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!
The big news this week was the long-awaited announcement of the Switch Lite, Nintendo's first hardware revision to its hybrid handheld-home console. As you might have heard, it doesn't Switch. The Joy-Cons are built into the hardware casing, there's no ability to connect to the TV, and HD Rumble is gone, too. There's a bright side, as Mike Williams pointed out, in that it is significantly cheaper at $200, has a proper D-pad, and comes in some pretty neat colors.
That said, what I really want to focus on here is the company's refusal to acknowledge that the 3DS is essentially done. It's not the first time they've tried this particular Jedi mind trick. At E3 2004 they announced the original DS as a "third pillar" to the company's hardware strategy that would sit alongside the GameCube and the Game Boy Advance, supposedly creating a second line of handheld hardware that would continue alongside the Game Boy line without replacing it (even though it was backward compatible). Maybe it just liked hedging its bets in case the new thing was a flop, but nobody believed the GBA had a bright future ahead of it then and I doubt anybody believes the 3DS has much life left in it now.
At least Sony stopped pretending the PlayStation Vita was a viable business years before it finally discontinued the thing. Not that I want anyone to look at Sony's handling of the Vita as a model for anything, but it's better than insulting your customers' intelligence and telling them their favorite handheld is going to go live on a farm upstate.
That's not the only disingenuous statement on tap this week. We've also got Ubisoft demonstrating the problems that crop up when you tie your monetization scheme into every element of game design, a GameStop executive somehow avoiding breaking down in tears when asked about the company's future, and an effort at image rehabilitation from G2A that only reinforced perceptions of the site as the shadiest, least trustworthy of enterprises.
And because this column does more than just condense industry trainwrecks into digestible snark (though it certainly does that as well), there's some sharp media commentary from Hello Games' Sean Murray, a wonderful chat with the developers of Spiritfarer, and a write-up of a developer panel sharing thoughts on Xbox Game Pass and how its companies are dealing with the industry's shifting business models.
QUOTE | "It's a Switch, only without any of the innovative parts that made it interesting in the first place." - GamesIndustry.biz publisher Christopher Dring believes the Switch Lite will do well, but the real opportunity lies with the widely expected reveal of a Switch Pro.
QUOTE | "Does anyone really want to bet that the Switch Lite, launching with new Pokemon games on the horizon, rebuilt to fit better in kids' hands, and priced to fit better with parents' Christmas budgets, won't drive the platform to new heights this winter?" - GamesIndustry.biz's Rob Fahey says the Switch Lite reflects Nintendo's view of itself as a toy maker rather than a growing tech giant.
QUOTE | "We'll continue to support our 3DS family of systems as long as there is demand." - Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser insists the Switch Lite does not mark the end of the 3DS.
STAT | 1 - The number of games in the 3DS Coming Soon section of Nintendo's website. (It's Shovel Knight: King of Cards, in case you're curious.)
STAT | 1 - The number of games in the Wii U Coming Soon section of Nintendo's website. (It's also Shovel Knight: King of Cards, so maybe the 3DS is "not dead" in the same way the Wii U is "not dead.")
QUOTE | "Much like we were able to sell digital and are able to sell digital codes in every single GameStop store and online today, as new subscription models come out and evolve, GameStop will evolve right along with it." - GameStop VP of merchandising Eric Bright explains why he's not concerned about the industry's ever-increasing shift toward digital distribution channels.
QUOTE | "These exploits risk jeopardizing the overall quality, integrity, and purpose of Story Creator Mode and results in less visibility for the creative, interesting and frankly fantastic community stories that have been published." - Ubisoft explains why it is cracking down on XP-farming quests in Assassin's Creed Odyssey's Story Creator Mode. Another likely reason not mentioned by the publisher is that it sells permanent XP boosters as microtransactions.
QUOTE | "He will face strict consequences, as this is absolutely unacceptable." - Oft-criticized key re-selling platform G2A promises to punish the employee who approached 10 media outlets looking to pay them to run a pro-G2A article without disclosing that the posts were sponsored or connected to G2A in any way.
QUOTE | "There's this weird thing where you almost need an education to play video games because there are loads of conventions we've built upon for 10, 20, 30 years. Nowadays, we don't even tutorialize people about how to use both sticks on the controller—we just assume they're used to these conventions." - FlavourWorks founder Jack Attridge explains how watching Conan O'Brien's Clueless Gamer segments helped him re-examine widely held assumptions in game development.
QUOTE | "I think it's important to make games that aren't only stabbing people in the neck." - ThunderLotus creative director Nicolas Guérin talks about Spiritfarer, a game the studio describes as "a cozy management sim about dying."
QUOTE | "I was quite impressed by the numbers they offered." - Rebellion co-founder Jason Kingsley explains why the studio signed an Epic Games store exclusivity deal just a month after saying he would need a "bloody good reason" to do such a deal.
QUOTE | "I think that the problem with what we see on front pages being led by what we click on means that naturally you tend to read what the most people clicked... which means the press is naturally downstream from the community." - Hello Games' Sean Murray talks about the decision to go quiet after No Man's Sky launched to online outrage and problems with today's gaming press.
QUOTE | "I think the way the business is with Game Pass is the first time subscription is what could be considered fair for developers. All other business models that have been suggested with subscriptions have never worked out, because they didn't know what developers actually need." - Playdead and Jumpship co-founder Dino Patti says Xbox Game Pass is the rare subscription business model that works for game makers as well as game players.