Tagged: business of gaming

MW3 as eSport? Call of Duty Sales Numbers & Development Strategy

Sorry for any formatting issues that might crop up below — this piece was originally published for The Trail, the University of Puget Sound’s student newspaper, from which I copy-pasted some articles for archiving purposes. Hence the newpaper-y tone and simplified view of the industry. My work for the paper might still be gathered here.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 Promo COD MW3

Activision juggernaut Call of Duty has made entertainment history once more with the release of Modern Warfare 3, which sold 6.5 million copies in its first day of release, The Guardian reported.

In 24 hours CoD:MW3 made $400 million in the U.S. and UK alone, shaming opening day sales for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the July release that set the highest-grossing opening day for the film industry at $91 million.

“Other than Call of Duty, there has never been another entertainment franchise that has set opening day records three years in a row,” said Activision Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick, referring to records set by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in 2009 and Call of Duty: Black Ops in 2010. “Life-to-date sales for the Call of Duty franchise exceed worldwide theatrical box office for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, two of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time,” Kotick said.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 builds upon the highly successfully model of quasi-realistic, larger-than-life, shoot-em-up gameplay that has been bringing in the dollars since CoD:MW’s release in 2007.

But CoD:MW3 doesn’t innovate as much it tweaks, polishes, streamlines. Activision struck gold with this formula and they’re not about to gamble away a huge potential for profit to take their game new places: like anyone who could feasibly stuff their California King with Benjamins, they’re quite comfortable where they are, thank you.

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A Brief History of Minecraft

Sorry for any formatting issues that might crop up below — this piece was originally published for The Trail, the University of Puget Sound’s student newspaper, from which I copy-pasted some articles for archiving purposes. Hence the newpaper-y tone and simplified view of the industry. My work for the paper might still be gathered here.

PS: Yes, I realize how painful my gushing praise seems in light of more recent ugliness. But I wrote it so here it is. 

Minecon Notch On Stage

At a convention in Las Vegas on Nov. 18 or 19, a Swedish game developer will announce the “release” of a game that has already sold nearly 4 million copies, earned a “big pile of awards” (developer’s words) and assembled a devout fanbase as dedicated to the game’s growth as its creators—Mojang’s Minecraft.

Minecraft is an indie, open-ended sandbox game that, in the humble words of the minecraft.net homepage, is “about placing blocks to build anything you can imagine.” Judging from the game’s astronomical success—in its cultural impact (particularly among geeks) and considering it has never been commercially advertised—digital building blocks must have some fundamental appeal.

Think Legos on a cosmic scale: players explore a randomly generated world of blocky mountains, forests, seas and caves, gathering resources and constructing tools to shape the world to their liking. Gameplay hinges on the simple mechanics of placing and removing cubes, an elegant concept that overlays the more complex tasks of tool-crafting, monster-slaying and structure-building.

All of this will sound like old news to fans. Minecraft has been attracting attention since its first release as an alpha test on May 19, 2009, but the November “MineCon” convention in Nevada will mark its first “official” release—ports to Xbox 360 and iPhone are also in the works. Since 2009 the game has grown into nothing less than an online phenomenon—forums and wikis offer exhaustive guides, tips and FAQs; discussion groups like the Reddit.com Minecraft forum (reddit.com/r/minecraft) see constant traffic and visits from the Mojang developers themselves; how-to videos, live-action parodies, merchandise and other pop-culture runoff crops up all over the web.

Minecraft might even make it to the silver screen: 2 Player Productions, responsible for the first season of PATV (a serial study of the folks behind webcomic mammoth Penny Arcade), is currently filming a documentary on Minecraft’s unique conception, reception and evolution, with a focus on the lead developer, Markus “Notch” Persson.

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The Casual’s Guide to the Casual Industry

Sorry for any formatting issues that might crop up below — this piece was originally published for The Trail, the University of Puget Sound’s student newspaper, from which I copy-pasted some articles for archiving purposes. Hence the newpaper-y tone and simplified view of the industry. My work for the paper might still be gathered here.

Rovio Angry Birds Industry Overlord

Assuming you have had any amount of spare time since the late 90s, you have probably logged more than a couple of hours in simple simulations of matching jewels, numbered minefields, virtual crops and cattle or (most likely) green pigs and fowl-flinging slingshots.

The upstart industry of “casual gaming” continues to enthrall the masses, mystify the diehards and rake in loads and loads of cash—love them or hate them, “casual” games like “Farmville” and “Angry Birds” have earned both economic and pop culture relevance. From Microsoft’s “Solitaire” and “Minesweeper” to “Words with Friends” and “Zuma,” the “casual” philosophy is simple: accessible mechanics and quick gratification draw the user into the addictive cycle of trial and reward that makes social obligations seem dramatically less pressing.

What you might not know is just how lucrative the industry is: the games might be banal, but the business is anything but.

Consider Seattle-based game developer PopCap Games, creators of the seminal “Bejeweled,” “Peggle” and “Plants vs. Zombies.” PopCap, a company that deals exclusively with “casual” gaming, garnered so much attention—and revenue—that industry overlord Electronic Arts acquired the company for $750 million in 2006.

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