There was big news on the loot box/gambling/gaming disorder front this week, but we dedicated this space to that whole saga last week. And the week before. It comes up a lot, is what I'm trying to say.
So let's talk about something that is no doubt new and is a topic that has definitely not been beaten into the ground, like [checks what quotes we have this week] ...Microsoft's mishandling of PC gaming on Windows.
No good. Let's see what else we have... Racism in esports... PC storefront exclusivity... Yeesh. Why can't all the big topics in the industry have the decency to condense themselves to a single week and reach a sound resolution every Friday afternoon?
Ah, here we go: game streaming. We've talked about this before, and we're no doubt going to talk about it again, but it's definitely got a sustained buzz surrounding it, with Google, Microsoft, and potentially other big players getting involved as well. In fact, there's so much speculation and talk about how game streaming might work and what business models will be used that it's easy to forget it's been over a decade since OnLive and Gaikai first kicked off the on-demand game streaming market.
It's also easy to forget that for all the people rushing to the streaming market, Sony's already there. It bought its way in seven years ago by acquiring Gaikai for $380 million and has been running PlayStation Now as an active on-demand streaming business for about five years.
Still, when Sony Interactive Entertainment's Jim Ryan was talking to investors recently, it sounded like he understood streaming is still in its infancy. Five years in, PlayStation Now only has 700,000 subscribers across 19 countries.
Encouragingly, the problem everyone seems to be trying to solve—the twin terrors of latency and bandwidth requirements—doesn't seem to be an issue for Sony, as Ryan said consumer feedback rarely takes issue with problems like "lag and breakage." While he emphasized that streaming won't entirely take over the industry, Ryan is still optimistic, even if Sony's figures make it entirely clear it hasn't realized its potential yet.
STAT | 5 million - The number of PlayStation 4 users who used the Remote Play feature last year, according to Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan, or a little over 5% of the PS4 installed base. Ryan said the appetite for Remote Play is growing and part of the reason Sony feels "the move to streaming is upon us."
QUOTE | "We've not always lived up to our aspiration of keeping gamers at the center of everything we do when it comes to the experience they've had on Windows." - Xbox head Phil Spencer, in a blog post announcing that a version of Xbox Game Pass will be launching on PC.
QUOTE | "We know millions of PC gamers trust Steam as a great source to buy PC games and we've heard the feedback that PC gamers would like choice." - Spencer again, this time announcing that Xbox Game Studios titles like Gears of War 5 will no longer be exclusive to the Windows Store.
STAT | Up to 25% - The Trump administration's proposed tariff on game consoles and "essentially all" products coming from China as the trade dispute between that country and the US escalates. The government has given a June 17 deadline for public comment before it decides on implementing the tariffs.
QUOTE | "For me I think it's important, not only when there is injustice in society, that we not only point to it, that we not only expose, not only put a light a light on it, that we don't stand for it... So I made the decision that I'm going to fight, I'm going to stand in this situation, and I'm going to fight to the last bone of marrow that I have in this situation, to get this person out of Echo Fox, to get this company in a situation where it moves forward." - Former NBA champion and Echo Fox founder Rick Fox explains why he will remain with the organization. Last month he said he would depart after an "outrageous and abhorrent display of pure racism" made by an Echo Fox shareholder, after which Riot Games stepped up and threatened to kick Echo Fox out of the League of Legends Championship Series unless the company severed ties with that shareholder.
QUOTE | "The WHO is an esteemed organization and its guidance needs to be based on regular, inclusive, and transparent reviews backed by independent experts. 'Gaming disorder' is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify its inclusion in one of the WHO's most important norm-setting tools." - A joint statement released by six gaming trade groups in response to the World Health Organization officially adopting gaming disorder into its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems last weekend.
QUOTE | "Parental controls are great, but they are not a fix-all solution. They can help effectively manage screen time for young people, but parental controls alone won't help someone with gaming disorder—especially if that person is an adult—anymore than locking the booze cabinet helps an alcoholic. The underlying problems are still there, and they still need treating." - GamesIndustry.biz's Haydn Taylor has covered the gaming addiction debate as closely as anyone in recent years, and he has some excellent takeaways about the World Health Organization's recent recognition of gaming disorder.
QUOTE | "Framing is maybe too harsh a word, but it feels that way; it feels like we're being framed. Then we're asking ourselves, 'Why?' What does the commission want to achieve? Do they want more money for their operations? Do they want to fund the state treasure chest? It's also about taxation. It's about gambling licenses. It's about money. You will have to pay the gambling commission to be able to continue to do paid loot boxes. I'm not talking about a moral dilemma here." - Flemish Gaming Association spokesperson David Verbruggen likens the Belgian Gaming Commission's ruling that loot boxes constitute gambling to a witch hunt.
QUOTE | "Apps offering mechanisms to receive randomized virtual items from a purchase (i.e. 'loot boxes') must clearly disclose the odds of receiving those items in advance of purchase." - A new addition to Google Play's developer policies. Apple mandated loot box odds disclosure in December of 2017. To the best of our knowledge, Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, and Steam still have no such requirements in place.
QUOTE | "We've tried to create a game and write a story that has stakes, that has dramatic moments that reflect the level of drama and emotion that you see in the films and the books. I don't think being in a perilous situation is unique to our Harry Potter game when you compare it to the films and the books." - Jam City president Josh Yguado defends a controversial part of the company's mobile game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery in which players must escape from a magical plant called Devil's Snare. If they don't have enough energy, they can either pay money to replenish their energy and escape, or wait and watch the player's child avatar being strangled for however long it takes for the player's energy to refill for free.
QUOTE | "The problem with the analysis that says, 'Isn't everything going free-to-play and shouldn't you be doing that?' is it's sort of like, 'How's the lottery as a business?' The answer is that if you win the lottery, it's a phenomenal business. But it's not a business. It's not remotely a business." - Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick is still skeptical about the free-to-play business even though Take-Two has a handful of successful free-to-play titles.