Level 89: [Shop] Gamer Tag

There's a rebellion brewing somewhere on Yavin (aka Toronto)

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💡 Industry Content

Shopify Rebellion: Shopify launched an esports team to compete in Starcraft II. We’ve been wondering what they were up to ever since they posted their first gaming-specific hire on their jobs page a few months back. It’s no secret that their CEO Tobi Lutke is a big games fan. This is such an interesting tidbit of news on a few fronts:

  • Shopify is the first major retailer to fund their own esports team rather than pay for advertisements.

  • Virality is an inherent part of gaming and esports. If successful, the positive feedback loop that this will generate could be massive for Shopify in certain demographics.

  • If pulled off correctly, Shopify Rebellion will be the de facto case studio for Shopify’s effectiveness in gaming e-commerce. They’re building their own set of brand champions.

The ethos of the team “Shopify Rebellion” so aptly fits the nature of Shopify, which is to prop up the future of small to medium businesses. We’re excited to see where this goes. Link

“With that comes a fan base that is more invested, more passionate, and more savvy than fans of other popular entertainment. I believe the only way to truly understand esports and it’s subcultures is to actively engage in it.” -- Dario Wünsch

Lots of PlayStation News:  Earlier this week GQ sat down with Playstation head honcho Jim Ryan to chat about the future of PS VR, the PlayStation 5, and free video games. There is a lot of goodness to get through in this one, but a couple of key headlines:

  • Sony has seemingly shifted their stance on releasing games via PC, and is looking to expand their non-console library — it’s a good idea that will effectively help classic IP reach a new audience, so expect to see some movement here.

  • There are multiple problems getting in the way of Sony meeting PS5 demand, including a semiconductors shortage, a fully virtual console production process, and a crazy amount of demand.

  • Sony is seemingly going all-in on PS VR as the flagship peripheral for its next-generation console. It seems as though the company believes that re-releasing old classics via VR is the best way to double-dip on revenue in a time where game production costs keep increasing.

All the above lend themselves to the idea that Sony is seeing how tough it is to make good IP on a quick, consistent basis. If platforms like PC Gaming and VR can keep fans happy while they wait for the new Horizon or God of War or Elden Ring title(s), then by all means the company should keep investing. Link

HP x HyperX: HP announced this week that it strategically acquired HyperX for $425M to boost its gaming peripherals offering, which has seen outsized demand due to remote work and COVID’s boon to gaming. The Verge reports, “HP has been making strides to enter the gaming peripheral space for the last several years under the Omen brand, but it has not gained much traction compared to competitors such as Corsair, Logitech, and Razer.” Link

🎮 Fun & Games

The Other Gaming Short Squeeze: We’ve previously written about EVE Online, the 18-year-old game so big that its monthly active user base surpasses the population of Iceland. What we haven’t written about is the economics inside EVE, which has developed so much since the game’s inception that its closest comparison is the NASDAQ. With all the recent GameStop stock drama, EVE developer CCP Games, sat down with The Gamer to discuss a very similar short squeeze scenario that happened in-game nearly a year ago. The ups and downs of what became a full-blown in-game economic crisis are just as interesting as what’s happening IRL today. Link

The Full Story of Chess.com: Numerous companies and websites have popped up to try and capitalize on chess, one of history’s most famous activities, but none have done so nearly as well as Chess.com. Owning nearly 70% of the entire online chess market, Chess.com has been the driving force for the sport’s resurgence during COVID-19. In this piece from Protocol, dive deeper into the business behind digital Chess and how one of the world’s oldest activities became one of Twitch’s hits. Link

😎 Other Cool Reads

Gaming’s Virtual Influencers: Khee Hoon Chan’s latest examines the behind-the-scenes impact and development of virtual influencers. Particularly in gaming (e.g Riot’s K/DA), there is a sense that success can and should be defined by their out-of-game impact. Brand, storytelling, these factors all matter. But contrast this with Frog Detective, which is the “eponymous hero” of his own adventure game, and whose Twitter account is run by the developers as a “friendly blank slate” to tweet whatever they want. Both necessarily extend a game’s brand but have very different, and potent, ways of doing so. Link

Live Evil: An in-depth interview with CEO of esports company Evil Geniuses, Nicole LaPointe Jameson. Link

You can’t operate player salaries that look akin to pro athlete salaries. [They] are not sustained on esports-level sponsorships today. So we really focused on bringing peripheral revenue streams into the business to support what we do but that also don’t deprecate from the core product of who we are. And how that’s manifested is, of course, the entertainment side of [the] house.

We’ve also developed deep collegiate and education platforms — how to bridge the world of gaming, how to make gaming accessible to different audiences — as well as data analytics and even fantasy embedding products. So we’ve been able to pull in things using our core athletics platforms to really help self-sustain the business in the past two years to keep the esports product alive but keep the lights on at the same time.”

What is the Value of Game Pass?: We loved this deep-dive into subscription services for games because it raises important questions on the long-term sustainability of the offering for both publisher and distributor, consumer and service. It also defines Game Pass as a curation as opposed to necessarily a bundled offering, which was a refreshing perspective considering The Pause Button’s mandate around curation: help people find games to play and help people make games. Link

⚡ Quick Bytes

  • Luxury retro gaming is back with Analogue opening up orders for its coveted Pocket. It’s hard to get anything in stock these days, isn’t it? Link

  • Youtube’s quarterly revenue surpassed Netflix’s, making the biggest streaming platform, Link

  • Roblox’s most popular server, Adopt Me, hit 20B lifetime visits. Link

  • Indie favorite Stardew Valley is firing on all cylinders and recently released a board game. Link

  • “The Rise, Fall and Resonance of ESPN Esports.” Link

  • CD Projekt Red has officially delayed the release of February's Cyberpunk 2077 patch following a ransomware attack on the studio earlier this month. Link

  • Zynga ventures out of mobile to the Nintendo Switch with its latest title, Star Wars Hunters. Link

  • How Rival Peak heralded a new form of storytelling and streaming. Link

  • The latest indie early access hit, Valheim, reached three million purchases (and counting). Link

  • The bull thesis for the Oculus Quest 2. Link

😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

How cool is it that Control is on Xbox Game Pass and PS+ 👀? Numerous award nominations and selections (including best game art direction) later, I’ve finally gotten around to playing it. It’s embarrassing to say, but I haven’t played a narrative RPG in so long and this is a refreshing reminder that the genre is exciting and fun on many fronts. Have you played it?

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

My favorite game of all time is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. A mixture of nostalgia and a love for RPGs has pretty much cemented the franchise as a must-buy for me for the rest of my life at this point —-which is why I’ve been delighted to see the coverage of the series' 35th anniversary the last few weeks. My favorite piece was this one from Inverse, which highlights 18 industry leaders’ memories, stories, and love for any and everything Zelda. Now if we could just get that Breath of The Wild sequel… Link

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