It has been a busy year, and we have had a lot of fun helping Activision design and develop a web world that is integral to the Skylanders hybrid Toy and Video Game launch. Skylanders will mark a lot of firsts as a hybrid product and it will be quite an impact when we hit the market.
As a little excerpt from the Wizards of Kid panel:
Kid’s IP has exploded into online worlds and the convergence is transforming kids products and entertainment. Extending a Kid’s IP from screen or toy to online worlds takes a lot of insight a fair bit of magic. We bring together a eclectic group of the top wizards from Disney, Mattel, Hasbro, National Geographic and Cartoon Network to show us how they weave new worlds with existing IP. This panel of creative executives with deep background in production, technology, creative and online branding explore the process and challenges of bringing kids brands online.
We have great panel and it should be a lot of fun.
In February I was honored to be part of a Panel on Virtual World development at Engage 2010 at the NY Toy Fair.
In “The Tactical Perspective: A Best Practices Checklist” we discussed the process of migrating brands online, including a typical product development roadmap and timeline. At a high level we covered the different phases of production as well as engaging an audience, building a brand, operations, moderation and driving ROI.
Engage Expo was great to work with and has generously shared the recordings of the session:
At last years LOGIN conference Peter asked me to do a debate. Knowing that I was bit outspoken in my views on technology and game design he pitted me against Isaac Barry of Gamehouse. Our topic… “Should game designers be allowed to write code in a scripting language”.
Watch the video if you want to get into the debate. It is a bit slow initially. I was a bit evil and switched the tables on Isaac in the opening statements by framing the debate around MMO’s and then conceding his main points around casual games. Issac recovered about halfway for some fun points.
We all have aspirations great and small. Though he had lived his life as a scientist and teacher and was at that time the public face of the CRD, Robert’s dream was a modest retirement on a hillside in China. The CRD was to be his last task before relaxing and living the simple life. It saddens me to think Robert won’t get that chance. I hope he was dreaming that dream the night he left us in his sleep.
Robert was a man who you could not help but like. A man who you felt you could trust and who regardless of what happened around him would treat you with respect. He had an infectious love of life that was only tempered by the his role and place in the world. I will miss my friend Robert and how he represented to me the many sides of China as it enters this brave new world.
Farewell to our friend Robert, you will always be China to me.
1. Common Interests.
2. Perception of being distinct and separate.
When we examine Twitter and find that the common interest is Twitter and the activities on it, and that the perceived distinction is of those who use/get twitter and those that do not. So yes, by definition, Twitter IS a community.
That said, groups of followers within Twitter may NOT be a sub-community since they do not identify themselves as being separate from Twitter itself. We are not the “following Scoble” community.
Of course all this “definition” talk begs the question, how should we forge this new online vocabulary? Like any lexicon it will develop on its own via adoption patterns. When creating definitions I lean towards either adhering to already established meanings, or inventing new words entirely. This makes words less confusing when we use new meanings in conversation.
In a recent twitter conversation Jeremiah Owyang asked the question, ” Did we break Dunbar’s Number of 150 members per social network? Or are tools more efficient?”
The reality is that we have been pushing Dunbar’s number since we first invented the little black book. By offloading much of the social context data into long term storage we can maintain much more meaningful social interactions with a larger number of people. We can also pick up stale relationships and rekindle them much easier.
So what does Moore’s Law have to do with any of this? Our mobile phone and Social Network contact lists are this generations black book. We may not quite be up to the level of Johnny Mnemonic, but the reality is that we are already augmenting ourselves. For now the interface is our eyes and keyboard/pad.
We have been making a lot of noise about the long tail for a while now in our little world of Web 2.0 and it struck me this morning while reading a post by Gordon Haff that we don’t really talk about where it comes from.
The long tail has many forms, some obvious ones being older and niche music as well as practically all of the blogoshpere. I disagree with the idea Alex Iskold posted that, because the individual content contributor isn’t making money, the long tail is in trouble. Making money is not necessarily first and foremost for many of the people producing content for the Long Tail.
I just finished reading Moneyball where Michael Lewis relates that Billy James was ecstatic at having sold 64 copies of his first Baseball Almanac. This was done out of passion and a need for recognition, not greed. This type of attitude is pervasive in the Long Tail.
The Long Tail is real and here to stay not because the people creating the content for the long tail are making money, but because someone else has figured out to monetize access to it as part of their service. The Long Tail was always there, and is growing because the internet makes it so easy to share content and get positive feedback.
I know that I do not have a large audience, but blogging still holds value to me. Even if the numbers are low its still a fun to look at Firestats and realize that other people are getting what you are talking about.
On GigaOM Carleen blogged that she thought that Club Penguin sold out to Disney and it might ruin Club Penguin. I think she came close on a couple points, but missed the bigger picture.
Disney is by its nature a big lumbering beast that is mired in bureaucracy. Having worked there a while I found it was unavoidable. Disney in many cases is less about the projects and more about dealing with the internal politics.
That said we should be fair, most large corporations have the same problem. To combat the bureaucracy large company’s buy small companies and grant them a degree of autonomy. That way the new unit can then at least get some things done.
The problem is that at the same time the new units want to take advantage of other verticals and other parts of the business want to get into what the new unit is doing. Instant politics. The job of senior management then becomes shielding that unit from the politics rather than integrating them into the Disney way. This will invariably mean that a large portion of managements time will be spent away from the main task of running the new unit.
I can only hope that Lane Merrifield CEO of Club Penguin and now EVP at Disney has enough experience to understand and work the system. At the EVP level you can get a bit done if you know how to work the system and keep everyone focused. As a former Disneyland employee perhaps Lane gets it. If so this is a big win for Disney and Club Penguin.
If you have been curiously watching the news around Club Penguin you may have wondered aloud, is this really worth $500-$700 million?
The answer is it depends on who you are. Certainly on its face the projected revenues by themselves don’t seam to make sense, especially as was mentioned on TechCrunch that penguins (like anything else) are only likely to be hot for so long.
Club Penguin has captured the untapped demographic of children and tweens better than any other game, and games are the driving attention force for this market. For Sony this would have been of little value since they really do not have a way to capitalize on it across their company. They are focused on Generation Y. The Wii vs. PS3 battle is delineated along the demographics that each company targets.
Disney on the other hand is directed almost singularly at the children and tween market. They add a lot of value through brand trust and the ability to market a wide array of verticals towards this demographic. What they have lacked is a good vehicle in online games. They have made some headway with games like ToonTown, but ToonTown requires a client download and is not quite as accessible.
Will Club Penguin remain hot enough to pay back the investment before penguins become pase’? Perhaps, with Disney’s marketing and investment its possible. That is only part of the equation that makes this a no-brainer.
Contrary to Bob Iger’s public statment that Club Penguin will be a standalone business, I believe that this is an important strategic move. It is about grabbing the attention of this demographic and growing it to the whole range of Disney properties. This strategic move should not be as much about making money from Club Penguin as it is about creating a new channel to sell Disney to Disney’s core market.
I think Bob has played a smart hand in buying Penguin, let’s hope it pays off.