Right About Lively, PC Mag Closes, Corporate Speak

Right About Lively: A couple of months ago when Google launched Lively, their Second Life competitor, I speculated that they had gone outside the reach of their core business competencies. Most people did not agree with me. Turns out I was right. Google is closing down Lively next month.

PC Mag Closes: On a sadder note, PC Magazine is closing down the print aspect of their business. Call me soft, but I still feel nostalgic about magazines even though I rarely read them any more. Those of you that read MBG, know that magazines were an early source of knowledge for me, acting kind of as a dead tree, analog Internet before the real internet came along. PC Magazine, 27 years old, launched when the PC first came out. Within months it became is thick as a catalog, and I would read it cover to cover. Now, I can’t remember the last time I read a PC Mag, but it has been a long time. Still, I’m feeling a little sense of loss, kind of like then Bill Gates retired.

Corporate Speak: Ever notice that when a publisher loses money, like the recent loss reported by THQ, that the President of the company always say they will focus on:

“fewer, higher-quality games.”

Or they will be:

“Significantly improving our game quality against the core gamer”

While:

“aggressively aligning our cost to the market opportunity.”

And lastly, passing the blame:

“given the current economic environment.”

Seems to me they should have been doing all of that stuff all along. Does focusing on fewer higher quality games mean they were purposely making more, crappy quality games?

-Jeff Tunnell, Game Maker
Make It Big In Games

  • http://blog.IgenOukan.com Steven Egan

    “Seems to me they should have been doing all of that stuff all along. Does focusing on fewer higher quality games mean they were purposely making more, crappy quality games?”

    Yes. Yes it does. It's the same as being a writer. You can write for the money, or you can write for the love of writing with the income as a means to support your passion. I'd say it's an art thing, and that games, as an art form, are subject to this rule in general. You only have so many master pieces, so how else do they plan to pay the bills?

  • http://blog.IgenOukan.com Steven Egan

    “Seems to me they should have been doing all of that stuff all along. Does focusing on fewer higher quality games mean they were purposely making more, crappy quality games?”

    Yes. Yes it does. It's the same as being a writer. You can write for the money, or you can write for the love of writing with the income as a means to support your passion. I'd say it's an art thing, and that games, as an art form, are subject to this rule in general. You only have so many master pieces, so how else do they plan to pay the bills?

    • James H.

      Indeed. I presently work for a game developer that's entirely work-for-hire. To survive in that business – and this shop has done it for seven years running, with numerous ups and downs along the way – means taking a razor-sharp cost and time perspective towards everything, constantly looking out for efficiency improvements, and being smart about avoiding crunch(albeit still seeing it as a necessary evil to hit milestone deadlines). The quality has to suffer, with schedules so short that the programming staff is perpetually stretched thin. For me, it's a good way to stretch my technical design skills – to work towards the simplest possible featureset that can provide decent gameplay.

      But — why do we get this work, doing bottom-of-the-barrel licenses from no-name, green publishers, in the first place? Why is the work even there? Seemingly, it's because of that perpetual belief in the power of a license. Someone thinks it's worthwhile.

  • James H.

    Indeed. I presently work for a game developer that's entirely work-for-hire. To survive in that business – and this shop has done it for seven years running, with numerous ups and downs along the way – means taking a razor-sharp cost and time perspective towards everything, constantly looking out for efficiency improvements, and being smart about avoiding crunch(albeit still seeing it as a necessary evil to hit milestone deadlines). The quality has to suffer, with schedules so short that the programming staff is perpetually stretched thin. For me, it's a good way to stretch my technical design skills – to work towards the simplest possible featureset that can provide decent gameplay.

    But — why do we get this work, doing bottom-of-the-barrel licenses from no-name, green publishers, in the first place? Why is the work even there? Seemingly, it's because of that perpetual belief in the power of a license. Someone thinks it's worthwhile.

  • http://www.flashgamesretreat.com defanual

    Yeah, I feel the pain regarding the decline of gaming magazines (although, admittedly I don't read many offline either apart from EDGE), kinda like the decline of printed manuals in games/software products (yes adobe, you).

    “Does focusing on fewer higher quality games mean they were purposely making more, crappy quality games?”

    My thoughts exactly, never understood why they wait the the sh*t to hit the fan so to speak to start focusing on quality rather then quantity and breadth (we need our racing game, we need our own gta etc etc).

    As for Lively, never got it nor new about until you mentioned it in that post, so I'm not surprised you ended right about it. If I remember rightly, the uk google exec said on a uk program that they have something like a 100 ideas/products a month, so expect a few turkeys methinks!

  • http://www.flashgamesretreat.com defanual

    Yeah, I feel the pain regarding the decline of gaming magazines (although, admittedly I don't read many offline either apart from EDGE), kinda like the decline of printed manuals in games/software products (yes adobe, you).

    “Does focusing on fewer higher quality games mean they were purposely making more, crappy quality games?”

    My thoughts exactly, never understood why they wait the the sh*t to hit the fan so to speak to start focusing on quality rather then quantity and breadth (we need our racing game, we need our own gta etc etc).

    As for Lively, never got it nor new about until you mentioned it in that post, so I'm not surprised you ended right about it. If I remember rightly, the uk google exec said on a uk program that they have something like a 100 ideas/products a month, so expect a few turkeys methinks!

  • jgostylo

    Maybe I am alone in my feelings for the print magazine business, but I am the opposite of nostalgic. Ever since broadband every single mag I picked up was a refresher course in what I read weeks ago. And I don't know how many times I read articles in dead tree print where I actually looked for the search functionality, especially if I had already read it.

    It had one saving grace for me in that with print I tend to read things I normally would not and every so often I would come out better for it. That still happens with the internet, but not quite as much. Anyway, just like retail stores, I tend to have a feeling of loathing toward print mags as an expensive way to do something inefficiently and incompletely. Good for what they did when they were innovative. Time to move on.

    Speaking of doing simple things in an inefficient and expensive way, good to see that Lively is shutting down too. I have no idea why anyone would want to duplicate Second Life. I feel like that game owes me something for trying it out.

    So the last thing you need to take at face value is what a CEO says in a press report. Usually is a big dissemination of non-information formed to sway opinion. Always sounds better than “we screwed up”. I think you were pointing in that direction already, but just to crystalize it.

    Man I am being curmudgeonly today. But, given the current economic environment…

  • jgostylo

    Maybe I am alone in my feelings for the print magazine business, but I am the opposite of nostalgic. Ever since broadband every single mag I picked up was a refresher course in what I read weeks ago. And I don't know how many times I read articles in dead tree print where I actually looked for the search functionality, especially if I had already read it.

    It had one saving grace for me in that with print I tend to read things I normally would not and every so often I would come out better for it. That still happens with the internet, but not quite as much. Anyway, just like retail stores, I tend to have a feeling of loathing toward print mags as an expensive way to do something inefficiently and incompletely. Good for what they did when they were innovative. Time to move on.

    Speaking of doing simple things in an inefficient and expensive way, good to see that Lively is shutting down too. I have no idea why anyone would want to duplicate Second Life. I feel like that game owes me something for trying it out.

    So the last thing you need to take at face value is what a CEO says in a press report. Usually is a big dissemination of non-information formed to sway opinion. Always sounds better than “we screwed up”. I think you were pointing in that direction already, but just to crystalize it.

    Man I am being curmudgeonly today. But, given the current economic environment…

  • http://yorkshirerifles.blogspot.com/ Steve

    That “corporate speak” probably means that they'll be sacking developers and making the rest work harder/longer under some regime of terror borrowed from the Stasi.

  • http://yorkshirerifles.blogspot.com/ Steve

    That “corporate speak” probably means that they'll be sacking developers and making the rest work harder/longer under some regime of terror borrowed from the Stasi.

  • http://www.redthumbgames.com joshuadallman

    Not surprised about Lively, it was a turkey from the beginning. It's another case of a company creating a product and then trying to create demand for the product, instead of having a user base just dying to get their hands on the product as soon as it comes out because it fills such a great need. I was going to send you a note when I read the Lively news to say that you were right, but you're usually two steps ahead of me anyway :)

    I would feel nostalgic too about PC Magazine closing down, except that when they first started it really was more of a hobbyist or trade magazine, and once they went into the mainstream (when computers themselves went mainstream), it became a giant advertisement bible with no news specialized enough for me to keep interest. And while print continues to move online, it's continuing to do so in interesting ways – take the print magazine National Geographic, which just got into games with its first title “Herod's Lost Tomb” and plans to continue long from there.

    As for the “bullshit-speak” by THQ, I've heard the same type of PR spin from the head of nearly every company I've ever worked for, and I guess you expect it after a while. Still, it is funny to hear, especially that last line, “given the current economic environment.” There was an article just 2 days ago stating just the opposite: “thriving video game industry hits right buttons in troubled economy” (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus…)

    EA's quarterly sales went from $640m to almost $900m and the THQ prez is saying “given the current economic environment”?!?! Given the current economic environment, dude, you should be raking in cash hand over fist!!!

  • http://www.redthumbgames.com joshuadallman

    Not surprised about Lively, it was a turkey from the beginning. It's another case of a company creating a product and then trying to create demand for the product, instead of having a user base just dying to get their hands on the product as soon as it comes out because it fills such a great need. I was going to send you a note when I read the Lively news to say that you were right, but you're usually two steps ahead of me anyway :)

    I would feel nostalgic too about PC Magazine closing down, except that when they first started it really was more of a hobbyist or trade magazine, and once they went into the mainstream (when computers themselves went mainstream), it became a giant advertisement bible with no news specialized enough for me to keep interest. And while print continues to move online, it's continuing to do so in interesting ways – take the print magazine National Geographic, which just got into games with its first title “Herod's Lost Tomb” and plans to continue long from there.

    As for the “bullshit-speak” by THQ, I've heard the same type of PR spin from the head of nearly every company I've ever worked for, and I guess you expect it after a while. Still, it is funny to hear, especially that last line, “given the current economic environment.” There was an article just 2 days ago stating just the opposite: “thriving video game industry hits right buttons in troubled economy” (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus…)

    EA's quarterly sales went from $640m to almost $900m and the THQ prez is saying “given the current economic environment”?!?! Given the current economic environment, dude, you should be raking in cash hand over fist!!!

  • Logan Foster

    I think you forgot one more comment there Jeff:

    “Now that we have 'trimmed the fat' by laying off employees and cancelling creative projects over sequels, and got the share holders on-side with us once again, who wants to vote to give us all big fat bonuses!?”

    Ok ya its not true, but I'm pretty certain that the one thing you will never see these fat cats at the top of the chain do is forgo their bonuses for running their companies so poorly.

  • Logan Foster

    I think you forgot one more comment there Jeff:

    “Now that we have 'trimmed the fat' by laying off employees and cancelling creative projects over sequels, and got the share holders on-side with us once again, who wants to vote to give us all big fat bonuses!?”

    Ok ya its not true, but I'm pretty certain that the one thing you will never see these fat cats at the top of the chain do is forgo their bonuses for running their companies so poorly.

    • Logan Foster

      Oh I forgot to post my 2 cents on magazines…

      As much as they are somewhat outdated with regards to cutting edge news, I honestly have to say as I have gotten older I have really enjoyed having access to a physical newspaper or magazine that I can sit down with somewhere in my house and just relax away from my electronics. Here I can relax and form an opinion about the article in question on my own time, with facts that have been carefully collected and processed (since the magazine and author is liable for what they print) to give me a much broader depth of knowledge than what I will find real-time on the net.

      While I did not read PC Mag much, it was one of those magazines that was fun to flip through and discover something I might not normally have taken the time to read about. Cya later PC Mag.

      • DaveMyers

        I agree on wanting to sit somewhere quietly reading in the house occasionally. Computer Gaming World was my all-time favorite mag to read slowly through before they switched formats for the lazy reader and the big advertiser.

        • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

          Yeah, don't you kind of miss the little bit of excitement when one of your favorite magazines would hit the stands or arrive in your mailbox? It was always kind of a new take on the world.

          I really miss CGW from back in the day, but even more than that I miss the rush from an old magazine called Softalk. It was so awesome because it was back in the days before computers and software became commercial. It was eye opening and exciting every time that magazine came.

  • Logan Foster

    Oh I forgot to post my 2 cents on magazines…

    As much as they are somewhat outdated with regards to cutting edge news, I honestly have to say as I have gotten older I have really enjoyed having access to a physical newspaper or magazine that I can sit down with somewhere in my house and just relax away from my electronics. Here I can relax and form an opinion about the article in question on my own time, with facts that have been carefully collected and processed (since the magazine and author is liable for what they print) to give me a much broader depth of knowledge than what I will find real-time on the net.

    While I did not read PC Mag much, it was one of those magazines that was fun to flip through and discover something I might not normally have taken the time to read about. Cya later PC Mag.

  • DaveMyers

    I agree on wanting to sit somewhere quietly reading in the house occasionally. Computer Gaming World was my all-time favorite mag to read slowly through before they switched formats for the lazy reader and the big advertiser.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    Yeah, don't you kind of miss the little bit of excitement when one of your favorite magazines would hit the stands or arrive in your mailbox? It was always kind of a new take on the world.

    I really miss CGW from back in the day, but even more than that I miss the rush from an old magazine called Softalk. It was so awesome because it was back in the days before computers and software became commercial. It was eye opening and exciting every time that magazine came.