I guess we’re simply in that age where there’s little ground in the middle for game development. Either you’re indie or you’re AAA. Reports of Square Enix of selling a rather large IP portfolio are going around, including Tomb Raider, Deux Ex, Hitman, and Thief. Embracer bought this package, for a relatively low price of $300m… low when you recall they bought Gearbox (Borderlands) for $1b.
What doesn’t appear included are the Marvel licensed games, either Guardians of the Galaxy (which was well reviewed and sold decently, but “missed targets”) or Marvel Avengers (which was neither well received nor sold well). That honestly makes sense, as there’s no way Disney (which certainly puts the Kingdom Hearts cross-over under new light) was going to give any sort of control to SE to decide where that went. Perhaps this is similar to Telltale Games and their over-paying for IP vs. the projected returns.
Of note, Tomb Raider and Deus Ex also didn’t hit sales targets. Tomb Raider has sold nearly 20m copies… so maybe I’m just bad at math that this isn’t good?
All of these seems to be couched in SE wanting to invest in: blockchain, AI, and cloud. I’ll break these into smaller pieces.
- Cloud. I gravitate towards Stadia in terms of cloud-streaming games. This is the logical end point of gaming, but we are still a good 10 years away and limited by the speed of light. It would make no sense for SE to invest in a cloud distribution model… that is entirely saturated by Steam and EGS.
- AI. This does have appeal in terms of enemy AI, or in procedurally generated content as a response to player actions. There are many patents in the works for this, though I would expect EA to take lead here. (There’s a foreboding aspect of training AI in combat simulators, no?)
- Blockchain, which in this case is almost exclusively in the leverage of NFTs. See, the concept of NFT is that you can prove ownership of a unique item, but the reality is that it’s a massive scam with dozens of examples that point towards a modern ponzi scheme.
This isn’t a SE obituary, more like a divestment of western games from their repertoire. All we’re going to see now are the RPG franchises we’ve seen so far… Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Star Ocean, Kingdom Hearts. Or perhaps, they are going to change their accounting team math, so that investments and projected returns are closer to reality.
Odd way to start the week.