Uh… HyperScan Gamer? Are you guys kidding?

November 1, 2006

Why Mattel?  WHY?!? 

I’m rooting for you guys – I really am!  I was relieved that y’all didn’t pull a Hasbro (yet) and do something as inexorably asinine as "Star Wars Transformers".  The Hasbro product designers will hopefully burn in a special room in hell for not so much their sacrilege, but rather their horrific bad taste.  Witness the platypus:  God loves odd combinations.  Witness the dodo:  God damns stupidity.  And a "Millenium Falcon" that when threatened, splits in two and transforms in to a "Han Solo" robot and a "Chewbacca" robot is genuinely, unbearably, offensively stupid.

Says who?  SAYS THE 6 YEAR OLD & THE 8 YEAR OLD I KNOW, not to mention any Star Wars action figure buyer I know.

So y’all came out with TMX Elmo:  The laughing Elmo that’s taken the retail stores by storm.  Good for you guys!  Gettin’ back to the basics of kids entertainment.  What y’all are good at.  Fisher Price has got game.  Yay!

Then <insert THUD here>:  HyperScan.

I know what y’all are thinking… "Hey, we try different things.  We mix it up and some things hit, other things don’t" to which I say:

And the objective of product creation is to get MORE THINGS THAT HIT and FEWER THINGS THAT DON’T.  The overall objective of business is to make the most money possible in the long run while expending the least amount of money in product development & manufacturing.

And you’re gonna tell me that Hyperscan wasn’t expensive?  Hyperscan isn’t costing a mint to advertise on major networks like FOX Kids & G4TV?  Hyperscan, with it’s amazing set of 3 whopping games, is gonna "catch on like wild fire"?

When a company doesn’t know their customer, and then fails to do the appropriate research to learn about their customer’s thought process, then fails to research the competition – or chooses to ignore their competition declaring them "in a different market", you get 3DO.

What’s 3DO?  3DO was a game system with incredible technology that was built before the PS2 and the XBox.  It’s a console of some lore because it had a small set of relatively high quality titles, a result of the system’s technical superiority – which was to be it’s market differentiator.  It sold for $800, primarily because of the electronics in the console.

But they didn’t know their customer.  The product was developed back in the early 90’s when $800 was absolutely unheard of to pay for a gaming system.  While today’s inflation makes $800 conceivable, back then it was ridiculous to consider an $800 system.  Combine that with the fact that game players were all adolescents, with virtually no adult market, and you have a customer base of ZERO.  No one that wanted the system could afford it and even those that could afford it, wouldn’t buy it because there were so few titles, and those individuals weren’t that hardcore about games.

But 3DO never did the market research.  They never bothered to get educated about their customers.  As a result, they went out of business and 3DO was viewed as a colossal failure.

So the makers of Hyperscan are trying to merge the "drive for collectible cards and card games" that kids like with the "attraction of electronics and video games".  Collect trading cards, and use them to play video games.  Console price is $80 – not including the games which appear to be $20.

Are you kidding me?

  • Let’s ignore the fact that XBox Originals are going for $80 used, $120 new.  We have a library of over 800 games and most of them sell for $5 used, $10-$20 new.
  • Let’s ignore the fact that PS2’s are going for $75 used, $99 new.  They have a game library of a 1000 games, most of which are going for $5 used or $20 new.
  • Let’s ignore the fact that Gamecube’s are going for $80 NEW and their games are $5-$10 NEW.
  • Let’s ignore the fact that Nintendo GameBoy Advance handhelds are $50 new with hundreds of games.  Nintendo DS’s are $150 new with as many games.

Let’s forget about all that.  Let’s just look at the Hyperscan independent of the market:

  • LOAD TIMES:  To play a round of combat, you have to wait 45 seconds.  For some reason the load time of the game’s rounds takes anywhere between 30 seconds to a full MINUTE.  This is documented in various other blogs as well.  Classify this as a designer brainfart:  What were y’all thinking?
  • CARD COST:  Why do I need to "buy cards" to play characters?  5 characters per $20 pack of RFID cards?  I can play all 30 XMen characters if I play XMen Unlimited or XMen Legends on Xbox or PS2 and that’s only $20 each. 
  • CHARACTER ABILITIES:  The character abilities are a joke!  They have so few moves and they each only say one phrase thing during the whole game.  How repetitious can you get?
  • GRAPHICS:  OMG this is awful.  Any of today’s consoles blow this thing away. 

If you a toy company really wanted to marry trading card gaming with electronic gaming, you’d think they would have developed RFID cards in tandem with a RFID peripheral for an existing console with marketshare – like the Xbox, Gamecube, or PS2.  And for greater margins as well.  Peripherals are always cheaper to manufacture than console hardware.

But the question is… why?  For the cost of a 5 Hyperscan card pack, an Xbox owner can buy a 64MB Xbox storage card – far more storage than the 5 card RFID pack.  So basically the cards have a pretty picture with stats and allows kids to "wave" the cards over RFID detector.  That’s the whole differentiating value.  That’s the whole "RFID trading card experience".


Microsoft’s Beloved Interns

November 1, 2006

One of the reasons I hope I get another shot at life after this one is so that I can go to college again.

Seriously.  College was one of the absolute best times of my life.  Since then, in my professional & personal life, only Microsoft has come close in "replicating" the collegiate experience that made for so much hard work but still kept it so much fun. (And I’ve worked for numerous other companies including Visa International, Hewlett Packard, etc.)  I’m certain that that’s one of the reasons people (at least the non-jaded ones) work so damned hard around here.

And I’ve met so many folks that during their undergrad work, went to commuter schools or JC’s for the first two years of their higher education that just plain missed out.  My freshman year alone was filled with:

  • "Hey guys!  Let’s go see New Jack City!"
  • Nightclubbing in groups of 20
  • Many, many sunrises
  • Beach runs to Malibu
  • BEER!
  • Mudsliding in Nov/Dec
  • Sourdough chili bowls
  • Fighting someone 50lbs heavier than me
  • Having the paramedics examine me after
  • Co-ed bathrooms
  • Group study
  • 4-nights straight coding binges
  • Jerry-rigging the washing machines
  • Impersonating the kicker on the football team
  • 104 degree fevers
  • Roadtripping to Cal/Stanford
  • Eating only flat foods & Diet Coke

That’s why when I see these videos below, it makes me smile.  Our college interns – I believe they’re all from Bldg 33 which is Windows Dev – have been creating these music video parodies of sorts, one every year, at the end of their internships.  (Which by the way is a royal bitch to get into.  Our intern program reminds me of HP’s program, which is what I did annually when I was in college.  And I only got in because I’d gotten help from my next door neighbor when I started working part time as a senior in high school & proven my mettle as a STE over the next 4 years.)

I believe our interns stay at furnished apartments called the "Winterwood Apartments" or something like that.  It’s a great place to stay for a few months – full kitchen, family room, bedroom, the works.  While there they get to live the Microsoft campus life – something that I’ve never seen replicated anywhere.  People talk about the Apple Campus… the Cisco Campus… the Google Campus.  I’ve seen them all and none of them come close to replicating the collegiate experience. 

Why?  Because they’re all in Silicon Valley!  Redmond, WA is so isolated relative to Cupertino or Mountain View, that you really are immersed in the campus life.  You don’t have a choice.

Anyway, laugh all you want at the videos.  Each of these kids are proof that youthful energy, is still running strong in Redmond.  And it’s a good bet that they’ll all be making more than you & me in 10 years.

Microsoft’s College Intern Videos