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!
If you're just looking at the current release slate, you'd think this was a rather quiet period of the year for games. (A quiet period that I am actively demonstrating by pouring every free second of my time into Fire Emblem: Three Houses.) But few times of year are truly quiet in this industry. This was another big week for studio movements, big and small, as the people at their helms made choices with the aim of ensuring those studios would be able to get another game out the door next week, next month, or next year.
This week, we see these studios doing what it takes to thrive, survive—or cut their losses (for good or ill) when those tactics fail. Stories from the last few days include acquisitions and funding rounds, shut downs and layoffs, musings on bureaucracy, and more on the ongoing fight against crunch. We also see the frustrated back-and-forth of triple-A studios with the media as the former finds ever-more-inventive ways to avoid associating their games with "politics," while the latter wrestles with what that word means.
It was a week that served as a good reminder that as dry as the nuances of money, lawsuits, meetings, and corporate movements can sound on paper, the ebb and flow of these decisions is what gets the games that we love made (or not made) in the end.
QUOTE | "I do see that we're being challenged on politics. It hurts me, because we know there's a disconnect between where we want to take games years down the line and what we're doing on a day to day basis." - Ubisoft's Tommy François speaks to Kotaku on the struggles of directly answering the currently popular interview question, "Is your game political?" with a firm "Yes" or "No."
QUOTE | "Stop asking 'is it political?' and start asking instead about the actual politics of each game. For all the backlash against 'politics in my video games!' in recent years, the move towards engaging with more complex topics in more progressive, thoughtful and interesting ways hasn't actually slowed down." - GamesIndustry.biz contributing editor Rob Fahey responds to the interview with François, suggesting that the answer to the question "Is your game political?" is always "Yes," and that those asking should find other questions that dig deeper.
QUOTE | "For E3, everyone has to come back to the table and be a part of it. You need everyone to participate... I've told the board of the ESA that we want to help everyone come together around a big industry event in the summer, whether that's E3 or something new. Gamescom looks particularly strong this year because they have everyone aligned."- Ahead of Gamescom's first-annual Opening Night Live, host and producer Geoff Keighley muses on how a big game announcement showcase ahead of the Cologne show made perfect sense, given that all the major industry names were already at the show anyway.
QUOTE | "Lazarus is a brilliant game and the people who play it with us are amazing, but it did not reach a point during its alpha that would give us the confidence that it would launch successfully," - Spilt Milk Studios explains why it's pulling the plug on MMO roguelike space shooter Lazarus. It's the third known game being made in SpatialOS to close down this year, following Worlds Adrift and Mavericks: Proving Grounds.
STAT | $22.33 million - The amount of funding raised in a recent round for Klang's MMO Seed, one of the few remaining known titles being developed in SpatialOS. Over all time, Klang has raised $37.42 million for the game.
QUOTE | "If it sounds like we're making this up as we go along, we somewhat are. That's the joy of it being a fund, rather than a publisher. We get to work with developers who simply need some money, and maybe some advice, rather than choosing games that fit our audience, or games that we know we can market."- Superhot, the studio behind Superhot, is launching an indie development fund called Superhot Presents. Director of special projects Callum Underwood says the team wants to pay forward the support they received for Superhot to other up-and-coming indie developers.
QUOTE | "We needed to find a way where we create that space, that structure, that freedom, so that creative people can just focus on creative beautiful games, and not have to spend so much of their creativity thinking about business models and business things."- Ustwo Games CEO Maria Sayans explains why the company's games business had to adjust as it became more than just a side to ensure it didn't lose creative talent to business meetings.
STAT | Over 50 - The amount of employees laid off just days before Loot Crate filed for bankruptcy, assuring in a press release that "all aspects of the business will go on as before." The affected employees claim they received no notice or severance. Additionally, 150 others were laid off in July when Loot Crate closed a California warehouse.
STAT | $50 million - The amount THQ Nordic AB paid for Milestone Interactive.. It also bought Goodbye Kansas Game Invest for $3.95 million, Gunfire Games for an undisclosed amount, confirmed a new Saints Row game, and is preparing to rename itself Embracer AB, possibly to better distinguish it from its subsidiary THQ Nordic GmbH (the one that did the AMA in 8chan in February). Busy week!
QUOTE | "I, and many others, had conversations throughout the year with team members who had jumped from release to release about the grind of working on Destiny. Working on the game was starting to wear people down." - Bungie's Luke Smith explains that an "unsustainable development cycle" has led the studio to change its working practices as it enters its third year of post-launch development on Destiny 2.
QUOTE | "If we stopped making premium expansions, we wouldn't really have any sustainable revenue. If we ever do... I'm not saying we're going to, but if we did, we'd probably have to think about a new revenue model. - Studio Wildcard co-founder Jesse Rapczak says the Ark: Survival Evolved team only intended to do three expansion packs ever, but their success and ongoing interest in the game has made it both viable and necessary to do more.
QUOTE | "It does appear that G2A is right. They weren't the source of these original $30k keys. It doesn't LOOK like they were selling gray-market keys at the time we had all those chargebacks. But they've been doing it ever since." - Charlie Cleveland retracts his accusation from earlier in the week that the key reseller owed him $300,00 for chargebacks on illegally obtained copies of Natural Selection 2.
QUOTE | "G2A Marketplace came to life in January 2014. Obviously the domain was bought months before that. We treat Wayback Machine rather like a fun tool, not a credible source." - Before Cleveland retracted his accusation, G2A defended itself not by just denying the chargebacks were its fault, but by fudging the date it founded its Marketplace in an attempt to prove it wasn't around when they occurred. Its own website contradicted its statements.
QUOTE | "Entertainment is part of people's daily joy, and it's consumed worldwide, and it's the same worldwide. Gun violence is uniquely American. That has to change, and that will only change if we address the real issues." - After Donald Trump suggested recent mass shootings in the US were connected with "gruesome and grisly" video games, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick pushed back on CNBC's Mad Money, adding that if there were a link between the two, he would stop selling violent games entirely.