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Crunch is a Parasite on Gaming

Crunch ruins games, and it ruins lives

It’s 1pm on Saturday. You sit in a full office. You see dark circles under eyes illuminated by computer screens. The office smells of catered meals eaten at desks. Some people type away, frantically fixing bugs. Others spend time not doing what they were hired for, like creating artwork or models, but instead playing the game and logging bugs. One man stands up, and heads for the door. Most of the room turns to glare at him, as he leaves work “early” on a weekend to see his wife for the first time in a week. The rest continue working, clocking their 73rd hour of the week. All this day’s work and the next will be worked for free, as the studio does not pay overtime. Call it crunch, call it a death march. Call it whatever you like: this is game development.

How did we get here? How did it become the industry standard to work long hours day after day for months on end? Some other industries deal with crunch. Films and TV practically required it. But why is crunch with unpaid overtime so prevalent in software? The law.

The USA designates software developers as “skilled workers”, who don’t have to be paid overtime. This classification started on the state level and moved to be nation law. This means that game studios can work their workers well over 40 hours a week and well over 8 hours a day without paying anything extra.

Project management has a concept known as the iron triangle. Every software project deals with Scope, Budget, and Schedule. These are considered “iron” because you can’t change one without impacting the others. Unless you don’t have to pay overtime. In game development, solving issues by increasing the amount of hours scheduled does not result in an increase in cost. If studios had to pay overtime, they would be forced to delay the game (and get their additional scheduled hours that way), increase budget and hire more, or reduce scope aggressively (removing features from the game). Right now, it is much easier to force your team to work for more hours.

The bonus system reinforces crunch culture. Game developers are not particularly well paid, but they are promised large bonuses if the game sells well. The catch? This is a bonus, so it can be held back for a lack of performance or effort. Developers have no equity and do not collect royalties from game sales, so if they do not comply with crunch, they might miss the real payoff. In addition, if they leave the project early or get fired, they don’t get their names in the credits. A good credit could secure your career in games, but you will miss out if you get fired or leave, even if you spent years working on a game.

After these months (or years) of crunch, many companies lay off most of their staff. You have a culture that squeezes developers, forcing them to give up on the rest of their lives and pushed to work 60, 80, 100-hour work weeks. But, when the project ends, they could be laid off, and must find other work. They build no lasting equity or future in the company, and yet they are expected to put aside their families, health, and mental wellbeing.

Here are a few cases of crunch that you might be familiar with.

Well-known cases of crunch

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077’s failed launch sent shockwaves through the industry. CD Projekt Red developed the game for almost five years, including eight months of delays. With that much time, how did the game come out with so many bugs and so much under expectations? Crunch. Some developers reported working overtime for over a year. The death march on Cyberpunk lasted months and led to a pile of bugs. The public slammed the team behind Cyberpunk for the mess the game was in. It didn’t fail due to lazy employees, or a lack of passion. The studio crunched to put out the game too early and it led to an unfinished game that took a long time to improve. In the end, Cyberpunk has recovered, and the game has positive reception now. It is doing better than it ever has. The team also isn’t deep in crunch anymore. The initial crunch only hurt the game and the company’s reputation.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Leading up to Read Dead Redemption 2’s launch, some Rockstar employees crunched for over a year. Even though Rockstar allowed employees to discuss their stories of crunch, most people were afraid to say anything. Multiple sources behind the scenes said there was a “culture of fear” in Rockstar. People were so afraid of being fired, missing a bonus, or not being credited that they put up with horrible crunch. The notable difference between this launch and Cyberpunks is that Red Dead Redemption 2 was a massive success. Stories of crunch quickly fizzled out after players got their hands on the game. Even if the game succeeds, crunch is not worth it.

Anthem

Anthem came from a prestigious company: Bioware, creators of Mass Effect and Dragon Age. They planned to make an ambitious game that was different than what they had made in the past. This meant a lot of experimentation, and it also meant that they didn’t have much to show on the game for a long time. Anthem’s development is fraught with issues, talent drain being high on the list, but it featured months of hard crunch before release. All the while, leadership touted “Bioware Magic,” the studio’s ability to bring everything together at the last minute through hard crunch. Well, they tried it, pushing hard towards the end of development, unwilling to delay the game any further. In the end, Anthem failed, and it didn’t get a comeback like Cyberpunk. No amount of Bioware Magic or overwork made it a success.

Effects of Crunch

Crunch leads to burnout, and burnout ruins lives.

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

Burnout leads to apathy and reduced productivity in people, and overwork paired with burnout destroys relationships. Developers are asked to spend most of their waking hours at work, and then they are worked to the point of not caring anymore. Their spouses, family, friends, anyone else in their lives are neglected. Even the time developers spend outside of work is tainted. 

One point that is understated is that crunch has negative effects on work. Overwork in software leads to worse development. Overworked developers leave companies sooner, and as time spent working increases, the number of bugs generated increases. Developers regularly mention that crunch leads to them feeling like the need to be in the office more than work. You are forcing some to work themselves to apathy, while other work inefficiently just to appear more productive. Crunch incentivizes hours over productivity, and it can lead to worst games. Anthem and Cyberpunk both failed after months of hard crunch.

Crunch in Hollywood

Some argue that crunch is necessary. To get out high-quality games, they must work long hours leading up to launch. However, most creative industries have similar launch constraints, and other creative industries have fought against overwork. Hollywood is a good example.

Film shoots run long, and they run under strict time constraints. With that in mind, how do you deal with having staff from lighting techs, to camera operators, to assistants and more working long hours? You pay them well for overtime.

In California, film workers are paid 1.5x their hourly rate for:

  • Hours worked over eight in a workday
  • First 12 hours on your 6th day
  • First 8 hours of work on your 7th day

and they’re paid 2x the hourly rate for:

  • Hours worked over 12 in a workday
  • Over 8 hours on your 7th day

These provisions would limit overtime in games. If studios wanted to speed up development, they would need to start spending a ton. Crunch only happens now because it is cost-effective. That changes with paid overtime. So, where do we go from here?

Developer leverage

All of this sounds great, but it exists in the world of theory. How do we achieve it? First, engineers need to realize their leverage. The number of skilled game developers is not high. The whole industry hangs on the work of engineers. Engineers are creatives. The work they do to realize the visions of game designers requires creative work, and they cannot be easily replaced, especially late in a development cycle.

There are two options for engineers to avoid the death marches. First, they could band together and form a union. The games industry has been resisting unions for years. However, some QA testers just managed to unionize. This is possible, but not achievable by any one developer.

The other option is for developers to use the leverage that they have. They can risk it, betting that they cannot be replaced late in a dev cycle. They have too much institutional knowledge and proprietary skill. There is immense pressure on engineers to just push for launch, but they do not hold responsibility for a game launching on time. The leadership, who sets the deadlines, is responsible for making launch on time. Engineers can leverage their position to not work extra hours. This is not letting the team down. Pressure from coworkers perpetuates crunch.

However, engineers have a reason to be fearful. If you hope to continue working after launch, you must keep leadership happy. If you want to benefit from a successful launch, you must keep leadership happy so you can get a nice bonus. If you don’t want to be blacklisted, you must keep leadership happy. And if you want your name to be in the credits so that you can take a job that you really want, you must keep leadership happy. 

Leadership and management must act to end crunch. The managers who directly manage engineers are going to have to step up and refuse to work unpaid overtime. Engineers need to have someone above them who cares for their wellbeing. Leadership holds the authority to change timelines, but management directly oversees the work. Both of them work together to perpetuate crunch. Without change, Game Dev will continue to burn out and ruin the lives of the people who make them. We can’t keep taking leadership’s word that they will end crunch right after this project.

Cover Photo by Fotis Fotopoulos on Unsplash

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The Next Streaming War Has Already Started

The players are different, but the tactics are the same.

Game streaming is the next streaming war. Major companies have been landing their boats on the shore for years, but this year, the war has begun in earnest.

The Stakes

For years, people have been talking about cloud gaming. Just like video streaming has all but killed DVD players and music streaming killed CDs, people have been predicting that the same would happen to gaming. Other entertainment industries have gone there, why couldn’t gaming? We are farther from that future than the cloud salesmen tell you. It could happen, but gaming hardware isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Cloud gaming doesn’t work as well gaming on a console or a PC. Even if cloud gaming catches up technically, ownership of games matters. Not to all gamers, but to enough gamers. With cloud streaming, you eliminate any possibility of true ownership of games.

Even if cloud streaming doesn’t edge out traditional gaming, it has its place. The video and music streaming industries show that people are willing to pay a subscription fee for entertainment. Right now, people have, on average, four video streaming subscriptions. Cloud streaming also offers gaming on TVs or phones without requiring you to buy an expensive console. For these reasons, the game streaming wars have started. 

Points of Competition

Technical aspects of game streaming

Game streaming requires more infrastructure than video streaming does. Video streaming is primarily one way; the video is streamed from host servers to the client machine. Occasional messages have to be sent the other way, like play and pause commands. Users won’t notice small amounts of lag in these communications. For game streaming, you need to transmit player input back quickly. Lag ruins the experience of playing a game.

The other major technical difference comes from rendering. For a video streaming service, you need services capable of sending a video file. The primary things they need are excellent IO, network performance, and fast storage. Game streaming servers need all of these, and they need to be able to run the games they stream. They need GPUs, and they need fast CPUs. These mean that you can’t use traditional public cloud infrastructure. You can either buy this infrastructure yourself, or you can pay for it from a specialized provider.

Game IP

Just like video streaming platforms, each game streaming platform has to compete on IP. Some platforms do it by offering all original IP, and some buy the streaming rights to games. Just like in video streaming, there are a lot of studios producing indie to mid-level games. The AAA games drive the most traffic, similar to premier shows like Stranger Things and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. 

How do they charge?

Most video streaming services charge a monthly subscription fee. This fee covers everything on their service, like a buffet. Some services, like Amazon Prime Video, use a hybrid subscription: you get most things for free, but for the nice stuff, you have to pay à la carte. Some services, like Vudu, charge for everything à la carte, but those aren’t what you think of when you think of streaming services.

No standard exists for cloud gaming services. As discussed above, it costs more to stream games than to stream video. Some early game streaming companies opted for a hybrid model: you pay a monthly fee to access the streaming service, and then you buy the games on top of that. Others charged nothing for the streaming service itself, but you had to buy the games from the company full price. Now, some services are closer to Netflix: you pay a monthly subscription fee for unlimited access to a catalog of games. This really works for companies capable of offering a large number of games. In the minds of consumers, these different pricing models constitute completely different products. You wouldn’t consider all-you-can-eat buffets, gourmet restaurants and theme-park food courts the same thing. Consumers will expect different levels of quality for each.

The Players

Sony

Sony bet on cloud gaming early. They launched PlayStation Now in 2014, a service that allows players to stream PlayStation games to either a PlayStation or a PC. They built their service using in-house tech. First, they bought Gaikai, a cloud gaming company. Then, they created a “server” that combined 8 PS3s on one server rack . This seems complicated, but they still found it easier than trying to just emulate the games. They have brought a lot of first-party IP to the service, like Spider-Man and Uncharted. They recently combined PlayStation Now into PlayStation Plus, their other subscription service. It has strong, first-party IP, but the third-party options are lacking compared to some other services. It is cost-effective, given you have a PlayStation. For $18 a month, you get the catalog of games for streaming, and you also get online play on your PlayStation. If you already planned on paying for online play, you could argue that PlayStation Plus cloud streaming only costs $8 a month.

PlayStation Plus Premium has a major flaw: it only works well on a PlayStation.

The PC app for PlayStation Plus Premium is not good. It does not have a search bar, and it does not support all controllers. It doesn’t support keyboard and mouse controls at all, which the other streaming services do. Even the streaming performance is unreliable on PC. PlayStation Plus Premium also has no mobile app. Mobile is the primary use case of cloud gaming right now. Sony even has an app for remote play on your PlayStation console. For these reasons, PlayStation Plus Premium is behind the competition right now. However, they are still a threat in the streaming wars. These problems can be solved internally. Unlike some of the others on this list, they don’t need to worry about IP problems. If they solve their technical issues, they have the chance to be a long-term player in the game streaming wars.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s cloud gaming service has been doing pretty well — their hourly usage is up 1800% in the last year. Xbox Cloud Gaming is part of Xbox Game Pass. Xbox Game Pass is commonly called the Netflix of gaming. It’s the best value preposition of any gaming subscription. It costs $24.99 a month, but you get a massive catalog of games. Their catalog dwarves all of the other services. All of this would be moot if the streaming experience didn’t work well. Microsoft got the most important part right. Xbox Cloud Gaming is smooth both on PC and on mobile. 

Microsoft is taking advantage of their cloud platform, Azure. It is the second largest public cloud platform. Microsoft has dropped billions on cloud infrastructure in the last 10 years and it shows. Microsoft’s position looks like the strongest right now. They are the only platform that can combine strong technology, a large catalog of games and a great value proposition for the gamer.

Google

Google’s first major move into gaming came in Stadia, their cloud gaming platform. Stadia launched in 2019, earlier than most. Google touted Stadia as an alternative for game consoles, and they secured partnerships with AAA game studios like Capcom and CD Projekt Red. Google Cloud Services is the third largest public cloud service, so Google should have the infrastructure to get it done. However, Stadia doesn’t have many games.

Right now, the service has about 300 games. Stadia has more games than Amazon Luna, but fewer than the other options. They rely on developer support to port games, and developers have been hesitant to do so. They also use a hybrid subscription/purchase system. You can subscribe to Stadia Pro, and get a limited selection of games. You have to individually purchase all other games. Stadia, then, is not a good deal, and it has to live or die as a streaming service. It is flagging, but Google is considering pivoting it into a B2B service. This would salvage Google’s investment into cloud gaming, but it would remove them from the streaming wars.

Amazon

Amazon Luna is the new kid on the block. They just launched in 2021, and they have a lot of the same sales points as other platforms: they stream games, you can subscribe to get access to a lot of games together, and they have their own controller. Amazon Luna is easy to mistake with Stadia at first glance. Amazon has invested in game development, but they aren’t relying on their own IP to sell their service. Instead, Amazon Luna relies on their controller, their infrastructure, their Channels and Amazon Prime as their selling points. 

(Left) Xbox Controller vs (Right) Luna Controller

The Luna controller is very similar to most modern controllers. It does not move the needle in a world with so many good, cheap controllers. Luna’s performance does move the needle. Luna has low latency, and it leads to a close to console gaming experience. This makes sense, because Amazon owns AWS, the largest public cloud platform. They understand networking, and already have infrastructure to make Luna work. It makes Luna among the best of the streaming services in terms of gameplay. 

They also took a different approach on the subscription service. You can subscribe to different Channels, which gives you access to sets of games. For example, you can subscribe to the Ubisoft channel, and get access to Ubisoft’s catalog. There are interest-based channels as well, like the Family channel. I like the idea of channels, but I don’t think they will win out over the value offered by Microsoft or Sony. Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus both offer more games for cheaper. Even TV is moving away from the channel model. 

Amazon’s ace in the hole is Amazon Prime. They already have people paying a subscription fee, and they throw in a selection of Luna games with a Prime membership. They are approaching it similarly to how they use Amazon Prime Video. In the future, this could be a real boon to Amazon. Right now, Luna doesn’t have many subscribers. I would chock that up to the mediocre library, and poor marketing. 

Nvidia 

Nvidia has GeForce Now, their own subscription service. GeForce Now has been around a long time, in one form or another. They started their public beta in 2015. Nvidia has a unique position out of all the competitors: they are primarily a GPU manufacturer. They brought great tech to bear with GeForce Now, and it has the best technology of all of the services. The experience of playing GeForce Now is the closest to the experience of playing a game on your own PC. They also promise higher fidelity than their competitors. Their games run on high-end gaming PCs rather than on retrofitted consoles or servers. You have to pay for that fidelity, though. 

GeForce Now charges $10–20 for a subscription, and they don’t use the same game subscription model that most the rest do. Instead, they allow you to play your own games for free. This approach makes GeForce Now unique: it’s not positioned as a replacement to a gaming PC, but instead as a supplement. They let you play your own library on other devices you own, like phones or laptops. 

They have been around for a while, but they don’t have the resources of the rest of these companies. However, they are well positioned to act as infrastructure partners with one of the other platforms. They are unlikely to come out of the streaming wars as the winner, but they might survive as an enthusiast solution. 

Other Game Streaming Services

There are other companies trying to make it in game streaming, but none of them have much traction. Plenty of companies have tried cloud gaming in the past, and they crashed and burned. OnLive and GaiKai both failed to make it as their own services, so they sold to Sony. Game streaming is expensive, and the infrastructure required puts it out of the reach of most companies. These other services are years away from profitability, and they don’t have good prospects.  

I’ll highlight an exception: Parsec. Parsec allows you to stream games from your own PC to another PC. It has been around for a while, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Unity acquired the company in 2021. They have a sustainable business model — but they don’t directly compete with true game streaming.

Takeaways

PlayStation needs to change or die

PlayStation holds most dangerous position of all these services. They don’t have mobile streaming, and they don’t have a good PC experience. They have a good value proposition, but that doesn’t matter if people can’t find the games they want. Sony needs to improve their infrastructure and add mobile streaming, or else they will lose the war. 

Xbox has the best deal

Xbox cloud streaming works. It’s close to a native experience. They also give you many games under the subscription, and it’s easily the best deal right now. Microsoft has marketed it well. Right now, Xbox Cloud Streaming is the most fully realized version of cloud gaming we have ever seen. If things continue as they are, they will win the game streaming wars.

Amazon Luna has a lot of potential

Amazon Luna plays fine. Right now, it’s not very well marketed. Most people probably aren’t even aware that it came out. However, Amazon Prime is Amazon’s X factor. If Amazon can leverage their existing Amazon Prime subscribers better, they have a chance of winning it all. They also need more game IP on their service, but they have shown with Prime Video that they are not afraid to dump money on a platform. Amazon Luna is the dark horse of the streaming wars.

Google and Nvidia could work as B2B products

Both products are falling behind on the consumer front. Stadia suffered from poor press at launch, and it has fallen behind Microsoft. GeForce Now doesn’t have problems right now. However, they will struggle to keep up with the rest of the pack in spending. That being said, both services have potential as B2B products. Google is already moving Stadia in that direction, and Nvidia has partnered with many companies in the games industry in the past. Either company, or both, could have success in game streaming through B2B, especially if Nintendo ever decides they want to get in on the war. 


Like the streaming wars, this war won’t end with a single winner. When the dust settles, we will have a few options. We won’t likely have six remaining. I would bet on Microsoft and Amazon as the victors when the dust settles.

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Xbox Game Pass Offers an Alternative to Steam Sales

Instead of getting pennies for their games, studios can get new fans.

Deathloop and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey are both coming to Xbox Game Pass. Both are AAA games. Deathloop launched as a PS5 title and did alright in sales. Alright. It fit well into the anemic release calendar of the PS5 last year. Now, it has dwindled in popularity, and the exclusivity deal with Sony has ended. They could have just released the game for Xbox Series X/S, but by moving it to Game Pass, they also get higher visibility and a large play spike.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is in a similar boat. The game is four years old and has a sequel already. Ubisoft could relegate it to Steam Sales, selling the game for pennies on the dollar four times a year to get a little more out of it. Xbox Game Pass again gets them more visibility.  

But what about the money? In both cases, the companies involved will get paid for players playing their games. I also suspect that Microsoft will pay each of them a flat fee for putting the game on Game Pass. The bigger benefit to going on Game Pass is the player base. For Deathloop, they will get access to a group of gamers who might not have ever considered them. These players can enjoy the game and become fans of the studio. For Ubisoft, the deal is even more straightforward. They have a newer title available for sale, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. If people enjoy Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on Game Pass, they will likely enjoy Valhalla as well. Game Pass gives game studios an opportunity to win new customers, and make a little money on the side, too.

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The New Console Battleground

The console wars have a new battleground: mobile

The console wars have been going on for decades. Atari vs. the Colecovision. Nintendo vs Sega. For the last three console generations, that battle has been between Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, the Big 3. They were competing over the television. Recently, that battle has matured, and now, there is a new, legitimate screen that all these companies want to dominate. The console wars are ending, and now the war is moving to different platform: mobile.

The size of the mobile market

Mobile gaming has been around since 2007, but the console makers mostly stayed out of it. So, what has changed? First, the size of the market. Mobile game spending is more than 3x console game spending. There are 3x the number of mobile gamers as console gamers. Second, the mobile games market has different demographics than the console market.

Portable gaming has always been bigger than console and PC gaming in Japan. However, mobile gaming created a new market in the rest of Asia. South-East Asian countries like (Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines) have had lower player counts in the past because the cost of owning a dedicated gaming PC or console was too high. Now, the mobile games market there has exploded. The casual mobile market is growing, as it is in the rest of the world. The core and hardcore gaming markets have been growing, too — on mobile.

The Big 3 have little market penetration in these markets with their consoles. Mobile gaming gives them a way to reach new customers. So, these three are making different moves to exploit the rise of mobile games.

Mobile gaming options:

Mobile gaming is broad. Here are the different ways the Big 3 could monetize mobile games.

Traditional mobile games

The early days of mobile gaming resembled other parts of gaming. Companies produced a game, and players could buy the game for a one-time fee. Games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja made millions while charging $1. Now, one dollar for a game is too low. Companies are moving away from Pay2Play games, but there are still traditional games sales on mobile, like Minecraft and Five Nights at Freddy’s. These are PC/Console-first franchises that port their games to mobile and charge a premium price. They can charge a premium price because of their perceived value. People think of Minecraft as a $15 game, and so they will spend $15 on it.

Minecraft Pocket Edition is one of the top paid mobile games 


Low perceived value is a hurdle in selling mobile games. Average perceived value varies per platform. On PlayStation, players are willing to pay $70 USD for a AAA game. On Xbox and the Switch, they pay $60 USD. On PC, prices tend to be lower than $60 USD, although some premium games start at that price point. On mobile, the expectation is $0. The perceived value of a top-selling game like BloonsTD6, which is polished and has tons of content, is still only $6.99 USD. This is not irrational. Play sessions on mobile are shorter than console, and the places people play are different. Control schemes and device power hold back mobile games from a console-level experience. So, it is difficult sell mobile games for even $5 USD. On other platforms, even small games tend to charge more than that.

Overall, this pricing model is antiquated, and none of the big 3 seem interested in pursuing it further. This keeps them from releasing direct ports of successful games on mobile.

F2P revolution and game design

Mobile games have moved beyond P2P and have embraced F2P. All of the top 10 grossing mobile games of 2021 were F2P. If the Big 3 hope to do well in mobile gaming, they will need to approach F2P. However, F2P does influence game design.

Unity’s CEO recently got into some hot water for saying that you’re a “f***ing idiot” if you don’t think about monetization during the creative process. He certainly could have phrased it better, but for mobile games, he wasn’t far off . Developers of free-to-play mobile games must consider monetization. Mistakes in monetization leads to unfun gameplay, unprofitable games, or lack of player retention. There are a lot of ways to monetize a mobile game, and most are different than in console games.

In Bloons Pop, you can watch an ad to receive additional rewards
  • DLC or expansion content: This is shared with console games. The core offering of the game is free, but you can spend money to access additional content in the game.
  • Ad-Supported Games: This has been tried in traditional games, and it failed miserably there. But it’s one of the biggest forms of monetization for mobile games. Games can combo ads with other forms of monetization or be entirely ad supported by making users watch an ad to play. They can lock purchasable content behind an ad as well, and many more options. To get the most out of ads in games, you need to either design things to be gained by watching ads, or put places in the game where an ad can slot in (similar to network television).
  • Limited Free Plays: F2P games can give you a limited number of free plays. After they are used, players have to wait or spend money to play. Candy Crush is one game that uses this.
  • Gacha/Card Packs/Lootboxes: These are the games where you have a random chance to receive an-ingame reward. These are similar to real-world baseball card packs. Gacha games tend to work well with established properties, so large IP owners like the Big 3 should be able to take advantage.
  • Subscriptions: Some games offer individual subscriptions (I would include battle passes as subscriptions). Companies are also experimenting with multi-game subscriptions, kind of like to Netflix. This might be a better solution for premium games on mobile than purchasing them individually, but the medium is still young. Apple has Apple Arcade, Netflix added games to their subscription, and Google has the Google Play Pass, to give some examples.

Game streaming

In recent years, there has emerged another option for mobile games: game streaming. Xbox has a service where you can play AAA console games streamed to your phone for a monthly fee. There are a few problems, though:

  • The Controller Problem: Most streaming services require you to use a controller. Controllers are not widespread across the world, and they also reduce the portability of the mobile game experience.
  • Connection issues: Game streaming struggles to stay smooth over fast internet connections. This is made worse over cellular connections.

Nintendo’s moves

Nintendo has been a historically isolated company in terms of their ecosystems, so it is surprising that they have made the biggest splash in terms of the Big 3 when it comes to of mobile gaming.

Pokemon Go

Nintendo really knocked it out of the park with Pokemon Go. Pokemon Go was the marriage of IP and concept. It was one of the first AR games, and Pokemon fit well with the regional nature. Pokemon Go swept the world. The game was a commercial success as well. It made almost 300 million dollars in its first year, and it’s grown year over year. It hit $5 billion in revenue in 2021. It was the sixth-highest grossing mobile game of 2021.

New Super Mario Bros. (Right) and Super Mario Run (Left)

Mario Run

Nintendo then tried Mario Run, an endless-runner version of Mario. It seemed like a perfect fit: huge brand in Mario, an established mobile genre, and gameplay like regular Mario games. They even got to save money by reusing assets. The game did great at first, and they charged a one-time fee of $9.99 to unlock all of the levels. It did well, but not as well as some of Nintendo’s other mobile games.

Fire Emblem: Heroes

The other really huge success they had on mobile was Fire Emblem: Heroes. They found a lot of success by taking their IP and using it to make a gacha game. Heroes is a casual RPG, where you form your team from different characters from the Fire Emblem franchise. Nintendo locks these characters behind a gacha mechanic, in which players spend money have a chance of getting the character they want. This system works very well for games based on existing IP: Marvel has a few gacha games, as do Star Wars and other similar brands. In the case of Heroes, Nintendo has been able to make more money from the mobile game than from any of their traditional Fire Emblem titles. It is one the highest earners in mobile games.

Overall, Nintendo, despite adopting mobile late, has capitalized well on the medium.

Xbox’s moves

Microsoft hasn’t succeeded on mobile. Windows phone peaked at around 3% market share. They haven’t used their IP like Halo or Gears of War on mobile. They have been taking a different approach than their competitors.

If the Activision deal goes through, Microsoft will have an IP advantage

Activision Deal 

Microsoft has put in an offer to buy Activision-Blizzard. Activision-Blizzard owns many strong brands like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. They also control strong mobile properties. Call of Duty Mobile generated nearly a billion dollars from October 2019 to July 2022. Diablo Immortal, a recent release from Blizzard, was panned for its microtransactions. Still, the game was the second fastest mobile game ever to reach $100 million in player spending.

Both games are dwarfed by another publisher under the Activision-Blizzard banner: King. Of the three game publishers owned by Activision-Blizzard, King has the highest net revenue. They are a mobile games developer and publisher, and they are the creators of Candy Crush. Candy Crush originally launched 10 years ago and has been a hit since then. The game was the fifth-highest revenue mobile game of 2021. By acquiring Activision-Blizzard, Microsoft would catapult themselves into being one of the top mobile games publishers.

Xbox Cloud Streaming

Microsoft is embracing cloud streaming, and they have the best tech of the big three so far. They own Azure, one of the top public cloud platforms. This means they can save significantly on cloud costs. Sony and Nintendo might be using Azure to power their own cloud services as well. Microsoft is also using Xbox Gamepass to offer a lot of games streamed for a low cost. Their streaming service is starting to roll out mobile-native control schemes. Not requiring users to carry around a controller is a huge boon to cloud gaming. Of the Big 3, Microsoft is the only one in place to push cloud gaming. It’s working right now: Xbox Cloud Streaming playtime is up 1800% this year.

Unity partnership

Microsoft recently partnered with Unity to integrate Azure . Unity is a popular engine, but it is especially dominant in mobile gaming. This is a good way for Microsoft to use their strength as a B2B company in gaming. If mobile game developers use Azure, then Microsoft wins. They can profit without having to own every mobile game developer. This is something the other two members of the Big 3 can’t replicate.

Sony’s moves

Xperia

Sony has a phone line known as Xperia. They have tried to use this line to push the PlayStation brand in mobile. Most notable is the Xperia Play, a hybrid smartphone and PSP. The Xperia Play flopped. The Xperia Play is an example of why porting console or handheld games to mobile doesn’t work. They had to entice publishers to port their games to Android, just so that only Xperia Play owners could play them. These days, a phone with a built-in controller might be an easier sell because of game streaming. Either way, Sony has abandoned the idea of gaming smartphones and canned an Xperia Play 2 years ago.

The Xperia Play might have been ahead of it’s time

PlayStation Mobile Games

Sony made mobile games using their PlayStation brands. One successful attempt is Run Sackboy! Run! They decided to use their premier platformer brand to make an endless runner before Nintendo made Mario Run. Sackboy didn’t do quite as well as Mario Run, but it still has accrued over 10 million downloads on Google Play since it came out in 2015. Earnings numbers have not been announced, but it looks like a mild success.

This doesn’t come close to their biggest success. Sony owns Aniplex, a company that makes anime and some games. They have one major mobile success: Fate/Grand Order. This gacha game surpassed $4 billion in revenue back in 2020. It had the 10th highest revenue of any mobile game last year. Sony doesn’t necessarily have to leverage PlayStation to succeed in mobile games.

Savage Games Acquisition

In August of 2022, Sony opened a mobile games division and brought Savage Games, a mobile game studio. Savage Games has not released a game yet, but it is founded by industry vets with experience in mobile games. They are rumored to be working on a live-service mobile game. Sony has also said that they want to release games using their existing properties. This could be successful for them. I’m sure they would love to have their own Pokémon Go or Fire Emblem Heroes.

Takeaways

The Big 3 are all spending money on mobile games. They see the size and value of the market. Their approaches vary, but they all see it as valuable. Here are some takeaways:

  • Game streaming is untested, but could be an option. It is the only way that porting console games to mobile could work. Sony could try it, but right now, only Microsoft is in position to capitalize on it.
  • The most reliable way to execute on mobile is to use existing IP to fuel live-service games. All three companies are moving that way. Nintendo is doing the best job of it now. They have Pokémon Go and Fire Emblem: Heroes, with a few other live-service as well. Sony is doing alright. Fate/Grand Order is a hit, but they aren’t leveraging their own IP. Microsoft has no mobile, live-service games. If the Activision-Blizzard purchase goes through, they will have the most live-service games of the Big 3.
  • Overall: Nintendo has a head start, Sony is doing ok with Aniplex, but not as well as Nintendo, and Xbox will take the lead if the Activision Blizzard deal goes through.

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Splitgate Developer Announces End of New Feature Development

Splitgate, the shooter that combined Halo and Portal, will be ending new feature development, according to a tweet from the developer, 1047 Games. The team released Splitgate into beta in July of 2021 and quickly built a player base of 600,000 in their first week. 1047 Games was a small, indie team at the time, and after Splitgate’s success, they received additional funding and grew their team. However, in their press release, 1047 Games stated that they struggled to implement new features on top of the existing codebase. They have decided to cease new feature development on Splitgate, and instead to move on to a sequel. The current version of Splitgate will remain live, and they plan to push smaller, free updates going forward.

This approach is very similar to what Blizzard chose to do with Overwatch. Overwatch 2 is slated to launch later this year. Blizzard announced Overwatch 2 in late 2019, and stopped releasing new heroes an maps in 2020. This move lead to a waning player in Overwatch, but time will show if those players return for Overwatch 2.

Hopefully, 1047 Games can get their sequel out while their existing player base still wants it.

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Sony is Giving Mobile Another Try

Sony is going to give mobile gaming another chance.

Sony’s failed Playstation phone

Sony has dabbled with using Xperia, its phone brand, to push the PlayStation brand in mobile. Most notable is the Xperia Play, a hybrid smartphone and PSP. The Xperia Play flopped, and the Xperia brand is dwindling. The Xperia play is one of many examples of why porting traditional games, even traditional handheld games, to mobile doesn’t fit with the market. They had to entice publishers to port their games to Android, just so that only Xperia Play owners could play them. These days, a phone with a controller might be an easier sell because of game streaming. Either way, Sony has abandoned the idea of gaming smartphones and canned an Xperia Play 2 years ago.

They have not given up on mobile games. Sony just acquired Savage Games, a new mobile games studio. Sony opened a mobile games division, and brought Savage Games under that. Savage Games have not released a title yet, but it is founded by industry vets with experience in mobile games. They are rumored to be working on a AAA, live-service mobile game. This is exactly what is proven to work in the mobile games market. Sony has also said that they want to release games using their existing properties. This could be successful for them. I’m sure they would love to have their own Pokemon Go or Fire Emblem Heroes like Nintendo.

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Sony announces a Gravity Rush movie, a move that is a surprise to everyone

Today, we got to see the next in a series of baffling movie announcements. Sony is making a movie out of Gravity Rush. Gravity Rush was an obscure game, and the sequel had online support dropped within a year, and now they’re making a film out of it?

This isn’t even weirdest game adaptation announced recently. Sega is adapting Space Channel 5 and Comix Zone. Space channel 5 has a synopsis that could have been written by an AI: “Space Channel 5 will follow a fast food employee enlisted by a reporter from the future to save the world from aliens ‘using the one thing that unites all people on the planet: our love of silly viral dances.'” Comix Zone originally came out in 1995 and hasn’t had a sequel. Now, it’s getting a movie.

In general, it looks like game properties have been getting more valuable, and publishers are digging deep into their back catalogs to find things to adapt. These properties might not sell well as games right now, but they still could have value as movies.

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Microsoft might still be using EEE

Microsoft’s history is varied. They started in software, then moved in the OS game with MS-DOS. Throughout all of this, they have kept an eye on expansion. Not always through savory means. Microsoft had a strategy known as EEE: Embrace, extend, and extinguish. They would first embrace a technology and create their own software to support it. Then, they would extend the technology with new features and functionality, pushing people to use their version of the software. For example, they embraced the web browser by creating Internet Explorer, which directly competed with Netscape Navigator, the dominant browser of the time. They then extended Explorer with technology that would put it ahead of Navigator. The last E is exterminate: once the Microsoft tool becomes the de facto standard, they look to force out their competitors entirely. In the case of their battle with Netscape, Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer for free with their operating system. They used EEE to take over industries that they saw as threats this way, and it got them in trouble during their antitrust lawsuit.

Microsoft had a dominant place in the industry built on a one-two punch: Windows and bundled software. Microsoft used their control of Windows to reduce the effectiveness of their competitor’s software while leaving their own intact. This forced Netscape out of business and got the US government on their backs. Microsoft lost that anti-trust lawsuit and had to stop making their competitors crash. They didn’t stop EEE, though. They shut Lotus out of the spreadsheet market and got sued in another anti-trust suit from WordPerfect. It looks like they’re trying to do it to this day.

Microsoft integrated the Linux kernel into Windows. They have contributed to Linux development, and to cloud development. It looks like Microsoft is at the Extend phase with Linux.

This post is part of a larger article, Microsoft threatens to eat the whole gaming industry.

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Microsoft threatens to eat the whole gaming industry.

Microsoft threatens to eat the whole gaming industry. They have been in gaming from the early days, starting off with Microsoft Adventure in 1979. They really put their foot into gaming with DirectX, and later with the Xbox. These days, when you say the words Microsoft and gaming, people think of Xbox consoles.

That will not be true forever.

Microsoft is not the 12th largest company in the world for nothing. They have not been around for almost 50 years for no reason. And Microsoft is not in gaming as a hobby. They do not stay in a business unless they see a future in it. Their history is littered with products and divisions that they canceled. Microsoft clearly sees gaming as part of their long-term future, but they do not view Xbox as their end-goal in gaming. They are looking to profit from streaming and their cloud business as an end goal, as these are more in line with their core business.

Background

Let’s cover some background before we get to how Microsoft is looking to eat the gaming industry.

Microsoft and Antitrust

Microsoft’s history is varied. They started in software, then moved in the OS game with MS-DOS. Throughout all of this, they have kept an eye on expansion. Not always through savory means. Microsoft had a strategy known as EEE: Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish. They would first embrace a technology and create their own software to support it. Then, they would extend the technology with new features and functionality, pushing people to use their version of the software. For example, they embraced the web browser by creating Internet Explorer, which directly competed with Netscape Navigator, the dominant browser of the time. They then extended Explorer with technology that would put it ahead of Navigator. The last E is extinguish: once the Microsoft tool becomes the de facto standard, they look to force out their competitors entirely. In the case of their battle with Netscape, Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer for free with their operating system. They used EEE to take over industries that they saw as threats this way, and it got them in trouble during their antitrust lawsuit.

Left: Jonathan Kanter, Right: Gary Reback. Leaders in the opposition to Microsoft in the antitrust case in 1998

Microsoft had a dominant place in the industry built on a one-two punch: Windows and bundled software. Microsoft used their control of Windows to reduce the effectiveness of their competitor’s software while leaving their own intact. This forced Netscape out of business and got the US government on their backs. Microsoft lost that anti-trust lawsuit and had to stop making their competitors crash. They didn’t stop EEE, though. They shut Lotus out of the spreadsheet market and got sued in another anti-trust suit from WordPerfect. It looks like they’re trying to do it to this day.

Azure

In modern day, Microsoft also has their hands in many pots. They still have Windows, the dominant OS. They have Office; both Outlook and Excel are big money-makers for them. One growing business for them is Azure, their public cloud service. The public cloud has gained a lot of ground in the last decade. Amazon is best known as an online shopping platform, but they make most of their revenue from their public cloud offering, AWS. Microsoft has seen growth from the public cloud as well.

Early on, Microsoft saw Azure as an extension of Windows in the cloud. They even initially named it Windows Azure, and later renamed it to Microsoft Azure. They made a custom version of Windows to run in the cloud and launched it as a niche tool. To compete with Amazon and Google, Microsoft had to change strategies. They started to Embrace both Linux and Open-Source Software with Azure. They moved past Windows as their primary OS in the cloud and started adopting new industry standards with Linux, Apache and Kubernetes, among others.

Their forays into Linux go beyond Azure now. Microsoft integrated the Linux kernel into Windows. They have contributed to Linux development, and to cloud development. It looks like Microsoft is at the Extend phase with Linux. It shows that they not only still hold onto their old strategy, but also that they are not afraid of working with old competitors.  

Xbox

Microsoft waited a while to get into the console space. Before the original Xbox came out, both Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft’s modern competition for the console space, had consoles under their belt. Microsoft came up with the DirectX Box, a PC running Windows 2000 with console features. Thankfully, they settled on the name Xbox, and released it in 2001. Xbox was meant to compete with PS2 for control of the TV. Microsoft saw the PS2 as a threat to the PC as an entertainment device. The Xbox took a lot of the features of the PC and put them in a console, so that Microsoft could retain control of the living room.

The Xbox lost that battle. They lost $4 billion on the Xbox. It outsold the Nintendo GameCube, just barely, but did not come close to the PlayStation 2. Microsoft still saw Xbox as being worth the investment, so they continued the Xbox line.

The original Xbox lost $4 billion

Microsoft has started to embrace cross-platform. They were the first to dip their toes in with crossplay between Xbox and PC. They tried with Games for Windows Live. The service did not work well, but that did not deter them from working with PC games later. Microsoft decided to put all of their first-party games on PC as well as on Xbox, and to offer a cross-buy program where you can buy a game on Xbox and get it on PC as well. They were the first of the major console manufacturers to move on crossplay between consoles in 2017. Mike Ybarra, VP of Xbox, argued “it’s more about gamer choice, more about making an IP on our platform last longer. I don’t care about where they play, I just want people to have fun playing games because that’s just better for the industry.”

They continued moving in that direction with Xbox Game Pass. They created a subscription service, like Netflix, for games, and they offered it cheap: $10 a month. Game Pass was and is also available on PC (on the same subscription). Game subscriptions were not new, but what was new was the number of games you could get for a low price. Game Pass now sits on roughly 25 million subscribers.

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Microsoft’s plans in gaming

Microsoft is deemphasizing Xbox consoles

Microsoft is deemphasizing their console business. In 2020, Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, said that they don’t see Sony and Nintendo as their competition going forward. He said “That’s not to disrespect Nintendo and Sony, but the traditional gaming companies are somewhat out of position. I guess they could try to re-create Azure, but we’ve invested tens of billions of dollars in cloud over the years.” They have moved to leverage their cloud investment in gaming further with Xbox Cloud Streaming.

Xbox Cloud Streaming is doing well (up 1800% in minutes played this year) for a few reasons. First, it is very cost effective for consumers. Xbox is spending heavily on IP to make Xbox Cloud Streaming and Game Pass good value options. Second, the technology behind Xbox Cloud Streaming is solid. Microsoft’s cloud expertise shows in the quality of the experience. Who is Xbox competing with in cloud gaming? Google, with Stadia. Amazon is moving into the space with Luna. Microsoft is not interested in selling Xboxes; they are trying to control the market.

Azure is a massive part of their business

The public cloud makes up a lot of Microsoft’s revenue. In Q4 of fiscal year 2022, the intelligent cloud was Microsoft’s highest revenue segment, beating out their productivity and business software that used to be their cornerstone. Compare that to earnings from 2010: then, the highest revenue segment was office software, followed by the Windows operating system. Microsoft is moving a lot of their attention to the cloud, and deemphasizing some of the old cornerstones of their business. 

The Intelligent Cloud (Azure) made up over 40% of Microsoft’s revenue FY22 Q4

One of their other old cornerstones was Windows server. In 2010, the third highest revenue segment was Windows server and its associated tools. Microsoft has moved away from this altogether. Azure fulfils the role that Windows Server used to fill. Microsoft used to have a lot of control over websites and servers. Now, Microsoft is able to retain control of part of that industry by pushing Azure. These days, Azure makes up 21% of the public cloud market share , and it’s rising. Microsoft is looking for ways to expand Azure, and to create another solid foundation for their future. They could have another Office or Windows on their hands.

Azure has potential in gaming

Microsoft is looking to push Azure in different parts of gaming.

Back in 2019, Microsoft partnered with Sony in cloud gaming. Sony was planning to use Azure as their cloud provider to set up their future cloud gaming efforts. This makes sense with Microsoft’s other statements and plans. They don’t have to lose out to Amazon or Google on cloud infrastructure for cloud gaming. Cloud gaming is very taxing, and this would be a boon for Microsoft’s competitors. It is also rumored that Nintendo is using Azure for their cloud gaming forays. This opens Microsoft up to control game streaming.

Kenichiro Yoshida, President and CEO, Sony Corporation (left), and Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

They aren’t the only ones to see the potential of the cloud in gaming. Google has been trying to get into cloud streaming games for years. They have Stadia, a game streaming platform, which has not been doing very well as a standalone product. However, Google is pivoting the technology to sell as a B2B cloud gaming platform, very similar to how Microsoft is working with Nintendo. Amazon has also partnered with Nintendo in the past to help with cloud infrastructure, and with Luna, they could look to sell cloud streaming infrastructure as well.

Microsoft is further diversifying by partnering with Unity. Unity is a generally popular engine, but it is especially dominant in mobile gaming. Microsoft has not had a lot of success on mobile, but this would be a way to extend their cloud business into mobile. Overall, Microsoft has a lot of options to leverage Azure outside of Xbox.

The whole picture

Microsoft’s gaming strategy has evolved over the years with their company. They have had massive failures, like the original Xbox and the Xbox One, and massive successes, like the Xbox 360. Now, they are one of the most sophisticated companies in gaming, and they are looking to profit in as many ways as possible. Overall, Microsoft is approaching gaming in two major ways:

  1. As a B2C company. Microsoft uses Xbox to sell games and consoles to players, and they are expanding to other markets using Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming. Over time, they will look to deemphasize Xbox as a console, and shift it more towards being a brand. They see more revenue in being a streaming service and a game producer than in being a console maker.
  2. As a B2B company (their primary business), they are expanding their cloud infrastructure offerings through Azure. They are also using their development tools, like VS and Playfab, to profit on game development regardless of platform. 

Microsoft has moved aggressively to embrace gaming, and they have been working hard to extend many parts of gaming. Time will tell if they succeed in extinguishing the competition, either on the consumer side or the infrastructure side.

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Unity is pushing to the future, and leaving ‘idiots’ behind

Unity has been getting a lot of hate recently. They’ve been going through a rough time. They’ve had layoffs, their earnings are down. After all of this, they decided to spend money on a merger, which makes them look even worse. On top of that, Unity CEO John Riccitiello comes out and says that developers who don’t consider monetization during design are ‘f***ing idiots.’ So, it’s understandable why Unity is getting so much hate. He has since retracted this statement, but it doesn’t change what we’re talking about today.
Things are looking rough at Unity, but today, I want to talk about how the merger and even Riccitiello’s comments are consistent with Unity’s long-term vision as a company. The merger is the natural conclusion of their other choices.

The Merger Details

On July 13th, Unity spent $4.4 million to merge with ironSource, a company that specializes in turning mobile apps into businesses. This was not an acquisition, but a merger, even though Unity is a much larger company than ironSource. I don’t want to get bogged down in legalese, so I’ll leave it at that.

There has been a lot of backlash around the merger. Unity just laid off over 200 staffers a few weeks ago. They said they wanted to “realign some of [their] resources.” Unity also reported a loss in earning just this May, which led to a huge drop in their stock. This seems like the wrong time to spend $4.4 billion. Unity also acquired a few other businesses this year. Why did the merger go through now? Let’s look at Unity’s business model to answer that.

Unity’s Business Model

Unity Engine is a multipurpose tool. People use it to make big games, like Escape from Tarkov and Fall Guys. People use it to make movies (at least in theory). But here’s the big one: Unity has a stranglehold on mobile games. About half of the top earning mobile games of 2021 used Unity. Hypercasual games, which dominate the charts outside of the very top , commonly use Unity. Unity is THE mobile games engine.

Unity also offers an ad solution, Unity Ads. Unity Ads is one of the biggest mobile ad networks for games. They formed one third of what was called the Gaming Triopoly . The other two members? AppLovin and ironSource. Unity also already offers solutions for analytics, deployment and in-app purchases. They make money from all of these services. The majority of the revenue that Unity earns is through their Operate arm, which includes Ads and In-App Purchases. Unity is a mobile games company.

The Mobile Market and Ads

The mobile games market generates more money than any other market in gaming. Ad-supported games on mobile are becoming more and more common, and people also are becoming more ok with them. The top grossing mobile games still use IAP primarily, but hybrid IAP + Ad monetization is becoming more common. Mobile game studios need to be able to leverage both forms of monetization, and they need tools to be able test monetization quickly.

What ironSource Does

ironSource, as mentioned earlier, is one of the biggest mobile game ad networks. They offer analytics for mobile game ads. They also offer game publishing services through their supersonic arm. ironSource doesn’t have anything to do with game development directly, but they offer a lot of the other tools needed for mobile game development. Unity also offers most of these services, so they are looking to improve these offerings with the ironSource merger.

Integrated Solutions

Unity is looking to be a fully integrated system. There are a lot of benefits to this type of system. Your customers can come to one place to get a lot of things they could get elsewhere in many different places. It reminds me of the gaming market, actually. Unity is looking to be the console of game development.

Console vs PC

Consoles have a few advantages over PCs. For one, they are cheaper. They are so much cheaper on average that a lot of people who want to get into gaming won’t even consider PC. Unity is similar. They are a very cheap option. Unity doesn’t charge developers anything until they make over $100k, so they look like a good option to people getting in on the low end.

Consoles don’t just attract cheap gamers, though. I would argue that the chief advantage of consoles is that they are integrated. When you buy a console, you are getting everything that you need to play games. You don’t have to worry about part compatibility, or about putting anything together. You don’t have to spend time learning about the advantages of different processors or manufacturers. You pick the brand you want, and you buy an all-in-one system. Unity is becoming that for game development, especially in mobile. If you want to make a mobile game for profit, there are a lot of things you need. You not only need to make the game itself (which is hard enough), but you also have to worry about building, deploying to testers, deploying to app stores, and monetization. 

Modern mobile games require even more: you need in-depth analytics to manage your game after launch, you need to set up a CI/CD pipeline so that you can get changes out fast, and you need to integrate ads. If you go with other popular mobile game engines, you will need to piece together your own solution to these problems.

Is Unity Ads the best ad solution? Not exactly. Unity doesn’t offer the best analytics solution, or the best deployment solution. What Unity is looking to offer is an end-to-end solution. They even said it in the press release for the merger. Many people saw it as word soup. Thankfully, I am fluent in word soup. Here’s what they said:

Unity announced today that it has entered into an agreement to merge with ironSource, harnessing the company’s tools, platform, technology, and talent to form an end-to-end platform that enables creators to more easily create, publish, run, monetize, and grow live games and RT3D content seamlessly.

https://blog.unity.com/news/welcome-ironsource

Conclusion

Unity is putting together an end-to-end solution for making games. Unity is doubling-down on being the the best solution for mobile games studios. We will see how this reflects in the future earnings, but this merger is more on-brand for Unity than some of their other moves, like the WETA acquisition.

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