So another year is ending, and what a year it was! Plenty of things happened in Gaming, and much of it was completely moronic! Why don’t we talk about some of the biggest stories of this type…
Ninja Leaves Twitch for Mixer, and the Aftermath Thereof
This was allegedly going to be one of the biggest shake-ups in the gaming world, with the #1 Gaming streamer on Twitch leaving for a new, upstart streaming services, followed by several other big streamers. Not all of them left for Mixer, though. Some went with exclusivity deals with YouTube, instead, as if that makes a big difference. The point was, this was supposed to start some massive trend, and signal that Twitch was failing, where Mixer (or YouTube) was the new destination for livestreaming.
… Except it was absolutely the opposite of that. Everybody who moved to Mixer may have received big paydays from Microsoft (who own Mixer), but saw significantly smaller numbers of viewers on this new service. So basically it was like cutting off your nose, to spite your face. Ninja, Shroud, and others who took this payday from Microsoft might be enjoying a short-term financial benefit now, but had best have plans for what they will do, once their contracts at Mixer run out. Because Mixer (nor YouTube) will be challenging Twitch for supremacy over Livestreaming anytime soon, and I doubt Microsoft (or Google) will be continually propping them all up for long.
Blizzard sides with China over Hong Kong
Okay, we all know the deal here. A Hearthstone tournament winner made a statement supporting protesters in Hong Kong during a post-match interview, and Blizzard took his winnings away, and banned him (and the hosts interviewing him) for it. They later reduced his penalty and gave him back his winnings for that match, but the damage had been done. This made not just gaming news, but mainstream media covered the story, and even political leaders in the US, on both sides of the aisle, called the company out for this.
Then came Blizzcon, Blizzard’s annual fan convention, where the company was actually met with protesters outside of the venue (for the first time, in my memory, anyway). They could have apologized. They could have announced that the Hearthstone player in question (and the two hosts who were interviewing said player) were no longer banned. But what did Blizzard do?
They had J. Allen Brack (President of Blizzard) give a speech at the start of the convention. He said he was sorry. He took personal responsibility for what transpired. And he didn’t actually change anything. Later, Brack doubled-down in an interview, stating that if they didn’t suspend the players and hosts, then it would open the floodgates for anyone to say anything during these post-game interviews.
Of course, that is patently false, as Blizzard can always reserve the right to hold people accountable if they say something objectionable, while removing the suspensions given in this case, where nothing objectionable was said! In short, Brack effectively said that this player showing support for protesters in Hong Kong was in itself objectionable speech, when only the government of China finds it such. Blizzard put their financial relationship with China ahead of their relationship with fans, which is atrocious. This will come back to bite Blizzard in the ass.
The Epic Storefront, and Exclusivity deals
Okay, so this is the dumbest story I’ve seen all year!
Epic, riding a wave of popularity and awash with cash due to “Fortnite”, decided to turn their proprietary game launcher into a nascent game storefront. Their hope: To challenge Steam in the marketplace. How would they do this? By buying up massive amounts of new games, signing them to exclusivity deals.
… and they failed.
Yes, it is true that many, many people play “Fortnite”, and as such already have the Epic Game Launcher on their computers. But that doesn’t mean people want to drop Steam (or even GOG) as their game storefront of choice, especially not when the Epic Storefront is fairly useless. It has few of the features Steam offers, and only gets by because of these exclusivity deals, forcing people who want to play these new PC games at launch to do via the Epic software.
Unfortunately (for Epic), it seems a lot of people would prefer to wait six months to a year, for those exclusivity deals to run out, so they can buy those games on Steam, instead. I will admit, I am just one of those people, not because I am offended by the business practices of Epic. No, I just want to use a storefront that actually has useful features, like Steam and GOG do!
Anyway, Epic may be gaining ground on Steam, but they have lost a huge amount of goodwill among the Gamer community.
At the same time, though, I feel that much of the backlash against Epic has been patently ridiculous! Many in the gaming community are mad at Epic simply because these exclusivity deals prevent them from buying Game X on Steam on the day of release, and while that’s surely annoying, it isn’t the end of the damn world! If you have to own a given game on release day, suck it up and buy it on Epic! It isn’t Epic’s fault that the developer of Game X took their exclusivity deal, and thus shouldn’t be treated as though they somehow “stole” the game from Steam. It’s business, pure and simple. If Valve wanted to, they could buy up exclusivity deals for Steam, and CD Projekt Red could do the same for GOG. But because Epic does it, somehow that makes them the Devil in the gaming community?
Seriously, grow the f**k up.