing losses) in the hardware business. Sega of Japan had rightly set sales goals for the North American market for that critical period, and as strong as our numbers were, they fell short of where we needed to be to continue. The decision was made, from Japan, to pull the plug and begin the transition to becoming a multi-platform third party developer and publisher. We at SOA, while disappointed, were in full agreement that this was the only real course of action, and it was with a heavy heart that I hosted the conference call on January 31, 2001, announcing that Sega was ceasing manufacturing of the Dreamcast console. The call on the decision was made by SOJ. The conference call to announce the decision was conducted by SOA.

Many saw the Dreamcast as a spectacular failure, a last-gasp effort by a once-powerful player in the industry to remain relevant (and solvent). If measured by longevity and the ultimate financial outcome, they were right. But the Dreamcast had a profound and lasting impact on the world of video games. Isao Okawa, the Chairman of Sega Enterprises and the driving force behind the Dreamcast, tragically passed away two months after that fateful January conference call. He had a vision that a game console, combined with the power of the internet, could bring people together in ways that were previously unimaginable. He didn’t live to see that vision come to fruition, and his beloved Dreamcast couldn’t survive to play a role in the powerful world of connected gaming we all enjoy today, but it certainly lit the spark, and that we should never forget . . .

Thank you to EA and Peter Moore for allowing us to reprint this insightful look at the marketing and history of the Dreamcast. You can read Moore’s official blog It’s In The Game by clicking here.