Balancing acts, comebacks and victory laps included.
Funny bones, laughing fits and family time included.
From The Editor Gaming has changed so much over the past 25 years. I can still remember the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, SEGA Master System and Game Boy. In my opinion however, the gaming space changed forever with the introduction of the PlayStation. Games like Tetris, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario and Donkey Kong are iconic, however I can still remember the first time I had the chance to play Formula 1 on the PlayStation. The whole look, feel and gaming experience offered by Sony with the PlayStation was really a huge step forward, especially with the classic Sony controller design. Around the time of the release of the PlayStation 2 was the launch of the Xbox by Microsoft. In the early days, PlayStation was known for Grand Tourismo and Xbox for Halo, however as time has gone by, both consoles now have their loyal fans and both offer games across many genres. This meant that at the high-end of the gaming space there was the PlayStation and the Xbox, which offered their own unique gaming experiences; both using a CD drive to run games. Nintendo ultimately stayed in their own lane, staying true to their history and continuing to offer games like Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda. Nintendo did, at one point, offer the Nintendo Wii. The Wii was a system much like the PlayStation and Xbox in design and concept, however they ultimately ended up focusing on the Switch, a hybrid system which offers gaming in both a fixed location with a television and as a mobile device. In recent times, with the launch of the iPhone and the App Store as well as Android and the Google Play Store, mobile gaming has become increasingly popular for the masses. Given how convenient the platform is from an ease-of-access and price point-of-view, it is easy to see why the space has become so vibrant and lucrative for developers. Looking back at some of the games that really made mobile gaming a genuine contender in the gaming space, I think of titles like Angry Birds, Pokemon, Candy Crush, Minecraft, Crossy Road and Fruit Ninja, to name just a few.
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The Bugg Report has been compiled as a guide to retail, sports, lifestyle, toys, lice related matters. The views and opinions provided are based upon the views and o In no way is The Bugg Report a factual guide to retail, sports, lifestyle, toys, licensin matters and does not take responsibility for how the information provided is used
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Inside This Edition ESL IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST ESPORTS COMPANY
MERCHANTWISE LICENSING — WE LOVE DIGITAL GAMING
FORTNITE BY EPIC GAMES
GAMING — NO LONGER NICHE
A VIEW FROM JAPAN... GAMING
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ESL IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST ESPORTS COMPANY FEATURE INTERVIEW - PART 2 Back in 2019 The Bugg Report had the chance to speak to Alex Blaikie from ESL in Sydney Australia to ask some questions about Esports and ESL Gaming. We more recently had another opportunaity to hear from Alex about how the industry has evolved and to learn about new activations and events via ESL Gaming and their global operations.
Alex, so much has happened since we last spoke to you way back in 2019. From an overall perspective are you able to provide a brief insight into what has happened since then across gaming, Esports and ESL? Thanks Matt. It’s been a wild couple of years since we last spoke, as the world of gaming & esports has evolved, and continued to grow exponentially throughout the global pandemic. In the last year alone, we’ve seen double-digit growth in viewership for a number of our esports tournaments, and obviously with so many people staying at home, video games have been enjoyed by an audience wider than ever before. 06
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2020 was a challenge, however I am curious to know how things were for ESL in regards to gaming and Esports as the business is fundamentally online?
Since we last spoke in 2019, how has the expansion been across competitive teams in the gaming and Esports space?
It’s part of our DNA at ESL to engage with fans offline, so this period has been tough for us in not being able to do that. Although it’s much easier to transition an esports tournament to an online-only setting than it is a traditional sporting event, there’s always that extra layer of engagement that’s missing from an online vs. a live event. We can look at all of the positives we’ve seen throughout the last 12-24 months — increased online viewership, more focus on online production innovations, and say these are all great things for us, but our team thrives on our ability to execute live events and bring esports fans together, so we’re really looking forward to returning to ‘normalcy’ — whatever that looks like in the future.
Here in Australia, Adelaide Football Club and their Legacy Esports team are still the most well-known example of a traditional sports team coming into the esports space and building their brand here. Over in North America, there’s a lot more activity — with a number of teams in the Overwatch League being owned by wellknown sports groups, such as Vancouver Titans (owned by NHL’s Vancouver Canucks) and the Los Angeles Gladiators (owned by Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, who also own Arsenal and the Los Angeles Rams). www.buggreport.com.au
Can you explain what the ESL Mobile Open is, where it is available and how it works? Earlier this year we launched the ESL Mobile Open as a new way for us to reach a wide audience of competitive gamers on mobile, with tournaments in seven games synonymous with mobile esports — League of Legends: Wild Rift, Legends of Runeterra, Asphalt 9: Legends, PUBG Mobile, Brawl Stars, Clash of Clans, and Clash Royale. With our updated ecosystem structure, we’ve also expanded into new regions — in the past we were active in Europe and North America, now we are expanding into North Africa and Asia-Pacific, where mobile gaming is in many cases, larger than PC. From a collaboration point of view, I see your recent Menulog x ANZ Champs partnership and it looks like a perfect fit for both companies. Can you elaborate on this and how it came to be? Certainly — Menulog came on board in 2020, and following a successful year, we extended our partnership with Menulog on ESL ANZ Champs product for the whole of 2021. Our audience for the ANZ Champs are gamers, often watching the show between 8 and 12pm — the perfect time to have some dinner or a late-night snack delivered from local restaurants. Menulog have become a key element within our ANZ Champs broadcast as we’ve moved to a more casual, audience-focused style this year — segments like our ‘ANZ esports mukbang’ have been a hit, involving our talent enjoying a Menulog feed live on camera and a lucky viewer walking away with a free dinner each show.
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Another collaboration that you have done is with Intel and I believe it is the longest running partnership in conceptive gaming history? Our partnership with Intel has been critical in driving the growth of esports globally, and comes from a time when the concept of esports filling up stadiums with tens of thousands of cheering fans was closer to a dream than a reality. Last year, we celebrated our 20th anniversary, and highlighted how Intel has been with us every step of the way, helping us build properties like the Intel® Extreme Masters — the longest running global pro gaming tour in the world. Earlier this year, we announced an extension of our partnership through to Intel® Extreme Masters Katowice in 2025, which also saw all of our ESL Pro Tour CS:GO events brought under the Intel® Extreme Masters brand.
I read recently that the International Olympic Committee has committed to moving into eSports and gaming via the Olympic Virtual Series (OVS). Can you tell us about it? It’s been an exciting twelve months for esports and traditional sport crossovers — and there’s been significant developments this year, with the Intel World Open becoming the Official Esports Event Partner ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo. For those who don’t know, the Intel World Open tournament this year featured two games; Rocket League and Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, both with their own $250,000 USD total prize pool. This sort of international competition, directly affiliated with the Olympics, shows how esports is breaking some of the final barriers to recognition as a sport, and has proved to be a fantastic way to find the world's best gamers & champion them on a global stage.
I see that since we last spoke ESL SHOP seems to have come forward in leaps and bounds. How have you seen the expansion in this area of your business and is this an in-house project or do you have licensing partners? Absolutely, since we last spoke we’ve launched the ESL Shop in Australia, with local warehousing and fulfilment, and local production for some items — it’s been a real rollercoaster. While most of the products in our shop are developed by our team inhouse, we’ve been expanding upon licensed products in adjacent markets. Earlier this year, we launched a new mobile gaming controller designed by RiotPWR as part of our ESL master brand licensing initiative, and have also expanded our licensed cable portfolio, which is primarily sold in Nordic markets.
I noticed the collaboration that ESL recently did with KAPPA for limited edition merch and I imagine it was received really well. Do you have plans to look at similar collaborations in the future? Our collaboration with KAPPA over in Europe has been extremely well received by our audience, and provided our fans a way to wear the world of CS:GO in a modern, contemporary lifestyle line. This echoes what we’ve been trying to do locally in the esports merchandise space as well — provide gamers and esports fans with options for merchandise that go beyond the traditional team jersey, and move much closer to your urban/streetwear apparel. And lastly Alex, does ESL have any intention to look at the NFT space in terms of your collectables? NFT is a very interesting area for us, and one that we’ve recently dipped our toe into, with the release of our first drop earlier this year to mark the end of the DreamHack Masters Spring 2021. The release was a way to immortalize 5 heroic esports moments and past champions, so the NFT format made perfect sense. All proceeds from the sale went to a number of our charity partners, including Gamers Outreach, and Anykey; it was received very well by our audience and certainly set the stage for us to explore NFTs more in the future.
Alex Blaikie, PR & Social Manager at ESL Gaming Australia www.eslgaming.com
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Merchantwise Licensing is a leading entertainment brand licensing and merchandising agency in Australia and New Zealand, representing some of the world’s best loved brands in digital & gaming, kids’ entertainment, film and television, icons & legends and music.
Merchantwise is excited to announce new licensing partners for Activision have been secured in the likes of Caprice and Headstart for the beloved gaming properties Call of Duty and Crash Bandicoot.
Merchantwise Licensing is part of the Merchantwise Group, a full-service brand agency headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, with offices in Sydney and Paris. Merchantwise Licensing shares a sneak peek at the latest news and upcoming gaming properties this July.
The new licensing partners come at an exciting time for the brands, with the iconic gaming franchise, Crash Bandicoot celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. Over the years, the brand has become a worldwide phenomenon. Successful sales of the new game, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time suggest Crash Bandicoot is just as popular now as he was in the ‘90s.
Activision is one of the world’s most successful standalone interactive entertainment companies. For more than 40 years, Activision has been changing the way people play. In the process, Activision has built one of the largest portfolios of recognised brands and today is one of the most valuable interactive entertainment companies in the world.
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Headstart will be the Master Toy partner for Crash Bandicoot and in 2022 Crash fanatics can expect to see collectible figures, remote control vehicles, plush toys, and collectible diorama sets. Call of Duty fans will be very excited for this year's premium game release. Development is being led by Sledgehammer Games, and the game is looking great ahead of its Spring release in Australia and New Zealand.
Much to everyone’s excitement, Minecraft has announced the highly anticipated game update for Caves and Cliffs will be released in two parts instead of one singular update as originally planned. Becoming one of the most ambitious updates in Minecraft history, the first part of the update will focus on the new blocks and the mobs.
This is a built-for-next generation experience with stunning visuals across campaign, multiplayer and cooperative modes of play designed to both integrate with and enhance the existing Call of Duty ecosystem. Activision look forward to sharing more details with the community soon.
Part II will launch later this year. Minecraft fans can expect to be introduced to beautiful new underground experiences and a stunning new world generation. It presents gorgeous new cave biomes, from lush, plant-filled caves to icy, snowy depths.
Caprice have recently been appointed the local soft lines partner across Call of Duty and fans can expect to see product launching at retail as soon as August.
The shape of the Minecraft world is being completely enhanced, with a new system to encourage the gamer to enjoy the fun, dynamic and inspiring development of the changing world.
Minecraft is a cultural phenomenon and the best-selling video game of all time, selling over 238 million copies across all platforms. Appealing to a wide-ranging player base, the game has over 139 million monthly active users, is the number one most watched game on YouTube, and is played in every country in the world.
Aussie retailers are backing the brand in a big way, launching exciting in-store initiatives all through 2021. Earlier this year BIG W launched the world’s first Minecraft Scavenger hunt at retail, where over 5000 fans enjoyed their favourite gaming brand in a whole new way. To celebrate the new update, EB Games has just launched their Caves & Cliffs promotion, where fans can find lots of exciting new products, as well as receive exclusive in-game downloadable content (DLC’s) with every Minecraft purchase.
In 2021 the most highly anticipated Minecraft update will launch. For over four years fans have been asking for it, and finally, Minecraft: Caves & Cliffs is on its way.
Lastly, this coming October BIG W will continue their successful Minecraft program with a crosscategory in-store and online event. www.buggreport.com.au
This June, Sonic reaches a huge milestone by celebrating his 30th Anniversary. Sonic the franchise, is worth around $1B at retail and continues to be one of the most popular video games of all time. November will mark a very special celebration for both Xbox and Halo as they celebrate their 20th anniversaries. Celebrations have already begun with new consumer products launching at Australian retailers all throughout 2021. One of the most exciting product launches for Halo this year is from the New Zealand Mint, who in May launched the first ever legal tender Halo coin! The Master Chief 1oz Silver Coin sold out within just 48 hours and was an instant hit amongst fans. If you missed out, don’t disappear, the Mint will release another two designs throughout the remainder of the year. The best is yet to come, not only is the franchise celebrating its 20th year, but the highly anticipated new game, Halo Infinite will launch in Q4 as well. Halo Infinite the new game consists of an open world, new and varied threats, and multi-player universe and will be available on Xbox and PC. As fans will know, the game release was delayed in 2020. However, this has only increased their Halo appetite, and to cater to this, licensees will bring exciting new products to the fold. This includes Halo apparel & accessories through Caprice, Nerf Blasters (Hasbro), figures and toys by Wicked Cool (distributed by Banter toys) and of course, Mega Construx from Mattel. If that wasn’t exciting enough for fans, in 2022 a live action Halo TV series will be released on Paramount+!
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As part of the year-long celebrations for Sonic’s anniversary, SEGA have announced a few key releases, including the remastering of Sonic Colours, which will be available across multiple platforms and gaming consoles, new Sonic mobile games and the development of a TV show — Sonic Prime, which is set to launch on Netflix. Complimenting the Sonic anniversary milestone, and after successful retail launches at the beginning of the year, Australian licensing partners and retailers continue to show their support and love for the blue hedgehog. Cotton On launched apparel under their Factorie brand in January 2021 in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa achieving great sell through with more product launching later in the year. Caprice Australia continues to supply outerwear and sleepwear for boys and teens to BIG W, Target, Best & Less and Kmart. New licensees Omni Merch will launch SEGA Megadrive & Dreamcast tees in JB Hi-Fi in the next few months. After great success with their Sonic showbag and carnival plush, Bensons Trading will launch a brand new showbag coming in 2022. For something sweet, Universal Candy — confectionery and cookies partner, have just launched their first product to market, which are Surprise Eggs. New categories set to launch later this year include — drinkware, lunch ware, stationery, health & beauty and kitchen accessories. A number of retail activations are in development for 2022 to coincide with the highly anticipated release of the new movie titled — Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
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www.epicgames.com Since appointing IMG as the game’s exclusive worldwide agency for consumer products licensing in 2018, Epic Games has developed and launched an extensive, award-winning programme of strategic products for Fortnite fans around the world. From Hasbro Nerf Blasters and Monopoly to Jazwares action figures, Uniqlo apparel to Havaianas flip flops, tech accessories to publishing, and skateboards to inflatables, there is something for every Fortnite fan to enjoy. The brand has also led the way when it comes to in-game collaborations and experiences, including Fortnite’s Travis Scott concert last year which drew more than 27 million fans. Epic Games brought the unprecedented virtual event to life by launching a custom Nerf blaster in partnership with Hasbro and a Travis Scott Fortnite action figure created by Jazwares, with pre-orders selling out in hours. Epic has also partnered with Hasbro to bring G.I. Joe legend Snake Eyes into the game alongside a premium action figure. This year has also seen Epic bring football to the game through partnerships facilitated by IMG. In January, more than 23 football clubs from around the world were introduced into Fortnite, allowing players to choose from 10 different variants of new “Kickoff Set” Outfits, join select clubs in hosted Fortnite tournaments, and earn or purchase new football-themed emotes. Most recently, they celebrated the UEFA EURO 2020TM tournament by introducing their own Fortnite UEFA Euro 2020TM Cup within the game on 16 and 17 June. Fortnite players from all over the world competed over the course of two rounds, earning points and in-game rewards, as well as prize money for the top players, along the way. 16
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GAMING NO LONGER NICHE
Video games have gained enough steam to take over the mainstream
Feature Article by: Steven Ekstract, Managing Director Global Licensing Advisors
A half a century ago, Atari created the first successful arcade game, “Pong”. The world has been playing video games ever since and gaming has been a significant link that has guided humanity’s transition from the analog to the digital world. In 2020, as the pandemic forced sheltering in place, gaming saw massive increases in usage among core, casual and social gamers. According to NPD, the need for social distancing and healthy escapism from a world filled with frightening, anxietyproducing illness and death drove an increase of gaming spending of 62 percent over 2019.
GAMING AS THE NEW ENTERTAINMENT For those of us in the licensing business, Hollywood franchise films and their attendant spinoffs have been the lead driver of licensed entertainment products for years. From toys and apparel to electronics, home goods, acces- sories, food and beverage... you name the category, Hollywood franchises led the way in entertainment licenses, driving greater sales of products. In March 2020, the world changed. Movie theaters shuttered and the industry faced a year with little to no box office releases and revenue. WHILE MANY OF THE STUDIOS PIVOTED TO STREAMING PLATFORMS, THE FRANCHISE FILM LICENSING INFRASTRUCTURE, DEPENDENT ON BRICK-AND-MORTAR MASS MERCHANT RETAIL AS PROMOTIONAL PARTNERS, SHUT OFF.
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This column first appeared in the April edition of License Global magazine www.licenseglobal.com/magazine/april-2021#6
RESILIENCE OF LICENSING
GAMING GOES LIFESTYLE
Fortunately, most major licensees and retailers who follow pop culture trends were tuned into the mainstream appeal of video games. Working in unity, retailers and licensees pivoted to taking on more video game licenses. Games like “Fortnite,” “Animal Crossing,” “Call of Duty” and “Minecraft” became hit licensed entertainment properties. We also are seeing interesting takes on nostalgic licensed video games – “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Donkey Kong,” “Pokémon,” “Super Mario Kart,” “The Legend of Zelda,” even “Pac-Man” and “Space Invaders.”
On a cursory visit to any mass market, mid-tier or upscale department store that sells licensed apparel and accessories, one will discover today that most of the licensed products are based on gaming IP. Video games have become ubiquitous, not just in the kid’s aisle, but for adults as well. Of course, the properties differ based on the aisles, but the common theme is that most of the entertainment-based licensed soft lines are based on gaming properties. While this was a growing area pre-pandemic, the last year has seen tremendous growth in gaming-based merchandise. But the trend goes much deeper. Atari, the first to market video games, has licensed its IP to create Atari game-themed hotels and resorts in the U.S. In March, Super Nintendo World opened at Universal Studios Japan and is coming soon to Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Singapore. A focus on the success of video games would not be complete without the mention of GameStop, which was the subject of certain Wall Street hedge funds attempts to short its stock. A group on Reddit that saw Game-Stop as an underdog jumped into the fray and bid up the stock, subsequently forcing the hedge funds to take major losses. GameStop’s stock soared 1,700 percent. As of this writing, Ryan Cohen has been nominated as chairman of the brick-and-mortar video game retailer, representing a consolidation of power for an executive seen as crucial to individual investors’ hoped-for turnaround and shift to e-commerce.
NOSTALGIA SELLS DURING UNCERTAIN TIMES. RETRO GAMES AND COLLECTIBLES Last month, a sealed copy of the 1986 Nintendo video game “Super Mario Bros.” sold at auction for an astounding $660,000. It’s the most ever paid for a video game, according to a news release from Heritage Auctions, which ran the sale. This record payment is part of a larger trend of recordhigh bids on collectibles, as consumers are forced to curtail spending on live entertainment, travel and dining out. In February, a 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card sold for $5.2 million, and in March, a Luca Doncic autographed rookie NBA trading card sold for $4.6 million. Topps, the trading card company whose business model is based on licensing, announced it was going public in a deal that valued the company at $1.3 billion.
TO QUOTE NOLAN BUSHNELL, FOUNDER OF ATARI: "VIDEO GAMES FOSTER THE MINDSET THAT ALLOWS CREATIVITY TO GROW."
FEATURE COLUMN A VIEW FROM JAPAN BY DAVID BUCKLEY — EDITION 3
A VIEW FROM JAPAN Video games attract players of all ages and from all over the world. However, new game ideas and technologies are largely pioneered out of the United States and Japan.
While these two giants influence each other in many ways cultural, historical, economic, and other differences have also led to the development of two often very different spheres within the gaming world. As is very much the case for most forms of entertainment including music, movies, books, and celebrities, Japanese consumers (along with those in much of East Asia) show a clear preference for Japanese style and content when choosing how, when, and where to play video games. Below is a brief exploration of some Japanese preferences in gaming. While gaming in much of the world has for many years revolved around personal computers, consoles (developed by such giants as Nintendo and Sega), and arcades, the Japanese have over the most recent decade been showing a growing preference for smaller and more mobile platforms to the point that now well over 50% of all video games played in Japan are mobile games. Japanese mobile telephone technology has been evolving rapidly and can now easily support the software and graphics demanded by players. AS THIS TECHNOLOGY HAS SPREAD, THE ECONOMIC ADVANTAGE OF USING THIS INCREASINGLY STANDARD TOOL RATHER THAN INVESTING IN A SEPARATE CONSOLE OR PC HAS PROVEN IRRESISTIBLE. 20
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With the overwhelming majority of the Japanese population living in large urban areas and commuting to work or school by train rather than by car, the convenience of devoting at least part of the day to gaming while on the go cannot be underestimated. It is currently estimated that about 28% of Japanese play mobile games on a daily basis and the size of the domestic smartphone game market in 2020 was estimated at 1.2 trillion yen (approximately US$9.1 billion) or 22% of the global mobile gaming market (free to play games not included). The trend toward mobile gaming also seems to be paralleling a more egalitarian demographic shift among gamers — while some estimates of PC and console-focused video gamers indicate as much as a 3-to-1 ratio of males over females, recent studies of mobile game users in Japan hint at a close to 50/50 split.
As a great example of a Japanese game concept that has enjoyed continued success across many categories for many years and throughout the world is Pocket Monsters (better known as Pokémon). Created in 1995 and originally released as a video concept for the Nintendo Game Boy system in 1996, the franchise has adapted, evolved, and grown over the years to an estimated worldwide net worth of US$15 billion (NB: many experts consider this estimate to be on the low side). One of the franchise’s more recent successes has been the smart-phone based sub-brand of Pokémon Go (developed in partnership with Niantic, a US company) which launched in 2016 and still enjoys a worldwide fan base of between 150 million and 200 million active players — as of 2019 the game had been downloaded over 1 billion times.
For a game dependent on a high degree of social contact and playing with friends and strangers while exploring the great outdoors, the restrictions much of the world has suffered through due to the ongoing pandemic could have easily reduced the game’s appeal and viability. Instead, the team behind the game has done an excellent job making timely updates and adjustments so that the Pokémon Go experience remains fresh, exciting, and appropriate to the new reality. For example, while social interaction and exploring the outside world remain fundamental to Pokémon Go, players can now view a larger portion of their actual surroundings making it much easier to maintain social distancing and even to enjoy ‘solo’ play than was the original intention. The early insistence on face-to-face interaction with other players has also been relaxed in several ways making it possible to enjoy certain (but not all) of the gaming experience with friends around the world in addition to those close by.
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SPECIAL EVENTS ARE NOW STAGED FREQUENTLY SO THAT THE GAME ITSELF REMAINS FRESH RATHER THAN GROWING OLD AND STALE WHICH COULD HAVE EASILY BEEN THE CASE OTHERWISE. With the Japanese choice of gaming platforms moving increasingly, though not yet exclusively, to mobile telephones, the game creators have naturally followed along and Japanese titles continue to dominate. Both 2020 and 2021 were set to see the launch of many new games across all platforms, however, many launches had to be delayed due to the pandemic. Despite the ongoing economic problems, the game manufacturers have in most cases adjusted their own systems and the pace of new game launches has begun to increase. Popular franchises such as Demon Slayer, Three Kingdoms, Final Fantasy, and Animal Crossing continue to build on their pre-pandemic popularity with the introduction of new titles and content. While the Japanese prefer story-based/“linear” content, Western games are often more dependent on player-guided decision making. Visually, the Japanese prefer colorful and often animation-inspired art styles (sometimes criticized in the West as being too “cartoonish”), the West prefers grittier content and styles with an emphasis on realism (often resisted by the Japanese as being too “dark”). Never being content to let popular themes stand alone, game concepts born in Japan are, of course, supported and re-enforced by large and well-coordinated licensing programs!
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Welcome to The Bugg Report Magazine — Edition 37