Industry News [Past Several Weeks]

I haven’t written one of these posts for a couple weeks, for reasons which are probably obvious – news about video games and machine learning have taken an understandable backseat to societal conversations around racial equality, policing, and more broadly the culture of the country. If I had a larger platform, I’d have chosen to even now continue remaining silent so as to not add noise in the way of those voices, but I feel the calculus is slightly different today – while I hope that those of you who follow this blog get value from these posts, I’m well aware that (at least at this point in my career) I’m largely writing for myself, so I’m not too worried about drawing attention away from anything. (As for why I haven’t written my own post on the subject of racial equality, the simple answer is that I’m not yet prepared to add anything new to the conversation. The obvious statements – such as the fact that all humans, regardless of race or creed, are worthy of respect – are too obvious for me to say anything new, and the hard tactical questions about what needs to be done are better answered by those with more expertise than I. Instead, I’ve been spending my time trying to listen and learn – though if I find myself putting pieces together in a way I think is valuable, I will certainly endeavor to share it.)

Having laid out that preamble, we do have a few notable events from the past couple of weeks in the gaming, ML, and audio spaces.

Riot games announces $10m fund for minority-led game studios

Riot isn’t the only game company announcing such a fund, though to my knowledge they are currently the largest. Making more capital available to minorities is both immensely valuable, and not nearly sufficient, but I’m heartened to see companies in my own industry taking this movement and moment seriously and reflecting on the different ways the can contribute. (Of course, I hope that reflection doesn’t end at the creation of the fund – it needs to continue constantly and permeate everything in order to make a true difference!)

a16z on investing in games

To be honest, I don’t have much to add beyond the interview in the article – I’m just including this because I think they do a good job covering a wide range of elements in gaming, and particularly appreciated the emphasis on UGC and social elements being key to the future – whether you label the future as “metaverse” or something else.

The FDA approved the first prescription video game

You should definitely read the article for details – Akili Interactive did some amazing work here, and it can’t have been easy to be the first to establish a new norm for the FDA. But even beyond this particular application, I’m fascinated to think about how this could help change gaming’s reputation. A few years ago, gaming was “that thing unpopular nerds do.” Today, it’s become a big part of socializing, especially for younger folks, but there’s still something of a stigma around it being an “immature” activity – and there are certainly those who want to restrict what content can be created out of fear of it corrupting today’s youth. I think this is an incredibly powerful counterpoint to really bring home something that many of us have known for a while – that just as certain bad games might have a negative influence, there’s also a huge opportunity for games to provide a positive influence and help people of all ages and demographics develop healthy skills and attitudes.

Epic is raising additional capital…which it can do because of amazing metrics

From the article (emphasis mine): In April alone, thanks to the pandemic, Fortnite revenue was $400 million, sources told me. Epic has said that in April, players spent 3.2 billion hours in the battle royale shooter.

If you’re reading my blog, you probably already believe that the gaming market is a significant one, but man, whenever I read stats like this I’m just amazed at how many people still think gaming is just a niche space.

Twitter introduces voice tweets

It’s about time, in my opinion 🙂 What I find most interesting about this is that it sounds like Twitter really felt pushed in this direction by the sheer shift to audio-first in other platforms over the last few years – especially based on the number of people wearing airpods and the like while on mobile.

To be honest, I don’t expect this to take over Twitter. Reading a Twitter feed, one is generally paying attention to a few different things onscreen at a time, and audio doesn’t allow you to divide your attention like that – you’re really forced to hone in on one particular thing at a time. But even if I’m not convinced Twitter is the right platform for audio to truly dominate, I still think audio is an essential – and still often underappreciated – part of the future of social, and I’m pleased to see the rapid evolution in that direction as a general trend.

Snap expands its developer platform, releases Bitmoji for games

Snap has been doing a lot lately to flesh out the scope of its platform. I see these two announcements as being kind of paired together – the developer platform ensures that Snap’s platform has as much content as possible, while the Bitmoji for games release ensures that Snap can have a presence on other platforms, solidifying their position as a hard-to-dislodge element of the evolving social ecosystem. The Bitmoji for games release is particularly interesting to me, of course, as it’s a similar kind of offering to Modulate’s – though the visual vs audio disparity introduces some significant differences, not least that Bitmoji is restricted to games that match its visual style.

That’s all for now. Stay well, both physically and mentally, and as always, feedback or thoughts are welcome.

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