Flock music. Mammonism. EA losing Star Wars? Games consolidation.

It was a classic NYC moment. Right as I rolled up on the flower stand and queued up like a proper city-dweller, two things stood out.

First, there was a line. That never happens. Usually it’s just me and the two women behind the counter wrapping my flowers. (Because I buy my special lady friend flowers every week, yo!) Based on the observable homogeneity of the entire customer cluster—middle-aged dudes in dress shirts—it was clear that everyone was there to buy flowers for Valentine’s Day.

Second, a woman walked by and smirked. Yes, smirked. Most definitely it wasn’t some ear-to-ear smile that tells you she was feeling a loving warmth from seeing a bunch of dudes awkwardly buying fancy plants. Rather she was judging the hell out of us.

For a moment the familiar burn of this chronic inability to conform was swelling. But then it hit me: I realize that this exact moment was the key component to the true Valentine’s Day ritual. One day of the year to love means to publicly expose yourself buying obvious gifts that are clearly overpriced so that you can take them home to your special human as evidence of the fact that you’ve been openly declaring your love for them at varying retail locations that day.

Sometimes the winning strategy is to be a total loser.


China looking to regulate mobile quiz apps
With up to 6 million people playing at once answering multiple choice questions, quiz apps have become exceedingly popular in China. (One wrong answer and you’re out.) Naturally to compete, the growing number of quiz apps are constantly raising the prize money people can win. Because the quizzes are free to enter, the underlying revenue model is all about ad dollars, which the Chinese government is starting to realize is a lot like click-bait. It especially frowns upon the rampant “mammonism” these apps cultivate. Wow. That went from low to high brow real fast. Link

Taylor swiftly rejected on grounds of banality
To musicians lyrics are like a DaVinci code: a specific formula that describes them perfectly and captures the mindset of a generation. And so naturally Taylor Swift took to the courts to claim copyright on the phrase “Haters Gonna Hate” which appeared in her hit song “Shake It Off.” What I appreciate about Ms. Swift is how prolific she is. Here’s an artist who puts out multiple albums a year and apparently without any effort manages to convincingly evolve her style. (Compare, for instance, Lady Gaga.)  Unfortunately, a judge dismissed the copyright case on grounds of the phrase “lacking a modicum of originality and creativity.” Ouch. The judge continued stating that “ the concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal.” A mild defeat to the Swift empire, but no matter: singers gonna sing. Link

THQ Nordic buys Koch Media for €121MM
In pursuit of economies of scale, the formerly defunct publisher announced its acquisition of Koch Media. The firm is looking to expand its development capacity, build its IP stable, and access a broader publishing and distribution network. The acquisition raises the question whether the games industry is going through a broader trend towards consolidation, and, if so, who else is looking to buy. Even as the industry’s middle class has been disappearing, firms like THQ seek to bring finesse to the table and optimize operations of more modest titles. Given the current climate in which both console and digital platforms will be looking for more gaming content this is a promising strategy. It also affords long-term sustainability which may even lead them to stumble upon a billion dollar franchise all their own. Link

Is Disney pulling the Star Wars license from EA?
Certainly, the publisher screwed up by taking a gamble on loot boxes (get it?). And following a course correction away from a single-player game to an online multiplayer experience may have rubbed Disney the wrong way. This could either mean (1) that Disney considers this a breach and therefore grounds for revoking the license, or (2) Disney simply won’t renew when the license runs out. More likely, Disney is looking to squeeze some more value out of EA. After all that drama, I would. Rumor

Overwatch League announces its first female player
Despite offering a much higher level of diversity in its game play, so far the professional Overwatch teams have been exclusively male. The announcement of Kim “Geguri” Se-Yeon joining the Shangai Dragons is a welcome step in the right direction if esports at large is going to deliver on some of its promises this year. (And while on the topic of budding sports, I’ve been eagerly following the ascension of curling to the mainstream.) Link

Musicians that flock together, rock together
The concept of blending different musical styles together is not new. What stands out about the practice today is the current scale at which that is taking place and how increasingly optimized the practice has become. According to this articlearound 35% of songs in the Billboard Hot 100 today are collaborations, up from around 5% in the 90s. Just, please: no. more. Maroon5.

Pay for news with crypto
US publication Salon is exploring an interesting monetization strategy: either watch ads or allow Salon to mine cryptocurrencies. Certainly a risky proposition because of the volatility of cryptocurrencies, and I’m unconvinced this would work at scale (e.g. NY Times). Even if they can resolve any of the obvious security issues here, I’m not sure extracting value both from my user data and my consumer electronics is fair. How about I just pay you $10/month instead and you leave me alone? Link

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