Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Go Social with your March Madness Trash Talking this Year

It's that time of year... the NCAA College Basketball Tournament is in the air and early disputes and trash talking on the would-be "winning" brackets and "championship" teams are in full effect.

With Twitter growing at a staggering 1,382 percent year-over-year in February according to Neilsen, the sports world in specific and our beloved sports figures, columnists and hosts flocking to the service and could be a factor in some of the rapid growth as its publicity is amped up and sports fans feel the urge to sign up and talk to (more at than to) Shaq or ping the PTI crew.

The real question at hand though, is how social can we take trash talking this March?

While it is certainly easier to turn to your friend sitting next to you, who happens to be an ACC fan, and politely discuss the Big East's absolute dominance in the tournament this year, social media will, no doubt, heighten the depth and breadth of your trash talking potential.

This is also the first year the second generation iPhone with the good ol' 3G will capabilities will allow people to check stats, manage their brackets, Tweet their disapproval and manage their Facebook fandom. (C'mon, how many of you diehard fans have already changed your profile pic to your favorite schools logo?)

Mashable highlights some of the March Madness iPhone apps which will get some heavy use this month.

A downside is that the CBS Sports Application will only work with Wifi connectivity on your iPhone, but it will serve as an extra medium to quell the madness beyond the two TV's you've set up in your living room, the laptop precariously propped up on your desktop PC's tower whose monitor rests at the edge of the table next to the never ending bowls of chips and salsa.

Whether you love our hate Tyler Hansbrough with a fiery passion, there is no doubt that you will find the comments and team trash talk and heated debates on Twitter as we get closer to the championship showdown. Of course, today's topic of discussion surrounding NCAA college basketball on Twitter is President Obama's bracket... UNC to win it all? Not a chance they'll get by Pitt in the Final Four!

Someone knocking your team? Support your school and reply so that all can hear! But remember the rules of any argument and bring some evidence to back up your point... you don't want to be THAT guy do you?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sports go social: ESPN's PTI debates Facebook firing, begins to use Twitter

Yesterday while getting my daily sports highlight intake from ESPN's Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on the Pardon the Interruption program I heard two topics which caught me mildly off-guard. Among the highlights were, NCAA men's basketball, Ladanian Tomlinson contract talks and Facebook. A recent incident of a Philadelphia Eagles fan turned weekend gate worker who was fired after posting on his Facebook profile status message direct to the loss of Brian Dawkins that said: "Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver ... Dam Eagles R Retarted!!"

Wilbon went onto disagree with his termination, saying that he would rather throw the guy who fired this gate guard out of the organization. In my opinion, I don't think he should have been fired but it sure did merit at least a slap on the hands and a change of employee social media policies. Tony raised an extremely valid point noting that Facebook is public. If they (being the Eagles or any company you work at for that matter) are giving you a paycheck, you have to draw lines. In this case, you are either a fan or an employ and should absolutely support your company's decision or just shut up. It's important for a company's message to be consistent whether you're a giant enterprise technology company or a sports team, a C-level employ or a mail room attendant. Now that the average Joe is capable of reaching hundreds of people, it might be a responsible move for these places of business to enact a series of social media defamation policies encompassing the Facebook and Twitter apps of the world.

Also on the sports social media front, after a discussion between Tony and guest host Dan Le Betard around the rise of sports players using Twitter back in February, the PTI crew came out with an interesting announcement last night. They have launched a Twitter account @PTIShow and actually asked the audience to submit any cool ways to incorporate Twitter into the TV program. I have a feeling, Twitter will at the very least replace the Mail Room segment of PTI in the next few months. If I was in charge, I'd throw in similar hi-def features which are used by the ESPN News HD channel incorporating stats and a moderately censored live Twitter feed on the currently unused side columns.

You can listen to last nights PodCast version of the TV show here (this segment is towards the end).

While writing this, the @PTIShow now has close to 4,700 followers, which is about 1,000 more that were listed last night at 7:00 pm ET. Even though these aren't Dalai Lama Twitter numbers, it no doubt highlights Twitter's increasing mass appeal, popularity and attractiveness for news sources, further extending social technology in sports culture which will continue to diversify it's audience.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Music services taps Twitter model... so what?

Back in November 2008, Thrillist ran an article in their daily New York email newsletter introducing a company called Musebin and offering up an exclusive and limited invite to the service. Given my obsession with music of all genres (except country) and my infatuation with technology/internet services, I felt I almost HAD to sign up for this service.

The idea and premise is so simple. Musebin is a user generated music album review site which allows members to give a 140 character explanation of why the liked it or why they hated it. "140 characters you say? Sounds a lot like Twitter to me..." well, you're not alone, it does to me too.

In fact, another tool but NOT an extension to Musebin (please someone correct me if I'm wrong), with a completely unprounceable name, ♬ on Twitter, aka musebin.ws, is trying to do just that. After playing around with the musically-glorified Twitter search, I've found it does not really do anything too unique from the search beyond pulling out album covers and other items you might consider searching related to the artist you're searching.

Keeping Twitter in the back of my mind this entire time, I have a feeling we'll begin to see these types of sites and searches which better aggregate and highlight Twitter postings topically as the 140 character micro-blogging service begins to hit the mainstream. It may even offer a way for Twitter to make some damn money and build an ad platform to serve targeted advertisements which is something that should have probably been done upon being launched.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Activision Blizzard to make moves in recession, is that a mobile WoW MMO I smell?

Activision Blizzard's CEO Mike Griffith mentioned in an interview with Bloomberg yesterday that, “The combination of Activision holding a fair amount of cash [nearly $3 billion] and presumably prices being depressed, not only for publicly traded companies, but also likely for new intellectual property licensing rights, should certainly create opportunities.”

As the recession hit's everyone and their mother, it's not a surprise that the current top grossing third-party gaming company in the world and their incrediblely successful Guitar Hero and World of Warcraft franchises that they would look to take advantage of their lead and venture into some new areas of gaming growth.

With Vivendi reporting that their 2008 earnings have reached their goals and giving what seems to be a confident outlook for 2009, perhaps we can plan to see a resurgence of their mobile division concentrating more in the N. American market with the continued adoption of the iPhone and iPod Touch as gaming devices and rising competitor of the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP.

Watch out Tapulous, your Tap Tap Revenge might look very appealing to the suits at Activision Blizzard, especially with some of the cool new features added in today's launch of the second game of the series.

If mobile is the avenue they take, it would be interesting to see the moves they made with Blizzard-specific products. For the record, I've been a long time fan of what Blizzard produces, from playing the original Warcraft in DOS on the first computer I built, to my, now dormant character on WoW and looking forward to the launch of Diablo III and Starcraft II.

Tell me it wouldn't be cool or a huge surprise if they acquired a mobile company to pull together technologies for a mobile MMO World of Warcraft like the The Watchmen game on the iPhone launching Friday?

Monday, March 2, 2009

DLC's future is bright as Xbox Live continues to dominate over PSN

Two weeks ago, the launch of Rockstar's GTA IV: The Lost and Damned downloadable content pack "eclipsed first-day revenue" for all content released via Microsoft's Xbox Live service. While no numbers were released by Microsoft, there is no doubt, that this number is very large and will change how game developers and publishers produce and release downloadable content and expansions through Xbox Live and Playstation Network services... not to mention how these types of games are recieved/reviewed by the media and the public.

The launch of Bethesda's $10 downlodable expansion Operation Anchorage for Fallout 3 and the upcoming release of Fallout 3: The Pitt which will extend the level-cap and offer up a few more features for players will only be available for download on Xbox 360 and PC. Ubisoft recently announced a week delay in their downloadable expansion Prince of Persia: Epilogue which it will be made available through the PSN and Xbox Live. As the downloadable content department future looks brighter and brighter, content will continue to become more robust and more economical and attractive venture for both publishers and users alike (cough... nearly 20 hours of extra gameplay for $20 is pretty amazing... cough).

As DLC continues to grow and in the midst of battle between console network behemoths Xbox Live and PSN, Sony released some interesting numbers last week, stating that the number of registered users on the free-to-register PSN now exceeds that of Xbox Live at over 20 million users to Xbox's 17 million.

Quick snapshot comparison of stats courtesy of Variety:

- PSN (PS3 and PSP) around 70 million devices
- Xbox Live (Xbox 360) about 28 million

Existence of services:
- PSN has been around for 27 months.
- Xbox Live 67 months

- PSN $180 million in gross revenue
- Xbox Live over $1 billion (per MSFT at E3 in 2008)

So what does all of this mean? The validity in the whole online content scheme of things is highly questionable, as registered users mean nothing sans usage numbers. Fanatics will do the inevitable on a free service and horde user names, create accounts for the US and other networks, many of which inevitably go inactive. Xbox Live is the clear winner here based on quality of downloadable content and basic amounts of revenue that have poured in through their service - to reiterate what I mentioned above, it will be interesting to see if they disclose the amount of units sold for Rockstar's latest hit or the upcoming expansions, Prince of Persia: Epilogue or Fallout 3: The Pitt.

With the diehard Playstation fans forcing Xbox 360 exclusive user product reviews down by scoring The Lost and the Damned and other highly anticipated and reviewed games like Epic's Gears of War 2 unreasonably low (think a 0-2 rating), the real question is no longer what you can do for Sony, but what is Sony going to do to step up their game in the market.

Premium paid accounts with unique product offerings or discounts on DLC? Paying the price for exclusivity on upcoming downloadable content for hit games like Xbox recently did with the Lost and Damned at $50 million? Unlockable achievements? C'mon Sony, hook us up with something!