Written by Feliks Olko
9 min read
Cloud Gaming Newsletter: March 2020
Major Industry Developments
The Key Stories from this Month
COVID-19 and Gaming
- One of the knock-on effect of everyone being told to stay at home – more people playing video games. 22 million players were online on March 21st, breaking the record of 21 million set only the day before and 20 million players six days before.
- With movement restrictions impacting many millions of people globally, the games industry has rallied to promote the WHO guidelines via #PlayApartTogether
- Sports fans, gamblers, and media networks have no sports games. As such, pro esports competitions could help fill sports void.
- Microsoft cloud services are being pushed to the limit. The company has seen a 775% surge in demand for its cloud services and in response, has implemented certain restraints, such as disallowing new custom gamerpics, club pics, and club backgrounds.
Scale, Metaverse and the Future of Entertainment
- Build The Earth: One player has created a 1:1 scale model of Earth, but now needs help to correctly populate it.
- At the VRX virtual reality conference in San Francisco, Epic’s Tim Sweeney said; "Be patient. The Metaverse will come. And it will be open."
- Kate Edwards, Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association, gives developers six ways to improve your world building
- "We're way closer to The Matrix than people realize": Valve's CEO, Gabe Newell, opens up about Half-Life: Alyx, Valve, and the future of entertainment as a whole.
- AccelByte's VP of Technology, Raymond Arifianto, shares strategic and technical insights on cross-platform design.
- Agones, an open source game server hosting and scaling project co-founded by Google Cloud and Ubisoft, has announced their Game Servers beta.
- Epic Games Publishing has announced partnerships with gen DESIGN, Playdead, and Remedy Entertainment.
- Google Stadia Research & Development head, Erin Hoffman-John, talks about experiments in using new machine learning technology to create assets and balance gameplay.
"We figured that in terms of getting games that can reach really wide audiences and empowering all kinds of new developers to come into the process, we have to make game development easier and smaller teams more effective."
– Erin Hoffman-John, Research & Development Head | Google Stadia
The Game Industry in Numbers
- Fortune Business Insights have published a report predicting the global cloud gaming addressable market size is to reach $56.57 billion by 2027, exhibiting a compound annual growth rate [CAGR] of 15.7%.
- DayZ and Arma 3 developer, Bohemia Interactive, made over 4.5 million software sales last year, grossing $68 million.
- Digital game spending is up 4% last month; Console revenues down 22% on weaker release slate, but "many titles" are seeing spikes due to pandemic shutdowns
- Daniel Ahmed, a Senior Analyst at Niko Partners, published a number of key stats from Google last week;
- 2 billion daily active users
- 200 million watching gaming videos daily
- 50 billion hours of gaming content a year
- 2.5 billion monthly active devices
- 2 billion monthly active users
- 1.4 trillion mins of games played monthly
- 27 billion game installs driven by Google ads
Notable M&A and Investments
- Cloud Imperium secured $17.25m in additional investment as existing investors – including Snoot Entertainment, ITG Investment, and the Calder Family Office – pour more finance into Star Citizen developer
- Mobile esports team Tribe Gaming raised $1 million in a round including NBA all-star Gordon Hayward, WWE wrestler Cesaro, and Super Evil Megacorp CEO Kristian Segerstrale.
- Scopely, the mobile gaming publisher behind titles including Marvel Strike Force, Scrabble Go, Yahtzee with Buddies and Star Trek Fleet Command, has added another $200 million to its hoard of cash for mergers and acquisitions.
- Cloud-first game studio Mainframe Industries raised $8.1M in a Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz, with supporting contributions from Riot Games
- Robin Games, a mobile developer specialising in “lifestyle gaming” has secured $7 million in seed funding to assist its creation of modern concept fantasy titles. The round was led by London Venture Partners (LVP).
- TSB Gaming has raised a total of $2.01m in cash and cryptocurrency to support its blockchain-based content and gaming platform The Sandbox in a round that included investments from Square Enix, B Cryptos, Minfulness Venture Fund, and True Global Ventures (TGV).
Unity Game Simulation
“Optimise your game balance more efficiently and accurately by simulating millions of game playthroughs in the cloud.”
Since launching high-quality and balanced games is hard, especially when there are numerous variables such as character attributes, level design, and difficulty progression.
Playtesting before launch helps achieve better balance, but it’s costly, time-consuming, and inefficient.
Unity Game Simulation is a solution that complements your playtests by using cloud simulation to optimise your game balance more efficiently and accurately.
Unity is currently tested the solution with:
- Death Carnival by Furyion Games: By configuring the weapon parameters in multistage simulations, Furyion was able to condense the equivalent of 165 million playthroughs into just 10 efficient simulations, taking just over 3 days to balance their weapons system. They estimate that the tool saved them 600 hours of dev time.
- Rogue Race by iLLOGIKA: Tested a large-scale simulation – 25,000 simulations totalling over 1,125 playthrough hours, all simulated in just 4 hours.
Pragma is a back-end toolkit for gaming companies, so game developers can focus on games
Gaming backend developer Pragma has closed a $4.2 million seed funding round led by LA-based Upfront Ventures. Several other notable investors that participated in the round include Advancit Capital, Jarl Mohn (previous president at NPR), William Hockey (co-founder of Plaid), and more.
“In a world where gaming studios have long used third-party engines to power their front-end development, it makes no sense for the same studios to spend millions of dollars to build their own custom back-end. This broken system has lasted for so long because creating a reusable, platform-agnostic backend is not just extremely complex but rarely prioritized compared to the game.
Multiplayer games are more lucrative than ever, therefore a service making development easier should be in high demand. Because of this, it will be interesting to see if any major developers will outsource their backend development [...]"
– Kevin Zhang, Partner | Upfront Ventures
Pragma is on a mission to unlock creativity and community in the game industry by decreasing the barriers to launching multiplayer online games.
Founded by Eden Chen and former Riot Games engineering lead Chris Cobb, Pragma is offering a “backend as a service,” according to the company, selling a toolkit that includes accounts, player data, lobbies, matchmaking, social systems, telemetry and store fulfillment.
The CEO says that after working for over a decade on some of the world’s largest games, we set out to create our own game.
“In the game world, because of the necessity to build multiplayer, the length to launch a game has gotten way, way, way, way longer. Games are taking five to 10 years to launch out of beta,”
– Eden Chen, CEO | Pragma
They quickly realised that creating an online persistent multiplayer game took a lot of time, even for the most experienced teams, and the barriers were far too great.
“Creating online multiplayer games is increasingly complex and expensive. Studios are hindered by the need to not just create compelling games, but also to build custom server technology to operate their game.
The cost of this was that some games were dead on arrival because of all the scale issues they ran into, some games never even attempted to create a multiplay experience, and some games ending up overspending by millions and millions of dollars because of how complex creating a scalable platform from scratch was."
– Chris Cobb, CTO | Pragma
Other Stories From The Month
- A Twitch-streamed event raised over $2.5 million for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund as the game industry ralled in the fight against COVID-19
- eSport teams, DreamHack and ESL, warn investors about first-half financials as Modern Times Group says COVID-19 could sink esports revenues by 45%
- All hail Nintendo's animal overlords: Animal Crossing looks set to be one of the year's biggest games. Rob Fahey of GI.biz reflects on what it says about the appetite for different kinds of escapism.
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