By Mitch Lasky / Blake Robbins

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Category: Video Games

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Episodes: 9


Gamecraft is a limited series about the modern history of the video game business. Beginning in the early 1990's, the video game business began a radical transformation from a console and PC packaged goods business into the highly complex, online, multi-platform business it is today. Game industry legend Mitch Lasky and game investor Blake Robbins go on a thematic tour of the last 30 years of gaming, exploring the origins of free-to-play, platform-based publishing, casual & mobile gaming, forever games, user-generated content, consoles, virtual reality, and in-game economies across this eight episode series.

Episode Date
The New Gold Rush (Ep. 8)

Mitch and Blake take on the complex topic of in-game economies. They discuss how the endemic problems of trust and arbitrage were present in the earliest in-game economies of the late 1980 and how they have persisted to the present web3 economies. They look at the concept of mudlfation, a unique economic problem of massively multiplayer online games, and the strategies for controlling it, as well as the idea of economic play. Mitch talks about how gold farming and real-money trading were early antecedents of play-to-earn, before taking a look at early web3 economies. They end the episode with a discussion of the speculator problem in web3 gaming, and Mitch explains the trust and gifting based economy of Jenova Chen's Sky.

The Story of Habitat

Axie Infinity hack

Raph Koster on "fun" in virtual economies

Under a Killing Moon


'Flation (Koster)

Play Money (Dibbell 2007)

Castronova on Everquest GDP

CS:GO Skin Economy Explained

EVE Online (How Money Works)

Is Crypto VC Strategy Securities Fraud?


Sky economy

Feb 22, 2023
The Failures and Futures of Virtual Reality (Ep. 7)

Mitch and Blake discuss the recurring industry obsession with the idea of virtual reality, beginning in the mid-1980s. Mitch recounts a story about his encounter with VPL and the weird world of digital artists and promoters in the early days of personal computing. They look at the second failed wave of VR investment in the 1990s and the importance of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. Mitch talks about how Linden Lab's Second Life anticipated many of the ideas of the modern metaverse. They then look at the Oculus, and Facebook's decade-long failure to generate momentum behind a new wave of virtual reality, and what Apple's entry into the market may mean. They conclude with a look at the idea of the metaverse and its challenges.

Links and Show Notes:

Mondo 2000 magazine

Mark Pauline - Survival Research Labs

Neuromancer (William Gibson, 1984)

“Spawn of Atari” (Wired Magazine)


“Murder She Wrote” VR Episode

Hasbro’s Toaster VR Project

Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson, 1993)

Ready Player One (Ernest Cline, 2011)

Beat Saber

The Metaverse (Matthew Ball, 2022)

Raph Koster’s “real talk about a real metaverse”


Feb 15, 2023
Console Castles (Ep. 6)

Mitch and Blake debate the continuing relevance of dedicated gaming consoles to the video game business. They begin with a discussion of the economics of the console business, and how console manufacturers built defensible moats that have remained relevant for over 40 years. Mitch compares the current state of the console business to the theatrical feature film business -- and how both have become the domain of big budget blockbusters with cultural significance but dwindling market share. They discuss the history of Nintendo, how its often-contrarian business strategy has paid off over time. Mitch explains how a lawsuit with Nintendo got him into the video game business. They conclude with a look at Sony and Microsoft's different responses to cross-platform play, as powerful platform-based publishers like Epic challenge the traditional console model, and what it means to the future of the business.

Links & Show Notes:


Alex St. John

Xbox GDC Launch Video

Nintendo Playing Cards (1889)

Valve’s Hardware History

“Iwata chooses violence”

Pokemon GO / Niantic

Atari Games v. Nintendo

List of Cross-Platform Games (Q1 2023)

Feb 08, 2023
The Playground and the Stage (Ep. 5)

Mitch and Blake propose a framework for understanding user-generated content in games based on two central metaphors -- the playground and the stage -- representing the two ways users "create" content in games through play and performance. They discuss the rise of sandbox games, The Sims, GTA3, Runescape, Second Life, EVE Online, and Minecraft. Mitch explains the evolution of games as performance spaces, beginning with early machinima and progressing to YouTube videos and Twitch streaming. They conclude with a brief look at Roblox and Discord as two "third places" that people hang out online, and the influence of games on the future of social networks.

Links & Show Notes:

Bartle’s Taxonomy

The Sims (WaPo article)

GTA 3 (The Ringer retrospective)

Second Life and lessons for the metaverse

Empires of EVE

Minecraft hits 1 trillion views on YouTube


Starcraft on Korean TV (2008)

Ninja and Drake on Twitch

Roblox S-1


Feb 01, 2023
The Forever Games (Ep. 4)

Mitch and Blake discuss how the rise of games-as-services has privileged durable, long-duration play-patterns -- leading to the modern idea of the "Forever Game" which can persist for decades. Mitch outlines his five attributes of long-term engagement and provides examples of each from games like Ultima OnlineWorld of WarcraftAge of Empires, and League of Legends. They look at the two distinct strands of long-duration play that emerged in the 1990's -- the massively-multiplayer online role playing game and the session-based online competitive game -- and how those genres evolved and cross-polinated to produce multi-billion dollar online games that have remained viable for a decade or more.

Links & Show Notes:

Bill Gurley on LTV

Island of Kesmai

Bran Ferren


The Assassination of Lord British


AoE2: Red Bull Wololo 2022

World of Warcraft


Jan 25, 2023
The Calculus of Fun (Ep. 3)

Mitch and Blake discuss perhaps the most important developments in the video games business since the 1990s: the explosion of casual and mobile gaming. Mitch explains how the casual business was catalyzed by the most unlikely of heroes. He talks about his time as the CEO of the first public mobile game company in the US (JAMDAT) leading up to the launch of the iPhone. They look at the rise of so-called "social gaming" on Facebook and how it was enabled by new advances in analytics and data science. They do a deep dive on the iOS App Store and Mitch talks about how Apple's desire to curate its end-user experience inadvertently led to the rise of Facebook as a customer acquisition gatekeeper. They end with a discussion of why SuperCell succeeded in building a multi-billion dollar mobile game business while Rovio did not.

Links & Show Notes:

Robert Westmoreland 

EA's “We See Farther” Ad 

Ion Storm 

Taneli Armanto / Nokia Snake 

JAMDAT Mobile S-1

Steve Jobs Announces the iPhone 

Mobile Games Dominate User-Acquisition Spending (2021) 


Jan 18, 2023
The Fall and Rise of Publishing (Ep. 2)

Mitch and Blake take a deep dive into the game industry’s migration from physical goods at retail to electronic distribution over the internet. They explore the rise of platform-based publishing — a new concept that marries the internet’s remarkable utility in aggregating customers on digital platforms with the traditional publishing roles of editorial, marketing, and sales. This episode covers the origins of the innovative Steam service, Microsoft’s GamePass platform (and why it led to Microsoft's $69B acquisition of Activision-Blizzard), and how the Chinese giant Tencent used platform-based publishing to become the largest game company in the world.

Links & Show Notes:

Is Publishing Dead? | Mitch Lasky (GDC, 2014)

Investing in Content | Mitch Lasky (2012)

Valve Corporation


Microsoft's Game Pass

Aggregation Theory | Ben Thompson (Stratechery)

A closer look at Tencent, the world’s biggest game company (Polygon)

Jan 16, 2023
Steal This Game (Ep. 1)

Hosts Mitch Lasky and Blake Robbins discuss the rise of free-to-play as a dominant business model for video game marketing and distribution. They look at the roots of free-to-play in the shareware business, where companies like id Software and Apogee used it to build independent game businesses. Mitch shares some stories about his time as id's publisher in the late 90's. They then look at free-to-play as a response to rampant PC software piracy, primarily in Asia, and how Korean giant Nexon invented the modern internet free-to-play model with games like Maple Story and particularly Kart Rider. They conclude by tracing free-to-play back to the West, first in the casual games space and later with companies like Riot Games (League of Legends) and Epic (Fortnite). Mitch talks about his early investment in a pre-product Riot, and how they used free-to-play to become one of the most valuable games companies in the world.

Links & Show Notes:

Masters of Doom by David Kushner


Scott Miller (Apogee) [Bonus]


Riot Games

Jan 16, 2023
Introducing Gamecraft
Gamecraft is a limited series podcast about the modern history of the video game business hosted by industry veteran Mitch Lasky and investor Blake Robbins. 

In this introductory episode, Mitch and Blake discuss the series as a whole, breaking down the eight episodes and why the themes explored in the episodes are so relevant to understanding the modern business. They discuss their backgrounds in the industry and why they chose to record this series of conversations.

Jan 11, 2023