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Najeeb's Gaming Report - Issue #5

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

Najib El Kihel

April 24 · Issue #5 · 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 #5 - 24 April 2017
Industry News
Tencent is looking at broadening the games currently available on its platform (formerly known as Tencent Gaming Platform) by bringing non-chinese developers onboard. Interesting venture to follow especially if they manage to secure a lot of developers from all markets on their platform. 
It’s a stretch to see Tencent competing with Steam outside China, but the company has been aggressive in its acquisitions and owns the world’s most played PC game - League of Legends. Not all LoL players own a PC (internet cafés are still a thing in many parts of the world) but what would be the impact of “forcing” all LoL players to login via WeGame? This has already been done in the past: Half Life 2 was used by Valve to onboard gamers to Steam as HL2 required an online registration that could only be done on Steam. It was very controversial but it got Steam installed on many PCs. It’s something Tencent can keep up its sleeve if it wanted to launch WeGame outside China.
The South Korean giant will tap into the $2.3B it will raise with its IPO. It’s incredible to see how the gaming industry epicentre has been moving towards Far-East Asia. What’s interesting as well is that Asian Giants aren’t just looking at their local market or Asia but are thinking globally, with acquisition of studios and IPs from Europe and the US. It will be interesting to see if this trend accelerates by monitoring Netmarble’s (and Tencent’s) future acquisitions.
Great F8 conference last week for those interested in all things AR & VR. Full video of Day 1 here.
I have not tested Spaces yet but I think it’s a great move for Facebook to go for Social VR as its first Facebook branded product: it’s in line with its social DNA and it also tackles the isolation stigma often associated with VR, as it puts VR users with friendly faces in a friendly environment.
As for AR, there is definitely more potential for mainstream adoption considering that it technically does not require extra hardware… at least for now. I think it’s clear that from a comfort perspective, holding a phone for prolonged periods is not ideal and that at some point, companies invested in AR will have to adapt hardware to AR usage. Facebook’s CTO Mike Schroepfer has indicated that the company was working on AR glasses, Apple is rumoured to be doing the same thing, with a 2-3 year window for product release.
There’s going to be an incredible demand for that system, especially considering the short availability of the NES Mini Classic. I mentioned it in the previous issue: I believe Nintendo is using these Classic consoles as a bridge to the Switch and the Virtual Console that will have a much broader choice of games and consoles. One thing that Nintendo should do is syncing Super NES Classic games with one’s Nintendo Account so that all those already-bought titles are unlocked on all Nintendo systems. It’s seems like the right thing to do (and that’s probably why Nintendo won’t do it).
This report could have been titled “Smartphones (and China) are eating the world”: Gaming on mobile is already the biggest device segment, it will continue to grow even bigger. The trend will accelerate post-2017, as smartphone adoption will continue in emerging economies. And it’s always something I like to remind: for many people around the world, smartphones are the only gaming devices they can actually afford. Consoles and PCs are affordable mostly in well developed countries but completely out of reach for most gamers in emerging countries. 
After Battlefield 1 went back to the past last year, Activision is taking Call of Duty back to its World War II roots. While the series had been criticised by certain fans for going too far in the future with the latest episodes, I am actually surprised that they went as far back as WWII. I am interested to see how this is going to affect gameplay in multiplayer modes as they often integrated futuristic devices and abilities in previous episodes. 
I am not an esport expert but I wonder how the release of a new CoD every year affects the competitive landscape. One of the great appeals of sports is the consistency in rules overtime. Sometimes a game is played differently in different eras but fundamentally, rules tend to mature after a few iterations and remain the same afterwards. What it does is that it enables players to really master a game that remains the same, and fans to appreciate players’ progress overtime. And that’s something we already see in esports: Counter-Strike, League of Legends or Starcraft are games that have remained fairly similar for years and are still top esport titles today. Activision will probably have to look at its release strategy and how it affects multiplayer if it wants to establish CoD as an esport powerhouse.
The Affiliate Program is there to give enough incentives to aspiring streamers to stay on Twitch and draw some from competition. As reported in my previous issues, there is growing uncertainty on YouTube due to advertising volatility and the income attached to it. The Affiliate Program opens up monetisation for “modest” streamers, before they can get to a Partner plan which would give them access to Subscriptions from viewers.
As for the new Subscription Plans, while the benefit for Partnered Streamers is obvious - increased income - I struggle to see any major benefit for Subscribers. The new plans do not act as paywall as the $4.99 subscription is still available, but there’s very little incentive for subscribers beyond supporting a streamer. There was probably a lot more to do, now that Twitch is selling gaming content on its platform.
Notable Game Reviews
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Eurogamer.
I have to admit: because it’s a hybrid console, I wasn’t expecting Switch’s software to perform that well. I still have doubt that ports from PS4/X1 can be done without requiring significant optimisation, but Nintendo so far has done a fantastic job at getting great looking games on the Switch. Really can’t wait to see what they will present at E3 in just a few weeks.
Blog Posts
I missed out on this post last week, my bad.
If I was a game developer/publisher with esport ambitions, one game I would absolutely study is Smash Bros Melee. This game was released 16 years ago, had no online mode, no Arcade version, has never been updated and was never pushed by Nintendo to become an esport title. There is definitely something in the game design that made this game so special that it is still played in many esport competitions, despite the releases of 2 sequels on newer consoles.
My good friend Nicolas Cerrato often talks about the importance of game design in esport. If you’re interested, you should definitely follow him on Twitter.
This article piggies back on this MIT Technology Review article, published a few months ago.
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