9 episodes

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 this eight episode series.

Gamecraft Mitch Lasky / Blake Robbins

    • Leisure
    • 4.9 • 44 Ratings

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 this eight episode series.

    The New Gold Rush (Ep. 8)

    The New Gold Rush (Ep. 8)

    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 talks about how gold farming and real-money trading were early antecedents of play-to-earn, before taking a look at early web3 economies. They end the episode with a discussion of the speculator problem in web3 gaming, and Mitch explains the trust and gifting based economy of Jenova Chen's Sky.
    The Story of Habitat
    Axie Infinity hack
    Raph Koster on "fun" in virtual economies
    Under a Killing Moon
    "Mudflation"
    'Flation (Koster)
    Play Money (Dibbell 2007)
    Castronova on Everquest GDP
    CS:GO Skin Economy Explained
    EVE Online (How Money Works)
    Is Crypto VC Strategy Securities Fraud?
    Sorare
    Sky economy

    • 1 hr 2 min
    The Failures and Futures of Virtual Reality (Ep. 7)

    The Failures and Futures of Virtual Reality (Ep. 7)

    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 anticipated many of the ideas of the modern metaverse. They then look at the Oculus, and Facebook's decade-long failure to generate momentum behind a new wave of virtual reality, and what Apple's entry into the market may mean. They conclude with a look at the idea of the metaverse and its challenges.
    Links and Show Notes:
    Mondo 2000 magazine
    Mark Pauline - Survival Research Labs
    Neuromancer (William Gibson, 1984)
    “Spawn of Atari” (Wired Magazine)
    VPL
    “Murder She Wrote” VR Episode
    Hasbro’s Toaster VR Project
    Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson, 1993)
    Ready Player One (Ernest Cline, 2011)
    Beat Saber
    The Metaverse (Matthew Ball, 2022)
    Raph Koster’s “real talk about a real metaverse”
     

    • 53 min
    Console Castles (Ep. 6)

    Console Castles (Ep. 6)

    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 blockbusters with cultural significance but dwindling market share. They discuss the history of Nintendo, how its often-contrarian business strategy has paid off over time. Mitch explains how a lawsuit with Nintendo got him into the video game business. They conclude with a look at Sony and Microsoft's different responses to cross-platform play, as powerful platform-based publishers like Epic challenge the traditional console model, and what it means to the future of the business.
    Links & Show Notes:
    Atari
    Alex St. John
    Xbox GDC Launch Video
    Nintendo Playing Cards (1889)
    Valve’s Hardware History
    “Iwata chooses violence”
    Pokemon GO / Niantic
    Atari Games v. Nintendo
    List of Cross-Platform Games (Q1 2023)

    • 1 hr 1 min
    The Playground and the Stage (Ep. 5)

    The Playground and the Stage (Ep. 5)

    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 machinima and progressing to YouTube videos and Twitch streaming. They conclude with a brief look at Roblox and Discord as two "third places" that people hang out online, and the influence of games on the future of social networks.
    Links & Show Notes:
    Bartle’s Taxonomy
    The Sims (WaPo article)
    GTA 3 (The Ringer retrospective)
    Second Life and lessons for the metaverse
    Empires of EVE
    Minecraft hits 1 trillion views on YouTube
    Machinima
    Starcraft on Korean TV (2008)
    Ninja and Drake on Twitch
    Roblox S-1
    Discord

    • 1 hr 11 min
    The Forever Games (Ep. 4)

    The Forever Games (Ep. 4)

    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 Online, World of Warcraft, Age of Empires, and League of Legends. They look at the two distinct strands of long-duration play that emerged in the 1990's -- the massively-multiplayer online role playing game and the session-based online competitive game -- and how those genres evolved and cross-polinated to produce multi-billion dollar online games that have remained viable for a decade or more.
    Links & Show Notes:
    Bill Gurley on LTV
    Island of Kesmai
    Bran Ferren
    I/ITSEC
    The Assassination of Lord British
    Lineage
    AoE2: Red Bull Wololo 2022
    World of Warcraft
    Fortnite

    • 1 hr 21 min
    The Calculus of Fun (Ep. 3)

    The Calculus of Fun (Ep. 3)

    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 and how it was enabled by new advances in analytics and data science. They do a deep dive on the iOS App Store and Mitch talks about how Apple's desire to curate its end-user experience inadvertently led to the rise of Facebook as a customer acquisition gatekeeper. They end with a discussion of why SuperCell succeeded in building a multi-billion dollar mobile game business while Rovio did not.
    Links & Show Notes:
    Robert Westmoreland 
    EA's “We See Farther” Ad 
    Ion Storm 
    Taneli Armanto / Nokia Snake 
    JAMDAT Mobile S-1
    Steve Jobs Announces the iPhone 
    Mobile Games Dominate User-Acquisition Spending (2021) 
    SuperCell 

    • 1 hr 10 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
44 Ratings

44 Ratings

David.88 ,

Insight into the video games business

Checked out this podcast at Phil Spencer’s recommendation. Despite being an avid gamer in high school some 15 years ago, I knew very little about the actual video games business. Enter Gamecraft with its engaging discussions peppered with amusing historical anecdotes that together provide an excellent overview of how the once nascent video games industry grew into the behemoth it is today (and where it may go from here). As a consumer PE investor (i.e., non-tech background), I especially appreciated the technical explanations of the various business models the games industry has favored over the years. Gamecraft is highly recommended for prospective VC investors or any video games enthusiasts interested in learning about the business side.

Jimmyy Zaza ,

incredibly insightful

this podcast is amazing, Mitch has a way with words and Blake is a great foil to balance out the pods structure. as a technologist, entrepreneur, and avid gamer, i feel like i learned so much from this that i can apply to future ventures. i would absolutely love a bonus episode or season 2!

Mickmiggitty ,

Great series - we’ll structured and comprehensive

Would welcome a bonus episode or two - perhaps deep dives into cohorts of game publishers that didn’t get a ton of air time (including indies). Thanks for the hours of content.

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