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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Microsoft Embraces Mobile; Embracer Group Soft on Mobile

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Mobile gaming sucks anyway. But I do like that Sudoku...

Two stories with very different outcomes but similar beginnings. One is that Microsoft is trying to acquire Activision Blizzard King for the opportunity to penetrate the mobile market. The other is that the Embracer Group, after acquiring Square Enix Montréal earlier this year and renamed it Onoma, has already disbanded the group and is transferring some of their staff to Eidos and Crystal Dynamics to make console and PC games—Square Enix Montréal was notable for developing mobile games like Hitman Go, Lara Croft Go, and Deus Ex Go. Embracer sees greater growth opportunities there.

How can two big gaming companies that love to acquire things have two very different viewpoints? From the very beginning, Microsoft executive leadership was particularly excited about mobile (the King side of Activision Blizzard King... and presumably not just for King's Diversity Space Tool), due to Microsoft's historically poor presence in the mobile market. As you may know, no one owned a Windows Phone. Phil Spencer definitely wants Xbox Game Pass to be on mobile devices, but getting/porting good games onto mobile devices is quite a challenge. Microsoft sees Activision Blizzard King as much better at that than Microsoft is. Besides King's crap, Call of Duty: Mobile is somehow wildly successful. (While I don't understand how you can play a competitive multiplayer first-person shooter on a smartphone and have it not be a disaster, millions of other people somehow have figured it out or have low standards.)

Just because Embracer shut down one of their new mobile-developer acquisitions, doesn't mean Embracer is totally off of mobile. Embracer Group has two mobile groups within it: Easybrain and Deca Games. Easybrain focuses on casual games, mainly Sudoku and Picross, which are two games I very much enjoy. Deca Games focuses on a wider variety of free-to-play games, ranging from “hyper-casual” to social casinos to action roleplaying games. How profitable are these? I dunno, but these also have millions and millions of downloads. Are people enjoying them? Well, I guess that doesn't matter as long as people are paying for micro-transactions.

Sudoku.com hard puzzle notes number highlights Easybrain Embracer Group
I might've spent more time playing Sudoku on Sudoku.com (managed by Easybrain of the Embracer Group)
than thinking about making salient and interesting points for this article. (Played on a PC.)
Well, it's good to know that the niceties of playing Sudoku from Brain Age back in 2004 has been surpassed by now by other developers.
Those highlights when a number is selected are a really nice quality-of-life feature.
Filling in a number will also erase the notes that have that number in its row/column/group. While that's good quality-of-life, it ALSO makes the thought process harder,
because now you're not consciously thinking of where the next potential openings are.


Maybe that's the problem with Square Enix Montréal's games. Those three “Go” games I mentioned all have an up-front asking price (of $5.99). They all have in-app purchases, but they're optional and of the “here are some hints to the puzzles” variety. (You don't need hints to succeed.) Perhaps Embracer doesn't like that development philosophy, or they think that Easybrain and Deca Games have mobile covered enough. For Microsoft, I don't think “enough” is really in their vocabulary when it comes to expanding content for Game Pass. Their ambitions are huge and far beyond their own platform.

Embracer is, I suppose, happy enough to get chunks of the pie (in fact, in their April to June 2022 financial report, their mobile sector was the only one with organic growth, while PC and console declined! However, mobile is also less profitable than their console/PC game segment, due to the very high user acquisition costs without the assurance that every player will be a paying customer), while Microsoft is in the position to grow that pie. They see mobile as a big, untapped frontier. Embracer is already on that frontier. While they continue to see good things on that frontier... I guess they have their business and portfolio reasons to want the Square Enix Montréal team to make PC and console games.



Ludwig was supposed to have a better analysis than what he presented, but he used his analytical thinking to successfully play through the Sudoku puzzle rather than putting his skills to good use for his writing, so you get what you get instead. Clearly, Embracer Group running Sudoku.com was his takeaway. What's yours?

2 comments :

  1. Microsoft actually had that thought? "Wow, we really suck at mobile games. I know, let's have ACTIVISION BLIZZARD" help us out with that. After all, it isn't as though they're an absolute dumpster fire of a company at all..."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're a dumpster fire, and yet somehow they still have a bunch of paying mobile game customers!

      Delete

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