Five things on Friday #340

Things of note for the week ending Sunday January 22nd, 2023

INTRO

Howdy, stranger. How the hell have you been? I know I know. And I checked, it’s been 100 days since we last spoke. One of the last things I said before I signed off last year October was:

‘Work is about to get very busy and what with half-term around the corner, I can already sense the time disappearing into the long nights ahead. But hey, let’s not worry about that quite yet…’

Pleased to know that I absolutely definitely saw that one coming. Did not know just how busy life/work/things would get (and frankly they still are – I’m writing this to you at 937am on Sunday morning, I’ve got my coffee to my right, my kids playing Minecraft to my left – I’ve not even opened the ‘#5things’ link sheet I keep running in the background… this may take some time) and the best thing is, there’s barely anything I’ve been working on that I can tell you about… well, we’ll see about that later.

A fair amount of other stuff has happened while I’ve been off and while I’m not going to spend this whole edition reflecting on it all, some of it will bubble up in the THING selection I’m sure.

For the newbies: welcome. Some of you might be here for the bants, some of you might be here for the interesting things and some of you might just be here for the infrequent metaverse fact-checking. Whatever your reason, you’re very welcome here and fingers crossed you decide to stick around.

What else can I tell you?

No, actually – let’s leave it there and get right on down to THE THINGS, shall we?

LET’S.


1. YES, IT’S 2023 AND PEOPLE ARE STILL TRYING TO MAKE ‘METAVERSE’ A THING.

I think I did alright y’know. I mean we’re what, three weeks into 2023 and I’ve barely written a thing about the absolute horse manure floating around on this ‘topic’. The restraint should be applauded. I wanted to head into the New Year with an open mind.

And yet, whenever I see the words ‘[So and so] did X in tHe mEtAvErSe’ I have this weird reaction of ‘Wait, are we still talking about this? Didn’t this die last year?’

Apparently not.

For the newbies here, this is all you need to know –

When someone uses the M word, just ask them: ‘Yes, but what do you mean?’ – if they say: ‘Decentraland’ (or any other Web3 desolate wasteland), openly laugh at them and ask how many users they hope to reach. If they say ‘Roblox’ (or any other sandbox game such as Fortnite or Minecraft’, say ‘Oh, you mean video games?’ – and then move on.

Because in 2023, we’re all just going to call things what they are. OK? OK!

What have we got in this section this week:

1. HOW SUCCESSFUL ARE BRANDED METAVERSE ROBLOX EXPERIENCES ANYWAY?

A few editions ago now (Thing 1, issue 337), we took a cursory glance at the early response to the heavily reported on Walmart Roblox experience.

In the above article, smart person Peter Gasston takes a better/deeper look at these numbers and some of the other branded Roblox experiences also available on the platform. If you’re hearing metaverse things or being told ‘success stories’ about these activations, then definitely read this – it’s a great reality check.

2. OH YEAH! THIS:

“A spokesperson for the Commission [said its] purpose was to “increase awareness of what the EU does on the world stage” among 18-to-35 year olds found “primarily on TikTok and Instagram” who are “neutral about the EU” and “not typically exposed to such information.””

I know we’re going back to pre-2023 on this but still, this is an exorbitant amount of money to be wasted on what is ostensibly someone’s failure to conduct any serious due diligence on exactly how to reach any amount of young people.

Ridiculous.

3. WHAT ELSE.

Oh hang on, this isn’t metaverse related. Just McKinsey. I mean, why would you believe a damn thing it ever publishes?

SMALL BITS:


2. THE ORAL HISTORY OF THE GREATEST DISNEY FILM EVER MADE

“There’s a strange, magical moment where once you’ve worked on it for long enough, the movie starts to tell you what it wants. It will reject things that feel unnecessary or forced upon it. But it will also ask for those moments that it needs. It just became clear in watching it over and over again that the balances had to be shifted constantly until we found that dance between sincerity and ridiculousness.”

“We actually didn’t think that we would (a) ever be able to license the music or (b) be able to depict Elvis in the movie. We figured at some point someone was going to pull us aside and say, “You can’t do that.” But representatives of the Elvis estate came out to look at our story reels, and they got behind it. So strangely we found ourselves having a premiere at Graceland. We got a special tour of the vault at Graceland where we took a look at these crazy rhinestone jumpsuits…” – wonderful.

This is such a great read.

If you’ve never seen Lilo & Stitch, you really should change that x


3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING

Let’s kick things off with a sweet faux-3D Piccadilly Circus World of Warcraft thing from the talented geniuses I work with at Diva.

Isn’t it great? Love this. We also saw it in person, which makes it even better.
Also available on Linkedin.

Now onto the news:

SOME EA x FIFA OBSERVATIONS

The EA and FIFA split (and let’s be absolutely clear on this: it was EA who did the dumping in this relationship) continues to be an excellent story of success being the best revenge.

December’s World Cup, arguably the best/worst example of exactly how corrupt the football’s governing body has become (Google ‘Salt Bae World Cup’ for literally just one example – or simply ‘Qatar deaths world cup’ for perhaps a less fun read), undoubtedly served to double underline how much of a wise and well-timed moved this was from EA’s execs.

FIFA, in its hubris, after telling everyone that it would build ‘the only FIFA video game worth playing’ (or some such nonsense – sorry, I can’t be bothered to google the quote – but it was ridiculous), went and announced a new FIFA game… in Roblox.

FIFA

And y’know what, I could probably get behind this. It’s undoubtedly true that Roblox is predominantly played by young(er) people, and getting them onboard with football – in the spaces where they are handing out – makes strategic sense.

Except the execution was terrible? 11.6m visits and 5m uniques isn’t to be sniffed at admittedly (for context: FIFA 23 – EA’s final FIFA game – sold 14m copies in Europe alone) but still, AAA content this ain’t.

Roll on July when EA Sports FC turns up and let’s see what happens next…

As an aside, EA Sports has now successfully predicted the World Cup winners FOUR WORLD CUPS IN A ROW. One to keep an eye on when you’re doing the sweepstakes in a few years time eh?

WHAT ELSE CAN I TELL YOU

Oh, Adage went ahead and wrote up ‘The top five gaming activations of 2022’ and… well.. I’m not really sure how they define ‘gaming’ (or ‘activation’ for that matter) but let’s just a take a proper look for a minute.

We have:

  1. There’s the universally panned* Wal-Mart x Roblox.

  2. Then a Tampax x esports team sponsorship. I like this. More please.

  3. Pacsun x Roblox (recreating a shop in Roblox, big whoop)

  4. Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s with Twitch. This is just live-streaming?

  5. American Eagle and Twitch… and this is streamers talking about their clothes.

Absolutely mental stuff.

Aside from setting no real criteria for elevating anything into the nebulous stratosphere that is know as ‘Top’, the activations listed are just plain odd. This feels a tad gatekeepery but it’s kinda telling that when your top five is made up of two Twitch streams, two Roblox worlds, and an esports sponsorship package I wonder if people know what it means to activate in a game?

Other news bites:

AND FINALLY: THE MUCH MISSED ‘WHAT AM I PLAYING’ SECTION

We did a TON of work for Modern Warfare II so full disclosure, I got a code from work and played the my way through the single player campaign. I hadn’t touched a COD properly since Infinite Warfare (and its bonus PSVR section) and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed MWII. Incredible graphics (the Amsterdam level has to be seen to be believed) and just set me up nicely for Warzone 2.0 (the new DMZ mode is excellent – and I’ve played SO MUCH of it, Destiny has barely got a look in).

I finished (and platinumed) God of War: Rangarök. What a game. Honestly, yes it looks incred but the character development in this game – especially in the latter half of the game really is fantastic. I get why so there were so many arguments about whether or not this should’ve been GotY (over Elden Ring). Fortunately for me, I only count games in the year when I finished them. So I don’t have to make that comparison.

One word of advice: if you’re playing Ragnarök, don’t put it down when you see the credits roll. That’s only the first set of credits. There’s one more thing to do before you see the second (and final) set. Go do it. It elevates the game massively. That is all.

Since finishing God of War I’ve hit a bit of funk. I’ve gone back to Cyberpunk2077 for a bit – see if I can’t knock over the main story of that sometime soon. And I’ve found myself wandering around in Destiny 2 again – trying to mop up this season’s story beats before the major content drop – LIGHTFALL – arrives next month.

On the mobile side of things, I’ve been completely ensnared by MARVEL SNAP. I dabbled in a bit of Vampire Survivors for a bit (and really enjoyed it) but as the games got longer my level of commitment waned shorter and I went back to SNAP.

Oh Marvel Snap. I’ve had to uninstall if five or six times now. It’s not good. I mean, it’s great but a card level collection over 1800 can’t be a good thing, right? Yeeeesh.

Anyway – that’s me. What about you? What are you playing?

Inspire me. Please. Thanks x

*see Peter’s piece in Thing 1.


4. WHAT TO DO ABOUT A PROBLEM LIKE TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, MASTODON… ETC

I mean, we had to talk about it right? Since we last spoke, that knobhead Musk went and bought* Twitter and let’s be honest, has managed to completely wreck it in almost record time.

So what to do what to do what to do.

But here’s the journey I’ve been on:

The first thing I did was go and join Mastodon.

It was the cool thing to do and well, it felt everyone else was doing it too. Plus! It was one of the few services that had a ‘find people from Twitter’ thing plugged in (see ‘Debirdify’). And people were also well up for helping others sign up too – check this write up from WSJ (no paywall).

I even dropped Twitter for a while.

But then it felt like people were splitting (quite a few of the games people left and went to Hive – which buckled quite quickly – currently I think the service has spent more time offline than it has on).

And then I realised I was missing stuff. Game news, movies news, events (eg: the Christmas gathering for Destiny 2 players – The Dawning – hosted by Bungie, completely passed me by – GRR!) and so back to Twitter I went. But it ain’t the same anymore and I’m quite unsure what to do next.

Mastodon is OK but my friends (and my news sources) aren’t there. Instagram is a no. I haven’t posted on Meta’s misery machine 2019 and I’m not about to change that.

So is it just Musk’s crap version of Twitter for now?
Back to newsletters?
LINKEDIN? (absolutely not).

I genuinely have no idea.

Blergh.

So yeah, what to do what to do what to do.

Answers on a postcard please.

*was legally made to follow through with his promise to purchase


5. THE POWER OF DESIGNING YOUR LIFE TO SAY ‘NO’

Ending this first FTOF of 2023 with a good old fashioned blog post. This one from my friend Savannah, on grief, travel, commitment – and being able to know when to put your own oxygen mask on (clue: it’s first).

Sometimes you just have to say NO – and that’s OK.


BONUS SECTION

WELCOME TO THE BONUS SECTION. OPEN AT YOUR OWN RISK. THE AUTHOR TAKES NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE NUMBER OF TABS YOU WILL HAVE OPEN BY THE END. NOTE: THESE ARE LIMITED TO PITHY COMMENTARY ONLY.

ENJOY..?

And finally – my favourite podcast ‘OUT TO LUNCH’ has booked its last reservation. After 100 or so episodes, Jay Rayner’s pet project has run its well dry and while I am sad to see it go, I completely respect Jay’s reasons (which you can read here). If you’ve never listened to it before, now’s the perfect time – it’s got great guests, a well-researched interviewer, and some frankly blinding restaurant recommendations to boot. It doesn’t miss.


HOLD TIGHT. YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?

As I sign this off to you, it’s 20:44 on Sunday night. I’ve just my running kit out for a (what looks like is going to be a BLOODY FREEZING) jog in the morning (a story for next edition) and I need to sort my desk out for work. The kids are tucked up in bed, the Mrs wants to watch season two of Russian Doll and me, well, I need to wrap this up.

I hope you enjoyed this edition – the first Five things on Friday of 2023 – and let’s hope (HOPE!) it won’t be so long next time. But hey, no promises eh?

A belated Happy New Year to you, friends.

Whatley out x

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Author: James Whatley

Chief Strategy Officer in adland. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

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