Level 44: Lend a Helping Hand

We continue into how games are fairing during this economic crisis

✍️ Editor’s Note: Know someone who’s employment has been impacted by COVID-19? We have a few free six-month LinkedIn Premium subscriptions, and we’d love to chat/send them over. Have them shoot us an email or forward them this newsletter and let’s get in touch! 

📜 This Week’s Most Important News

It’s Time to Lend a Hand: Operating on thin profit margins in a content-rich industry means game studios are already pretty lean companies. In all but the biggest players, studios are usually leveraging every resource they have to bring their next game to market. This is, in part, why we hear so often about “crunch”, when game companies put enormous stress on their limited staff to produce at an unreasonably high level. But when the limited resources to hire these employees goes away, studios are forced to abandon projects and lay off people en mass. 

Over the last week we’ve heard many stories, from indie devs to big publisher employees, of how employment has been impacted by COVID-19. One recently unemployed creative showed us this Google Doc where recently unemployed game creatives could submit their info for review. The document currently has info from nearly 800 people from all types of backgrounds. One individual has nearly 20 years of experience in gaming, and still has been impacted by this economic crisis. 

Gaming is a resilient industry. Let’s look after one another.

💡 Industry Content

An Apple A Day Keeps Everyone Away: It’s a known fact that Apple imposes stricter limits on the type of software and apps that users can access on its devices, games included. This is competitive advantage at its finest: although Android is on 2.5x more devices, Apple claims over half of the $62 billion spent on mobile games. With the launch of cloud gaming services like xCloud and Stadia on mobile, Apple announced the a few ground rules:

  1. No Cloud Streaming Platforms on iOS

  2. No Single Apps with Playable Catalogs (like a Netflix for games) on iOS

  3. No Third Party Titles on iOS

Most of their stance is built on protecting their in-house game division, led by subscription service Apple Arcade. It has left developers in a bind. Apple can provide so much reach and distribution for a dev, but the restrictions are limiting. Link

Learning with Minecraft: Responding to concerns that remote learning from school isn’t fiscally and technically possible, Microsoft is opening up a free remote learning toolkit for Minecraft. Given the game’s universal love across all ages, and highly customizable nature, Minecraft creates the perfect playground for students to explore a variety of subjects. Coupled with Microsoft’s reach, this is a cool way that video games are addressing the education gap and bringing positive impact in a time of dynamic change. Link

🎮 Fun & Games

Stay @ Home & Game: People across the gaming industry are encouraging folks to stay home amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic and play video games to pass the time. Everyone from content creators to game studios are encouraging us to play more. Us lucky consumers are even getting a few deals in the process, here are a few of the best savings that are still up for grabs:

  • GOG is giving away 27 free PC Games Link

  • Itch.io has tons of games to help you stay inside (most of which are free) Link

  • 2game has every Doom game (besides the most recent one) @ 70% Off, plus a few other deals Link

Finally, Some Answers from Valve: Valve’s newest title, Half-Life:Alyx, launched this week for all VR platforms. Unsurprisingly, it’s a really good game. What is surprising, however, is the transparency we’re seeing from Valve as they make their return to game creation. IGN has an exclusive scoop on some questions we’ve all wanted to know the answers to for a long long time (and yes, they do explain why they never made Half-Life 2: Episode 3) Link

Return to Animal Crossing: Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the franchise’s most recent entry, was released this week, and it's good. We’re loving the ability to mold your island with new tools, leading many players to completely design their land’s aesthetic from the ground up. As it continues to break record sales in the US and Japan, Nintendo announced they will be updating the game post-launch and people are having fun toying around with its core functionalities. We especially loved Launcher.gg’s review and are excited for its upcoming multiplayer mode. Link

😎 Other Cool Stuff

We Found Friends in a Hopeless Place: Now, more than ever, people are turning to video games to bridge what feels like an insurmountable distance.. It’s exciting to see people understand the way games can bridge the gap when physical distance is impossible to pass, and people are getting creative with it. The NYT weighs in on why now is the perfect time for all of us to gaming (and why we shouldn’t feel bad about it either). Link

Escape the Gulag: Call of Duty: Warzone continues to soar in usage, breaking 30M users this week. After getting our first few Ws, we found this guide helpful if you find yourself in the game’s 1v1 respawn battle, The Gulag. Sending a friend this guide might be a nice way to politely tell someone to “get good” (looking at you Fawzi) Link

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