Hey, weekend readers. This is Week-in-Review where I get hopped up on caffeine and give a heavy amount of analysis on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.
Last week, I railed on Google’s new Stadia game streaming platform. The injection of competition into the tired PlayStation/Xbox gaming rivalry is certainly welcome, but Google is making such a concerted play into a tight niche that it’s hard to imagine them following through. I got some great emails and DMs with a lot of good back-and-forth, most notably pointing out that I didn’t give Google credit for some of the details they did give on multi-player, I also got some less helpful responses, but hey, I guess I’m the one that asked for the feedback.
On that note, check out my comparison of Stadia with Microsoft’s new xCloud service that they revealed this week.
Alright, onto new things. Actually, let’s dig into my week at the E3 gaming expo. I swear this isn’t only a gaming newsletter, but let’s talk forever franchises…
I spent the past few days on the show floor of the conference checking out what the latest and greatest gaming trends were, what I saw looked pretty familiar though.
Entrenched franchises are a special kind of force in the gaming industry.
Walking around it was wild how so many of these studios are coasting off of 20 or 30-year-old characters and storylines. Sega had a massive booth this year showing off some reskinned Sonic the Hedgehog shit. Watching the Square Enix keynote was a special kind of hell, I admittedly do not have a very religious connection to the studio, but their announcements were all related to reboots, rehashes or remasters. Nintendo, which I dearly love, dug into the success of Breath of the Wild by promising a direct sequel for the title, something that’s a bit unusual for the Zelda series, Jesus, even Animal Crossing is nearly a 20-year franchise at this point! Every large booth dragged gamers’ attention to something derivative.
This obviously isn’t some sort of breaking news, but as the years stretch on from the gaming industry’s conception, it’s fascinating to see how the founding franchises are keeping their shine.
What’s fascinating is how this impacts the boom and bust life cycles of game studios and massive publishers. While larger movie studios need to constantly be vetting new tentpole franchises, once game studios find a hit they join this club of mainstays where the marks of success become more dependent on creative execution rather than creativity itself. This can make life pretty profitable for studios like Rovio that strike gold and can spend a decade milking their former glory and fading out, but it’s still fascinating.
It also makes the introduction of new IP such a nerve-racking, high stakes process. You look at someone like Hideo Kojima and the buzz Sony has been trying to build around Death Stranding and you just realize how insanely complex it is to craft a hit with nothing but marketing and talking head hype. Word of mouth and network effects build these franchises over time, but there’s so much invested beforehand and for new IP, it’s hard to guarantee a winner.
Why does Toy Story fade after a few films but a singular piece of gaming IP can suck hundreds of hours out of a gamer’s life over several releases? I’d imagine being able to hold a role in the progression of a character fosters a closer bond with the user, gameplay can be dozens of hours long but more often than not the storyline is pretty straight-forward leading you to fill in the blanks, which can be powerful. Games are fundamentally more than just stories.
But then, as I walked around and watched gameplay and cinematic trailers, I was left with the takeaway that so much of the dialogue in some of these games is garbage. When are the writers behind the “golden age of TV” going to trickle down into crafting some of these single-player campaigns? But then are more rich and rewarding storylines going to cause these franchises to have shorter shelf lives because we’ll get to know the characters too well? I don’t really know, if you work in the games industry I’d love to pick your brain.
Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
On to the rest of the week’s news.
Trends of the week
Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context.
- Salesforce buys Tableau
Marc Benioff is known to signal Salesforce’s future via its M&A, so the company’s largest acquisition to date is probably worth taking a closer look at. Read why Salesforce is spending $15.7 billion on Seattle-based Tableau.
- Samsung gets ready to re-release its Foldy phone
The Galaxy Fold has had a pretty raucous life in the press and it hasn’t even successfully been released yet. Read more about its coming launch.
- Musk’s Tesla submarine
It wouldn’t be a Tesla shareholder meeting if some bizarre headlines didn’t surface. Apparently Musk claims that the company has vehicle designs for a submersible Tesla based on the aquatic car from the James Bond movie. Musk said it’s technically possible to make a functioning version, but added, “I think the market for this would be small — small, but enthusiastic.” Read more here.
How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of awfulness:
- YouTube CEO serves up an “apology”:
[YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki addresses hate speech controversy]
[Facebook will not remove deepfakes of Mark Zuckerberg and others from Instagram]
Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr chatted with some venture capitalists that are investing in female fertility startups and tried to get to the bottom of what signals they search for.
“…Longer term, women’s health has a special interest: a new understanding of women’s reproductive health will generate novel insights into other domains, including longevity…”
Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week TechCrunch writers talked a bit the future of car ownership, and whether people raising venture capital should even bother dealing with associates at the firms…
Want to read some of this stuff, but haven’t signed up? We’ve got a deal going where you can sign up for $2 and get two months of Extra Crunch.
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