Monday, September 17, 2007

Online Games Research

My new blog job is keeping me busy with research about online games, which means I'll soon be as expert as one can get on the subject for someone who doesn't actually develop or, let's face it, play the damn things.

There are as many game sites as there are spam sites or porn sites (I'm guessing here). Online gaming must be making money. And creating online game sites is virtually free. Unlike other types of media, such as text, video, music, images, and so on, game creators WANT you to take their content and plaster it all over the web.

Programming in the game allows developers to keep tabs on where and when it's played, and possibly gain revenue from every single play, either through ads served or clickthroughs. They may not be making any of the ad revenue from the hosting site, but maybe that's chump change.

Free content, desirable content, no set up costs, real income for the hosts, real income for the developers. Spam city, here we come.

Identifying the wheat sites from the chaff is a task. What makes one site with games plastered on it better than any other? Yet, somehow some of these sites bubble up.

Of course, it's a feedback system. The good ones attract developers who want the better audience, the better games attract more users making it a better site. You can short circuit this process with a kick-start: something actually newsworthy about your site ("Youtube for games" works the first dozen or so times), or being attached to some other major site to start with (MSN, Yahoo, ...).

There are hundreds of game development platforms to help you create these games: I'm trying to identify which ones are actually used by real people, and which ones are just lying around. That means that getting just about any board or card game online should be something of a trivial matter.

Speaking of computer games, some clueless parent took issue with the new Wii controllers that are vaguely shaped like guns, as if kids hadn't been playing with toy guns for, oh, say, forever. The commenters blast her for it.

On the flip side, some guy spent three days straight playing video games in an Internet cafe and then died.

Aquarian Age Alternative (video clip) is an arcade game merging computer touch screen recognition and a collectible card game. The market that was announced by Phillip's Entertaible and Microsoft's Surface seems to be coming about. Engadget reports on another similar entry from Square Enix (of Final Fantasy) and Taito called The Wheel of Eternity.

And the URL is for sale.


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