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Analyzing game industry analysts

Kotaku has an interesting feature article looking at game industry analysts: what they do, and how well they do it. Although they measure prediction outcomes, the article is deeper than just 'this dude was only right 30% of the time':

One of the best analysts overall turned out to be Colin Sebastian. While he only got 4 out of 10 predictions right, he made strong predictions with figures, many of which were quite close. He predicted that Activision's Q3 sales figures would double, and was very close (going from $142.8 million in 2006 to $272.2 million in 2007). He predicted that there would be a shortage of Xbox 360s over the holidays, but it turned out the effect of that shortage didn't turn up until January-February of this year. He predicted that Halo 3 would generate $200 million very quickly, and while it didn't reach that number on the first day, it did hit $300 million by the end of the week. If being close is the name of the game, then Sebastian is certainly one of the top analysts to watch.

And the article gives a good reason for caring about what analysts say: they influence the flow of money.

Beyond having a passing interest, there is one major reason why gamers should be interested in these results. "You don't need analysts, but investors do," Pachter said. "The companies that make the games [Kotaku] readers enjoy need capital in order to develop those games. Investors provide that capital. Without analysts, there would be lower demand for video game stocks, share prices would be lower, and compensation would be lower for the developers. That means lower quality games, and [Kotaku] readers would be unhappy. So in a perverse way, equity research analysts make it possible for publishers to make great games."

Update

A little update on what is going on with me right now:

  • Last Friday was my last day at 10tacle Vienna where I have been working since November 1st. It was a lot of fun as I got to wear a lot of different hats. I did some technical architecture and design, production consulting, planning for advertising... lots of fun stuff having to do with online games basically.
  • I am currently moving. This is quite stressful but it should a) soon be over and b) result in better living conditions for me. If I am posting less or taking longer to reply to emails: this is why.
  • Some time in March I should be starting work on an exciting new project. Design work too. It will be online (I am only getting online offers these days, a topic for another post) but not a game. Still, it should be entertaining... More later, I hope.
  • Work on the site redesign is not advancing. The move is taking all of my time and attention right now. There will be small flowers on this site for some more time, I am afraid.
  • Because I am obviously insane I have applied for a raiding spot in my WoW guild. I had to respec from feral to resto, which kinda hurt after 2 years of being feral, but I am starting to like healing (especially after discovering I can kill stuff with spells). My guildies won't let me raid until they've killed Illidan (the last boss left before 2.4), and since I don't have the gear for Black Temple that's probably a good idea ;). More on this later too. And yes that all made no sense if you don't play WoW a lot.
Update: Oh, and I won't be going to GDC this year, because a) I am moving and b) it is ridiculously expensive. Would've been fun, but meh.

Emotion Engineering in Videogames by Stephane Bura

Remember St├ęphane Bura's talk on game design I mentioned earlier? He just published a massive article detailing the theory he presented in his talk. It has graphs and tables and stuff.

This is a very exciting time to be a videogame designer. Videogame design is evolving from a barely understood activity done by genius designers driven by their gut feelings to a craft with shared techniques and methodologies. A common vocabulary cobbled from various fields (interface design, psychology, complex systems, physics, etc.) is slowly emerging. Successes and failures are analyzed... But it's still a big mess, a large toolbox where any designer can find the right tool to confirm exactly what he believes in. There are no universally accepted truths, only opinions about what makes a great game, whether or not videogames are an art form or whether there is an effective method to teach videogame design. We lack ways to compare games in an objective manner, ways to describe them in a shared language. Without proper description, there can be no true understanding. Success in videogames still hinges on applying traditional techniques, copying, marketing, luck or genius. And even if success is achieved, there's no guarantee that we can know why it happened.

Arts and sciences have rules and laws, not just techniques. But what are the rules of videogame design? Where is our redox law? Our perspective rule? Our theory of relativity? Where are the formal tools we can use to better understand, analyze, and improve games? How big is the game design space and can we identify its virgin territories? What are the rules we can bend or break to create totally new experiences?

This article presents a theory of what videogame game design is and explains how to find such rules.

It's very bold. It deserves to be read.

Inside the U.S. Navy's Armed Robot Labs

Wired has a small article about the U.S. Navy's armed robot labs. Even though on some level it makes no sense to say this: This is good inspiration for sci-fi settings.

The Navy's MDARS-E is an armed robot that can track anything that moves. Told that I was the target, the unmanned vehicle trained its guns on me and ordered, "Stay where you are," in an intimidating robot voice. And yes, it was frightening.

I found it striking, although not truly surprising, that development in robotics has mirrored development in game AI, at least in the sense that having a robot navigate through a space was solved a while ago, and now people are trying to make robots that cooperate with humans. (The games industry still has the edge in making robots that act against humans.)

(Via Boing Boing.)