Level 76: Election Season!

Games and reading gave us a much needed respite

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💡 Industry Content

Donation Cap: Pokimane announced a $5 cap for donations on her stream. This is a super interesting move for a couple reasons. On one hand, Twitch’s DNA is deeply steeped in donation culture. It’s how a myriad of streamers kept themselves afloat through a dedicated fan base over time and built up a following. Arguably, Twitch helped build and popularize donation culture for a variety of content creators; so will donation culture begin to fade with an announcement like this? On the other hand, Pokimane has reached a point in her career where donations don’t make monetary sense; that is, donations are best meant to support people in their careers who aren’t necessarily given the same outlet and contracts as top streamers. Link

(editor’s note: CourageJD is one of my favorite content creators. I still remember how Mr. Beast helped push his career forward through the viral Fortnite stream and donation)

Publishers Becoming Studios: Annapurna Interactive — the publisher behind hit titles like Outer Wilds and Sayonara Wild Hearts — is putting together an internal studio. Publishers (like VC incubators for games) like Annapurna, Devolver Digital, and Raw Fury are showing that you can be selectively ambitious and successful with the developers you work with, leading to hit indie titles. We expect to see more of these multi-title publishers dive into actual game development. Consumers trust the brand. Link

Esports in Discord: Discord isn’t just a place for friends to hang out and play games, it’s also a rich API ecosystem filled with bots that entrepreneurs develop to give the platform more functionality. One obvious function is esports. This VentureBeat article examines a few notable examples of esports bots that were built and scaled on Discord: Guilded (now a standalone platform), Game.tv (for mobile esports), and Esports One (fantasy esports). Link

🎮 Fun & Games

Vintage Japanese Games: Project EGG is a virtual console project and database for vintage Japanese PC games. h/o to Samuel Messner for finding this one! Link

The Father of Xbox: With a new generation of consoles days away, now is the perfect time to look back and reminisce and what brought us to this point. After last week’s viral tweet about 4500 year old bread, Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley sat down and did a great interview with Substack publication MachinePix to reminisce about the birth of the console and navigating the politics of Microsoft in the early days of console gaming. Link

An Uncomfortable Past: In 1992, developer MECC was hot off the success of their recent education focused classic Oregon Trail. Eager to create another smash hit, MECC turned to another major era in American history: the period of rampant slavery and racism in the antebellum south. The story of the game released, Freedom!, is one of quick backpedalling, racial stereotypes, and a disappointing drive for revenue that is undoubtedly one of the worst follow-up releases in gaming history. Link

😎 Other Cool Reads

The J Balvin’s Digital Concert: The NYT wrote a behind-the-scenes look on how J Balvin prepared his recent digital concert in Fortnite. Digital concerts are proliferating in popularity during COVID, and this was a look into the tech and process driving the show. Link

Further Reading: 

  • Matthew Ball on Audio and Digital Concerts Link

  • How the Mandalorian was shot in a game engine Link

Gaming is Art: The interactive nature of video games has a natural synergy with art. Built on a rapidly developing culture of hardware and software, games are quickly becoming cutting edge when it comes to new ways of expression. This breakdown explores some of the simplest ways — including digital galleries and historic hardware — that we’re already seeing gaming and museums intersect in popular culture. Link

“Next-Gen Gaming is an Environmental Nightmare”: Cloud gaming is sexy and alluring, but it’s not all fun and games. Data centers and console chips are huge environmental hazards and the big companies haven’t yet mitigated these harmful effects on the environment. Microsoft announced they’ll be carbon-negative by 2030 and Sony by 2050, but “US gaming platforms represent 34 terawatt-hours a year in energy usage—more than the entire state of West Virginia.” How can we bring more accountability to the systems and games we play? Link

Valorant’s Big Bug Bash: This week in Game Development Twitter, Nu, Principal Software Engineer at Riot Games, broke down the technical explanation behind an absurdly bad visual bug in FPS-hit Valorant. The bug caused smokescreens, a commonly used ability by one of the games characters, to generate weird, game-breaking visual behaviors, like out of place character designs and textures.  The amount of complex and interesting tech layered on top of one another to create the bug sheds light on how large of a scale that industry leaders like Riot operate at. Link

📊 By The Numbers

100,000,000: the amount of average daily users who played mobile hit Honor of Kings through 2020. In case you’re keeping count, that’s a world record. Notably, 96% of their ~$240 million September revenues comes from China. What’s going to happen when Wild Rift (also 100% owned by Tencent) comes out? Link

$400,000: the prize pool that ex-COD pro and current 100 Thieves founder Nadeshot won in his first major Call of Duty World Championship. Joe Pompliano has compiled a great Twitter thread on Nadeshot’s story and success with 100 Thieves so far. Link

😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

The U.S. Elections!! CNN’s John King is a play-by-play maestro and he should make the move to esports commentating… naturally. Link

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

Earlier this week I came across two incredible mini-series from The Pokemon Company: Twilight Wings (inspired by the recent Pokemon: Sword & Shield) and Pokemon Generations (inspired by the literally every generations). Both deliver high-quality, story driven animation in small bite size episodes. As someone who grew up with the series, but has drifted away from in recent years, these series are a breath of fresh air. Imagine if the anime produced this kind of quality on a regular basis! Pokemon Generations | Pokemon Twilight Wings

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