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[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless (GDC, Gamasutra co-runner, No More Robots advisor), rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
This week's highlights include why you might be underpricing your video game, a look at the debuts of Gears Of War 5 and Wilmot's Warehouse, how Steam users see your game, and lots and lots more goodness. And thanks to everyone I met up with at PAX - including at least one person who recognized me from this newsletter, which is nice! (This newsletter, not the other one.)
Now it's onward and upward! actually we're just prepping for the GDC 2020 Advisory Board meeting - where we help pick the talks - next weekend, so that's next on the list.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Why you may be underpricing your video game (Simon Carless / Game Discoverability Weekly / Substack - ARTICLE)
"So, video game pricing. You'd think this was a simple subject, but I'm convinced that at least 50% of all people launching games in 2019 get it wrong. And the core of the reason is this - you're undervaluing your game."
What the Heck are Surprise Mechanics? (Jamie Madigan / The Psychology Of Games - ARTICLE)
"Humans are really good at pattern detection. As a result, we are sensitive to variations between what we expect to happen based on a pattern or belief, and what actually does happen. This is particularly true with unexpected pleasures, which by definition represent an error in our pattern detection capabilities."
Three Amazing PC Games You Missed Last Month (David Wildgoose / GameSpot - ARTICLE)
"We've picked three standout games from August that which really sparked our interest and really captured our attention. They're games that might usually fly under most people's radar, but still great experiences in their own right."
September Games: Wilmot's Warehouse (Holly Gramazio / HollyGramazio.net - ARTICLE)
"It is a soothing, engrossing frustration-and-resolution of a game. It's an absolutely perfect instantiation of the thing that it is. It is hard to imagine a better "classify stuff" game. I love the details of how you move and work and how the challenge escalates just on the edge of manageability."
An indie game developer discovering the world of user acquisition and advertising (Frozax / Frozax Games - ARTICLE)
"My [Android/iOS user acquisition] experience was very interesting, as I learned a lot, discovered many acronyms (UA, LTV, CPI, CPE, KPI…), and got many contacts from companies specialized in user acquisition or publishing. I’m sharing here my results, my process and some numbers obtained along the way. [SIMON'S NOTE: super interesting, and showing how competitive the UA market is on mobile unless you're seriously monetizing.]"
Opinion: What we can learn from video game violence (Anna Goshua / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"Though some video games are casually, thoughtlessly violent, many others explore violence with nuance, placing it in social context and giving players a hands-on opportunity to explore moral conundrums they would never face in real life.
Blair Witch is a horror game that really feels like getting lost in the woods (Adi Robertson / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Blair Witch, a game set in the same world as iconic horror film The Blair Witch Project, makes the illusion explicit — then promises you ways to exploit it. It’s a fitting, fascinating, yet often self-defeating idea. I want to play Blair Witch over and over. I also never want to see it again."
How old should my kids be before I let them play Fortnite? (Alex Wiltshire / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"I'm not quite so angry about Fortnite, but I've realised that how I feel about my kids playing games is a lot less laissez-faire than I expected. So I spoke with a psychiatrist and a researcher who study games to apply some science to the question: When should I let my kids play Fortnite?"
Remedy's Control is built on concrete foundations (Ewan Wilson / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Everyone has an opinion on brutalism. It's fair to say the architectural style elicits strong emotional reactions - a fact that's handy for games where designers often want their environments to cleverly echo and intensify the actions and events on-screen. With Control, Remedy has designed an entire virtual space around brutalism, with its varied forms and contexts."
A Deep Dive into the 12 Motivations: Findings from 400,000+ Gamers (Nick Yee / GDC / - YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2019 GDC talk, Quantic Foundry's Nick Yee takes a deep dive into each of the 12 motivations in the Gamer Motivation Model to describe their psychological underpinnings, identify specific game mechanics/features they are linked to, & more."
'Gears 5' Is Playing Catch-Up With Ideas That Are Already Outdated (Cameron Kunzelman / VICE - ARTICLE)
"Gears 5, the sixth game in the Gears of War franchise, is full of familiarity. It's roughly the same as 2007’s original Gears of War: you hide behind cover, you shoot things from behind that cover, and you respond to the world in front of you with the maximum number of explosions and violence that you can. [SIMON'S NOTE: I think this review may be a slight outlier - game has good Metacritic overall - but it may be an 'if you love shootiness it's great' type situation.]"
Eurogamer at 20: Adapting to a changing industry (Matthew Handrahan / GI.biz - ARTICLE)
"The single biggest game for Eurogamer over the last five years in terms of traffic has got to be Pokémon Go. An awful lot of that is search traffic to our guides -- we have extensive guides for that game -- but a sizeable proportion of it is news traffic as well, because we do report on it."
Origin Sells Out (Jimmy Maher / The Digital Antiquarian - ARTICLE)
"One day in early June of 1992, a group of executives from Electronic Arts visited Origin Systems’s headquarters in Austin, Texas. If they had come from any other company, the rank and file at Origin might not have paid them much attention. As it was, though, the visit felt a bit like Saddam Hussein dropping in at George Bush’s White House for a fireside chat. For Origin and EA, you see, had a history.."
The 20 best games of the past 20 years (that never get into top 20 lists) (Various / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"We would present our own picks for the best games of the last two decades, but honestly where's the fun in that? So here's a collection of the Eurogamer team's personally-cherished gems that might have gone unsung, or might have escaped your attention."
How Steam users see your game (Chris Zukowski / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"For my research I reached out to gamers across the internet and asked them a very simple question, “would you be willing to let me watch (and record) you browsing the Steam store in exchange for $25?” Thankfully 7 people agreed to trust me on this offer. For this study, I spent at least 30-minutes with each person in a 1 on 1 screen sharing sessions watching them and asking them how they bought games. I listened as the puzzled through which games to wishlist, and which ones to pass."
Why hypercasual is still winning the mobile distribution game? (Nebojsa Radovic / Medium - ARTICLE)
"In simple economic terms, hypercasual games are commodities — products with massive addressable markets that don’t significantly differ in quality than other, similar products. That’s why, in this case, precise targeting is not necessarily as important as low CPI. Their customer is pretty much anyone who ever played a mobile game, regardless of age or income. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is where free mobile games have gone, for better or worse - I think it's sorta scary, personally]"
Gaming's #MeToo Moment and the Tyranny of Male Fragility (Laurie Penny / Wired - ARTICLE)
"Developers and creators are bravely going public about decades of exploitation, including at the hands of respected figures who have contributed to beloved franchises. The response has been moral outrage—not that there's an epidemic of men hurting women and covering for each other, not that sexual harassment has been tacitly tolerated within the industry, but that women have the gall to complain."
The Worst Ways People Have Lost Their Saved Games (Patrick Klepek / VICE - ARTICLE)
"That got me thinking about what other people have encountered, and so I put out a call on Twitter. Hooo boy! The stories that came back were monstrous, infuriating, heartbreaking...hilarious? Some of you should be ashamed of yourselves! You’re terrible! Your parents are terrible! Your brother and/or sister is terrible! Those poor saved games..."
The Pernicious, Persistent Myth That Games Will Break Our Brains (Brendan Hesse / EGM - ARTICLE)
"The reality is that being neurodivergent can be a major inhibitor to enjoying hobbies like video games, and it makes simple life tasks much more difficult to complete. And in an added bit of irony, the very games that get blamed by folks like my college instructor for causing ADHD are being used as learning and development tools for neurodivergent children and adults alike."
Control, Anatomy, and the Legacy of the Haunted House (Jacob Geller / YouTube - VIDEO)
"A world of made is not a world of born. [SIMON'S NOTE: This one comes highly recommended.]"
How 100 Thieves became the Supreme of eSports (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"During a recent online merchandise drop, gaming fans eagerly refreshed a page waiting for access to a small range of limited edition sweatshirts, T-shirts, and hoodies. The prices were high, but the apparel didn’t last long: more than $500,000 worth of gear sold out in just five minutes. It’s the kind of thing that calls to mind established streetwear brands like Supreme. But in this case, the clothing was branded with a very different logo: 100 Thieves, one of the hottest names in competitive gaming."
[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every weekend at tinyletter.com/vgdeepcuts - we crosspost to Gamasutra later, but get it first via newsletter! Story tips and comments can be emailed to [email protected]. MINI-DISCLOSURE: Simon is one of the organizers of GDC and Gamasutra & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]