Metrics: “Online Games is best performing game sector index at -29%”

Yes, thirty-percent down is the new up.

I’ll rarely focus on market values, but since I just posted on relative new-media/old-media values I’m quoting (in the title) this month’s Video Game Briefing (PDF) from Paul Heydon at Avista Partners. (You can subscribe.)

Online games (down 29% from Jan 2008 ) narrowly led PC/Console games (-30%) and distributors/accessories (down 34%).  They all outperformed the S&P 500 (-38%), well ahead of retailers and mobile games, (both down about 50%). The low point was Nov 20, ’08, but not by much.

The report also shows regional performance, ranked as you would expect (Asia, S&P, U.S., Europe) but perhaps spread more-broadly than you expect.  And there are many details on M&A and on equity raised. In total:

  • Over $1.8 billion of M&A deals in global sector (LTM)
  • Over $1.6 billion raised in global sector (LTM)>

Metrics: New media’s mkt value up 102%. Old media lost 32% (’05-’08).

The communications, media, and technology (CMT) sector lost 47% of its market value in 2008, worst than most markets overall.  An Oliver Wyman press release, summarizing their 2009 State of the Industry Report (PDF) notes that within that sector, for the the 5-year period:

Traditional media — including media agencies, publishing, and broadcast and entertainment — lost 32% of its market value, or $137 billion, while new media (online content and services) gained 102% or $58 billion.

The top performer in the media segment was China’s Tencent, with a market value of $11.6B.

(The above quote is from the press release.  If you can find that data in the full report — or other analysis of the new-media-subsegment —  then I owe you serious respect.)

The report does discuss sector-specific strategies.  Strategic recommendations include strong focus on emerging markets and on broadening corporate scope, such as broadening from distribution to content. (More on this detail in a later post.)

In support of comScore’s assertion (which I argued against) that free-online game growth comes at the expense of paid content, note that 18% of US consumers “expect to spend significantly less” on “a la carte content purchases (including movie tickets, … downloads, games, etc.)” And 19% expect to spend “a little less.” Only 10% see spending more.  (Oliver Wyman’s November survey: Exh. 8, p. 13, of the full PDF report.)

Metrics: U.S. online-game growth: visitors up 27%; minutes up 42%.

Good news for the online-games biz, specifically the casual (mass-market) online games biz.  Discussion after these highlights from today’s comScore report (Dec. 2008 data):

  • Free online-game-site visitors grew 27% in 2008, to 86m.
  • Aggregate playing time jumped 42%
  • Online games consumed 4.9% of total Internet time (up from 3.7% in Dec. ’07 )
  • Online display-ad views grew 29% to 8.6b (in Nov ’08 )
  • The average player views 127 ads (unchanged year-over-year)
  • Ads per page view (“a measure of ‘ad clutter’“) dropped 17%, to 0.83

The top sites? Make your guess, then check the tables in the press release from comScore, and let me know if you were close. Suffice to say, I’m impressed by WildTangent’s good work. (Regardless of November’s major changes there.)

Why the growth? ComScore says that people have “turned to outlets such as gaming to take their minds off the economy“.  Also, they are “turning to free alternatives.”  A 14% drop in retail sales for PC games is cited as evidence.

I don’t buy it.  As Dean Takahashi notes in VentureBeat, console games grew 19%.  And, even if free-online (casual) and paid-retail games both reach broader demographics than last year, they nonetheless reach different demographics: I don’t see them as clear-cut substitutes.  Maybe this is less a down-turn driven shift in spending habits, than a continuation of casual-game growth, fostered by innovation, and by wider use of social content-sharing. (“I stumbled-upon a great game!”)  By contrasted, we didn’t see an exceptional year for retail-game  innovation.

Footnote for the algebraically obsessive: Yes, 127 avg impressions against 8.6b ad views implies only 68m visitors in Nov ’08. That would be unique visitors to ad-supported sites, versus the 86m online-game-site visitors overall.

Sociolinguistics and the Botched Oath

Far too much has been said of the collaborative botch that President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts made of the Oath of Office.  But I do want to share some linguists’ observations, and note a connection to industry culture.  In this case: the culture of lawyers.

Linguists will happily note that Roberts’ misplacing of “faithfully” might reflect an instinctive grammatical superstition, one particularly favored by lawyers.  Specifically, he over-extended the bogus “avoid split infinitives” rule to blindly cover all “split verbs,” and thus he avoided uttering “will faithfully serve.”

Mark Liberman, co-founder of the excellent Language Log, has cited the highly-influential Texas Law Review Manual of Style as a leading perpetrator of the split-verb superstition, and thus a key player in “Grammatical indoctrination at law reviews“. (He later suggests that split-verb-phobia also infected journalism. As is typical of Language Log, the comments rival the posts: one comment posits the AP Style Guide as the infectious agent.)

And for a different cultural dimension (but, really, just for fun) I give you another commentator’s suggestion that split-verb-phobia is

“evidently a hangup of the heathen English, not of us purer Anglophones from North Britain:
Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led…”

The Texas Manual more recently backed away from its error.  (Yes, “error”!  Even Fowler and Follet encourage placing adverbs within compound verbs. And if Fowler says this is a bogus rule, then even a hard-line prescriptivist should agree it’s bogus.  Right, Mom?) But it has influenced thousands of lawyers, adding to other unique and distinct habits of speech and writing peculiar to lawyers and attorneys, such as those compound and redundant noun phrases. Law Professor Jim Lindgren writes:

This nonsensical rule against split verbs has caused entire volumes of law reviews to be filled with page after page in which adverbs have been squeezed out of their normal place. Most law professors who have dealt with law reviews recently seem either to have had disputes about the placement of adverbs or, worse, to have adopted the Texas approach, the approach of people who write as if English were a second language. It’s frightening to think that the ability of a generation of law professors to recognize their native language has been damaged by one silly book. Before picking up the Texas Manual in 1987, I had noticed that the ability of the law reviews to place adverbs correctly had deteriorated, but I hadn’t known the reason.

The best discussion I’ve found of the inaugural-oath event is in Benjamin Zimmer’s  recent posting in Language Log. Again, the posting is good; it’s the comments that are great. (As Zimmer noted in a follow-on.)

Other, unrelated,  learnings and observations from that thread:

  • Such vows and oaths are “deaconed off” for practical reasons.  (A new word, to me, if an archaic one. It’s apparently a late-19th-century Americanism, OED-cited and variously attested, stemming from the New England Congregational church practice.)
  • The oath is not performative (it doesn’t make-it-so: “I bet a dollar” would be performative), in the sense of causing the man to become President. He already was. But it is as performative  as any other oath or promise.  That is: the Hippocratic oath won’t make you a doctor, but I’m happier if my doc has sworn to it.
  • Weirdly, no generative syntactician or truth-functional semanticist has yet stepped into that discussion to argue that I will faithfully execute X is “the same sentence” as I will execute X faithfully.