Newzoo predicted that in 2016, revenue from tablets and smartphones will generate $36.9 billion U.S. dollars in revenue. This will comprise 37 percent of the total market, making it the first year that mobile game revenue is expected to be greater than either console gaming or PC gaming, which are pegged at $31.9 billion U.S. dollars and $29 billion U.S. dollars respectively.
While this is a clear demonstration of the growth of the mobile market, which is expected to increase its share as the total revenue of the gaming industry is expected to be $118.6 billion in 2019, it does not mean the end for either gaming on PC or consoles. In fact, PC gaming is expected to see a 2.1 percent increase in revenue this year while console gaming revenue will rise 4.5 percent.
It seemed like the continued rise of mobile gaming might displace console gaming and many predicted just that a few years ago. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however, and we’re going to name the various ways that neither mobile nor console games will replace the other.
Recently, Ska Studios announced that the PS Vita port of their title Salt and Sanctuary has been delayed. It was originally released for PS4 and Windows PC in March. The game is being ported to Vita by Sickhead Games, while Ska Studios (a team of only two people) ports Salt and Sanctuary to other regions.
While this seems normal enough, the developer James Silva (in explaining the delays as being a result of middleware issues), attempted to cut off any toxic reactions. “Sanity policy: I’m going to delete any post berating us for not having the Vita port done,” said James on Facebook. “Another studio is working on the Vita port. Yelling at either studio isn’t going to speed up anything.”
Not only does it really turn a good mood sour fast, but I just hate to see the industry becoming such a toxic place. – James Silva
“As a general plea, I wish everyone could be civil to developers. In my nine years of professional indie game development, I’ve seen attitudes go from 95 percent supportive/5 percent meh to 50 percent supportive/50 percent angry, impatient, and downright hurtful,” they added. “Not only does it really turn a good mood sour fast, but I just hate to see the industry becoming such a toxic place.”
EVO 2016 was a watershed moment for esports, when the world’s biggest fighting game tournament reached a larger audience then it ever had before. We examine the reluctance of the fighting game community (FGC) to embrace esports before now, how EVO and fighting games can naturally work as well as esports, and how they’re still room for improvement.
World Championship of Fighting Games
The ratings have come out for the final day of EVO 2016’s Street Fighter V tournament was televised on ESPN2. According to Nielsen, there were roughly 201,000 viewers through ESPN2, in addition to 213,927 Twitch viewers and 182,716 on the main stream. On top of the record 14,000 competitors and largest number of attendees made this the largest EVO in history. The numbers also make it one of the biggest esports events in the U.S. this year.
Mitch Lasky, who has had multiple successful investments in their career including Riot Games and Snapchat, considers the current state of the VR market as overfunded. They’re a bit gun-shy about investing in VR, and it goes back to Facebook acquiring Oculus.
“When I look at it more structurally, I’d say something that may sound a little strange: perhaps the Facebook acquisition of Oculus wasn’t the greatest thing for the development of virtual reality in the long-run,” said Mitch. “It set such a high watermark, and it rung the bell so loudly for the industry, that it sort of forced the hand.”
The recent controversy over “skin gambling” has blown up and forced Valve to take direct measures. We look at what led to this and what developers and publishers should really consider before adding any sort of gambling element to their game.
Skin in the Game
This saga truly began in 2011. That was the year that Valve added features to Steam to allow users to trade in-game items in for credits that would let them get the items they wanted. Team Fortress 2 turned free-to-play and made money from various cosmetic purchases, becoming the model that would later be integrated into Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).
Pokemon Go has been released and it’s officially one of the fastest growing and most successful mobile game apps within its first week. What are the reasons for this success and what it might mean for Nintendo in the future?
There seem to be two reasons for this success. Firstly, Pokemon Go realizes like no game before it the dream of actually catching Pokemon. Part of the fantasy of Pokemon has always been average people catching fantastical creatures in everyday environments. Now, players can realize that by catching Pokemon in their neighborhood. It’s the most natural combination of AR and an established game premise one could think of.
Secondly, this has spontaneously resulted in a massive outpouring of enthusiasm and real-world communication between people looking to ‘catch ’em all’ in this new app. If anyone who’s lived in an area where the app has come out, has no doubt either seen someone playing it or encountered someone they know posting about it online. It has served as a social icebreaker and a reason to get out of the house – it’s all the the sort of marketing you can’t purchase.
Difficultly in Replication
While Pokemon Go is a combination of features that compliment the mobile AR experience perfectly, none of Nintendo’s other major franchises do this. Would a Super Mario Go have players literally jumping through virtual obstacles or a Legend of Zelda Go have players finding virtual items to solve virtual puzzles? It’s possible, but it would be more of a challenge to design and doesn’t fit quite as perfectly with the abstract concept. Besides, the appeal of those franchises is not really in the first person, rather seeing those feats done by an on-screen avatar. It would also be harder to design, as Pokemon Go relies on somewhat randomly generated events that don’t compliment other Nintendo franchises as much. Most of Nintendo’s franchises are more directly active than Pokemon, which is at its heart a turn-based RPG, so other “Go” versions might require something like a VR headset to truly realize.
Of course, it isn’t as simple as having the developers of Pokemon Go work on other Nintendo franchises. While Pokemon is often regarded as being a Nintendo franchise, the reality is more complicated than that. Pokemon is owned by an entity known as The Pokemon Company which markets and licenses Pokemon merchandise, card games, and video games. The Pokemon Company is a joint venture between Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures, meaning that Nintendo only owns a third of it. Pokemon Go was developed directly for The Pokemon Company by Niantic, Inc. which is a San Francisco based developer whose previous titles include Ingress.
Still, this is a great test to see what sort of appeal a franchise associated with Nintendo would have in the mobile space. Miitomo hinted that there might be huge demand, and that was less of a game and more of a social networking app and it still saw over 10 million downloads. Stockholders clearly love this move towards mobile, raising Nintendo’s stock by as much as 50 percent.
A Hint at the NX?
What’s definitively known about the NX is almost nothing at this point. It is known that it will release in March 2017 and it has been confirmed that NX will have The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a launch title. Besides that, there’s been wide ranging speculation and leaked information that have given the public at large a general idea of the form it will likely take. Reports state the NX will be based on the Android OS and will probably function as both a portable and a home console, whether that’s via an advanced docking solution or streaming directly to a TV. Nintendo has had AR offerings for years – the 3DS launched with AR games pre-installed. It seems logical that whatever the NX ends up being that it will end up having AR features, since it’d be almost unthinkable for it to ship something portable without a built in camera.
Uniting the home and portable units of Nintendo simply makes logical business sense, as Nintendo would no longer have to split its focus with making exclusive titles for two systems. Instead, consumers will be able to buy games for THE Nintendo system on the market, making the device easier to market and sell. There’d be no question over what games were coming to particular devices and Nintendo would only have to market and sell a singular device.
Despite generally being believed to be based around the Android OS and being heavily rumored to have some sort of touch-based controls, most speculation does not say the NX will function as a phone. It’s not hard to see why Nintendo would not make NX a phone – the device would have to be designed to work with U.S. cellular carriers, which would up its cost. This would also put the Nintendo in direct competition with the likes of Samsung and Apple, and considering the tens of millions of devices those companies sell, it might be safer to simply maintain their niche in the portable game consoles. Of course, if such massive success can be had on various mobile platforms they don’t own, it brings up another issue for the NX…
Who needs the NX?
The success of Pokemon Go poses an interesting theoretical question: is the NX needed at all? Millions flocked to the app within days of its launch. It’s already been downloaded more times than the Wii U has been sold. Granted, that’s not an apples to apples comparison, but it shows the potential reach of a hit mobile app.
Nintendo’s insistence that it’s major software releases be on its own hardware is feeling increasingly anachronistic. The main reason to maintain a console style licensing system is to reap the benefits from third-party developers making games for a system, and the Wii U has had a poor track record with third-party games. Third-party efforts for Nintendo home consoles have been soft for many years and it’s hard to see the NX turning that around. The margins on selling the hardware itself is typically so thin as to not even be worth considering by itself.
There’s an argument to be made for Nintendo passing the risks of making hardware onto other companies to focus on making great software. People love Nintendo franchises and there’s no reason to think they won’t embrace them on platforms not owned and run by Nintendo. With NX, it’s clear that Nintendo is still fairly wedded to the concept of making their own hardware for at least the short term, but if they decide to shift focus to other hardware platforms, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it was the beginning of their most successful chapter yet if they launch games with even a fraction of Pokemon Go’s success.
Capcom has updated Street Fighter V with a massive patch that includes a large Story Mode and other features were absent in the launch of the game. We’ll examine the issues surrounding the way the game launched, the roll out of features and what takeaways developers can have from this experience.
What Street Fighter V Had Initially
The launch of the game felt very focused on the hardcore fighting game community. To those players, most won’t touch single-player content at all – as long as the game is interesting and competitive to play with good net-code, that will be enough. For some, Street Fighter V seemed to be a success, and the game has received well over 4,000 entrants into the 2016 Evolution Championship Series (EVO), which is a record number of entrants. The release timing in February was key to give players enough time to practice Street Fighter V for the Capcom Pro Tour series.
Tencent has made huge waves, officially announcing the rumored purchase of Supercell. The deal will be for $8.6 billion U.S. dollars, and the Chinese internet company will own an 84 percent stake.
The Deal Detailed
A majority of these shares are being purchased from the Japanese telecom company SoftBank, which bought a majority share in 2013 for $1.5 billion U.S. dollars. SoftBank makes out well with this deal, having already cashed out $1.1 billion U.S. dollars in dividends and now selling for upwards of five times what they purchased it for.
The move was a final one by SoftBank president Nikesh Arora, who stepped down from his position. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son will remain in his role, which Arora wanted, so Arora will move on instead.
The news, however, was primarily about Supercell and what will change (and won’t) as Tencent continues its rise as the owner of some of gaming’s most important companies.
I recently went to Berlin to prepare for the upcoming Casual Connect show there in 2017. While there I spent several days visiting a few game studios and other companies in the industry, and I would have to say my visit to GameDuell was one of the highlights of my trip.
I remember my first exposure to GameDuell; they were a Platinum sponsor of Casual Connect Europe. They had a really fun setup with very colorful cube chairs, a projector, big banners labeled “GameDuell is cool” and very eccentric people. If you are lucky enough to visit their office, you will probably agree with me that GameDuell is definitely very cool.
E3 has been video gaming’s largest stage for a number of years, but changes to the industry are altering the event and calling into question its future existence. We look at where the event has been, what’s happening to it, and why (in the end) developers and publishers will likely be okay.