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Najeeb's Gaming Report - Issue #13

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

Najib El Kihel

July 10 · Issue #13 · 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.
Najeeb

Issue 13 - 10 July 2017
Industry News
The game is an absolute phenomenon in China, where Tencent had to limit playing time for minors. In western countries, Tencent is mostly known for owning Riot Games and Supercell, responsible for two of the biggest games in the world today - League of Legends and Clash of Clans. Honor of Kings (known as Strike of Kings outside China) is similar to League of Legends in many aspects (graphics, artistic direction, gameplay), which makes me think that there are probably opportunities to create some synergy between the two games - now that Honor of Kings will be available worldwide.
Until now, the service only included PS3 Games. 
While one can understand that this type of service will not include recently launched games or important exclusivities, the list of PS4 games is so far underwhelming. This is certainly not in par with what Microsoft is doing with the Xbox Game Pass which has a really nice games for half the price. There’s a lot of potential with the PSNow and it could really help cement players’ engagement with PlayStation. But it feels like Sony is holding it back to maximise purchases on this current generation (that the Japanese manufacturer clearly dominates). 
To piggy back on the previous news: while Sony seems to be maximising its potential on the current gen, Microsoft is preparing the future in a pretty solid way. Making Xbox richer in features, available on PC, pushing more backward compatibility will contribute in creating a nice ecosystem. It could prove difficult for Xbox subscribers to leave that ecosystem, especially if Microsoft intends to completely carry it forward onto the next generation. The promise of keeping one’s library is a very powerful one, and could have prevented some traditional Xbox players to migrate to the PS4 at the start of this generation.
While the PS4 has welcomed solid software (Persona 5, FFXV, NieR Automata, Yakuza 0) from Japanese studios over the last 12 months, Nintendo is providing a nice boost to the the Japanese console market with the Switch. I’d be the first to admit that using the word “console” might be misplaced, as we tend to associate this word with home consoles. The Switch is an hybrid, and probably enjoys this level of success because of its handheld capabilities. The Japanese market largely migrated towards nomad devices (smartphone or handheld) on the previous generation. There’s very little reason to believe that the home console market overall will experience a revival in Japan.
We alluded to that in a previous issue, but Nintendo almost has to reconsider its strategy: Free-to-play Fire Emblem Heroes managed to outperform Super Mario Run in terms of revenues despite being downloaded 10 times less. The next important game for Nintendo on mobile - Animal Crossing - will most likely be similar to Fire Emblem Heroes, as the free-to-play model and microtransactions would fit nicely with that type of game. Interested in seeing what Nintendo intends to do with its premium IPs Super Mario and Zelda (rumoured to be in development on mobile).
I never like to think that a company doesn’t know what it’s doing. But this had many (including me) scratching their head. I think having a mobile app to find new players, coordinate sessions and communicate is great. Sony and Microsoft do it, Discord is another powerful solution out there. I still don’t get the reason for not having a Switch built-in communication feature. This seems like forcing players into unnecessary steps in the user experience. Nintendo has done a solid job with the Switch, yet it feels like there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding online services - which have historically been Nintendo’s Achilles.
Blog Posts
Interesting take on the concept of game-as-a-platform, as opposed to game franchise. Interesting because it’s probably the best strategy in the context of esport. The top esport games out there - League of Legends, CS:GO, DOTA2 - are actually platforms, i.e. games that devs build upon, as opposed to being rethought with a new iteration every year or so. We can draw a parallel with traditional sports. The rules of basketball changed at times (adding a three point line, shot clock violation etc). But little by little, the game ended up stabilising itself and has remained largely unchanged for decades. This consistency is an enabler for excellence, as players can work to master a game without having to start from scratch if rules were to change regularly. 
In retrospect, Pokémon Go has to be the biggest gaming phenomenon of all time. There has never been a game that has engaged so many people at the same time, to do something that I frankly would have never imagined: drawing incredibly large crowds to the streets to play a video game. It obviously took advantage of the mobility offered by smartphones, but it is still an amazing achievement. It also confirmed that Nintendo’s IPs* definitely are in a league of their own in terms of prestige and appeal.
*Pokémon is partly owned but remains largely associated with Nintendo.
Simple answer: the Switch by design is not a console for ports. Had Nintendo really wanted to welcome PS4/X1 titles on its console, it would have designed a console that has the computational power to do so. But it didn’t. Considering how charts are largely dominated by cross-platform titles, it was a massive risk. But by putting a very strong first-party lineup in place for the Switch’ first year, Nintendo has generated great demand for its latest hardware, which could push third-party devs to develop Switch specific titles.
Sometimes, I want ‘evil’ things to happen. I wish Microsoft would listen to Epic CEO Tim Sweeney and use the UWP to corner Steam and put Microsoft’s Store forward on PC. The only reason is that I want to see a big competitor to Microsoft bring its own OS for PC Gaming. I had a lot of hope in SteamOS; Valve wasn’t able to execute properly its hardware-OS strategy. I really hope to see improvements in the future. It would also make sense for Valve to push for vertical integration (by adding an operating system under Steam), just in case Microsoft does decide to corner Valve using Windows 10 :D
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