Level 82: Catching up on Holiday News

Nintendo acquires NLG, Work games, and Roblox's IPO

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💡 Industry Content

Playing While You Work: Gizmodo Founder & Venture Capitalist Peter Rojas wrote a thread about using video games to foster relationships and develop culture in the world of remote work. Reminiscent of July’s New York Times article highlighting games like GTA V to do business, Rojas notes that COVID has unearthed game design tactics that make for a satisfying team building experience. In a world that will almost certainly be partially remote for the foreseeable future, we’re interested to see how developers capitalize on the COVID-driven success of titles like Animal Crossing and Among Us to create the next generation of games. Link

Welcome Home Luigi: In what looks to be its biggest acquisition of the last ten-plus years, Nintendo acquired Luigi’s Mansion 3 developer Next Level Games. With a proven track-record of producing first party Nintendo hits like Super Mario Strikers, the purchase from the Japanese giant seems to be both offensive and defensive in nature. By buying out a proven third-party partner, Nintendo can simultaneously bolster its pool of hit-producing game developers, while ensuring the folks behind some of its best spin-off hits don’t get gobbled up by a competitor in the process. Industry analyst Daniel Ahmed breaks down the purchase, and explains how it differs from Microsoft’s recent splash buy of Bethesda. Link

Robux for All: Following the delay of their IPO late last year, Roblox announced that they had raised an additional $520M in funding. The new capital puts them at a whopping $29.5B valuation, nearly 4x the number we saw coming out of their previous round of financing. The company also said that it would forgo the traditional IPO process in favor of a “direct listing”. This is a strategy that will ideally allow the company to dodge the traditional stock “pop” seen by both Doordash and Airbnb last year.  Link

The Future of Games: The future of gaming is bright — the proliferation of technology like VR, AR, and Cloud Gaming will undoubtedly make the gaming of the future very different from the gaming of today. With all the technological advancements happening, it’s interesting to hypothesize how exactly things will shake out in 2021 and beyond. Guy Bahat breaks down three potential directions that new technology could take gaming in the future. Link

🎮 Fun & Games

Shake Off The Rust: Offlinetv’s recent launch of a streamer-only Rust server has catapulted the seven year old game back into the Twitch limelight. Pulling in nearly ~1.2M concurrent viewers, the server has already seen its fair share of drama, with DDoS attacks, infighting, and plenty of griefing. Streamer collaborations have become a key aspect of support and fun for both the streamer and viewer. Link 

YouTube’s Best Show Yet: A corollary to the Offlinetv Rust server is Dream SMP’s meteoric growth during 2020. Every creator involved in the server has seen a signifcant increase in popularity, riffing on the Speedrun genre (e.g Minecraft Manhunt) and hosting their own exclusive server. Mr. Beast kicked off 2021 by hiding $100,000 worth of gift cards in their server for a scavenger hunt. Link

  • A Bonus: Reddit thread of Dream’s SpeedRun Controversy and Removal. Link

The Indie Gems of 2020: Wired gathered all of their favorite indie titles “you may have missed in 2020”. We’re so excited about the potential for smaller development teams to continue to push the boundaries for video games and experiment beyond the purview of AAA studios, and this list shows that potential. Link

😎 Other Cool Reads

More Metaverse: In what seems to be the start of a pre-IPO press tour, Roblox CEO David Baszucki penned an essay in Wired about his optimism for the world of the gaming Metaverse in 2021. Alongside Fortnite creator Epic Games, Roblox is undoubtedly one of gaming’s frontrunners for building the “digital third-place”. We’re curious to see more Metaverse content as the company gears up for its IPO Link

Bitcoin and Digital Wine: Digital currency Bitcoin has been on a tear recently, with its peak sitting at ~40K. In this piece, Ran Mo wrote one of the most compelling arguments for Bitcoin as a store of value through an analogy to RuneScape’s “Half Jug of Wine”. Link

The ‘Half Jug’ is not valued on its ability to provide practical benefit to a player, but rather on its ability to store value. It became a bubble as soon as it became more expensive than a ‘Full Jug of Wine’ sometime in the early 2000s. Yet, almost two decades later, that bubble still has not burst. Instead, the ‘Half Jug’ became a monetary good. 

Shaping Video Game Culture: One of our favorite lookbacks from 2020 was this piece from The New York Times, highlighting seven activists, women, streamers and gamers who are changing the conversation around inclusion in gaming Link

⚡ Quick Bytes

  • Zynga’s acclaimed flash-based title, FarmVille, was shut down following Flash’s depreciation in 2021. Although not the first social game on Facebook, FarmVille was the first mainstream success for games on a social platform, ushering in a new world of free to play, live ops, data extraction, and multiplayer. Link

  • Twitch has permanently removed the famous PogChamp emote from the platform. This follows some questionable remarks by its creator in regards to the attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this week. Link

  • Microsoft announced that it plans to sunset its AR game Minecraft Earth, citing pandemic concerns. They weren’t able to adapt in the same way Niantic was with Pokemon Go. Link

  • Pokemon Go developer Niantic acquired Mayhem, a tournament and community management gaming start-up for an undisclosed amount. Link

  • Stardew Valley got its largest update to date over the holiday. Link

😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

I spent the holidays zipping through a copy of Who Are You? by Alex Custodio. I’ve been reading about video games for over a year now, but this book was seriously something special and expanded my video game worldview into thinking more about hardware through platform studies, which “investigates the relationships between the hardware and software design of computing systems and the creative works produced on those systems.” While we’ve traditionally written about software, industry and culture here at The Pause Button, Alex explores our relationship with the GameBoy Advance through media archaeology, nostalgia, modding, and lateral thinking, among other frameworks. This is an awesome read. Link

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

Fawzi is too humble to mention it, but earlier this week he secured a new role at an incredibly exciting company after a pretty intensive mid-pandemic job hunt. I have seen firsthand the amount of time and effort he has put into interviewing with some of the best companies in the world, never settling for something that wasn’t exactly what he wanted. I’ll leave the official announcement up to him, but if you get the chance, send him a DM or reply to this email to congratulate him on all of his hard work.

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