Five things on Friday #343

Things of note for the week ending Friday March 24th, 2023


Two editions in January. Two editions in March. If I keep this up, we may get into some kind of regular pattern for this thing y’know? Amazing.

(No promises though babe)

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. The San Francisco Game Developers Conference (GDC) has been in full swing and I’m fascinated by the news and announcements that have been flowing out – more of that later in Thing 3. And I’ve also had a bunch of stuff go out all at the same time that was made all at different times over the past few months (Adweek commentary, podcast stuff, a speaker announcement) – and they’re linked in their proper places in this week’s edition.

Thank you, by the way, for the nice notes and comments from the last edition in regards to the words I wrote about taking on my first CSO role. You’ve all been super lovely and, well, I’m pleased. I wrote it to offer insight and to help 🙂

In a similar vein, the week after next I’ve got my first hire starting at Diva (WEEEEEEEE!!!). So here’s a little Twitter thread about that process – and ultimately why feedback is so important.

Finally, for the newbies – and strangely there are quite a few of you this week (hello!), this newsletter is a mixture of culture, news, advertising, video games, and just occasional random things I enjoy. Sometimes there are typos – but they’re there to test you. So if you spot one, let me know!

Right then.

Shall we?


‘WASD’, Noun. Event.

Later this month see the return of London-based consumer and trade games show, WASD. We were there last year (I hosted a terrific panel of industry veterans talking about the future of the industry and played some fantastic games – see Thing 3, in, FTOF #328). This year, it’s back and bigger than ever – this time moving from Tobacco Dock to the Truman Brewery – and hosting so many more devs and publishers and their games. From Street Fighter 6 to VR2 and every indie inbetween, there will be a LOT to see.

Also, if you’re going to pop along to the London Developer Conference on March 30th (running in parallel and on the ground floor to WASD), I’ll be giving a talk about how devs can ready themselves for working with brands – in a refreshed update to the talk ‘Metaverse, what metaverse?’ – this new version be less provocative and more constructive. Promise. Ish. …we’ll see. 😁

Anyway, I’ll be there Thursday in a work capacity and Saturday as a punter with the fam. Hopefully see you there?

Tickets are available now.

PS. Work in the industry and don’t have a ticket to the industry after show party? Get in touch.


This week on Twitter someone shared the lede from the this 1993 excellent long read profile of the incredible Ricky Jay.

You should click through and read the opener (and then see if you stick around for the whole thing – it’s a great read). I’ve known and read loads of stuff about Ricky Jay before. The man is a master. Magic was a thing I used to do for a while (not like ‘I know a couple of card tricks’ magic, more… I was a magician’s assistant one summer in my teens and I did a couple of kids’ parties) and, well, when my friends and I used to trade tricks the ambition was never shock, or surprise – it was always laughter. If you could bring about laughter in another magician, then the job was done.

I’ve seen Ricky Jay do a lot of stuff. On YouTube videos on TV shows – and I’ve read about him a ton. The point is, after finding the article above and from the same Twitter thread, I found and watched this incredible film of a trick I’d not seen Ricky do before. I laughed. I laughed and laughed and laughed.

In awe.


Hopefully not that much this week given all the WASD stuff above but let’s see how we go…

There’s only one major thing to talk about this week and it’s this:

GDC 2023 | Epic Games - Unreal Engine

Epic’s ‘State of Unreal’ presentation at GDC 2023. If you are so inclined, you can go ahead and watch the full one hour twelve minute presentation over on YouTube right now – and honestly, if you have the time, I really recommend you do. The technology on display is truly game-changing. Literally.

This v short clip for Hellblade II for example, is just one clip of just how amazing the new standards of this tech truly this.

I can’t wait for Hellblade II. But also: Metahumans are insane.

So yeah, there’s that.

Then there’s the update to Fortnite. With Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) and Creator Economy 2.0. I’ve been saying to anyone that will listen that ‘You should keep an eye on what Epic are building’ – because frankly, Roblox stole their breakfast lunch and dinner and, well, GDC was a proper flex.


  • 500M players.

  • Islands built using Fortnite’s creator tools take up 40% of the playtime on the platform.

  • A new creator portal enabling IP ownership for development on platform.

  • UEFN means you can make a ton of new games, and *while you are building them* your friends on your team can drop in – from any platform that runs Fortnite – and run around. WHILE YOU ARE BUILDING IT.

  • From this week, 40% of Fortnite’s net revenue (billions of dollars every year) is going to be open and shared with the people developing and publishing games on the Fortnite platform.

  • And so much more…

In short: Fortnite is getting bigger. Better. And for Unreal Engine, it is an incredible Trojan Horse.

But that’s not what I want to talk about (!) – what I want to talk about is, Epic’s CEO, Tim Sweeney’s closing remarks about Epic’s future vision.

Aka, what Epic is calling: ‘The open metaverse of the future’ (it’s a ten minute talk, and this link should take you right to it).

And I really like it.

In the talk, Sweeney ‘Metaverse inspired games’ such as Roblox, Fortnite, Minecraft, etc – collectively cover an identifiable audience of 600m active users – on a trajectory that will be in its billions by the end of the decade.

Tim says:

‘We can set aside the crazy hype cycle around NFTs and VR goggles… …and the core of it is something that every gamer understands: it’s you, and your friends, getting together online and going around as a group – on voice chat, having a fun time in social entertainment experiences. Some of these experiences are serious games like battle royale, some of them are going to a concert and dancing or chatting with friends and just having a good time’

Social entertainment experiences, something I’ve been calling metaversal activities sounds exactly like what so many other badly made platforms (Horizon Worlds, Sandbox, Decentraland) and terrible brand executions (like, I don’t know – just close your eyes and throw a dart) have been trying to do over the past 12 mths or so but doing it without any real idea of audience size or segmentation, creative nous, or understanding of what it is they’re trying to do and therefore achieving little to nothing aside from a few trade PR headlines.

But with the tools and platforms Epic is publishing I can genuinely see the path towards what they are calling the ‘open metaverse of the future’. And, in attempt to tick the ‘interoperable’ part of the metaverse definition, Epic also believes it should all be open and connected – ‘turning today’s game engines into tomorrow’s metaverse browser engines’.

Like I said: I really like it. It talks about social entertainment experiences and does so from the point of view of the player.

I do think the ‘m’ word is unhelpful (the definition is loose, at best) but generally, when people like Epic stand up and talk about this, it’s useful to sit up and listen.

A metaverse of games – connected via a backbone of Unreal tools and services – feels like something that will happen.

And I’m interested.

This is a very good follow up piece (with additional commentary and interview notes).

Other gaming-themed links of note:

And finally, towards the end of last year (November to be exact) I was asked on to be a guest on a new audio series from Kaspersky, called ‘Insight Story’.

Episode 1 was, of course, ‘What should you be doing about the metaverse?’

Apple links also available.

A good conversation that lays out what is and what isn’t worth worrying about if you’re a brand or an SME thinking about getting involved with ‘the metaverse’. I’m also quite happy that five months ago I was talking about the activities outlined by Epic above (in a similar context).

Would love to know what you think.

What am I playing?

  • Diablo IV beta (phenomenal).

  • Back into Destiny 2 (which is great – beat the raid! Earned a raid jacket!)

  • Finally had enough tokens to get Knull in Marvel Snap and now I can’t put it down again.

  • I’ve got Tchia downloaded and ready to go but haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

What are you playing?


Sharing this again because it’s just so good.

We used to do these for Kronenbourg 1664 at Ogilvy, years ago (and it might’ve got us in trouble once too) and so I know the effort that goes into these things.

The ‘Proper Whopper’ line was on the cover the Metro the day before and so less than 24hrs later, to have the ad space bought, the brief in, copy approved, and then lined up and published…? That is some herculean effort.

Well done to all involved.

Ps. For the non-Brits reading this. Our ex-Prime Minister is a proven pathological liar. And has been pulled over the coals for misleading parliament (about his lies when he was partying his way through covid lockdowns – fun!)


Ryan Weideman nyc cab driver street photography

Ryan Weideman is an NYC cab driver that has spent the last 30 years taking photos of his passengers.

This is his story. And there are many photos.





This week I’m signing off with a photo.

My good friend and old Ogilvy pal Larry was in town this week – extremely short notice and so, because the bugger lives in Amsterdam, I dropped everything and high-tailed it into Soho to see him.

We drank Guinness, traded stories, and took photos of each other because that’s what you do when you’re in your 40s reminiscing. Anyway, Lazzle Bazzle Pazzle (that’s his real name), took a photo of me that I quite liked and, because I’m never going to reboot my instagram, you can have it as well.

So here’s me, at 9pm on Wednesday night. Literally, happy as Larry.


Until next time,

Whatley out x

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Author: James Whatley

Experienced advertising and communications strategist working in brand, games, and entertainment. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x