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!
Remember when E3 was, like, two weeks long? A week of pre-E3 reveals and leaks on retail sites, followed by three days of conferences and three days of reports from the show floor? Phew. Those sure were the days.
For a while there, I genuinely thought we were going to see some kind of focused, digital E3 2020 event that everyone in the entire industry would rally around, doing their best to recreate the usual excitement of that big announcement period while we all socially distanced. But that didn't happen. Instead, it looks like we're in for something like four entire months of drip-feed announcements from every direction, some of which will be announced several months in advance, and some of which dropped in a tweet the day before.
I don't begrudge anyone this scattershot approach. Suddenly no longer having to show games on the floor of E3 or prepare some big, eye-catching trailer to compete with ten other massive game announcements in a giant showcase means that game makers can reconsider what the best thing for their teams and games really is. For some, it's easiest to throw a teaser out early. For others, they can take a bit more time to refine whatever it is they want to show us rather than worrying about a specific convention deadline.
And now that we've hit mid-May (is it really May 15 already>?!), it seems the announcement stream is beginning in earnest, with the past weeks bringing plenty of next-gen tidbits from both platform holders, as well as plans and concerns related to both software and hardware from a number of major companies. The proximity to The Ghost Formerly Known As E3 as well as everyone's quarterly financials has nudged much of the industry to divulge at least an idea of what it thinks both the next year and the next generation will look like.
And, for what it's worth, it looks rather nice.
QUOTE | "But these are not just technologies for improving the visual quality of games. The other aim and perhaps even the bigger aim is to make content creators more productive, so that you can build next-generation games with a small team and produce incredibly high-quality results without a vast budget." - Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney in a follow-up interview on the unveiling of Unreal Engine 5. Sweeney says that the development shortcuts and time-savers the new technology implements are perhaps even more important than how nice that demo looked running on the PS5.
STAT | $1 million - The amount of revenue a game made in Unreal Engine has to generate before the developers need to pay royalties to Epic. Prior to this week's announcement, that amount was $50,000.
QUOTE | "The actual goal of that part was to force the player camera to be really close to the wall to show how much detail there is in the scene. We were not trying to hide any loading but actually show good-looking assets in a close-up." - An Epic Games spokesperson, denying that a section in the Unreal Engine 5 demo where the character edged through a narrow gap in two rocks was actually masking a loading screen.
QUOTE | "We have been thinking about how we unite all of these great games under one brand, and really the purpose of that is to make the consumer understand that, when they see this brand, they're getting ready for a robust, innovative, deep experience that they've come to expect from games coming from PlayStation." - This week, Sony announced its new umbrella brand PlayStation Studios to unite its first-party titles, with senior VP and head of global marketing Eric Lempel saying the goal was to tie together the company's best-known IP and new first-party franchises coming in the future.
QUOTE | "We actually know an enormous amount about PS5's hardware already, despite the lack of a formal 'unveiling'—thanks to a drip-feed of low-key information that suggests that the actual unveiling is going to be very, very software-centric." - Columnist Rob Fahey suggests that while some are criticizing Sony for dragging its feet revealing information about the PS5, there's evidence to show Sony has a hefty software line-up ready to unveil in the coming months.
STAT | 110 million - The total number of PlayStation 4 units that have been sold so far.
QUOTE | "Clearly we set some wrong expectations and that's on us. We appreciate all the feedback and can assure you we will take it all in and learn as a team." - General manager of Xbox games marketing Aaron Greenberg acknowledging on Twitter the complaints that its Inside Xbox stream, which had been advertised with a focus on next-gen gameplay, actually had very little of what most people defined as "gameplay."
STAT | 5 - The number of triple-A titles Ubisoft plans to release this year if all goes according to plan. Three of them were delayed out of last year into this year. The fourth, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, was just announced. The fifth is still a mystery, but might be revealed at Ubisoft Forward on July 12.
QUOTE | "The COVID-19 crisis calls for prudence, as numerous uncertainties have arisen. The transition to working from home has had short-term repercussions on our production, for the time being limited to few weeks. The coming months will provide more visibility on whether we can maintain our release plans." - During Ubisoft's earnings call this week, CEO Yves Guillemot warned that it may have to delay one of its planned five AAA titles into the coming year due to the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on production.
QUOTE | "Please be aware that the impact on game development in terms of both hardware and software may potentially increase as the amount of time spent working remotely increases." - Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa, addressing slowdowns in Switch hardware and software production due to COVID-19. Though he says that there are "signs of gradual improvement," he cautions that Nintendo may not be able to keep improving if the pandemic worsens.
STAT | 19 million - The number of Switch hardware units Nintendo currently projects to sell in fiscal 2020-21. Furukawa cautioned today that it might not be able to meet that goal if COVID-19 continues to impact production.
STAT | 50% - The approximate percentage of sales of Animal Crossing: New Horizons that were digital. Furukawa noted in the same presentation above that he expected customers who accustomed themselves to digital downloads during the pandemic to continue to embrace digital when it was over.
QUOTE | "We've definitely found the most interesting time to start a new company. All of the playbooks have been torn up. Nobody knows what is normal anymore." - Jon Shiring, along with fellow Respawn and Infinity Ward veteran Drew McCoy, sharing their experience launching new studio Gravity Well in the midst of lockdown and the advent of a new console generation.
QUOTE | "The basic idea here is to understand your target audience, listen to them in the first place. Even within a nationality there are different groups of people. You have to know who you're writing for." - During LudoNarraCon 2020, Russian localization expert Natalia Nesterova joins a panel of other experienced localizers to discuss why their profession is such a vital part of games writing.
QUOTE | "So much of games, and especially indie games, especially when they're personal, is built around this concept of pain. Pull from yourself and pull from yourself and pull from yourself, and if you pull long enough and hard enough, eventually, even if there's nothing left, the work will at least be good and you can be good because the work is good." - An Airport for Aliens Currently Run by Dogs creator Xalavier Nelson Jr. on how an accident made the initially-serious game far more light, and how that light-heartedness transformed how he looked at game development.
STAT | 119 - The number of good boys and girls we managed to fit into our second run of a recurring column of pet photos submitted by folks around the games industry. Spoilers: one of the photos this week was a literal tub full of puppies.