Gamecraft

Gamecraft

Gamecraft is a limited series about the modern history of the video game business. Beginning in the early 1990's, the video game business began a radical transformation from a console and PC packaged goods business into the highly complex, online, multi-platform business it is today. Game industry legend Mitch Lasky and game investor Blake Robbins go on a thematic tour of the last 30 years of gaming, exploring the origins of free-to-play, platform-based publishing, casual & mobile gaming, forever games, user-generated content, consoles, virtual reality, and in-game economies across the eight episodes of Season 1. In Season 2, Mitch and Blake are back with a new series analyzing the state of the video game business in 2024. They start with a macro view of the current business, before looking at some hot topics in gaming: the rise of powerful independent game studios, emerging markets for games around the world, how innovations in artificial intelligence will change game creation, and the renewed importance of intellectual property in the game business.

Episodes

March 13, 2024 73 mins

In their final episode of Season 2, Mitch and Blake take on the complex and highly speculative topic of the impact of recent improvements in artificial intelligence on the games business. Your hosts acknowledge that the sector is moving so quickly that this episode could be obsolete by the time it airs, and warn that it's difficult at this early moment to look too far into the future.

Mitch offers a loose framework for thinking abo...

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Mitch and Blake look at the ins and outs of intellectual property licensing in games. After discussing the checkered history of the practice, they look at the creative and business reasons why licensed IP continues to be valuable to game creators. 

After a quick look at how IP licenses actually function and what to expect from licensors, Mitch and Blake discuss IP arbitrages -- finding gems in the rough that can be licensed at lowe...

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February 28, 2024 70 mins

In perhaps their most important episode of the series, Mitch and Blake explain what they mean when they use the term "distribution" and why it is so important to their understanding of how the video games business functions.

Like they did with the term "publishing" last season, they try to recontextualize distribution as a much larger and more important concept than simply moving atoms or bits into commerce. Your hosts define distr...

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February 21, 2024 67 mins

Mitch and Blake discuss the massive expansion of gaming in emerging markets around the world. The begin with a discussion of the big-picture factors driving this expansion -- primarily mobile technology, but also new business models, payment systems, and demographics. 

They then take a closer look at the Middle East and North Africa, and how the different approaches that companies are taking in Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia are ...

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February 14, 2024 63 mins

Mitch and Blake explore the idea of independent game development. They attempt to define "indie" in the video game context -- something that proves more difficult that it might seem on the surface. They discuss the early successful indie developers in the 90s, and examine how the technology and business innovations that revolutionized the industry in the 20th century (online distribution, new platforms, new business models) catapul...

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February 7, 2024 79 mins

Mitch and Blake expand on last season's discussion of platform-based publishers by introducing a new kind of company: the game-enabling software platform. The five companies they discuss (Epic, Unity, AppLovin, Discord, and Roblox) are all pursuing customer aggregation strategies similar to the platform-based publishers, but -- with the exception of Epic, which has attributes of both a publisher and s...

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January 31, 2024 71 mins

Mitch and Blake discuss the nuances of game financing. They begin by explaining how the publishing model of advances against royalties functions, and what the expected costs and benefits are for both the developer and publisher.

After a brief discussion of bootstrapping, they do a deep dive on venture capital financing for games. They reveal how venture capital fi...

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January 24, 2024 78 mins

They're back!

Season 2 of the GameCraft podcast kicks off with Mitch and Blake introducing the new 8-episode season, followed by an analysis of the current health of the games business.

Mitch and Blake discuss the paradoxical state of the business, where a "golden age" of content is facing some increasing financial headwinds. ...

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February 22, 2023 62 mins

Mitch and Blake take on the complex topic of in-game economies. They discuss how the endemic problems of trust and arbitrage were present in the earliest in-game economies of the late 1980 and how they have persisted to the present web3 economies. They look at the concept of mudlfation, a unique economic problem of massively multiplayer online games, and the strategies for controlling it, as well as the idea of economic play. Mitch...

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Mitch and Blake discuss the recurring industry obsession with the idea of virtual reality, beginning in the mid-1980s. Mitch recounts a story about his encounter with VPL and the weird world of digital artists and promoters in the early days of personal computing. They look at the second failed wave of VR investment in the 1990s and the importance of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. Mitch talks about how Linden Lab's Second Life antic...

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February 8, 2023 61 mins

Mitch and Blake debate the continuing relevance of dedicated gaming consoles to the video game business. They begin with a discussion of the economics of the console business, and how console manufacturers built defensible moats that have remained relevant for over 40 years. Mitch compares the current state of the console business to the theatrical feature film business -- and how both have become the domain of big budget blockbust...

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February 1, 2023 71 mins

Mitch and Blake propose a framework for understanding user-generated content in games based on two central metaphors -- the playground and the stage -- representing the two ways users "create" content in games through play and performance. They discuss the rise of sandbox games, The Sims, GTA3, Runescape, Second Life, EVE Online, and Minecraft. Mitch explains the evolution of games as performance spaces, beginning with early machin...

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January 25, 2023 81 mins

Mitch and Blake discuss how the rise of games-as-services has privileged durable, long-duration play-patterns -- leading to the modern idea of the "Forever Game" which can persist for decades. Mitch outlines his five attributes of long-term engagement and provides examples of each from games like Ultima OnlineWorld of WarcraftAge of Empires, and League of Legends. They look at the two distinct str...

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January 18, 2023 70 mins

Mitch and Blake discuss perhaps the most important developments in the video games business since the 1990s: the explosion of casual and mobile gaming. Mitch explains how the casual business was catalyzed by the most unlikely of heroes. He talks about his time as the CEO of the first public mobile game company in the US (JAMDAT) leading up to the launch of the iPhone. They look at the rise of so-called "social gaming" on Facebook a...

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January 16, 2023 63 mins

Mitch and Blake take a deep dive into the game industry’s migration from physical goods at retail to electronic distribution over the internet. They explore the rise of platform-based publishing — a new concept that marries the internet’s remarkable utility in aggregating customers on digital platforms with the traditional publishing roles of editorial, marketing, and sales. This episode covers the origins of the innovative Steam s...

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January 16, 2023 69 mins

Hosts Mitch Lasky and Blake Robbins discuss the rise of free-to-play as a dominant business model for video game marketing and distribution. They look at the roots of free-to-play in the shareware business, where companies like id Software and Apogee used it to build independent game businesses. Mitch shares some stories about his time as id's publisher in the late 90's. They then look at free-to-play as a response to rampant PC so...

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January 11, 2023 11 mins
Gamecraft is a limited series podcast about the modern history of the video game business hosted by industry veteran Mitch Lasky and investor Blake Robbins. 

In this introductory episode, Mitch and Blake discuss the series as a whole, breaking down the eight episodes and why the themes explored in the episodes are so relevant to understanding the modern business. They discuss their backgrounds in the industry and why they chose to ...

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