So, we are 3 weeks out from the launch of Stadia and what I expected would be a rather sizable launch seems pretty quiet. Very little advertising spends, very little hype and maybe a few indie exclusives (I can’t even name one without double checking the stadia site). Many people, including myself, had hoped for a much bigger splash from the launch of a new game’s platform/ service from one of the biggest companies in the world. It does of course beg the question is this just another half-baked project that will end up in the google graveyard of ideas? A few interviews are starting to appear, with Jade Raymond towing the company line of GI.biz but a random search of “purchase Assassins Creed Odyssey” on google via the VPN in US, UK and France yielded all the usual e-commerce listings and prices and absolutely no reminder that you can get it for free with your Google Stadia founders pack. Now if you aren’t using your own advertising platform, the most popular advertising platform in the world – what exactly are you doing?
Yodo1’s AI-driven whale hunt
Gamesindustry.com ran an opinion piece talking through the presentation of Yodo1s AI driven pursuit of whales. Whilst I agree mostly with what the articles position I also think that if you take the idea to its natural conclusion you end up in a situation where all games are optimized for a few whales to the detriment of the non-paying players. Let’s think about how google works for advertisers. It’s a mass market search engine that could perhaps penalize you for not paying to advertise. Google is set up to optimize the searchability and discovery of those who pay the most money to google. If you choose not to advertise with them – it is possible that you could be penalized, even hidden. So in the case of building games for whales there is a temptation to make the free experience worse to improve the premium experience is it not. A world where you have to pay to overcome penalties doesn’t sound like a fun business to be in little own, a means of entertainment. Heres the link if you want to join the conversation:
THQ Nordic and Microids head to Japan.
The temptation of conquering the east is never far from the minds of western games company executives and as THQ and Anuman (recently rebranded to Microids) eye expansion, the east has beckoned. Asian games consumers are notoriously fickle when it comes to western game content, and although the evidence suggests that things have improved for western games over the past decade it’s still an incredibly challenging market. A brief analysis of the data (https://www.statista.com/statistics/215461/sales-numbers-of-top-selling-video-games-in-japan/) shows that the market is still very much dominated by local titles. The rest of Asia is not the answer for growth, unless of course grey market exporting is your main goal. Traditionally South East Asia was the source of most of the EFIGS parallel export games that fuelled the grey market most of the last decade. For most western publishers Asia is approximately 5%- 7% of global sales, and that of course can be significant if your major player – but for smaller players it makes it a difficult balancing act as the cost of entry into the market is far more disproportionate than the return. THQ and Microids are two of my favorite mid-tier publishers/ developers so we wish them well on their quest!
Children’s commissioner calls for a clamp down on loot boxes
It has been my personal experience that the fastest way to end a conversation with a Valve employee is raise the words Loot Boxes, Reseller Sites and API in the same sentence. Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England has called for tighter legislation to protect kids from excessive in-game spending. She wants ministers to amend current laws so that loot boxes are classified as gambling. It’s easy to see why lawmakers come to this conclusion– if its supplied at odds i.e. a loot crate or surprise mechanic, that guarantees the user an item that may or may not be rare or common ( that’s odds) and there is a way to turn the said item into a usable currency then it’s extremely close to a closed loop gambling system.
Most operators don’t allow for the exchange of the item for a cash payout, but many third-party services have found ways around this. Operators of loot crate run sites can’t hold their hands up and say that not our fault and so we have no liability due to the fact we don’t allow the trade of items for cash outside the game environment, because in many ways the core technology of the game environment allows for the transfer of the item that is then exchanged for real world currency.
Claiming that we don’t close the circle therefore we can continue unregulated and unhindered is a rather thin ice position, and it’s no surprise that the question of liability and regulation is not going away any time soon.