What in the World—Week of January 18

Ben & Jerry’s goes to the dogs
Beloved ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s is expanding into the massive pet food market with a line of frozen dog treats in the U.S. Doggie Desserts will come in two flavours: pumpkin with cookies and peanut butter with pretzels, retailing for $2.99 for a four-ounce cup. They will also be made from the same ingredients Ben & Jerry’s uses for its non-dairy human desserts. The move puts Ben & Jerry’s in a new category that is exploding, with spending on dog treats rising by 44% to $5.5 billion between 2015 and 2020, and many of those shoppers seeking out human-quality ingredients. “This is an opportunity for people to treat their dogs as they’re treating themselves when they grab a pint off the shelf,” said Lindsay Bumps, a global marketing specialist with Ben & Jerry’s.

Trump ban has real (good) effects
In the messy aftermath of the ransacking of the U.S. Capitol, social platforms banned Donald Trump and some of his most virulent supporters for spreading lies and misinformation about the election. The result was a marked drop in the spread of election misinformation, according to a study by Zignal Labs first reported by The Washington Post Saturday. Claims of election fraud fell from 2.5 million to 688,000 in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter. The Huffington Post pointed out the importance of shutting down misinformation super spreaders, citing an October report which found that just 20 pro-Trump twitter accounts, “were the original source of an astonishing one-fifth of retweets pushing misleading voting information.”

Cyperpunk: too much marketing, not enough development
It’s hard to think of a more disastrous new product launch than CD Projekt Red’s much-ballyhooed video game Cyberpunk 2077. Pulled from Sony’s PlayStation store after it became apparent it was virtually unplayable on last-gen consoles, the game’s failure saw the Polish company face an investor lawsuit while losing 30% of its share price between December and mid-January. Now, new reporting from Bloomberg, based on interviews with more than 20 current and former CD Projekt Red staffers, reveals that among several other missteps, the company prioritized marketing at the expense of development. That hype, which reportedly included an almost entirely fake gameplay trailer created for the gaming industry’s marquee event, E3, helped CD Projekt Red sell more than 13 million copies of the $60 game in the 10 days after its release, even though executives knew the title was in “rough shape.”

A new zoom-zoom arises during the pandemic
Auto racing has been part of video gaming since people sent the very first pixelated blocks zooming around a virtual track. But with contemporary software able to provide a photo-realistic approximation of the real thing, it’s not surprising that “sim racing” filled the void left by the temporary cancellation of NASCAR and Formula One races last year. According to The New York Timessimulated races using platforms such as iRacing helped salvage the 2020 racing season—providing teams with a new source of revenue, and sponsors with a “more accountable” form of marketing. While viewer numbers weren’t as high as those for the races’ real-life equivalent, the virtual races—often broadcast on TV and via streaming services such as Twitch—helped attract younger viewers who have been drifting away from racing in recent years. It has also opened up the sport to smaller brands that might not have the reported $35 million required to support a front-running NASCAR team.

Super Nintendo World delayed, again
Universal Studios Japan has been forced to hit pause on the opening of Super Nintendo World because of the pandemic. Originally slated to open for the 2020 Olympics, the date was pushed back until Feb. 4 and has now been delayed again as cases rise in the country. “Super Nintendo World is an important project for Nintendo, representing the most ambitious attempt yet to expand its IP into new business opportunities,” wrote The Verge in reporting the new delay. The theme park will launch with two rides: Mario Kart ride and a Yoshi’s Adventure ride, and Universal will eventually open Super Nintendo Worlds at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando.

David Brown