Booze, Baseball, and another "B"

Monday, December 12, 2005

Soul Survivor....


It is the role of a business, in a capitalist society, to continually find ways to increase profits annually. This is true whether the business is a publicly-held company or if it is a private company. You should know this, and if you don't, you're smarter for reading this blog.

If I was in charge of developer Valve (or if I was commissioned to do a consulting job for them), what would I do to increase profits this year?

My first thoughts would be something along the lines of expanding the content available on their very successful "Steam" distribution network. Steam works well for them, it's popular with gamers and they've managed to set it up as the only way to get Valve content. They've done that, with Red Orchestra coming to Steam soon, and they recently completed a deal with Strategy First to release their games on Steam also. This comes after they've already secured a distribution deal with EA, and have Half-Life 2 coming to console systems. So far so good.

One thing that I'm not sure I would have officially recommended is putting together arcade machines featuring Half-Life 2.

As I was poking around Impress Game Watch last night (yes, I do browse Japanese gaming sites, the ones that are completely in Japanese...without any translation), I came across their coverage of Half-Life 2: Survivor, and I nearly fell out of my chair. What a fantastic idea!!

Or I should say, it's excellent execution. This isn't the first time that PC software has been used in an arcade application, as Fusion Games was able to get Beachhead converted into arcade games, to moderate success. The GameWorks in Seattle had a 3-D VR set up running Beachhead Arcade, and it wasn't extraordinarily popular. More people could usually be found playing L.A. Machineguns, located right behind Beachhead.

That being said, it seems that Valve has managed to get a really good looking arcade set up put together for them. Impress says the game is put together by Taito, and from the screens they show, it looks like the cabinet design is excellent, and the game graphics look really good too. The game includes joystick (for movement) and mouse (for aiming) controls. On top of the excellent presentation, a FPS game makes great sense as something to make an arcade conversion for. Shooters have been an arcade staple for almost as long as arcades have been around. And with good joystick and mouse controls, playability shouldn't be an issue. Also included are two foot pedals, one for jumping, the other for ducking.

Taking all of that into account, from a consulting stand-point, does this move make sense? I would say "absolutely, yes." While I don't know the financial details of the move, I'm going to guess that the deal was done so both Valve and Taito can benefit. On top of that, this helps to get Valve some Japanese attention, where PC gaming historically hasn't been that popular. There doesn't seem to be much financial risk involved in the deal; I'm sure it's unlikely the game will make its way to the US (where arcades have died), but in Japan it should do well since the arcade-amusement business is still doing well over there (not great, but it isn't terrible). In addition, it looks like maybe they're using retrofitted cabinets, probably from a racing game, which should make this game less expensive to assemble.

Make your way over to Impress to check out more screens of the machine and some screenshots from the game.

All this makes me want to get back to Japan even more now.

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