Wall Street Journal Reporter Sarah E. Needleman on the year in video games and what 2020 holds for the industry

December 19, 2019

In our year in review, we speak to Sarah E. Needleman, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who writes about the video game industry. Over the last few months, she has covered everything from Google Stadia to KFC’s dating sim. Needleman has been at the paper since 2001, and prior to her current beat, she covered small business and careers. 

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Needleman joined the Twofivesix: Gaming and Marketing Podcast to talk about 2019’s major moments in video games, her predictions for 2020, and trends in interactive entertainment.

Here are highlights from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity.

The nature of loot boxes will change

“As far as loot boxes themselves go, I think we’re going to see less of them or they won’t give you some sort of competitive advantage. It’ll just be cosmetic. And then I do think that will die down. But the broader issue surrounding loot boxes also ties to this concept of game addiction. And I don’t think that’s going to go away.”

Apex Legends owes its success to Fortnite  

“What [the surprise Apex Legends launch] showed to me is that the influence streamers have on consumers is significant. But let’s also keep in mind is that Apex Legends is free-to-play, just like Fortnite. And what made Fortnite so special is the fact that it is free-to-play and very easy to learn in short sessions. So, we’ve learned a lot about gaming behavior from Fortnite.”

Streaming games isn’t going to take off anytime soon

“It’s gonna take a while for [game] streaming to become, anywhere near mainstream. Unlike other forms of media, video games are interactive, and if you’re playing competitively, even like the slightest delay is going to be a problem. And we know that online multiplayer gaming is very popular. So in the near term, I can’t see people giving up dedicated land devices for gaming. Streaming will be more like a bonus option that you would consider for certain situations, like when you’re out of storage or when you’re traveling. I don’t think it’ll end up being the primary way people game anytime soon.” 

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