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.
Netflix may be bringing its games to TV screens
Now this is interesting. So many angles and so much confusion when all they want to do is make your Netflix subscription that little bit better…
That Netflix includes Netflix Games is a great additional feature. And with the service spending money to land big names (including exclusives and originals) there’s really nothing to not like… Apart from the fact that - given the Netflix user base - the percentage of users actually taking advantage of all their efforts is pitifully low. As little as 1% it’s estimated.
And the fault can be blamed squarely on the positioning of the Games offering within the App UI. So many millions of users simply steam-roll their way through the super-familiar app that they use EVERY DAY (that Netflix would be crazy to edit and upset) that they miss all the fun hidden below its surface.
I can’t criticise too much as I’m at a loss as to how they could make it better/easier to get their games onto devices and in front of their subscribers… Other than placing them on the front page of App Stores and devising a deal with Apple and Google as to how they could pay them £zero for their help…
So putting these great games INSIDE their TV app - and delivering them perhaps via a Google Stadia-style streaming option - seems like a no-brainer.
The irony is that after all the love that they gave mobile (and all the love and great games that the mobile gaming community gave them back in return) that the mobile device is going to be relegated to simply being a controller. TV comes back from the dead and beats phone? I didn’t see that one coming.
Roblox’s new advertising preempts legislation but still sees criticism
Again, this is one of those times where I need to reiterate my age and the world I grew up in. When I was younger, Roblox was nothing more than that weird, Minecraftish - although it actually predates that game - MMO you could play in a browser that had some mildly diverting games. If you told me that, in ten years time it would be one of the biggest metaverse platforms in the world and would also see criticism for the way it served ads to players, I’d probably think you were lying.
And it seems I wasn’t just out of the loop either. Roblox’s rise has been meteoric and it has accelerated to being a metaverse platform on par with Fortnite. I think a lot of that is down to user freedom and the variety of games on offer. But with that large youth audience comes the people looking to prey on them, in a variety of ways, but advertising is one of them.
I think from an ethical standpoint you really shouldn’t be exposing kids to advertising or microtransaction-ridden gameplay, full stop. It doesn’t help someone become a smart consumer and runs the risk of them making poor decisions later in life too. However, it shouldn’t just be ethical but legal considerations that are taken into account.
Roblox was always like the wild west to me, it was born well before games like this were anything but novelties to the general public. Which means that it now has to rapidly accelerate its adoption of better ethical practices to keep up with potential legislation. One of the most interesting talks at PGC London 2023 was the one which covered this legislation and best practices.
I think Roblox is a more mature platform in terms of how long it’s been around so I don’t think we’re going to have anyone worrying about being held accountable. But it’s if they can actually control what is by now a monolithic platform.
NetEase Games enters the world of animation with Anici Anime
Arguably, we’re in the golden age of game adaptations. Outside of global smash hit The Last of Us the past few years have seen films the likes of Uncharted and Detective Pikachu, while more adaptations - such as Dead by Daylight, Ghost of Tsushima, and Horizon Zero Dawn - all have their own adaptations on the horizon.
Interestingly, many of these titles are being created, in part, by the game developers. PlayStation Pictures alone worked on several of the listed adaptations, with a slate of further titles in-line for the same treatment. The world is taking note of the vast range of narratives in the world of gaming, and giving the original developers significant input in the transition.
Despite this, mobile gaming is still something of an outlier. A few notable exceptions notwithstanding, we’ve yet to see the platform get the same level of inclusion in the worlds of film or television, but this could all change with NetEase’s new moves into the world of anime. With a slate of mobile titles across genres, it’s arguably perfectly poised to create titles based on mobile games, or else go in the opposite direction and create more mobile games based on anime, while simultaneously cutting down significantly on any licensing costs - and taking home a larger chunk of the profits.
This move also represents the next step in NetEase’s attempts to diversify its revenue streams. The past few years have been tumultuous for the Chinese gaming industry, with more and more game makers taking steps to expand overseas and explore new sectors. NetEase has already made acquisitions and investments in console and PC developers, and by breaking into a new sector entirely it’s well poised to make waves in Japan’s notoriously difficult mobile gaming scene.
Ubisoft clarify the use of AI-script writing Ghostwriter
AI is undoubtedly the buzzword of 2023, so it’s unsurprising that we already see game studios exploring new possibilities. I see AI as a double-edged sword. While the technology is impressive and could be used to streamline processes, there’s always the concern that real-life creatives will suffer at its digital hands.
In this case, Ubisoft is aware of these concerns and has instantly tried to reassure writers that AI won’t be writing scripts and taking their jobs but instead aiding with more mundane tasks. They even go as far as to say that the Ghostwriter was made at the request of Ubisoft writers.
From a business perspective, it’s easy to see the appeal of AI, it can potentially cut costs and save time in an increasingly competitive market. Studios aren’t going to ignore AI, so it needs to be implemented in a way that still sees real people at the forefront of the development process, with a high quality being maintained across projects.
As it stands, the idea of AI writing simple NPC “barks” could work. It means writers have more time to work on complex dialogue and can use AI to help with their workload. My concern, however, is how long this harmony will last. When do studios start giving AI more responsibilities and real writers less creative freedom? And when do writers feel that AI isn’t helping with their job but coming to take it?