Amazon ♥ Indies

Amazon (US) have opened a store for Mac and PC games from independent developers. The Indie Games storefront spotlights games from independent developers, as well as offering special deals and information on game development.

I’m not really a gamer, I’ve played a few in my time but I’d barely register as a casual gamer, and I always preferred my PC to a console. As such I don’t know what you’d class as an indie game, or if there was an issue with ‘discoverability’ before (a lot of indie developers seem to think there was).

Like most of us, I’ve seen the headline grabbing grand standing of the latest Halo launch and the cultural infiltration of Angry Birds. The fact that so many hits have come from Facebook, mobile platforms and the web suggested the little guys had finally found a way to market, or at least reduced the cost of development. The problem is, they’re typically for mobile platforms, which isn’t where hardcore gamers are.

So my guess is that Amazon’s play here is to follow its success in self-published ebooks, only with a bit more curation (looks like you have to qualify as an indie first). It’s obvious that there’s plenty of money to be made by independent games, and now Amazon wants to be the place to find them, again cutting out publishers/studios.

What’s interesting is it seems to be limited to Mac and PC games, though they already offer games for their Kindle tablets via the Amazon Appstore for Android. While mobile platforms seem to grab the headlines, the market for consoles is still vast, and with updates to the two big names due later this year, they’ll be around for a while to come yet. Continue reading

The End of Games Consoles

Rumours are growing that we’ll see a new version of the Xbox by the end of the year, the current model has been with us since 2005 so it’s probably due an overhaul, although some of the update may relate to what Microsoft plans to do with it as a platform, rather than simply to improve the hardware (I’ve written before about how Microsoft could own the living room).

An interesting developing the arena of games consoles is the emergence of Android-powered gaming devices, the likes of the OUYA and the GameStick. One argument for them seems to be about opening up gaming, which is often a closed platform controlled by the device’s manufacturer. The rise of gaming on phones and tablets certainly shows a relatively low-powered device can happily do the job (just look at the video showing the prototype of the GameStick in action) and app stores democratize distribution, allowing tiny developers to compete with the biggest, Android’s open nature also guarantees there is no lock-down.

The GameStick is hoping to retail at $79 (£50) while the OUYA, which has better specs, is available for pre-order at $99 (£62). The days of a single-function games machine retailing at several hundred pounds appear over. (To be fair, the PS3 and Xbox 360 do more than just play games and are now available for under £200.) In fact, as broadband speeds improve (and more importantly latency decreases) will the next generation of consoles be the last? Continue reading

Do We Need Smart TVs and Set-Top Boxes?

There’s been more news of the smart TVs ahead of CES but I’ve never really seen the point of them and have been dubious about their uptake. A recent survey found that only 15% of smart TV owners actually use them for anything other than watching TV. Mat Honan argues the reason is the terrible interfaces on the devices themselves, and while I agree with his comments I’m not sure that’s the whole story.

Having used Airplay a few times in the lead up to Christmas, I think I know what the industry should be doing: enabling wireless streaming support. I think Google have already figured this out, which is why they’ve sold the set-top box side of Motorola that they acquired last year and appear to be working on an open standard to compete against Apple’s Airplay. By streaming support, I mean support for as many wireless sharing protocols as possible.

Samsung already has a system for sharing (AllShare, based on Miracast, but proprietary), so too does HTC (Media Link) and LG have announced NFC and Miracast functionality for wireless streaming in their latest range, due to be launched at CES later this year. So manufacturers seem to know they need it, but a series of different protocols is as useless as not having anything, we need a standard (or at least a limited set, I’m thinking probably Airplay and one other). Continue reading

Steal this Idea: The Save Africa Game

Don’t ask me why, but occasionally my mind turns to the problem of Africa, of people living in poverty, dying of starvation or disease, people who seem to perpetually need our help. And therein lies the rub, because despite the billions we’ve poured into Africa we seem no closer to solving the problems.

My theory has been that we need to pick a nation, one with a stable and open-minded government, then attack the problems in that country as a showcase to the rest.  The help would mainly be through advice and expertise. The first issue is feeding the country, aside from the obvious issue that you can’t achieve anything if your people are starving, it avoids the need for handouts and frees up money used to buy in food for other things.

So you look at improving farming techniques, run schools for farmers on how to improve crop yields, simple stuff, tailored to their environment and crops, but enough so the country is capable not just of feeding itself, but also generating a surplus to sell. Continue reading

Kickstarter Stole My Idea

Okay, so that’s not strictly true, it’s just a bombastic title. I can still kick (no pun intended) myself for not realising a similar idea for people power. So I thought I would spell it out here (for posterity and to sooth my wounds).

The year was 2003 and I had stopped off in San Jose to stay with my parents for a while on on my way back from nine months of travelling. While I was there, late into the night and early hours as the rest of the family slept (I could sleep late) and my mum’s venerable Dell was free, I taught myself how to build websites with CSS instead of tables (which is what I’d previously used). I also taught myself some Javascript, some PHP and MySQL and I started to build some of my numerous websites (at one point I had so many a friend commented I could have started my own internet).

Many of those sites are now gone, but one of those early registered domains still exists in my portfolio. Fund a Film was an idea spawned from reading an article about a woman who had asked her site visitors to donate money to help her get out of debt (it may even have been Save Karyn). I figured that if people were prepared to donate (at that point) $13,000 to a stranger to help her out of a whole she created, why wouldn’t they do it for a chance to be part of making a movie? Continue reading

Trawling the Archives

One of the things I lost in the move from self-hosted to wordpress.com was my custom snippet post type.  It was an attempt to create a Tumblr-esque quick post mechanism, and it worked.  But the way the links were stored meant they didn’t get exported, so every thing in the snippets category lost its link to the source material and some where just orphaned headlines with no link or description.

So I’ve manually gone through and added source links and, in many cases, some information about the original article (some made no sense so out of context).

The process of adding the links doing forced me to re-read many of those articles and my predictions and comments and it made some interesting reading, so I thought I would sum a few of them up (some will make it to their own posts).

Tablet Computers

Back in 2008 I posted about the TechCrunch tablet, which evolved, through bitter dispute, into the JooJoo or whatever it was called, and promptly died a death.  I think the concept is still valid (a simpler tablet to the iPad) and the iPad has obviously proved we were on to something. Continue reading

I’m Not Convinced by Web TV

The big thing from CES seems to have been web-enabled TVs, again.  We seem to have been talking about them for some time, but they have yet to materialise in homes as far as I can see.

Watching this report from the BBC I didn’t see anything that would drive me out to buy a connected TV.

Now, I have a media centre PC, I’ve had one for years, so you could argue I already have a connected TV, I have access to the internet and online content.  I rarely use it for that though.  Why?  Well, because when I’m watching a program, I’m watching a program.  I don’t want to hide it while I look something up, I’d do that on a separate device (a tablet or laptop).  Which is what Scoble says in the report.  The negative point is it means looking away from a programme.

Continue reading