Wednesday, October 18, 2006

EA goofs up with ads embedded in a game

The idea of embedding advertisements in software is not a new one. For quite some time it was used by developers of shareware programs to help them getting paid for their work while keeping the product "free" (at least, with no payments required from the user). Somehow for a long time the idea was not introduced into the world of computer games; but recently the topic of "embedded ads" became a hot one. Many factors made the idea of putting ads on vacant places in the game world a lucrative one: growing time people are spending playing games, growth of gamers’ population, expanding demographics of players, availability of internet connectivity… The interest to this topic is constantly growing, especially in the area of casual games. For example, on GDC 2006 WildTangent introduced their own platform for embedding advertisements, oriented on downloadable games.

So, I’m not surprised that Electronic Arts decided to join the fun and released two games with built-in ads: Battlefield 2142 and Need for Speed: Carbon. But I’m still surprised at the total lack of market understanding which EA demonstrated with this launch. EA decided to get the best of both worlds – they’re charging a regular price for the game and make you watch their ads. It’s no wonder people become frustrated with this: usually it’s one or another: I can pay for the game; I also can support a developer of a free game by watching ads instead of paying cash. But I really don’t understand why do I have to do both?!

"Joystiq" (from which I’ve got the information) in two posts (post1 and post2) provides a transcript of the letter, which, as I understand, comes with the game. Here is the most interesting part from this letter:


Basically, love it – or leave it. I am speechless…

I hope that EA will listen to the voice of the gamers and will reconsider its policy. Basically, it has to do a very simple thing: let the users choose, whether they want a free game (or, at least, deeply discounted) with ads, or a fully priced one – but with no ads.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Second Life: cyberpunk becomes real?

Second Life is a 3D online virtual world, created by Linden Lab. According to Wikipedia, currently it has more than 300000 active users and total of more than 800000 user accounts. Nothing spectacular – there are much more densely populated virtual worlds. So why am I writing about it? Well, because it seems that more and more people start realizing that the virtual worlds can be used for more than just killing monsters and leveling up characters. And not just people – huge companies are paying close attention to Second Life. Here are three stories that I’ve discovered today:

I have a feeling that the thrilling cyberpunk stories by Gibson and Stephenson turn into reality much faster that anyone would think…

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Office 2.0 is coming

Couple of interesting developments happened in the area of web-based office productivity applications (so-called "Office 2.0"). First, Zoho just launched its "Virtual office" – an integrated online suite of collaboration tools. Second, Google launched an integrated version of Writely and Google Spreadsheet products called "Docs and Spreadsheets". I didn’t use Zoho yet – but I’ve used Google Spreadsheets, and can tell that the application is nothing short of amazing. On the other hand, the list of applications offered by Zoho is absolutely overwhelming. I think one can say that Office 2.0 is almost here.

More information about Office 2.0 can be found here. Especially interesting for me was a section called "My office 2.0 setup", which provides a list of Office 2.0 tools together with their alternatives. I should confess that I didn’t know about half of the tools mentioned there!

With the new developments come new concerns. As usual, I am concerned about the security of Office 2.0. Here is a very interesting article called “Top 10 Web 2.0 attack vectors” – a must read for anyone building Web 2.0 applications. This article, however, deals mostly with developer-side issues. As for user-side security, I have nothing specific to say yet – just some uneasy feeling about it.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

JavaScript Intranet Scanner

In "Other Things" blog I've found a link to a PDF document which describes a very disturbing security issue with JavaScript:

Imagine visiting a blog on a social site or checking your email on a portal like Yahoo’s Webmail. While you are reading the Web page JavaScript code is downloaded and executed by your Web browser. It scans your entire home network, detects and determines your Linksys router model number, and then sends commands to the router to turn on wireless networking and turn off all encryption. Now imagine that this happens to 1 million people across the United States in less than 24 hours.
This scenario is no longer one of fiction.

The document provides more information on how this can be achieved (though the link to their demo page doesn't work, so I can't guarantee that this is not another joke). If the approach, described in this paper, works - then it's scary. It seems like the only possible solution is to turn off JavaScript support in browser and turn it on only for selected sites, which will make Ajax and other modern Web technologies significantly less appealing.

Again, I didn't check the information yet - but the explanation in the document seems realistic enough.

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