December 2007 Archives

links for 2008-01-01


Finishing Off 2007 With Movies


Sometimes I just see a string of movies where the acting cast resembles the Kevin Bacon game. For instance, over break I watched Love Actually, which features Emma Thompson as part of the ensemble cast. Emma Thompson has a small uncredited role in I Am Legend, which stars Will Smith, as does The Pursuit of Happyness. Watching these two Will Smith movies in a span of a couple of days definitely had me thinking that as of late, Will Smith has had some really great movie roles to showcase his talent. Prior to The Pursuit of Happyness, was the enjoyable romantic comedy Hitch, which I watched over Thanksgiving, which co-starred Kevin James, who was also in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Kevin James is on The King of Queens with Patton Oswalt, who was also Remy in Ratatouille.

    Love Actually: 3.75/5
    A cute drama/romantic comedy movie, but there are too many characters and stories attached to them, which is what gives this movie a long running time of 135 minutes.

    Hitch: 3.5/5
    This romantic comedy has the main plot, which is Hitch's story, but it also has a subplot that involves Kevin James -- at times, the scenes with Kevin James are far more enjoyable than the main plot of Hitch.

    The Pursuit of Happyness: 4/5
    Based on the life of Chris Gardener, this biopic set in San Francisco of the 80s is worth a viewing.
    I Am Legend: 4/5
    An adaptation of Matheson's novel, I really enjoyed watching this film, even if it is very different from the book.

    I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: 2.75/5

    This is one of those movies that is watchable, but just barely. It's silly, crude and asinine, as most Adam Sandler films are.


    Wonderful film for all ages, shows that Pixar can still make good films, even after being acquired by Disney.

links for 2007-12-31


links for 2007-12-30


Fish with Human Face


This recent human face fish:

reminds me a lot of Sega's Seaman:

links for 2007-12-29


links for 2007-12-28


Preferably Another iPod


When the iPod first released in 2001, I was one of those who thought it would fail. It was expensive, it was heavy, and although it held much more music than the competition, using a hard drive as the storage medium seemed to me a risky choice as far as reliability went. There were few, if any, manufacturers who wanted to design housing secure enough for a hard drive to withstand the drops. All other portable music players at the time used flash memory to store music, which meant they were lighter, they held less music, and you could drop them without fear of the damaging the data storage device. With the exception of drive space, technically these devices were superior, but an interesting thing happened: consumers liked the software, and they liked the iTunes store, and Apple soon had a lineup of iPods to fit every price point.

It is important to note that before the iPod had made its entrance, the market was oversaturated with MP3 players -- everyone was making them, from big brand manufacturers like RCA and Sony to computer peripheral manufacturers like Creative Labs and Diamond, to manufacturers in China, pumping them out at prices ranging from $100 to $300, all while the starting point of Apple's iPod was $400.

I offer a theory for this, and that is in the beginning the iPod made things simple. Putting music on the device was ridiculously easy and quick, burning CDs or purchasing music required little computer knowledge, and once you had an iPod, everyone knew what it was. Purchasing a case for the iPod was easy, because everyone was making cases for it that accomodated the controls, meanwhile if you were buying Sony or Creative, no one other than the manufacturer was making cases or accessories for their product. This became even more apparent after other iPod models were released; within weeks of announcing a new iPod, cases, clips and all manner of accesories were available and custom fit for the newest iPod. By taking away the choice of different music players, you were granted an even wider selection of accessories and music.

The problem with technology is as it continues to move forward, it is quickly outdated -- and people are always wanting the latest and the greatest, so Apple built in a a battery with a two year lifetime, which made sure that if the product wore out, it would be replaced with a newer model -- preferably another iPod. People who use their iPods consistently become dependent on the device and replace it upon breakage, because the thought of being without personalized playlists is too much to bear.

Apple has brilliantly captured the market in music -- while outlets like Amazon and Walmart also offer music downloads, these alternatives from iTunes suffered from a problem in the past: compatibility. While currently most of these services have surrendered DRM in favor of just supplying an MP3 music file, this is a decision made by economics (mainly because there was no demand for music files which could not be used on an iPod). In contrast, iTunes music only works on Apple devices, which means that while the minor percentage of non-iPod music players is closed to them, it is a percentage that doesn't outweight the benefits of having Apple's iPod locked with DRM, which results in the sales of DRM-music and iPods. It is interesting to note that this is the same strategy Amazon is attempting to execute with the Kindle.

Amazon today signed a deal with Warner for DRM-free music tracks, joining Universal which previously allowed Amazon to sell DRM-free music. iTunes still carries music from these two labels, but not in DRM-free form, and both Warner and Universal can potentially opt-out of any long term contracts with iTunes. This changes the playing field somewhat, as Amazon is quickly approaching the level of being a potential competitor with Apple in the field of digital distribution.

The transformation of all these services to one that is DRM-free is not just because the iPod is essentially a closed platform, but also because everything plays MP3 now. Cars come with stereos that can read MP3s, cellphones have built-in music players, and even personal devices like the Amazon Kindle have the ability to playback MP3s, and yet I don't see the market for iPods shrinking substantially -- each generation of iPod has more storage space, more functionality, more features, but the core function of playing music is still the main use of the device. The reason the iPod sells well is because there is plenty of media available for the users to consume, and while Apple would prefer that they buy from the iTunes store, items without DRM play fine on iPods. The media companies, on the other hand, are still frightened of releasing movies and tv shows DRM-free, and are unhappy with their contracts with Apple. NBC/Universal has pulled their shows off iTunes, and speculation has been that this is due to pricing and NBC wanting a percentage of iPod sales.

Video is the new media being sold, common sense dictates to me that while one might want to carry their music collection with them, having the complete season of Lost with them isn't as much a priority. Apple is rumored to have negotiated with Fox for a movie rental service on iTunes, which should be interesting to see, and may give a boost to their ailing AppleTV product line. In addition to AppleTV, their video-capable iPods are poised to benefit from the rental market, as well as any computer with iTunes installed. While I don't see this as being a huge market right now, since DRM for video isn't going away anytime soon, Apple may as well pick up some revenue in this field while they can.

It is of interest to note that Apple loses little when other companies decide to drop DRM. In the big picture scope, it means that there is more media available for the consumer, and the users of their devices. As they are currently the market leader, most likely a DRM-free file is being used on an Apple product, and not their competitior. While it does mean that the file was not purchased from iTunes, the bulk of the money that iTunes generates goes to the label, and not to Apple. Apple's main source of revenue in this venture is the sale of iPods.

links for 2007-12-27


links for 2007-12-26


links for 2007-12-22




A tale of three nerds who change the nativity scene into a LARP, produced by Ben Levin and Matt Burnett's animation studio "For Tax Reasons".

links for 2007-12-21


Ann Coulter's Godless is #1 Poop Result on Amazon


My sister, who works in public health, sent me this little gem about Amazon's results for products tagged with poop -- Ann Coulter's Godless shows up as the #1 result, with 9 instances of 'poop'. Other top tags include: hateful (143), lies (101), propaganda (80), evil (73), fascist (64), hateful divisive political rhetoric (49), and horsecrap (48). What I find interesting about the tag "hateful divisive political rhetoric" is that 49 people all tagged it the same 4 words -- it's not "divisive political" or "hateful rhetoric" but "hateful divisive political rhetoric". I'd guess it likely that whoever tagged it "hateful divisive political rhetoric" probably also correctly tagged it "horsecrap" too.

Also coming in high on the poop chart is Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's book, Culture Warrior, which happens to be tied with Poop Culture: How America Is Shaped by Its Grossest National Product.

All the tagging tells us is something that we all knew before: that Ann Coulter is synonymous with poop, lies and propaganda

Ann Coulter's Godless is #1 Poop Result on Amazon


My sister, who works in public health, sent me this little gem about Amazon's results for products tagged with poop -- Ann Coulter's Godless shows up as the #1 result, with 9 instances of 'poop'. Other top tags include: hateful (143), lies (101), propaganda (80), evil (73), fascist (64), hateful divisive political rhetoric (49), and horsecrap (48). What I find interesting about the tag "hateful divisive political rhetoric" is that 49 people all tagged it the same 4 words -- it's not "divisive political" or "hateful rhetoric" but "hateful divisive political rhetoric". I'd guess it likely that whoever tagged it "hateful divisive political rhetoric" probably also correctly tagged it "horsecrap" too.

Also coming in high on the poop chart is Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's book, Culture Warrior, which happens to be tied with Poop Culture: How America Is Shaped by Its Grossest National Product.

All the tagging tells us is something that we all knew before: that Ann Coulter is synonymous with poop, lies and propaganda

Ouendan 2 Cosplay Performance


Creating a costume based on on anime or video game character is hard work, finding a bunch of people to become the rest of the ensemble is even harder, and getting them all to perform the dance moves of the characters in a 3 minute performance is a very impressive feat:

Here's the actual game:

links for 2007-12-20


Jerry Bruckheimer and MTV enter videogame industry


Just the other day, I was thinking about how MTV, which had cool programming in the 80s and 90s, has become in the 21st century, totally devoid of any quality programming. This is why when Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean, CSI, National Treasure, Armageddon) and MTV announce that they're forming a new game development studio, I have my doubts as to the success of this venture.

It's not that games aren't a good industry to be in, it's just that when movie directors can't even make good movies, the chances of them being able to make a good game are pretty slim. MTV has a horrible track record with movie sponsorship, and I get the feeling that the reason people are moving into games as their next venture is that the movie industry as a whole is losing money, while the games industry is bringing in billions per year.

The clincher in all this is that they don't understand games, not really -- they see it as a profit vehicle, a way of generating revenue, not as an entertainment medium. MTV's association with the hit game Rock Band, no doubt has them seeing dollar signs in their eyes, but you can only do so many Rock Bands and Guitar Hero style games before the market completely vanishes. What is Guitar Hero and Rock Band, when you break it down to it's purest essence? A button mashing game where the novelty is that the controller is shaped like an instrument, and the music playing is covers of familiar songs. an MTV interview with Bruckheimer following the announcement lends little insight to what they have planned, though it is easy to see that just as Bruckheimer has his name on movies, he wants to lead with his name on the game as well.

I also think that Hollywood in particular when they enter into games think that when people buy games, that having big names on the box actually means something, the way that Hollywood has famous directors or stars on movie posters or in trailers -- but the fact is, having Bruckheimer's name on the box won't help their sales the numbers the way that it does in Hollywood.

At the core of all of this is that movies and videogames are two different types of entertainment forms. There have been many who have tried to bridge the gap between the two forms, with varying degrees of success -- Andy Serkis, after working as Gollum on Lord of the Rings now gets voicework for several video games, but his name is not the reason people are buying these games.

While people don't seem to balk at paying $10 for tickets to a movie or 15-20 bucks for a DVD, they're paying that $10-20 to see/own that film -- in charging 3 to 5 times as much for a video game, and you start to see that people are a little more hesitant in buying it.

links for 2007-12-19


This American Life and Nauru


Following the post-gingerbread building aftermath, talking about the ease of which one can obtain a foreign passport or set up offshore banks, parakkum said: "Once you hear about Nauru, you can't stop hearing about Nauru". I had never heard of Nauru before that day, but I've heard of Nauru since then, like in Episode 253 of This American Life, "The Middle of Nowhere", also of interest in this show is a talk about a battle with MCI Worldcom about an overcharge on her phone bill, and how for 10 months she was given the runaround over the phone.

Also, if you do listen to This American Life on a regular basis, feel free to contribute so that they can continue to bring the free podcasts.

Lost Intro From Star Wars


Clipped together using sound from the radio drama, and pieces of video footage:

links for 2007-12-15


Barry Schwartz on the Paradox of Choice


A few years ago, I read Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice,

links for 2007-12-14


Phillipe Stark on the Kindle


Someday I'm going to get tired of continously bashing the Kindle ebook reader, because it's such an easy target. Today, Phillipe Stark, famed industrial designer makes his opinions known about the Kindle:


links for 2007-12-13


Walt Disney World Gingerbread House


Time-lapse video of the construction of the Walt Disney World Gingerbread House.

Word of the Year for 2007 - Woot


Merriam-Webster has named woot word of the year. Originating from gamer lexicon, woot is an expression of joy or happiness. Merriam-Webster also gives an acronym for woot as being "we owned the other team, but this acronym makes very little sense to me -- having been playing online games for the last decade or so, I can say from my own viewpoint that woot evolved from 'woo' and 'yay' as joyous exclamations, but using 'woo' and 'yay' sound too feminine, and underwent masculinization by the addition of the 't' ending.

    Elric has killed a Demon of Chaos.

    Elric has looted a Stormbringer.

    Donblas says "grats!"

    Slorn says "pfft. I was hoping Mourneblade would drop"

    Elric says "woot!"

Speed Racer: The Movie Trailer


Back in 1967, Speed Racer was a highly popular anime series about a boy and his race car, and now has become, like all things of our 70s childhood, a movie.

Directed by the Wachowskis (Matrix), the trailer looks like a cartoon adaptation, and the inclusion of John Goodman gives the movie a Flintstones-like feel to it. Of course, you can't possibly have a Wachowski movie without martial arts in it, and they seem to have added ninjas to fill that prerequisite.

links for 2007-12-12


Beta Testing Tcho Chocolate



After reading the NYT article on Tcho, a chocolate start-up in San Francisco started by Timothy Childs and Louis Rossetto (one of the co-founders of Wired), I knew I had to pay a visit to their office on the Embarcadero.

From the outside, Tcho looks like any ordinary pierfront office, with smoked glass and a company sign on the side of the door, and inside it looks like any start-up I've ever set foot in -- a row of folding tables holding up computers, a reception area with a candy bowl, a conference room and a whiteboard. The difference between this office and any other startup office is obvious the moment you step in as the pleasant aroma of warm chocolate fills the air.

The chocolate mixture is version 0.10 -- they haven't yet finalized the mixture, but 50 gram bars are already available for purchase online from their website as long as you're willing to go to pick it up from their offices in San Francisco. Next year, they hope to start doing mail order as well as set up their storefront.

Digital in the Real World


Cory Doctorow recently wrote an article for The Guardian entitled "Downloads Give Amazon Jungle Fever", in which he details how an otherwise smart company can be so stupid when it comes to digital downloads.

Doctorow's sentiments echo my own opinions in many ways -- especially about the Kindle and e-books. As of late, I have been reading Steven Levy's "The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture and Coolness", a book about how the iPod came to be, which has a chapter in it about the early days of the web, the MP3 format, and Apple's iTunes software, and how record companies sued each and every music distribution company before Apple came along. Apple's dealings were clever: iTunes was Mac-only, and worst case it was just a tiny percentage of the computer audience; a mere 5 percent, but even so, the record companies wanted pretty strict limitations on the rights of the users, including the number of times it could be copied to CD, and how many computers the song could be played on. What I find most interesting about the negotiations is that the record companies thought that Apple was just another middleman, another retailer like Best Buy or Tower Records, who were all too happy to give the music industry money in exchange for product. Except in Apple's case, there was no real product to supply -- no shipping costs, no manufacturing costs, it was, in the publisher's eyes, free money. The iTunes situation hasn't changed much, although I believe that more single songs are purchased from iTunes instead of whole entire albums, but it seems that with the success of iTunes, everyone is trying to emulate that model without realizing that selling music tracks is very different from selling tv shows and books.

When you buy a tv show, you're buying the whole episode, when you buy a book, you're buying all the chapters. Unlike a music album, you can't break it up into discrete units, and people aren't going to want to purchase discrete units. On a CD, it might have a good track seven, and you might want to purchase that, but I doubt you're ever see someone say "I just want the portion of the movie where Natalie Portman's family is killed by Gary Oldman in Leon: the Professional", or "I just want chapter 5 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, because it doesn't work like that -- books, movies and tv shows have a narrative structure that makes such cutouts odd when viewed out of context.

The second hurdle to overcome is the device. The iTunes store has the iPod, while Amazon is attempting to market their Kindle e-reader to become the iPod of e-book readers. When I first saw the iPod in October of 2001, I remember my reaction: too expensive, too heavy and too fragile. The Kindle strikes a different set of chords within me: too expensive, too ugly, and too few colors. These are, of course, all problems that can be fixed over time, but I feel as if many of the features of this device already exist in gizmos we already own, which relegates the device to a novelty.

If one looks at the various electronics that have succeeded over the years, one of the more common components is the ability to use the device on a daily basis. Sure, everyone loves getting a tire pressure gauge-compass-flashlight with window hammer, but it's not a daily use object like an iPod or a personal computer, and an object has to be able to make the transition from home life to work life -- e-mail and cellphones are good examples of such objects, while video games and tv sets are objects that cannot make the transition because they are much too associated with leisure activity. Personal Electronic devices such as the iPod and the Kindle fill a different segment of time, that which lies between work and home -- they exist as devices that are usually prohibited at work, but can be used during the time "off the clock", or in the space where one is neither working, but not at home -- such as breaks and the time involved in commuting.

The Kindle is an storefront for Amazon that the consumer has purchased in the guise of a personal electronic device -- nothing more, nothing less, and though they aim to make Amazon the iTunes of the reading world, digital books have not yet reached the point that I would want to replace my physical library, regardless of the amount of space they take up.

Going digital only serves to do one thing: make companies ridiculously greedy, particularly if what they are selling does not truly belong to them, as in the case of music, movies, books and tv shows. You see, the true IP owners are the creators or writers of the material, but negotiations, contracts and other deals have relegated the original creator to merely being a shareholder in their own work, with most of the power of ownership and distribution belonging to the publisher. This reversal means the purchaser of the product is dealing with the publisher, whose goal is to entice the buyer to buy more product. This relationship is apparent is the dealings of every company in the digital downloads industry -- and which I believe runs counter to the common sense definition of ownership.

I own a huge library of media -- CDs, DVDs, books. I paid for them, and thus I feel free to do whatever I please with them -- if I want to give them away or sell them, I am free to do so. If I want to loan them out or shred them for an art project, I can do that as well. Amazon's digital downloads restrict me in a number of ways:

  • No resale. This isn't a big deal, since most media I end up buying is stuff I want to keep, but it does hurt in bargain shopping, as you will never find a digital download in the "pre-owned" section.
  • No gifting. The digital download model makes it inconvenient, if not impossible to give someone a book, a movie or an album -- you'd be better off just giving them a gift card.
  • No borrowing. Because the media isn't physical, companies don't want you passing a file to your friends (or to the internet).
  • No recyling. A bad book can be tossed into the garbage or donated to a library, or turned into an art object, but there's nothing you can do with a digital download other than clear it off your hard drive.

One of the interesting things about music collections and the iPod is that the iPod didn't invalidate my music collection; the Kindle wants me to replace my physical books with virtual ones -- but Amazon's rights to change the content of the e-books, or remove/delete them goes against any real-world term of ownership that I know of -- if anything, it's much more like a service fee that says "someday this content might not be here, but today, you can use it."

Lastly, Amazon is a store. They are good at selling things and keeping inventory, but they should not be in the business of making devices, supporting devices and managing digital content (just as they never should have been in the search engine business). Does the Kindle generate buzz? Yes, but it's negative buzz about the device and their policies, and I don't see that helping them.

My own strategy for the Kindle would have been a plan for physical books to become digital ones, by scanning in the barcode and inputting a random word on a random page, I'd be willing to do this, even with a small surcharge for the conversion process, as it means that I'd still have a physical book, but I'd also have a digital one for when I'm traveling about. Sadly, what Amazon has chosen to do is little more than a method for people to pay money to rent a book.

Ivy's Sonata of Temptation: Plagiarism


This is the music video for Ivy's Sonata of Temptation:

This is the portion of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children it was clearly inspired from:

Square Enix, makers of the Final Fantasy game took the video production company to court. The video's director, Hong Jeong-ho, claimed the video as being merely a parody, which Square Enix (and ultimately the court judge) disagreed with. In the end, the video production company Fantom was fined $10,900, while both Fantom's director and the video's director were fined an additional $6,500 each. In the United States, the copyright infringement fines would have been many times that.

Now, as plagiarism in writing is clearly now very easily detected, as media gets more complex, will we see a similar shift in plagiarism or will it simply be too complicated to monitor and too easy to modify into the broad category of parody for such purposes? (For instance, I don't see people re-shooting Star Wars shot for shot with their own costumes on YouTube yet)

links for 2007-12-11


The Golden Compass Off to a Slow Start at Box Office


The movie adaptation of the Golden Compass opened this weekend, pulling in $27 million dollars in box office revenue, and being number one, but as far as family films based on book adaptations go, this is not a good sign, as $200 million was spent to make the film, and other films have had substantially larger opening weekends:

    Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire - $102.6M opening

    Harry Potter & the Prioner of Azkaban - $93.6M opening

    Harry Potter & the Sorcerer-s Stone - $90.2M opening

    Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets - $88.3M opening

    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - $72.6M opening

    The Chronicles of Narnia - $65.5M opening

    The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - $62M opening

    The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring - $47.2M opening

    The Golden Compass - $27M opening (estimate)

    Eragon - $23.2M opening

    Bridge to Terabithia - $22.5M opening

    Stardust - $9.1M opening

At least it's doing better than Eragon.

Reading This Makes You a Genius


I just ran my blog through the Blog Readability Test, and apparently, reading this blog requires a reading level of Genius. That being said, it's good to know that I'm in the company of the higher rated gaming blogs, like Ars Technica, which I hold in high esteem. Here's a list of other gaming blogs and their scores:

  • Kotaku: Junior High
  • MTV Multiplayer: Junior High
  • Slashdot: High School
  • Joystiq: College
  • Level Up: Genius
  • Ars Technica: Genius

The little image badge that results after typing in the URL for the copy and paste option has embedded linkspam -- I recommend you remove that portion of the code before posting the image.

links for 2007-12-09


links for 2007-12-07


Blizzard Whoring Out World of Warcraft Laptops to Dell


World of Warcraft Dell XPS Laptops in both Horde and Alliance flavors.

I saw these at BlizzCon back in August, but I thought they were one-offs, customized laptops that Dell did just for fun. I don't think it ever occurred to me that anyone would want to sell a laptop that advertised their online vice. However, it does appear that these are actual computers, but you'll be paying $4499 for these gaming laptops, which include a 2.2Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, equipped with 2GB of RAM, 17 inch screen, a 512 MB GeForce 8700, a DVD-R drive, Wireless and 160 GB Hard drive. Now, last I checked, you could get a Apple MacBook Pro with almost identical specs for $2799. The MacBook Pro is a little bit faster -- 2.4Ghz instead of 2.2Ghz, and the MacBook Pro includes built in Bluetooth (a $20 option at Dell), and has a slightly different graphics card with less RAM -- A GeForce 8600M GT with 256 MB for the MacBook Pro, and a GeForce 8700 with 512MB for the Dell (about 25% faster). So, the question that you should be asking yourself as a buyer is whether or not having the backlit Horde/Alliance and a faster graphics card is worth a $1700 price difference. That's like over a 100 months of World of Warcraft!

My advice, if you really want to buy a gaming laptop, get the MacBook Pro, and enjoy the next 8 or 9 years of playing WoW on it with the money you save. Of course, if you're really hardcore into WoW, you've already figured out the best way to do it is to go with a multiboxing setup.


Activision and Vivendi Games to become Activision Blizzard

    You've got my Activision in your Blizzard!
    No! You've got my Blizzard in your Activision!
    Activision Blizzard: two old game companies with one new name.

Early this morning, Activision and Vivendi announced the merger of Activision Games and Vivendi Games into a new company called Activision Blizzard. I have to give their PR folks major props, because this is one hell of a merger, and quite honestly, a smart move to release the news on a Sunday morning. Most video game journalists are enjoying their weekend or two wrapped up in the whole Gamespotgate scandal and hastily putting out articles that just regurgitate the press release from Vivendi (in PDF), which is filled with a lot of financial nonsense, which basically says that Vivendi is buying into Activision with 52% ownership, but that Activision's CEO will remain in control of the company, and that at a premium purchase price of 27.50 per share that Vivendi will be paying, should ensure that the stock price of Activision (ATVI - closed at 22.15 on Friday) is supported during this transitional period.

Blizzard is a wholly owned subsidiary division of Vivendi Games, and if you read the press release carefully, you'll notice that while the name of the company will henceforth be called "Activision Blizzard", what Activision is actually merging with is not just Blizzard Entertainment but all divisions of Vivendi Games, which includes Radical Entertainment, High Moon, Swordfish, Massive Entertainment, Sierra, Sierra Online, and Vivendi Mobile. Not only that, but the board of directors for Activision Blizzard is mainly comprised of former corporate officers of Activision and Vivendi Games, not of Blizzard Entertainment -- so the name of the merged company should be more appropriately Activision Vivendi, but obviously the only marquee of any value in the Vivendi portfolio is Blizzard, as the more well-known developer of World of Warcraft.

When I was working for Blizzard, we were still under the same kind of corporate structure where Blizzard was somewhat autonomous, but the biggest cost in morale was that as a game company, operating underneath the Vivendi umbrella meant that no matter how successful a game was, the effect on general revenue for the parent organization was minor at best, because the when you're part of a conglomeration, the contribution from Blizzard, despite the success of the game titles in profitability, meant very little to Vivendi as a whole -- since they day they bought Blizzard from Cendant Corp, they've been trying to sell Blizzard (and the rest of Vivendi Games) but couldn't find a sucker to pay the $1 billion dollar price tag they wanted for all of Vivendi Games. It was rumored that Microsoft offered 100 million for Blizzard the last time Vivendi was selling off non-core assets in 2003.

I think that with the joint management from both Activision and Vivendi Games, things are going to be rough as they make the transition, but if they can keep the management of the Blizzard gaming division as "hands-off" from Activision as they've kept it from Vivendi, Blizzard will continue to make good games if they can stick to their philosophy. The question at this point is how Activision will handle the management of the golden goose.

BBC: Video game giants in $18bn merger

links for 2007-12-02


AT-AT - GameCube for sale


Someone decided to cram a GameCube inside of a Star Wars AT-AT. Looks pretty cool, but it's also very 2001, and it's for sale on eBay now. Some pictures for posterity's sake before the eBay listing disappears into the ether: