Level 90: An Acquisition of Epic Proportions

Fall Guys + Epic Games level up together

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💡 Industry Content

Epicly Falling: This week Epic Games bought Tonic Games, the owner and developer behind Fall Guys. Indie games studios are killing it.

We’ve written previously how Fall Guys’ fell short on expectations, struggling to follow through on its breakout success to support users at scale (7 million copies sold on Steam + more as they port to new devices). Despite this, it still feels like Fall Guys — and perhaps more broadly the party genre with games like Among Us — has the ability to become a self-sustaining platforms in own right. Fall Guys (a social hangout) and Epic (games infrastructure) are a great synergy.

Epic is no stranger to games company acquisitions. Rocket League became wildly more successful when Epic supported a transition to a free-to-play model, enabled cross-platform, and then distributed it through the Epic Games Store. There’s a world in which Epic also does this for Fall Guys, leveraging Houseparty and MetaHuman Creator to make the game feel more like a hangout. In this way, Epic becomes more and more of a media company, nurturing its flywheel: attracting and retaining people to their media ecosystem.

Ultimately, what Epic Games did was acquire a development studio in Mediatonic, which famously made around 130 games before Fall Guys. There’s deep expertise in development, shipment and partnership within the games ecosystem that they can learn from. Better yet, there’s a familiarity with the new social genre of games that emphasizes hangouts over play (and a dope community manager as well). Big things to come from this partnership. Link

Rec Room’s Progress: A UGC competitor to Roblox, Rec Room is making quick strides in the user-generated content space with over two million creators. In a conversation with a few friends while trying out the title, we noted that there’s probably a higher creator to player ratio — a function of just how easy Rec Room makes it to create games. What separates it from other UGC-led companies like Roblox is its unique integration with VR and depth of UGC tools. The company’s CEO Shawn Whiting says they’ll pay out $1 million to creators this year, but we’re excited to monitor their progress as they role our more robust creator compensation structures.. Link

Free Fire: The Garena: Free Fire metrics from Sea Limited’s 2020 report are too good not to highlight: globally, it was the most downloaded mobile game, esports mobile game of the year, and ranked third in most YouTube views (72B). Did we mention it was also the highest grossing mobile game in LATAM, SEA, and India? Link

🎮 Fun & Games

A Promising Pokemon Game: In celebration of their 25th anniversary, Pokemon announced a slew of news late last week, including a 3D remake of the mid-2000s classics Pokemon Diamond & Pearl. However, the trailer that caught people’s attention was Pokemon Legends: Arceus, an odd sort of open-world title that looks like a mix between Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild and some of Pokemon’s more old school hits. 

The implications behind the title are promising: Pokemon is understanding how to combine fan feedback with IP and popular game mechanics. Borrowing an art-style and world-map from Zelda — while keeping core mechanics true to the original franchise — is exactly the kind of innovation that a series like Pokemon needs. Imagine a turn-based Zelda title inspired by Earthbound, or a three dimensional Mario Odyssey-esque Kirby game. Nintendo’s biggest strength is that it has so many opportunities to figure out what fans want because it releases so many games. Is this the first step toward a more innovative Nintendo?   Link

The Never Ending Search: Since its launch late last year, it has been obscenely difficult to get a Playstation 5. Primarily driven by microprocessor shortages and remote production issues, communities of hundreds of thousands of fans rabid to buy the $500 console have sprung up on platforms like Discord, Reddit, and Twitter. In this feature from Polygon, explore the sub-culture that has developed around getting Sony’s newest drop, and how some gaming fans are banding together to find new and creative solutions to the PS5 Problem. Link

Persona 5 & The Definition of Cool: Persona 5 oozes coolness. It has a soundtrack that’s good for any occasion, an art style that is impossible to replicate, and a story that, at one point, brought us to tears. Much of the game’s artistic success is in part due to its reliance on traditional anti-establishment themes — fighting “against the man” is literally the game’s story in a nutshell. In this piece from Medium’s SuperJump magazine, author Geoffrey Bunting explores how the Persona series took inspiration from ground breaking art forms to help it grow from your standard JRPG to one of gaming’s coolest titles. Link

😎 Other Cool Reads

Coding Blackness: Since the earliest days of gaming, black culture has been an integral part of defining the medium’s direction and style. The benefit (and drawback) of games as a concept is that they are so effective at portraying the world’s they build — complex, interactive spaces that represent class, race, and gender. But when developers don’t take a thoughtful approach to their in-game worlds and characters, representation can be weaponized to create prejudice and offensive content. Rico Norwood dives deep into gaming’s complex past with Black representation, and highlights how games like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales are changing the narrative. Link

Yakuza, Life, and Cigarettes: Toshihiro Nagoshi has worked on lots of good video games. Since starting at Sega on a whim back in the 1980s, Nagoshi has left his impact on some of Japan’s most famous series, including Shenmu and Virtua Fighter. Best known for leading up the always silly Yakuza series, Nagoshi is the personification of our favorite game creators: one part artist, one part storyteller, and one part business leader. Nagoshi discusses how he turned from a poor child growing up in rural Japan to one of the country’s most influential game directors Link

“Forget PlayStations, we want a PlantainStation”: If you saw the banana memes this week and wondered what they were all about, well, Sony dropped a patent of new controller tech that eerily resembles a banana. On a more serious note: we love Gamesindustry.biz’s patent drop issues because it gives in-depth looks into the problems larger games companies are interested in investigating. In this case, more ergonomic controllers. Link

"It would be desirable if a user could use an inexpensive, simple and non-electronic device as a video game peripheral," the application reads. "The present disclosure seeks to address or at least alleviate some of the above-identified problems”… There's also a nice section on a "Two-Object Controller," which instantly translates to us as, "Yes, you can dual-wield bananas."

⚡ Quick Bytes

  • D&D is having its open-world 3D video game moment. Link

  • A review for Backbone, the hand-held mobile controller, and its performance on remote PS5/Xbox play via iPhone Link

  • Niantic announced it’s testing Pokemon Go on Microsoft’s HoloLens Link

  • Nintendo is reportedly planning a new Switch model with a larger display, according to Bloomberg Link

  • Call of Duty: Warzone had a leak that may suggest a free-to-play Sandbox mode is coming in the future. Link

  • A leaked trailer for Elden Ring, the newest title. Link

  • Playstation is removing the ability to buy and rent TV shows & movies as consumers increasingly shift spend over to streaming services. Link

😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

I’ve been shamelessly downloading individual images from the crowdsourced Johto Redrawn Pokemon project, a fan-led art collective with the goal of redrawing the entire Johto region. It was completed just before Pokemon’s 25th anniversary last week and the end result is sooo dope. If you have the chance, I recommend taking the tour and giving the artists a follow on Twitter. Link

Also, I was thinking this week that there should be a dedicated marketplace specifically for minting pixel art in games as NFTs. I’m constantly annoying Max with how much I love pixel art, their dedicated communities on Twitter/other platforms, but I figure this could be a robust way for indie developers to crowdfund their game, keep fans up to date on progress, and drive tangible value through fan engagement. Does anyone know someone building this? Or have any interest?

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

Last week I learned that Weekly.gg, one of my favorite video game newsletters, was shutting down following its 90th issue. I still remember the first time Fawzi and I found Weekly, we were enthralled by it’s interesting growth tactics and stylish branding. The creator behind Weekly, a videographer with an esports background named Franco Rivas, is one of the most honest and cool creators I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. If you work in gaming, esports, or even traditional media and are on the hunt for a stellar producer or video expert, let me know I’d be happy to put you in touch with him. Franco’s Twitter | Franco’s 2020 Reel

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