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MCV is published 24 times a year by NewBay Media Europe Ltd, The Emerson Building, 4th Floor, 4-8 Emerson Street, London SE1 9DU

Emerson Studios, 4th Floor 4-8 Emerson Street. London, SE1 9DU

Newbay specialises in tradededicated print and digital publishing for entertainment and leisure markets. As well as MCV, Newbay publishes Develop, PCR, ToyNews, Music Week, MI Pro, Audio Media International and BikeBiz. It also runs a number of events including the MCV Industry Excellence Awards, the London Games Conference and the Games Media Awards. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system without the express prior written consent of the publisher. The contents of [brand] are subject to reproduction in information storage and retrieval systems. Printed by Pensord Press Ltd, NP12 2YA

Nindies on Switch

18

Developers open up about the Nintendo’s new digital platform

Platform Games

12

Ian Livingstone

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Fighting Fantasy cofounder talks about his work at Sumo Digital

Our analysis of the top three platform holders and where they stand for 2017

Merchandise special

34

Profiles and analysis of the top companies in games merchandise

REGULARS Page 5 The Editor • Page 6 On The Radar - the next two weeks • Page 12 Features and opinion Page 40 Expert analysis • Page 42 Big game releases • Page 48 End Game - community pages MCV 915 April 21 | 3

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21/04/17

TheEditor The platform issue

W

elcome to the new MCV. If you missed the last issue, then this one may come as something of a surprise - a pleasant one, we hope! The new MCV is fortnightly, giving us more time to create a magazine packed full of features, comment and analysis. The new size makes it easier to take with you on the go and the new design makes reading it a pleasure. MCV remains at the heart of the UK games industry after an incredible 19 years. The magazine will continue to support all aspects of the business, whether you’re making games, publishing games or retailing games, or doing any of the multitude of essential roles that surround and complement those key pillars. The one thing you won’t find in the new MCV is a news section. While a magazine was once a great way of delivering ‘up-to-date’ news, those days are long gone. All our news coverage will move online, where we can keep up with the rapid-fire news agenda that we’ve all come to expect. To put this in context, I’d like to inform you that Theresa May has just announced a general election as I write this - or is that old news now? MCV has long existed across multiple platforms, of course. There’s this print magazine, plus the digital edition you can download for free, our daily email digest of stories, and the website (which we’re in the process of redesigning to match the magazine’s new look). Some of our readers only read the magazine, some only the website, and most sit somewhere in between. That brings me neatly to the theme of this first issue. The games industry today has more platforms - in terms of hardware, software and retail - than ever before. The three big console players are firing on all cylinders, with new hardware appearing at an unprecedented rate: PS4 Pro, PS VR, Switch and Project Scorpio all coming to retail within just 12 months. Then there are the mobile platforms to consider, plus the plethora of digital retail platforms, which dominate the PC software market. Add all those together and you’ve got an industry that’s selling more products, in more formats, on more platforms than ever before. The games industry is getting ever more complex, but it’s also thriving and growing, with greater opportunities. In this issue, we look at many of these platforms, where they’re headed, and what they can offer your business.

“The industry has more platforms than ever before.”

Seth Barton sbarton@nbmedia.com

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ontheradar

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe races onto Switch April 28th

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witch gets its third major first-party title on April 28th in the form of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Mario Kart 8 was the Wii U’s best-selling title, hitting 8.26m units worldwide as of December 31st 2016, so this updated version should do extremely well on Switch. You can read more on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on page 44

Dark Souls III: The Fire Fades, Game of the Year Edition hits shelves

#Hackstock: Beyond 2017

May 5th-6th, The Trampery, London Running as part of the Sci-Fi London Film Festival, #Hackstock: Beyond 2017 brings together developers, artists, musicians, hackers and more to ask what science fiction can bring to technology. The free event will give attendees the chance to try a wide variety of VR and AR headsets as well, from Google’s Cardboard to Microsoft’s Hololens.

April 21st

“Dark Souls III had the biggest launch in the series history, selling three million globally.”

Dark Souls III had the biggest launch in the series history when it released in March last year, selling 3m copies worldwide during its first two months. It was also GfK’s 35th best-selling game at UK retail in 2016 and publisher Bandai Namco’s bestperforming title of the year. Now it’s back for its Game of the Year Edition, which includes the full game and season pass.

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Prey stalks shelves May 5th StandUp for GamesAid May 8th, The Comedy Store, London

Go 8 Bit gets DLC show May 15th

Comedy video game show Dara O Briain’s Go 8 Bit returns to Dave on May 15th and will be joined by a brand-new games review show called Go 8 Bit DLC. Hosted by Ellie Gibson alongside team captains Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon, the DLC show will feature “lively debates and reviews covering the history of video games” according to Dave.

Bethesda’s first person action adventure game releases on PS4, Xbox One and PC on May 5th. Developed by Dishonored developers Arkane, players take on the role of Morgan Yu as he investigates the alien infested space station of Talos I, so fans of sci-fi and the developer’s back catalogue should feel right at home here. Dishonored 2 had a fairly underwhelming launch when it released last November, with Week One sales down 38 per cent compared to its predecessor. Despite this, Dishonored 2 still made it to No.30 in GfK’s Top 50 physical games of 2016, and a less cluttered release schedule should also help Prey do better at retail.

Hosted by GamesAid patron Imran Yusuf, this rib-tickling night of comedy celebrates its fifth year in 2017. The line-up includes Alistair Barrie, Pippa Evans, Jeff Innocent, Angela Barnes, Funmbi Onotayo, Dana Alexander and more. Tickets are available for £20 and all profits will go straight to GamesAid to help disadvantaged and disabled young people across the UK. If you wish to sponsor the event, email: contact@gamesaid.org.

Women in Games Awards 2017 May 19th, Cavendish Conference Centre, London

Now in its third year, MCV, Develop and eSports Pro’s Women in Games Awards will be returning this May to celebrate the plethora of female talent in the UK games industry across eight individual awards. The categories for 2017 include New Development Talent, Creative Impact, Rising Star, Businesswoman of the Year, Career Mentor, eSports Contender, Outstanding Contribution and Breakthrough Talent. Sponsored by Ukie, Twitch, Rovio, Aardvark Swift and Insert Coin, the Women in Games Awards 2017 is set to be one of the highlights of the year. For ticket enquiries, please visit: www.nbmevents.uk/womeningames

If you’d like your product, event or upcoming news to appear in On the Radar, email Katharine on kbyrne@ nbmedia.com

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TO PLACE AN ORDER CONTACT SUPERINDIE ON 01183 345 736 OR ORDER ONLINE AT SUPERINDIE.CO.UK

© 2017The Codemasters Software Company Limited (“Codemasters”). All rights reserved. “Codemasters”®, “Ego”®, the Codemasters logo, and “DiRT”® are registered trademarks owned by Codemasters. “RaceNet”™ is a trademark of Codemasters. All rights reserved. All other copyrights or trademarks are the property of their respective owners and are being used under license. Developed by Codemasters. Distributed 2017 by Koch Media GmbH, Gewerbegebiet 1, 6604 Höfen, Austria. “ ” and “PlayStation” are registered trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Also, “ ” is a trademark of the same company. Unauthorized copying, adaptation, rental, lending, re-sale, arcade use, charging for use, broadcast, cable transmission, public performance, distribution or extraction of this product or any trademark or copyright work that forms part of this product is prohibited.

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guestopinion

Stuart Dinsey - Chairman, Curve Digital

Adjust your sails, this is the games business

I

t’s a long while since I left MCV, but I’ve returned digital, licensing, movies, books, peripherals, eSports, toys, soundtracks and events. briefly to support and reflect on this week’s relaunch. £4.33 billion. Blimey. Until Nintendo and Sega came Having been in the games business over 30 years, most of them as a journalist and publisher, I’ve seen a few. along, we said ‘about £100m’ for years if anyone asked. And very few did. All industries change, games quicker than most. And Now other sectors, from creative, tech and film so must its trade media. Constantly. The vicissitudes of to general enterprise want games business skills and traditional High Street retail, for so long the heartland applications (just ask Epic Games). of MCV and its predecessor CTW, have run alongside And such is the emergence of digital that the platform evolution elsewhere. holders have become the biggest stores and games The interactive entertainment business as a whole themselves have effectively become huge shops. continues to grow. And grow. Amidst all this, business Digital retailers like media retains an essential Green Man Gaming are role – irrespective of whether The winds of change have blown us coming of age, whilst studios there is one route to market and one dominant sector, or all over the place. We can’t control like Natural Motion and Hutch are amongst those an overwhelming variety. them, but we can use them. helping the UK to retain its From an industryleading edge status. perspective, MCV is still at the core of everything, despite a fractured landscape, It’s a bigger industry than ever, employing a wider range of staff, making a greater variety of products for core and your media preference or intense competition for eyeballs casual, girls and boys, women and men. and influence. This business is now a heart throb of the country’s A brilliant forum at the London Games Festival creative industries from a Government perspective and discussed how most games companies used to hire largely the same type of person and sell games to a core consumer, a valuable contributor to the education system, with more but reach, choice, diversity, innovation and technology have to come. The winds of change have blown us all over the place. taken the games business ever further. We can’t control them, but we can use them. This was demonstrated when Ukie revealed that the And in those stormy moments, your trade media of market in this country alone was worth £4.33bn in 2016. choice has always been a handy little life raft. That’s including console, PC, mobile, peripherals, retail,

Stuart Dinsey launched MCV in 1998, after more than a decade heading up its predecessor CTW. He left in 2013, a year after the sale of his company Intent Media to Newbay Media. Stuart is currently chairman of British games publisher Curve Digital, a board member of industry trade body Ukie, a non-executive director of mobile media and events company Steel Media and a director of League Two football club Stevenage FC.

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guestopinion

Dan Kilby - Marketing & Special Projects Director, Ziff Davis International (IGN)

All hail Gamer Mate L up playing. Talking to the broadest possible audience is ast week on the way to work I overheard two guys obviously tempting for any developer or publisher; but do talking and the conversation was going something not underestimate the influence of the Gamer Mate. like this: “...and he keeps going on about how great The hypothesis has always been that they influence their this Horizon Zero Dawn game is, but I’m not sure peers in pub / water cooler / WhatsApp conversations and whether to buy it or not.” we’re seeing that to be true. At which point I butted in with: “You absolutely should, In the past month, 63 per cent of ‘gamers’ have been asked it’s fantastic. I’m on for the Platinum.” I had to explain what for a recommendation on a video game; if you isolate IGN I meant by ‘Platinum’ (clearly I was bursting with nerdy energy) but otherwise they didn’t seem too phased by me users that number goes up to 81 per cent (data from a 2016 railroading their conversation. study between IGN and Ipsos). Comparatively, the figure for It was left that after one of them had finished Arkham ‘non-gamers’ is 15 per cent, so the importance of talking to Knight, he would go the right people is clear. and get Horizon; while We’ve all experienced In the past month, 63% of ‘gamers’ the other mumbled moments when we’ve something about buying have been asked for a recommendation either been influenced it for the weekend. or have influenced those on a video game We’ve always known around us, and that sphere the importance of specialist media – just last year Ipsos is constantly growing. IGN’s Facebook comments are often Connect’s GameTrack survey showed specialists ranked filled with people tagging friends with a line something like more highly with users in regard to trust and influence than “this is that game I was telling you about.” anything else. With the stakes and expectations rising for any given But the exchange between two ordinary guys got me game launch, it’s absolutely crucial to work with people thinking about the everlasting importance of the Gamer who understand games and the people who play them Mate – the person who is actively playing, reading and so that your marketing, PR, and community efforts don’t watching more about games than the rest of their friends. go to waste. The influential friend who shares so much knowledge, they If you can get them on board – and keep them onside – can effectively decide what an entire friendship group ends the Gamer Mate can be a most powerful ally.

Dan Kilby oversees the team responsible for Ziff Davis International’s integrated marketing and custom content output. In his spare time he tries to play all the games. 10 | April 21 MCV 915

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guestopinion

Martin Doyle - Head of Digital, Generation Media

Recent developments at Google

T

human judgment and common sense to do this – not just he digital media landscape is seemingly cosmic algorithms. Any agency worth their salt should tread very in size and complexity, and so very tricky for us cautiously when it comes to programmatic, and work with to picture in its entirety. But if I were to scale companies such as Google to pull in the right direction. it down to something that could be analogised Representatives at Google have given us assurances more clearly, it reminds me very much of Minecraft. An that they are improving many elements of the AdWords open-world, sandbox environment in which everyone is platform as a top priority. These include: increased brand free to choose what, when and how they want to approach safety, automatically excluding ‘potentially questionable the content. content’, easier access to exclusion management and finer There are different kinds of player. Most are benign, using the internet for convenience and enjoying the process tuned content control. Furthermore, we’re currently consulting with a number of bettering themselves through the platforms – again, of technology partners to mitigate our clients’ brands just like a Minecraft player. But there are all sorts of bad exposure to potential inappropriate content. An upgrade guys lurking in the shadows of the dark web looking to to our current campaign cause mischief at best, and Any agency worth their salt should tracking systems will destruction at worst. further protect our clients So whilst digital marketing tread very cautiously and their brands. is always a busy task, the There will always be issues around brand safety online last couple of months have been particularly eventful, challenging even, when discussing brand safety and the – this space is not going to suddenly become a safe haven. protection of audiences online. Google has been ‘rattled’ But for me, the overarching issue is that, in this open-world universe, there still remain walled gardens that advertisers this quarter by a series of high profile brands withholding can’t quite peek into. I suggest the bigger question is spend on their AdWords platforms – fuelled by accusations whether huge internet companies with their zettabytes of of ad fraud and ads appearing in inappropriate content. data can keep operating in the way they always have for the The aftershocks have been felt throughout the industry, including at Generation Media. Like many companies, we foreseeable future. If accusations of murky advertising practices continue have been concerned with ongoing issues regarding the to rumble on, then it may be that agencies lobby lawmakers security and safeguarding of our clients’ reputations within around the world to step in and legislate; which would lead the Google marketing space, including YouTube. to walls being pulled down. It’s unlikely to happen soon, When executing any media campaign on any platform, but I do think it is a possibility. After all, this is far more we constantly monitor and optimise campaigns to give confidence that a campaign appears alongside appropriate serious than Minecraft. Although that can be very serious content. That takes more than just a few clicks: we use too: just ask an eight-year-old.

Martin Doyle is head of digital at Generation Media. The UK’s leading independent media buyer of toys and games advertising. martin.doyle@generationmedia.co.uk MCV 915 April 21 | 11

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PLATFORM GAMES With Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all innovating in hardware like never before, we look at where each first-party platform stands and where it wants to jump next

THERE’S NEVER BEEN a more exciting time for console platforms. Switch provides a true mobile-home hybrid for the first time, PlayStation VR has brought virtual reality to the mass market like never before, and PS4 Pro has broken the traditional console cycle. And in just a few months, Project Scorpio will follow suit, pushing the power envelope further still. With so much in flux, however, trying to plan your business strategy has never been harder. Whether you’re a retailer thinking about shelf space for titles, a studio weighing up the pros and cons of different formats or a peripherals manufacturer deciding where to concentrate your efforts, this new

generation of hardware provides both challenges and opportunities. With each device no longer being neatly replaced by the next big thing, it’s unlikely we’ll see a traditional console cycle ever again. In the long run, though, it’s for the best, with hardware coming more frequently and being less of a rollercoaster. These aren’t simply hardware platforms anymore, either, with services such as Microsoft’s Play Anywhere and Sony’s PlayStation Now further blurring the lines and allowing for greater consumer freedom in how games are played. In this feature, we’ll be looking at how each of the key platforms is faring, and what we can expect from them in 2017 and beyond.

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SONY

Worldwide install base: 57.1m (SuperData)

2016 physical software sales: £374m, 48.2% market share (UK, GfK)

The PlayStation 4 has a clear lead over its immediate rival, both in terms of install base and software revenue sales. Despite having little to prove, Sony hasn’t been afraid to innovate, however, launching both the PlayStation 4 Pro and PlayStation VR headset late last year. How Sony fares this year will be key further growth. GO PRO Sony didn’t make much noise about the PS4 Pro at launch. In retrospect, that seems rather sensible. After all, why rock the boat when it’s already sailing so well? It also had PlayStation VR, a far more complex device, to promote at the same time. More recently, we’ve also discovered that limited stock meant pushing the new hardware was largely irrelevant. The PS4 Pro may not match Project Scorpio for power, but it provides a significant upgrade for those with 4K TVs and its reasonable price make it a tempting choice, both for those upgrading as well as newcomers to the current console generation. With stock now in greater supply, prices are still hovering around £350, so it looks as though hardware margins, which were an issue last year, should be healthy on the new mid-cycle upgrade, which is great news for retailers. VIRTUALLY THERE? According to the latest figures from SuperData, Sony has sold around a million PlayStation VR units worldwide. There’s no real yardstick to measure those sales against, but the comparatively small install base (Switch has twice as many owners already, for example) may give developers pause for thought unless they can pull off a Resident Evil 7 and add a VR mode to a traditional title. Sony’s next test for the fledgling format is VR shooter Farpoint, out May 17th. The title works with a standard Move controller, but to get the full experience consumers will need to splash out for the new Aim controller - that’s a £75 bundle for a five to six hour game, further testing the wallets of those who have already spent big on the headset. Beyond that, we’ll wait and see if Bethesda announces Fallout 4 VR for the platform, a huge title with a rabid fanbase that could significantly boost take up. Stock of PS VR is now coming back into the channel according to GAME’s CEO Martyn Gibbs, so now is the time for Sony to make a second VR push.

OFF THE CHARTS Horizon Zero Dawn went straight in at number one in the UK charts and Sony will be happy with the figures from this first franchise outing. Next up, it’s going to see if the Uncharted brand has legs beyond Nathan Drake, with standalone add-on Uncharted: Lost Legacy arriving on August 23rd. Zombie crowd shooter Days Gone looks great and treads popular ground, so it should perform well for a new franchise. More recognisable brands will come in the form of Gran Turismo Sport and Insomniac’s all-new Spider-Man game. With God of War and The Last of Us Part II not likely to appear until next year, there are no obvious super-heavyweights coming in 2017, but it’s a good line-up nonetheless. Speaking to publishers, we’ve heard that Sony hasn’t yet reached its full potential in terms of digital sales compared to its rival Microsoft, but this could be due to differing audience demographics, the design of its store, or possibly even the very success of its PlayStation Plus service. That there’s room for improvement is no bad thing. CONCLUSION PlayStation is in an enviable position this year. While its rivals look to boost their fortunes with new hardware offerings, Sony could see the PS4 Pro and PS VR stutter and still be in a very healthy position going into 2018. As the generation matures, hardware sales have slowed dramatically over the last 12 months, so Sony’s success in 2017 will be based around sales of its exclusive line-up and key third-party partners performing better than in 2016, which shouldn’t be too difficult. In short, Sony has done the hard work and now it can reap the rewards - a great 2017 awaits the company.

Current hardware platforms Playstation 4 (November 2013, N/A) Playstation 4 Slim (September 2016, solus console from £200) Playstation 4 Pro (November 2016, solus console from £350)

2016 top selling exclusives Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End No Man’s Sky Rachet & Clank

Above: Will the Uncharted franchise be lost without Nathan Drake?

PlayStation is in an enviable position this year. Sony has done the hard work. Now it can reap the rewards.

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MICROSOFT Worldwide install base: 30.8m (SuperData)

2016 physical software sales: £282m, 36.3% market share (UK, GfK)

Microsoft’s Xbox One console is still catching up after a slow start. Its efforts late last year helped, with strong sales of the revamped Xbox One S over key months. Microsoft may be behind Sony in its user base, but it’s not taking it lying down, with Project Scorpio set to shake things up later this year. WHAT’S IN A NAME? Xbox One S will continue to do well for Microsoft this year, and reports of digital sales are positive. However, it looks unlikely to sell the current hardware in big numbers this far into the console cycle. So 2017 is undoubtedly the ‘year of the scorpion’ for Microsoft. Recent hardware reveals have shown the new console has incredible horsepower - enough to deliver on its promise of native 4K gaming. The decision to reveal the technical details before E3 is sound, avoiding the inevitable leaks, and letting Microsoft tells its own story. It allows Microsoft to concentrate its E3 message on positioning the product and showing off its power, rather than getting bogged down in technical details. Project Scorpio has some similarities with the PS4 Pro, in that it will be fully compatible with software from Xbox One, but it certainly has a clear advantage in processing power over its nearest rival. However, we know very little about how Microsoft plans to position and sell the device - with publishers telling us they’re still in the dark, too. The name will be key. It needs to trade off the Xbox brand and suggest compatibility with the current console, while still establishing a clear distance between itself and the cheaper Xbox One S. That’s no mean feat, and with Microsoft proving unpredictable when it comes to naming its devices historically-speaking, it’s anyone’s guess right now. GETTING STUNG The new console will launch later this year, but it’s not the date that has some concerned, but the wider economic picture. Scorpio isn’t being thrown into the same kind of economic meltdown that arguably lengthened the reign of the Xbox 360, after all, and a premium console may not be a consumer priority come the end of the year. Price is a touchy subject right now, and a twopronged problem. Poor exchange rates already look to have impacted the price of the Switch, with the

console costing relatively less in the UK than in the US - and when has that ever happened? A top-end device could be pushed way outside the usual console price bracket by a bad exchange rate. If that makes Scorpio a luxury purchase, then faltering consumer confidence could play against it. As with the PS4 Pro, the console only truly shines with a 4K TV, and take-up of such sets has been slower in the UK than in the US, with around 3m sets sold in the UK at the end of 2016, says GfK. On the plus side, the new console should help arrest the falling hardware margins that were the cause of much woe for retailers, including GAME, in 2016. ANYTIME, ANYWHERE Microsoft’s cross-platform strategy is summed up by its Play Anywhere branding. The company’s expanding the scheme beyond its first-party offerings, with indie titles such as Snake Pass being added, and big third-party titles, such as Middleearth: Shadow of War. Microsoft is obviously keen to use the scheme as a sweetener for digital sales. Exclusive titles for the rest of 2017 look pretty sparse, however. Apart from Crackdown 3, which disappeared after its unveiling in 2014 and so is impossible to judge, Sea of Thieves is the only other major title on the horizon. Rare’s pirate game looks like great fun, but its online, co-op nature might not lend it to huge Day One sales at retail. Microsoft is either playing its hand very close to its chest, or it’s holding nothing, which may be why the focus is on Scorpio this year instead of games. CONCLUSION Xbox might have something of a rocky year. The Xbox One S is an attractive device but the exclusive line-up is pretty thin at present. Project Scorpio is a big unknown, but the hardware is right for the job, which is a huge first step. The key question remains how Microsoft will market it, and whether there’s a big enough audience for it in the UK to make it a serious seller.

Current hardware platforms Xbox One

(November 2013, N/A)

Xbox One S

(August 2016, solus console from £200)

2016 top selling exclusives Forza Horizon 3 Gears of War 4 Minecraft: Xbox Edition

Above: With its world based in Microsoft’s cloud tech, Crackdown 3 is likely to be a vital showcase for Scorpio

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NINTENDO

Worldwide install base: Switch: 2.1m (SuperData), Wii U: 14.3m (SuperData), 3DS: 65.3m (Nintendo)

2016 physical software sales: Wii U: £16.3m, 2.1% market share (UK, GfK), 3DS: £46.6m, 6.0% market share (UK, GfK)

Nintendo’s in transition. The Switch brings Nintendo’s long-standing strength in portable consoles to a home device for the first time, and while the hardware may not be powerful, it allows time-strapped gamers to play anywhere, anytime, taking the Wii U’s promise of freeing you from the family TV to its logical extreme. ROLLING START To date, sales of the Switch have been limited by hardware stocks, so it’s hard to gauge its real impact, but Nintendo’s console is certainly off to a flyer, with retailers reporting a sell-out of the stock provided. It’s hard to compare the new console with previous devices, as it’s both home and portable - both a Wii U and a 3DS. Barring the breakthrough success of the Wii, Nintendo has seen a generation-on-generation decline in sales of its home consoles for decades now. Portable device sales have held up far better, and Nintendo will no doubt be hoping a hybrid device will combine sales into a single platform with huge reach. Was it Zelda that won it? The only shadow hanging over the launch is that Zelda sold the console single-handedly with a huge attach rate. It’s arguably the strongest console launch title since Super Mario 64, but the Switch will need more quality-in-depth if it’s to make Switch stick. TRIPLE WHAMMY Nintendo’s problem with the Wii U has been a lack of third-party support to fill out the gaps between its undoubtedly excellent first-party titles - it could even be argued that the strength of those titles is a key reason why other publishers are reluctant to get involved. That Nintendo’s hardware continues to be out-of-step with the core platforms doesn’t help its case. The Switch, though, has a potential triple advantage over its predecessors when it comes to software support. First up is Nintendo’s engagement of smaller ‘Nindie’ titles (see page 18 for our full investigation into what’s changed there). Thanks to the console’s improved middleware, producing titles across disparate hardware is now easier than ever, even for smaller publishers with limited means - great news for Switch. Second is the strong software line-up it inherits from the Wii U. Based on our own experience, many Switch owners didn’t own a Wii U, and so games such as Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. and Splatoon are all effectively new titles to them. Here, Nintendo can profit from years of Wii U development, filling the gaps in its fledgling console’s line-up.

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Finally, there’s the possibility that Nintendo will double-down on Switch and invest all its development talent on a single platform for the first time since the Game Boy’s launch in 1990. Over the last quarter of a century, Nintendo has had to split its star teams between home and portable devices - if it takes the brave decision to step away from the 3DS quickly, it could be the making of the Switch. ARE WII U AND 3DS DEAD? With 65m units worldwide and host to last year’s biggest-selling Nintendo game, the 3DS is going to be a hard console for Nintendo to leave behind. The hardware still has potentially a few years left in it, even if it pales in comparison to hardware found in most modern phones; something that the mobilechipset-powered Switch makes abundantly clear. With Monster Hunter Stories, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, Miitopia and Hey! Pikmin among others coming this year, the 3DS is actually looking to have a strong 2017. But we’ll be keeping a careful eye on the release schedule into next year, when Nintendo may have to decide where its priorities lie. As for the Wii U, Nintendo has declared that Breath of the Wild was the console’s last first-party title. And, bar a couple of spurious latecomers aside, there’s nothing deader than a Nintendo console without Nintendo software. CONCLUSION All eyes are on Mario Kart 8 sales to see if the Switch can capitalise on Wii U updates and how hungry its new owners are for software beyond the outstanding Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If Mario Kart can drive a second wave of hardware sales, then it should kickstart a very rosy 2017 indeed for Nintendo. Beyond that is Splatoon 2, Fire Emblem Warriors and, of course, Super Mario Odyssey. With a strong 3DS line-up to boot, it has strength-in-depth, too, though it may need to make tough decisions sooner rather than later on its dual platform approach.

Current hardware platforms Switch (March 2017, console from £280) Wii U (December 2012, console from £200) New 3DS/3DS XL (March 2011, console from £150)

2016 top selling exclusives Mario Kart 8 (Wii U), Pokémon Sun & Pokémon Moon (3DS)

Above: Releasing Holiday 2017, Super Mario Odyssey should give Switch a bumper Christmas season

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Remade, reborn:

How Nintendo’s fixing digital for Switch Breath of the Wild got Switch out the door, but it’s the console’s new wave of ‘Nindie’ hits that arguably sit at the heart of Nintendo’s new console. Katharine Byrne speaks to their developers to find out how Nintendo’s making its most approachable digital platform yet

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“Nintendo is taking the Steam or App Store approach: one version of the game for the entire world.”

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ver since the launch of the Wii U, Nintendo’s third-party support, or lack thereof, has been a constant source of contention for the platform holder. During the Wii era, third-party support was at its highest level ever, with Nintendo’s own figures showing an impressive 1,206 disc titles in the US at the end of 2016. That’s 201 third-party games per year over the console’s six-year life cycle. The Wii U’s figures, on the other hand, make for pretty grim reading. We already know its 13m hardware sales pale in comparison to the Wii’s 101m install base, but at the end of 2016, the Wii U had just 118 third-party disc titles to its name in the US, giving it a rate of 30 per year. That’s a fall of 90 per cent compared to the Wii. Admittedly, this data doesn’t include new digital releases, but it still points to a console that received little love from third-party developers. With Switch, however, Nintendo seems more determined than ever to put itself back on the map, making its new hybrid console the goto place for third parties. The developers MCV’s spoken to seem to be in full agreement, too. They speak of a much more modern, streamlined submission process, a more pro-active approach in getting developers onto the platform, and a much wider variety of tools for easy development. Here’s what they have to say about how Nintendo’s putting indies at the forefront of its new console and what it’s doing behind the scenes to make that happen. ONE UP At the forefront of this transformation is a brand-new digital publishing platform, which has been completely “remade” according to Mikael Forslind, PR and marketing manager for Flipping Death developer Zoink Games. David Dino, designer and PR analyst for Sumo Digital, concurs: “It’s a new system and interface with the Switch, so there were definitely some learning curves on our part. To their credit, everyone from Nintendo was really helpful in ensuring we provided the necessary

assets to have a smooth launch and their portal was straightfoward to work with. Their support has been spot on in getting Snake Pass onto the platform.” Likewise, Frozenbyte’s marketing manager Kai Tuovinen speaks of “technical improvements” that made launching its recent rogue-like Has-Been Heroes “all the better for us.” Julius Guldbog, community manager for SteamWorld Dig 2 developer Image & Form, adds: “In the past, publishing for Nintendo consoles has been, not a nightmare, but pretty close. [With the Wii U] they had QA gates, and they made sure every QA gate was good enough. It took months, and you had to do that for every region, and if you fail, it takes even longer. You have to get a new slot, and release dates are pushed back. “But with the Switch, we only have to make one version and only have one launch, and that’s one version for the entire world, so we’ll have the same version in the US, Europe and, a little bit later, Japan and China as well. That saves so much work. It means we can do the translations ourselves and we don’t have to have a new publisher for one specific region. It’s going to be so much easier. They’re basically taking the Steam or App Store approach: one version of the game for the entire world.” IT’S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE Nintendo’s also actively pursuing developers to come and make games for the platform, whether it’s approaching them at shows or making specific trips to their offices. “Nintendo is absolutely brilliant to work with,” says Forslind. “They really take care of their ‘Nindies’. They’re one of the few platform holders that have actually been to our office. I can’t remember who started talking to who first, but I know we’ve been talking to each other for a long time. Nintendo’s welcomed developers to its own European headquarters as well, says Shin’en’s art director Martin Sauter. “In general, it’s easy to work with Nintendo, especially as they have their EU headquarters in Frankfurt, so we can simply take a short trip [from our offices in Munich] if something important is coming up.”

Pictured, from top to botton: Choice Provision’s Dant Rambo, Yacht Club Games’ David D’Angelo and Image & Form’s Julius Guldbog

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For Drool, who’s bringing its ‘rhythm violence’ game Thumper to Switch later this year, Nintendo approached the studio while they were over in Japan. “I met some nice people from Nintendo at [the Kyotobased indie game festival] Bit Summit last year,” says the studio’s co-founder Marc Flury. “I was showing Thumper and they were interested in bringing the game to their new platform. In particular, they thought Thumper could work well with the HD Rumble. We were all excited to start working together.” Nintendo aren’t just courting developers at events in their home country, either, as Dino explains: “At all the events we’ve been at prior to launch, we’ve seen Nintendo actively have ‘boots on the ground’ to discover and talk to indie developers about what their games can offer the Switch platform. From indie-focused events such as EGX Rezzed (where we first met them) to Day of the Devs in San Francisco, you can be sure Nintendo is there.”

Pictured, from top to bottom: Drool’s Marc Flury, Frozenbyte’s Kai Tuovinen and Shin’en’s Martin Sauter

Guldbog goes further, saying Nintendo’s finally achieved parity with Sony and Microsoft: “It’s great [to develop for]. We’ve had no problems at all. It’s up there with the PS4 and Xbox One. It’s not as easy as PC – PC will always be the easiest, of course – but it’s up there with the big leagues, which is really good. “The overall tech in the Switch is so much more modern. The APIs are up to snuff, the chipset itself is really streamlined, it’s modern, it’s nice. [It] isn’t as powerful as the PS4 or Xbox One, but it’s pretty darn close. Just look at Snake Pass, or Fast RMX. Snake Pass is extra interesting, because look at how good the graphics are compared to the PS4 version. It’s so cool how well it holds up, so if developers put their mind to it and optimise the game for the Switch, it can run anything.” Even developers using their own custom engines have felt the benefit, with Sauter saying it simply took “a matter of weeks” to get Fast RMX running: “We also made sure all the Switch’s controller configurations work nicely with our game,” he adds. “Fast RMX is the perfect game to show off the Switch. It’s a showcase for [its] graphical power.” Admittedly, Flury says that porting Thumper’s custom engine “was a lot of work” for him as the studio’s sole programmer, resulting in a brand-new shader just for the Switch version, but in the end his experience was a positive one. “Fortunately, the hardware is capable and the tools and support have been top-notch,” he says. “As soon as we got the game running on Switch, I wanted to curl up in bed and play it. We’re excited to bring the game to a mobile platform. With the Switch, we can make it portable without sacrificing any of the visual or gameplay quality.”

STAR SWITCH Another point Nintendo’s been keen to stress is just how easy it is for developers to make games for the Switch. In the run-up to the Switch’s launch, both Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo’s managing executive officer Shinya Takahashi spoke to investors about how its internal teams had “mastered” the Unreal engine after feeling the “ease of software development” afforded by the console’s Nvidia Tegra chipset – a point that might seem quaint in today’s development landscape, but one that’s no less important to smaller developers looking to port their games to the new console. “It’s one of the best Nintendo hardware development experiences we’ve ever had,” says David D’Angelo From indie-focused events to Day PROJECT of Shovel Knight developer REVOLUTION of the Devs in San Francisco, you Nintendo’s relationship Yacht Club Games. “It was with independent very easy. They’ve been can be sure Nintendo is there. developers hasn’t suddenly great at helping support us David Dino, Sumo Digital changed overnight, though. from every angle.” Sauter implies the platform Forslind agrees: “Getting holder’s looking “to curate more with the Switch in Flipping Death to run on the Switch was quite easy comparison to the Wii U, which we think is a good and didn’t take long for us. We’re using Unity and approach,” but D’Angelo says that publishing Shovel we’ve previously released games on most platforms so it was a pretty smooth process. We’re hoping it’ll stay Knight: Treasure Trove on the Switch has been “pretty that way.” similar” to the studio’s experience with the Wii U. Meanwhile, Dino praises Epic Games’ early platform This is echoed by Choice Provision’s Runner 3 support for its Unreal 4 engine, saying “our team was producer Dant Rambo, who says Nintendo’s current able to get a playable build of Snake Pass within two strategy for the Switch is very much an extension of what it started with the Wii U. days with few issues that needed resolving. It’s definitely “I think their approach to indies with the Switch is a testament to Nintendo, and their partnership with in many ways an evolution of their approach to indies Nvidia and Unreal, ensuring there is support for widely with the Wii U,” he says. “They’ve really made an effort used development tools right out the gate.”

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in recent years to share the spotlight with smaller developers, which is something we’ve absolutely seen the effects of in terms of sales and coverage. Nintendo has, in our experience, always made an effort to provide good placement to smaller titles in the eShop and in their marketing, and we feel this is why Runner 2 sold as well as it did on the Wii U.” That said, it was console itself that prompted the studio to make Runner 3 a Switch exclusive: “As a smaller team, focusing all our efforts on one platform made a lot of sense to us,” Rambo continues. “It didn’t take us long to decide on the Switch. Nintendo’s focus on accessibility and creating a platform for the hardcore and non-hardcore alike were the biggest factors for us, but we also loved the idea of our game being playable at home or on the go. We feel like that’s a really great fit for the Runner series, which we’ve always tried to design in a way that allowed for long and short gaming sessions.” NX STEP It’s still early days for the Switch’s eShop. For Dino, the console’s news notifications and having titles appear

alongside larger first party titles is “a nice evolution of what [Nintendo was] accomplishing with the Wii U”, but many developers are unsure how their visibility will be affected once more titles start jostling for the same amount of pixel space. One thing is clear, though. Nintendo has taken a huge step forward wih the Switch. A renewed focus on making it as easy and painless as possible to do business on the console is exactly what it needs to get developers, publishers and players back on side. With over 60 Nindie titles already confirmed for 2017, not to mention the games coming from Activision, EA, Take-Two, Ubisoft, Warner Bros and Bethesda, the foundations are certainly there. However, later this year the war between Project Scorpio and the PS4 Pro will push hardware expectations further than ever. The Switch will need to prove it can avoid the pitfalls of its predecessor and offer something truly different. A big part of that will be a robust digital storefront that sidesteps the discoverability problems of its “bloated” competitors, says Forslind, but from what we’ve seen so far, Nintendo could well have another Wiisized success story on its hands.

Pictured: Sumo Digital’s David Dino (top) and Zoink's Mikael Forslind

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Picture by: Oliver McNeil

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The Great British uccess Story As chairman of Sumo Digital, Ian Livingstone was instrumental in getting Snake Pass to market. Marie Dealessandri speaks with him about why Sumo deserves more recognition, why the studio won’t change its business model and the importance of IP ownership

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an Livingstone is a man with many titles. He’s coDEV POWER creator of Fighting Fantasy, co-founder of Games With the release of Snake Pass, the world has already Workshop, GamesAid trustee, life president of Eidos, started to find out about Sumo, as the title has been vice chair of Ukie, and many more, lots more than we well received both commercially and critically. have space to list here at least. “Sumo has no history of self-publishing so the But as we meet, he’s here as the chairman of Sumo expectations were, I wouldn’t say a wet finger in the air, Digital, two days after the release of the company’s but you know...” Livingstone smiles. “But there were first original IP, Snake Pass. The title has now topped obviously numbers in the budget and that’s definitely in the first ever European Switch eShop charts, beating line with that, possibly a little bit better. They’ve done Nintendo’s behemoth The Legend of Zelda: Breath of a great job in creating Snake Pass and then suddenly the Wild to the number one spot. we had a new platform in Switch to be able to launch For Livingstone, this is finally the recognition Sumo on, which hadn’t been considered when we started Digital has always deserved. development, and it’s doing really well on Switch.” “Sumo is kind of a Livingstone was a key secret success story, no figure in making Snake I don’t know any other studio that’s Pass happen, too, as he’s one really knows about the work they do and one who suggested the developing for both Microsoft and the how brilliant the work game jam that led to the they do is,” he enthuses. creation of the title. Sony. It’s usually either or. “Here’s a studio with “I think it’s my job, nearly 400 people now from all the years I’ve in Sheffield, the major studio, Nottingham, and in been working in games to try and move up the value Pune in India, and they’re developing games for both chain of IP ownership,” he explains. “At the moment, Microsoft and Sony and I don’t think there’s any other there’s this phrase that I don’t like called ‘work-for-hire’. studio doing that right now. They also work for Koch But Sumo is not work-for-hire, they are fully investing Media, for Disney, for Sega, and they’re working on in the projects that they do themselves, they receive major franchises, and yet it’s almost a secret because royalties on the games they develop. they’re not allowed to talk about it. “When [they invited me to become chairman] and “It’s a great British success story. I don’t know any I saw the talent that they have and the quality of the other studio, particularly in Europe, that has that game they produce, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be a great number of employees and a studio that is developing idea to empower some of the people at Sumo so they for both Microsoft and Sony. It’s usually either or. But wouldn’t have to leave to do their own thing?’ Sumo are that good that everyone wants to use them. “You see so many people leaving for larger developers It’s just that they’ve not been good at telling their story,” or to set up their own studio. I thought it would be great Livingstone laughs. if we could just have them working here. “I think that’s my job to try and tell the story because “So we implemented a game jam. And out of that they deserve it, they are fantastic. Ultimately the world first game jam, Snake Pass was considered the best. will find out.” It wasn’t on us, the management, to vote which one.

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Above: Early concept art for Snake Pass

Again, [we wanted to] empower the developers themselves and let them vote on which one should be the one so there could be no argument.” Naturally, we ask about the future of the other titles developed during the game jam and if we should expect more new IPs to be announced later this year. “They’re lined up, [but] it’s a question of resource,” Livingstone answers. “This is not Sumo changing their business model, it’s additive. They’re never, ever, going to put at risk the fantastic business that they have at delivering quality triple-A products for the world’s premier publishers and platform holders. That’s never going to change at all. But it’s nice to be able to allow them to have some ownership of their own content, by which they’ll create great new IP. “My whole life I’ve been involved with original IP. The value of your company goes up as a result of the IP ownership, because it’s not just the revenue you derived from publishing it’s all the incremental

revenue, it’s from licensing and merchandise.” Sumo may not be changing its business model, then, but we should definitely expect new IPs from the studio. “There will be more,” Livingstone confirms. “But it’s not going to suddenly become an own-IP self-published company. That is not the message we’re sending out there. [It’s about] empowerment of some of the fantastic talent that exists, and allow them to feel ownership and control, as well as sharing in the rewards, too.” Livingstone’s plea for empowerment through IP ownership is also in line with his work with Rick Gibson in the creation of a British Games Institute to handle games funding. Ultimately, what he has in mind for the BGI could help studios like Sumo Digital to find support to develop their own IPs. “We’ve got Ukie and TIGA on board and 350 companies signed up and so we’re going through the process of trying to convince the government this is a good thing,” Livingstone says. “We need to have our own agency - currently we’re under the wing of the BFI and this is great, but I think that, to be taken seriously, we need our own agency, to be connected to the government and be able to fund games. This is not in any way going to replace TIGA or Ukie, this is a purely independent agency that’s going to fund developers and drive the cultural recognition of games.” The creation of a BGI may still be some way off yet, but with Livingstone primed and ready to give Sumo Digital the credit it deserves, the studio will no doubt be at the forefront of its plans to enhance the public perception of games going forward, whether it’s with a new IP or with Sony and Microsoft’s next big title.

Fighting Fantasy rolls on YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY meet Ian Livingstone without talking about Fighting Fantasy. The series, which he co-created with Steve Jackson, celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. “And it kind of shows my age a bit,” Livingstone laughs. “I’ve written a new book to celebrate that. It’s called The Port of Peril and it’s going to be published by Scholastic.” The publisher acquired the world rights to the series at the end of March, and the books will be ‘republished, repackaged and reignited for a new generation’, the company announced. “They’ve seen a kind of rekindling in the genre, which is fascinating because the series sold nearly 20m copies, in the 80s primarily,” Livingstone says. “And now [the original readers] have got children and they’re saying, ‘Hey, I used to read this, what do you think?’ Normally, children reject everything that their parents say, but I’m delighted to say that in this instance they’re liking them, because Fighting Fantasy empowers the reader. So I’m looking forward to the re-launch of the books in August.”

Alongside these new versions of the books, there’s also a new card-based game coming, Livingstone continues: “We’ve just licensed the right of Fighting Fantasy to Nomad Games to do a single-player exploration game, where you explore the world of some of the books, like City of Thieves, and you have combat, you pick up cards, collect them, which will be used to upgrade your dice. So it’s effectively a board game, and [Nomad Games] is hoping to coincide with the re-launch of the books. So it’s a really exciting time to see Fighting Fantasy back.”

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“Like any private club, if you don’t like the rules, don’t join.” Garry Williams, Sold Out

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GIVING PUBLISHERS A PLATFORM Three games publishers talk about the platforms they rely on to get their products to market

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here’s a greater range of hardware and operating system platforms than ever before. That means more opportunity, and more complications, for games publishers. We catch up with a handful of thoroughly modern publishers working across a range of digital and physical formats to ask them what they think of the current offering from the platform holders. We talk to Team17’s Debbie Bestwick, who publishes across PC, Mac, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, Apple and Google platforms (which just goes to show the number of potential relationships and communities a publisher needs to support), Sold Out’s Garry Williams, who works on all console platforms and PC, and Soedesco’s Hans van Brakel, another console and PC publisher.

planning, but we have a great portfolio of released games that will be strongly supported along with some very exciting new product launches such as Escapists 2 and Aven Colony.

As a publisher of physical and digital titles, how has business been in the last year? Bestwick: Last year saw a 30 per cent year-on-year growth so we are obviously delighted. Retail is performing well and digital continues to do well.

Van Brakel: Both on the retail and on the digital side we are increasing our business. The market is very strong. Last year we had three very healthy platforms, this year we have four.

Williams: We are outside the ‘top eight big honker publishers’ but have proved we can help deliver growth and success for our co-published releases. As ever, the boxed element is delivering well for us at Sold Out, the boxed figures for the bigger publishers are significant. I believe that quite a few publishers from Sony’s recent digital days event were surprised at just how solid boxed sales still are. Again it is good to stress that gaming as a category is only getting stronger. It really is not a case of boxed or digital – take both sets of revenue. Van Brakel: Very good, both on the digital and retail side we are increasing our business. On the retail side we got active in territories that are traditionally hard to reach for a smaller publisher. On the digital side we see a very long tail of sales, the days of doing most of your revenue in the first month are behind us. Are you optimistic about the year ahead? Bestwick: Very optimistic, as ever it will require incredible hard work in all areas from lifecycle management through to community and development

Williams: Sold Out has the majority of our 2017-to2018 titles in place and ready to publicise. We know that the next year is going to be fantastic for us and our partners. Looking at our early figures, Sold Out’s turnover could be as much as fifty per cent up during this year – that’s two years of very positive growth now. We are busily working away for 2018-to-2019 and the new machines from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft can only add to the growth of the gaming sector.

Are you happy with the hardware platforms available to you to publish on? Williams: The hardware and digital options are increasing and again from ‘format holder briefings’ numbers of consumers are significantly up. Digital revenues are increasing significantly and gaming choices are being promoted heavily. Indie or mainstream gamers have never had it so good. How does doing business with the various platform holders differ? Bestwick: Each platform holder has a slightly different approach to how they manage their publisher relationships. Some are more ‘hands-on’ and others strive to give you all the tools you need to ‘self serve’ in terms of product release. We work as closely as we can with each of our platform partners to ensure we are doing everything possible for our products to launch smoothly into the ecosystem. They do tend to vary quite significantly in the different platform submissions and processes that must be adhered to in order to release on that platform – this can sometimes be frustrating, but it is why we have a

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very strong team that is fully set up to work with each of the systems individually. Williams: The logistics of most platform holders are clear and understandable – they do also listen and can make revisions to policy. Currently Nintendo’s model is a little ‘challenging’ in terms of pricing but never write off Nintendo. It is the role of a publisher to navigate games through these format holders’ channels, so it’s pretty much the same as it ever was. Van Brakel: They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s a matter of focussing on the strengths to get the most out of each of those platforms. But in general, it’s a matter of being flexible. We are able to do good business on all platforms so we are focusing on those opportunities and that’s working out well. Do you find discoverability differs between digital platforms? Bestwick: Generally, the standard amount of visibility you will see across the platforms tends to be similar. Then there are layers on some of the platforms that you can discuss in terms of marketing support, and then there are some opportunities for paid promotion on certain dashboards. Other platforms are a bit more rigid in their allocation of visibility and often it can depend solely on the merit or sales performance.

Pictured, from top to bottom: Soedesco’s Hans van Brakel, Team17’s Debbie Bestwick and Sold Out’s Garry Williams

Williams: Discoverability is an age old gaming problem generally resolved by publishers. However, the circular nature of the games business seems to feel like the more people say it is different the more it now looks the same. Indie publishing, the very thing that ‘freed up creativity and independence’ increasingly looks like it is driving itself towards needing the help of ‘publishing services’ to conquer the challenge of more competitive digital decks – publishers needed to learn the new skills that ‘disruption’ threw up. Van Brakel: It’s the biggest challenge because it’s constantly changing. It’s not as simple as just the storefront. You need to take into account the different territories, promotions, additional channels. You

need to be able to adjust to the changes in discoverability even before they happen. And since all platforms work differently you need to do this in different ways per platform. Do the platform holders differ in terms of what, and when, you can release physically? Bestwick: Not hugely. There are some slight differences in the way that products are compiled and what you can put on the disc, but generally it’s a pretty even landscape there. Williams: I cannot reveal the content of a platform holder PLA/LPA – some are slightly more demanding than others but all are generally constructed to operate on a ‘level playing field’ approach. Like any private club, if you don’t like the rule, don’t join. Boxed and digital should be released together, but some format holders will provide exemptions for good content. As ever the quality of the game can conquer some of the limitations of policy. After all, we are all, even the most creative, ultimately in a business. How could the platform holders improve how they deal with publishers, both specifically and generally? Bestwick: Most of what could be improved comes down to the systems that are in place for the various platforms. Often things can take an overly long time to be processed, whether that’s a price change or a product submission. The slicker the systems become, the easier it will be for all of us to be more agile and efficient. Williams: Anyone will generally improve their dealings with platform holders if they remember that the ‘machine providers’ also can be under resourced, fighting battles to drive various gaming areas forward, and present win/win outcomes. Make it as easy for each other as possible, treating them as you would wish to be treated. Organise and communicate your plans. Get feedback for plans from the experts who built the systems early. Get someone strong to fight your causes, try only to focus on the most important things and be aware that prominence is heavily dependent on the best games. Find them, curate them, guide them, create discovery for them and lead yourselves to sales success.

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Are you a Scorpio? Astrologers believe a Scorpio’s strength is resourcefulness. Despite being ruled by desire, they can control those urges until they can act on them. This is obviously a load of old codswallop, but it certainly chimes with Microsoft’s new console, which is both strong and resourceful, and Microsoft’s teasing launch `strategy looks to be controlling gamers’ desires with a pretty solid plan

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hat’s in a name? Microsoft’s latest console “Maybe we’ll see them dropping the numbers as a is yet to officially receive the Xbox mantle, halfway house,” he continues. “They haven’t had the clearinstead going under the codename cut progression Sony opted for with PS2, PS3 and PS4. ‘Project Scorpio’. Admittedly, most Microsoft went from Xbox to Xbox 360 to Xbox One.” codenames are usually whispered in meeting rooms, or This would then suggest a name along the lines of Xbox are only referred to internally or via leaked documents. Scorpio, though that exact name seems very unlikely. By comparison, Microsoft has given its codename the “So, there isn’t necessarily a clear step for them to take full branding treatment. A styled-up logo and a huge here, but I’d expect them to rightly cash in on the Xbox ‘unveiling’ of the concept at last year’s E3 demonstrates brand identity while looking for a suffix that balances the just how excited Microsoft is about its new hardware, and emphasis on power with the idea of a product that is new just how unconventional it’s willing to be in its launch. and all-encompassing,” Heimbach concludes. Recently, Microsoft went one step further, releasing Lots of thoughts there, but it’s still hard to pick an detailed technical specifications for its new console weeks obvious direction for the naming strategy. Garry Williams before its official unveiling. It’s hard to judge this strategy. of Sold Out opines: “It should be very clear that it’s a Is Microsoft trying to hype up the new console before different product. If people see the Xbox One S and E3 by giving out these Scorpio in store next to figures, or is it maybe “Project Scorpio is a difficult subject each other, it should be getting the technical clear that Xbox One S as the benefits are not easy to nitty-gritty out of the way is not just cheaper but before the big reveal? different. So one thing qualify beyond the tech specs.” That reveal will they shouldn’t do is use the Chris Poole, GfK now be squarely based word ‘One’ again.” around the name, the On that, at least, we can price, the design of the outer casing and supported all agree. Sadly, Williams says rumours have pointed the games. Unless Microsoft has some additional surprise, other way: “‘Xbox One X’ is being touted as a complement such as tying Xbox closer than ever to the Windows to the current Xbox One S. Another possibility is Xbox gaming platform, or making an alliance with one of the One Elite, to match Microsoft’s successful high-end games PC VR platforms. controller, which would at least give it some recognition among the gamers it’s trying to reach.” NAMING THE BEAST The name of any console is key to its success. It’s the pillar CROSS MY PALM WITH SILVER around which all marketing activity is built, and even Heimbach picks up on the Elite connection when it more so when said console is not a straight replacement comes to discussing price: “I think the console will be for the current device. The Wii U name, for instance, €499 (£418) with a game – probably the new Forza. It is a maybe didn’t make it clear enough to consumers about perfect price. The console is focused on a hardcore market the new device’s relationship to the Wii. and they are willing to spend more as long as it’s a quality “It’s unthinkable Microsoft would veer away from product. The fact that the Elite controller sold very well, at the Xbox brand at this point, although doing so would €149 (£120) shows that people are willing to buy products certainly make a big statement about the ‘newness’ of at a premium price.” its console,” Actionacy’s games marketing consultant All good points, but Heimbach’s use of Euros is more than simply habit. At present, the price of the console over Christian-Peter Heimbach tells us.

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in Europe is far easier to predict than it is here in the UK, with the pound being at its most unpredictable in years. Williams is also aware of the Brexit effect on pricing: “The specs suggest a £449 level – this is perceived as a higher tier machine. But with Brexit as an excuse to go higher, migrating console pricing towards the level of a higher end PC must be one goal, so maybe even £499.” Soedesco’s Hans van Brakel is optimistic that Microsoft is going to nail it, saying it would have undoubtedly taken pricing into account when designing the hardware in order to get to “a reasonable price.”

Pictured, from top to bottom: Actionacy’s Christian-Peter Heimbach, GfK’s Chris Poole, Sold Out’s Garry Williams and Soedesco’s Hans van Brakel

YOU HAVE A DEEP CONNECTION Microsoft is obviously keen to bring its Windows and Xbox gaming brands closer strategically, though it’s still unclear what the killer app will be for consumers. This is led by its ‘Play Anywhere’ initiative, but even that looks like a nice idea, rather than a must-have for the vast majority of gamers. Project Scorpio looks likely to be the next step in Microsoft’s efforts to cross-promote its gaming, or maybe something even more concrete. Chris Poole, senior account manager at GfK, thinks: “It certainly feels like moving closer to PC gaming resolutions satisfies Microsoft’s aim to bring PC and Xbox under the one brand.” Van Brakel agrees: “If you want to bring PC gaming and console gaming together you need to sync up the quality of the products. They must have decided that streaming is not ready to take on that job, since their newly announced Xbox Game Pass is a download service, so doing that with a stronger console makes a lot of sense.” Williams also makes the PC comparison and wonders if it could tempt PC gamers to the console: “I would look to see how many of my hardcore PC gaming friends are willing to accept it as a base for their core gaming needs,” he says. Likewise, Poole thinks it might help justify a higher price: “Pitching it against PC gaming rigs could make it look better value.” THE END OF DAYS While the PS4 Pro looks to be simply an updated version of the current console, and one that will be retired alongside its sibling, that situation is far less clear for Project Scorpio. Is the console another step toward

the end of the console generation and a change to the upgrade cycle? Microsoft certainly seems to think so, but that alone won’t make it a reality, even if it is a break from the tradition of long hardware generations. Heinbach says: “Conventional wisdom within the industry suggests [an end to console generations], and not just for Microsoft. Aaron Greenberg certainly expressed that sentiment in mid-2016, and we live in an age where incremental updates are the norm for so much of the technology we use. Xbox One S and PS4 Pro already lay down a marker for mid-generation refreshes, and it does seem to be the direction preferred by the manufacturers. “Time will tell, though. There has been resistance from players to this kind of approach. Not everyone loves the idea of their shiny new console being outdated within a couple of years of buying it, no matter what kind of marketing spin manufacturers put on it.” Williams reckons it ties into the company’s wider goals: “It’s more of an aim from [Microsoft] to deliver to gamers, ‘whatever you want to play, wherever and however.’ As we change our phones every couple of years, we may be persuaded to change our gaming choices just as often. More so if we can migrate more of our ‘history of gaming’ easily.” This is key, as regular hardware changes will be far easier to sell once consumers are reassured that their games, saves and content are coming with them. AN AUSPICIOUS TIME? The final question is whether the stars are aligned for the age of Scorpio? Are gamers crying out for more powerful hardware and will the new device land with a splash, or scuttle under a nearby rock? Van Brakel is cautious: “It depends. The potential difference between Scorpio and Xbox One is huge. Not just an upgrade, but a whole new console generation, comparable from when we moved from Xbox to Xbox 360. The only question is, are we going to see that in the games? Forza alone is a start but not enough to let people buy a new console.” Heimbach is optimistic: “I think they’re being quite smart in terms of spreading the message that players are getting a whole new level of power. Within the industry, we can see where these advances might just bring parity with a PC, but from the outside the average gamer who is looking to bag the latest FIFA or Call of Duty wants to know they’re doing it on the latest and greatest system – and if Microsoft can convince them they need Scorpio for that then they will have done their job.” Poole, meanwhile isn’t sure there’s a clear advantage: “Project Scorpio is a difficult subject as the benefits are not easy to qualify beyond the tech specs. Convincing consumers that the native 4K difference between PS4 Pro and Scorpio is a big factor, and might be hard. Also, hailing it just as the most powerful games console might not be enough, even though it looks very impressive on paper.” Williams concludes that sales figures will tell that story, but he’s enthusiastic about the machine itself, saying that recent consoles have simply been revisions and that “Microsoft are releasing their Godzilla!” Let’s just hope it’s not too much of a monster for most to handle.

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@MCVonline 18/04/2017 15:37


THE TOP MERCHANDISE FIRMS AND PRODUCTS From indie outlets to worldwide distributors, Marie Dealessandri talks to the top merchandise firms in the industry

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Location: Hertfordshire Headcount: 3 Turnover: £500k

Five Element Distribution

Key contact: Director Steve Nicholas, fiveelementdistribution@gmail.com Key brands: Super Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, Sonic the Hedgehog, Minecraft, Assassin’s Creed, Game of Thrones, Adventure Time, DC Universe, Marvel, Plants vs Zombies, Star Trek, Star Wars, South Park, Dragon Ball Five Element Distribution has an extensive catalogue of licences, primarily from Nintendo flagship franchises. Super Mario, Zelda and Pokémon are among these licences, with Five Element also distributing officially licensed products from other triple-A titles such as Minecraft and Assassin’s Creed, as well as pop culture brands like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Disney, Marvel and more.

Location: Tucson, Arizona (USA) Headcount: 24

Laura Verdin

Fangamer

Key contact: Customer relations and designer Laura Verdin, laura@fangamer.com Key brands: Double Fine, Yacht Club Games, Undertale Fangamer is a small community-focused US-based merchandise company, specialising in indie merch. Undertale, Yooka-Laylee, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight and Hyper Light Drifter are among the titles covered, with an extensive catalogue of products including pins, exclusive prints and T-shirts designs, plushes, figures, books and more. It should be noted that Fangamer is primarily an online retailer – the firm does rely on brick and mortar stores to sell its products, but on a case-by-case basis to small family run gaming or hobby shops. Fangamer stands out from the crowd of the merch firms thanks to its unique offerings. Fancy an Octodad tie? You’ll find it on Fangamer.

Featured product

Pikachu Plush with Ash Hat

Pokémon fans never grow tired of Pikachu. Luckily for them, there are endless options for Pikachu merch on the market, including this plush distributed by Five Element. Price: £16.99 Manufacturer: Tomy

Featured product

The Undertale Little Buddies

Modeled by Dutch sculptor Gijs van Kootenm, this set of five Undertale figurines comes in a windowed collector’s box. The figurines, all hand-painted, range in size from 2.5 to 3.6 inches tall and have a removable base. They can also be bought separately, too, for $15 (£11) each. Price: $70 (£55) Manufacturer: Happy Worker

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Location: Fulbourn, Cambridge Headcount: 140

Tom Pelly

Location: Kidderminster, Worcestershire Headcount: 6 Turnover: £2m-£4m

Luiz Ferreira

Gaming Merchandise UK

Key contact: Founder and director Luiz Ferreira, luiz@gamingmerchandiseuk.com Key brands: Gaya Entertainment, Bioworld Europe, GB Eye, Jinx, Level Up Wear, Musterbrand GM UK has been a key player in the merchandise scene ever since its inception in 2013. “We have an extensive range of merchandise from clothing and apparel to homewares and collectable statues and figures,” founder and director Luiz Ferreira tells MCV. “If retailers invest in a range of merchandise it will deliver incremental revenue and increase margins while adding value to their customer experience.” GM UK doesn’t just work on triple-A titles, though, as it also invests in indie merchandise - a growing category, Ferreira adds: “We are working on a range for Chucklefish Games indie farming simulator Stardew Valley - a range which includes clothing, accessories and, of course, the range of plush toys.”

HEO UK

Key contact: Managing director Tom Pelly, 01223 789 780 or tom.pelly@heo.com Key brands: Hot Toys, Hasbro, Kotobukiya, Good Smile Company, Funko, Sideshow Collectibles, First 4 Figures, McFarlane Toys, Bandai, LEGO, Bioworld, Hollywood Collectibles, Think Geek, Dark Horse, Gaming Heads, Winning Moves, Jinx With over 250 brands, Germany-based Heo is one of the largest distributors in Europe, with offices in the UK, France, Spain, Italy and even outside of Europe, in Japan, the US and Hong Kong. “Heo works with the largest range of manufacturers of any distributor in Europe,” MD Tom Pelly tells MCV. “We are a one-stopshop for all licensed collectibles and merchandise. From low-end items likes mugs and key chains, right up to high end life-sized statues – and everything in between – we carry nearly 25,000 SKUs.” He continues: “Heo offers its partners an intuitive website, detailing all product information and images, along with in-stock status. Over 80 per cent of products listed are in stock at any time, enabling convenient and immediate shipping on orders.“ Featured product

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Statue

This 25cm statue of Link was created to celebrate the launch of Breath of the Wild in March. It’ll release in early June and is available to pre-order. Price: £60.99 Manufacturer: First 4 Figures

Featured product

Stardew Valley Junimo Plush

Nothing is mandatory in Stardew Valley but one of the quests facing the player is helping the lovely Junimos to repair the Community Center by bringing them various products. They’re the cutest fellows ever and they’re now available in plush form. Price: £24.99 Manufacturer: Gaya Entertainment

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Location: Hamburg, Germany Headcount: 10+

Location: Holmes Chapel, Cheshire Headcount: Less than 10

Anthony Marks

Iron Gut Publishing

Key contact: Managing director Anthony Marks, sales@irongutpublishing.com Key brands: Sony, Capcom, Sega, Flash Gordon, Shepperton Studios, Mr Benn At Iron Gut Publishing, quality is more important than quantity, as the small merch company specialises in limited edition prints for the likes of Sony, Sega or Capcom. “We are in the process of signing a license with a major Hollywood studio,” MD Anthony Marks tells MCV. “This license will give us access to most of the most iconic films from the past twenty years, all our collectable affordable artwork will be available in mail order packaging for online retail, as well as framed for the High Street. We will be announcing this major new licensing agreement next month.” In the meantime, there’s still plenty to choose from at Iron Gut, including a brand new Star Wars collection following a new partnership with Shepperton Design Studios.

Musterbrand

Key contact: Sales manager Henrik Lünzmann, henrik.luenzmann@musterbrand.com Key brands: Star Wars, Nintendo, Street Fighter, Game of Thrones, Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft, Uncharted High-end apparel designer Musterbrand is both manufacturer and distributor of its products, even though it also partners with international distributors such as GM UK. Founded in 2010, it works closely with a game’s development team to create unique apparel and accessories. “We’re currently working on extending our highly acclaimed Zelda collection to include Breath of the Wild designs,” says marketing manager Karrie Shirou. By the time you read this, Musterbrand will also have announced its first ever shoes as well, part of its Star Wars collection. Shirou continues: “Retailers should look at our products because they’re high quality designer fashion that resonates with fans who want to show off their fandom in fashionable ways. Our Zelda collection has sold out worldwide – twice!” Featured product

The Legend of Zelda collection, Link shirt

Get the Link look with this long-sleeve shirt. It features great details such as Triforce embroidery and Link’s trademark pointed hood. Price: €59 (£50) Manufacturer: Musterbrand

Featured product

Sonic limited edition print

Created for Sonic’s 25th anniversary last year, this collectable artwork is produced on 300gsm textured paper, and limited to only 995 worldwide, hand numbered and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Sega. Price: £18 Manufacturer: Iron Gut

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Location: Kidderminster, Worcestershire Headcount: 18 Turnover: £7m

Liam Taylor

RUBBER ROAD

Key contact:Commercial director Liam Taylor, liam.taylor@rubberroad.co.uk Key brands: Disney, PlayStation, Activision, Sega, Capcom, Ubisoft, Bandai Namco, EA, Atari, Bethesda, 2K, King Distributor Rubber Road is best known for being the mother company of merchandise designer Numskull. They work closely with triple-A publishers such as Sony, Sega, Capcom, Ubisoft and Bandai Namco. “We are launching retro Tekken merchandise products next month to celebrate Tekken 7,” commercial director Liam Taylor tells MCV. “A very cool range of Crash Bandicoot merchandise has also just been announced to our partners, with great success as it’s so unique. September will witness Destiny 2 products – and we really can’t wait to announce the concepts we have been working on secretly… Expect new PlayStation, Sega and Atari retro ranges coming too.” Featured product

Crash Bandicoot Limited Edition Pin Badge Set

To celebrate the upcoming release of Sony’s highly awaited Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy on June 30th, Rubber Road is releasing this limited edition pin badge set, which includes all the iconic Crash Bandicoot characters and items. Price: £19.99 Manufacturer: Numskull

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“We just want to help more and more gamers get their geek on” The merchandise market is not just B2B business – Insert Coin designs and sells its merch directly to gamers and has proved more than once that it’s the top dog of the industry. We catch up with head of communications Dan Long Insert Coin rebranded last year – what’s changed for the company since then? We’ve been really busy. It’s started to take us in a new direction and opened up more opportunities for us and our community. People are starting to see representing their favourite games in the real world as something they can do with a bit more style. Last time we spoke, your Pokémon pop-up store had been a huge success – will you be doing more pop-up stores in the future? We are definitely looking to continue with more pop-up and expo stores in the coming months. As a company that’s driven by community, it’s hugely important for us to step out from the internet, into the real world and meet up with the people who support us. How would you assess the state of the merch market right now? The merch market is always changing, and there’s always something new on the horizon. Gamers are definitely becoming increasingly savvy and are looking at ways to combine their favourite games with the latest trends. Our job is to keep looking for new and exciting styles and making that awesome apparel a reality. What projects do you currently have in the works? There’s a lot going on at Insert Coin over the next few weeks – we’ve already announced new Gears of War and Mass Effect Classic collections, and we’ve got loads more secret ranges incoming too… Some of that expands on ranges we’ve already got on our site, plus a few surprises too, of course. What are the trends affecting Insert Coin right now? There are so many great trends in the video games industry right now – whether it’s the love of old-style retro classics, or the latest releases. There’s always something new and different for us to work on. How was EGX Rezzed for Insert Coin this year? Rezzed was fantastic fun – we absolutely loved it. It was such a great atmosphere and it was wonderful to be amongst so many awesome games, game devs and gamers. For us, it’s great to see people discovering our brand for the first time and realising that we make gear for their favourite games. How much of your business comes from these events? Can you tell us a bit more about your events strategy? Events are a hugely important part of our calendar. It’s vital for us to reach out, meet with the gaming community and talk to them about what they love and what they want to see next. It’s definitely part of who we are as a company and we’re hoping to add more events to our line-up as we continue to grow – both in the UK and around the world. We always try to reach as many people as possible and so we plan to go to the biggest and best shows – we really can’t wait to hit EGX again later in the year. What’s your ambition for the coming months? The next few months are going to be really exciting. We have loads of things planned for the rest of 2017, 2018 and beyond. Most importantly, we just want to help more and more gamers get their geek on – that is what it’s all about.

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chartanalysis

Divide and conquer

As Ghost Recon Wildlands reclaimed No.1 in the charts, we take a look at the platform split for the big titles that released during Q1 – and the odds are still in the PS4’s favour UBISOFT’S Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands was back at No.1 in the UK charts last week, with sales up ten per cent week-onweek. Sales for the title were still in favour of the PS4, with a 53 per cent share going to Sony’s console, against 47 per cent for Microsoft’s Xbox One. The title seems to be following the same path as the other big titles of

sold primarily on PS4. Debuting at No.6, Team17’s Yooka-Laylee sold 69 per cent of its copies on PS4, and 31 per cent on Xbox One. Meanwhile, 505 Games’ Stardew Valley entered the charts at No.30, selling 70 per cent of its units on PS4 against 30 per cent on Xbox One. Multiplayer-focused titles, however, such as Overwatch and Rocket League, actually

The two new entries of last week, Yooka-Laylee and Stardew Valley, were primarily sold on PS4. Q1, such as Mass Effect: Andromeda and For Honor, with the PS4 always one step ahead of the Xbox One. Many titles have historical biases stretching back decades. Capcom’s Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, which charted No.19 last week and saw a two per cent increase in sales, has a massive tilt to PS4, with 73 per cent of the sales going to Sony’s platform last week. Of course, the game is also a PS VR title, and has been heavily marketed as such, but let’s not forget that Resident Evil as a franchise has always had a strong historical association with PlayStation, and is probably the main factor for this split. The two new titles which entered the charts last week, Yooka-Laylee and Stardew Valley, were also

sold better on Xbox One than PS4 last week. With PS4 players still spending big on largely single-player titles, such as PS4 exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn, which charted at No.11. It seems the Xbox One is still the console of choice for more competitively-minded gamers. STEAM POWERED Meanwhile on Steam, Bluehole’s Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds held the top spot for the fourth week running. The Early Access surprise hit already reached 1m sales earlier this April. Having finally launched on Steam, Sega’s Bayonetta debuted at No.2.

UK PHYSICAL RETAIL TOP 10 TW LW Format 01 02

02 03 03 04 04 10 05 06

06 NE 07 03 08 04 09 10 10 06

Title Publisher

PS4, XO PS4, XO PS4, XO, PS3, 360 PS4, XO, PC PS4, XO, PS3, 360 PS4, XO

Ghost Recon Wildlands Ubisoft LEGO Worlds Warner Bros Grand Theft Auto V Rockstar Overwatch Blizzard FIFA 17 EA Yooka-Laylee Team17 PS4, XO, PC Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Activision PS4, XO, PC Rocket League 505 Games NS, Wii U Zelda: Breath of the Wild Nintendo PS4, XO, NS, Wii U LEGO City Undercover Warner Bros

Source: Ukie/GfK, Period: Week ending April 15th

STEAM TOP 5 TW LW

Title Publisher

01 01 02 NE 03 RE 04 05 05 RE

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds Bluehole Bayonetta Sega Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Valve H1Z1: King of the Kill Daybreak Planet Coaster Frontier

Source: Steam, Period: Week ending April 16th

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salesanalysis

Attachment issues F With Nintendo’s fiscal year earnings report on the horizon, we examine Switch sales figures

Nintendo Switch: SuperData estimates that the Switch will sell 7.2m units by the end of the year

or a console that’s had the biggest hardware units, 925,000 of which were on the Switch. Allegedly, launch in Nintendo’s history across Europe, the players wanted two copies – one to play and another to US and Australia, the platform holder has been keep as a collector’s item – but not in the UK. surprisingly coy about releasing concrete sales While we can’t report exact numbers, we’ve seen GfK’s data for its recently released Switch. cumulative sales figure for Zelda on Switch in the UK, For both the Wii and Wii U, Nintendo released first and it brings SuperData’s 181,000 UK hardware figure week sales for its new consoles, with the Wii selling into question, as it would mean there’s an awful lot of an impressive 600,000 in the US and the Wii U a Switch owners out there without a copy of Zelda, and comparatively disappointing 400,000 after eight days. potentially some without any physical games at all. For the Switch, however, Nintendo’s chosen to wait until Admittedly, Switch’s digital sales figures are still a April 27th when it releases its full fiscal year earnings, mystery, so there’s still a chance that some of the where we’ll finally learn just how many consoles have shortfall may be made up by eShop purchases. been sold worldwide in its first month. However, when consumers are buying hardware Day Thankfully, analysts have been more than happy to One, it’s actually easier to add physical games to those fill in the gaps in the orders than it is mean time. NPD Group going through the recently estimated the rigmarole of setting Switch sold 906,000 up an account and consoles in the US downloading the title in March, while when they get home. Joost van Dreunen, SuperData SuperData now pegs Combine that its global sales figure at 2.4m. That’s an increase of 60 with the Switch’s relatively meagre storage space, not to per cent since SuperData’s last estimate in the middle of mention the fact that Zelda’s never managed to reach March, causing the firm to update its original forecast of any higher than No.8 on Nintendo’s Switch eShop charts, 5m units by the end of the year to 7.2m. and it’s clear that the vast majority of Zelda copies are “Our estimates for total number of units sold in the being bought in a box. UK in March is 181,000,” SuperData’s Joost van Dreunen So either Zelda’s attach rate isn’t as incredible as tells MCV. “Nintendo is performing above expectations, anecdotal evidence might suggest (we know no one who which suggests that, at least for now, it is well on its way doesn’t own the game, and we’re sure you don’t either) to restoring investor confidence. The current slate of or something isn’t quite right with the figures. upcoming titles is also looking strong, and we expect Still, Zelda’s cumulative sales certainly aren’t to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 to do well.” be sniffed at. It’s already Nintendo’s biggest-selling launch title in Europe, outdoing even Wii Sports in its FAST MOVER first weekend. Indeed, with Mario Kart 8 already the best-selling Wii U Of course, all eyes will be on Nintendo come April game worldwide, the Deluxe version on Switch should 27th for those first official figures, so we’ll have to wait give the console another boost. That said, The Legend of and see whether Switch can turn around Nintendo’s Zelda: Breath of the Wild is still selling strongly. recent fortunes and give it a Wii-sized win. Despite launching alongside the console, NPD says Nintendo sold more copies of Zelda on Switch in the US than the actual console last month, reaching a lofty 1.3m

“Our estimates for units sold in the UK in March is 181,000.”

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biggamereleases

Release date:

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3

25/04

Developer: CI Games • Publisher: Deep Silver • Distributor: Koch Media • Platform(s): PS4, XO, PC • Price: £49.99 (PS4, XO), £34.99 (PC)

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is the first title in the series to launch at “full price and at a triple-A level”

The publisher says...

The press say...

How well will it do?

Last September, CI Games’ CEO Marek Tyminski told MCV that Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 should be considered as a new IP since it’s the first title in the series to launch at “full price and at a triple-A level.” Sniper: Ghost Warrior used to be a mid-price series but now CI Games wants to “reestablish the IP,” he added. Tyminski also called the game a “sniping fantasy” but since it’s an open world as well, players can tackle the missions in any order they wish, giving them “more freedom and nore choices than any other kind of game we did in the past,” he said. n

Historically, the Sniper: Ghost Warrior franchise has never met with critical success, with its Metacritic scores all below 55. CI Games hoped to raise the bar with Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, but based on the game’s previews, it seems like it’s still missed the mark. Trusted Reviews’ Tom Regan called the title’s open world “disappointingly barren” and criticised the story’s “cringeworthy lines.” But he enjoyed the freedom of approach when it came to the missions. Meanwhile, Wccftech’s Jorge Jimenez noted that the game is “more methodical and plodding than your average first person shooter.” n

The Sniper: Ghost Warrior series has always been commercially successful, with “close to six millions copies” of the previous two games sold to date, CI Games’ CEO Marek Tyminski told MCV. 2013’s Ghost Warrior 2 debuted at No.4 in the UK weekly charts and at No.9 in the monthly charts. Tyminski said he had high expectations for this third entry in the series, as it’s the studio’s biggest investment to date. Once again, it’s teamed up with distributor Koch Media to make sure it reaches these expectations and to “maximise [the] sales in the UK.” n

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biggamereleases Release date: 28/04

Release date: 25/04

The Sexy Brutale: Full House Edition Developer: Cavalier Games & Tequila Works Publisher: Tequila Works Distributor: Badland Games Platform(s): PS4 Price: £24.99

The debut title from Lionhead alumni Cavalier Games, co-developed with Tequila Works, is getting the physical treatment on PS4, courtesy of Badland Games. In The Sexy Brutale, players go through a never-ending masked ball as they try to prevent a series of murders. Having already launched digitally, the game has been very well received and currently has a score of 83 on Metacritic. The game has been praised for its gorgeous art and compelling story. n

Little Nightmares The Sexy Brutale: Gorgeous art and compelling story

Little Nightmares: Suspense-adventure with a dark story

Developer: Tarsier Studios Publisher: Bandai Namco Distributor: Advantage Distribution Platform(s): PS4, XO Price: £19.99

Having been announced at Gamescom last year, Tarsier Studios and Bandai Namco’s much-awaited new IP is finally hitting shelves next week. Bandai Namco’s UK marketing and PR director Lee Kirton described Little Nightmares as a “beautiful dark story with an amazing look and feel.” The suspenseadventure title is coming to retail in two editions, including a limited Six Edition, named after the main character and exclusive to GAME in the UK. n

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biggamereleases

Release date:

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

28/04

Developer: Nintendo • Publisher: Nintendo • Distributor: Open • Platform(s): NS • Price: £49.99

“You need Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch even if you played on Wii U.”

The publisher says...

The press say...

How well will it do?

Talking to MCV in February, Nintendo UK’s general manager Nicolas Wegnez said that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a perfect example to show “how [the] Switch offers many ways to play.” Mario Kart 8 Deluxe includes all the DLC from its Wii U counterpart, as well as a revamped battle mode. Renegade Roundup makes its debut, a new mode in which players will try to put each other in jail, and Nintendo’s also bringing back Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners and Shine Thief. There are also five new characters and new karts inspired by Splatoon. n

Wii U’s Mario Kart 8 has a score of 88 on Metacritic and, following a hands-on at PAX East in March, the Deluxe Switch version is shaping up pretty nicely as well. GamesRadar’s Anthony John Agnello wrote a preview entitled ‘Yes, you need Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch even if you played on Wii U’, which is pretty selfexplanatory. He dubbed the title an “essential purchase.” IGN praised the new battle modes, calling them the “experience we all wanted in the first time around” and welcomed the title’s “manic competitive madness.” n

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will undoubtedly sell really well. Not only because the franchise has historically always been a massive success, but also because the Switch is a family-friendly multiplayer-focused console that seems to be the perfect fit for a Mario Kart title. In addition, there are no other triple-A Switch games on shelves at the moment apart from Zelda. Nintendo is also releasing a pair of Joy-Con wheel accessories alongside the game, which will likely boost sales as well. We only regret the absence of an official bundle, which could have boosted the hardware and software sales even further. n

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Technology is evolving faster than humankind itself. And we’re living in a world of our own invention. Behavior and business have merged to redefine content, workflows and revenue streams. It’s The M.E.T. EffectSM, a cultural phenomenon fueled by hybrid solutions and boundless connectivity that’s changing the very nature of how we live, work and play. At the center of it all is NAB Show®.

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20/04/2017 12:06 08/12/2016 10:38:35


DI GI TA L RE LE AS E S

biggamereleases

Shakedown: Hawaii

Developer: Vblank Entertainment Publisher: Vblank Entertainment Platforms: Nintendo Switch Price: TBC Release date: April 2017

MAY

APR

NBA Playgrounds

Developer: Saber Interactive Publisher: Saber Interactive Platforms: PS4, XO, NS, PC Price: £16 (TBC) Release date: May 2017

This follow up to 2012’s Retro City Rampage is a timed Switch exclusive. Like its predecessor, Shakedown: Hawaii is a 16-bitinspired run-and-gun openworld game. “Business in the front. Bodies in the back” is the game’s motto, suggesting your empire is going to be built on the blood of a thousand goons.

Saber Interactive’s NBA Playgrounds is an arcade-style basketball title launching this May. Officially licensed, it features all 30 NBA teams, plus some retired NBA players. The game can be played solo or via local or online multiplayer. International online tournaments will also be organised.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap Developer: Lizardcube Publisher: DotEmu Platforms: PS4, XO, NS Price: £19.99 Release date: Out now

OUT NOW

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, the remake of 1989’s Wonder Boy 3, released a couple of days ago, with its beautiful hand-drawn graphics and its new character, Wonder Girl. The game also includes a retro mode, to play with the original 8-bit art. The title will also launch on PC in June.

GAME RELEASES Title

Format

Genre

Publisher

Telephone

Distributor

April 21st Cities Skylines Dark Souls III: The Fire Fades Edition Syberia 3 The Silver Case

XO PS4, XO, PC PS4, XO, PC PS4

Simulation RPG Adventure Visual novel

Paradox Interactive Bandai Namco Microids NIS America

01256 385 200 0121 506 9585 01462 487 373 020 8664 3485

Koch Media Advantage PQube Open

April 25th Lock’s Quest Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 The Sexy Brutale: Full House Edition

PS4, XO PS4, XO, PC PS4

RTS FPS Adventure

THQ Nordic CI Games Tequila Works

01279 822 800 01256 385 200 01934 611877

Exertis Koch Media Badland

April 27th Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III

PC

RTS

Sega

01216 253 388

CentreSoft

PS4, XO, PC

Simulation

System 3

01216 253 388

CentreSoft

PS4 PS4, XO, PC NS

RPG Platformer Racing

Square Enix Bandai Namco Nintendo

01256 385 200 0121 506 9585 01753 483700

Koch Media Advantage Open

April 28th Constructor HD Dragon Quest Heroes II: Twin Kings and the Prophecy’s End Little Nightmares Mario Kart 8 Deluxe 46 | April 21 MCV 915

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DISTRIBUTION

CLICK DISTRIBUTION

c l

C

LIME DISTRIBUTION

GAMING ACCESSORIES

Tel: 01622 845 161

Web: www.limedistribution.co.uk

distribution Ltd

Video Game Wholesaler • Global Distribution

Global sourcing network

for: Video

Games - Consoles - Accessories

Overstocks Specialists

Interest free credit accounts available

150,000 units in stock and ready to ship today +44 (0)208 670 5180

@

20 + years industry experience

Accounts for small retail businesses welcome

ian@clickdistribution.com david.torres@clickdistribution.com

clickdistribution.com

Est. 2003

Tel: +44 (0)208 670 5180 ENARXIS DYNAMIC MEDIA

Tel: +302 1090 11900 FLUID DESIGN

Web: www.clickdistribution.com DISTRIBUTION

Web: www.enarxis.eu CREATIVE

rich experiences for brands that entertain creatiVe / design / digital / motion / licensing Tel: +44 (0)121 212 0121

Directory.indd 1

Web: www.fluidesign.co.uk

19/04/2017 17:18


endgame

This week 50,000 gamers invaded Birmingham, Yooka-Laylee got the arcade treatment and Ukie got into eSports

Sleepless in Birmingham Over 50,000 gaming fans from across the UK descended on Birmingham’s NEC last weekend for Insomnia60, the UK’s largest gaming festival. YouTube superstars met with fans to enjoy the countless gaming features and events on offer, and for the first time ever, there were headline music acts plus a special performance from a full symphony orchestra, performing over 30 years of music from The Legend of Zelda.

Virtual insanity The second VR World Congress took place in Bristol this month between April 11th and 13th. Hosted by Opposable Games, the event saw over 100 speakers from all disciplines of the VR industry deliver a host of talks about VR’s increasing role in games, healthcare, sport capture, theatre, music, Hollywood and city building. AMD headlined the event with its keynote on how the latest developments in content and technology are propelling VR forward, while Microsoft, HTC, Sony, Oculus Story Studio, Samsung, Unity, Google, BAFTA, SFX studio Framestore, BBC, Aardman and the Royal Opera House were just some of the other companies in attendance. Left: AMD’s corporate vice president Roy Taylor said that Fallout 4 VR will be “a ground-breaking VR title” that comes to be known as the “Mario and Sonic” of virtual reality

48 | April 21 MCV 915

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19/04/2017 18:13


thedraft

Arcade fire

industry appointments

of marketing,” while Dillon said she was looking forward “to bringing more awesomeness to our clients, old and new.”

Yooka-Laylee released earlier this month, and to celebrate the launch, Playtonic and Team17 buddied up with Bespoke Arcades to create a one of a kind retro arcade machine. Complete with Yooka-Laylee decals, the cabinet lets players switch instantly from classic arcade favourites to the game itself, allowing them to experience the game in a brand-new way on its 28in HD screen and integrated sound system. The Yooka-Laylee Arcade Machine debuted at London’s Loading Bar in Stoke Newington on April 10th as part of the game’s official launch party, and will remain there for around a month.

JAKE TUCKER has joined MCV’s sister title eSports Pro as editor. Previously he was a contributor on Develop, but he’s also written for a number of other publications including Bit-tech. net, International Business Times, Waypoint and Pocket Gamer. He’s also the director of Video Brains, a monthly program of talks on games.

Premier PR has two new appointments this month. LAUREN DILLON has been promoted to senior account director, taking responsibility for the day-to-day management of the team, and WILL BECKETT is “thrilled” to be rejoining the team after a year of working in China. He’s also been appointed as senior account director, but will be largely focused on business development and client services. Beckett said he was “looking forward to bringing a broad offering that isn’t limited to breadand-butter PR, but really makes use of this company’s amazing pool of talent across all aspects

£954,000

raised last year along and over 2.7m in the past 9 years

CHARLOTTE NANGLE has joined Curve Digital as business development manager. “Charlotte is a significant hire for us,” said Curve chairman Stuart Dinsey. “The digital games market continues to evolve in all territories and we are well placed to help retailers and commercial partners increase their sales.”

Future Publishing’s games division has three new editors. After seven years on Edge, NATHAN BROWN (top) has been promoted to editor, former 3D World editor IAN DEAN (right) has moved to edit Official PlayStation Magazine, and Imagine Publishing alumni STEPHEN ASHBY (left) is now editing Official Xbox Magazine.

PLAY YOUR PART BECOME A MEMBER AMBASSADOR TRUSTEE WWW.GAMESAID.ORG

MCV 915 April 21 | 49

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Uni Sans SemiBold

endgame

Who’s who? Seth Barton Editor sbarton@nbmedia.com Katharine Byrne News Editor kbyrne@nbmedia.com Marie Dealessandri Staff Writer mdealessandri@nbmedia.com Sam Richwood Designer srichwood@nbmedia.com James Marinos Production Executive jmarinos@nbmedia.com Sophia Jaques Games Sales Manager sjaques@nbmedia.com Charlie Gibbon Account Manager cgibbon@nbmedia.com

Prey-Station film fest

Andrew Wooden Content Director awooden@nbmedia.com

Bethesda and PlayStation Access teamed up for a Prey Sci-Fi Movie Marathon this month, taking over The Prince Charles Cinema in London for a free all-nighter of the films that inspired Arkane’s upcoming action title. Attendees also had a chance to go hands on with the game on the big screen in its additional private screening room. Films on the running order included Aliens, Pitch Black, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Edge of Tomorrow and Moon.

Rocket Fuel

Ukie’s creative computing initiative Digital Schoolhouse in association with PlayStation held the final of their inaugural inter-schools eSports competition earlier this month at the GFinity Arena in London as part of the London Games Festival. Teams from four schools beat over 400 students across the UK to take part in the final, where the students played Rocket League with professional casters in the arena. The winner was Team Veracity from St John Fisher Catholic School in Dewsbury. Congratulations to everyone who took part.

Mark Burton Managing Director mburton@nbmedia.com NewBay Subscriptions: The Emerson Building 4-8 Emerson Street London - SE1 9DU e: subs@mcv.com www.mcvuk.com MCV has an exclusive media partnership with Famitsu – Japan’s leading video games analyst and news source NewBay Media Europe Ltd is a member of the Periodical Publishers Association

ISSN: 1469-4832 Copyright 2017 MCV is published 24 times a year by NewBay Media Europe Ltd, The Emerson Building, 4th Floor, 4-8 Emerson Street, London SE1 9DU

The Emerson Building, 4th Floor 4-8 Emerson Street. London, SE1 9DU

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system without the express prior written consent of the publisher. The contents of [brand] are subject to reproduction in information storage and retrieval systems. Printed by Pensord Press Ltd, NP12 2YA

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19/04/2017 18:18


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12/04/2017 14:44:26

Profile for Future PLC

MCV915 April 21st  

MCV915 April 21st  

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