Handheld Gaming Consoles: Boom or Glut | Ubisoft Sails into a Storm It May Not Survive
- Handheld Gaming: Are we in a boom or glut?
- Ubisoft's 2023 is off to a rough start with production problems and CEO's gaffe
- Most Anticipated Game: Hitman: World of Assassination
- Other News: PlayStation, Microsoft, Nvidia & Google
The Handheld Gaming Console Market: Gaming Boom or Glut? More startups test the water while Lenovo is noncommittal
Lenovo’s Lost Handheld
Lenovo confirmed that it had developed a cloud gaming-focused handheld, only to cancel it in 2021. The Lenovo Legion Play’s similarities with Logitech’s $349 G Cloud is where it gets interesting.
- Both have similar 7-inch, 1080p 60 Hz, 16:9 displays
- Both use the Snapdragon 720G processor and 4GB of RAM
- Both run Android 11 and nearly identical versions of Tencent’s game launcher
- Very similar design, with the Legion Play having a larger battery and display out
Abxylute Lowers the (Price) Bar
The relatively unknown Abxylute is looking to put pricing pressure on cloud gaming players in the handheld gaming console space. In partnership with Tencent, the startup is launching a cloud-gaming handheld this quarter with a pre-order price of $199 (retail: around $250).
- Display: 7 inch 16:9 inch screen at 60HZ
- Processor: MediaTek MT8365
- Memory: 4GB RAM
- Storage: 64GB
- Battery: 5,200 mAh, 8 hours of gameplay
- Weight: 410 grams
If Abxylute can deliver on its promised capabilities and price, it could be a gamechanger for the handheld gaming console market. Unlike the $349 Logitech G Cloud or $399 Razer G Cloud, $199 or $250 are low enough that the Abxylute won’t directly compete with smartphones and tablets. There is, however, reason to be cautious.
- Is a startup with less resources and reduced economies of scale really going to offer comparable performance at a reduced price?
- Details on the product and company are more scarce than one would hope this close to a product launch.
The common thread of Tencent, which appears to have a hand in multiple, ostensibly competing products, suggests that cloud gaming’s future may be most tied to the Asian market and its preference for mobile gaming. In the US and Europe, Tencent’s increasingly close ties with China's government are also liable to hurt more than help.
While the handheld gaming console market and its growing product selection superficially looks healthy, there are reasons to think that we may be seeing a temporary glut, not a booming market.
- Lenovo passed on a handheld, suggesting that the world's largest PC maker felt the margins or demand weren't sufficient
- These handheld game consoles are increasingly similar in price and performance, to the point they may be cannibalizing sales
- Many rely on cloud gaming, which is undergoing growing pains
- Subscription costs are likely to rise given the cooling tech bubble and inherent challenges of making media streaming profitable
- Truly mobile cloud gaming still requires more 5G investment from telecommunication providers
-Avery Bissett, Head Writer
Ubisoft Sails into a Storm It May Not Survive Another Skull & Bones delay is the least of its fumbles
French publisher Ubisoft had a really bad week, with no one to blame but itself. Between game delays, cancellations, and ill-advised remarks from leadership, Europe’s largest game publisher has sailed itself into dire straits.
More Delays and Cancellations
Ubisoft announced during its most recent investor call that Skull & Bones is once again being delayed. If that sounds familiar, it would be because the game was originally to release in 2019 after starting development in 2013. While not quite a case of Duke Nukem: Forever (a legendary flop that spent almost 15 years in development), the seemingly never ending delays don’t inspire confidence that Ubisoft has a hit on its hands.
At this point, Ubisoft doesn’t just need a home run, it needs a grand slam. The publisher announced it’s canceling three partly-developed games and projecting over a $500 million loss for its fiscal year ending in March. Years of complacent releases and a modern market that demands live service revenue have left Ubisoft in a lurch, waiting for its next big AAA hit but without the live service income to tide itself over.
The worst damage, however, was inflicted by CEO Yves Buillemot. “The ball is in your court to deliver this line-up on time and at the expected level of quality, and show everyone what we are capable of achieving,” he wrote in a company-wide email (courtesy of Kotaku). “I am also asking that each of you be especially careful and strategic with your spending and initiatives, to ensure we’re being as efficient and lean as possible.”
Buillemot then belatedly apologized this week, telling employees, “I heard your feedback and I’m sorry this was perceived that way. When saying ‘the ball is in your court’ to deliver our lineup on time and at the expected level of quality, I wanted to convey the idea that more than ever I need your talent and energy to make it happen. This is a collective journey that starts of course with myself and with the leadership team to create the conditions for all of us to succeed together.”
The damage is already done, however. Ubisoft already struggled with high turnover amid a toxic workplace culture before Buillemot’s gaffe, and being told “you’re on your own” won't play well with a demoralized workforce facing layoffs.
Ubisoft still has some time to right the ship. Skull & Bones should (knock on wood) release this year, and the free-to-play Tom Clancy’s The Division Heartland and Assassin’s Creed Mirage may too arrive in 2023. The company also started selling its games through Steam again, which should widen its customer base. But between the delays, lackluster releases as of late, and financial struggles, it's far from clear if Ubisoft will deliver quality titles that get gamers to open their wallets.
There were reports last year that private equity was scoping out a purchase of Ubisoft, and these recent developments only increase the likelihood of a change in ownership and/or leadership. Ubisoft is already worse positioned to weather a recession than larger publishers like Take-Two. If there’s a difference now, it’s that economic headwinds have reduced spending from private equity. This could be a chance for a larger publisher – like Tencent, which already has a minority stake in Ubisoft – to acquire the struggling French company.
-Avery Bissett, Head Writer
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Supply Drop: Games & Players
Upcoming Games (January 20 - 26)
Fire Emblem Engage – Switch
Forspoken – PC, PlayStation
Hitman: World of Assassination – PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch
Mahokenshi – PC
Monster Hunter Rise – PlayStation, Xbox
NeverAwake – PlayStation, Switch
Risen – PlayStation, Xbox, Switch
Trenches – PlayStation, Xbox, Switch
World War Z – PlayStation(5), Xbox(X)
Most Anticipated: While not a new release per se, this week's most anticipated game is Hitman: World of Assassination from IO Interactive and Feral Interactive. Let's start at the end and work our way backwards:
On January 26, Hitman 3 will become Hitman: World of Assassination. The concept was originally shared by IO Interactive as "an ever-expanding game that would evolve over time and be the foundation for future Hitman games." Current owners of Hitman 3, originally launched in 2021, will get a free upgrade to Hitman: World of Assassination, which will become the single available option to start playing the series.
The new, singular edition will also contain access to 2018's Hitman 2 and 2016's Hitman. These complete what is considered the "Absolution Trilogy," following five installments of the Hitman franchise that began with Hitman: Codename 47 in 2000, which kicked off the stealth video game series revolving around a genetically-enhanced clone trained for global assassination.
The idea of combining content from multiple franchise entries into a single, evolving experience is one that is sorely missing in the gaming world today. Replayability is so often overlooked (or ignored) in the creation of modern single player games, with gamers often only left with the option to beat the exact same game on harder difficulties.
-Dustin Downs, Editor
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The Tap: News to Go
- Industry: US consumers spent $56.6 billion on gaming, a 5% decrease from 2021, according to NPD and the Entertainment Software Association. Console sales were up 8% YoY to $6.57 billion, with content sales finishing 2022 at $43.5 billion.
- Media Streaming: HBO's adaption of The Last of Us pulled in 4.7 million viewers during its debut, the network's second largest debut since 2010. (Courtesy of Deadline) It's an encouraging sign for PlayStation, which has been attempting to leverage its IPs through other media.
- Industry: Microsoft is laying off 10,000 workers, equivalent to almost 5% of its total workforce.(Courtesy of the AP) CEO Satya Nadella's wants the company to prioritize AI, with Microsoft's gaming divisions not being spared layoffs.
- Industry: Nvidia and Google both brought to the FTC their concerns regarding Microsoft's acquisition of Activision. The companies were reportedly worried that the deal would give Microsoft an anticompetitive advantage in the cloud gaming and mobile markets.(Courtesy of Video Games Chronicle)