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Najeeb's Gaming Report - Issue #4

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

Najib El Kihel

April 17 · Issue #4 · 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 #4 - 17 April 2017
Industry News
Notably after Bethesda’s launch of their “Mods” page a year ago for Fallout 4 and Skyrim, Microsoft decides to curate modding for Minecraft by launching Marketplace, and introduces monetisation on top of it.
The only thing that surprises me about this development is timing - more than 5 years after Minecraft’s release. When I was working on modblock, Minecraft was the game I thought would be easier to introduce “paid mods” to, given the overall simplicity of modded content (e.g. skins, textures) and the important size of the modding community on that game. One thing to note is the revenue split between Microsoft and content creators. Based on the information given by Microsoft, Minecraft’s content creators should at least get 50%, as opposed to the 25% share creators received for Skyrim paid mods on Steam which created a lot of controversy.
At the moment, this is only available for those who subscribed to the Xbox Insider Program. But considering the ever increasing importance of digital retail in the industry, this policy will most likely be extended to all Xbox users, and no one would be surprised to see Sony adopting the same policy fairly soon.
When something similar was introduced on Steam two years ago, there was a concern that short gaming experiences (such as indie games) could suffer from this policy: gamers could technically complete a game within two hours and then ask for a refund. Microsoft has indicated that certain apps would not be covered by the refund policy. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft intends to include short experiences in that caveat.
Last Wednesday’s Nintendo Direct confirmed what was clear from the Switch’ reveal back in January: the new hardware will receive strong support from Nintendo but significant third-party support remains a big question mark. So far, Nintendo has been doing great in terms of Switch sales - with almost a million consoles sold in March for the US. Momentum could be maintained with the following releases:  Mario Kart 8 Deluxe end of April, ARMS in June, Splatoon 2 in July; Super Mario Odyssey didn’t appear during Wednesday’s event but should be released in Q4 2017. This should keep core-Nintendo fans busy all year, but Nintendo will have to display strong third party titles at E3 to ensure that they can target a much broader audience.
Always a pleasure to read and listen to Phil Spencer. No one can deny the guy’s passion for the medium. Plenty of good nuggets in this (long) QA but one thing - often debated among gamers - stood out: Backward compatibility and why it could matter more today than maybe 10 years ago. It comes down to two things:
- The gap between games of the last two generations isn’t as important as previous generational gaps.
- Games of the previous generation have services (mainly online) that can be maintained for years after release.
Let’s take Red Dead Redemption, one of the best games of the previous generation. If you launch RDR today, it will look a bit raw compared to a GTA V on the XboxOne, but not only will it still look acceptable, it won’t feel outdated gameplay-wise and you will find players online. Seven years after its release, RDR - a title from the previous generation - is a game that can be bought today and played on XboxOne (thanks to backward compatibility), with all its original services. This can represent important revenue streams for developers and platform providers like Microsoft or Sony. It’s a new dimension - that has obviously always existed on PC - that Microsoft (& Sony to a certain extent via PSNow) now wants to bring on console.
Backward compatibility from another angle. When technology moves forward, there is often a point when previous applications can no longer be supported efficiently - or have to be supported at the expense of new applications. Apple dropping 32-bit app support with iOS 11 is a reminder that backward compatibility should be balanced with “forward progress”. In this particular case, it means that certain apps/games won’t be playable on devices running on iOS 11 but that is a trade-off that comes with most innovations. It will be interesting to monitor the performance gain on iOS 11 now that it won’t have to support legacy 32-bit apps. 
While the console was never intended to be part of Nintendo’s long term plans, this announcement still comes as a surprise considering the huge demand for it. I assume Nintendo does not want to take gamers’ attention away from its newly released hardware - the Nintendo Switch and its Virtual Console which enables gamers to play retro games. I am not convinced that both systems couldn’t have coexisted a bit longer: the NES Classic “only” contained 30 titles from a single Nintendo console. It could have served as a bridge towards the Switch and its Virtual Console, which is set to host a much higher number of games from many classic consoles.
So much talk the past decade about consoles turning into PCs. With smartphones and tablets eating the world and affecting PC shipments, it looks like gaming PCs will turn more and more into dedicated mainframes, effectively making them akin to… consoles. That doesn’t mean that PCs will completely lose their openness, but we will probably see manufacturers increasingly combine hardware, OS and software specifically for gaming applications going forward.
I use this news to link back to a post I shared in Issue #2 of my newsletter - Three reasons streaming is replacing the Let’s Play industry. This article explains why certain YouTubers are tempted to migrate to Twitch as the latter platform could provide more stable and predictable income vs YouTube’s uncertainty around advertisers.
Blog Posts
Another point that strengthens my belief that the first PlayStation is the greatest console ever. Before broadband internet, integrated HDDs and the Xbox Live/PSN, indie games were actually a thing on the first Playstation via the Net Yaroze dev kit. 
It’s incredible how Sony was able to bring so many developers onboard for the PS1 and how it wasn’t able to reproduce that kind of enthusiasm until the late PS3/PS4 period (the PS2 was largely built on the success of the PS1). Sometimes, you just have to go back to what made you successful in the first place.
Bonus
Non-technical background, went from the low of Sega ending its hardware ventures to building one the most influential consoles ever - the Xbox 360, helped turn EA into one of the best companies to work for (from being one of the worst) and will now act as CEO of his favourite team growing up. Peter Moore has had one-of-a-kind career.
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