Axios Gaming

Picture of a gaming controller.
May 25, 2022

It’s Wednesday and I’ll be honest that it’s been tougher than normal to focus on newslettering today.

I hugged my kids extra tight when I picked them up from after-school yesterday. Here in America, we keep living through the same nightmare, where nothing seems to change. Credit to my colleagues on Axios’ politics team who keep asking those in charge what they’re going to do about it.

Today’s edition: 999 words, 4 minutes.

1 big thing: Players like playable ads

Screenshot of a farming game, showing a large movie camera icon that players can tap to watch an ad and receive rewards
A prompt to watch an in-game video ad to receive a reward in FarmVille 3. Screenshot: Zynga

Players in the booming mobile gaming market are warming to in-game video ads but are much more into interactive ads, according to a new report on the sector compiled by Data.ai.

Why it matters: Mobile gaming is setting the standard for how games operate, so what’s accepted or successful in it may shape gaming overall.

  • Spending on mobile games will reach $136 billion worldwide this year, Data.ai estimates. That’s compared to about $40 billion each on consoles and computer gaming.
  • The U.S. made up about a third of that mobile market in the first quarter of 2022.

State of play: The common model for mobile games is that you can download them for free and then buy in-game items to have a better time.

  • That model is spreading in console and PC games, though in-game ads on those platforms are rare.
  • In-game ads on mobile, however, are common. And they don't just happen between levels of a game, as if they were a TV commercial. Popular free-to-play games like Farmville 3 often include ads that pop up midgame or that players are invited to watch or interact with to unlock rewards in the game.

Details: Of nearly 4,000 global players surveyed by Data.ai, a majority are fine with in-game ads in some form.

  • A fifth say they’re fine with accepting ads in exchange for game content and services.
  • About a third were a little more reserved, saying it depends on the app.
  • Just 6% said they would broadly rather just pay for the game and not see ads.

Video ads are contentious, but attitudes are moving.

  • They’re still more loathed than liked (The survey option “I can’t stand them” beat “I like them” three to one). But Data.ai reports the divide narrowed between late 2020 and late 2021.
  • More popular are playable in-game ads, which serve as short demos of other games in the Russian nesting doll that is mobile game advertising. Those get an “I can’t stand them” from about a quarter of mobile gamers, but more than half of players think they’re “OK” or even like them.

The bottom line: Mobile gaming is gaming’s laboratory for economic experiments.

2. Rogue pachinko

Peglin. Screenshot: Red Nexus Games

The wave of deck-building, rogue-like games has not yet reached its peak, but every so often, there’s a welcome entry into the rapidly growing sub-genre. Enter: Red Nexus Games’ Peglin.

What’s happening: In Peglin, you play as a cute little goblin who battles its way to victory by shooting various types of orbs at a pattern of pegs, letting gravity determine how much damage is done, Axios' Peter Allen Clark writes.

  • It’s basically a cross between the pachinko-fueled madness of Peggle and the deck-building designs of games like Slay the Spire.

What they’re saying: “Peglin is very much a pandemic passion project, I really wanted something lighthearted and fairly simple that I could dig into to avoid cabin fever when we didn't know how long lockdowns would be going on for,” Dylan Gedig, the founder of Red Nexus Games, told Axios.

  • “Once players started to find and play it, the motivation really carried our development the rest of the way, and it was so cool having this community come together in an otherwise very isolating time.”

State of play: In deck-building games, players receive various upgrades, new weapons or skills as rewards. They are then added to a random “deck” played in battles.

  • They used to be relatively rare but have grown into a real trend over the last several years, with games like Inscryption, Dicey Dungeons, Monster Train and many more gaining hordes of fans.

Details: Peglin, available on Steam for $20, was released into early access on April 25. And it does feel like an early access game.

  • The content offering is relatively slim and there can be noticeable balancing issues.
  • Gedig says the small team is shooting for an official release in the middle of next year, with next steps to add more content, more bosses and more characters.
  • “After that, we'll be shaking up the game's systems a bit more and introducing a currency system and shop, which will help reduce some of the randomness that only increases while adding content,” he says.

The bottom line: I’ve put almost 10 hours into it over the past week and, as a huge fan of Slay the Spire and Peggle, have found it to be very enjoyable in spite of its early access blemishes.

  • It also perfectly pairs with a Steam Deck and bedtime.

3. Need to know

🎮 Upcoming “retro-futuristic” game Replaced has been delayed to 2023. The Belarusian studio behind the game said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which it previously criticized, had forced its developers to relocate, slowing development work.

🏃🏾‍♀️ Activision will track players’ steps in Call of Duty: Warzone this weekend as a sort of virtual charity run meant to support donations to veterans’ causes, The Washington Post reports.

😀 Electronic Arts has partnered with GLAAD to allow players of The Sims to choose the pronouns for the characters they create in the popular life simulation game, IGN reports.

💰 A Marvel comics massively multiplayer online game in development at DC Universe Online studio Daybreak Games has been canceled, Eurogamer reports. The company cited “development risk” and a planned three-year, $50 million budget as reasons to nix its plans.

🏆 It is becoming much easier to play hit online multiplayer game Final Fantasy XIV solo, thanks to upgraded systems that allow a player to partner with more computer-controlled characters, IGN explains.

4. Looking back: PlayStation on fire

Photo of a catamaran on fire while docked in a harbor. The side of the vessel bears the PlayStation logo
Photo: Rupert Kirby/Getty Images

A new idea for the newsletter: Showcasing gaming images from yesteryear.

First up: A PlayStation catamaran on fire from back in 1999.

  • The vessel was owned by billionaire Steve Fossett and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, caught on fire after setting a record for sailing distance in a 24-hour period.
  • The catamaran was patched up for many future voyages.

No editorializing here. I was searching the Getty Images library for "PlayStation" and this grabbed my eye.

  • PlayStation as a brand is sailing along just fine these days.

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🐦 Find me on Twitter: @stephentotilo.

Here's to happier days ahead.