Level ∞: Our Next Chapter

Looking ahead to the future of The Pause Button

✍️ Letter From the Editors

Dear Readers,

When we first started writing The Pause Button almost two years ago, we had one goal in mind — learn more about video games.  

Since then we’ve learned about Google’s attempts to try and invade the gaming market. We’ve learned about what happens when a major streaming platform shuts down after millions of dollars of investment. We’ve learned about how resilient and connective gaming communities can be during a global pandemic.

While this newsletter may have started as a passion project, it has grown to be so much more: a community that exchanges stories and learnings, and shares a mutual appreciation for games.

We titled this edition level infinity because it implies continuity rather than finality. We’re excited to announce that we are joining the team at Naavik, the company behind Master The Meta, gaming’s #1 industry-focused newsletter. 

Why Master The Meta?

When we first connected with the team behind Master the Meta in early 2020, it was clear they were thinking about scaling a gaming publication in a way that mirrored our own aspirations. Naavik’s co-founders, Aaron & Manyu, live and breathe games, and are producing quality industry-specific content that can’t be found anywhere else.

What makes Master the Meta so special is how serious they are about games — the team has helped countless gaming organizations rebuild their business from the ground up, all while producing case studies, analyses, and content that makes the business of games easy to digest and follow. 

Partnering with Master the Meta will also give us time to experiment with new aspects of community-building. As part of the newsletter’s content team, we’ll help them scale their weekly content while exploring other editorial goals we haven’t necessarily had the time for. Things like helping manage Discord servers and producing more long-form content. 

Subscribe to Master The Meta

What Happens Now?

In the coming week(s), existing Pause Button readers will be moved over to Master the Meta’s newsletter. It’s a lot like what we’re doing today, but with a more industry-focused spin.

If you happen to be reading this announcement but aren’t subscribed to The Pause Button yet, feel free to go take a look at Master the Meta instead. We know you’ll be excited about what’s in store.

As is always the case, feel free to reach out to either of us on Twitter (Fawzi or Max) or our email if you have any questions or concerns. 

To New Beginnings

When we nostalgically look back at some of our earliest issues, we can’t help but laugh. Fortnite was just hitting peak popularity, Detective Pikachu was making waves in theaters, and games were increasingly becoming a cornerstone of mainstream media. It’s crazy how far it has all come.

While our name will change and the newsletter will look different, one thing that will remain consistent is a passion for video games. We’ll continue to curate and write about the best gaming content as always.

Thank you to all of you who joined us for the first chapter. We’re so excited for this next journey with you.

Game On,
Fawzi & Max

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P.S. A special thank you to Abby, Emily, Michelle, Ben, Patrick, Ian, David, Allie, and our many family and friends for your generous time, for two years of late-night editing and last-minute calls, and for being day one fans. We couldn’t have done it without you ❤️

Level 92: Sony's FGC Takeover

The biggest fighting-gaming tournament in the world is now owned by Sony

Welcome to The Pause Button — a weekly gaming newsletter that curates the best content in video games.
To receive this newsletter in your inbox weekly, consider subscribing if you haven’t already.


💡 Industry Content

ByteDance’s Gaming Expansion: In the last twelve months, Chinese media company ByteDance, the parent of short-form video app TikTok, has grown its gaming team to nearly 3,000 people, a 3x increase from last year. The move comes on the back of a hallmark year for China’s gaming ecosystem, as the industry topped $40 billion in 2020 alone. But with perennial giants NetEase and Tencent looming, even 3,000 people might not be enough to bankroll the company’s ambitions. In this piece, TechCrunch breaks down ByteDance’s big gamble, and explores what little opportunity they might have when staring down some of China’s most formidable foes. Link

Activision’s Layoffs: Activision Blizzard fired dozens of people on Wednesday amidst a shift away from live events and esports programming. Among other severance benefits, employees were given a $200 gift card to Battle.net, Blizzard’s proprietary online game service. For reference, Activision’s CEO Bobby Kotick made over $200 million last year due to stock based incentives. You think the company could spare a bit more than a gift card. Link

The Genesis of an Esports Org: Team Liquid is one of esport’s most famous organizations. Boasting a storied history in multiple games, multi-year rivalries with the likes of TSM and Cloud9, and a staff of over 150 full-time employees, Liquid is undoubtedly one of gaming’s biggest pioneers. Now, they’re turning their attention towards their biggest supporters with Liquid+, a subscription service focused on getting fans closer to the action. Gaming newsletter Master The Meta sat down with Liquid co-CEO Steve Arhancet to discuss the company’s plan for the subscription service and other wide ranging topics in the world of esports. Link


🎮 Fun & Games

Evo x Sony: Sony is now a part-owner of the world fighting game tournament series, Evo. According to journalist Stephen Totilo, Evo will likely open its doors to other platforms and titles despite the acquisition, as games like Super Smash Bros. have historically drawn in the most tournament attendees. It’s interesting to note that consoles are the platform of choice for fighting game esports tournaments. While esports as a whole largely remains a growth area for console gaming, fighting game players logged more than 1.1B hours in 2020 on PlayStation alone. Sony will take a platform-focused approach to building out this ecosystem for competitive gaming. Link

A Free Games Bonanza: Sony & Microsoft are well aware that the end of winter means less time indoors playing games. Luckily for consumers, both console producers are giving away games in droves to try and keep us glued to our couches in the coming months. This week Xbox announced it would be expanding EA Play, its 60+ game partnership with EA, to all Game Pass PC members. Not to be outdone, Sony announced a new slate of free VR, indie, and AAA titles as part of its COVID-19 related Play at Home campaign. The lineup includes hits like Horizon Zero Dawn, Enter the Gungeon, and Subnautica. It’s a good time to get some free stuff, make sure you check it out while you can! Full List of EA Play Titles | Full List of Playstation’s Play at Home Titles

The Long Path to A Short Hike: Last fall, we spent hours immersed in A Short Hike, a small indie title that had launched on the Switch which lets players... go on a short hike. The game itself is deceptively engaging, relying on open-world exploration, witty dialogue, and an immersive sound track to create one of the most relaxing gaming experiences we’ve ever played. The game’s solo developer Adam Robinson-Yu sat down with UK outlet MCV to discuss how a bout of burn-out and some time outdoors inspired him to build what was one of 2019’s biggest indie hits. Link


😎 Other Cool Reads

NFT Play-to-Earn: Last week we included a link to a step-by-step guide on how to play the popular NFT title, Axie Infinity (disclaimer: it’s quite hard to set up compared to other games). We did some more digging and stumbled across a feature on how Filipinos are using currency exchanges and in-game items to generate a recurring salary. People in the Philippines are often taking work in other countries like Japan or the Middle East to send back remittances to family. Reading this got us excited about all the killer use cases for NFTs, collectables, and games for the economy. Link

Dizon said it’s not easy to succeed in the world of blockchain games. He has seen many try and fail in the last couple of years, noting that it’s hard to keep an audience engaged in any game. But in the Philippines, Axie has hit a nerve by becoming a viable means for making a living and spurring viral growth through word of mouth referrals. Especially during COVID-19, Dizon has seen more and more Filipinos popping up in their Discord channel, wanting to know: How do I get started? How do I play?

For Worse, Barging Your Way In: “Joshua Mullins told associates he was a multi-billionaire esports investor. In reality, he was a small town kid with a passion for gaming and a knack for forgery.” Jacob Wolf released a feature exploring the story of a teenager embroiled in one of the industry’s biggest controversies. An industrious 17-year old, Mullins went from building a successful Minecraft services company to multiple counts of felony forgery in just a few years. The story is as wild as it sounds, check it out. Link


⚡ Quick Bytes

  • 100 Thieves dropped an Air Jordan collab to celebrate their Valorant Strike championship Link

  • Polygon released a follow-up to last week’s Black Market Neopets article (Spoilers: it’s even crazier than we realized) Link

  • A16Z’s Jon Lai penned a Twitter thread on the distinction between building an app with game-like features vs. gamification. Link

  • “Mario Kart 64: The Quest for World Record Perfection.” Link

  • The new Among Us map is being released on March 31st Link

  • Fellow gaming newsletter Weekly.gg was acquired by esports media company Dexerto - the newsletter will continue to operate as a subsidiary of the organization Link

  • A graphic depicting the role of a LiveOps person and what they should know in the world of gaming. Link


😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

“The Habibis is three game developers drinking some good Arab Tea for what should be about forty minutes, inshallah, each week, inshallah. Fawzi Mesmar, Osama Dorias, and Rami Ismail discuss games, media, and life as a bunch of Arabs living all over the big world.”

This is maybe the best podcast I’ve ever seen, and there’s even a dude named Fawzi! Link

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

I’ve written about it before, but I’m a big fan of professional development. Every job I’ve gotten has been through some kind of outreach or connection, and it's important to me to try and help others find those same types of opportunities. 

With that in mind, I’m excited to be working with the gameHERs to hold a session on professional development & LinkedIn next week on Twitch. The gameHERs are one of my favorite groups to partner with, as they’ve always taken an authentic and effective approach to amplifying the voices of women, non-binary, and femme-identifying people in games. If you’re interested in brushing up on your LinkedIn tips, or having a 1:1 resume review, feel free to check out the event! Link


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Level 91: Roblox Levels-up

The long awaited IPO arrives

Welcome to The Pause Button — a weekly gaming newsletter that curates the best content in video games.
To receive this newsletter in your inbox weekly, consider subscribing if you haven’t already.


💡 Industry Content

Roblox IPO: At long last, Roblox IPO’d! As Venturebeat’s Dean Takahashi notes, “At its $45 billion valuation, Roblox is worth more than: Take-Two Interactive ($18.98 billion), Unity ($27.76 billion), Ubisoft ($8 billion), Electronic Arts ($37.4 billion), Square Enix ($6.6 billion), and Zynga ($10.7 billion).” There’s a lot of good literature, here’s the roundup:

  • An informative look at Roblox’s valuation and funding over time comes from First Round. A takeaway here is that inflection points and net IRR can necessarily be more productive (in terms of time) than an early investment. Link

  • “Gamefam aims to be the first big gaming company built on Roblox” reports on the nature of building a venture-scalable games studio on Roblox. Link

  • An Index Ventures retrospective: “Roblox is probably the greatest contemporary example of a founder taking a very long view and never – not for a millisecond – doubting the relevance of the ultimate vision as they patiently build the broad foundation to underpin it.” Link

  • The Generalist released an S-1 analysis of Roblox prior to the actual IPO. Link

  • Perhaps our favorite read on Roblox this week comes from Ben Thompson’s Stratechery:

That [interoperability] is actually a benefit: by controlling everything Roblox can bring all of the disparate parts of gaming into one place; instead of one app for social interactions, another app for purchases, and a different app for every different game, everything is all in the same place. This also makes Roblox easier to develop for: by constraining graphics to a consistent toolbox it is very easy to build something new… The responsibility of those foundational platforms is to give room to let these microverses flourish, without legislating or taxing them to death.

Facebook’s VR Gamble: Mark Zuckerberg is a huge fan of VR. Since purchasing Oculus back in 2014, Zuck & Co. have publicly stated multiple times that they see VR/AR as the future of social interactions: a world where planes, trains, and cars are secondary to picking up your favorite headset and teleporting into the living room of a close friend. Facebook now employees over 10,000 (!!!) people in its VR/AR division. FB Horizon anyone? Link ($)


🎮 Fun & Games

The Future of Movie Games: In our 2021 Gaming predictions piece, we wrote about the triumphant return of movie video games. Movies are a wealth of well-known IP that fans are willing to spend money on. Much of cinema’s best franchises have been locked in exclusive deals with companies like EA for years, but things are seemingly starting to change. In the first three months of 2021 we’ve already seen the announcement of gaming reboots for 007, Indiana Jones and Star Wars. In this piece from Washington Post, explore the history of licensed video games, and learn why the stewards of some of the world’s greatest characters are finally turning back to gaming to unlock new revenue. Link

Miko — VTubing’s Latest Star: Gaming is built on the idea of digital representation, so taking it one step further via streaming feels like a natural next step. Dubbed VTubing, the expansion of this digital-first wave of content creators has blown up in 2020, and at the front of the pack is Miko. An unapologetically brash and awkwardly direct character, Miko is one of the most interesting creators to come out of Twitch since the likes of Dr. Disrespect. Kotaku sat down with the creator behind Miko to learn more about she’s turned one of the internet’s weirder characters into an early candidate for one of the fastest growing creators of 2021. Link


😎 Other Cool Reads

A Game About Growing Rice: Have you ever come away from a video game so inspired to participate in the activity portrayed in the game? Fighting ninjas, eating donuts, or in this author’s case, growing and cooking rice. The author’s description of her embodied experience with rice after playing the game — sifting through its grains, understanding its consistency, their appreciation of the first bite — was so relatable and fun. Link

I actively enjoy how rice sounds, smells, and tastes the whole way through (seriously, playing this game while the aroma of steaming rice wafts from the kitchen, anticipating dinner, is the only way to play), and the whole experience has thoroughly reinvigorated my love for rice in all its varieties and forms.

Zelda & Meditation: The first time we saw the trailer for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, we were hooked. The game’s open world promised hours of adventure and hundreds of interesting and unique locations to explore. This piece explores how Zelda’s encapsulating world has helped her become more present in her own life, and how gaming’s escapism is tackling modern day issues of mindfulness and mental health. Link

The NeoPet’s Black Market: NeoPets was one of browser-gaming’s first big hits. In it’s 10+ years of existence, the game has maintained a steady base of thousands of users, despite changing ownership multiple times in the same time period. But underneath the game's colorful exterior and bright sprites lies something much more complex. An interwoven economy centered around meticulous trading, hacked accounts, and old-school designs. Link


⚡ Quick Bytes

  • Discord tripled revenue to $130M in 2020. Link ($)

  • League of Legends: Wild Rift kicks off its open beta in NA on March 29. Link

  • Epic Games acquired RealityCapture, a 3D Software company focused on scanning the real world into games Link

  • Buying into the NFT hype? Here’s how Axie Infinity, a popular crypto title, can be played. Given how persistent and social gaming can be, it’s a bright spot for NFTs’ long term potential. Link

  • “The Future’s Biggest Stars are Born on Twitch”. Link

  • Cathode Ray City is an NFT that was created out of a hardware-corrupted digital painting in Mario Paint. Link


😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

I came across Yu-Kai Chou’s Gamification & Behavioral Design framework this week. It’s quite complicated to sift through, but the basic concept is to gamify aspects of your life so you become better at them over time and it life feels like more of a game: fun. I’m interested in phasing this into my life, putting it into practice over time to motivate me to do certain things. Has anybody tried it?

In other news, I finished up a game called Donut County. It’s whimsical and colorful with a lot of creatively comedic dialogue (and honking, if I might add!). I’m such a sucker for these types of games.

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

A few years ago I discovered Welcome to My Life, a pilot for one of the most interesting pieces of animation I had ever seen. I learned that the piece was created by Elizabeth Ito, an 15-year animation vet who's worked on some of Cartoon Network's best series, including Steven Universe and Adventure Time.

Last week was the official launch of Ito’s first fully direct show on Netflix, City of Ghosts, and its amazing. After thirty minutes of watching my girlfriend and I had to force ourselves to stop watching in order to savor the show’s remaining few episodes. Ito has a style that is unique in so many aspects — its focus on representation, its art-style, its choice of music. If you’re at all interested in animation as an art form, or just like watching silly and fun cartoons, definitely check it out. Link


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Level 90: An Acquisition of Epic Proportions

Fall Guys + Epic Games level up together

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

Epicly Falling: This week Epic Games bought Tonic Games, the owner and developer behind Fall Guys. Indie games studios are killing it.

We’ve written previously how Fall Guys’ fell short on expectations, struggling to follow through on its breakout success to support users at scale (7 million copies sold on Steam + more as they port to new devices). Despite this, it still feels like Fall Guys — and perhaps more broadly the party genre with games like Among Us — has the ability to become a self-sustaining platforms in own right. Fall Guys (a social hangout) and Epic (games infrastructure) are a great synergy.

Epic is no stranger to games company acquisitions. Rocket League became wildly more successful when Epic supported a transition to a free-to-play model, enabled cross-platform, and then distributed it through the Epic Games Store. There’s a world in which Epic also does this for Fall Guys, leveraging Houseparty and MetaHuman Creator to make the game feel more like a hangout. In this way, Epic becomes more and more of a media company, nurturing its flywheel: attracting and retaining people to their media ecosystem.

Ultimately, what Epic Games did was acquire a development studio in Mediatonic, which famously made around 130 games before Fall Guys. There’s deep expertise in development, shipment and partnership within the games ecosystem that they can learn from. Better yet, there’s a familiarity with the new social genre of games that emphasizes hangouts over play (and a dope community manager as well). Big things to come from this partnership. Link

Rec Room’s Progress: A UGC competitor to Roblox, Rec Room is making quick strides in the user-generated content space with over two million creators. In a conversation with a few friends while trying out the title, we noted that there’s probably a higher creator to player ratio — a function of just how easy Rec Room makes it to create games. What separates it from other UGC-led companies like Roblox is its unique integration with VR and depth of UGC tools. The company’s CEO Shawn Whiting says they’ll pay out $1 million to creators this year, but we’re excited to monitor their progress as they role our more robust creator compensation structures.. Link

Free Fire: The Garena: Free Fire metrics from Sea Limited’s 2020 report are too good not to highlight: globally, it was the most downloaded mobile game, esports mobile game of the year, and ranked third in most YouTube views (72B). Did we mention it was also the highest grossing mobile game in LATAM, SEA, and India? Link


🎮 Fun & Games

A Promising Pokemon Game: In celebration of their 25th anniversary, Pokemon announced a slew of news late last week, including a 3D remake of the mid-2000s classics Pokemon Diamond & Pearl. However, the trailer that caught people’s attention was Pokemon Legends: Arceus, an odd sort of open-world title that looks like a mix between Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild and some of Pokemon’s more old school hits. 

The implications behind the title are promising: Pokemon is understanding how to combine fan feedback with IP and popular game mechanics. Borrowing an art-style and world-map from Zelda — while keeping core mechanics true to the original franchise — is exactly the kind of innovation that a series like Pokemon needs. Imagine a turn-based Zelda title inspired by Earthbound, or a three dimensional Mario Odyssey-esque Kirby game. Nintendo’s biggest strength is that it has so many opportunities to figure out what fans want because it releases so many games. Is this the first step toward a more innovative Nintendo?   Link

The Never Ending Search: Since its launch late last year, it has been obscenely difficult to get a Playstation 5. Primarily driven by microprocessor shortages and remote production issues, communities of hundreds of thousands of fans rabid to buy the $500 console have sprung up on platforms like Discord, Reddit, and Twitter. In this feature from Polygon, explore the sub-culture that has developed around getting Sony’s newest drop, and how some gaming fans are banding together to find new and creative solutions to the PS5 Problem. Link

Persona 5 & The Definition of Cool: Persona 5 oozes coolness. It has a soundtrack that’s good for any occasion, an art style that is impossible to replicate, and a story that, at one point, brought us to tears. Much of the game’s artistic success is in part due to its reliance on traditional anti-establishment themes — fighting “against the man” is literally the game’s story in a nutshell. In this piece from Medium’s SuperJump magazine, author Geoffrey Bunting explores how the Persona series took inspiration from ground breaking art forms to help it grow from your standard JRPG to one of gaming’s coolest titles. Link


😎 Other Cool Reads

Coding Blackness: Since the earliest days of gaming, black culture has been an integral part of defining the medium’s direction and style. The benefit (and drawback) of games as a concept is that they are so effective at portraying the world’s they build — complex, interactive spaces that represent class, race, and gender. But when developers don’t take a thoughtful approach to their in-game worlds and characters, representation can be weaponized to create prejudice and offensive content. Rico Norwood dives deep into gaming’s complex past with Black representation, and highlights how games like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales are changing the narrative. Link

Yakuza, Life, and Cigarettes: Toshihiro Nagoshi has worked on lots of good video games. Since starting at Sega on a whim back in the 1980s, Nagoshi has left his impact on some of Japan’s most famous series, including Shenmu and Virtua Fighter. Best known for leading up the always silly Yakuza series, Nagoshi is the personification of our favorite game creators: one part artist, one part storyteller, and one part business leader. Nagoshi discusses how he turned from a poor child growing up in rural Japan to one of the country’s most influential game directors Link

“Forget PlayStations, we want a PlantainStation”: If you saw the banana memes this week and wondered what they were all about, well, Sony dropped a patent of new controller tech that eerily resembles a banana. On a more serious note: we love Gamesindustry.biz’s patent drop issues because it gives in-depth looks into the problems larger games companies are interested in investigating. In this case, more ergonomic controllers. Link

"It would be desirable if a user could use an inexpensive, simple and non-electronic device as a video game peripheral," the application reads. "The present disclosure seeks to address or at least alleviate some of the above-identified problems”… There's also a nice section on a "Two-Object Controller," which instantly translates to us as, "Yes, you can dual-wield bananas."


⚡ Quick Bytes

  • D&D is having its open-world 3D video game moment. Link

  • A review for Backbone, the hand-held mobile controller, and its performance on remote PS5/Xbox play via iPhone Link

  • Niantic announced it’s testing Pokemon Go on Microsoft’s HoloLens Link

  • Nintendo is reportedly planning a new Switch model with a larger display, according to Bloomberg Link

  • Call of Duty: Warzone had a leak that may suggest a free-to-play Sandbox mode is coming in the future. Link

  • A leaked trailer for Elden Ring, the newest title. Link

  • Playstation is removing the ability to buy and rent TV shows & movies as consumers increasingly shift spend over to streaming services. Link


😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

I’ve been shamelessly downloading individual images from the crowdsourced Johto Redrawn Pokemon project, a fan-led art collective with the goal of redrawing the entire Johto region. It was completed just before Pokemon’s 25th anniversary last week and the end result is sooo dope. If you have the chance, I recommend taking the tour and giving the artists a follow on Twitter. Link

Also, I was thinking this week that there should be a dedicated marketplace specifically for minting pixel art in games as NFTs. I’m constantly annoying Max with how much I love pixel art, their dedicated communities on Twitter/other platforms, but I figure this could be a robust way for indie developers to crowdfund their game, keep fans up to date on progress, and drive tangible value through fan engagement. Does anyone know someone building this? Or have any interest?

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

Last week I learned that Weekly.gg, one of my favorite video game newsletters, was shutting down following its 90th issue. I still remember the first time Fawzi and I found Weekly, we were enthralled by it’s interesting growth tactics and stylish branding. The creator behind Weekly, a videographer with an esports background named Franco Rivas, is one of the most honest and cool creators I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. If you work in gaming, esports, or even traditional media and are on the hunt for a stellar producer or video expert, let me know I’d be happy to put you in touch with him. Franco’s Twitter | Franco’s 2020 Reel


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Level 89: [Shop] Gamer Tag

There's a rebellion brewing somewhere on Yavin (aka Toronto)

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

Shopify Rebellion: Shopify launched an esports team to compete in Starcraft II. We’ve been wondering what they were up to ever since they posted their first gaming-specific hire on their jobs page a few months back. It’s no secret that their CEO Tobi Lutke is a big games fan. This is such an interesting tidbit of news on a few fronts:

  • Shopify is the first major retailer to fund their own esports team rather than pay for advertisements.

  • Virality is an inherent part of gaming and esports. If successful, the positive feedback loop that this will generate could be massive for Shopify in certain demographics.

  • If pulled off correctly, Shopify Rebellion will be the de facto case studio for Shopify’s effectiveness in gaming e-commerce. They’re building their own set of brand champions.

The ethos of the team “Shopify Rebellion” so aptly fits the nature of Shopify, which is to prop up the future of small to medium businesses. We’re excited to see where this goes. Link

“With that comes a fan base that is more invested, more passionate, and more savvy than fans of other popular entertainment. I believe the only way to truly understand esports and it’s subcultures is to actively engage in it.” -- Dario Wünsch

Lots of PlayStation News:  Earlier this week GQ sat down with Playstation head honcho Jim Ryan to chat about the future of PS VR, the PlayStation 5, and free video games. There is a lot of goodness to get through in this one, but a couple of key headlines:

  • Sony has seemingly shifted their stance on releasing games via PC, and is looking to expand their non-console library — it’s a good idea that will effectively help classic IP reach a new audience, so expect to see some movement here.

  • There are multiple problems getting in the way of Sony meeting PS5 demand, including a semiconductors shortage, a fully virtual console production process, and a crazy amount of demand.

  • Sony is seemingly going all-in on PS VR as the flagship peripheral for its next-generation console. It seems as though the company believes that re-releasing old classics via VR is the best way to double-dip on revenue in a time where game production costs keep increasing.

All the above lend themselves to the idea that Sony is seeing how tough it is to make good IP on a quick, consistent basis. If platforms like PC Gaming and VR can keep fans happy while they wait for the new Horizon or God of War or Elden Ring title(s), then by all means the company should keep investing. Link

HP x HyperX: HP announced this week that it strategically acquired HyperX for $425M to boost its gaming peripherals offering, which has seen outsized demand due to remote work and COVID’s boon to gaming. The Verge reports, “HP has been making strides to enter the gaming peripheral space for the last several years under the Omen brand, but it has not gained much traction compared to competitors such as Corsair, Logitech, and Razer.” Link


🎮 Fun & Games

The Other Gaming Short Squeeze: We’ve previously written about EVE Online, the 18-year-old game so big that its monthly active user base surpasses the population of Iceland. What we haven’t written about is the economics inside EVE, which has developed so much since the game’s inception that its closest comparison is the NASDAQ. With all the recent GameStop stock drama, EVE developer CCP Games, sat down with The Gamer to discuss a very similar short squeeze scenario that happened in-game nearly a year ago. The ups and downs of what became a full-blown in-game economic crisis are just as interesting as what’s happening IRL today. Link

The Full Story of Chess.com: Numerous companies and websites have popped up to try and capitalize on chess, one of history’s most famous activities, but none have done so nearly as well as Chess.com. Owning nearly 70% of the entire online chess market, Chess.com has been the driving force for the sport’s resurgence during COVID-19. In this piece from Protocol, dive deeper into the business behind digital Chess and how one of the world’s oldest activities became one of Twitch’s hits. Link


😎 Other Cool Reads

Gaming’s Virtual Influencers: Khee Hoon Chan’s latest examines the behind-the-scenes impact and development of virtual influencers. Particularly in gaming (e.g Riot’s K/DA), there is a sense that success can and should be defined by their out-of-game impact. Brand, storytelling, these factors all matter. But contrast this with Frog Detective, which is the “eponymous hero” of his own adventure game, and whose Twitter account is run by the developers as a “friendly blank slate” to tweet whatever they want. Both necessarily extend a game’s brand but have very different, and potent, ways of doing so. Link

Live Evil: An in-depth interview with CEO of esports company Evil Geniuses, Nicole LaPointe Jameson. Link

You can’t operate player salaries that look akin to pro athlete salaries. [They] are not sustained on esports-level sponsorships today. So we really focused on bringing peripheral revenue streams into the business to support what we do but that also don’t deprecate from the core product of who we are. And how that’s manifested is, of course, the entertainment side of [the] house.

We’ve also developed deep collegiate and education platforms — how to bridge the world of gaming, how to make gaming accessible to different audiences — as well as data analytics and even fantasy embedding products. So we’ve been able to pull in things using our core athletics platforms to really help self-sustain the business in the past two years to keep the esports product alive but keep the lights on at the same time.”

What is the Value of Game Pass?: We loved this deep-dive into subscription services for games because it raises important questions on the long-term sustainability of the offering for both publisher and distributor, consumer and service. It also defines Game Pass as a curation as opposed to necessarily a bundled offering, which was a refreshing perspective considering The Pause Button’s mandate around curation: help people find games to play and help people make games. Link


⚡ Quick Bytes

  • Luxury retro gaming is back with Analogue opening up orders for its coveted Pocket. It’s hard to get anything in stock these days, isn’t it? Link

  • Youtube’s quarterly revenue surpassed Netflix’s, making the biggest streaming platform, Link

  • Roblox’s most popular server, Adopt Me, hit 20B lifetime visits. Link

  • Indie favorite Stardew Valley is firing on all cylinders and recently released a board game. Link

  • “The Rise, Fall and Resonance of ESPN Esports.” Link

  • CD Projekt Red has officially delayed the release of February's Cyberpunk 2077 patch following a ransomware attack on the studio earlier this month. Link

  • Zynga ventures out of mobile to the Nintendo Switch with its latest title, Star Wars Hunters. Link

  • How Rival Peak heralded a new form of storytelling and streaming. Link

  • The latest indie early access hit, Valheim, reached three million purchases (and counting). Link

  • The bull thesis for the Oculus Quest 2. Link


😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

How cool is it that Control is on Xbox Game Pass and PS+ 👀? Numerous award nominations and selections (including best game art direction) later, I’ve finally gotten around to playing it. It’s embarrassing to say, but I haven’t played a narrative RPG in so long and this is a refreshing reminder that the genre is exciting and fun on many fronts. Have you played it?

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

My favorite game of all time is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. A mixture of nostalgia and a love for RPGs has pretty much cemented the franchise as a must-buy for me for the rest of my life at this point —-which is why I’ve been delighted to see the coverage of the series' 35th anniversary the last few weeks. My favorite piece was this one from Inverse, which highlights 18 industry leaders’ memories, stories, and love for any and everything Zelda. Now if we could just get that Breath of The Wild sequel… Link


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