August 17, 2021
Image: Amazon Game Studios
This week in Protocol Gaming, your weekly guide to the business of video games: New World game director Scot Lane opens up about the latest delay and the road to launch, the industry debates the merits of developer diversity and Annapurna delivers a film-inspired game with high-profile acting credits.
(Was this email forwarded to you? Subscribe here.)
The first success story for Amazon Game Studios may almost be upon us. New World, the ecommerce giant's massively multiplayer online game, is due out next month. But it's been a bumpy road for the Irvine-based development team. The most recent hurdle, after more than a year of remote work, was yet another delay that pushed the release date out by one month.
Game director Scot Lane told Protocol the main culprit was bugs, as well as other unforeseen issues from running the game at unprecedented scale during a beta period last month.
Amazon has shown a willingness to get New World right. Since the beginning of last year, New World has been delayed four times. That number of launch date misses might typically spell a disaster in the making. Instead, Lane said it's about ensuring the launch meets the team's expectations and those of its most dedicated test players.
Player feedback has been the biggest driver of change for New World, Lane said. The game saw a surge in popularity on Twitch thanks to a promotional event Amazon ran with streamers in the U.S. and U.K. That attracted new players in droves, and with the new interest came more feedback about how New World could be improved.
New World is arriving at a time of rapid change for the industry. Some game makers, like Epic and Roblox, are chasing the metaverse, collaborating with real-world brands and hosting concerts. Others, like EA, are pouring money into mobile and free-to-play.
The timing is still promising for New World. Activision Blizzard is seeing an exodus of players from longtime MMO leader World of Warcraft due to its ongoing discrimination crisis. Another major competitor, Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIV, is struggling to support an influx of new players. New World now has a chance to arrive on the scene and establish itself as a fresh newcomer to the genre.
After the flop of Crucible, Amazon Game Studios' last big project that was canceled last October, the pressure is on Lane and the New World team to deliver. "At the end of the day, we have to make players love this game," Lane said. "We want New World to be an experience that delights players."
Update August 18, 11:14AM ET: Added new metrics on New World's beta player count from Amazon.
A version of this story first appeared on Protocol.com.
After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. According to a 2021 study by Indeed, 52% of employees today say they feel burnt out. Crisis management is one thing, but how do you permanently lower the temperature so your teams can recover sustainably?
The game industry and Hollywood haven't blended well in the past. While big-budget games have often borrowed the voices, faces and even motion capture performances of well-known actors, only the most cinematic of story-driven AAA titles like Sony's The Last of Us have come close to blurring the line.
But a new project from notable indie film and game producer Annapurna seems like it has the right blend of both art forms to pull off something fresh. The company's gaming arm is putting out Twelve Minutes this Thursday featuring big voice acting credits like James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley and Willem Dafoe. The game, using an unusual top-down camera angle, is an interactive mystery playing out over a repeating time loop. It may not have photo-realistic graphics, but its narrative approach looks like a captivating new take on video game storytelling.
Thanks for reading. Tell your friends and colleagues to subscribe here, and send tips, feedback and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week.