Archive for the ‘videogames’ Category

Witnessing the "gamer disposition"

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

One of Harvard Business Review’s 2008 breakthrough ideas identified “The Gamer Disposition” as a hallmark of high-impact business performers of the future. Gamers had certain attributes (bottom-line orientation, comfort with change, etc.) that would help make them successful in business.

“The Gamer Disposition” was notable because it played against the stereotypes most businesspeople have of gamers: slackers and loners who would make low-value employees. Also, the authors, John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas, made the point (indirectly) that the gamer qualities were not found in many current employees.

As I’ve observed my two young gamers battle “LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga” these last two months, I’ve seen some of the gamer disposition in action. Here’s what I’ve seen:

  1. Unafraid to fail – getting terminated by Count Dooku a hundred times didn’t dissuade my guys from trying again.

  2. Do rather than research – there is no user’s manual for the game, and the kids didn’t want one. They preferred to learn by doing again and again. (Me: “How did you learn you had to drop the gate on the Rancor to kill him?” My five-year-old: shoulder shrug, “We just tried it and it worked!”)
  3. Resourceful – they’ll ask their friends how they overcome certain obstacles, and share their learnings with pride.
  4. Ever-learning – the biggest prize they get from playing the game is the ability to open up new parts of the game; to become a beginner again. Expertise isn’t that interesting to them. “What’s next?” is.

The above practices seem useful to me in navigating any complex business context. It will be interesting to see how business has changed twenty years hence, when “the gamer disposition” is no longer the exception, but the rule among employees.

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The new gamer: social and casual

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

The New York Times’ astute video games columnist, Seth Schiesel, has written an article explaining the current state of the videogame industry, with insightful comments from speakers at the recent Game Developers Conference. Former leaders like Microsoft and Sony have lost ground due to their fixation with single-player games aimed at young men. The “new wave” including Nintendo and Activision (both companies with a lot of history) have brought out product that meets customers’ desire for social gaming experiences–and less daunting, “casual” games.

Judging by our household, where the Wii is such an attraction to our seven- and five-year-old sons that we must ration access, and where playdates involve bringing your Wii remote to your friends’ houses, I’d say we are right in the middle of that new market.

When winter breaks, we will see if my hours of swinging the remote on Tiger Woods PGA 2008 has any impact on my proper golf swing.

(Photo: a Nintendo Mii avatar in the image of Paul McCartney from

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Vivendi acquisition of Activision shows shift in videogame market

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

There’s a perceptive article by Seth Schiesel in today’s New York Times about how the proposed new company Activision Blizzard–a combination of the owners of Guitar Hero and World of Warcraft–demonstrates that the future of videogames relies on expanding beyond the core console audience of young-adult males.

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With the Wii, the controller is the key

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

It’s a good day for the Caddell parents. Our #1 Christmas task was locating and purchasing a Nintendo Wii for our 6- and 4-year-old boys. I don’t know how it is where you live, but here stores receive small shipments of Wiis each week and sell them out as soon as they get them.

So today my wife got an email from GameStop letting us know they got some Wiis in. So I dutifully zipped over to the mall (in Harrisburg, most things are pretty close to each other, which is a beautiful thing at a time like this).

I got the last Wii in stock. So, at least in my own mind, I am a hero for the day. And the kid in me can’t wait till the 25th. (I unwittingly spoiled my wife’s Christmas gift for me–Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08–by buying my own copy from GameStop. Oops.)

But why do I want to play the Wii, when I couldn’t be bothered with a Playstation 3 or Xbox 360?

It’s the controller. Which is no surprise to anyone–it was Nintendo’s central innovation for the Wii. But why is the controller so appealing to non-gamers?

One clue was watching my son play one of the standard consoles. Depending on the game, the buttons on the controller have completely different meanings (”If you want to speed up, press the ‘A’ button”). There’s a joystick, and the four-way direction thing-y. And those colored buttons. What do they each do?

The learning curve for any new game is daunting…too daunting for me to bother trying. I don’t have the patience for getting blasted into oblivion a hundred times before figuring out how to enable my shields.

PC games are no better. A year ago I signed up for RuneScape and spent an hour trying to walk out of the first room I plopped into–before I gave up.

But the Wii controller is more intuitive. It’s one level of abstraction closer to real movement and action. There’s much less need to translate what you want to do into controller language.

As such, the Wii will probably never be cool to hardcore gamers. But I don’t care; if you’re looking for me on December 26th, I’ll be playing Pebble Beach with Tiger.

Nintendo breaks into the senior set, too

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Ah, serendipity. A few days after I posted about the Nintendo DS becoming a tool for the classroom in Japan, my local paper discusses the Brain Age tool and its use as a brain-fitness tool for senior citizens.

Ah, well. Sony and Microsoft obsess about the gamer demographic. Nintendo simply sells to everyone.

UPDATE: 25 July, Nintendo announces a 40% growth in yearly profits.

Nintendo breaks out of the living room and into the classroom

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

It’s generally known that Nintendo deftly sidestepped the video-game console testosterone wars by focusing on an innovative motion-sensitive controller rather than amping up processing and graphics power (and price). As a result, Nintendo’s Wii is the fastest-selling third-generation console in the world, well ahead of both Microsoft’s XBox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3.

They’ve done a similar trick with their handheld device, the Nintendo DS. Also at the top of its market, the DS has two screens and recognizes handwriting. Which may not help a great deal to play Super Mario Brothers, but has opened up a brand-new market for video-game consoles: schools.

In Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, reporter Yuri Iwatani Kane writes about the use of DS’s for education in Kyoto’s Yawata school district (link – $$). The students use them to learn English handwriting, with software written by IE Institute, a Japanese educational-software maker. And it’s not an isolated anecdote. Writes Kane:

Behind the fastest-selling portable videogame player in Japan is an unusual shift in the culture of gadgets: People are clamoring for it not just for games, but also to keep a household budget, play the guitar, and study the Buddhist scripture Heart Sutra. Since its introduction in 2004, the DS, which responds to writing and speech, has spurred software makers to fill the Japanese market with an eclectic array of reference guides, digital books and study tools.

Nintendo’s greatest feat, in my mind, is its ability to expand the video-game market beyond its core audience of boys and young men, to bring in women, girls, and, as the article points out, even students.

Which is great “outside-in” thinking many companies could learn from.

(Disclosure: my six-year-old son has announced that he wants a DS for Christmas.)