February 11th, 2010


We Are Screwed, Hot Potato!

One of the things I have pointed out to people is how, if you look at the founding of the states across the US, you can see how the American Revolution became less important to people.  Checks and balances considered crucial to the Founding Fathers and baked into state Constitutions became less critical and an afterthought at best for newer states during the Expansion.  Not that those protections always worked or were embraced, but at least they were part of the formula.  Not so as you move out, and people wondered if they really needed all that rigmarol in there.

The Cohen mess for lite guv in Illinois continues to roll downhill, adding mass along the way.  The Illinois D's are preparing to meet to select a new candidate for lite guv to run alongside Pat Quinn.  That's not the part that has me wondering.

Mike Madigan, powerbroker and head of the Illinois D's, has petitioned to eliminate the post of lite guv by 2015.

He says the position holds no Constitutional value or duty and is a waste of time, money, and resources.  So, if something happens to the guv, what then?  Well, there is still order of succession.  With no lite guv, power passes too...

...the Attorney General.  Lisa Madigan.  You know...his daughter.

...aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I'm done.

Rhythm Just Didn't Get You

They killed the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Activision Blizzard and Viacom, parent of MTV, are bitching that their music games didn't bring in the bucks they were supposed to.

We are dealing with the concept of SKU's, or Stock Keeping Units.  This is when something is subdivided.  The easiest example is Windows 7.  Windows 7 has six different versions, depending on what you are after.  So you have one product, Windows 7, but six SKU's (Home, Professional, Media Center, etc.).

Part of what drove Activision to such dizzying heights of profitability was the SKU's for Guitar Hero.  Guitar Hero had several depending on 1) what system you wanted it on and 2) what kind of peripherals were you after.  Because you were paying for more than just the game, it was money in the bank.

So what's wrong with multiple SKU's?  Simply, store hate them because it is that much more to keep track of.  It doesn't help that Guitar Hero and Rock Band have those huge bundles with the instruments.  They take up extra space.  And if they aren't selling well, you could put a display with three or four dozen games by Data Design that suck but sell as opposed to these bundles that are just collecting dust.  And that's just in the store.  The stock room?  You can fit dozens of netbooks, which are selling like gangbusters, in the space of one bundle.  If you run out of netbooks, people will get it somewhere else, costing you multiple sales.  So you are wagering what is going to move.  And with discount stores operating on such a slim profit margin, you better get it right.

So, retailers are getting dozens of SKU's.  Guitar Hero got 5, Van Halen, and other special editions.  Plus Band Hero.  Plus DJ Hero.  DJ Hero, where you don't play an instrument but get a turntable and rock the cans (did ANYONE ELSE notice that Beatmania flopped in this country?!?), is being touted as the most successful new IP of the year.  However, shortly after it went on sale, it was already being discounted.  It was expected to sell a quarter mil over the Christmas season.  It only pulled in half of that.

Today, it became official -- overkill has set in.  Activision pulled in $1.56 bil last year, and reported a LOSS of $286 mil.  Remove the music game SKU's from the equation, and they operated at a profit.  Activision is reducing the SKU's.  One Guitar Hero game and one DJ Hero game this year, that's it.  Development for the PS2 has been killed.  Mobile apps are being looked into.

How are things going on the other side of the aisle with Rock Band?  Better, but not enough.  Although the games sold well enough (one million copies of Beatles Rock Band sold by December 1) and fewer SKU's (only Beatles and Lego Rock Band games this year), Beatles Rock Band did not turn a profit in its first quarter of release and Viacom, the parent company of MTV which handles the Rock Band franchise, saw a 6% drop in revenues.  Not enough to put the company in the red, but they still aren't happy.  Harmonix has already gone through a round of layoffs, so hopefully that stops the bleeding.

Ironically, part of what nailed Viacom's Rock Band profits was Beatles Rock Band.  They put together special SKU's with replicas of the Beatles instruments for $250.  Retailers, realizing there is a recession going on and people aren't spending as freely, put together their own bundles with stock Rock Band controllers and Beatles Rock Band, bringing their prices in for about $160.  Guess which one sold better?

So it's an acknowledgment that maybe they went a little overboard, and the hunt for the next big thing is officially on.
Peter G

It's A Beautiful World We Live In, Sweet Romantic Place....

I'm not a big fan of writing puff pieces.  And anyone who has spent even a few minutes perusing my blog or read almost any of my stuff (Sound Waves being the only exception I can think of) knows that I tend to focus on the negative, not the positive.  The glass is not only half empty, but what's in it has gone rancid.  But for some reason, I have to write this.  I have no idea why.  So if you rather enjoy my usual bitching, pissing, and moaning, you might want to skip this post.

This is initially about one of my co-workers.  Now, I get along great with her and her husband.  In fact, every year for Christmas, I buy him a couple of books.  He initially thought I was doing it to kiss ass.  Then he transfered out, and the books continued, so he knows my true intentions now (I made him into a Pearls Before Swine fan).  The transfer meant they had to move to another town, and they landed in the town a short distance away from mine.  They initially lived in a bigger town.  It has county buildings and such there, and is actually kind of sizable.  So they are experiencing a little bit of culture shock, dealing with a town where the only chain restaraunts are McDonald's and to hit anything other than a C-store, you have to drive about a half hour.  A friend of mine who grew up and lived in one of those cities told me, “And I thought there was nothing to do in MY town.  How do you keep from going crazy out here?!?”

The little town they moved to has its drawbacks, sure.  The mayoral history at times reads like a Foster Brooks routine.  It has a little restaraunt that pretty much everyone visits at least once at some time of the year.  It's nothing fancy, but it's sit down, and fancier than the fast food joints in the area.  The food ain’t bad, either, and it’s reasonably priced.  The owner is friendly and the waitresses keep moving.

There’s a small movie theater in the town.  It’s been there since the 50’s.  Cheapest tickets in the area, sometimes undercutting the bigger theaters an hour away by half.  It ain’t modern by any stretch.  But it’s functional and everyone is there to have a good time.

I have always wondered (and, to some degree, feared) at what point things are considered beneath you.  The people in this town aren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination.  But that hardly makes them worthless.  The town has its corruption and inside deals like any city (especially if you need to hire a contractor for anything).  The local motels have seen the vast majority of the local teens lose their virginities.  My town had a baseball card shop that was running drugs and had illegal slot machines in the back – an investigation was triggered when one of the kids, 15 years old, paid for breast implants for his 14 year old girlfriend.  The whole situation was just so full of wrong, it was mind-boggling.

But it also does good stuff.  A bunch of white supremacist assholes tried to hold a rally there.  The town’s official position was they had no choice due to First Amendment issues, but they made it abundantly clear they weren’t happy about it.  The town united, posting signs saying reps for the group weren’t welcome there (the “rally” didn’t even attract twenty supporters.  Meanwhile, the protestors telling them to go fuck themselves were like five deep).  A family friend of mine is a lesbian (she still doesn’t think I know.  I went to her and her “friend’s” place with my Sega Genesis for a night of video games.  The only way you’d never guess is if you didn’t want to guess).  She and her lover got a house in my little town.  I never heard of protests or hate crimes against them.  People who disagreed with them or didn’t like them were pretty much content to leave them alone.  Even someone as unusual as me is simply part of the town instead of a target for ire.

My last job, a couple of my co-workers lived in the trailer park in my town.  They had their fun, one wanting to start his own backyard wrestling club (he would stand on his roof and do wrestling poses and gestures at passing cars.  Keep in mind he was built less like Kevin Nash and more like Jack Black).  The other was kind of a good ol’ boy – he enjoyed spending his weekends drinking beer with his buddies or shooting pool.  They were great guys (I drove the carpool).  Didn’t matter where they lived, they were good people and thought I was good people (the second guy, when a guy at work talked some smack about me, told him I was smarter than the two of them and anyone else in the warehouse put together.  It made me glow a little bit), and that was all they needed to be my pals.

The town my co-worker came from has gang activity.  Because the gangs aren’t tagging buildings and are more careful about identifying themselves, lots of people think they aren’t there (I knew a cop who blew my illusions to Hell).  They have outreach programs, for lack of a better phrase, in my town.  But they aren’t as prominent.  You can walk down the street and actually say hi as you pass.  (Not that I do that, I like people thinking I’m anti-social.)  It amazes me that kids and high schoolers will see me at McDonald’s working on my manga (many of whom probably wouldn’t have given me the time of day when I was in school) and act like I’m Miyazaki or something.  A few months ago, I heard from a couple that I knew back in high school and hadn’t seen since.  They had computer problems and were looking at $350 each machine to fix.  I spent a few hours fixing them, didn’t ask for anything back.  It seems I’ve made friends for life.  He offered to build me new bookshelves.  They offer to spring for my dinner if I’m out and run into them.  She’s trying to set me up with a friend of hers – this woman is also into computers and single like I am.

Compared to bigger cities, where there is some phoniness and posing going on.  One guy saw me in my camp shirt covered with Pikachu and started making fun of me.  I ignored him, given that he was wearing a camp shirt covered with Simpsons characters so shooting back was too easy.  The little towns in my area have far less irony.  You can go out and do something, then come back to the sanguine.

It’s really not a bad place to live.