The Exigent Duality
Microsoft and Palworld - 15:13 CST, 1/26/24 (Sniper)
Someone today asked me what I thought of all of the layoffs at Microsoft, which you can read below. I didn't do any editing, so it's conversational in tone-- yet it gets my point across. The conversation shifted then to "Palworld", and I've included my response regarding that topic as well. Enjoy!

The State of Xbox

First off and on a more general note, the entire neo-liberal / technocratic neo-serfdom model is essentially in collapse mode: the top-down push for electric cars is imploding; the co-opted "news" outlets like "Sports Illustrated", "Buzzfeed", the "LA Times", and so forth are shuttering much / most / all of their operations; the establishment games "journalists" are being laid off by the thousands.

Woke Disney is in total collapse; huge corporations like Embracer are laying off huge parts of their people; "We need more people with green hair in wheelchairs engineering planes" Boeing has the doors and landing gear flying off of their aircraft; the military can't recruit white dudes to save their lives now for totally obvious reasons-- the trust is gone, so their army is at the lowest total count in over 80 years.

I could go on and on and on, but you get the picture.

Microsoft fits right into this: they make-- quite frankly-- super woke, politically-charged games pushing "The Message", which can't even run properly or which have major performance problems; and that's when they can make games at all-- they went the entire year of 2022 and didn't release a single game, hahaha. Then in 2023 they had Redfall, Starfield-- now running seriously into negative territory on Steam reviews-- then "Redfall with cars" in the new Forza Motorsport, which is so bad I can scarcely believe it even exists.

Their stuff is boring, bland, painfully ideological, creatively bankrupt, as dull and milquetoast as you can get. They can't even produce functional software. Am I surprised that they laid off 1900 people? Not even remotely.

Then you get to Phil Spencer who is, bluntly, a total dufus. He seems like a friendly guy, sort of, but is not an assertive leader with a clear strategy. What's more, he's a total "old boys club" kind of guy, who promotes his friends and gets rid of his enemies, regardless of results. One of the original Xbox members from 1999/2000, I can't recall her name, just left Microsoft, and she said as much: it's this tiny group of friends running the show, all semblance of meritocracy is gone.

She was super successful, yet got the axe because she stood up to people she wouldn't name (Phil, obviously).

In this latest cut, Mike Ybarra was one of the casualties. My understanding is that he's one of the few competent people who was still there-- but he wasn't playing ball, so he's gone. Meanwhile, the guy who was the "VP of Forza and Fable" (??? Why do they have VPs of certain games??) was promoted to a head role. In the last five years he released zero Fable games (hahaha), and was in charge for six years of the new Forza Motorsport debacle (not even a strong enough term).

On top of all of that, clearly the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing over there. Phil Spencer comes out and says, "No matter how many good games we release no one will buy an Xbox over a PlayStation". Yet, one half of the Xbox division is all-in on new hardware, even though no one buys it, no one wants it, market share in some European countries such as France is literally 96/4 percent for Sony (haha). Then the other part of the division is like, "Screw hardware, we're all in on cloud, Play Anywhere! Any screen, even Switch and PlayStation 5, why not?!"

Again, Phil Spencer is the boss over there: it's up to him to set the strategic direction. Instead, he's all-in on nepotism and his house is in total chaos, unable to deliver basic functioning un-political software, and is wasting billions engineering hardware no one wants. It's like the inmates running the asylum over there! Satya Nadella doesn't care because Azure revenue has taken his company to a three trillion dollar market cap-- he can throw monopoly money over to Xbox right now, sure, who cares.

So that's where we are right now with Microsoft, in my humble opinion. I could write a diatribe about Sony and their ill-fated and imploding "live service games" push, but that can be for another day. For now, I'm all-in on "AA" PC and Steam Deck games, you know?


Ok, so here is my take: Palworld is the absolute antithesis of everything the "establishment" game industry currently stands for.

It was a handful of dudes in a small office randomly tossing together assets they bought from the "Unreal Engine Store" until they'd made a fun game.

They didn't have an HR ladies with $250k salaries telling them not to have characters with boobs, or not to "offend" this that or the other group, they didn't have play tested "focus groups" telling them to make another walking simulator with Hollywood music, they didn't have "diversity and equity initiatives", and on and on and on.

They just made a fun game, and put it on Steam. The game is heart-felt, feels very authentic, down-to-Earth, like it was a game made just for the heck of it, because it was a game they wanted to make, not the marketers, not the HR ladies. It's kind of janky and weird, and that gives it loads of personality.

And people have responded to that! Meanwhile, the "establishment" AAA "developers" with the mental illness haircuts are like "But gaming development is hard!! They must have cheated somehow!!" The "journalists" are like, "We didn't gatekeep or bless this game!"

Then, the CEO turns out to be totally based, "You know people are criticizing the game", and he replies with "Yeah I know, we don't care".

So I think the message here is, just make games from the heart. Obviously Palworld is also cashing in on Game Freak still using their engine from the original DS days and thus being unable to deliver a competent modern-day Pokemon game-- I'm not saying you can just make a heart-felt game and get rich on Steam. There were like 140,000 games published over there in 2023 alone, and 99% of them didn't make any money at all.

But what I am saying is, the industry is currently controlled and dominated by one group, which has one world view and one "right" way of doing things-- and I think Palworld has exposed a massive chink in their armor, to the point where they feel very threatened by it, and are doing everything in their power to get the game "canceled".