Friday, June 18, 2004

Another test-yer-mettle quiz

The 80's Lyric Quiz is a truly maddening experience for anyone whose teen years were squarely bracketed between 1980-1990, as mine were. This is yet another self-grading pop culture web quiz, but it's especially fun because the lyrics you're asked to recall alternate between obvious and utterly obscure. You'll be tortured not to just cry uncle and reach for the nearest copy of Google. But don't do it, man, don't do it! See what you can dredge from your murky memories of early-stage MTV and the days when you'd closely examine that CD jewel case at the record shop for AAD, ADD, or DDD mastering quality. Like it even mattered on your parents' crappy Marantz living room speakers anyway.

My score? 113. Pretty solid.


Monday, June 7, 2004

The Day Reagan Dropped in on Wrigley

We're all knee-deep in various Ronald Reagan tributes and retrospectives at the moment. This Chicago Tribune "flashback" story (from 1998, free registration may be required) provides a humorous look at what's surely an overlooked moment in the twilight of his final term: the day Dutch took the mound to hurl the ceremonial first pitch of a Cubs game.

My favorite quip?

Minutes later, the president was in the television booth with Harry. Within a couple of innings, he was gone.

Not long after, so was Rick Sutcliffe, the Cubs' starting pitcher.

"He should've stuck around," Sutcliffe said. "Some of the guys said he had better stuff than I did."


Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Why won't Netflix rent me a PS2 game, too?

After visiting Gamefly through a link at, my first impression was, "professional-looking. Yeah, I'd probably trust them with a monthly subscription to rent PS2 games." About 8 seconds later, the thought "why the hell isn't Netflix offering this to me, too?" rear-ended that first impression with a resounding crash. As a Netflix member since 1998, I trust them implicitly to deliver movies when they say they will; their logistics and shipping processes are fine-tuned and effortless to use on the consumer side. And yet they appear to have no plans to rent video games anytime soon. In fact, they're so terse on the subject as to suggest the very idea is ludicrous. ludacris. Whatever.

Why Netflix doesn't see the need for this very natural extension to its business, I don't understand. Let's look at the practical case for game rental in terms of their current web service:

  • Huge addressable market. Plenty of gamers out there and rental is a great way to sample a bunch of different games at about the purchase price of a single new game every two months.
  • No new logistics problems. Game DVD media fits perfectly into the existing movie DVD inventory system. You're still a critical website redesign away from a proper consumer face on game rental and title marketing, but that's "soft" and can be done aggressively in a few months. Netflix's core distribution and warehousing capacity stands ready to fling PS2 and XBox titles into a waiting public's arms right this instant.
  • Brand leverage. Netflix's current customers may not be a big union set with potential game renters, but Netflix is pretty well known as a reliable DVD rental service. I don't see why they should have to pigeonhole themselves as catering solely to their already-converted audience, in case that lack of union is one of the reasons they haven't ventured into game rental. Imagine if Amazon was still strictly a book e-tailer? A lack of such ambition would have consigned them to niche player status indefinitely. Let me put it this way: as a Netflix customer, I'd expect Netflix to provide more reliable and efficient service than any newcomer, and as long as that remained the case, my own word of mouth would be equally positive. And I really would rather not set up yet another account with yet another online merchant.

I may be painting this with a too-broad set of brushstrokes, Barton, but I think game rental should be a huge hit for Netflix.

UPDATE: Steveand Eric pointed out that acquisition costs for games titles (in bulk) are probably quite a bit higher than DVDs, even if you're Netflix and can buy in more bulk that just about anyone else around. It's quite possible that the per-title costs are just too steep for them to offer a monthly subscription model that's any more compelling than Gamefly's. So, maybe I'm coming down too hard on Netflix for lack of vision or ambition. However, that doesn't mean I want them to offer the service any less!

UPDATE II: Pretty sure this is the first time anything I've written has come back number one as the result of a Google query that wasn't "black background:"