Triplepoints of Interest – Dec. 4

In this week’s TPoI, Sony’s PlayStation 4 sells over 70 million units worldwide, Ubisoft delays their 2018 lineup, and EA reevaluates monetization strategies for Battlefront II.

PlayStation 4 Sells Over 70 Million Worldwide
Early Thursday morning, Sony announced that over 70.6 million PlayStation 4 consoles have been sold worldwide since the system’s launch in November 2013. The Nikkei reports that Sony, which expects to log it’s first record profit in over two decades, has benefited greatly from the PlayStation 4’s record sales as well as the success of games and other media built for the platform. Polygon reports that the console’s continued success has pushed Sony to revise their sales goal for the 2017 fiscal year from 18 million units to 19 million units. Forbes speculates that the PlayStation 4 is on track to outperform last generations PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 but it may not outperform the PlayStation 2, which sold over 155 million units over its lifetime.

Ubisoft Delays 2018 Lineup
In an effort to develop more engaging and higher quality experiences, Ubisoft has delayed 3 of their upcoming titles including Far Cry 5, The Crew 2, and a currently unannounced game. Eurogamer speculates that this announcement comes as a result of Assassin’s Creed Origins achieving critical acclaim after the game was delayed to improve the gameplay experience. Forbes featured the new release dates for Ubisoft’s upcoming games, which have been shifted between a month to a quarter from their originally planned dates.

EA Rethinks Star Wars Battlefront II Microtransactions
Only a week after launching to mixed reviews and a sharp backlash from fans, EA has annouced that they are considering alternative microtransaction methods for Star Wars Battlefront II. Seeking Alpha reports that EA projected revenues have fallen to $1,149 million. Glixel speculates that EA and Dice may have been pushed to pursue alternative strategies not only due to community feedback, but also due to government pushback as the US government evaluates the legality of microtransactions in games. While PC Gamer note that while the developers have made progress in updating the game’s character progression system, the community is still upset and hope that the game will improve in the near future.

Triplepoints of Interest – Nov. 27

In this week’s TPoI, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds gets a mobile port in China, Destiny 2 fans are upset by dishonest XP system, and the Nintendo Switch tops sales charts over the Black Friday weekend.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Goes Mobile

The PUBG Corporation released a cinematic trailer on Thursday showcasing two new mobile versions of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds which will launch first in China. Polygon confirms that the two games, Army Attack by Timi Studios and Battlefield by Tencent, will try to bring the PUBG experience to the Chinese audience by adapting the games to better fit the Chinese mobile space. Comicbook.com reports that PUBG Corp has partnered with Tencent and Timi to adapt the game for the Chinese region by porting it to a more accessible platform and incorporating “socialist values” into core gameplay. PC Gamer featured the newly released trailer and highlighted new features including attack helicopters, large squad-based matches, and a large naval destroyer.

Destiny 2 Fans Upset Over Experience Scaling Issues

Bungie received negative backlash from fans this week after the discovery of an experience scaling system which some believe was created to encourage players to purchase microtransactions. GameSpot reports that the system, which limited the amount of XP which players can earn during a play session, was meant to restrict the rewards which a player can receive by leveling up. PC Gamer featured a blog post from Bungie which confirms that the developers will be removing the system, but also doubling the amount of XP required to level up, which also upset the fanbase community. True Achievement reports that head game designers Luke Smith and Chris Barrett are aware of the community’s criticism and are actively adjusting the system to match the expectations of their fanbase.

The Nintendo Switch Tops Console Sales Charts During Thanksgiving Weekend

Despite the fact that the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro were on deep discounts during Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, data from Adobe’s Digital Insights Initiatives system shows that the Nintendo Switch was the highest selling console of the weekend. Gamesindustry.biz reports that the Nintendo Switch was able to secure the highest selling spot during the period without receiving major discounts at any big-box retail store. VG 24/7 notes that these numbers are not surprising after the system approaches its 4th month as the highest selling console in the United States but that the continued sales should help the platform reach a large audience in the west. IGN reports that Nintendo’s recent success is reflected in the company’s stock, which has gone up 88.5% in the last year alone.

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST – JUNE 12

As we wind down and relax from the E3 madness, in this week’s TPoI, Mojang reveals cross-console play for Minecraft, Xbox One X’s price tag is debated, and Anthony Padilla of Smosh leaves the channel to move onto his own solo project.

Minecraft to Feature Cross Platform Online Play

During E3, developer Mojang and Microsoft revealed that gamers will be able to play Minecraft with friends on almost every platform due to a new server update titled “Better Together.” TechCrunch disclosed that Windows 10, iOS, Android, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch will be the supported devices allowing for unified gameplay. Mashable states that Minecraft will be moved over to Bedrock Engine, making the cross-platform play possible. As for why PS4 is not listed as a supported console, IGN reports that Sony’s Global Sales and Marketing Head Jim Ryan stated, “While Sony has no philosophical stance against cross-play at all, it’s concerned with its players’ safety on non-PlayStation platforms.” The Verge doesn’t find Sony’s reasoning to be valid, and feels it’s simply an excuse to force consumers to choose between Microsoft and Sony. GameSpot reveals that Microsoft is hoping to put differences aside with Sony and come to an agreement in the future.

Is Xbox One X Price Worth It?

Microsoft announced that Project Scorpio’s official name is Xbox One X, available on November 7, 2017 for $499. In an interview with Business Insider, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer stated that Microsoft wouldn’t be making any money from Xbox One X sales, and did not go into further details for the reasoning. GameSpot reports that Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities commented, “I think that the price point is too high. Consoles have historically failed at this price point, and consumers seem unwilling to accept anything over $399.” Forbes points out that the Xbox One X is $100 more expensive than the PlayStation 4 Pro and twice as expensive as a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One S, predicting that sales won’t be successful. Washington Post critiques that despite the impressive 4K resolution, it’s definitely a steep price to pay for consumers. PCMag presumes that Microsoft will be taking a loss for Xbox One X hardware sales, is hopeful that the manufacturing price will go down so that a profit margin appears soon.

Anthony Padilla Moves on From Comedy YouTube Channel Smosh

Smosh co-founder Anthony Padilla revealed that he is leaving the channel to pursue and focus on his self-titled channel, which currently has 1.3M subscribers. Variety interviewed Padilla, and he explained that he had been contemplating the change for several months and felt a lack of creativity as Smosh is managed by Defy Media, who approves all of the creative decisions. Vulture disclosed that Padilla and fellow co-founder Ian Hecox remain close friends and that Padilla’s departure is not tied to any personal conflicts. This move has Recode questioning how long a content creator can remain popular and lucrative and at what point would their career potentially come to an end. It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s definitely something for influencers to keep in mind. Whatever Padilla decides to work on moving forward, we wish him the best of luck!

TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST – WEEK OF APRIL 24

In this week’s TPoI, Atlus updates and apologizes for their Persona 5 streaming ban, Nintendo announces new hardware coming this summer, and Sony releases PS4 sales numbers.

Atlus Apologizes for Streaming Restriction Ban

Atlus’ streaming guidelines around the launch of Persona 5 were heavily contested by streamers, fans and press, and this week the company has announced changes to the policy. In addition to the policy change, which allows streamers to capture and present up to the in-game date of 11/19 (when the main story gears up for the final act), the company issued a formal apology regarding the way they initially presented the guidelines. In response to the policy change, Engadget ponders whether or not the original strategy was “simply a bid to forcibly drive more sales” while The Verge poses that streaming guidelines for the game aren’t necessary, since the community has policed itself and proven themselves loyal to Atlus. GameSpot doesn’t seem to mind the streaming restriction or care for the apology, stating the game is so good everything else is hogwash.

Nintendo Announces the New 2DS XL

In a late night announcement this Thursday, Nintendo revealed a brand-new piece of hardware set to launch this summer – the New Nintendo 2DS XL. The new piece of hardware will join the now-discontinued NES Classic Edition and the Nintendo Switch also released this year. Ars Technica has taken to calling the new device, “a handheld for gamers who can’t afford a Switch.” Forbes contributor, Paul Tassi, sees the announcement a bit differently, expressing frustration over understanding Nintendo’s strategy in the hardware space. Tassi writes, “Nintendo’s commitment to producing overlapping hardware remains incredibly confusing,” noting he sees too much overlap in the product market. The Verge took a less critical position, but made mention that the common theme between all the devices Nintendo has launched this year is the constrained supply of units available to consumers.

PS4 Shipments Reach 60 Million Units Worldwide

Sony’s latest sales numbers for the PlayStation 4 are now reported at 60 million units shipped worldwide. Polygon however reports that this figure represents PS4 shipments to retailers, not necessarily sales through customers. Alongside the report of the new sales numbers, Sony states they plan on shipping 18 million PS4’s for the upcoming fiscal year. Hardcore Gamer reports that this estimation is down from the 20 million they sold this year, which tracks for a four-year old console. On the heels of the sales numbers, The Wall Street Journal quoted an analyst that suspects Sony will release its next-gen PlayStation by the second half of 2018.

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of October 17

Image credit: Rockstar

It would be an understatement to say a lot went on this week. Here is a collection of the top tech and gaming news for the week of October 17th! Get a first look at Nintendo’s next game system, the Nintendo Switch; Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming in fall of 2017; and unionized video game voice actors are on strike.

Continue reading TriplePoints of Interest – Week of October 17

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of August 10

 

When we read we begin with ABC. When we sing we begin with Do Re Mi. I wonder when Google is going to choose musical notes for their next project name (even though A, B, and C are also music notes).

ABC is easy as 123

Google made waves earlier this week when it announced Alphabet, the name of its newly-created parent entity to encompass the “sprawl of businesses” it has entered according to New York Times. Google as the search engine that started it all will be one such entity under Alphabet, of which founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be at the helm.

New York Times also reported on a trademark issue the company ran into when BMW revealed it was the owner of the domain “Alphabet.com” and its trademark. Google has yet to provide comment, but it should be noted Alphabet’s website is already housed at domain “abc.xyz.”

It takes an Evil Genius to know how to rake in cash

The Dota 2 International tournament wrapped up last weekend with Evil Geniuses taking home the $6 million prize. Forbes highlighted Valve’s ability to rack up the large sum of money through selling an in-game item, making the prize pool partially crowdfunded as well. Writer, Paul Tassi, wonders if other companies like Riot and Blizzard will also follow the crowdfunding model to raise the prize pool for future major tournaments.

The function of luck in games

PopMatters released an insightful post on the role that chance plays in game design. Writer, Erik Kersting, references tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons, which rely on chance (the roll of dice) to determine outcomes, leaving the ability to make smart deductions about chance the most important skill a player can have. Mr. Kersting explains how adding an element of chance makes a game more accessible for lower skilled players while also keeping a game interesting with high replay value for higher skilled players. He also touches on the use of Critical Strikes, a mechanic that relies on chance while allowing the player being able to manipulate its likelihood of occurring in games like League of Legends and Dota 2.

An A+ in CS:GO

Universities aren’t the only educational institutions embracing eSports. High schools in Sweden are now offering eSports courses as part of the curriculum, said Daily Dot. Students can train in the ways of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 in the 2015-2016 school year. Perhaps it’s not long before you can get an A in Pokémon video games AND TCG!

Casual vs. Core: no contest

EEDAR released data on the sales performance of this generation’s console market, with a special look at the Xbox One and PS4. GamesIndustry International‘s Rob Fahey concludes that the hardware and software sales for those platforms together paints a complex picture of the health of core gaming amidst the rise of casual, “bite-sized” games on mobile. Overall, however, Mr. Fahey asserts that casual games can never squeeze out core games due to the tastes of the players themselves and that consoles can only “die” if said core experiences are replicated on other devices like mobile. He still raises the question of whether return on investments for creating core AAA games will help companies stay sustainable in the long run due to rising costs of production due not to competition from casual games, but to the plateauing expansion of the core gamer audience against the exponential rise in technology.

Photo from The Guardian

TriplePoints of Interest – Week of July 27

 

Summer’s heating up and so are the acquisition and earnings news! Big this week are Ouya’s new home with Razer and Valve’s whopping 10 figure earnings! On that note, what are your favorite games on Ouya and Steam?

Razer Forges new bond with Ouya

Razer has confirmed they have purchased Ouya. According to TechCrunch, all of Ouya’s VC investors have cashed out and that Alibaba, who invested $10 million in the platform, will be working alongside Razer moving forward. Ouya CEO, Julie Uhrman, confirmed Razer has not purchased the hardware section of the business. All Ouya users will be transitioned into Razer’s Android TV service, Forge.

Valve earnings pick up major Steam

Valve announced Steam raked in a whopping $1.5 billion in 2014, according to Ubergizmo. Market data firm, SuperData, revealed that about $400 million alone was brought in by Valve’s own games such as DotA 2, Team Fortress 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. They also state that since Steam takes a 30% cut of every game sale on the platform, about $330 million came from royalties alone.

Consoles cross the Great Wall of China

China has lifted the final restrictions on console sales, making game consoles like Wii U, Xbox One, and PS4 free to enter the country, said SiliconAngle. When the ban was initially lifted earlier this year, console makers like Microsoft and Sony were forced to funnel all systems through Shanghai, China’s experimental free-trade zone, but can now ship and manufacture them anywhere in the country. While it is still unknown how well the Chinese public will receive these new products, Sony told the Wall Street Journal that they welcome the news. According to GamesIndustry International, Microsoft’s Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, says the company will use this opportunity to work with Chinese game studios to bring Chinese games to Xbox’s international audience.

Gaming mouse and keyboard enter the living room

Sony revealed the Tactical Assault Commander 4, the officially-licensed mouse and keyboard compatible with the PlayStation 4. According to IGN, the device is listed for an October 4 release in the UK and a November 30 release in Japan for a price of $120.

Photo from AFTVnews

The Next-Gen War Has Changed: The Long Road Ahead

It’s been almost eight years since the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii launched. It was quite a spectacle; the gaming industry boomed and helped create new ventures in e-Sports and online broadcasting. Gaming became a mainstream phenomenon.

Yet, there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for the new console launches.

When the PS3 and 360 were announced, my jaw literally dropped when I saw what was in store for me and my friends. It was impossible to contain the excitement and buzz for those consoles. We wanted it. We couldn’t wait. Our fingers were ready to push buttons and wobble joysticks like fiends.

This year’s launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 had no magical sense of excitement like the one that I felt with its predecessors. The graphics look spectacular, but it’s not a major leap from where we left off. The launch lineup for both consoles is mediocre, with no title taking the lead as a must-own.

It feels so… underwhelming.

Yet, that hasn’t stopped both consoles from having record-breaking sales on their launch days. It’s a sign that there has been a shift in the industry: the conversation has moved from the “measuring sticks” debate on who has better processing power or visuals to a battle over the ultimate living room experience.

Graphics are no longer the key selling point. The extended capabilities each console has to offer – instant streaming, a stronger online community hub, social media and app integration – will be the heart of the console generation marathon. The PS4 and Xbox One are no longer just about playing games, but also about creating an extension to the gamer’s life. Games will always be part of the deciding factor, but now mainstream consumers have the option to choose how they want their experience enhanced.

One of my favorite features right now on PlayStation 4 is the remote play feature, allowing me to play AAA next-gen titles away from my actual console. My roommate, on the other hand, is completely sold on the Xbox One’s Kinect voice commands, letting him go hands-free to complete simple tasks to enhance his entertainment experience. It shows that Sony and Microsoft are really trying to provide similar but unique experiences to their user bases.

This (next) gen is also all about socializing. The last generation built an online foundation and paved way for the rise of e-sports. The integration of social media, online streaming, and game recording is going to be an integral part of the gameplay experience. Who knows what else Sony and Microsoft will have in store for us in the future?

The dust hasn’t settled and we probably won’t know who the real winner of this console generation is for a long time. With the limited fanfare, it’s hard to tell. Sure, Sony won the hearts of many with its policy on being DRM-free, but that quickly flatlined as Microsoft caught up with its own changes. I’ve got a good feeling that all of this is just a calm before the storm; I’m expecting the battle to heat up next year during E3 2014 as both companies start landing on their own two feet.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to share them with me on Twitter @RahottieR or @TriplePoint.

Video Killed the Game Review Star

Digital media is changing the process of selling and buying in almost every industry. With reviews, peer ratings, articles, social media, special deals and more, there is a growing wealth of content for consumers to peruse before making a purchase. Video games are no different, and across the board we’re finding that video content has a rising stake in the process, boasting the most engaged and influential audience compared to other media.

In the past two or three years, we’ve seen explosive growth in a number of video content providers for video games, and it makes sense. The best way to decide if you want to play a game is not to read a review about it, but to watch someone play it, and importantly, to be entertained along the way.  Sure, I could read a few reviews, average the scores, take some journalists’ opinions into account, but at the end of the day I want to see if Contrast is fun before picking up the PS4 copy.

The explosion of Twitch.tv is one example of the rise in appetites for showcasing games with video content. The game streaming website’s unique monthly viewership doubled from about 929,000 in October 2012 to more than 2 million today (via data from Compete.com).

The movers and shakers in the gaming industry are acknowledging how important it is to give gamers a place to share and watch their experiences. PlayStation 4 launched with seamless Twitch streaming as a major selling point, and though Xbox One missed the feature at launch, it will come with a software update soon. Not only are traditional gaming media outlets taking advantage of this feature, journalists are building their own individual audiences to compete with seriously popular Twitch channels like NorthernLion and Cry.

The number, quality, and fans of gaming YouTubers are also on the rise. When I was at PAX this year chatting with a YouTuber, fan after fan kept coming up to him to tell him how much they loved his show and to take a picture. More so, Microsoft’s Xbox One launch event debacle with controversial YouTuber KSI, shows just how much influence these guys and gals have to shape news from the industry. It’s a new world. TotalBiscuit can have just as much sway as top gaming writers.

Beyond the views, engagement numbers are insane on many of these YouTube videos. For example, PewDiePie’s hilarious playthrough of Outlast, an indie horror game by TriplePoint client Red Barrels, has racked up more than 7 million views, 200,000 likes and 63,000 comments. For comparison, IGN has just over 5 million unique visitors a month according to Compete.com, and its highly anticipated PlayStation 4 review has 9,706 comments. Consumers are often going directly to YouTubers for gaming entertainment and news, or linking to them from the increasingly important gaming sub-Reddit. As a result, developers and PR agencies are paying more attention to these folks. TriplePoint client Spearhead Games even named an achievement in upcoming PS4 game Tiny Brains after half-uber fan, half-YouTube star The Completionist.

PewDiePie plays through horror game Outlast with more than 7 million YouTube views.

My emphasis on the rising influence of video content makers is not to say traditional gaming websites are losing their importance. They still cater to folks that buy lots of games, and they are amping up their own video offerings with video reviews and regularly programmed Twitch channels. Perhaps more importantly, these respected publications’ editorial decisions drive YouTube content, as YouTubers likely choose what games to play and feature based on what’s being talked about on IGN, Kotaku, GameSpot, Polygon and the like. After all, direct outreach from game makers to YouTubers is still relatively limited.

Whether the gaming media can beat YouTubers and Twitch prodigies at entertaining and informative video content is yet to be seen, but it’s clear that the medium is hard to surpass when evaluating games. Watching a video playthrough is by far the closest experience to playing a game itself. As such, the reach and adoption of Twitch and YouTube will only continue to grow – begging the next challenge for studios and marketers: how to address fragmented video audiences.

What are your favorite Twitch and YouTube channels? Let us know in the comments below or share your thoughts on Twitter @DianaHSmith and @TriplePoint.

 

Think Again: Mobile Will Not Kill Console Games

For the past two years, media, publishers and players have been talking about the shift in the gaming industry from console to mobile. Console revenues are starkly declining as mobile revenues and players inversely increase. I think they are missing the point.

Sure, mobile is shaping up to be a goliath $9 billion industry and is broadening what it means to be a gamer. My mom doesn’t shoot down zombies in The Last of Us, but she is definitely addicted to solitaire on her phone, and now she is a gamer — along with 125.9 million people (39.8% of the population) in the US alone.

These mobile gamers are also getting more sophisticated. They require stories, characters, high-def graphics, polished art, balanced monetization tactics, and games-as-a-service upkeep to maintain their attention and spending.

I’m not saying this will slow down, but the idea that mobile games will cannibalize console game spending is an oversimplification. One market does not directly influence the other.

The reality is that mobile and console games offer different experiences, not mutually exclusive ones, and people will pay for both in different contexts. Gamers that want immersive, deep play sessions are not abandoning consoles all together and filling the void with Angry Birds, they are just waiting.

You know what they are waiting for — the much anticipated, much criticized next generation of consoles and games which have shaped up in the PS4 and XBox One. (Sorry, Wii U, you under-delivered.)

Unlike console games, people play mobile games for a short distraction while they are bored, waiting, or have nothing else to do. Short and sporadic sessions characterize their play. If a game is particularly compelling, maybe a player will shell out a few bucks for an extra crack at that Candy Crush level or another chance to sprint past the leaderboard in Temple Run.

A few minutes of a mobile game here or there does not replace what game lovers prefer: plopping down on the couch after school or work, and diving into two hours of Bioshock Infinite or their game of choice. The “hardcore gamers” aren’t sick of gaming, they just don’t want to buy games for consoles that are seven years old when new software and hardware will arrive with Santa in a few short months. And, though a few of these guys and gals play games on their phones, a lot of them don’t do so regularly, as mobile gaming caters to a broader (though also lucrative) market.

Right now, it’s too early to tell from pre-orders what the reception will be for the next-gen and if mobile will kill the console industry. It’s important to note that, PC gaming – a more synonymous experience – is better positioned to do so. We’ll also have to wait a bit longer for the first price-drop and the second round of software, since many a gamer evaluates these developments before paying up for new platforms.

Until then, I say halt your judgments on whether or not mobile will truly eat up the console industry. I suspect the bite will not live up to its hype.

Header image courtesy of GameGavel.com