Industry News [Kicking off 2021]

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!

Epic Games purchased an old mall to serve as its new headquarters. This is not necessarily huge news, but has amusing connotations around the evolving dynamic of video games as the new social hangout space.

EA and Respawn appear to be getting in on the metaverse action, with some cryptic posts suggesting work on a new title which will allow players to “adventure forever.” Expect to see tons of these announcements with something like one in three actually involving a real step forward, and the remaining two thirds being slightly glossier variants on existing mass-multiplayer games. Not sure which side I expect this particular initiative to land on, though.

Along similar lines, Sony revealed its new Immersive Reality initiative. The platform is centered on performative talent and events, which is absolutely a ripe area of the burgeoning ‘metaverse’ that hasn’t yet been fully worked through. I look forward to seeing how Sony, with its ability to host the talent themselves (rather than just one-off events via contract like Epic or Roblox) through their music division, will be able to create a richer and unique way of engaging for its users.

I recently registered a prediction that Roblox was worth far more than the $8B that was discussed for its IPO pricing – and now, we see that, if anything, I wasn’t bold enough, as Roblox just raised a new round at a nearly $30B valuation.

In the shadow of Epic’s continuing legal battle with Google and Apple, the FTC has noted concern about Apple and Google’s app store pricing. Specifically, they are worried about game developers using manipulative or coercive pricing strategies, but believe that the steep fees those developers are charged by the app stores may be forcing them towards these unsavory techniques. I don’t know enough about FTC action – my priors for ‘government’ are that this will be very slow, but given the legal battles already prompted in this space, I’m mildly optimistic this might at least provide another pip in the right direction.

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

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