Monthly Archives: August 2011

Disruption of the video game market, illustrated

A core idea in Clay Christen’s disruptive technology theory is that incumbents eventually “overshoot” the needs of customers by adding excess performance, complexity etc. This creates room for disruptors to go after less demanding customers by creating simpler, less expensive and less technologically advanced products.

John Madden Football has sold over 70 million copies and is perhaps the most iconic video game of the last decade.  

Here are the controls you need to learn to play Madden’s most recent version:

CONTROLS
COMPLETE CONTROLS
EA SPORTS ARCADE CONTROLS OFFENSE
BEFORE THE SNAP QB CONTROLS
A Button snap ball
B Button (Hold) coach cam
1 Button call your shots
D-Pad Left or Right switch controlled player
– Button call timeout
DURING THE PLAY QB CONTROLS
Control Stck or D-Pad move player
Flick Wii Remote Down Lightly = throw ball lob (gesture based passing)
Flick Wii Remote Down Quickly = throw ball bullt (gesture based passing)
Point Wii Remote At Plyaer + A Button (Tap) = throw ball lob (point and bass)
C Button (Hold) + Flick Wii Remote throw away (gesture bases passing)
Point Wii Remote Off Screen + A Button throw away (point and pass)
DURING THE PLAY RUNNING WITH THE BALL
Control Stick or D-Pad move player
A or B Button stiff arm, juke, spin
Shake Wii Remote power move
Drum Wii Remote break tackle
DURING THE PLAY CATCHING THE BALL
Flick Wii Remote Up catch the ball
AFTER THE PLAY
A Button (Hold) no huddle
B Button (Hold) spike ball
– Button call timeout
EA SPORTS ARCADE CONTROLS DEFENSE
DURING THE PLAY CONTROLS
Control Stick or D-Pad move player
Flick Wii Remote big hit
Flick Wii Remote + D-Pad Down (Hold) low hit
Flick Wii Remote Down swat ball
Flick Wii Remote Up jump, intercept
Swing Wii Remote Left or Right rip, swim, spin
BEFORE THE SNAP CONTROLS
Point Wii Remote At a Player + A Button or D-Pad Left or Right switch controlled player
B Button (Hold) coach cam
DURING THE PLAY EA SPORTS ARCADE CONTROLS DEFENSE
Point Wii Remote At QB + A Button (Hold) sack the qb
Point Wii Remote At Runner + A Button (Hold) stop the run
Point Wii Remote At Receiver + A Button (Hold) defend the pass
CONVENTIONAL CONTROLS OFFENSE
BEFORE THE SNAP QB CONTROLS
A Button snap ball
Z Button (Hold) coach cam
Point Wii Remote At Player + B Button qb pre-play menu
2 Button quick audibles
B Button quick qb audibles
D-Pad Left or Right switch controlled player
Z Button (Hold) + D-Pad or A Button lock-on (gesture based only)
1 Button call your shots
– Button call timeout
DURING THE PLAY QB CONTROLS
Control Stick move player
B Button (Hold) sprint
Flick Wii Remote Down throw ball (gesture based only)
Point Wii Remote At Player + A Button throw ball (point and pass)
D-Pad + A Button lock-on (gesture based passing)
Point Wii Remote At Player + Z Button (Hold) lock-on (point and pass)
Control Stick Left or Right precision passing (while throwing the ball)
Z Button (Hold) + Throw the Ball pump fake (gesture based passing)
C Button (Hold) + A Button pump fake (point and pass)
C Button (Hold) + Throw Ball throw away (gesture based passing)
Point Wii Remote Off Screen + A Button throw away (point and pass)
Shake Nunchuk qb avoidance
C Button (Hold) dive (when past the line of scrimmage)
C Button (Tap) slide (when past the line of scrimmage)
DURING THE PLAY RUNNING WITH THE BALL
Control Stick move player
B Button (Hold) sprint
D-Pad Left or Right stiff arm
Z Button juke
Z Button + Control Stick Left, Right or Down directional juke
A Button spin
C Button (Hold) dive
Shake Wii Remote power move
Drum Wii Remote break tackles
DURING THE PLAY CATCHING THE BALL
Flick Wii Remote Up catch the ball
DURING THE PLAY BLOCKING
Push Wii Remote Forward impact block
D-Pad Down (Hold) + Push Wii Remote Forward cut block
AFTER THE PLAY
A Button no huddle, hurry up
B Button spike ball
– Button call timeout
C Button + Z Button instant replay
1 Button bring up playcall (only with gameflow activated)
CONVENTIONAL CONTROLS DEFENSE
BEFORE THE SNAP CONTROLS
Z Button (Hold) coach cam
Point Wii Remote At Player + B Button pre-play menu
B Button lb pre-play menu
Point Wii Remote At Player + A Button or D-Pad Left or Right switch controlled player
1 Button call your shots
– Button call timeout
DURING THE PLAY CONTROLS
Control Stick move player
B Button (Hold) sprint
A Button control defender nearest to the ball
D-Pad Up or Down pass, run commit
C Button dive
Z Button (Hold) strafe
Shake Wii Remote big hit
Shake Wii Remote D-Pad Down (Hold) low hit
Flick Wii Remote Down swat
Flick Wii Remote Up jump, intercept
Shake Wii Remote Left or Right rip, swim, spin
D-Pad Up strip ball
Drum Wii Remote + Drum Nunchuk tackle boost
KICKING
Point Wii Remote Down + A Button (Hold) + Swing Wii Remote Up kick the ball
KICK RETURNING
A Button (Tap) switch players
Hold Wii Remote Up and Wave Left and Right fair catch

In contrast, Farmville’s controls consist simply of the clickable buttons you see on the screen here:

Fv1

And Angry Bird’s controls consist of simply clicking, dragging and releasing birds:

Angry-birds-windows-control-guide-banner

Console games kept adding feature after feature to please their most demanding customers. Meanwhile, social and mobile games came along that were playable by the other 95%+ of the population.

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The role of credit agencies in the financial crisis

To understand just how destructive credit rating agencies like S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch are, an excellent starting point is an op-ed in the NYTimes by Michael Lewis and David Einhorn:

Everyone now knows that Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s botched their analyses of bonds backed by home mortgages. But their most costly mistake — one that deserves a lot more attention than it has received — lies in their area of putative expertise: measuring corporate risk.

Over the last 20 years American financial institutions have taken on more and more risk, with the blessing of regulators, with hardly a word from the rating agencies, which, incidentally, are paid by the issuers of the bonds they rate. Seldom if ever did Moody’s or Standard & Poor’s say, “If you put one more risky asset on your balance sheet, you will face a serious downgrade.”

The American International Group, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, General Electric and the municipal bond guarantors Ambac Financial and MBIA all had triple-A ratings. (G.E. still does!) Large investment banks like Lehman and Merrill Lynch all had solid investment grade ratings. It’s almost as if the higher the rating of a financial institution, the more likely it was to contribute to financial catastrophe. But of course all these big financial companies fueled the creation of the credit products that in turn fueled the revenues of Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

These oligopolies, which are actually sanctioned by the S.E.C., didn’t merely do their jobs badly. They didn’t simply miss a few calls here and there. In pursuit of their own short-term earnings, they did exactly the opposite of what they were meant to do: rather than expose financial risk they systematically disguised it.

This is a subject that might be profitably explored in Washington. There are many questions an enterprising United States senator might want to ask the credit-rating agencies. Here is one: Why did you allow MBIA to keep its triple-A rating for so long? In 1990 MBIA was in the relatively simple business of insuring municipal bonds. It had $931 million in equity and only $200 million of debt — and a plausible triple-A rating.

By 2006 MBIA had plunged into the much riskier business of guaranteeing collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s. But by then it had $7.2 billion in equity against an astounding $26.2 billion in debt. That is, even as it insured ever-greater risks in its business, it also took greater risks on its balance sheet.

Yet the rating agencies didn’t so much as blink. On Wall Street the problem was hardly a secret: many people understood that MBIA didn’t deserve to be rated triple-A. As far back as 2002, a hedge fund called Gotham Partners published a persuasive report, widely circulated, entitled: “Is MBIA Triple A?” (The answer was obviously no.)

At the same time, almost everyone believed that the rating agencies would never downgrade MBIA, because doing so was not in their short-term financial interest. A downgrade of MBIA would force the rating agencies to go through the costly and cumbersome process of re-rating tens of thousands of credits that bore triple-A ratings simply by virtue of MBIA’s guarantee. It would stick a wrench in the machine that enriched them. (In June, finally, the rating agencies downgraded MBIA, after MBIA’s failure became such an open secret that nobody any longer cared about its formal credit rating.)

The S.E.C. now promises modest new measures to contain the damage that the rating agencies can do — measures that fail to address the central problem: that the raters are paid by the issuers.

Remember that the ratings agencies receive special status from the SEC. Many funds (e.g. pension funds) can only buy bonds that the “official” agencies give high ratings. So the agencies aren’t neutral messengers. They are unelected regulators who are paid by the corporations they regulate, with no appeals process, and an abysmal historical track record of corruption and incompetence.

The whole article is well worth a read: The End of the Financial World as we Know It.

 

Wired on iPhone factories in China

Screen_shot_2011-08-04_at_1

Wired magazine had a sensationalist cover earlier this year:

1 Million Workers. 90 Million iPhones. 17 Suicides. Who’s to Blame?

In the article it says these 17 suicide occurred over the "past half decade" – implying a suicide rate of 3.4 per million people.

According to Wikipedia, throughout China the suicide rate is 66 a tragic people per year per 1M people:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate
If anything, the numbers would suggest, gadget factories are saving lives.  

(I don't actually think that's the case, but I do think the Wired cover headline is wildly misleading).

IRL checksum

Why Van Halen demanded that brown M&M’s be removed in all their venue contracts for their concerts:

That way, the band could simply enter the arena and look for a bowl of M&Ms in the backstage area. No brown M&Ms? Someone read the contract fully, so there were probably no major mistakes with the equipment. A bowl of M&Ms with the brown candies? No bowl of M&Ms at all? Stop everyone and check every single thing, because someone didn’t bother to read the contract. Roth himself said:

“So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl . . . well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.”

Not sure what to call this.  Kind of like a checksum.  Different goal but reminiscent of watermarking.  Probably a better technical term for it.

Full article (was) here.