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Kenneth Liu, Blogger

October 17, 2019

6 Min Read

Kliuless? Gaming Industry Insights #54

Hi, my name is Kenny Liu, and each week I compile a gaming industry insights newsletter that I publish broadly. Opinions are mine.

See more or subscribe at: https://tinyletter.com/kliuless

A Decade of LoL

  • Yesterday, Riot celebrated a decade of League of Legends by announcing multiple new titles

  • At the same time, Netflix also released League of Legends Origins, a documentary following the game's ascent and dominance

  • During my tenure at Riot, there always seemed to be this maniacal obsession over delivering "player value," a concept that was likely originally indoctrinated by founders Marc & Brandon, but I personally had always found it to be nebulously difficult to quantify

  • However, today, after reading Matthew Ball's essay, Disney, IP, and "Returns to Marginal Affinity", I instantly drew parallels between Disney and Riot, and wanted to share this unique approach of reframing "player value" aka "marginal affinity" into tangible business outcomes:

    • Businesses based around storytelling franchises (rather than “movies” or “media”) excel based on an intangible sort of operating leverage. Because it doesn’t actually “cost more” to make someone “love your content more”, but the “value of this love” is substantial, companies like Disney benefit from enormous “returns to marginal affinity”. And the more opportunities to exploit this love – and the better you are at doing so – the greater the leverage. Today, Disney leads on both. [...]

    • Even the smallest and hardest to quantify elements of a creative product will have a powerful effect on affinity – affinity that spans time, products, and failures. And it costs nothing. As a result of this leverage dynamic, a 5% increase in “affinity” can, say, drive 10% more revenue and 15% more profit. Consider, for example, that while Disney’s studio revenue has grown over the past several years, its operating income has grown far faster. The leverage is profound. [...]

    • So, the right frame for Disney is not really an “IP” play, but an “affinity leverage” one. And this dynamic goes both ways. Marvel Studios has clearly overperformed forecast “affinity” over the past decade and the results have been extraordinary. [...] For similar reasons, falling short of anticipated affinity can become expensive quickly. Earlier this year, Disney admitted that its newest theme park attraction, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, had underperformed. [...] And as films, like theme parks, are mostly fixed costs, the results of declining affinity are significant [(e.g., Episodes VII & VIII, Rogue One, Solo).]

    • One of the challenges here is that just as affinity picks up momentum, the reverse affect occurs, too – which I call “accrued disappointment”. Whether it’s a movie, album or book, unit sales in media are typically referendums on prior releases. In 2016, for example, DC boasted about the irrelevance of critical reviews and exit polling after Batman v. Superman (27% Rotten Tomatoes, B CinemaScore) and Suicide Squad (a barely known franchise in the DC universe that also earned a 27% and B) opened to massive $166MM and $134MM grosses. Two years later, DC’s signature film, Justice League (40%, B+), cratered with $93MM despite starring the three most popular DC characters (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman). We saw a similarly precipitous decline with Fox’s X-Men. [...]

    • A good storyteller must constantly challenge and shift audience expectations – otherwise there’s no surprise. But to subvert, you have to then delight by an equal (if not greater) amount. And the more (or longer) you subvert, the more precarious the execution and the more endangered the affinity.

  • Using Ball's insightful perspectives on Disney now as a lens through which to evaluate League's 10th anniversary announcements, Riot's big reveal is an incredibly bold, but highly levered gamble. Time will tell as their titles release one by one whether the fun of each game's play can actually match Riot's grand publishing efforts, and whether "player value" ultimately translates to affinity leverage or accrued disappointment


Art / Design

Cross-Platform / Multi-Platform

  • Google Stadia will officially launch on November 19

  • Roblox’s masterplan to enable young game devs to make $50 million a year on its platform

  • Apple starts selling Microsoft’s Xbox controller after adding support in iOS, macOS, and tvOS

PC / Console


  • Google officially reveals $799 Pixel 4

  • Sensor Tower: Lineage franchise bags over $4 billion on mobile

  • Sensor Tower: Global App Revenue Grew 23% Year-Over-Year Last Quarter to $21.9 Billion

XR: AR / MR / VR

  • Google discontinues Daydream VR

  • Opinion: The problem with PC VR is the PC

  • Microsoft Filed Patent for a Virtual Reality Mat

  • Scientists Develop Artificial Skin That Allows You To Feel In VR

  • Apple’s AR plans may come to life after acquiring iKinema motion tech

  • Niantic announces Wayfarer program to improve in-game play locations

  • Gameboard-1 digital board game console launches Kickstarter campaign

  • Universal’s free VR Holoride features Frankenstein’s bride  

Tech / Entertainment

  • Matthew Ball: Hollywood’s Video Game Blind Spot

  • Arm partners with Unity to make 3D run everywhere

  • Atomontage raises $1.95 million for microvoxel-based 3D graphics

  • Tinder’s interactive series ‘Swipe Night’ gives users new ways to match

  • Ubisoft Planning Animated TV Adaptations of Popular Game Franchises

  • Bloomberg: Facebook's Libra Loses Mastercard, Visa in Cascade of Exits

  • SEC Halts Telegram’s $1.7 Billion ‘Unlawful’ Token Issuance

  • Stratechery: Google and Ambient Computing


  • The First Video Game

  • The Best Video Games of 2019 (So Far)

  • The 30 best video games of the decade, ranked

  • German regulator begins process to ban Coin Master game

  • Blizzard backlash escalates following Hong Kong supporter ban

    • Related: Blizzard cancels Overwatch live event at Nintendo World in New York

    • Related: Unlike Blizzard, Epic Games says it won’t ban players for political speech

  • Giphy Arcade lets you play, remix, and share GIF-based ‘microgames’

  • Analogue Pocket offers a modern way to play and make Game Boy games

  • Bloomberg: Now There’s a Degree Designed for Those Who Want to Become an Influencer

  • HBR: Entrepreneurs Who Sleep More Are Better at Spotting Good Ideas

See more or subscribe at: https://tinyletter.com/kliuless

LinkedIn: @kliuless

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