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Big Business Loves the Computer Gaming Industry 104

Posted by Zonk
from the gnomes-are-always-surprising dept.
David Greenspan writes "Video games are no longer exclusive to a consumer market. Business Week has an article on the new trend of big business willing to pay millions for custom-made games. The casual market has inspired folks in business to realize the broad appeal of games, and some of the possibilities inherent to the medium. As a result, business games are now big business. From the article: 'To reach the billion-dollar mark, the market will have to overcome the common wisdom that games are inherently not serious. A serious games market will also require game developers to shift from the traditional business-to-consumer model to a business-to-business one. Today when major studios and publishers are approached by companies interested in commissioning, say, an employee-training game based on a successful commercial title, more often than not those studios and publishers decline. Even if the interested company is offering $5 million, it's not worth the gamemakers' time to divert engineers from a commercial title likely to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.'"
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Big Business Loves the Computer Gaming Industry

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  • by Stanistani (808333) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:45PM (#20226395) Homepage Journal
    My son was too young for Doom, but in his box of cereal one day was a Doom clone called ChexQuest [wikipedia.org], which we both loved. Strictly a corporate game, but a lot of fun, with phlegm instead of death and gore.
    • Phlegm? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kadin2048 (468275) *
      with phlegm instead of death and gore

      A questionable improvement, to be sure.

    • Hehehe, I loved it. Now I want to go find a copy of it somewhere.
    • I still have ChexQuest, I think I got everything Doom related, or anything made using the Doom engine. ChexQuest was fun, there was also a sequel.
    • I forgot about that Chex Quest game. I remember playing it when I was young. It was outstanding. Hmm... I wonder if there are any copies of that game still lying about here at work or in the archives, considering I now work for General Mills, the makers of Chex cereal, Chex Mix, etc. If not, I should add submit it!
      • There's a whole ChexQuest community out there you could harness... for less than megabucks... just a little love.
    • by Sciros (986030)
      Oh man I played that game!! I kicked its arse! And yeah it was a Chex version of Doom. Sure, Doom II and Rise of the Triad were way more fun, but ChexQuest was way better than a cut-out King Vitaman mask.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Sinkael (1089531)
      Do you remember the McDonalds game on the Nintendo (I think) Not as fun as chex quest but, this concept isn't actually new.
    • Strange coincidence, but I remember playing this game at my cousins house almost 14 years ago and just a few months ago I found one of the original Chexquest disks at a local thrift store. Mayhaps I'll upload the image to ThePirateBay sometime...
    • by J-1000 (869558)
      I've always thought cereal boxes would be the ideal place to put videogame demos. Not glued to the front of $10 magazines. Alas, I've never even seen it tried. The only things I've seen are free cheapo titles included for the sole purpose of promoting the cereal itself.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Where Nissan paid to get some cars added and doing the tournament thing.
    http://forzamotorsport.net/nissan.htm [forzamotorsport.net]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There was also a similar promotion with Cadillac and PGR3.

      Fine by me... it just means I get more free cars to play with, if anything this is good. Rather than Developer X paying heaps of money for licensing they auto makers pay the game developer to include their cars... As long as they steer clear of the "make sure our car outperforms our competitors car in the game" then it can greatly reduce development costs.
  • by PJ1216 (1063738) * on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:47PM (#20226421)
    I can't wait for the business training game, Salesman: Blood Money, where you play as Mr. 47, a genetically engineered salesman, created from the DNA of the five more dangerous salesmen.
    • by EnsilZah (575600)
      So a game based on the life story of Steve Jobs then?
      Sounds like fun.
    • by APLowman (968256)
      I want a business training game based of Half-Life, that game seemed to outline pretty ordinary situations you might encounter working in a research lab. You know, experiments going horribly wrong accidentally brining about an alien invasion, which cause the government to destroy all evidence and kill everybody to cover up the existence of your workplace. That sort of stuff happens at least twice a week.
  • Maybe now they will start using the 1984 classic arcade game Paperboy to the next generation of paperboy.
  • Have it Your Way (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vatica40 (920356) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:49PM (#20226437)
    One only has to look at the success of the Burger King XBox games to know this has the potential to be absolutely huge.
    • by peterpi (585134)
      Blitz Games recently won Develop magazine's Industry Excellence award for Business Development, thanks in part to Pocket Bike Racer.
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:50PM (#20226451) Journal
    Back in the day, tons of programmers and modelers who happen to be gamers banded together to create MODs of popular games.

    All it would really take is for a corp to do a couple of things, and have it done (relatively) on the cheap:

    1. License an existing game engine for a fixed sum
    2. hit a place like Gamasutra (or any popular MOD board) and hire some freelancers
    It's not exactly as if you have to howl in the wilderness. It just takes some brains is all.

    For 5 million bucks, I'm sure a corp could secure and contract the requisite resources w/o having to resort to desperate measures.

    /P

  • Serious business? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joe Random (777564) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:50PM (#20226469)

    To reach the billion-dollar mark, the market will have to overcome the common wisdom that games are inherently not serious.
    The whole problem seems to be the name itself. Games. Of course, the "fun" connotation can be removed. Consider a game of poker (stakes can be very high, fortunes can be made or lost), as a "serious" game. Even better, consider war games, or a nice game of chess. Games don't have to be serious, but calling them "games" makes it an uphill battle. Maybe if companies added a little spin, and called them "computer-aided training simulators" or something, business would take them more seriously, and would invest more time and money in utilizing them.
    • "computer-aided training simulators"

      It has to be catchy, but serious. Strategy Sharpeners? I dunno.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cHALiTO (101461)

      Even better, consider war games, or a nice game of chess.
      I'd throw in tic-tac-toe in there, just in case ;)
    • by libkarl2 (1010619)

      The whole problem seems to be the name itself. Games.

      There is also the 'age group' angle at work here. The idea that 'video games are for kids' is still prevalent in many people's minds. Thus games are often seen as 'toys' not tools, and gaming is seen as an idle pastime (usually is) instead of a meaningful activity (almost never).

      When someone tries to tell me that video games are just kid stuff I usually fire up FlightGear (or M$ Fight Sim). End of debate! Gaming is as much an 'experience medium' as it is a blithering waste of time. We simply need the ri

    • It has been proved that you learn faster and better when you have fun.

      Some business already spend millions of dollars in training.

      The whole problem is in the 'business should be mind-fucking serious' mindset.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chris Burke (6130)
      I thought Serious Sam settled this whole "games can't be serious" business a long time ago. Sam was very serious. The engine for the game was serious too.

      Croteam was ahead of their time in more ways than one; they'd seen the need for seriousness in the games industry, and they provided it in spades.
    • by kalaf (963208)
      I've seen quite a few names thrown around, but in the eLearning industry most people call just call them "simulations." That describes anything from a faked UI with a few working buttons to a sort of "choose your own adventure" game all the way up to the full 3D experience. I'm sure someone's going to coin something to describe this kind of thing soon, and it's going to be cheesy and annoy me until I die...

      If this kind of thing is done right, it's not unheard of to see multiple standard deviations of perf
    • So... you want to call them C.A.T.S. instead?
  • I don't follow - Game shop should focus on B2B offerings, in order to make more money (the $1B mark), but it's more profitable to sell to consumers? Why should game shops go against their self interest?
    • What they're saying is essentially: "How can the game industry find a low-overhead way to get business revenue that doesn't interfere with their main operation?" In a near-ideal world, you'd have an expert system web services virtual consultant that would interpret business desires for their game and have it modify the stuff your consumer market developers produced last go-around to meet the need and make a quick, unobtrusive buck. In reality, this means spinning up a subsidiary that focuses on requiremen
      • Welcome to 1999 - Half life provides all of this for free. Continuing this approach would allow anyone to capitalize on the game and build a custom variant for not a lot of scratch; licensing could control who's allowed to charge for it.
        • Not the same. This is mostly an organizational / business thing. Most companies don't have the time or expertise to mod a game. If the makers of Half-life had set up a group to make Half life customized to train specific business' employees to do something particular. Now repeat that, make it a common element to each game company, and include different genres of games for those groups to customize. Get off your "Welcome to 1999" soapbox, Mr. Snide. And nothing's free. They provided a game editor for
          • Most companies don't have the time or expertise to mod a game.

            That's why you contract this stuff out.

            If the makers of Half-life had set up a group to make Half life customized to train specific business' employees to do something particular.

            They don't have to - they've provided a simple framework to allow anybody to do that. Occupational training is likewise somewhat outside valve's core competency.

            Yeah, it's free - you don't have to pay for anything aside from a copy of the game. This sort of thin

  • Even if the interested company is offering $5 million, it's not worth the gamemakers' time to divert engineers from a commercial title likely to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales

    For $5e6, you could hire an extra prorgammer to do the customization and still turn a profit. Also, it's probably an unwise idea to give up a certain $5e6 to avoid a possible impact on maybe a much larger sum.
  • No one will remember Red vs. Blue; Only Coke vs. Pepsi.
  • by LordPhantom (763327) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:55PM (#20226531)
    Why not produce those games? For example, a lawyer training game based upon something like Resident Evil or BloodRayne - they're already disease-infested vampires, it should require virtually -no- changes!
    • by dmclap (1103635)
      Well, those games are doing things the wrong way around. After all, in those games, you're trying to kill blood-sucking vampires and other such monsters. You would need a game that involved being a vampire, hunting down civilians and sucking them dry of their money^W blood for your sustenance.
    • by ksd1337 (1029386)
      Already done. What do you think the RIAA is using?
  • by Trojan35 (910785) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:58PM (#20226561)
    "Today when major studios and publishers are approached by companies interested in commissioning, say, an employee-training game based on a successful commercial title, more often than not those studios and publishers decline. Even if the interested company is offering $5 million"

    So if I went to Spielberg and asked him to spend a couple years on a "Employee Training for Microsoft" movie for $5m, do you think he'd go for it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Joe Random (777564)
      That's not a fair comparison, though. Most companies want a game based on previous work. For instance, take the Quake engine, tack on some different levels, sprites, and scripts, and sell it to the company. Development costs, while certainly not zero, are going to be fairly low compared to developing the game in the first place.

      This would be more like going to Spielberg and asking him to spend a couple of months remixing a previously-filmed movie and adding a couple of extra scenes for $5m.
      • Most games ARE based on previous work. EA sports games still use code from the Genesis days. Tony Hawk games still use the same engine from the PSX era. A lot of games nowadays are licencing the Unreal Engine.

        What you described for "all game companies would need to do" sums up the majority of games--slap a different skin on it and throw together some levels.

        What you seem to be imagining game development consists of is really only the case for a small minority of high-budget games on the market.
    • by Holmwood (899130)
      A couple of years? Of course not.

      A day, and handing the rest of a few months work off to someone a couple of years out of film school?

      Quite possibly.

      John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers (and the cocreator of Yes, Minister) who admittedly are not Spielberg set up a little company in the 1970's making training films.

      They sold it (many years ago) for $70m. Not a bad chunk of change; even Spielberg might go for that.

      This is low-hanging fruit; the potential to add some relatively high-margin guaranteed
      • John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers (and the cocreator of Yes, Minister) who admittedly are not Spielberg set up a little company in the 1970's making training films.
        "Meetings, bloody meetings" was a classic.
    • by Altus (1034)

      no, but you might be able to get his non-union Mexican equivalent, Señor Spielbergo.
    • With regards to the part of the article that talks about corporate customization of games for corporate or military training, I'm surprised that I didn't see anyone else here talk about this but how about turning to the OSS world for custom game mods? cube [fov120.com] shows great potential for modification. Nexuiz [alientrap.org] looks really nice and plays sweet. Tremulous [tremulous.net] is a great example of a FPS with non-traditional FPS rules.

      I would be terribly, terribly remiss not to mention http://live.linux-gamers.net/ [linux-gamers.net] which I have blogg [blogspot.com]

  • by andphi (899406) <phillipsam@gma i l . c om> on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:58PM (#20226567) Journal
    FTFS, which is FTFA: 'To reach the billion-dollar mark, the market will have to overcome the common wisdom that games are inherently not serious. A serious games market will also require game developers to shift from the traditional business-to-consumer model to a business-to-business one."

    The first sentence I agree with. "The Market" will need to get over itself and the idea that products which are put to trivial uses must be trivial. The second sentence, however, does not follow logically from the first or from observable reality. We have a serious games market. It's a hybrid of B2B and B2C, with a lot of the end products (and the raison d'etre of the B2B types) coming from their B2C counterparts. Look at all the engine makers. If the original game engines (meant to be bought and played by end-users) had not succeeded, if the demand by gamers for games based on said engines did not exist, there would be no market for things like the Unreal and Quake engines. B2B game marketing is merely a new segment, not the whole of the market.
  • Isn't this repeting what happened in 1983 [wikipedia.org] Video Games on a budget is not nessarly a good thing.
  • by HitekHobo (1132869) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @01:04PM (#20226611) Homepage
    I can already see the Doom clone for customer service reps.

    1) Customer lures you in with the promise of an easy frag. - "I can't get my email."
    2) Customer side steps your opening salvo - "Yes, my computer is plugged in."
    3) You run out of ammo while the customer bunny hops towards you. - "I have just tried telnetting to port 110 on pop.yourcompany.com and recieved a timeout. I then tried a traceroute and can't reach your facility."
    4) Customer drops a grenade on your head - "No, I think it could be the power outage in your data center that is being reported on CNN right now."
    5) You respawn in the middle of 10 customers holding grenades. - "Somebody turn on the ambush for God's sake!"
  • Learning tool indead (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GreggBz (777373) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @01:04PM (#20226615) Homepage
    As a Unix administrator, I immediately see an application for this as a training tool.

    You have Unix at home now, but no stress or incentive to scramble in learning it. My biggest hurdle and that of most anyone just starting out, is translating academic and hobby experience into the real world.

    It would be neat if someone would write a Linux application that simulated all kinds of disasters/problems in a real captivating environment, spiced it up a little with some kind of interesting plot-line, and left the user to his own devices to try and solve these problems. You'd give him the tools already present on his home computer, namely, everything that is Linux. Even it it was only slightly compelling, it would still be a step up from reading man pages out of simple curiosity. It would also give you problems to solve that would not otherwise present themselves in the scope of a home environment.

    Turn this all into a game, and score the "player" on his resourcefulness and the correctness of his solutions.

    • by faloi (738831)
      There used to be, and probably still are, a few websites that offered "hacking challenges" where there would be a brief description of a potential security hole, and a clean place to play around to see if you could uncover it and progress to the next challenge. I enjoyed those, and learned a lot of relatively simple (but often overlooked) things in a short period of time.

      "Games" like that would work quite well, at least for a limited subset of the work market.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Face it, the sysadmin will NEVER get the girl at the end of the game. The closest would be to find a user's pron stash.
    • I play this game everyday. I have to say, while there are moments of interesting problems and solutions to them... most of the time is spent grinding.

  • by Mirele (124986) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @01:12PM (#20226719) Homepage
    My sister's nephew (her brother-in-law's son) is a rookie driver in NASCAR. Every track has a computerized simulation and he drives the sim every week for practice, even if he's not scheduled to drive in the race. All the drivers do these sims. I have no idea how much these sims cost to produce, or how often they're revised.
  • the common wisdom that games are inherently not serious
    Not serious, well, many "edutainment" games are quite fun and doesn't make me feel like I'm "losing my time"!
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serious_game [wikipedia.org]
  • Name change (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ender77 (551980)
    We need a new name that describes mature video games in more mature terms. the same way that graphic novels separated itself from comic books.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by andphi (899406)
      This Software Was Made For Business

      Rated M for Mature:
      For Real-world situations, Work-like Environment, Frequent Interruptions, and Panic-inducing Deadlines.

      Rated AO for Adults Only:
      Portrays Double-Entry Accounting and Enforces GAAP
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The only thing that separates Graphic Novels from Comic Books is the price.
    • by Randym (25779)
      We need a new name that describes mature video games in more mature terms

      Just as 'comic' 'books' are really "graphic novels", I'd call 'video' 'games' something like "reality simulations": rlsims. Since that's somewhat unpronounceable, I'd fast-forward the linguistic elision device and get to "realms". (It's got the 'real' and the 'sim' squashed right in there.) You know: Brealms, Grealms, Srealms and, of course, Krealms. (i.e. Business-, Game-, Shop- and, of course, Kill-...) [However, I'm overlooking

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @01:26PM (#20226897) Journal
    If the market is 5 million vs a potential 15 million its easier to follow the money and its a no brainer.

    Most training business apps can be written in flash by a jr programmer or javaFX. Game engine licensing is a different issue. You can license it for a few hundred thousand and just hire some temp game programmers if you have a 5 million dollar budget but dont expect the game makers to develop anything but a license for you.

  • The Real SimCity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Foktip (736679) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @01:27PM (#20226917)
    Video game companies are very good at making effective and user-friendly software, and that kind of quality is lacking in products made for buisnesses - most of which have to settle for generic CAD programs that can do "everything" instead of merely doing the specific application required easily and effectively.

    Take SimCity for example - if you could adapt it to instead be used for city-planning in works departments (water, gas, civil/construction, hydro, etc.), it would make things more simple/easy, and it could simulate the future.
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Video game companies are very good at making effective and user-friendly software

      Looks like we found someone who's never attempted to play Battlefield: 2142!

      For the record, video game companies suck at making user-friendly software. They usually rewrite OS controls for no reason whatsoever (even Flight Sim!), except to remove functionality. (Your mousewheel doesn't work in Battlefield because it's not a normal scrollbar, it's some mutant scrollbar they coded from scratch, for instance.) There are exceptions
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        They usually rewrite OS controls for no reason whatsoever (even Flight Sim!), except to remove functionality. (Your mousewheel doesn't work in Battlefield because it's not a normal scrollbar, it's some mutant scrollbar they coded from scratch, for instance.)

        There is a reason, and most of the blame rests on Microsoft. DirectX doesn't provide access to most of the common Windows controls (or, at least, didn't -- I haven't used it in awhile). So if you wanted something in your menu like a nice dropdown list
    • by Jaysyn (203771)
      Thanks. I'll be having nightmares about the bastard child of SimCity 4 & Microstation for weeks now.
    • by jackbird (721605)
      Take SimCity for example - if you could adapt it to instead be used for city-planning in works departments (water, gas, civil/construction, hydro, etc.), it would make things more simple/easy, and it could simulate the future.

      You mean, like, the entire friggin' field of GIS?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dkf (304284)

      Take SimCity for example - if you could adapt it to instead be used for city-planning in works departments (water, gas, civil/construction, hydro, etc.), it would make things more simple/easy, and it could simulate the future.

      The main problem with SimCity is that' it's fundamentally grid-based, and cities by and large aren't (though some in North America come close). Adapting the code so that it can support real city layouts is non-trivial, since it forces you to stop using simplifying assumptions (e.g. can't use manhattan distance metrics).

    • One of the main reasons that games are so much better than other commercial software is that the developers actually use them, and are often in the target market. When was the last time that a developer of a city-planning app was also a city planner in his spare time? Stayed up late some nights city planning? You don't really know the pain points until you experience them first hand.
    • Take SimCity for example - if you could adapt it to instead be used for city-planning in works departments (water, gas, civil/construction, hydro, etc.), it would make things more simple/easy, and it could simulate the future.

      If SimCity were flexible enough to account for the myriad of variables that real life planners have to face. For example, planners here in the Pac NW have to account for the impact of their actions on salmon streams, which planners in the South don't have to. And planners in the Sou

  • by martyb (196687) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @02:24PM (#20227667)
    FTFS:

    Today when major studios and publishers are approached by companies interested in commissioning, say, an employee-training game based on a successful commercial title, more often than not those studios and publishers decline. Even if the interested company is offering $5 million, it's not worth the gamemakers' time to divert engineers from a commercial title likely to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.

    Okay, I'll bite. What about a text-based interactive fiction game? I spent hours and hours while in college trying to solve adventure [slashdot.org]. (Aside: Solved it with 350 out of 350 points on May 9, 1977.) Why did I do THAT when I had so many other demands on my time?

    • Had fun solving puzzles.
    • Was in competition with classmates.
    • Kept trying to beat my best score.
    • Learned different ways to look at things.

    So, an IF game with some "rooms" which had "puzzles" to solve would be simple enough to create. To make it playable and enjoyable, well, that's another matter, but even then it's quite doable. (<grin>Some of us nerds DO know how to write!</grin>)

    Example: Customer Service Representative (CSR) for an in-house application. Take some cases from the Tier-1 call center "solution scripts". Wrap it up in a day's adventure with incoming calls and a count-up timer for how long it took you to solve particular puzzle(s). Have some notes on a hall-way white board. A "manual" that you find on a table in the corporate library. Get x-amount of points for solving each puzzle. As the game progresses, a user could be given access with a special pass to higher floors in the building where increasingly difficult challenges await. (Take these from Tier-2 call center solutions.) Create some "colorful" customers to highlight different response techniques. (Screaming Sammy, Timid Tom, Newbie Ned, Impulsive Ivan, etc.) You get the idea.

    To sum this up, there's an old saw that I believe is apropos here:

    Tell me, and I will forget.

    Show me, and I may remember.

    Involve me, and I will understand.

    $5 million? Sure! I'd like a piece of that! Heck, for JUST $100K, I could *easily* create a "game" in a month or two. AND, it would be easy to extend to other levels and challenges. AND, because it was text-based, it could easily run as an application on a phone or PDA.

    Any takers?

    • How to find the meeting room:

      >you are in a twisty maze of cubicles, all alike

      How to navigate the HR benefits phone tree:

      >you are in a twisty maze of indecipherable options, all alike

      How to navigate the office supply procurement web site:

      >you are in a twisty maze of unusable web pages, all alike
    • Interesting thought. You might want to offer up your email if anyone is actually interested in contacting you. =)
  • Sorry, there might be some company refusing to make a title when offered $5 millions, but that's rather the exception than the norm. It won't be hard to find a game company which will do it for that much money.
    Most game companies have a very hard time to even make a living and close to none do make those hundreds of millions of which this article does speak.

    I would even bet that _every_ big publisher does know a team which would do it for such an amount. And I'm not even talking about startup teams here. Ma
  • are these companies going to publishers? or direct to developer houses? If its direct to a developer then $5mil is a good chunk. Most of the time developers just get a budget from the publisher while the publisher is making tons off sales. So going to a publisher is like going to the middle man and B2B should interact with the content developers.
  • Sounds like a great opportunity for game modders to go into business for themselves and make a nice pile of cash.
  • A good example of this is the two big players in the remote control plane market, who both have their own PC based R/C flight sims [wikipedia.org]: FS One [fsone.com] and RealFlight [realflight.com]; both of which were outsourced to actual developers.
  • "To reach the billion-dollar mark, the market will have to overcome the common wisdom that games are inherently not serious."

    I disagree, to reach the billion-dollar mark, the market will have to ACCEPT the common wisdom that games are inherently not serious. Currently, not being "serious" is a turn off. Games will never be inherently "serious". But businesses as of late, have been quickly realizing that "serious" does not always translate to productivity. More likely, what we're going to see is the market a
  • The attitude of business towards gamers is easily seen in the huge number of flash-based games pages. Even people who should know better seem to think that gamers want animation, music, and transition effects in their web pages. Even if it all comes at the expense of fast loading. It's like putting non-skippable cutscenes in the game itself or lots of transition effects in a dvd menu. Those same people designing a page for a business oriented product would never think to include that kind of effects unl

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