Game subscriptions, the Metaverse, Racism and Misogyny
Xbox Game Pass vs the world
Fortnite’s new cinematic trailer and the metaverse
Stopping Asian hate
Stopping violence against women
On Xbox Game Pass consuming all
Microsoft and Xbox are on a tear in March, with a slew of insane announcements starting first with the Bethesda acquisition, and incorporation of all Bethesda published titles into the Xbox Game Pass. Shortly thereafter, the hotly anticipated looter shooter Outriders was announced to be coming to Xbox Game Pass too. And then EA Play announced they will be playable through the service.
Here on Cross-Play, we are pro-developer and pro-consumer, so this is all good news.
For gamers, Xbox Game Pass’ low subscription cost of what would typically be a single indie game on Steam per month, allows you access to an insane back library of games, and all hot, new, upcoming Xbox releases/exclusives.
While Epic and Steam are fighting for every bit of your hard earned dollars for any one of the hundreds of games in their stores, Microsoft has side-stepped that entirely by offering you the bed, bath and kitchen sink.
For developers, signing on to Xbox Game Pass can only be beneficial, whether that’s for a cash injection upfront and/or some kind of payment model over time. In addition, it can’t hurt to benefit from the massive marketing engine that Microsoft has at its disposal which appears to be growing more omni-present and multi-faceted in its approach. Disney’s recent Falcon and Winter Soldier marketing drive just had Xbox and the Game Pass (and Destiny 2, yay) featured prominently in one of its spots.
Industry talk has been going on for a few years now that Steam’s algorithms continue to hurt the indie developer, and as more indie developers enter the scene (with easy-to-get-started development and publishing tools), it only becomes harder to stand out. The first wave of Steam developer diaspora has led many to Epic, which has also offered developers straight up cash, as well as a prominent feature and marketing backing on a more trim storefront. But eventually, either Epic is going to find this approach of throwing money at developers unsustainable, or their storefront will also be bloated to the point of not being helpful at all. And with their ongoing legal battle with Apple, how much can Epic continue to burn cash on multiple fronts? I believe this puts Microsoft in a good place to support the developer ecosystem ongoingly over the long-term.
Meanwhile, Newzoo’s 2020 Global Games Market Update showed that mobile has eaten a large chunk of the PC and console pie, at 43% total rev. up from 36% in 2019. This leaves PC and console at 20% and 29% respectively (down from 21% and 32% in 2019).
With what’s left of the PC and console pie to fight over, given that the Xbox Game Pass will have Xbox exclusives, i.e. the next Halo, Elder Scrolls or Fallout titles only being playable on an Xbox console or Game Pass enabled PC, Microsoft is finally, at long last, building a substantive competitive moat against other platforms (Nintendo, Sony) and publishers.
And on the mobile front, xCloud is on the horizon, meaning by then, Microsoft will have largely solved most of the friction points of getting its games into player’s hands. Stadia couldn’t get there, and Amazon and Facebook’s cloud offerings are still nascent. In the long run, as 5G comes down in price and increases in adoption, and Microsoft can figure out the Apple conundrum for xCloud, it’ll have a unique position against the highly successful mobile-first game companies that offer game experiences currently limited by phone hardware and software.
On Fortnite’s new cinematic trailer and what it means for the metaverse
I should’ve known that the Russo Brothers (of Captain America and Avengers fame) were behind this cinematic.
As I was watching it at release, I tweeted:
Fortnite @FortniteGameEverything has come down to this. Agent Jones is putting a stop to it. Play through the Zero Crisis Finale in-game now. #FortnitePrimal https://t.co/S8i1HlE03f
It had all the hallmarks of a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) storyline; hero(es) against all odds, rising score, familiar heroics-on-a-battlefield vignette, hail mary play with a McGuffin and finally, reveal of a larger-than-life villain/anti-hero character. And sure enough, my suspicions were founded when it was revealed that it was directed by the Russo Brothers. They literally riffed off the last act of Avengers: Endgame.
The other thought I had, was how oddly referential to Ready Player One (the film) it all felt. For a couple of years now, there has been a mass influx of pop culture icons into Fortnite, all with the hopes of drawing more and more people interested in this superhero or that IP, into its game. Tim Sweeney and his team over at Epic are playing the long game to grow Fortnite into the all-encompassing metaverse for gamers and pop culture nerds alike.
Roblox recently IPO-ed and the conversation on the “metaverse” briefly entered social conscience again. Several people asked me if Roblox was a good investment. Truthfully, my money isn’t on Roblox, or even Fornite to be the end-all, be-all metaverse for humankind. Sweeney himself agrees, and says that the ideal state for the metaverse needs to be an open world and open set of tools rather than a series of closed economies and walled gardens led by corporations and other entities.
The quickly advancing interest in blockchain technology means that we’ll also start seeing the rise of more decentralized metaverses like Decentraland. In Eric Elliot’s compelling write-up on the State of the Metaverse in 2021, he shared a quote from Vitalik Buterin (Ethereum co-founder) on his experience with World of Warcraft (as a pseudo-metaverse): “Blizzard removed the damage component from my beloved warlock’s Siphon Life spell. I cried myself to sleep, and on that day I realized what horrors centralized services can bring.”
Elliot argues that a decentralized metaverse is vital so that no one corporation or entity can strangle economies, innovation and even livelihoods as Epic argues Apple is currently doing.
It remains to be seen though what value the metaverses of today can bring to the masses as most currently exist for entertainment purposes only. I expect as the metaverse provides more compelling use-cases including new forms of economies (read: buying and selling NFTs), the friction to adoption will reduce and the singular metaverse for all humankind will take shape.
For now, we’re not quite there yet at the endgame of a Matrix-like existence.
Stopping Asian hate
While this is supposed to be a newsletter of my thoughts on games, business, and tech, the injustices faced by people everyday in countries all over the world including the United States, Myanmar, Hong Kong, is at once of immediate significance to me as an individual, but also for its impact on all of us living and sharing in this world together. I believe such injustices bleed into the fabric of the games, business and tech ecosystem which means we cannot turn a blind eye to them, instead, we must confront them at once.
The murder of the 8 women (6 of whom were of Asian descent) in Atlanta is only one in a long line of racist-fuelled attacks on the Asian community, as anti-Asian narratives continue to run rampant in the United States.
It is heartbreaking to see, and the work to dismantle racism, white supremacy and provide safety for POC communities continues. Here is a great, up-to-date resource hub for supporting the fight against anti-Asian violence. Please read and help in any way you can.
Stopping violence against women
As Women’s History Month marches on, the recent murder of Sarah Everard throws into sharp relief the unfortunate truth - women all around the world are still affected by police and gender-based violence in distressing numbers. Victims continue to be blamed for the traumas inflicted on them, sexual harassers continue to be given platforms, and governments and police cannot be trusted to protect the people when there are injustices.
I believe the onus is on us men to do more work to educate ourselves, show up more fervently as allies, and stop turning a blind eye to the horrendous atrocities and acts of aggression that occur on a daily basis. Here are some resources on the violence against women. Get involved with your local support groups, volunteer and donate.
Thanks so much for reading this article. I know the last two talking points are incredibly serious, but I feel very strongly about these issues and want to make use of what platforms I have to shed light on them. If you have any thoughts or comments on additional resources that should be shared and made known, please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll help amplify.
As always, if you’re already subscribed to my FREE newsletter, thank you so much for the ongoing support; and if you’ve yet to subscribe, please consider subscribing for more free content in the future.
Finally, if you’ve any thoughts, comments, feedback on today’s issue, feel free to let me know below. Till the next one!