Level 80: And The Award for Best Game Goes To...

A look at the Oscars of Video Games, our upcoming Panel Event, and India's growing games presence

✏️ The Pause Button Exclusives

Partnerships in Gaming: Ever wonder how characters from series like Halo and The Avengers make their way into Fortnite? Or how your favorite characters from Roblox end up on the shelves of your favorite store? We’re partnering with Deconstructor of Fun next Thursday, December 17th at 1pm PST to host a panel on partnerships in gaming. We’d love if you came. Panelists include:

  • Joseph Kim — CEO @ LILA Games and Partner @ Deconstructor of Fun

  • Jeremy Horn — VP of Strategy @ Jam City

  • Chris Hewish — President @ Xsolla 

Register Here

💡 Industry Content

“Social Strikes Back”: Popular Venture Capital firm a16z wrote up a series about the future of Consumer technology, and what innovations are driving the space forward. We’ve gathered the gaming specific content, which gives shape to their thesis around the importance of social interactivity in games:

  • Meet Me In The Metaverse Link

  • The Social Serendipity of Cloud Gaming Link

  • The Founder’s Dilemma: To Compete or Unbundle Link

India Gaming, Bombay Play: India-based Bombay Play has raised $1M to scale up operations for their browser-native games platform. We’ve been following them for the past few months and we’re stoked that they’re backed by an all-star team with backgrounds from Zynga and Playco. The India games scene is particularly interesting for a variety of reasons:

  • They’re primarily mobile-based, and the gaming community is extremely engaged on WhatsApp and Youtube

  • India has a fraught geo-political relationship with China, the premier mobile games developers in the world, and are constantly banning their apps

  • India has low development costs relative to other countries

  • India is full of studios and companies that are relatively unknown outside of India, reducing their dependency on outside funding

Expect a confluence of these factors to lead to greater outsourcing of game dev talent to India, for venture funding from outside the country to increase, and for India-based partnerships and sponsorships to continue to expand. Link

The Transition of HyperCasual to Hybrid Casal: One of our regular readers, Ryan Foo, surfaced an awesome series all about hypercasual games. For context, hypercasual games are seeing a rapid shift to new models of monetization like in-app purchases (vs. the traditional advertisements) because of the deprecation of targeted ads -- which will be opt-in -- on iOS. This is an existential threat to revenue for hypercasual games, which have historically turned to ads to as the primary money-maker in the past:

  • 2020 Predictions #2: What Happens When the Hypercasual Party Ends? Link

  • Voodoo Games Deep Dive -- Another French Unicorn is Born Link

  • The Truth About Hypercasual Games Link

🎮 Fun & Games

The Game Awards: Arguably the largest gaming event of the year, Geoff Keighley’s annual Game Awards happened last night. Seeing viewership numbers 2x of the Oscars, the event largely serves as an additional opportunity for developers to showcase up and coming titles to the masses. Keighley, a 20+ year veteran of games media and 100% owner of the event and its production, is almost as interesting as the show itself. Check out Procotol’s exclusive interview with Geoff and a quick recap of all the headlines from last night’s show. Interview with Geoff Keighley | Recap

How to Create Friendships in Games: This talk by Dan Cook from the Game Developers Conference elicits an interesting thought: How do designers actively think about developing community and friendships in their products, and how can they integrate these design principles in multiplayer games? Link

A Co-Op RPG: With the hit success of 2016’s Furi behind them, the Game Bakers team has moved onto their challenge, Haven. The new title is built entirely around the concept of a thematically cooperative RPG, a game meant to tell a story and be played by two people. Link

Cooperative experiences in RPGs are few and far between. The genre is traditionally focused towards immersive single player journeys that allows players to be the hero for dozens of hours...The Game Bakers tackle this largely untapped space through Haven - an entire RPG built with couch co-op in mind.

😎 Other Cool Reads

Low/No Code Video Games: Platforms like Figma and Webflow have empowered the next generation of non-technical creators on the internet. Primarily used for website creation and design, two creative geniuses co-opted the platforms to find new and interesting ways to play games. In Figma, one developer created a fully operational Gameboy Emulator. In Webflow, another created a fully functional demo of the widely popular title Civilization VI. Figma GameBoy Emulator | Webflow Civ VI (Desktop Recommended)

Recognizing Otherness in the Cyberpunk Genre: With the release and momentum of Cyberpunk 2077, Wired’s George Yang examined the genesis of the Cyberpunk genre, and why certain themes like race and capitalism need to be critically reexamined within the contexts of these games. Link

Whit explained, “I think it’s important, when looking at the ways that Asian-ness is produced and referenced through objects like those in the clips of Cyberpunk 2077, to think about the way that this game is teaching us to think about race, and how these objects are presenting us with a particular view of Asian-ness that is spectacular, that is foreign.”

Microsoft Flight Simulator: A Noclip documentary all about how Microsoft Flight Simulator was developed with the goal of “Recreating Our Entire Planet”, how it used cloud computing to achieve its goal. Microsoft Flight Simulator is by far one of the most technically impressive, longstanding series (40 year tenure, it predates Microsoft Office) in the world, and ode to the thrill and excitement of flying across the world, in a variety of conditions. Link

📊By The Numbers

100,000,000,000: Youtube Gaming had a Hallmark year with 100B total watch time hours. Our personal favorite metric is that 80,000+ creators hit over 100,000 subscribers, testament that the creator space for gaming is still flourishing and that there are a lot of up and coming creators out there. Link

45.95M: The total number of peak concurrent viewers watching the League of Legends World Championships this year. Link

10M: Facebook made a $10 million dollar pledge to support the black gaming creator ecosystem on their platform. Link

⚡ Quick Bytes

  • High-Fashion Brand Balenciaga released a video game to show their newest collection Link

  • Kotaku interviewed the team behind indie hit Hades to understand how they’ve avoided crunch and built a great work culture Link

  • A study by Vorhaus Advisors shows that 63% of gamers would spend more on digital goods like NFTs if they were tied to real world value. Link

  • In a radical departure to game engines, App stores, games stores, etc., Manticore Games will share 50% of revenue with their creators. It’s substantially higher than incumbents, with the exception of maybe Epic Games. Link

😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

I LOVED the most recent episode of Creator Economics, which hosted ex-COD Pro Nadeshot to talk about his journey founding 100 Thieves. Lots of nuggets around finding talent, owning esports teams, franchises and merchandising. Link

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

One thing that caught my attention from last night’s Game Awards was the frequency that we are seeing “spiritual successor"-esque games in the last ten years. These titles are made by the people behind some of my favorite hits as a kid in an attempt to revitalize a long-dead or legally-blocked IP. But nostalgia is a fickle emotion, and it can often be difficult to uncouple fond memories from true quality when revisiting a game tens of years later, as was the case with 2017’s Yooka Laylee. While I certainly see more promise for last night’s Left 4 Dead-inspired title, Back 4 Blood, I’m skeptical that the next “big hit” in gaming is going to come from a remake of the best games of a begone era.