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Gaming’s Blue Oceans and the Bankruptcy of Atari

In January 2013, after 41 years, Atari filed for Chapter 11. Most people who saw the news reacted, “Atari is still around?” The home console company had been sold many times, licensed and relicensed by increasingly obscure entities over the years. The restructuring plan? To break free from its most recent French owners. The strategy? To sell off Pong®, Asteroids®, Centipede®, Missile Command®, Battlezone®, and Tempest® and to move into mobile gaming. Sad.

I wrote a piece for Zócalo Public Square’s “Who We Were” section, reflecting on the power that games had over the generation that grew up in the 80s. Seeing the Atari news underscored for me the value of being first into uncharted waters.

The first coin-operated game, the Galaxy Game, debuted…wait for it…on the Stanford campus in 1971. Over the next few years, coin-operated games were popping up in every bowling alley and 7-eleven® across the country. And in 1977, Nolan Bushnell brought the Atari 2600 into the living room. Kids who had turned over every sofa cushion and reached into every crumb- and gum-laden cranny for even the hinkiest quarters could now game at home.

It was Atari’s blue ocean moment. They recognized a completely new, undiscovered territory and occupied it. Atari’s blue ocean? Channel 3, the unused station on the dial. Plug in the Atari, flip the dial to channel 3, and the TV became something else. Until then, people took what TV gave them, when TV gave it. For many, their Atari was the first time they got to be in command of what was happening on a screen. It was powerful. It was engaging. It was immersive. And people wanted more.

All that passion directed at moving bits around a screen seems a little silly today—now that every game ever made is one touch away on our smartphones. Yet even the console, mobile, and PC game markets are far from their heydays. Atari’s desire to move into mobile is doubly sad, because the real fight probably won’t be happening in the phone at all. I submit that the next blue ocean, the next big thing, probably will not be on our phones. It will be in some uncharted territory, some new and unused channel 3. And if it’s truly a game changer, it will be exactly what Atari was 40+ years ago: powerful, engaging, immersive. And people will want only more.

Powerbar Triple Threat Commercial

OIC created this 30 second commercial for PowerBar Canada. Creative Director Darin Beaman, Directed by Brad Parker, Motion by Black Swan. Music by Human Worldwide.

What My first Half Marathon Taught Me About Marketing

The med tent. Not where I wanted to find myself at the end of my first half marathon. All manner of human exhaustion on display: heaving, shivering, writhing, retching. A volunteer was attempting to amputate my arms and legs—that’s what it felt like. He was in fact icing them down. The ice snapped my capillaries shut. And as the blood from my extremities made a beeline back to my brain, the sense that I was going to be an organ donor lifted. Within 10 minutes, I was back on my feet.

The morning had gone well. I’d recorded a personal best for the 10K. I was enjoying the run, powering through the first two hill sections on pace, on plan. Then at mile 12, trouble. I noticed my hands first. My fingers mutated to regulation-sized frankfurters. I couldn’t make a fist. Then my feet—I felt like I was running in wet Uggs. My pace slowed, then stopped. I willed myself to keep moving and pulled it together just long enough to get across the line. The video of my finish is hilarious, one arm flapping wildly and the other clutching my phone so I could stop my Nike+.

There are many online training plans available for first-time racers. I trained to one from a reputable site. I did about 140 miles in preparation. Then I made a rookie mistake. In the final days, I read an article on the same site, “How to Have a Great First Half Marathon.” “Drink at every aid station,” they advised. I know better. On my training runs, I drink very conservatively. But on race day, I rationalized, I’d be going harder than before—the experts were probably right. Nope.

The medics had a simple explanation: I was mildly overhydrated. My water intake was inhibiting replenishment of salt in my body. I had created an electrolyte deficit. To compensate, my cells were swollen with H2O. Basically, I’d made a tactical error: I drank too much during the race.

Marketers have an obligation not only to put out good information but also to contextualize it for athletes. In a rush to get info out inexpensively and in a timely manner, it is easy to forget that there are real people out there who are counting on it’s being well organized and correct. The organization that creates plans that are easy to understand, well contextualized, and experience appropriate can create a very loyal following.

In the end, what I discovered through training for and completing my first half marathon was that most free advice on running is like water: It’s best when taken with a grain of salt, so the electrolytes can keep the swelling down.

Roxio Creator Packaging Redesign

For the third year, Roxio asked OIC to lead their annual packaging redesign for three different markets – plus, standard, and pro. The on-shelf visual impact and relation between product markets were a key driver in design strategy. OIC delivered three distinct designs that were visually appealing and affiliated, scheduled to launch early 2012.

Zuckerpuppy

This week we saw photos of the Facebook founder and his girlfriend with their new puppy—commuting to work, playing on the hardwood, skittering across the parking lot. The puppy shots put a nice exclamation point on a fact that we already knew: Facebook has won. Its founder has moved on to more genteel pursuits.

For years we had heard how communities were going to be the new way forward for marketers. And indeed, as sites began to allow ratings and comments, great strides toward engaging consumers were made. Looking back even two years, it’s almost comical how many well-intentioned people made commitments to technologies they thought would create consumer “engagement.”

zuckerpuppyThose days are long behind us. The platforms of choice have reached a level of, dare I say, maturity: Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yelp, WordPress, and so on. Somewhere in the mix, people are finding a combination of commerce, sharing, and socializing that is right for them. That’s the engagement.

In the past, firms invested in features and functionality to try to help consumers have a richer experience with their brands. It turns out that what consumers want is not whatever flavor of community a company is pedaling. If the enterprise has a good Facebook presence, that’s fine. But consumers want products to work as expected. They want companies to be true to their word. Without that, no amount of community building matters.

Marshall McLuhan said, “If it works, it’s obsolete.” When it comes to engagement, technologies will come and go. When it comes to loyalty, delivering on your product’s promise is the only way to ensure a happy customer. Aw, shucks, go ahead and use my personal information to sell ads—that puppy is so darned cute.

Opportunities

Graphic Designer

Who you are

  • An intellectually-curious graphic designer who knows how to create captivating designs that strengthen creative strategy
  • A whiz with Adobe Creative Suite CC
  • Someone who is never happy with the status quo and has a desire to continually optimize and improve their designs
  • Someone who excels in a team environment
  • Someone who is comfortable in a high volume, fast-paced environment
  • Friendly and participating collaborator, with a positive outlook & attitude
  • Ability to work on multiple projects simultaneously

Your qualifications

  • BA or AA in Graphic Arts or equivalent combination of experience and education; may be overlooked if portfolio and experience is strong enough
  • Proficient knowledge of MAC OS and Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign)
  • Two or more years as a professional graphic designer working with print and digital media, preferably under a Creative Director or Art Director
  • Strongly skilled in design, typography, color theory, grid, and layout
  • Strong multitasking, prioritization, and organization skills
  • Ability to self-edit to produce accurate and high quality work
  • Must have experience with print setup
  • Strong commitment to quality, design integrity, and innovation
  • Highly organized individual

Responsibilities

  • Collaborate effectively with creative team members and other project stakeholders
  • Be a proactive communicator with all involved parties on a project
  • Close attention to designing within a client's brand standards
  • Respect all due dates and deadlines, communicate directly with project team to ensure project delivers on time
  • Be able to take projects from design through production for a wide variety of projects
  • Meticulously label layers, layer styles, organize swatches, etc.
  • Archive all projects according to department standard, and ensure most up-to-date files are available to other team members at any given time
  • Be reliable and punctual
  • Give lots of love to the office dogs

Bonus skills

  • Experience with photo re-touching
  • Thorough knowledge of keynote and or PowerPoint
  • Knowledge of HTML, CSS, jQuery, and/or JavaScript
  • Experience as a UI/UX designer

Note: Please send resume, portfolio link, and cover letter. Applicants will not be considered without providing a link to their portfolio.

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