Ludo, Ergo Sum

Ludo, Ergo Sum
Secret Agent Candy Man

Dave Thomas | 14 Mar 2006 11:00
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But, by 1991, Trip got to dreaming again, and this time cooked up an idea for a new kind of gaming console company. If games were going to provide the new TV, someone was going to need to build the new TV. And as far as Trip the visionary was concerned, those interactive eyeballs would be glued to a 3DO box.

Packed with all the right ideas - 3-D graphics, CD media and lots of horsepower - it was considered too expensive and was battered by the cheaper, slicker and much better funded PlayStation. After only a few years, the man who launched one of videogaming's biggest commercial successes also oversaw one of its biggest disappointments. 3DO got out the hardware business in '96 and ceased to exist altogether in 2003.

"For me, and this will be the last thing I say about 3DO because it's kind of a waste of our time, there were elements of failure from 3DO that were very humbling, that were extremely valuable lessons to learn. And without question, I'm applying that experience to what I'm doing with Digital Chocolate."

Cinematic 4: Trip Develops a Taste for Chocolate, Wonka Style
Trip Hawkins could retire. Or, at the very least, he could certainly earn a decent living just talking about the past. But clearly, Trip's not the retiring type. Especially not once he's sat back, reflected on the gaming industry and figured out exactly what it's doing wrong and what it needs to succeed in the future. If Trip has a favorite game, it must be the game of business. And he's back at the table aiming to win again with a decisive pincer-like movement of casual mobile gaming and the best of social networks.

While Trip's vision for EA was to bust up that full-time, live-in relationship we have with our televisions, Digital Chocolate wants a media one-night stand, just a little time to give you a little love.

"The company's named for the concept of instant gratification. And, the slogan is 'Seize the minute.'"

Like that other tortured genius running a chocolate outfit, Willy Wonka, Trip just wants people to be happy.

From years watching the industry develop, Trip has come to the conclusion that hardcore gamers have pretty much screwed up the industry. While trying to cater to the most vocal game buyers, game makers have missed the obvious. Most people don't play the games that top the charts each year.

"For every hardcore gamer, that represents 5 percent of the population," he explained, "there are another 19 consumers that don't want to play anything that is more than casual.

"Taking football, since obviously I've followed football for quite a long time, there are 140 million people who watched the Super Bowl last year. Only 5 million of them bought Madden Football."

By comparison, 15 million people play fantasy football and countless others participate in office football polls. This time, I can only imagine Trip doffing his purple top hat and pointing his cane menacingly toward the obvious: People want to play. But learning something as complicated as Madden just isn't going to happen for most people. People want causal entertainment and they want things that let them connect with other people. If they wanted the rigor of playing pro ball, they wouldn't sit around eating chicken wings with their pals and complaining that the half-time commercials weren't funny enough. And they don't want to spend the time of learning or risk the embarrassment of playing Madden.

Casual and social means only one thing. And when it comes to mobile, Trip's creative fire goes blue flame.

"I'm looking at what's on the internet and looking at instant messaging and looking at Neopets and looking at fantasy sports and thinking, 'OK, what does that say about what we can do in mobile?' And realizing that with mobile, it quickly went beyond just being a phone. And we now have a $35 billion global market for text messaging. Why the heck would people do that when it's so much easier to just talk? Why would they do text messaging? And why did they all want to change their ring tone? And why did they want to share crummy pictures taken with a crummy camera? What's that about?

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