A Thought on OUYA

OUYA: The console we need, but is it the console we deserve?
OUYAThe Indonesian version of this post could be found on GamesInAsia.

Note: This post is originally written on late July 2013, so some stuff might have changed since then. My overall opinion is still the same though.

Ah, the OUYA. The $99 game console that plays mobile game on your TV. The pioneer of the age of the microconsole. The proof that crowdfunding is the real deal.

I was sold on the idea of the OUYA right after I watched their introduction video. I believed that the console industry is in dire need of a disruption and I wanted to participate in such effort, so I decided to back it with my $99.

And apparently I was backer number 290! Being an early backer doesn’t mean I’ll get the console early unfortunately. In fact, I only got the console much later, around early June 2013. I’m not complaining though, being able to create and ship those products without much delay is quite an achievement already.

OUYA Console

So, how is it?

Overall, I really like it. I already have tons of fun playing several games on it, and while using it, there are some parts that feel like they’re the future. Looking back, I think the OUYA has delivered exactly what it promised months ago, which is bringing mobile games to the big screen.

Anyway, the OUYA is a multi-faceted product, so there isn’t any easy way to do a thorough judgement on it. However, I believe that there are only 3 aspects that we need to look at to get a complete impression of the OUYA. These aspects are the hardware, the software, and the ecosystem, so let’s check them out one by one.

OUYA Thank you

The OUYA is a physical product first and foremost, so let’s talk about the hardware first.

First, let me remind you again that OUYA is a $99 game console. At that price point, I knew the hardware wouldn’t be anywhere near Apple level, so I set my expectation real low. I seriously expected the console to feel all light and plasticky, just like a toy.

So when I finally got my hands on it, I am very pleased to find out that’s not the case at all. The console as a whole feels very solid and surprisingly quite weighty (though it’s still light enough to be carried around easily). The ports on the console are quite clear too, I found myself being able to setup the whole thing painlessly using the adapter and HDMI cable bundled with the OUYA.

The console is only half part of the story though, after all, most interaction with the device will be using the controller. Like with the console, I don’t have any problem with how the controller feels. It feels very good when I gripped it with my hands, and the joysticks also responded to my input with a nice tactile feeling.

It’s not like the controller is flawless though. My main gripe with it lies on the shoulder buttons (the L-R triggers on Playstation controller). Pressing the top triggers isn’t satisfying enough, and the bottom triggers are really hard to press. The same goes with the d-pad, it could use more tactile feedback since currently pressing it doesn’t feel as good as it should be.

One last thing. While the controller connects to the console using bluetooth connection, I don’t feel any latency issue when I use it. I have heard that some people are complaining about the latency, however, that’s not my experience at all.

OUYA Interface

While it’s true that OUYA is a physical product, we all have learned that software can make or break a product. Unfortunately, as of now, software is the weakest aspect of OUYA.

And no, the problem isn’t about the performance. It’s about the missing features. Guess what I did when I first got into the OUYA menu. Of course it’s to download various interesting-looking games. So try to imagine my surprise when I realized there’s no place to check my games download queue. Or when I realised I couldn’t easily check how much available storage I have left.

There’s also the problem that the navigation on OUYA isn’t optimized for the controller. For example, on the game description page, to browse the screenshots users have to press up to highlight the screenshots and then scroll left and right with the joystick. It’s like they forget that the controller has shoulder buttons that can be used to choose left and right easily.

Unlike hardware though, software can evolve over time. So it is highly possible that one day the OUYA will get a brand new interface from a software update. I just hoped that the OUYA guys focused on fixing the interface first before adding more features such as leader boards and social stuff.

Then again, iTunes interface is horrible yet people still use it because of all the contents, so…

OUYA Games

Since OUYA is a game console, it is important that we also talk about what games are available and what games are good on the OUYA. And more importantly, how is the experience of gaming on the OUYA?

First off, let me just say that the OUYA guys got the model right, which is Free to Try. Having an (almost) instant access to hundreds of games for your console is a real blast. Being able to easily browse available games and then trying it out right away is exactly the kind of experience that I want on my game console. Some games do take the free concept to the extreme, for example, League of Evil actually offers the first 50 levels or so for free!

Speaking of League of Evil, I’ve actually played the sequel a bit on my iPod. I didn’t get very far though, playing a fast-paced platformer on a touchscreen just doesn’t feel good. However, playing it on the OUYA with a real game controller gives the total opposite experience. It feels… just right, like the game is always meant to be played with a controller.

Seriously, the tactile feedback on your hand feels unbelievably good. I’m finally able to double-jump, run, dash with precision and actually feeling awesome doing it. Man, how I wish League of Evil 2 and 3 to be released on the OUYA as well. Now I know I won’t be going back to play another platformer on a touchscreen device.

OUYA League of Evil

Seeing how League of Evil is a great game on OUYA, is it safe to say that platformers are a good fit for the OUYA? Based on some other platformers I have tried like Gunslugs and Sonic 4, I think it’s safe to think so. Even runner-platformer like Wind-Up Knight and Vector feels really good when played on the OUYA.

Actually, not just platformers, any game that requires a lot of movement will feel better when played on the OUYA. For example, moving and aiming in the touchscreen version of Shadow Gun feels very awkward, but doing the same thing using a controller feels much more natural. Even Final Fantasy III feels better when played on the OUYA since the character need to travel a lot.

And man, I’ve gotta say, playing Final Fantasy III on the OUYA really takes me back to the PSX era (and BTW, the PSX emulator on the OUYA is really, really good, even better than the one on the PC).

Speaking of Final Fantasy III, the game costs around $15, just like its counterpart in Google Play. And this is my biggest peeve with the OUYA ecosystem, I have already bought a Final Fantasy III from Google Play! Not just FFIII, I have also bought Sonic 4, Vector, and a bunch of other games from outside the OUYA. Having to pay again for the same game really made me think twice about purchasing anything.

Yeah, I know that isn’t the OUYA guys fault, it still sucks though.

By the way, it’s kinda interesting that I haven’t met any game with in-app purchase for virtual currency or something similar.

OUYA Game: Ittle Dew

While we’re on that subject, let’s talk about the payment system for a bit. From my experience, the payment system on the OUYA is pretty painless, just like what you’d usually find on a mobile platform. The only problem is that OUYA asks for your credit card number right in the beginning when you first log in to the console. While it’s not a problem for me, I imagine it will trouble a lot of people with no credit card.

Though I have heard that you don’t actually need to put a correct card number on it, so it may not be that big of a problem.

Anyway, so far we have only covered games, but being an Android device, OUYA can also run other Android apps. During the two months I’ve been with my OUYA, I have watched movie, listened to music, browsed internet, and watched Youtube on the TV in my living room (now where’s that Twitter client for OUYA…). Sure, not all apps are available on the OUYA store, but OUYA is an open console, so all you really need to do is copy and install the app to the console.

And you know what’s crazy about being open? Earlier on this post I complained about OUYA’s interface, and guess what, someone has already made a custom launcher for the OUYA! Hell, that launcher is even more customizable with wallpaper, folders, and stuff. Maybe the OUYA team doesn’t need to build a better interface after all.

OUYA Baxy

Phew, we’ve finally reached the end of this long, long post regarding the OUYA. Well, to sum it all up, OUYA’s hardware is really nice, the software really needs more work, and there are already lots of games that could (and should) be played on the OUYA. I’d even say those games are worth the OUYA.

Should you get it? Well, if you have always longing to play smaller games with controller on a TV (just like I did), go get it. Otherwise, if you’re just some casual guy, go wait for the Apple or Google game console.

A Thought About DreadOut

I really should be doing that final log, but alas…
DreadOut
Let’s start with a simple question, what is Dreadout? DreadOut is an indie horror game that takes place in an Asian-Indonesian setting. In the game you will take control of Linda, the protagonist, exploring a haunted town where she will encounter tons of ghost and other supernatural stuff. Fortunately she’s equipped with a phone that could take photo of a ghost to banish it so it’s all good, right?

Currently there’s a demo of the game that’s available here so you can give it a try.

A little disclaimer before we go further, I’m not in any way an expert or even a fan of the horror genre. I’m just someone who’s highly opinionated and enjoy writing.

Anyway, yesterday I gave the demo of DreadOut a try. Well, “gave a try” may be an exaggeration since I only played the first five minutes and then spent another 15 minutes watching a friend played it. And it’s not like he forcibly took control of the game from me either, the game actually feels so scary that I can’t play it anymore. And since DreadOut is a horror game, I think being able to scare someone (well, me) like this is a pretty awesome feat.

Is it that scary? Well, DreadOut used a combination of darkness and eery sound to create an unbelievably scary atmosphere. And being only able to see the ghosts from your camera actually intensifies this atmosphere even further. That said, having an audience who watch me play the game probably also plays a role in me getting scared.

And by the way, that other person who continued my game also gave up playing. In the end we all decided to just watch Die Hard for the rest of the night πŸ˜„

Linda

She’s probably the cutest thing in the game

While I did say it’s an awesome feat to be able to scare someone, I suppose making a player quit the game isn’t actually a good thing. Granted, I’m not someone who loves horror games that much, but I still enjoy a good scare and some tensions. I mean, the first part of Bioshock is crazy scary, but it is the best part of the game and I totally enjoyed every second of it.

It’s interesting to see that Dreadout and Bioshock (again, first part) have a really similar scary experience . Both games make you feel scared of turning around a corner because of what’s possibly lurking behind it. But the main difference is, Bioshock manages to make me endure all those scary stuff while Dreadout just makes me give up.

My problem is that there’s just no compelling reason for me to go forward in the game. So when I got to enter a dark, scary alley, all I could think of is why the hell I should go that way when I see no treasure or safe haven or anything beyond that alley. Not to mention the game doesn’t reward me for exploring places. No collectibles or anything that would motivate me to try entering an unexplored room brimming with possible ghosts.

One thing that bugged me the most is that there’s also no reward in any form when a ghost is successfully captured. No visual indicator that you’ve succeeded, no nice sound effect, no nothing. I guess you could say that the relief afterward is some sort of reward, but seriously, that feeling is so short-lived that I highly doubt it could be called a reward.

And that’s my other problem with the game. The entire game feels so intense and there’s barely any place where you could feel safe. Even after you checked out a room and found it to be clear, you still have this feeling that something may jump at you at any given time. There’s just no ground rule set up about when you should be scared and when you shouldn’t.

Sigh, I don’t know, may be I just missed the point of a horror game? At this point, the game feels more like a gauntlet run full of scary things to test your courage and frankly, that’s just not my thing. I mean, even horror movies has something compelling like a plot or a mystery that makes me want to endure it to the end.

That said, DreadOut definitely has potential. It’s not easy to create a scary experience but DreadOut has actually nailed that part. I hope they succeed in their crowdfunding, because there are still tons of stuff could be fixed in the game.

If you’re interested, give it a try yourself from here.

A Look Back on 2012: AdMob Edition

Planning to close 2012 by looking back on advertisement in my game, got delayed though πŸ˜„

openingDon’t have time for this wall of text? Head to the end of the post for the conclusion.

Anyway, a couple of days ago there’s a discussion about paying tax in one of my Facebook groups. And well, the topic is sort of interesting to me since I have zero idea about tax and stuff (seriously, where do people learn it?). That discussion prompts me to think about the revenue I’ve earned so far from my game. I know I haven’t earned anything worthy of being taxed, but I have never really analyzed how it does. So I think this would be the perfect chance to do it.

A little background is in order. Android platform, unlike iOS, has several places where users can download app for their device. As a developer, of course I put my game across various Android app stores to maximise my reach. One of the app store I used to provide my game is Samsung Apps, which is pre-installed in all (well, most) Samsung mobile devices.

Most of these 3rd-party stores perform okay-ish, nothing really different from Google Play. However, at the end of July, it looks like the game on Samsung Apps got featured or something because it suddenly got hundreds of download each day. Seeing all those downloads made me think that I should try to monetize it while the download count is still high. And so I signed up for AdMob.

To be honest, I never liked having banner ads on games, they ruin the overall aesthetic (exhibit 1). Fullscreen ads or offerwall is much preferred since they occupy a separate screen. However, Samsung Apps doesn’t allow games to link to Google Play (most offerwalls advertise apps that’s on Google Play), so banner ads is the only advertisement option I have.

Offerwall

Here’s an example of an offerwall

At the beginning of August I quickly integrated AdMob and added a banner ad on Project Claw. I chose to put the ad on the result screen since I think that’s the perfect time and place for people to take a look and click it (putting it on the game screen would be a good target for accidental click though =p). After passing the approval process for Samsung Apps, the game with ads is finally available around mid-august.

Well, as of mid-december, it’s been 4 months since I tried to generate revenue from advertising, how does it do?

summaryYep, it has generated less than $14 during those 4 months. For reference, the game has been downloaded over 10,000 times from Samsung Apps during those months as well. To be honest, I was expecting more since I thought 10,000 downloads is quite a lot. It is possible that advertising on games isn’t as good as advertising on non-game apps. After all, unlike games, people use Twitter clients or manga readers almost all the time.

Wait, before we go further, let me give a quick explanation on all those weird terms. Let’s start with something easy, impressions. Impressions is how many times an ad is displayed, while fill rate is the percentage of how often an ad is requested and successfully displayed. Easy right? Let’s move to eCPM. eCPM is effective Cost Per Mille impression, that is your earning for every 1,000 impressions. In human language, it is how much each impression is valued. Last term, CTR stands for Click Through Rate, which shows how often an ad is clicked.

Now we know what those term means, let’s check them out. But before we do that, we need data from other apps so we can make a valid comparison. There isn’t any official data that can be used, so these various posts by anonymous people will have to suffice. For example, based on those reports, we could say that 98.8% fill rate is totally normal.

The first thing that came to mind that could be causing low revenue is low eCPM value, which is only $0.32 in this case. Most of the game downloads came from India and China, so it’s not really surprising to see low eCPM value. After all, it must be cheaper to advertise in those countries compared to advertising in the USA. The data speaks differently though. Apparently $0.32 eCPM value is quite normal for AdMob!

Another interesting point is that the game has a really decent CTR (almost 2%, compared to other people 0.5% CTR) despite only showing the ad on the result screen. May be it’s proof that you don’t need to to put banner ad aggressively to get people to click it. Or… it could be proof that my ad doesn’t get refreshed often enough (4-5 impressions per download seems low) =/

Unfortunately, hard, static data only shows so much. I think it’s time to add time dimension to those numbers.

ChartOkay, so this chart above shows several data about my game on Samsung Apps from August 15th to December 15th. The data depicted are revenue, number of impressions, and eCPM. Note that each data has different unit, so their value shouldn’t be compared, I put it close to each other so it’s easier to compare the shape of one graph to another.

The first striking thing to me is how the revenue graph doesn’t really mirror the impressions graph. After all, it’s only natural to assume that the more usage your app has, the more ad clicks (and revenue) it will get. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. You can see that even though the number of impressions shrunk after September, the ad revenue actually went up. And when the impressions suddenly goes up at the end of October, the ad revenue doesn’t go up as much.

It’s kinda perplexing, but things become clearer once we consider the eCPM graph. As you can see, the eCPM graph has a totally different shape compared to other graphs, because it doesn’t depend on download count or even the progress of time. So when the eCPM has high value, even with the number of impression going down, the revenue managed to go up because each ad has higher value.

You can say that impression is really similar to usage or download count. So, I think it’s safe to say that not all usage/download has the same value. As shown by the graph: the usage in October, despite being much higher than the preceding months, don’t bring as much revenue per download as before. I’m sure things will be different if the high usage number occurs earlier.

Since it seems like eCPM plays so much role in determining advertising revenue, I think it’s worth the time to take a look at it from a different perspective. Enter geography:

Taiwan download data doesn't show up =/

Somehow download count from Taiwan doesn’t show up on Samsung Apps report.

Several things are noticeable from the table. For one, there’s a strong correlation between the number of download in a certain country and the number of ad impressions that originated from that country. Another noticeable thing is how the CTR doesn’t really vary between countries, I suppose there isn’t any culture that encourage people to click on ads or something πŸ˜„

Things become interesting once we observe the revenue column. Apparently, almost half of my revenue is generated only from 5 European countries, France, Russia, United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany. Aside from Russia, these countries don’t contribute much to the game’s download number.

You may notice that the countries which generate high revenue have mostly high eCPM values. However, if you sort the countries by the number of impressions, you will notice that these high-impression countries have really low eCPM values. France is probably the only exception here. No wonder I only earned $14 despite having more than 10,000 downloads.

Seems like my initial theory that the low revenue is caused by the low eCPM, which in turn is caused by the user base location, is correct after all.

Conclusion
First thing first, let me remind you that that this whole stuff is done using only AdMob and distributed via Samsung Apps. So apps on Google Play might have a different case than this one. Anyway, in 4 months, Project Claw has gained over 10,000 downloads and has generated $14 from advertising. Apparently eCPM matters a lot when it comes to advertising revenue, and most of the time, eCPM is determined by the user’s country. So apps with users mostly coming from developed countries will have higher eCPM (thus, better revenue) than the one with users coming from developing countries.

That said, even if all 10,000 downloads came from France (the country that generates most revenue), by extrapolation, it would only raise the revenue to $35. Just enough to cover Google Play registration fee.

What’s next?
As I’ve said earlier, I never liked using banner ads, and since those ads haven’t been performing so great, it’s safe to say that I will abandon such method (the latest version doesn’t have enough space for ads anyway). My ideal monetization method would be using In-App Purchase so people can easily unlock items. Unfortunately it isn’t available here in my country, so right now I’m trying out Tapjoy offerwall in place of a real IAP menu. I was hoping a combination of unlockable items, popups, and offerwall could bring in a decent revenue.

And also, a little teaser, I used AppBrain offerwall to generate revenue from my app on Google Play previously, and despite the much lower download count, the revenue it generated isn’t that much different!

Special thanks to @lwastuargo for proofreading!

Difficulty Level: An observation

Lately I’ve been frustrated while trying to tweak the difficulty level of my game, Project Claw. You see, the people whom I tested the game on showed varying degree of responses. Some guys are very good at playing the game that I feel like I need to introduce new challenge very often so they don’t get bored, while some other guys encountered difficulty really early in the game. Without any reliable player level that I can base on, how should I adjust the difficulty?

Fortunately I have set up some analytics in the game so I can actually measure up user’s progress level. And since the game has been released for some time in Google Play, it should have accumulated enough data to accurately reflect user’s behaviour. This data about user’s progress will hopefully shed some light on how I should adjust the difficulty level of Project Claw.

So here’s a little chart based on that progress data.
(Some absolute data have been omitted though)

User progress chart

Some explanations are in order I suppose. This chart shows the percentage of users who has reached a certain height in Project Claw (remember that the game is about going as high as possible). For example, we can see that all (100%) users has reached 0-65 m height while only 99% users managed to get past 65 m (and only 70% reached 150 m, and so on). This chart is made based on the data taken using Flurry Analytics from of a couple hundreds users who play the game in October. While I’m sure the analytics doesn’t record all users, I think the sample size is big enough that any difference with the actual data can safely be ignored.

Well, how could we understand the difficulty of Project Claw from this chart? I think it’s safe to say that the difficulty level of a game is proportional to the amount of player who reached the end of the game. So the harder a game is, the less amount of players who would reach the end of that game and vice versa. What about Project Claw then?

Well, we’ve got some really nice number on the start, 99% of the users managed to reach 65 m, which is pretty understandable, that section was designed to be a safe area with reduced falling speed where users can learn and experiment with the game mechanism. But then we got a sudden drop, only 72% of users managed to reach 150 m, apparently there’s something before that mark which some users found quite challenging.

Another sudden drop is encountered before users reached 400 m since only 38% of users managed to reach that point. This second drop is much more mysterious. The reason for the first drop can be attributed to the falling speed being restored to normal, while the second drop has none of that and only introduced new type of orbs. Of course it is possible that some users have a hard time with these new orbs.

Then we have another interesting point, apparently 80% of the users who reached 400 m also reached 800 m which is the last height level (since beyond that point the falling speed will start to increase). Based on that, I think it’s safe to assume that most users who reached 400 m has got a good grasp on how to play the game. But then again, only 30% of users has managed to get to the endgame, which I suppose is okay for a true endless game (like Temple Run), but it’s a big problem for a level-based game (which I intended Project Claw to be).


Wait, so what does all that say about the difficulty of Project Claw? Well, since the data shows that almost all users manage to pass the first section and only 30% of them reach the endgame, we can say that Project Claw is easy to understand, hard to get the hang of, and hard to master. The “hard to get the hang of” part is the problem here since casual gamers need to quickly be able to do well to be engaged with a game.

Based on all that information, there are several actions that can be done to improve user’s progress in the game (that is, adjusting the difficulty level so more users will be engaged). One of them is to expand the safe area so users would have more time to learn and master the game mechanic. This is supported by the data which shows that users who have understood what to do would progress far into the game.

Another stuff that can be done is to lower the overall difficulty, which can be achieved either by decreasing the maximum falling speed or by decreasing the gravitational acceleration. I don’t really like this option though, since I designed most stuff based on those values. Not to mention thatΒ  some movements might feel unreal if they’re slowed down too much.

I don’t know if I would do all of them, I think I will just pick one or two actions and see how it affects the progress level. I think aiming for 85% of users to reach 150 m and 50% of users to reach 400 m is a nice goal =)

A Thought on Gaikai Acquisition

You wanna talk about Gaikai acquisition now? Seriously? That’s like ages ago!

Yeah, I know, I know. I did write my quick take on that subject though, and back then I planned to expand about it once I got the time. And looks like I finally got that time =D

So here we go…

I’m Sorry, What Is Gaikai?

Let’s back up a bit and talk about what exactly is Gaikai and how it fits in the gaming industry. Around 2010, with the widespread of high-bandwidth internet, a new kind of gaming has emerged to take the world by storm, the cloud gaming.

Cloud Gaming

So what is cloud gaming again? Basically cloud gaming is a way to play game where the game is processed in the server and streamed live to your computer or whatever device you’re using. Using cloud gaming, the server will handle the heavy task of processing the game and let you view and play it from anywhere. You can say that the cloud/server is the console and your internet connection is the cable that connects it to your monitor and keyboard (or just touch screen).

Since cloud gaming calculates everything on the server and just serves you the result, hardware and operating system is no longer a constraint for gaming. You can play the game on any operating system whether it’s Windows, Mac, or even Android. And you can play it on any kind of form factor as well, whether its a laptop, a tablet, or even a smartphone (yeah, Crysis on a phone will not be a dream anymore) Not just that, cloud gaming could also provides new payment model, like the pay-as-you-go model where you can just rent a game for 3 days or purchase it fully or even subscription and episodic games.

In short, cloud gaming is the future of gaming. Just imagine being able to play any kind of game no matter where you are or what kind of operating system you’re on or what kind of device you have (as long as you have a decent internet connection, that is).

Gaikai

Both OnLive and Gaikai is at the forefront of this new kind of gaming with both companies providing a different set of games and features. Both of them seemed to have different directions as well, where OnLive starts to focus on mobile devices and Gaikai is still focusing on gaming on TV. The future looks really bright, but alas, on July 2012…

Sony Computer Entertainment Acquired Gaikai
Yeah, out of the blue, Sony bought Gaikai for $380 millions.

“SCE will deliver a world-class cloud-streaming service that allows users to instantly enjoy a broad array of content ranging from immersive core games with rich graphics to casual content anytime, anywhere on a variety of internet-connected devices.”

Okay, I’ll be honest, I’m not a cloud gamer (huh, that term sounds weird), not for at least another 5 years. My connection just isn’t fast enough for this kind of internet usage, but I definitely can see how this is going to be the future of gaming. It solves a lot of gaming problems! No longer there will be console-exclusive games, no longer games on mobile devices will only feature subpar graphics, and no longer there will be piracy (though I’m not so sure about this last point). All in all, I definitely support this.

That said, I should be happy that Gaikai is acquired by Sony right? After all, with the amount of resources Sony has in its pocket, Gaikai wouldn’t have any trouble expanding anywhere in world, right? And with Sony’s capability as a game publisher, Gaikai could easily persuade more game developers to provide their game through Gaikai services, right?

But no I’m not.

Sony

This is an acquisition by Sony, who has another gaming platform. It’s totally unthinkable of Sony to have another gaming platform, the cloud platform, alongside their current gaming platform. Not to mention that their current platform already runs on most of their devices from consoles, handhelds, smartphones, to tablets. Introducing yet another gaming platform would just make the consumer confused.

This is an acquisition by Sony, who already has a console and brand (PlayStation) out in the market. Do you really think that Sony will be willing to kill their PlayStation brand and console to pursue cloud gaming? I just can’t see how Sony is going to integrate Gaikai services with the PlayStation. Sure, Sony can turn PlayStation console to be capable of streaming games from the cloud, but that doesn’t align at all with the concept of cloud where hardware doesn’t matter and Internet is all you need. I mean, why would Sony make a service that can be used by their competitor?

This is an acquisition by Sony, a big company with a business model that Gaikai is attacking. As I have explained before, cloud gaming makes the hardware no longer important, which means that gaming console will no longer be important as the game can be played on any kind of device. So yeah, the success of Gaikai or cloud gaming in general would spell doom for Sony’s business model (and profit).

Of course Sony can always kill their lines of console and dive head-first into cloud gaming. And that would be totally awesome, having a big company like Sony pursuing this kind future. But let’s be real here, has anybody ever successfully killed their own old product? Even for a company like Apple who’s known to disrupt the industry, they haven’t managed to kill any of their products. Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad all serves a different purpose and augment each other instead of killing each other.

I hope I’m wrong, I really do. But to be honest, this felt like HP-WebOS situation all over again. Only worse.

Ouya

On the topic of the future of gaming, there’s another development in the scene, the OUYA. The OUYA is basically a game console that harnesses power of mobile gaming such as developers accessibility and cheapness. It is depicted as the revolution that will revive the game industry. While it may be true, I believe the OUYA is merely a stop-gap for the gaming revolution before cloud gaming becomes more accessible to the mainstream market and becomes the dominant force in the gaming world.

A Thought on Google Drive

What, you guys are expecting the third part of the post-mortem?
Sorry, you gotta wait a bit more, but I do have something for you later.

Meanwhile, there’s something else I want to talk about, and it’s…

Google Drive

Google Drive
A few days ago the world was abuzz with the launch of Google Drive, Google’s attempt at cloud storage service. Google Drive acts just like what you would expect from a cloud storage service such as Dropbox, Box.Net, or SugarSync, it lets you automatically sync stuff across your devices. And since it replaces Google Docs, it also lets you have your Google Docs file right on your file system (which is a sorta anti-cloud behavior if you think about it). Currently it’s available on Windows, Mac, and Android devices, but expect it to hit iOS soon as well. And probably many more.

Google Drive indeed made a lot of headlines, but it also sparked up a lot of discussions regarding cloud storage services, mainly Dropbox. There is a lot of arguments about it, several argue that Google Drive aggressive pricing will drive users from Dropbox, while another argue that Dropbox has more features than Google Drive. Some argue that Google’s ubiquity will win in the end while others argue that Dropbox has the advantage of being the smaller company. With the launch of Google Drive, a lot of people is trying to predict the life and death of Dropbox.

iCloud

However, the way I see it, Google Drive actually competes more directly with iCloud, Apple cloud-syncing service, instead of Dropbox. Why would I say so? Simply because Google Drive launches with not just an SDK, but also several apps already using that SDK. While DropBox have an API as well, Dropbox is more of a product for syncing files then a service running across various apps. Whereas Google Drive and iCloud is a service that could easily be used to sync various apps across multiple devices.

Right now Google Drive SDK only works on web application (which I suppose would be a nice addition to internet-based operating system like, oh I don’t know, Chrome OS?), but it doesn’t take a genius to see that an SDK for Android app would quickly follow. I’ve been longing for Android apps to sync between devices (so I don’t have to play Angry Birds from the very beginning for each new device I got), and I guess Google Drive is the answer. So, expect more Google Drive integration on the next generations of Android phones.

And I don’t think it will stop at that, lately Google has been pretty adamant in unifying their services, and Google Drive would fit very nicely in their unification strategy. With Google Drive you could have a single place to store your files on Google server, much like how Google+ is the only place for everything social on Google. Right now it’s only docs, but it could easily expand to pictures (Picasa? Google+ Instant Upload?), music (Google Music?), apps (Google Play?), and even codes (Google Code?). Integrated over various Google services, Google Drive could enhance the experience.

Dropbox

So, should Dropbox be worried?
I believe they’ve been worried about this since their inception, so I’m sure they already have some ideas on how to counter Google Drive. Not just that, I feel that Dropbox has a way, way better user experience than Google Drive, it has shell integration, file status indicators, and a lot of other important little things that made them a winner over Google Drive for most people.

Another thing Dropbox has over Google Drive is user traction, these days I see more and more people use Dropbox, even non-techies. Sure, Google is able to promote Google Drive all over their service to try getting people to use it, but look at Google+, they’ve been promoting it like hell yet that doesn’t really help the situation.

Anyway, I could be totally wrong here, a lot of people predicted that Google Drive won’t be just another Dropbox clone and their predictions turned out to be wrong after all. But hey, it is never wrong to image a fun future =D

And whoa, I haven’t blogged for a while, but I manage to type this whole thing on my laptop in a hotel room simply because I’m bored but feeling productive. Oh, and the fact that the internet connection is pretty crappy probably helps too πŸ˜„

Love

It’s Valentine day!
Let’s talk about love, shall we?

Love

And no, I’m not talking about love between couples or any kind of relationship, I’m talking about a different kind of love. One that gets less talked about, even though it’s as powerful as the kind of love that occurs between two individuals. I’m talking about the love for creations.

Love for creations is the love you have for the creative works of another person. It’s the love you have for your favorite TV series, your favorite novel, your favorite comic book, or any other kind of creative works. It’s the love for stuff that’s shared by everyone, so the love for your shoes or your gadget doesn’t count, since what happens to your belongings happens to you alone.

(for example, when Darth Vader reveals himself to be Luke’s father, millions other viewers would also feel your astonishment, however, when your favorite shirt gets torn, only you would feel the sadness).

mangastream

So, what prompts me to talk about this? Well, earlier this week, Mangastream announced that they will no longer scanlate Shonen Jump series due to a complaint from VIZ Media. Then, this morning, Red Hawk Scans also announced that they will stop scanlating Shonen Jump series because of the same complaint. This is very troublesome for me since both of them scanlate some series I really care about such as One Piece, Hunter X Hunter, Beelzebub, or Bakuman.

Just get it from the official channel, you said? First, tankobons are like 2 months late compared to the chapters on Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, so I would be at least eight chapters late, it’s just not acceptable. And that’s for japanese tankoubon, it would take more times until the english one is released since they have to translate it first.

Well, they actually have this new thing called Shonen Jump Alpha, which is an application that will receive new manga chapter weekly, just like a manga magazine in Japan, only in digital form. This leads to the second problem though, it’s only available for US and Canada! The library is pretty limited as well, there are only 6 series that readers can subscribe. Oh, not to mention that it will still be three chapters late =/

The third and last problem, is the translation. I definitely am not fluent in Japanese, but I can tell that the translation from scanlation group is way better than the official translation. It’s completely unbelievable that some professional, paid translators would get beaten by some guys who translate for free and doing it in their spare time. Beaten by some guys who do it purely out of their love.

And now we’re getting back to the love part. The power of love is pretty scary isn’t it? These guys, the scanlator, the translator, spent their precious time for free just so the rest of world can enjoy something they love. Well, I have been a scanlator once, both forming my own group as well as working for Mangastream, so I know first-hand that scanlators do what they do just because they love the series they are working on.

Kickstarter

Kickstarter: Harnessing the power of love...

It’s very interesting to see how far people would go for something they love. Kickstarter is one of those who has managed to harness this power of love really, really well. One example is Order of the Stick. It’s an epic webcomic based on Dungeon and Dragons (seriously, check it out, it’s amazing) which recently used Kickstarter to get funding for printing the comics into book form. Guess what? It blew past its target and now has been 1000% funded, all thanks to love (from its fans).

It’s also very interesting to see how some people never seem to understand love. VIZ Media seems to be one of those people. Did they really think people don’t buy manga because there’s a FREE alternative? Hell no, it’s because there’s a BETTER alternative. And true fans usually go to the one that provides better quality. Not to mention that these true fans are the ones who would spent their money on what they love.

All in all, internet has enabled us to easily share things, it has enabled us to find other persons with the same love. And thanks to that, the power of love has been amplified on the internet. It is interesting to see if anyone could make use of such power, so far only open source community has benefited from it.

As for the manga series? Well, I believe in the power of the Internet and its users.
You can’t stop love.