Mar 26, 2020

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Today's Login is 1,395 words, a 5-minute read.

Good luck with the other 23 hours and change. I'll be here if you need anything.

1 big thing: The game for the coronavirus era

Photo: Nintendo

Nintendo's Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released in the U.S. last week, has quickly emerged as a runaway hit pastime for a population trapped in their homes.

The big picture: Success in the video game industry often requires not only a great story and gameplay, but perfect timing. Nintendo's cartoonish simulation game, which allows players to create their own island getaways, appears to have pulled off all three.

Driving the news: New Horizons sold close to 2 million physical copies in just the first three days in Japan after a smash debut in the U.K. It's already a hit in the U.S. as well, where it retails for $60 as either a physical game card or download.

How it works:

  • Players create and shape their characters and islands, and can then garden, fish, decorate, hunt for bugs and fossils and get to know their surroundings. What happens on the island is also influenced by the real-world time and season.
  • Once players finish building their retreat, they can share it, and other players can visit.
  • Unlike in past Nintendo games, players don't have to choose a gender, and can apply any clothes and style to any character. "Society is shifting to valuing a lot of people's different identities," producer Aya Kyogoku told the Washington Post. "We basically wanted to create a game where users didn't really have to think about gender or if they wanted to think about gender, they're also able to."

Of note: New Horizons, the fifth title in the main series, only runs on the Nintendo Switch.

  • The game — as well as the shelter-at-home rules that have left so many people with time on their hands — has sent sales of the Switch soaring, with the console out of stock in many places.

What people are doing in Animal Crossing:

My thought bubble: This may not be the game for all time, but it is the game for right now — a mirror image of the summer of 2016, when Pokemon Go got everyone out of their houses to hunt creatures. Now, we're all cooped up, imagining we're free to roam our own desert isles.

Go deeper: This video gives a really good feel for the game and how it works.

Meanwhile: The new Animal Crossing isn't the only game with a big debut amid the pandemic. Doom Eternal, the latest title in the Doom franchise, which aims at hardcore shooter players, has also had a huge launch.

2. StubHub furloughs many staffers

Online ticket resale firm StubHub confirmed on Wednesday that it had put a significant portion of its workforce on unpaid leave. Some 450 employees, two-thirds of StubHub's workforce, were affected, Business Insider reported.

The big picture: StubHub is just one of many tech companies whose business has dried up overnight because the coronavirus has decimated a wide swath of industries, from entertainment to travel to health and beauty.

What they're saying: A StubHub representative confirmed the move, but declined to say how many people were put on leave. "We continue to support our customers and partners and look forward to a time when we are able to return to the joy of live events and the special, human connections that come with them," the company said in a statement.

Context: The move comes as all the major professional and college sports leagues have come to a halt and half the country is sheltering in place in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

For those who had bought tickets for events that were canceled, StubHub has been offering customers a coupon worth 120% of the value of the ticket.


3. What's in the stimulus bill for Silicon Valley

There are a few provisions for Silicon Valley in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package that Congress about to pass, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

Why it matters: Some startups are facing layoffs and shutdowns, and millions of gig economy workers and Airbnb hosts are being strained by the sudden shift in consumer behavior.

Startups: They may qualify for the $350 billion small business loans program that’s part of the package, aimed at companies with under 500 employees. But one hurdle will likely prevent most of them from doing so.

  • Under the standard "affiliation rules" of the Small Business Administration, which will administer this program, companies have to count the employees of other firms that any minority investors — venture capitalists, in this case — have in their portfolio. This would put many venture-backed startups above the 500-person cutoff.
  • But the National Venture Capital Association says guidance Treasury and the SBA will put out soon could include a provision waiving these rules. The group successfully lobbied to strike language from the bill that would have required startup founders to personally guarantee their business' loans.
  • And startups may still qualify for other small tax breaks and deferrals baked into the bill.

Gig economy: The bill provides two avenues for gig economy workers to get financial relief — small business loans and unemployment benefits.

Short-term rental hosts who rent out their properties via Airbnb and other marketplaces will also get a bit of relief.

  • Hosts may be eligible for expanded unemployment benefits and small business loans, if they meet certain criteria.
  • Airbnb, which has received strong backlash from hosts for allowing all travelers to get refunds, lobbied Congress earlier this month to get these provisions into the bill.

Yes, but: Much of this is theoretical for now — the test will come when companies and individuals actually try to apply for these programs.

  • And if the process becomes messy, it won't be surprising if workers and rental hosts get even more frustrated with gig economy companies for not providing more financial help.
4. A Zoom etiquette tip backfires

After a New York Times tweet on Wednesday suggested that those working from home leave their kids and pets out of work video conferences, Twitter erupted with rebukes.

Why it matters: Most of corporate America is adjusting to working from home right now, with many workers also managing kids who are home from school.

"As much as we love your children and pets, we may not want to see them in video calls," the New York Times' tech section said in the since-deleted tweet. "Here's a guide to proper Zoom etiquette."

Yes, but: Many feel these glimpses of humanity are a saving grace in the work-from-home era.

The Times eventually deleted the tweet, but not the story, which offers a variety of video conferencing etiquette notions.

  • Most of those — suggestions on testing your setup, checking your internet connection and muting by default — have nothing to do with kids or pets.

What they're saying:

  • Brendan P. Lewis, head of PR for Away: "Holy hell please immediately place this awful take onto a rocket and eject it from our planet."
  • David Mack of Buzzfeed News: "Did Ebenezer Scrooge write this?"
  • New York Times (from its NYTimestech account): "Our tweet on online video etiquette wasn't the best and we deleted it. We love your pets and kids. Stay safe."

My thought bubble: Working parents have been performing this juggling act forever. It's good for their co-workers to see that, especially right now.

5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Groupon made a major management shuffle on Wednesday, announcing CEO Rich Williams and operating chief Steve Krenzer are no longer in their roles. Aaron Cooper, Groupon's president of North America, was named interim CEO, while Groupon says Williams and Krenzer "will continue as employees of the company."


  • Why it's hard for Apple users to play games from others' streaming services. (Bloomberg)
  • Huawei has a new high-end phone, but it's missing something big: All of Google's software and services. (The Verge)
  • Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield offers a day-by-day look at running a public company as the outbreak hit. (Twitter)
  • Apple may push back the September release of the next iPhone over supply chain and consumer confidence concerns. (Nikkei Asian Review)
  • Thirty-three state attorneys general are pressing Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Walmart and Craigslist to do more to prevent coronavirus-related price gouging. (CNBC)
6. After you Login
Screenshot: Ina Jaffe's Twitter

Well played, movie theater, well played.

Ina Fried