What Anthem Tells us About the Future of Games-as-a-Service

There’s plenty of news to comment on today. It seems like today was a crazy day of non-stop news. Don’t believe me?

Needless to say, today was a CRAZY day for reporting. So much happened and it definitely feels like it’s all over the place. Friday is usually the day where you dump your stories as most people don’t read it as they typically are wrapping up their work weeks, spend more time with families, and get out of the house. Something tells me this was not one of those days.

However, my thoughts today have gone towards the launch of a new video game, Anthem, developed by the creators at Bioware and produced by Electronic Arts. While not nearly on the same reporting level, we have to respect and understand the fact that the video game industry is a MASSIVE industry that in 2017 topped $100 billion dollars in revenue. More and more, that industry is being dominated by games that you play with others. Games such as Fortnite has really cornered the market with it’s free-to-play battle royale system that brings in revenue with microtransactions where you can buy cosmetics and dance moves. You might think this is small business. You would be wrong. Fortnite made $2.5 billion in 2018. Yes, that’s a B for billion.

So, when a game like Anthem, described as an online multiplayer action role-playing game where players assume the role of a Freelancer, one in a group of people who leave their civilization to explore the surrounding landscape (thank you Wikipedia for that succinct description). Anthem is just the latest in a long line of games such as Destiny, The Division, Rainbow Six, etc. A game that is designed to be continually providing updates that enhance and extend the experience from the days of your traditional $60 one and done purchase. That’s not to say there aren’t other games with the same idea such as the Assassin’s Creed series that typically release multiple expansions tied in with the same game, but you usually are buying a season pass and they aren’t geared towards experiences with others like Anthem is.

There’s been much made about Anthem since the launch of the game. Reviews are coming in that tell a story of a fairly average game with many bugs that some have appeared to been fixed with a day-one patch. Or not. Apparently the game doesn’t give a great guide on how to actually play the game. That would seem to be a problem to me. My focus is more around the idea that Games-as-a-Service are inherently flawed ideas that sound good in practice, but require much more development time and patience from publishers that they haven’t been interested in providing.

There is a rift in the gaming world between these GaaS experiences versus single player experiences. Even EA has come out and said as much. Of course, when you look at the 2018 best selling games list, there leaves some doubt to that thought. On the top twenty list, you have games such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Far Cry 5, God of War, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Monster Hunter: World. That’s six games in the top 10 alone. So obviously, fake news. People want single player experiences, they are loving them, and they are craving them.

The problem is that a publisher like EA has difficulty extracting the kind of money they want. When the GaaS portion of their business has grown some $80 billion in recent years, it’s hard to deny that. Except these publishers continue to shoot themselves in the foot each time they launch one of these games.

If you figure the typical single player experience takes anywhere from 2-5 years and costs hundred of millions of dollars to complete in some instances (Red Dead Redemption 2 was reported to cost $265 million to make), then it stands to reason you need twice as long and just as much money if not more to create a seemingly endless universe that people want to immerse themselves within. If it takes that long and that much to create a finite experience, you need just as much and usually a lot more to create an infinite experience.

The problem with that is these publishers are not willing to put the time and effort into doing so. So instead, you end up with half baked games that are asking more of their gamers and players than they are of themselves. These games are ambitious in design and have been falling fall short, leaving many gamers burned and turned off of the experience, blasting the company for selling something that just simply isn’t ready for the primetime.

So what does this tell us? It tells us that publishers see the gold mine and in usual human standards, they want to put in as little as possible to reap the most possible. We also know these types of games aren’t going to end and within a year’s time, there will be people have poured hundreds of hours into a game like Anthem. It will be interesting to see how many people continue to pour time into a game like Destiny 2 with Anthem out. There’s plenty to be said about oversaturation of this particular market as you have to wonder how many users can truly pour that kind of time into these types of games and if developers truly want to devote their creative energies into those kinds of games.

Anthem will eventually be very successful. People have talked about how fun the game can be and the potential that is apparent. The question becomes is if this is truly the feature of gaming or a flawed market that developers/publishers find lucrative, but aren’t really ready to devote the immense resources to be on the level of some of the truly stunning single player games we saw this year alone. Time will tell, but something tells me the idea that ‘single player games are dying’ will continue to be proven untrue in the years ahead.

Sick Day + Samsung Foldable Phone

Woke up this morning feeling ill and completely drained. Not sure what hit me. Thankfully I’m starting to feel better this evening, but not pleased with how it derailed my day. Just means I have to hit the next three days even harder I guess.

Yesterday afternoon, as the wife and I were beginning to get ready to head out for an event, the news was on and a story came on about the new Samsung Galaxy Fold. It’s been a looooooong time since I dipped my toes into the Android ecosystem and when I had dipped my toe into it, it was never a Samsung phone. I don’t believe I’ve ever truly owned a Samsung phone. Wait, that’s not true. Samsung at one point introduced a phone called the Samsung Instinct. It was dubbed to be an equal match to the iPhone.

Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t

Obviously, phones have evolved many times over in the last 10+ years. They’ve gotten smaller and smaller, now bigger and bigger. They fold and flip and have fourteen cameras on it. That’s fine. My wife and I have an iPhone 8+ and we were intrigued by the new iPhones, but ultimately, we have decided to just hold onto our phones for the foreseeable future. The reality is there are very few new hardware features that warrant a new phone. They all come within the software these days and the minimal spec differences between new generations means that phones can keep upgrading the software for many years after new hardware has come out.

My wife was pleasantly surprised with the new tech and was surprised such a thing existed. Foldable technology like this has been creeping up on the masses for a while and even recently at CES there was a device announced that probably left many thinking that this technology was years away from being a reality.

Samsung quickly proved that wrong.

My issue is tied in with the price. To buy this phone it will easily cost someone $2000 for the phone. Now, how people spend their money these days is truly on them. If they decide they want to spend $2000 on a phone then so be it. Of course, it goes without saying that $2000 is more than enough for a solo trip to many corners of the world. If you have a significant other, than you have enough for a really nice trip somewhere. With that high of cost though, people will feel the need to use it to offset the cost of spending it. You’re not buying this phone to not use it constantly throughout the day. Samsung is anticipating people using it, packing in two massive batteries as well (though to power the multiple screens, you kind of have to). Samsung is counting on you using it for 7-12 hours a day easily.

That is the crux of my issue. We have companies speaking out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to mobile phone addiction. It’s a real thing. People are tied and tethered to their phones throughout the day and it’s becoming a serious issue. Apple and Google have introduced ways to help curtail the usage, hoping that the next generation isn’t tied to their phones more than the current generation is. The issue becomes if we are introducing new concepts like this, with a high price tag, are we really looking to solve this addiction or trying to paint a positive public image of helping people drop their phones and interact with people instead?

Silicon Valley knows this is an issue. They’ve known this is an issue for quite some time. Google is trying to fight this addiction with researchers. So is Samsung. Yet, this phone, with the price tag doesn’t seem to be truly supportive of that. There is plenty of technology out there that doesn’t exist to the masses because people know the impact it could have on people’s lives. Continuing to try and innovate on this level in a market that is as pervasive as cell phones should be considered on the same level when companies are considering where to invest their R&D dollars.

This is not a solution for Samsung. Not if they’re honest about their intentions to curb cell phone addiction.

A Late Night Post

Today was a pretty packed day as the wife and I had a church conference to attend tonight. So that just tightens our entire day as we’re rushing around to get the kids ready and out the door in a timely fashion. It’s late at night now, the first moment I’ve had to sit down and decompress.

Counting down the days until we do our next vacation. Thankfully, this one is just for the wife and me. Heading to Denver and looking forward to some delicious food and time with my brother and his wife. Lots of food, hopefully not too much freezing weather, and some beautiful sights.

With that being said, need to enjoy some more birthday cake. After tomorrow, I can dive back into some writing and prepare for the weekend.

Star Wars + Rian Johnson

Towards the end of 2017, there was a new Star Wars movie on the horizon and to say that I was excited was an understatement. Growing up, Star Wars in general was a foundational pillar of the person I grew up to be. I was enthralled with the movies, books, video games, board games, etc. You name it and I wanted to dive deeper and deeper into the lore of Star Wars, I wanted to explore the characters of Luke Skywalker and his children, I wanted to travel to the past and see the Knights of the Old Republic, and I wanted to explore the seedy underbelly of the universe with your smugglers and bounty hunters.

With the release of The Last Jedi, my wife and I went into it expecting a fun, good film that would tell us the latest chapter of the stories of characters we’d quickly fallen for, Rey, Finn, BB8, and many more. We walked in ready to be entertained.

We were NOT disappointed in the least bit. We walked away from that movie excited, riveted, and couldn’t wait to take it in again. As a matter of fact, we took our oldest child to see the movie that very evening. That’s right, we saw The Last Jedi TWICE in the same day. That’s why I was disheartened to learn of the next piece of news.

Rumors had been running wild that Rian Johnson would not be fulfilling the trilogy of movies he’d signed on to complete that would look in at a different part of the Star Wars universe. For me, Rian Johnson was being bold and innovative with a franchise that I deeply loved. Did I necessarily love every choice he made? No. That was his prerogative though and regardless I was ready to go on whatever cinematic ride he was willing to take us on.

Since the release of The Last Jedi, it was fair to say that were some who decided the internet was their bloody pulpit and decided to rip Rian Johnson apart for some of his decisions. When I say ripped apart, I mean harassed beyond your wildest thoughts. This also included actors/actresses from the movie.

Was the movie controversial to a degree? Yes. Was it the worst movie ever made? No. The reality is that a certain subsection of the Star Wars fandom hated Rian Johnson for one reason; because he aimed to be different. We had a female lead that was kicking ass and taking names, we had a black male lead who was equally heroic as he was uncomfortable in his own skin making the decisions he was making at times. He took Luke Skywalker and made him weird on some level because the man had essentially become a hermit and didn’t know how to interact with people anymore.

The sad reality is that people think Star Wars fans hated The Last Jedi because of a small percentage of fans who decided to be vocal, thrown around ridiculous terms like SJW, and decided that Rian Johnson not only destroyed a franchise they loved (which is questionable in my opinion), but apparently their lives as they were unable to move on. The truth is these fans are the same ones who harass women online and probably come pretty close to toeing a line of being racist/sexist/homophobes. The reality is they account for probably closer to 10% of the people who’ve seen the films, but because they’re loud, they believe they speak for everyone who enjoyed the movies and moved on with their lives.

Thankfully, Rian Johnson has since debunked those rumors. He will be making his trilogy of films as of today, and frankly, it’s what we need. We need fresh voices to expand the universe. Is everyone going to love every single Star Wars movie? Nope. Should we silence these filmakers because of a handful of people who aren’t socially adjusted? Definitely not. I look forward to seeing a wide swath of women, actors/actresses of color, and representation of gay/trans characters in the upcoming movies/comics/television properties/books/etc. Because that’s the world we live in today. That’s the world our favorite characters in Star Wars lives in.

And if you don’t like it? Kick rocks. We don’t need your poison.

Turning 33

Today is my birthday.

Before you start celebrating and trying to put hats on my head, I have to say that my 32nd year was the perfect mixture of amazing and disastrous.

Amazing because my youngest son, Bishop, was born and I couldn’t be happier to have his existence. People tell me all of the time of how sweet he is, how attentive and curious he is, how he is just the most content baby they’ve ever had the pleasure of coming across. I love him with all of my heart as I do all of my boys.

Amazing because my wife continues to show me strength and love like I’ve never imagined before. She has stuck by me even through the worst parts of myself and I can’t possibly imagine how tough that can be. She has helped me grow stronger in my faith and relationship with Christ, and for that I’m immensely thankful. The start to 2019 has been an incredibly strong one for us after a tough second half of the year.

It was still disastrous on a number of levels simply because of my inability to get out of my own way in this past year. I’ve battled bouts of depression and uncertainty in myself in both my personal and professional lives. I’ve questioned my decisions and been unsure of my capabilities and capacity. I’ve made decisions I regret and decisions I wish I could take back. I became lost on my path to become the man I’m supposed to be, in God’s eyes and in my wife’s eyes.

I’m back on the path. I’m making strides everyday. I’m being more and more purposeful with my time and my decisions. I’m putting a significant focus on my family and my church. I’m working on projects that I’ve spent time thinking about, but never acting on. I’m getting back to the things that truly make me happy and allow me to be the best version of myself for the Lord, my wife, and my family.

As I embark on the next year in my life, I intend to make everyday count, to make sure that the darkness that clouded my life last year doesn’t return, and to truly grow and evolve as a man and leader of my house. I know I can only do that by surrounding myself with the right people. My wife, my family, they are my foundation and my rock, and I hope to make them proud over the next year as we continue to grow, change, and experience life.

I’m happy for my 32nd year on this planet. Bishop has brought so much happiness to our home.

I’m excited for the 33rd year on this planet to truly accomplish hopes and dreams I’ve long harbored in my heart and soul.

To my wife, Rebecca, I love you so much. Thank you so much for all that you do and I’m sorry every single day for the man I was last year. I could’ve and should’ve been a better man, you deserve that better man, and I will be that better man in the year to come.

Looking forward to sharing with everyone in this upcoming year.

Jussie Smollett – What to Make of This

I had written about a thousand words that I found to be frankly beyond rambling and I straddled the fence so hard that I was embarrassed with myself. If you don’t know the story around Jussie Smollett, take the time to read it on your news source of choice.

At the end of the day, I believe one thing regardless of the reports that have come out that suggest he has orchestrated this to happen.

Stop. Breathe. Wait for the story to come out.

On one side, you have those who are wondering why he would do this and refuse to believe the reports that are coming out. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. The logical side of me is right there with you. Him orchestrating this makes absolutely no sense to me.

On the other side, you have people up in arms about this. You’re right as well. If he did this, it puts him in a horrible light and he deserves to be charged for the crimes he’s committed (filing a false police report comes to mind). He has put other victims of hate crimes, sexual assault, etc. in a bad light that gives those who are inclined to not believe victims a leg to stand on now.

So everyone just stop. The truth will come out (hopefully). The problem is that the Chicago Police Department have been spreading these stories, not once, but twice. Their sources have been leaking information and the first time it happened, not too long afterwards an arrest was made. Of course, the arrest was of two NIgerian brothers, one of which happened to be on the show that Jussie is on. That doesn’t have the right look in the least bit.

If the CPD could stop the leaks and let the case unfold as it’s supposed to, making an official statement instead of senior officials influencing the narrative, that would make a significant difference. The CPD, and all law enforcement officials, have an expectation and duty to be objective in the way they act and enforce our laws. The takeaway here, regardless of what the truth is in this moment, has to be we need to continue to hold our law enforcement to a higher standard.

The initial reports of doubting someone’s account of what happened, of being dismissive about it, is not something unique to Smollett’s case. Far from it. You hear the stories of it every week now. With women coming forward and telling their stories. When asked why they don’t go to the police sooner, it’s because when they do, they’re told how difficult it is to prosecute these cases, to find evidence, to charge individuals with the charges they should be charged with.

The CPD should be looking to shut down these leaks and ensure the case is being given the due diligence and respect it deserves. When they release an official statement, it should be as objective as possible to not discourage other victims to come forward if it’s found Smollett is guilty of telling a bogus story and should also tell the story of the hundreds of other cases they investigate that turn out to be completely true and convictions are earned as a result of the hard work so many officers perform.

By letting these stories out there, they influence the conversation and provide ammunition to a story that shouldn’t even enter into the discourse; that victims are lying and are not to be trusted. The evidence has been repeated time and time again this couldn’t be further from the truth and when it happens, it’s a rarity.

Smollett may have done damage and I suspect eventually we will find out the truth. Yet, Smollett is simply human and will suffer those punishments if that’s the truth. The CPD and other police departments across the nation are supposed to be institutions of virtue, the truth-seekers and organizations that don’t judge people for their transgressions, instead following the letter of the law and the standards that have been put in front of them.

Let’s hope we see that happen in this case, because that’s where the true discussion needs to be around.

Sunday Morning

Sunday mornings are usually tough mornings for me to wake up. No idea why. Most of the week, I’m usually able to bounce up sometime between 530am and 600am. Even on Saturday’s (okay, more like 7am). Obviously Monday through Friday is getting up to head to the office and get work done. Saturday is really nothing. That’s usually the day where the wife and I do nothing except hang out with the kiddos.

The problem with not wanting to wake up on Sunday’s is that we have church Sunday morning where the wife and I go to first service and serve during the second service. Getting all three kids up and going tends to be a significant effort, so wanting to sleep in with that mixture tends to not be a good balance! This morning was the worst as I definitely had issues getting out of bed and really wrestled with the idea of not going to church, which is a big no-no in our household.

Eventually I was able to get out of bed and get going, but man, I’m still feeling it this morning. Hoping the haze clears out of my head. Need to finish putting the house together before we have friends over for a cookout (which doesn’t work really well when its 52 degrees out side and cloudy. Come on weather!). And then need to do some podcast production work this evening before jumping back into the fray on Monday.

I might have time later on today because I’ve been reading about the Jussie Smollett case and have some thoughts. Just trying to put a piece of myself out there and figure out the opportunities for me to grown. Hope to catch you all later on.