Level 84: A Crystal Ball Appears

We predict gaming trends for 2021, and more!

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📜 This Week’s Notable News

Gaming Predictions — 2021: We’ve been seeing a TON of gaming predictions from out friends and favorite sites . We compiled some of our favorites and added a few of our own. Check it out, we’d love your thoughts! Link


💡 Industry Content

Does Cross-play Drive Development?: Cross-play is increasingly becoming the industry standard for game releases. More platforms means more accessibility, players, publicity and revenue for titles that invest the time to make cross-platform gaming a reality. But along with the benefits come multiple important considerations: Can your team handle the workload of additional platforms? What will competitive balance look like across platforms? What does your community strategy look like, and will it differ by system?It’s an interesting problem to think about because as more games become cross-platform, consumers might shift their spending and preference back to specific platforms vs. participating in an less-personalized multi platform experience. Link

Invest Like the Best — Supercell: Podcast host and investor Patrick O’Shaughnessy sat down with Supercell Founder & CEO Ilkka Paananen. A titan of mobile gaming, Supercell is widely considered to be one of the main companies that brought mobile gaming into prominence is the early 2010s. They also have a crazy competitive and collaborative product org. Paananen talks about empowering org structure, learning through failure, and building strong culture at a company. Link

China Gaming: Josh Ye, author of an excellent China gaming gaming roundup, recently shared a ton of notable pieces around the state of gaming in China, our favorites include:

  • A Deep Dive Into Honor of Kings: Honor of Kings is the highest grossing mobile game, which is a MOBA based loosely on LoL. This will be an interesting space to watch as Wild Rift releases to a more global audience in a few months. Honor of Kings is an older game but is also testament to the quality and success of games China devs will continue to scale globally. Link

  • The State of China’s Gaming Start-Up World: Gaming in China is usually centered on companies like Tencent and NetEase, but in the last few years multiple upstarts have arrived to steal the spotlight. Josh highlights companies like miHoYo, Lilith Games, and HyperGryph, who are challenging government-supported, foreign game importers and supergiants on their home turf. Link

  • Steam + China: As Valve’s Steam pushes ahead into China, the US is looking at banning Chinese gaming imports. Tied loosely to geopolitical tensions with China + India, it’ll be important to monitor these developments during the Biden administration -- banning imports might help US developers, but harm overall game innovation. Link


🎮 Fun & Games

Cyberpunk 2077 — Behind the Scenes: If Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier knows one thing, it’s game industry crunch. Over the past few months, we’ve frequently touched on the error-filled launch of CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, but no technical or gaming issue can compare to the working conditions the team faced during the 2020 blockbuster. Schreier goes behind the scenes with developers to map the game’s development and the days leading up to launch. Link

The Consequences of War: Eve Online is famous for deep, complex gameplay, regularly seeing multi-day in-game wars with ships and players that number in the thousands. Thanks to the title’s recent move to free-to-play, gaming’s most complex world builder is experiencing a renaissance. But with new players comes new costs. For developer CCP Games, technical limitations have cropped up as their player base increases at a dramatic rate. In this breakdown from Polygon, learn about how a recent 12,000+ player war has threatened to take the game down for good. Link

Moderation in 2020’s Biggest Game: In November 2020, indie darling Among Us had a reported 500M players, and exactly four developers. This essay touches on something that hasn’t necessarily been talked about which is how the game is handling moderation among it’s massive audience, a large portion of whom are underage kids. Despite serving hundreds of millions fans, Among Us has no feature to report players, no ability to keep bad actors out. Privacy and moderation is a hot topic for tech companies right now. How can developer Innersloth address the problem? Link


😎 Other Cool Reads

Why I Love Pokemon Crystal: GamesIndustry.biz’s “Why I Love” series this week explores the nostalgia and mysteries in Pokemon Crystal. Link

But these unexplorable mysteries serve as side-paths to the world building. There's a lot you could want to know about the Unown and the Ruins of Alph; you can peer down that path, but can't follow it. You cannot explore the mystery around Ecruteak's Burned Tower the way you can explore the Pokémon League's challenge. The Pokémon League and gym leaders are the path you follow, and you will follow it to the end. But the unsolvable mysteries are paths you can't follow, and therefore can never exhaust

Game Currencies: Game designer and economist Javier Barnes put together a comprehensive guide on the many varieties of in-game currencies, and how designers can integrate them into their games. Really interesting read within the context of IAPs, the games we play (primarily F2P and mobile), and how game currency mechanics persuade users to participate in transactions. Link

Why Does Esports Keep Rebranding?: Rebranding isn’t something we often see in comparable industries like sports, but it’s commonplace in the still nascent esports orgs. It’s a unique predicament to be in as esports organizations often represent multiple video games/teams — how do you create a brand that maintains strides with the rapidly changing industry? When should you change a brand? Link

“I hope we don’t see organizations with beloved branding pushed to rebrand simply because they feel pressure to modernize. From the practical (what do I do with all my old merchandise?) to the emotional (I have fond memories of the old logo), any organization planning to rebrand has to do the work of appropriately retraining and reconditioning people on identification and association. A lot goes into that, so rebranding is a card you can pull maybe once. If the same org is rebranding multiple times, that’s a bigger problem. — Lauren Gaba Flanagan


⚡ Quick Bytes

  • Tencent is allegedly considering raising billions of dollars in debt financing in order to acquire a major U.S. or Korean-based game studio.  Link

  • Deconstructor of Fun wrote a breakdown on the top “mid-core” competitors in 2021. Link

  • After a stagnated year of tournament play, Epic Games doubled down on competitive Fortnite, promising a pot of $20M for 2021 events. They’ll host a mix of cross-platform players Link 

  • After a long hiatus and silence, the head of Valve’s game studio confirmed that the company has more games in development. Link

  • Wired’s piece on Hades and what it can teach us about ancient Greek masculinity Link


😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

I LOVE predictions that map out the year ahead based on previous news and trends. Max and I are always talking about what we think will happen. Consolidating them here was a big learning experience for me because it wasn’t just making a mental note about it. A lot of the trends feel like obvious extensions of 2020, but there are some non-obvious ones that I’m excited to see pan out. Feel free to DM me if you have a prediction you’re stoked about or know of a company doing cool things in the space.

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

I have been heads down the last few weeks working on a personal project. Much of my time has been spent using Webflow, a no-code platform that allows users to build deeply interactive sites without having to write a single line of code. One thing that’s struck me about the platform is how much gaming seems to inspire its User Interface. Tools like styling, dynamic content, and animation building all have very game-like qualities. This line of thinking reminded me of an interesting talk that Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra gave about designing software with game design principles in mind. Link


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Gaming Predictions 2021

Deplatformization, IP, M&A, Subscription Passes, and much much more

This roundup was written by The Pause Button — a weekly gaming newsletter that curates weekly news and content about video games.


We’ve absolutely loved reading predictions about the games industry these past few weeks, so we decided to compile a bunch of our favorites here. And also included some of our own ✨. Let us know what you think!


The Pause Button

Focus: Generalist — Link

  • Developers + Creator Synergy: Developers will become a bigger part of the creator ecosystem. Two scenarios:

    1. Developers will contract with creators to create specific mods/maps for creators to leverage in their streams. E.g MrBeast Gaming does this particularly well for Minecraft videos.

    2. Developers will lean much heavier on groups like OfflineTV and Dream SMP as a key marketing pillar in their roll-out plans for new games and content. These groups are already revitalizing titles like Rust and giving boons to Minecraft and Among Us.

  • Games within Superapps: In NAMER/EMEA/LATAM, Super apps will edge out the traditional hypercasual game. Companies like Snap, Twitch, Facebook, Google, Bytedance will follow successfully in Tencent’s footsteps to create a mini-app ecosystem specifically geared toward games. Partnerships with small studios and large studios will increasingly become an important content strategy for these businesses outside of M&A.

  • Deplatformization: Triggered by IDFA, Epic vs. Apple, Crypto’s surge, and AWS/Azure (all not necessarily a result but a catalyst), we’ll see games deplatfomize to avoid bureaucracy and fees. The browser-based charge is led by Playco and End.gg, but Facebook Gaming, Stadia, Microsoft and Amazon are all considering browser-based cloud gaming options to circumvent mobile platform restrictions & fees. Deplatformization might also mean creators finding ways to deplatformize from publishers (In 2020, Nintendo infamously closed down all Animal Crossing third party seller tools and shut down grassroots Melee tournaments).

    In China, These companies [Lilith Games, MiHoYo, Giant Network] were able to launch games successfully via their own website or free app distribution platforms such as TapTap, allowing their gross profit margin to increase from 50% to over 90%. — Daniel Ahmad

  • IP= Manga + Anime: 2020 saw Manga serialization subscriptions balloon in the US. There’s a wealth of content from Japan, China and Korea that can be used to create games. Perhaps anime and manga are more accessible forms of IP, too. Lots of historical success here with games like Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle, but also the potential for new ones in titles like Tower of God.

  • Movie Games Return: In the mid-2000s, the biggest blockbusters were often accompanied by poorly developed titles for the era’s biggest consoles. With the value of IP and the focus on multi-platform supremacy, expect to see more popular franchises — like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, and more —turn back to games as a way to grow their audiences and drive revenue.

  • India, India, India: This almost feels like a gimme, but in India Youtube viewership is up significantly; Western game studios are starting to build satellite offices for their development; Companies are getting more funding; There are geopolitical tensions with China. 2021 will see a massive explosion of dev talent in India, a grassroots Indie scene flourish, and international funding grow more available.

  • LATAM & Spain Grow Market Share: Viewership for streaming platforms will see the largest growth from Spanish speaking countries. Particularly on Facebook Gaming, Spanish speaking streamers consistently outperform their peers. These streamers will see greater popularity on Twitch and Youtube (and perhaps the same for Brazil). Also expect to see more women join in and for these streamers to have a profound influence on the games being played in their respective regions.


Master the Meta

Focus: Gaming Industry Analysis & Trends — Link

  • Subscription Passes: Gaming subscriptions like Xbox Game Pass & Apple Arcade will continue to proliferate, becoming aggregators of games. It’s unclear whether this will be a net benefit for publishers, but consumers will undoubtedly have more access to games. Ultimately, this subscription revenue might eat market share away from existing battle pass options.

  • IDFA: Deprecation of IDFA and in-game ad targeting won’t actually be a bad thing; in fact, it’ll benefit consumer privacy, force studios to get more creative with traditional marketing and build a more sustainable user base (e.g hybridcasuals vs hypercasuals).

  • Cross-Geo Collaboration Increases: There will be more cross-border collaboration with China. The difficulty of regulations and ISBNs have shifted some of China’s smaller studios’ focus to global markets and higher quality productions to engage new audiences.

  • Digital Assets: NFTs and player-owned economies will make key strides in their long-term growth. Games like Blankos Block Party, Ember Sword and Skyweaver are inevitabilities vs. possibilities. Collectibles are booming. A corollary to this is that influencers and developers will leverage social tokens to facilitate in-game economies.


Deconstructor of Fun

Focus: Game Development, Mobile Gaming — Link

  • Buy, Buy, Buy: M&A increases pace in 2021. There will be more consolidation of power in larger players as a result of subscriptions (IP control), IDFA deprecation, and optics (performance on public markets/gearing to go public). As a result, big studios will have a lot more leverage, but it also leaves space for indie studios to operate outside of AAA’s purview.

  • Cross-Platform Genre Expansion: Following Genshin Impact’s success, RPGs will look cross-platform to grow revenue.

  • The Missing Piece: Puzzle games will become the top grossing genre on mobile and the hybrid casual genre will take market share away from hypercasual titles.


Niko Partners

Focus: Gaming Industry Analysis; Asia Pacific Region — Link

  • Globalization of Games: Cross-border collaborations won’t be limited to exports from China. The West will see greater penetration into China through Steam (digital distribution for PC) and consoles (Sony/Microsoft). As China regulations become more clear for both domestic and international developers (and services expand around this), a greater number of games will be imported into China.

  • Platform Diversity: While mobile is certainly the dominant mode of play in China, there will be greater platform diversity. Cross-play games will become more commonplace as developers shift to serve domestic and global markets simultaneously.

  • New Challengers: Emergent players like miHoYo, Lilith Games and Bytedance, will challenge the dominance of incumbents like Tencent, Alibaba and NetEase through hit games and key acquisitions.

  • Regions Unlocked: Singapore will solidify its standing as a regional gaming hub and Japan will get past important regulatory hurdles to nurture its esports scene, classifying it as a profession vs. gambling.


SUPERJUMP Magazine

Focus: New Age Journalism; Gamer Culture — Link

  • Games Journalism: There will be much greater pressure on games media to more thoroughly (and skeptically) interrogate pre-release content from developers. The hype train will still survive, but media outlets are likely to push back harder on devs that are promising the world without offering transparent access. This is particularly pertinent in light of the Cyberpunk 2077 debacle and crunch.

  • "Ethically-made games”: The working conditions under which a game is made will increasingly factor into previews/reviews and general coverage. Developers who lead the way on work-life balance and fair working conditions will make that a selling point for their products, and consumers are increasingly likely to pay attention to these signals.

  • Inclusivity in Games: Games will have a big reckoning with inclusivity and belonging — from hiring to funding to representation. Historically, the games industry is known to be retrograde in the audiences they cater to, and this was largely driven by monoculture teams. Conversations around diversity started happening in earnest in 2020, but will happen more radically in 2021. The discussions will also extend into content moderation, socialization (how people treat each other), and privacy in games.


VentureBeat + Newzoo

Focus: Gaming Industry Analysis; Tech Industry Analysis — Link (VB) | Link (Newzoo)

  • High Fidelity Gaming: 5G means better accessibility and distribution for playing games: mobile gaming, cloud gaming, etc.

  • IP Supremacy: IP-licensed games expand their reach. This takes many forms:

    1. Games will be ported to a variety of platforms

    2. Platforms will dig up older IP and refresh them for new platforms (e.g. Switch + NES subscription service)

    3. IP continues to penetrate popular F2P games to increase brand awareness

    4. IP is taken from existing non-gaming sources and turned into video games

  • A Fight for Fees: As a result of the Epic Vs. Apple and Huawei & Tencent feuds, we’ll see more discussion (battles?) over platform fees. What does it mean to charge 30% or 70% or have a revenue share?

  • A New Focus after IDFA: IDFA deprecation will lead to a greater emphasis on first time user onboarding to improve retention and monetization metrics. It will also more closely align cross-functional departments at a studio i.e data + art.


TouchPoint

Focus: Gaming Industry Analysis; Esports & Creators — Link

  • Valorant: Valorant will be a top five esport based on average viewership. It’s inviting and easy to understand. More competitive games will focus on simplicity and viewability to accommodate new audiences.

  • Esports Orgs: At least one esports organization will surpass a $700M valuation.

  • Peak Concurrent Viewership: The Grefg’s record (2.4 million) for peak concurrent viewers will be broken more than once.

  • Audience Participation: Rival Peak, a massive interactive live event [MILE] just hit 22 million view at 600k unique visitors. Genvid is changing the game on how games are made, consumed, and interacted with. More broadly, Twitch plugins and Discord bots are redefining what it means to “view” and “chat” with creators. I’m bullish that 2021 will see a variety of new watching and participatory experiences emerge.


Notable 2020 Trends That Persist:

  • Metaverse

  • UGC

  • Cloud Gaming

  • Social Hangouts

  • Game Engine Multifaceted Applicability

  • IP Partnerships/Virtual Live Events

  • Game Delays

  • Social & Party Game Genre


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Level 83: 2.5 Million Concurrent Viewers

TheGrefg CRUSHED the concurrent viewership stream record

Welcome to The Pause Button — a weekly gaming newsletter that curates the best content in video games.
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💡 Industry Content

Reports Galore: This week we saw the release of two key 2020 “Year In Review” Reports — one from Twitter’s Gaming Content Partnerships team, and one from data & analytics gaming firm StreamHatchet. StreamHatchet Report | Twitter Report

We highly recommend digging into both, but a few key takeaways:

  • Despite all the hype, multiple popular titles (including Among Us, Fall Guys, & Roblox) didn’t crack the Top 10 most-tweeted games of the year

  • While 30% of gaming content consumption comes from female audiences, only 2% of streamers identify as female - there’s still a large gap both spaces

  • Both YouTube & Facebook Gaming had explosive growth, with YouTube surpassing 10B hours watched and Facebook’s Q4 streaming hours doubling YoY

Breaking into Game Dev: The problem with finding opportunity in passion-driven industries like gaming is that the supply of interested candidates is massive. Entry level jobs at places like Microsoft and Nintendo are often flooded with applicants, which in turns makes it harder and harder for hiring managers to do their jobs and effectively vet and find the right person for the job. That’s why much of entry level gaming is handled by 3rd party contracting agencies. In this helpful breakdown from Katie Chironis, a Senior Game Designer @ Riot, learn about how (and why) this contracting system works, and how you can use it to find your way into games. Link

The Story with GameStop: It’s no secret that GameStop (and physical retails) has suffered during COVID and more broadly for struggling to shift to digital. And yet, their stock is up ~100% this week, they’ve added new board members, holiday sales were up, and Xbox signed a recent partnership with them. In this breakdown, Patrick O’Shaughnessy breaks down why he finds the company interesting and how they’re still making money in a digital-first era. Link


🎮 Fun & Games

A New Streaming Record: Spanish streamer TheGrefg obliterated the historical record for concurrent viewership on stream with around 2.5M viewers. He was revealing his custom Fortnite skin. Although Fortnite isn’t as mainstream as it once was, they have a knack for theatrics and events that draws millions. The achievement is also indicative of the deep dominance that Spanish Streamers bring to the industry, where only four (Two members of Dream SMP,, Ninja, and Dr. Disrespect) of the Top 15 streaming leaders not having ties to the Latin American & Spanish streaming communities.  Link

Steam — A Year In Review: When it comes to PC Gaming, there’s no platform bigger than Steam. The team behind the platform recently released their 2020 Year in Review. The highlights? Steam Showcase helped drive nearly 10M demo activations forthcoming games and Steam plans to launch in China (will this limit launch titles for US/China titles)? Link

25 Years of Pikachu: In celebration of it’s 25th anniversary, Pokemon hosted a press conference to unveil its vision for the year ahead. The plan includes new trading cards, merchandise, partnerships, and of course, video games. They also plan to host a series of “activations'' highlighting each of the games in-world regions. Even celebrities like Steve Aoki (unofficial) and Katy Perry (official) are joining in the fun.  Link


😎 Other Cool Reads

“Crafts in the Time of COVID”: In their piece about Animal Crossing, Alex Custodio explores the fraught relationship between publisher + community, community + capital. Where the publisher reserves the legal right to control third party services in games and where third party services help games flourish, the community often suffers the negative consequences of the tension -- what does it mean if the publisher suddenly changes its policies in such a way that negatively affects community? Link

From the perspective of political economy, we can also critique the way that the exchange of crafts in New Horizons is contingent on Nintendo’s platformized business model. Although videogames have been platform-dependent since their inception, the emergence of networked infrastructure has catalyzed a transformation of the larger market architecture that shapes cultural production.

Documenting Life Through Games: There seems to be a recent in games all about documentation. Pokemon Snap and Umurangi Generation are two such upcoming releases, but Season, which was teased at The Game Awards is another such example: navigating climate change by capturing the vestiges of the past. IGN | SuperJump

“Your mission of recording stuff and talking to people is how you uncover that history. There's things that are happening in the present that are important, and there are things that have happened there in the past that are important, and you're uncovering that. As much as it is like a road trip, it's more like the idea of being a stranger in a strange land and trying to understand and do something there.”

Rival Peak: In an interview with Genvid’s Jacob Novak, this article explores how Genvid pushes the boundary on interactivity in livestreams. Rival Peak is unique in that it’s not quite a video game, but more of an interactive reality show that encourages viewers to participate passively and encourages asynchronous play. Link

"What I think game developers will find is there is an entire audience that wants to have game-like interactions, but either don't have the time or the skill to understand what is going on," he says. "The opportunity to create entertainment that is not quite a video game but not quite television is going to be a massive new entertainment field. This is going to be significant. I think you will double the size of the video game industry.”


⚡ Quick Bytes

  • Hogwarts Legacy, an upcoming Harry Potter-focused RPG, has been delayed until 2022. The title is likely the first of many AAA anticipated 2021 drops that will be delayed. Link 

  • Nathan, a popular Minecraft Twitch streamer, inexplicably lost all of his 21k followers. More problems at Twitch? Link

  • Valorant released its latest character, Yuro. Valorant is budding into Riot’s next big esport, and is one of the top 10 most watched competitive titles. Link

  • Ubisoft announced it was partnering with Disney to create a new open-world Star Wars game. The announcement marks a departure for the franchise, who had previously released all Star Wars-titles via an exclusive partnership with EA. Link

  • CD Projekt’s Co-Founder released a video statement responding to the launch of Cyberpunk 2077 on last-gen consoles Link

  • Riot & Bungie are teaming up to sue the creators of cheating software for some of the world’s biggest games Link


😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

I’ve become more interested in the concept of digital hype houses, where (primarily) gamers support and nurture one another’s followership and community. When I think about how difficult it is to move up the ladder in creator platforms like Twitch and Substack, one point of success that aspirational creators always see is when creator’s uplevel each other. This can take so many forms: calls outs in a newsletter, hosting streams, playing on a Rust server together, etc. I’m especially excited to tune into Alexandra Botez’s Blockchamps this Saturday. All hosted in Minecraft. Link

Further reading: Wired dives deep into Dream SMP lore and narrative. Link

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

I mentioned a few months ago that an all-time childhood staple, Pokemon Snap, is finally getting its long deserved sequel after nearly 20 years of waiting. I’m thankful to say that its sequel, New Pokemon Snap, is not one of the casualties of the 2021 delays that many are expecting to see this year. It was announced that the game is officially dropping on April 30th of this year, only a few short months away. I’ve already made moves to secure my pre-order, and highly recommend checking it out if you like Pokemon. Link


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Level 82: Catching up on Holiday News

Nintendo acquires NLG, Work games, and Roblox's IPO

Welcome to The Pause Button — a weekly gaming newsletter that curates the best content in video games.
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💡 Industry Content

Playing While You Work: Gizmodo Founder & Venture Capitalist Peter Rojas wrote a thread about using video games to foster relationships and develop culture in the world of remote work. Reminiscent of July’s New York Times article highlighting games like GTA V to do business, Rojas notes that COVID has unearthed game design tactics that make for a satisfying team building experience. In a world that will almost certainly be partially remote for the foreseeable future, we’re interested to see how developers capitalize on the COVID-driven success of titles like Animal Crossing and Among Us to create the next generation of games. Link

Welcome Home Luigi: In what looks to be its biggest acquisition of the last ten-plus years, Nintendo acquired Luigi’s Mansion 3 developer Next Level Games. With a proven track-record of producing first party Nintendo hits like Super Mario Strikers, the purchase from the Japanese giant seems to be both offensive and defensive in nature. By buying out a proven third-party partner, Nintendo can simultaneously bolster its pool of hit-producing game developers, while ensuring the folks behind some of its best spin-off hits don’t get gobbled up by a competitor in the process. Industry analyst Daniel Ahmed breaks down the purchase, and explains how it differs from Microsoft’s recent splash buy of Bethesda. Link

Robux for All: Following the delay of their IPO late last year, Roblox announced that they had raised an additional $520M in funding. The new capital puts them at a whopping $29.5B valuation, nearly 4x the number we saw coming out of their previous round of financing. The company also said that it would forgo the traditional IPO process in favor of a “direct listing”. This is a strategy that will ideally allow the company to dodge the traditional stock “pop” seen by both Doordash and Airbnb last year.  Link

The Future of Games: The future of gaming is bright — the proliferation of technology like VR, AR, and Cloud Gaming will undoubtedly make the gaming of the future very different from the gaming of today. With all the technological advancements happening, it’s interesting to hypothesize how exactly things will shake out in 2021 and beyond. Guy Bahat breaks down three potential directions that new technology could take gaming in the future. Link


🎮 Fun & Games

Shake Off The Rust: Offlinetv’s recent launch of a streamer-only Rust server has catapulted the seven year old game back into the Twitch limelight. Pulling in nearly ~1.2M concurrent viewers, the server has already seen its fair share of drama, with DDoS attacks, infighting, and plenty of griefing. Streamer collaborations have become a key aspect of support and fun for both the streamer and viewer. Link 

YouTube’s Best Show Yet: A corollary to the Offlinetv Rust server is Dream SMP’s meteoric growth during 2020. Every creator involved in the server has seen a signifcant increase in popularity, riffing on the Speedrun genre (e.g Minecraft Manhunt) and hosting their own exclusive server. Mr. Beast kicked off 2021 by hiding $100,000 worth of gift cards in their server for a scavenger hunt. Link

  • A Bonus: Reddit thread of Dream’s SpeedRun Controversy and Removal. Link

The Indie Gems of 2020: Wired gathered all of their favorite indie titles “you may have missed in 2020”. We’re so excited about the potential for smaller development teams to continue to push the boundaries for video games and experiment beyond the purview of AAA studios, and this list shows that potential. Link


😎 Other Cool Reads

More Metaverse: In what seems to be the start of a pre-IPO press tour, Roblox CEO David Baszucki penned an essay in Wired about his optimism for the world of the gaming Metaverse in 2021. Alongside Fortnite creator Epic Games, Roblox is undoubtedly one of gaming’s frontrunners for building the “digital third-place”. We’re curious to see more Metaverse content as the company gears up for its IPO Link

Bitcoin and Digital Wine: Digital currency Bitcoin has been on a tear recently, with its peak sitting at ~40K. In this piece, Ran Mo wrote one of the most compelling arguments for Bitcoin as a store of value through an analogy to RuneScape’s “Half Jug of Wine”. Link

The ‘Half Jug’ is not valued on its ability to provide practical benefit to a player, but rather on its ability to store value. It became a bubble as soon as it became more expensive than a ‘Full Jug of Wine’ sometime in the early 2000s. Yet, almost two decades later, that bubble still has not burst. Instead, the ‘Half Jug’ became a monetary good. 

Shaping Video Game Culture: One of our favorite lookbacks from 2020 was this piece from The New York Times, highlighting seven activists, women, streamers and gamers who are changing the conversation around inclusion in gaming Link


⚡ Quick Bytes

  • Zynga’s acclaimed flash-based title, FarmVille, was shut down following Flash’s depreciation in 2021. Although not the first social game on Facebook, FarmVille was the first mainstream success for games on a social platform, ushering in a new world of free to play, live ops, data extraction, and multiplayer. Link

  • Twitch has permanently removed the famous PogChamp emote from the platform. This follows some questionable remarks by its creator in regards to the attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this week. Link

  • Microsoft announced that it plans to sunset its AR game Minecraft Earth, citing pandemic concerns. They weren’t able to adapt in the same way Niantic was with Pokemon Go. Link

  • Pokemon Go developer Niantic acquired Mayhem, a tournament and community management gaming start-up for an undisclosed amount. Link

  • Stardew Valley got its largest update to date over the holiday. Link


😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

I spent the holidays zipping through a copy of Who Are You? by Alex Custodio. I’ve been reading about video games for over a year now, but this book was seriously something special and expanded my video game worldview into thinking more about hardware through platform studies, which “investigates the relationships between the hardware and software design of computing systems and the creative works produced on those systems.” While we’ve traditionally written about software, industry and culture here at The Pause Button, Alex explores our relationship with the GameBoy Advance through media archaeology, nostalgia, modding, and lateral thinking, among other frameworks. This is an awesome read. Link

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

Fawzi is too humble to mention it, but earlier this week he secured a new role at an incredibly exciting company after a pretty intensive mid-pandemic job hunt. I have seen firsthand the amount of time and effort he has put into interviewing with some of the best companies in the world, never settling for something that wasn’t exactly what he wanted. I’ll leave the official announcement up to him, but if you get the chance, send him a DM or reply to this email to congratulate him on all of his hard work.


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Level 81: Snap, Snap, Snap

The wonderful world of games partnerships

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💡 Industry Content

Snap meets Unity: Unity partnered with Snap this week “to extend the reach of its ads and technology platform”. The move is significant because Unity powers more than 50% of all mobile games, and Snapchat — which is mobile-based — reaches 249 million daily active users. Here’s where the deal comes into play:

  • Unity developers can now leverage the Snap Audience Network (SAN) to market their mobile games

  • The Snap Kit integrations will drive social play and games discovery for Unity games

  • Users can use Snapchat to sign into games to minimize time to play, and share clips of their mobile game experience with their network (to name a few)

  • Bitmoji will be integrated into the Unity SDK to create more personalized gaming experiences

Unity reaches 22.9B ad impressions and 2B users a month and the real opportunity lies within launching marketing campaigns for their games through SAN. Snap games have reached 100M downloads since the initiatives launch in 2019, so their reach will only expand. Link

Nintendo vs. Grassroots: Nintendo stirred massive controversy earlier in November when they ordered a Cease & Desist against The Big House, a decade old Smash Bros tournament. While primarily speculation, it’s heavily implied the legal action came as a result of the tournament’s use of fan-made third party software. With peak viewership regularly landing in the hundreds of thousands, it’s not surprising to see Nintendo take control of their gaming ecosystem. Link

Crunch Time Adds Up: When you’re super passionate about a project, it can feel like time flies by as you work on it, but is going the extra mile always the right choice? In this Twitter thread creative director Kyle Kukshtel outlines the problem with working even a few extra hours each day. It’s a great lesson on the effects of exponential impact: if everyone on a 5 - 10 person team worked a couple extra hours a day for a year, the result is an output that is under forecasted by months of unaccounted work time. Link


🎮 Fun & Games

A Cyberpunk Controversy: The recent launch of the highly anticipated FPS Cyberpunk 2077 has not been going well. Since the beginning of 2020, the game has seen multiple delays, allegations of overworked, underpaid employees, and a bug riddled final product that makes even the most tolerant gamer lose patience. The final straw came on yesterday evening, when the mass influx of refund requests led Sony to pull the game from the PS4 store until further notice.  Link

Games in Discord (Again): If you used Discord back in 2017, you’ll remember the company’s failed attempt to launch a game store, an attempt to monetize a registered user base that totaled ~45M at the time. Now, the community-focused social platform is taking a second crack at games, this time with a more social spin. Details are sparse, but we’re excited to learn more about the platforms burgeoning “Social Gaming” titles, which allow players to play games like Texas Hold’em from directly within the Discord client. Link

Bitmoji Paint: Snapchat is continuing its fierce foray into games with its fourth original title, Bitmoji Paint. This is an unbelievably cool strategy: getting people’s digital avatars to interact, persist and ultimately spend more time in the app through collaborative pixel art. Sound familiar? This is a clever twist on The Million Dollar Homepage and Reddit’s collaborative art project. More broadly, Monet was recently released to facilitate dating and making friends with art. Link


😎 Other Cool Reads

How I Built This: Guy Raz of NPR’s “How I Built This” hosted Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck, the cofounders of Riot Games. Link

The two friends were so impressed by these [Warcraft III] mods that they decided to create their own multiplayer strategy game with an unusual twist: they'd offer the game for free, but charge players money for new characters or customizable clothing (or "skins"). Many investors balked at the idea, unsure that a free game—created by total novices—would generate enough revenue.

On Tobi Lutke: The CEO of Shopify, Tobi Lutke, is also an avid gamer who has famously hired former esports pros to work with him. It’s interesting to read his thoughts on how gaming can necessarily translate into the business context. Link

Also, Starcraft is not a deterministic environment… Ultimately, that is to your long term detriment. And so, you end up playing this game where, with very little attentional resources, you try to obtain the maximum amount of information that is to your unfair advantage, and then incorporate it into your game plan.

Oomba: This feature chronicles the rise and fall of the tournament platform, Oomba, how mismanagement and bad decisions can quickly turn a promising venture upside down. It explores the rampant problem of sexual harassment of in the games industry, and why this problem persists even today. Link

Falling Out of Love with Cyberpunk: “I've gone on a strange journey with Cyberpunk 2077. After an initial period of being completely besotted with its setting, Night City, the illusion suddenly shattered. It dawned on me that, while this dystopian metropolis looks incredible from a distance—especially at night when it's awash with neon—peer a little closer and the seams begin to show. And now I can't shake the feeling that it's not a convincing place, but a shallow theme park.” Link


⚡ Quick Bytes

  • Nox Archaist, a fantasy RPG game, was released for the 40-year old Apple II computer this week. Link

  • “Fortnite is following the Facebook playbook” by remaking popular game formats on its platform. The most recent iteration is The Spy Within, a social deduction game a la Among Us. Link

  • Metafy, an esports coaching platform, announced it raised a $3M seed round led by Forerunner Ventures Link

  • Polygon’s Top 50 Games of 2020. Link

  • A16z led Parsec’s Series B to power lower latency for cloud gaming and remote work. Link

  • Nibel recaps this Tuesday’s Nintendo Indie World Showcase Link


😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

My brother and I have been grinding on Valorant since the First Strike tournament a few weeks back. It’s been interesting to level up my gameplay by watching the pros play because every aspect of the map is so calculated for them. Omen shoots his cover ability in certain areas to bottleneck the opponents, or Sova shoots his arrows in the tiniest nooks and crannies to maximize visibility. This week, I’m reading up on Valorant level design, and how designers think about maps for competitive play from an artistic lens. Link

P.S Hit me up if you’d be down to play sometime!

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

On the subject of Riot Games, their VP of IP and Entertainment casually announced via Twitter last night that development has started on a Riot Games MMO. I’ll be frank, I do not play a lot of Riot’s Games, but I love the strategy behind the company, and was an absurdly dedicated World of Warcraft Player back in the mid-2000s.  Expect a write up from me on this in the future, but for now, I do not envy the marketing person who has to deal with the clean-up on this announcement. Link


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