TRIPLEPOINTS OF INTEREST – WEEK OF APRIL 10

Here’s the scoop in this week’s TPoI: Nintendo soars in the US with Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sales on the Switch, Microsoft introduces a new refund program for Xbox One and PC games, and Germany instructs Twitch streamers and YouTubers to purchase a broadcasting license. With spring in the air, we give you full permission to indulge in chocolate covered sweets!

Nintendo Surpasses Own Record With Switch and Breath of the Wild Sales

New data released by Nintendo and NPD reveals that the Switch is now the fastest-selling console in Nintendo history, with Breath of the Wild attributing to its success. IGN reports that in North America, Nintendo sold 906,000 Switch units while Breath of the Wild sold 925,000 copies. WCCFTech explains that this means the title has an attach rate of 100%, possibly due to consumers unable to obtain a console along with the game. TheVerge adds that Nintendo is working hard to ensure that everyone who hasn’t purchased a Switch will be able to do so in the near future. While the numbers are impressive, Business Insider is curious to see how the upcoming launch of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 will affect Switch sales. CNN believes the Switch needs more data before concluding that it’s a hit. Polygon disclosed that Nintendo will unveil worldwide Switch sales on April 27, so a final verdict won’t be made until then!

Microsoft Store Revamped in Response to User Feedback

 Nothing’s worse than spending money on an app or game online and not knowing what to do with it once you’re done playing. Due to overwhelming response from gamers, Gamespot revealed that Microsoft sent a message to those enrolled in the Xbox Insider program, stating “In support of offering gamers the freedom of choice, we’re making changes to the Microsoft Store purchase experience by offering customers a simple way to instantly return digital products like games and apps through account.microsoft.com.” According to ArsTechnica, only Alpha members currently have access, but the feature should be available to the public soon. Metro reports that Microsoft will monitor activity and block users that attempt to abuse the program. BGR finds it to be almost identical to Steam’s refund system, but commends Microsoft’s decision and encourages other companies to take the same steps. Waypoint foresees that this may entice users to choose Xbox titles over PlayStation, but expects Sony to release their own refund system to keep up with its competition.

Broadcasting License Required for Twitch Streamers and YouTubers in Germany

German broadcast authority Landesmedienanstalt has deemed live-streaming as “radio broadcast”, enforcing YouTubers and Twitch streamers to provide a broadcasting license from now on. VG24/7 reports that YouTuber PietSmiet was informed he’ll need to apply for a license by April 30 if he were to continue making videos. Depending on the number of viewers, a license may cost between 1,000 to 10,000 euros, and SegmentNext believes streamers may have to turn to alternative websites or launch a Kickstarter to receive donations from fans. PCGamesN warns that those who fail to comply to the ruling will have their channel classified as a pirate station and subject to fines. Thankfully, Gamezone states that Germany is aware that this ruling is outdated and may be overruled in the future, but streamers are not exempt until further notice.

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

Pushers–Why Titanfall will not save the Xbone (yet)

Titanfall launched a couple of weeks ago, and the reviews are very good. The game has an 86 on Metacritic, which reflects (if nothing else) a unanimously positive response from the aggregated gaming media, and players are raving about how great the game is. I myself participated in the Beta test for Titanfall on PC, and found the game fast-paced, intense, and generally fun to play.

But it won’t sell Xbox Ones. Not yet. Continue reading Pushers–Why Titanfall will not save the Xbone (yet)

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.

 

A Console Gamer’s Transition; or, How I Learned to Love PC Gaming

In my last blog post, over a year ago, I wrote about how I learned to love my iPad for the gaming device it is, and about how the gaming experiences I had been having on it were changing my previously narrow-minded stance on what defines a true video game.

I was very much a console – and console only – gamer until jumping into mobile gaming. I still love my iPad for its gaming prowess, and in fact have since then expanded my handheld gaming to a Nintendo 3DS XL. But, while that portion of my gaming habits has not changed, another has: the time I spend on my console (an Xbox 360) has decreased dramatically.

Sometimes an entire week or two will go by without firing up the 360 hidden in my TV stand. The cause of this sea change is the dreaded nemesis of console gaming – a PC. Ever since upgrading to a gaming PC, I have found that the vast majority of my gaming time over the last few months has been spent at a desk in my living room rather than on the couch. This is a situation I would never have imagined a year ago.

The lure of Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm was too much for me, and it spurred me to update a hand-me-down gaming rig to modern capacities. From there my wallet and gaming sensibilities were assaulted by Steam.

If a crime was committed here, Steam truly was the villain. I dove into the Steam store, its multitude of games and its many sales. It bewitched me with its treasure trove of games, both past and present, and the ease with which one can go on a shopping spree of immense digital proportions.

The barrier to getting my thumbs on lots of great games became so much lower once I set up a Steam account than had been the case on Xbox Live! What’s this? FTL is on sale for five dollars? Sure! I can get my hands on that Total War: Shogun 2 game I remember from a couple years ago for only $15? Wham, bam, thank you ma’am!

My newfound obsession with PC gaming is beyond the deals though. The rise of indie games on Steam has brought some incredible content my way. FTL is outstanding. Rogue Legacy is more addicting than Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Dungeons of Dredmor is roguelike heaven. In this, my views on what it means to be video game worth my time have continued to evolve as well. I may still have a controller in my hand, but it’s hooked up to a PC so I can play a spectacular indie game that I can’t access on my Xbox.

Not only have I found an incredibly stark contrast between Steam and Xbox Live, I’m also perplexed by it. Why isn’t Microsoft more open to open the indie floodgates? Does it really take a new console generation to allow self-publishing on a Microsoft platform?

Whatever the answers are, my newfound PC gaming glory has me seriously doubting my own participation in the next console generation. Only time will tell if I am able to stay strong or if the hype of the upcoming holiday season will turn me toward a big purchase. Whatever the outcome, my gaming horizons continue to expand and, regardless of the cause, my interactive entertainment is better off for it.

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

Can Console Gamers Ever Embrace an All-Digital Future? Not Without Help From the Big Three

When Xbox One was revealed in May, it was touted as a living room centerpiece and the quintessential go-to for sports and set box interactivity on a scale of integration not yet seen before. In reaction to the inaugural reveal, the gaming masses all cried out in a cynicism that shook the world. “Where are the games?!” the gamers cried. “We don’t care about enhanced TV!” they lamented. One particular provision for the next-gen console was most loathed though—the requirement for the Xbox One to be connected to the internet once a day.

While consoles have seen their own versions of DRM before, such as online pass requirements for used games, Xbox One’s (now deceased) requisite to connect to the internet would have been the first true form of DRM to ever grace consoleboxes and their users. The outcry rocked Microsoft so heavily that the Redmond-based behemoth did a complete one-eighty after E3 and reversed many of its previously announced policies, including that scorned daily online check-in. With Microsoft’s concession, it was a triumphant moment for the everyday consumer, but it also proved something else substantial: console gamers are not ready for a future where digital distribution is the de facto method for purchasing and playing games.

While the notion of not being able to lend out games, or to not even have a lovely retail box adorn your shelf, seems absolutely preposterous to console fanatics, this same concept of digital distribution is one that is cherished—and even preferred—by PC gamers around the globe. How is it that two groups of consumers can be so headstrong and passionate about gaming and yet have two radically different opinions on the subject of how they purchase their games?

Years ago, PC gaming was much like the console: you went to a store, you purchased a box with a disc in it, and you put it into your computer to install and play. One caveat was that often a serial code would have to be entered, something that console users didn’t see until this current generation, but other than that the two platforms were near identical. Same humble beginnings yet two starkly different audiences, so what gave?

You could posit that Valve, and its own platform Steam, have played a large part in swaying consumers to embrace digital distribution, but it wasn’t always this friendly between Steam and its users. Anyone who remembers the launch of Half-Life 2 in 2004, with its then novel idea of connecting to the internet to activate the product as a requirement, will recall just how bad Valve botched the launch with servers not working and how furious consumers were because they couldn’t play the game they purchased. Since that time, Steam has proven to be a viable platform because Valve has consistently shown consumers that they have the infrastructure and bandwidth to make this work and, in exchange for an all-digital storefront, Steam is able to discount its titles significantly when warranted. These two factors are key to understanding why a PC gamer has no problem with not owning a disc.

But whereas PC gamers have Steam, GOG.com and countless other digital distribution platforms, which invites competition, console gamers only have three: PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, and Nintendo’s digital storefronts across its platforms. Unless one of the big three goes full throttle into digital, it will be a long time before the console gamer can be convinced that their hard-earned cashola is worth spending on zeroes & ones instead of a multi-layered plastic circle purchased at GameStop.

You see Microsoft’s Games on Demand sale going on right now and think, “that looks a lot like what Steam does” so clearly Microsoft knows the power of digital distribution. Sony has been known to have sales of its own on PlayStation Network. However, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo also have strong ties to retail, and as such may be reluctant to move forward with a larger digital presence. Microsoft almost took the plunge with its DRM policy, but withdrew it, and without the support of the big three it will be much harder to change the culture and attitude of the current console gamer.

An all-digital future could flourish on console, and PC gaming has proven that it’s an existence consumers have come to love, but it’s a long way off. Console gamers are reluctant to give up their physical copies, but it may not be because of the prestige of holding onto something (though for a smaller percentage, that could be the case) but rather because no company on the console side has proven to them that there is a significant benefit to utilizing digital distribution.

Valve took a chance on digital distribution and it paid off in spades, the first one of the big three to follow suit will be the winner of the next generation.