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.
Having been at the global launch of Sony’s PSP back in the day (and a few more console launches besides) the launch of a new Sony handheld is always going to pique my interest and bring back some memories. But it’s perhaps what sets Project Q apart from its forebears rather than what makes it the next in lineage that makes it the most interesting.
What we have here is Sony’s first ‘dumb’ console. A Dual Shock 5 broken in half with an 8” tablet screen jacked into the middle. Sure there are processors, batteries and brains in there but the raw processing required to get your game on is being supplied from elsewhere for the very first time… And it’s starting to look like things will never look the same again.
If Sony can deliver slick PS5 streaming to the Project Q, serve up a PlayStation Plus gaming subs service AND maybe a few Q-exclusive games (that make use of the new device’s combo of controls and yet-to-be-confirmed touchscreen) then they could have a winner on their hands.
But there are plenty of huge hurdles to overcome first. Let’s not forget that you need to own a PS5… And that streaming subscription option? Sounds like they’ve got a whole Google Stadia-style amount of explanation to do. But perhaps the biggest problem will be one of the oldest. What’s the betting they can't resist charging too much for it. £199? £299? More? Prepare to be disappointed.
You have to feel sorry for Lars Wingefor. Being neck deep in failure in front of a live internet audience is a situation no-one wants to be put in. Especially if you're in charge of one of gaming’s biggest companies.
To have a vital $2 billion deal fall apart at literally the eleventh hour, the night before your Q4 financials sounds like something you’d find in a Hollywood movie script rather than a PG.biz story. And it's a story that only raises more questions. Such as how Wingefor ended up risking 45% of the company's value on "a verbal agreement". With lukewarm financials on the way we can only guess at the chutzpah of the Rocky-style victory speech that he didn't get to deliver.
It’s a shame because despite the financials, there were some bright spots in Embracer's disaster day. Such as Dead Island 2 taking the spot of Deep Silver’s best selling title so far after a harrowing development cycle.
But the most pertinent question remains, who was the deal going to be with? $2bn is a lot of money. Speculation is going to be rife, and I reckon it’s only a matter of time before someone talks, the real winner is revealed and this story becomes even more interesting…
Game studios are often in the background when it comes to the profile of the games that they develop. While every platform has its superstar games, it takes something special for the developers that made them to achieve similar household name status. Square Enix, Naughty Dog, and Zynga… Game makers rise to this mantle through breakout hits or a string of high-quality games which allows them to scale.
The launch of Bad Brain, a new multiplatform studio under the NetEase umbrella, stands out because it appears to be going for big-name status before any significant information on its first game has even been announced. We know it’s an open world horror/adventure title inspired by cult cinema and… what? Will it be based on an existing IP? Is it another spin off of Dead by Daylight, which is developed in Montreal, and which already partners with NetEase for the mobile version? Time will tell.
NetEase hasn’t just launched a new studio, it’s shrewdly identified the trends in gaming and adult animation to create an eye-catching announcement video with colourful visuals and a sense of humour, while lampooning those in the games industry who place more emphasis on the bells and whistles of development than on the substance. To paraphrase Brooklyn 99’s Charles Boyle, “Games don’t need to be clever, they just need to be good”. Blockchain implementation or CCG elements can’t save a bad game, but they can enhance good ones.
As such, Bad Brain have come racing out of the stable with a fresh marketing campaign that immediately sets it apart from others - not a bad start at all. We don’t know whether other studios will take this approach in the future, but game makers would do well to take note of Bad Brain’s approach to creating a name for itself.
Apple emerged mostly victorious in its recent antitrust appeal against Epic Games, but the one case they fell short on could have long-term ramifications for the giant. Apple's store is known for being locked down, and developers who want to call that store their home have to cough up a 30% cut. Well, that may no longer be the case with an open store.
So what better timing for Apple to show just how much work they put into keeping the store and you safe. From a developer's point of view, it's incredibly frustrating to be giving up 30% of what your creation is worth, but here's Apple saying, “Look at how much we keep you and your potential players safe.” Apple is saying they are taking action against users and developers and claim to review over 100 thousand app submissions per week.
There's always been this contrast between Android users - who perhaps want more control over what they can get on their phone - and Apple users, who specifically choose to use that service because everything is under review. So what impact could an open Apple store have? Will developers rejoice at the idea of using alternative payment methods to dodge the 30% cut, or will we see the Apple Store's shiny reputation take a hit if a flood of potentially dangerous and fraudulent apps find themselves on the platform?
With WWDC just around the corner, we'll know how Apple intends to adapt its terms to the EU rules sooner rather than later.