TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: DEC. 7

This week a number of top tier outlets published their top 10 games of the year, an NFL player was removed from Madden due to assault allegations, and Fortnite was sued by rapper 2 Milly over allegedly stealing his dance moves.

Top 10 Games

Mashable, Vulture, and NME posted their lists of top 10 video games of the year this week. Overall, triple-A games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Marvel’s Spider-Man, God of War, Fortnite and more dominated the lists. Though indie titles like Donut County, Tetris Effect, Into The Breach, Dead Cells, Return of the Obra Dinn, and others were peppered in as well.

Fortnite Sued By Rapper 2 Milly

A number of top tier sites covered a lawsuit between rapper 2 Milly and Fortnite, in which 2 Milly claims that Fortnite ripped off his Milly Rock dance. The Washington Post reported not only that Epic Games ripped off the dance without permission but also for exploiting “various African American artists’ talent without credit.” Polygon noted in their coverage that a number of other dances including Snoop Dogg’s Drop It Like It’s Hot, The Carlton Dance from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and a dance from Marlon Webb’s Band of the Bold video series were also copied. NPR mentioned as well that this may be a difficult case as technically U.S. Copyright Offices says it, “cannot register short dance routines consisting of only a few movements or steps with minor linear or spatial variations, even if a routine is novel or distinctive.”

Kareem Hunt Removed From Madden

The Washington Post, USA Today, and other national news outlets reported on the removal of former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt from the Madden NFL 19 roster by EA due to assault allegations that circulated last week. Hunt was replaced by a generic player with identical stats in-game and remains a free agent in the NFL at this time.

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: NOV. 9

This week, fan outrage surprises Blizzard following a Blizzcon reveal, Riot Games faces a gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit, and Nintendo removes an offensive Native American caricature from the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Diablo Mobile Game Announcement Sparks Fan Outrage

In advance of last week’s Blizzcon, Blizzard teased big news for the Diablo franchise, leading many to believe that Diablo IV could be announced despite a Blizzard blog post warning otherwise. Instead, Blizzard revealed Diablo Immortal, a free-to-play mobile game developed by NetEase. The reveal followed a high production value CGI trailer typically reserved for flagship Blizzard games and was met with immediate booing from attendees, with some openly mocking it during a fan Q&A. After stating that the game wouldn’t be coming to PC, the on-stage Blizzard employees were further booed, with one attempting to break the tension by asking “Do you guys not have phones?” prompting more backlash. Polygon reported on fan suspicion that the game might simply be a reskin of a past NetEase game, Crusaders of Light, which boasts a very similar user interface. In an interview with Variety, Blizzard denied the accusations, stating that the game had been “built from the ground-up,” and noted that Hearthstone’s announcement was met with a similar level of apprehension. Kotaku’s Jason Schrier posited that Blizzcon was likely the wrong place to make such an announcement, as the convention has a hardcore fan-friendly atmosphere, while Diablo Immortal is clearly meant for a much broader audience. The trailer posting on YouTube was met with a massive number of dislikes and negative comments. According to Bloomberg, this negative reaction caused Activision Blizzard’s stock to drop as much as 7.2%, despite mobile games being an incredibly lucrative space that investors would likely be happy for the company to enter.

Riot Games Faces Employee Class Action Lawsuit

Kotaku’s Cecilia D’Anastasio, the first reporter to break the news about Riot Games’ toxic workplace culture, reported that one current and one former Riot Games employee “filed a class action lawsuit against the League of Legends publisher, accusing it of endemic gender-based discrimination and fostering a ‘men-first’ environment.” Among the lawsuit’s allegations are denial of equal pay based on gender, women having their careers purposefully stifled, sexual harassment, misconduct, and bias. The plaintiffs are seeking unpaid wage compensation, damages, and “other penalties, with an exact amount to be determined at trial.” Business Insider noted that the lawsuit still needs to be certified by a court to be considered class action. CNET reinforced that sexism is widespread in the industry and inevitably alienates many women looking to make a career for themselves within the space. Rock Paper Shotgun suggested that Riot Games’ apologetic statements promising to create a safe, egalitarian work space wasn’t backed up by its actions, as several high-level employees accused of misconduct are still with the company.

Nintendo Removes Offensive Native American Imagery from Super Smash Bros.

Nintendo announced that it would be removing an offensive character animation from the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The character in question, Mr. Game & Watch, originated from a line of Nintendo handhelds in the 1980s. One of these handhelds had a game called “Fire Attack,” in which a Civil War-era general defends a fort from Native American-caricatured attackers. This caricature, featuring a stereotypical Native American wielding a flaming torch while wearing a loin cloth and feather, served as an attack animation for Mr. Game & Watch in a recent Nintendo Direct that prompted fans to call for its removal. Variety, GameSpot, and Eurogamer all pointed out that when Nintendo re-released Fire Attack in a Game & Watch collection for the Game Boy in 2002, they removed said caricature, showing that Nintendo has been aware of its offensive nature in the past. Nintendo released an apology along with their plans to remove the animation, stating that it originated in a game “released more than three decades ago and does not represent our company values today.”

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: NOV. 2

This week, Microsoft Research publishes prototype designs for mobile Xbox controllers, Red Dead Redemption 2 breaks records, and a British technology site faces possible litigation from Take-Two Interactive.

Microsoft Research Prototypes Xbox Controllers for Mobile Devices

Microsoft Research recently published prototype Xbox controller designs for phones and tablets that would likely accompany their game streaming service, Project XCloud. The design in question looks like a variation of the typical Xbox controller, except the game pad and grips can be detached and customized based on what device you are using to stream games. Windows Central and Destructoid point out that the research dates back to 2014, and has likely been resurfaced due to the success of the Nintendo Switch, which proved that there is a huge market for mobile gaming outside of smaller-scale iOS and Android games. IGN noted that it’s unclear whether Microsoft ever intends to bring the controller to market, or if it is “simply some practical research that will remain in the testing stage.” TechRadar posited that we could be seeing the release of this controller sooner than one might expect, as public trials for Project XCloud begin in 2019.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Breaks Sales Records and Garners Widespread Critical Acclaim

The massive success of Red Dead Redemption 2’s launch caught the eyes of mainstream, entertainment, and financial publications everywhere this week. Fortune reported that the game made more than $750 million in just three days, and noted that its massive sales figures will set a huge foundational player base for the upcoming Red Dead Online. Engadget, Quartz, and The Hollywood Reporter noted that the only entertainment property to ever exceed that amount in the same time frame was another Rockstar franchise release, Grand Theft Auto V. Variety observed that the only movie to ever come close to the fiscal success of Red Dead Redemption’s first three days was “Avengers: Infinity Wars,” grossing $640 million in its opening weekend. The game was a critical smash hit as well, topping Metacritic’s all-time highest rated games list for both Xbox One and PS4.

TrustedReviews Donates $1.3 Million After Wrongfully Leaking Internal Rockstar Document

In February of this year, British technology website TrustedReviews published an extensive list of features and details regarding the (then) upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2. This week, they donated $1.3 million to charities of Take-Two’s choice (Rockstar’s parent company), stating “We should have known this information was confidential and should not have published it. We unreservedly apologise to Take-Two Games and we have undertaken no to repeat such actions again.” The article featuring leaked information has now been pulled from their website. Variety noted that it was unclear if TrustedReviews had broken any laws in obtaining the document, and reached out to Rockstar for comment. A spokesperson responded “Take-Two takes security seriously and will take legal action against people or publications who leak confidential information.” GamesIndustry.biz extrapolated from the full statement that this donation was likely the result of litigation, as Take-Two referred to the donation as a “settlement.” Kotaku noted that if TrustedReviews had indeed broken the law in obtaining the leaked documents, that Take-Two would potentially be able to demand far more money in court. They also noted however, that if the documents were legally obtained, that “This case is an extraordinary one, then, and it might prove to be influential. For many media organizations—especially smaller ones–the mere threat of expensive legal action might be enough to prevent the publication of leaked information, even if it was legally obtained from verified sources. Whether or not it’s defensible in court, the risk just wouldn’t be worth it.”

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: OCT. 26

This week, China’s continued freeze on game approvals massively benefits Steam, EA and Activision experience tremendous growth thanks to their “games-as-a-service” business model, and Microsoft reports record growth.

Steam’s User Base Skyrockets After China’s Freeze of Game Approvals

In a talk at Melbourne Games Week, a spokesperson from Valve revealed that, in just one year, Steam gained 27 million users, bringing their total user base to over 90 million. Market intelligence firm Niko Partners attributes this to a massive uptick in Chinese users due to their government’s freeze on new game approvals, instituted in March of 2018. This has forced Chinese gamers to use Steam for the latest releases instead of platforms like Tencent’s WeGame. VentureBeat highlighted an observation from Niko Partners, noting that Steam is technically operating illegally in China as it hasn’t gone through the country’s official licensing process, effectively making it a “gray market.” Valve did announce in June however, that they are working with local publisher Perfect World to officially launch Steam China in the near future. According to sources close to GamesIndustry.biz, Tencent’s value plummeting by a staggering $190 billion is likely of little concern to the Chinese government, as they instead prioritize their public health agenda, which is meant to curb increasing rates of addiction, myopia and “other ills” supposedly related to gaming. According to Bloomberg, the temporary stopgap approval process for new games instituted in August, known as the “green channel,” was also frozen, further exacerbating Tencent’s monetary struggles and ensuring Steam’s continued popularity in the region.

Electronic Arts and Activision Gain Billions in Value With Games-As-a-Service Mode

GameDaily.biz reported on findings from analyst group DFC Intelligence, in which Activision and Electronic Arts were reported to have grown by a combined $79 billion thanks to their switch to the games-as-a-service model for marquee franchises like Madden, Call of Duty, Destiny, Battlefield, and more. While many might prefer traditional, stand-alone, “pay to play” games like God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man, TechSpot observed that games relying on DLC and microtransactions like loot boxes are likely here to stay for the foreseeable future thanks to their massive success. In fact, EA is launching only seven games next year, all of which are expected to use said model. GameDaily.biz explained the rationale behind the business model’s success, stating that “[publishers] are able to release fewer products while generating far more revenue.” Thus, the games-as-a-service business model is not only insanely profitable, but sustainable as well. IGN noted that Activision’s value grew from $10 billion in 2012 to $60 billion this year, while EA grew from $4 billion to $60 billion in the same timeframe.

Microsoft Experiences Tremendous Growth in Gaming, Cloud, and Hardware

The Verge reported on Microsoft’s Q1 2019 financial results, after the company declared they had experienced a record first quarter. The company experienced large increases in Surface and Azure revenue especially, but also cited a 44 percent year-over-year growth in gaming revenue. Xbox hardware revenue grew by a massive 94 percent, while Xbox software and services grew by 36 percent. Gamasutra noted that the launch of the Xbox Adaptive Controller and the subscription-based Xbox All Access this quarter saw a “strong consumer response and exceeded sale expectations.” GameDaily.biz posited that the company is doing a great job of retaining its users through a Netflix-style business model, and is generating good will with consumers through its push for cross-platform multiplayer and accessibility for players with physical disabilities. However, Engadget pointed out that Xbox Live “sat flat at 57 million for the second consecutive quarter, down from the 59 million in its fiscal Q2 and Q3 earlier in the year.”

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: OCT. 19

This week, comments from a Rockstar co-founder cause debate and controversy around “crunch culture,” Activision Blizzard stocks take a hit despite Call of Duty’s success, and PlayStation 4 users receive system-crashing, malicious messages.

Rockstar Executive Triggers Discussion and Debate Around “Crunch Culture”

Earlier this week, in an feature with Vulture, Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser mentioned that members of the studio behind the upcoming “Red Dead Redemption 2” often had 100-hour work weeks while preparing the game for launch. These comments, meant to show the passion and hard work put into the heavily anticipated sequel, instead prompted controversy around the studio’s treatment of employees and stirred much discussion about “crunch culture” in the games industry. The Verge reported on these comments being “very disappointing,” pointing to recent cases of unethical employee treatment from studios like Telltale Games, and cited crunch culture as a prominent topic at this year’s Game Developers Conference. Kotaku reported on a follow-up statement from Houser, in which he clarified that these 100-hour work weeks were electively carried out by senior members of the team that are particularly passionate. Houser declared that they would never expect such hours from their employees and that “additional effort is a choice.” Gamesindustry.biz reported on members of the games industry relaying their own horrific crunch stories, affirming that crunch culture has become an unfortunate but expected phase in game development. In response, Rockstar lifted their ban on social media and encouraged their employees to tweet about their experience at the company. Ars Technica compiled said tweets, with Rockstar employees reporting generally positive experiences counter to the ongoing narrative prompted by Houser’s comments. Many stated that, while crunch culture was present at Rockstar, they never had 100-hour work weeks, though some reported daunting figures like 79-hour work weeks.

Activision Blizzard Stocks Fall Despite Success of Call of Duty

This year, Activision shipped its first-ever, multiplayer-only edition of Call of Duty and broke multiple franchise records for digital sales and player engagement. Forbes listed out said franchise records, and noted that the PC player base was double that of last years, indicating that “[the franchise] may finally have legs on PC.” While Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has been well received for its tight multiplayer and acclaimed new Battle Royale mode, the game’s sales failed to impress Activision Blizzard stockholders according to The Next Web. Even though the game made $500 million in its first three days, previous installments of the game reported similar sales figures, and shareholders seem like they expected more from this year’s release. Nasdaq noted that, despite breaking the franchise’s digital sales record, Activision has not yet disclosed physical sales, and the crowded holiday release season may have stymied the game’s sales.

PlayStation 4 Users Receive System-Crashing Messages

PS4 users have been receiving malicious messages over PSN resulting in hard-locked systems. Kotaku reported on such user experiences posted on the PS4 subreddit, in which players received a message through the system’s messaging application that prompted “continual error loops,” crashing their consoles in the process. Members of the subreddit found that setting messaging to “private” would prevent the receipt of such messages, and advised fellow community members to do so. ZDNet pointed out a Reddit user who observed that some Rainbow Six: Siege players had recently skyrocketed up the game’s rankings by sending such messages to their opponents, calling for their banning. Eurogamer reported on Playstation UK acknowledging the issue and providing instructions on how to restore the crashed consoles, but also pointed out that Sony has yet to make an official, full statement on the issue.

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: OCT. 12

This week, Microsoft announces its new game streaming service, Sony’s CEO confirms next-gen hardware, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey breaks franchise sales records despite controversy around its monetization options.

Microsoft Announces Game Streaming Service “xCloud”

Starting in 2019, Microsoft will begin to roll out public trials of Project xCloud, the company’s new video game streaming service. According to the official announcement, players will be able to use touch controls or use Xbox One controllers (via Bluetooth or a small hardware attachment) to play Xbox games on a wide array of personal devices. The backbone of the service will be Microsoft’s Azure datacenters, which they state will be more than capable of scaling the service so that players everywhere can enjoy a quality, low-latency gaming experience, even over 4G networks. WindowsCentral speculated that streaming games to mobile devices represents a valuable opportunity to Microsoft to attract casual gamers to their platform, and “convert casual mobile gamers into core console gamers.” The Verge and Gamespot pointed out that this announcement comes hot on the heels of Google’s recent announcement of Project Stream. Last week, a limited number of users that applied on the Project Stream website were selected to try streaming Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on Google Chrome, requiring an internet connection of 25 megabits per second or more to do so. Polygon was pleasantly surprised by how well the game performed through Chrome, reporting responsive controls without noticeable input lag, medium to high visual settings, with the only issues being some light audio compression and some decrease in performance when running downloads and streams in the background.

Sony Confirms Next Generation Hardware

In an interview with the Financial Times, Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida confirmed the existence of next-generation PlayStation hardware, stating “At this point, what I can say is it’s necessary to have a next-generation hardware.” This somewhat off-handed confirmation of next-generation hardware mirrors a similar statement from Phil Spencer at Microsoft’s E3 press conference earlier this year, when he stated that the Microsoft hardware team “is deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles.” Gamesindustry.biz extrapolated that “[Sony] is preparing for the end of the PlayStation 4’s natural lifecycle” from Yoshida’s statement. US Gamer cited games industry analyst Michael Pachter’s prediction of a 2020 release date for the PlayStation 5, but also acknowledged that if Sony maintains market dominance in 2019, we may have to wait until 2021 for their next console. Forbes speculated that Sony could be in an awkward position for a new hardware release, as Nintendo and Microsoft have bet heavily on mobile platforms with the Switch and xCloud, whereas it is “unclear whether [Sony is] prepared to dive into the mobile space or not.” The publication also suggested that Sony’s cancellation of the PlayStation Experience this year may be because heavily anticipated sequels to games like God of War and Horizon: Zero Dawn, may be reserved for next-generation hardware that the company is not yet ready to reveal.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Breaks Franchise Records

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey had the franchise’s best launch sales yet for this console generation. Though sales figures were not disclosed, IGN noted that last year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins outsold Assassin’s Creed Syndicate twice as fast in a 10-day period, making Odyssey’s sales even more impressive in comparison. They also pointed out that it is unclear whether Odyssey outsold Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, which launched on both last-gen and current-gen consoles and sold 10 million units. This positive news follows some controversy around the new game, as its heavy use of microtransactions to speed up player progression has led publications like Forbes to believe that Ubisoft made the game excessively difficult and “grind-y” to encourage players to pay for experience bonuses. Kotaku published an exhaustive breakdown of Odyssey’s in-game purchasing options, of which there are many. They quoted a Ubisoft PR representative denying that the game was altered in any way to force players to purchase experience bonuses, advising that players having a difficult time should simply lower the game’s difficulty. Kotaku stated that some of their staff have found the game “challenging but not so tough as to need permanent boosters to play or even have a good time.”

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: OCT. 5

This week, a new version of the Nintendo Switch is expected to release late next year, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé breaks down Nintendo’s competitive philosophy, and ESA CEO Michael Gallagher steps down after 11 years with the organization.

Nintendo Plans to Release a New Version of the Switch Next Year

The Wall Street Journal reported on Nintendo’s plans to release a new version of the Switch in the second half of 2019. According to their sources, Nintendo has yet to finalize their plans for iterating on the  console. The Verge noted that, though the Switch is a quality piece of hardware, there is still room for improvement as Nintendo attempts to maintain sales momentum. The Wall Street Journal speculated that the Switch’s low-grade, power-inefficient LCD screen could be replaced by a higher-quality one. TechCrunch noted that an OLED screen like the new iPhone’s would be highly unlikely as Nintendo prioritizes affordability in their products. Polygon made a wishlist of feature iterations they would like to see including a brighter screen, bigger and more ergonomic Joy-Cons, more internal storage,  larger Wi-Fi range, and more.

Nintendo of America President Breaks Down Competitive Philosophy

Earlier this Week, Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aimé made an appearance at the GeekWire Summit. In his Q&A, he stated that Nintendo thinks of itself as an entertainment company and not a gaming one. As such, he said it would be shortsighted to think of just Sony and Microsoft as Nintendo’s chief rivals, instead competing for consumers’ overall “entertainment time.” That means competing with web-surfing, movies, TV, and more, not just other gaming platforms. He cited the underperformance of the Wii U as being crucial to the development of the Switch, as Nintendo learned some hard lessons about what their consumers wanted out of a Nintendo console. He also expanded on Nintendo’s mobile strategy, explaining how they couldn’t simply port past games to smartphones, but instead had to create unique, fun mobile experiences. To TechCrunch, this explanation “rang a bit hollow,” as Nintendo’s smartphone games rely heavily on microtransactions and grinding, which are typical in the mobile games market. According to the publication, this deviates heavily from “Nintendo’s core mission of entertainment.” Ars Technica’s coverage also touched on Nintendo’s vision for exploring newer technology like augmented and virtual reality. Fils-Aimé confirmed that Nintendo in the process of exploring these spaces, but have nothing to announce at this time.

Entertainment Software Association CEO Steps Down After 11 Years

Entertainment Software Association (ESA) CEO Michael Gallagher stepped down earlier this week after 11 years in leadership. Aside from organizing E3 every year, the ESA also plays a huge role in swaying legislation around video games and outlets like CNET listed some of Gallagher’s notable accomplishments in that realm. For instance, in response to the controversy around the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, the National Rifle Association (NRA) blamed violent video games for contributing to gun violence. Gallagher met with Vice President Joe Biden to convince him otherwise, citing research contradicting the NRA’s claims. He also helped prevent the passing of a California law that would restrict the sale of violent video games to minors in 2011. With a wealth of political experience under his belt, VentureBeat reported that “[they] heard” Gallagher may be planning to run for office in his home state of Washington. Initial reports of Gallagher leaving the ESA did not specify reasons for his departure, but Variety reported that Gallagher was apparently pressured by the ESA’s board to step down. They reached out to ESA for comment, but the organization declined to comment.

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: SEPT. 28

This week, Telltale Games shuts down and sparks massive controversy, Sony introduces cross-play for Fortnite after increasing pressure from fans and the industry, and Ryan Reynolds is set to star in a new video game-themed film.

Telltale Games Shutdown Sparks Fan, Industry, and Legal Lashback

Telltale Games, known for their adventure game adaptations of major franchises such as The Walking Dead, Batman, and Game of Thrones, suddenly closed down their studio earlier this week, laying off approximately 250 employees with a 25 person skeleton crew left to finish Minecraft: Story Mode. The layoffs came as a complete shock to the employees, as many of them were up until 3 AM the previous night working on the latest episode of The Walking Dead. Many outlets cited a story from The Verge earlier this year that painted Telltale as a studio with toxic management and unethical working conditions. The company tweeted that “multiple potential partners” had expressed interest in helping finish The Walking Dead’s final episodes. This prompted further outrage from games press and fans, as there was zero acknowledgement of the 250 employees left jobless and without pay. Vice Waypoint’s Patrick Klepek penned an op-ed that deeply criticized the company for its handling of the matter, encouraging fans to not “let Telltale milk your fandom until they pay the workers they screwed.” He also criticized outlets like IGN for reporting on the news of The Walking Dead possibly being completed without acknowledging the hundreds kicked to the curb by Telltale. These layoffs prompted a retrospective from GamesIndustry.biz on 2018 being “the Year of the Bad Employer” referencing controversial cases of sexual harassment, worker abuse, and more from studios like Quantic Dream, Naughty Dog, and Riot Games.

Sony Gives in to Fortnite Cross-Play Demands

After months of pressure from players and industry competitors, Sony announced the immediate launch of a cross-play beta for Fortnite earlier this week. Players on Playstation 4, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows, and Mac, will now be able to compete with one another. The Verge published a thinkpiece on the matter, examining how Sony’s decision may have changed the console market forever. They state that “hardware distinctions are growing smaller and smaller as the years go by,” with a gaming ecosystem that is beginning to feel borderless. Gamespot pointed out that the timing of this announcement conveniently aligns with the recent announcement of Fortnite Season 6. Eurogamer called Sony’s decision “historic,” and stated that based on their own investigation, prominent multiplayer game developers have been wanting the walls between consoles to come down for quite some time. What’s more, is that implementing cross-play seems to not be a necessarily labor-intensive issue, with Epic “accidentally” enabling the feature earlier this year, and Rocket League developer Psyonix stating that it requires only the “push of a button.”

Ryan Reynolds to Star in “Free Guy”

Entertainment and pop culture outlets like Deadline, Comicbook.com, and GQ Magazine are reporting on the casting of Ryan Reynolds in a new film entitled “Free Guy.”  In the film, Reynolds plays a bank teller that realizes he is living in a Grand Theft Auto-esque, open-world action game, essentially as a background extra. Upon learning that his game is about to be cancelled, he seeks the help of a player avatar in order to help save his world. Deadline drew a comparison between “Free Guy” and the critically-acclaimed film “The Truman Show” in which the titular Truman, played by Jim Carrey, realizes that he has actually been the subject of an extraordinarily high-budget reality show his entire life. Comicbook.com noted that the film’s announcement is coming at an appropriate time following the controversial closure of Telltale Games, as the film apparently addresses many current events and trends in the video game industry. Shawn Levy, behind popular projects such as Stranger Things, Arrival, and Night at the Museum, is set to be its director.

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: SEPT. 21

This week, YouTube redesigns its gaming page to compete with Twitch and announces it’s going to kill the YouTube Gaming app, Sony announces the Playstation Classic, and Spider-Man’s massive sales spark a discussion around AAA, single-player games.

YouTube Launches Gaming Redesign

In a further effort to compete with Twitch for the live games broadcasting crown, YouTube redesigned its gaming portal to mirror some of its competitor’s functionality. Engadget reported that the redesign also borrows heavily from mobile app YouTube Gaming, which will be shut down next March “due to its limited reach.” The reporter cites that most YouTube viewers preferred the standard YouTube mobile app instead of the YouTube Gaming standalone app, and would rather use the platform to watch pre-recorded content such as Let’s Play videos instead of live streaming. The Verge interviewed YouTube’s director of gaming content and partnerships, Ryan Watt, who admitted that most users didn’t even know what the app was for or what kind of content it served. The new redesign, baked into the  main YouTube app and site, features “faster access to top live streams, pages for specific games, and a new ‘On the Rise’ section that highlights up-and-coming creators.” The Verge points out that the service will receive a staggered launch beginning in the US first, as “the system relies on both algorithmic and human curation, and scaling that model will take some time.” Kotaku is pleased to see YouTube implementing “more focused curation features” on its main site, but that it seems like too little, too late to really challenge Twitch’s monopoly on livestreaming games.

Sony Announces “Playstation Classic”

Taking obvious cues from the runaway success of Nintendo’s NES Classic and SNES Classic, Sony announced the new “Playstation Classic,” a miniature version of the retro console featuring 20 built-in games. So far, only five of the 20 planned games have been announced, including Wild Arms, Final Fantasy VII, Tekken 3, Ridge Racer Type 4, and Jumping Flash. In their wishlist for the remaining 15 games on the platform, IGN points out that many hallmark Playstation One titles, such as the Spyro and Crash Bandicoot series, have already received recent HD re-releases and that the Playstation Classic would be better served digging deeper into its library for other revered titles. They also point out that the lack of a DualShock controller likely means that classics such as Ape Escape (which relied on the controller’s joystick functionality) will not be making an appearance in the console’s limited library. Polygon notes that a common complaint regarding the NES Classic and SNES Classic was that users had to hack them if they wanted to add any additional games to the library. They speculate that the plastic cover on the back of the system could possibly be hiding something like an Ethernet port for users to add classic titles they’ve purchased from Playstation Network. The console comes with two controllers, releases on December 3rd, and is available for pre-order now for $100. Tech review site Tom’s Guide points out that Nintendo’s classic consoles’ extensive, acclaimed libraries and cheaper prices makes the Playstation Classic’s price tag a bit off-putting comparatively.

Spider-Man Breaks Playstation Sales Records

Earlier this year, God of War’s record-breaking sales sparked a discussion (in publications like Comicbook.com and ScreenRant) around how a traditional, standalone, single-player, $60 game with a strong narrative and no microtransactions can still be a massive success in a marketplace seemingly dominated by multiplayer and “games as a service.” Spider-Man’s recent record-setting sales seem to further that narrative as 3.3 million copies were sold in its first three days of release, effectively out-grossing the opening weekend of the recent, hit film Spider-Man: Homecoming, breaking God of War’s recent record of 3.1 million copies sold in the first three days, and setting an all-time record for Sony exclusives. Gamespot, GameRant, and Destructoid all point out that the game’s financial success seems to be on par with its exceedingly positive reception from fans and critics alike. GamesIndustry.biz reported that the game’s second-week sales topped first-week sales for Shadow of the Tomb Raider and NBA 2K19, two new installments in two incredibly popular series.

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: SEPT. 14

This week, Belgium opens a criminal investigation into EA for their refusal to cancel their loot box programs, prominent industry executives and analysts speculate on China’s game approval crack down, and PUBG’s concurrent player count drops below one million as the Call of Duty Black Ops 4 “Blackout” beta begins.

Belgium Opens Criminal Investigation Into Electronic Arts

After Belgium’s Gaming Commission determined loot boxes to be an “illegal game of chance” and therefore illegal for minors to access, Valve, Blizzard, and 2K Games all made sure to disable said feature in their games. EA on the other hand, has refused to comply. As a result, the Brussels public prosecutor’s office is conducting a criminal investigation on the matter. In their coverage, Eurogamer quoted a statement from EA in April, in which they stated that their games were “developed and implemented ethically and lawfully around the world.” According to their reasoning, the fact that players always receive the same advertised number of items, and can’t officially “cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money,” means that their loot boxes should not “be considered as any form of gambling.” Ars Technica notes that though the Netherlands’ commission has reached the same conclusion, the UK and New Zealand gaming commissions do not agree. GamesIndustry.biz notes the EA may in fact be looking for a legal battle in hopes to have the decision officially reversed in court.

Chinese Government Rolls Out New Testing Period for Game Approval

The Chinese Government originally froze game approvals this past March due to the Chinese Ministry of Education’s concerns of a child myopia epidemic. Gamasutra reported on an article from the South China Morning Post stating that the government’s new game licensing procedures may take another 4-6 months to put in place due to a drastic internal restructuring. However, Asian games market research and consulting firm Niko Partners told VentureBeat that they expect things to progress far faster than the previously reported time frame. In the meantime, their government has implemented a “new testing period where games can go on the market for one month by getting a less stringent commercial-testing approval.” As such, Take-Two’s NBA 2K Online 2 and Kerbal Space Program for Tencent’s WeGame platform have been approved for public launch on October 2nd. GamesIndustry.biz reported on Take-Two’s CEO weighing on the matter. He stated that this issue hinges upon the Chinese Government reaching the conclusion that importing Western entertainment is in fact a good thing for their consumers and entertainment economy. He also stated that the U.S. government needs to take hard stance on the country’s “odd and unequal [trade] situation” with China in which half of an American business needs to be owned by a Chinese entity in order to market and distribute a title.

PUBG Concurrent Player Count Drops as Call of Duty Beta Begins

For the first time in the last year, PUBG’s concurrent player count on PC dropped below one million. Outlets like Eurogamer and PC Gamer point out that this dip coincided with the launch of the Call of Duty Black Ops 4’s battle royale mode beta, called “Blackout.” Player and press reception to Call of Duty’s stab at the genre has been very positive, with publications such as CNET and Forbes singing the beta’s praises and seeing it as more direct competition to PUBG than Fortnite due to its similar, military backdrop. While this broken streak may have come as discouraging news to the game’s developers at Bluehole, GamesIndustry.biz points out that PUBG broke a huge Steam record by being the first-ever game on the platform to maintain such a streak for an entire year. It still remains the most popular game on Steam ahead of titans like DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Assault. Outlets like Eurogamer and Comicbook.com reported on a PUBG data-mine earlier this week revealing huge content updates that could sway the player base back to the game later this year.

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: SEPT. 7

This week, Tencent loses billions after China cracks down on online games, 21st Century Fox invests $100 million in streaming startup Caffeine, and 2K comments on the “unfortunate reality” of microtransactions.

 

Tencent’s Stock Value Suffers After Chinese Regulations Take Effect

Over the past year, the Chinese government has made sweeping changes to its regulatory systems, one of which includes limiting the number of online games approved for distribution and restricting playtime for underage players. These changes caused a 5.4 percent drop in stock value for Tencent, costing the corporation $20 billion and its status as the biggest company in Asia, which now belongs to rival Alibaba Group. The news made headlines in publications like Reuters, Financial Times, and Forbes. In their analysis Forbes mentioned that analysts and industry executives predict a much more stringent approval process in the future that will cause more delays and fewer game releases overall. With these changes the Chinese government hopes to reduce the recent uptick in rates of nearsightedness and allegedly unhealthy lifestyles of avid mobile game players. They also hope to guarantee that future game releases in the country reflect socialist values, one of the reasons Tencent property PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has still yet to be approved for release as some consider the game to have “an overly brutal message of survival of the fittest.”

21st Century Fox Backs Twitch Competitor Caffeine

Caffeine, a zero-latency streaming platform, just received $100 million in funding from 21st Century Fox. This round of funding followed an earlier one featuring backers like Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock Partners, not to mention a content agreement with Live Nation to bring live music to Caffeine later this year. Fox and Caffeine will also be partnering to create Caffeine Studios which “will leverage Fox Sports’ expertise in live events and programming to create exclusive esports, video game, sports, and live entertainment content for Caffeine’s next-generation social broadcasting platform.” Coverage from publications like Fortune and Axios now places Caffeine on more even ground with tech giants attempting to square off with Twitch and Amazon, be it Microsoft’s Mixer, YouTube Gaming, or Facebook doubling down on eSports.

NBA 2K19 Developer Weighs in On Microtransactions

In an interview with gaming outlet TrustedReviews, NBA 2K19 senior producer Rob Jones spoke on some of the changes coming to what many believe to be the premiere sports video game franchise today. Despite being consistently lauded by critics, much of the series’ fan base has soured on the games’ progression system for being too grind-y in an attempt to force players to buy VC, the game’s currency for cosmetics and leveling up your character. The quote  from Jones that is grabbing headlines in outlets like PCGamesN and Comicbook.com reads, “VC is an unfortunate reality of modern gaming…the question has to be when does it feel like it’s a straight money grab versus when does it feel like it’s value added, right?” He states that VC’s necessity will be less emphasized in the series’ next installment, and speaks on finding the balance between satisfying progression and accounting for players that would rather pay to bypass it altogether. A Reddit thread on the interview gained traction in the r/Games community, with readers expressing serious doubt around the claim that “most people don’t have the patience to work their way to the top,” with top commenters stating that the game clearly artificially stretches out progression to encourage the purchase of VC, significantly damaging the average gamer’s experience in the process.

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: AUG. 31

This week, we do a deep-dive into the news and controversy surrounding the Jacksonville shooting. This past weekend’s violent events generated much discussion around eSports venue security, whether or not EA took the proper security measures, and whether or not the eSports community played any role in instigating such violence.

In other news, Riot Games finally announces sweeping changes to its company culture and Cyberpunk 2077 garners a massive audience on Twitch.

Fallout and Controversy Follows Shooting in Jacksonville

EA’s Response:

After the tragedy that took place at a Jacksonville Madden tournament over the weekend, EA announced that it would be donating $1 million to victims of the incident, in which two attendees were killed and ten others wounded. The company’s official Twitter posted plans for a tribute fund and livestream on September 6. More details on said charity event will be revealed closer to its occurrence. The announcement was picked up gaming and mainstream press alike, such as Business Insider, Polygon, and PEOPLE.

eSports Venue Security:

The incident has been generating much discussion around security at other eSports gatherings. The Washington Post reported that larger-scale events only sometimes have the “baseline security measures” one would expect from venues that host major league sports and concerts, and that smaller gatherings are another matter entirely. An EVO spokesperson was quoted, promising increased, proactive measures for future events, as their most recent tournament at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas did not provide metal detectors and bag checks for its first two days. Kotaku reported that a survivor is suing EA, the venue, and the mall that houses the venue for failing to provide adequate security in a space not permitted for large crowds.

The eSports Community and Violence:

Other topics of discussion include whether there may be a link between eSports, gaming culture, and violence. Slate published an interview with Nick Taylor, an associate professor at North Carolina University, who has been studying digital gaming culture for the past decade. Taylor emphasized that the recent “rash of mental illness,” the relationship between masculinity and violence, and ease of access to firearms in the United States are among the factors to blame for the weekend’s awful events, not the culture of the esports community.

Riot Games Responds to Workplace Culture Scandal and Criticism

Hot off the heels of another damning blog post by a former employee, Riot Games has finally responded in full to allegations of sexism, misogyny, and other instances inappropriate workplace behavior. Their statement apologizes to victims, current employees, past and present fans, people considering a career at Riot, and their partners. It also outlines their approach to the revamping of company culture through such tactics as third-party evaluation, investigating and taking action on offensive cases, the establishment of anonymous hotline for reporting such incidents, employee training, and more. The statement was received tepidly by many fans, with a widespread sentiment that a shakeup in leadership is required for a real change in company culture. Polygon noted that, while the company’s first steps are promising, “the road to sustainable change and a healthy environment will be more of a marathon than sprint.” Mashable expressed a similar sentiment. In a statement to ESPN, Riot Games corporate communication lead Joe Hixon stated that, “All Rioters must be accountable for creating environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to be heard, grow their role, advance in the organization, and fulfill their potential.”

Cyberpunk 2077 Gameplay Reveal is Biggest of the Year for Twitch

Developer CD PROJEKT RED held their first, public gameplay reveal for their highly anticipated title Cyberpunk 2077 on Twitch this week. With no prior announcement, the stream managed to garner 459,293 concurrent streamers at its peak on Twitch, and nearly 290,000 on its official stream. Gamesindustry.biz reported that said statistics make Cyberpunk 2077 the seventh most-watched game on Twitch in 2018 (ahead of popular titles such as Overwatch and Warframe), based on concurrent viewership. Viewers and journalists from publications like Forbes and The Verge were wowed by an highly-detailed open world with seemingly thousands of unique character models and destructible environments. The demo also showed a highly detailed character creation system and deep gameplay customization. IGN reported that the developer was nervous about streaming the demo as “it’s basically like committing to what we’re showing, be it gameplay and mechanics, the art, the storytelling, [or] the quests,” but did so due to overwhelming demand. A 4K reposting of the demo on the game’s official YouTube channel received nearly 7,000,000 views.

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: AUG. 24

This week, Steam launches Steam.tv, Nvidia announces its new generation of graphics cards, and Fortnite may have hit its peak in popularity.

Steam Launches Streaming Platform Steam.tv

After an internal test went awry last Friday, Valve has unveiled Stream.tv, their own attempt to compete with streaming platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and Mixer. PCGamesN, VentureBeat, and others report that the app works completely in-browser, with voice and chat functionality, and somewhat resembles Steam’s existing broadcasting platform, used to stream events like Dota 2’s The International. CNET posits that although the platform seems like a “neat place” to watch streams with your Steam friends list, it is not clear as to whether it will provide real competition to titans like Twitch and YouTube. The author also suggests that being able to participate in a stream chatroom populated by one’s friends list could provide a nice alternative to those tired of Twitch’s “lightning fast” and “potentially toxic” chat feed.

Nvidia Announces New Generation of GPUs

After months of speculation, Nvidia finally announced its new generation of RTX GPUs earlier this week. The company claims that this new generation is twice as fast as the previous, and takes advantage of ray tracing technology for ultra high-fidelity lighting. This new feature was demonstrated in demos of Battlefield V, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Metro Exodus. Engadget reported on performance tests of the new GPUs being capable of rendering the latest titles in 4K/HDR at 60 frames per second, a “holy grail” of performance that is highly difficult to achieve on current-generation hardware. CNET reported price points of $499, $799, and $999 for each respective tier of the new series.

Has Fortnite Hit Its Peak?

In their latest report on top grossing titles, video game market intelligence provider SuperData Research, reported that Fortnite’s revenue is up only 2% from May to June. Considering previous months saw comparatively massive increases in revenue (32% from March to April and 71% from February to March), the firm speculates that the game may have hit its peak in popularity and profitability. CNBC reported that this drop in revenue growth, combined with the fact that the game is no longer the most popular game on Twitch (DOTA took the top spot in August), could mean that SuperData’s assessment is correct. Though it may have hit its peak, the game will likely continue to be insanely profitable for the foreseeable future as PocketGamer.biz reported that the game grossed $200 million on iOS alone over the past five months.

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: AUG 17

This week, Superdata releases some interesting research on the purchasing habits of digital gamers, IGN is rocked by a massive plagiarism scandal, and Bethesda Softworks doubles down on its crossplay beef with Sony.

Research Finds that Slow Checkout Processes Deeply Impact Digital Game Sales

Video game market research firm Superdata, published a report on the payment preferences of digital gamers. Key findings include Paypal being the preferred method of payment for gamers, and that game subscription services have high potential for success based on gamers’ purchasing habits. One of the main takeaways however, was how important a speedy checkout process is to digital game customers. 77 percent of digital gamers say that speed is the determining factor for which payment method they use, with 27 percent stating that they will abandon a purchase if it takes too long. The latter finding in particular generated coverage in industry publications like GamesIndustry.biz and PC Games Insider. It was also noted that 54 percent of European customers will abandon a seller completely if they don’t support the customer’s payment method of choice.

IGN Rocked by Plagiarism Scandal

Last week, former IGN editor Filip Miucin’s review of Dead Cells drew the ire and scrutiny of game enthusiasts everywhere after a YouTube creator pointed out the disturbing similarities between his own review and that of Miucin’s. At first, this was believed to be an isolated incident of theft that led to IGN’s firing of Miucin, but IGN staff and fans uncovered a slew of plagiarized reviews authored by Miucin that often stole opinions word-for-word from lesser known sites and forums. Faced with the knowledge of Miucin’s serial plagiarism, IGN has opted to completely remove the vast majority of Miucin’s work, for fear that there are even more cases of plagiarism yet to be uncovered. The breadth of Miucin’s journalistic offenses drew coverage from mainstream and gaming press like Variety, Forbes, and Comicbook.com. These discoveries also followed an apology video from Miucin, in which he declared the Dead Cells review plagiarism to be unintentional, daring members of IGN staff to look for other cases of plagiarism as he claimed there would be none. The video has since been taken down. While some might expect IGN as a whole to receive the brunt of the criticism on social media, the bizarrely blatant and widespread nature of Miucin’s plagiarism actually garnered the publication some sympathy from fans online, with sites like Forbes praising IGN for its swift investigation and action.

Bethesda Doubles Down on Issues of Crossplay

This past week proved to be high-profile and litigious for Bethesda Softworks. Earlier this Summer, Todd Howard, a director and executive producer at Bethesda, came out strongly in favor of cross-platform multiplayer and pointed to Sony as the primary roadblock in uniting game enthusiasts across all platforms. According to sites like Game Informer, Business Insider, and IGN, the publisher may opt to not release their upcoming console port of The Elder Scrolls: Legends on platforms that don’t allow crossplay. When asked if that meant the PS4 release was in jeopardy, senior VP of global marketing and communications Pete Hines stated that crossplay would be a “non-negotiable” essential, as they don’t want to fracture their player base by compromising the quality of experience on certain platforms. Bethesda’s initial complaints came hot on the heels of Xbox’s head executive Phil Spencer commenting on Sony denying Fortnite crossplay. Many speculate that Sony might soon change their position on the matter thanks to increasing pressure from AAA publishers like Bethesda and Epic Games, along with Nintendo and Xbox’s support of crossplay, and vocal fan outrage.

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST: AUG. 10

This week, Discord launches its own store to challenge Steam, Riot Games’ workplace culture is exposed, and Epic Games bypasses Google Play on Android.

Discord Launches Digital Storefront Beta

Discord launched a beta for their digital retail store this week in a competitive move that mirrors Steam’s decision to add Discord-like chat functionality to their service just a few weeks ago. It seems the two immensely popular services are squaring off to act as the all-in-one gaming hub for PC users everywhere. With a user base of over 150 million, Discord’s decision to launch a digital storefront represents a sizable threat to Steam’s stranglehold on the space. The news was originally reported by Variety in an exclusive, and was picked up by publications such as WIRED, Engadget, Business Insider, along with many top-tier gaming publications. For now, the beta has been rolled out to approximately 50,000 Discord users in Canada. Their premium service, Discord Nitro, will now come with a curated selection of free games as an added feature.

Riot Games Workplace Culture Exposed for Sexism, Harassment, Racism, Homophobia, and More

An in-depth report on the state of Riot Games’ workplace culture was published by Kotaku this week. The publication spoke to dozens of employees at the studio behind League of Legends and uncovered some grim details about the “bro culture” of sexism, structural inequality, and employee/fan harassment that permeates the company. Shocking details included email threads in which senior employees discussed which junior employees they would like to sleep with, blatant displays of sexism in management, and more. A blog post by former Riot employee Meagan Marie was published the next day, echoing the details in the Kotaku report with her firsthand experience. Some of the anecdotes she mentioned also included instances of racial and homophobic hate speech, as well as body-shaming female cosplayers to the point of tears. Riot Games responded by stating these offenses were an “affront” to their workplace ethos, and not indicative of the values they stand for. The story generated much discussion on social media and was picked up by outlets like IGN, Mashable, and ESPN.

Epic Games Bypasses Google Play on Android

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney spoke to PocketGamer.biz about why they chose not to launch Fortnite on Google Play, which takes a 30 percent revenue cut from apps on its marketplace, a policy that Sweeney called “disproportionate” as the remaining 70 percent of revenue must cover game development, operation, and support. Instead, Android users will have to download the game directly from the Fortnite website. Sweeney expressed that he hopes mobile app marketplaces follow the trajectory of PC game marketplaces and become a more competitive ecosystem. The breadth of coverage this announcement received is a testament to the game’s popularity, as it was picked up by a variety of top-tier outlets like Forbes, Mashable, Bloomberg, and more.