Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Monetization Game: Moore calls current gen a burning platform


This past Saturday I had the chance to moderate the keynote panel at Play: The Berkeley Digital Media Conference, an annual Haas Business School conference that covers a variety of tech, media, and business issues. It was a gorgeous day to be back at Cal where I graduated, and in a nice added touch, Cal stomped UCLA down in LA.

The keynote panel was entitled “The Monetization Game,” and the panelists included Peter Moore, president of EA Sports, Neil Young, president of ngmoco, and Kai Hwuang, co-founder of RedOctane, plus little ol’ me.  The topic was as broad as they come: How is the video game industry changing the way it’s monetizing the sales of games?

I brought an outline that ranged from discussing the emergence of social games, smart phone games, retail versus digital distribution, next generation consoles, the recession, death of the music genre, and more. we had one hour to discuss it all, and we covered almost everything in front of a 90% packed auditorium. IGN, Games Radar, and Kotaku covered it.

Here are their stories:

IGN: EA: Core Business Model a ‘Burning Platform’

Kotaku: Talking Points Brought to you Mostly By Peter Moore

Kotaku: Guitar Hero, Madden, Eliminate Play the Money Game

GamesRadar’s page was broken tonight. I’ll update their link when it’s back up.

There should be video of the conference available in a few days, too. I’ll post the link when it’s ready.

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Scribblenauts game developer makes a risky bet on being original

Everyone loves original games. But few developers take the risk of making them in the video game industry.

Enter Jeremiah Slaczka, the creative director at game developer 5th Cell, dropped out of high school in his junior year. Working with his partner Joseph Tringali, he made a string of licensed cell phone games to get their company off the ground. Then they decided to risk everything they had to make an original video game called Drawn to Life, and they did it again with another game, Scribblenauts.


In 2006, while living with his parents in Bellevue, Wash., Slaczka successfully pitched the game Drawn to Life to THQ, one of the biggest makers of video games. The drawing game was an original Nintendo DS handheld game that went on to sell more than a million units. Drawn to Life spawned a sequel and a spin-off, rewarding the studio with success and empowering Slaczka to proclaim 5th Cell would never work on a licensed game again.

In the video game industry, Slaczka’s proclamation is bold. For many developers, it’s just a pipe dream to work on their own original titles. The hit-driven video game industry, like the movie business, regularly relies on sequels and licensed properties to generate sales. This year, after a slew of recession-leery publishers have pushed their games out of the competitive fall lineup, only a few original games remain.

One of those original titles belongs to 5th Cell. Scribblenauts, the company’s fifth DS game, is an innovative puzzle-action title enabling players to use tens of thousands of words, which turn into objects to solve puzzles. The inventive Scribblenauts won best original and best handheld game at the E3 game trade show this year by the Game Critics Awards. The game shipped Sept. 15 to mostly positive reviews, scoring an above-average 81 on the review aggregator, Metacritic. Here’s the story of how the company survived, first by making crappy mobile games just to get its foot in the door, and then eventually investing everything it could in making games that nobody else was doing.

See the full story at

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