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Jacob McCourt

Gaming Case Study – Double Fine Productions

I have an admiration for Double Fine Productions and not just because they have made a few great games since their inception in 2000. Many have considered the San Francisco based company’s games to be critically acclaimed commercial flops; winning awards with titles like “Best Game No One Played” more than once would likely not be an award that most people would hold up with high regard. My admiration for the company is founded on the way that they have changed the way their business operates. When their two first games fell into publishing issues, lawsuits and subsequent poor sales, they completely changed multiple facets of their business to survive. On the brink of extinction, they tried an original approach to accomplish said revival.The company was formed at the beginning of the century by Tim Schafer and LucasArts workmates David Dixon and Jonathon Menzies. After working on several successful adventure games under the LucasArts game label (The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango), Schafer decided to branch out on his own. The studio’s first game Psychonauts took five years to create and was not without its own set of problems.About a year before release, the game’s publisher, Microsoft Game Studios pulled out of the game’s publishing deal. They did find another publisher, the arguably smaller Majesco Entertainment (NASDAQ:COOL) and the game was released in April 2005 with few changes including changing the release platforms to include the PS2 and PC. The critically acclaimed game did very poorly at retail, selling only 120K units worldwide in its first ten weeks on shelves (for reference, the best-selling game on the platform, Halo 2, a game released on the same platform a few months prior, sold 6 million copies in its first 10 weeks). With a game in development for almost five years, costing almost 12… Read More

Winnipeg’s NHL Future, by the Numbers

After fifteen years, the city of Winnipeg can finally throw their collective arms in the air; they succeeded. True North Sports and Entertainment announced the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers organization from the Atlanta Spirit Group on May 31, 2011. The group that had taken ownership of the team in 2004 sold the team for $170M. The future of the team might still hang in the balance, and this article is not to provide an opinion of the relocation, but rather to show you some interesting numbers behind the purchase.15This is the number of years since the Jets’ move from Winnipeg to Phoenix, Arizona.  The Winnipeg Jets played their last game in the province on April 28th, 1996 – a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs. They went on to lose that series and move to Phoenix.60,000,000This is the amount of money the league’s 29 other teams will have to pay to relocate the franchise from Atlanta to Winnipeg. This number will only be significant if…50%+1, 75%…the Board of Governors of the NHL carry out a majority vote (50%+1) in favour of relocating the team. This same board must be 75% in favour in order for the team to be sold to True North.3,561Three thousand, five hundred sixty-one is the number of kilometers by car between the MTS Center in Winnipeg and the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, FL. This is the distance that the Winnipeg Jets will have to travel to on a regular basis to face one of their divisional rivals, the Florida Panthers. The NHL has decided that the team’s division and conference will not change for one year while they decide which team(s)’ division/conference will be changed. Time to rack up those air miles, because even if you are tired, you still have… Read More

Zynga, the Social Gaming Behemoth

Farmville, CityVille, Mafia Wars, Texas Hold’Em Poker and CaféVille are some of the hottest properties owned by Zynga, a privately-held social gaming giant that has recently exploded onto the gaming scene. Although some might not equate the social game maker with real, large business, I’m here today to say the opposite. This sector of gaming is part of the future and Zynga is a large piece of it. Although there are risks, there are also certain factors like the number of acquisitions they’ve made, the executives they have hired, and their ballooning IPO valuation that might finally quiet the naysayers.Named after founder Mark Pincus’ late American Bulldog, the company was established in San Francisco in July 2007. The company focuses on games that “connect people through games” making “social games that are free and accessible for everyone to play.” Their first game, Texas Hold’Em Poker, launched in September 2007 and was the first game on Facebook to reach 10 million monthly users in March 2009. Since that time, all significant company numbers have exploded. The games are predominately on Facebook and are free to play, but offer ways for customers to advance faster or obtain special bonuses when paid for with real-world currency. This is how Zynga generates a large percentage of their revenues.As I mentioned previously, Zynga has made a large number of acquisitions in the last year – 14 in the last 12 months: CompanyLocation“Claim to Fame” Pre-AcquisitionAcquisition DateXPD MediaBeijing, ChinaIn “Start-Up” phase at acquisitionMay 2010Challenge GamesAustin, TexasGames: Warstorm and Ponzi (now closed)June 2010Unoh GamesTokyo, JapanMachitsuku!, Band Yarouyo!, and Kaizoku ChronicleAugust 2010Conduit LabsBoston, MassachusettsMusic games – LoudCrowd/Music PetsAugust 2010Dextrose AGFrankfurt, GermanyMakers the “Aves Engine”, a Video Game Engine to build games without Plug-insSeptember 2010Bonfire StudiosDallas, TexasOne of four startups formed in 2009 from member of the defunct Ensemble Studios makers of Age… Read More

THQ’s Homefront Woes

From the most popular games, coming from small teams sometimes consisting of a single man in the 1980s and 1990s to huge 500-man studios and 30+ million dollar projects now, video games have become big business. As for all other big businesses, product launches can make or break companies. One video game company faced such situation a few weeks ago with the launch of the anticipated Homefront video game.Homefront (developed by Kaos Studios) is played in a world largely different from the one we know today. In an alternate version of history, Kim Jong-il’s son takes power in North Korea after his father’s death in 2012. Additionally, the United States never rebounds from financial instability and its people are decimated by a new pandemic. The Greater Korean Republic (formed after the unification of North and South Korea), capitalizes and invades in 2025. You are thrown into play as a member of the American resistance in 2027 and the story rolls on from that point (Trailer: here).THQ Inc. (NASDAQ: THQI), the game’s publisher, had closed at $5.92 on the NASDAQ on March 14, the day before the game’s release, amid increasing buzz and a high volume of preorders. Just ten days earlier, the company’s VP Danny Bilson was praising the game’s high preorder numbers at 200,000 units. Often used as a successful forecasting metric, good preorder numbers can spell success for a game. However, on March 15, the bell rang on the stock exchange and THQ’s stock took a dive, dropping from $5.92 to $4.69 by days-end. Why did the company’s stock take such a dive?Even though preorders are considered a good metric for forecasting, review scores might be considered a better tool for forecasting  a game’s sales potential. Websites like Metacritic are often used in such determinations of sales potential. THQ utilized a technique called… Read More