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Five things on Friday #354
Things of note for the week ending Sunday October 15th, 2023
Hey friends, how have you beeeeeen?
It’s been a couple of months, I know but I often taken the summer off this newsletter and this year, seemingly, was no different. The sunshine making a last hurrah in the early days of October (along with a last minute weekend jaunt to Milan - more on that later) meant the restart date ofwas pushed back a touch however as a dear old boss of mine was wont to say: we are where we are.
And here we are: Five things on Friday (on Sunday) #354. Arriving late, as noted and as per [the small print] but here all the same.
Welcome, one and all - oldies and newbies together. Welcome.
I hope you like this week’s edition. I’ll be honest, I’ve not opened the ‘#5things’ tag in my inbox yet so I have no idea what we’ll find - a lot has happened since we last spoke and as ever the challenge is always to find the right balance of things you might not know about, things that I really want to write about, and bringing a fresh perspective on both. I try.
Shall we find out what’s in there then?
Let's (and make sure you stick around for the bonuses).
TO THE THINGS!
1. MARKETING IS IN DESPERATE NEED OF A REALITY CHECK
“Marketers operate in an alternate reality, Marketingland, where they are far removed from the lives of the people they’re meant to understand and reach. The industry can do better, says Richard Huntington, CSO, Saatchi & Saatchi. He calls for The Marketing Reality Movement, a movement that turns the tide on aspirational marketing, one that better represents and serves the real needs of real people.”
And bang on.
2. WHERE ARE YOU ON SOCIAL THESE DAYS…
(bear with me this might work, it might not)
Look, I know I’ve done this before but it’s been a while since a) we last spoke and b) I posted on the toxic far-right disinformation platform formally known as Twitter (basically, if you’re still there, you’re part of the problem).
Since then I’ve had a couple of months to figure out the vibe and while I’ve flirted with a bunch of platforms, it’s currently bottoming out like this:
Posting life/game stuff on Threads, primarily.
Work/marketing stuff on Linkedin. Like, daily - who even am I?
And then just messing about with an occasional bursts on Bluesky - because why not?
That’s it, that’s the thing.
I felt like I should say it all again because I would argue all of the platforms named above have gone through bursts of user/engagement growth of late and that growth may have included you.
Irrespective of your reasoning for giving the platform up (for those of you that actually have at least (vs say, those of you that have said you have but then posted twenty-eight times since and still embed X posts in your newsletter - lol what)) you might be on the search for the rest of the diaspora - so I thought I’d remind you: this is where I am.
Where are you?
You can add me on any or all of the above. See you there
‘Six Months Ago NPR Left Twitter. The Effects Have Been Negligible’. You may have seen this headline floating around your feeds over the past week and even if you have the slightest interest or influence over social content, it is genuinely worth your time to read it.
A memo circulated to NPR staff says traffic has dropped by only a single percentage point as a result of leaving Twitter, now officially renamed X, though traffic from the platform was small already and accounted for just under two percent of traffic before the posting stopped. (NPR declined an interview request but shared the memo and other information). While NPR’s main account had 8.7 million followers and the politics account had just under three million, “the platform’s algorithm updates made it increasingly challenging to reach active users; you often saw a near-immediate drop-off in engagement after tweeting and users rarely left the platform,” the memo says.
Speaking as someone who felt for a long time that being good at my job was linked to my presence and preoccupation with the platform, it’s really actually quite amazing to have it removed from my life and still be good at my job. Crazy, huh?
I laid out the platforms I’m present on at the start of this section but truth be told I’d wager that my output on all three of those combined probably still wouldn’t match up to how I spent my time on Twitter and having that time back? It’s kinda great!
So yeah, if I can do it (and walk away from 20k+ followers - happily), if NPR can do it (with negligible impact), then you can too.
‘The numbers confirm what many of us have long suspected — that Twitter wasn’t worth the effort, at least in terms of traffic’
And finally for this section, I’ve never really been a big fan of the vanity metric (aka: metrics or statistics that look spectacular on the surface but don't necessarily translate to any meaningful business results) so it was strikingly odd to me when I first moved into the games industry to suddenly start seeing briefs that said things like ‘20k Twitter followers in the first three months’ - like it was 2012 all over again.
And don’t get me wrong, I don’t deny the power of ‘the golden cohort’; for the first part of any new game’s early community development and buy-in. However, it’s hard to rationalise building your first and most important community on someone else’s platform while also giving away any hope of building a first party database.
Nuts! And yet it still exists.
Anyway, I tried to write about it ON LINKEDIN. I’d be interested to know if you find it useful.
Speaking of gaming…
3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING
Well, there’s been a lot.
Everyone else has written about the Microsoft x Activision decision finally going through (at last!) so all I’ll do to add to that is perhaps direct you to the UK Government decision page to read more about it.
It’s interesting to note that Ubisoft put out an article on the same day, outlining its vision for the next 15 years of Activision’s streaming output. With Ubisoft+ being a new destination for Cloud Gaming (as well as potentially being licensed out to others). We live in interesting times.
There’s lot of opinion out there but it’s always good to read the source.
Go the extra click.
As an aside, I do wonder about the costs of AAA title development and the future of 'the Netflix for games' - I wonder about that a lot…
What else can I tell you?
Oh yes, the other big news happening in games right now is the sheer amount of lay-offs happening across the industry. Some are calling it a belated post-covid realignment. Others are calling it a wake up call for bad business management.
Either way it’s pretty bleak out there for many people in games. If you’re looking or if you know someone looking, direct them to Amir Satvat on Linkedin, he’s doing God’s work.
BRANDS IN FORTNITE & ROBLOX
Not really a regular section but enough changes to happen this month to warrant its own little breakout. This week: strange trains and automobiles.
First we’ve got SHELL’s abominable attempt at fossil fuel propaganda with its ‘Ultimate Road Trips’ Fortnite Island.
Nothing much else to be said aside from congratulations on demonstrating a true absence of any moral backbone to literally everyone that touched this. The agency that built it, the media that sold it, the platforms that advertised it and the influencers that pushed it.
This is so utterly gross it’s beyond reproach.
And it’s gone down about as well as you’d expect.
There’s a launch film here that gives you the overall gist of the thing but honestly, given the amount of effort that must’ve gone into this - what a lost opportunity.
I guess you can’t be done for greenwashing (again) if you’re not hiding your commitment to fossil fuels, right?
Meanwhile, on the right side of automotive category’s history, here’s BMW with its own foray into Fortnite: Hypnopolis - all about the launch of its brand new and fully electrified BMW iX2.
This BMW effort is interesting in that it makes an attempt to be actually something people might want to play. It isn’t AMAZING but it definitely isn’t terrible - it’s just a shame some comms person decided to spaff the words ‘Web 3’ all over the press release. If you need reminding: Fortnite is absolutely not Web 3.
I wrote more about the whole experience over on Linkedin - your thoughts and opinions are welcome (there or here).
And then we get to this absolutely mental National Rail’s Young Person’s Railcard thing in Roblox.
Part standard media buy, part in-world activation this Roblox piece is both a point of difference on brands that have activated on the platform before and a puzzle.
The point of difference is that National Rail opted out of building its own Roblox world (where literally no one would visit) and instead built a brand extension in a handful of pre-existing uber-popular Roblox worlds such as Apartment Tycoon. This is smart. Better to join someone else’s more popular party than start your own and try and get people to come (this is basic social strategy from the late noughties btw - truly groundbreaking).
The puzzle is just how effective it’ll be. Like, this is the global distribution of Roblox audiences worldwide as of December 2022, by age group (source):
I’m slightly of the opinion that everyone over 25 is a 9yr old lying about their age but still. Of that audience, how many of those are a) in the UK and b) playing Apartment Tycoon? Is the ad-buy region locked somehow? How do you know if the ad-buy was successful? I get that it’s a new way to speak to this audience and I applaud the different approach. I’d just love to know more about it as a while (did you work on it? Hit reply on this email - I’m fascinated).
All of this er… analysis (?) aside, what has been genuinely pleasing/fascinating - from a work perspective at least - is the uptick we’ve had at Diva in non-games-focused brands and agencies getting in touch for an expert opinion on how to make these things compelling.
‘Hi, we’re building something but don’t actually know how to make it attractive to players - can you help?’ - it’s as flattering as it is welcome.
So if that’s you as well, by all means get in touch. You can’t just build these things and hope they’ll work - they won’t.
QUICK GAMING NEWS BITES
Idris Elba says actors in games is a sign of the times. Expect more, basically.
The FT on EA’s rebrand of FIFA to FC (regular readers will know I’ve been talking about successful this will be since it was announced - so it’s good to see the mainstream catching up).
More updates on Netflix Games (gently gently catchy monkey).
Stand back, fam. I think they’re onto us.
FaZe Clan went from $1billion to almost worthless. I am Jack’s lack of surprise.
Google is bringing back a key Stadia feature via YouTube. INTERESTING.
WHAT AM I PLAYING?
Right now, a lot. I played the hell out of Starfield when it first dropped, completed all/most of the side missions (easily some of the most compelling content in the game) but haven’t actually yet finished the main game.
I will go back to it at some point I’m sure but for now I am playing…
This is sublime. You have to spare a thought for the talented team at Turn 10. Between Starfield coming out and the Activision purchase finally going through (plus, y’know - every other massive game coming out this month), Motorsport hasn’t had the oxygen it deserves. And that’s a shame because it’s a cast-iron banger.
From the devs behind Limbo and Inside - Cocoon tells you nothing and lets you figure it all out with a single action button. It’s gorgeous too.
ASSASSIN’S CREED ROGUE: REMASTERED
No, that’s not a typo. I went to play the latest AC, MIRAGE, the other day but then got into a deep conversation with some pals about all the Assassin’s Creeds and realised I hadn’t ever played ROGUE - which is remiss of me given how much I proclaim to be such a fan of the series. So far it’s great - and I’ve missed the excellent ship sections. Nice to be back in that world. I will play MIRAGE at some point just not yet (everything I’ve heard and read says it’s classic AC and that’s what I want thanks).
Don’t get me wrong, while I’ve been jumping in and out a lot looking at work-based stuff (see above), I recently took the brakes off my son playing this and we’ve been playing together - and I’m kind of loving it. The years of Destiny 2 PvP paying off with many a Victory Royale - gold in solo build ranked mode? I thank you).
Played this for the first time last night with my mate Dave. Him on Meta Quest 3 and me on my PS VR2. Full cross-play and it was brilliant. We’ll definitely be playing more. Can’t wait.
For what it’s worth, with the exception of Walkabout Golf, all of the above is available on Game Pass. I should also get back to Destiny 2 at some point. I still raid from time to time but I’ve fallen off the PvE main storyline completely.
TOO MANY OTHER GAMES DAMMIT.
And that’s even before we get to Alan Wake 2, Super Mario Wonder, Spider-Man 2… etc etc etc. Eesh.
What are you playing?
The hidden eight continent is no longer lost.
I did not know this was a thing.
5. OK FINE, I KNOW SOME OF YOU LIVE FOR THIS PART OF THE NEWSLETTER: LET’S DO SOME ‘METAVERSE’ BITS
We’re quite deep on this issue on FTOF so I’ll TRY and keep this brief?
First thing first: Meta Quest 3 got officially properly announced and launched. I haven't got one (yet) but it's the first headset from Meta that has made me actually take notice properly. A few gamer pals have gone all in and are loving it (see Walkabout Golf VR link above).
Is it the metaverse? No! But then if you watched the keynote, everything from meta quest 3 through to snoop dog being an AI-driven dungeon master in your Messenger app is part of the metaverse, according to Zucko. So… y’know, if it used to be called ‘digital’ it’s now called ‘the metaverse’ - sorry, Zuck makes the rules (this was predicted at least 18mths ago btw — utterly mental).
Second thing: On a related note, the Lex Fridman/Zuckerberg interview is definitely something you've already seen.
Buuuut this shorter segment (and this link will jump to the bit you need) basically specifically says 'this is not the metaverse' - because this is a (don't get me wrong a REALLY FANTASTIC) demonstration of new technology called 'Kodak Avatars' which involves full facial scanning and encoding before you put the Meta Quest Pro anywhere near your head.
Again, this was yelled as ‘The first interview in the metaverse’ - but it’s not in the metaverse, it is instead a striking example of what can be achieved when technology combines together to create a photo-realistic (kodak avatars - geddit) video call.
But like I said, according to Mark Zuckerberg - everything is the metaverse. AI chatbots. Kodak avatars (exclusive to Meta Quest Pro?). Walkabout VR. All of it.
CHIEF METAVERSE OFFICERS: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
The Drum did an amaaaaazing ‘Where are they now?’ look back at the much heralded ‘Chief Metaverse Officer’ leads of yesteryear - literally, 2022.
You’ll be STUNNED at the findings (you won’t be).
My main takeout from this article? If the so-called ‘Godmother of the Metaverse’ no longer has the word literally anywhere near their Linkedin, I’m guessing the hype is over.
BTW, it was free to read when I found it but that’s no longer the case - I think there’s a non-paywalled version available here.
And here’s an NFT section:
Longtime readers will know of my absolute lol-a-tron disdain for all things NFT. I think in May 2021 someone asked me what NFT stood for and I said:
No way am I ever letting any of my
Take part in this criminal waste of time/energy'
Turns out I was right?
Crypto games - savage
Back to the Metaverse for one final bonus section:
This ‘immersive experiences’ insights piece from GEEIQ is a good read and stat fodder too but unfortunately the accompanying commentary makes a classic mistake. Can you spot it?
'Brands are now approaching platforms like Roblox, Fortnite or Decentraland as new, 3D communications verticals - a natural evolution of social media, which is itself a natural evolution of print, TV and radio.’
Did you spot it?
I’ll show you: Roblox has a DAU of 66.1m users. Fortnite around 30m. Decentraland (if you believe their numbers at least) has around 8,000 DAUs. That’s not a typo. And yes, that really is an idiot putting Decentraland in the same bracket as Roblox and Fortnite. Anyone that does this should not be allowed near a laptop let alone your marketing budget.
LASTLY: I spent a week alone in the metaverse is genuinely a great watch. Enjoy.
THIS IS THE BONUS SECTION. BONUS LINKS THAT BUMP US OVER FIVE THINGS BUT DUE TO TIMING AND SELF-IMPOSED WRITING RESTRICTIONS ARE LIMITED TO PITHY COMMENTARY ONLY.
Two men thought they had unearthed a stash of Roman gold coins (turns out they hadn’t).
Extinction Rebellion organised a ‘die in’ at Havas London’s offices in protest at its Shell account win. I wonder how long it’ll be before clients start to die off too.
Campaigns 'talent to watch' is out - a great place to hunt new talent for your agency. Off you go!
GUTS by Olivia Rodrigo has not left my Spotify in a month. This is a good review.
I personally enjoyed Ahsoka (YMMV) and thought it felt like PROPER STAR WARS in ways that ANDOR didn't. 'They can't all be Andor' is a great thought piece on how both can and should co exist in the universe .
Peep Show is 20yrs old. This is a great read.
Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy - what have you done?
The bailong elevator is the tallest outdoor lift in the world. I never knew.
'I'm just Ken' - because I Ken never get Kenough of this bange.
YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.
It’s nice to get this thing out and back inboxes once more. I hope it’s not too much of an intrusion -unlike WGSN who put this monstrosity in mine earlier this week - and I hope wherever you are reading this you are restful, breathing - and your jaw is unclenched… (go on, stretch it out).
Me and the Mrs managed to get away to see some friends in Milan last weekend (by all means yell if you want any reccos). It was exactly the break we needed AND I got to try out my 140-day streak Italiano I’ve been learning on Duolingo.
The weekend before that I spent three days in Birmingham catching up with my gamer pals some of whom I only ever see once a year (but chat to on mic at least once a week, if not on messenger daily).
And then last week I made sure to make time for my old OREO London crew too.
The point is: make time for your friends.
Fill their hearts and let them fill yours.
And skip everything else.
Until next time,
Whatley out x