If you read GamesIndustry.biz regularly, you might have seen a column I write over there called 10 Years Ago This Month. I put it together by looking through all the stories the site ran a decade ago that month in order to look back on the promises, predictions, strategies, and big news of the day with a little bit more historical perspective.
Sometimes when I'm putting a story together, I wonder how they would look to the theoretical compiler of a 10 Years Ago This Month column a decade from now. I can imagine that writer putting together the column for January of 2020 and seeing the first small stories about a novel coronavirus in China causing some factory shutdowns and supply chain concerns, knowing what was to come and how everything would play out.
I can see them writing the February column about how the industry was starting to come to terms with the inconceivable, specifically the late February cancellation of the Game Developers Conference.
The March column would be about lockdowns around the world, a grim recollection of the things that really hit home with people and the order they happened in: pro sports leagues shutting down, stay-at-home orders, everyone figuring out how to work from home, and the first speculation about how resilient the games industry would actually be in the face of a pandemic.
Regardless, I'm pretty sure the column for April of 2030 will be about the effect of extended lockdown on people. The way things start to spiral out of control; the creeping madness that overtakes the mind after more than a month of isolation. Days bleeding into one another, human contact a distant memory, dreams roiling with torrid scenarios of taboo transgressions like eating at a restaurant and other such debauchery.
QUOTE | "We're tired of writing about [COVID-19]. We believe many of you are tired of reading about it. Neither of us are going to be able to stop that entirely for a while yet, but there's nothing that says we can't take a break." - Me, desperately stretching to justify a games industry trade publication running a feature consisting entirely of cute pet pictures.
QUOTE | "The company has begun the process of re-opening stores in Italy, Germany, Austria and the states of South Carolina and Georgia and is preparing for the potential to re-open in other operating countries and states in the coming weeks." - GameStop CEO George Sherman on Tuesday said the retailer is ready to re-open locations in some markets.
STAT | 433 - The number of COVID-19 deaths in Italy on Monday, as reported by the World Health Organization and sourced from national authorities.
QUOTE | "An analysis of Georgia's infection rates, testing and underlying health risks shows why it's singularly unwise for the state to reopen. Doing so risks a spike in infections just as the virus could be peaking." - A New York Times editorial on Friday explains why Georgia is not ready to re-open businesses yet.
STAT | 35% - The year-over-year increase in March U.S. game spending, according to the NPD Group. Beyond the pandemic lockdowns, that total was boosted by a strong field of new releases, with eight new titles in the top 20 software chart, most notably Animal Crossing: New Horizons at number one. That's the third-best launch month of any Nintendo-published game ever, behind only the Wii and Switch installments of Super Smash Bros.
QUOTE | "It might look good for now, for the video game industry, but I wouldn't bet in the future. In the future, people might have difficulty paying rent or having a normal life, so I don't think they will be buying video games anymore at that point." - Dotemu CEO Cyrille Imbert says COVID-19 hasn't hurt the company much yet, but he's not buying into the idea that a global pandemic is ultimately helping the games industry.
STAT | 28% - Percentage of mid-size studios (between 50 and 249 people) responding to a European Game Developers Federation survey who said they may close within the next six months because of the pandemic. Only 13% of studios said their business had improved since the outbreak started.
QUOTE | "The recent changes to the economic environment have decreased availability of capital and the appetite for longer term investments." - Magic Leap founder and CEO Rony Abovitz announces a wave of layoffs and a move out of the consumer market for the well-funded augmented reality company.
QUOTE | "It's partly an issue of values, it's partly an issue of bravery. It's not an easy thing to do. They can do it, but it's challenging to get it right. The bigger your community and the more conservative they are, the more you're going to have difficult conversations and not everybody's up for that." - Jesse Schell, whose studio Schell Games recently released an inclusive superhero dating sim called Mission: it's Complicated, explains why triple-A games shy away from sexuality besides cis heterosexuality.
QUOTE | "Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage through technical and business measures such as scary, repetitive security pop-ups for downloaded and updated software, restrictive manufacturer and carrier agreements and dealings, Google public relations characterizing third party software sources as malware, and new efforts such as Google Play Protect to outright block software obtained outside the Google Play store." - Epic Games explains the "basic realization" they had after 18 months that convinced them to put Fortnite on Google Play. You'd think a company with as many smart people as Epic has and a basic awareness of the monopolistic patterns of massive tech companies might have figured that out a bit quicker. Oh well.
QUOTE | "News for free is not really free, and eventually is going to kill news." - Jason Schreier, formerly of Kotaku and now of Bloomberg, says people need to be willing to financially support journalism or it is an unsustainable industry.
Yes, I recognize the absurdity of closing this column with a plea to support journalism after opening it by indulging in the sort of shamelessly crowd-pleasing content that is not at risk in the current media ecosystem. I told you I was slowly losing my grip, didn't I?