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✍️ Letter From the Editors
It’s been a while since we last spoke! We’re rapidly approaching our two year anniversary and Issue #100 of The Pause Button. As we get closer to celebrating these exciting milestones, we’re taking a closer look at the publication as a whole, and we’d love your feedback.
We’ve created a quick 6-question survey that should take about two minutes to complete. We’ll take the feedback shared and use it to guide us as we continue to develop our plan for The Pause Button in 2021 and beyond!
Thanks for continuing to support The Pause Button and as always, feel free to reply to this email if you have any questions or just want to say hi!
Max & Fawzi
💡 Industry Content
Epic Takes on Apple (in Europe): In Shannon Liao’s last games piece for CNN, she recaps why Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney continues to fight the legal antitrust suit with Apple over their prohibitively expensive platform tax. It’s apt that the battlefield has now transitioned to Europe where there’s greater scrutiny on larger companies from a privacy and antitrust perspective — and a greater likelihood of success than the US. It’s also an interesting position to be in: who else to fight the behemoth that is Apple? Who else to spend inordinate time fighting a battle on behalf of others? Who else that isn’t beholden to public market scrutiny? Link
Artie: After pivoting from AR Avatars, Artie is entering the instant games space with a fresh $10M in funding (and high profile investors). It’s becoming more commonplace for companies to bypass the Apple/Google platform tax by developing HTML5-native games, shareable via links in the browser. Playco is valued at ~1B. Winzo is another big player in India, and there are so many more. It’s yet to be seen what success these platforms will have and whether the big OS’s will try to retaliate. In an attempt to diversify, “Artie also plans to open a new revenue stream for celebrities, athletes, music artists, influencers, and creators by enabling them to bring branded games directly to their audiences.” Link
Luxury Brands x WeChat Minis: With over 500M MAUs playing WeChat mini games, it’s certainly not difficult to imagine a future where luxury brands are developing their own mini games (this might be cheaper than other advertising alternatives) and selling their products in other mini games. Fashion and gaming are increasingly collaborating in a variety of ways, but WeChat with its immense user base, gives the luxury brands greater exposure. Link
Western luxury brands are certainly keen to explore the full potential of WeChat. “The fact that WeChat is currently more technically advanced than others means that we see greater possibilities and functions there,” says Dior. “The WeChat ecosystem also offers a broad number of opportunities, including subscription accounts, service accounts and in-feed WeChat Moment ads, to promote the mini game.” Games with a simple interaction level, such as the Memory Game and 8 Differences, both developed by Dior in 2020, were well received.”
🎮 Fun & Games
The Return of The Direct: This week saw the return of Nintendo’s headline-based announcement series, Nintendo Direct. With the last fully-fledged direct airing in September 2019, fan expectations were sky high as many of the Japanese gaming biggest franchises are set to have hallmark anniversaries in 2021. Feedback from the event was mixed — with headlines including a new Smash fighter, and announcements of Splatoon 3 and an HD remake of Skyward Sword. The Washington Post has a full breakdown on all the most important news and announcements. Link
What Defines a Boss: Bosses are the pinnacle of video games — designed to serve as a test of skill, creativity, or mastery. But like any good game mechanic, when you look below the surface, bosses can take on an entirely new meaning. In this twitter thread from Jason de Hares, veteran Combat Designer and Design Director at Respawn, learn about how bosses can be designed to teach players, all without losing the illusion of difficulty. Link
“Can You Pet The Dog?”: It’s no secret that Can You Pet the Dog is one of our favorite Twitter accounts. It highlights games where you can literally pet the dog in the game. Since, it’s become a phenomenon for most developers to include a petting the dog mechanic in their games. Perhaps for a small marketing boost too. Link
With every new generation of consoles and components, video games grow closer and closer to replicating reality. From the glistening sweat on star athletes’ faces in sports franchises like “Madden” and “NBA 2K,” to the soft swaying of grass in samurai thriller “Ghost of Tsushima,” game-makers are always leveraging the latest in granular detail to sell the immersive power of the medium. But there’s a small, fluffy detail that’s increasingly finding its way into new ones: pettable pets. It’s all thanks to one popular Twitter account with hundreds of thousands of followers.
😎 Other Cool Reads
Teaching + Twitch: For the last year, students around the world have had to grapple with the shift to remote learning due to COVID-19. Where students may have previously been able to shut-out the distractions, the nearly 73% of U.S. school districts who are teaching over video are now looking to find new ways to keep students engaged and entertained. In this Polygon feature, learn about how teachers across the U.S. are turning to platforms like Twitch to try and find a way to keep students engaged during a global pandemic. Link
How to Build a Never-Ending Game: Final Fantasy XIV is largely considered to be one of gaming’s best turnaround stories. From a truly catastrophic launch filled with empty worlds and bugs, to boasting a playbase well on its way to 30M users and a story stretching 10+ years, the game is a staple example of what continuous development can do for a title. Much of the game's recent success is due to the hiring of it’s director Naoki Yoshida, best known for launching Dragon Quest X. But what types of considerations do you have to make to turn a game with a disastrous launch into an MMORPG rivaling World of Warcraft? Yoshida breaks down his thinking on everything from development cycles to monetization strategies as he explores what it takes to turn a title from flop to fame. Link
If Found & A Journey of Acceptance: “I played through If Found… in one sitting (I try to do this with similar games, such as Gone Home or When the Past Was Around) and highly recommend everyone do the same. The game is a visual and auditory treat, and handles its subject matter with such brilliance and care that I found myself overcome with emotion for the characters and their situations. It’s lovely, poignant and most of all, sweet. If Found… wants us, I believe, to simply see those around us as we would want to see ourselves. It’s an incredibly important piece of transformative fiction that is desperately needed during our turbulent times. When the pieces fall together and the game shifts into its final tonal moments, I challenge anyone to not shed a tear or two over Kasio’s extraordinarily beautiful story.” Link
⚡ Quick Bytes
Microsoft launched accessibility testing for developers. Link
Dota announced it was partnering with Netflix to release a cartoon set in the Dota 2 world slated to release on March 25th Link
Corsair is on an acquisition spree with its latest in VBI to move deeper into streaming. Its previous acquisition was Gamer Sensei, a coaching service. Link
Amazon delayed the release (again) of New World, its upcoming MMORPG title, citing continued development of end-game features. Link
A discussion on Crypto x Gaming by HYPEGEEK. Link
Saudi Arabia acquired a $3.3B stake in a variety of public companies like EA, Activision and Take-Two. Link
First look at Microsoft’s xCloud browser app. Link
😍 Our Current Favorites
I was really disappointed to see that Rami Ismail suspended his own Twitter account earlier this week. For those who aren’t familiar with him, Rami is a legendary indie developer and founder of gamdev.world, but most importantly, he’s a vocal proponent on increasing awareness around representation in video games. As both of us are Arab and Muslim, he’s a kindred spirit and I often resonate with his commentary.
It’s a long story but to give you the basics: he commented that there should have been a more nuanced perspective on media coverage for an upcoming game called Six Days in Fallujah. Lots of support, but also backlash. He quit Twitter. I know a lot of POC feel similarly to me that race and ethnicity can be drastically misrepresented in a game, but I also take refuge in the idea that people will listen to honest feedback openly and with intention. I guess my point is that I lost some respect and trust in the games community this week. The community ostracized him, but this should never have been the case — and I think there are ways to have open dialogue with antagonizing anyone. I hope he comes back.
A few friends and I have been having an ongoing debate about the impact and quality of the Nintendo Switch’s game library over the last few weeks. As someone who waited in line for 6+ hours for the console, I can certainly say that my expectations were sky high for Nintendo’s first truly hybrid handheld + home console. But watching this week’s Nintendo Direct has gotten me thinking - why has my Switch has been gathering dust in my backpack while I’ve been driving around the U.S. for the last six months?
After some thought I realize it comes down to what the console is designed to do - that's play Nintendo games. On the one hand I would never play a game like The Witcher 3 or The Outer Wilds on Switch - but you can also guarantee that I will be the first in line to buy any new Zelda-related games that drops. The fact that tens of millions of consumers are willing to pay a $300+ price tag just to play their favorite Mario game is a testament to the value of Nintendo’s IP. The problem, however, is one of supply and demand. If Nintendo cant supplement its first-party content through third-party titles in a way that keeps the Switch fun and fresh, it’s doomed to fail in the long-term. I highly recommend re-visiting this piece by essayist Matthew Ball on the future of Nintendo and it’s IP strategy to learn more. Link
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