UnNews:Microsoft buys 14-year-old student's Flash game
2 July 2008
REDMOND, Washington - Computer giant Microsoft, continuing its streak of Internet and technology purchases, announced its acquisition of Blam, a Flash game written by Washington freshman Jake Pickard.
Pickard, 14, created Blam during his fourth period computer class and uploaded it to his personal Geocities site. Before long, the game was picked up by high-profile media portals such as eBaum's World, where it caught Microsoft's attention. The amount of the purchase has not been publicly disclosed by Microsoft, but according to Ratner, it was "pretty sweet".
In Blam, the player controls a stick figure holding two pistols. The object of the game is to shoot an enemy, represented by another stick figure whose head is a blank square. The player can upload a face to fill this blank square, to make the protagonist shoot, as Pickard explained, "dumbasses."
"Yeah, it rules! I can put Britney Spears in there and this stupid kid David from algebra. Oh yeah, and your mom!" Pickard said.
The game ends when the source image is completely obscured by blood. While Blam's graphical minimalism is not unique, having been used successfully by sites such as Kingdom of Loathing and xkcd, its emphasis on user-created content attracted Microsoft.
"We feel that Blam will usher in an innovative new Web 3.0 age of open source synergy," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "It revolutionizes semantic image metadata and content technology like no other Google-killer app out there."
Microsoft's purchase will not only open new paths in the technology world; it will bolster the company's status in the online gaming world. In the 1990s, the company dominated PC gaming with classics like Minesweeper and Rodent's Revenge, but since then, the arena has been overtaken by at least 100,000 other software companies. Microsoft, with its move to online gaming, hopes to regain some of its visibility.
"[Online gaming is] still an untapped market, so we've got a good shot," Ballmer said. "And profiting from other people's hard work is fundamental to our company's values."
Many analysts think Microsoft's approach will backfire, however, predicting that Blam will not distinguish itself from the company's other acquisitions that have cost the company over $8 billion to date.
"The game's a piece of crap and Microsoft's a bigger piece of crap," said Arnold Griffin, a software developer. "I've done a hundred of those things. Why can't they buy them instead?"
Even Eric Schmidt, Google CEO and Microsoft's primarily competitor, agreed with Griffin's analysis.
"I think Microsoft is too late to the game," Schmidt said. "Seriously, we've been buying Flash games for years. Once our project gets out of alpha, it'll kill them."
Pickard, however, remains nonplussed by his critics, and has already started production of the sequel, tentatively titled "Blam 2: Booyah!" He hopes to finish the game by tenth grade. In the meantime, he is thankful for his newfound financial success.
- Dow Jones "Microsoft Buys Online Concerns" The New York Times, July 2, 2008