These Free Game Playthroughs are a Great Alternative to TV

Leftover pepperoni pizza, and something good to watch. That's the perfect way to spend an evening! Tonight's cinematic classic is Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. I am on the part where Luigi is "ghost busting" his way through the abandoned clock tower. (Here's a clip from my perspective.) It's a good thing I wear a seatbelt because this story has kept me on the edge of my seat! (A little wheelchair humor.) 

Yes, my fellow Couch spuddies, I do realize that it is a video game. Still, it's a great story! The animation is dated, but it still holds up, and I never had a NintendoDS, so it's all new to me. (For more about my gaming background, read my article I Am Not A Gamer, But I Am A Replayer.)

Pizza and playthroughs!

Of course, I know all about the major streaming services: Hulu, Netflix, DisneyPlus, and so on. However, there's one thing that stops me from having any of these services and their wondrous content… money. When you're disabled like I am and living on a fixed income, you have to prioritize. I say to myself, “Do I buy groceries this week or buy another month of service to see Henry Cavill with his shirt off? Do I pay the power bill or watch baby Yoda swallow a frog whole?”

Yes, young spuds, even at level 45, adulting is hard!  

Since joining this community, though, my eyes have been wide with wonder at all these wonderful games and their stories. Most of them are, I'd venture to say, far superior to what Hollywood has offered lately. And my way of seeing all these things is through playthroughs: people who are streaming their gameplay on Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook. There's great content whether it's a playthrough with the player's commentary or just a video of someone playing the game without commentary.

So far, my favorite playthroughs have been in these games:

Uncharted 1 and 2 - There's a live-action film coming soon for Uncharted, though, personally, I think the games themselves would make great films! Here's one of many available on YouTube with no commentary:

Kena: Bridge of Spirits - I love everything about this game! The world is so colorful and immersive, even in the dark moments. Kena is a very strong and, at times, a fierce young girl who fights corrupted spirits in order to set them free with the help of some little friends known as Rot. THEY ARE SO STINKING CUTE! Special thanks to Dan Morris of Deadpan Gaming for sharing his commentary-free playthrough playlist here:

Unravel - I love this game because it has the feel of a Pixar film and it has yarn! Check out this playthrough on YouTube:

In addition to playthroughs, I have seen a ton of creator content within our Couch Soup community. Those streams have kept me laughing on those days when I need it! Here are some of my favorite moments over the last year:

"I'm on fire" from the Chaos Crew:

"Worst Pirates: Dan & Brandy Play Dead Space" from Deadpan Gaming:

"First time in Dead Space! (Spoiler: IT'S TERRIFYING!)" from Pagan Plays:

Well, my spuddies, I hope my story and these samples show you that watching playthroughs and other creator content can be a great alternative to what's on TV.  

Have you found yourself watching people play games instead of binge-watching the latest HBO Max series? What game or content channels would you suggest I add to my playlist?

Does Warner Bros Releasing Its 2021 Movie Lineup On HBO Max Matter In The Long Run?

2021, and still in quarantine.  COVID-19 brought us a completely new way of life.  We have had to learn how to adapt our home-life to accept our work-life, school-life, and gym-life.  Companies have had to adjust to working from home, even if they were reluctant to at first.  We have spent more time bathing in hand sanitizer, abiding (hopefully) by new state regulations, keeping our distance, and yet becoming more connected to people we never would have been able to before this.  (YAY THIS WONDERFUL COMMUNITY!)


Wonder Woman 1984 is the first of big titles slated to open at home.

In order to appease our new way of life, companies have also had to adjust how they do business.  This has resulted in many small businesses unfortunately closing, and large businesses completely re-doing their business plan.  Movie theatres, among so many others, have been hit extremely hard.  This has caused closures of theatres (in some cases permanently), large movie releases have been delayed, and the largest business that we never thought could be held back, the film business,  was basically placed on hold.  Due to this, one company has decided to release all their 2021 film line-ups directly to a TV near you!  That’s right…Warner Brothers is releasing their entire 2021 lineup on HBO Max (you know, just like the title says).  But why does this matter? We’re going to break this question down and see how this does matter, both from a consumer and a business point of view.

Live-action film Mulan, which was released at home on Disney+ for $30

First, we’re going to look at the business side.  Currently, the release date that has been set for the movie will be the same date that the movie will simultaneously be released onto HBO Max for one-month access.  This allows studios to maintain the relationship with movie theatre distributors while adjusting for the at-home streaming needs.  Those who do not have access to HBO Max, since it is localized, will have the ability to “safely” see the movie in theatres if they so desire.  Warner Brothers are considering this an experiment.  They released the hit, Tenet, in theatres during the pandemic, and ultimately lost hundreds of millions of dollars.  Releasing their line-up to an in-home streaming service is keeping them in the game with the likes of Disney +, who released Mulan earlier this year, as well as attempting to catch-up on lost revenue from the year that is 2020.

Historically, studios have viewed streaming services as the enemy, as they were taking away an integral part of the experience, i.e., going to the theatre.  Because streaming services are their own companies, if studios were to give their movies to them, the studios would then lose control of the distribution of the film, as well as lose the box office statistics.  Studios viewed the theatre as the only feasible way to make money, as it is considered a 1:1 profit relationship.  However, that is also because there has simply never been another option to finance box office film budgets.  It could be the whole “old school” thought process getting in the way, and resistance to change.  Now, though, especially due to the pandemic, studios have had to begin looking at releasing their films to streaming services.  With this new option, it is thought that the only way to be profitable is by releasing it to a streaming service they own, i.e.  Warner Brothers and HBO Max.  This is not only an experiment but also a gesture of goodwill pointing towards the potential future, and Warner Brothers are willing to be the guinea pig.  With 35 million subscribers, they will be giving audience members the chance to see hit movies, on either platform they desire (movie theatre or streaming at home), ultimately and potentially, increasing the viewer numbers. 

However, will it bring box-office smash numbers?  The initial thought is no, not likely.  There is so much money spent on the movie theatre business that many of you may be asking how will releasing on a streaming service increase revenue?  Let’s look.  If there are 4 people in a party going to a theatre, and tickets are ~$8 each.  That would be $32 for the box office, as food sales do not go into box office numbers.  If there are 4 people in a party at home, let’s estimate that the movies will be $30 (as that was the cost of Mulan) on top of the subscription fee.  That is an approximate ~$2 loss at the box office, for 4 people.  The trick here is the company is ‘assuming’ that everyone will be following the pandemic rules, and not going to other people’s houses.  What if a group of friends gets together, or 3 families sit in on one purchase of the movie?  That will actually result in a major profit loss.  If the 3 families are of 4 people, to make math easy, that would have been $96 which is now dropping to $30, resulting in a $66 profit loss.  We are obviously not in the board rooms to hear the meetings; however, this potential streaming option doesn’t look to be as profitable at first glance.  Will this mean the quality of movies has to drop?  Has this pandemic really shaken up foundations to that extent?

Are we destined to have to say goodbye to the deliciousness that is movie popcorn?

Now from the consumer side.  If you, like me, are thinking, “But what about the movie-going experience?!  The popcorn?!  The butter?!  The surround sound?!  The giant screen?!  THE BUTTER?!,” it may be time to begin mourning the loss of that delicious popcorn and it’s butter.  However, we can now think about the convenience; the comfort of our couch, home-made snacks, family movie time, and not having to put on pants or a bra to see a hit movie!  It can also result in savings for a family because, as stated above, we were only discussing box office revenue.  The movie theatre does its part for a family by providing the food and drinks, so a trip to a theatre for a family of 4 could easily be up to the $70 range, depending on what extra snacks and drinks are purchased (a key contributor to theatre profits).

The other side of this is, what if you don’t have that subscription service?  The way it seems Warner Brothers will be looking at it is if they release a hit movie they have already spent millions on that has people sign up for the service they didn’t already have, that would be more than the price of the film.  Those people would then continue the subscription service to watch some of the shows provided exclusively on that service (oh, hey Game of Thrones).  Once the movies that have been made prior to 2020 are released, it could be that film production budgets reduce, TV production budgets increase, making the two more similar in production values, and the subscription service more attractive for retaining customers.

So, does it really matter that all hit films from Warner Brothers will be released on HBO Max in 2021?  My thoughts are - I am stoked to see Wonder Woman 1984 at home with no bra on!  What do you think?  Leave a comment below!

 

References:

Alexander, S.(2020, December 3). Warner Bros will release all of its new 20201 movies simultaneously on HBO Max, The Verge, https://www.theverge.com/2020/12/3/22150605/hbo-max-warner-bros-movies-2021-simultaneous-release-matrix-godzilla-suicide-squad-space-jam

Zeitchilk, S. (2020, September 18). ‘Tenet’s’ dismal U.S. debut has some calling for a change in Hollywood’s approach to the blockbuster, The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/09/18/tenet-box-office-hollywood-future/

Retro Replayers Extra Life team raises over $1000 to help sick kids

Replayers came together this year to play games and raise money for kids. Extra Life is an organization of gamers that make individual and team fundraising efforts to benefit Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Each participant selects one of the 170 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals across the U.S. and Canada, including Puerto Rico. The funds each participant raises helps cover the costs of kids' hospital care beyond the cost of what Medicare and insurance will cover.

I was honored to serve as team captain for a dedicated and energetic team of Replayers, and I wanted to share our Extra Life 2020 story.

For me, it started back in 2017...

I have a friend who is a long-time team captain and passionate organizer in Extra Life. When I started streaming games on Twitch in 2017, I followed his example and joined Extra Life for fundraising. While participants can raise money throughout the year, most focus their goals toward "Game Day" on one Saturday each November. It's popular for streamers to do a 24-hour stream that day, either solo or with friends. My first year, I did a solo 24-hour run and, though I didn't have a lot of followers on Twitch, I raised a little over $100.

Back then, I thought it was a great cause, but it hadn't yet touched me personally. Then, at the end of 2018, I watched a young cousin, Hayes, at just three years, old fighting for his life in end-stage renal failure. He spent months in and out of hospital care while waiting for a kidney transplant. The last thing his vigilant and loving family needed to worry about was how much it was going to cost. 

Hayes is healthy today with no signs of kidney rejection. I passionately hope that any kid that goes through to get that same life-saving care without a crippling financial burden on the family. 

And here in 2020, COVID-19 has made a tremendous impact on all hospitals, including the CMN Hospitals. They've needed funds more than ever before as they've struggled to keep up with the pandemic.

Some numbers from the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

In 2020, I decided to make this a Retro Replay community event...

In late September, I committed to raise money for Extra Life again for 2020. This time, though, I not only had a small streaming audience, but I also had several friends in the Replayer community who were passionate gamers and streamers. Some of them had done fundraising streams before, too. I decided to make a team for us and organize a Game Day schedule for November 7, 2020. To my surprise, I immediately had 11 people enthusiastically join the team, and we had even more to jump in to help us during Game Day and beyond. 

Leading a team is something I was inspired to do by watching two other veteran Extra Life leaders. Marcus Summers, better known in the streaming world as Major Linux, is the leader of an Extra Life team in the greater Raleigh and Durham areas in North Carolina. That team primarily raises money for Duke Children's Hospital in Durham, though individual team members can always choose which hospital they want their individual goals to go toward. 

The other veteran that inspired me was Achievement Hunter's Jack Patillo. Jack, his wife, and his colleagues at Rooster Teeth put a lot of effort into planning and putting on Rooster Teeth's annual Extra Life 24-hour broadcast. Rooster Teeth has raised millions for Extra Life over the years, which has been a major factor in expanding services provided at Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin, Texas. Rooster Teeth's community comes together to support that effort each year, and I knew the Retro Replay community would want to do the same.

The team was amazing! There was a great energy and dedication from everyone throughout the day.

On Game Day in 2020, our Retro Replayers team included an international crew: Aaron Bissonette, Amelia Brown, Brandy Brown, Ian Halliday, Maria Kinnun, Jen Miller, and the esteemed hosts of the Replayer Podcast, Pagan McGrath and Dan Morris. Andrew Lucy, who held his own charity stream in October for the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, also joined some of the group play on Game Day. And in the weeks following Game Day, Ashkan Abousaeedi and Candace Bissonette held their own charity streams to raise money toward the team's goal.

The Roster on the team page shows our individual goals, which contribute to the team total.

For Game Day itself, we started with a 15-hour schedule on the Twitch streaming platform. There was a main schedule of events viewable from our team's 2020 Extra Life team page (at extra-life.org) throughout the day. That main schedule kicked off with a block of Apex Legends, followed by Uncharted multiplayer. Then, after a few rounds of Fall Guys, a big group joined in to play Among Us. The energy continued into a fun romp in Sea of Thieves and a spooky ghost hunt in Phasmophobia. The day wrapped up with fun adventures in ARK: Survival Evolved that kept going even beyond our original end time. 

Each main event was streamed by one or more of the participants and involved two or more members of the Extra Life team. Some members, including Jen and Ian (a charity stream veteran), streamed solo and continued raising money even when they weren't in one of the main events.

The Extra Life provides free tools for streamers like donation trackers that update in real time as donations come in.

The team was amazing! There was a great energy and dedication from everyone throughout the day. The events were packed with fun, and we all took the occasional technical difficulties in stride. 

By the end of Game Day, we had raised over $900 (US) for the kids. When 2020 ended, we had raised $1100. Overall, Extra Lifers have surpassed $16M in 2020. Even in a time where so many of us are finding it difficult to make our own ends meet, it's incredible to see so many people give what they can to this important cause.

On a final note, I want to express my tremendous gratitude to the team for bringing their best on Game Day and beyond, and for being passionate about helping the kids and reaching our goals. To those that donated, I can't thank you enough for giving what you can to help the kids this year.

In 2021, I hope even more Replayers will join the team and we can get started earlier in the year working toward our team goal. If you're a Replayer, and you love gaming, streaming games (on any platform), and helping charities like this, we encourage you to sign up at our 2021 team page so you're ready for when we get started in 2021.

Are you passionate about charity events? Do you do charity gaming or streaming? Leave a comment about what you're involved in so we can recognize our generous Replayers across the community!

See the About page at the CMN website for the latest numbers.