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Comic Con and a Prediction Market for Gamers

Last weekend, I went to New York Comic Con with my 14-year-old nephew. As someone who’s never been heavily into superheroes, manga, anime, or gaming, I found it utterly fascinating. Gary Coleman was there, signing autographs (huh?), and I ran into a guy I knew from grad school, Roland Kelts, who has just published a book called Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S.

My nephew, Ethan, spent a good bit of time in a big dark noisy room checking out new games (and playing some old favorites). It was interesting to watch him sample a new game and try to decide, pretty fast, whether it was worthwhile to invest more time — and maybe, eventually, some money — in the game. And this was under nearly optimal circumstances: a big room full of top-grade computers with free tryouts. How, I wondered, is a kid like Ethan supposed to figure out what games he really wants, in real life?

Apparently, I’m not the only one who wondered such a thing. Brian Shiau, a recent Princeton grad, is a gamer who found it hard to sift through the available information to find worthwhile games. So he created an online prediction market for new video games, called simExchange. “The simExchange applies wisdom of the crowds to help gamers find and learn about new games,” he explains. “Stock prices on games indicate the expected sales of a game — a proxy for buzz — and the bids on video game articles, images, and videos indicate how valuable the content is to learning more about the game.”

I suspect that Ethan, and a few million others, may be pretty happy to hear about this.