Five things on Friday #330
Things of note for Friday May 20th, 2022.
Hello. From me and my snail friend.
Isn’t he wicked? Or she. I’ve no idea. I didn’t ask. But whatever, aren’t they cool? After the veg in the garden, almost certainly. Point is: I hope wherever me and my snail find you today, you’re doing fine and well.
It has been a good week.
I made it along to a few days at Advertising Week Europe this week and used the time (not spent queueing up outside in the ridiculous printed pass system) at Picturehouse Central to also see some pretty decent talks as well as catch up with some fascinating people. I’m going to write this stuff up on the Diva website at some point next week however, in the short term at least, it was super interesting to me. I’ve been writing since the start of the year about how much difference there is between games/dev brands talk about online virtual worlds vs brand marketers outside of gaming.
At AWEurope, it’s the difference between ‘The metaverse doesn’t exist, so let’s please stop talking about it’ and ‘We’re taking our first steps into the metaverse and look how great it is’ - while I heard both these statements on stage and yet only one of them can be true. No prizes for guessing which one.
The other incredible thing I heard this week was 'No one over 40 plays Fortnite’ - an incredibly dismissive and ignorant statement which I just can’t get my head around. Going on old numbers (2018ish), Epic reports 350million registered users. 12% of those users fall into the 34-45 age bracket.
42million then? Cool. Cool.
It’s maddening to me that even with the data literally a google away, anec-data just seems to win out. ‘I can’t see it [in my life] so therefore it can’t be true’ is a plague on bad marketers everywhere. FWIW, the Fortnite statement was said by a planner. Even worse. Mad mad mad mad mad. We’ve had two new clients walk in this week, each wanting to know more about gaming, player communities, opportunities for brands etc - and above all else, not wanting to take a single step forward until they understand the space. It’s hugely flattering but also, in light of the waffle you might sometimes hear at events, hugely reassuring. There are marketers out there that want to get involved and understand the space properly. And nine times out of ten they’re the ones not on a stage telling you they know it all…
Ok. Rant over.
Where was I?
Oh yes. I don’t know if this edition will make it out. It’s late on a Thursday as I write this opener to you. There are fair few links in the txt file so I should just boot that up and get going, right?
Might mess about with the order and see what happens.
Shall we get a wriggle on?
TO THE THINGS!
1. GAMING ISN’T A DIRTY WORD
A week or so ago, The Drum got in touch to ask me if I wouldn’t mind kicking off their week-long look at gaming by pulling apart the mis-use and abuse of the word ‘metaverse’ when people should just be talking about gaming.
So I did.
Here’s an excerpt (the tone of which will not be unfamiliar to regular readers):
The metaverse is not a thing. Online virtual spaces where people have been hanging out to achieve things together have been around for decades. And if we just call things what they are, these things are video games.
Games. Gaming. Gamers. These are not dirty words. It’s OK to say them out loud. They shouldn’t be dirty words in the marketing dept (although metaverse should be banned). Sure, the metaverse sounds sexy and yes, I’m certain you all read about Gucci this and Balenciaga that in your Substack of choice last month, but these things are just good video games partnerships. And that’s OK.
You can read the full article right here. FYI. The Drum has a registration freemium (register to read) wall so you may need to create an account to read the whole thing.
Had some great feedback about it so I hope you like it. If you do like it or find it useful/interesting, I’d appreciate you sharing it forward - please 😊
Some bonus metaverse-related stats and stories before we move on:
Nick Clegg wrote about FB/Meta’s vision for the metaverse. TechCrunch read it so you don’t have to.
Related x2: FB/Meta tells its metaverse hardware division ‘prepare for cutbacks’ - it’s all going well then.
Related x3 (but this time to the rant in the above opener), anybody who mentions Decentraland in the same breath as Roblox or Fortnite needs their head seeing to. You’re comparing 10k DAUs to 48.2m and 24m respectively. JUST GOOGLE IT.
The silos preventing any vision of a metaverse coming to fruition are arguably the biggest blocker in the world right now, seeing the big players break those down internally is great news.
It’s really hard to stay sane among all this mess. ‘How brands are experimenting in Web3’ is factually incorrect three times in the first five paragraphs. I weep.
Shall we move on?
2. HIDDEN IN A FIRE ISLAND HOUSE, THE SOUNDTRACK OF LOVE AND LOSS
And now for something completely different.
This is one of those ‘the New York Times has done a special build on its site again’ posts but it’s a good’un.
“Last summer, as Peter Kriss and Nate Pinsley moved into their new two-bedroom beach house on Pine Walk in Fire Island, they took stock of the keepsakes and tchotchkes the previous owners had left behind — a pair of old sewing machines, a box of Halloween decorations, racks of colorful costumes.
The island, a remote 32-mile spit of sand and shadblow trees, does not allow cars, and the unspoken rule is that homeowners must save or toss what the former residents did not carry with them by freight ferry. The massive collection of blue and white porcelain they knew would have to go, same with the coat rack made of cats doing a kick line that they gave to a friend, a former longtime Radio City Rockette. When they stumbled upon a set of milk crates piled high with cassette tapes, they assumed those would go too. Even if they wanted to salvage the greatest hits of Whitney Houston or Queen, neither of them had a tape deck.
But as they dug through the crates, they noticed that not all the tapes were commercial releases. Some had hand-drawn inserts with the names of legendary Pines nightclubs and venues — the Ice Palace, the Pavilion — and more of them had neatly written labels spelling out names, places, and times in thick black ink.”
The special build walks you through the history, the stories, the tales of it all. And of course - there’s the music.
I’ve been through it. Twice. I’ve listened and loved... and now I’m sharing it with you.
You need sound on - enjoy.
Ps. If you’re struggling with the NY Times paywall, the music (sans story) is available on Mixcloud. But do try and read the thing.
3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING
Some really interesting gamery-based stuff this week.
First up, even if you’ve only got a passing interest in gaming, then you’d probably had to be living under a rock to have let this news pass you by:
As trailed a little bit in the previous edition of Five things on Friday, EA and FIFA have indeed parted ways. EA Sports FC is the name of the game from now on (well, from next year on) and I think it’ll be just FINE.
In the interest of balance, Gianni Infantino, FIFA President, said: “I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans. The FIFA name is the only global, original title. FIFA 23, FIFA 24, FIFA 25 and FIFA 26, and so on – the constant is the FIFA name and it will remain forever and remain THE BEST.”
I’m not so sure.
‘FIFA’ has been short hand for ‘football video game’ for a generation. It helped create leagues and divisions of casual gamers and pro players the world over. Changing the name isn’t going to do much damage. Players aren’t thick.
When you pick up an EA game, you know what you’re going to get and with EASFC (ees-eff-cee?) the engine will still be the same, the playability, the options, your friends and their friends - they will all still be there. And, while the title for the next version will be different, the bones of what players have loved for decades will still be there. There’s an old joke here about EA simply doing this exercise ever in year out anyway - but I think that’s slightly unfair.
If you played literally any EA sports game in the 90s then you this is a sentence you can hear: ‘E.A. SPORTS. IT’S IN THE GAME’.
What fascinates me is a the mixture of brand, product, and gaming meeting in this way. The strength of the EA brand stepping up and into place where ‘FIFA’ used to be. Gotta build those brand assets, gotta keep those core players close, gotta keep growing share. And soon enough, you gotta defend when nu-FIFA comes back over the hill looking for its ball back…
E.A. Sports. It’s in the name.
— — —
What else can I tell you?
Oh, yeah, about two years or so ago I mis-predicted the arrival of Xbox Series S (aka ‘Lockheart’) as being some kind of streaming stick. A bit like a Chromecast but instead of streaming Netflix or YouTube, you’d stream Game Pass games direct to your TV - without the need for a console.
Turns out this might be a thing after all. And completely aligns with the Xbox/Phil Spencer vision of ‘Xbox Everywhere’. I imagine there are some hardware and subscription targets to hit first before rolling that out at scale however. The tech is undoubtedly already there - it’s just making sure by launching something like this it doesn’t cannibalise any hardware sales for the home consoles.
So… maybe a holiday release then?
As an aside, I traded my old Xbox One S in at GAME last weekend and got £150 off a brand new Series S for my eldest (total cost £99). I think the deal is running until Friday next week. Just in case you’re looking.
— — —
Only other games-related news to tell you is that I’ve finished ELDEN RING (yes that’s right, I might actually stop talking about it). I say ‘finished’, I mean ‘I got the platinum’ and to be perfectly honest, I am completely adrift at sea and have no idea what to play. Haven’t really turned the PlayStation on since it happened. Yeah. It’s a weird feeling that one.
I’ve still got Horizon Forbidden West to get back into and there’s a new Destiny 2 season starting next week too. Maybe that’ll tempt me back. We’ll see.
Speaking of Horizion Forbidden West, I built this last weekend:
The Tall Neck, a key part of the first Horizon game and I’m sure equally key in the second (I’ve only found one so far), is a) a brilliant example of a Lego/PlayStation partnership and b) a fantastic build. There’s still a few left on Amazon if this floats your boat. I love mine. Proper nerdy.
Speaking of nerdy, I love this glossary of gaming terms from PlayStation.
4. YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE
When you move from one agency to another, you’ll often see work going through as you leave that you think ‘Wow, that’s going to be amazing when it goes out’.
And that’s what happened just before Christmas, when the below project, from the talented lot at Digitas UK & their client Nivea Men, was first shared with me in a meeting room in Chancery Lane.
Starting from the insight that 50% of mental health problems begin before the age of 14, Digitas and Nivea Men teamed up with Liverpool FC and Talk Club to champion a simple way to help men of all ages to start talking and improve their mental fitness together.
The launch film, live in cinemas now, is bloody amazing and I’m so proud of my old team for not only creating this idea but actually getting it past the many many stakeholders to get it live and out into the world.
Well done all.
You can read more about the work over on Campaign.
5. TODAY DO THIS: 48+ WAYS YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE NEWS
For the past three years, Today Do This has been publishing a ‘do something about the news’ newsletter.
Each year since that first edition, TDT has been publishing an annual round-up of the small things we can each do to change the world.
This year is no different.
Covering planet protection, confronting discrimination, improving your community and so much more, it’s a dead handy list of inspirational things you can do… right now.
THIS IS THE BONUS SECTION. THERE A LOT OF BONUS LINKS THIS WEEK. I’M SORRY. I DON’T MAKE THE RULES (I LITERALLY DO BUT IF I SAY THAT THEN THE JOKE DOESN’T WORK).
For my writer friends: things authors have learned since being published (great read this).
Intersectional Diversity Events are on the rise! YES!!! DICE gets a solid mention here too. Dead proud.
We watched the new Chip ‘N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers movie yesterday and it’s great (now on Disney+).
Looking back at the Mount St Helens eruption, 42 years ago.
Orson Welles being Orson Welles. A thread.
New Daredevil, with Charlie Cox, is coming. No idea how it’ll be better than than the near-perfect Netflix originals but we’ll see.
A great interview with Norman Reedus. Casually confirms Death Stranding 2.
This Lego Optimus Prime is sick. IT’S THE ORIGINAL TRANSFORMATION!!
This AMAZING story about the Icelandic Fish Festival reminds me of a VERY SIMILAR TIME IN SCHOOL when I wrote a 12 chapter story about a time machine that literally nobody asked for. I might dig it up.
YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.
I hope you’re relaxing into your weekend nicely. It’s early Saturday morning here as I finish this newsletter to you.
The sun is out. The summer is around the corner. Family is healthy and work is going great. I’m sending all this warmth in your direction right now.
All that and I’m still pinching myself on the reg because I still can’t believe I work in video games. There’s a grin on my face as I edge towards the big blue Publish button at the top of this page.
Whatley out x