Welcome to the 3rd weekly AYS Gaming Column, and the first of 2021, where Sam Ellis, Jr. Editor for Allyourscreens, discusses new gaming news and events in the gaming world. I am fueled by the New Year, and nothing else.
Epic Games, who is known for creating Fortnite, decided to turn a North Carolina mall into a new HQ. As the company’s current HQ is also in Cary, NC, and is a mere 10-minute drive from the mall. It will start this year, and will be finished by 2024.
For the Kanto event in Pokemon GO, you can win your custom NPC in the game, and you have to submit it to Twitter with the hashtag #PokemonGoTourContest, and it must follow these conditions: it must have your trainer profile visible with your trainer name and outfit, a list of the 3 Pokemon you want to use, and the hashtag above. If you want to compete, you have to submit it by January 11 at 11:59:59 PST, and meet those requirements mentioned above. Niantic will pick the people who best meet those requirements, and will be added to the game on February 20th, when the Kanto Tour will take place.
Also, for the Pokemon, you have to pick Kanto Pokemon, and you can’t pick Ditto, or any Legendary or Mythical Pokemon. Only 8 people will be selected, and winners will be DM’ed around the 18th of January. Everyone can enter and Niantic will choose winners based on those categories, not counting the hashtag.
Roblox plans to delay its IPO until 2021 in a bid in hopes of extracting more money from the process of going public, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Roblox had been set to go public in late December, part of a year-end rush of companies seeking to tap the red-hot market for initial public offerings. The company was valued at around $4 billion earlier this year and was expected to draw strong investor demand.
But it announced to employees in a memo late Friday that the listing would be delayed until early next year.
In the memo, Roblox's CEO cited the opportunity to take a more "innovative" approach to going public as more companies are experimenting with paths to going public, like dropping the greenshoe or running a hybrid auction process.
The move comes after the Airbnb and DoorDash IPOs skyrocketed on debut, reigniting arguments around better IPO pricing controls and whether companies are leaving too much "money on the table." According to a piece from Reuters, Roblox reportedly viewed the giant pops as a sign that the IPOs were under-priced, and it now hopes to fetch a higher IPO valuation.
Earlier this month, DoorDash raised $3.4 billion and saw its stock rise as much as 92% on the first day of trading, while Airbnb jumped as much as 142% in its $3.5 billion IPO.
There are a lot of people in the television industry who hate bingeing. Some of it is just a generational unease: watching eight episodes back-to-back isn't the way I grew up watching television! Most TV critics hate it because viewers getting an entire season at once compresses the amount of time they have to cover the series. And because they tend to think they have more influence on viewing habits than they do, they conflate fewer opportunities to write weekly episodic recaps with less buzz about a show.
A lot of Hollywood creatives dislike the practice as well. They have some of the same qualms as the critics do when it comes to compressed promotional timelines. There is a sense that dumping an entire season at one time makes it feel as if the season has come and gone within several weeks. And that not releasing an episode a week means the show doesn't have an opportunity to build an audience and drill its way into the cultural zeitgeist.
And any time a show does very well being released an episode a week, there are lots of snarky hot takes along the lines of "See, The Mandalorian did just great and it was released one episode at a time!" Which is a version of the same creative impulsive that led every music label in 1967 to tell the rock bands they had signed that "See, The Beatles did well with a concept album. Everyone should do one!"
While the best answer to the question "Is bingeing a good idea" is the very practical but not all that exciting response "It depends." But the question also opens up another related conversation about how bingeing television is at its core a marketing tool.
My 15-year-old son plays the Battle Royale game Fortnite. At its core, Fortnite isn't all that different that a lot of other games with similar concepts. But Fortnite has become a gaming juggernaut because of the way it uses change to create an overall experience greater than the game. Fortnite creator Epic Games has crafted a series of built-in changes into the game, ensuring that there is always something new to experience. The game is broken down into discreet "seasons," which are massive changes to the gameplay that happen about every 10-12 weeks. But inside each season are a seemingly endless number of new tasks, challenges, mini-games, characters, skins and weapons. When you play Fortnite, it feels as if there is something new every time you log on. The game uses change as a way to increase engagement.
And I'd argue that Netflix uses bingeing in the same way. Sure, given the amount of new content Netflix adds each week, drawing out every season with a once-a-week episode release would be a marketing and promotional nightmare. But more importantly for Netflix, the rapid cycling through of content has become a core feature of the service. While there are going to be some times when you sign onto Netflix for a specific show, most times you just sign on and see what's new. The bingeing release schedule ensures that there are always new options and plenty of good things to watch that you missed when they originally premiered. For Netflix - like Fortnite - change is the best marketing tool it has.
Grammy-winning superstar Lil Nas X will be appearing on the gaming platform Roblox on November 14th for "a groundbreaking concert experience featuring some of his favorite songs, the debut performance of his new single, limited-edition items, and more!"
Here are the times for the event:
Friday, Nov. 13 @ 4 PM PST
Saturday, Nov. 14 @ 1 PM PST
Asia: Saturday, Nov. 14 @ 10 PM PST
Europe: Sunday, Nov. 15 @ 9 am PST
There will also be a number of exclusive Avatar items users can pick up in-game such as Accessories Bundles, and 12 different Emotes.
The first bunch of items are available now, including a free cowboy hat.
Every October since 2013, Roblox has offered the ultimate Halloween troll to its users: a limited edition Headless Horseman package that is only available during the month of October.
I describe it as a bit of a troll to Roblox users, since the package is priced at 31,000 Robux, which is the in-game currency in Roblox. If you were to buy 31,000 Robux in the Roblox store, it would cost you just over $300.
Despite the cost of the Headless Horseman package, Roblox says that more than 11,000 users have purchased the package since 2013.
Welcome to this edition of the AYS gaming column, where I post the latest news on gaming. I'm powered by anxiety and stress about school.
With the launch of season 4 of Fortnite, there are a bunch of changes this season involving Marvel, leading up to the event with Galactus, the devourer of worlds. The popular game has multiple unvaultings, where the game brings back things that were in the game, vaultings, where the game puts things away, and new strats to it.
Speaking of Fortnite, Apple filed a countersuit to Fortnite, with the brand removing the "Sign in with Apple" option. There are ways to resync your account before the game is removed, but I won't get into it deeply. it is also reported that a few days prior to that, Apple terminated Epic Games' Apple store account and deleted everything that is there.
Minecraft, which gained popularity recently when Fortnite is going down in its popularity, is getting compatibility with PSVR, which is the virtual reality thing that is offered by PlayStation. It will come "later this month", as reported by the games creator Mojang.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell apologized about the league's response to Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. Goodell said that he was sorry for that, and removed everything that the league had done to keep the QB out. Even though it's not gaming related, the thing now is that Kapernick is added to Madden 21, which despite the trash talk, keeps going on. Kaepernick is higher than Cam Newton, and other QBs.
See you guys next time, and those of us at allyourscreens wish you well.
Sam Ellis is a 15-year-old spending part of the pandemic learning about journalism.
There's been a lot of hand-wringing in the television industry as executives attempt to predict what impact the COVID-19 shutdowns will have on viewing habits. There is some anecdotal evidence that audiences are seeking programs that are less confrontational and more comforting to the the soul. But I think it's still not clear whether these are long-terms viewing changes or just a reflection of everyone's collective weariness with the pandemic, the economy and an upcoming election.
It's also not clear what impact the pandemic is having on the gaming industry, other than giving teens a lot more free time to practice their Fortnite skills. But the surprise success of the new game Fall Guys suggests that even gamers are looking for games that are a bit more gentle in spirit while still providing the required level of excitement and skill.
Fall Guys is a Battle Royale-type game, in the same genre as Fortnite, Apex Legends and Call Of Duty: Warzone. The goal in all of these games is to be the last person standing from a group of hundreds or thousands of other players. This winnowing down of players is accomplished in a number of different ways but the primary one usually involves shooting or otherwise killing the other players. Fall Guys has a very chill vibe, with the player elimination being accomplished by a series of mini-games. Rather than killing other players, these games include running, pushing and otherwise being one of the top players in the round, which qualifies you for the next mini-game. And eventually, for the win.
Another wrinkle in Fall Guys is that some of the mini-games require you to partner up with other players in order to advance to the next level. Players are randomly assigned to groups, which live or die on the results of how well they accomplish the task of the mini-game. That differs from most other Battle Royale games, which allow you to play in teams, but generally encourage you to play with people you know.
There are a lot more laughs in Fall Guys than the typical Battle Royale game and it all just seems more innocent and fun. And maybe for that reason, the game has quickly developed a rabid fanbase since its release in early August. Which is surprising given that for now the game is only available for PC and Playstation. But there are already hundreds of Fall Guys play-through videos on YouTube, which is a good way to gauge a game's success in capturing the zeitgeist of the fickle teen gaming market.
This is the first ever AYS Weekly Teen Gaming Column, written by AYS Jr. editor Sam Ellis. I'm at AYS HQ and working through this with the help of Fortnite and allergies.
These are the biggest gaming news from the past week:
The first story I'm going to cover in this week's column is the deal with Apple and Google taking Fortnite off of their app stores because of payment issues. One thing I noticed is that around the day it happened, Epic Games (the game's creator) decided to lower the V-bucks prices by 20%. According to Gamespot, Epic Games said that Apple has "retaliated ferociously", and filed for a temporary restraining order towards the company. Gamespot has an article about the whole #freefortnite situation.
Apex Legends, competitor of Fortnite, is launching it's 6th season soon, and it's bringing changes to the World's End map. The thing about the Fortnite Reboot vans is that they took the inspiration of Apex's reboot system, and put it into a van in the game.
One of the developers of the up and rising game Fall Guys warns people about scams for a non-existent mobile version, which the devs plan not to release one for now, as it's only playable on PC and Playstation.
This is all for this week. I am testing this column as a new idea for the site, and based on how this does, I may write more of these.
Sam Ellis is a 15-year-old spending part of the pandemic learning about journalism.
Apple announced on Thursday that it had removed the Fortnite app from the Apple app store, claiming that Fortnite parent Epic Games knowingly violated the terms of its agreement with the tech giant.
Apple's has had a long-standing insistence that any company distributing an app through the Apple app store had to agree to pass along about 30% of any revenue from digital goods purchased through the app. That requirement has been a source of anger from many developers. Obviously the lost revenue is an issue, but some developers are also unhappy with the deal because they claim that Apple is then able to launch similar products through the app store with no revenue share, essentially giving the company a financial advantage in the app marketplace.
Epic Games updated its Fortnite app early Thursday morning to allow iPhone users to purchase the in-game currency V-Bucks directly from the gaming company at a 20 percent discount. Apple quickly removed the Fortnite app from the app store, which means that while Fortnite iPhone users will still be able to play the game on their phones, they won't be able to update the app. Apple also issued this statement explaining the move:
"Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines that are equally applied to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users. As a result their Fortnite app has been removed from the storr. Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services.
Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem - including its tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all developers. Epic agreed to the App Store terms and guidelines freely and we're glad they've build such a successful business on the App Store. The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users. We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the app store."
For its part, Epic Games seems to have made this move in a calculated effort to provoke a reaction from Apple. One which would hopefully lead to a negotiation over the current App Store agreement between the two companies. Epic Games pushed the updated app out from the server side instead of sending the app to the App Store submission process. That process would have almost certainly denied the update, but left the old version Fortnite app available through the App Store. But by forcing Apple's hand in this way, the issue will no doubt receive a great deal more attention from the press and from users than Epic would have gotten by simply having the latest version of its app turned down.
It's also worth noting that someone from Epic Games was contacting journalists and industry writers Thursday to give them a heads-up on the move. The company clearly wants more attention paid to its complaints and it will certainly get its wish now. They have also expanded the issue to their entire customer base. Users who sign onto Fortnite through any platform now see a protest video that is based on the iconic Apple "1984" Super Bowl ad. The service has expanded its 20% off discount on V-Bucks to all users, not just those using an Apple device.
It's a dispute that is very reminiscent of the current battle between streaming services HBO Max & Peacock vs. Roku and Amazon. The issues of revenue sharing between content owners and marketplace/distribution companies is an increasingly contentious problem. The current revenue share from a digital product can be substantial. But content owners also realize that these tolls won't go away and over a period of years and even decades, it can add up to hundreds of millions of dollars of lost revenue. The app analytics company SensorTower estimates Apple customers have spent $1.2 billion on Fortnite in-app purchases since March 2018. That would translate to roughly $840,000,000 to Epic Games, and $360,000,000 to Apple.
Update (3:31 p.m. CT): Epic Games has posted an update for users, explaining what the dispute with Apple means in the short run. It is also encouraging users to share their unhappiness by including the hashtag #FreeFortnite:
"Fortnite remains available on Google Play, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, GeForce Now, and the Epic Games app on Android. Your account, progression, and purchases also remain available on these platforms.
Because Apple has BLOCKED your ability to update, when Fortnite Chapter 2 - Season 4 releases you will NOT be able to play the new Season on iOS. Make your voice heard with #FreeFortnite"
Update (3:50 p.m. CT) Spotify has released a letter supporting Epic Games in this fight. It's worth noting that Spotify had a similar battle with Apple several years ago over the issue of revenue sharing:
"We applaud Epic Games' decision to take a stand against Apple and shed further light on Apple's abuse of its dominant position. Apple's unfair practices have disadvantaged competitors and deprived consumers for too long. The stakes for consumers and app developers large and small couldn't be higher and esuring the iOs platform operates competively and fairly is an urgent task with far-reaching implications."