This Week in Business is a collection of stats and quotes from our sister site GamesIndustry.biz that sheds light on console sales, new trends, and more. Check back every Friday for a new entry!
Welp, this is it. The last This Week in Business column on USgamer. It’s been a good two years here, and although I’m sad to see it come to an end, I’d like to thank Kat Bailey for giving it a wonderful home alongside some amazing writing; Caty McCarthy for editing and posting them on a weekly basis; Rebekah Valentine for writing a bunch of these columns, and of course everyone who read them. (Rebekah likewise asked me to pass those thanks along.)
(Yes, I know the Kotaku column is actually This Week in THE Business. When we brought it to USG, they posted the first one with that heading and they were so nice to even allow the thing on their site I didn’t want to bother them about the name.)
So while this is the last This Week in Business column on USG, it won’t be the last This Week in Business column. Starting in 2021, we’ll be running it once a week on the site we actually write for, GamesIndustry.biz. It’s a very different kind of website than USG, but I hope some of you will join us there, or make the column part of your weekend routine.
But that’s next year. 2020 isn’t dead yet—despite all of our best attempts to make it so—and we’ve got a year-end recap column to write. If you want a long-winded write-up finding a theme in all this nonsense, you’re in luck because we just published one of those over on GamesIndustry.biz.
On the other hand, if you just want to be reminded about all the horrible stuff you’ve pushed out of your head just to make it from one day to the next during this absurdly awful year, then buckle up and dig in.
QUOTE | “There will be no playable female characters because of game lore and more importantly—the huge amount of work needed with animations, gear fitting etc.” – Escape from Tarkov’s official Twitter account dusts off a few tired excuses for the lack of playable women in its game. In short, they don’t want playable women in the game, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t want them in there bad enough to prioritize it over other things they’d rather add.
QUOTE | “Africa is the only region in the world where the youth population is increasing. By 2050 Africa’s young population, i.e., those aged between 0 and 24 years old, will increase by nearly 50 percent. Africa will have the largest number of young people. Africa’s youth are key to the continent’s future when it comes to mobile and gaming as a whole, which will be further boosted any significant investment in the education space.” – Games Industry Africa’s Vic Bassey lays out seven trends to watch for the continent’s emerging development scene in the year ahead.
QUOTE | “We try to limit crunch as much as possible, but it is the final stage. We try to be reasonable in this regard, but yes. Unfortunately.” – CD Projekt Red CEO Adam Kiciński’s response to being asked if the development team of Cyberpunk 2077 was being required to crunch on the game. The game would be delayed three times this year, and that “final stage” of development supposedly necessitating crunch stretched until December 10 (and beyond, considering the company has committed to patching numerous bugs in January and February of 2021).
QUOTE | “E3 2020 will be an exciting, high-energy show featuring new experiences, partners, exhibitor spaces, activations, and programming that will entertain new and veteran attendees alike. Exhibitor interest in our new activations is gaining the attention of brands that view E3 as a key opportunity to connect with video game fans worldwide.” – This prediction from the ESA after Sony dropped out of E3 in January didn’t look great at the time, and like many other 2020 live event predictions of the time, aged terribly.
QUOTE | “The world is really screwed up right now. Right now, your political orientation determines which fast food chicken restaurant you go to, and that’s really dumb.” – In a DICE 2020 talk, Tim Sweeney says it’s dumb to attach ethical significance to one’s actions.
STAT | 26% – The year-over-year decline of US consumer spending on video games in January, according to the NPD Group. With new consoles not expected until November, the industry braced for a difficult 2020.
QUOTE | “New consoles may likewise suffer supply issues from a prolonged disruption, ahead of their Fall 2020 planned launches.” – After Nintendo warned of Switch supply issues, analyst Ken Rumph said if then-current coronavirus fears drag on, the various shutdowns in the supply chain could put Microsoft and Sony’s new console launches at risk.
QUOTE | “We have made the difficult decision to cancel our participation in Game Developers Conference due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus).” – Sony explains why it pulled out of GDC, then-scheduled for March in San Francisco. (Facebook/Oculus also withdrew at the same time.) A day before, Sony canceled its plans to appear at PAX East.
QUOTE | “I believe there is a latent, innate human need based on what you see at E3 or ComicCon or PAX, where people want to consort in real life with other people that are doing this, and that is a much more powerful notion than doing it over your headset. That’s a great way to do it to fill the gaps in between when you’re with people, but if you can have a local place that you can do this together on a regular basis that’s within reach, it seems to me a very worthy experience.” – GameStop chief customer officer Frank Hamlin explains how the brick-and-mortar retailer’s new plan to survive the industry shift to digital is dependent on regularly getting people together in a physical space for prolonged periods of time and…. Oh. Oh no.
QUOTE | “I think one of the things that may come out of this if it’s as widespread as I believe it will be, one unexpected consequence is a lot of us who were skeptical about remote work are going to be less skeptical about it.” – Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick says temporary work-from-home policies adopted because of the novel coronavirus may reshape the way publishers think about remote development.
QUOTE | “Given their resemblance to gambling, the Committee considers that loot boxes and other simulated gambling elements in video games should be subject to appropriate age restrictions, including through the use of mandatory age verification.” – An Australian Parliamentary committee joins the list of international legislative groups calling for governmental restrictions on loot boxes.
QUOTE | “For the [The Last of Us Part 2] demo shown last September, the gameplay animators crunched more than I’ve ever seen and required weeks of recovery afterwards. One good friend of mine was hospitalised at that time due to overwork. He still had over half a year to go. There have been others since.” – In a Twitter thread, former Naughty Dog animator Jonathan Cooper explains why he left Naughty Dog and the human cost of the studio’s crunch culture.
STAT | 75% – Increase in online gaming during peak hours since COVID-19 self-isolation ramped up in early March, according to Verizon.
STAT | 155% – The jump in console hardware sales across Europe for the week of March 16-22, when many countries were in lockdowns because of COVID-19. March hardware sales were so high they all but erased double-digit declines in the hardware market over the first two months of the year.
QUOTE | “There are peripherals companies with no stock, retailers with no stores, events companies incapable of running events, and contractors without work. There are QA agencies with no games to test, recruitment firms with no jobs to fill, media with nobody advertising and museums with no visitors. And that’s before you get to the studios suffering from cash flow challenges as a result of partners re-focusing and adapting to the new situation.” – GamesIndustry.biz publisher Chris Dring reminds everyone that while some companies were seeing a bump in business due to the pandemic, many others were struggling.
QUOTE | “Even with us finishing the game, we were faced with the reality that due to logistics beyond our control, we couldn’t launch The Last of Us Part 2 to our satisfaction.” – Sony announces an indefinite delay to The Last of Us Part 2 because the pandemic would prevent getting copies out to everywhere they are supposed to go at the same time.
QUOTE | “Everything else we are either already past that hurdle so we’re not really impacted by it, or things are progressing smoothly or business as usual.” – CD Projekt Red senior vice president of business development Michal Nowakowski told investors that voice acting was the only thing being hampered by the pandemic, and that the company was “comfortable” it could make its September release date, as the game was effectively “in a complete form” already. (It would be delayed two more times and launch in a form very few would describe as “complete.”)
QUOTE | “I want to live in a world where this guy doesn’t go and ruin other peoples’ games. Where people feel safe to speak up. But reality is that in general voice comms land, for a ton of females, their safety mechanism is identifying ppl like this early and remaining silent or muting.” – After posting a clip of her being harassed playing Valorant, a Riot Games UX designer with the Twitter handle Evergreenily highlights the sad reality that the industry puts more responsibility on targets of harassment to protect themselves from trolls than it puts on companies to punish and remove the trolls in their games.
QUOTE | “Clearly we set some wrong expectations and that’s on us. We appreciate all the feedback and can assure you we will take it all in and learn as a team.” – General manager of Xbox games marketing Aaron Greenberg gives mea cupla over its Inside Xbox reveal stream for third-party Series X games, a stream that was sold as a place to check out next-gen gameplay, but was almost devoid of actual gameplay.
QUOTE | “While Cyberpunk may be a bigger hit than any one of those five games, the hype around it has likely played a significant role in CDPR’s stock climbing to its current point. Companies that earn €115 million a year in revenue aren’t typically worth €8 billion, and neither are companies with 35% lower revenue now than in 2015.” – GamesIndustry.biz editor-in-chief Matthew Handrahan discusses CD Projekt surpassing Ubisoft’s market capitalization, and how it would be a temporary situation. CD Projekt’s share price has taken a few hits lately, and as of this writing the company’s $8.51 billion market cap is well shy of Ubisoft’s $9.4 billion.
QUOTE | “We have always said that we believe in generations. We believe that when you go to all the trouble of creating a next-gen console, that it should include features and benefits that the previous generation does not include. And that, in our view, people should make games that can make the most of those features.” – In an interview about the pandemic response and the PlayStation 5 strategy, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s president and CEO Jim Ryan explains why, unlike Microsoft, Sony is making games that will be exclusive to its next-generation system.
QUOTE | “As gamers, we also know how important it is to preserve and respect our gaming legacies.” – In an Xbox Series X blog post, Microsoft talks solemnly about the sacrosanct right to Gamertags, Gamerscore, and backward compatibility.
QUOTE | “Black Lives Matter” – After the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, Sony, Riot Games, Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, Naughty Dog, Microsoft, Nintendo of America, Epic Games, and pretty much everyone else took a public stand against police brutality and systemic racism.
QUOTE | “‘Ready when it’s done’ is not just a phrase we say because it sounds right, it’s something we live by even when we know we’ll take the heat for it. At the same time, we are fully aware that making such a decision costs us your trust and trading trust for additional time is one of the hardest decisions a game developer can make.” – CD Projekt Red announces a two-month delay for Cyberpunk 2077, the second of the game’s three delays this year.
QUOTE | “It became clear that the time needed to grow our own livestreaming community to scale was out of measure with the vision and experiences we want to deliver to gamers now…” – Head of Xbox Phil Spencer explains that Microsoft’s streaming site Mixer wasn’t growing fast enough so the company was shutting Mixer down entirely and foisting partners and users off on Facebook Gaming.
QUOTE | “Concerning recent allegations raised against certain Ubisoft team members: We want to start by apologizing to everyone affected by this—we are truly sorry.” – A statement released by Ubisoft in the immediate aftermath of an industry-wide wave of people coming forward about abusive and predatory behavior by streamers, influencers, and developers.
QUOTE | “The Montreal HR boss intervened and said: ‘These articles are unfair, and if Yves [Guillemot, Ubisoft’s CEO] doesn’t share a public statement that exonerates HR, it’s simple, I will leave Ubisoft with half of my team.’ After this, all his right-hand staff fell in line: ‘I agree’, ‘I agree’…” – An Ubisoft employee in a meeting with about 90 of the company’s HR managers describes how some HR staff threatened to resign if the company didn’t find someone else to blame for the alarming number of Ubisoft leaders not held accountable for abusing and harassing their employees and co-workers.
QUOTE | “Each time we’ve been made aware of misconduct, we made tough decisions, and made sure that those decisions had a clear and positive impact. It has now become clear that certain individuals betrayed the trust I placed in them, and didn’t adhere to Ubisoft’s shared values. So I have never compromised on my core values and ethics, and I never will.” – Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot explains how he is not only blameless, but he is actually also a victim in all of this because he trusted abusers over their victims.
QUOTE | “Human Resources always exists, for lack of a better term, in fear of production. You’re serving production’s needs, and that’s how you’re treated working in a Human Resources department in the games industry… You serve production and whatever the hell they want, that’s how it gets done. So right from the beginning, it’s a broken model and that’s not the way it should get done.” – Expansion Pack Search and Selection co-founder and CEO Andrew Hilson talks about why HR keeps failing employees reporting abuse and misconduct, drawing on his experiences in HR at Ubisoft Toronto.
QUOTE | “The gamer inside me hates to say it but the conventional E3 we all knew and loved isn’t doing anything for these games coverage-wise that a cheaper stream or surprising shadow drop can’t do.” – After looking at the buzz generated by a summer full of big gaming events, Fancensus head of analytics Ryan Janes concludes we don’t need E3 anymore.
QUOTE | “Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content.” – Microsoft calls Apple out after the iOS maker blocked the Game Pass app from the App Store.
QUOTE | “Fast-forward to 2020, and Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion, Apple’s size and reach far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history.” – Epic’s lawsuit against Apple, filed after Fortnite was removed from the App Store for introducing a way for players to buy in-game currency that denied Apple its 30% cut of revenues. Google would literally follow suit by removing Fortnite and in being sued by Epic.
QUOTE | “Even on the main Facebook app and Messenger, we’ve been forced to bury Instant Games for years on iOS. This is shared pain across the games industry, which ultimately hurts players and devs and severely hamstrings innovation on mobile for other types of formats, like cloud gaming.” – Facebook Gaming chief Vivek Sharma joins the Apple dogpile.
STAT | $2 trillion – The total value of all outstanding shares of Apple stock in mid-August. In late March, it was under $1 trillion.
QUOTE | “Imagery that appeared in the opening video sequence of Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad featuring a ‘raised fist’ was insensitive and harmful in both its inclusion and how it was portrayed.” – Notoriously “apolitical” publisher Ubisoft, apologizing for one aspect of a Tom Clancy crossover game featuring the franchise’s many militarized protagonists teaming up with terrorist organizations in order to put down the real enemy: a populist protest movement fueled by outrage over endless wars, corruption, and poverty.
QUOTE | “Today is a landmark step in our journey together and I’m incredibly energized by what this step means for Xbox.” – Xbox head Phil Spencer announces that Microsoft agreed to acquire Bethesda Softworks and id Software owner ZeniMax for $7.5 billion .
STAT | 2 weeks – The length of time between the announcement of Super Mario 3D All-Stars and its actual release, an essentially unheard of turnaround for a platform holder’s holiday tentpole release.
STAT | 2 months – The length of time between the announcement of the Xbox Series S and its actual release, an essentially unheard of turnaround time for a debuting next-generation platform.
STAT | Less than 2 hours – The length of time between Sony announcing after its PS5 showcase that preorders would be going live the next morning and retailers opening their preorders anyway, an essentially unheard of turnaround time for a platform holder’s preorder plans falling apart.
QUOTE | “To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons. Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price.” – A line from the opening of the US House of Representatives antitrust committee’s new report concluding that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have all engaged in monopolistic practices.
QUOTE | “It just didn’t feel safe there ever. Nobody ever really took responsibility for anything and there was nobody to go to if you were threatened, or felt threatened, or were harmed in some way.” – One of 16 current or former Twitch employees we spoke with describes what it was like working at Twitch.
QUOTE | “We feel we have an amazing game on our hands and are willing to make every decision, even the hardest ones, if it ultimately leads to you getting a video game you’ll fall in love with.” – CD Projekt Red co-founder Marcin Iwiński and studio head Adam Badowski announce that they are delaying Cyberpunk 2077 for the third time, pushing its release back to December 10.
STAT | €10 million – The amount the Netherlands Gambling Authority fined Electronic Arts and its subsidiary Electronic Arts Swiss Sàrl—the maximum amount allowable by law—for FIFA Ultimate Team loot boxes that violated the country’s Betting and Gaming Act. The fine was imposed a year ago, but EA took the regulator to court to overturn the fine or at least to prevent it from ever being made public. An appeals court denied EA on both counts.
QUOTE | “I think the people who want to put us against Sony based on who sold the most consoles lost the context of what gaming is about today. There are three billion people who play games on the planet today, but maybe [only] 200 million households that have a video game console. In a way, the console space is becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of the overall gaming pie.” – Phil Spencer explains his approach to hardware sales figures after the launch of the Xbox Series X|S.
QUOTE | “If you’re unsure about the rights, some games allow you to turn off music when streaming, or you can mute the game audio yourself.” – Twitch offers some spectacularly unhelpful advice for creators worried about being caught up in the avalanche of DMCA copyright take-down claims the platform has seen this year.
QUOTE | “History tends to repeat itself in video games, and we’re definitely seeing that again now. Whenever a platform holder has arguably ‘lost’ a console cycle, they tend to then lean more heavily on indie developers for the next cycle.” – No More Robots founder talks about how the next-gen system launches are playing out for indie developers.
QUOTE | “Rather than utilizing work from home solely as a means of preventing infections during the current pandemic, the Company will establish it as a permanent and core program among the working styles it accommodates. In so doing, the Company hopes not only to create a flexible and diverse working environment, but also to further bolster productivity and help employees achieve the optimal work-life balance.” – Square Enix explains why it will allow all eligible Japanese employees to work-from-home on a permanent basis.
STAT | 783 – The number of GameStop stores that have closed in the past two years, 462 of them this year alone. It plans to push that number over 1,000 by the end of March. The company has more than 5,000 stores in total worldwide.
QUOTE | “SIE strives to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction, therefore we will begin to offer a full refund for all gamers who have purchased Cyberpunk 2077 via PlayStation Store. SIE will also be removing Cyberpunk 2077 from PlayStation Store until further notice.” – Sony announces that Cyberpunk 2077 on PS4 is not fit for sale.
QUOTE | “After receiving many messages from gamers, we have decided not to list the game in our store.” – CD Projekt’s GOG.com storefront blames gamers in its explanation of why it cancelled Red Candle Games’ planned release of Devotion just hours after the studio announced it would be coming to GOG. Devotion has been largely unavailable since being pulled from Steam in February of 2019 because a poster in the game made fun of Chinese president Xi Jinping.
QUOTE | “We believe that hate and harassment or exploitation of younger players in any way have no place in gaming,” they said. “We partner with our community to promote safe gaming behavior and encourage the use of reporting tools to call out bad actors.” – Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony in a joint statement emphasizing their shared commitment to making their online spaces safe.
STAT | 100 – The number of people celebrated in the GI Game Changers series for making the industry a better place. We scaled back a lot of our usual year-end coverage and recaps so that we could end this incredibly difficult year on a feel-good note. I hope you’ll look through it and find a bunch of things to feel good about too.