Oct 15, 2021

Axios Gaming

Stephen here with more gaming news.

Anyone else ever fall asleep playing a video game you liked? Woke up with a Switch on my chest the other night — the dangers of gaming while laying on the bed.

Today's edition is 1,210 words, a 4½ -minute read.

1 big thing: What Roblox wants to do

A demonstration of Roblox's new layered clothing tech, which can conform to any avatar's shape. Image: Roblox

Roblox now has 1,000 users who have made at least $30,000 annually creating virtual games and experiences on the platform, the company tells Axios.

Why it matters: That figure, which may be inspiring to some and sobering to others, is a mark of how many people are earning a significant wage by creating content for the multibillion-dollar digital platform.

  • Roblox says 1.3 million people now make monetized content for the platform, and it estimates that as a whole they are on track to be paid $500 million this year.

What they’re saying: “We're not in the business of creating our own experiences,” Roblox chief product officer Manuel Bronstein told Axios in an interview tied to this week’s Roblox Developer Conference.

  • The company focuses on a vision of the digital future in which they make the virtual building materials and many of their customers use that to make stuff for everyone else.

Between the lines: At the conference, Roblox showcased a range of improvements for its user-developers, including better facial animation, physics systems and virtual clothing technology for creators to implement in their works.

  • Most impactful to the Roblox economy might be a 2022 plan for users to create limited edition items — like offering 50 limited edition virtual hats, or a specific virtual hat for only a week.
  • “You're creating scarcity,” Bronstein said. “And with that scarcity the resale value of the items can increase.”

Yes, but: Roblox is also under scrutiny for its impact on the millions of kids among its 43 million daily active users.

  • Last week’s expansion of its community standards policies emphasized vigilance over child endangerment.
  • From another angle, a widely viewed online video by “People Make Games” criticized the company for its economic model, saying it exploited children who may not realize how remote the chance of profiting from Roblox development is.
  • Asked about the video, Bronstein said Roblox wants to pass on more of its revenue to its user-creators. “You will see, over time, more and more ways that we're actually showing that intent to give more to the developer community,” he said.

Of note: In a sign of the Times, Bronstein joined the New York Times' board of directors this week.

2. The Week Ahead

We’re doubling up our new calendar feature this week, after deciding to run it on Fridays. Next week may be a little quieter than this one, it seems.

Saturday, Oct. 16

  • Minecraft Live — an online showcase for all things “Minecraft.”
  • DC Fandome — a batch of online showcases for DC Comics-related material, including updates on the company’s blockbusters-to-be: “Gotham Knights” and “Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.”

Sunday, Oct. 17

  • The International (finals) — the livestreamed culmination of Valve’s popular “Dota 2” tournament. There’s a $40 million prize pool.

Monday, Oct. 18

  • NPD group will announce September sales figures for the U.S. game industry. (Our earlier calendar had this for the 15th. Sorry about that.)

Tuesday, Oct. 19

  • Discovery Tour: Viking Agereleases for PC, console and streaming an educational spinoff of Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla,” offered immediately as a free expansion, with stand-alone versions rolling out into 2022.

Wednesday, Oct. 20

  • Not much.

Thursday, Oct. 21

  • Resident Evil 4 VR,” one of the biggest virtual reality game releases of the year, exclusive to Facebook’s Oculus Quest.

Friday, Oct. 22

  • Fridays are usually big release days, especially this time of year, but not this one. Why? Probably because, until last month, this was the date for EA’s big “Battlefield 2042.” It’s slipped to November. Apologies to the smaller games that are coming out this day, including “The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes.”
3. You ask, we answer

"Baba Is You." Screenshot: Hempuli

It's Friday, so time for more reader Q&A.

Q: I love video games. I love puzzles (think “7th Guest,” yes, I'm older). I'm not built for battle. What are some good puzzle games? I'm currently on a PS4 but will likely buy a Switch soon.

A: Check out “Outer Wilds” and “The Witness” for some of the most masterfully crafted mind-benders of the last several years. No combat in either.

  • Once you get that Switch, look up “Baba Is You” (also available on PC and mobile). Don’t let its primitive graphics discourage you. It’s an ingenious game about solving puzzles by changing their rules.

Q: Not exactly a question, but I find it bizarre that (as far as I can tell) there’s not a single interview with the developers of “WarioWare: Get It Together!” I just want to know where all these new ideas came from! Stephen had one of the only interviews for “WarioWare: Gold.” Any chance of snagging another interview?

A: Nintendo’s PR people are going to think I made this question up.

The big picture on this one is that Nintendo just hasn’t been doing as many interviews lately. It's a shame for those interested in the creation of some of the most popular and interesting games around.

  • For example: Do an online search and you’ll find very little about 2019 hit exercise game “Ring Fit Adventure” (best I found were translations of a slide presentation).
  • Interviews or behind-the-scenes presentations are even more scarce for this summer’s “Zelda Skyward Sword” remaster and January’s innovative “Bowser’s Fury” Super Mario adventure.
  • It could be due to COVID, which has forced more remote work and nixed in-person E3S two years straight. That was the venue where I most often interviewed Nintendo’s creators.
  • The relative lack of insight into Nintendo’s process is also an unfortunate byproduct of the passing of company CEO Satoru Iwata in 2015. His interview series with his own developers was among the medium’s most insightful, and Nintendo’s new iteration of it, launched just this year, has been infrequent.
4. Need to know

⬆ Nintendo’s new tier for its online gaming service, dubbed “Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack” will cost $50/year for individuals, up from $20 for the base offering. It will offer access to N64 and Genesis games, plus a new expansion to Switch hit “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”

💰 Influential gaming forum ResetEra has been sold to media company M.O.B.A. Network for $4.55 million.

🏀 Epic Games is among the investors in a $275 million stake of LeBron James’ content company SpringHill. Epic will focus on metaverse integration of SpringHill’s intellectual property, Axios’ Sara Fischer and Dan Primack report. SpringHill said Epic had offered to buy them outright.

5. Worthy of your attention

A videogame about politics is in the works — and it doesn’t look terrible? [Andrew Beaujon, Washingtonian]

Political Arena will onboard players by allowing them to choose a character — you could be a conservative from San Francisco or a liberal from Mississippi, [former HuffPost reporter Eliot] Nelson says, but the laws of politics will still govern your gameplay, even as they change with circumstances. Your careful plans can be scrambled by economic turmoil or scandals. You can even leak to the press.
6. Froggy chair

Screenshot: Nintendo

May we all be as happy as the people in the live chat of the “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” online showcase today.

  • "​omgg the hanging shelf!!!" one wrote.
  • "​YESSSS NEW FENCES AND LIMIT INCREASE!!" typed another.
  • Reaction to a long-sought “froggy chair” was rapturous.

Today’s showcase revealed that a free update set for Nov. 5 will add many characters, items and quality-of-life improvements that fans have asked for.

🎁 Like the newsletter? Refer Axios Gaming to your friends to spread the word and get free stuff in the process. Follow the link here to begin.

🐦 Find us on Twitter: @megan_nicolett / @stephentotilo.

It's the least important part of the recent Dave Chappelle controversy, but, come on, "first party shooter"s? And I thought Netflix was doing its homework about video games.