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Najeeb's Gaming Report - Issue #10

This is my weekly newsletter focusing on major developments within the Gaming industry. You can follo

Najib El Kihel

June 20 · Issue #10 · View online
Startup and Tech curious, with a focus on #Gaming. Runs a weekly Newsletter on this particular industry.

This is my weekly newsletter focusing on major developments within the Gaming industry.
You can follow me on Twitter here.

Issue #10 - 20 June 2017
Issue #10 - 20 June 2017
Industry News
One info that the entire industry was expecting: Price. $499 for Xbox One X, which indicates that this product is targeting the very high-end users in the console space. X1 X is a great piece of technology, but at that price, I doubt it has any chance of capturing mainstream attention, unlike the PS4 Pro which is $100 less expensive. I used to believe that Sony would announce a price reduction for PS4 Pro, but I don’t think it is necessary with such a price difference.
At E3, Microsoft had a solid presentation overall for the Xbox ecosystem but considering the X1 X is a new system and at that price, I felt that there wasn’t enough incentive for X1 S (and PS4) owners to upgrade to X1 X. In terms of third-party support, I wonder how much efforts will be put to take advantage of the difference in computational power between PS4 Pro and X1 X, knowing that the PS4 has been the lead system on that generation.
Nintendo has been hailed one of the winners of E3 2017. Main Reasons? An authentic Pokémon RPG will be released in 2018 (Nintendo had better sort its production by then) and the fourth instalment of the Metroid Prime series is also being developed. Super Mario Odyssey’s presentation also impressed many and should be an instant classic, on par with Super Mario 64 and Galaxy. But apart from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Mario + Rabbids, there were very few significant announcements from third-party developers. Many will probably look at the success of those games and others such as FIFA 18 to gauge the opportunities to developer Switch-specific titles.
First mention of this division was made prior to E3 during the EA Play event. There was nothing very specific on what the Division is currently working on, but there was explicit mention of AI with use of Deep Learning and Neural Networks to create new form of interactive and adaptive experiences. A different approach to gaming today, especially open-world games who often feel like a giant check list of experiences to go through. Improbable is another company trying to bring new way of experiencing open world games, this time through simulation to create more organic experiences. 
‘Sony is being greedy and arrogant’ is what I’ve been reading countless times this week. And there’s probably a lot of truth to that. Maybe Sony is being blinded by its tremendous success on PS4, wants to force gamers to join the biggest console user base (which is the PS4) and does not realise the potential offered by cross-platform play. But it’s tough to blame Sony, who really doesn’t have to do anything for the medium but for itself. Time and most importantly customer response will tell if this was the right move.
The news leaked a day before the Xbox briefing: there would be no VR for X1 X at E3, and no plan to bring VR in the near future. I think this surprised a lot of people, considering that Phil Spencer did mention at E3 2016 that Project Scorpio would render high-fidelity 4k and VR gaming. But this was in 2016, when the VR hype was higher than it is today. PlayStation VR has been a great marketing success, the type of move that highlighted Innovation @ Sony. But the device still has an attach rate of less than 2%. Building custom VR hardware for X1 X doesn’t seem to make sense for Microsoft, when it makes little sense for many developers to invest in this niche market.
Allowing the general public (which accounted for most of the increase) to attend the event for the first time was seen as an attempt to reinvigorate the show. To be fair, I think there’s a incredible divide between us observers looking from afar and journalists who actually attend E3. I do get why the event might not be as relevant today as it was maybe 15 years ago, now that content is being distilled throughout the year and that some major publishers/devs decide to have their own events. But E3 is still an incredible opportunity for the industry to get together and make major announcements. Not as big as 10/15 years ago but still relevant.
That would be the second mobile acquisition in 12 months after Supercell (yet another Finnish mobile dev) was acquired by Tencent in June 2016 for $8.6B. Rovio has also indicated considering an IPO. The speculated price tag for the acquisition - $3B - seems very high considering the company revenues revolve around $200m. In comparison, before its acquisition, Supercell reported $2B in revenues in 2015.
One of the things that modding can do to absolutely piss off publishers/devs: disrupting online multiplayer. I think it’s tough to take OPENIV down completely as it was mostly used for solo mods. But if it can be used to negatively impact GTA Online sessions, it’s fair game for the publisher/dev to try to protect its service. Rockstar indicated it was working on a solution to keep solo modding alive. I hope the OPENIV team hasn’t given up: there are tremendous opportunities in that space and it doesn’t have to be GTA specifically.
Blog Posts
It’s been a long time since Sony had a face to represent its brand. Nintendo has Shigery Miyamoto, Xbox Phil Spencer, Sony hasn’t had anyone since Kaz Hirai. That probably explains why.
I feel sometimes that we do not give enough credit to developers, especially when incremental (as opposed to disruptive) changes are made to a series. This is particularly the case on sport simulations who often are just slightly better than the previous year’s instalment. I think we’ve reached such a degree of realism (NBA 2K is absolutely stunning in that regard) that it’s going to be increasingly difficult to be more realistic and maintain the fun factor (no one wants to play 90 minute FIFA matches).
I also wonder if there will be a point in the future when a sport simulation developer decides: “we’ve achieved tremendous balance in the gameplay, let’s not change it so that we can develop the appeal of our game with these specific gameplay rules”. Especially important in the context of esport.
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