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Archive for February, 2009

As I’ve written before, Sony’s big draw for me (and many others) during the original Playstation era was the level of respect they had for the audience.  Ridge Racer, Tekken, Wipeout, and the Resident Evil series all made their home debut on the system, and all elevated their respective genre to new heights.  Sony marketed to a slightly older audience (remember ‘UR Not E‘?) and introduced an exciting brand of popcorn entertainment.

Fast forward to this Valentine’s Day, and Sony offered up ThatGameCompany’s latest ambitious think-piece, Flower.  For the record, I LOVE this game.  The design is breathtaking, with no HUD and a minimalist control scheme.  The music is subtle and, at times, even a bit somber.   In my short time with the game, it made me think about how our planet functions, mankind’s impact on it, why the movie The Iron Giant is underappreciated, and how various faith’s interpretation of God are different.  Like any good pice of art in any medium, Flower makes you THINK.

It scratches itches that I didn’t even know I had, and makes me want to DEMAND a full apology from Roger Ebert on behalf of theentire industry.  But the million dollar question is, “how many people will really dig this game?”  Perhaps more importantly, “how many people need to buy (and like) Flower for it to be a success?”  Between this game, and PSN exclusives like Echocrome and FlOw, and weird avatar chat/meeting space Home, I can’t help but wonder if Sony may be getting too arty for it’s own good.  It came up in this month’s EDGE Magazine review of Prototype, and I think it’s a valid point.  After all, art that pushes the envelope to an extreme will almost always have a high point of entry that limits commercial success.

Microsoft has exclusive GTA4 content, Gears of War and the HALO franchise to satisfy precisely the type of gamer that Sony connected with over the last two console generations.  Third parties like EA and Ubisoft certainly keep that audience entertained on Sony’s big black box, but I can’t really see Little Big Planet connecting with them.  And with a big gulf in hardware prices in this economy, can Sony afford to let such a big audience go?

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Earlier this week, EA held it’s quarterly call for investors, where they recap the previous quarter’s results and share their short- and long-term outlook for the future.

booorrriinngThese calls tend to be packed with juicy details on release dates, new IP,  and what platforms the developers are focusing on for the future.  They are also booorrrrinng.  You’ll likely never hear a developer come onto an investor call.  Sadly, that’s not the type of background investors are interested in.  They’re usually led by an investor relations director, with short presentations from the CEO, CFO and a few others.  Occasionally they take questions at the end, but even those are limited to investors, analysts, and press.

Just take a look at this doozy from this week’s EA call ” …starting with its fiscal 2009 results, the company began to apply a fixed, long-term projected tax rate of 28% to determine its non-GAAP results. Prior to fiscal 2009, the company’s non-GAAP financial results were determined by excluding the specific income tax effects associated with the non-GAAP items and the impact of certain one-time income tax adjustments.” Sexy!!!

irBut there is hope.  Rather than dialing in, I followed along with some of my favorite games journos, who were kind enough to Twitter throughout the entire call, hitting up the highlights in real time.  N’gai Croal, Leigh Alexander, Libe Goad and Stephen Totilo all added context and some much needed character to the preceedings.  While I can’t imagine legal and IR departments ever warming up to the idea, it’d be neat to see a company incorporate a side-by-side Twitter conversation into earnings calls in some official way.

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