The TV as a weapon

There is an old saying and there are alternatives to it. In Australia we say:

Q: Do you know the difference between ABC and Channel 7?
A: ABC shows you how bad things are in the world, Channel 7 shows you how screwed up your TV life is.

In the Netherlands it used to be NOS versus SBS6, and every nation has its own version. So what happens, when we see the millions of smart TV’s and Apple enters the race opposing Netflix? The New Daily gives the quote: “Spielberg who appeared live, touted the revival of his Amazing Stories anthology, while Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carrell then took the stage to discuss another Apple original, The Morning Show” with the added: “a range of new streaming entertainment services, as well as financial products, at a star-studded event Tuesday morning“. the message was apparently clearly brought and when we get to see: “Apple is expected to spend US$2 billion this year on original content to challenge established steaming players Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the forthcoming Disney+ service“, we need to realise that Apple has an optional goldmine in the making. In addition we see: “Hot on the heels of the Google game streaming service, Stadia, Apple launched Apple Arcade in a bid to grab a slice of the multi-billion dollar gaming market“, which will be fun to watch as Apple has shown a keen interest in negating the need of gamers (which is not all their fault in all honesty), will they figure it out this time? At least with the established Android gaming platform size, Google does have a huge advantage for now. OK, apple does have a gaming community on IOS and I was not short selling that (yes, I was). Yet the overall view I have seen in the past gives a better light of gaming to gamers on the android, than the Apple (a mere personal view on the matter).

So here we are watching two streams being created. First is the Netflix drain by Apple and as soon as they realise that 2 billion is a mere stack of money, to get the TV series that get the people to sign up, even besides Netflix will requires series that surpass The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Haunting of Hill House, Bird Box and a few other gems, Netflix has the writers, will Apple have them? We all know that Game of Thrones will enter their final season, so there are plenty of needy watchers to pick up after that conclusion, yet if Apple does not have the IP, they are not going anywhere. Even with the added Spielberg Amazing Stories anthology, which was actually quite decent when it was initially released on VHS, they will still have quite the task at hand. More important, even if they have all the ducks in a row, they will still having to deal with the market shares of Hulu, Stan, Amazon and the forthcoming Disney + service as well (and a few local others). Do they have the IP when that goes online? I can see half a dozen series that could be hits, and I am not the only one. Plenty of dedicated story tellers will have a list. Yet, does the Apple executive (whomever Tim Cook handed this hot potato to), does that person have a clue? The difference between a good presentation and an actual good idea comes with a gap that can fit the Grand Canyon and many Apple executives are a little lost when they face that gap.

It goes further, having a great idea is not enough and most visionaries have that in mind. to see that part we need to reflect on: “Apple, which became the world’s first trillion-dollar company in August last year, had been dropping cryptic hints about the launch event for weeks, sending the internet rumour-mill into overdrive“, yet since then Apple lost well over 20% of its value and the next few ‘slam bam’ misers will dent that even further. The next part is interesting as it impacts gaming and TV.

To get a great product you need at the very least (before marketing gets to have a go):

  1. A script, a story that will compel the reader to go on. Loading it with sex and graphics will only hold a small percentage for some time. A great example of a near perfect script was I Claudius by Robert Graves.
  2. A cast that works well together, each good actors, but together they become ambrosia, wine and nitro-glycerine, all at the same time. Again I Claudius became the golden standard. With Derek Jacobi, George Baker, Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed, James Faulkner, John Hurt, Patrick Steward, Ian Ogilvy, John Castle, and John Rhys-Davies we got something unheard of. They were already good actors, yet together they created greatness, they are now globally celebrities, but in 1976 that was not a given, they were iron rods and the director shaped them into high tempered steel increasing their mark close to tenfold.
  3. The director. Not merely the man implying 3, 2, 1, action! No, he is the person that becomes the visual visionary and Herbert Wise delivered. The evidence is seen in his work. As a director he has 91 marks on his career rod and when we look at it all, it is all decent work, insightful work, yet I Claudius is a 180 cm person walking in Indonesia (where the average height is 152cm), it stood out tall above all others. So, even as we accept that I Claudius could not have been done without the cast, it equally required the right director to make it work.
  4. The Producer (in this case the BBC), who had to put up the dough with a need of blind faith and no idea how much they were going to lose. These four required to be completely in sync and they were as such I Claudius is still seen as the best BBC drama ever produced, even now, 43 years later we see that new TV series merely hope to equal this achievement, thinking that it can be surpassed is mere folly (yet optionally not impossible).

This is the setting that Apple is trying to get into and throwing 2 billion at it thinking that it will be easy by presenting a few famous people is as reliable as getting rich by spending what you have on blow and hookers. It looks pretty, yet it is an absolute non-winner 100% of the time. Finding the right people will be the task for Apple and as they are all competing for the same pig through increasing the value of good scriptwriters, yet they too are starting to look critical at the offers, because they lose value with every failure and often enough, they do not get to blame the director of the production company, they get to be the scapegoat. So they will require their optional bosses to set an income and levels of freedom and commitment to a much higher degree.

As for gaming

Gaming has a similar setting. It will be about getting the gamers on board and that requires a great product, in an age where Apple has been all about marketed iteration, they are vying for innovation? In a market they do not seem to really comprehend? I am slightly puzzled.

There the director is the project director; the cast are the graphic designers and the scripters and coders. The art and stage might have similar issues, but finding these parts to intertwine and interconnect is where good coders are required. Then there is the learning curve of the game. And it gets to be worse fast when it becomes a product relying on micro transactions. Ubisoft, Bethesda too never quite worked it out and the first screw up will diminish the value of the event overnight. Apple will have to steer clear of micro transactions in the first year by a certainty of 100% and in the subsequent 2-3 years for 90%. Can they afford that game? Their essential path will be the RPG games that call the horn of attendance for gamers on a global scale, if not, than this becomes a long term project that will not end up becoming a winner. In that they have additional competition form makers like Nintendo, their Switch is still gaining momentum and the games I have seen lined up for that system shows that Nintendo is taking this momentum extremely serious. I wonder if Apple has thought this through beyond their return on investment expectations from executives who rely in spreadsheets and lack essential data skills other than identifying their ROI and bonus column. Once that goes south Apple will take a few hits in short succession and they will be painful. If it goes wrong (I am not stating or indication that this is the case), they could face the hits where their total value is a mere 50% of what it was on September 16th 2018.

Yes, Apple could rise high with streaming on TV and consoles, but in the end they require the golden eggs to get there and I am not convinced that they have what it takes to get there. For the most it is an art, I have been involved in gaming since 1984 and I still miss elements in all it. It is both science and an art, the moment you separate the two is the moment you lose. That has been an essential given for close to two decades. Ubisoft got it wrong more than once, Bethesda took massive hits with miscalculations and they are dedicated experts in that field, I doubt Apple has seen that shortfall at present.

To illustrate that we need to look at a game called the Division 2, an Ubisoft product. Important fact, it is seen as a really good game, better than the first version and steps forward, at times leaps forward, some reviewers have stated that is sets a new bar of online gaming and that is awesome to learn. Now add the two headlines: ‘Ubisoft Patches Annoying ‘The Division 2’ Skills Bug‘, as well as ‘The Division 2 PC players report a 100% CPU usage issue, Ubisoft is investigating‘, on games this size this will always happen and the fact that it is looked at and fixed this early is really good, so this is not about pulling Division 2 down. This is what happens on games this big depending on online elements, which is besides server down times. A consequence of online gaming and in this Apple is as I expect it not ready to see gaming to the higher levels it needs to see it.

If they see these two elements as a method to use the TV as a weapon, a data weapon for additional wealth, we see a company that is about to get hit really hard. That is in the foundation of it all. I believe that they are making the same mistake that Microsoft made. Microsoft is talking a good talk, yet the people all over the world are seeing the impact, the most powerful console in the world is being surpassed by the weakest of the three. Their setting of always online, their bullying tactics, their essential inability to listen to gamers (or ignoring what they are being told) is what is dragging down Microsoft and Apple will experience that lesson in a very hard way soon enough if they walk that same silly line.

Just like Microsoft, we see a company that more likely than not does not comprehend gamers and will falter because of corporate ROI needs soon enough. They see the two as connected to grow better, but these are two separate entities (TV and Gaming) representing 6 dimensions that can go in any direction, when these executives learn that lesson the hard way and they are looking what to do next, I will offer Tim Cook my last $99 for the company (Apple, a fruit of the loom division).

Could I be massively wrong?

Absolutely, yet the Apple marketing need of the hype and their viral needs seem to be on my side, as the gaming industry as a whole tends to be as gossipy as any old tea lady, so word would have circulated into my inner core of contacts much earlier, as such I think that Apple is not ready, nowhere near ready, personally I do hope to be proven wrong. I would love to see more contenders in the gaming world, more choice, more innovation and better games is the consequence from that war, and I do love playing good games.

I will keep you all posted on what happens next.

 

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Filed under Finance, IT, Media, movies, Science

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