March 28, 2008


I'm rehashing the comment I left at Yglesias' blog here, but based on the current political climate, I can't imagine how Obama's running mate won't be one of two choices. Neither of them are my first choice personally, but every sense of logic indicates how necessary either of them would be.

Given that carrying Virginia will be a necessity for Obama, you have to go down all the available options there for one of Obama's possible running mates. His first is Mark Warner, who is soundly a better choice for Obama than the equally-new Jim Webb or the "who the flying blue hell is Tim Kaine" Tim Kaine. The "problem" is Warner's running for the open Virginia senate seat, to which I say, so what? Warner's going to win that seat by a hoopatajillion points, and like Joe Lieberman in 2000 it's so guaranteed for him that he can easily run for Veep at the same time and not lose a lot of face for it. Plus, if he wins, then Tim Kaine can appoint his Democratic replacement... given Kaine can't run for a second term as governor, he'll most likely appoint himself. Everyone wins, and we get a Vice-President in the guy who everyone expected two years ago to be the nominee in the first place.

The second choice is Joe Biden. And I'm honestly struggling to figure out why he wouldn't be a perfect fit. Biden ties all the loose ends that hinder Obama's campaign: he's white. He's a DC insider. He has more foreign policy experience than almost anyone in Washington. And fulfilling the standard role of the running mate, he's the nasty attack dog who can levy attacks on the opposing ticket while Saint Barack stays high and dry.

But even more important, there's another old issue at hand here. Biden, as you may recall, was the guy who got into a lot of trouble earlier on in the campaign for what were considered racially disparaging remarks about Obama. In what would almost be serendipitous irony, this is actually a major advantage on the PR level. Obama asking a man who previously took flak for offensive statements, and declaring that he is willing to see past that and work with him- I don't think the significance of that needs to be explained at this point.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:01 PM

March 27, 2008

Ice cream

Jeff D. writes in on the video game market squeeze:

Probably the biggest problem with video games, at this point, is the console market. If you release a game for console & PC, you can expect 5x as many console sales as PC sales. Unfortunately, prices for 360/PS3 games are fixed by Microsoft/Sony at $60 ($50 for kids games), which means that it can be a struggle to deliver $60 worth of game (Tetris is a great game, but nobody's gonna pay $60 for it).

However, of that $60, after Microsoft, the retailer, manufacturing, etc. has taken their cut, even a developer/publisher like EA only sees $20 per unit, and a smaller company that relies on a publisher will see less.

However, with downloadable content, you'll actually get 90% of that $ (you only have to pay MS & the credit-card company their cut), so if you could manage this: Sell a $20 game, you get $7, then sell an average of $20 in addons per copy, you get $18. You're now $5 ahead of just selling the game for $60, and you've saved the customer $20, which is why everyone's trying to find the magic formula to make this work.

Jeff's right about all of this, but I think it escapes part of the larger point. Everyone knows direct download is going to be the future of media commerce. It's simply so much cheaper, plus the limitations on stock are limited only by server constraints. But the issue of the profit margin in add-ons belies the question as to why these are considered "add-ons" to begin with.

Basically, it's a much older concept at work here, which you can call the "less ice cream theory." It's when a company decides that the consumer will be happier with paying the same price for less of a product rather than paying more for the same product at a higher price. In other words, why ice cream now comes in "1.75 quart" containers instead of "one-half gallon" containers. The only way this isn't allowed to happen is when the consumer wildly revolts- case in point, Coca-Cola tried a few years back to reduce 2-liter bottles of soda to 1.5 liters, under the guise of a "new, easier-to-handle bottle." No, seriously. I don't know the exact details of the consumer distaste for that, but needless to say that marketing idea lasted less than a year.

My point being, video games cost about as much now as they did ten years ago. The industry is terrified of, and stubborn to, raise the price, so they take away part of the game and sell it to you later. You're paying the same amount for less ice cream.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:20 PM

Extortion 360

I'm not really a "gamer-" the last video game system I personally owned was a Super Nintendo, and I find myself more interested in computer games from five years ago than new releases. So when I read articles like this, it sort of crash-courses me on how far into the void of ridiculousness the video game industry has become.

The short version: You have to buy a video game. Then you have to pay to play it against other people over the internet. You have to pay to download extra levels or maps for the game. And now, in this particular case, you have to pay again to buy additional weapons for your character. I am pretty sure only a few years ago this would mean someone was selling you an incomplete game. Now you're paying for "add-ons."

As someone who isn't a gamer, I'm really failing to understand how this all could possibly appeal to me. It doesn't. I'm not going to get into this Napster-kid-whiny "oh, everything should be FREE hurf durf" rant, but I remember when I bought Starcraft nine or so years ago, that was it. I bought the game, I played the game, I could connect for free to the internet server and play other people. When an expansion pack came out- not a single map, not a handful of weapons, but essentially an all-but-complete sequel, I paid the thirty bucks for that. Maybe that's why Starcraft was the last computer game I actually ever paid money for.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:49 AM

March 25, 2008


I'm glad other people are also asking to tone down this "Hillary Clinton wants to DESTROY THE PARTY OH NOES" talk. Look, she's clearly running a bad (and losing) campaign. And she's been saying stuff over the last few days that just tilts your head- why, for example, would she even suggest that "pledged delegates can switch their votes" unless she's interested in the idea? Of course it's true. It's also true that someone could drop an anvil on Barack Obama from a fifth-story window, but I don't think she'd note that as a way to win the nomination because mentioning it suggests you're considering it as an option. And my point here is that despite not thinking she's going to win, I mutually acknowledge that Hillary Clinton is not, in fact, Wile E. Coyote.

Or for that matter, Lady Macbeth, or Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate, or any other stereotype of some kind of deviant psychopath-slash-calculating uberbitch waaaaaaay too many people are making her out to be. Hillary Clinton isn't evil. She has every right to want to do whatever she thinks is feasible to become the Democratic nominee. But the idea that she wants to "sabotage Obama" and "make him lose" so she has a better chance at running in 2012 is just ridiculous. They said the same stuff about her in 2008 and they'll probably be saying it again in another four years.

That all said, the Hillary fanatics really need to stop smirking at all this stupidity coming from her campaign as if it's a wonderful idea. The "shocked, SHOCKED to discover gambling is going on here" attitude about people being outraged over Hillary's statements is eye-rolling. The reality is, the longer Hillary drags this out, the more likely she'll get blamed if Obama loses in November- whether or not you think that's "fair" is completely irrelevant. And the longer she continues the campaign, the more she's going to get caught in her own bad campaigning- case in point, the Bosnia lie. (Yes, lie. She lied. We know she lied. It was a lie. "I misspoke" on a statement you've made live and in print repeatedly means "you caught me lying.") And if she really does have future prospects, I don't really think being labeled as a Nader-esque spoiler or a lying incompetent is going to make her the 2012 frontrunner. The Clinton campaign isn't Machiavellian; it's just desperate. And frankly, that's starting to look uglier.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:02 AM

March 24, 2008

"The straight talk"

Latest comic - click here!

Because the media loves John McCain- and I mean lurves with every incorrect letter capitalized- they'll ignore covering all the stupid stuff he's said in favor of playing that 30-second clip of the angry black preacher one more time.

Let's not even get into McCain's own personal crazy radical religous guy, who you may not have even heard about because you never even heard about him- John McCain says all on his own stupid and crazy stuff pretty much every day. He constantly gets basic facts on Iraq and Islamic terrorism in the Middle East wrong, and even more frequently just makes ideas up out of whole cloth- ideas which, remembering one of them involve staying in Iraq for a hundred years- should invoke enough gasps from the crowd to make you think a black guy said something angrily. Yeah... that disturbing, people.

Buy some crap and join the list.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:09 AM

March 23, 2008

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:26 AM