The Future of Gaming Technology and Player Experiences

In this insightful episode of the Player Engage podcast, host Greg Posner and guest Erik Ashby, Senior Director and Head of Product Research at Helpshift, delve into the evolving landscape of gaming technology and player experiences. They kick off the discussion with the buzz around GDC, sharing their excitement for the event and the latest trends in the gaming industry. Erik, with his extensive background at Microsoft and Helpshift, brings a wealth of knowledge to the table, particularly in the realm of AI and its integration into customer service, as highlighted by the recent developments at Klarna.

The conversation then shifts to the future of gaming, exploring the dynamics of games as a service, the impact of subscription models, and the potential shift in gaming experiences with the rise of personal screens within homes. They also tackle the contentious issue of walled gardens in the tech industry, focusing on the Epic vs. Apple lawsuit and its implications for app marketplaces and consumer choice.

Key takeaways from this episode include:

  • The transformative role of AI in customer service and its potential to redefine the industry.
  • The shifting trends in gaming consumption, from big screens to personal devices.
  • The ongoing battle between open ecosystems and walled gardens, with a spotlight on the Epic vs. Apple case.

To get a deeper understanding of these topics and hear Erik’s expert insights, tune into the full episode of the Player Engage podcast. Discover how these trends might shape the future of gaming and technology, and what it could mean for players and developers alike. Listen now to learn more about the exciting developments discussed in this episode.

AI Transcript – Erik Ashby

Intro: 00:00: 00:16: Welcome to the Player Engage podcast, where we dive into the biggest challenges, technologies, trends, and best practices for creating unforgettable player experiences. Player Engage is brought to you as a collaboration between Keyword Studios and Helpshift. Here is your host, Greg Posner. Hey, everybody.
Greg Posner: 00:17: 00:47: Welcome to the Player Engage Podcast. Greg here. I am very excited about today’s episode. If you are listening to it today, which would be March 19th, this is kind of the official first day slash second day of GDC. And I am going to be talking with Eric Ashby, who will be joining me as well at GDC. This is Eric’s second time on the show. So first of all, welcome back, Eric. Just a little information about Eric. He is the Senior Director and Head of Product Research at Helpshift. He’s been here for, I think, well over, he could correct me, about seven, almost eight years.

Erik Ashby: 00:47: 00:49: Yeah, seven going on eight years.

Greg Posner: 00:49: 01:03: Yeah. Crushing it. And before that, he was at a little company called Microsoft for almost 20 years. So there is a lot of brand loyalty there, Eric. That’s awesome. So first off, welcome back to the podcast. I’m excited to be at GDC with you next week. What’s going on with you?

Erik Ashby: 01:03: 01:31: Well, first off, super excited to be here. You know, you and I had been chatting about, you know, how soon can I come on? I just I just think it’s so much fun. And it’s perfect timing because, you know, GDC is next week. Super excited about about going. I know this is coming out on the 19th while we’re at GDC, but but today is is a couple of days before GDC. So so I’m actually super excited about, you know, about going there, meeting with you, of course, and with everybody. So super excited to be on the podcast.

Greg Posner: 01:31: 02:02: Yeah. And Eric and I will hopefully be wandering the GDC floor for a little bit. So if you could find us, come say hi, we’ll be recording some stuff and we’ll see what’s up. But today’s episode is a little different than our normal episode. Kind of in lieu of GDC coming up, we would just want to kind of touch the big major topics going on in technology over the past couple of weeks, see what’s going on and how GDC is going to impact those. So before we get started with the major podcast itself here, Eric, Let’s talk about what games you’re playing today. Because I know you are a gamer.

Erik Ashby: 02:02: 03:00: Oh shoot, I just I’ll tell you that the one I played Dungeons of Eternity just display. That’s a that’s a VR game and I’m not like like it’s a it’s you know you’re in a dungeon and you’re fighting people and things like that and I typically just because this will show my age. I get a little bit seasick motion sickness when I when I play these games. It was a good game. It was an actually really good game. I enjoyed it and I played a lot of Like wizards and things like that, but no, I played that a couple days ago with my with my son at his birthday He said yeah tab. We got to try this out and and it was great and and to be clear my son’s like 26 27 Okay, so so it was but yeah, I think that was the that’s kind of the game I’m into right now is Dungeons of Eternity Of course Monopoly go is always the go-to when I’m sitting there sitting around You know not I need to kill a couple minutes, but those are the games I’m into right now.

Greg Posner: 03:00: 03:09: So the VR, AR game, we’re going to have a video hopefully from Eric with him and a couple of his family members. You can see what the future of gaming is going to look like.

Erik Ashby: 03:09: 03:50: Oh my gosh. So we’re at this place. My son actually owns a gaming store, which is kind of fun. So we had the party at his place because it just has room. And we’re like, hey, yeah, let’s play some you know, some VR together. It’s a multiplayer game. You get to shoot skeletons and stuff. And so we got into it. We’re all playing and whatever. My wife’s just sitting there looking at us. She’s like, what a dork, what a set of dorks. And so she videotaped us and she sent it to me afterwards. And I was like, oh man, this is, but it was actually a lot of, it was a lot of fun to, you know, to play with the kids and stuff. And I call them kids. These are now my adult children that we still play together. So.

Greg Posner: 03:51: 04:07: Awesome. That’s something to look forward to as I get older, is be gaming with my son and hopefully have all those hobbies as well. But that’s awesome. I’m excited to see the video and poke fun of you, but that’s awesome. That’s a fun experience to be able to do with everyone. On a similar note, GDC, are you looking forward to anything specific at GDC?

Erik Ashby: 04:08: 05:56: OK, so there’s first off I’ve been to GDC for quite some time. Obviously the sessions are always fun to go to, but honestly my the thing I love the most about GDC is walking the floor. I just love to go see what walk the floor, go corner to corner. Last year it was funny thing I picked up some. I picked up something called I can’t remember, but it was some AR goggles where you you put down a. You put down a. it’s on a table, you just put down a mat on the table, and then the game rises off the table, which was which was a lot of fun. So I like walking around and kind of seeing all of the new technology. Obviously, there’s going to be some things that we’re looking for, like the AR VR is going to be really good, big. And I, you know, you and I should probably chat about this a little bit about what’s what’s going on with that. obviously interested in to see all the places where people have done AI. I love to see all the new upcoming students. There’s this whole section about students that are there, and I love to just go talk to them about their games that they’re making. And then probably for me, we have the Community Clubhouse, which I don’t know if we would have done that, because I think that’s on Tuesday. just being there with customers that are using some of our technology and hearing the discussions, this one-on-one for me is just invaluable. I just love spending the time doing that. Those are the things I’m looking forward to at GDC. To me, it’s always a lot of fun. My daughter is also, she’s in college right now, getting into the industry. She came up to me about two weeks ago. She’s like, dad, have you ever heard of GDC? I’m like, Oh, yeah, I’m going to it. She’s like, What? You’re going to GDC? I said, Yeah, I’ll be there. So anyways, I there’s a lot to cover there.

Greg Posner: 05:56: 06:03: It’s fun that your kids can now start to understand what you do for a living and get a lot of interest in your industry. Like, Oh, my God, you’ve been doing this your whole life. That’s awesome.

Erik Ashby: 06:03: 06:06: Yeah, they still don’t think they still think I don’t know anything, though.

Greg Posner: 06:07: 08:03: That’s typical. Yeah, I’m excited to walk the floor as well. I mean, I’m just as a fan of gaming, seeing how they’re implementing AI into all these new games coming out. I know you and I will touch on AR, VR, and I think we have slightly different outlooks, but I know some of the videos you shared with me recently, which we could talk about, are phenomenal and exciting, so we can talk about that. But let’s talk about what’s going on in the industry, and let’s just talk about some news, because I think there’s a lot going on to unpack it. And let’s also simplify some of these things, so maybe people who don’t know what’s going on can understand it. Let’s start with the first one, which I think hits hardest to home to the company we work for, which is Helpshift. And the company we’re going to be talking about is Kalarna. Kalarna is a buy now, pay later type of company. And the last bit of news they released is that they are laying off 700 people and having AI perform the jobs of those customer service agents. And that is a huge news in the industry. There are some stats that I’m just going to kick off to begin with, and then I’d love to hear what you have to think about that, Eric, which is so far, they’ve had 2.3 million conversations after one month of being live, which totals about 66% of Kalarna’s total customer service. The workload is normally required for 700 full-time support agents. The AI chatbot CSAT scores are on par with their human agents. There’s been an 81% drop in resolution time from eight minutes to two minutes, and that led to a drop in 25% of repeat inquiries. I think, first of all, I think to Eric and I, because we’ve been in this industry for quite a bit of time, none of those numbers are truly surprising. I think making a jump like this to full-time is crazy, but clearly Killarney is seeing success and clearly they’re going to get some slack because of this news. Let’s hear it from you, Eric. What do you think? What are your thoughts?

Erik Ashby: 08:03: 11:53: Well, actually, when I read through it, I was like, it’s interesting because it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen numbers like this. And so I was like, okay, that’s interesting. But What I think took the industry a little bit by storm was the name recognition. People are like, oh yeah, it’s real. When I think about AI, how it’s progressed over the years, AI has been around for a long time. make no mistake, it’s been around for for quite some time. You know, first we had humans that were doing their work, and then AI started to sneak in in the background. Not really in the foreground, it was in it was in the background. So it was simple things I could do spellchecker do. you know, maybe some language AI might help you write your thing better. And then recently, we’ve had these language AI translation services that can help translate as you’ve been going. But again, it’s always been in the background. And we’ve attempted to put it in the foreground. You know, people are always like, oh, let’s put this chatbot out there. But as it came out, it was like, If you were kind of to grade the AI by the human age, you would be like, kind of felt like a two-year-old or a three-year-old and it would get off. Well, to be honest, they’re getting there. The AI is getting to a point where it’s around like a teenager or a young adult where it can handle these frontline communications. And people are now realizing, yes, we’ve moved from where AI is in the background to where AI can be in the front. And so the workforce is no longer humans being assisted by AI. Now it’s side by side. You have AI that is handling the front end of the conversation and humans handling the back end if it gets difficult. And what Klarna showed is like, yeah, guess what? It’s real. we’ve talked about it, it’s real, we can do it. When I look at what did they do, I went through and in fact, this would be a really good place to show some screenshots which I have for that. But they’re using language AI to detect the intent. From the intent, they’re matching that intent with an answer, and then the language AI is giving out the answer. And then they’re personalizing it because they’re in context. Now, all of this technology exists. But it takes someone going in and optimizing that technology for that. And that’s what we’ve been doing for quite some time. In fact, I read some numbers that were significantly more. We have brands that are around 70% of their system is automated. And of course, all through this AI, when you do that, of course, your time to resolve is gonna come down because it’s all instant. But yeah, I think the reality is we’re here. we’re at a place where now AI can do the front end. And so there’s going to be a transformation. Brands are going to start recognizing how to do it, and they’re going to recognize how to do it in a safe way. And that’s the other thing that I think Klarna has done, is that they’ve done it in a way that’s safe. You’ve seen people have just thrown AI out there in an unsafe way. And there’s a story where some What was it? It was a car dealership. They threw an AI out there. The AI is supposed to help people out, and some guy figured out. He’s like, oh, it’s AI. I’m going to talk to it. He got the AI to confirm that they could buy a car for a dollar because it still is a kid. Let’s be honest. Klarna did really good at taking the AI, protecting it, configuring it, optimizing it, and they’re seeing the outcome because of it. It’s something that other brands can do. The technology is there for other brands to do it.

Greg Posner: 11:54: 12:36: I love your explanation of it in years, like age range, right? Which makes a lot of sense. I mean, in my mind, I go back to January 1st of last year, right? That’s when I feel like OpenAI really hit the market with ChatGPT. And then we’re now about 15 months later. In the first 12 months, we’re probably saying we’re not there yet, we’re not there yet to agents to control the conversation, but now it seems like Klarna kind of solved that and saying, hey, let’s work side by side. And no doubt within a couple months, it’s not going to be side by side anymore, right? It’s going to be humans backing up the AI. And I guess in your mind, you’re saying that Klarna is doing it better, but what do you think they did different?

Erik Ashby: 12:37: 15:15: Well, if you compare to say, the example that I gave with the bot that was at the car dealership, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Again, think of it like you’re hiring a kid that graduated from high school. You take that kid and you’re like, hey, here, I want you to go sell our cars, go out in front and just start selling cars, right? That’s not the right way to do it. Okay? The right way to do it is to take them, bring them in, train them, have them understand the policies, test them out, run some examples, you know, how would you do with this? No way. And then, and, and you really optimize him for, or him or her, what, you know, you optimize them for, for the tasks that they’re going to do. And so, you know, Klarna came out a while ago and said, hey, we’re working on this, but they didn’t just throw it out there. And that’s what I saw last year is I saw people take, oh, you know, GPT is here. Let’s just throw it out there. And that’s not the way to do it. What you do is you take the technology, use AI to help you with that, understand like, what are the most common problems that you’re going to see? Have AI, you know, to be like, okay, here’s the most common problems you’re going to have. Then, okay, then let’s make sure that our AI isn’t just a generic model, but it’s also trained on the specifics of our app. Let’s train it on the specific problems. Let’s make sure it’s really good at these specific problems. Let’s make sure that if it doesn’t understand that it knows how to hand off to a human very quickly. That’s what they’ve done. Like I said, it’s what we do when we go in and we talk to a customer. We go in and we’re first like, what are your top 20? In fact, we look at the top 20, 30 call volume drivers and it counts for like 85 percent. We just hone in on those and immediately we have automations and AI trained on 85 percent of their call volume or their ticket volume that we can then handle through that. Then you give it rules, you give it automations, you give it workflows that it can work through, you give it then some personalization data, you plug it into your CRM. Then you have something that’s very powerful. Again, it’s just like a human. You give the human all these tools and resources, training, and things like that. it’s going to be a lot better. And that’s what they did. They took the time to get that part right. And that’s what’s different than, oh, we just stood up a chatbot. Which is interesting because then it gets into what’s the role of humans. Because we should not be letting chatbots run amok. We need to be managing them.

Greg Posner: 15:17: 16:53: I think, you know, as the sales engineer in me, right, it tells such a great story that I feel like we’ve been saying for a number of years now, right? Let’s talk about some of the things that Kalorner could do. And I’m not wanting to compare it to Helpshift. It’s not necessarily a comparison, but all these tools and features have been available on our platform. It’s just who’s going to be that first one to take a risk and go almost fully automated with the option of going to an agent. But they can help them. The Colorna bot can help customers with any questions about their account, recent payments, anything like that. Meaning it has access to a CRM. Meaning if you’re a company today wondering how we can make our tools more intelligent, connect your chat bot to a CRM to pull that player data or pass that player data through your platform. That’s completely available. It’s completely available today. Have access to customer profiles and recent transactions, again, still through the CRM. It just makes it a personalized experience, which is great coming from a bot. It knows 35 different languages and it’s available 24-7. And I think one of the most important aspects is it does still give you the option to speak to a human, right? So if you are the type of person that wants to have that out, that out is available. It’s really a cool tool. They clearly didn’t rebuild the wheel. The wheel has been in existence for a while of all the tools that can pull these data, provide this data, but they put it together in a package and they took that chance. It’s kind of that first mover’s advantage of moving forward. And to your point, we can’t let it run amok, but there’s going to be a certain point where that bandaid gets pulled and it’s going to be like, who’s going to be the first one to fully replace agents? And it’s not really a great way to look at it, but what is the role of the agent in the future? And I think that’s a conversation worth having at some point.

Erik Ashby: 16:53: 18:07: Yeah. And I think the agent part is actually super, super important. When you think about it, of course, what you as a consumer see is you see the AI and you’re like, wow, it’s this thing. But in order for that to happen, there was a technology platform that technology had to be in place, which is what we have or what’s out there. There is the expertise to train the bot to set up the technologies to all of do that. And then it has to be backed by the human agents that are always there ready to pick it up when needed. And so when I think about, oh, how are we going to implement AI? I’m like, look, if you’re going to implement AI, it has to be done in combination of AI and humans and technology. You have to bundle those together and that creates a solution. If you’re just like, oh, we’re going to implement AI, that’s not going to be successful. It’s got to be that triad together. And when you do that, That’s when you see these results. To me, that’s the future. That’s the future of where it’s going. It is going to be a combination of all of these. It’s not either or.

Greg Posner: 18:07: 18:45: Cool. We’ve learned about Kalarna, what’s going on with Kalarna. Let’s move on unless you have any final words on that one. This next topic is a pretty hefty topic, and I want to talk about games as a service. things like xCloud, things like GeForce Now, things like PlayStation Now, lots of things out there today. And I know you’re a gamer. We talk about games all the time. We spoke about games earlier today. Myself, I’m an Xbox player. I love to sit on my couch and play my Xbox. I have my computer, but it’s next to where my kids sleep, so I don’t really PC game anymore. And I have my Switch. And when I’m sitting on my couch, I love to just be able to play my switch or if I’m traveling, I play my switch. Yeah, yeah.

Erik Ashby: 18:45: 18:52: What is it? It’s interesting. I got my I’ve got I got the switch light right here that you know, it’s always sitting here we’ll talk about.

Greg Posner: 18:53: 19:00: Yes, but to help me like, well, what is your normal gaming experience like? Because I think that is changing as time goes on.

Erik Ashby: 19:00: 22:30: Well, it is, and it’s it is really interesting. Well, like I want to get into the into the the market a little bit, but let’s let’s hold off on that because I want to talk about hardware also because there’s something interesting. But but if you look at the market right now, you know, this market’s been been flat, it kind of grew when there was COVID, right. And so we’re like, everyone is sitting at home. So we all decided to play games. And so it grew. And then there was there’s been a correction from that it’s it’s picking up, but it’s not at it’s not at a, you know, rocket setting, setting pace. What’s interesting, though, is if I compared PC to mobile, PC is actually growing right now faster than mobile. In the market space, you’ve got this one thing where PC is growing. That’s interesting, which will be counter to this concept of these gaming services because you’ve got a really high-powered PC that’s got this 4090 in it or whatever. But there’s another trend that’s going on, which is what I call the big screen trend. And, you know, we, you know, we all grew up on this, you know, I grew up in the 80s, right. And it was all about how big of a screen could you get? Now, back then it was these ginormous, you know, three foot, four foot deep things, you know, and it was, you know, and even in the 90s and 2000s, like, wow, you got a 55, no, I got a 65, oh, I got a 75, you know, and now you can go to Costco and there’s like 95, there’s rows and rows of that. But it’s, here’s what’s interesting, is the screen time is changing to these, even for entertainment, we’ve always had entertainment mobile on the go and things like that. But in the home, is there a switch to the screens preferred that are these personal screens? The PlayStation Portal device came out. It’s actually doing better than they expected it. They had to readjust because people are spending more, and it’s designed to be in the house. It’s not a remote gaming tool. It’s designed to be in the house. And so, I don’t know, it’s a really interesting thing that the market’s kind of going in a couple of ways. One, you’ve got the rise of PCs again. And second, you’ve got the rise of these personal in-home devices. I watch my kids all the time sitting in the front room with a big screen, turned off as they all have their switches up going. It’s just because it creates that personal experience. Like I literally did this last night. I was like, I sat on my couch watching, you know, watching, I think it was Ted Lasso on my tablet. right there in front of the big screen. There is this going on. I don’t have any data behind it, but I think it’s interesting about the emergence of these middle screens. It will then impact the gaming life. What feeds those? Is it going to be your in-house console or is it going to be the service that’s going to feed those experiences? So I don’t know, to me, it’s a little bit of an open question right now, which is going to win out if it’s going to be in, like I said, in-home CPU or cloud CPU. Cloud CPU still has a ways to come, obviously, but it’s getting there for sure.

Greg Posner: 22:30: 23:56: Yeah. I mean, I’ve been looking at the progress of xCloud and now PS, I think it’s PlayStation now. And the fact that, I mean, first of all, xCloud had a huge lead built on Azure. So it’s got a big infrastructure, but I mean, it seems like PlayStation came out ready to play and it seems like it’s doing better in a number of the tests because xCloud hasn’t updated in years. And with what you mentioned about the PlayStation portal is it’s this fascinating device, which when announced, everyone was like, what is the point of this? There’s no use case. And then, I mean, my house, we have two TVs, and my kids take them up, and I’m just realizing I am the use case for this. I want to play my PlayStation. I don’t have a PlayStation, but I want to play it, right? And I don’t have a screen available. And all of a sudden, it just clicked like, wow, this really is a good idea. But at the same time, why not just connected to my phone, and I know it’s not completely possible yet. And I think we live in this cool era now, right? We do have these choices, and I think it’s going to slow… For me, at least, I am a couch gamer. I will say that. I do think that’s going to start to change. I think I just bought some stuff so whenever we go to San Francisco, I can kind of play on the go. And I’m excited from either a Bluetooth controller for my Xbox hooked up to my phone or bringing the Switch or something else. I think we’re at a great age for convenience for ourselves. And I think it’s going to be interesting to see what people at GDC are playing, because I think we’ll see a lot of people gaming there and wondering how they are gaming.

Erik Ashby: 23:56: 27:14: Yeah, I will tell you one thing about about my big screen. When my big screen comes on, it’s only on for one thing, which is Smash Brothers. Okay, like, you know, have a party, everyone’s over, it’s Smash Brothers time, the screen comes on, you know, or, or, you know, watching a movie together, you know, or whatever. And so the big screen is really the, you know, it still has that social aspect to it. But other than that, there’s this, there’s this transition, which may be good, I don’t know, it’s, but I’m just seeing a lot more of these personal screens, even in the house, being the primary entertainment tool. So it’ll be interesting. I think it’ll be interesting. But there’s another aspect about it, though, which is the economics, which I said I wanted to get to. The gaming industry right now, like I said, it’s growing, but not at this 2x, 3x pace or whatever. And so out of that, what’s happening is brands are having to be very conservative in what they do. When it’s growing, everyone’s like, hey, let’s take risks, let’s do this, let’s do that right now. But now what you’re seeing is you’re seeing, okay, we’re not growing, so where do we generate revenue from? How do we invite new people into the playing experience or how do we become more efficient at what we do with what we have? And so those are two very conservative plays that we have. And so that’s what I’m, when I think about these gaming services and stuff like that, it, it really is like, okay, is this, is this a, um, you know, a way to either get to more screens. In fact, Microsoft this last, last couple of weeks ago announced that they’re going out to, they’re going to start to release PlayStation titles. They didn’t say which games. but they’re going to be releasing PlayStation titles. You know, as I was saying, is that, you know, when you look at this shift, there’s some economics that are behind it. We’re in a market right now where just the market isn’t growing. And so what that tends to be is that tends to make companies more conservative. And so that means they’re investing in the same games, but they’re saying, OK, what are new innovative ways that we can take these games out and either deliver them in a new way where people pay? So cloud services, you know, subscription services, things like that. Or how can we deliver these games in a way to other people that haven’t been playing before? How do we acquire different people playing? If you don’t have the cost of, oh, I have to go out and buy a console to get into it, then maybe I can acquire some new players that way. There’s some economics behind what’s driving this as these brands are really looking for it. You see at Microsoft about three or four weeks ago announced that they’re releasing PlayStation 5 games. I don’t know what they are, they didn’t announce it, but I’ll tell you, if I am playing Halo on a PlayStation 5 game, then I know the world has changed. That was my first LAN game was Halo back in the day. But that brings us to another really interesting discussion about marketplaces.

Greg Posner: 27:14: 28:17: Well, before we jump to that, I do want to ask a question about that because You know, mobile games, and this is a general number I’m looking at, brought in about $92 billion in 2023, where console games brought in about $52 billion. So there’s a big gap there. Clearly, free-to-play games have found a way to monetize against players. And you’re starting to see this from console as well, right? I mean, you have Suicide Squad that just came out. That’s an always online game. And it seems like these companies are trying to force always online games with updated content causing DLC, but it seems like for at least console and I’d say PC as well, right? That players don’t want that. And I think you’ve seen negative reactions to games like this. So while mobile is making a lot of money and they’re doing that, you can see that. We’ll call it console and PC gamers because they are not rebelling, but they’re against it. Do you see that as being part of the reason why this industry is kind of in not the greatest place right now?

Erik Ashby: 28:17: 30:58: Yeah, I do find that that’s interesting, because it used to be, if you want a game, right? What’d you do? stayed up to midnight, you went out to the GameStop, you and your kids just waited for it to come out and it came out. Now it’s just all released over the wire. But console and even PC, there’s still this concept of like, I own this game versus well, I have to keep on paying for the rights to play it. I understand that. But I also think that to counter that, is the multi-platform gaming that is just becoming more and more. Where it’s just like, look, I know I play this game, you know, POW World is coming out and it’s on everything and it’s everywhere and it’s just a great way to be able to play it. Obviously Fortnite is kind of the leader in that. And so I really see the those brands investing more and more on those, you’ll still have traditional ones. But one of the things that also, like even on a traditional game, one of the things that we’re seeing is we’re seeing a rise in the common subscriptions, like the Xbox Play or the whatever. And so if I’m a gaming company, especially if I’m starting up, I might actually just be like, look, this is what I’m going to do is I’m going to do Xbox Play because it allows me to get a portion of that ongoing gaming revenue. So it’ll correct itself and I think I think it’ll land in the way of the market, which is, I mean, we’ll have to be paying subscriptions and things like that, or it’ll come as part of the Xbox Play or things like that. It’ll be good. Well, let’s share some data. I have some data in a screenshot that we’ll have that shows that the growth of the Xbox Play and these other subscription services. I think that’s what it’ll balance out. Then obviously, the final thing on this is it comes down to experience. You create an amazing game that’s fun for people to play. That’s engaging. Consumers will will reward you for that up to a point. And I think that’s there’s the other problem is that consumers are getting a little bit saturated. You know, it’s like, yeah, I’ve already spent $50. I remember when when Battlefront came out, the you know, and I went, I was like, super excited. I paid 50 bucks. I got it. And I put it in. I’m like, I can’t do anything, you know, unless I then pay more. That’s when that’s what gets frustrating is when it’s like that happens.

Greg Posner: 30:58: 33:43: So let’s just if I think of it, I’ll jump back to it. But let’s talk about. the App Store dilemma, because I think that kind of leads… There’s this whole concept of walled gardens that’s coming up a lot, and it’s brought up a lot for Apple and Meta and Facebook, or Meta is Facebook, and people ask about Microsoft and stuff like that. So let’s talk about Epic versus Apple and the lawsuit and what’s going on here, because This is continuous news that’s been going on for God knows how long. So kind of a whole story of what a walled garden is. If you don’t know, if you’re old enough like me, you’ll remember AOL and you log into AOL and you’re in AOL’s world. You can’t leave it. If you’re an iPhone user, you have access to the iOS app store and you’re kind of stuck in that world. You can’t. load apps from everywhere else. So a walled garden is good for privacy. It’s good for protection of young people. It’s good to make sure we verify what type of apps are coming out because you have to go through Apple. You have to go through the walled garden provider. The problem is if you’re the owner of the walled garden, you can choose who sees what and how things happen. So come Epic decides to sue Apple over Fortnite because Apple is taking 30% of all sales that go through the Apple app store and you are stuck using the Apple app store. So again, Epic sues Apple, Apple owns the market, but Epic wins. The EU says you now have to link to outside payment providers, meaning that you don’t have to buy things through the iOS app store. You can go externally and purchase something and redeem it in there. It basically links you off the app itself. Apple doesn’t really love that. It says it’s a kind of a breach of privacy. And it all actually came down to a Spotify lawsuit because Apple wasn’t providing clear ways on how you can save money by purchasing a Spotify subscription from inside the app. So Apple gets mad and decides what it’s going to do is it’s going to ban Epic Games developer account. they have all rights to because it was technically a breach of contract. But at this point, you have Tim Sweeney from Epic Games and Tim Cook. It’s kind of like a battle of the two Tims on who’s right and who’s not right. The EU decided to fine Apple $1.84 billion or pounds. I should have looked that up. I don’t know. breaching their antitrust, saying, again, they called it anti-steering, that restricts the ability to tell people where to go. It’s a fascinating subject that’s still going back and forth. Apple eventually did unban Epic’s developer account. And I think it’s a fascinating story because Android doesn’t have this issue as much. It does allow for linking to outside payments, but I just said a lot. Do you have any stance or any thoughts on kind of where this lawsuit is, what it’s about?

Erik Ashby: 33:43: 36:11: Yeah. I mean, it is interesting. Apple has always been this way. It’s always been, look, we want to control and not just the ecosystem, but the experience and everything. Obviously, it’s a business decision for them to do it that way, but the result is, whether it’s their iPad or their iPhone or their whatever, it’s always been we have control over it. And there argue it’s better for the consumer, it’s a better experience and things like that. On the other hand, Android, Google have always been open. Like you could go reface your Android phone, you can do whatever you want with it. But then also, you know, you have no idea what you’re going to get. And so, you know, it is an interesting argument. I think, given the kind of political nature of it, I think that eventually openness will win, you know, in the long run, just because governments don’t like, you know, they go after big guys that have lots of money, and if they can say monopoly, then they’ll do that. So I think that Apple will be forced a little bit to open up. They’re going to go kicking and screaming, so they’ll still do whatever protections they have. It’s then going to be a benefit for Android and Android devices, which here in the US, it’s all Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple. But when you look at the global market, It’s not Apple Apple Apple Apple, especially when it comes down to mobile phones And so I think you know Android’s gonna be like, okay great, you know, we love this I think Microsoft is expected to come out with their store on Android, you know, I don’t have the Don’t quote me on it, but there is talk about that Microsoft will come out. I think that’s where it’s going to go more towards Epic, more towards being able to do open purchasing and things like that. But it’s not going to be 100 percent. Apple will still control what it wants, everything that it can. I cannot see Apple, fundamentally changing who they are. They will always try to protect their space. So, but I do think it’s interesting. And by the way, you can also see this in the kind of in the new devices coming up. Like, as you mentioned that, you know, their approach around, you know, the AR VR is definitely different.

Greg Posner: 36:11: 37:06: I think it’s interesting because I am not an Apple user. I am team Android, but I understand where Apple is coming from, right? I mean, you preach protection of your users. You preach making things safe for kids, for adults. And by controlling this garden, yeah, you kind of control the pricing of things and where things go. But at the same time, I’m protecting that user’s experience, something you’ve mentioned already about more so the player, it’s the user’s experience. But I don’t know, it’s this fascinating conversation for me because I am not pro Apple. I see where they’re coming from. And I think by opening it up to more marketplaces, You’re going to cause a lot of confusion in people. I think, you know, if you’re going to go to purchase something in Fortnite and you’re bounced out of the game, going to another marketplace in a web browser, you might second guess what you’re looking at. And maybe that grows with time and people just learn to respect it and appreciate it. But. Oh, for sure. Yeah, for sure.

Erik Ashby: 37:06: 37:55: Especially if you like you imagine you bounce out and and then you’re like, why am I putting in my credit card again? Who is this person who’s asking for that? I was team Android until about three years ago, and I finally converted to team Apple. But I love Apple Pay for just that. If I can just click, click, point at my face, I know it’s coming through Apple Pay. Every time I get non-Apple Pay, I’m like, Uh, which one, you know, where is it? Who is this person behind it? You know, and things like that. So, um, yeah, it, it is Apple. I think, like I said, they’re going to fight for this to be, uh, to control as much as they can. I don’t think they’re going to, I think they’re going to have to give up, you know, some, some ground. I think, I think that’s what’s going to happen.

Greg Posner: 37:55: 39:25: So let’s move on. And from this walled garden that we talked about from Apple, let’s talk about. the next logical step of the Apple Vision, Apple Vision Pro and the future of AR VR. Cause I was, I’m not anti AR VR cause I do have a quest and I enjoy my quests, but I always figured that if it didn’t pop off during. COVID when we were locked up in our houses and we couldn’t leave. And the truth is the Quest was never too expensive of a product for someone that’s looking for it anyway. What would be the point of it? And then you have the Apple Vision Pro that gets announced and has made of metal or titanium, which people love until they put it on and they realize, hey, this is heavy for a long term. And you have the battery on the side of you. nothing in typical, in my own personal opinion, in typical Apple way, they didn’t reinvent anything better than it’s existing, but they package it nicer and they have a hell of a marketing team that they can paint a better picture. But I am not I’m not a fan of the future of AR VR. I am, but I’m not a true believer yet. I don’t see people wanting to put on these masks or the helmets or the goggles, sorry, the goggles to continue doing things. I think that’s kind of in the age of WALL-E and people getting… kind of sucked into screen time. And then you shared some videos with me and changed some of what I was thinking. So what are you thinking?

Erik Ashby: 39:25: 44:11: Well, let’s definitely put some of these videos up. I’ll share those with you. If we can cut them in, I think that would be really interesting to do that. But here’s my take on this. If you look at computing over the years. There’s been these shifts in whether it’s been experienced. So we had these mainframes and then all of a sudden there’s PCs and we’re like, whoa. And it was a shift in how we interacted with the technology. Then we had these PCs and then there was the internet. And again, the internet, even though it was a different technology, you were still on the same device, it was a shift in how you interacted with the technology. Then we went on for a while and then the smartphones came out. What’s interesting about smartphones is there’s mobile phones for a long time. But when smartphones came out, it was a shift in how we interacted with the technology. It was a huge shift. It wasn’t just like, we’re going to do it a little bit differently or it’s a companion to your PC, which Microsoft was saying for a long time. It was a complete shift. We haven’t done that for a while. We haven’t had that shift. We’ve had, oh, the phones are faster. They’re cleaner. The screens are bigger. You know, we have tablets or the kind of like laptops and like there hasn’t been that shift. The AR VR represents a possible shift in how we interact with this technology. Everyone who’s getting excited about the Vision Pro, that’s what they’re seeing because prior to the Vision Pro, you’d put on this device and it was a gaming device. You would be like, okay, great, I can see the game, you take it off and you’re out of the world. Vision Pro is good enough that it’s tricking your brain, it takes a little bit, but it tricks your brain to accept this reality that you’re in. And then once that brain has been tricked, they’re like, oh, wait a second, this is a different reality. This is a reality where I can portal myself to someplace else, or I can bring people into it, or I can have different things up, and it is a different, new, reality that I have these different experiences that change the way how I interact. Now, the drawback is I have this stupid thing in front of my face and it’s like that. Apple Vision Pro is a vision. They even say it, it’s a vision. It is not the thing that’s going to change it. I guarantee you, my wife’s not going to be driving her car going, it’s not there. But it is a vision of how this technology can change where we’re at. And so, I mean, how we interact with the technology, or how we interact with the world. We need to get there. That’s the thing. We need to get there. And Meta’s trying, Apple’s trying, Microsoft is trying. There’s going to be a ton of these, like you’ll see them next week when we’re at GDC. There’s going to be all these glasses that are, they look like sunglasses, but they have the technology there. Of course, it doesn’t have all of the input devices that the Apple Vision Pro is stuck in front of it. So the technology is not there yet. But it has potential, and I think that’s what everyone is excited about, is this potential. Now, there’s all the negative. Like you said, are we going to end up like Ready Player One, where we’re all sitting around with these classes just completely devoid of humanity? Or are we going to leverage it so that we can bring ourselves closer? That was one of the points that was brought up, is we are now in a world where we are very distributed. We’ve done that. We grow up, we move away and whatever. To have devices that allows us to get closer may be very powerful, even if virtually. The jury is still out on this one, but it’s an interesting vision. I highly recommend that you get one and just play around with it. Not about the games, but to see if your mind makes that that switch into this is the reality. And so I think Apple is making a good swing at it. It’s going to sell 200,000 devices this year, which is nothing. But when the iPod came out, the original iPod, not the iPhone, but the iPod, I had the same thing. I’m like, what’s this thing? It’s an MP3 player. It wasn’t an MP3 player. It was their vision for mobile computing.

Greg Posner: 44:13: 44:57: According to Eric, if you’ve got a casual $3,500 lying around, go pick up a Vision Pro. Everything makes sense to me. There’s been no major leaps in the PC or way we experience computers for God knows how long, since the mobile phone probably, like you mentioned. I’m starting to see the Vision, I just can’t get past the form factor that it’s currently in. I think it’s a cool idea. Yeah. And I don’t know if people want to be surrounded by technology that much. And, you know, younger me would have said, yeah, I want to do this. I always want to be connected. I remember going in Atlanta. I was like one of the first people to test out the Google, whatever their goggles were.

Erik Ashby: 44:57: 46:25: Yeah, the Google was. The Google Glass, yeah. It was interesting because I thought the Google Glass, there’s a brand that has taken the Google Glass and they actually made it for vision impaired. What it does is it scans the world and it then uses AI to translate what’s going on in the world and then speaks it out to it. I was like, wow, what an amazing way to take that technology. Yeah, the jury’s out on this one. There’s a lot of people who are like, do we really want to be a society with technology? The next thing is just direct retinal implants. That’s what’s coming up next. If you look at the technology that they’re doing in the sunglasses, it is very close to that. They’re essentially just projecting right onto your retinas now at this point, which is how they’re doing it. But yeah, I think that’s a question as society we have to answer whenever any new technology comes out. But if you look at the past, typically the technology you know, balances itself and we move forward. You know, I can imagine farmers going, why would I ever need to go more than 15 miles an hour? I never need a train, you know? Those trains, men were not meant to go that fast, you know? Men were not meant to have these experiences, but we’ll see.

Greg Posner: 46:25: 46:32: We’ll see. As a fan of the industry, just in gaming in general, what excites you more, AR, VR or AI?

Erik Ashby: 46:34: 47:00: I think AR VR excites me more. And the only reason why it does, I’m going to go back to the beginning of this podcast. I was at my son’s birthday enjoying time spent in AR VR with my family. AI, I spend time with the machine. And so if I had to choose, I would choose AR VR because it brings me back to my family.

Greg Posner: 47:00: 47:02: It’s an experience.

Erik Ashby: 47:02: 47:14: That’s why they’re creating an experience for you. Yeah. Yeah. AI will always be there to help. Um, and we need to manage it like that. But, uh, AR VR is an experience that I can, I can enjoy with my family.

Greg Posner: 47:14: 47:23: They’re probably going hand in hand, right? It’s not against each other. AI will help you build an experience. VR AR will let you experience the experience. Yeah. Yeah. Learned a lot.

Erik Ashby: 47:23: 47:28: Anything else you want to talk about Eric? Yeah. It’s been fun, Greg. Thank you for, for hosting me this time.

Greg Posner: 47:29: 47:43: No, I’m pumped. I’m excited. I’m excited to be at GDC with you next week. And hopefully we can walk around and film some stuff and have some kind of off the cuff conversations with people there. Any final words before we kind of wrap up today?

Erik Ashby: 47:43: 47:45: No, let’s go have fun at GDC.

Greg Posner: 47:45: 48:13: Yeah, come visit the Keywords booth at GDC. Eric and I will both be there. I don’t know the booth number, but it will be a big booth. And if you look up, you’ll see Keywords and we’ll be there. Now, Tuesday, March 19th, we are also hosting an event called Community Clubhouse. It’s in the Moscone Center. So come check it out. Lots of good stuff coming on. And I appreciate this conversation with you, Eric, today. I think it was enlightening. I think we get to share some stuff with people and thank you for your time. All right. Thank you. Take it easy.

Greg Posner

Avid gamer with a passion for storytelling. My goal is to unpack the narratives of customers, partners and others to better understand how industry-leaders tackle today's challenges.

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