Level 92: Sony's FGC Takeover

The biggest fighting-gaming tournament in the world is now owned by Sony

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💡 Industry Content

ByteDance’s Gaming Expansion: In the last twelve months, Chinese media company ByteDance, the parent of short-form video app TikTok, has grown its gaming team to nearly 3,000 people, a 3x increase from last year. The move comes on the back of a hallmark year for China’s gaming ecosystem, as the industry topped $40 billion in 2020 alone. But with perennial giants NetEase and Tencent looming, even 3,000 people might not be enough to bankroll the company’s ambitions. In this piece, TechCrunch breaks down ByteDance’s big gamble, and explores what little opportunity they might have when staring down some of China’s most formidable foes. Link

Activision’s Layoffs: Activision Blizzard fired dozens of people on Wednesday amidst a shift away from live events and esports programming. Among other severance benefits, employees were given a $200 gift card to Battle.net, Blizzard’s proprietary online game service. For reference, Activision’s CEO Bobby Kotick made over $200 million last year due to stock based incentives. You think the company could spare a bit more than a gift card. Link

The Genesis of an Esports Org: Team Liquid is one of esport’s most famous organizations. Boasting a storied history in multiple games, multi-year rivalries with the likes of TSM and Cloud9, and a staff of over 150 full-time employees, Liquid is undoubtedly one of gaming’s biggest pioneers. Now, they’re turning their attention towards their biggest supporters with Liquid+, a subscription service focused on getting fans closer to the action. Gaming newsletter Master The Meta sat down with Liquid co-CEO Steve Arhancet to discuss the company’s plan for the subscription service and other wide ranging topics in the world of esports. Link

🎮 Fun & Games

Evo x Sony: Sony is now a part-owner of the world fighting game tournament series, Evo. According to journalist Stephen Totilo, Evo will likely open its doors to other platforms and titles despite the acquisition, as games like Super Smash Bros. have historically drawn in the most tournament attendees. It’s interesting to note that consoles are the platform of choice for fighting game esports tournaments. While esports as a whole largely remains a growth area for console gaming, fighting game players logged more than 1.1B hours in 2020 on PlayStation alone. Sony will take a platform-focused approach to building out this ecosystem for competitive gaming. Link

A Free Games Bonanza: Sony & Microsoft are well aware that the end of winter means less time indoors playing games. Luckily for consumers, both console producers are giving away games in droves to try and keep us glued to our couches in the coming months. This week Xbox announced it would be expanding EA Play, its 60+ game partnership with EA, to all Game Pass PC members. Not to be outdone, Sony announced a new slate of free VR, indie, and AAA titles as part of its COVID-19 related Play at Home campaign. The lineup includes hits like Horizon Zero Dawn, Enter the Gungeon, and Subnautica. It’s a good time to get some free stuff, make sure you check it out while you can! Full List of EA Play Titles | Full List of Playstation’s Play at Home Titles

The Long Path to A Short Hike: Last fall, we spent hours immersed in A Short Hike, a small indie title that had launched on the Switch which lets players... go on a short hike. The game itself is deceptively engaging, relying on open-world exploration, witty dialogue, and an immersive sound track to create one of the most relaxing gaming experiences we’ve ever played. The game’s solo developer Adam Robinson-Yu sat down with UK outlet MCV to discuss how a bout of burn-out and some time outdoors inspired him to build what was one of 2019’s biggest indie hits. Link

😎 Other Cool Reads

NFT Play-to-Earn: Last week we included a link to a step-by-step guide on how to play the popular NFT title, Axie Infinity (disclaimer: it’s quite hard to set up compared to other games). We did some more digging and stumbled across a feature on how Filipinos are using currency exchanges and in-game items to generate a recurring salary. People in the Philippines are often taking work in other countries like Japan or the Middle East to send back remittances to family. Reading this got us excited about all the killer use cases for NFTs, collectables, and games for the economy. Link

Dizon said it’s not easy to succeed in the world of blockchain games. He has seen many try and fail in the last couple of years, noting that it’s hard to keep an audience engaged in any game. But in the Philippines, Axie has hit a nerve by becoming a viable means for making a living and spurring viral growth through word of mouth referrals. Especially during COVID-19, Dizon has seen more and more Filipinos popping up in their Discord channel, wanting to know: How do I get started? How do I play?

For Worse, Barging Your Way In: “Joshua Mullins told associates he was a multi-billionaire esports investor. In reality, he was a small town kid with a passion for gaming and a knack for forgery.” Jacob Wolf released a feature exploring the story of a teenager embroiled in one of the industry’s biggest controversies. An industrious 17-year old, Mullins went from building a successful Minecraft services company to multiple counts of felony forgery in just a few years. The story is as wild as it sounds, check it out. Link

⚡ Quick Bytes

  • 100 Thieves dropped an Air Jordan collab to celebrate their Valorant Strike championship Link

  • Polygon released a follow-up to last week’s Black Market Neopets article (Spoilers: it’s even crazier than we realized) Link

  • A16Z’s Jon Lai penned a Twitter thread on the distinction between building an app with game-like features vs. gamification. Link

  • “Mario Kart 64: The Quest for World Record Perfection.” Link

  • The new Among Us map is being released on March 31st Link

  • Fellow gaming newsletter Weekly.gg was acquired by esports media company Dexerto - the newsletter will continue to operate as a subsidiary of the organization Link

  • A graphic depicting the role of a LiveOps person and what they should know in the world of gaming. Link

😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

“The Habibis is three game developers drinking some good Arab Tea for what should be about forty minutes, inshallah, each week, inshallah. Fawzi Mesmar, Osama Dorias, and Rami Ismail discuss games, media, and life as a bunch of Arabs living all over the big world.”

This is maybe the best podcast I’ve ever seen, and there’s even a dude named Fawzi! Link

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

I’ve written about it before, but I’m a big fan of professional development. Every job I’ve gotten has been through some kind of outreach or connection, and it's important to me to try and help others find those same types of opportunities. 

With that in mind, I’m excited to be working with the gameHERs to hold a session on professional development & LinkedIn next week on Twitch. The gameHERs are one of my favorite groups to partner with, as they’ve always taken an authentic and effective approach to amplifying the voices of women, non-binary, and femme-identifying people in games. If you’re interested in brushing up on your LinkedIn tips, or having a 1:1 resume review, feel free to check out the event! Link

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