Rundown (1/08/2023) Dash & Write!

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This Week’s Topics:

  • My humdrum life (where I do not go dashing through the snow)
  • The first acquisition of 2023. 
  • A surprise sales success (to westerners)
  • PlayStation’s accessibility controller
  • How much longer will PS4 and Xbox One games be released

Rundown Preamble Ramble:
What Did Natalie Do This Week?

After waiting over a week for an HDMI to DisplayPort converter to show up, I was finally able to update my home computer setup. In short, I need to lay down a lot as part of my post-surgery recovery, and am to limit my ‘sitting time’ to half hour chunks. This severely limited my computer time, so I decided to take a wireless keyboard, wireless mouse, and monitor and put them on an overbed table. Meaning I can use the computer and do everything I need to while laying in bed. I could have gotten a laptop if I really wanted to, but that would be an $800+ investment, and I would need to spend hours getting it set up.

I started the process while in the rehab center, but I finally finished re-editing The Malice of Abigale Quinlan. It took nearly two weeks because I was mostly editing it on my phone, which is not ideal for obvious reasons. But the novel has been made marginally better, a lot of repetitive lines have been removed, a few continuity flubs have been nixed, and the visual assets have also been updated. These changes will roll out on January 20th, alongside The Malice of Abigale Quinlan – Encounter Unlimited, which is still in the writing phase. And with two weeks until release, I gotta hustle my bustle! Especially because I have a 30,000 novella project due out on Valentine’s Day… Gotta dash & write!

I continued healing after my zero-depth vaginoplasty. Swelling has gone down a lot, and pain is pretty much nonexistent at this point, but… how to put this? I don’t think I properly understood what a labia looked like before I got one. I knew what a labia looked like in an illustrated and medical diagram sense, but I did not realize how… big it was. There is a lot more puffy skin and… surface area to it than I expected, and I also don’t think I fully understood how all of my old bits would be used. By which I mean… I did not realize that my scrotum was going to be used to create my labia majora, and that was surprising to discover once the swelling went down. 

Though, I guess the weirdest discovery is the fact that, despite the shape being different, everything feels… familiar. My labia majora feels like how my scrotum felt, because it is the same nerves, skin, and meat stuff. And when my panties get tight around my crotch, it feels… similar to when I had an erection pressed against my underwear. I kind of imagined everything would feel like a new body part, because peeing feels different. …But I guess I did lose a good bit of my urethra lining, so it makes sense that things would feel different.

Anyway, now that I am back in working order, I gotta dash to get the stuff done, because that’s what you gotta do if you are alive! Run or die, little ones. RUN OR DIE!!!

Let’s (Net)Ease Into Another Acquisition!
(NetEase Acquires Support Studio SkyBox Labs)

NetEase is continuing to expand into the global and console games industry by making yet another acquisition. Previously, they bought up both Grasshopper and Quantic Dream, but their expansion efforts have been more geared around establishing new studios. Specifically, a whopping five new studios that were established within the past three years:

They have been on a tear as of late, and while these ventures have not produced any products thus far, they aren’t stopping this expansion. Just this past week, NetEase bought SkyBox Labs. With SkyBox Labs being a Vancouver support studio who has previously mostly worked on Microsoft titles like Halo Infinite, Minecraft, Age of Empires, and even Project Spark. They are a studio that I would have expected Microsoft to target first, but with the Activision Blizzard deal still awaiting full approval, I guess NetEase decided to snag them up first.

Now, I actually think what NetEase is doing here is pretty smart from a structural standpoint. While establishing new studios is all well and good, it takes time to build up staff, and pretty much every AAA project these days needs support studios.  Furthermore, SkyBox has a lot of experience on a variety of games, and working with proprietary tools, so they will probably be a good fit for whatever project they’re assigned to.

However, this is just a big corporation trying to get bigger by absorbing an independent studio, and one with no known former association. As such, I think this is just a bad move all around, as it robs SkyBox of its autonomy and makes them a tool of a growing mega-corporation. I get why you did this NetEase, but please go back to opening new studios…

Success in the East; Obscurity in the West!
(PUBG Mobile Reached $9 Billion in Revenue)

Late December and Early January are notorious for their lack of gaming news, as many studios and publications go on break for Christmas and New Year’s. If nobody is working, there really is nothing to announce, so I needed to scrounge up some news stories to fluff up this week’s Rundown!

While people in the western gaming industry like to assume their industry is ‘the’ gaming industry, that is not, and probably never will be, true. Despite gaming being globalized, there are a lot of games and trends that make it big in Asian countries (the heartland of humanity) but don’t really become known entities in the west. I still remember how many westerners, myself included, learned of the insanely popular Crossfire via an E3 2019 announcement trailer for CrossfireX.

However, one of the more bizarre instances of this is Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. …Sorry, I mean PUBG: Battlegrounds. The title was a breakout hit when it launched in early access on PC in 2017, and was considered one of the most culturally important games of the year. However, the title quickly fell off in popularity in 2018, and was largely replaced by hastily constructed battle royale modes in other games. Namely Fortnite, or rather Fortnite: Save the World.

To many people, the game just died out, but in actuality, it has seen continued success after pivoting to mobile and launching in the Chinese and Indian markets. How much of a success has it been? Well… PUBG Mobile made over 9 billion dollars over the past 5 years.

If that sounds insane, that’s because it is. And this is just PUBG Mobile. It does not include the console or PC versions that people bought— back before the game transitioned to free-to-play. This is just from a mobile version that… I have never heard of any non-Asian person playing. It really goes to show just how big certain titles and facets of the industry can grow when you are not looking. …And is a painful reminder of why so many companies still want to transition to free-to-play mobile titles. 

…Also, this same article mentioned Genshin Impact broke 4 billion dollars in lifetime revenue. Good for you, MiHoYo. You are setting an example that will change the games industry forever. Mostly for the worst though…

A PlayStation For All Peoples
(Sony Announces Accessibility Controller with Project Leonardo)

Over the past few years, there has been a bigger push for AAA games to come with accessibility options built in. From colorblindness modes to controller remapping to myriad subtitle/captions options, the list goes on. A few years back, I would have said Microsoft was the leader on this front, as they were the only console manufacturer who made an accessibility controller. Though, Sony’s recent AAA offerings have been pushing the boundaries for accessibility options. Especially with The Last of Us Part I

However, the lack of an alternative controller always seemed like a strange omission and, at CES this year, Sony corrected this with Project Leonardo

My first reaction upon seeing this thing, this circle of buttons with an analog stick jutting to the side, was confusion. But then I remembered that controllers like these are meant to be adjustable for various games and disabilities. In order to accommodate that, they need to be large enough to be used by people who benefit from larger input, and large enough to be easily modified. Which is reflected in how the controller can be used on its own, in conjunction with a DualSense, and paired with a second accessibility controller.

Overall, it is great to see something like this for Sony, as it will inevitably help people keep playing games, help people get into games, and overall make the PS5 a better experience for more people. But while this is a great hardware solution, seeing this reminds me of how few games really bother with accessibility options, and how there are not really design standards yet. The road to making gaming truly accessible will be a long and hard one that will take a lot of shared technology, innovation, and require designers to rethink how their games are played. And with the ‘first generation’ of game enthusiasts nearing retirement age, the clock is ticking…

A Decade-Long Generation
(How Much Longer Will Games Be Released For PS4 and Xbox One?)

The fact that nearly every game is still releasing for the PS4 and Xbox One has made it hard to ‘feel’ like the ninth generation has come into its own. Even major AAA titles like God of War 5: Ragnarok are still cross-generation, and while there have been some current generation exclusive titles, there are only about a dozen in total.

Now, this is somewhat similar to the start of the PS4 and Xbox One generation, when most major releases were cross-gen. Even those that really shouldn’t have been, like Shadow of Mordor. However, that trend largely died in 2015 with the release of Dying Light and Bloodborne, after the generation had a full year to build up an install base of over 20 million. 

This time though, we are well into the third year of these systems being on the market, and developers are still making games for the PS4 and Xbox One. Why is this the case? Well, there are three core factors at play: 

  • Supply chain issues slowed down manufacturing and adoption of new gaming consoles, meaning the install bases are not where they would be if systems were always on the shelf. 
  • The current economic situation (rising development costs and inflation), encourages publishers to release games on as many platforms as possible.
  • The lower specs of the Switch encourage developers to design around games that will ‘run’ on the system. And if a game ‘runs’ on the Switch, it will be playable on the PS4 or Xbox One, so it makes sense to release on those older platforms.

It is the last point that really sticks out to me. In a sense, the Switch has prolonged the life of the PS4 and Xbox One by urging developers to design for it as the lowest common denominator. As such, I think the real answer is that games will continue to be released for PS4 and Xbox One until one of two things happen. Either the active player bases for PS4 and Xbox One move on and sales become so low it is not worth releasing games on the platforms. Or the Switch loses enough players that developers stop releasing games for the platform.

The former will happen over time, as most active PS4 and Xbox One owners will switch over to the PS5 or Xbox Series. And seeing as how the PlayStation 5 just sold 30 million units, I would say quite a lot of them already have.

While the latter would only really happen if a Switch successor were to be released. The vocal minority of gaming culture like to comment on how the Switch is ‘not good enough’ for them to enjoy gaming on it. Because they think having high standards and only playing games at 60 fps makes them more sophisticated. However, most people do not really care too much about frame rates or that malarky, and so long as the Switch keeps getting good Nintendo games, it will remain a success.

However, it is also clear that Nintendo will need to move beyond the Switch at some point— likely and hopefully with an iterative successor. When this happens, I anticipate a fairly quick adoption to the new platform, assuming Nintendo has a line-up comparable to the Switch’s 2017 release history. Only then will games start being designed for a new lowest common denominator.

Now, when will the ‘Switch 2’ come out? Eh… hopefully 2024. A 7 year run makes a lot of sense to me, and since there was no mid generation refresh, people are hungry for a more powerful Switch. But people have been playing this prediction game for YEARS now, so I’m not going to put too much weight into my guess. I mean, remember when people thought The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was going to simultaneously launch with a new Switch? That was a fun thought.

…In conclusion, games will keep coming out for PS4 and Xbox One so long as developers can make money off of them, and I doubt this trend will die in 2023.

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