Level 84: A Crystal Ball Appears

We predict gaming trends for 2021, and more!

Welcome to The Pause Button — a weekly gaming newsletter that curates the best content in video games.
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📜 This Week’s Notable News

Gaming Predictions — 2021: We’ve been seeing a TON of gaming predictions from out friends and favorite sites . We compiled some of our favorites and added a few of our own. Check it out, we’d love your thoughts! Link


💡 Industry Content

Does Cross-play Drive Development?: Cross-play is increasingly becoming the industry standard for game releases. More platforms means more accessibility, players, publicity and revenue for titles that invest the time to make cross-platform gaming a reality. But along with the benefits come multiple important considerations: Can your team handle the workload of additional platforms? What will competitive balance look like across platforms? What does your community strategy look like, and will it differ by system?It’s an interesting problem to think about because as more games become cross-platform, consumers might shift their spending and preference back to specific platforms vs. participating in an less-personalized multi platform experience. Link

Invest Like the Best — Supercell: Podcast host and investor Patrick O’Shaughnessy sat down with Supercell Founder & CEO Ilkka Paananen. A titan of mobile gaming, Supercell is widely considered to be one of the main companies that brought mobile gaming into prominence is the early 2010s. They also have a crazy competitive and collaborative product org. Paananen talks about empowering org structure, learning through failure, and building strong culture at a company. Link

China Gaming: Josh Ye, author of an excellent China gaming gaming roundup, recently shared a ton of notable pieces around the state of gaming in China, our favorites include:

  • A Deep Dive Into Honor of Kings: Honor of Kings is the highest grossing mobile game, which is a MOBA based loosely on LoL. This will be an interesting space to watch as Wild Rift releases to a more global audience in a few months. Honor of Kings is an older game but is also testament to the quality and success of games China devs will continue to scale globally. Link

  • The State of China’s Gaming Start-Up World: Gaming in China is usually centered on companies like Tencent and NetEase, but in the last few years multiple upstarts have arrived to steal the spotlight. Josh highlights companies like miHoYo, Lilith Games, and HyperGryph, who are challenging government-supported, foreign game importers and supergiants on their home turf. Link

  • Steam + China: As Valve’s Steam pushes ahead into China, the US is looking at banning Chinese gaming imports. Tied loosely to geopolitical tensions with China + India, it’ll be important to monitor these developments during the Biden administration -- banning imports might help US developers, but harm overall game innovation. Link


🎮 Fun & Games

Cyberpunk 2077 — Behind the Scenes: If Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier knows one thing, it’s game industry crunch. Over the past few months, we’ve frequently touched on the error-filled launch of CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, but no technical or gaming issue can compare to the working conditions the team faced during the 2020 blockbuster. Schreier goes behind the scenes with developers to map the game’s development and the days leading up to launch. Link

The Consequences of War: Eve Online is famous for deep, complex gameplay, regularly seeing multi-day in-game wars with ships and players that number in the thousands. Thanks to the title’s recent move to free-to-play, gaming’s most complex world builder is experiencing a renaissance. But with new players comes new costs. For developer CCP Games, technical limitations have cropped up as their player base increases at a dramatic rate. In this breakdown from Polygon, learn about how a recent 12,000+ player war has threatened to take the game down for good. Link

Moderation in 2020’s Biggest Game: In November 2020, indie darling Among Us had a reported 500M players, and exactly four developers. This essay touches on something that hasn’t necessarily been talked about which is how the game is handling moderation among it’s massive audience, a large portion of whom are underage kids. Despite serving hundreds of millions fans, Among Us has no feature to report players, no ability to keep bad actors out. Privacy and moderation is a hot topic for tech companies right now. How can developer Innersloth address the problem? Link


😎 Other Cool Reads

Why I Love Pokemon Crystal: GamesIndustry.biz’s “Why I Love” series this week explores the nostalgia and mysteries in Pokemon Crystal. Link

But these unexplorable mysteries serve as side-paths to the world building. There's a lot you could want to know about the Unown and the Ruins of Alph; you can peer down that path, but can't follow it. You cannot explore the mystery around Ecruteak's Burned Tower the way you can explore the Pokémon League's challenge. The Pokémon League and gym leaders are the path you follow, and you will follow it to the end. But the unsolvable mysteries are paths you can't follow, and therefore can never exhaust

Game Currencies: Game designer and economist Javier Barnes put together a comprehensive guide on the many varieties of in-game currencies, and how designers can integrate them into their games. Really interesting read within the context of IAPs, the games we play (primarily F2P and mobile), and how game currency mechanics persuade users to participate in transactions. Link

Why Does Esports Keep Rebranding?: Rebranding isn’t something we often see in comparable industries like sports, but it’s commonplace in the still nascent esports orgs. It’s a unique predicament to be in as esports organizations often represent multiple video games/teams — how do you create a brand that maintains strides with the rapidly changing industry? When should you change a brand? Link

“I hope we don’t see organizations with beloved branding pushed to rebrand simply because they feel pressure to modernize. From the practical (what do I do with all my old merchandise?) to the emotional (I have fond memories of the old logo), any organization planning to rebrand has to do the work of appropriately retraining and reconditioning people on identification and association. A lot goes into that, so rebranding is a card you can pull maybe once. If the same org is rebranding multiple times, that’s a bigger problem. — Lauren Gaba Flanagan


⚡ Quick Bytes

  • Tencent is allegedly considering raising billions of dollars in debt financing in order to acquire a major U.S. or Korean-based game studio.  Link

  • Deconstructor of Fun wrote a breakdown on the top “mid-core” competitors in 2021. Link

  • After a stagnated year of tournament play, Epic Games doubled down on competitive Fortnite, promising a pot of $20M for 2021 events. They’ll host a mix of cross-platform players Link 

  • After a long hiatus and silence, the head of Valve’s game studio confirmed that the company has more games in development. Link

  • Wired’s piece on Hades and what it can teach us about ancient Greek masculinity Link


😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

I LOVE predictions that map out the year ahead based on previous news and trends. Max and I are always talking about what we think will happen. Consolidating them here was a big learning experience for me because it wasn’t just making a mental note about it. A lot of the trends feel like obvious extensions of 2020, but there are some non-obvious ones that I’m excited to see pan out. Feel free to DM me if you have a prediction you’re stoked about or know of a company doing cool things in the space.

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

I have been heads down the last few weeks working on a personal project. Much of my time has been spent using Webflow, a no-code platform that allows users to build deeply interactive sites without having to write a single line of code. One thing that’s struck me about the platform is how much gaming seems to inspire its User Interface. Tools like styling, dynamic content, and animation building all have very game-like qualities. This line of thinking reminded me of an interesting talk that Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra gave about designing software with game design principles in mind. Link


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