Axios Gaming

Picture of a gaming controller.

July 12, 2022

Happy Tuesday.

No time for a clever intro today. Let's get into it.

Today’s edition: 908 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: This is a MILE

Video game screenshot showing human survivors fending off zombies with knives. Icons indicate multiple players are controlling the action

Screenshot: GenVid/Axios

A new Walking Dead project debuting on Facebook this week will unfurl a months-long story that is shaped by the decisions of thousands or even millions of people playing a connected video game.

Why it matters: Its creators at GenVid call it a MILE, or massively interactive live event, and pitch it as part of the future of entertainment.

Details: As of yesterday, The Walking Dead: Last Mile is perpetually accessible on Facebook as a clickable game that depicts the state of two groups of human survivors in zombie-plagued Alaska.

  • Users create a human survivor to survey the region, then select points of interest to trigger simple games involving shooting zombies, fixing power generators and more.
  • Performing well in those games earns players points that can be used to vote for narrative decisions about the fate of the survivors.

One twist is that time proceeds inexorably, each real-life day moving the in-game timeframe along.

  • The other: Everyone is playing and influencing the game collectively, changing it for all players.
  • “Whatever the audience decides, that is the canon,” Shawn Kittelsen, vice president of creative development at Walking Dead franchise owner Skybound, said during a demo of the experience last week.

Between the lines: While all things Walking Dead come from Skybound and Last Mile was commissioned by Facebook, the MILE concept comes from this project’s lead producers at GenVid.

  • Company brass traces the concept back to 2014 livestreaming phenomenon Twitch Plays Pokémon, in which a classic Pokémon game was modded to enable 100,000 people to collectively input commands and control the game.
  • That was a lightbulb moment for former Square Enix exec Jacob Navok, who has now built a company around the concept.
  • GenVid has raised $166 million in three main rounds of funding since 2016, releasing commissioned work since then. They say a Pac-Man-related project drew 7 million users in six months.
  • The Walking Dead project mixes GenVid’s idea of collective gaming with a weekly interactive celebrity-hosted livestream that will focus on choices made by players and will be showcased by Meta as priority programming on its Facebook Watch video offering.

What they’re saying: “We want you to feel like you're part of a community,” Navok told Axios of GenVid's general intent.

  • “The idea of playing with community and participating with community is what we think is right.”

What’s next: The Walking Dead: Last Mile currently constitutes a prologue, which will run through early August.

  • The game will get a proper narrative launch later that month.
  • GenVid is also producing its own MILEs and plans to announce the first later this year, with planned launches in 2023 and 2024 across multiple platforms.

2. GameStop's new shop

Screenshot of a website marketplace showing artwork and prices

Screenshot: Axios

GameStop launched its NFT marketplace into public beta yesterday afternoon with an array of virtual art priced in crypto from the equivalent of pennies to more than $10,000.

Why it matters: It’s a very public experiment to see whether embracing blockchain markets can revive a struggling business.

  • It won’t be easy, as the NFT market has cooled a lot since January, when people were spending over $100 million a day on NFTs, compared to about a third of that now, according to Nonfungible’s market tracker.

Details: The online store lists 246 collections of some 53,000 NFTs, sporting a range of art styles but not specifically tied into any major gaming brands.

  • One “featured” NFT depicting an alien playing an arcade machine is listed for the equivalent of $455,000.
  • The actual gaming part of the marketplace, a partnership with blockchain gaming company Immutable, is “coming soon.”

It’s not clear, at a glance, what’s very GameStop about the company’s shop.

  • GameStop itself attempted to explain with a tweet that noted “the non-custodial, Ethereum-based marketplace allows you to truly own your digital assets on Loopring Layer 2 for high-speed, low-fee, secure transactions. Very cool. Very GameStop.”
  • In an email to employees seen by Axios, CEO Matt Furlong said the marketplace launch was part of an effort for the company to “establish a more connected and engaging experience for collectors, gamers and everyone who shops with us.”

Between the lines: The marketplace launch comes just a few business days after a stock split, the firing of its CFO and the layoff of workers across the company.

  • GameStop’s share price took a hit after the layoffs but shot back up after the launch of the NFT market, closing in on its high for the past month.

3. Need to know

🎮 Chinese authorities appear to be returning to a monthly cadence of approving new video games for release in their country, Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad noted.

  • Officials hadn’t approved any new games between July 2021 and April 2022, Bloomberg reported.

💰 Copenhagen-based Nordisk Games has acquired The Quarry creators Supermassive, adding to a roster of studios that includes Avalanche (Just Cause) and MercurySteam (Metroid Dread).

🎶 Spotify plans to buy music guessing game Heardle, Axios reports.

👩🏻‍⚖️ A 29-year-old California man has pleaded guilty to stalking a video game streamer and now faces a maximum of five years in jail, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

🎓 Activision is launching a training program meant to help people in non-gaming fields transition into game development.

4. Nintendo's heat warning

Nintendo Switch OLED model

Photo: Nintendo

Nintendo is advising Switch users that the system is not meant to be used when it’s more than 95 degrees out.

  • So don’t cover those vents.
  • That’s especially useful advice if you’re a genius newsletter writer who is about to fly to a city where it’s hitting 105 tomorrow.

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🐦 Find me on Twitter: @stephentotilo.

Was in the midst of workshopping a joke about overheating Switches when I discovered a part of my youth was a lie.