December 1, 2020
This week in Protocol Gaming, your weekly guide to the business of video games: Genvid's strategic positioning with Rival Peak, the PS5 was Sony's biggest launch ever and get hyped for Super Nintendo World!
We forgot to include in last week's newsletter a link to our first Protocol Gaming online panel, including Activision Blizzard's Daniel Alegre, AMD's Frank Azor, EA's Samantha Ryan, Facebook's Vivek Sharma and Manticore's Frederic Descamps. Here it is!
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In October, we asked, "What good is cloud gaming? … Rather than distributing the same old games to new screens, the real promise of cloud will be realized when we start seeing brand-new entertainment experiences that could only be enabled by cloud resources. And those may be coming a bit sooner than many people expect."
The following week, Facebook unveiled its broad new strategy to become both a destination and vehicle for interactive experiences (including games) delivered via cloud resources on its eyeball-owning platform. Facebook's initial announcement was about porting mobile games, but more innovative concepts were already in the works.
Today, those pieces started to fit together publicly as Facebook announced Rival Peak, a new sort of entertainment reality show powered by some slick interactive streaming software from startup Genvid Technologies.
Genvid's systems and approach have far-reaching implications, but it's also worth considering another aspect of the strategic positioning.
Matthew Henick, Facebook's vice president of content planning and strategy, who approved the Genvid deal, described the context.
When I heard Henick say "actually puts people at the center," it wasn't like a lightbulb going off for me. It was like a big fat spotlight.
And wouldn't you know? Microsoft and Facebook are already emerging as allies of a sort in mass gaming and entertainment.
When Spencer called out Amazon and Google as Xbox's main competitors going forward, he omitted Facebook. It seems clear that Facebook also sees Amazon and Google as major competitors. And naturally, neither Facebook nor Microsoft have any love lost for Apple.
Microsoft and Xbox have the hardcore gaming chops. Facebook has all the eyeballs. As both the Big Tech giants and startups like Genvid scale their own cloud gaming Rival Peak, it will be fascinating to watch which alliances emerge.
— Seth Schiesel
Customer experience (CX) is having a moment. The pandemic has forced and accelerated the adoption of digital channels for many. This is great news. But customer expectations of the digital experience is high, and companies who are thoughtful about the customer experience and differentiate themselves will be winners.
What was your first gaming system?
If you can believe it, Nintendo 64 was the first I personally owned. Parents didn't support video gaming. Of course, had been playing constantly for a decade prior.
What is the most important trend in the game business in 2020?
Games with non-gamelike goals and the destigmatization of game-based socializing.
What has been the most overlooked aspect or development in the game business over the last year?
The general topic is widely covered, but the implications of app store fees/policies on the development of in-game marketplaces and virtual economies (e.g. those of Roblox).
What new technology or technical development are you most looking forward to?
AR glasses and the mass market rollout of real-time motion capture that's integrated into virtual experiences. The latter won't just mean your Fortnite avatar mimics you, but that "games" like GTA Online's casino will actually have virtual laborers rather than just AI dealers and program-based "entertainment."
What games are you playing recently that don't come from your company?
Replaying the BioShock series, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Betrayal.io, Roblox, and, of course, a ton of Fortnite as always.
For many, myself included, video games have provided a welcome alternative to international travel this year. But even when travel does get back up and running, games aren't going anywhere. That's because Super Nintendo World opens at Universal Studios Japan on Feb. 4, making it the obvious first post-COVID vacation for absolutely every gamer in the world. See you in Osaka.
— Shakeel Hashim
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