Feb. 21, 2022

The Biggest Players Dominating the $200B Gaming Industry

Super Mario grows up


The global video game industry is almost a $200 billion market, exceeding the revenue of the global movie industry and North American sports industry combined. Nora unpacks the latest gaming business news with Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier, author of Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry. Then, Scott and Nora chat with Erin Ashley Simon, video game influencer, host and co-owner of the esports organization XSET about how the industry is changing and the role she plays in it.

Hosts: Nora Ali & Scott Rogowsky
Producer: Bella Hutchins
Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus
Music: Daniel Markus & Breakmaster Cylinder
Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop
Director of Audio: Alan Haburchak
VP, Head of Multimedia: Sarah Singer

Full episode transcript below.

Transcript

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah, Nora.

Nora Ali: Yeah.

Scott Rogowsky: Nora, I was a little hesitant going into this episode because it's about a topic that I'm not that fresh on.

Nora Ali: Sure.

Scott Rogowsky: But the last video games I've played are the Lana Del Rey song, "Video games." Yeah. I'm not a gamer these days, I was back in the day, the proverbial day, with my Sega Genesis and my Sonic and Shinobi III, I don't know if you ever played Shinobi?

Nora Ali: I have not. No.

Scott Rogowsky: I can't remember anything else. But you're more present, more up on the gaming?

Nora Ali: I try to be. I was really embedded in the world of video games in middle school and high school, because my older sister, Nicole, used to host LAN parties, which stands for local area network, where all her friends would bring their desktop computers to my parents' basement, connect them all together, and play Call of Duty and other games all night long.

Scott Rogowsky: It's that social element of gaming that I never participated in, and maybe that's maybe that proves my introvert qualities or I'm just not... I don't know, I always played video games as a solitary pursuit, in my basement, by myself, sometimes with a friend, the two-player thing. But I don't know, it just-

Nora Ali: It brings people together. It's amazing.

Scott Rogowsky: It does bring people together, but it's like I have no interest, I just have no interest. But I understand how... I can see how it's popular and fun.

Nora Ali: Definitely. I used to have parties where we would play Dance, Dance Revolution for hours, me and my friends. Have you ever played DDR?

Scott Rogowsky: I had DDR at the arcade, maybe. But I'm not... You're talking to a tall white man, I'm not exactly the most coordinated when it comes to the footwork.

Nora Ali: Well, it's such an important and growing business and I'm glad we had a couple conversations on it. So today we are talking about the gaming industry, which has been booming since the start of the pandemic. First up is Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier, who joined us to unpack the rapid growth of the industry over the pandemic, as well as the recent consolidation of some of its major players. I had a one-on-one chat with him. And then we'll hear from Erin Ashley Simon, who is a video game influencer, host and co-owner of esports organization XSET, about how the industry is changing and the role she plays within it. From Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, the podcast that reveals the unexpected business story behind everything. I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky. Nora and I are here for your ears, bringing you conversations with creators, thinkers, and innovators who can tell us what it all means and why we should care. Now let's get down to business.

Nora Ali: Jason, how's it going?

Jason Schreier: Good. Thanks for having me, Nora.

Nora Ali: Of course, excited to talk gaming. Let's start with the growth of the industry, if we can. Global gaming sales is larger than the revenue of the global movie and North American sports industries combined, which is pretty insane. And according to MarketWatch, global gaming sales rose 20% to nearly 180 billion dollars in 2020. Obviously it's bigger now. Just how did the pandemic spur this growth, how did the industry get so big?

Jason Schreier: Yeah. It's funny, the pandemic definitely triggered a lot of new gamers, led to a lot of people buying Switches and playing Animal Crossing. I remember the new Animal Crossing came out just when the pandemic started, so it was perfect timing for people. But this growth spurt really started with mobile games, circa 2008 Apple introduced the App Store on the iPhone, and 2009 I believe was like Angry Birds, in 2010, 2011, kept going with all these big mobile hits. And that, I think, got a lot of people into gaming. And it was so funny, I was covering the games industry at the time, and pundits, the typical analysts and executives were like, "Oh man, mobile Facebook gaming going to kill the consoles." But actually the opposite happened, and it wound up bringing in all these new players who are now also into consoles. And I think that's part of what has really caused this to explode, is that if a hundred million people are playing Candy Crush, if even a small fraction of those people are like, "Hey, you know what? I kinda like games.I want to go check out what's on the computer or on the new PlayStation." That's a huge, huge increase for games. So I think that's the biggest factor. And yeah, it's been really cool to see.

Nora Ali: Yeah. So those mobile games are that entry way, that gateway into the console gaming. And then you have these free to play games, where the monetization is these micro transactions in game. Is that the model you think that's going to stick and grow the industry in the most quick fashion? What do you think about the monetization model there?

Jason Schreier: Yeah, it has. Certainly on phones, most people who are playing games on phones do not want to spend money on their games. So they want to get it free and then play it, and then maybe they'll put in a few bucks here and there to speed things up, and then you can buy new outfits for your character like in Fortnite, and then there are some that are a little more insidious, where you can play the game for free but then you have to pay to speed up timers and play more of the game, or you have to pay to outspend your opponents to win. And so there are different models here, and some I think are more ethical or more fun than others. But yes, free to play is definitely... I think it'll always be just this supplementary thing. There's always just this room for this coexistence where there will always be these premium, full priced games that you buy, and then also free to play games. And who knows what's going to be next, but I imagine that it'll just continue to expand the ecosystem rather than replacing one or the other.

Nora Ali: Well, speaking of the ecosystem, what are some of the other ancillary ways that game makers make money? Whether it's licensing, franchising, merch, events, eSports tournaments, talk to me about those.

Jason Schreier: Actually it's funny. There's an ongoing joke that no matter what game you have, Netflix will buy it and turn it into a show, because they've been doing so many of those shows recently. One thing that has become more popular in recent years is ads, putting ads in games, especially on phones where it might be harder to... Like I said before, people on phones just don't want to buy games so they're probably getting them free. And yeah, we're seeing companies exploring all sorts of ways to get money out of people, for better and for worse. There's been a lot of talk recently in the gaming world about NFTs, which I think have been extremely controversial to both fans and the makers of games, so that's been an interesting debate to watch.

Nora Ali: Why controversial?

Jason Schreier: There are a lot of reasons. The environmental stuff is always a big concern for a lot of people, the environmental impact of NFTs and the blockchain. I think the biggest one is that there are a lot of companies these days that are pitching this vision of games as play to earn, where you play a game and you make money off of it, or you play a game and you level up this character and then you can sell it to another player for money, and that has been and seen with a lot of skepticism for a lot of different reasons. One, first and foremost, is that most of the people who play games are not thinking of it as a job and don't really want to like do monotonous tasks to make money off of it. So yeah, a lot of gamers, I think, are not exactly eager to see their favorite hobby transformed into this economy.

Nora Ali: A task.

Jason Schreier: Yeah, exactly.

Nora Ali: So, Jason, you wrote a book called Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry, and in the intro you wrote, "Even as gaming companies gobble up more and more money every year, too many of them struggle to provide stable, healthy environments for their workers. And all it takes is one flop or business decision to lead that billion-dollar game publisher to enact a mass layoff or shut down a development studio, no matter how much money it made that year." Why is this industry so volatile, how can one flop ruin a company?

Jason Schreier: Well, there are a lot of factors here. One, I think is that it's got the volatility of Hollywood, but without any of the methods for stability that people in Hollywood have embraced, such as unions and contracts and also all being in one city. It's also just such a high-stakes business, you can spend so many years and so much money making these games that you wind up gambling your entire company out of the thing. Because games are just growing increasingly more complicated, the bar for graphical fidelity is just getting higher and higher so you're expected to spend more money on these things. One of the other problems is trying to stand out in this market, where there's so many games being released every year, which is another recent phenomenon, it's just harder to break away and make this game that turns into a big hit. These days you have game productions that are 50, a 100 million dollars, whereas 10, 15 years ago it would've been a fraction of that. That's become a big problem. These things they can take years and years and years. 20 years ago, it was considered super long if spent more than two years on a game. But these days we have games that are in development for seven, eight years and nobody's blinking an eye. It's really gotten out of control.

Nora Ali: Oh my goodness. On that note, let's take a quick break. More with Jason when we come back. All right. Jason, one of the big things that you've written about, and that we've seen in the space, is consolidation. The most recent news, or biggest recent news, is news of Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard, for a ridiculous amount of money, for 68.7 billion dollars. But before we get into details of that, you've reported that consolidation seems like a win-win for both buyers and sellers overall. What do you mean by that?

Jason Schreier: The broader context of that was that it could be a big loss for consumers and fans, and people who are on the outside of all this. But for the companies that are buying each other, it's absolutely a win-win. If you're Microsoft, you are getting this massive asset that can help you live out your dreams of dominating the entire video game industry. And if you are Activision, especially if you're in the C-suite at Activision, you are getting a massive check. Bobby Kotick who's the controversial CEO of Activision Blizzard, is walking away from this with a massive, massive parachute. And not only that, in this case specifically, because they were under a scandal and he was being pressured to resign, he gets to walk away with a graceful exit. I don't know if it's a win-win for customers or even for outside developers who are suddenly finding their options grow more and more limited every day, but if you happen to be on one side or the other, either writing the big check or getting the big check, then it's a win for you.

Nora Ali: Well, tell me more about the consumer side then. What are the disadvantages if you just have the video game space controlled by a handful of big players?

Jason Schreier: It's the same as antitrust issues in any other industry. If you have one company dominating everything, they have all the power, they have all the leverage, they get to set the prices, and nobody else can come in and beat them on it, they can slowly and gradually raise their prices or whatever. I mean, look at Amazon, right? Look at how Amazon has dominated the the book business. And if you want your Amazon packages super fast, you have to be an Amazon Prime Member, and Amazon can continue hiking up the price of Amazon Prime as long as it wants.

Nora Ali: And Netflix, too. It's these an inelastic goods.

Jason Schreier: Exactly. Yeah. All of these Big Tech titans are operating in the same way. And so Microsoft's business, a lot of their gaming strategy revolves around what is essentially the Netflix for gaming, they call it Xbox Game Pass, and you essentially pay a monthly subscription fee for access to all these games, and it's a really, really good deal right now. And if the new Call of Duty is on Xbox Game Pass and you're a player, and it's November and you're like, "Hey, where should I get the new Call of Duty?" Even if it's available on PlayStation, your options are, you can buy it on PlayStation for $70 for the new price of a game, or you can pay $10 a month to get it as part of a subscription with a hundreds of other games, so it's not even a choice at that point. So I think that itself, that alone might help create this ecosystem where everybody flocks to Microsoft platforms. I always worry when it comes to this sort of consolidation, because who... Do you really trust massive corporations to have your best interests in mind?

Nora Ali: Do you trust the government to regulate it properly? That too we don't know.

Jason Schreier: Mm-hmm, that's the other question. Yeah. Although this case is really interesting, because the chairman of the FTC, Lina Khan, is cracking down harder on tech antitrust cases and we're going to really be looking at regulation. It'll be interesting to see, I think Microsoft Activision could wind up being this really interesting example for the FTC. And who knows? I don't know, I don't think it's a slam dunk that they're going to get approved at this point. And I will be very, very interested to see what happens.

Nora Ali: So to that point, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said that the deal between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will provide building blocks for the metaverse. In very basic terms, what is the intersection between gaming and the metaverse?

Jason Schreier: I think the metaverse is nonsense. I'm actually in the middle of writing an article right now about how the metaverse is nonsense, and doesn't mean anything, and nobody has any idea what it actually is. It's just corporate buzzword nonsense. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the reason Microsoft is saying that this is about the metaverse is because of antitrust concerns. And I think it's because they want to position this as a deal that they made in order to compete with Facebook and Google and Amazon. Activision is small potatoes compared to those companies, as opposed to, in the video game world, where Activision is one of the three biggest publishers in the world. So if Microsoft is making this as a gaming deal, you could look at it and be like, "Whoa, Microsoft is really dominating a lot of this space now." Whereas if they're saying it's a metaverse nonsense, then you can say, "Oh, Facebook just owns Instagram and WhatsApp, so I guess it's equal playing field now." So yeah, I think it's complete nonsense and nobody knows what the metaverse is or what it would do.

Nora Ali: Why is it nonsense though? Please, how sh- how should we be talking about the future of the internet and tech, if not using buzzwords like the metaverse?

Jason Schreier: Yeah. I just think that for starters nobody knows what it is. It's this loosely defined buzzword where you ask a dozen different CEOs, and I have asked a couple CEOs, and they are unable to define on it or explain what it is, they'll just start going on some rant. I was talking to one CEO and asked him about it and he went on some rant about how across the street there was a guy doing architecture and he was able to pull up his phone and see a blueprint on his phone, and I was like, "What does that have to do with the metaverse?" He was like, "It's all the metaverse." It's nonsense in that sense, but let's say one loosely accepted definition of the metaverse is this idea of Ready Player One, where we all put on our headsets and we enter virtual reality all day and meet with our friends and do whatever. Nobody wants that. That is the least appealing vision of the future to just about everybody. This all reminds me of just five years ago when VR was being hyped as like the biggest thing ever, and then it turned out that people didn't really want VR, and VR was kind of like a cool little hobbyist thing that like, "Oh man, cool. I put on my headset for a couple hours and get to pretend I'm in this new game world" or whatever. But it wasn't something that was ready for the mainstream at all, and I am actually skeptical that it'll ever be ready for the mainstream, because I don't think there's much of a market for that. And trying to combine that with work, people are already getting enough fatigue from being on Zoom all day. Imagine having to do it inside a VR headset where you can't even turn off your camera and play a game on your phone.

Nora Ali: And you're getting sweaty under the headset.

Jason Schreier: Oh my God, it's so unappealing. And it's so interesting, because the reason Facebook took off is because it created this tool that was solving a problem that we didn't even know was there. It was such a powerful tool for networking and for meeting people, and it was hard to imagine life without it after it was there. Same with the iPhone. A lot of these tech innovations have really solved problems that we didn't know existed. This is a solution to no problem. There's nobody out there being like, "Man, I wish I could spend more time staring at screens." It's just really hard to imagine a lot of people getting into this.

Nora Ali: Thank you for saying what probably most people were already thinking. Hot takes from Jason Schreier.

Jason Schreier: Man, these buzzwords really get to me.

Nora Ali: I appreciate that. Someone's got to say it. Well, Jason thank you so much for joining us on Business Casual. Jason is a Bloomberg reporter and he's also the author of the bestselling book, Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry, and he's also the co-host of the Triple Click podcast. When we come back, both Scott and I will hear from Erin Ashley Simon, video game influencer and industry expert. So Erin, you are everywhere when it comes to the world of video gaming. You're a broadcast personality, you're a host, you're a producer, you're a consultant, you're even a part owner of an esports organization, all while breaking barriers as a woman in the industry. So bring us back to the beginning, how did your love for gaming help you be come such a figurehead for the industry, especially for folks who often go overlooked?

Erin Ashley Simon: Yeah, absolutely. So my passion started a very, very long time ago. My older brother got me into playing video games. The first video game I ever played with Sonic the Hedgehog, on Sega Genesis.

Nora Ali: Same!

Scott Rogowsky: Yes. Me too. Now you're talking my language, Erin. I was afraid going at this interview because I don't game currently, but Sonic the Hedgehog, Aladdin--

Nora Ali: We all played Sonic.

Scott Rogowsky:--Shinobi III, these were my games, Sega Genesis. I stopped at Sega.

Erin Ashley Simon: It's okay, it's okay. You either played Sonic or you played Super Mario. It's so interesting how it led me to at this point, because I just did not expect it. To be honest, I didn't even plan to be a broadcaster, it just kinda happened in itself. If you told me that esports and gaming would get to where it is now, 10, 15 years ago, I would not have thought that at all, to be honest.

Scott Rogowsky: Well, yeah. I think it's probably fair to say that you didn't think of this as a career when you started, because it wasn't a career when you started. As you said, so much has changed. For those who aren't fully yet aware, although I think it's becoming more and more mainstream, the fact that video games is a huge business, there's a lot of money to be made as a streamer on platforms like Twitch, etcetera.

Nora Ali: And I imagine that esports also helps to promote the brands of the gamers themselves, and their personalities, putting them on a bigger stage, and you've created a brand and a niche for yourself within gaming. So can you talk to us about how you monetize your personal brand as a gamer, how you carve your niche? I know you do commercials, brand partnerships, TV. How are gamers really thinking about that?

Erin Ashley Simon: The funny thing is, gamers aren't really thinking about monetizing entirely. Think about it, a lot of them they're 15, 16, young twenties, so they're still learning about business, but they're monetizing through some of the traditional forms, YouTube, sponsorships, and stuff like that. So for me, how I do it is a little bit different, because since I'm a broadcaster, I'm less of a content creator. So essentially with, it's creating more of a lane of me being a thought leader. And then I have the understanding from a brand perspective is, a lot of brands and people they want to feel like, even though this is such a buzzword, they want to feel like you're authentic. They also want to feel like you stand for something, and you mean something. No longer can you just... Especially ever since 2020 with George Floyd and stuff, no longer can you just not say anything. Honestly for me, it just started with me just speaking passionately about the things that are important to me in addition to gaming, and finding a way to speak to gaming that's digestible to those who may want to get into gaming but feel intimidated, speaking of it from a business perspective. So all those different things allowed me to gain sponsorships. So sponsorships from Puma, Turtle Beach, ROCCAT. I also have stock and ownership in the esports org, XSET. There's a few other companies also that now my team and I, whenever they're specific brands that want to work long term with me, I do ask for equity in some shape or form. Because for me, I look at short-term revenue and also long-term revenue. And of course, me, broadcasting, getting money from that. So at least for the past two years I aim to get at least three revenue sources. Now I'm aiming for six to seven, maybe five at minimum revenue sources. But the thing is, I'm almost 30. So I think way differently than some of these gamers, some of these gamers just want to game, essentially.

Nora Ali: You're more on top of it than most.

Erin Ashley Simon: Yeah. And I'm trying to help them learn, and I'm trying to educate some of the people I've been mentoring to understand, don't just think of about the now, think about the later and plan to make your decision so that you don't have to create content for the rest of your life to make a living.

Scott Rogowsky: Right. That's the business mind thinking about these other streams of revenue. You are really helping to build this intersection between gaming and culture, and unfortunately with that comes some of the negative aspects of our culture. You're passionate about acknowledging and dismantling some of the toxicity in the gaming community, especially regarding racism and sexism. In what facets of the gaming industry are racism and sexism most apparent to you.

Erin Ashley Simon: Honestly, they're everywhere, just like in life they're everywhere. So they're online, because people can be anonymous, and especially because social media is such big component of gaming, so people can make burner accounts and say whatever. Also there's a lot of cheating and hacking when it comes to certain games. And then also there's platforms like Twitch, same thing, they can hide their faces, their names, their jobs, so they just say whatever. And so I always tell people, the same way in life there are a portion of people who are sexist, racist, and all isms, it's the same thing. I always say gaming is art, it's a reflection of life and reality. So whatever's going on in the world, it is reflected in the community, and it also can be reflected in the games themselves. Certain games do highlight certain political elements, and wars, and all these different things and actually happen. So it's fascinating, because I think sometimes people are like, "Okay, we want to get away from all these things. And that's why we get into gaming." But it also is just a reflection of reality. So as a Black woman, as Afro-Latina myself, the same way that I deal with racism and sexism in the real world, I deal with it in my work, I deal with it in gaming. It doesn't away.

Nora Ali: It's something that we're going to be tackling in perpetuity, is toxicity on tech platforms, wherever it might be. But, Erin, one of the big trends we're seeing in the gaming industry overall is a lot of consolidation, we're seeing big acquisitions. The most recent big one of course being Microsoft's announcement to acquire Activision Blizzard. And when the news was announced you tweeted, "Whether it's Sony acquisitions or Microsoft acquisitions, I'm really interested in seeing what's done from a licensing perspective. How will these IP's be used beyond the games?" So can you explain why this transfer of IPs, this transfer of ownership, is so significant for the industry?

Erin Ashley Simon: Absolutely. Because what's happening right now is, the traditional form of the gaming industry and gaming business is changing, the same way that other entertainment forms are. It's not the traditional sense anymore, and also these sections of entertainment aren't siloed anymore. So we're seeing this on streaming platforms, we're seeing it now in movies, it's another form of marketing their games, marketing their business and marketing their products. We also are starting to see, for example, Riot Games, they have a music division, a music department. And now what they use is, they actually use characters from the game and make music and they market their characters and their music, not only in their game but outside of it. So now we're starting to see a lot of gaming companies are... And more specifically Riot, I feel like is really spearheading this when it comes from a publisher standpoint. And so for those who don't know, publisher standpoint or just publishers are just the ones who own the IP for the games. So now we're seeing them utilize different forms of entertainment and different platforms and different technology to market their IP for the purpose of continuing that loyal fan base and increasing people's interests in their products, so that they can then purchase the games or get involved in some shape or form, and creating more revenue outside of just the game themselves. So because we're starting to see that shift, we're also starting to see the shift in terms of subscription service, that is where the industry is. And then the goal is to eventually get to cloud gaming. And cloud gaming is, they want people to be able to have access and play the games anywhere at any time on any platform. So you want to play a game on your TV? Oh, you got to go? You can play down your phone. Oh, you're at a friend's house on PC? Well guess what, you can boot up and sign in, and then you can play over there. And it'll still keep the same point for where you're playing all across the board. So because that's where the industry's going, and technology is going, and then the whole concept of metaverse, everyone's going there, the industry is changing in terms of how they use their IP, how they market their products, and understanding that exclusivity is not the name of the game anymore, its access.

Scott Rogowsky: You're seguing perfectly into what I want to ask about next, which is the metaverse, we're all hearing about it. There are bulls, there are bears, some people are trashing on it, like maybe our other guests on this episode.

Nora Ali: Our other guest, he called it a buzzword and no one actually knows how to describe it. So I think we're curious to get your take.

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah. What is your perspective on the metaverse, and are all these partnerships, acquisitions, these emerging technologies, I assume this is all bringing us closer to the metaverse going mainstream? What form of the metaverse do you think will take it mainstream?

Erin Ashley Simon: I do agree. I do agree that it's just such a buzzword right now and people don't quite know where we're going to. I think right now it's just a lot of like, "Oh, I could see. Imagine this." But it's just, well what are the steps to get there? And no one really has the right answers. But I think that the essence from what I'm getting, I just feel like it's just an immersive world experience, where it's like... I feel like gaming has been doing that way before everyone else, with VR, with AR, creating these sandbox elements of being able to do whatever in a game, be whoever, Fortnite's been doing that. To be honest. I think that when we have this conversation around metaverse, gaming was already doing that before everyone else, in terms of what they interpreted it to be. Right now I think that there's just so many moving parts, and there's so many things that everyone's discussing, but I think that the collective thing that I'm getting from everyone is more authentication and proper authentication, and just a more immersive experience overall. And like I said, I feel like gaming's going to be helping to lead that way, and that's why you see a lot of companies like Meta and you see NFTs, they're all trying to attach themselves to gaming because gaming actually has one of the best technology and products in order to do that on a more larger scale, I think.

Nora Ali: And companies like Meta have their headsets, and other companies trying to work on hardware to make the VR/AR experience more palatable for consumers. But our other guest, Jason Schreier, said he's skeptical on VR games becoming pretty mainstream, because it's pretty unwieldy at point, the hardware is not that sophisticated yet. What is your view on where we might be in the next few years when it comes to VR gaming in particular?

Erin Ashley Simon: Honestly, anything is possible. Shoot, I don't think any of us expected to be in a pandemic, so anything is possible in the future. I think that where VR is right now, it's still a little too expensive, it's a little wonky in terms of the mechanics, but I just think that the whole Ready Player One that everyone expects VR to get to, we're nowhere near that. I feel like right now, AR is just a lot more viable than VR, and it's just going to take a lot more elements. Because for example, internet. Internet is not the greatest here in the US, it's better in other places. It's going to take that, it's going to be potentially adjustments to servers, but servers are still an issue. So there are other technological elements that still need to improve, to improve VR itself. And I'm actually with Jason. I'm a little skeptical, too. But I also think that I'm also a little bit hopeful in a sense, because you never know, within the next five, 10 years, someone can create something that could help to elevate it on a grander scale. The last 10 years we saw how the fundamentals of social media and how impactful it's been, and that was a 10, 12 year span.

Nora Ali: I played Fruit Ninja on VR once and it was very enjoyable but I got sweaty, because the headset was so big. So I think there's a long way to go.

Scott Rogowsky: Got to put some headbands, like you got there in the headset. That's a pro tip. Got to rock the sweatbands.

Erin Ashley Simon: Yeah, you've got to. Keeps it safe.

Scott Rogowsky: There you go. All right. Well, Erin this has been a fascinating conversation with you to hear about your position in the industry, I love what you're doing. But it's time to put you on the hot seat. I know you got a nice gamer seat right there, gamer chair. Maybe it's sponsored, I assume it is. But this quiz is only sponsored by the idea of the pursuit of knowledge. It's time for Quizness Casual, the Business Casual quiz. Today, Erin, you'll be playing with Nora, okay? You are collaborators, teammates in this contest. The quiz is all about video games. You think you know your video games, Erin?

Erin Ashley Simon: I hope so. We'll see.

Nora Ali: She does. We know it. We know it.

Scott Rogowsky: And, Nora, you're a game or two, this should be equal footing here. All right, let's do it. Qumero Numero Uno: Who placed presidential campaign ads in online video games when running for president? Was it Jeb Bush, Mike Bloomberg, Barack Obama, or Beto O'Rourke? Well who be the first, who be the first?

Nora Ali: Wasn't it Beto O'Rourke? Am I making this up? Oh no, no. Maybe Bloomberg. It was recent, I feel like.

Erin Ashley Simon: Obama.

Nora Ali: I think it was Obama. I feel like it was... I don't know why I think it was Beto O'Rourke. But we're going to go with Erin, I always like to default to the guests, so we're going with Barack Obama locking it in.

Scott Rogowsky: It's always a smart move, Nora, you know by now. Default to the guest. 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama purchased ad space in 18 games that ran 10 states. Vote for change billboards. Remember those?

Erin Ashley Simon: You know why I knew that? Because Biden did it recently, and I think Biden went off of when Obama did it.

Nora Ali: Nice.

Scott Rogowsky: The old Obama playbook. Okay. Question two. Good job. What was Xbox almost named when they came up with the name "Xbox"? What was another name in consideration? Was it Rad Xbox, Direct Xbox, Action Xbox or Run Xbox?

Erin Ashley Simon: Direct Xbox. 

Nora Ali: There we go. She's confident we're locking it in.

Scott Rogowsky: She's confident. Xbox was almost the Direct Xbox. Yes. Yes.

Erin Ashley Simon: I watched the documentary recently on it.

Scott Rogowsky: You saw the documentary. All the way back in '99. Microsoft's Ed Fries met with the Direct X team to discuss a new idea called Direct Xbox. As the project moved through development Windows was dropped, the console look changed, and eventually it was renamed Xbox. All right. Two for two here. This is a great-

Nora Ali: She's a genius.

Scott Rogowsky: A great start, Erin knows her stuff. Here we go, last question. In Nintendo's Mario franchise, Bowzer was originally intended to be a what, instead of a turtle? A dragon, an ox, a rhino, or a porcupine? 

Nora Ali: What?

Erin Ashley Simon: I don't know this one.

Scott Rogowsky: Porcupine pie, porcupine pie.

Nora Ali: Dragon seems in the same category of animal. What the heck?

Erin Ashley Simon: Yeah, I don't know if I'm going to get this one.

Nora Ali: Bowzer has little spikes, right? Am I making this up?

Erin Ashley Simon: Yeah. On his shell.

Nora Ali: Yeah. So I'm thinking about a rhino maybe, because a rhino's got a horn that seems sort of related. I don't know, Erin what do you think?

Erin Ashley Simon: I'm going to say dragon, because he also breathes fire.

Nora Ali: Ooh. That is good logic. Is it dragon? 

Scott Rogowsky: Well, are we going to rescue the princess, are we going to reach the castle and slide down that pole at Q3? We're not. No, the princess remains captive. Ox is the answer.

Nora Ali: Ox?

Scott Rogowsky: Yes.

Nora Ali: It's the only one I didn't consider.

Scott Rogowsky: When originally sketched by Miyamoto, Bowzer was conceived as an ox. But his drawings were misinterpreted by the animator Yoichi Kotabe as a turtle.

Nora Ali: What? How can you mistake an ox for a turtle?

Scott Rogowsky: An ox, it must have been a spiny ox. I don't know, but I like turtles.

Nora Ali: Hey we did pretty well.

Scott Rogowsky: I don't know ox's as much as turtles, but I do like turtles. And I like the fact that you got two out of three right, which is pretty darn good if you ask me. Two out of three ain't bad. Erin, congratulations. And also, congratulations on your career. It's just amazing what you're doing, I love it. 

Erin Ashley Simon: Yeah. Thank you so much. And also thank you guys so much for having me.

Nora Ali: Yes. Thanks Erin.

Scott Rogowsky: We love hearing from you, BC listeners, so please hit our line. We're working on an upcoming episode about self-driving trucks, and we'd love to hear if you're built Ford tough. What are your thoughts on self-driving vehicles? Send us an email at businesscasual@morningbrew.com or DM us on Twitter, @bizcasualpod, that's B-I-Z casual pod.

Nora Ali: You can also leave us a voice memo on our website, businesscasual.fm, or give us a ring and leave us an old fashioned voicemail. Our number is 862-295-1135, and as Business Casual grows, we are excited to get to know our listeners, old and new. Drop us a line and don't for get to leave your name and where you're calling or writing from, so we can hear from you in a future episode.

Scott Rogowsky: Business Casual is leveled up by Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins. Additional production, sound design and mixing by Daniel Markus. Alan Haburchak is the Director of Audio of Morning Brew, and Sarah Singer is our VP of Multimedia. Music in this episode from Daniel Markus and the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. If you like what you heard, please follow Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you go for your candy. And we'd love it if you give us a great rating and a review.

Nora Ali: Thanks for listening to Business Casual, I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky

Nora Ali: Keep it business.

Scott Rogowsky: And keep it casual.