The fall is usually crowded with major, triple-A game launches, but this year is getting out of hand! But we don’t mind, as long as we have a controller in hand. Heh…sorry.
This week in games, tech, and entertainment has been full of Augmented Reality, eSports, drama at Konami, and something called Star Wars…
Has Hideo Kojima actually left Konami?
Konami is in continued crisis mode after it was leaked that the infamous designer Hideo Kojima has left the company, but more recently denied by Konami as merely being on vacation. It’s publicly known that he has a non-compete clause expiring in December, which press are anticipating to be the more formal departure from the publisher. Meanwhile, nobody knows what’s going on outside of those with first-hand knowledge within Konami, and the speculations continue to run rampant. All of this, after the LA-based Kojima Productions was apparently “dissolved” earlier this year.
Magic Leap claims to be manufacturing in the millions
One of the most interesting and mysterious players in the Augmented Reality space, Magic Leap, claimed at this week’s Wall Street Journal Digital Live event that they are preparing to manufacture “millions” of devices. Many have been suspicious of these claims – Magic Leap has secured more than half a billion dollars in funding and talks a big game, but has yet to show any actual product or reveal the technology it is based on. Perhaps to combat this, Magic Leap has also released a teaser demo video this week which it claims was recorded through their tech without any external effects.
Activision Blizzard starts new eSports division
In a move that speaks to the growing popularity and relevance of eSports, GamesIndustry International reports that Activision Blizzard has hired former CEO of ESPN and the NFL Network, Steve Bornstein, to head up their new eSports division. No word yet on the details of this new division, but we’re sure to find out more in the coming months.
Something, something, dark side
The biggest event in all of entertainment news this week certainly has been the reveal of the latest trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This hype train is certainly moving at top speed, as Forbes reports that ticket presales for opening weekend have crashed ticketing sites and set a new record at Fandango.
It’s quite the understatement to say a lot went on this week. Here is a collection of the top news and hot button topics from the week! But above all else, I think we can conclude that video games are indeed good for you!
Are eSports “real sports?” *drops 10 foot pole*
ESPN aired Blizzard’s collegiate championships for Heroes of the Storm, generating mixed opinions from its viewer base. Eric Johnson of Re/code cited the reaction as a reason against forcing eSports into the category of “real sports.” He says game developers pushing for their games to be recognized as physical sports puts games on the defensive and creates an “inferiority complex” that will hurt the genre in the long run and give naysayers further reasons to reject video games as a medium.
ESPN radio host, Colin Cowherd, stated he would rather retire than cover eSports, causing a negative reaction from games and sports media. SB Nation called Mr. Cowherd’s statement “dumb but expected.” Polygon’s Owen Good pointed out that this statement contradicts Mr. Cowherd’s past positive coverage of video games on ESPN like Madden NFL, accusing him of fabricating outrage to boost ratings.
Silent Hills goes silent until further notice
Konami cancels the much-anticipated Silent Hills, which included a collaboration with famed movie director, Guillermo Del Toro. Kotaku speculates the cancellation was due in large part to Hideo Kojima allegedly parting ways with the company. Polygon reports that Konami delisted itself from the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the game’s cancellation was announced.
Video games make you smart?
Good news! Video games make stronger brains! According to Daily Dot, an open-access study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the brains of 27 professional-level League of Legends and Dota 2 players against 30 non-gamers. They found the pro gamers had more connections between the brain cells and a part of the brain called in insula, leading to better hand-eye coordination and attention. What the study doesn’t reveal, however, is if the higher connectivity is a result of playing video games or are pre-existing in professional video gamers.
Tencent loves League of Legends…and Kim Kardashian!
China’s Tencent, known for its massive stake in Riot Games and thus, League of Legends, just announced it purchased a 15% stake in Glu Mobile for $126 million. Glu Mobile is most famous for their hit mobile game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, and is now reportedly worth $863 million, according to VentureBeat. Glu has more celebrity-endorsed games in the works about the lives of Britney Spears, Katy Perry, and others.
After failing to restructure its debt, Ouya is now looking for a buyer, says Fortune. There is no word yet on the asking price. With Ouya’s success in 2013 raising $15 million in Series A funding and its extensive Android content library for TVs, CEO Julie Uhrman expressed her confidence a buyer will show interest quickly.
Photo from Slashgear
Welcome to a new weekly feature here on the TriplePoint blog: TriplePoints of Interest, where we recap the biggest news from around the games and tech industry, plus subjects we just can’t stop talking about around the office!
Fixing the image of free-to-play
The image of free-to-play games has been a hot topic as of late. Steve Peterson of GamesIndustry International describes why free-to-play games have built a bad reputation and how it can be fixed. He first cites how quickly widespread the business model has become as reason for the extreme divide on opinions from within the games industry.
He then suggests that in-game merchandise must improve on the game, not be required to play the game, and that players shouldn’t have to feel they must make microtransactions to remove “annoyances” in the game or get to the fun. Developers and marketers also must be clear about the ways to spend money in the game. If a developer does not feel it is beneficial to “celebrate” the microtransactions, then the microtransactions are probably not ones that should be built in in the first place and will likely anger players.
The YouTubers versus Nintendo: the saga continues
Nintendo’s controversial YouTube policies have caused another YouTuber to cease reviewing Nintendo games. Joe Vargas of the Angry Joe Show stated in a video, according to Polygon, that he will no longer make videos relating to Nintendo games after his Mario Party 10 video was flagged for copyrighted material, keeping him from making ad revenue. Mr. Vargas has also been a staunch opponent of Nintendo’s Creators Program.
Heroes of the Storm collegiate league needs a GPA boost
The rise of collegiate competitive gaming, while growing exponentially, has not been without its share of snags. Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm collegiate tournament, “Heroes of the Dorm,” has been marred with no-shows and website bugs, leading to a host of scheduling difficulties, according to Daily Dot. The $450,000 prize pool, and involvement of Blizzard and TeSPA (high-profile collegiate eSports organization) meant very high expectations for the tournament from fans and participants alike, begging the question of the effectiveness of allowing over 800 teams to participate.
Ads and Kids, like water and electricity, do not go together
Consumer advocacy groups are asking the FTC to investigate Google’s YouTube Kids app due to concerns that it aims advertising at young children on smartphone and tablets, according to San Jose Mercury News. The concerns cite laws on broadcast TV that prohibit TV stations from placing products around kids’ programming due to children having not developed cognitive skills to resist advertising.
An old dog returns to the doghouse: Mark Pincus is back!
Zynga announced that Don Mattrick, their CEO of less than 2 years, is leaving and will be replaced with former CEO, Mark Pincus. GamesIndustry International believes that the company’s great losses under his leadership caused the change, but credited Zynga’s sharp rise in mobile profits–from 27% to 60% of the company’s worth–over the last 2 years to Mr. Mattrick’s work.
Last semester, I was fortunate enough to have a once in a-life-time opportunity of studying abroad in Korea, my motherland. Born in Korea but having lived most of my life in the United States, I consider myself to be more aligned with American customs and lifestyle and as a gamer, I am well-cultured in American games. So on a trip to dabble in Soju, Korean rice wine, and explore my roots, one of my main goals of studying abroad was to also educate myself in the Korean gaming culture.
When considering the possibility of culture shock, one usually imagines having to adjust to a foreign country’s language, food, and other cultural practices. For example, many of my friends had trouble adjusting to Korea’s numerous delicacies. While most of them were already introduced to the basic Korean barbecue (Galbi, Bulgogi) many of my friends had trouble eating raw seafood, like live octopus legs that stick to your throat. Luckily, in my case, I had no problem with Korean food. However, I was unprepared for the major differences I would find in Korea’s gaming culture.
First, to understand Korean gaming culture, I found that we have to consider games not only as gaming commodities but also as sports. Like a sports team, professional gamers in Korea join teams that are sponsored by companies and becoming a professional gamer in Korea is more of a career choice. With tremendous support and sponsorship from entrepreneurs, professional gamers can earn a steady income. Therefore, it is common to see professional gamers promote their companies’ products or serve as spokespeople on television ads. It is also common to see the face of a professional gamer on consumer goods such as energy drinks, cup noodles or other snacks. Prominent Korean gamers acquire a huge fan base. When I was at a shopping mall observing a competition between two Starcraft gamers, I was astonished to see a group of girls cheering as if they had just seen the pop sensation, Justin Bieber.
E-Sports, also known as electronic sports, receive a lot of media coverage in Korea. While E-Sports compile of numerous video games, the Starcraft franchise draws the most coverage and fans. The Starcraft franchise is the most recognized game and product in Korea. Kids, teenagers, and adults of all ages know about this game not necessarily just because they have played them, but because Korea has a reputation to produce the best professional Starcraft players. With multiple TV channels dedicated to gaming, broadcasts of live or recorded Starcraft games are narrated by announcers and analyzed by game enthusiasts. Similar to John Madden and the NFL, announcers in Korea share the same enthusiasm and passion for E-sports. Moreover, announcers provide play by play commentaries, professional opinions, and in-depth critiques. Other programs include interviews, reality shows, and variety shows that star and feature professional gamers.
From my study abroad trip, I was surprised by the extent gaming was socially accepted and even applauded in Korea. Seeing that one can make a living by playing video games and getting a look at how mainstream media covers video games in depth, I realized that gaming in the United States is not as widely followed and celebrated. Professional games are celebrities in Korea. They have a strong fan base, reality TV shows, and media coverage that give recognition to their profession. Moreover, because professional gamers are seen on TV or on consumer goods, an average consumer can easily recognize a professional gamer. However, in the United States, gaming is still considered a leisure activity that does not fall in media’s agenda. It’s fair to say that E-Sports has a more tight-knit following in the United States rather than the mainstream following in Korea. Because narrated Starcraft games are almost never televised in the United States, fans rely on the internet as the primary way to find coverage of E-Sports. Moreover, the only people in the United States who watch E-Sports or recognize professional gamers are fans who actively seek and follow E-Sports. Because of the limited mainstream coverage, professional gamers in the United States do not receive the same recognition and fame as professional gamers in Korea. More or less, it seems almost impossible that we would see the face of a professional gamer on a cereal box or a soda can in the U.S.