Video games are Millennials too

Kyle Orland, Ars Technica:

A 16-year-old who was sinking all their free time into Diablo II when it launched in 2000 is pushing 40 these days. That means the core, nostalgic audience for the series is now very likely to have a career, family, and/or other responsibilities eating into their playtime. There’s nothing like a few decades of aging to make the prospect of sinking hundreds of hours into a loot grind seem less appealing.

I was 15 years old when Diablo II released. I’m pushing 40 these days. What is true of Diablo’s grind is true of video games in general.

As a teenager, I would dream of playing video games all day. The desire propelled my career ambitions. If I could make enough money to buy any game whenever I wanted, I had made it. (This motivation still lingers…) But it’s in the past five or so years that I’ve had to face the reality that time is scarce. Free time: Scarcer. I’ll spare you a write-up on the increased thoughts of mortality that sink in after you have a child, but that’s part of it too. Choosing what you do with your ever-decreasing free time becomes paramount.

And while decreased leisure time is not a new phenomenon, decreased time for video games is. Video games were a construct of the ‘50s–‘70s, but they did not become ubiquitous until the ‘80s. Add 10 to 20 years to that for the first player base, and you get people now in their late 50s/early 60s who grew up with games. But it’s likely the Millennials in their 30s and 40s who have the most profound attachment to the medium as they grew up alongside it. Video games are Millennials too.

The fact that we have yet to uncover the full spectrum of age demographics that are native to gaming is exciting but continues to throw wrenches in business models. As people age, how they choose to spend their time changes. In a few decades, we’ll understand how to meet every age demographic and their native technological culture where they are, with wider varieties of gaming genres and experiences. Until then, expect the old way of doing things to die on the vine.

Avoiding Hell

Matt and the Evil Empire team announcing a delayed release date for Ubisoft’s upcoming The Rogue Prince of Persia:

So it’s been a bit of a crazy week for us! It all started when a little game called Hades 2 released - you might have heard of it?

Seeing as everyone and their mum is playing that game (including our entire team… and their mums), we have decided to let people have their fun with it before we release The Rogue Prince of Persia.

We will still be releasing in May and will be back with a precise date on Monday.

While we have every confidence in The Rogue Prince of Persia, it’s not every day that a game in the same genre as you, which is one of the most anticipated upcoming games of 2024, will release into Early Access a week before you plan to do the same.

Years ago, I wrote about self-competing and time blocking. While I’m not sold on the conspiracy, it remains true that the year-by-year, month-by-month deluge of amazing games has titles eating each others’ lunch. Hades 2 — the sequel to one of best and most hooking games ever made — is certain to eat everyone’s lunch. This announcement from Evil Empire is the sort I’ve been yearning to see.

As calendars become packed with incredible releases, many developers and publishers have found their highly anticipated game gets overshadowed by an even more highly anticipated game releasing in the same window. More often than not, it’s impossible for release dates to shift due to in-flight marketing campaigns, resource forecasts, and release management on various platforms.

Seeing as this delay is specifically for the Early Access (beta, more or less) version of The Rogue Prince of Persia, Evil Empire and Ubisoft have the benefit of a much smaller impact for delaying. Still, it’s a small step in the right direction. Even more shocking that this is an Ubisoft title. Maybe I’m naive, but I didn’t have “Ubisoft approved game delay” on my bingo card.

My favorite part:

This also lets us keep polishing up the game, add even more cool things and kick some stubborn bugs out before release. The Day 1 patch was getting pretty hefty, so gaining more time to test it and add more stuff before launch day has considerably lowered the stress levels of our producer and game director already!

Wonderful move for both players and the team.

'They’re getting away with it because everybody is doing it.'

Bobby Allyn, NPR:

“There is a herding effect in tech,” said Jeff Shulman, a professor at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, who follows the tech industry. “The layoffs seem to be helping their stock prices, so these companies see no reason to stop.”

Some smaller tech startups are running out of cash and facing fundraising struggles with the era of easy money now over, which has prompted workforce reductions. But experts say for most large and publicly-traded tech firms, the layoff trend this month is aimed at satisfying investors.

Shulman adds: “They’re getting away with it because everybody is doing it. And they’re getting away with it because now it’s the new normal,” he said. “Workers are more comfortable with it, stock investors are appreciating it, and so I think we’ll see it continue for some time.”

'So don't get worried and sell all your shares'

Gita Jackson, episode 2 of the new Aftermath Hours podcast (edited for clarity):

Microsoft is beginning to gear up for their first financial meeting where they’re discussing the impact of the Blizzard Activision acquisition. As sort of a runway up to that, they laid off a huge number of roles…

What really drives me wild about the Microsoft one [compared to Riot] is that Microsoft is a company that makes profit at a level that if they eliminated their gaming division tomorrow, it would have a minimal impact on their bottom line. By that same token, they could keep their gaming division at exactly the same size and those 2,000 jobs would not actually impact their bottom line all that much.

Think about how big Microsoft is. Because of the way that the economy works and the way that I’ve learned that most of economic projections are just sort of guesstimates and lies, video games for a company like Sony or Microsoft that do other things, that do consumer electronics and software, video games are not even a secondary revenue stream. They’re like a tertiary revenue stream. They’re like third in priority. They don’t need to do this. They really don’t need to do this. And by that same token, it doesn’t make sense when they have layoffs this huge. This is like a show of force for their investors more than anything else, right? To say that they’ve identified the profit centers and are trimming the fat in their new acquisition. “So don’t get worried and sell all your shares.”

In years past, I would have written extensively about the insane amount of gaming industry layoffs occurring right now. This is exactly the thing I want people paying attention to. Thankfully, there are loads of outlets covering this madness. I also haven’t had time to put my thoughts together. My jaw hasn’t left the floor. I’m flabbergasted by the current state of things, keep seeing more bad news, and frankly, I’m out of practice of research and reporting. Plus, there are much more informed people dropping insightful takes about this atrocious time, like the folks at Aftermath. (I’m really enjoying the Aftermath Hours podcast. Highly recommend.)

That said, if I had written something, I would have wanted it to echo what Gita has said here. It isn’t a coincidence that Microsoft’s layoffs came one week before their shareholder meeting. That’s not to say these layoffs wouldn’t have happened regardless, but this timing does away with any facade.

(Also, if I’m reading this correctly, Gaming accounted for about 7% of Microsoft’s FY24 Q1 revenue. I wouldn’t say it has “minimal impact on their bottom line”, but it certainly isn’t their moneymaker.)

Miyamoto: 'The border of video game is becoming less and less set in stone'

Shigeru Miyamoto, in an interview with The Guardian’s Keza MacDonald:

When Miyamoto started at Nintendo, video games were still yet to be defined. Arcades and early home consoles were sketching out the earliest versions of what would become possible with virtual worlds. In 2023, most of the world plays video games, and the boundaries of what constitutes a game are once again becoming porous. The corporate world is encroaching on the universes of play that gamers have long inhabited, rebranding them as “the metaverse”. Everything from shopping and language learning to going for a run is being gamified through apps.

“Even grandpas like me know what games are now,” says Miyamoto. “Nowadays it’s very common to use PCs and smartphones, they’re used as pen and paper used to be. The border of video game is becoming less and less set in stone. People are having a broader understanding and acceptance of the term.”

Video games do not exist.