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Naavik Exclusive: Roundtable #14
- Loot (for adventurers)
- Scalability for blockchain Games,
- Best practices in blockchain and games.
#1: Remixes All The Way Down
Looking at the current state of game creation, there's certainly a lot to appreciate. Engines like Unity and Epic Games' Unreal empower developers big and small with vital infrastructure for most of their technical needs; meanwhile on the consumer side, Roblox alone claims over 20 million experiences on its platform. With versatile tools available everywhere, developing a game has arguably never been easier.
Yet compared to what's possible with other media, game creation has lagged behind in one notable respect: remixability.
Take music, for example: sampling has enabled cross-pollination both within and across genres since the early 1960s. Even video has derivative content that is increasingly taking center stage. From one iteration to the next, TikTok's Duets — which let you build on somebody else's work by recording your own video alongside theirs — disseminate content far and wide. Instagram’s Reels introduced its own copy-cat feature in March, and Snapchat reportedly wants in on the fun, too. Everywhere you look, it's remixes all the way down.
Now, a few innovative companies are hoping to apply those same principles to gaming.
Among them is Playbyte, a 'TikTok for games' just out of TestFlight, lets users play, create, and share 2D games from their phones. Creators on the app can save custom items and logics as individual assets and make them available for others to use in their own games. Mutate, a stealthy Swedish startup, takes things even further, enabling you to instantly remix entire games and publish the result as your own creation.
At first sight, the two companies may look very different — Playbyte is a casual, mobile-first 2D; Mutate focuses on immersive, PC-based 3D. But graphics are irrelevant here. Both companies point to the same future: one where remixability can supercharge game creation. Let’s unpack what it might look like:
- Lower barriers to creation. Those users who might have lacked the technical know-how to bring their ideas to life are now able to pick discrete elements from existing games and start directly building off them. This in turns means more diversity of creation.
- Faster development. With ready-made assets laying out a clear path to a Minimum Playable Game, users can churn out games much faster. Creating quality games is now accessible to solo creators, where in the past a similar endeavor would have been a slow process, or taken the combined efforts of specialized talent.
- Unified user experience. As the initial creative friction is removed, the lines between consumption and creation start to blur. In a departure from the infamous “1% rule” of online participation, overall engagement becomes more evenly distributed among users.
- Shifting criteria. With technicality no longer an obstacle, differentiation moves up the stack towards aesthetics, wit, and cultural savvy. The lowest possible delta between two games continues to shrink as creators can turn even minute changes into distinct remixes.
- More personalized content. The more subtle the changes, the more data points creators, and the platforms they’re building off, have available to them. This enables ever-more granular games for players to enjoy.
It’s often said that the social version of a product is the one that wins in the end. If this is true, then Playbyte and Mutate should do well. Both companies are, at their core, social companies for which game creation only happens to be the medium of self-expression and communication. And remixability gives them perhaps the ultimate social edge. In enabling seamless borrowings, hommages, and lineages, it fosters a referential culture in which potentially all games on a platform end up interconnected in one way or another.
Ultimately, remixability is a spectrum: whether you can reuse part or all of someone’s game will depend as much on a creator’s preferences as on the underlying platform’s permissiveness. Regardless, game creation companies would be wise to pay attention. If other media are any indication, remixability in gaming will be nothing but a paradigm shift. (Written by Maxime Eyraud)
#2: Epic & Apple’s Critical Juncture
The legal case between Epic Games and Apple is arguably one of gaming’s biggest storylines from the last few years. It began back in August of 2020 when Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store following a violation of Apple’s In-App Payment Policy. The case has progressed quickly, focusing on Epic’s argument that Apple’s iOS business practices are anticompetitive — filled with inconsistencies and touting a monopolistic approach to mobile’s most dominant ecosystem.
We seem to have reached a shaky resolution. Now, 13 months later, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers issued a permanent injunction, resulting in two key takeaways for the tech giants:
- For Apple: The company must allow iOS apps to offer payment options besides the ones subject to Apples 30% fees within the next 90 days. Essentially, these payment methods link outside of the core app experience.
- For Epic: According to the verdict, Apple’s business practices are not monopolistic. Epic must pay Apple 30% of the revenue gained from their non-App Store approved payment methods (which totals around $3.5 million). Fortnite will continue to be banned indefinitely due to a breach of contract.
At first pass, many sources I’ve read credit the ruling as a win for Epic — the company can put its alternative payment methods in its games. This is significant because in the less than 24 hours Fortnite had it’s non-Apple payment option on the app (in August 2020), the game generated ~$12 million. While the verdict may feel like a win, Epic’s intent behind the suit was actually to prove Apple was in violation of antitrust laws. The implications behind an anti-trust lawsuit extend well beyond adding a new way to pay. If the judge had declared Apple a monopolistic business, every policy that governs the App Store would have been called into question. Apple would start to lose their iron-grasp on the marketplace (e.g 30% tax and blocking in-app marketplaces) that brought them over $60 billion last year.
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney counts the ruling as a loss because it undermines the “big bad guy” narrative Epic spun up in an attempt to build a developer-friendly ecosystem on mobile’s biggest platform. With that in mind, the situation seems to be a lose-lose for both companies. Epic didn’t (and likely won’t) prove monopolistic practices, and Apple will likely lose billions by being forced to let developers circumvent their 30% tax.
The only winner here seems to be third party developers not named Epic Games. While we won’t see Fortnite back on the App Store anytime soon, other developers can (and will) build payment methods that aren’t subject to Apples take. Those methods might not be as convenient as Apple-led options, but they present huge upside to thousands of independent developers who count Apple’s take as a significant portion of their annual revenue.
To be clear — I don’t expect this story to end here. Epic already plans to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, Apple is declaring the decision a “resounding victory,” despite losing what is slated to be a pretty significant portion of the App Store pie (to be fair, Apple has a lot more to lose than Epic and some apps like Netflix already funnel users away from an App Store “sign up”). A decision like this one won’t be settled with one judge, so keep an eye out for more news to come. (Written by Max Lowenthal)
🎮 In Other News…
💸 Funding & Acquisitions:
- Jam City raised $365M and acquired Ludia for $165M. Link
- Stillfront acquired Jawaker for $205M to expand into the MENA region. Link
- Virtuous — which specializes in AAA co-development — raised $150M. Link
- PlayStation announced it would acquire Firesprite studios. Link
- Enthusiast Gaming acquired Addicting Games for $35M. Link
- Zebedee raised $11.5M to provide bitcoin payment systems in games. Link
- Accelbyte raised $10M to provide backend services for cross-platform games. Link
- Toya, a Roblox-based studio, secured $4M in funding. Link
- Qiiwi Games acquired Playright Games for $1.1M. Link
- Multiscription raised $800K. Link
- Judge orders Apple to allow external payments options in apps. Link
- Houseparty, the viral consumer social app acquired by Epic Games, will be deprecated in October. Link
- Hypercasual studio FreePlay has over 400M downloads. Link
🕹️ Culture & Games:
- The first ever Paralympics video games. Link
- The roundup from Sony’s Showcase. Link
- An announcement post for SolSlimes — interesting origin story via Ragnarok Online and Brands. Link
👾 Miscellaneous Musings:
- Revealing Playable Worlds technology. Link
- The biggest games in the world are only as successful as their communities. Link
- Asia’s TAM for cloud gaming will reach 500M by 2025. Link
🔥 Featured Jobs
- Mythical Games: Principal Economy Designer (Remote, US)
- Mythical Games: Lead Product Manger (SF, LA, Seattle)
- Carry1st: Ad Monetization Manager (Remote, Global)
- BITKRAFT Ventures: Crypto and Gaming Analyst (Remote, US or EU)
- Supersocial: Head of Business Performance (Remote, US)
- Supersocial: Principal Analyst (Remote, US)
- Metafy: Senior Technical Recruiter (Remote, US)
- Metafy: Lead Marketing Designer (Remote, US)
You can view our entire job board — all of the open roles, as well as the ability to post new roles — below.
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