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Brazil 2 x 1 Korea DPR June 16, 2010

Posted by Cesar in sporting me.
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Brazilians celebrating the first goal

Of course, after all I’m Brazilian, in our office pool I bet Brazil 5 x 0 Korea DPR. But that’s the heart talking. The truth is the game was exactly how I expected it to be.

Brazil has a very strong counter attack, which Korea didn’t offer. And when the other team goes to the pitch with the sole goal of defending, with zero offensive pretensions, it is always hard to score. Very hard. In Brazil we are used to seeing this kind of team during the first stage of the Libertadores. Small teams, from countries with little to no football tradition, often go to Brazil with at most one attacker, who waits near the midfield, and 10 players try to make the time pass as uneventfully as possible.

I’ve been following the World Cup and yesterday’s game was the most obvious example of this attitude so far. In these situations, what usually defines the number of goals is how fast the first goal (if any) happens. The goal forces a posture change and spaces start to appear. Yesterday, the goal came too late, hence the small number of goals.

Once again it is funny to see the difference between the press in Canada and in Brazil. Here, the commentators were impressed with the Brazilian strategy, the strength of our side backs and the tactical discipline of the players. And they praised the Korean defense like there was no tomorrow. After the first half, they were very impressed that Korea DPR resisted the Brazilian pressure.

Then I check the Brazilian commentators online: everyone is pissed, complaining about the trouble the team had to pierce the Korean DPR fragile defensive system.

I think the truth is in the middle (as usual). At the end of the game, Brazil had 65% of the ball possession and had shot 26 times, as opposed to 10 shots by Korea. These are impressive numbers which show Brazil dominated the game from beginning to finish. What we need is to be a bit more efficient.

In time: Maicon had an amazing match. Supported by Gilberto Silva, who protected the right side when he was acting as a true winger, Maicon made all the difference and his goal was beautiful. On the other hand, Kaká continues to disappoint. I hope he has time to catch up, it would make all the difference.

See you space cowboys…

Last minute update: Spain vs. Switzerland just finished with a victory for the Swiss. It goes to prove my point: true, Switzerland is way better than Korea DPR, but it is very hard to play against a team whose only purpose is to defend. Switzerland has a strong defense and will cause trouble in the knockout stage.

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Brazilians are not used to it June 15, 2010

Posted by Cesar in sporting me.
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Brasil celebrating the Confederations Cup in 2009

Is it just me or is the World Cup the best competition in the world? I simply love it. I don’t know if it is because I’m away from Brazil, but the World Cup is driving me crazy (in a good way). Every game is interesting. Yes, even Japan vs. Cameroon.

Anyway, with the first Brazil match a few hours away, I thought it was time to write about it. I’m sure I’ll write again, but talking about the Brazilian team and the World Cup in general seems like the appropriate way to go for a first post on the subject.

One of the most interesting things about being away from Brazil during a World Cup is to learn how the rest of the world sees the Brazilian football team. I look at our midfield, with… erm… weird players like Felipe Melo, Elano and Gilberto Silva and it makes me very uneasy. Kaká aside, this is not a top notch midfield at all. I look at our attack and it bothers me too. Luis Fabiano and Robinho are not on par with other strikers from previous generations (Romário and Ronaldo just to name the most recent ones).

That’s in part Dunga’s fault. After the last World Cup’s fiasco, the captain of the 1994 campaign was called to give Brazil in 2010 what they lacked in 2006: heart. And he succeeded! But unfortunately, somewhere along the long 4 years towards South Africa, heart and defensive football got mixed together, and we ended up with a team that excels at protecting the goal but lacks creativity. The example I give to everyone when I talk about the subject is Ronaldinho. I don’t like him, in my opinion he never reached superstar level simply because he could never play well in the national team (ok, ok, there’s that one single game against England in 2002, but that’s all). But Dunga’s team is so defensive and unimaginative that I wish he was there. Even if it was to be an option coming from the bench.

However, despite all that, the rest of the world thinks Brasil has an amazing team. Everyone is afraid of Brazil, they think at any moment our team can decide a game and score goals with astonishing ease. And while I do envy Argentina’s attack and Spain’s midfield, I also believe we can win the World Cup.

But if it happens, it won’t be Brazil style, it will be Italy style. Strong defense and good counters go a long way on the second stage, as Italy proved in 2006. The truth is that we Brazilians are not used to having a good attack and a decent midfield. We are used to deadly strikers and amazing midfielders. That’s all. This year our football is different, but it is also very effective.

Oh man! You gotta love the World Cup! Writing made me super anxious! Today at 4:00 pm I’ll be in front of the TV, standing with my right hand on my chest, singing the national anthem. Júlio Cesar, Lúcio, Maicon, Kaká, everyone: make us proud! And good luck Brazil!!!!!

See you space cowboys…

Cogs in the Brazilian games industry machine January 22, 2010

Posted by Cesar in working me.
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brazilian flag + marcus fenix

Gamasutra recently published a great article from Divide By Zero CEO James Portnow. In the article, Portnow makes a very interesting analysis of Brazil as an ecosystem for the games industry, investigating aspects from law and taxation to technical quality and piracy.

If you are just looking for the conclusion, here it is:

Now is the time to get into Brazil. The margin is right. If I were a betting man, I’d say the odds are about three to one that the Brazilian industry never gets off the ground. But at the same time, I’d say the return on resources invested in Brazil at this point will be at least ten to one if the industry does get past its infancy. I also believe that foreign entities have an opportunity to better those odds of the Brazilian industry becoming successful.

I find the probabilities he estimates very interesting. It’s like analyzing pot odds in poker: in a nutshell, it means he does not think his pair of 8s will win, but if it does he’ll get much more than he put on the table.

While I do agree with most of what is in the article, I believe some remarks are in order.

First let’s talk about piracy. It truly is, like Portnow says, an elephant in the room. In Brazil, every time there’s a debate about the games industry, the subject comes up. It is almost boring. I think Brazil will not bring the numbers down any time soon to be honest. And to expect the government to drop taxes on external games to something that would cause an impact is a distant dream. That being said, I noticed a significant improvement with the new generation of consoles. No one bought original PS2 titles. On the 360, however, I believe the piracy percentage is better. Unfortunately, like someone mentioned in a comment on the aforementioned article, most of these purchases are made from stores that get their products illegally across the border. Nonetheless, while it is still a crime, it puts some of the money back into the games industry (probably in Miami somewhere) and I think that represents an improvement. Microsoft also officially distributes 360 games in Brazil. I don’t have the figures, but I would love to know how that’s going.

Anyway, even a small drop could make the market very interesting, as the base of gaming platforms is very significant. Mexico also had a high piracy rate, above 90%. When NAFTA came and games became cheaper, it dropped to around 80% if I am not mistaken (if someone has the exact numbers please let me know. I couldn’t find them). And while that’s still a huge percentage, those 10-15% meant a huge increase in sales, enough to get the Mexican games industry going.

I found it very curious, however, that Portnow didn’t talk to Abragames. It doesn’t matter if you agree with the association actions or not, it is an important organization that could have added even more depth to what already is a great article. I also had the pleasure of working at TecToy Digital and went back to visit one and a half years later. Boy did they grow. They are behind the Zeebo platform and are a sound example that game development can go very well in Brazil.

The other interesting point I would like to have seen in the article was the 2008-2009 financial crisis. It had a major impact in the Brazilian games industry and the waves are still propagating now in 2010. I fell victim to that, when in 2008 Gameloft shut down their development studio in São Paulo as a measure to cut costs during the crisis. And I know other game studios struggled with the lack of new projects. For that reason, I would say the industry in 2010 is still crawling back to where it was in 2008. So when you look at the industry now, you have to dig deep to get past the crisis ripples and see the actual potential for game development in the land of Samba and Bossa Nova.

Finally, my experience as a game developer in Brazil, specially when helping with recruitment, is that Brazil has a long way to go in a whole cultural aspect associated to game development. Until recently (I’m talking 2004-2005) the industry was so small it wasn’t considered a career option. That means students fresh out of the top universities in Brazil were getting to the market lacking the drive or the background to jump right into game development. But that’s slowly changing. With that cultural change alone, with the undergraduates knowing the number of opportunities in game development is not so small, we should have a pretty qualified work force. The quality of the computer science/engineering courses in Brazil is well known and a reason to be proud.

So all in all, I have more faith in the Brazilian game developers than James Portnow. I think the cards on the table are low and that pair of 8s has a good chance of winning the pot.

See you space cowboys…

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