Fist Bumps for Zelda

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S1: Hello. Welcome to the fist bumps, the Zelda episode of Sleep Money, your guide to the business and finance news of the week, I’m Felix Salmon of Axios. I’m here with Emily Peck of fundraise. Hello. I’m here with Stacy-Marie Ishmael of Bloomberg. Hello and Stacy-Marie. This is basically your episode, so pick it up and run with it. Who is your special guest this week?

S2: It is my absolute pleasure to introduce Gene Park of The Washington Post.

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S3: Hey guys, happy to be here! Stacy, thanks. Thank you so much for inviting me.

S1: Gene we know who your employer is because Stacy just told us. But what is the single subject to which we are going to devote this entire episode?

S3: It’s my best video games.

S1: Stacy is excited about this. I’m excited about this. We are going to learn about video games, video gaming platforms, video gaming economics. We’re going to learn about the Metaverse. We’re going to talk about NFTs. We’re going to talk about community. We’re going to talk about social this that we’re going to talk about how many people are playing video games in Cheyna. We are going to span the world. We are going to win all manner of gold coins while doing so. It’s all coming up on sleep money. Gene, welcome. I feel like we have a whole bunch of questions to ask and answers to receive on the subject of video games, but for you, at least most of your games are played on on a PC rather than on any kind of special.

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S3: So there are three consoles, three major console manufacturers, and there’s Nintendo, which we’ve all known and love for a long time. Sony entered the market in the 90s, and then Xbox just celebrated their 20th anniversary in the market just this week as well. So there’s Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft releasing their own console platforms, and a lot of people play games on their PC and just even millions more clear on them on mobile. Really, I think globally, the mobile market is probably the biggest market out there

S1: in Roblox and Minecraft, and I know nothing about video games, but in my mind, the sort of kids games they’re sort of grown up games like what’s the what are the games that, like a Gen-Xer, would be playing

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S3: that? That’s a great question because I am on the cusp of Gen X. As I mentioned earlier, I am 40, so I am on the elder millennial Daniel Borderline. So the games I would be playing are like Zelda and Mario and all the classics, right?

S1: And Stacy’s getting excited about this year doing little fist pump at the mention of Zelda.

S3: Yeah, yeah, these are going to be. These are soon to become the boomer games, right? But I think you’re really correct in kind of identifying that Minecraft and Roblox are children’s games. And even for people as young as myself who only just turned 40, I think there’s a real generational gap between the way I might look at games and the way my younger fellow gamers will look at games to Minecraft and Roblox are a different mindset altogether than the games I grew up with. So even for me, I have, there’s a disconnect between myself and people who play Minecraft and people who play Roblox. My reporting has focused a lot on Fortnite because Fortnite is a game I understand part of the reason why I haven’t really covered much of Roblox, and Roblox knows this is because I’m not that familiar at Roblox. I didn’t grow up with it, and it appears to be working in a different design language and creatively language. That’s something that I’m not even familiar with. So it’s a little bit like growing up LED Zeppelin or punk rock and then and then listening to thrash metal or alternative rock in the 90s. I think there’s a real generational difference.

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S1: This is quite possibly the first time ever that Minecraft has been compared to thrash metal.

S3: Yeah, exactly.

S2: That’s that’s what flipped when he’s here for Gene. One thing I wanted to ask, given that perspective, is that you do have is like, for me, Fortnite is like a game that our generation understands with elements of Roblox and Minecraft on it. But it’s not like fully in that way. And the way that I think about the difference is the games that I grew up playing told me what to do right there were like, Here’s your world, here’s the rules of the world. Here’s the characters. You have a certain limited amount of customization you can do. You know you can. Maybe you can hack them, you can make them whatever. But largely speaking, they were designed. And the thing I had control over was my reactions to a set series of choices. And it was exactly with Roblox and Minecraft, though they’re like, Here’s your universe, invent it’s goodbye. And that, to me, is a little bit stressful.

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S3: It’s just it’s very stressful, and it’s not something that I do to enjoy things right. But I know that the many young children grow up, and they love that they loved being able to to create their own rules. So, you know, I’ve been to therapy about this, about why I play video games, and a lot of it is really exactly what you just said. It’s that the world is chaotic and there are rules established here in this world that I may not understand and I may not ever be able to to use and surpass and succeed on my own. But in a video game world, there are rules that I can understand and I can. I can leverage my understanding of those rules to have some, some some feeling of success or reward. And that’s what I really love about the games I grew up playing. The games that the kids are growing up playing now are exactly what you just said that you can have your rules, but there are other rules are being set a place. You can create your own rules and that is really where the Metaverse conversation starts coming in this generational gap between people who are essentially content sponges like myself and people who are creatives, people who want to create content, people who want to host content, and people who basically want to express themselves digitally and in 3D space.

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S4: I see this also, I see what you’re talking about Gene and my kids who play Minecraft. Mostly, they didn’t really take to the other one. Fortnite Fortnite. Yeah, they didn’t take.

S2: The Fortnite does involve killing people more than, yeah, it involves two.

S3: It involves guns, so it’s a little bit more of a PG 13 audience.

S4: Yeah, but what I’ve noticed also with Minecraft, in addition to being very open ended and they really like that in the few times that I’ve been played there, like you just have to build stuff and I’m like, But but what? I need more handholding, I guess. But what I’ve noticed about. The Minecraft playing is it’s extremely social, and I’m not sure how that compares to games that you guys grew up with. I mean, I remember sitting around playing Nintendo or whatever with my friends in real life, but what they’re doing socially with games is so much bigger. There’s like Discord threads, there’s Twitch. There’s like a whole other world. And I guess this also leads us to the metaverse. There’s a whole world online where people are playing together, and that seems really different and interesting.

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S3: It’s very different again. Zelda is a very much solo experience, and I think that’s where the stereotype of like the lonely gamer came from, because a lot of these games are often solo experiences. But since the late 90s or early 2000s, there’s been a real shift in terms of multiplayer, where online communities are forming, online friendships are forming, and that their own online languages are forming to gamers by and large are helping have helped to determine how the internet speaks. Mostly because we have to be online to find other like minded gamers. Sometimes we want to. We’re looking for other games so these online communities would form just naturally, just just based on our own interests, and we’ll go hunting for them.

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S1: I’ve been playing a game of backgammon with a friend of mine via email for about 25 years, and when we just turned up and moved back and forth via the play by email server. Obviously, we’re not playing the game for the sake of playing the game. We’re playing the game for the the social connection because every time you send the movie, you send a message and there’s a long conversation going back and forth, right? And that’s lovely. And so I and so I guess my my question is number one, is that a video game? But no two more to the point when it comes to things like Fortnite is the game and just the kind of excuse which gets a whole bunch of friends in the same place at the same time so they can talk to each other and interact? Does that mean that the social aspect actually becomes more important than the game itself to the point at which you know you can have a concert in Fortnite and play no game at all and 12 million people turned up?

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S3: Yeah, yeah. Well, first of all, I do think that that playing backgammon email back and forth does Carlton’s gaming. If you play games, you’re a gamer, that’s that’s pretty much the only rule. Yeah, yeah, that’s it. You know, one of the smartest things, maybe one of the only smartest things Andrew Yang has said that I’ve heard from him is that human history has a long history and relationship with games. You know, we call it the Olympic Games for a reason. You know, it’s still it’s still it’s still games. You know, though it’s still competition and still risk and reward in terms of the social aspect. I do think that it’s really become that it’s really become the core, the core draw of a lot of these games. For many years, Fortnite has kind of replaced the Friday night poker night in terms of the guys gathering a lot and just talking about stuff. I know a VC firms that often just meet in Fortnite, and they just talk about their investments. Well, this idea

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S2: of game as space for other things is where that line between certain kinds of games on, like the Metaverse gets a little bit blurry, right? Because like the is like it’s it’s a venue in which you can gather. I want to go back to something that you said earlier Gene about the social elements of games. So I I wasn’t like super into World of Warcraft, but I was aggressively into Sims and the social element Sims as a game in which not SimCity or like Rollercoaster. This is the one in which you control people. There’s a lot of like I spent a lot of time like figuring out very creative ways to drown sims and pools and set them on fire. And all things I too, will work out with a therapist. But but the social element of Sims, like, wasn’t baked into the game itself. Like at the time that I was playing, my fourteen point four modem could not handle, you know, doing this and in contacts with other people. But it came in like with the forums like you would go online, you would find people who specialized in designing like there was like you could get the Jennifer Lopez famous green dress for your SIM. You could download houses that other people had designed. You could trade tips and tricks like people who had figured out how to game would exchange those things with you. And so for me, my social gaming experience was like asynchronous in a really different way from the experience of your playing with other people at the same time and talking to them. And that that’s an element of gaming right now that I find. I find it fascinating because, you know, the idea of you’re operating in concert and you’re talking to them about other stuff while you’re playing, which is really different from you’re hanging out in a game world and talking about work. This is like you’re coordinating your Grand Theft Auto thievery strategy over live audio chat and then you’re like, And how’s everybody else doing at the same time? And I find that the collision of real life and video games is like, not something I actually enjoy. Like, I want my when I am playing. A game to be entirely in the game context versus like the blurring of those lines socially for me.

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S3: I’m personally with you. I don’t enjoy playing a ton of multiplayer games because I enjoyed my own mental space. For me, playing video games is like reading a book like like, This is my space. This is this is where I get to to consume the content. This is where I got to think about certain things. So for me, it’s become a little bit different for me. And again, that’s why it goes back to how Minecraft and Roblox are such different experiences. Because not only do I have to create things, but I have to talk to other people and like I have to talk to other people. I have to try to let other people see it. I have to invite them into my world and invite that criticism. Let them know what what I think. We have a back and forth conversation about that content. It’s a very, very different mentality from when I grew up and what kids are growing up today, which is fueling the Minecraft, Roblox and as well as Fortnite. Just like you said, Fortnite is a shooter game, but it definitely has elements of creativity because people are able to. Time magazine just a couple of months ago created the watch, then the Washington, DC National Mall, and they had a Martin Luther King Jr. event and tried to recreate that. I have a dream event within Fortnite and Fortnite and provides those tools for create creativity, and young black folks were able to make that too. So there were there’s a lot of things in there where, like, I might not be able to to participate in the creativity part of it, but I do enjoy consuming other people’s contents. I do enjoy visiting other people’s worlds. I recently started playing Roblox because I really loved the recent show Squid Game, and I was I watched when I watched Squid Game. I was like, that be an interesting video game to play. And of course, within a day or two, children made squid game versions of video game versions of Squid Game within Roblox, and I was able to play that, and it was a lot of fun. And that’s that’s how explosive it is. Creativity can get. It just moves extremely, extremely fast.

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S1: Which raises all manner of like IP issues, I’m sure, but I’m not sure. Absolutely.

S3: Absolutely. And that’s a big question in a metaverse. How can interoperability at all of this stuff happen when IP issues licensing issues? The laws today just have can barely keep up with the internet of today. So that’s really the one of the biggest questions of the viability of whether a metaverse can even happen or whether it’s even feasible, considering how splintered the internet is already right now.

S4: Can we define we’ve said metaverse a thousand times already in the past.

S1: And the answer is no Emily we cannot.

S4: But let’s let’s talk about it. Let’s get into let’s let’s unpack that a little bit because when I was reading the links that Stacey shared with us to prepare for today, I started really thinking, Oh, OK, well, the metaverse exists already because the Roblox CEO says they meet in the metaverse. They meet on Roblox. They have their business meetings. They’re the VCs are meeting in the Metaverse, apparently, according to Gene. Like, people are playing in the metaverse, they’re going to concerts. I mean, as if it’s the metaverse, they’re going to concerts and video games. So Facebook made an announcement, but it seems like the stuff already exists. So I don’t quite understand what’s going on.

S1: And exactly my immediate question for you is like, we are right now meeting in a web browser where we can see each other this video ahead of us and we’re talking to each other. If I just swapped myself out for something which looked like a Lego minifig, would we then be in the metaverse?

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S3: It’s metaverse, like if if, for example, your avatar that you swap out is transferable into another type of program. For example, if we were living in a true metaverse today, then you Felix would it would appear as you are here. It is no zoom call, as you would in Roblox, as you would in Fortnite, as you would in some theoretical Nintendo Zelda Metaverse as well. So that’s what the Metaverse would be, that there are metaverse aspects already existing today. It’s just really just a different version of internet. So if I just took my my Kirby a picture that I use on Twitter and I use it here in the call, then that is kind of like a metaverse. That’s a persistent image that I’m holding throughout the internet. So that’s one thing. I recently wrote an article about how Zuckerberg’s meta ambitions really just reiterate what videogames have already been doing. Absolutely. And so that’s why a lot of these metaverse conversations are happening because of the attention that Facebook brings from the media and and from the mainstream audience. And Zuckerberg himself because he has legions of followers as well. Right. So for many people, this was their introduction to the Metaverse. But the metaverse has already been happening, and it has already been tried to be built even since the early 2000s.

S2: Second Life,

S3: with the video game Second Life created by Philip Rosedale. And he has been able to to kind of see the evolution of Second Life for people who don’t know, the Second Life is essentially a games like The Sims, except that you get to live another life. So there are still people. There was a wonderful piece in the Atlantic a couple of years ago where they profile people who are still living fruitful lives, married lives, selling real estate in Second Life. It’s a little bit of a lonelier place, but there are still there. Still communities, they’re still still trucking along, still. Still, the economic engine is still going, you know?

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S2: Yeah, I mean, Second Life had a bank run. Sorry, a currency crisis one.

S1: So if you had the linden banks, that was oh yeah, yeah. And there was there was also around the same time. There was this big exposé of these sort of gaming farms in China where these kids would be plunked down in front of computers to to play games and like, Oh, but we have that now and we have that now. And, you know, virtual land in Decentraland or whatever, it’s worth lots of money. And this sort of parallel economy, which is connected to our favorite subjects of, you know, crypto seems to slowly be taking off. We have this bizarre game that does not exist yet. It’s called loot being worth, however, many billions of dollars because the cards you play with are trading hands for vast amounts of each. On the one hand, you can see how this is evolving and you can see how this is growing. But on the other hand, Facebook is a trillion dollar company, you know, and all of these other things just look so tiny in comparison to the sheer awesome magnitude of Facebook. Is it realistic to suppose that the growth of the Metaverse, economically speaking, is going to be so enormous that it will dominate the economics of matter the company that Facebook has renamed itself to become?

S3: The thing about Facebook is that it strikes me very similar in tone to the way Google and Amazon tried to enter the video game market in terms of, you know, they know that there’s so much money in video games, they know that video games are becoming the center of pop culture and entertainment today, and they need to be part of that. And Amazon quickly found out that making a video game is hard, expensive and very, very hard. You know, I come from a long time newspaper Peck, and it really sounds similar to me whenever I heard newspapers say, OK, we need to do video to give this reporter a camera and then go out there and make some video. And then you realize that, wow, we really can do what kw w x whatever down the street can do because this stuff costs millions of dollars. That requires decades of talent, lots of production and a completely different mindset to create that. Then then what that what we’ve been doing. So for me, it kind of smells a little bit of like like they think that they can do it and then they enter the market and they realized that they could. Google Stadia has had a hard, hard time ticking off the ground. I mentioned earlier that Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo that we play for hoarders, but I completely forgot that Google has his own console platform out with Stadia, but it’s really

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S1: Apple hasn’t done too well.

S2: Yeah, Apple has multiple sources of video game revenue, right? They they are the frame they like to say is like they’re the biggest video game company in the world in terms of active users playing on mobile. And then they are a publisher of video games through Apple Arcade, but they also just make tons of revenue. From their share of in-game transactions for games that are bought and played on the App Store.

S1: So, Stacey, can you give us like some orders of magnitude here because this is the thing I’m struggling with, it’s it was obvious to me to see why a newspaper would want to be a video company because there’s just so much more money in video than there is in newspaper. It’s less obvious to me why Facebook would want to be a video game company, because for all that, there are large and profitable video game companies, none of them even a tenth of the size of Facebook. So explain some of the economics here, like how big is big in the video game world.

S2: People spent more than $40 billion on games on the App Store in 2020, and Apple made some amount of that as a result of the, you know, 15 to 30 percent transaction fee or, you know, in-game in-app transaction fee that they will that they will take. And then you add on top of that, Apple’s own services revenue from things like Apple Arcade and whatever those those bundles might be. But so one, it’s just like a high margin money minting machine. If you are not yourself to Jean’s point, like the person having to make the video game, which is like hard and very expensive. But the other thing is it it creates stickiness in the ecosystem, right? Like when somebody gets really attached to a platform or a console. Hardcore gamers, which basically means people who are willing to spend unreasonable amounts of money on different times, things might have multiple platforms they play on like I personally am primarily a mobile gamer, but I also have a switch and I played on PC and Mac and in my household. There’s also a PlayStation for completeness. But that’s not the norm.

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S4: One Stacy-Marie of the new PlayStation.

S2: Yes, I did. I was one of those people who stayed up for very many hours at a time and hit refresh tens of thousands of times and got a PS5?

S1: Wow. And was it worth it?

S2: Oh, I wasn’t privy. But most people are like, I play on Xbox or I play on PlayStation, or I am a mobile gamer on iOS, or I’m a mobile gamer on Android. And so it’s very much if you want to be big and stay big and you have games as part of your ecosystem strategy, like that’s like, really, really helpful for that loyalty perspective.

S3: I think the loyalty and stickiness is really important. There’s so much brand loyalty right now. That’s why that within the gaming community, there’s all these console wars ballyhoo. All the people are always people always raising the flag, PlayStation as best Xbox as the best. But no one is out there saying Facebook is the best, you know? No, you know, they may admire Zuckerberg as an icon and as a visionary, but no one is really out there, quote unquote standing. Facebook you know that there’s no Facebook fans out there.

S1: Well, although I will say the only video games I ever see on Tik Tok is the Beat Saber, which is owned by Facebook.

S3: That’s true. But but they had to buy it, you know, and and all that, that’s one. That’s one thing that that’s been Facebook’s growth strategy even in the social space for for the last several years, right? They just buy out competitors. They buyout ideas. They haven’t really been an engine and engine of ideas. They’ve just been buying the stuff up. And it almost feels like Facebook has is kind of trying that with their Oculus acquisition. So, yeah, and also VR is is a very, very small slice of the video game business to the VR industry has been struggling, struggling to get any kind of of of of leverage and market share, but it just hasn’t happened.

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S4: Did a video game help Facebook initially get scale? Like did Farmville? Was Farmville Foundations, Facebook, fantastic growth and are they trying to do something like that again?

S3: I do think Farmville did help in terms of the stickiness and the loop in terms of bringing it, bringing people back. Facebook Gaming Twitter credit has has had some interesting experience where they’re trying to continue to do cloud gaming with Farmville. Very simple game concepts. Google messed up by trying to offer Triple A blockbuster expensive experiences through the cloud, which is very, very hard to do. Whereas Facebook is more leaning on it towards a lifestyle, casual games and which Facebook gaming. So absolutely they saw Farmville and they saw something and they said, OK, there’s a loop here that people are coming back to. People enjoy using the app because of Farmville or

S4: I feel about Spelling Bee and the New York Times.

S2: We like, for example, people who missed the whole time when everyone was playing Farmville. So like the non Gen-X elder millennials listening to us. The whole notion of what Farmville did was like in order to unlock stuff, you had to get your friends to play Farmville right, and it was just as like, very powerful mechanism of, Hey, you want more stuff, fruits, vegetables or you want to be able to do something, get your friends to do something else. And that’s social dynamic is incredibly powerful and prevalent in a lot of these games right now. Right, your. And that’s I think, also one of the reasons why I am a particularly antisocial gamer is because I don’t want to use my personal social capital to unlock an in-game experience. It feels really mercenary to me. Whereas for a lot of other folks, they’re like, No, this like, you know, here’s my thing like, join my league, join my team. Like, sign up, you know, use my tag. But that’s just not how that’s not the experience of games that I had.

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S3: Remember at the beginning of Uber what everybody had to say to Uber coach Schreiber, it’s like, Hey, you use my Uber quoting, you get 15 percent off your first five rides or whatever. So it’s it’s a generational tactic, you know?

S1: I mean, wasn’t that also the that may or may not be true, but that’s the received origin story for Facebook, right? As it started is this was face smash this game that people would play in the Harvard dorm room, ranking the hotness of various, you know, college girls at Harvard. The contemporary version of that that I see very much on on Twitter is the body types and the, you know, the NFT world where people are, you know, putting their crypto punk as their Twitter avatar and like using using their what all of the social clout that they have to try and push the that little like NFT system that they’ve bought into. And I’m interested to know whether you think that CryptoPunks, you know, rocks, penguins, apes, you know, games.

S3: I wouldn’t call them games, but I will call them natural evolutions of what the internet has become has always been baked into the internet. Is this idea that each of us have our own identities, exactly our own, our own ISP numbers, our own email, my

S2: IQ, which I still know by heart to

S3: this exactly to our own IQ number, our AOL AOL name that that has always been part of always been central to the internet experience and the allure of the experience to be able to identify yourself and to be able to to create this new identity for yourself. And that’s that’s kind of why I’m not. I’m certainly not an evangelist of the Metaverse, but that’s why I do think that the metaverse or some shit shape of it is inevitable because it only just seems natural for that, for the internet to evolve. In that case, and I do see cryptocurrency and NFT as much as I don’t understand either. So please don’t ask me many very deep detail questions about either one of them. I do it philosophically. I do see them as well, in line with where the internet has always wanted to go.

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S2: Yeah, I can’t agree enough with the idea of the central city of a fixed or an like an identity in the metaverse and how closely that’s related both to internet culture and to games, right? Like sometimes the biggest decision, one of the biggest decisions I have had to make in the course of my gaming career is like I decided to retire one of my gamer names some years ago that I had like had for years and years. And this was like how I was always known in certain forums and I was like that. It’s time to go. So Gene’s earlier point about, you know, if we all had wild avatars right now that would move from like Zoom to games to whatever like that’s really appealing to different kinds of folks, right? And it’s appealing because you are it’s it’s a way of performing who you think you want to be that day and how you want to express that inner identity. And you see this a lot, for example, on twitch streams where people are fully in costumes while playing a game, but they’re in that same costume every time they stream because they’re stream persona is inseparable from, you know, like the cat ears or the owl face or whatever that thing might be. And so NFT is especially as they show up in Twitter avatars, especially as they give people access to certain kinds of spaces and certain kinds of Discord’s, which is basically like Slack for video games. I think people shouldn’t underestimate how powerful that idea of being able to represent yourself in in different spaces is to a lot of this conversation.

S1: I have a big question here, which is that the Mark Zuckerberg vision for the Metaverse and a lot of what we’re talking about about, like having or not having an online identity is a very broad and universal universal vision, which applies to presumptively like everyone. And that’s the vision while video games, at least for me. Have always been this world where you need like a certain type of sort of fast, which responds in a certain kind of light hand-eye coordination and you need to be good at video games. Otherwise, it’s just not something you do. And whenever someone’s given me a control and said, play this game, I’m like, I have literally no idea what I’m doing, and I fall over and I give up and I get bored and I move away and playing something like Fortnite, I’m sure, is lots of fun and I’m sure it’s social, but you can’t really. There’s a high barrier to entry to it. And if you don’t have those fast which motor skills and hand-eye coordination, you’re basically not even participating. How do video games broaden themselves out to become genuinely inclusive when the most popular games are the ones that often have, you know, require a lot of these things, and not everyone has actually?

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S3: I’m so glad that you brought this up because it really feels like what I said earlier. But first of all, some of the most popular games are Minecraft and Roblox, and day to day do not require fast hand-eye coordination whatsoever. It’s why the children are able to play them because they’re very, very simple games to play

S1: and then they grow out of them and move into Fortnite.

S3: And they might and they might. But the thing is that a lot of these kids are still playing Minecraft. The thing is, is that I’m 40. I know kids who were 15 playing Minecraft, and they’re 25 and they’re still playing Minecraft. There are adults that they are older Gen Z, younger millennials now out in the workforce, and they’re still playing Minecraft and Roblox. But I’m really glad that you brought up the question about Highbury for entry, because it really brings back to me the book metaphor. I like to read games like I write, like I read books. If you’re going to read a book, you have to learn how to read. For a generation of gamers, playing a video game is just as natural as learning how to read, you know, and I think a lot of game companies Nintendo, first and foremost, has been really, really trying to lower that barrier of entry. That’s why we back in the early 2000s focus so much on motion control, and that’s why we sports was such a big hit and in senior centers and recreational centers across the world. Because if you want to play bowling in a video game, you just roll your hand like like you’re building a bowling ball. If you want to play tennis, you just play tennis just like that instinctive human decisions. So that’s why Nintendo has always been really, really trying. That’s why they have games like Animal Crossing that don’t have high barriers of entry because, you know, they want children and adults to play it. And that’s something that videogame companies, some videogame companies have been really trying to trying to solve. There’s your caller duties in the world that that require exactly what you say a high skill level, high hand-eye coordination. And those are the games that that make billions and billions of dollars. Again, because of the size of the audience, that those are millions and millions of people who know how to read that book, basically, you know. And then as as more gamers grow up, as more gamers are being weaned on Minecraft and Roblox is said they will grow up to play college every day, or they’ll grow up to play for an ideal. They’ll grow up to play Mario. That generation continues.

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S4: This is all about sort of like the war for attention, right? I mean, this is why Facebook’s getting into the metaverse. Everyone is online now doing various things, and there’s just basically like a war for the consumer’s attention when they’re online. And that’s like sort of intensified and maybe ramped up since the pandemic started. And a new way, like people don’t go to movies as much as they used to or even to plays or concerts or anything like it’s all happening digitally now online and like whoever kind of wins the war kind of walks off with the money’s going forward, I guess. Is that what’s going on?

S3: Absolutely. That’s absolutely it. That’s one 100 percent it for. Fortnite was able to capture the attention of the world for 20 and seventy two to 2017 to 2019. Everybody wants a piece of that. That’s why Netflix CEO said, You know, HBO is not our biggest competitor. It’s Fortnite, because as long as people are playing Fortnite, you’re not watching Netflix.

S1: The original big cryptocurrency exchange where everyone used to trade bitcoin for dollars and dollars for bitcoin was this exchange called Mt. Gox, which Stacey will tell us what Mt. Gox stood for.

S2: No, I will not.

S1: But it stood for Magic, the gathering online exchange, and it started as a place for people to buy and sell magic cards. And this connection between crypto and gaming communities is as old as crypto. And the idea that you can spend money in order to improve your chances of winning the game is as old as Magic Magic really invented that concept that they had certain cards that were worth quite a lot of money because that would help you build a certain Peck that would make it make you better, you know, improve your chances of winning.

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S3: And I played magic back in the day. But in fact, my mom hated the fact that she was spending so much money just for me to get a better deck, right?

S1: But this, to your point, seems to be an incredibly unpopular thing in general in games, right? There aren’t that many popular games, magic notwithstanding, where the more you spend the the better you can presumptively do.

S4: Stacey does not agree with what you just said.

S3: There’s also the Pokémon card game, too, where there’s just so many people. You know, there’s there’s lines of adult men lining up outside of Wal-Mart to raid the Pokémon. You can only

S2: now buy two packs on them. Yeah, OK. There is that this is complicated because when I go back to that starts about, you know, consumer spending $40 million on games on the App Store in 2020. It wasn’t mostly on buying the game, it was on buying stuff in those games. Right. And so there are a couple of different concepts here. One is the one the point the Gene made earlier around like people buy consumables. I want this outfit. I want this car. I want this gun. And that is less controversial. Where you get into a sketchier less popular territory is the idea that the only way to progress is to either spend real money or spend hours and hours and hours doing intentionally boring tasks and like grinding things out and basically suffering in order to achieve that goal. And I think that my concern with some of the ways that, you know, blockchain based gaming has gone is that they have really leaned into the grind in order to advance strategy much more than the potential of like, well, OK, I saw somebody say that let’s say you did buy a pair of Nike’s, and when you buy that pair of Nike shoes that you wear in real life, you get an NFT of that pair of Nike shoes that you could theoretically transport over into the metaverse. And then your in-game character could wear that pair of Nike shoes. And you could. I would buy

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S3: that.

S2: I, that sounds great. You know, so it’s like there’s there’s different applications, but instead what you get is you can play this game and you can spend, you know, 12 hours hitting this rock to try to unlock this weapon. Or you can buy this in-game currency, which costs real money and you unlock the thing faster. And you know, I worry a little bit about that tendency because it is wildly profitable for the companies that do this, but it’s not a great gaming experience.

S1: Who’s the best example of a wildly profitable company that does this

S2: in terms of in-game transactions? Yeah. I think some of the Japanese and Chinese game developers who do a lot of a lot of stuff around like gacha and Luc loot boxes. That’s really where, you know, how should I describe it, the most innovation and getting you to buy stuff has come. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But even like Nintendo on mobile, if you play Animal Crossing on iOS, like like that game is designed to extract money from you. Like, Nintendo has this weird strategy where they’re console games or like you pay 50 999, here’s the world and on mobile, it’s like you pay for 99. Everything else is not going to cost you another hundred and fifty dollars. It’s like if you want to have any fun over the duration.

S3: Yeah, yeah. And so my worry is that it’s going to once again, once again creating a system of haves and have nots. You know that we are deliberately creating game systems in which is making certain harder for certain people. Do do it unless you have the means to do so. Exactly. So it’s very it’s so you know, the video games offer an interesting window into the what the future of internet could look like in terms of how much of this would be accepted and what kind of frictions and future controversies that we might see. But really, it’s just once again establishing a world of haves and have nots.

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S1: And in terms of the world, the metaverse is again like, I’m not going to say global, but it’s, you know, global x Cheyna, at least in conception. The idea is that everyone can participate in the same thing. The games that have really, you know, done the best in terms of the early metaverse, Roblox, Fortnite. Minecraft. Minecraft, like how tell me, tell me how they kind of. How close are they to being level? How how how universal are they in different countries and continents?

S3: Fortnite just got back from Cheyna. So, so yeah, so, so so that’s over with for them, which is interesting. But then again, Tencent, the Chinese conglomerate, has an ownership stake in Epic Games. So there’s probably some other avenue they’ll be able to get. I’m not sure what the status of Minecraft or Roblox are either, but in terms of part of their thinking, why Fortnite was so ahead of the Metaverse game was because of the buy in that so much, so much of corporate America had already done. Disney, Disney, Slash, Marvel, Netflix, Ferrari all of these different companies are were happy to to jump on board to Fortnite because Fortnite, which is simply too huge to ignore. And that was where Fortnite Strange came from, that the fact that they were able to gather all these IP together just tomorrow, they’re going to announce Naruto, the hit anime series. That’s a huge difference in terms of like, how Japanese IP like to like to be very much in control of how their licenses and characters are being used. And yet they’re giving it to Fortnite, a place where I can have Ariana Grande do a lap dance on just whoever other character they please. Roblox is already basically a functioning metaverse in and of itself. If the rest of the internet just follow Roblox suit and we will just be living in a Roblox metaverse because it already functions similarly to a metaverse in and of itself.

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S1: I guess the where I’m going with this is the question of whether the metaverse at heart is basically American, that Fortnite is American, you know, Minecraft is American and matter is it is America and everyone else. If they buy into the metaverse is basically buying into an American metaverse, or is this much more genuinely polyglot and international than that?

S3: I think it is global because Tencent has made significant billions and billions long before Facebook has ever had in terms of investing into the Metaverse. Their chat app WeChat as a hue is a huge part of that strategy in which, you know you can basically live your whole life on WeChat. You know, I remember my grandmother, God rest his soul in Korea. When I visit her in 2011, she was doing all of her life through Kakao Talk. She was teaching English lessons through cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, cut talk. When I was at her house, she asked me if I was hungry. And I said, Yeah, I like some chicken. And then just 15 minutes later, chicken came to the door. She was ordering food in 2011 through her app, long before any Americans did, too. So really, I think in terms of metaverse adoption, I think Asia is going to be huge in terms of doing that.

S1: And is that is that going to be the thing that like unifies the two internets? Like if we have this huge gaping gulf between the Chinese internet and the American internet right now, is the metaverse going to be able to bridge that gap?

S3: That’s a huge question. That’s a huge question. That’s why Cheyna Cheyna is making so many, so much investments into the West. And that’s why that’s why Tencent is making so much investments into into Hollywood studios and Hollywood brands, because they’re trying to get a foothold here too and trying to see where they can start establishing this mistake, too.

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S4: Can I ask a dystopian question? Oh, I love those.

S1: Those are the best.

S3: We’ve been only having a dystopian conversation. I would agree. OK.

S4: So, yeah, so is this all leading to some kind of dystopia? Like, I just finished this book called The Over Story, and it’s all about like how the environment’s dying and the trees are dying. And one of the threads in the story is that this guy creates this like whole video game universe because he can’t use his legs. But he’s like a god in the universe makes tons of money. And then all these people start playing the video game all the time, essentially living in the world. He’s created as the real world, and all the trees and whatnot are dying, blah blah blah. So as I’m like reading and thinking about Gene, you coming on and we’re talking about the metaverse, I’m like, Oh my God, is that what’s happening here, like our real environment is kind of dying. We’ve all been sat inside for this pandemic. All the things we used to do in person. We do them online. We used to meet in a room together and talk on, you know, in person. Now we do it online. Everything’s moving online. Like, Is this all leading to a place of no good where we’re strapped to our chairs, you know, 24 hours a day and we live only in our brains and on the internet?

S3: So I think one of the things that really scared people about the metaverse concept, first of all, since Facebook and Meta has dominated the conversation conversation so much and they’re pitching VR is it’s such a huge part of it. One of the fears in the metaverse, the mainstream fears of a metaverse is that we’re all going to be strapped into into VR headsets and just living in the world that we never see anything outside. My hope is that the Metaverse won’t replace everything else in the way, in the same way that the mobile internet and the way we use our smartphones hasn’t completely replaced everything else either. Sure, we’re. Stuck on our phones quite a bit, you know. We’re keeping our heads down to the point where we have articles about neck crane and whether that’s an issue. But even during them, we would still hang out and go to bars or go to go to parties and every day at that. So I’m hoping that the consumer adoption doesn’t get to the point where where we want to just live in this world forever. That’s my that’s my hope for it.

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S1: My problem with this is is a question of how immersive it is, right, like if I have a phone and I’m out in the world, I can still be aware of the world and interacting with the world. If I’m sitting at a bar and reading a book, I can read the book and sit in the bar. At the same time, I can listen to podcasts while driving a car. You know, what I can do is really like, watch a movie while doing anything else. Like, it’s a very immersive thing and it needs all of my attention. And similarly, it strikes me that virtually everything in the metaverse is similarly. Immersive in a way that kind of shuts out the whole world, and if you spend an hour in the metaverse, that’s now where you can’t be doing anything else, whereas if you spend an hour listening to a podcast, it’s totally an hour. You can also be doing something else.

S3: I think the use cases won’t be even up to an hour. The one thing about Facebook Matters conversation is that there was that one bit where there was a can we have a meeting? And let’s look at the schematics of this building and its architecture they were having together, right? And it really lasted for only a couple of minutes. I think that is kind of like what more would be indicative of what a future metaverse use case would be like if it’s just more useful in the 3D space than you would just do it there for a bit. And then we would just log off it and continue in our own world as we would go back to our smartphones and start looking at that thing and our social feeds, or we just start watching TV again. I am hopeful and I’m hoping that the Metaverse isn’t some all encompassing thing where we just do everything. We just work there and every day at that, I think, you know, there are video games out there that try to do metaverse applications as a video game or vlogging call Fable three, where instead of pressing start and you can go to like the options menu, they made it so you have to navigate within the 3D space to click on the options menu just to make the volume louder or anything at that, and people quickly realized that that was a very, very stupid use case of 3D space. So I’m hoping that as developers continue to find upon these stupid ideas, they’ll realize, OK, that’s not a great idea to you to use in a 3D space because, you know, spending an hour just to just just to edit a file or whatever isn’t going to do, it needs to be quicker. It needs to be relaxing and needs to be. It needs to be convenient.

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S1: But any video games that you play that you can do anything else at the same time, it’s while you’re playing the game.

S2: Oh, yeah, totally. I don’t like Animal Crossing. Watch me, like millions of other people, was a game that I played throughout the pandemic. Like one of the reasons that I was able to play it is because it demanded very little from me so I could be weaving my garden, which you have to do a weirdly high amount of times. And but I could be on a phone. I could be on a conference call. I could be, you know, like on hold fighting with my bank or my insurance company or whatever those things are because it’s not a fast, twitchy I’m trying to like murder somebody on the other end of the screen type of video game. And on mobile, one of the most dominant categories in mobile gaming is puzzles, right? And that’s everything from like Sudoku to like Tetris style stuff to word games. Because again, those are the kinds of games where you can be doing something else but still engaging a certain part of your brain in them.

S3: Yeah, there’s a whole genre called podcast games, where if you’re doing something and you can also listen to podcasts or watch a show at the same time too, so you’re having a dual screen experience or whatever while you’re just becoming a complete contents focused on people. Another way, Asia might be an exception as well.

S1: Well, you’ve been talking to us, how many games have you been playing?

S3: I’ve beaten so many. Another another with no way to Cheyna has been kind of ahead. It is is that, you know, China has laws where you can’t play games for too long. So a lot of their game experiences are deliberately created to only last you about 30 minutes to an hour. And then eventually the game will. There’s just simply nothing else you can do in the game. You can stay in there forever if you like, but you’re not going to accomplish anything else. So the game basically tells you to go outside and do something else.

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S1: One of my favorite games is this wonderful game that my friends that gaged created for the iPhone called Pocket Run Pool, and that’s designed to take a minute. Maybe, maybe like two minutes. It’s like Bing Bing and it’s done, and it’s a wonderful little like breath of whatever you weren’t just doing league. Pick it up, do a thing, come back. And it also is something you can do while listening to a podcast. One Yeah,

S3: exactly. That’s the video games today, as opposed to when we were growing up, that there are just so many different types of games for for so many different people. There’s never really been in time a better time than right now than to find like a game that could work for you, no matter what kind of person you are, no matter what kind of experience you might, you might be looking for.

S1: OK, I think we should have a numbers round Gene. We will end with you, but we will start with Emily. Do you have a number Emily?

S4: I have a number by. No, Felix is twenty one point five. That’s the number of hours professionals are now spending in meetings per week. That is more than half the work week, people. The data comes from this company called Reclaim AI, which is like an app you plug in to your other calendar app. So we’re probably talking about a subset of people that have a lot of meetings, but according to them, pre-pandemic it was fourteen point two hours a week, so that’s a tremendous increase. I completely believe it because I have a job that is just there’s so many meetings and the biggest meeting culprit of the meeting. Overload is the one on one meeting, which apparently has proliferated in the remote world because people need to talk to each other, so they schedule regular one on ones and then all of a sudden your whole life is just these one on one meetings and these regular meetings have gone by. But like, what the hell? It’s a lot of meetings, and that was my own personal metaverse experiences just in the Google Meet all day long in the meetings.

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S1: Stacey, what’s your number?

S2: Four hundred and thirty. That is the number of hours I spent in Animal Crossing during the pandemic. No, I agree. Thank you.

S3: That’s actually low compared to my friend who who I didn’t think like the Animal Crossing, but he spent 720 hours and I’m like, Oh my God, what happened?

S2: So yes, at the height of being of inside, I would an Animal Crossing, if you don’t know, like operates at the speed of real time. So, you know, it takes like a day for things to change. You know, you can’t you can hack it, but you shouldn’t. And so I spent a lot of time like planting trees, cutting the trees down and selling the fruits from the trees, buying turnips. It was very soothing, but it was a lot of hours

S4: more than you spent in meetings, though, Stacey.

S2: I feel like I spend 400 hours a week in meetings now.

S1: How many of those 420 hours are spent while you are in meetings?

S2: Oh, I couldn’t possibly comment.

S1: I’m just going to come out and do a weird one, which is 500 billion dollars is the amount of money that we now have in. Just two of the Big Ice shares, bond ETFs that aggregate Bond ETF and the core total bond ETF from iShares people when they talk about ETFs, basically just talk about stocks. And it turns out people for a very, very long time thought the Bond ETF was never going to work because they, you know, bonds mature. You need to reinvest them. Everyone’s like, Yeah, no, you need to be like managing the yield curve and working out where you want to be invested and stuff and and the the reasons why stock index funds outperform. I’m going to read across the bond and Bond Index funds. I think those arguments really comprehensively been demolished now and people are just like, Yeah, if I need bonds in my portfolio, I can buy an ETF just as easy as stocks. I don’t need a bond fund manager any more than I need the stock fund manager. But Gene, you got the final number.

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S3: Yeah, my number is 720 million. That is approximately the amount of gamers in Cheyna. Just recently it just last week, the League of Legends World E-sports Tournament, which is basically the Super Bowl of esports, happened. There was a viral video where you look out and someone was filming their apartment complex, and it was just the entire building in an uproar. Just like this is screaming out. I would say I’ve never even it was like when Joe Biden won and I walked outside and everybody was outside like cheering. It was exactly that. It was more of that energy than than what I saw when Joe Biden won last year. So that just goes to show how just gaming is just just the dominant culture in Cheyna. And it really just kind of. I do think that that is a glimpse of what the future holds.

S1: You don’t think the Chinese government will be successful in cracking down on that. The Politburo doesn’t seem to be too happy about that.

S3: Yeah. No, they’re not. But regardless, they’re going to keep gaming. There’s a lot of black market games being out there right now anyway. So you know that that’s also a huge market to.

S1: OK. Well, Gene, thank you so much for joining us. This has been most illuminating. I feel like much. It left my way, at least through like a 40 second conversation about video games now.

S2: I am just so happy that we made this happen. Gene is one of my all time favorite writers and reporters and thinkers on games and so many other things, so I just feel really lucky to have shared this time with you.

S3: Stacey, just one of my favorite newsroom leaders in the world. I have this

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S2: blog. I was just a love fest.

S3: Oh yeah, yeah. Felix Emily. I just met you guys.

S1: All right. Well, we’ll hook up in the metaverse. You’re exactly exactly. Yeah. So, yeah, thanks everyone for listening. Many thanks to Shane and Roth, without whom none of this would have been possible. So thanks Gene, and we’ll be back next week with more sleep money. Gene, welcome, our listeners can’t see this, but I can see you and you are sitting in what looks to me like a game of chess on gamer.

S3: I am, I am. This is a gaming chair.

S2: So on brand, I love it.

S1: So because I know nothing about this entire world. Let’s start with that. What is a game is chair and why do people buy them? And what and why do people feel that they need them?

S3: They’re very expensive chairs that can lie back horizontally so I can lean back all the way.

S1: This is like a business class seat in the plane. You like a lie flat?

S3: It’s a little bit like that. They reclined very much. They have adjustable armrests, so that’s always handy. And then they usually come with like a little bit some back support and neck pillows. This one that I bought right here is from a cheap knockoff brand that I got on Amazon, not a hashtag, not an ad. And and it was just really cheap. But some of these chairs can go for like seven hundred one thousand dollars or whatever. That’s ridiculous. A lot of that is just mostly for the branding. Some of these chairs might have like like branding designs that you might want. So it really becomes it becomes more of a less of a utility, more of a luxury item.

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S1: OK, so I have I have two. I have two questions about gaming straps. I am actually going somewhere with this. One is like insofar as it’s a luxury item, it’s a little bit of a flex. To what extent do your fellow gamers see you and see your chair while you’re playing and kind of judge you a little bit on your chair is question number one and question number two. Is our game of chairs different from normal office chairs? Because what you’re doing with your eyes and your hands is just very different from what people normally do when they’re sitting in the computer with a keyboard and a mouse.

S3: Well, most gamers, if they’re playing on PC, they would just be using a keyboard and mouse too. So it’s essentially assuming the exact same position that they’re there. You would assume that they might be paying more attention to what’s going on on screen, but I do believe that essentially office chairs probably offer a more ergonomic support for your back, and that’s something that I have learned over the past year in the pandemic. I bought this chair as a quarantine purchase because my last chair wasn’t that great. So this has been better than my last chair. But now I’m starting to wonder if I was better off just buying a Herman Miller chair straight for the office. Because although I will, I won’t have adequate neck support. It would be really good for my back and at the back. I’m 40 years old now, so the back is really where, where it’s where. I definitely need some TLC there. So I am considering turning in my gaming chair after about a year and a half or I guess, 19 months, and I might turn it in for a more regular standard chair. To your other question about whether I would be judged no. For four folks in the gaming space, these chairs are pretty much standard. A lot of people like myself have buttoned the knock of cheaper brands for this one was only 150 bucks. So the office chairs go for way more than that. So as far as chairs, as far as far as chairs go, this wasn’t such a bad deal, but also my cats turn it up pretty good too, so I might need to replace it sooner or later.

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S1: But I’m right in assuming that the sheer number of hours you spend in these things, I mean, people get very fetishistic about that setup, right? I mean, I’m assuming if you’re sitting with a keyboard and a mouse is going to be like a gaming keyboard and a gaming mouse. Tell me how many hours you spend like playing games in this chair?

S3: That’s a good question. I I’m just going

S1: to come straight out with the rude questions, man.

S3: Well, funny enough, I actually spend more time working on this than I do playing playing in it. Really, when it comes to games, I spend maybe about four hours a day and I try to take a 30 minutes break between each hour just just to give my eyes and my brain a break. So I don’t do long marathons, marathon sessions like many folks do. I don’t stream online for game streamers whose job, you know, their job is like eight hours a day playing games. They would just be sitting in the chair eight hours a day, and then they might continue to sit and play games on their own time. You know,

S2: this is the chair

S1: we’re going to. We’re going to move on from chairs because I was

S3: maybe I was about to start talking about like, you really need to start. You really need to start thinking about the cushion and how much your weight would affect that and everything. So like, I was really going to get into like the real deep, knee deep stuff about like, you know, like cushioned chairs and dynamics and all that stuff. But yeah.