What’s going on in the online video games business this week? Let’s dig in.
Steam, toxicity, and Kartridge
The Center for Investigative Reporting (via Motherboard) has a scathing piece out on Steam toxicity this week. Valve has traditionally maintained a hands-off approach with Steam groups, which means that the groups can easily become a toxic cesspit. The platform is accused of being loaded with hate groups, many of which support racist agendas or promote school shootings. Motherboard notes that Valve has refused to respond to questions on this topic since last October.
Meanwhile, Kongregate is launching Kartridge, a potential Steam competitor that says it will embrace indie “premium” titles and small-fry developers. “Our initial plan is that the first $10,000 in net revenue, one hundred percent will go to the developer,” Kongregate’s CEO says. “We’re not coming in just to build another store. No-one needs that. This is about building a platform that is focused on creating a very fair and supportive environment for indie developers” – as well as on social and community tools.
Welcome back to another edition of our informal business roundup, where we wedge all the fun MMO industry tidbits that pile up in our newsroom.
Remember EA Spouse, the EA developer’s wife whose initially anonymous article busted open the doors on EA’s culture of abusive crunch back in 2004? Rolling Stone’s Glixel blog (via Gamasutra) has a 14-year retrospective and a sum-up of the state of “crunch culture” since then. Intriguingly, EA Spouse herself – Erin Hoffman-John – declined to comment much on how she got the ball rolling, but other developers gave Glixel conflicting accounts. Some believe that EA has made an attempt to change and is no “worse than anyone else,” while one producer scoffed at the pushback against crunch, calling it a “disruption.” According to him, hustle is just the patch to greatness.
Don’t agree that lockboxes, lootboxes, and gambleboxes were the biggest story of the year? We’ve collected so many news tidbits just on that over the last few days that we’re resorting to rounding them up rather than spamming. To wit:
First, Merrill Lynch analysts have now lowered their expectations and profit estimates for EA thanks to the performance of Star Wars Battlefront 2, which the analysts believe will fall short of the 14M sales estimate by 2.5M. At least in big box stores, the game also performed relatively poorly on Black Friday.
On point: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gambling is under $1 on Steam. “Do you love opening loot crates, but hate the tedious gameplay sessions in between? Our marketing department has the game for you! Unbox random items! Get stuff, but not what you really want! Skate legal and ethical lines! Remember kids, it’s only a video game, so grab your parents’ credit card!”
Let’s end the week talking about money. What could go wrong?
By chance, a whole bunch of industry-related posts landed in our newsroom this week. Well, not entirely by chance; our tipsters showered us in VR links in particular. We’ve rounded everything up for a quick look at what’s going on in the depths of the game industry’s moneybags.
- USA Today mocks VR, pointing out that devices’ game offerings are still weak and running down all the big platforms.
- AMC, however, is all in on virtual reality — in movie theaters.
- Intel’s Project Alloy VR headset is dead before it began, without much explanation. “Project Alloy served as a great proof of concept for Intel and the industry – showing what’s possible in a high-performance, immersive and untethered VR experience,” the company reportedly said. “What we’ve learned through Project Alloy will inform future efforts.”
- Want to feel creeped out? Goldman Sachs is poking around in digital gaming, paying attention to mobile, business models, and e-sports. Spoiler, they looooooove how the gaming business model is shaping up.