I had a few questions after my most recent Shooting Straight entry, and I wanted to take a few words to address them.
Is the Armchair Analyst gone?
Aside from the monthly pieces that I’ll continue to do for Popzara for now, yes. It was an enjoyable experience and I learned quite a bit from it, but after kind of spinning my wheels in place over the last couple of years and with NPD information becoming so nebulous and difficult to find, it’s extremely difficult to do a decent job of analysis. I took a stab at wanting to move forward with analysis work during E3 and learned that a college degree is required, which is something that isn’t a lock for me. Enthusiasm and intuition can only get a person so far in this day and age– education is a key component that I lack. I’ll still talk about sales trends and sales numbers on Twitter from time to time, but that’s probably as far as it will go.
Are you still going to be writing?
I’m taking a bit of downtime currently after running the E3 gauntlet and the NPD data release that followed just after I returned home. I’m still active in my role at Popzara and will continue to take on review assignments as they’re given to me. Nathan and Chris have been awesome throughout my tenure so far, sending me assignments when they’re available. We’re also in a pretty quiet period post-E3, so there hasn’t been a lot to cover in terms of review work. I hope that things will pick up later in August and beyond.
I’ve still been giving some thought to submitting work to RetrowareTV, which has an excellent team of contributors and staffers. Unfortunately, most of the content there is of the video variety… and I don’t have much experience or equipment with which to do a lot in that area. My experience is with the written word, which is a bit antiquated these days. I also have to think of a series of columns to put together, and there are several options that I’m considering. This is very much an in-process kind of thing. I had initially considered submitting the Super Star Fox Weekend piece to RetrowareTV, but thought it better to post here and share with all of you rather than a piece out of nowhere over there.
What impressed you the most at E3?
Hyperkin‘s RetroN 5, easily. While emulators on laptops, PCs, and even some other video game platforms exist, the RetroN 5 allows me to play games that I own (not ROMs) using the controllers that I have, while affording some cool features from emulators and video upscaling. Being able to play carts from so many different platforms still fuels my interest in building a library of games, but having certain features like save states allows me to enjoy games with silly-length passwords without having to write those codes down or take pictures and enter the codes later. The upscaling looked pretty good, too– certainly better than playing those games on an HDTV with RCA inputs in standard definition. Be sure to check out my full impressions piece over at Popzara, if you haven’t already.
What were some of your favorite E3 experiences?
I really can’t put into words how much of an honor it was to meet so many people that I respect and admire again this year. Getting to meet Mike Futter and Andrew Reiner from Game Informer was a thrill. Getting to talk to Jesse Divnich, Michael Pachter, Liam Callahan (from NPD), and Jim Reilly (from EEDAR) was special because of their direct links to a field that I’ve followed for so many years. I got to spend a few good minutes with Aubrey Norris from Deep Silver (who has done an AMAZING job there), I got to chat with Marcus Beer again this year (and remembered to take my tie off this time), and I met some other fantastic and hard-working writers like Robert Workman and Dan Hevia once again. I sat two computers down from Angry Joe in the press room, and I got to listen in on a cool pinball conversation between a Farsight Studios employee and none other than Pat “The NES Punk” Contri.
It’s always been a goal of mine to be a peer to talent like that, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to say that I’ve been there. It’s always flattering and humbling when these fine people recognize me or know who I am. Those will always be my favorite E3 experiences– from this year and from the two years prior.
So… what now?
I really don’t have specific plans, honestly. I’m enjoying my downtime, playing both retro and more recent games. I’m still pretty active on Twitter and Instagram in terms of social media, too. I’m not going away or anything; I’m just writing and contributing more on my own terms now while I figure out what direction I want to go in. I guess you can call it a “period of transition”.
That’s wraps up the post-E3 questions. Thanks for reading!
In about 14 hours, I’ll be boarding the first of two flights that will be taking me to Los Angeles and another Electronics Entertainment Expo.
This is my third, and I’m just as excited this time as I was each of the last two years. It’s an important show for this business; plans will be set in motion to launch the two newest players to join Wii U on the new-generation stage and there will be plenty of last-gen games to cover that will continue to sell hardware and earn millions of dollars. There’s some pressure to turn this tide of decline and prove the console gaming industry isn’t as bad off as some analysts believe.
My schedule for this year’s show is packed solid. Regrettably, I was not granted appointment slots with the big three this year, but I will still be evaluating plenty of games and accessories. I have time scheduled with Namco Bandai, Bethesda, Square-Enix, Konami, Majesco, XSEED, Hyperkin, Tecmo Koei, Activision, Zen Studios, SEGA, and others. In all, I have 13 meetings in three days’ time. There will be plenty to see and talk about, and I’ll be sharing much of it over at Popzara during and especially after E3. I’ll also be tweeting when I can and sharing Instagram pictures when I can, so if you’re looking for on-the-fly remarks from me on the show floor, following me on Twitter will be the way to do it.
As for the big three, it’s very interesting sitting here just hours before the E3 keynotes begin and surveying the social mediasphere. Sony seems to be in the catbird’s seat, poised to take advantage of a momentum shift. Nintendo is the wild card, having been left for dead by many and having a lot to prove. Microsoft has gone from penthouse to outhouse in the social mediasphere, spewing hatred and contempt for the Xbox One with its killing of game rentals and neutering of game borrowing and trade-ins. If this was a stock car race, Sony would be in the pole position, Nintendo would be somewhere in the middle of the starting grid, and Microsoft would be starting from the rear. While it may seem like Sony has a pretty easy path to success in this new generation, winners aren’t ever crowned based on where they start a race; it’s all about how you finish. We don’t know whether Sony may run into trouble with used game limitations or other things similar to the Xbox One just yet. The wrong news this week could put some heat on the PS4’s tires in the pace lap, dropping it back to the pack. Who knows what Nintendo might do with the Wii U? Price cut? Surprise game reveals? As for Microsoft, with the bad news out of the way, maybe exclusives and fantastic games will be enough to make the negative things somewhat more palatable.
I think that we’re going to see some pretty great stuff this year. I hope that you’re as excited to take it all in as I am. I’ll share more next weekend after I return.
As I begin the process of planning and setting E3 appointments for this year, I can’t help but to think about how attending the show has always been such a goal of mine. I know that it’s old hat for many of my colleagues, and I understand that it’s a LOT of work for everyone– media, retailers, analysts, exhibitors, and staff– but I really do consider it one of the highest honors that I can attain to be counted among one of those who get to attend. This is going to be my third consecutive year, which I still can’t believe sometimes after so many other years where I was *this* close to going but could not do to some circumstance or another.
Even if I wrote 2,000 words about it, I couldn’t really express how special this is for me. 2011 was amazing because it was unexpected and I was overwhelmed by it all. KmartGamer really opened the door and gave me (along with Amy and Stephen) my first look at what E3 was like up-close. I was ridiculously under-prepared for what was to come. I didn’t have any business cards and our schedule was so packed with meetings that I was carried along with the tide as the show went on. 2012 was my first year as media, and covering the show solo was a lot more chaotic than I could have imagined. I was one man versus a convention center, and I did the best I could. I was beaten up a little, ran out of money by the second day, and my hotel was the last place I wanted to be for long. Still, I got a lot accomplished. I attended my fair share of meetings, got to see more of the show floor, got to attend an incredible Symphony of the Goddesses performance, and got to meet many people whom I admire and who inspired me to get to where I was (and am today).
This year will be no less of a challenge. I’m attending the show solo again this year, which means I’m my own writer, photographer, personal assistant, and provider. My appointment schedule has already filled up for the first day (June 11th), and I still have meetings that I’m working on setting up– including Hyperkin (Hello, RetroN 5!), Zen Studios (As if I’d miss a chance to talk pinball!) and hopefully some time with Activision. I’m also honored to be attending Michael Pachter’s Wedbush Networking event again this year, getting to meet Mr. Pachter along with Jesse Divnich and others. I’m really looking to find out more about– if not possibly get into– sales and industry analysis as a career path, and meeting the people who inspired me and fueled my interest and passion is very important to me.
My coverage will have a different approach this year, with a focus on more analysis and anticipated consumer response to games and hardware than the enthusiast focus that I went with last year. How well do I think these things will sell? What kind of reaction do I anticipate from consumers when these products release? What kind of effect do I think they’ll have on the market, if any? These are the kinds of questions that I’ll be focusing on. I will be doing some hands-on pieces, as well… after all, getting to try some of the games early on that everyone else will be playing later on makes for experiences that I’m going to want to share. Most of that coverage will be going up on Popzara either during the event or in the days that follow the event. I’m going to try to update here and at Armchair Analysis as well with some relevant coverage.
Through it all– the planning, the travel, the hustle and bustle, the long hours, and everything else– E3 is something that I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to attend. Despite arguably being a bit less vital than the event has been in the past, it’s still something that leaves you with memories and experiences that stay fresh long after the doors have closed. I’m very excited, and I’m very grateful to Nate at Popzara for helping me out with preparation for the event. For me, it’s a feeling that I’ll never tire of, no matter how many of these events that I am fortunate enough to attend.
I can’t wait to share it all during and after E3 in just a few short weeks.
Since 2008, when I first began looking at NPD data and writing summaries, I started to gain interest in sales analysis. Numbers go up, numbers go down. Sometimes there are patterns, and sometimes those patterns make it possible for people to make predictions about what might happen next. It can be a lot of guesswork, and there are times when those predictions don’t verify or when they tend to irritate or anger a set of people.
There was a time when I used to be very critical of analysts like Michael Pachter or Jesse Divnich, but that all changed when I met them for the first time in June of 2011. Since then, I’ve been learning things on the fly. I’ve been steadily writing Armchair Analysis columns and monthly NPD breakdowns for Popzara Press for the last 12 months. I’ve been active on Twitter, making predictions and talking with others about what I think might happen. Some think I’m nuts (which is okay), and some think that I’m not. I’ve had a pretty decent track record over the past two years in terms of predictions and projections, mixing trends with retail experience and various sources of chatter. My interest has grown, but I’ve been too shy to pursue it.
After some discussion with Nate over at Popzara, and after some private deliberation, I’ve decided that analysis is a field that I want to pursue, and I’ll be approaching my coverage at E3 from that perspective. While I’ll be getting as much hands-on experience as I can, my focus will be to see what’s out there and how it will pertain to sales and successes over the coming months. Which games will be the biggest successes? Which ones will be the biggest surprises? How will they affect potential sales of hardware platforms– both old (PS3/360) and new (PS4/new Xbox)? These are the questions that I’m going to want to try to answer.
Of course, there is going to be an enthusiast perspective as well. I’ll be looking forward to meeting with Zen Studios staff to find out what’s on the horizon for pinball. I’m hoping to see what the future holds for the next generation of sports video games, as a fan. I’ll look forward to seeing how Call of Duty: Ghosts is shaping up. And, yes, I’m hoping to see the new hardware platforms close up. While we will know about the PS4 and the new Xbox well before this year’s event, this will be the first time that both will be at the same show and publishers will finally be able to shed some light in terms of what they’re working on. I’m also very curious to see what Nintendo will deliver; I’m confident that they’re going to be much more aggressive at this year’s event.
I’m a numbers guy. I have been for some time, and continue to be fascinated with trends and patterns. Analysis isn’t a field for everyone, but there’s a lot that can be learned from being an observer and understanding how forces both from outside of the industry and from within can affect sales strength on both hardware and software levels. It’s time for me to move on from simply talking about it as a hobby and expand upon it, whether it’s pitching columns to other websites or maybe pursuing a career path in analysis.
I will also continue to contribute video game reviews, as well as work on content here as well as for my Armchair Analysis blog. With school ending, I’ll have more free time to spend on writing and improving that skill. While sales analysis will be my main focus, I will be staying sharp by playing current titles when possible with the added benefit of experience to help determine how I think the game may fare on the whole in terms of sales success.
Indeed, it’s an exciting time. Time to take my own advice and see what happens. Time to step forward.
News of Nintendo electing not to hold a press conference at E3 this year is getting all kinds of reactions across the internet. The two main camps that people are setting up in are these:
- Good move for Nintendo. Less money spent, plus Nintendo Direct events have basically replaced the traditional press event.
- Bad move for Nintendo. It shows weakness and risks losing valuable coverage from the mainstream press.
When Nintendo started rolling out its Direct events during E3 last year, I wondered then if this would be Nintendo’s new direction. Then we got a Nintendo Direct event after E3 which announced many of the games that we would have seen at E3 in past years. It seemed to me that E3 was no longer as much of a priority for Nintendo as it once was, and I firmly believe that this latest move reinforces that line of thinking. It’s important to note that Nintendo will still have some sort of presence at E3 this year, despite the lack of a press conference. Closed-door press gatherings and events for retailers will be held, and Nintendo will most likely have a booth/area for attendees to see what the House of Mario has up its sleeve for the next year. It’s less complicated and likely less expensive to use this new, bold approach than it is to rent out the Nokia Theater and invest in light shows and set pieces.
My concern with the decision is that Nintendo Direct events don’t have a wide reach outside of the Nintendo ecosystem. Nintendo fans watch them religiously, and gaming press does a great job of summarizing and reporting on these events during and after they happen… but what about those who haven’t yet bought into what Nintendo is selling? Mainstream media like USA Today or network news aren’t going to follow Nintendo Direct events. Worse, the lack of a press conference similar to what the competition will be delivering does arguably show a sign of surrender, as if to say, “Yeah, we were gonna get blown away by Sony and Microsoft anyway, so we decided to cut our losses.” When Spike TV, Game Trailers, and many other gaming press sites streamed Nintendo’s press conferences, people of all kinds would watch… not just the Nintendo faithful, and not necessarily just core gaming consumers. Now there’s nothing to stream. Nintendo broadcasts its Nintendo Direct events on its own terms, via its own streaming networks, and if you don’t actively seek them out, you’ll miss out. Then Sony and Microsoft really will have all of the draw, and Nintendo will be left to its loyal fanbase to buy their games while others go elsewhere.
If I was Satoru Iwata (which I’m certainly not), I would have used the press conference to assert the fact that despite its perceived troubles, Nintendo is in great shape. Split the event in two, starting with Wii U and showing off the games that the company has slated for the rest of 2013, including the very important Q4 period. Take the time to explain to the audience exactly what Wii U is, and what it can do. Eliminate the confusion. Show confidence in it. Then deliver the 3DS side, showing off the games that are finally on their way which will propel the handheld back to positive YOY comps. Show Pokemon. Show Zelda. Drop a surprise. Make the audience believe. The press conference, in my estimation, didn’t have to be about rolling out anything new at all– it could have been a re-roll opportunity for Wii U and a great chance to show the masses that 3DS is in great shape moving forward and that 2012 was an aberration.
But that’s me. The only things that Mr. Iwata and I have in common are wearing glasses and playing Rollerball for the NES (a game that he was a producer on). I don’t run a major video game company worth billions of dollars. It’s far too easy for me to sit here in front of my laptop at 2am and talk about what I would do since there are no ramifications for me. My idea is just that: an idea, and not necessarily the right thing to do.
The thing that we must do right now is to wait and see how the decision affects the overall outcome. If sales improve significantly, those who criticized the decision will have to eat some crow and Nintendo potentially sets a precedent for other companies to follow. If results don’t improve that much, we can again talk about Iwata’s fate and how his poor decision-making have put Nintendo in a delicate state. We won’t know– we can’t know– for quite some time.
I do have my reservations about Nintendo’s big gamble, but the die has been cast and I’ll be very curious to see whether the company doubles down or busts. No outcome is guaranteed, and it’ll be fascinating to watch things unfold during E3 and beyond.
I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be attending this year’s Electronics Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles and covering the event for Popzara Press. This will be my third consecutive year at the event– my first was in 2011 as one of the three KmartGamer bloggers selected to attend, and my second was also on behalf of Popzara. It’s truly an honor to be considered for event coverage and to be allowed access, and I’m grateful to Nate and the Popzara team for finding a way to get me out to Los Angeles again this year.
It’s an important event this year. I know that I have said this before the last two of these, but this year has even more at stake. Despite Nintendo electing to not have a press event this year, Microsoft and Sony will by vying for attention as their new platforms will take center stage and will have major buzz during the event. In addition, there will be plenty of older-gen and new-gen software competing for consumer dollars and on display. A new Call of Duty game, a new year of sports titles, more downloadable releases, and likely other surprises that we’ll see as the show unfolds. While it will be possible to learn about most of the major news from the event from home, getting to experience the games first-hand and perhaps even getting a crack at the new hardware is something that you can’t do by just sitting in front of the computer.
At this moment, what I know is that I’ll be in Los Angeles and will have access to the show floor. My press credentials were approved and the all-important first step has been taken. What will happen next is that I’ll be in contact with Nate at Popzara and we’ll be putting together some strategies for coverage. I have a list of things that I’m hoping to see, and I’m sure that Popzara will have a list of things that they will be able to get me access to. Once we put together a general itinerary, I’ll be sharing some of it with you… but until then, things are still very much in the planning stages.
Covering E3 is a massive undertaking. It’s also a rewarding experience from both personal and professional perspectives. My writing experience under deadlines has improved. My time management skills have gotten better, as well. I’ve met some truly inspirational people who have been driving forces for me as a writer and as an armchair analyst, such as Jesse Divnich, Michael Pachter, Marcus Beer, Kevin Dent, and many others. I’ve made a few contacts– and I hope to make a few more this time out. Most importantly, I’m instrumental as a front line contributor. I see games and hardware first-hand, touch them, play with them, and can write about them from a different perspective. It’s a lot of work for all involved, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.
I’m looking forward to filling in the blanks and letting you know more details as we work them out.
2012 has been a tough year for me. It’s the first time since 1991 that I haven’t held a job for an entire year. My self-confidence has been wavering most of the year. I’ve had to sell off a lot of my belongings to make ends meet. Fighting my battles with anxiety and depression this year has largely gone against me, though I’ve managed to crawl to the finish line and see the year end and another one begin.
It’s important to note that 2012 wasn’t all terrible. Turning 40 wasn’t as bad as I feared, though it got tougher after the first few months. After nearly giving up on writing for good, I found an opportunity to get back into the fold and had a decent year of output. I returned to Los Angeles and E3 for the second year in a row, and met up with people that I have great admiration of and respect for… people like Andy Eddy, Dan Ryckert and some members of the Game Informer editorial team, Marcus Beer, Kevin Dent, Dan Hevia, Jesse Divnich, Michael Pachter, members of Zen Studios, and many others. I got to review some good games this year and got to enjoy lots of pinball experiences. I returned to college for the first time in more than 20 years and wound up with a 4.0 GPA in my first semester back.
I think the most important thing, to me, is that I realized some things about myself.
When I was preparing for my 40th birthday, I found out about some videos from a personality known as Pat The NES Punk (Pat Contri). I was really big on the NES at the time, and watching Pat’s video series not only brought smiles to my face but they also began what’s become a personal transformation as 2012 went on. I found myself wanting to focus my time and attention less on today’s video game scene and more on what I found was a growing and close-knit retrogaming community. When a surprise gift of a Nintendo Entertainment System arrived just prior to my birthday, the dominoes began to fall. My mom’s gift to me was to help me build a small collection of NES games to start with, and I slowly built that collection over the remaining 7 months of the year. My retro collection had started to build a month prior with a Super Nintendo Entertainment System that I’d purchased thanks to a great deal from a relative, but the NES really sealed things… and I got a Genesis with birthday money soon after.
Even though E3 was a very exciting and unforgettable event in June, I kept feeling myself drawn back to my older stuff. I pulled my collection of NES manuals out and sorted them, sharing pictures online occasionally. I began talking more and more about my collection and older games, pointing out memories and what used to be. I wrote a lot about it here and used Twitter to share my enthusiasm quite a bit.
I was realizing that I could still have a passion for writing or sharing content. I was just changing my focus. It was probably overdue, since I’d been spending way too much time on Twitter and here on Consoleation complaining about everything that I disliked about modern console gaming. I could have been spending that energy on more positive things and maybe making a bit of a name for myself… maybe not to the extent that Pat Contri has worked so hard to get to, (or any of the personalities from Retroware TV, which has become one of my go-to websites this year) but instead just present myself as a knowledgeable, passionate, and decent writer. That’s where the decision for my top 2013 resolution comes in.
I’m likely never going to make a living as a writer, but writing for me has never been about the money. It’s been about sharing my knowledge and experience, networking with like-minded people, and maybe being in the same conversation as some of those who worked hard to become professionals. When I met the people I mentioned at E3 and they knew who I was… it made for a humbling and special experience. It was a dream scenario for a guy who’s played games for most of his life and who has been given the opportunity to write a few things to know that his work and words have been read by people that he looks up to and has been inspired by.
Despite all of my personal trials and tribulations, I have a lot to be grateful for when I look back on 2012 in its waning hours. I’m grateful to my family for keeping me afloat despite having zero income and for supporting me in my quest for a college degree. I’m grateful to Nathan at Popzara Press for affording me the opportunity to contribute work as an aspiring analyst, going on gut instinct and retail experience rather than professional experience and a business degree. I’m also grateful to Nathan (and to Chris Mitchell) for getting me out to Los Angeles and into E3 this year, making a dream come true yet again. I’m grateful to all of the people who took the time to meet and talk to me while I was at the show and strengthening my belief in myself. I’m grateful to all of my followers and readers on social media who sifted through all of my complaining and railing this past year, offering their support, insight, and conversation.
Finally, I owe all of you who have taken the time to read Consoleation at any point this past year a debt of thanks. 2012 was this blog’s best year ever, with 8,100 page views and 600 unique visitors. Consoleation is on the cusp of breaking 24,000 page views in its lifetime, which is a big deal to me. When I started it back in 2008, I didn’t know what direction it would go in and basically used it as a supplement to my writing work elsewhere… but now it’s an independent entity and I’m humbled that a blog from a relative unknown could see nearly 25,000 page views. That is thanks to you, and it means more than any words could possibly express.
As I ring in 2013, there will be changes, as I alluded to with my 2013 resolutions. I’m looking forward to my new direction.
I wish you and yours the very best in 2013: success, health, and all good things. I hope that you enjoy closing the door on 2012 and opening a new one for 2013.