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Brier Dudley's Blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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May 14, 2008 4:32 PM

ION Game Conference: Grand Theft Auto IV "is the future"

Posted by Brier Dudley

That's according to Scott Jennings, lead designer at NCSoft.

During an ION Game Conference panel discussion on what online games will be like in 2013, Jennings said it will be like Hollywood with a limited number of blockbuster games that take $100 million and 1,000 people to develop.

"World of Warcraft" is the reference online blockbuster, but GTA is now setting expectations for quality and richness and "you know they're working on" an online version, he said.

"That is the future because GTA, more than WOW, is setting the benchmark for what people are going to expect in their next video game,'' he said.

Because so much money is riding on blockbusters, don't expect a lot of experimentation. Instead small "indie" games is where you'll find more creativity, similar to art house films vs. mainstream Hollywood fare, he said.

Other panelists said online gaming is going to go mainstream and the industry will become much more competitive, which will drive down development and operating costs for game companies. Other predictions included migration toward free play supported by microtransactions, a growing need for online community moderators and perhaps the emergence of some breakout games by hobbyist developers using new game development toolkits.

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May 14, 2008 1:16 PM

Sony gives pricing, more details of new family-friendly MMO

Posted by Brier Dudley

Sony's two-phase push to broaden the appeal of its massively multiplayer online games begins later this year with the release of "Free Realms," a game aimed primarily at boys and girls aged 9 to 14.

To put that in context, the average player of Sony Online Entertainment's games is 31 and 85 percent are male, the unit's president, John Smedley said during his keynote today at the ION Game conference in Seattle.

"If we're going to expand this market, this is something we believe is essential to change," he said.

A screenshot:


Continue reading this post ...

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May 14, 2008 9:35 AM

Gates brings journos to CEO Summit, so where's the coverage?

Posted by Brier Dudley

I'm not sure why Bill Gates brought so many A-list journalists this year to his annual shindig for business leaders to yack about the future of technology.

Charlie Rose, Tom Friedman, Tom Brokaw, Michael Kinsley and Maria Bartiromo are all mingling with the moneybags this year.

It used to be that Gates and Microsoft alone had enough star power to lure the biggest names in business.

Twelve years on, the CEO Summit is still drawing some household names, including Gates buddy Warren Buffett and former GE boss Jack Welch, although others may opt to get their Gates fix at Davos or the Wall Street Journal's "D" conference in a few weeks.

Given the crowd, it's always been a closed-door event, but Microsoft trickles out enough details to let people know that big names are coming to Redmond and dining on halibut or Copper River salmon at Bill's place in Medina.

The usual routine is that plebian journalists can watch a telecast of the opening speech that Gates presents at the event. Sometimes they'll bring a handful of executives out for a token panel discussion with reporters.

This year's news dollop suggests that the executives will be pitched on Microsoft's new advertising technology, more than mobile or PC computing. Instead of getting Tablet PCs, they'll get to play with various Surface computers, including the vertical ones that Microsoft's been showing since the start of the year.

But the big question is, if Microsoft's inviting select journalists behind the curtain, does that mean we'll finally get news coverage from inside the event?

Among the stories I'm waiting for: What do CEOs think about Microsoft's new technologies, the outlook on tech spending in the downturn, outsourcing as labor costs rise, executives' take on Vista vs. OS X and whether any of the other tycoons will follow Bill's path to philanthropy.

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May 14, 2008 12:00 AM

Zillow boss and ex-Expedia pal's new venture

Posted by Brier Dudley

I wonder if Rich Barton is going into the glazing business.

The Zillow chief executive and a group of fellow online travel veterans are running a "stealth" company called in Sausalito, Calif. is being cagey about its mission and trickling out details, like today's announcement listing its governing board. I wish they'd just announce their intentions; these choreographed PR efforts to build anticipation are starting to feel dated and tiresome.

Barton started the company with Robert Hohman, a former Microsoft engineer and early Expedia team member who was most recently president of Expedia's

Joining their board are Erik Blachford, another former Expedia CEO who is currently leading TerraPass; TripAdvisor Chief Executive Stephen Kaufer; and Rusty Rueff, a former executive at Electronic Arts, PepsiCo and SNOCAP.

So, a travel entertainment company?

(If they plan to go international, they may bump heads with Able Structural Glazing, a British door and window company operating

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May 2008



Demo of the Week:

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.