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How is uWink going?
NB: Great... We're on a path to build the largest customer casual game network in the world. Last week, we served almost 150,000 games at one restaurant.
Are you going to tie this in with the advertising?
NB: Oh yeah. See, a lot of people say, "What are you doing in the restaurant business?" And I said, "It's all the same thing. If I can control the last 18 inches, I control the vertical." Pretty soon through franchisees and licensees I'll have 200 or 300 stores, each serving up 20 games per person, serving 10,000 people a week. All of a sudden, it's real numbers.
You're talking about world domination?
TL: But you'll be surprised. Gaming obviously is not just an American phenomenon. At NeoEdge we just launched yesterday with one of the two largest social networking sites in Great Britain, PerfSpot, as their lone game channel on their site. Because they know it's a medium. And this goes back to what you were saying about how you figure out demographically. Well, PerfSpot knows who's coming through the door, thus we know who's coming through their door, and thus we match up the advertising that's appropriate.
uWink's third location, situated in downtown Mountain View, California
NB: I actually think uWink is a social site. (laughter) With actual alcohol!
Remember, advertising across the board, if you target it well, is less offensive. I'd love to see Bud Light commercials, and I'm not big on Tide soap.
What do you think about the current state of the gaming industry? It's a very broad question, but...
NB: You know, I think everybody's making money, or at least most people are making money. I still think that there's a paucity of innovation, I think there's an awful lot of rehash and me-tooism. I think the most interesting games have yet to be designed. There are some massive, massive holes in the market that you could drive a truck through. I always like to quote my dad, who used to say, "Tomorrow will never be as crappy as it is today." (laughter)
What's your take on the crash of '84, and do you think there's any danger of it again?
NB: The '84 crash was predictable, and it was absolutely orchestrated by what I'd call massive incompetence on the part of Atari. It was really geared around trying to sell too much into a legacy product.
Remember, the 2600... we started marketing that thing in 1977, so in 1984, a significant amount of the money was still on that game which was based on technology that had been obsolete and should've been buried in '78 or '79. We made so many tradeoffs, yet Warner actually thought they were in the record player business, and that it was all about software.
So it was just... it wasn't homicide. It was absolute suicide. I can remember the day we shipped the first 2600, I told Manny Gerard, "Okay, that's obsolete. Now we've got to do something right." Because it was two years in development, we'd made assumptions about memory that weren't correct anymore, and we would've been ready, had Warner not had their head up their butt to come with the next level of machines, which was actually part of the Atari 800 series.
The Atari 400, with joysticks, is actually a pretty damn good game player, so it was meant to replace the 2600 with something that was stronger computers, better... it introduced sprites, and a lot of other things that just made it easier. So yeah, the whole thing was absolutely avoidable.
It seems like we're almost getting to the point where it could just be software, because the hardware is starting to...
NB: Yeah, I've said that I believe that the hardware wars are probably over, or close to it, in terms of processor and MIPS. It's ridiculous to talk about how my photorealism is better than your photorealism. Who cares? I think there will be one more round of hardware, but I don't think it's going to do very well. I think it's going to be highly risky.