Friday, January 02, 2004

Mainstream

This month's Edge magazine (not the world's best web site) provided a couple of useful hooks to what's been on my mind recently. Edge also provided an astouding way for me to waste several hours over the New Year holiday too. Anyone who remembers the dim and distant, multi-colour (although not many colours) past of the ZX Spectrum - Manic Miner, say - will appreciate this diversion I am sure. It will, however, make you appear significantly older to anyone that you discuss it with. More relevantly (to e-government anyway), there's an interesting piece on the cost/value of video games. The bulk of today's games cost something like £40 (for consoles) or perhaps a little less if you buy from Amazon (£30 + postage). For that you get perhaps 50-60 hours of fun and immersion in the game's world - provided that you are prepared to stay the course. Fifty hours entertainment for £40 would compare pretty favourably with cinema pricing, be better than DVD pricing and is much better than the average bill for a total night out. But what if you don't spend 50 hours playing? Research by Sony shows that 80% of people never complete a game. So 20% of people get maximum value and 80% play for perhaps just a few hours before either running of of free time, finding another game to play or reaching a point that they can't get past. Or maybe they just get bored with the game. The value equation doesn't work out quite so well now. Perhaps it's 10 hours for £40, or maybe just 5 or 6 hours. All of a sudden, the cost of a game doesn't look quite so interesting - especially as, if you're a regular gamer, you're probably buying a couple of games a month. Which brings me, eventually, to my point. What if the cost of providing an online service - a website say - is not about the cost per page, but is about the cost per page visited? If that were the measure, things start to look ugly. I can imagine that many websites have a heavily skewed distribution curve - left skewed (i.e. most people look at very few pages). The analysis I did last year indicated that the cost per page could be anywhere from £100 to £1,000 to implement - if we look at pages viewed, I would imagine it moves from £1,000 to £10,000 pretty quickly. Like I said, ugly. And all of that should drive people to the lowest possible cost implementation solution, with the features that are absolutely needed. That, in turn, probably means that ASP-type models will come to the fore in 2004 as people strive for an effective web presence delivered efficiently (another time I'll talk about the difference between effective and efficient). The other hook was the cover, entitled "Mainstream". Just right, 2004 is the year that e-government goes mainstream. With that thought, I'll leave you alone for a week. I'm off for some skiing in the wilds of France. Hopefully I'll be back in one piece. Happy New Year. I hope that 2004 brings you all of the loves, living and laughs that I am sure you all so richly deserve.

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