This Week In Gaming

A few big news items in the past week for gaming: HBO Go is coming to consoles, 3D isn't having a good week, and Diablo III news raises questions for virtual goods.

HBO Go has been a huge success for the company in the mobile/tablet space. Now the company is looking to expand the service to video game consoles and connected TVs. It's clear why consoles are included in that rollout, since according to Nielsen's recent numbers, our gaming systems represent half of Netflix's streaming.

However, this move is substantially different from HBO's expansion to mobiles/tablets, as HBO is moving to a competitive platform for cable TV. Will HBO eventually offer an a la carte subscription to content separate from a cable subscription? Well, if that is the company's eventual plan, getting an app into the living room would be the first step.

In other news, 3D isn't nearly as exciting as hardware manufacturers were trying desperately to make it sound. The big news item has been the 32% price drop of the Nintendo 3DS, less than six months since its launch. Post-price drop, Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata even downplayed (to an extent) the 3D aspects of the device, suggesting that developers might want to create non-3D games on it.

Then EA's chief executive came out during the investor relations call and made clear the studio isn't interested in developing for 3D. This reflected the earlier views of Bethesda's game director, Todd Howard, who had discussed his distaste for 3D gaming. Still, we'll likely be seeing 3D as an "add-on" -- at least from Sony, because (a) it sells TVs, and (b) apparently the PS3 adding in 3D capabilities comes out to less than half a percentage of the development overhead.

Not to be left out, PC gaming had some interesting news, with some of the announcements from Blizzard relating to Diablo III -- most specifically, its announcement of a virtual goods marketplace on Battle.net (their multi-player offering) which allows virtual items to be bought and sold for real money.

While not a new concept in multi-player gaming, Blizzard sells a lot more copies of its software than any of the other games that have implemented virtual goods to $USD marketplaces for players. This is also a very smart way of capitalizing on the marketplace.

By not selling items directly, Blizzard avoids the complaints of "pay for power" gaming mechanisms that plague cheap, rip-off competitors. The behavior already existed for eBay sales of Diablo II items. Now Blizzard gets a revenue stream by facilitating these transactions in a controlled ecosystem. Brilliant. Now the big question will be how this marketplace (and the inevitable future ones) play nice with gambling laws and tax codes (both of which will inevitably attempt to be rewritten to address this).

Tags: gaming
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