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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