This Week in Business is a collection of stats and quotes from our sister site GamesIndustry.biz that sheds light on console sales, new trends, and more. Check back every Friday for a new entry!
Let's mix it up a little this week. Read the first quote and then meet me in the paragraph after it.
QUOTE | "We get this a lot. I hear you. Moving to the cloud is scary. I felt the same way when music was transitioning from files to streaming… The same happened to Movies and Photos and my Docs and other files... and it's great! Games are no different. Eventually, all of our games will be safely in the cloud too and we'll feel great about it. We've been investing a ton in tech, infrastructure and partnerships over the past few years. Nothing in life is certain, but we're committed to making Stadia a success." - Google Stadia director of product Andrey Doronichev responds in a Reddit AMA session when a user asks what would happen to their Stadia purchases if Google were to discontinue the service.
OK, back with me now? That quote is stuck in my craw. It bothers me for a couple reasons. First, it's condescending. It doesn't read like a representative of a global tech giant explaining the virtues of their new attempt at disrupting a global industry that pulls in more than $100 billion annually. It reads like Mister Rogers comforting a four-year-old getting ready for the first day of school. Only instead of trying to build a more caring world for everyone, this Mister Rogers wants to sell me sweet, sweet murder simulators.
Second, it doesn't answer the question. Doronichev doesn't explicitly say what will happen if Google decides to get out of the Stadia business. The answer, presumably, is that players lose access to any games they purchased through Stadia, and Doronichev is certainly not giving out assurances that they will be able to download those games for free or get refunded or anything like that. The best he can say is that players are able to download their games' metadata and save files.
It doesn't take a whole lot of work to read between the lines and realize that customers are out of luck if Google decides to pull the plug, but Doronichev's answer is built on the assumption that on-demand game streaming is an inevitability, and the insistence that Google is committed to making Stadia a success. It completely ignores the significant hurdles facing on-demand game streaming, and Google's own track record of wavering commitment when it wades into an established market and finds little demand for its offering. (Google+ says hello.)
Jumping on board the streaming bandwagon, especially with the business model Google has chosen for Stadia, is a leap of faith. And it doesn't inspire much faith in me to have the people responsible for the project dismissing legitimate concerns, talking down to the people who express them, and tapdancing around the reality that there is no permanence to on-demand streaming, that the games you "buy" can only be played as long as the business on the other end feels it's worth it to keep running servers in the cloud. If that business ever folds, or if running those servers ever stops making financial sense (and without mandatory subscription fees, that's a massive concern), the plug gets pulled and the customers will in all likelihood come away with exactly what Doronichev's answer was worth: nothing.
QUOTE | "As you know, the Yogscast expects the highest levels of professionalism from its talent and that it is central to the company and its ethos that our fans and community are considered first." - Two weeks ago, Yogscast CEO Mark 'Turps' Turpin explains why the game streaming collective fired content creator Matthew "Caff" Meredith after eight women (including multiple Yogscast employees) came forward with allegations he used his position to pursue sexual relationships with people he had power or influence over.
QUOTE | "I have sent some inappropriate messages to several members of our community and I'm deeply embarrassed about this error of judgement." - This week, Yogscast CEO Mark 'Turps' Turpin explains why he is resigning from the company.
QUOTE | "In the past, YouTubers were very problematic for us, because players were watching those videos thinking, 'Okay, I've got the story, I don't need to play the game, I know what it's about.'" - Quantic Dream's David Cage, on a panel with Hazelight Studios' Josef Fares, where both developers said YouTube Let's Plays and Twitch streams were beneficial to their games despite fears that people wouldn't buy story-based games that could just be watched online.
QUOTE | "The additional contributions—no matter how large or small—from anyone within the HitRecord community are completely voluntary, and are meant to give them a chance to have their own creative expressions included in the game." - Ubisoft defends its partnership with HitRecord for Watch Dogs Legion, where any number of musicians will create finished songs for inclusion of the game, and then the publisher will pick 10 of them and give each song's creative team $2,000 to split between them.
QUOTE | "From store concepts that offer competitive sessions in home-grown e-Leagues to locations that sell strictly retro gaming software and hardware, GameStop will pilot the new store concepts in a select market to present something new to players both old and new, and searching for experiences in gaming beyond the console." - Specialty retailer GameStop lays out its strategy for the future after a particularly rough year that has seen its stock drop from more than $17 per share to a low just over $4.
QUOTE | "We have had no help, no guidance, love or support. It's a black box they operate in, and I get that at such a size they are now it's probably impossible to do more, but every major change they've made in the past four to five years has been at the cost of helping developers and pretty much every new change has hurt them." - MidBoss CEO Cade Peterson is one of a dozen indies who weighed in on the current state of Valve's discoverability problems on Steam.
QUOTE | "With Elegy for a Dead World, we didn't have a whole lot of trolls. My suspicion is that this was because it wasn't a fun surface to graffiti. You paid to be there, and it's a classy area and so few people are reading what other people write, you don't have an audience. It's like standing alone in a room with a beautiful painting and saying something mean to it. Like, who cares?" - Ziba Scott talks about designing around trolls in 2014's Elegy for a Dead World and his latest game, Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to).
QUOTE | "As a whole, the era of tricking people into spending money is probably gone. I think games got away with that for a while, but I think we're in a place where we're following the rules, being compliant and being transparent with players about what they're getting into." - Jake Neri, executive producer on Glu Mobile's free-to-play RPG Disney Sorcerer's Arena, talks about making a game using Disney's vast library of IP and not targeting it at players under 13.
QUOTE | "Without persuasive evidence that a novel restriction on content is part of a long (if heretofore unrecognized) tradition of proscription, a legislature may not revise the 'judgment [of] the American people,' embodied in the First Amendment, 'that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs.' That holding controls this case." - Justice Antonin Scalia sides with the games industry in 2011 in the Supreme Court's majority opinion deciding the legal battle over a California violent games law. The US absolutely has a tradition of restricting gambling among children, which is just one reason a fight over loot boxes may play out very differently.
STAT | $436 million - Detective Pikachu's worldwide box office gross to date, edging out the $433 million posted by Warcraft to become the highest grossing movie based on a specific video game yet. (Movies about games have still done better; Wreck-It Ralph did $471 million worldwide and its sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet managed $529 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Somehow the Fred Savage phenomenon The Wizard only managed $14 million domestically, but if we account for inflation and assume it was huge overseas, that's gotta still be number one, right?)