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The Sunday Papers

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A plain white mug of black tea or coffee, next to a broadsheet paper on a table, in black and white. It's the header for Sunday Papers!
Image credit: RPS

Sundays are for recovering from jet lag. Before you get up at 3am, let's read this week's best writing about games (and game related things).

Over on Vulture, Josef Adalian and Lane Brown wrote about why the TV streaming model is broken. A longread on how the TV industry is almost irreparably ruined now, thanks to streaming services like Netflix which the article describes as a bit like Uber, "another investor-funded agent of chaos that upended an industry without plans for a sustainable future".

“The entire industry,” says the director Steven Soderbergh, who has been navigating structural changes in Hollywood since 1989’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape, “has moved from a world of Newtonian economics into a world of quantum economics, where two things that seem to be in opposition can be true at the same time: You can have a massive hit on your platform, but it’s not actually doing anything to increase your platform’s revenue. It’s absolutely conceivable that the streaming subscription model is the crypto of the entertainment business.”

Edwin Evans-Thirlwell wrote about why Starfield's biggest problem is that you can't play Skyrim for the first time again. How games-as-a-service have steered open world games in a direction away from adventure, and how Starfield attempts to rekindle the magic of the past.

I'm being snarky again, but I don't feel snarky. I think a portion of the derision directed at Starfield, with its huge scope that seems to only promise more of the same, stems simply from missing how these gameworlds used to make us feel. Oblivion and Skyrim were a success because they built a following outside the existing Elder Scrolls niche. They achieved this primarily by simplifying the role-playing systems and worldbuilding they inherited from funky uncle Morrowind, with both eyes firmly on the console market. But Skyrim also wove an enchantment through its geography and perspectives that stands apart from its more acquisitive and reductive elements, and which no descendant or imitator has ever quite managed to recapture. Indeed, the consolidation of the open world genre has only served to bury the glories of games like Skyrim, their landscapes subordinated to the habit-forming infrastructure and resourcing loops of the Game-as-Service.

For PC Gamer, Andy Chalk wrote about the bleak outlook of the esports business in North America. Chalk writes about streamer Disguised Toast who spent $1m on an esports team, and says that esports is a terrible business where everyone is losing ridiculous amounts of money. Perhaps unsurprising, but again, sustainability issues innit.

"If you look at any esports org in North America, all of them are either broke or going broke. And I do mean all of them. Some orgs will try and put on a front and say, 'Hey, we're still good, we look good, everything's cool here.' Trust me when I say, everyone is losing a lot of money. A lot of people are being fired, no org is safe right now."

Nathan Brown wrote about this year's Geoff Fest showcase. I know I keep linking Brown's Hit Points, but man, I always look forward to his takes on the industry as I think he cuts to the heart of matters. This one's pretty scathing.

Sure, it was all about money in the old days too. But E3 was also a sort of meritocracy; all the industry’s movers and shakers came together, showed us their best work and we — the press and biz folks in attendance, the players tuning in from all around the globe — decided what mattered the most. The platform-holders were trying to sell us consoles; the publishers were trying to sell us on their games. We decided the winner. The not-E3 era has largely robbed us of that agency. Keighley has nothing to sell except our eyeballs, and last night he exploited that opportunity to the fullest.

Music this week is Je Vulesse by Nu Genea. Here's the Spotify link and YouTube link. Heard this while waiting for a burrito in LA, and it properly got its hooks in me. I'm a sucker for funk, what can I say?

That's it for this week folks, take care of yourselves and see you next week!

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