Tag Archives: Ford Edsel

Yesterday was fun

Yes, yesterday was fun for several reasons, not in the least that some people (referring to themselves as a member of the Anony Mouse population) are in the misgiven idea that I could be Mr Theodore Raitor. Nothing could be further from the truth!

In the First
In the first the arms industry is a business. I did not make it that way, the American did that during the Vietnam war. They made it a business and less than a dozen boards of directors took home billions in all kinds of manners. I am not opposing that, I am not offering another view, I could but there is some wisdom in taking that route, it comes with successes and it also comes with failures. 

In the second
Following the first, I have at all times the direct believe that ANY sovereign nation is allowed its ability to defend itself, that includes Middle East and Far East Nations. The ability to arm and defend itself should be open to any nation. The Belgium Fabrique National in Herstal founded itself on that premise and for them in the 80’s (optionally 90’s as well) business was good, really good. 

These two rules are there out in the open, the media tends to not report on that side of it all. You see the media relies on ‘click bitches’ and their reporting is centred around that premise. National defence is a well trusted stage for emotional reporting and I am not objecting to that, they merely made a choice. Thats also where I drew the line to failure. Ford created the Edsel and for 3 years they tried that but after year 3 they stopped it, their losses came down to what would now be regarded as a $2 billion loss. They quietly let this failure die, which is what they were allowed to do and yes, we all (the older people) make jokes on it and Hollywood added to that in Peggy Sue got Married. It was all good. Now we see that the Lockheed Martin boys (girls also) are trying to continue their stage after making an investment well over 1000 times and they want it to continue. Losses a thousand times bigger than Ford had, is anyone seeing that marker? Now it is up to Lockheed Martin to do whatever they need to do, because it is their right (and other people’s money) and that is the larger stage, the US taxpayer is paying for that failure. 

For me there is a simple setting. There is a customer (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) that has a right to defend itself, so I would happily sell them the BAE Typhoon, but there the UK cut themselves when we see the CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade) with all these grannies with signs telling the UK government that Saudi Arabia is evil, it cannot have weapons, but they do not hold that candle up to Iran who is funding Houthi attacks on civilian populations. So there is an alternative, China has an alternative. And even if that makes me a really well paid courier. I am willing to ferry those papers between buyer A and seller B. Yes, I agree that getting 3.75% out of $11,000,000,000 is a bit much, but I never made those rules, did I? The US and their business enterprises did that. I merely saw the ball falling and I decided to pick it up. China is not in a war with Australia, the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group is a respectable defence ability offerer (most usual to China) and the US has a lemon, so there is nothing wrong and those trying to create click bitches need to consider that I never made any of these rules, I merely use the rules of the game to get a job and to get a decent payment. If the KSA decides that I cannot have the $412,500,000 and that I am only allowed $50,000,000 I will not be upset (optionally a little disappointed), but that is any mouse who gets the slice of cheese and not the cheese wheel in a building filled with cheese wheels. 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a right to get defence materials and the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group has a right to sell them to anyone their government is not at war with. These are not my rules, the Americans did that and they stood by whilst the Taliban ended with over 8 billion in American hardware and they also did close to nothing when ISIS got their hands on more American Toyota 4 wheel drives then can be found in Guttenberg, New York. So there!

Do I stand a chance? Not really, but the fact that I am willing to do business where there is business also implies that there are other players and as a former NATO boy, I rather see these funds go to China then to Russia with their Sukhoi Su-57 or their new puppy the Checkmate. This is the consequence of making defence a business, its all good and overpaid fun until someone creates a lemon. A lemon one that costs the taxpayer $2,300,000,000,000. Are you awake? Can you see the cost of one article (read: lemon) currently equals the total debt of Germany? 

Do I want in? Absolutely! This one deal could make me more money than half a century of day to day slaving, it is like getting the golden lottery ticket and this really pays off! 

Is it bad for Lockheed Martin? Yes it is, like Ford with their Edsel, all failure is shared, but it could result in a big win, you merely have to watch Nintendo who turned their WiiU failure into a homerun success (Nintendo Switch), I personally see the Lockheed Failure in the same way as we see failures from Microsoft. Too many politicians who ignore the core business and try to steer towards the Fata Morgana of mountains of gold on the horizon, when you do that you merely steer from failure to failure and the defence players better catch on quick. You see the buyers are not interested in hype creating marketeers, they want results and Lockheed Martin is not delivering that and whilst we speculate that the media is taking notes from speculative stakeholders, the buyer in the end is a defence industry who is not interested in marketing, they have a clear goal, not a fictive on on the horizon and that is one ferry I am happy to board (with permission of its captain). It is the direct result of a labour force who is all in touch with feelings and not in line with expected needs and KPI sessions. So yes, yesterday was fun for more than one reason and it could end up being a whole lot more fun if I do get that job.

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Lemon of the Century

Yes, you have seen it, we have all seen it in some form, but when was the last time you saw a genuine Lemon? Not to mention a Lemon of the century. You would think it is a near impossible task, but Lockheed Martin, an American company pulled it off. In thee cases it is so much sweeter if the accomplishment is American.

I made a case to sell (as a corporate individual) to sell the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia either the British BAE Typhoon, or the somewhat better match the Chinese Chengdu J-20. Now, this is not on principles, but the US making Saudi embargo after embargo, all whilst it is mere puppet play and there was no direct need to stop the sales, especially as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was under direct attack by Houthi forces directly sponsored from Iran and the people were eager to ignore that fact. So there I was taking a stab at a 3.75% sales commission, and in light of a $11,000,000,000 sales ticket could bank me $412,500,000 over a few years. Now, I know, am I greed driven? Nope! But I am not walking away from such a massive mealticket! 

All that happened and was mentioned before, but now there are more reasons as ABC news gives us. The article ‘F-35 program’s future uncertain owing to design flaws, parts shortages and cost blowouts’ (at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-08/f35-program-design-flaws-part-shortages-costs-opinions-divided/100431664) there we see “He said the combat jet currently had almost 900 design flaws, with seven considered critical.” This is given to us via Former US Marine Corps Captain Dan Grazier. So this is not out of thin air, this comes to us by decently informed people and at what point is anyone accepting a lemon with 900 design flaws? We get it, a plane with a current whole of life cost estimate of $2.3 trillion we need to consider that there is a massive flaw in the entire process. It becomes worse when you see and consider the Naval failure called Zumwalt class destroyers. That is two out of three, so now we merely need to add an army failure and the US forces will be 3 for 3. So how often do major projects on these scales fail? There is optionally the second stage where both China and Russia are not afraid for a war with the US, because the US is lacking in functional equipment. They have functioning 5th generation planes. I cannot tell if they are better, merely that they are. And I am am the mouse who loves that 412 million dollar cheese wheel, whether I retire or eat myself to death is all equally similar and there is a customer base who would want something that actually works so overall there is more than one seller and there is a definite buyer, so I am game.

Yet the article also gives us “It said that would grow to 40 per cent of jets grounded by 2030, if the repair backlog didn’t improve” this implies that the US airforce needs to grow by 250% to keep the effectiveness numbers of 2017, that is one hell of an investment. I am not denying what the pilots are saying, that it is a game changer that it will be effective, we get that, but it has 900 flaws, and there are a lot of questions in the background when we consider the seven critical problems. So when we consider the claim “Mr Grazier said the cost per flight hour in the United States was around $36,000” and the math man in me consider that at present there are (unverified numbers) “1,763 F-35As for the USAF, 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs for the USMC, and 273 F-35Cs for the USN” it would require the DoD $88,416,000 an hour to get it all in the air, in light of the Afghanistan clambake, which lasted 2 decades, count your losses today. Is someone doing the math here (apart from me)? This is a plane with 900 design flaws. So if China (or the United Kingdom) can beat these costs they have a real chance in getting a new customer in their arsenal and it is one that has money, so that part will be the smallest of concerns.

We could go all (overly) marketing and say:

Chinese
Hellbringing
Equalising
Negotiating

Goalseeking
Defence

Unit

But that might be slightly over the top, what matters is that the US has a real problem and, oh, that reminds me. Is that why they pulled out of Afghanistan? 40% of their flying capabilities wasn’t up to it? I know, it is grasping and it is speculation, but I am trying to get my hands on that 3.75% and that makes me a little giddy. With the Zumwalt it was the principle that it didn’t meet its need, it was too expensive and it was ugly as hell. I still hope to test my new stealth anti naval weapon on it, merely because it is just too ugly to see and congress never approved the shells needed to fire these guns, and a stealth ship with a Raytheon solution is just not a stealth ship. And as a $22,500,000,000 failure it is too expensive for such a failure be allowed. Consider that ABC ends the article with “To respect that dependency, we remain laser-focused on continuing to enhance the capability, affordability and availability of the F-35. With the help of partners and customers, I have no doubt we will succeed.” Which is all fair enough. Now consider that 12 nations have committed to ordering, now consider that if 3 leave that group (Singapore being the most interesting one) and China gets Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE on board as well, the stage changes on a global scale at that point. Now reconsider the military power play where we accept “There are developmental issues that come up because it is a very high technology advanced aircraft. Over time, these issues are resolved.” Yet 900 flaws imply that this will not be resolved until 2029, with spare parts and shortages of equipment lasting until an expected 2036. That implies that these players will not have a real effective airforce for well over a decade, so how many nations will get nervous on that premise and how many will consider a change (please do not change to Russian option, as they give me nothing). So in that light is there really nothing to worry about? And that is before we see the other 9 nations with billions invested all for… what for? 

So whilst I have nothing against Lockheed Martin (I really do not), being in the stage where they are now with 900 design flaws is just too weird. Yes we accept that it is a developing project, but design flaws imply that it is not developing, it was wrongly developed and as such the F-35 should still be in an earlier stage, that is until well over 600 flaws (and the 7 critical ones) were resolved ahead of where they are now. 

So here I am, just a man, a (really) poor man, hoping for his 3.75% before he retires and retirement is not that far away. And in all this, I remain optimistic, because I have things to smile at, especially if I get to test my creative sinking idea on the USS Zumwalt. Yes, it is a gasser (in more ways than one). So feel free to agree (or disagree) but when you see something that should be the lemon of the century, would you not shout that from the tallest building? Especially if it was your neighbour who bought the Ford Edsel. So Ford can now relax, Lockheed Martin surpassed their failure with an impressive larger one.

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Building Social gaming

Yes, this is about games, about video games specifically. There are two sides to the current article we see in the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/mar/16/roblox-minecraft-user-generated-gaming). The first one is the entire ‘for kids’ approach.

Well, that part I am smitten with, you see, games should be to a decent extent to get the next generation into technology. To get them to know how to get by, how to interact and how to properly use technology. Like any skill, a child starts with crawling, moves to walking, soon we see tricycles, bicycles and more advanced options for movement. We have puzzles for the mind, whether jigsaw or other. Even though these options are falling to the back more and more, it is the threshold of technology that will help them move forward and move forward faster. Nintendo has always been a champion in this matter. As it catered to the younger player and to the family game environment, Nintendo had a niche. PC’s have for a long time remained far behind, because the revenue to cater to a less young population was forever more appealing. Even though most will see Minecraft as a provider here, Roblox has been around a lot longer.

Now that Microsoft dished out 2 billion and spare change for Minecraft, Roblox is hoping to see an influx of cash in their market as well, and why not?

Yet now we hit the part that is a little (just a little) cause for concern:

“In December, we hit 4.7 million players. The foundation of Roblox is user-generated content: just like on YouTube there is so much to watch, on Roblox there is so much to play,” says Baszucki” as well as “People get really attached to it: many of our players have played for four to five years, and our developers range in age from eight to 80. Some of the top developers are 18 or 20, and we have kids in high-school who are making two, three or four thousand dollars a month“.

You see, where do they get that money from? More important, who is paying for these ‘costs’?

Well the article explains that as well: “How? By creating 3D games on Roblox’s website, then sharing them to be played online, as well as on iOS, Android and Kindle Fire devices. The money comes from the in-game currency, “Robux”, bought by players to spend within games, and then exchanged for real money again by those games’ developers“.

Is that a problem? Well, no not directly, as I see it, Roblox is all about creativity, yet some things must be bought. So their currency sets 400 Robux at $5 (for builders it is 450 for the same price), making a Robux around a cent (1.25 to be more exact), which might not be a biggie and 10,000 for $100 (15000 for developers), which makes a Robux $0.01, even less for developers. But what does it get you? More important, if some ‘developers’ get 5000 a month, how much money is exchanging hands here? Well, when you become a member of the Outrageous Builders Club and you have in excess of 100,000 Robux and a valid PayPal as well as a verified email address, you could qualify, if you successfully signed up for the Devex program. The last one seems to be set up to prevent phishing, falsehood and a few other markings. This all seems on the up and up. The exchange is 100,000 for $250. That comes down to 0.25 cents to the Robux, which gives the makers of Roblox a 4 to 1 profit. Now we get back to the very first paragraph “Some of our top developers are starting to get about a quarter of a million dollars a year. They’re treating it literally as a career, and starting to hire their friends…”, so how many Robux did that income make?

Now, this is supposed to be about the games and gaming design, which I do not oppose, so when I see the line ‘we have kids in high-school who are making two, three or four thousand dollars a month‘, meaning that they sold R$800K, R$1.2M, R$1.6M. At 4 to one that works out pretty spiffy for the makers, but is no one asking the question, how much money are your children sinking into this game that is the question! Even though much is clearly stated by the people behind it and even though we see “Roblox is free to play, but to get Builders Club which gives you more features“, we soon see that the smallest club is already $6 a month, making this a $70+ a year enterprise, which might not be bad, but everything costs in this game, from hats (that are seen as a status symbol as I personally see it) and there are more parts to all this, so when I saw the ‘promise of income’ as the article seems to imply, my question to Stuart Dredge becomes: ‘How deep did you look into the article you wrote?’ There is another side to the cash thing that was also not mentioned, The Roblox people had relief fund drives, which means that buying a hat (red, Blue, Rising sun) and for every hat sold, Roblox donated to relief funds for Haiti, Red Cross, the Tsunami efforts, so there is also a social drive towards good causes and this game ended up sending thousands upon thousands of dollars fuelled by the people getting the hat to be socially aware. That is a very good thing, especially as this is an environment driven largely towards the ‘less adults’ (small citizens usually younger than 18).

So, am I lashing out at the makers of Roblox? No, not really, they seem to be clear about the options and about the costs, and people can start with a free account, one world and the choice to continue if it is their kind of world. This is all fair, but do the parents realise what happens when these kids sign up for more? Perhaps they do, but do they realise the added price tag? You see, that might all be fair and good and it is important to note that Roblox shows nearly all the information openly and clearly. They have no traps in there. The only paragraph touching on this is “A platform with lots of children playing and a growing number of games using in-app purchases? It sounds like a recipe for controversy, especially with the US Federal Trade Commission poking around in the affairs of Amazon, Apple and now Facebook over children’s in-app spending“. I think the paragraph is much too meager and other elements are not looked at (as I showed in my earlier part).

There is also a second side to Roblox. A side we all ignored unless we actively dug into it ourselves. You see, I was around when Atari had STOS, Amiga has AMOS and when we saw the growth of Little Big Planet one, two and three. We all think we are future game developers. I played with some of the demos and was able to change a few things get some things rolling, but overall, no matter how good my insight, you need creativity and vision. Roblox is giving tools to the makers to address their creativity, but what about vision? Well, I got my parts done in the builder of Neverwinter Nights, and the best result was making an actual adventure for the Commodore-64. The last part was done by a set of articles that were published in a magazine called ‘Computer and Video Games (CVG)‘ in the mid 80’s. I learned so much from those articles.

Here we see the power of these tools, which brings out vision and creativity through patience and persistence. When a parent realises this part and that a game like Roblox could empower these two elements, then spending $72 a year is a steal at twice the price. Whether this results in making some actual cash, or just makes the maker break even with the costs involved, the last one would be worth it all because whatever they make now, will shape the power of innovation down the line. Kids (adults too) could go through life never realising the power that creating innovation brings.

It is the last paragraph that matters: “Ultimately, games that start to look like high-end CGI movies. And companies are starting to realise that this user-generated content segment could be bigger than any individual games company. There’s so much leverage from being a platform rather than a content producer, where every few years you need a new huge property”. There is a truth and a hidden untruth here, the games that look like high end movies come at a large cost for the player, when we see $100 games that give us no more than 10 hours, we see that a move towards sandbox games are definitely worth it, because the overwhelming difference that value for money gives the player, yet the failed attempt we see in games like Assassins Creed Unity, a game released last November, that is still receiving patches (at http://www.designntrend.com/articles/40441/20150218/assassins-creed-unity-ps4-xbox-one-patch-release-ubisoft-gameplay-graphics-multiplayer-glitches.htm). By the way, personally as I see it, when we see the quote “patch 1.05 goes a long way towards promoting ‘stability and performance’ in the latest entry to the annualized franchise“, I mention this for two reasons, the first is that high end games, when not properly supervised could become the end of any software house, the second reason is that the Assassins Creed Wikia calls it a “Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a 2014 sandbox action adventure game“, trust me that any reference to Assassins Creed being a ‘sandbox game’ is like comparing a Ford Edsel to a Bentley, Minecraft being the Bentley that is.

So as we see Roblox and Minecraft as the growing community towards the sandbox loving gamers, I see a win-win situation. You see, I remain a fan of RPG games, these games propel the interest and the desire for RPG games and as such, I will win as better RPG games are released.

So as we consider the subtitle where we see that Roblox is an environment of 4.7 million people, focusing on growth, we can see that Roblox has a future as it focuses on all devices and Cloud based usage. The only danger I see now is that they might try to grow too fast in too many directions. There might be a comparison to Minecraft, but not in the user base, because Minecraft has over 100M users registered on PC and well over 50 million copies sold on consoles. Roblox could grow faster and larger, but as I see it, it will have to offer more to the free player, as I see it by adding 2 worlds and adding those option to have more options for free. It would be fair enough to make those free players earn these options to be unlocked in some way, but as the starting player is reeled in through the growth of options and interactions, so will their eagerness in becoming a premium member. It is that growth curve that Roblox will need, because no matter how proud they are with their 4.7 million players, if they want to attract bigger business they will need to do more than just double their current base, in addition, as the article shows a drive for makers to ‘make’ money, we need to also consider (in all fairness) that in the end, it must be looked at how much currency is transacted in and how this is broken down in user population (especially the age group based demographics). As I stated before Roblox has been on the up and up in this regard, but their continuation will require a massive jolt towards value for money, because that will drive growth faster and a lot more profound.

 

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