Automating the Digital Universe

22 Feb 2021
HeaDSpin team

HeadSpin proudly presents Converge: a show about experience, resilience, inclusion, and acceleration in the digital space.

In this episode, you’ll be listening to a panel discussion with Simon Donovan, Director, Games at Google Cloud), Dan Ciccone (Founding Director at STACKED Entertainment), and Rob Gray (Head of Technology and VP of Technology & Operations, Big Fish Games). They’ll discuss the gaming industry, including the changes in behavior patterns of users during the pandemic and how gaming will look post-pandemic. This session was recorded live from our virtual event Converge on April 20th 2021.


Brian: Welcome for our next presentation. Mr. Simon Donovan, the Director of Gaming Business at Google Cloud. We have Rob Gray, the Head of Technology, Vice President of Technology Operations of Big Fish Games, and we have Mr. Dan Ciccone, Founding Director of STACKED Entertainment. My friends, this is it. Let’s talk about gaming. My gentlemen, thank you for converging with us. The floor is yours.

Simon: Hey, thanks, Brian. Simon Donovan here with Google. Thanks everybody for joining us. I have a trivia question. It’ll just take 20 seconds here. Who is the most recognized non-human character in the world? If you put in the chat, I will not give you a $50 gift certificate, because I don’t have one, but you can get bragging rights. I’ll give you a hint. Brian kind of gave us the answer. Ha, no, man. It’s Mario. Mario is the most recognized non-human character globally. Truth. Beats out all your favorite cartoon characters.

So hey, Simon Donovan here. I will be your most humble moderator for the next 40 minutes or so. We’re going to do quick introductions. You saw the title of this. Basically, games in the pandemic, post–pandemic. What we tried to do is bring together, excuse me, people from different parts of the industry. So, we’re going to do quick intros, and then we’re going to jump into some questions. Just some logistics — I am going to be watching the chat. So if we spark an idea or a question, pop it in there. We have reserved 10 minutes at the end where we just take live questions.

Forgive me, I’m like Brian/Mario said: I am a very lucky. I work in Google Cloud. I get to help lead a vertical. In cloud, we focus on various industries: healthcare and financial services. And I’m the person who gets to take video games, which I love. I love the intersection of technology, creativity, and business, and obviously, I’m a cloud guy, infrastructure guy, former developer. I love the questions of scale and game launches and large analytic workloads and stuff like that. So that’s me, I will pass to Dan. You go ahead. Quick intro.

Dan: Hey, good morning. Good afternoon, possibly good evening, depending on where everyone is. Appreciate the opportunity to be here. My name is Dance Ciccone. I am the Founding Director at STACKED Entertainment. I personally have been involved in gaming, the space sales and sponsorships, for about 13 years now. I have launched my first agency within the space primarily dedicated to eSports about seven or eight years ago to represents some of the top teams and personalities and properties in the space. Just fast forwarding a few years to what we’ve been doing now. While we still represent some of the top personalities and some of the top properties in space, we also work in content development and distribution for a whole host of brands, as well as other properties.

Glad to be a part of the panel today. The first time I went to an eSports event was actually about 8 or 9 years ago. I was at the Cosmopolitan at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas, and there were probably about a thousand people in a Starcraft tournament, participating and watching and just having a traditional sports and music sponsorship background, I was looking around the room just saying I couldn’t get over the amount of enthusiasm and the kind of engagement that I saw in the room.

What I thought was really interesting at that time is that there were no non-endemic brands. I think there might have been one endemic brand that was actually participating, ut I just couldn’t get over the enthusiasm and engagement of the crowd. As I was looking around the room, I was wondering where all the sponsors were, and a little bell went off and just said, hey, this is something I should look into more — just understanding where technology in the space was going. Here we are today, but I’m sure we’ll get into some more background as we go through the discussion. So, appreciate you inviting me in today.

Simon: Cool, Rob.

Rob: Thanks, Simon. So very honored to be here. Appreciate you having me on. I’m the Aristocrat Digital. Of that group, we’ve been in the space for about 19 years. We focus on the casual, mid-core social casino aspects of the space. 9% of our products run on mobile devices. We’ve really seen a big shift from from PC type gaming and console and the pandemic to really mobile devices was interesting to see if console would kind of take a stronger play. But we’ve been able to see that evolve.

We have thousands of titles under our belt. Some of our latest are Evermerge, Big Fish Casino, Toy Story Drop, and Cooking Craze, just to name a few. As I mentioned, we’ve been in the space for two decades, and so it’s really been interesting to see how the industry has changed. Back in the day when we started, we really were seeing small studios with simple games and interesting mechanics really take success. I think that’s just not that’s not the way it is today anymore. To be a really contender in space, you really need to have special events, tournaments, metagame social features from the beginning. So it really is taking taking things up a level when we look at the industry and the players on it. Gaming typically does well in pandemics, which is obviously the topic of this. I think this was no exception. In some situations, it actually helped propel us and moved us along further.

Simon: So yeah, you actually hit upon the first question, so thanks for that. You know, quick, just just I think most people, if you’re in games, you know these numbers, but just a quick review. The numbers in games have been big 2020 to 2021. You mentioned mobile. Mobile games in and of itself will pass 100 billion in revenue just this year. In March, the games business overall did about almost 6 billion, 5.6 or 7 billion, just in one month. Depending on the way you slice it, that’s year over year growth of 20 to 30%. Right.

So, from the cloud standpoint, we’ve seen some interesting things. The first question is, staying focused on COVID and the pandemic and what it’s meant for our business, I sort of want to take I’m going to ask myself the question, say it and then I’ll pass it to you two: sort of one good thing and one bad thing. I think the one good thing is, we talked a lot about online games and games as a service raw. Now you probably deal with this in your team, whether you’re running a turn based game or whether you’re running a first person shooter, you care about keeping that game up and allowing gamers fresh new content almost in a continuous stream.

I think COVID challenged the infrastructure, but I think generally, we haven’t had a lot of launches and crashes. Right? I think online games, the ability to provide this service has reached a certain maturation. I think that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for gamers. It’s a good thing for the experience. It’s it’s a good thing for the industry. So I almost feel like COVID was a big surge, and we sort of met the surge where it was. There were some slips here and there and some titles that had trouble, but generally as an industry, whether it’s mobile, PC, AAA, overall we did pretty well.

I think the challenge that’s actually surprised me a little bit is some of the partners I talk to — this whole collaboration, when you’re designing a level, there’s an artist, there’s a technical person, there’s a level designer, there’s an overall game producer — and having these people all remote has really been a challenge. I’ve had some some of our partners say we can’t wait to get the creative people back together because it’s killing us. Others have said it’s okay. People like to draw in their house, and they’re fine. But I think generally, I would pose this to the two panel members: are we going to see as things return to normal — which is what we all want — not only will we potentially see fewer gamers because there’s less free time, are we going to have a situation where we have fewer titles, and in the case of mobile, it’s not so much a big title release, but this iterative IP that we’re used to getting these new experiences, is there going to be a dry period? So, those are questions I ask and if the panelists can talk to me about one good thing or one good lesson learned that we’ve risen to and also one big challenge from COVID, and then maybe talk about what you see COVID and this whole pandemic experience — what you see that doing to the games business.

Rob: I can start. As I kind of alluded to is I actually think this was a leap forward in certain areas. We saw revenue increase, but a lot of that is not really driven by more players in this space. They were established players who just had more time and maybe more funds to really indulge in the games more than they had before. One advantage of having that that higher engagement is that we get to test out new feature. We get to find out what people like and what they don’t like, and we brought new types of assets and new types of events and new types of capabilities into our games, and we’re able to get quick feedback on what’s working what’s not. I think as we exit this, that’s actually going to be a benefit in general.

Another driver in this was that social aspects have always been something that’s been part of our games and something we’ve worked on for many years, because it’s known that that creates a loyalty within the game and really keeps customers around. It gives them something to invest in, in a way, and so they stay with the game, even in a competitive space. What we saw during the pandemic is that people really were focused on those social aspects, even more so than before, because obviously, they had less outlets. So you saw in some situations, the games were almost a background to the social features within the game. So, the social features actually became more of a driving force. Now, as we move out of the pandemic, I think that that’s obviously going to wane a bit. But I also see where people build social circles and dynamics and patterns in their day, and gaming has become more of a focus and center point of people’s social activities. So, I think it will wane a bit, but I think there’s some things that have been established that will endure from this whole event.

Simon: That’s good. Dan, any comments there?

Dan: Yeah, I mean, look, you know, going to the good and the bad, we definitely take a social approach, right? We help brands navigate the space and activate the space, but also representing talent, and paying close attention to the audience’s behavior is really important to our business. One thing that I would like everyone to keep in mind is before there was Facebook, before there was Instagram, before there was MySpace, there was the Microsoft Xbox. My argument is that the first social network really was the Xbox. It was gaming platforms.

We saw a little bit of this during Fortnite because it took place over the summer, right? Every kid twelve and up was playing it. Parents saw their kids playing Fortnite. I think that was really the first kind of barrier or first obstacle that helped parents, and arguably a bunch of brand managers realize, like, hey, your kids not alone in this isolated environment in the other room playing video games. That’s when they realized that they were actually playing with a bunch of their friends that it was much more social, right?

Now, as we as we went through the pandemic, literally with the entire family in the household, several kids playing video games, several kids really using video games as an outlet to interact and arguably, the video game becoming somewhat secondary. The video game was really just kind of an excuse for kids of all ages to participate and socialize with with their friends. Where we saw a brand shift was obviously there was just kind of an explosion of all these online tournaments. It was good because it brought a lot of it to the forefront. It was challenging just because there were so many events that went digital almost simultaneously that it was difficult for a lot of brands to navigate.

Coming out on the other end of it, where we’re going to go to the bad side of it, arguably not having in-person events for the industry. It’s really primarily over the last 18 months where we saw much more consistency, and we saw quite a bit of growth in in-person events. They’ve definitely been there for the last fifteen years. But the kind of consistency, the way that we saw the leads form, the way that we saw a lot of the structure in the space around live events, along with the fact that brands could actually have more opportunities to physically engage and interact with fans, that definitely put kind of a halt to all that. As we come on the other other end of this, I would argue hopefully the event space starts to open up sooner versus later. We can pick up some of the steam that we had going into the pandemic.

Simon: Yeah, all good points. I’m listening, but I’m also — thanks for all the questions. It’s actually in the Ask a Question tab that which I have clicked on. So these are great points. I think we touched upon a topic that we prep for, so I want to take that question first. Somebody asks about social. Rob, you mentioned this a little bit. Dan, you just talked about it. I’m going to bring up a use case. So I have two boys and we game quite a bit. I’m going to throw out a little promo for a game called Stormworks, which is a very interesting game if you play. It’s PC only.

I’m bringing it up for a reason. It’s basically a simplified AutoCAD for kids in high school so you can build stuff and test stuff. This game has no levels. There’s no leveling up. There’s no real merchandising (what we would call skins or things like that.) You basically build stuff and hang out with your friends. My kids — he’s a teenager — COVID has been tough, right? It’s been rough and rough for little kids rough for the teenager. But this game, which I’m kind of an old school gamer, I wouldn’t exactly call it a game, is how he hangs out with his friends. That’s what he does. Somebody in the Ask a Question talks about how do you feel that gaming can help with social isolation? How do you feel like the social aspect is going to maybe become much more part of games?

I think, Rob, I’ll start with you, because — we’ve been doing this a while — every game has its own chat and the chat stinks. We know that that’s kind of like a rule. You know, Dan, you mentioned Xbox, and kind of the original social interaction on gaming. Totally down with that. My first voiceover IP conversation was on an Xbox. I think there’s always been this aspect. I think maybe it’s fair to say, as a gamer, it’s been a little bit clunky at best. Now, it’s got to be something maybe our gamers almost demand. If your game doesn’t have a strong social aspect, you might not have a game. I’m interested in your view, post-COVID do you see this happening? Do you agree with that? What do you guys think?

Rob: No, I mean, I totally agree. I mean, to be relevant anymore, you have to almost have a social aspect of the game. We have data that backs that the shows that the games which that have none of those features involved, just the longevity of that player is less than loyal to that game is less. Some of the things they’re also asked there they go along with a social game is to point you brought chat, but the communication is important, but creating a metaverse with activities and what we call vanity asset. So there’s this piece of human nature where we want to be able to build something and be able to show it off or we want to be able to create something, and we call those vanities in the gaming space.

Fortnite’s famous for its weapons and its skins and everything else, right, but there’s a vanity aspect. So, when you kind of combine those, it starts to create more of a real environment that isn’t really centered necessarily around one game. There are actually multiple games. We call them sometimes meta games. There’s all these little games that gives you some type of activity, and then you’ve got vanities as well as a way to kind of show off and really exemplify the things you’ve done in the space.

When you look at VR, which I think luckily with some of the new headsets, which are coming along is really starting to bring it into mainstream, but when you look at some of those popular games the ones which get the most engagement are things like rec room and other things which really are a metaverse with a bunch of little games in them. And you’ve got avatars and all the rest of it. So anyway, when you look at VR, that’s like one of the most popular games, and we’ll see how that changes after the pandemic. But it definitely comes a space where people, the gameplay itself actually becomes less of the key thing. It becomes more of the things to do while you’re there socializing with others. We’ll see how that kind of evolves, but I think some of that’s definitely here to stay.

Simon: Oh, that’s all good. Dan, any comment there?

Dan: To me, video games are kind of like an international secondary language. Just getting back to again, the origination of the Xbox and the PoP that they were talking about. I’ve definitely got a couple of years on the average gamer, but when I look at the talent that we represent, or I just look at family, friends, their kids, especially, the social aspect, it’s the glue that kind of holds the interest together. They’re exposed to so many other cultures, whether we understand it or not that participating in these games, whether it’s this AutoCAD type of game that you’re talking about some of the shooters, some of the more, the MOBAs. I mean, the reality is if you took five people from five different countries and put them on a desert island and said you guys got to figure out how to build the boat, right and nobody spoke the other person’s language, they would figure it out. There’d be a lot of interaction and doing so.

It’s the same thing with video games, but arguably, just because of the nature of the technology, you can literally have that type of experience with people from all over the world. That’s really the backs of what eSports was built on is that you had all these people that were meeting right in this digital world. They had never met each other physically, and then next thing you know someone says, hey, let’s have a tournament in Miami, and literally hundreds, if not thousands of people who would only interacted with each other online, came to a physical arena or some kind of physical venue. And it was like they had known each other for years. I think regardless of the gameplay, that ability to interact with other people is definitely key not only to what dating is doing today, but what it will look like in the future.

Simon: Yeah, and I am going to get to the Ask a Question, because we have a ton of really cool questions. Last one that’s not not randomly thrown at us from the crowd. Because you both are saying very interesting things. Let me bring up an example. So Fortnite does these concerts and Fortnite’s just one example. Tons of people are doing this. I think the Epic guys are doing this pretty well. They had Travis Scott on there, and he did a huge concert with big promo. Listening to you both, there’s sort of social like, yeah, I should have a chat app, it’s better than just a clunky chat app, and yeah social should be part of my game. Okay. What about the next level?

Will I go into a metaverse (like Rob, you talk about these meta versus people are building right?) Will I go into a metaverse to then watch a movie? How far does the metaphysic metaverse need to go before you’re trying to consume all my time? You know what I mean? Because there’s a level here where all of media — you could, this is just conceptually, but you could get into Fortnite and hang out and maybe they show you a movie — so is that Netflix on Fortnite? Is it not? You know, where does it end? Particularly, I’ll point this to Rob first, because you are on the publishing side. Your job is to create IP and produce it, right? Where do you see the metaverse beginning and ending like how deep do you want to go with your gamers on this experience?

Rob: The movie concept I would say is new, but I would say Netflix in a way was attempting that with some of their group. I mean you could watch Netflix together with friends, and you could chat back and forth. So they’ve started to try that through their platform. So I think some of that’s interesting, I think where we’re focusing is more of trying to create maybe a little more excitement in the engagement. So doing activities which are a little more action-based or a little more challenging or ways that — there’s different types of people that plays in this game, several of them need just the communication piece, some of them need the actual progression piece, and then some of them need the vanity. It’s ways of like building and showing. It’s a more of a show-and-tell type of activity. So you need you need adventures, you need side games, which really play to all those different pieces. Movies might be one of those areas I fit into it. I don’t know. That one I haven’t really thought about too much to be honest.

We’re definitely focusing on how do we create a very social situation where the communication is very open and you can express yourself. Where are we doing things where people can come together and create some type of challenge for more of the sporty type of individual wants to be in there and actually challenge each other. And then we do have situations where we’re more the creative side where people want to create things and show them to other people explore that. So those are kind of the three avenues that we’re looking at within these as a metagame concept. But yeah, the movies are interesting. I said Netflix, I don’t know much about that, but I know that they were trying and family has participated in it to some degree.

Simon: Cool. Yeah. Dan, any comments there? Very interesting point. I think you nailed it. I do think the creative assets. That’s why I brought up my example of Stormworks, right? I mean, I think there’s passively watching something together, but then there’s creating, which is 10x your experience. I create something that then you and Dan interact with. That’s what you want to do. So it’s the creative part — the interactive creative part — is key as well.

Rob: And there’s pride in that matter, right? If you create something wonderful, you want to be able to share with people, for the good or the bad, and you want to be able to share that with people. If you can’t, then it’s less exciting.

Simon: Dan, because you come from to the industry from a whole different angle, any comments there?

Dan: Because we work with a lot of talent and content creators, we see it definitely getting incorporated somehow. I can tell you that as an agency, we’ve actually been working. We’ve had some proactive conversations with some record labels, exploring opportunities with artists to actually take their tracks or create tracks or create music in some of these virtual worlds. I personally think it’s just a matter of time. I think the easiest approach is to go into a video game, go into some kind of a virtual or digital environment and watch a movie.

But what you guys are getting at to actually create content or create a movie. I think creating a movie would be incredibly interesting, depending on what the universe and how many people are participating. I think that will eventually happen. But like I said, just based on some of the work that we’ve been doing with the music industry, just laying down some music tracks, we also see things like these NFTs, right? Just basically virtual collectibles, that people are spending anywhere between twenty bucks to tens of thousands of dollars. So we see this kind of virtual world that’s really been unfolding for the last 10 years.

My argument, though, is I’ve been right about a lot of things within the gaming space. Arguably, the one thing that I’ve been consistently wrong about in the gaming space is that everything tends to happen much more quickly than I think it well. So, if I’m predicting that it’s going to happen in three or four years, for all I know, this time next year there might be some kind of movie collab within the space.

Simon: No, that’s a great point, actually. When we can talk a little bit about machine learning. I always say that too. Nowadays, if it feels five years out, it’s probably next year.

Dan: Yeah.

Simon: So these are great conversations. We actually had some other points, but the questions are quite good. So I’m going to pull an audible here and just go right to the question tab. The first question I wrote that it’s a very tough one, but since they got eight votes, we have to do it.

What’s happening with VR? It was supposed to be the next big thing but never really took off so far. So VR is absolutely going to be the next biggest thing this year, and probably for the next 10 years. We’ll be saying that for the next 10 years. Here’s the thing with VR. Here’s my not-so-humble opinion, right? VR itself, we all know this, if you’re in the games of complicated, expensive, the visual display price has to come down I think, Microsoft, Facebook, even Google, we’re all working on this, I think it will happen. I think the reason why there hasn’t been this explosion now is because we talked a little bit about online games when I did my one good thing one bad thing, right?

The challenge you have with VR is having an online interactive experience where I can create stuff with like Rob saying, I can create stuff in VR, and then I can share with my friends. You didn’t just 10x my network or capacity needs. You 3000x, right. I think part of the challenge with VR — VR in and of itself, having a VR experience where I go through a museum, super cool, I’ve done it, but I like museums, most people don’t, right? Having a VR experience where I’m at a game and there’s twenty other people and your physics rendering everything online, and we’re all seeing the same thing at the same time. That is a non-trivial task.

I think we just said this, then it feels like it’s far five years out, it might be one year out. I think valve stuff, the recent stuffs really cool. But I think this mix of gamers now not just it’s a nice to have, you have to have an online experience. I have to be able to share at scale, otherwise, I’m not going to play. I think that’s maybe push the VR projects maybe a little bit to lower priority. I don’t think they’re going away, but I think to answer the question succinctly: Gamers want online interactive, the ability to create and share first, VR adds such a huge mountain of infrastructure to make that happen, and I think that’s why we haven’t seen the VR explosion. Rob and Dan, any comment there? Am I way off, or what do you think?

Dan: VR, and even AR, is an incredibly immersive experience. Right? It’s very personal experience. I think the technology’s there. We see it move very quickly from a viewer standpoint, from a participant standpoint. When you get twenty people in this environment, it’s going to be coming pretty convoluted. But even for onlookers, you know, right now, even though there are open worlds, arguably, video games are still very two dimensional. And it’s relatively easy for outsiders to follow eSports, right? To follow competitions, arguably, even some of the two dimensional games have a really difficult time. I think Overwatch, part of the difficulty for Overwatch, the first year at least was that it was really difficult to follow because so much was going on and there were so many different aspects. So you know, if you look at something like, again, VR or AR and you add that much more complexity to it, it’s much more difficult to share that experience unless you’re actually in it. Getting back to some of the points that you would made, the kind of technology that you need, it’s still arguably pretty expensive right now. But B. You just need so much different stuff that to be able to share that experience is going to rely on everyone else having the same stuff that you do.

Rob: I think I would actually take the more optimistic and happy approach in that. So we built several games for VR, I mean, the challenge has always been the more expensive the build, you have much fewer customers, it just never pans out where you actually make good money doing it. That’s been kind of the problem. You could you could love or hate Oculus Quest products, but they were built on the backs of giants, right, but I do believe they’ve honestly taken this to a place where it is now hitting mainstream, to where the numbers are growing rapidly. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I want to say they doubled over the last several months, the number of headsets, especially the release of the Quest 2. It’s accelerated even more, and so I think we’re finally getting to a place we’re starting to get scale where this is going to start to become profitable for a lot of these development studios.

I mean, that’s that’s kind of the key piece is the economics behind it. I think, to dance with the technologies here, we’ve got fibre to the houses we’ve got, we’ve got headsets, which are not amazing, but they they definitely do the job. And they’ve got no wires or anything like that, and they’re affordable at 299. I know lots of people that are bought, and when I’m buying these headsets on a wimb. They’re easy to set up, and they’re easy to approach.

VR was also not very approachable in the past, and that you had to have not only out of all the equipment and the cost, but you need to have expertise to set it up right — dedicated rooms, all that — you don’t do anymore, you just put a headset on and go. I think that the more and more people that get exposed to you’re starting to do that scale. And in my opinion, I think we’ve we’ve hit that tipping point where developers are going to find that this is a lucrative business, and more and more of them are putting the time into it. I know the games that we released, I mean, we didn’t make very much almost compared to how much it cost to build them. I think that that’s changing now, and I’m excited to see that happen because to both your points, the VR experience is far more immersive. You can do a lot more with it. There’s so many things that that add value there. So, I’m actually really excited. I feel like we kind of hit that tipping point now, and now we’re just getting acceleration into it. So in six to twelve months, I’m expecting to see a lot more come out of this space.

Simon: Well, let’s do this again in twelve months. I’m happy. If I’m the most pessimistic, then I’m happy. So this is a good one, and I’m gonna answer it and I’m going to put a spin on it. Rob particularly for you, because I think it affects your doesn’t affect your mobile, but that includes your mobile business.

So the question, and I hope we got your question, oh, he says thanks. Good points. Okay, thanks. This is like being on a radio show. This is cool. I’ve never done this many live questions. So this one is: What genre of game appears to be growing the most since COVID? So I have three answers: mobile, mobile and mobile, right? The mobile games business, if we divide the business into mobile and then console and then PC, and just divide the business that way, even though there are some titles that span console and PC, if we just divided up that way, out of those three, mobile has really taken off. The reason why I’m gonna pivot this to you, Rob is I love it when the games business goes mainstream, and you like read Wall Street Journal, and it’s about games, right? Because it didn’t really happen before COVID very much.

But there was an article in The Financial Times: this astute finance magazine. It went through how because of COVID, digital advertising auctions like the one we have at Google, actually prices dropped pretty dramatically, and mobile game companies were able to capitalize on that and spend a lot more on UA, what we call user acquisition, than they normally would have. So you had a combination of free time, bit more time at home, maybe I’m not on the commute as much, right? So I’m messing around on my mobile phones, you have that. But you also have this interesting thing where you had a drop in basically the cost of the UA and the mobile game companies, really the publishers there stepped up in a big way. This article doesn’t go into specific publishers. But I’m interested in your view on this, Rob that the question is basically which segment grew the most, and I’ll include this article as a link in my response, but if you check it out, it’s by far all of them have expanded. But mobile games has been another 20-30% off the other expansion. Rob, I’m interested in your view on just mobile in general during COVID, and whether or not you agree and even whether or not you see this expansion continue.

Rob: So, I’ll be honest to say that not everyone was wrong, but I was wrong in this as we went in to the pandemic. I see a lot of our games is something that people to take breaks. It’s a way to escape for 15-20 minutes here and there throughout their day, maybe through their commute. So, when I was looking at a world where people are going to be staying at home, though that commute time and those distractions are not needed as much, and that the console games PC based games are really going to be where the growth happens. That’s obviously not what we saw.

I think, you know, when we reflect back on what happened, when you’re into a PC game, or a really complicated game, you dedicate time of your day. It’s part of your habit, right? So you’re like, I come home after work, this is my way I relax, I spend two hours a day doing this, and they dedicated that time. What we found was that dedication kind of stayed the same, because they were already very dedicated to that time, they reserved that time. On the mobile side actually, what happened was that people, they were at home and they still needed the distraction from reality, but they actually had more time to do it. They actually had more income, because they’re not going out to eat, they’re not doing other things, they’re not having lunches at work, things like that. So, now they have more dedicated time, they still need the distraction, and they have more funds to contribute to the game. It was actually, I think, a reversal of what we expected, or at least what I expected, personally to happen. What you saw, Simon, was actually correct. We saw dramatic improvement on the mobile side, the PC side, console side, tend to say a little bit more flat. And we’re reflecting that’s what we believe is happened and why mobile was able to grow as much as it did during this period.

Simon: Makes sense. Any comments, Dan?

Dan: Look, I think you guys are spot on. The only thing that I would add is that, you know, the point of entry for mobile is so much easier on any any age group, right? Any consumer, regardless of what you’re interested in video games, you know, if you do have an interest in video games, and you haven’t really been exposed to them before, the prospect of going out getting a console, figuring out the right games, even getting on your PC, it’s a lot. But on your phone, regardless of what your interest is, we all know, it’s pretty easy to download a game. Arguably, a lot of the experiences can be just as immersive and just as social on your phone as they are on a console or a PC. So, you know, again, the only thing I would have to add is I think the the entry point for mobile makes it much more appealing to a wider swath of people as well.

Simon: Yeah, it’s a great point, Dan, I just listened to you. Next time we’ll have more diversity, I promise. But you know, my wife would not self identify as a gamer, she would never say she’s, again, she’s a gamer. She plays mobile games. She might not agree with me, but I think a little bit more than I actually gain. Because it’s mobile. She is exactly what you said, Rob, it’s, it’s in between what she’s doing. It’s twenty minutes here. It’s not Destiny or Call of Duty, but it’s definitely an experience. So, you know, thank you barrier to entry point is excellent.

Okay, we still have some time. I love these questions, guys, because they’re really good. Let me just check. Yeah, we’ll take one more. So thanks for all the questions. I’ll try and throw links in some of these questions. I’ll ask my panelists to do the same. I want to take this question because it does touch upon a theme that I personally like. So testing, gaming experience has traditionally been difficult. How have you been able to keep up with the need to quickly release new features games during the pandemic? I included a link in there, I’m not going to steal the show. But we do have some stuff partnering with Unity around game testing for developers. That’s pretty interesting. So check that out. That’s just more like an advertisement. But I’m more interested in your guy’s view. I do think this is a challenge now that we’re remote. I do think this is an area where machine learning, obviously from Google, we’re very biased to that technology, but I think this is one area where you can potentially collapse the time and cost of testing. I’m interested in your views on just machine learning in general, maybe just towards the aspect of game development, what you see that doing now or in the near future.

Rob: I can start on that if you like.

Brian: Listen, you guys had me so wrapped up in this VR thing. I wanted to be 5 years ahead of everybody, so I went and grabbed mine, which I got from the $5 store. This is the lowest level of VR. The one that you put your cell phone in. This isn’t what we’re talking about, guys. These guys know exactly what they’re talking about. Rob, go ahead and answer the question before I wrap you guys up.

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