Industry News [Week of November 16]

This is the regular weekly post where I share updates about things happening in gaming, machine learning, audio, or frankly anything that catches my eye and seems relevant to share or discuss here. Let’s hop right in!

Fascinating update amid the ongoing Epic and Apple legal battle – Apple has declared that, starting in 2021, it will lower its App Store take to 15% for developers earning less than $1m. Tim Sweeney, Epic’s CEO, has responded to the move by clarifying that he’s not fighting for lower takes, he’s fighting for other app stores to be permitted on iOS phones to restore competition. Nevertheless, I suspect that this move by Apple, which will ultimately cost them very little since the vast majority (95%!) of their revenue comes from larger developers, was done to try to take the high ground away from Epic during the trials next year.

Relatedly, Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service is now available through Safari on iOS, and reports are that Fortnite is working to use this to get back onto iPhones without going through the App Store. I’m not the biggest cloud gaming enthusiast, but it’s certainly an interesting workaround, and I’ll be fascinated to see how Fortnite’s stats evolve if they do go through with it – it provides a pretty rich natural experiment about how the friction of in-browser cloud gaming compares to mobile-native apps.

Unrelated to that case, but still on the subject of Epic, Fortnite now includes video chat powered by Houseparty, which Epic acquired about a year ago. This is part of the very public movement Epic and Fortnite have been making to transition the platform away from being a “game” and more into a social network. Personally, I’m not certain that live video feeds are exactly what’s needed – that creates less immersion in the actual experience, after all – but I’m always a fan of experimenting, and richer options rarely hurt.

Sweden-based gaming conglomerate Embracer Group might need to slow down. Following an article from earlier this year in which they announced over 100 games under development, they’ve now acquired 12 new studios (and a PR group) over the course of about a month of high-speed activity. I’m a bit skeptical of such conglomerates unless they’re able to create real synergies between their internal studios, which I’m not hearing much about yet…but Embracer Group certainly has the horsepower to make that happen if they want to pursue it! If not, this might be more of a play to expose themselves to more of the upside in the rapidly-growing gaming market, rather than a way to change the shape of how it’s evolving.

Nintendo has come out and asked folks to please refrain from creating user-generated content that directly discusses political messages, including things like Joe Biden’s Animal Crossing island. This is on par for Nintendo – they’ve always been very cautious and strict with their IP – but I think is a bit of a failure of vision on their part. Nobody is forcing anyone to visit any particular Animal Crossing island – as long as this content isn’t front-and-center, I think it hurts them very little to permit it, and they gain a ton of engagement from folks looking to better connect with gamers.

That’s all for this week! As always, any thoughts or feedback are welcome. Stay safe, healthy, and sane, all!

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