Debated Puzzled Over

Take Two’s Fifty Million Dollar Hat

Moneyhats. The phrase is frequently thrown around in gaming circles when it comes to exclusivity deals; the origin is [a Penny Arcade strip]( from October of 2000:

These sorts of deals are becoming more and more commonplace, and this week has had a whopper of one: Take Two announced that the “episodic content” for GTAIV will be exclusive to the Xbox 360.

Never keep Occam’s Razor far from you. As GAF user sangreal [discovered]( in [a transcript of the recent Take Two earnings call](, the simplest solution still is the most worthwhile one:

*Evan Wilson – Pacific Crest Securities*
>Thank you. And as it relates to the deferred revenue chunk associated with the episodic content on X-Box 360, you can see that $25 million of that moved into short-term deferred. Could you give us any sense of when that’s going to hit the P&L? Will we see $25 million at one time and then the second 25 or will it be a slow bleed?

*Lainie Goldstein – Chief Financial Officer, Take Two*
>The first 25 is for the first episodic content package that’s supposed to go out and that is in March of ’08. That’s why it moved into current because it’s in the next 12 months. The second 25 will be for the second episodic, the episode, and that will be later in fiscal ’08.

Repeat: These two exclusive content packs cost Microsoft a combined $50,000,000 to secure.

I am obviously in the wrong business.

Debated Puzzled Over

Adventures In Product Renaming

Back in March, Adobe was making lots of noise about a new piece of technology they were pushing then called Apollo. To avoid drowning you in buzzwords: Apollo lets you create desktop apps using web programming. Kind of neat.

But Apollo was always just a code name, and we were threatened told that the project would be renamed sometime later.

Today, Adobe [announced]( the official name: [AIR](

This is problematic for handful of reasons.

One: “AIR” is a [fairly generic word]( It’s the stuff we breathe. It’s a quality or manner. It can be a musical composition. It’s also a [terribly popular French electronic music act]( Best of luck to Adobe as they try to [make page 1 on Google](

Two: Despite the acronym expanding to “Adobe Integrated Runtime”, it is being referred to repeated on the web page as “Adobe® AIR™”. That’s right: *Adobe Adobe Integrated Runtime*. Rolls off the tongue as easily as *automated teller machine machine*.

Three: I would argue calling it a *runtime*. Perhaps a *runtime enviroment*, like Java. But this is a geek quibble.

Finally: You would think “Adobe AIR” was a unique name. [It’s not.](

A golf clap for the renaming team. Brav-o.


The Continuing Saga Of Guitar Hero

There’s a very typical scene played for comedy in movies and cartoons – the one with the typical party or some other big event, and there’s lots of chattering away. Then someone says something remarkably idiotic and/or absurd, and suddenly the conversation dies. This is sometimes accompanied with a record scratch, a string breaking on a musical instrument, or a glass breaking.

During Activision’s earnings report, we got [one of those moments](

> Asked how the company felt about impending competition by the end of the year, referring to Harmonix and MTV Games’ Rock Band, company officials took a curious stance in saying that it “wasn’t surprising that [the franchise] has attracted imitators” — seeming to imply that Harmonix was somehow now simply imitating the game it had itself helped build.

For those of you who have better uses of your time than following the ins and outs of the music game world, a brief history lesson. Guitar Hero was created in conjunction with four separate companies:

* [Harmonix]( programmed the game, building on their expertise of coding games like Frequency, Amplitude, and Karaoke Revolution.
* [RedOctane]( came up with the branding designed the guitar controller, building on their expertise of building third-party controllers for various Bemani games.
* [MTV]( added their name to it, building on their expertise of attaching their name to things.
* [Activision]( published it, building on a long history of game publishing that stretched back to the 80’s.

After Guitar Hero 2 was released, there was suddenly an effort to gobble up companies. Reasons remain unclear, but [RedOctane was bought out by Activision]( in May, and a few months later, [MTV bought Harmonix]( This left Guitar Hero in an odd place – the franchise resided with Activision/RedOctane, the code with Harmonix/MTV.

Back to the present: this split is starting to be felt in substantial ways.

MTV/Harmonix are now working on a game called [Rock Band]( for the PS3 and 360 (at the very least). The game will still have guitars, but also drums, bass, and vocals. There will be “deep online play”. Original masters of songs from multiple labels will be available. And so on. As this side of the equation was lacking a publisher, EA is on board to publish. Rock Band is scheduled for release this holiday season.

On the RedOctane/Activision side of things, there was no coding team. Activision pulled in Neversoft, known best for the Tony Hawk series. Depending on your views on that series, this is either great news, or a horrible warning of what may be in store. Regardless, Guitar Hero 3 is in development for the PS2, PS3, 360, Wii, and is due out this fall. It too will feature original masters and online play. Video of a beta of the game [appeared online yesterday](, and while it’s mostly the same, purists are already debating the changes to the interface.


To revisit the quote above: Activision reps said it “wasn’t surprising that [Guitar Hero] has attracted imitators”. There are at least three reasons this is hilarious:

To start, not even a year ago, all four of the original companies were still united and working on Guitar Hero II. History is apparently malleable to serve earnings reports.

Next, this is the video game industry – the home of countless ripoffs, copies, and clones. Three words, ladies and gentlemen: bald space marines. To make a remark that you’re not surprised you’ve “attracted imitators” might best be followed up by proclaiming your lack of surprise that candy is delicious.

Finally, speaking of ripoffs, copies, and clones…it may be difficult to remember of a time before Guitar Hero and Rock Band, where there couldn’t possibly have been any music games where you [played a guitar](, or [rocked the drums]( Yes, GH certainly carved their own path into the mainstream, but it owes dues to Konami’s work nearly 10 years ago.

(Sadly, Konami seems to have lost interest in doing Bemani titles in the US – they closed their Hawaiian office last year, and are in the process of merging their two California offices. To my knowledge, the only Bemani title that is in development right now is a DDR title for the Wii.)

Where these series go is anyone’s guess at this point – but it is certainly interesting times to be into music games.