A few things Mark Wallace

Tag: gaming

Other Transmedia Business Models

Henry Jenkins has a great series of guest posts from Brian Clark up on his blog at the moment. It’s a five-part series on transmedia business models, and it makes a lot of interesting points, including looking at transmedia production through the lens of ten business models borrowed from other contexts. Clark looks at five bottom-up business models, and five venture-funded business models. These range from self-financing, no financing or fan financing, to doing ticketed events, enlisting the audience as co-creators, or raising venture finance, as well as a few others.

Clark covers most if not all of the bases. (I also think he discards the sponsorship and patronage model too easily.) Here are two other possibilities he doesn’t really mention:

One that is somewhat subsumed by his “infrastructure” model in Part Two (fund the production in part through revenue generated by licensing the underlying technology), is a distribution play. I think there’s a really interesting opportunity here at the moment. There is as yet no good channel for the promotion of transmedia projects and properties (nor a good word to refer to them yet). They are discovered virally, or as part of a marketing campaign around a more traditional narrative property, or around a single thread of the transmedia property. But as the games and app industry already knows, acquiring an audience member can mean more than just having that person’s attention for the duration of a single experience. Once you’ve built an audience, there’s a great opportunity to cross-promote other properties to those people — whether they’re your own productions, or those of others (in which case you’re taking a cut of the revenue that flows through you to them). This strategy is generally underleveraged outside of games, and could be of great use to transmedia producers.

The other way transmedia productions could benefit from the experience of the games industry is in relation to “freemium” models. Just as free-to-play mobile games now make more money than paid apps, we may find that ticketed events produce less revenue than experiences the consumer can get involved with for free, but that require a payment (or payments) to unlock additional content of whatever kind. This could take the form of story threads that are not available to everyone, virtual goods for use in games or in character customization, access to premium live events, etc., etc. The thing not to miss here is that consumers are still paying for content in droves, they’re just paying for it in much smaller chunks.

All that said, these models are not entirely in line with Clark’s series. It occurs to me that what he’s really writing about are (very important) financing models, rather than trying to ring the changes on all of the revenue models that are possible. Taken together, these create a much larger number of possibilities than the ten scenarios he describes. That’s not to take away from his series, though, which is very valuable reading for anyone considering a venture of almost any kind in today’s media, trans or not.

Homefront Looks Different from the UK Front

Bored on the home front

Can a great story make up for horrendous gameplay? Though it clocks in short for an Xbox360 title (which has led me not to buy it for the moment), I was interested to read Seth Schiesel’s review of THQ’s new FPS, Homefront. (I like reading him in large part because he reminds me of the “culture of technology / gaming” writing that I used to do.)

“The basic shooting and combat mechanisms in Homefront are standard fare,” Schiesel writes. “What makes Homefront stand out from all the other shooting games is its setting and its ambition to grapple with a vision of what could happen in the real world if absolutely everything were to go wrong.”

Sounds good, thinks I, I’ll have to pick this up once it’s a bit cheaper. But then I dial in Rock, Paper, Shotgun: “Homefront is barely a game,” writes John Walker. That sounds fair to me too. John is hardcore(-ish) and historical-minded (where games are concerned); he’s fully qualified to make that call. If his judgement of the gameplay is a bit harsher than Schiesel’s, I put it down to beauty being in the eye of the beholder — and keep in mind that John’s is perhaps the more discerning eye.

His judgement of the story, however, makes for more interesting contrast: Continue reading

Mass Queens and the Clarity of Game Mechanics

One question I’ve been pondering as I go about designing a strategy game is that of clarity in game mechanics, and in combat systems in particular. Committed players of strategy games (and many other genres, for that matter) have long taken joy in pulling apart the math behind the combat resolution systems that drive the games they play, in part to seek an advantage or upper hand and in part out of simple fascination. This description of the mass queen experiment from the StarCraft2 Hacks blog is a great example. It runs through a bunch of math, based on things like minerals, gas, queens, hatcheries, food, game time, energy, “transfuses,” injections and more, and comes to the colorful but perhaps surprising conclusion that “Queens are better cost effective healers than Medivacs.” Food for thought.

What’s interesting to me is the question of where a combat system might lie on the spectrum from transparency to obfuscation (through complexity or by other means), how that stacks up against the combat results you as a designer want to produce, and whether a game is any the better or worse for your equations and calculations being deeply buried, or riding on the surface of play. Continue reading


As this Tweet indicates, I’m currently working on creating a game. A browser-based game, that is, and a strategy game at that. (More on that below.) And by creating, I mean that I’m writing the code. Which, like all code, occasionally waxes poetic:


The map itself. Probably more poetic if you’re the one writing the code, I’ll admit. Especially so if you haven’t written any code in a while and are rediscovering the man-machine integration one occasionally feels in the process. I have done a lot of things in life — freelance journalist, book author, software engineer (years ago), startup CEO, tech blogger, world traveler, international man of not much mystery — so it doesn’t feel terribly awkward to extend the dimensions of the map now to include gamemaker. In fact, given everything I’ve been up to for the last five or six years and how deeply all that has been involved in games, it doesn’t seem out of step at all. Continue reading

Nude Skin Patch for… the World?

Mashable reports on an augmented reality iPhone app that lets you see the world as if no one in it were wearing any clothes. Catch the video from the “clever marketer” who created the app.

Of course, it isn’t real. But what’s interesting about it to me is that it’s the real-world version of a gamers’ mod that’s existed for years. Both World of Warcraft and The Sims (as well as other games) have seen their versions of the “nude skin patch,” alternately delighting players and disgusting critics, both in the press and on the internets. It’s a very durable kind of pre-teen humor, but it’s also an example of how technology is making the world more and more like a video game. Nude skin iPhone apps aside, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Four Second Skin T-Shirts to Give Away

Just realized I have four t-shirts to give away for the film Second Skin (in which I appear very briefly, giving an interview to the filmmakers), a documentary about online game addiction. The film is actually very good. It’s a little slim on explaining in a positive light what’s so engaging about games like World of Warcraft, but it does a great job painting portraits of the film’s subjects, a handful of gamers who have truly got it bad.

If you want a shirt, email your address to me at themetaverse at gmail dot com and I’ll get one off to you. The design is essentially the same as the cover of the DVD, but in green instead of red.

Conquer Your Neighborhood in Parallel Kingdom

Parallel Kingdom is a location-based game that lays a massively multiplayer online role-playing game over the top of a Google map of your current surroundings. It’s not the only game of its kind, but it’s a very cool concept, one that points toward the future for much of mobile gaming — and for the mobile incarnation of social media as well. Think of location-based gaming as the teaspoon of sugar that’s going to help people swallow location-based services in general.

PK is fairly straightforward, giving you simple mobs to hunt down and resources to collect, within half a mile of your GPS-determined or tower-triangulated location, whether you’re on an iPhone or an Android handset. One note: I got the game going on my iPhone for about a day, but haven’t been able to get it launched since. According to a recent interview with the developers, however, there are about 70,000 more or less active players, which sounds fairly respectable to me, given the nature of the game. Continue reading

Discount Passes to Engage! Expo

You can use code MWVIP to get $200 off an all-access pass to Engage! Expo, which takes place September 23-24 at the San Jose Convention Center. It looks to be an interesting couple of days, featuring panels and talks on social media, virtual goods, 3D environments and more.

Online Game Addiction: DVD Giveaway

I have a few copies of Second Skin to give away, the recent documentary that looks at the phenomenon of addiction to online games like World of Warcraft. (I appear briefly in the film, commenting on virtual worlds in general.) The movie doesn’t do much hyperbolizing; the players that are followed in the film really do have it bad. The portraits are well drawn, and the games themselves aren’t really demonized, though if the film has a shortcoming, it’s in not adequately portraying the positive aspects of online gaming. Definitely worth watching, if you can find a screening. (It’s in San Francisco at the end of September.) If you want to check it out in the comfort of your own home, send me your name and address at themetaverse at gmail dot com, and I’ll fire off DVDs while supplies last (which isn’t going to be very long). I may have some t-shirts to give away as well.

Mothballs: the End of an Eve Online Corporation

I’ll begin this blog with an ending: My friend Jim Rossignol writes this week (over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, a site he co-founded) about the five-year spree of StateCorp, a player-run “corporation” in the massively multiplayer online space opera known as Eve Online. (Eve’s corporations would be known in most other games as guilds or clans.) Jim helped run StateCorp over the entire course of its life — for much of which time he was arguably its lifeblood, without which it would have broken up. I was a member for a couple of years near the beginning, and on and off throughout. Now, with the corporation “in the process of moth-balling and disbanding,” Jim looks back at what he calls “the lengthiest and most fulfilling gaming experience” of his life. Considering the impact it made on me, I can understand his effusiveness. Continue reading


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