Hey there, everyone!
After a long and very busy week in Los Angeles, I’m in the midst of working on E3 content for Popzara Press. I have some things to share here with you as well, and will do that this coming week. It was all quite an adventure. I met some incredible people, saw some great games, and was able to apply a lot of what I saw towards my analysis of where I expect console sector sales to trend for the balance of 2012.
A couple of pieces are already up on Popzara for you to look at, covering my hands-on experiences with Double Dragon: NEON and NBA Baller Beats. Feel free to leave comments or questions on either article, or you can do so here. I loved Double Dragon: NEON, which builds on the arcade experience and revisits some of the coolest moments from other games in the series. As for NBA Baller Beats, although my basketball skills need serious work, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had playing it.
Expect more content to go up as soon as today, including hands-on pieces for Dead or Alive 5 and Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed. I also have some insight into two of the biggest games for this holiday season in Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Skylanders Giants, plus more brief looks at games including The Amazing Spider-Man, The Last Story, and Way of the Samurai 4. That’s not all, either. I still have a considerable amount of writing to do in the next day or so, including hands-on impressions of Borderlands 2, Zen Pinball 2 and the Avengers Chronicles tables, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD.
This week is also NPD sales data week, as May’s numbers will be released on Thursday. That means that I have another busy week ahead of me.
For the next week or so, I’ll be doing a lot of sharing of articles and content here… but we’ll be getting back to more original content once the E3 crunch eases and I have a bit more free time. I’m also taking a trip back to Stateline Video Games today, where I’ll be working on some details for some community management and social media integration… as well as sharing some of my thoughts on E3 with Frank. It’ll be a fun decompression afternoon after the rigors of the last few days.
Popzara Press recently published two articles of mine that I wrote in order to get the E3 ball rolling there.
The first one is from an analyst perspective, breaking down each of the three hardware companies: Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Microsoft was the easiest of the three to talk about, though I found it interesting that early fears of a strong focus on non-game entertainment seem to have cooled with word of several big third-party game announcements during the Monday morning presser. I think that we might be surprised with what Microsoft brings to the table, but I’m not sure whether it makes a difference in terms of hardware sales for 2012 given the saturation status of the platform. Sony’s event could be the most intriguing, as there are several possible storylines. How will Sony address the Vita situation? What of this rumored cloud-based gaming acquisition that we’ve been hearing about? Is a revamp of PlayStation Plus in the cards? I’m personally very interested in what comes from that event Monday night. Finally, Nintendo’s true unveiling of the WiiU is extremely important. Nintendo needs to start selling the world on what WiiU is, and this is the company’s first big chance to do that. Launch date and pricing won’t be revealed, but games and hardware capability will be center stage.
My other piece has to do with some downloadable games that I’m looking to see on the show floor. I named three in particular. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is a personal selection. I hold this series in very high regard and am excited to see the work that Josh Tsui and his team at Robomodo have put so much effort into. I’ve been following the progress of THPSHD since it was announced last December; from what I’ve seen, this has the potential to be one of this summer’s bigger releases. Zen Pinball 2 is another game that I’m looking forward to seeing. If you know me, you know I’m a bit of a pinball freak… and it’s great that the PlayStation 3 is finally getting its own Pinball FX2 kind of upgrade from Zen Pinball. Hopefully I’ll get a peek at the new Avengers tables, too. Finally, Double Dragon: NEON is an appointment that I set up because of my arcade roots. WayForward has done some great things with arcade IP in the past (Contra 4, anyone?) and I’m eager to see what they’ve done with Double Dragon here.
I hope that you’ll take a look at both pieces, and I invite you to comment on either or both.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that most of my writing for the next couple of weeks will be for Popzara Press. I’m not sure how much extra writing time I’ll have during the event, and I’m going to be playing catch-up for another week or so after I return from Los Angeles. I will post some more personal stories and content from the trip here as time allows, though, and most definitely after my Popzara workload slows down a bit. If you’re interested in more frequent updates from me during E3, I recommend following me on Twitter. You can follow along as I’m terrified during my flight, you can find out what I’m playing and who I’ve met, and it’ll basically be a running diary of my experience.
Although the thought of flying to Los Angeles is still freaking me out, I’m extremely excited to be able to attend E3 this year. It’s going to be a big show and I am even more excited to be able to share my experience with so many people. Some call this work– and it certainly is– but I consider it an honor.
I’ve had difficulty believing that I’m a decent writer.
A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m not used to compliments. I’m not sure how to accept them sometimes. I’m always grateful that someone would take the time to tell me that they enjoyed what I wrote, or to even remotely compare me to others whom I hold in high regard personally. I’ve been mentioned in the same discussion as Michael Pachter a few times. I’ve been told by other writers or analysts whom I respect and admire that they’ve taken time out of their busy schedules to read pieces that I’ve written. These things are the ultimate compliments to me, and I value them very much.
I think I’m realizing now, with a website taking a chance on me and sending me to E3 this year, that I’ve failed to recognize what these people have been trying to tell me. I feel weird admitting that maybe I am as good as some have said, or that I do have the talent needed to possibly make something of myself in a role that I was all but ready to give up on not too long ago. I guess that I’ve always believed that keeping compliments at bay kept me grounded as a person. Not totally buying into compliments made me work harder and made me become a better writer.
I think, to quote a popular internet meme, that I’ve been “doing it wrong.”
This trip, as unexpected as it is, has everything to do with Popzara Press— and I’m very grateful for the hoops that Nathan and Chris have jumped through to get me to Los Angeles– but it may also have something to do with the idea that I might have earned this kind of trust and opportunity. This is, perhaps, what other colleagues and writers have been trying to tell me for a long time. It’s time to believe that I might be good enough to be an accomplished writer or analyst.
It’s time, to put it bluntly, to believe in myself.
I have a chance now to set things in motion for the future. I have a chance to start building my own network of contacts and take some initiative instead of relying on others. I have a chance to show that I can work under pressure. I have a chance to generate my own unique content. These are things that I’ve been told publicly and in confidence that I can do, but I never genuinely believed it until just recently.
In the past month, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve been sourced as an analyst. I’ve participated in my first podcast. I’ve had eight Armchair Analysis pieces published. I’ve covered five earnings calls. That’s all in addition to securing my spot in college for the fall. It’s all because I finally stopped just listening and added belief to that action… and this has been perhaps the most important transition of my life so far.
So, to all of you who have ever taken the time to compliment me in my life, my writing, or anything else… It’s my turn to not only thank you for those compliments, but also to prove you right.
Earlier this week, I was given an opportunity to be a guest on The SideQuest, a regular podcast delivered by the great people over at SideQuesting. I’d never been a part of a podcast before, so this was a new experience for me. While I’ve been writing about video games for a long time, I haven’t talked about them at length since my time with The Game Guys— a weekly radio show about video games– back in 2000.
It was a lot of fun talking with Dali, Steve, and Mike for what wound up running over three hours. We covered a lot of ground, including some discussion about game delays, Take-Two, Grand Theft Auto V, 38 Studios, and a bit of what we expect from Sony at E3. Having an agenda made the show easy for me to follow as we recorded, and it’s great having the chance to talk with others who also so interested in the industry. I hope to do some more guest spots down the line. I do have one show appearance lined up in a few weeks with Rich Grisham, who I chatted with earlier this month about some interesting E3 and sports game topics. We’ll see whether anything develops during my E3 trip in Los Angeles.
Speaking of E3…
Thanks to Nathan and Chris at Popzara Press, my travel plans for the big show have been locked in. It’s going to be a hectic start– as I’m arriving at LAX just hours before E3 begins– but a relaxed finish as I’m going to be in Los Angeles for an extra day (I’m leaving Friday night). I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend and cover E3 for Popzara this year, as I wouldn’t have been able to afford travel and accommodations myself. I’m looking forward to what’s going to be a mixture of appointments and show floor exploration. Unlike last year, I have connecting flights and layovers this time… so my “baptism by fire” for travel will be interesting. My itinerary for E3 will be locked in next week, so I’m excited to get it and start preparing.
This will be just my fourth plane trip. I went to Florida twice in the early 1980s to visit my grandparents, and then I flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles last year for my first E3 trip. These flights are, obviously, much longer than a Connecticut to Florida trip or Phoenix to L.A. hop. I’m not exactly a fan of flying, either. If we were supposed to fly, we’d have wings. Instead, because I’m paranoid, I’ll be keeping an eye out for John Lithgow on the wing of my plane the whole time. If any of you have lots of flight experience, maybe you can tell me what to expect. That would be great.
The fact that I’ll only have a small amount of sleep before heading out to the Los Angeles Convention Center isn’t too concerning. I’m unfortunately not attending the Nintendo Press Conference (unless I get a miraculous invite in the next 10 days, anyone?), but that takes some of the pressure off for the first day if I don’t go. The Convention Center doesn’t open until noon, so I’ll have time to get acclimated before setting out. I’ve been trying to gradually set my internal clock to West Coast time, so I’ll be ready to rock for the duration of the event.
I’m really excited. A little nervous, given that this is really my first show as a media representative, but very excited. I can’t wait to share my impressions and experiences with you.
Details are coming into focus for my trip to E3, and my excitement level is beginning to build. As it stands, I’ll be getting into Los Angeles on Monday afternoon (June 4th) and will be staying at the Cecil Hotel for the duration of my time there. Unlike last year with KmartGamer, my direction is completely independent. There are no itineraries, no quotas, and no requisites.
Nathan from Popzara Press has given me a lot of flexibility. I’ll be covering what I can and basically taking the coverage in any direction that I choose. The show floor is huge, with lots of publishers and exhibitors to cover, so I’m sure that I won’t have a shortage of potential content. I am hoping to set up some appointments with publishers before the event, though it’s a bit of a challenge building a list of contacts from scratch. Networking is going to be a new adventure for me, as senior editors used to handle most of the PR contacts and such. I’m learning as I go.
This is a very unique opportunity for me. Last year was much like an introduction to E3, with cemented plans and tight schedules. This year is wide open, with no hand-holding. It feels like a “show me what you can do” opportunity, and I will strive to make the most of it. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of games, meeting a lot of people, and taking in the E3 experience as a member of the games media for the first time.
My road to E3 starts now, and I’ll be updating here as I reach certain checkpoints. I hope that you’ll walk down that road with me. It’s going to involve some hard work, some planning, and a whole lot of learning.
Most importantly? It’s going to be a lot of fun.
I honestly thought that my trip to E3 last year was going to be my only trip.
The KmartGamer project folded, I moved from Arizona to Massachusetts and haven’t had a job since, and I had even contemplated putting my writer’s pen down for good. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding E3 recently, which makes sense given that we’re just three weeks away. I was excited for those who were going, some of whom I’ve befriended on Twitter who are attending for the first time… but was OK with watching and reading stuff from home.
More recently, I’ve found my writing stroke again, thanks to a phone meeting with Nathan from Popzara Press a few weeks ago. He provided me with an opportunity to talk about industry sales and trends, and to bring Armchair Analysis to a new audience of readers. The terms of the opportunity were perfect for me, and I was given a lot of latitude to work at my own pace. I’ve been busy since then, thanks to that meeting and due to earnings season providing me with plenty to talk about. Once earnings season ends, E3 news would likely take over and I figured that I’d react to press events and other announcements as I have every year.
E3 was something that Nathan and I had talked about before. Attending E3 last year was possible because Kmart and Sears did everything; I wasn’t working enough to afford a trip to Los Angeles and I really didn’t (and still don’t) have many contacts “on the inside”, so those concerns were alleviated. All I really did was show up as expected, follow my itinerary, and put together some content. I told Nathan that I didn’t have any of these luxuries this year, and we tabled the discussion for awhile.
Last week, I was asked to submit my press credentials for E3. I really didn’t think anything of it, given how late in the game it was. I sent the information along, and thanked Nathan for thinking of me. It means a lot that someone that I’ve worked for over only a few weeks would have the confidence in me to think about sending me out to Los Angeles. The KmartGamer trip was more of a contest, even though it briefly became something bigger. This was different… and besides, I had no way to get out there or pay for anything, given my current state of unemployment. I had nothing to lose.
I received a rejection e-mail this afternoon. I had expected it, and forwarded it to Nathan with my gratitude. I am happy just having found what feels like a great opportunity to get back into writing, so this was less a disappointment and more a sign that we’d move on to other things. But then… things changed.
I received a second e-mail from E3 registration stating that my application had been approved, along with my confirmation barcode, while chatting with Nathan. He then dropped the biggest bombshell: Popzara Press is handling the travel and accommodations. I was– and still am– floored. We’ll be working out final details this week, but, barring any unforeseen circumstances…
I am going to E3 once again.
There’s a lot of preparation that has to happen between then and now. I am unbelievably excited and honored to have this opportunity. I’m going to be working with Nathan to hopefully set up some appointments for the event, and I’m looking forward to having a bit more time to network with some people out there. It’s going to be a different experience, and a big step for me professionally. I’ll be getting business cards ready to go, and I’m hoping to do a little more hands-on this year to go with more meetings and conversation.
I want to publicly thank Nathan and Popzara Press for having confidence in me and for making this happen. I’ll be providing the best coverage that I can, and learning a lot along the way. I look to reward that confidence by providing info and impressions from the show floor and giving readers my perspective on the controlled chaos that is E3. I’m also going to meet Armchair Analysis inspirations like Jesse Divnich, Michael Pachter, and Kevin Dent again this year– and that’s going to be a personal highlight for me.
Let the planning begin.
E3 is getting close, and GameTrailers has posted a Bonus Round talking about what to expect from Microsoft at the event. During the video, Michael Pachter says something very interesting:
They (Microsoft) told me don’t expect a lot of game stuff, expect a lot of dashboard, interface, multimedia.
There has been some pretty negative reaction about the possibility that games will be taking a back seat to other content during E3, but nobody should be surprised. It’s a natural progression for Microsoft, especially given current trends. Video games are now but a piece of the overall puzzle for Microsoft, and the company must find other ways to get more consumers interested in the Xbox brand. Streaming media is huge right now with consumers. Music, movies, television shows, sports, and other content are all streamed into homes across the nation and around the world, and positioning Xbox hardware as a central hub for this content is a wise move. The annual $60 subscription fee that consumers pay for access to these services makes some money for Microsoft on a regular basis.
As console video games continue their sales decline, Microsoft needs to figure out ways to attract consumers that want more than a “game machine”. Securing content partners and making announcements at E3 makes sense as it provides non-gamers with more reasons to consider purchasing an Xbox device if they don’t have one already. Perhaps having the hardware will entice consumers to buy a few games along the way– either on disc or digitally– and help to ease them into gaming or to even welcome them back if they’d become otherwise disinterested. The challenge is selling the hardware to those who may not necessarily want it.
We’ve seen this before.
Sony marketed the PlayStation outside of the core gaming consumer base, trying to appeal to an older audience. The strategy worked, as over 100 million units were shipped worldwide between 1995 and 2005 and PlayStation became a respected brand name. Expanding your consumer base is key to making more money. It’s fair to say that core gaming consumers will buy hardware if the software is worthwhile, comprised of returning favorites and new IPs… but more casual consumers who only have a passing or mild interest in games need something else. We saw this during the last console generation with the ability to play DVD movies on the PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox. Casual consumers could buy consoles as DVD players that could also play games, making them multipurpose devices. Here in the United States alone, more than 46 million PlayStation 2 units have sold at retail, making it one of the most successful platforms of all time.
Console video games have had their rise, and are now seeing a gradual decline. That doesn’t mean that Microsoft should abandon ship. It simply means that altered strategy is warranted to maintain strong sales of its hardware. Physical media playback isn’t a feature in demand as it used to be, so touting streaming media becomes a key feature to attract buyers– and to assuage retailers who fear that video games are on the way out. Sure, Xbox hardware can play games if consumers want it to… but it can also be a one-stop source for Netflix streaming, ESPN sports on demand, YouTube, music videos, and a lot more. It becomes less of a game console and more of an entertainment device.
Entertainment Evolved. It’s not just the title of Microsoft’s E3 press conference… it’s the company’s strategy moving forward. We had better start getting used to it.