Game News Roundup: January 2021

Welcome back to your monthly report of game news compiled as much as possible into one convenient ad-free place, so you don’t have to worry about the pesky cracks that some info tends to fall through at most major publications!

Thanks and credit for the banner image as always goes to the Avocado’s one and only Space Robot!

I apologize for being very late to this, but: DIRT developer and publisher Codemasters was formally acquired by EA for $1.2 billion in January 2021 when Take-Two Interactive formally withdrew its own offer $994 million from back in November 2020, ceding to EA’s December bid, and Codemasters’ board signed off on EA’s bid on January 22nd. This deal will completely finalize by the end of the year’s first quarter in March.

A Partner’s Showcase from Nintendo is increasingly believed to be coming soon, based on such details as the ESRB posting their rating for Subnautica: Below Zero‘s multiplatform 1.0 launch on the 18th, the same day that Gamefly temporarily listed Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville‘s substantially rumored Switch port for a March 19th release, and multiple separate leaks pointed to an imminent launch for Apex Legends on Switch before the game’s director Chad Grenier finally stated on January 28th that their port will have news “very soon.”

On January 11th, Nintendo announced that the next Super Mario 3D World + trailer would release the following morning. Over the next two days, two trailers for the port would release, the first debuting the content for the new, 3-6 hour expansion Bowser’s Fury, and the second being a seven minute overview trailer explaining both the ported main game and the new content in greater, more direct detail. Bowser’s Fury is set in a single large sandbox level containing multiple varying zones and courses, in which Mario and Bowser Jr., controlled either by an AI or in two player co-op, are teamed up to gather items in order to fix BJ’s dad’s new corrupted kaiju form. The Fury Bowser will repeatedly intervene in the player’s journey and can be fended off with a powerup that creates a superpowered, supersized Cat Mario. Nintendo kept the news train rolling on Thursday January 14th as the release date trailer for New Pokémon Snap was released, scheduling the game for April 30th 2021.

Also on January 14th, Warner Bros Games and Ubisoft announced that their titles Hogwarts Legacy and Riders Republic were being delayed from 2021 to 2022, and from February 2021 to an undefined point later in 2021, respectively.

On January 19th, THQ Nordic announced that the RPG remaster Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has a Switch port, which is scheduled for release on March 16th. Square Enix announced a free demo on all platforms for Balan Wonderworld releasing January 28th. The demo was received with extremely mixed to negative reception due a high level of technical issues, putting in question whether the game will stick to its currently scheduled release or be pushed back for further polish.

On January 21st, Capcom aired a roughly 15 minute Resident Evil showcase after announcing a week earlier. This presentation featured two new trailers, gameplay footage, confirmation of day-and-date current/previous gen versions, demos, and a scheduled release date for Resident Evil Village (May 7th 2021 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series S/X, and PC), with preorders opening the same day as the presentation. Two demos were announced, one a PS5 exclusive releasing that same day, and the other for all other platforms coming at an unannounced date later this spring. The series’ next multiplayer mode, RE: Verse, which launches alongside Village, was revealed, featuring a splitscreen deathmatch setup of classic characters, both heroes and monsters. It and promotional RE content in The Division 2 are part of the series’ 25th anniversary celebration alongside the multimedia content the showcase briefly discussed.

Also on the 21st, publisher Team17 announced their purchase of the rights and assets of multiplayer indie hit Golf With Your Friends for £12 million, with the intention of investing further to support the game via DLC and potentially a sequel.

On January 22nd, Activision Blizzard announced that Vicarious Visions, developers of the widely acclaimed Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 remake and series-revitalizing Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, were being merged into Blizzard and henceforth be “fully dedicated to existing Blizzard games and initiatives,” i.e. no longer creating their own games or leading development on any project but providing support as they had previously in their careers on Destiny 2. Jennifer Oneal was promoted to Blizzard executive vice president of development and replaced as VV studio head by Simon Ebejer. Jason Schreier’s Bloomberg report on these events the same day included the detail that the Warcraft III Reforged dev team, Blizzard Team 1, was being dismantled, reassigned, and replaced by Vicarious Visions on a Diablo 2 remake. Blizzard had declined to comment on this.

The same day, Microsoft announced in a blog post that it would be doubling the price of new subscriptions to their Xbox Live Gold online service, (i.e. double the price of a year of PS+, six times the price of Switch Online) in an extremely unpopular move generally read as meant to incentivize Gold members over to the still pricier, but also far more substantial Game Pass Ultimate subscription. Later that same day, Microsoft officially retracted the decision via a new blog post, apologized, and in the same moment announced that Xbox as a platform was joining PlayStation, Switch, and PC in no longer requiring payment for online on free to play online games. Multiple reporters (Daniel Ahmad, Jeff Grubb) had been stating for months, long before this incident, that Microsoft had plans to drop the ftp paywall, and during that same weekend discussed that the controversy simply accelerated the announcement rather than inspired it.

On January 23rd, it was announced that Tencent had acquired a majority and ownership stake in Klei Entertainment, developers of the Don’t Starve series, building upon previous partnership between the two. This, along with their minority stake investment in Dontnod later the same month, is reportedly just a small part of a larger continued operation of investment and acquisition by Tencent and overall further industry consolidation in the wake of Microsoft’s currently still finalizing purchase of Zenimax.

On January 25th, Rebekah Valentine at reported from nine current and former employees of Scavengers Studio, developers of a PS5 title announced at the Game Awards, Season, (the bicycle anthropology one) that the studio was wracked with systemic sexist behavior, sexual harassment, and verbal abuse, either permitted or often perpetrated by creative director Simon Darveau and CEO Amélie Lamarche. As of the 27th, Darveau was indefinitely suspended and Lamarche was temporarily stepping down during a third party audit of the workplace.

As of January 26th, after a long period of silence, developer Experiment 101 and publisher THQ Nordic have announced the scheduled release date of furry action-RPG Biomutant as May 25th 2021. The game will release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

On January 27th, smaller German team Daedalic Entertainment announced that it was delaying the stealth adventure Lord of the Rings: Gollum from 2021 to 2022, and that it was partnering with French publisher Nacon to distribute the title rather than Daedalic self-publishing as they have in the past.

On the same day, Yooka-Laylee team Playtonic announced in emails to Kickstarter backers that it is currently undergoing a rebrand, about which all will be revealed soon. This has naturally sparked speculation about acquisition, Microsoft, Banjo-Kazooie, all the usual fan fixations.

On January 28th, Sony and Housemarque announced that they were moving PS5 exclusive Returnal‘s scheduled release date was from March 2021 to April 30th for extra polish time. The same day, Ninja Theory announced that their multiplayer title Bleeding Edge would be receiving no further development or support, only remaining on servers for the foreseeable future as the studio focuses its resources on Hellblade 2, Project Mara, and The Insight Project.

At midnight my time January 31st/the morning of February 1st, Nintendo posted its official sales update for the holiday 2020 quarter. The Switch family of hardware reached 79.87 million units sold, (an increase of over 10 million copies from the 68 mill on 9/30) surpassing the 3DS in sales, officially becoming the fifth bestselling Nintendo hardware and 11th bestselling game console overall. (And the Switch Lite now makes up 13.5 mill out of that total, after its first full calendar year on the market. The Switch Lite has sold as much as the Wii U.) The Game Boy Advance is at 81.5 and the PSP is at a broader 80-82 million estimate, making the Switch extremely likely to exceed those quickly in 2021, if not by the end of fiscal 2020. Pikmin 3 Deluxe sold 1.94 million units globally, making it immediately and officially the bestselling entry in the series, surpassing the original game on its own, while adding to the original Pikmin 3 to create a grand total of 3.21 million sold. Super Mario 3D All Stars sold 8.3 million units total between its mid-September launch and December 31st. Definitely seems like a prime candidate for selling evergreen like Mario Kart, Nintendo…

Paper Mario: The Origami King surpassed three million total, bringing it closer to competing with the series’ Wii entry at the top of that particular list. Mario Kart Live Home Circuit sold 1.08 million in its debut quarter while Ring Fit Adventure sold 8.7 million units total since its debut the previous October, and slightly under 6 million in fiscal 2020. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Animal Crossing New Horizons both predictably leapt forward during the holidays, MK8 from 29 million at the end of September to 33.4 million by the end of the holiday, and AC from 26 million to 31 for a total of five million. This in turn brought MK8 combined across Wii U and Switch into the top ten bestselling games ever, and New Horizons into the top 20. In expected response to all this, the Switch’s strongest holiday performance yet, Nintendo increased all projections for total sales for the 2020 fiscal year by between 10 and 30%.

More minor details: 1

Third party sales reports currently seem to put the PS5 at a slight early lead over Xbox, but I’m going to wait until clear numbers from the companies themselves are available to more confidently report on this front.

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