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Friday
Nov092012

On Taxing Job Creators

Someone clear this up for me. When Boehner says stuff like "Raising taxes on wealthy Americans makes them less likely to create the jobs we all want", what the actual fuck is he talking about? Go on this walk with me.

Some things I think are true (but willing to be corrected on)- 

  • Money I made last year, and stuck in the bank, is already taxed and won't be taxed again
  • Revenue that my business makes in a year, less my deductible expenses, is my income
  • When you spend more money on things like payroll, the total amount of money being taxed (income or profit) neccessarily goes down

So based on this, when republicans say things like the above, they can't really mean, "I have less money with which to hire in a given year" because how much their income is taxed after the end of the year is completely unrelated to how much money the business has for hiring. What they are saying is, after I've hired everyone I plan too, I simply want to bank 1.8 million not 1.6 million dollars.

Right?

So can we stop pretending that personal tax rates have any effect whatsoever on hiring decisions. 

Thursday
Sep272012

Getting your Podcast feed back to SquareSpace from FeedBurner without losing iTunes subscribers

As many others have mentioned over the last week, FeedBurner appears to be in the process of going "belly up". At The GAME.minder Report, we had literally just switched over to using FeedBurner last month so obviously, we were less than thrilled to hear this news.

As we are hosted on SquareSpace, moving the feed TO FeedBurner was pretty simple: 

  • set up a feed on FeedBurner pointing at our GAMEminderreport.com feed
  • distribute the new feed instead of the old
  • set up a 301 redirect so anyone hitting the old feed would be pushed off to the new one

As a 301 redirect is "permanently moved", this method told RSS readers, including iTunes, to update their subscriptions despite not using the preferred <itunes:new-feed-url> tag.

But now that FeedBurner is moving towards defunct, we wanted to point those subscriptions back to original URL. Had we used a 302 redirect (temporaily moved) this would have been easier, but we didn't (shame on us). Since FeedBurner doesn't allow us to set up 301 redirects on their servers, the only option we had open to us (as far as I know) is the <itunes:new-feed-url> tag. There's only one problem, SquareSpace doesn't offer a way to inject this tag at the channel level. So what to do?

IMPORTANT: there may be other ways to do this that I'm not aware of. Our primary concern was getting iTunes subscribers onto the correct RSS feed and so this guide is pretty specific to the case of "iTunes heavy Podcast Feeds".

Here's the steps we've taken:

Step 0:

We're not entirely sure how many subscribers are on readers other than iTunes so to catch anyone for whom the iTunes tag won't help them, we recorded and published an audio note to manually update to the new feed address.

Step 1:

Load the current xml that FeedBurner is publishing.

Step 2:

Copy this into a new text file.

Step 3:

Add your <itunes:new-feed-url> tag at the channel level in this new XML file and upload it to your SquareSpace account. (we added it just before the <itunes:owner> tag)

Step 4:

Edit your feedburner "original feed" to point to this new XML file (e.g. gameminderreport.com/storage/rssfix.xml)

Once you've completed these steps, iTunes clients hitting the old FeedBurner feed should get automatically updated to the new one. There is a chance that some duplicates will show up in their feed unfortunately.

So how to avoid this issue in the future?

Marco Arment pointed out on Build And Anlyze this week that the safest way to handle this sort of thing moving forward is to decouple your public address from your actual feed. For us this means we've set up GAMEminderReport.com/rss as the public facing address. We've then used SquareSpace's URL Shortcuts to do a 302 redirect to the actual feed being published on our site. This means that, from now on, we can always use the same public facing adress and simply change the 302 destination if we ever need to move again in the future.

If you are running your own system, Marco Arment has written a nice little script to count subscribers for you in the abscense of FeedBurner. However, when running on SquareSpace, we don't have the option to run something like this. 

Monday
Sep242012

Tales of an Also-Ran Part 2

Pricing an App is a tough game. As many economists will tell you, anything is worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for it, no more. But how does someone decide what they are willing to pay, and who (or what) sways that judgment?

The current #1 app (both in games and overall) is The Room. It's a puzzle game where you must explore serveral deepening levels of puzzle boxes through intuitive yet compelling gestural controls on iPad only. It is atmospheric and strange and every level of the prodution has clearly been painstakingly considered. I played through it last night in about 2 and a half hours. It sells for $4.99.

In the great race to the bottom on the App Store, $4.99 is considered by most to be "premium pricing". It's the price you choose when you know you are going to be limiting your audience but you don't care because you know you are worth it and you know you've created something good. (Alternatively, it's the price you pick when you have millions to spend on marketing).

It's also the price at which we initially released Uncle Slam.

Let's run down a couple more things these two games share- 

  • Original Music - Check
  • iPad only (at least at launch) - Check
  • An overall cohesive art style - Check
  • Gestural controls that make full use of the touch screen - Check
  • Social elements to proclaim victory on Twitter/Facebook - Check

Now let's look at the first week performace of both:

(For those not familiar with AppFigures, the message "Ranks data is not available" means the app is not currently ranked in any way for that period)

Let's also consider for a moment what is different about these two games.

  • The Room is a single player only experience, Uncle Slam includes both single and multi-player.
  • The Room takes between 1 and 5 hours to complete. Uncle Slam probably takes about 10 hours to "complete" (assuming you take "unlocked Uncle Slam" to mean you've completed the game on normal difficulty).
  • The Room has zero replayability, Uncle Slam is a fighting game which is inherently infinitely replayable.
  • The Room has a dark and ominous vibe, Uncle Slam is more playful, cute and irreverant.
  • The Room is fairly timeless, Uncle Slam is politics-focused in the middle of an election year. 
  • The Room has been covered all over the internet as well as been featured by Apple on the App Store, Uncle Slam has not.

Where's the rest of my game? 

I was thoroughly enjoying The Room, right up to the point when I finished it. My first thought was "That's it? $4.99 for that?" Now I admit, my feelings about it are farily skewed. I know how hard it is to sell a game at $4.99 and this game, though fun while it lasted, ended far too soon. Yet it was handed media coverage and an Apple sponsorship leading to a first week revenue of at least $1.75 million.*

So who exactly decides what is worthy of coverage and an Apple-Blessed fast-track to fun and profit? We certainly tried. We spent lots of money (relatively) on advertising and marketing including direct media out-reach, "traditional" advertising (banner ads), incentivized advertsing, social marketing and viral video. And quite frankly, (if you'll allow me some conceit), Uncle Slam is a damn good game. After months of non-performance, we dove into the race to the bottom and began dropping the price while releasing additional characters to be used in the game hoping to switch eventualy to the Freemium model (which we did in August). Yet no matter what we did or do moving forward, The Room likely gets more downloads in a single day, for $4.99, than Uncle Slam has garnered in it's entire life so far, no matter the price (and including all free downloads).

The unfortunate reality I'm coming to terms with is that, despite what people constantly repeat, the App Store economy is really far more of a lottery than I think anyone really wants to admit. We all want to believe that you can build, package and market a good product and you will be successful, but I'm increasingly learning that this isn't as true as we all want it to be.

 

*This revenue number is derived from the assumption that, as of December 2011, it took at least 80,000 downloads a day to reach to the top 10 and The Room currently has been sitting at #1 overall for 5 days. The individual cut of at $4.99 selling price is $3.50. App Store growth over the last 9 months would imply that this download number can only have gone up making this revenue estimate extremely conservative from what I can see. 

Thursday
Sep202012

A Single Ray of Ultraviolet Sunlight

In a case of "buyer beware", about a month ago, I pre-ordered "The Cabin In The Woods". Take a look at this cover art and tell me what you see (or rather, what you DON'T see):

What I DON'T see is any mention of Ultraviolet. So you can imagine my white hot burning rage surprise when I opened the box from Amazon earlier this week to be greeted with the following:

However, as the title implies, there is a single ray of light here which I discovered when reading the fine print. It turns out that this particular Blu-Ray ships with a code that is good for EITHER Ultraviolet or a real, actual, non-shitty, legitimate Digital Copy via iTunes. If we must be plagued with Ultraviolet, this seems to me to be the best solution. Package up the options, and let them compete on their merits (of which Ultraviolet has none).

PS, if you haven't seen The Cabin in the Woods, you should. it's terrific.

Saturday
Sep082012

Ultraviolet Strikes Again

These things make me unreasonably angry. All I want is to buy my content and then watch it. It's really not a hard concept. In many ways, I am the ideal movies consumer. I am purchase ready, I'm willing to spend money, and I'm an early technology adopter and an enthusiest who can easily be swayed by sepcial features. So one has to ask - why make it harder for me to want to give you my money?

Over the summer, my wife and I saw Rock of Ages. Is it going to win oscars? Of course not. It was harmless fun. I knew immediately that this would be a purchase once it was available. I downloaded the soundtrack literally in the car on the way home (from iTunes of course). So today, I decided to check my trusty Amazon to see when I could expect the Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy version to be available.

The Horror.

If you haven't figured it out yet, the worst has happened (#firstworldproblems and all that):

 

So my only option come October is to simply buy the digital copy from iTunes and call it a day (assuming they even offer it there). If anyone from Ultra-Violet is listening (HA!) or cares (double HA!), your marketing efforts and product choices are actively pushing me away from buying your discs. You have managed to take someone who literally purchased the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy 3 separate times (DVD, DVD Extended and Blur-Ray Extended), the movie Serenity 3 separate times (DVD, HD DVD and Blu-Ray), the entire series of Farscape twice (Starburst DVD and Blu-Ray) and turned me into somone who won't even buy your discs ONCE so I can avoid supporting your misguided "Look at us, we can do iTunes too!" peice of shit also-ran.

 So… Congrats?