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Does Samsung Fear A Processor War?

October 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Kwon Oh-hyun has said he is not worried about a price war in the semiconductor industry next year even though the firm is rapidly expanding its production volume.

“We’ll have to wait and see how things will go next year, but there definitely will not be any game of chicken,” said Oh-hyun, according to Reuters, suggesting the firm will not take chip rivals head on.

Samsung has reported strong profits for 2014 owing to better-than-expected demand for PCs and server chips. Analysts have also forecast similar results for the coming year, so things are definitely looking good for the company.

It emerged last week that Samsung will fork out almost $15bn on a new chip facility in South Korea, representing the firm’s biggest investment in a single plant.

Samsung hopes the investment will bolster profits in its already well-established and successful semiconductor business, and help to maintain its lead in memory chips and grow beyond the declining sales of its smartphones.

According to sources, Samsung expects its chip production capacity to increase by a “low double-digit percentage” after the facility begins production, which almost goes against the CEO’s claims that it is not looking for a price war.

Last month, Samsung was found guilty of involvement in a price fixing racket with a bunch of other chip makers stretching back over a decade, and was fined €138m by European regulators.

An antitrust investigation into chips used in mobile device SIM cards found that Infineon, Philips and Samsung colluded to artificially manipulate the price of SIM card chips.

Courtesy-TheInq

Will The Chip Industry Take Fall?

October 14, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Microchip Technology has managed to scare Wall Street by warning of an industry downturn. This follows rumours that a number of US semiconductor makers with global operations are reducing demand for chips in regions ranging from Asia to Europe.

Microchip Chief Executive Steve Sanghi warned that the correction will spread more broadly across the industry in the near future. Microchip expects to report sales of $546.2 million for its fiscal second quarter ending in September. The company had earlier forecast revenue in a range of $560 million to $575.9 million. Semiconductor companies’ shares are volatile at the best of times and news like this is the sort of thing that investors do not want to hear.

Trading in Intel, whiich is due to report third quarter results tomorrow, was 2.6 times the usual volume. Micron, which makes dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, was the third-most traded name in the options market. All this seems to suggest that the market is a bit spooked and much will depend on what Chipzilla tells the world tomorrow as to whether it goes into a nosedive.

Courtesy-Fud

Symantec Exploring Possibility Of Splitting Business Up

October 9, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Security software maker Symantec Corp is in advanced negotiations to split its business into two entities – one that sells security programs and another that does data storage, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

An announcement may be a few weeks away, according to Bloomberg.

Symantec declined to comment on the report.

Reuters reported in April that Symantec, the biggest U.S. security software maker, was in the process of hiring banks to help advise on strategy and defend against possible activist investors.

Private equity firms were also looking at the possibility of breaking up Symantec into smaller pieces, some of which may also be attractive to industry peers, sources told Reuters at that time.

A breakup may position Symantec’s separated businesses as acquisition targets, given that large companies including EMC Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co are interested in the stand-alone security business or in an independent storage business, Bloomberg reported.

Earlier this year, the company, known for its Norton antivirus software, abruptly fired its CEO as it struggles to revive growth amid eroding PC sales.

Symantec, which also offers data storage products, has seen revenue growth turn negative in recent quarters, unlike the rest of the security software market, which is growing at least 10 percent to 15 percent annually.

The slowdown is partly due to eroding PC sales, affecting demand for its software, which often comes bundled with new computers. It has failed to gain a strong footing in the market for mobile security.

If it goes ahead with the breakup, Symantec would join technology companies that are spinning off operations in an attempt to become more agile and capitalize on faster-growing businesses.

 

Is Master Chief Returning To Halo 5?

October 8, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

In a recent interview with OXN, Mile Colter who plays Agent Locke in Halo Nightfall claims that his character is the primary character that people will be playing in the Halo 5 game. That is not to say that Master Chief will not have a significant role in Halo 5 as well.

Part of the campaign will apparently be Locke’s search for Master Chief. Still we don’t know if Locke is a friend or not, so it is obvious that the relationship between the two will be a big part of the story in Halo 5 according to our sources.

Hard to say how accurate this all is, but we do know that we don’t have much longer to wait till the Nightfall series starts airing on the Halo Channel starting November 11th.

Courtesy-Fud

Will Facebook Go After PayPal?

October 7, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook could be planning to bake a peer-to-peer payments service into Facebook Messenger, according to some code one user has dug out.

The code was found by Stanford University computer science student Audrew Aude, who tweeted that he had found – and played with – a payment feature in Facebook Messenger, using the iOS and Mac OS X hacking tool Cycript.

If legitimate, Facebook’s mooted Messenger payments service will allow users to send money between friends as easily as it would be to share a photo.

Aude reported on Twitter that “with FB messenger, you attach money just like you attach a photo or a location. You don’t even have to link a bank account.”

Instead, you will put in your debit card number – with Aude noting that there is no option to add a credit card or bank account, nor is there an option to use PayPal – suggesting that Facebook is looking to rival the online payments firm.

It remains to be seen how many of the social network’s users will feel comfortable handing over their debit card information to Facebook.

Aude added that the service allows only person-to-person transactions, despite previous speculation claiming that Facebook’s payments service would allow social networkers to purchase and pay for online goods, adding that there is also the option to send payments to multiple participants.

According to Aude’s findings, the service is likely to be free to use.

He said: “Based on my understanding of the debit interchange rates, each transaction will cost Facebook roughly $0.40 to $0.50 (Durbin swipe fee + ACH fee).

“The app didn’t mention a fee to send, so it’s probably free, at least initially. Over time they might add a $1 fee.”

Speculation about a Facebook payments service has been whirling around the online rumour mill for some time. This escalated in June when Facebook hired ex-president of PayPal David Marcus to take the reins of Facebook Messenger.

Facebook has yet to comment on the speculation.

Courtesy-TheInq

Can The Call Of Duty Franchise Make A Comeback?

October 3, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Industry analyst Sterne Agee has predicted another year of declining sales for Call of Duty, with Advanced Warfare expected to sell 15 per cent fewer copies than Ghosts.

To be more specific, that’s a difference of 3 million units, with Advanced Warfare expected to sell around 17 million. Obviously, that’s still a very healthy number, and the sort of success that most publishers rarely experience, but nevertheless it would be ill news for what remains Activision’s most important franchise.

Ghosts was, in itself, markedly less successful than Black Ops II, and a second year of decline will be enough to cause concern within Activision. When pre-orders for Ghosts were lower than expected, Eric Hirshberg attributed it to the transition to a new generation of consoles. With a minimum of 15 million PlayStation 4s and Xbox Ones now in the wild, that explanation would not stand up quite as well with Advanced Warfare.

In a note given to Cinema Blend, Sterne Agee’s Arvind Bhatia gave several reasons for the possibility of ongoing decline, one of which was the number of people who are still waiting to upgrade to new generation hardware, and may not buy any new software until they do. The others were sharply declining sales of Xbox 360 and PS3 software, and the fact that some Call of Duty fans may have been disappointed with Ghosts.

A significant counter to that is the positioning of Battlefield: Hardline, which slipped to March 2015 release and left Activision’s franchise free of its fiercest competitor.

Given its huge investment in Bungie’s Destiny and the relatively cool critical response that greeted the game, Activision will be hoping that Sterne Agee’s research is not an indicator of Call of Duty’s long-term health.

Courtesy-GI.biz

 

Will IaaS Become A Crisis?

September 30, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Big public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) players may be on the brink of a crisis and are slashing prices while spending billions on building out and staffing their operations.

Steve Brazier, CEO at Canalys has warned resellers to be careful about the financials of their cloud suppliers because he fears a melt-down. He said that millions of dollars has been spent on building out public cloud infrastructure and yet no one in the world is profitable.

Amazon Web Services lost $2bn in the last four quarters, and the parent is forecasting losses of between $410m and $810m this quarter. Talking to the Channels Forum 2014 he said that the economics of the market is “somewhat like” the classic “pyramid scheme”, with providers launching services, making promises around performance, winning more customers, building more data centres, adding technicians, and cutting prices to beat the competition.

Maintaining that approach was only possible if you are getting new customers to sign up faster than your prices are going down. Rackspace, one of the “early pioneers” of public IaaS is trying to exit the sector and beef up its managed services biz.

Courtesy-Fud

MediaTek Jump Into “The Internet Of Things” Space

September 26, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

SoC designer MediaTek has launched a new push to develop technologies used in wearables and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.

Dubbed MediaTek Labs, the new organisation will offer tools for developers such as software and hardware development kits (SDKs and HDKs), but it will also offer other forms of support, i.e. tech support and marketing.

MediaTek LinkIt dev platform

The MediaTek LinkIt platform promises to offer a full-service approach for developers keen to enter the space. It allows developers familiar with MediaTek’s Arduino implementation to quickly migrate to the new platform

For the time being the platform is limited to the MediaTek Aster MT2502A processor. The company says it is the world’s smallest commercially available SoC. The chip can work with MediaTek’s WiFi and GPS companion chipsets.

The company is calling on developers to join the MediaTek Labs initiative and in case you are interested you can check out the details on the new MediaTek Labs website.

MediaTek Aster spec

Now for some juicy hardware. The Aster MT2502A is an ARM7 EJ-S part clocked at 260MHz. The dev board features 4MB of RAM and 16MB of flash. GPS and WiFi capability can be added using the MT3332 and MT5931 chips. The platform supports microSD, Bluetooth (including BLE), along with GSM and GPRS communications.

The Aster is clearly not an SoC for feature packed wearables with high resolution screens, but it could be used in more down to earth applications such as fitness trackers.

MediaTek says it will offer three platforms based on two wearable solutions. The One Application Use (OAU) platform is for fitness trackers and simple Bluetooth devices. The Simple Application Platform (SAU) is intended for smart watches, wristbands and more elaborate fitness trackers.

SAU is the focus segment for the Aster chipset and it should offer 5 to 7 days of battery life.

MediaTek Rich Application Platform

The Rich Application Platform (RAU) is for Android Wear and it will offer a lot more functionality out of the box, including camera support, 3D graphics, as well as Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS in the same package.

This platform sounds a bit more interesting, but details are sketchy. For some reason many media outlets erroneously described the first Aster chip as MediaTek’s only smartwatch chip, but it is clearly not intended for the Rich Application Platform.

We have yet to see what sort of silicon MediaTek can conjure up for high-end wearables, but this is what it has in mind. The platform is designed for high-end smartwatches and glasses. It will feature multicore processors clocked at 1GHz or more. The platform also includes Bluetooth, GSM/GPRS, GPS, WiFi, sensors and a proper TFT screen. Battery life is described as short, two to three days, which sounds a bit better than what the current generation of smartwatches can deliver.

Courtesy-Fud

Was Titan A 50M Dollar Loss For Blizzard?

September 26, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

When Titan first came to light in 2007, most people assumed it would be Blizzard’s next big thing, ultimately taking the place of World of Warcraft which was likely to see further declines in the years ahead. Fast forward seven years, WoW clearly has been fading (down to 6.8 million subs as of June 30) but Blizzard has no MMO lined up to replace it, and that fact was really hammered home today with the surprise cancellation of Titan. In fact, the developer stressed that it didn’t want to be known as an MMO company and one may not be in its future. Cancelling the project this late in the game may have cost Blizzard several tens of millions of dollars, analysts told GamesIndustry.biz.

“Development costs for Titan may have amounted to tens of millions, perhaps $50 million or more. This is not an unusual event, however. Blizzard has cancelled several games in various stages of development in the past. Costs for unreleased games can be significant, but launching substandard games can harm the reputation of a successful publisher such as Blizzard. Expenses for development can be considered R&D, and benefits can include invaluable training, IP and technology that can be applied to other games,” explained independent analyst Billy Pidgeon.

Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter estimated an even higher amount lost: “My guess is 100 – 200 people at $100,000 per year, so $70 – 140 million sunk cost. It’s pretty sad that it took so long to figure out how bad the game was. I expect them to go back to the drawing board.”

Indeed, the market has changed considerably in the last seven years, and while MMOs like EA’s Star Wars: The Old Republic struggle to find a large audience, free-to-play games and tablet games like Blizzard’s own Hearthstone are finding success. Blizzard has no doubt been keenly aware of the market realities too.

“As far back as 2013, they had already stated Titan was not likely to be a subscription-based MMORPG. This is consistent with a market that is increasingly dominated by multiplayer games that are either free to play or are an expected feature included with triple-A games such as Call of Duty. Titanfall and Destiny sold as standalone games supplemented by paid downloadable add-ons. Blizzard maintains very high standards of quality, so expectations will be steep for new franchises as well as for sequels,” Pidgeon continued.

DFC Intelligence’s David Cole agreed, noting that after seven years of development in an industry where trends and technologies change at a rapid pace, Blizzard simply had to pull the plug on Titan.

“They realized that unless a big MMO is out-of-this-world unbelievable it won’t work in today’s market where it competes against a bunch of low cost options. If they felt that it just wasn’t getting to that point it makes sense to cut your losses,” he noted. “Also, you see games like League of Legends and their own Hearthstone which are doing very well on a much lower budget.”

“For Blizzard, I am expecting to see them continue to focus on high quality products but also focus on products with shorter development cycles and less cost. The market is just not in a place where you can have games with 7+ year development. It is changing too fast.”

For most developers, junking a seven-year long project would instantly spell turmoil, but thankfully for Blizzard, it’s part of the Activision Blizzard behemoth, which has a market cap of over $15 billion and, as of June 30, cash and cash equivalents of over $4 billion on hand. It’s a nice luxury to have.

Courtesy-GI.biz

nVidia Finally Goes 20nm

September 23, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

For much of the year we were under the impression that the second generation Maxwell will end up as a 20nm chip.

First-generation Maxwell ended up being branded as Geforce GTX 750 and GTX 750 TI and the second generation Maxwell launched a few days ago as the GTX 980 and Geforce GTX 970, with both cards based on the 28nm GM204 GPU.

This is actually quite good news as it turns out that Nvidia managed to optimize power and performance of the chip and make it one of the most efficient chips manufactured in 28nm.

Nvidia 20nm chips coming in 2015

Still, people keep asking about the transition to 20nm and it turns out that the first 20nm chip from Nvidia in 20nm will be a mobile SoC.

The first Nvidia 20nm chip will be a mobile part, most likely Erista a successor of Parker (Tegra K1).

Our sources didn’t mention the exact codename, but it turns out that Nvidia wants to launch a mobile chip first and then it plans to expand into 20nm with graphics.

Unfortunately we don’t have any specifics to report.

AMD 20nm SoC in 2015

AMD is doing the same thing as its first 20nm chip, codenamed Nolan, is an entry level APU targeting tablet and detachable markets.

There is a strong possibility that Apple and Qualcomm simply bought a lot of 20nm capacity for their mobile modem chips and what was left was simply too expensive to make economic sense for big GPUs.
20nm will drive the voltage down while it will allow higher clocks, more transistors per square millimeter and it will overall enable better chips.

Just remember Nvidia world’s first quad-core Tegra 3 in 40nm was rather hot and making a quad core in 28nm enabled higher performance and significantly better battery life. The same was true of other mobile chips of the era.

We expect similar leap from going down to 20nm in 2015 and Erista might be the first chip to make it to 20nm. A Maxwell derived architecture 20nm will deliver even more efficiency. Needless to say AMD plans to launch 20nm GPUs next year as well.

It looks like Nvidia’s 16nm FinFET Parker processor, based on the Denver CPU architecture and Maxwell graphics won’t appear before 2016.

Courtesy-Fud

Can Dell Make A Profitable Low Cost ARM Server?

September 19, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Michael Dell, founder of Dell, has said the company may use ARM for its mainstream servers. Speaking at the Dell Solutions Summit in Brussels, Dell said: “If ARM works, really works, and costs less, we will use ARM.”

This is a bit of a poke in the eye for the company’s relationship with Intel. The company has just released the 13th generation of its PowerEdge server suite, based on Intel’s newest Xeon chip, the E5 2600 v3. Dell said that as ARM moved to 64-bit architecture; it became more interesting to him. But at the moment Intel is absolutely the best and that’s what customers want.”

Dell said the company has a long-standing partnership with companies such as Intel because the capital required to build the next generation of semiconductors is significant.

“We are co-dependent on each other. If you look at Intel’s revenue reports, you will find that Dell represents 15% of Intel’s ‘other’ revenue,” he said. “If you look at the enterprise customers, their infrastructures have a long tail of legacy IT, which have to be tested and certified, so they are not exactly jumping on the ARM bandwagon.”

Courtesy-Fud

Will EA Make Games For Wearables?

September 16, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

EA is considering developing games for wearables. The company already has two teams on the job, looking for ways to make wearable games. Their efforts are focused on the Apple Watch for now.

EA told CNET that the company has quite a relationship with Apple and Frank Gibeau, head of EA’s mobile gaming arm, said he is impressed with the new Apple A8 SoC. Gibeau added that Apple’s decision to include 128GB storage in flagship models is more good news for gamers, as it raises the bar for developers and gives them more room to play around with.

Gibeau said EA’s mobile division is “intrigued” by the prospect of gaming on wearables. He said wearables are eventually going to offer more performance and capability, thus enabling new gaming experiences. However, he cautioned that “it’s very early days” for wearable gaming.

“In fact, we have two teams prototyping wearable experiences that are not only standalone, but also some ideas where you can actually use the fitness component in the watch that can unlock capabilities in the game that might be on your iPhone. Or you could do crafting or some other auction trading on your watch that goes back into your tablet game that you might check out later when you get home,” he told CNET.

Courtesy-Fud

Watch Dogs For Wii U Coming In November

September 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Finally, Ubisoft has a release date for the Wii U version of Watch Dogs. While we don’t know if that many people are waiting for the Wii U version, when it does release it could very well end up being one of the last M rated titles for the Wii U console.

The release date for the Wii U version of Watch Dogs appears to be November 18th in North America and November 21st in Europe. This ends the original release delay that Ubisoft announced for the Wii U version as resources were moved to prepare the other versions of the game for release.

Ubisoft has been one of the strongest supports of software for the Wii U, but recently it announced that it was done producing titles like Assassins Creed and Watch Dogs for the Wii U because the sales of these M rated titles are just not there on the Wii U platform. It did indicate that it would focus on some of its other Wii U titles that continue to be popular on the console.

The news is good that they are getting Watch Dogs, but it looks like we will not see many more games like this on the Wii U.

Courtesy-Fud

Will eSports Overtake the NHL?

September 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

You can’t accuse eSports League CEO Ralf Reichert of always telling people what they want to hear. At last month’s FanExpo Canada in Toronto, Ontario, just a few blocks away from the Hockey Hall of Fame, Reichert told GamesIndustry.biz that he saw competitive gaming overtaking the local pastime.

“Our honest belief is it’s going to be a top 5 sport in the world,” Reichert said. “If you compare it to the NHL, to ice hockey, that’s not a first row sport, but a very good second-row sport. [eSports] should be ahead of that… It’s already huge, it’s already comparable to these traditional sports. Not the Super Bowl, but the NHL [Stanley Cup Finals].”

Each game of this year’s Stanley Cup Finals averaged 5 million viewers on NBC and the NBC Sports Network. The finals of the ESL Intel Extreme Masters’ eighth season, held in March in Katowice, Poland, drew 1 million peak concurrent viewers, and 10 million unique viewers over the course of the weekend. That’s comparing the US audience for hockey to a global audience for the IEM series, but Reichert said the events are getting larger all the time.

As for how eSports have grown in recent years, the executive characterized it as a mostly organic process, and one that sometimes happens in spite of the major players. One mistake he’s seen eSports promoters make time and again is trying to be too far ahead of the curve.

“There have been numerous attempts to do celebrity leagues as a way to grow eSports, to make it more accessible,” Reichert said. “And rather than focusing on the core of eSports, the Starcrafts and League of Legends of the world, people tried to use easy games, put celebrities on it, and make a classic TV format out of it.”

One such effort, DirecTV’s Championship Gaming Series, held an “inaugural draft” at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills and featured traditional eSports staples like Counter-Strike: Source alongside arguably more accessible fare like Dead or Alive 4, FIFA 07, and Project Gotham Racing 3.

“They put in tens of millions of dollars in trying to build up a simplified eSports league, and it was just doomed because they tried to simplify it rather than embrace the beauty of the apparent complexity.”

Complexity is what gives established sports their longevity, Reichert said. And while he dismisses the idea that eSports are any more complex than American football or baseball, he also acknowledged there is a learning curve involved, and it’s steep enough that ESL isn’t worrying about bringing new people on board.

“It’s tough for generations who didn’t grow up with gaming to get what Starcraft is,” Reichert said. “They need to spend 2-10 hours with it, in terms of watching it, getting it explained, and getting educated around it, or else they still might have that opinion. Our focus is more to have the generations who grew up with it as true fans, rather than trying to educate people who are outside of this conglomerate… There have been numerous attempts to make European soccer easier to approach, or American football, or baseball, but they all kill the soul of the actual sport. Every attempt to do that is just doomed.”

Authenticity is what keeps the core of the audience engaged, Reichert said. And even though there will always be purists who fuss over every change–Reichert said changing competitive maps in Starcraft could spark a debate like instant replay in baseball–being true to the core of the original sport has been key for snowboarding, mixed martial arts, and every other successful upstart sport of the last 15 years.

“Like with every new sport, the biggest obstacle has been people not believing in it,” Reichert said. “And it goes across media, sponsorships, game developers, press, everyone. The acceptance of eSports was a hard fought battle over a long, long time, and there’s a tipping point where it goes beyond people looking at it like ‘what the hell is this?’ And to reach that point was the big battle for eSports… The thing is, once we started to fill these stadiums, everyone looking at the space instantly gets it. Games, stadiums, this is a sport. It’s such a simple messaging that no one denies it anymore who knows about the facts.”

That’s not to say everybody is convinced. ESPN president John Skipper recently dismissed eSports as “not a sport,” even though his network streamed coverage of Valve’s signature Dota 2 tournament earlier this year. Reichert admitted that mainstream institutions seem to be lagging behind when it comes to acceptance, particularly with sponsors. While companies within the game industry are sold on eSports, non-endemic advertisers are only beginning to get it.

“The very, let’s say progressive ones, like Red Bull, are already involved,” Reichert said. “But to get it into the T-Mobiles and other companies as a strategy piece, that will still take some time. The market in terms of the size and quality of events is still ahead of the sponsorship, but that’s very typical.”

Toronto was the second stop for ESL’s IEM Season 9 after launching in Shenzhen July 16. The league is placing an international emphasis on this year’s competition, with additional stops planned in the US, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Are Video Games Revealed Too Early?

September 8, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

You’re sitting at home, watching one of the major E3 presentations. A brand-new AAA video game has just been revealed and the teaser trailer actually makes it look pretty hot. You’re halfway through watching the trailer, interest piqued, and now you’re wondering, “When’s this coming out?” Now you see it; it’s slated for the holiday season… of the following year. You’re going to be waiting a solid 18 months, and that’s assuming the project doesn’t encounter delays.

Such is the way of the modern AAA console and PC business, but it wasn’t always like this. While the industry never really saw Apple-like announcements when you could practically buy the product immediately after, recent history shows that game announcements used to happen more regularly around six months prior to shipping.

“Back in the PS2 days…if it was shipping in the fall, you usually would see it for the first time at E3. That’s if everything went according to plan. The running joke was if you saw it for two E3s, development was a problem,” noted industry veteran and consultant Christian Svensson.

So what happened? With the success of the PS2 and the continued boom in the industry, retail became increasingly more important, and pre-orders started driving everything. And naturally, more time before release meant more time for marketing and more time to drive pre-sales.

“Around the time that Xbox 360 and PS3 came to market, the investments and risks were so high you had to do everything you can to build awareness earlier,” Svensson said. “You had to build in more beats for your PR earlier, you had more shows to attend to drive hands-on and media exposure, and all of that was ultimately in the name of driving up your pre-order numbers… everyone was trying to lock down the day one consumer. That drove all of that mania where you had to announce 18 months to two years out.”

While pre-orders were a primary factor in the ever-lengthening lead time to a launch, there were other factors as well. Svensson pointed out that companies have always worried about early leaks twisting their messaging. “If we announced it first, at least we controlled the message. Announcing it early lets you prep all of your partners earlier without fear that there are leaks out there,” he said.

Beyond that, development cycles on big budget titles just grew longer and longer. Announcing earlier enabled teams to adequately judge and react to feedback.

Warren Spector (Deus Ex, Epic Mickey), Director of the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at the University of Texas at Austin, remarked, “Talking about a game early is a double-edged sword, no doubt about it. On the one hand, it can lead to unrealistic expectations about ‘promised’ features that ultimately fail to make the shipping game (as inevitably happens). And there’s no doubt, public clamor can amp up the pressure on a team  On the flip side, seeing public excitement about what you’re doing can get a team ’psyched and cranking’ as we used to say. It’s nice when people express enthusiasm for what you’re doing. Also, early reveals can help you gauge public opinion, which can be useful in weeding out undesirable features as well as ones you might want to focus on more. Early reveals cut both ways.”

Dominic Matthews, product development manager for Ninja Theory, added, “The risk with announcing too early is that you make a first impression that is very, very hard to change. You can say as many times as you like that the game is very early in development, or this isn’t finished or is work in progress, but players understandably don’t hear it. They just see what you’re showing and take it as representative of the finished game. Personally, I would have kept all of the games I worked on under wraps for longer.”

That said, Matthews acknowledges that most developers are very excited to be able to discuss their projects usually. “It’s actually a really positive thing for a developer to be able to share their work outside of the studio. The announcement of the game allows everyone in the team to be able to share what they are doing with friends, family and industry peers. It can be frustrating having to say ‘I’m working on something really cool, but I just can’t talk about it yet’,” he said.

There’s also the very tangible benefit that by announcing earlier, teams should have an easier time adding talent to make a project go more smoothly.

Gearbox Software boss Randy Pitchford commented, “It’s not merely about attracting future customers, but communicating about the effort to the industry itself. When your in-development project is known, some activities including recruiting or attracting business partners or other activities becomes much easier than when you’re silent under the radar.”

Svensson agreed: “[If] you’ve created some assets, you think you know what you’re going to build, but you still need some very key roles to be filled and/or just body count to do the work, when it’s known that a particular studio is working on that franchise then recruitment becomes an easier task than, ‘hey we’d like to call you in but we can’t tell you what we’re working on’.”

Of course, there’s another benefit to announcing early that some developers would be very keen on: once a project is revealed there’s a better chance it won’t be canceled. “One of the things people forget is that not every game put in development always ships. A reason a lot of teams would want to announce earlier is that it’s harder to kill a product that’s been announced because it’s very public and for it to not come out after it’s been announced is a difficult thing for a company to suffer. It raises questions about if the company knows what it’s doing,” pointed out Svensson.

Once the announcement gets out there, the pressure definitely ramps up on a development team. But that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. After all, it takes an intense amount of pressure to create a diamond.

“Sometimes pressure is a good thing on the development process,” said Pitchford. “The best amongst us game makers exist to try to entertain people and whenever we have a deadline we work crazy hard to do the best job we can as we know that once the deadline is up, there’s no more time to do any better.”

“In my experience a lot of that magic that just sort of works out is the result of trying to adapt to some kind pressure on the situation.  It often turns out that the pressure forces some of these things to happen that ultimately make games not only better, but shippable.  The point is that while pressure always feels stressful, there are often a lot of positive aspects to pressure from a development point of view.”

Pitchford also noted that some of that pressure should be alleviated by a good publisher: “I think the only really negative consequence is about expectation management and that’s where the best publishers are really worth their value. The best publishers have a knack for managing customer expectations positively while projects unfold during the development and marketing phases of a project and that’s where you get the best feelings and results from a project.”

So if you’re planning a big budget game right now, when’s the right time to announce? How much lead time do you really need?

“I think it varies from product to product as far as what’s appropriate. An enormous AAA game that is new IP aimed at a monster retail release, a longer lead time, certainly north of a year, is still warranted,” advised Svensson. “When you start to get into north of 18 months, you get diminishing returns, even on something like that… When people have short attention spans, it’s hard to stay on people’s radar at a high level. I think the industry went too far for a period of time on that front and I think the economics of it are changing.”

Pitchford agrees that if you’re looking to sell something new, having that extra lead time is beneficial. “I’ve worked on games that have gone a long time in silence before being announced and I’ve worked on games that have had public announcements that were way too early. I think both approaches can be made to work, but both also bring their own set of challenges. My preference on which way to go depends on the game. The more inventive the game is and the more education required to communicate what is being promised, the more time is useful to master that communication before going wide,” he said.

It’s a fluid process, however, and the marketing teams have to be ready to adapt. Pitchford continued, “Part of the value of the early marketing campaign is to actually learn how to market the title to a wider audience. You’ll notice if you look at campaigns from start to finish that everything from logo designs to key messaging points to front-of-box and key art content evolves and iterates over the course of a project. This is a very tangible manifestation of the marketing team actually learning how to sell the thing they are selling through a careful process of testing and iterating.”

While early reveals can certainly be beneficial for both the marketing side and development side, it’s clear that the digital revolution is having an impact, noted Ninja Theory’s Matthews.

“I think the transition into digital gaming will shorten the window between announcement and release. There won’t be such pressure to drive pre-orders as there is in the retail space,” he said.

Another wrinkle in the digital space is the rise of self-publishing. Under that scenario, announcing earlier remains quite valuable.

“Ordinarily I would say that you should wait to announce as long as you can to make sure you have the best possible assets to make a first impression with: An amazing trailer or a rock-solid gameplay demo. Having said that, we’ve just announced our new game Hellblade at the very beginning of development – in other words incredibly early. We’ve done this because we’re self-publishing and actually want to build a community behind the game by sharing the development process,” Matthews continued. “By announcing now, we can share development right from the start. If we waited, we’d be retrospectively looking back at development which would feel less real, less here and now. This type of approach, or funding a game through crowdfunding, or Steam Greenlight might result in more games actually being announced even earlier.”

“The digital share of sales is climbing up and the need for that pre-order drive is slipping a little bit in the sense that you don’t have to have this crescendo to launch to necessarily find success with the right product, especially when you have live teams creating content post-launch; it’s not the put everything in the box and ship it mentality anymore,” he explained. “It is the, ‘hey we’re going to create a minimum viable product (MVP) and we’re going to bring it to market and support it’ … In some cases you might not even really ramp the marketing until you feel you’ve got a good product to promote.

“To some degree, I think the pressure to announce early across the industry as a whole is being reduced because of the proliferation of digital, the adoption of games as service, and quite frankly, the other part of it is it’s really fucking expensive to have an 18-month or two-year marketing cycle for a game. It’s really hard to do, and not every game has the right kind of content to support that longevity. You can’t go dark, otherwise you lose people’s attention, you have to have a consistent set of beats all the way through from announcement to launch, otherwise why announce early? You’ve lost that benefit. It’s hard on production teams because they have to create assets to support these beats, it’s hard on marketing teams because it’s a long, hard slog.”

And with the rise of indies and smaller games published on platforms like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, huge lead times make even less sense. For smaller digital projects, three months might be more than enough time to spread the word.

“One of the things we’ve learned doing digital products, announcing more than three months out to build awareness just really doesn’t make a lot of sense. A lot of those titles are smaller, they don’t necessarily have a lot of features to drive a six-month or nine-month campaign… They’re focused. The level of touch is very high in a short period, and I’d love to see the business get back to a lot more of that,” Svensson said.

“What I do think we’re going to see is a lot of normalization again for the average product probably around six to nine months again, kind of where we were in ’99 and 2000. And I don’t think that’s bad.”

Courtesy-GI.biz