Category Archives: Game Industry

Xbox Live: How an Old Tech Company Built a Social Media Juggernaut

Xbox Live: How an Old Tech Company Built a Social Media Juggernaut

Harvard Business Review analysis, no less:

Amid the flood of social media IPOs during the last 12 months, another “old guard” tech company has quietly built one of the most dominant, fiercely loyal and profitable social media businesses to date. You might have heard of it: The company is called Microsoft, and the social media business is called Xbox Live.

Xbox Live is easy to miss. It’s a $2 billion revenue business embedded within the $9 billion revenue entertainment/devices business of the $73 billion revenue of Microsoft overall. If Xbox Live was a standalone business, its 40 million members would be dwarfed by user base of Linkedin, Twitter, Zynga and Facebook. But while Xbox Live’s membership is less than 20% of the size of Zynga (a comparable gaming company), it likely has nearly double the gross profit that Zynga generates. Not bad for the old guy.


E3 Trends: iPad, Augmented Reality Loom Over Video Game Trade Show

E3 Trends: iPad, Augmented Reality Loom Over Video Game Trade Show

There’s a 900-pound gorilla stalking the halls and suites of E3: Apple’s iPad. I lost count of how many times tablets were mentioned, and while few game companies specifically mentioned the top-selling tablet, iOS’s hold on gamers is being felt in the mainstream game business.


Microsoft is trying to move out of the living room with SmartGlass, which provides two-way communication between the Xbox 360 and software running on Windows 8 tablets and other Windows 8 devices.

Nintendo’s Wii U Game Pad offers strong similarities to tablets, but the device is more tightly coupled to the Nintendo ecosystem, and doesn’t look like it works as a standalone device.


Sony announced more games integrating the PS Vita with PlayStation 3 games, but Vita’s integration seems even more loosely coupled than SmartGlass. Hedging its bets, Sony also talked up PlayStation Mobile, an attempt to bring PlayStation-style gaming to Android tablets.


PlayStation Mobile could become a credible competitor to iOS, but Sony’s track record in taking on Apple has been spotty, lest anyone forget how Apple took over the portable music player business.

Despite all the companies’ best effort, none of the gaming devices addressed key benefits delivered by the iPad and iPhone: games cost less. Major game companies try to eke out more revenue streams beyond the $60 boxed title. Phrases like EA’s Riccitiello’s “games have evolved from the disc that you buy to the place that you go” are heard more often, and efforts like Battlefield 3 Premium strive to generate revenue beyond the ship date of a title.

Game Over for GameStop and Video Game Retailers?

Game Over for GameStop and Video Game Retailers?

Before it even launched, Diablo III had sold 2 million copies, making it the biggest game release of the year by far. The same week, though, video game retailer GameStop announced a worse-than-expected quarter of falling revenues led by plummeting in-store sales. Together, those two facts signal a massive re-alignment of how games are sold.

Online Gaming, Mobile Entertainment And The Land Of Opportunity In Video Game Design

Online Gaming, Mobile Entertainment And The Land Of Opportunity In Video Game Design

Of the seventy-two percent of American households playing computer or video games, fifty-five percent choose to play them on their phones or handheld devices.

What’s Next in TV: Machinima, The No.1 Entertainment Network on YouTube

What’s Next in TV: Machinima, The No.1 Entertainment Network on YouTube

Video content is one of the fastest growing categories online. Television networks are scrambling to keep up, because the success stories so far have been smaller entities creating highly targeted and Web native content. The most successful video content producer right now is a company calledMachinima, currently in the middle of an investment round that will include money from YouTube parent company Google. Machinima (its name is a combination of the words ‘machine’ and ‘cinema’) is a “video entertainment network for video gamers,” specifically targeted at the 18 – 34 year old male demographic.

Wii, XBox, PS3, Nintendo DS, Gameboy Advance, PSP, iPhone, iPad: global market share and sales comparison

My two most popular posts of all time on the blog have been my two previous posts about Wii versus XBox 360 versus PS3 market share, with a total of over 50,000 pageviews.

They are clearly years out of date now, so the thought that I should update them now that I’m blogging again was pretty obvious. This is that update.

Data is primarily from the wiki pages for Console wars and for each of the devices, which I’ll link from the table below. The latest quarter sales figures for iPads and iPhones are in Apple’s quarterly results.

I’m including data for the 7th gen consoles, but also 2nd gen handhelds, and iPads and iPhones, because I wanted to see a comparison across device formats, and I particularly wanted to compare figures on Apple’s new devices against the earlier generation devices. I realize this is somewhat an apples to oranges comparison, based on a spectrum of gaming-only to general-purpose device, and mobile versus non-mobile usage. I’m not trying to make predictions or comparison across the device formats; I’m just looking for high level patterns in actual sales data.

I did not include Android phone or Android tablet sales figures because, given the fragmentation of the Android market, it doesn’t seem like Android is as viable as a game development platform as these others, because a game developed on Android can’t run as easily across all Android devices as games developed for any of the other platforms. If any Android developers want to disagree with this thought and tell us better news about cross-Android game development, we’d be glad to hear it, and I can update the data to include Android.

The data:

Worldwide units (M) Years since launch Units per year (M)
Wii 95.85 5.5 17.4
XBox 360 65.8 7 9.4
PS3 62 5.5 11.3
Nintendo DS 151.2 7.5 20.2
Gameboy Advance 81.5 11 7.4
PSP 71.4 7 10.2
iPad 79 2 39.5
iPhone 218.2 5 43.6

So, caveats about the data. First, as the wikis show, the available data is not as current for all platforms. Second, the various platforms usually released at different times in different regions of the world, so years since launch is an approximation based on that release information as shown on the wikis. The point of looking at this data is about looking at the patterns in it, not about making mathematical calculations and models based upon this freely available imperfect data. To that point, here are some visualizations instead:

This is where the visualization gets interesting across platform types. Note that iPad has already sold more units than either XBox or PS3, and it will surely surpass Wii as well by year end.

Note that iPhone alone has already sold roughly as many units as Wii + XBox + PS3 combined.

iPad and iPhone together will surely surpass total handheld sales this year as well.

Note the large gap down from iPhone to the Nintendo DS, and again a large gap from Nintendo DS down to Wii. At the high end, these sales figures are not well balanced.

I see a few interesting patterns in this one, too.

Note how consistent the sales velocity is across consoles and handhelds. Which of course reinforces how striking the new pattern is, for the iOS devices.

That pattern for the iOS devices shows they are selling 200% to 600% as fast as the earlier devices. This means that the data over time will quickly skew even more in favor of them over the other platforms.

It’s interesting the iPhone and iPad are so close. Given that we know current iPhone sales are much higher than iPad sales, this points out that iPhone sales started much more slowly than iPad sales. A quarterly breakdown of iPhone sales on its wiki page shows this clearly. There are multiple reasons why iPad is off to a quicker start, the most obvious one being that it benefits from iPhone’s previous sales and adoption.

Interesting data, yes? Comments welcome.

Non-gamers, here’s why you should care about games

Non-gamers, here’s why you should care about games

By Tim Chang, investor with the Mayfield Fund.

“At … the Future of Media conference hosted by Stanford’s Graduate School of Business — the opening question was why gaming is relevant to people who are not gamers. The panelists — folks from IGN, Activision, GaiKai, and Riot Games as well as myself — gave some interesting reasons for why non-gamers should care about the game market: …”

Limbo of the Lost: Brilliant? Funny? Shameless? Lawsuit?

This is worth a bunch of laughs and boggles. First, the game is a legit boxed release:

Here’s the publisher page

Here’s the Wikipedia

Note the Wiki says they have “stopped distribution” while trying to sort out the controversy. I assume this is why the Amazon page says “ships in 3 to 5 weeks.” My guess is, the only place we’ll get a copy now is second hand, or black market.

Here’s the link to the hilarious 13 page (so far) thread on how Limbo of the Lost released using art blatantly stolen from Diablo II, Painkiller, Unreal Tournament 2003, Unreal Tournament 2004, Thief: Deadly Shadows, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, Silent Hill 4, Crysis and scenes from the 1997 film Spawn and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

The evidence is right there in the thread: side by side shots from Limbo of the Lost and those they “borrowed” from. Links to the game’s trailers are also there, and seem so hilariously cheezy that the whole thing just might be an intentional joke or ploy. One would assume intentional on the part of the developers and designers, as opposed to the publisher…

Wii, WiiFit, Exercise and Physical Therapy

Brilliant. Note the subtitle for my blog? 🙂 Keep an eye out for the WiiFit. Hello, Sony? Hello, Microsoft? Where are yooouuuu? This is just the beginning:

Nintendo Wii popular choice for therapists, children
WICHITA FALLS, Texas — Jackson Peterson is running fast.

He’s running in place, moving his arms back and forth. So excited about the virtual race he is running that his physical therapist, Barbara Maxwell, is having trouble catching up with him — on screen, of course.

“Oh, there he goes, got him,” said Maxwell, a little winded after catching up to her client in one of the activities of the interactive Wii Fit, a popular video game on the Nintendo Wii console.

The North Texas Rehabilitation Center has recently adapted the highly interactive game console into its physical therapy program.

“It gets them moving, and it is something that is interacting with them; they don’t realize they are doing therapy,” said Susan Knowles-Martin, Director of Marketing and Development for the center.

According to an article in PT Magazine, a professional magazine of the American Physical Therapy Association, physical therapists around the nation have been introducing the Wii to patients. This has led to a dramatic increase in treatment compliance and a general upbeat attitude about therapy.

“It’s about making the therapy interactive and fun,” said Knowles-Martin, who explained that because of the large number of children treated at the center, the Wii has allowed them to make therapy sessions more fun.

“It’s perfect for a facility like this. Half of our clients are kids from 3 years old all the way up to teenagers,” she said.

The trick is in the motion. The Wii Fit uses a unique platform called the Wii Balance Board that can measure a user’s weight and center of gravity. The game has about 40 different activities, which include yoga, aerobics and various balance games which have allowed the therapists to target specific areas of concern.

“It’s a way to measure their progress,” said Lesa Enlow, director of programs, who was showing the game off to a group of students from Archer City High School visiting the facility.

“This balance stuff is hard,” said one of the students as he stood on his toes while attempting a high jump in the ski-jumping module of Wii Fit.

Enlow sees the Wii as a training tool that can adapt to the needs of their clients as well.

“It’s modifiable enough to where you can be disabled and still use it,” she said.

The Wii wireless controller can also be used as a handheld pointing device since it can detect acceleration and orientation in three dimensions. This allows for therapists to use the game controller to measure various types of movements, she said.

“We have a machine back there for wheelchair patients; the wheel simulates the turning and you can do the exact same thing with the Wii,” Knowles-Martin said. “Instead of keeping them in the gym, you can have them turn a steering wheel with the Wii and watch their wrist movement.”

The Wii also has other therapeutic uses. According to PT Magazine, rehabilitation clinics around the country are making use of the Wii fitness package for improving weight bearing and balance in patients following total knee replacement or back surgery.

So far it has been a hit with the younger clients like Jackson.

As his head moved from one side to the other, a little character on the screen was heading soccer balls back to the kicker.

“Wow! I got it,” he said as the 20 minutes of physical therapy came to an end.

Knowles-Martin said kids see the game as play instead of an extension of therapy.

“Since they have a shorter attention span, you have to incorporate play into therapy. If it’s not fun to them and they don’t know why they are doing it, they won’t do it,” she said. “With the Wii they can see how good they do and it gets them excited.”