Platform holders, start your marketing engines!
May is just about in the books, and the 2020 new console hype cycle feels like it's ready to finally rev up with next Thursday's big PlayStation 5 game showcase event.
I mean, sure, there was the Xbox One Series X third-party "gameplay" reveal the other week, but that was kinda disappointing. And there was Sony's Road to PS5 livestream with Mark Cerny talking about the system architecture, but that was kinda disappointing with a side of dull. And there was the Xbox Series X livestream from that same week that would have been at GDC, but that was so disappointing and insubstantial we didn't even write up a story about it.
And let's not even talk about how odd it was to learn about the PS5's first details from a pair of Wired articles released with no build-up whatsoever. Or how bizarre it was that Sony was skipping E3—traditionally a no-brainer place to build hype for a new platform—for the second straight year even before COVID-19 nixed the event entirely. Or how the pandemic means we won't get the proliferation of small-scale events Microsoft and Sony had been planning to build excitement for their new systems this year, or the procession of shows like Gamescom, PAX West, Tokyo Game Show, and Paris Game Week that would usually serve as potentially key marketing beats in the build-up to hardware launches. Or the uncertainty of how working remotely will impact development schedules for software—in particular QA—and how that might result in more delayed or simply buggy titles at the hardware launch.
And that's to say nothing of the overall state of the world and all the dreadful depressing misery that we can't really do justice to in the time and space we have for a weekly quotes round-up.
I think Microsoft and Sony would have a hard time getting people excited to drop hundreds and hundreds of dollars on a new piece of gaming hardware right now no matter what. In light of everything that's going on and the way the companies' marketing teams are having their hands tied, the task seems that much harder.
I'm not ordinarily one to root for people getting hyped about buying stuff, but for this summer, I think I might make an exception. So show us what you've got, Sony and Microsoft. There are a lot of people out here who could really use a nice diversion to look forward to.
QUOTE | "We have always said that we believe in generations. We believe that when you go to all the trouble of creating a next-gen console, that it should include features and benefits that the previous generation does not include. And that, in our view, people should make games that can make the most of those features." - In an interview about the pandemic response and the PlayStation 5 strategy, Sony Interactive Entertainment's president and CEO Jim Ryan explains why, unlike Microsoft, Sony is making games that will be exclusive to its next-generation system.
QUOTE | "As gamers, we also know how important it is to preserve and respect our gaming legacies." - In an Xbox Series X blog post, Microsoft talks solemnly about the sacrosanct right to Gamertags, Gamerscore, and backward compatibility.
QUOTE | "If you're backwards compatible, you're really backwards." - In the 2013 lead-up to the Xbox One's launch, then-Microsoft Interactive Entertainment president Don Mattrick explained why Microsoft didn't think it was a worthwhile feature.
QUOTE | "We try to create the most rational, sensible, kind, and incredibly effective culture of business operations, marketing, and distribution worldwide to support our independent and autonomous labels." - Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive, parent company of Rockstar Games, talks about his approach to a number of issues at an investor event.
QUOTE | "It's a sweatshop, make no mistake, and you are just a number. Expendable, replaceable. And certainly not a dignified human being worthy of respect." - A former Rockstar Games developer, in 2018, was among a number of people we spoke to who gave us the distinct impression the studio culture fell short of being rational, sensible, or kind.
QUOTE | "We've seen an acceleration in the transition from physical to digital. That is a good thing. It's probably two to three years before physical more or less goes away, and it's probably accelerated that timescale a bit." - Frontier Developments CEO David Braben believes the pandemic is hastening the obsolescence of physical games.
STAT | £130 million - The amount of spending on physical games, accessories, and consoles at U.K. game retailers last month, the highest April total in five years. (Yes, this is a data point countering Braben's statement, but I wouldn't bet on a once-in-a-century pandemic to reverse a clear decade-long trend and keep physical games from going the way of vinyl LPs in the long run.)
QUOTE | "The real problem when you think about it brutally, if you look at just core gamer games, pre-owned has really killed core games. In some cases, it's killed them dead." - David Braben, in 2012, showing his assessment of the market is by no means infallible. (Yes, the market of dedicated single-player console games was quiet for a few years and pre-owned played a part in that, but it seems as if publishers have adapted and maybe these very shareable declarative statements of doom or gloom for struggling things that some people still love need a more nuanced conversation than this format allows.)
QUOTE | "Every time we added complexity to it, it became a worst experience." - LEGO designer Jonathan Bennink talks about the five-year development process behind Lego Super Mario.
STAT | 1.2 billion - Average weekly downloads for mobile games in March, as COVID-19 lockdowns were instituted in numerous markets, according to App Annie. It is the highest total the market intelligence firm has yet recorded.
QUOTE | "I found that a lot of artists did this sort of thing, which is as soon as they had their biggest commercial success, their magnum opus, their follow-ups would just be these bizarre, small things that didn't measure up at all. That's basically what I'm trying to avoid." - Katana Zero developer Justin Stander, in an interview where he says the success of Katana Zero will allow him to make weirder, less broadly appealing games. (However, he does say he wants to ensure his new games aren't abrasive and don't alienate audiences.)
QUOTE | "We see this as an important next step to help our leagues and teams reach their next stage of growth." - Riot Games explains why it's going to be plastering Mastercard and Alienware banners on the playfield for spectators of League of Legends esports broadcasts.