The games industry moves quickly and while stories may come and go there are some that we just can't let go of…
So, to give those particularly thorny topics a further going over we've created a weekly digest where the members of the PocketGamer.biz team share their thoughts and go that little bit deeper on some of the more interesting things that have happened in mobile gaming in the past week.
It's been an interesting week for Unity. Their Unity Unite event at Amsterdam was, by all accounts, a great success and new CEO Jim Whitehurst was good enough to take it on the chin one last time regarding their unpopular Runtime Fee restructuring.
But it was clear that the real story at play - and one which Unity worked extra hard to get out there beyond more money moans - was the new tech in Unity 6 and their clear and present play into the world of AI for content creation.
It's obvious that new features such as Muse Sprite and Muse Texture will be hugely popular and well received. Taking the slog out of repetitive processes and giving devs who may be short of ideas for 'one more way to skin a suit of armour' a merciful out from the boring grind.
It's clear that Unity's dream of empowering anyone and everyone to be creative is really coming into its element with even small studios able to make more, and better, more quickly. But the fact that savings can (and will) be made in art departments as a result is an undeniable fact that president of Unity Create Marc Whitten dodged when we spoke to him post show.
Instead Whitten focused - unsurprisingly - on the obvious plusses. "We believe AI won’t replace actual human effort - it will enhance it. Many tools make it easier for creators to realize or express their intent and we expect tools like Muse to do just that - keep artists and creators at the center and give them more tools that they can use to iterate, refine, and mix together in order to realize their vision."
We only hope that the transition from today to Unity's bright new tomorrow goes smoothly for everyone.
In just a single quarter, Embracer’s restructuring has seen 900 people lose their jobs - and it won’t stop there. The publisher was careless in the boom years, splashing out on all kinds of IP, developers and teams with little discernible strategy to bring it all together. It always felt like a house of cards, even in the good times. All it needed was a few poor releases - and this is games, it happens all the time even with the best of intentions - to spark a chain reaction that would bring the whole thing down.
The company notably gambled its future on money it didn’t yet have, which has left a $1.4 billion black hole in its finances in Q2 2023, though that has been reduced by 31% year-over-year. Now the new investment has run dry, the inevitable is here - exacerbated by macroeconomic conditions like inflation and high interest rates - and it’s hard working developers and Europe’s games industry that are paying the price.
This report caused quite a stir. Given that this year, the gaming industry has seen mass layoffs across the board - yet somehow, there’s a skills shortage. Understandably, this ignites a spark of outrage. I feel like this comes down to a few things. Firstly, many of these ‘skills shortages’ are probably talking about senior roles, and secondly, given how rocky of a year it’s been for those working in the industry, some have left this space for good.
Another issue I have discussed before is the dated hiring process that many, not just within the gaming industry, implement. To get more seniors, sometimes you’ve got to make them yourself, promote from within, and work with the talent you have to nurture their skills so that one day, maybe that new junior will be a senior. Also, lowering the entry barrier to something feasible, so many jobs out there demand X amount of years of experience or won’t even look at you unless you’ve shipped a couple of triple-A titles. Sometimes, enthusiasm can compensate for a slight lack of experience, and everyone has to start somewhere.
While I’m sure there are other underlying issues behind this data, I can’t help but find the report almost maddening when I know there are a ton of passionate and skilled developers out there looking for work and ready to embark on their next adventure, all they need is an opportunity to do so.
Sensor Tower’s monthly reports are always an interesting read, just to make sure the big mobile players are still playing big. As for October, 37 of the top 100 mobile publishers were based in China, and as usual, Tencent, NetEase and miHoYo had their shares of success.
It’s miHoYo who’s been the most interesting to watch this year, from the anticipation of its next project after Genshin Impact through to a record-breaking launch and a lucrative first six months for Honkai: Star Rail. And it turns out October was the company’s second best month of the year for revenue, rising 10% month-on-month and showing no signs of slowing down.
These monthly reports are always an intriguing place to discover new games too, often with the most unusual names. For me, this time around, it was King of Salted Fish. Yum…?