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GAMESbrief reading list – October 2016
- VR: There will be blood: Rob Fahey’s take on VR. Rob points out that even if VR hardware is a huge hit, there is a lot of money flying around, and it’s hard to see all the investors making their money back. The key for us all is to remember that if this bubble pops, it was predicted, and that there is still a future for VR. (Gamesindustry.biz)
- Apple removing “problematic and abandoned” games is terrible for gaming history: Eli Hodapp explains why Apple’s decisions to remove unsupported (but often still working) games from the AppStore is a historical mistake. (TouchArcade)
- The attempts to bring “AAA” quality to mobile and why they are failing. Great post on Gamasutra about the flawed approach many traditional studios bring to making mobile games, thinking that they are making “better” or “proper” games simply because they are pushing the technology. The dangers of being product-centric, or worse tech-centric when you need to be user-centric are very real, and something I see all the time in my consultancy business.
- Jon Jordan’s old but excellent piece on how portrait gaming has beaten landscape gaming (Pocketgamer.biz). Not sure how I missed this the first time round.
The Business of Games
- Jagex acquired by Chinese investors, part of an ongoing sweep-up of Western gaming business by Chinese companies, including Splash Damage and, of course, the ongoing acquisition spree by Tencent of companies such as Supercell, Riot Games and stakes in Epic (makers of the Unreal Engine) and Activision Blizzard. I was even recently interviewed by the BBC on whether games firms welcome or fear Chinese conquest?
- Xbox boss admits internal goal was to sell 200m consoles: Phil Spencer is candid that the goal of the Xbox One was to be a living room device, not just a gaming device, exactly as I argued back in May 2013: Xbox One: A flawed plan, well executed
- With SEC approval, anyone can now invest in Psychonauts 2’s Fig campaign (Gamasutra) reports that Double Fine now has SEC investment for its investment-like crowdfunding approach. I remain extremely sceptical about the benefits of equity-based crowd-funding schemes. Expect lots of lawsuits from disgruntled investors who will claim that they did not understand the risks inherent in early stage investment. There is a reason why regulators generally keep unsophisticated individuals away from this kind of investment.
- Interesting to see Gameforge abandoning mobile and focusing on PC (Gamesindustry.biz). A sign that mobile is over, or a sign that when the visionary entrepreneur (Klaas Kersting) leaves – he founded mobile-first studio Flaregames – the executives left behind struggle with the uncertainty inherent in new markets. (Another reference to the topics covered in Xbox One: A flawed plan, well executed above and Why Tim Cook is Steve Ballmer and why he still as his job at Apple )
Economics and Management
- Anthropologist David Graeber writes a compelling and scathing account of why capitalism creates pointless jobs (Evonomics). John Maynard Keynes would be surprised at how hard we work in the twenty-first century, given the massive improvements in standard of living. I continue to think that this is a very real problem that will only get worse as the “productive” jobs get handed over to robots and technology. Will we as a society adapt by choosing to work less, or will we continue to work harder and harder driven by a masochistic sense that work (as defined by our capitalist system) is inherently good.
- Memo to Jeff Bezos: Stack-Ranking is a Destructive Employee Practice: Excellent piece on the destructive nature of competition-focused management styles. Based on seminal work involving chickens (spoiler: none of the hyper-competitive chickens survived: as they fought their way up the pecking order, they literally pecked each other to death.)
- Why Tim Cook is Steve Ballmer and why he still as his job at Apple by the marvellous Steve Blank. If you followed the link to Xbox One: A flawed plan, well executed above, this will seem eerily familiar. In essence, the skills of being a visionary entrepreneur and being an excellent (“world-beating”) COO or salesman are very different. The difference between Lean-style execution and operating a large corporate are so wide that few people who are good at corporate can step up to Lean (and vice versa). Steve sets out his case against Apple clearly and compellingly.
- I love this marketing hack. A bike company was suffering significant damage to its bicycles in transit with third-party shipping companies. Its solution? Print pictures of flat-screen TVs on the packaging. (Independent)
- Why Mobile Marketing Teams Fail ( Mobile Dev Memo): Some interesting thoughts from Eric Seufert on why mobile marketing often fails. I fear we are still waiting for the solutions, though.
I haven’t been reading a lot of business books this month. I’ve been enjoying The Chimp Paradox, a mind management book that is credited by the British Olympic cycling team with helping win their medals. More importantly, it helps split out the human, thinking part of our brains from the chimp, emotional, reacting part. It is a compelling read, and useful in both work and professional life.
And I’ve been getting into Dungeons & Dragons for the first time in my life. (I was firmly a Rolemaster player in my youth). I was given a copy of the 5th edition Player Handbook (thanks, Wizards of the Coast) and recently picked up the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master Handbook. The kids won’t know what hit them.