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Breath of the Wild

(First published on 3/7/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter — more)

The last videogame system I bought was an Xbox 360. I think it was a decade ago. It red-ringed-of-death and I threw it out. I still have the Wii somewhere in a box, but I haven’t touched it in probably a decade. I never bought an Xbox One, a Wii U, or any Playstation. But I’m gonna buy a Nintendo Switch.

I’m not sure it’s exactly the right strategy for Nintendo in the long term, but it has Zelda. Without Nintendo’s fantastic IP, there’s zero chance I buy this system.

Conceptually, they’re doing some interesting things with the Switch. But I’m still just not sure how long the notion of releasing dedicated gaming systems once every five years (or more) will be around. Certainly, we’re seeing Microsoft and Sony implicitly acknowledging this with their mid-cycle upgraded Xbox One and Playstation 4 systems. But Microsoft and Sony, which are huge corporations, can afford to experiment with speeding up the cadence of their releases. Can Nintendo?

Are we headed towards a world where the gaming systems, like smartphones, are upgraded once a year? Every other year? It would require a different sort of relationship with game developers to ensure backwards-compatibility. But that stage has also been set by smartphones. But it’s a very different way of doing things…

Anyway, just thinking out loud as I ponder this Switch buy. Now if only it weren’t sold out everywhere…

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071215 espn logo floating inside a bubble pi.vresize.1200.675.high.30
071215 espn logo floating inside a bubble pi.vresize.1200.675.high.30

ESPN Cutting $100 Million In On-Air Talent

Clay Travis:

Two years ago ESPN cut several hundred behind the scenes jobs to save hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly costs. Since that time ESPN’s subscriber losses have accelerated, averaging over three million lost subscribers a year. Now new jobs cuts are coming, only this time you’re likely to know some of the casualties — Outkick has heard from a variety of different sources that ESPN is cutting up to $100 million in on-air salaries.

Other reports have the scope of the cuts still TBD. But make no mistake, big cuts are coming. Which shouldn’t be too surprising

So within five years ESPN will be bringing in less subscriber revenue than they’ve committed for sports rights. Advertising dollars will still help, but when you factor in the costs of doing business ESPN will be losing money by 2021, potentially sooner.

To quote a former sportscaster, “Whoa Nellie!”

2017 2f03 2f02 2ff0 2f687511ce67eb4937a5639cacf94aa570.06b31
2017 2f03 2f02 2ff0 2f687511ce67eb4937a5639cacf94aa570.06b31

How Derek Jeter’s once-mocked startup became a sports media powerhouse

On the topic of sports, here’s a good overview of the current state of The Players’ Tribune (disclosure: a GV portfolio company) by Sam Laird. As Jessica Robertson, TPT’s head of content says:

“Sports is just the prism for us. It’s the door that you are stepping through to tell a human story.”

Which leads to amazing pieces like this by Duke assistant basketball coach Jeff Capel.

Image for post
Image for post

Why taxing robots is not a good idea

A couple weeks back, I linked to a post about Bill Gates’ call to tax robots in order to help alleviate job displacement/loss. Which seemed like a silly idea. The Economist explains why:

A robot is a capital investment, like a blast furnace or a computer. Economists typically advise against taxing such things, which allow an economy to produce more. Taxation that deters investment is thought to make people poorer without raising much money. But Mr Gates seems to suggest that investment in robots is a little like investing in a coal-fired generator: it boosts economic output but also imposes a social cost, what economists call a negative externality. Perhaps rapid automation threatens to dislodge workers from old jobs faster than new sectors can absorb them. That could lead to socially costly long-term unemployment, and potentially to support for destructive government policy. A tax on robots that reduced those costs might well be worth implementing, just as a tax on harmful blast-furnace emissions can discourage pollution and leave society better off.

Reality, however, is more complex. Investments in robots can make human workers more productive rather than expendable; taxing them could leave the employees affected worse off. Particular workers may suffer by being displaced by robots, but workers as a whole might be better off because prices fall. Slowing the deployment of robots in health care and herding humans into such jobs might look like a useful way to maintain social stability. But if it means that health-care costs grow rapidly, gobbling up the gains in workers’ incomes, then the victory is Pyrrhic.

Still surprising that it’s Gates of all people, calling for this.


The Intensity of Attention

James Ashton sat down with TED’s Chris Anderson to talk about the current state of discourse and content on the internet:

“Do we really want an internet that is personalised to our instinctive responses?” he says. “I don’t want to be defined by my clicks, I want to be defined by my slower thinking.”

It goes back to his point about passionate media. Never mind circulation figures, TV ratings or page views, “I think a much more pertinent measure of the long-term potential of a media operation is the intensity of that attention. If you are just skimming a thing — looking at it from the corner of eye — that still counts as a view or a rating but it is completely inconsequential.”

100% agree.

Back of guy
Back of guy

Who Is Guy Fieri?

Helen Hollyman follows around the man, the myth, the legend — including when he hangs out with Sammy Hagar (because of course he’s friends with Sammy Hagar):

“He walked in the room wearing flip-flops and chili pepper shorts and some kind of tequila shirt and his hair all spiked up,” Hagar says. “He was pretty much dressed exactly like me. It was like, ‘OK. Yep. This is my kinda guy.’ I think he got his look from me originally, but he’s definitely taken it to his own level.”

This seems to sum up Fieri well:

Our hamburger arrives on a cutting board with waffle fries. “Oh yeah, here we go, baby,” Fieri says as the trashcan nachos are placed in front of us as. “Now, pay attention. The key, if done properly, is that our server here is going to shake these out of the can. They should stand up completely on their own without falling.” As if it’s Criss Angel’s magic show half a mile down the Vegas strip, our server carefully shakes the handle in an upward motion while the oozy mixture slowly reveals itself. Miraculously, it stands up like a statue in the shape of a beehive.

Meanwhile, here’s Anthony Bourdain’s take on Fieri:

“As a person with a TV show who’s been in the industry for a while and who sees the juice that Guy Fieri has, the fact that he hasn’t chosen to do more with it… I don’t know. Maybe I’m just an asshole.”

And finally, an answer to the question of our times:

I ask Fieri: Where exactly is Flavortown, USA?

“On camera, I once said, ‘This pizza looks like a manhole cover in Flavortown.’ Willy Wonka had a chocolate stream, you know? So it’s taking these iconic food items, these iconic food moments, and giving them a home. They all live in Flavortown. It’s like one of those things in The Matrix: You can only get down with Flavortown if you believe in Flavortown. I have people walk up to me and say, ‘Hey, I’m a citizen of Flavortown.’ I have people that want to pledge to be a city council member of Flavortown or the mechanic. It doesn’t stop. What would be the airline of Flavortown? Sausage Airlines? It just doesn’t stop. I just said it, and then people heard it. Of course, there’s no Flavortown — unless you believe in it.”

Amen, brother.

Quick Hits

Nicholas Thompson looks to push Wired into the future

Pete Vernon sat down with Thompson, the new Editor in Chief of Wired:

“What the things you do if you want to get clicks? We all know what they are. Some of them are good and some of them are bad. What are the things you do if you want to get subscriptions? Basically they’re all good.”

Snipe at writer-turned-VCs aside, good thoughts about the state of publishing. I was a huge fan of Wired growing up, and remain one.

Are technology firms madly overvalued?

Is there a tech bubble? “No,” says The Economist. Though I’m sure we’ll hear there is for the 15th year in a row…

(First published on 3/7/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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