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Pass the gravy, it's time to give thanks | This Week in Business

With everyone in the US enjoying a holiday weekend, we pause for a bit of positivity

This Week in Business is our weekly recap column, a collection of stats and quotes from recent stories presented with a dash of opinion (sometimes more than a dash) and intended to shed light on various trends. Check back every Friday for a new entry.

It's Thanksgiving weekend in the US and most of us at aren't actually based in the US, so we're here at work without a whole lot of news to write up for a change.

So in the absence of one big story or overriding theme to the week's proceedings, I'm going for the easy seasonal gimmick and focusing on some of the things I'm thankful for in this industry. Positivity isn't really my strong suit, but I'm thankful this job continually challenges me to get outside my comfort zone.

See? We're being positive already. Yay us! This shouldn't be too hard.

I'm thankful there are a number of retro hardware companies out there like Playmaji, Analogue, Blaze, and Hyperkin working to make the games of yesteryear more accessible, and showing the larger companies and rights-holders that there's a growing audience interested in playing their back catalogues, and willing to pay for it.

QUOTE | "There are virtually no other options out there for playing the N64 library legally, outside of the original hardware -- so it's an obvious choice for us" - Playmaji CEO Bryan Bernal, saying the company prioritized adding support for Nintendo 64 cartridges to the Polymega due to customer demand.

Polymega can play more than 90% of games from the NES, Genesis, Super Nintendo, TurboGrafx-16, Sega CD, 32X, Neo Geo CD, PlayStation, Saturn, and soon the N64. And their regional counterparts, too.

I'm thankful Take-Two and Rockstar Games generously provided us with a cautionary tale to emphasize that remakes and remasters are not necessarily the same thing as preserving history or making it accessible to new audiences.

QUOTE | "The Grand Theft Auto series - and the games that make up this iconic trilogy - are as special to us as we know they are to fans around the world. The updated versions of these classic games did not launch in a state that meets our own standards of quality, or the standards our fans have come to expect." - Rockstar Games apologizes for the recent "Definitive Edition" of Grand Theft Auto 3.

I'm thankful for MobyGames, which is the closest thing to an "IMDB for games" I've seen and a helpful resource for anyone who wants to know who worked on what. (And I really hope its owners never change that, no matter who they may be.)

STAT | $1.5 million - The amount of money Atari would pay for MobyGames if it exercises an option it has to acquire the gaming database before April of 2022.

I'm thankful a medium so often driven by visions of the future and bleeding edge technology can still recognize the importance of its past and the people who shaped it.

QUOTE | "Liverpool was a troubled city at the time. [David Lawson] and Mark Butler obtained a government grant to start a game publisher and Imagine was born. It was a roller coaster for everyone involved but such a shining light in dark times. That wouldn't have happened without David's passion for games and so many people, including me, owe him for the opportunity he provided." - Veteran developer and first Imagine employee Eugene Evans pays tribute to Imagine and Psygnosis co-founder Lawson, who passed away earlier this year.

I'm thankful there are so many people in the industry doing their best for others, even if they aren't often the focus of our headlines.

QUOTE | "Ross was the driving force behind Zynga's social impact campaign Play Apart Together, which encouraged people to observe social distancing guidelines during the pandemic and stay in touch by playing games with their friends. The campaign secured support from over 40 major games companies and the World Health Organisation, and gained more than 4.7 billion consumer media impressions from around the world." - Our story about Zynga VP of global communication Sarah Ross, who passed away this week. Play Apart Together was Ross' idea, but she told VentureBeat at the time of its announcement that she didn't want credit for it.

Play Apart Together saw companies throughout the industry use giveaways, special events, and other means to promote World Health Organization guidelines around social distancing, masks, and other preventative measures.

I'm thankful there are developers trying to fulfill the medium's potential to do more than simply entertain.

QUOTE | "There's this Terry Pratchett quote: 'It matters not what you escape from, but where you escape to.' What we wanted to do with this game was create an escape that actually had a point to it, rather than just being escapism." - Former boxer and current therapist Hazel Gale, who's working on Betwixt, a game that combines traditional counselling methods with more experimental techniques to help players consider and work through issues they may have.

I'm thankful Harmonix survived its first acquisition and the rhythm game bust of a decade ago, and is still working at the intersection of music and games when virtually every other studio that touched the Guitar Hero series has since been shut down or relegated to unheralded support work that doesn't match their prior expertise.

QUOTE | "Together we will push the creative boundaries of what's possible and invent new ways for our players to make, perform and share music." - Harmonix co-founder Alex Rigopulos talks about being acquired by Epic Games to work on "musical journeys" for Fortnite.

I'm thankful some of 2020's crop of new diversity initiatives have followed through to 2021.

STAT | 20 - The number of content creators who will receive career and financial support from StreamElements' 2021 Creator Diversity Program.

I'm thankful the growth of gaming in previously overlooked regions will continue to challenge parochial worldviews and more people are cluing into the fact this is a truly global industry.

STAT | 186 million - The number of gamers in Sub-Saharan Africa according to Newzoo, a number that has doubled and then some in six years, and is poised to grow even more in the years ahead.

I'm thankful there are some powerful and influential people in games who have reading comprehension skills at least on par with those of a junior high schooler.

QUOTE | "The [mataverse] concept reached one of its most complete expressions in Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, where virtually everyone has abandoned reality for an elaborate VR massively multiplayer video game. A lot of people these days seem very interested in bringing this near-future vision of a virtual world to life, including some of the biggest names in technology and gaming. But in fact these novels served as warnings about a dystopian future of technology gone wrong." - Niantic's John Hanke in an August blog post setting up this week's news that the company has raised $300 million to build a "real-world metaverse."

Relatedly, I am hereby announcing my new startup to build 100% fungible NFTs for single-player MMOs powered by professionally crafted user-generated content. Interested VCs, please DM me for my Venmo information. No investments below $10 million, please.

I'm thankful the industry has made progress in the past decade when it comes to not giving people free passes for poor behavior and working conditions.

QUOTE | "I remember just before E3, Naughty Dog, there was a story in the LA Times about people working there three days straight, and they were walking around like drunks in the office and people were screaming at each other" - 10 Years Ago This Month, Team Bondi head Brendan McNamara wondered why his reputation was ruined for embracing confrontation and crunch culture at the L.A. Noire studio while players and the press actually celebrated Uncharted studio Naughty Dog for basically the same thing.

I'm thankful platform holders and trade groups are talking a better game when it comes to fighting discrimination and harassment in gaming than they did in the GamerGate days (and hopeful their actions will eventually follow suit).

QUOTE | "Harassment, abuse, or mistreatment of any kind in the workplace is unacceptable and must never be tolerated. When allegations arise, people impacted need to have their voices heard. Any allegation needs to be acknowledged, thoroughly investigated, and addressed with meaningful consequences." - The Entertainment Software Association responds to our inquiry about the Activision Blizzard harassment scandal. The public statement followed internal emails to staff from the heads of Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony similarly condemning what reportedly went on at their third-party publishing partner.

I'm thankful others in the industry are taking more direct action.

QUOTE | "The news about Activision proves that our priorities are fundamentally misaligned. We cannot in good conscience continue to work with a company that is so antithetical to our own values." - Girls Who Code formally cut ties with Activision Blizzard over its recent scandals.

Finally, I'm thankful I don't work for a guy who created and fostered a company culture where abusers could be not just tolerated but protected for decades. A guy who has the nerve to institute a zero tolerance harassment policy even though his company basically admitted he told his assistant he would have her killed. A guy who wants everybody to believe he is capable of fixing that culture he created.

QUOTE | "Mr. Kotick, who has led Activision for three decades, stopped short of saying he would step down in a Friday meeting with executives of the company's Blizzard Entertainment unit, but left the possibility open if misconduct issues across the company weren't fixed 'with speed,' these people said." - A Wall Street Journal report about Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick's commitment to clean up the mess he created.

Well, I did my best, but a chunk of that was still sad and angry-making. Maybe we'll try again next Thanksgiving, when Kotick will no doubt have lived up to his word and resigned because it turns out company culture is not the sort of thing you can let rot for 30 years and then turn around in a week.

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