Category Archives: Gaming

Gaming Trends & Issues on Modern Media Mix

Are Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass Killing the Mobile Gaming Industry or Helping It?

How many times have you downloaded a super fun game only to find out you need to pump your precious time and money into it to excel? How often do you hear about a popular game on the apple store that spams its users with an endless number of ads?

Games like these are called Gacha Games. In these “Freemium” or “Pay-to-play” games, players spend virtual currency to receive game items which usually results in a competitive advantage. Spending real money to obtain this currency is a quick and easy way to acquire it. 

Some would argue that Gacha Games are ruining the mobile gaming experience, which is a reason why Apple and Google recently introduced their new mobile gaming streaming services: Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass. 

Apple Arcade

Apple Arcade is a mobile gaming subscription service launched by Apple on September 19th, 2019. Apple Arcade is available on Apple iPhones, iPads, Macbook computers and even Apple TV. Subscribers pay one monthly fee for access to dozens of exclusive games with no ads or in-app purchases. Users can play online or offline with up to 6 family members. 

Google Play Pass

Google also announced a mobile gaming subscription platform called Google Play Pass as a competitor to Apple Arcade. It is similar to Apple Arcade in that it requires a subscription with a monthly fee and access to games with no ads or in-app purchases. 

The key difference is that Google Play Pass games aren’t exclusive to the subscription service, unlike Apple Arcade. Games that don’t subscribe to Google Play Pass still have the option to buy and play these games. The subscription also allows you to unlock in-app purchases and expansion packs that would normally be an additional cost to gamers. 

Let’s see how these two services stack up with each other:

Apple Arcade Google Play Pass
Content 100 Exclusive Games 251 Non-exclusive Games and Apps 
Cost $4.99/Month $4.99/Month
Compatible Devices iOS Devices Android & Google
Devices
My streaming service comparison Netflix Apple Music

Both services are $5 per month, but as you can see Google Play Pass doesn’t just offer games like Apple Arcade, it offers all different apps like health, productivity, fitness, and many others. Also, they boast 150 more content than Apple Arcade. 

Apple is taking more risks though by putting $500 Million into development and taking a risk by signing contracts with game developers and making their content exclusive to the subscription. Which Google is not doing. 

If I had to compare these to other streaming services, I would compare Apple Arcade with Netflix because it offers a plethora of exclusive games and original content like Netflix does with television and movies. 

Google Play Pass is more like Apple Music because it offers content that you can pay for separately for if you want, but it’s cheaper in a bundle. 

How does this affect the mobile gaming industry?

Developers of mobile apps and games will be impacted in several ways since Google and Apple are introducing such innovative services. These services are going to affect independent game developers negatively. Giant mobile games like “Candy Crush” and “Clash of Clans” will retain their dedicated users but the gaming industry is already a very tough market to penetrate for small developers. These developers rely on ads and in-app purchases to make their money, but when Apple and Google offer hundreds of games at the same price, it devalues premium games forcing small developers to join the service, or die. 

Now it is not all that bad for developers who do choose to join these services. Since consumers expect free games, developers have been forced to sacrifice the quality of their games by integrating ads and in-app purchases. These subscriptions now put the focus back on high-quality games that consumers don’t need to pay a premium for to excel. 

Consumers are the biggest winners with the introduction of Arcade and Play Pass. These games will remove the barrier to success that most mobile “Pay-to-Play” games have. Each of the top 50 grossing apps on the app store offers in-app purchases which usually unlocks certain features or gives gamers a competitive advantage. These streaming services eliminate all in-app purchases giving everyone a level playing field. 

This subscription also offers way more premium content at a much lower price. Lots of console games are $50 to $60 and mobile games sometimes require you to spend even more into them, these services offer you hundreds of games at a bargain rate of $5 a month. 

Do you think Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass will kill the mobile gaming industry? Or does it give consumers the content they’ve been wanting for years? Give me your opinions in the comments!

-Dylan Parker

Fortnite vs. Father Time: Is Fortnite Taking the L?

Fortnite Battle Royale is an online video game developed by Epic Games. The game pits up to 100 players together to compete to be the last one standing. Fortnite was released in July of 2017 with nearly 1 million players at its launch. After its launch, Fortnite continued to grow into a mega powerhouse that took over the entire gaming community. Several reasons lead to the success Fortnite received, but these same reasons are now leading to its demise.

After hitting its peak in May of 2018, F ortnite has slowly declined with a few jolts in popularity at each season release. A recent report from the Nielsen Company shows how real the decline of Fortnite is. Fortnite was once the top grossing game for both console and PC, and now only remains atop of console games. However, with the constant decline Fortnite is facing, it is only a matter of time it will be dethroned. 

One of the biggest reasons for Fortnite’s success is the constant changing of its game. There are many ways that Epic does this to please its players. Epic has changed the map, nerfed weapons, adjusted building speeds, and added new modes to try and reinvigorate the game. 

These changes have been made to help both professional and amateur players. However, these changes have led to a major divide in the gaming community. This divide is putting Fortnite in parail. Without its immense number of amateur players, the revenue spent on in game purchases will be nearly eliminated. If Epic continues to frustrate its professionals it will be fall behind its competition in the e-sports world. Along with this divide, Fortnite is struggling to stay relevant because Epic no longer has the power to make its own decisions. 

Their core competency of constant evolution has been compromised because of the divide they have created. The best example of this can be seen with the B.R.U.T.E. mech machines they introduced is season 10. The B.R.U.T.E. was an armored robot like machine that was intended to bridge the gap between amaeture and professional players. Epic released many statements defending their decision to these being in the game, but eventually removed the B.R.U.T.E. mech  to please it audience.

Other issues that are leading to the death of Fortnite include: repetitiveness, pressure on lootbox and microtransactions, and legal issues over the in game emotes. Out of all of these issues, I believe the lawsuits over in game emotes is the largest concern. According to a LendEDU survey 70% of Fortnite’s players have made an ingame purchase on emotes (in game dances) or skins (how your character looks). 

While the pressure of eliminating microtransactions will ultimately wipe out Fortnite’s main source of income, it is the lawsuits that I find more detrimental. 

If the lawsuits brought forth from the likes of, 2 Milly, Alfonso Ribeiro, the “Backpack Kid”, and Blocboy JB result in them receiving sole rights to their dances then Epic will have no choice but in wiping out these emotes from Fortnite. If these emotes are removed, they will then have to refund the millions of players who have purchased them. Depending on the court rulings, the plaintiffs will also receive compensation for the intellectual property being copyrighted. 

I believe that Fortnite has come to the end of its run as a popular game. With all of the issues I presented, I do not see how Fortnite can have any more success. What do you think? Is Fortnite a game that will maintain the popularity it had at its peak with 125 million in 2018, or will it become obsolete like many fads of the past? If you believe Fortnite’s fatality is in the near future, what do you believe will be the final nail in the coffin to the games relevance?

-Joshua Farris

Can eSports Make the Jump to the Olympics?

In 2020, the Tokyo Olympics will host an eSports competition leading up to the Olympic games. This is a huge step for eSports and it gaining mass acceptance as a legitimate sport/competition. The tournament will be hosted by Intel, and competitors will be playing Street Fighter V and Rocket League. There will be a prize pool of $250,000 for each game. 

Although it has made a lot of progress, the world of eSports still has a number of obstacles to overcome in order to gain full recognition in the Olympics and beyond. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) holds some pretty high standards with what they decide to include and present during the Olympics.

Most of the concern I see when there is talk of video games is about how violent they are. In fact, it’s hard for the IOC to include games because a lot of popular eSports revolve around guns and violence. This won’t fly because it goes directly against the values of the Olympic games. Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, says, “It would be a ‘red line’ for the organization that no video games deemed to include ‘the promotion of violence’ or ‘any kind of demonstration’ would be permitted at the Olympics.” You can find more information about this in the article linked here.

Street Fighter and Rocket League are good games to pick in order to avoid games filled with violence. Rocket League does not demonstrate any sort of violence in the game. Street Fighter, although is a fighting game, contains no blood/gore. In fact, most compare Street Fighter to another Olympic event, boxing. 

Another obstacle I found was concern about spectators being able to follow along with the game. Certain games can be tricky to follow. Unless you are an avid player of any specific game, it’s going to be hard to tell what is going on and find what you’re watching enjoyable. The ability to consistently keep track of who is winning is important to viewers. More information about this challenge is here.

Again, Rocket League and Street Fighter make for excellent counters to this problem. Rocket League, even though played with rocket cars, is a game which highly resembles soccer and hockey: two popular sports which most people are familiar with. Street Fighter, which again resembles boxing, works because it displays a big, bright health bar to show clearly who is winning. People tend to find the gameplay easy to follow because of how it resembles boxing. In fact, because big health bar at the top of the screen, Street Fighter is arguably easier to follow than boxing.

The last issue I wanted to bring up was the constant evolution of the gaming industry. Fortnite is an excellent example of this. The game wasn’t popular at all until its “Battle Royale” mode was introduced. After that, it blew up and became a household title. New events take normally 7 years to be officially implemented into the Olympics and Fortnite: Battle Royale isn’t even 3 years old. New popular titles are constantly appearing and being considered.

Once more, I think including Rocket League and Street Fighter really prove that games can last. Street Fighter has been around since 1987 and is still widely played. Rocket League, although not nearly as old as Street Fighter, seems like it will be around for a while. It’s been out for over 4 years now and still has a growing, interested fan base. For a modern game, lasting more than 2 years seems to be a rare feat. 

There is hope for the eSports community. The IOC held a live Olympic forum last year (more information here) and it showed a lot of promise for eSports future in the Olympics. More inclusion would bring in a younger audience, which has been significantly lacking in recent Olympic events. There would be a wider acceptance of video games as a whole. And last, there would be more opportunity for young people to succeed in their life and pursuits. 

Let me know what you think of eSports potentially becoming Olympic events. Is it exciting? Do you think it will be well received? Do you think including eSports goes against what the Olympics stands for?

-Nathan King

Is Everyone Jumping on the Battle Royale Bandwagon?

Battle Royale games have been rising in popularity since early 2017. The two most popular battle royale games, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, currently have over 77 million players combined worldwide. Both games are predicted to bring in over $1 Billion in their first year alone. Combine this with their nearly overnight growth in popularity and it is clear that battle royale games have become a big threat to other game companies.

Battle Royale

The battle royale game type gets its name from a Japanese movie made in 2000 “Battle Royale”. In this movie a class of high school students are put on an island fight to the death until only one remains. In 2012 a similar movie was made in America, “The Hunger Games”.  With a PG-13 rating “The Hunger Games” was able to reach and influence a younger audience. Eventually these movies inspired game creators to make mods, or custom game types, with a Hunger Games theme in mind.

One of the more popular mods was created and cared for by Brendan Greene, aka PlayerUnknown. His mod, with the help of “Unreal Engine 4” by Epic Games, would go on to become the stand-alone game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG for short. Shortly afterwards, Epic Games would release Fortnite, which appeared to be a cartoony copy of PUBG and used the same engine. This sparked some controversy which quickly died down.

Both games rose in popularity, and in a few short months each game had tens of millions of players worldwide. Other game companies took note of this and started plans to hop on the battle royale bandwagon. In an article on GameRant, Activision Blizzard talked about their new game, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. It is mentioned that this Call of Duty game will be significantly different from its predecessors as it will not have a campaign and will focus more on a team style combat in player versus player battle. Later Activision Blizzard went on to announce a battle royale mode would be added to the game to compete with Fortnite.

Activision Blizzard is not the only company to take a lesson from PUBG and Fortnite, DICE is also going to be adding a battle royale mode to their new game, Battlefield V. DICE’s battle royale mode, called Firestorm, is described as battle royale done the Battlefield way. In Firestorm sixteen teams of four fight to the last squad standing in a WWII themed battle ground.

Smaller gaming companies are also trying to get into the spotlight by making their own battle royale games. Games like the Darwin Project, Rapture Rejects, and Islands of Nyne are all battle royale inspired games hoping to make a few bucks before this new craze dies down.

battle royaleWhether or not you are a fan of the battle royale game type it seems to be growing in popularity and bringing more and more people into the videogame market. With free to play games like Fortnite people are more inclined to try out a game before they get hooked. The big titles in gaming are losing fans to these free to play games and are combating it with a “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude.

While some companies like Activision Blizzard are quick to change everything about their classic Call of Duty games, other companies are playing it safe. DICE is keeping with what they know and adding in a fresh take on battle royale; this move makes it look like they are not sure if the battle royale fad will continue in the future or not. Do you think that the battle royale games are here to stay, or are they just another footnote in gaming history?

-Lane Larson

Beta Backers – The New and Dangerous Way to Support a Video Game

Over the past few years, Video game companies have started a new approach to delivering their final product to their consumers, giving them an option to offer feedback towards the final product and playing early at the cost of a few dollars. While it might be fun to play the game early and feel like a part of the development process, there are risks involved in being in the Early Access phase of a game.

video gameBefore the introduction of the internet, video games were sold as a final product as either a cartridge or CD. Now with most consoles and PCs having access to the internet, companies can make changes quickly depending on consumer feedback.

video game

What makes a product in beta any better than a fully finished product? Early Access / Betas for video games can be a win-win for both the developers as well as those purchasing the product: developers now have funds to further develop their game to their liking and those that purchased the game can play it earlier than others as well as giving their helpful advice or criticism early into the development cycle allowing the developers time to change some of the problems to make the community happy.

video gameAs small and large development teams alike might take advantage of this strategy and have those that the game give feedback as well as submitting bug reports and crash reports to make their game more stable for the final release. Ben Kurchera of Polygon says it the best:

“…the process often feels like listening to the demos of your favorite band as they’re in the studio recording”

Sure there are problems…While a successful beta can lead to quality word of mouth from reputable sources and peers alike, there are always a few bad apples in the bunch, and by a few, there are quite a few bad apples. According to Steam Early Access in 2014, there was an increase in Early Access games by 123% from the previous year. While that might seem like there is a good quality of games in the Steam store, only about 25% of these Early Access games actually see a full release. Games like Cube World blew up in 2013 generating millions of views on Youtube, but despite the overall well received game, Cube World creator Wollay has gone silent since July 2017.

Today, using Valve Steam’s Application Programming Interface, Steamspy.com [https://steamspy.com/genre/Early+Access], can track various data within the Steam Store. About 2,800 titles with the “Early Access” tag generate an average user score of 70.3% as well as maintaining an average playtime of five hours. Five hours to play a game and never pick it up again? While the company already has your cash, that is still an unfortunate side effect of an Early Access game.

What makes a good beta? With no clear formula to create a quality video game early access experience, there are a few ways that game companies can up their overall performance to help create a better game:

Communication between parties

  • Every update should be accommodated with a short explanation on what and why items are changing for the most recent patch.
  • All forms of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc) should be active, whether that be responding to comments, suggestions, or criticism.

Updates

  • Keep the user base interested in the product. Release small updates every week or so to keep your user base around and talking about the game.
  • FREE UPDATES. While yes, video game developers require cash to keep it coming, the game is in BETA. If your game company is looking to monetize, then push for a full release to sell at full price. Small micro transactions can be a tipping point for most people since they might have already paid for the beta/ early access of the game.

Marketing

  • Even though the game is not close to finishing, you still want new people to come and try out your product. Beta and Early Access is a crucial time for the game, for if the game is not successful while in the early stages, how well will it be two years from now?
  • Attempt to use the user base as a form of marketing. Offer unique rewards for referring a friend or liking certain pages on social media. Any word for a starting game can be beneficial.

-Nate Weber

Electronic Arts in Legal Trouble Over Loot Boxes?

Everybody knows about EA’s past struggles and scandals with the loot boxes in their games. Nearly all of EA’s major franchises include loot boxes in some form whether it’s their annual FIFA and Madden Games or their first person shooter games like the battlefield series. One of EA’s games that caught the most attention for having loot boxes is the infamous Star Wars Battlefront 2.

Electronic ArtsIf you are unfamiliar with the controversy behind Star Wars BattleFront 2, Gamespot wrote a summary of the drama that unfolded back in 2017. In short, during EA’s beta of Star Wars BattleFront 2 players discovered that the loot boxes EA had put in the game made the game very unbalanced and basically made the game pay-to-win. Players took to the internet and complaining about how the game was designed to pressure players into paying to advance at a reasonable rate in the game.

EA attempted to defend their decisions centered around the loot boxes on Reddit but ended up breaking a record for the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. According to the WSJ Fearing losing profitability in one of their biggest franchises Disney’s chairman of consumer products sent a message to EA and expressing his concerns about how the player outrage could affect the Star Wars brand. Shortly before the games official launch EA decided to temporary remove loot boxes fearing it lootboxes would negatively affect their sales going into the holiday season. Eventually after the controversy had calmed down they put loot boxes back into the game but with only cosmetic items that could affect how your characters looked.

Electronic ArtsAlmost a year after the Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot box scandal EA is making headlines again due to the company being under criminal investigation in Belgium due to FIFA’s loot boxes according to EuroGamer. Back in April of this year Belgium declared that some loot boxes are considered gambling are are also illegal. After this decision Blizzard, Valve and 2K Games all made actions to remove or modify their loot box systems in the Belgium versions of their games. EA decided to do nothing following Belgium’s decision and now if Belgium decides to prosecute the case will go to court.

The reasoning behind Belgium’s stricter loot box policies is because Belgium’s gaming commission conducted an investigation into games with loot boxes in video games to see if they fall under Belgium’s definition of gambling.  According to a Belgium press release the results of the investigation were that Belgium’s gaming commission considered loot boxes to be a game of chance because of the fact that players didn’t know which items a box may contain when purchasing the loot box. Belgium is also concerned about loot boxes due to the fact that a lot of children play these games and are vulnerable to gambling at an early age. Belgium also states that the only options for games with loot boxes are to remove them entirely from the Belgium version of the game or modify them to display the contents of the box and the chance of how often each player has at receiving an item. The developers would also have to state that loot boxes are a form of gambling in the game if they choose to modify it.

Some consequences that EA might possibly have to face for refusing to modify their loot box system  includes a $800,000 fine for violating Belgium’s gaming commissions’ rules or face 5 years in prison for whoever was involved in the decision of implementing loot boxes into the game. On top of that since the gambling commission also state that minors are involved the fines have the possibility of doubling making EA to possibly pay over one million dollars or 10 years of jail time.

Overall this probably isn’t more of a bump in the road for EA they have already made public the odds of the “card packs” in their FIFA games. They might have done this in attempts to avoid a court case in Belgium all together but even if it goes to court no one is going to go to jail over these loot boxes. EA would most likely just pay the fine if it ever comes done to that. Thanks to EA some countries are asking themselves “Are loot boxes a form of gambling?”

-Charles Schwarz

A Monopoly Crumbles: Distribution in the Video Game Sector

A monopoly is crumbling. This isn’t a monopoly over oil or diamonds, but over video game distribution. Steam, the king of distributing video games, is being challenged by multiple competitors.

Video GameSteam is the largest computer video game distributor in the world with 125 million active users. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, Steam is relatively unchallenged in the world of distribution. Sure, platforms like EA’s Origin and Blizzard’s Battlenet are alternatives, but they are only used for a select amount of games each company has acquired. Steam has tens of thousands of titles.

While Steam does have a positive overall reputation in the video game world, they could still use some competition. It’s not good for the consumers to be forced to depend on one service for distribution.

As pretty much everyone knows, monopolies aren’t a good thing. Steam’s position allows it a lot of power in pricing its games, and unchecked bargaining power because the sellers can’t go anywhere else to sell their PC game effectively.

But now all of that is changing.

Video Game Last April, the video game company known as Tencent announced that it was going to rebrand its online services to create a platform where users may buy and play games. This will be a platform nearly identical to Steam. Tencent is calling their new platform WeGame.

Tencent may be an unfamiliar name to some, but their products are big, and they are a huge brand in China. The own both Riot Games (League of Legends) and Supercell (Clash of Clans).

League of Legends alone is significant as it is the most popular video game on the market. Clash of Clans has a strong following as well. Additionally, Tencent has significant stakes in Activision Blizzard and Epic Games, two major studios in the video game world.

Most importantly, it is estimated that Tencent has 200 million active users, thanks to China and the Asian Market.

Video Game The new platform was officially released September first about two months ago. Here’s the link to their slick new platform. Now there is one noticeable problem with Tencent’s platform; you need to speak Chinese.

Despite Tencent being a “global game distributor,” there is no non-Chinese version yet. It has only been out two months, and Tencent has promised to bring it to as many countries as possible, but for now English users will have a hard time using the platform.

Despite the lack of an English version, China’s market alone is enough to challenge Steam. Things will only get worse for Steam as they will be in more trouble once WeGame can effectively hit American market as well as others. But WeGame isn’t the only competitor Steam may have to worry about.

Twitch announced several months ago that it would be selling games via Twitch. It is clear that Amazon, Twitch’s parent company, wants a slice of the market. Twitch’s offer is unique as well since it will give its Streamers a piece of the revenue earned off the purchase, which will encourage the Streamers to positively influence other users to buy from Twitch.

Video Game The rise of Twitch is an interesting development, and one that shows no signs of stopping. Similar to how YouTubers have become famous and wealthy due to their videos, Twitch Streamers are starting to do the same thing. Viewers on Twitch can now buy the game that their favorite Streamer plays, and that Streamer gets a cut of the profits, which actively encourages Streamers to promote the games they play.

This method of advertisement has been effective in the last few months that Twitch began selling games. Twitch has doubled its library of games and partnered with more game companies. If this pattern continues, they could easily become a significant threat to Steam.

It is unlikely that Steam, or its parent company Valve, will simply fall apart and disappear. However, it is likely that Steam will have to deal with some serious competition. WeGame and Twitch are already threatening Steam’s grip on the market. More competition is good for the market and consumers, so this is welcomed. It looks like another monopoly will be a thing of the past.

-Sam King

Switching Up How to Catch Them All

Since 1980 Nintendo has held a monopoly on handheld gaming.  From the Gameboy Color all the way to the New Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo has had minimal competition in this market.  With the release of the Nintendo Switch on March 3, 2017 many questions have arisen.  Being the world’s first “hybrid console”, since it’s both handheld and a console that can be played through the television, it really shakes up the world of gaming.  Having the New Nintendo 3DS and the Switch can possibly result in Nintendo competing with itself and causing self-cannibalization.  So, what’s the next move for them?

SwitchA lot of 3DS owners only have them to play one of the world’s most famous and profitable franchises, Pokémon.  Game Freak, the developer behind Pokémon, has recently announced that Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, released on November 17, 2017, would be the last main title released for the New 3DS.  All games after that will be released on the Nintendo Switch.  In my opinion, this may not be the most profitable at first, but it will be in the future.

SwitchThere are several reasons why I believe that it will not be profitable right away.  The original price point of the New Nintendo 3DS was $199.99 and the price of the Nintendo Switch is $300.  That doesn’t sound so bad, except for the fact that the New Nintendo 3DS only has a resale value of $60.  That doesn’t put a huge dent in the cost of buying a Switch.  In the first 3 months the Switch sold 4.7 million units, while the New Nintendo 3DS sold 4.3 million units in the first 3 months.

Nintendo moving everything over to the Switch has its advantages and disadvantages.  Obviously, the graphics would be way better on the Switch.  The Switch also has a much better multiplayer interface than the 3DS.  The Switch has also been experiencing some problems that might make people not want to buy it right away.  There have been multiple cases of the controllers (joy-cons) not connecting to the system.  Also, the charging points have not worked for many Switch owners.  There have even been some cases of Switches not turning on.

Switch

How is Nintendo going to handle this switch?  They could do some kind of trade-in deal for 3DSs’ for more money.  Nintendo could also just count on 3DS players to splash out the cash and switch to the switch.  Another probable thing is for them to just discontinue 3DS games.  So what do you think?  The switch over sounds messy but will it be worth it in the end?

 

-Mitch Diamond