My thoughts on Video Games
XBOX 360, Playstation, Wii and PC Gaming

Archive for December, 2007

Merging Web Games with Real Dolls

Monday, December 17th, 2007


Virtual Barbie – Barbie Girls
The Barbie Girls world is a free Website which allows girls to create an avatar, design their own “room,” shop at the mall with B Bucks, go to the salon, play games, hang out and chat live with other girls. There is also a movie theater where you can see Barbie-related entertainment. This summer Mattel also started selling a Barbie Girls device, which can be plugged into the computer and connects to the Web site, giving users more options in terms of fashion, furniture, pets and overall content. The Barbie-Girl handheld retails for about US$60 and can also be used as a music player. Accessory packs for the websites are sold separately for US$9.99. This fall Barbie Girls will also be available in five additional languages, including German, French, Italian and Spanish. With Barbie Girl Mattel hopes to keep the “tween” girl interested, who are outgrowing their dolls and become more interested in technology and music and fashion.


With each Webkinz stuffed animal purchase (US$13) comes a secret code in its tag. When kids log on and type in the code their pet instantly comes to life online. Virtual pet owners than can feed their pets by dragging “food” into their special pet room. They can talk to the pet through the speak menu and a small monitor on the bottom of the screen lets them know if the pet is happy, healthy or hungry. There even is a virtual pet doctor, kids can bring their Webkinz to. Unlike Tamagotchis Webkins cannot die, but they can become sick and than need medicine. This medicine costs KinzCash which has to be earned through quizzes and other activities on the site. Webkinz now has 6 million visitors according to comScore Media Metrix.


U.B. Funkeys
Funkeys are small, colorful characters, which can be found at basically any toy store these days and in Funkeytown online. Each Funkey acts like a key that grants its owner access to a corresponding computer game. Each figure allows players to unlock new areas in the virtual world called Terrapina. Each player can create a nice home - or “crib” - for their Funkey. But they have to pay coins for every item they use. These coins can be earned by playing online games which can be found by navigating through the different zones and portals of the website. Funkeytown was released earlier this year.

Activision Blizzard to become largest Game Company out earning EA

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Early Sunday, a surprising and still yet-to-be-approved merger between Activision and Vivendi Games was announced.

Vivendi Games (which owns Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of the uncannily popular World of Warcraft) will buy a majority stake in Activision to create a new company, Activision Blizzard.

Providing regulators and Activision shareholders agree on the deal, Vivendi will own 52 per cent of the entity, with Activision boss Robert Kotick crowned President and Chief Executive Officer. Vivendi’s head, Bruce Hack, will be CCO of the combined company.

The deal will combine the key franchises of Activision (that include Call of Duty, Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk) with Vivendi, (that makes…they do…well, they own Blizzard, which is a big deal. To give you an idea: Blizzard says they’ll make $1.1bn in revenue this year, $502m of which is operating profit).

According to the announcement, the combined company will usurp EA to become the world’s most profitable third party game publisher. The total transaction is valued at $18.9bn.

So what does a merger mean for consumers?

Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime told the online game rag 1UP that "Activision Blizzard" will be a corporate brand only, and not associated with any product.

So there shouldn’t be a "From the makers of World of Warcraft: Tony Hawk XXXVI," or "ActiBlizzard’s Wrath of the Lich King" on any game boxes.

That’s good news for Blizzard at least. The game developer has largely been left as a separate entity from Vivendi after its purchase — and done very well with the arrangement, thank you very much.

Blizzard moniker is likely being used solely to bring "star power" to the company stock. Blizzard also says there won’t be any management changes on its end as a result of the deal.

Hot video-game sales may mean shortages

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

The widespread predictions of booming holiday video-game sales have turned out to be right on the money. And that means big bucks for retailers as well as game companies.

In the 3 1/2 weeks leading up to Cyber Monday, the video-game category that includes consoles and accessories jumped 134 percent in online sales compared with the same period last year. No other category was up more than 36 percent, and the consumer electronics segment increased a relatively meager 21 percent.

Those stats come from the Internet information firm comScore and cover Nov. 1 through Nov. 23 (Black Friday). There are no updated results yet for the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend or this week’s Cyber Monday, but comScore senior analyst Andrew Lipsman said he didn’t expect much change in the video-game pattern.

Although the surge can’t be chalked up to a single catalyst, the unceasingly feverish demand for Nintendo’s Wii console and DS handheld device is clearly the dominant factor.

Last week was the biggest in Nintendo history: More than 653,000 DS units were sold in the United States, plus 350,000 Wii systems. That surpassed Thanksgiving week in 2005 when 600,000 Game Boy Advance machines were sold.

In the case of the inventory-short Wii, consumers have encountered the maddening paradox that develops when a popular item also is the season’s hottest gift: Everybody’s buying it, so no one can find it.

Another factor is the increased appeal of Sony’s PlayStation3 since it was released in a $399 version. Sony reported a 178 percent boost in unit sales for Thanksgiving week, but didn’t specify what quantity that represented. Unit sales were up 245 percent over the previous year on Black Friday.

Still more explanations: an extremely strong lineup of recent console-exclusive games for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, plus the inevitable decision by some parents to shun traditional toys because of recall fears and switch to video and computer games.

Here’s one consequence for shoppers: Some of the hottest games could start becoming more challenging to find, if not as difficult as the Wii. Enticing games can sometimes help spur console sales, but a spike in console ownership guarantees additional game sales.

Industry analyst Edward S. Williams of BMO Capital Markets noted this week, for instance, that some versions of Activision’s "Call of Duty 4" and "Guitar Hero III" - both available for multiple game machines - were selling out during Thanksgiving weekend.

See what you think. Wal-Mart, for example, is extolled as "the largest single purchaser of 100 percent organic cotton products." Kohl’s is cited for "working to complete the largest rooftop solar project in U.S. history next year, with installations at 63 of their 80 California locations." And UPS is praised for operating "the largest alternative-fuel and low-emission fleet in the industry, with 19,647 such vehicles worldwide."