Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

There Can Be Only One?

Lets face it, the industry is totally screwed at the moment.

This morning I heard the sad news that Remode are closing and become one of many casualties that we've seen over the last couple of years. Frankly this is getting ridiculous now. It's stopped being a worrying trend and started to resemble some weird re-enactment of Highlander.

The thing is, this isn't just fledgling companies. These are established, respected outfits who *should* be stable for example:
  • Kerb: Legends of the industry - the "Sex Pistols" of the dot-com era and one of very few people who could make a successful game about masturbation.
  • LittleLoud: Darlings of the media industry and beater of Kempt in several pitches (much to my irritation, but talented people nonetheless.)
  • And now Remode, who couldn't have got more coverage and buzz in the industry if they'd been on Big Brother and gone on a gun-toting rampage.
So... it's a worrying trend and one that I'm afraid is far from over. But why is this happening and what needs to happen to stop it? Well here are a couple of observations from the inside:

Pitching:
The pitching situation has gone mental. Up until about 4 years ago about 50% of our business was repeat business with no formal tender and we used to be able to win projects with a side of A4 and a pencil sketch. Now - everyone - wants to pitch their work out to 5-7 different companies and they want a full-blown presentation whether you've worked together or not. Last year we refused to deal with one media agency because we'd sent them 15-20 tenders with not a single success. Occasionally I have a bad idea or two but not 15 in a row.

Anyway... look at it this way: if an agency pitches for a £30k project they might spend 10 days on the pitch at a cost of around £4k. Now, if there are 6 other agencies pitching that means that there's £28k's worth of work going into winning £30k's worth of work. Clearly that's not a sustainable situation.

Investment/Risk.
Quite simply, big companies and investors need to man-up a bit, make some investments and take a few risks. At the moment there's a huge tendency to load the risk up onto studios, not just when it comes to traditional publishers but also brands. Increasingly I hear of deals where customers want to pay a cut-price for development, make all the decisions and then give the poor studio a paltry cut of the (non-existent) revenues thereafter. Again, it's just not a sustainable situation. You want to call the shots, that's fine with us but it's probably better that you take the risk.

So... What next? Well from here I think a few things will happen:

  1. Publishers and platform owners will eventually realise that they can't pin all their hopes on indies and that reaching the standard required for success takes a level of investment beyond the means of most small companies/hobbyists.
  2. Studios are going to get tougher. As I mentioned above we've recently started turning down briefs for the first time ever and, frankly, we're no less successful than we were before we started doing that!
  3. Hopefully, people are starting to notice all this going on and realise that within chaos is always opportunity. I suspect a few canny, calculated investments now will make someone very rich indeed in the not-too-distant future.

Sadly I suspect there'll be more casualties before that happens.

------ Updates ------
Other Studio Closures in the last couple of years: Brighton-based Kanoti closed at the beginning of Feb 14, Hide and Seek closed Nov 13, Skive closed in 2012, Blitz games closed Sept 13,

Kempt meanwhile are busy working on a blockbuster re-make of their iOS game Stunt Guy check out the preview video for Stunt Guy 2.0 on Youtube.

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Hunting for the Ultimate Headphones!

Over the last few years I've been on a personal quest to find the ultimate headphones - a quest that's got easier now that I'm older and have become less worried about looking like a dick in public (clearly demonstrated by my current beard) but nevertheless a daunting undertaking.

Key criteria would be:

  • Good enough sound quality for music writing in GarageBand.
  • Inline microphone for hands free.
  • Solid construction.
  • Jack plug slim enough to fit apple cases (many don't).
  • Cables that aren't too long and are thick enough to net get tangled too badly.
  • And, given that I'm a bit pretentious, look cool.

Headphone/earphones that I've tried so far include:



Sony MDR-710LP - not bad, no microphone though and too fiddly and fragile - currently being held together by half a pack of Araldite.


Etymotic HF5 - Definitely my favourite in-ear headphones, sound great and have an inline mic but suffer from a very narrow audio-opening which - no-matter how clean your ears are - WILL get clogged with wax at some point. Very cool that you can get custom silicone buds for them though.


Bowers and Wilkins C5 - Remarkable earphones as they simultaneously manage to be the: Most beautiful, most expensive and worst earphone/headphones I've ever owned. Was very excited when I bought them but sadly they're excessively bassy and they're not particularly comfortable either :o(. Real shame as the rest of the range is amazing.


Sennheiser MM30i - A great all-round set - brilliant sound but like all earphones they get a bit uncomfortable after a while and they do tent to get knotted up in your bag.

The Most Recent Escapade:

So - given the lessening of my inhibitions - I decided to shop around a bit again and this time look at on/over ear headphones instead. I considered quite a few options for example:


AKG 451 - Which receive rave reviews, tick most of the boxes, are currently available for less than £50 but are, sadly, slightly ugly.


Sony MDR-V55 - Which sound monstrous (in a good way) and are currently available under £40 but don't have an inline mic.


And the simply beautiful Sennheiser Momentum Over-Ear headphones which tick all the boxes but are as expensive as they are beautiful - retailing for around £250. The sound is crisp and detailed but - comparing them side by side with the V55s - I have to say I prefer the punchy sound of the Sony pair even if it is less refined.

So.... all was lost... there was no clear winner. But then I stumbled across a wildcard - this set from Philips (dodgy beard not included):


This set ticks all the boxes above. They have a mic, look cool, are solid and well made, fit an Apple iPhone case, have a flat flex which doesn't tangle and - most important sound crisp and detailed.


To be fair, they're not perfect, if I had to be critical of them I'd say:

  • They're not quite as punchy as the V55s (although this seems to be improving as they run in).
  • That they have a slightly embarrassing name - "Philips CitiScape Uptown".

Yes, the name did nearly put me off too, but... take into account that they're currently available for under £50 and for my money they're a bit of a bargain. Anyway... you can always refer to them by their model number: The "SHL5905FB/10" which is clearly much better :).
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