Category: Microsoft

I have a Jerry Pournelle story.

“We have an unusual request about this week’s security bulletins release. If you have the time can you talk to someone on the phone?” This was from my Waggener Edstrom liaison.

It was 2004 and I would get these requests often in my part time role as communications person for Microsoft’s Security Response Center. The PR team and I would weigh who the request came from, their audience, and several other factors in deciding who we would get on the phone with as opposed to responding in email. Not for spin or positioning purposes, (you can’t really spin a security vulnerability although many have tried. They tried and failed? No. They tried and died) but more use of time vs. how many people would be reached.

“Sure.” I said. “What’s the outlet?”

Waggener Edstrom has served as the major PR firm for Microsoft for such a long time. There’s a reason for that, they are whip smart and I knew that if they were asking for my phone time it was worth doing.

“It’s a gentleman who runs a fairly well-subscribed newsletter, he’s written for Byte and a lot of other publications back in the day. His questions are mostly technical about the attack vector, it seems like a good place to get any additional information out.”

It was a slow day for me, a Thursday as I recall and our monthly release had happened that Tuesday so most of the pressing outlets like CNN or the LAtimes/Boston Globe/NYT gamut or Wired or whatever had already had their calls with me, so I said sure let me set up a 30 minute block of time and give me five minutes prep for us to decide whether or not to do this or over email.

I stupidly never asked who the gentleman was who I would be talking to.

Ok prep for the call time. I’m in my office which back then was decorated in what my Wagg Ed support team referred to as “affluent freshman college dorm room” style. I had cool lava lamps and a projector with a liquid oil pattern cast on the wall, blacklights, a nice futon etc. Meetings all over the MSRC were sometimes held in my office just because. Once, our fearless leader kicked me out of my own office to have a meeting, but that was before we started pranking his office with greek architecture. I digress.

I picked up the phone for the prep, keep in mind my role here in my life was directly communicate guidance for Microsoft customers in regards to security threats and vulnerabilities and patches. We’re 60 seconds into the prep discussion when I finally open the newsletter and look at the web page and find out the caller is going to be

Jerry. Fucking. Pournelle.

*record scratch* *narrator voice* This is me, you may be wondering how I got here.

Well let’s start with The Mote in God’s Eye. The Niven and Pournelle team-up was formative for me because their voices were so interesting individually, but that story meshes so seamlessly (unlike say a Peter Straub/ Stephen King mashup which worked so brilliantly *because* of the slight tonal discord) that it made me seek out all of Pournelle’s other work. I had already consumed Niven’s.

“We’re taking this call” I blurted. “We are taking this fucking call. We are sooooo taking this call.”

I think I freaked the PR team out a little bit.

So now I’m 60 seconds away from speaking to Jerry. Fucking. Pournelle. In some random space in my life where his interests and my role collided and neither had anything to do with the fact I was a huge fan. I knew about his newsletter and website and his interest in computers and tech, I just had no idea *that* was the person I was going to talk to. And now it was my job.

Be cool man. Be cool.

Now I’m on the phone with him. He asks how I am and how my day is. I managed somehow to hold it together and chat like all this was perfectly normal but I didn’t trust myself to not screw it all up so I just said “before we get to your questions, if I may, your fiction has been a huge influence on me. I’m a fan and I’m a little weirded out that I’m talking to you”

I know that’s what I said, verbatim, because I had it typed in notepad to read from so I would not screw it up.

He laughed and spent like the next two minutes just sort of shooting the shit with me. Then he delved into his questions which were clearly from someone who wasn’t just a hobbyist, he understood the ins and outs of the threat and he wanted to articulate why applying the updates was important in the newsletter.

At one point I got bold. I said, “Well on the one hand the attacker could do X but on the gripping hand the patch does Y.”

He stopped me. “If I were to use that, there would be three elements, with the “on the gripping hand” being always the third. That’s how moties work. It helps see past a binary choice!”

I still use this today. I say things often like so: “On the one hand X, on the other hand Y. But on the Gripping hand….” and when it gets spotted by people for the reference I usually get an email or nod to the effect “I got what ya did there” and when people are confused I get to explain it and introduce them to The Mote in God’s Eye.

I have Jerry to thank for that. The call was simple and perfunctory, we got his questions answered, he was gracious and kind with my fanboyism. But that moment where he took an element of such a foundational influence that he and Niven had written and riffed it as “No no no say it like this, and people will get it” was one of those moments in my life where I was flummoxed and not at the same time, and won’t ever forget.

We never spoke again, I cannot claim to have known him or that we were Facebook friends or anything. I doubt he would have even recalled the conversation within a month or two of it just because he probably had lots of conversations like that with people.

I am just one more of millions affected by his work in some way saying, thanks Jerry. Thanks for the stories.

Everything Old is New Again

In February of 2012 I left Microsoft, a company I had worked for ever since I was 21. It wasn’t a bad break, it was a good break. I wanted to go off and experience all new adventures. And I have. In the past year alone I’ve worked for an *amazing* team of engineers and developers at the HBO Code Labs here in Seattle. I can’t say enough about what an incredible experience that was and what they are doing for the future of providing their customers with HBO’s top notch content.

But I am a gamer first and foremost. Have been since I was five. Will be when I shuffle off this mortal coil at the cyber enhanced ripe old age of 120. And in that moment at age 120 I will *still* remember exactly where I was when I first saw this.

I don’t know a console gamer who doesn’t remember that incredible introduction to the world of Gears of War. I was hooked. I was sold. That was a day one purchase for me.

Since then Gears of War is the only title I have played every release through in coop, with my friend Mark. We’ll put off playing the game until we can set aside a week to play it together. I’ve played multiplayer, and done the entire 50 waves of Horde mode for charity with my friend e.

So when the outstanding team at Black Tusk asked me to help them make the best Gears of War experience to date by representing the community and being their advocate, how could I say no?

As of today I am now the Director of Community Engagement for Black Tusk Studios. I’m not sure there is a word that properly expresses my excitement at the opportunity to represent this community. Gearstastic? Lambentocity? AWESOMES OF WAR? I have time to work on it.

I’ve been hiding, I confess. I’ve been shadowing the Gears forums and looking at people’s thoughts. I don’t just want us to make the best next generation Gears of War game ever, I want to make sure that everyone playing the game today feels just as good today and down the road in their investment into our amazing world as we do. There’s a Gears nation out there. I’m a part of it and it’s amazing.

So now it’s out. So hit me. You can email me directly at or or my twitter at or the official Gears of war social media feeds at @GearsofWar and @BlackTuskStudio.

It’s not like we’re just starting out here, we’ve been passionate about the community from the get go. We’re expanding that commitment from the fine work Jack Felling have been doing and going big.

I want to be flooded with your thoughts. I want to hear everything you like, dislike, want, don’t want and hope for in relation to this rich and amazing world. Spare no detail. All thoughts will be entertained. Depending on volume I cannot promise I can respond to everything, but I do promise this: I will forego sleep to try.

It’s a mad world. Let’s get busy and Jump in.

In Defense of the Customer Advocate, We Need a Software Ombudsman Role

Over the summer I assisted on a whitepaper regarding "Second screen experiences" for major video game and entertainment properties. (Second screen really just refers to extending games and movie experiences to tablets and phones, etc). I found myself continually surprised over major property holders’ reticence to actually own this, rather than simply do "me too" features developed by outsourced dev houses. To put it another way, people with an almost George Lucas level of control over a particular entertainment property when it came to books or comics or other experiences with their storylines were perfectly happy for a third rate development firm to make their iPhone app or iPad version of their game.

When I asked why there wasn’t someone overseeing the efforts with the same level of "end to end" customer viewpoint that they maintained for their quality of writing or story continuity they looked surprised and said that customers really didn’t expect too much out of alternate experiences yet. They said customers’ expectations of games on tablets and phones were more cartoony and casual as opposed to high fidelity or were relegated to simply being a nice front for a web page or data view rather than a true added value to the experience. Not a single one of the IP owners I talked to had a "butt on the line" for the end-to-end quality of their game’s experience being awesome whether it was on Console, PC, web, or other device. They were designing for the lowest common denominator both of the technology and the customer expectation, without having someone truly own looking at both and trying to maximize the impact and value to the people buying the product.

I asked what if a customer could suspend their game on a console, then grab their tablet and continue where they left off on the bus. I was told no customer expected their tablet to be able to give them the same experience so why bother? I noted tablets now have quad core 64 bit processors, more RAM than the console, and separate GPU’s, why not at least try? Besides, who mandated it had to be the exact same experience? Reasonable customers would know there would have to be minor changes. I even pointed out the potential brand damage to an intellectual property if a third party app contradicted continuity or was so unpleasant or unstable it hurt the game. I was told that wasn’t a big deal either, since customers should have lower expectations of experiences outside the main one in terms of quality. None of these people had invested in a point of contact in the company to oversee the total and complete experience of all their offerings for their top shelf brands and experiences, other than perhaps their executives (who are great at the “Vision” level but notoriously bad at the execution level).

This isn’t new. Back in the early to mid 1990’s, one of the single most powerful divisions inside the Microsoft Corporation was Product Support Services (PSS). This was the group inside the company that supported all of Microsoft’s products either by phone, Compuserv forums, on site support for corporations, or even Fax (Really!). When a Microsoft product had reached its final milestone, which was typically called a Final Release Candidate, the build was handed over to PSS for something called "Sign Off."

Product Support Services was the customer representative. It was the first group within Microsoft that would deal with the full ramifications of releasing a product out to millions and tens of millions of customer configurations. As such, PSS had to monitor both how much it cost to support a product, and how well a product worked based on the assumptions that developers made about customer expectations. A year or so after a product was released, PSS would gather all the lessons learned and customer feedback gathered and present it to the product teams for incorporation into the next version. In this way, customer wants and needs were represented in real world scenarios, not just sales meetings where customers tended to ask for the sky and sales people might promise it. This process also meant that PSS could halt a product from shipping, even if development considered it finished. That was what the sign off process was all about. PSS oversaw the complete end to end use of a product both during development and after.

Final Release Candidate CD’s or disk images were provided to PSS, and teams all over the country would pound on the product and log bugs against it. All shipping software of significant function and complexity has bugs. PSS’ job was to measure the impact, potential pain to customers, and cost of supporting the product shipping with a known issue. If those factors ran too high, PSS would refuse to allow the product to be released until the issues were brought back into line with the quality bar. One of the reasons the final shipping build of Windows 95 was build "950 r6" was that the "final" build had to be revved six times before ship due to issues found during sign off and other last minute testing. There was an enormous amount of customer advocacy talent, support talent, and quality assurance talent in the PSS organization because almost everyone involved was a full time Microsoft employee. If PSS refused to sign off, the product didn’t ship.

PSS was the "butt on the line" for shipping quality software to Microsoft’s customers.

Not long after shipping Windows 95, the process changed due almost solely to Netscape. Netscape shipped "betas" on a continual basis, just propping them to the web when built. The Internet Explorer team was in direct competition with Netscape and constantly complained about having to be held up fixing bugs found during the sign off process and the slow method of releasing.  Soon they were granted exceptions and the release of "perpetual betas" became the pressure release valve to allow the shipping of "Internet" software to be more nimble and competitive. Slowly over the next few years, sign-off as a process became less and less, outsourcing was developed and all that customer focus and expertise was trimmed, cut, then basically eliminated relative to what it used to be. Software quality and customer satisfaction suffered, and more and more products were developed in a silo mentality. I truly believe the security issues in Microsoft software in the late 90’s and early 00’s were a partial result of these changes.

These two anecdotes might seem unrelated, but they are not. I bring it up because lately the vitriolic nature of some Internet comments regarding software or hardware is obscuring a larger problem. Fanboys will be fanboys, and there will unfortunately always be someone willing to type out an anonymous death threat over a designer changing the muzzle velocity of their favorite ammo in their favorite space gun. Those individuals number in the tens of thousands.

What we’re losing all across the software industry, from a services to software to content perspective, is the view of the customer. Or, to the extent it’s taken into account it’s the lowest common denominator of what someone surmises the expectations to be on the customer’s part based on sales.

That audience, outside the vitriolic one, is in the hundreds of millions. For most things, it isn’t a big deal. Call of Duty: Ghosts sold just fine. Both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 will sell out of their allotments for Christmas. iPads and iPhones are in high demand.

But I watch a major product launch or announce go badly and everyone asks "what were they thinking?" or I see dozens of reviews that state "it’s almost perfect except for this one glaring omission that seems so obvious" or I hear someone point out "This particular feature would add so much and detract nothing and we’ve been asking for it for years" and I realize that we have lost/are losing an essential skill in the software industry: Customer advocacy. We’ve moved it from being a role to being a checkmark box on a long list.

I get that features have to be prioritized and I understand resource triangles better than most. But why should it take a mountain of bad press, social media, or forum posts to note a major product change is a terrible idea in regards to how people actually use your product? It’s gone beyond the simple Redmond Reality Distortion field, Youtube’s recent comment changes are the biggest indicator. Decisions are being made based on what the user base will bear with trying to monetize or compete, not as much on what the user base wants in order to keep choosing your product.

And there’s no reason the two things cannot work together.

We need to establish (are re-establish) the concept of the Ombudsman. People whose job it is to own the end to end experience in both development and release, and serve as the point of feedback publicly when something goes horrible pear shaped on Steam or a new policy or Terms of Use change is announced on Twitter that angers everyone. People who have real veto power when it is needed and can balance the worse angels of the development culture. People who actually get paid to pay attention to what customers like and want and need as opposed to biasing every decision on "We need to make this change because our competitor made it and we need to be the thought leader here. Try and implement it so that customers like it."

We sometimes lose sight that *customers* are the ones who use our products and are important, even when the offerings are (for now) free.

If you don’t believe in strong customer advocacy and making that an actual discipline and separate section of your process then you run the risk of not just failure of your product, but obsolescence of your brand. Usability studies and surveys can only tell you so much.

To use a sportsball metaphor: When competing if you aren’t truly listening to customers you can’t swing for the fences because you will have no idea where the pitch is coming from.

inb4 strawmen:

“But customers will ask for everything!”

Some might, a good Ombudsman will balance this out.

“Apple doesn’t care what customers think, and they sell pretty well!”

Apple works in fits and starts. It’s now on a minor decline as it has gone from epiphany regarding phones and tablets to stagnation. Think about all those lean years before the iPod and iPhone. I’d argue if they would listen just a tad more they could even out their peak and valley cycle and make even more money. One need only look to Vista or Windows 8 to see what happens when you take the platform bully pulpit too far. To think that couldn’t happen to Apple ignores a lot of Apple products that were just as bad.

Besides which, why *wouldn’t* you want to be seen to be listening to your customers instead of dictating to them? I’ve never understood how Apple somehow got away with making their customers feel dumb for things they wanted (like when they said people didn’t need customized SMS tones. Whahuh?) It’s like “I’ll let you purchase my product but I get to slap you one time first.”

“Is this really that big a problem?”

Yes and no. It’s certainly not a crisis. It’s just something I feel like the industry is truly missing out on lately and it represents incredible opportunity for companies, especially big established ones, that move to it or commit to it publicly. It’s low hanging fruit. Customers *love* accountability but better than that they love not making mistakes in the first place. Think about Microsoft’s Xbox One announce then the backpedal. What if they’d had a customer experience advocate who could have prevented the worst of those choices they had to walk back before they wasted time developing them? Someone who was paid for that as their expertise and role instead of relying on a heavily overworked team somewhere in marketing to hope they can get around to it?

Or, when the backpedaling does have to happen, it comes from one voice all at once with a clear message and clear expectation rather than dozens of executives using events over months of time slowly walking back each bad thing.

Community managers are trying to fulfill this role, but many companies simply do not understand Community management is more than just using Twitter or forums. It’s time someone high profile makes a public commitment to having someone like this on staff and actually listens to them. Someone beholden to customers not agendas.

The Curious Tale of MS03-007

This is a story about how I knew within a window of 48 hours when the invasion of Iraq (2003) was going to happen.

It was early March, 2003.  I didn’t know exactly who the guys in suits were, but I knew they weren’t Microsoft.  Only one person I knew wore a suit daily to work at Microsoft, that was Raymond Chen. And he wore a much better class of suit than the guys who suddenly appeared late one evening on floor 6 of Building 40 on the Microsoft campus.

I had joined the Microsoft Security Response Center in November of 2002.  The Slammer attack was my first introduction to *the entire Internet* going offline as a result of a Microsoft security issue.

We were only just recovering from that event.  While all the appropriate and smart people had been mobilized to deal with Slammer, we were not happy with how ad hoc the response was.  So during the month of February and March we developed the Microsoft Internet Security Emergency Response process, MISER. Bill Gates hated the name. It was soon changed to Software Security Incident Response Process, SSIRP.

All I knew was that I had just been given one of the largest offices in the building, where I had installed a bar and held press calls on the security updates for all of MSRC and the ones I had program managed through the Windows team. Back then security updates happened every Wed. morning at 10am Pacific time, instead of every second Tuesday of the month like today. 

As release manager at the time, I would fire up “Yo, Pumpkin Head” on my computer and crank the speakers up as the updates propagated across the cluster of and Windows Update.  We’d gather in the hallway and chatter as we made sure the updates and security bulletins reached their checkpoints while listening to the music. The entire process took almost exactly long as the song, around four minutes. When that music flooded the hallway, you knew updates were being launched. After that four minutes, I took press calls from CNN, MSNBC, ZDNET, NYT, etc for the rest of the day.

Point being, I was finally settling into the role vs. being in emergency mode for weeks over Slammer.

Then the guys in the suits showed up.

Our process was pretty established.  Microsoft issued security bulletins with updates to fix the problem. We didn’t issue warnings or advisories, we were dead set on issuing the transparent communication of the issue only when there was an update to correct it. At the time we viewed warnings or advisories as the equivalent of leaving a box of guns on the street corner and issuing a notice to citizens that there was a murderer in the area, go get your guns.  As many bad guys would get them, if not more, than attentive good guys. We learned better later, but this was the state in 2003.

I had just settled into the job as I mentioned.  I even had theme music. Then the guys in the suits showed up.

I wasn’t even involved at first.  I walked past our reserved emergency conf. room and in it were George, Ian my boss, Dr. Lipner, and the dudes in suits. I just walked on.  The most prized skill in information security is knowing when you do not want to be burdened with knowing what you do not already know.

It wasn’t until later that Ian showed up in my office to talk about it.

“You know what’s going on?” Ian knew I usually had my ear to the ground.  On this I didn’t.

“Dudes in suits. Usually US government.” I replied.  Ian had served in foreign military, specifically artillery. If it was US gov. in the room I’m sure they were roiling over what they would have to make him sign.

“Yea but do you know what’s going on?” Ian said.

“Nope!” I said.  I’d been knee deep in the regular reported vulnerabilities and MSRC work.

“How much do you know about WebDAV?” he asked.

Turns out I knew a lot.  Back then, WebDAV was a godsend to moving files around over the Internet vs. FTP or trying to use straight up HTTP.  WebDAV essentially treated certain web stores like a mapped network drive.

And in Windows 2000 it had a huge gaping hole.  It was enabled by default.  On all versions.

Ian explained carefully the issue to me, and that the guys in suits, from a section of the US government I’m not going to specify, had discovered it because they were attacked.  And that section of the government had a very important operation about to begin within 14 days.

“How soon do you think we could do a patch?” Ian asked.

I knew the Windows Sustained Engineering team’s schedule and backlog and made a scratch guess.

“No test, smoke test, full test, 14, 21 and 30 days.”  No test meant make the update, someone next to you tests that it fixes it, and you just ship it. Never mind the hundreds of millions of configurations in the world. It was the worst kind of update to ever release.  One we had never done before. 

Smoke test meant some more testing meaning seven days of in house testing.  Full test meant we would release the update to a number of high profile volunteer customers without letting them know specifically what it was for, so that we could understand the full impact.

“No good,” Ian said.  “We need to have it before mid March.”

“Ok, But that’s going to be a realignment of just about everything in the pipe.”

“This issue is worth it.”

That was no easy thing, and Ian knew it.  Before long I found myself in the room with George and Dr. Lipner and Ian and Mike Nash our VP.  Oh and the guys in suits, who I was never introduced to.

Here was the crux of the problem.  All Windows 2000 machines were essentially open to a trivial wormable attack like Slammer through this WebDAV vector.  It had been discovered by a government agency who had been attacked. Suddenly we had to re-evaluate how we communicated about updates.  This was bad enough we would have to consider going with how to block the attack before we actually had an update.  At the time that was anathema to the MSRC.  But this situation caused us to rethink everything.  We drew a line a long time ago before I joined, that no government got preference over users. But this wasn’t about an update per se it was about the existence of the hole. We had to figure out what to do if it became known, not for the agency involved but for everyone.

We handled it like we did any other update.  The reporter in this case we decided didn’t matter.  The severity drove the update, not who reported it.

The Windows team worked night and day to produce a fully tested update within 10 days.

On March 15th I wrote the very first Microsoft “Security Advisory” without a patch which contained information describing the issue and how to manually disable the functionality.  It was never released. We sweated the next two days until Wed, March 17th 2003 and released the update.  The security bulletin for the update contained much of the content I wrote for the advisory.

That particular event ended up forming the nascent idea that we should consider advisories when issues might take time to fix.

As I played the music down the MSRC hallway in building 40 that day, I was approached by a member of the senior staff. (Nope, not saying who)

“You know who got hit right?”

I had a good idea.  But just nodded. “Kinda ironic the patch is 007.”

“Watch the news in the next 48 hours.”

War fever has been gripping the US for the past 2 months, it wasn’t difficult to figure out what was about to happen.

On March 19th, the United States of America invaded Iraq.

On the Eve of the Playstation 4

It’s become kind of a cliché, because technology is the basis for the delivery method, but there’s never been a better time to be a gamer. I was perusing my game collection on my iPad the other day and in a portable high quality format I have a perfect edition of almost every single solitary arcade video game I have enjoyed since I was 5. On my Xbox and PS3 I have faithful renditions of many of my favorite 90’s PC and console games, and my Wii has me covered with Mario and other titles.

The present console generation has unfolded in a way unlike any previous. 

The Wii managed to illuminate an entire user base no one really had figured out how to tap.  Its lower resolution was almost a comfort to parents who wouldn’t have to upgrade the entire living room, and the motion control paved the way for technologies like Kinect.  Most of all, while Sony and Microsoft were concentrating on connecting distant players, Nintendo reminded us what fun four people in a room could have. To say it sold like hotcakes is a disservice.  Hotcakes could only dream of Wii sales numbers.  “Hotcakes”, to be clear, is not a euphemism.  They are delicious.

The decision to include an ethernet port in the original Xbox over a modem was lambasted by the industry in general. Remember that in 2000 when it was announced Wi-Fi b with its paltry 6 to 12 megabits a second was still a corporate luxury and your average home connection was either dial up or 1-5mb broadband.  But from the beginning the idea of connected services being the long term bet that differentiated the Xbox was firmly cemented in that decision to go with a network port over dial up or some type of adapter. When the Xbox 360 launched in 2005 the whole landscape of home Internet had changed.  And with it a new service launched in Xbox LIVE that incorporated not just multiplayer, chat, and messaging but quickly evolved into video and music. It introduced achievements and system-wide leaderboards. Most importantly, it made the Xbox 360 a general purpose entertainment device by constantly upgrading and changing the capabilities and experience. Today Xbox LIVE is the gold standard all console services are compared to, and many of the services other devices have were pioneered first on Xbox LIVE. Titles that are cross platform sell by far more copies for Xbox because of LIVE’s user base.

The PS3 launched in 2006 with the promise it was a better console than the 360 in terms of raw power, and the strength of Sony’s amazing first party exclusives. But what really resulted in the PS3’s success was a pretty bold choice on Sony’s part to pack in an expensive Blu Ray drive.  A bold bet that paid off, as within 2 years they killed off HD-DVD through the strength of the PS3 sales and the Sony movie catalog. It was the only “future proof” Blu Ray player, as the device was much more powerful than a standalone one.  While some Blu Ray players became quite literally obsolete and had to be replaced due to changes in the Blu ray spec, Sony simply updated the PS3 firmware. Sony also did very well with first party exclusives such as the God of War franchise, the Uncharted series (fantastic games, I’m a huge fan) and wonderful titles like Little Big Planet. But Blu Ray was the bet that paid off the most.

I’m leaving out a lot here, Nintendo had some huge success with their own exclusives, Microsoft took motion and voice control to the next level with Kinect, and Sony adapted their own services to make their moves in video streaming and by far the easiest digital game purchasing system.

The point is, back in the earlier generations people talked about “winning” and “losing” a generation.  The Winner usually sold an outsized number of consoles more than the Loser.  Sometimes the loser flat out killed their console (RIP Dreamcast Never Forget).

This generation all three could be said to have won in some key way, and all are on track to break 100 million units (Wii got there this month I believe) assuming certain price cuts over the next three years as the new generation starts.

And all of this happened in the course of 7 years while at the same time the iPhone and iPad came about, and Android tablets, and oh by the way let’s not leave out PC gaming which is stronger than a lot of people think between standalone titles, Steam, MMO’s, and flash games.

Games are *everywhere*.  Characters play them to unwind in our sitcoms now, and our dramas and movies. Bitching about losing in Words with Friends is reaching an epidemic level. Halo has crossed over to have top science fiction authors like Greg Bear writing in its universe. We now demand even single player games have some level of online capability to issue challenges to friends or check leaderboards. Games are living and breathing forms of entertainment with downloadable content and the capability to provide instant fixes or tweaks on server backends. As of December 31, 237 million consoles have been sold across three platforms not even counting iOS or Android or PC/Mac.

All this happened in this current generation.  What’s going to happen in the next?

There’s only one clear winner of the “Seventh” generation of console gaming.  Us.