For as long as I can remember, guides have always been a part of gaming culture. From reading the latest tips in my favorite gaming magazine to scrolling through pages of community curated walkthroughs, there was no end to the flow of information gathered by professionals and hobbyists alike. Nowadays, as ways to monetize personal work have become widespread, that information is created and monetized by both independent creators and large publications.
Sony has now presented gamers with a new option: game guides directly in the system’s UI, small videos that you can place Picture-in-Picture so you can follow along without having to pull out your phone and search for the specific help you’re looking for. We’re currently unsure if those videos are crowdsourced or if they’ll be provided by devs, but the question still stands: how will this affect the games guide market? Does Sony have enough of a market share that the convenience will be enough to pull eyes away from publications and content creators? Will the implementation be a new way for Sony to mine players for content that they won’t be able to monetize, or will the experiment end up as a wash? We discuss this and more on this week’s Waypoint Radio. You can listen to the full episode and read an excerpt below.
Rob: A thing that does catch my interest here is the degree to which this will be crowdsourced. It doesn't scale if you're making developers submit all of this and curate it and get really granular. Where it does scale is if you can somehow create incentives, and you barely need to cause people in communities love to do the shit anyway, if you let them upvote and create ways to really granularly fill in these hints systems and guide content.
Where I think that does leave me a little bit curious is the degree to which this begins to impinge on [other guides]. We are aware the degree to which guides have become an integral part of the games media model, and even that might be old news, the model's always changing. A thing that worked two years ago stops working, etc, etc. But I am curious what this ends up meaning for what's become a pretty serious ecosystem of both publication driven guide content and then also like just YouTubers, who that's their bread and butter.
Patrick: Just to illustrate how pervasive this has become and how much it's become enormously popular and a source of income for broad publications like IGN and lots of YouTube creators who that's their bread and butter. when you get embargoes, now embargoes have different , often it's like, here's the, here's what you can say for the preview coverage, yada yada, yada, yada. And then here's what you can say for review coverage, yada, yada, yada, and then here's what you can do in video form, like yada, yada, yada. And now there is almost always, especially for bigger titles, a section that's and here's what you can do for game guides, yada yada, yada. It is so prevalent that there's early access given to publications where the whole idea is you're only giving this so that they can start chopping the game up into a guide that can go up alongside the launch of the game.
Austin: This is the thing that I've been interested in for years and years, because the other part of this is using players as content creators who also cannot then build their own brands. I actually wrote about this, there was an academic article, it was not peer reviewed even though it was in a peer reviewed journal, but they just asked me to write about something. You can look it up. It's called “Watching Us Play: Postures and Platforms of Live Streaming,” it was in Surveillance and Society in 2014.
One of the things I noticed at that point, which was right when the PS4 and the Xbox One had first started letting people stream from those platforms, is that there was not a lot of ways for you as a streamer on those platforms to personalize or brand or own any of your content. You were just thrown on to a screen of people currently playing games. And yes, if you had a PlayStation-Eye and a camera you could talk, but you were not able to do the high level engagement that someone who's streaming via an expensive PC was able to.
Patrick: There's none of that in either of these machines now right?
Austin: A hundred percent
Patrick: None of that's changed, right?
Austin: I don't think any of that's changed. PlayStation has not come out and said “and here's how you can do a layout. Here's how you can moderate your chat.”
Patrick: That’s kind of fascinating.
Austin: It is, right? The thesis of this piece that I wrote was basically that there was a passive streamer posture and an active streamer posture, and that console manufacturers really want to keep players in that passive streamer posture when they're just playing directly with the game, because what they get is non-editorialized clean video, where someone is just streaming and they can monetize that video somehow or instrumentalize it.
And if that video then turns into your help video, then that's an incredible pipeline for producing those videos, which then you're literally selling to people by way of PS+ subscriptions. So I'm very curious to see how, for small games that are not submitting their own videos, like Rob said, where is that stuff coming from?
Is that coming from “Jill the streamer girl” who has an account with six people who watch her, she just streams from her PS4 or from her PS5. And then the PS5 algorithm is like, “Oh yeah, she just completed this activity. Let's chop that video off, send it out to 10,000 people today who wanted to see how to get the monk robes or whatever?” If so, that's a very interesting and I think illustrative labor story happening, that I think speaks to one of the things that these companies would like to do more of.
Rob: And there's always the tension between people who are going to be like, “what are you complaining about? People just have to figure out a new thing.” The situation is, right now there's a lot of people who figured out a way to make a service they provide somewhat viable as an income stream, as a model for attracting audiences. What the PS5 UI and the way it integrates this stuff suggests is a future where that stuff isn't personalized that way. It doesn't become part of someone else's business model, it sort of fits into a Sony user experience model and it's not anybody else's business model at all.
Is that more convenient for players? Moderately. Honestly, as neat as this looks, it's still pretty marginal improvement over me opening my phone one handed and being like, “uh, I'm stuck in the safe room!”
This transcript was edited for length and clarity. Discussed: PS5 UI 9:48, Phasmophobia 46:08, Iron Harvest 1:08:29, Star Wars Squadrons 1:14:16, Lightstream 1:31:59, Hades 1:35:11, Watch Dogs Legion 1:38:37, Xuan Yuan VII 1:47:13, From Soft Games 1:50:41
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