20+ years and still on top of game sales

I am talking about Tetris, of course! Created around 1984-1985 has been a best seller for more than 20 years.

Every time a new console comes out one of the first games to be released is Tetris (plus some variants) and what is amazing is that it just keeps selling!

In the mobile space it’s not different. If you check out the monthly chart published by ELSPA, for example, you will see that the February 2007 UK mobile chart lists Tetris in third position and was second last month.

How is this possible? Well, I think that Tetris shows how all the most important rules of Casual Games should be applied and demonstrates that if they are well balanced will generate an endless interest from gamers in all times.
Here’s a blog post by Tom Hume written after “Casualty Europe” 2006, it’s from a presentation by Jason Kapalka of PopCap called “10 ways to make a bad casual game“. I remembered Tom’s post, but while searching on the web I also found another post from a Microsoft person, Kim Pallister, Casuality Session: Designing casual games.

My favorite rules (deduced from the worst mistakes according to Jason) are number 1, 8 and 9. I really think that the winning combination of a casual game is to make it easy to pick up (so no need to read or really just 1 minute to know the basic rules) and hard to master. Easy to pick up means that users will start playing quickly and see how the game works and get sucked into the game world, hard to master will make sure that users don’t get bored too quickly. Hard to master does not mean it is complicated, but that with many little things you can achieve a higher level, more points, better rewards.
Games like racing or war with too many power-ups, for example, are fun for a few hours or days, but then become boring. It must be something that you get little by little.

I think that Tetris matches the most important rules, SUPER easy to pick up, years to master. Simple graphics, you don’t need a modern computer with 4 processors to run it (it was designed in the Eighties!).

If you checked out the ELSPA chart you will have seen Puzzle Bubble in that list. The game is younger (1994), but same rules apply. Needless to say these are among my favorite games (and also the only ones I still play).

It comes as no surprise that in the mobile space these are the games that still sell the most, even if sometimes the phone keypad is not the best joystick even for these games (think of when it starts running fast!).

Music on your phone

M:Metrics has just made a new press release with some juicy data about mobile phones and the use of these devices as music players: MOBILE MUSIC USAGE IS CLIMBING, BUT NOT ALL MUSICPHONES ARE CREATED EQUAL.

I’m particularly happy about this press release because while I’m not an expert analyst, I was actually involved in the creation of this press release. My contribution was needed because of the issue of identifying the devices that should actually be part of this analysis. We hear every day about music phones, feature phones, smart phones, etc, but what are they? Which are the detailed features or characteristics that make up a music phone?

Internally we discussed a lot about this and everyone provided his own view. The devices taken into account in this analysis are the result of our internal discussion.

Sometimes it is really hard to build a list of devices defining a set of rules. When you first define these rules you will end up including some device that you did not want or miss one that you wanted to be part of the list. An example is the Motorola V3, it can play MP3’s, it can be connected to the PC and you can sideload songs from your computer and you have a tiny music player, but does this make it a music phone? In my opinion it does not. The music player is slow and ugly. You can’t build playlists, you can move to the next or previous song, but you have to go back to the main list. It has a lot of memory, but doesn’t really compare to the 2-4GB of an iPod Nano, it’s nearer to the first versions of the iPod shuffle.
Compared to the Sony Ericsson W810i, the V3 is nothing when you compare music-features.

So what is the difference? When does a mobile phone (that was born as an apparatus to make and receive calls while on the move) turn into a device to also play music? Is it the little walkman button that make it an iPod competitor?
Should we talk about Music-optimized? Music-optimized it means that it had all those features that you would expect from an MP3 player, the appropriate keys to start and stop music, to skip to the next song and then all the interface and features to build a playlist, to see the available songs in an easy and quick manner.

It is all very interesting, because of course the fragmentation that exists in the mobile space makes it really hard to define a single rule that will match all these requirements. Is the iPhone part of this family? It doesn’t really have a key that you can press to start music. Is a blackberry a music-optimized device simply because I could use the rocker to move to the next songs with an appropriate software installed?

Very interesting discussion and collecting very different points of you. If you have your own opinion of what a music-phone and a music-optimized phone is, please let me know.

Download Music and More At The Pump

Thanks to Dmitry I have found this great press release about a company, Dresser Inc, that has presented a new gas pump with ringtones included.

According to the Dressr this is the Future of Fueling.

Luckily they have partnered with a solid company, Microsoft.

Read more about the OvationĀ² iX directly on their site.

Here’s also a picture of the “revolutionary” gas pump.

OvationĀ² iX

Mr. Dan Harrell, vice president of Global Product Architecture for Dresser Wayne, said:

Working with Microsoft has enabled us to bring unrivaled innovations to consumers the gas pump. With our latest fuel dispenser and Windows CE-based applications, consumers can now be more productive and enjoy some of the same online luxuries right at the pump that used to be confined to their PC. What was recently a mere concept is now becoming a reality in which consumers can experience a new world of interactive fueling, whether it’s downloading media, getting printed directions, or reading the latest news headlines while filling their tanks.

I had thought Apple was innovative, but this certainly demonstrates how Microsoft can reach places where no one else has goes, yet. I wish I had thought about this before!
Thank you Microsoft for opening all these new doors to me and thank you Dresser Wayne for making this a reality.

3 music store

While browsing on 3’s site in UK I noticed a nice banner that invites the visitors to enter a new online shop.

3MusicStore is now open and already has 500,000 titles. What is so interesting? Is that the site sells everything for 99p, about 1.4 Euro. It’s a little bit higher than services such as iTunes, that sells songs for 99 eurocent (and 79p in UK), but 3MusicStore adds something. Something that seems very interesting to me. All songs purchased on the site can be downloaded both on the mobile phone AND on the PC. This service clearly opens the gates to MP3 phones such as the latest Sony Ericsson devices (W810i, W850i, W950i, etc).

So how is this different from iTunes? Well, I have it on my phone, I can be on the move, hear a song I like on the radio, open the site on my phone and buy it.
Later I will go home and also download it on my PC.

This is certainly a big hit in the iTunes+iPod concept that Apple has. Sony Ericsson is certainly scoring a point here.
I wonder if the iPhone will turn into reality and if Apple will sign a deal with 3. Wouldn’t it be a perfect couple?

On the other side, Italy shows that while we are ahead on the TV matters, we’re behind about music. 3 in Italy offers a service that only shares the name, 3MusicStore, unfortunately songs cost 2.5 Euro each and videoclips cost 3 Euro each. Dual-download (phone and PC) is not available. There are selected songs that cost only 1 Euro, but it’s a limited offer for a limited time (this week there are 8 songs from Jamiroquai). Hopefully the Italian site will soon follow the UK path!

Microsoft first to bat with direct-to-television movie downloads

Via AppleInsider: “The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant said it plans to offer over 1,000 hours of content by the end of the year“.
And then “Microsoft’s Xbox live will only offer film downloads for rent. Customers will have a window period of two weeks from the time they first purchase films to they expire. However, once a customer begins watching a flick, they’ll have only 24 hours to finish.

I bet this is for US residents only.

This is also supposed to be the plan of Sony and the PS3.

Buying games online or renting them online can be very powerful. You’re home, bored, turn your Xbox on, pick a game and buy it within 2-3 clicks. Super!

I bet this will work with Movies too.

Apple’s iTV

Interesting article from Roughly Drafted about Apple’s iTV and specifically about the fact that strangely enough Apple has pre-announced a product that will be available in 4 to 6 months from now.

I agree with the idea that 802.11n is probably needed for the iTV to be successful, but I also think that it’s another way to let the majors know that Apple is serious about video downloads. It’s another way to say “Hey, you should join iTMS, because we’re going to broadcast your movies directly on TV, so call us if you want to be there”.