Welcome back to your monthly report of game news, where I do my best to compile everything into one convenient ad-free place, so you don’t have to worry about the pesky cracks that info can fall through at other publications!
Thanks and credit for the banner image as always goes to the Avocado’s one and only Space Robot!
Over the last week of February, a few announcements occurred which I forgot to fit into the last roundup, for which I dearly apologize. After this however I should be fully caught up again.
On February 23rd, publisher Paradox Interactive simultaneously announced that Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is rescheduled for a 2022 release, no further pre-orders on the game will be taken, and that the game’s previous developer Hardsuit Labs has been outright removed and replaced. The same day, Sony’s Gran Turismo 7 was delayed into 2022 due to development slowing from the ongoing pandemic.
As of February 26th, Panzer Dragoon II Zwei Remake is now officially set to launch in 2021 from MegaPixel and Forever Entertainment following from last year’s remake of the original. No word yet on their House of the Dead remakes.
On March 1st, EA announced that due to pandemic-era working conditions affecting both projects, the next Need for Speed title is being delayed to 2022 while its developer Criterion will be temporarily reassigned to provide DICE with dev support for the first next-gen Battlefield release, set for this fall. The publisher’s purchase of Codemasters providing at least one separate racing game on track to release in 2021 also helped inform this decision. The same day, independent publisher and developer Forever Entertainment announced that it had began a new partnership with Square Enix to produce several multiplatform remakes of games all from the same “brand” owned by SE, with more details to come.
On March 2nd, Epic announced their acquisition of Fall Guys developer Mediatonic. The same day, after being announced and gradually teased from 2019 onward, the next and potentially final project from Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and his Mistwalker studio began being fully revealed with a series of trailers. Fantasian is a turn based JRPG coming to Apple Arcade in two parts during 2021, with the first half having just launched on April 1st. It features physically handcrafted real dioramas incorporated as the environments explored by the game’s characters, and a twist on random encounters where the player places enemies into a pocket dimension queue to be battled anytime at their leisure. Nobuo Uematsu is doing the score for the game and like his longtime colleague has discussed this potentially being his final project. You can read more about Fantasian, Clap Hanz’s latest game, and other major Apple Arcade releases at Andy Tuttle’s excellent special feature from last week here.
On March 4th, New Game Plus Expo brought some exciting news, such as Suda51’s Silver Case 2425 duology coming to Switch in the West this July after launching just last month in Japan, while Disgaea 6‘s Western launch was scheduled for June 29th, and physical editions for the Switch ports of No More Heroes 1 and 2 were announced from Limited Run. Meanwhile, the Sakurai Presents: Pyra and Mythra video released, bringing the new fighter to Smash later the same day alongside returning and new Monster Hunter Mii costume content in promotion of the now-launched Monster Hunter Rise, likely deconfirming another popularly speculated candidate for a full DLC fighter.
Over the first weekend of March, approval from the EU’s commission completed the deal for Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax and Bethesda, which was announced on March 8th in lead-up to a March 11th livestream of a roundtable conversation from all parties discussing the deal in detail now that they legally could. It was light on formal news apart from a surge of additions and re-additions to Game Pass, some of which gained FPS Boost on next-gen Xboxes, and confirmation that new games from Bethesda studios will largely be Xbox-exclusive going forward.
On March 6th, the first new footage from Tales of Arise since June 2019, and the first update since June 2020, arrived as Bandai Namco released a brief cutscene trailer promising “further news in Spring 2021.”
On March 10th, Dotemu and Tribute Games, developers of the recently rereleased Scott Pilgrim game and Streets of Rage 4, posted the announcement trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, a four player co-op title combining their expertise in modernized beat-em-ups and sense of the history of beloved games in this series like Turtles in Time. Release is TBA.
On March 11th, an official report from Kotaku provided the anonymous testimony of several employees that during the previous month’s devastating winter storms, outages and shortages, their employer Cloud Imperium Games, or CIG, had imposed expectations as the crisis was ongoing to either immediately continue dev work on Star Citizen or forego future vacation time to compensate, while also more broadly providing little communication, guidance, or resources as compared to other similarly affected employees at other game companies.
That same week: Microsoft announced that the Xbox One’s OneGuide live TV listings would begin shutting down in May as the final button on the Xbox TV project the console launched on; 343 Industries held a Q&Q livestream discussing Halo Infinite‘s day/night cycle, its non-linear narrative opportunities akin to beelining for Ganon in Breath of the Wild, and its dynamic weather system that’s been intended for the series since Combat Evolved, with rain and snow planned for post-launch. Capcom’s three Monster Hunter livestreams ending on the 11th also brought some significant news, most notably announcing Monster Hunter Stories 2‘s scheduled release date as July 9th.
On March 15th, Xbox brought some news. After being teased the previous week, they and Square Enix announced that People Can Fly’s bizarrely marketed co-op narrative shooter Outriders will be on Game Pass at launch, a deal that secures financial success and an available playing audience for the title without either immediately needing the other. An Xbox One port of Undertale was also unveiled for launch and available on Game Pass the next day, featuring a small piece of exclusive narrative content as is the wont of Toby Fox.
On March 16th, following from her previous departure from Google, it was announced that Jade Raymond had founded a Montreal-based independent studio called Haven Entertainment, which has entered a partnership with Sony to develop an exclusive unannounced new IP for PlayStation. Without any explicit details, in the PS blog post Raymond described the studio as one where many of the developers she’s worked with for years are coming together. The ongoing conflicts over app store management and revenue division received a major update that same day as Google announced that starting July 1st, it will not only match Apple’s reduction in fees incurred upon small businesses operating on their digital storefronts, but apply it unilaterally to the first $1 million in revenue earned each year by any company, meaning more overall developers will save more money on Android than iOS. Double Fine’s social media announced that only one week remained to finalize backer names in the credits of Psychonauts 2, indicating release news is on the way. Nintendo detailed and released its 1.9 update for Animal Crossing ahead of the game’s first anniversary. After a successful BlizzCOnline debut and faced with the prospects of the pandemic continuing to limit options on live events, Activision fired many dozens of employees in various departments, including those at mobile dev King.com, among which were 50 employees in esports and live event programming, signaling a broader shift towards emphasizing digital events where possible and a likely beginning of disinvestment in esports as a whole. As Bobby Kotick and co. continue to receive obscenely inflated salaries and bonuses, the newly former Activision employees received Battlenet gift cards as part of severance benefits.
On March 17th, Playstation blog posts featured a spotlight on upcoming indie games, most notably announcing Disco Elysium: The Final Cut‘s PS4 and 5 release date as March 30th. The other games featured were: asymmetric espionage co-op Operation Tango, Chicory: A Colorful Tale, which combines distinct handdrawn art and ‘repainting the world’ mechanics, rhythm-cooking game Nour, Where the Heart Leads, a “surreal narrative adventure” releasing July 13th, a VR Jigsaw game called Puzzling Places, and Heavenly Bodies, a space travel physics puzzle game.
The first Direct-style Square Enix Presents aired on March 18th after being announced a week earlier, matching Square’s upfront detailed description of its contents. The extended opening discussed the new shooter Outriders only days after its Game Pass announcement, then moved on to discussing Tomb Raider‘s 25th anniversary celebration as it unfolds across 2021, including the surprise launch of the Definitive Survivor Trilogy, a collection of the 2010s reboot Tomb Raider games’ complete editions available digitally on Xbox and Playstation at the price of only $20 for the first two weeks of release. Several mobile games were quickly shown in series such as Just Cause, Hitman, and Space Invaders. The dedicated Taito section featured a Side Story Pack releasing March 25th for Touhou Spell Bubble, a limited release physical edition of shmup Darius: Cozmic Revelation for PS4 and Switch, and Bubble Bobble 4 Friends coming to PC via Steam. On the same day as the next-gen upgrades and Future Imperfect expansion released, Marvel’s Avengers gave one last story and gameplay presentation from those aforementioned updates before moving over to the roadmap meant to keep its playerbase alive for the rest of the year, culminating in the reveal of the next major story expansion, War for Wakanda coming this summer, packaged with Black Panther as a new player character. However, these reveals also came with the news of both a widely criticized change to make leveling up take longer, and a further delay for the Playstation exclusive playable Spider-Man, saying that it won’t be available until sometime after War for Wakanda.
If if may pause for a moment, I’d spent my entire time covering this game, almost two years now, believing Spider-Man had…just been in the game since launch. It’s embarrassing as a journalist, but it’s also pretty damn embarrassing for the game in how it speaks to a mismanaged live service model leading to games feeling incomplete for long after release. Speaking of troubled releases for Square, Balan Wonderworld was up next. Arzest announced and detailed a massive day-one patch to address some of the game’s polish and previous-gen performance issues reported after the demo, without delaying the game for further improvements. Much like last year’s final big disaster, an additional patch had to be added last-minute once it became widely reported that the game was a seizure risk. As of this writing, the game did launch some time ago. It looks to be a massive financial flop, but has received a complex critical reception, massive criticism along with a small genuine cult audience, but also a surge of positive reviews from bots, still unclear whether they’re from the publisher, overzealous fans, trolls, or a mix of the three.
The presentation’s real headliners started to arrive as Square fulfilled its promise of revealing the new mainline entry in Dontnod’s cult classic narrative adventure game series. Life is Strange: True Colors is developed by Before the Storm‘s Deck Nine as Dontnod is largely busy with pursuing new, self-published titles, and stars Alex, a young Asian-American bisexual1 woman from Colorado with a powerful, sometimes debilitating, psychic empathy ability. The entire game of True Colors is scheduled to release at once on September 10th 2021, continuing the trend of narrative adventures carefully avoiding the long delays between episodes that troubled Telltale later in its life, Dontnod during Life is Strange 2, and KRZ. True Colors will launch with an Ultimate Edition that bundles in a new Remastered Collection of Life is Strange 1 and Before the Storm, which will receive a late 2021 stand-alone release which Square promises further details on. All of the details about True Colors were accurately leaked a week ahead of reveal, alongside the leak going back to last fall that the series will debut on Switch this year. The Remastered Collection, a straight port of 2, and a port of True Colors are all expected to release on Switch within the next year or so. I report this, as I did at the presentation’s debut, with great confidence as the info is backed by strong current sources like Jeff Grubb, Emily Rogers, Nate the Hate, and more. And two weeks later, as I was finalizing this roundup, True Colors itself was rated for Switch by the ESRB, before they retracted the post. Finally, returning after it was announced last June during the first PS5 showcase, the AAA Project Athia was fully re-revealed as Forspoken, an action game starring Ella Balinska as Square’s first black woman player character, scheduled to release for PS5 and PC in 2022. Both cutscenes and a quick gameplay montage were presented from the marquee title. As it came to a close, the next SE Presents was said to be coming this summer.
Even beyond Square Enix Presents, March 18th was a big day as it brought multiple announcements from Sony, including the massive surprise that Sony was buying the EVO fighting game tournament event series, co-owning it with the recently formed independent esports company RTS. Per Daniel Ahmad, “terms of this transaction including acquisition cost and ownership split are not disclosed due to contractual commitments.” EVO’s Mark Julio promised in the wake of the announcement that the event remains “open to all platforms”, but skepticism and uncertainty remain. Sony also revealed the PS5VR controller after showing off the headset the previous month, and Bandai Namco announced the release date of their JRPG Scarlet Nexus, scheduling it for June 25th.
Leaking ahead of confirmation the next day, Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD remaster had its Western release date set for May 25th. Also on March 19th, WB Games’ Gotham Knights was delayed to 2022.
Two games added to Game Pass for PC in March sparked both joy and anger when it was discovered that they were brand new PC ports quietly greenlit and produced with exclusive new improvements and features considered to put these ports solidly ahead of the games’ original PC/Steam versions. These games are Nier Automata: BECOME AS GODS Edition and the first The Evil Within when it arrived as part of the “Bethesda joins the Xbox family” initiative. Concern arose about these ports or improvements remaining exclusive to Game Pass over time and creating a new Microsoft-established disparity in the PC market. A Eurogamer piece offers additional insights and details of the matter, overall suggesting that there is enough to fairly believe that these new ports are simply different, not superior, and the originals are still preferable in some respects.
On March 22nd, word broke that the PS3, PSP, and PS Vita digital storefronts will close completely during summer 2021, following from the steps taken towards reducing support for them last fall. Sony proceeded to confirm this news a week later with a PS blog post release and emails sent out to members of these stores. The PS3 and PSP stores will close on July 2nd, while the Vita’s will close on August 27th. All currently and previously purchased games are supposed remain available to redownload upon closure, but in the first two weeks of April, some obstacles to this seem to have emerged. Certain games on PS3, varying by region and format, currently have their update files no longer available, in some cases rendering them unplayable or otherwise unavailable to new owners. This story is still developing. At the same time, Sony underwent several leadership changes, adding several members to its Board of Directors and overall strongly promoting executives involved in its VR development and indie partnerships. Capcom announced a second Resident Evil Showcase to premiere in April (later dated for the 15th) with new anniversary celebration news, alongside confirming the previously leaked Stadia versions of RE7 and REV, the former launching April 1st and the latter day-and-date with other versions on May 7th. Nintendo and Niantic announced an expanded partnership of developing a series of mobile AR apps themed to Nintendo’s properties, starting with a Pikmin app coming later this year, and is already being beta tested in Singapore, where it’s being described as having the player walk around to build energy to grow their Pikmin, then explore their environment to retrieve items with the Pikmin’s help.
On March 24th Capcom announced a digital livestream concert for the music of Ace Attorney, which went on to air repeatedly for different time zones on April 10th. Newly localized character names and mechanic descriptions were shared for The Great Ace Attorney duology during it without a formal announcement of the leaked rerelease and first-time localization of the games. Given that the setlist and social media were theming this concert around the Great Ace Attorney games, and last year’s leaks of their localized rerelease stated that an announcement was scheduled to happen in April, it was an understandable conclusion that the news would become fully official during or close to said concert, leaving fans presently confused and unsure for right now.
The Future Games Show Spring Showcase aired on March 25th, beginning with yet another “preshow”, featuring material exclusively from German publisher and developer Daedalic Entertainment. Daedalic presented: a stand-alone expansion, Aiko’s Choice, for the stealth tactics title Shadow Tactics: Blade of the Shogun, coming Late 2021; Hidden Deep, a 2D exploratory action game set beneath the ocean floor, which will enter Early Access in May ahead of launch later this year; top-down action title Glitchpunk, entering Early Access on Steam later this year; point and click cute robot adventure Life of Delta coming in early 2022; co-op party game Fling to the Finish coming later in 2021; Inkulinati, a strategy game with a medieval monastic artstyle coming in 2021; and finally a brief first look at gameplay from LOTR: Gollum. All except Gollum are coming to PC first, with it as a multiplatform simul-launch and Hidden Deep having Switch and Xbox One ports in the works.
The Future Games main event opened with a reveal of Arctic Awakening, a first person episodic narrative adventure game coming to PC and consoles in 2022. Sony and Housemarque’s Returnal, after having just gone gold as announced on social media the same day, appeared next with more gameplay presented and detailing its Hades-style integration of roguelike gameplay and narrative progression. Returnal launches for PS5 on April 30th. Turn-based action RPG CrisTales returned with a Michigan J Frog party member and a new July 2021 release date, Axiom Verge 2 returned with new narrative details and a Spring 2021 release window for Switch and PC via the Epic Store. Naraka: Bladepoint is a samurai battle-royale with a global beta launch later this month on April 23rd, ahead of a scheduled full release in the summer. Kickstarter hit Savior is an open-world pixel art action game set for an October 2022 PC and Switch launch. Horror FPS Quantum Error showed four straight minutes of new gameplay footage here after debuting in the original Future Games show. It’s coming to PS4, PS5, and now the Xbox Series consoles. Of Bird and Cage is a first person narrative adventure game and integrated rock album scheduled to release for PC on May 20th 2021 and Xbox One, PS4, and Switch later in 2021. Josef Fares’ latest, It Takes Two, had one more long presentation here before it launched the next day. Gamedec was revealed, an isometric sci fi detective RPG scheduled to launch for PC on September 16th 2021 and Switch later, with a demo available as of March 26th. Embr (gig app style) is a first-person co op multiplayer game coming to all consoles Summer 2021 after its PC launch last year. Kathy Rain: The Director’s Cut is a new edition of the 2016 point-and-click adventure game, expanding its story, levels, music, and more, coming to PC in Fall 2021. Team17 then presented several recent or upcoming games, current/previous gen multiplatform launch of Overcooked! All You Can Eat, Narita Boy, Worms Rumble‘s Xbox and Switch versions, King of Seas coming to consoles in May (demo on Switch in April), action game Thymesia coming to PC in 2021, Epic Chef coming Summer 2021 to PC, Switch, Xbox, and PS4, Hokko Life entering Steam Early Access Summer 2021, tactical FPS Ready or Not coming soon to Steam, and Honey, I Joined a Cult coming to Steam Early Access in Summer 2021.
After being delayed from June to October earlier that same day, Back 4 Blood showed off new gameplay ahead of its summer beta. A cinematic trailer played for Tempestfall, a VR adaptation of the Warhammer Age of Sigmar line, which will release later in 2021 for PC and Oculus Quest. Sizzle reel: Monster Harvest is coming on May 13th for all platforms, The Wandering Village is coming to PC, Drive Buy launched March 31st for PC and Switch, Dordogne is coming to PC, Mac, and Switch in 2021, part 1 of Fantasian launched for Apple Arcade on April 1st as aforementioned, Minute of Islands is Coming Soon to PC, Mac, and consoles, Zombieland: Headshot Fever released for Quest, PC, and PSVR March 25th, Dorfromantik released on Steam March 25th, Endling is coming to PC and all consoles later this year, Everybody Wham Wham is on PC and Mac right now, and Woodo is TBA for both release window and platforms. The Longest Road on Earth comes to PC and mobile in Spring 2021. Open world survival game Green Hell is coming to PS4 and Xbox in June 2021 after reaching PC in 2019 and Switch in 2020. Gameplay was showcased for titles like the aforementioned multiplayer spy game Operation Tango, which announced a June 1st launch date, Oddworld Soulstorm which launched last week, and Serial Cleaners. Elite Dangerous Odyssey dated and released its playable Alpha on March 29th. Don’t Forget Me is a memory themed adventure game coming to PC on April 20th. Publisher Movie Games revealed Firefighting RTS Fire Commander for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PS4, and PS5, and War Hospital for PC and next-gen consoles in 2022. Rhianna Pratchett and company announced the post-Stadia release date of Lost Words: Beyond the Page here, it having since launched on April 6th for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Horror game Haunted Space was revealed for PC and next-gen consoles. Devolver’s multiplayer heist game Sub Rosa announced its public Steam Early Access unveiling here after having been available yet unlisted for four whole years, quietly building a dedicated, but reportedly toxic, community. Life is Strange: True Colors returned to further detail its story. LKA, developers of The Town of Light, showed off their next first person psychological horror game, Martha Is Dead, which is set in Tuscany during Mussolini’s fascist regime, and coming to PS4, Xbox One, PC, and optimized for PS5 and Xbox Series, later this year. Finally, Sifu and Kena: Bridge of Spirits returned from the recent PS5 event. As described by its developers from Sloclap, Sifu unfolds across five large main levels each ending in a boss fight themed after a different martial arts style and element, and features a system of the player character aging upon each loss until eventually reaching a unique old age Game Over. Kena showed additional combat gameplay accompanied by narration about the world of the game. And that’s the Future Games Show!
A 3 hour+ ID@Xbox Showcase Livestream occurred on March 26th, offering more than 60 games coming to PC and Xbox platforms and more than 20 coming to Game Pass day one (asterisked below). I’ve got the streamlined summary. Adios, Airport for Aliens Run by Dogs, Alba, Alchemic Cutie, Among Us, Art of the Rally*, Astria Ascending*, Atrio: The Dark World, Backbone*, Blaster Master Zero 3, Boyfriend Dungeon*, Chivalry 2, Cloud Gardens, Clouzy!, Craftopia, Dark Alliance, Dead Static Drive*, Death’s Door, Demon Turf, Despelote, Echo Generation, Edge of Eternity*, Enlisted, Exo One, Exomecha, Griftlands, Hello Neighbor 2*, Iron Corbo, Knight Squad 2, Lake, Last Oasis, Last Stop, Lawn Mowing Sim, Library of Ruina*, Little Witch in the Woods*, Loot River, Lost Avalon, Lost Eidolons, Mad Streets, Moonglow Bay*, Narita Boy*, Nobody Saves the World*, Omno*, Onsen Master, Princess Farmer, Recompile*, Rust, Sable*, Second Extinction, She Dreams Elsewhere*, Song of Iron, Soup Pot, Spacelines from the Far Out, STALKER 2*, Super Space Club, The Ascent, The Big Con, The Forest Cathedral, The Last Stop, The Riftbreaker, The Wild at Heart*, Twelve Minutes, Undungeon*, Voidtrain, Way to the Woods*, and We Are the Caretakers are all coming to Xbox and PC this or next year. Some highlights from that include: the action-RPG Nobody Saves the World coming this summer, from Guacamelee’s developers, 3D platformer Omno coming this summer to all platforms, adventure game The Wild at Heart launching May 20th, cute cooking sim Soup Pot coming in August, voxel fishing RPG Moonglow Bay, gothic 3D action Death’s Door, updates from Twelve Minutes and Way to the Woods, ahead of launch later this year, and massive turn based JRPG Astria Ascending coming to all platforms from Artisan.
Sega and Amplitude’s historical strategy game and Civ competitor Humankind was delayed last-minute from April to a scheduled August 17th launch. You can see an extended discussion of its gameplay in the Future Games Show I reported on above. tinyBuild’s showcase on their Neighbor series announced that its multiplayer entry Secret Neighbor is coming to PS4 and Switch, alongside further detailing the upcoming Hello Neighbor 2.
On March 27th, a new post on PEGI ratings suggested that XCOM: Chimera Squad will come to PS4, Xbox One, and Switch this year after its surprise launch on PC last spring. A Q&A with Tomoya Asano provided further details on Project Triangle Strategy, saying that the game will have multiple endings extending from the player’s choices made throughout the game, and suggesting that more updates on the game are meant to arrive before winter.
On March 29th, following from last year’s (popup advertising riddled) revival of their UFC series, EA announced EA Sports PGA Tour coming this fall to next-gen consoles, their first golf game since Rory McIlroy PGA Tour almost six years ago. EA went to shortly confirm that it had secured exclusive license to use the Masters Tournament alongside the three other major men’s golf tournaments in the upcoming game. And League of Legends: Wild Rift‘s open beta arrived in North and South America ahead of its 1.0 mobile and console launches later this year.
Rumors: I have sectioned these off for a reason. Rumors are an inherently volatile space. If you have one reason or another to want to skip this, whether it be hoping to not be spoiled or anything else, I encourage it. I wouldn’t be directly staking my work as a journalist on this if this information and sources on it hadn’t stood the test of time, the process of observation, analysis, and investigation over many months. And to be absolutely clear, I am not an “insider” and I do not pretend to be, I am not a leaker, I am merely sharing that which is already publicly available if you know where to look.
Xbox: Jeff Grubb reported that he had been told that Starfield‘s internal targets were to receive a full reveal this summer ahead of a holiday 2021 launch, but it could easily not work out as of yet. This tracks with most other rumblings about this game despite Bethsoft’s track record on its biggest games. In an average year, a publisher is internally finalizing their holiday release schedule around the beginning of the new fiscal year at the end of March, but COVID’s workplace impact brutally exacerbates uncertainty as seen from much of the console launches taking until September to be nailed down. Management of news this spring has shown significant improvements over last year, but COVID is being cited in many major delays and will continue to be until the pandemic is truly over. A sensible deadline shift from that fiscal year marker is roughly May at the latest given the renewed summer news season. All of this should be kept in mind as the year continues to progress and more and more decisions and delays are made.
Along with the dev-aimed Game Stack on April 20th, Xbox is reportedly holding a “What’s Next for Gaming” event sometime in the coming weeks, per ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley. With their E3 presentation formally on the way only two months from now, news from Xbox until then will occur but will likely be on the smaller side, similarly to Nintendo.
Bloomberg’s Takashi Mochizuki went into overdrive continuing to report on the new upgraded Switch revision (which I will henceforth refer to as the Super Switch for brevity) throughout March, getting more specific/detailed on matters such as how exactly the hardware would upgrade its internals and screen, the hardware’s targeted launch window, and the software slate planned around its launch window. Other regular reliable sources like Imran Khan and NatetheHate corroborated many of Mochizuki’s details throughout the past weeks, when they weren’t reporting others months before he increased public awareness of the info tenfold. Right when Mochizuki’s report surge started at the beginning of March, they provided another key detail, that devkits for the new hardware have begun distributing to larger third parties since at least February. According to Mochizuki and his colleagues Ian King and Sohee Kim, the latter of whom works directly with Samsung, the Super Switch will feature a new 7-inch 720p OLED screen from Samsung, and a more powerful brand new Nvidia chipset replacing the X1+ with improved CPU, larger RAM, and support for Nvidia’s DLSS advanced AI upscaling technology to achieve improved output up to 4K when docked.
Since the reports of 4K output first began last fall, DLSS has always been apparent as the most sensible option for how it would be achieved. It’s a product of Nintendo’s own current exclusive hardware partner and it’s been on the market for more than two years, giving it plenty of testing time. AI upscaling provides a higher resolution that by and large can match the stability and quality of native rendering without the same computational demands. The internal power improvements previously described were needed to achieve this DLSS support and will provide benefits even if you don’t have a 4K or 1080< display. A new improved dock may be necessary to complete the 4K output, and has been evidenced in multiple OS datamines alongside improved Bluetooth support. The new screen was carefully chosen to leverage an effective display of improved handheld performance without sacrificing battery life. As reinforced by multiple developers Bloomberg’s reporters have spoken with, DLSS support will primarily be for new games that can have it built in during development, post-launch DLSS patches from first and third party alike will occur on a cost-benefit basis.
And there’s another wrinkle here on the production front. On March 5th, Gamereactor’s Sergio Figueroa reported that a source had informed them that Nvidia will discontinue production of the X1 and X1+ chips during 2021. Nintendo has only used the X1+ in the Switch and Switch Lite since the end of 2019, so this news could indicate that the brand new chip built for the Super Switch would also start replacing the X1+ in Switch and Switch Lite shells before too long, just as it replaced the X1 before, allowing Nintendo to continually advance not only the ceiling but also the floor of the Switch family’s hardware range. Such a discontinuation would only occur upon agreement between Nvidia and Nintendo, so while the latter could build a larger backlog of X1+ chips and only replace them after a longer timeframe, that is unlikely to occur if this report is true. If these events pan out, it would fit with the increased interest in iteration Nintendo leadership has consistently expressed since development of the Switch began.
The most likely price of the Super Switch based on a combination of known production costs and different analysts’ input looks to be $350. $400 has been brought up as the upper limit on what Nintendo could viably market with, but is nonetheless unlikely. This hardware exists because Nintendo literally always does this kind of revision for its handhelds, but it featuring DLSS 4K is undeniably an act of direct competition with the next-gen consoles, and Xbox’s budget next gen hardware is $300. Per the Bloomberg reporters, the Super Switch will definitively launch by the end of fiscal year 2021, which spans from April 1st 2021 to March 31st 2022. The internal target for the Super Switch’s launch is during this calendar year’s holiday season, with manufacturing meant to start during the summer for a release between October and December. That target is necessarily a high priority for the company for various reasons, from its centralized role in profit plans and how being bought over more of the fiscal year benefits that, to how moving the console can affect third party partners already committed to it, as we discussed with Xbox last year. However, as discussed above with Starfield, being able to finalize releases is inherently complex, that complexity will continue to be exacerbated until the pandemic is truly over, and that applies doubly for hardware due to the combination of manufacturing and internal development at play. Supply chains on various parts are already preparing more units for Nintendo for this fiscal year over last year, but between high demand and parts shortages, it’s not a stable situation, and it’s been recognized as such by Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa and Koh Dong-jin, co-CEO of new partner Samsung, alike. The final decision will have to be made soon but we the public likely can’t and won’t know for sure until we simply see when the revision is officially announced.
When Nintendo announces the Super Switch is directly proportional to that final launch date. The Switch Lite was announced only two months before launch. The Super Switch is supposed to sell to new and current Switch owners alike and it needs momentum to do that, but it can’t dominate the news cycle too much without risking alienation or misinformation, either. It’s still only a revision like its predecessor, it’s just also a more complex one, featuring more new moving parts which will warrant more dedicated explainer time and gameplay footage, especially AI upscaling.2 So a somewhat longer reveal to release cycle makes sense, but not necessarily one that starts at E3, or goes for the entire second half of the year in general. July to October, or August to November, are good options. Leaving E3 to be all about software and bringing hardware in weeks or months later has served Nintendo well with the Switch Lite, the 2DS, and the New 3DS, all in the past decade. And if the Super Switch can’t be ready for late 2021, it runs the risk of slowing sales if announced at the wrong time and may not be until January 2022.
Now, as for software, Bloomberg reports that Nintendo’s projection of their performance for this fiscal year is to outperform 2020, the Switch’s best fiscal year yet, by a significant margin for both hardware and software, 250 million units of software sales from April 2021 to March 2022 versus the roughly 205 mill. units from fiscal 2020. Nintendo’s projection for the next 12 months is centered around sustaining and further escalating momentum via the plan for the launch of both the Super Switch and a slate of marquee game releases courting core and casual audiences which had the revision baked into their development. Think of Link’s Awakening, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and Pokémon Sword and Shield all releasing within two months of the Switch Lite’s launch. Executives of Nintendo partners such as retailers, software publishers and component suppliers have all been privately briefed on this plan and are among Bloomberg’s anonymous sources. We know 2021 has a lot of space left to fill, and Mochizuki acknowledges as much while explicitly describing these unannounced titles and the majority of the Super Switch launch slate as one and the same. Virtually everything first-party and select third party showcase titles released between roughly July 2021 and late 2022 is effectively part of the Super Switch’s software slate, with the particularly essential entries likely being concentrated between September 2021 and March 2022. These waves of planned software slate arrive complete with likely optimizations and some accompanying third party games exclusive to the revision which will continue through 2022 as that first year on the market. Some first party games are immediately apparent as part of this plan, such as Pokémon Legends Arceus, Splatoon 3, and most likely Breath of the Wild 2 as well. Nintendo’s first General Direct of the year was focused on the first half for a reason. News and release for the rest of the year’s software is being timed around when Nintendo management hopes the hardware and power-boosted game footage can be ready to show. The E3 Direct and onward is where we’re going to be seeing this stuff, period. I can speak with confidence about some of these unannounced titles likely to be part of this slate with the clear understanding that we can’t for know for sure when exactly we will have seen all of these announced or released. Some of these are less actively rumored about and more just intuitive selections, and which is which should be fairly apparent.
- a new 2D Metroid, developed by Mercury Steam after their success with Samus Returns in 2017. This project is consistently described to be completely new/original, the Metroid 5 to Fusion’s Metroid 4. There are smaller, more scattered rumblings of a Super Metroid remake, but if that is on the table, it is still very unlikely to happen prior to Metroid 5’s launch.
- the next mainline Kirby, in development by HAL Laboratory since Star Allies‘ 2018 launch. In interviews about this game, HAL project leads have consistently described it as one of the series’ biggest and boldest entries yet.
- the next new game from Monolith Soft, which has been in development since 2017 or 2018 alongside the XC2 expansion and last year’s XC remaster.
- the next full game from EPD9 after Arms and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe four years ago.
- the first new Donkey Kong game since 2014. This has been in the works for a while and its release has always been meant for a 2021 launch to align with the series’ 40th anniversary and the development of the DKC section at Super Nintendo World. However, few definitive details are available beyond that. It’s more likely to be 2D, but I haven’t heard someone say that it will be 2D. If it is 2D, it could be framed as more of a third DKC Returns entry, or something stand-alone like Jungle Beat. And who is making it? Well, not Retro, obviously, or the Splatoon team. The best candidate right now seems like the 2D Mario team, who are part of EPD10 along with the Pikmin team. Super Mario Maker 2‘s devs are widely understood to have been rushed on that game’s post-launch support in order to fully focus on their next project.
- Whichever game is next to release from Intelligent Systems. The devs’ two offices and 200+ employees have at least two definitively known projects currently in the works, a new WarioWare, and the next Fire Emblem game. The next Fire Emblem is popularly speculated to be a second Echoes title, a remake of a previously unlocalized title following from 2017’s Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, though this has gone uncommented on among good sources. We don’t know for sure if Koei Tecmo is sharing the programming workload like they did on Three Houses, but it’s probably not off the table. Fire Emblem seems like the better showpony for more powerful hardware, but WarioWare could be taking advantage of unknown new features in the upcoming revision. Not to mention that Three Houses released less than two years ago, after being delayed from 2018. Fire Emblem has been on a two year cycle since Fates’ 2015 Japanese launch, and IntSys has released at least one game a year every year for more than 20 years. Of course, it’s still obviously a complex situation. This will make for an interesting horse race.
Lastly, another older Joycon patent was found after it received approval in March 2021. The document depicts a left-handed controller with its usual side railing, featuring a Circle Pad like the 3DS’ in place of a full thumbstick and a traditional D-pad in place of the directional face buttons. It is speculated to be potentially introduced as a solution for Joycon drift and/or accompanying the Super Switch’s launch. I gotta say, providing an inferior substitute for thumbsticks instead of improving their build quality would be a really poor fix, even speaking as someone who still hasn’t experienced drift.
At the end of its launch weekend, Capcom officially announced that Monster Hunter Rise, its final title for fiscal 2020, had already shipped more than 4 million copies across the globe.3 That’s only one million less than World, the bestselling single Capcom title in the company’s entire history, did in its own launch weekend on two platforms versus Rise‘s one. Of those 4 million, 1.3 million physical copies were in Japan alone. By the end of the game’s second weekend, it had reached 5 million shipped.
On April 2nd, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was indefinitely delayed from its previously scheduled Spring 2021 release. Also, after the MLB officially pivoted future MLB The Show entries to multiplatform in 2019, the launch date of the series’ next game was announced as April 20th alongside the news that it would be a day one Game Pass title.
Geoff Keighley began to detail the second year of Summer Game Fest in early April, stating that the entire event will be condensed into June. Combined with the below news, the message from publishers is clear that announcements are returning to a more centralized approach as much as is practically viable while pandemic effects remain ongoing.
E3 was previously established as not being canceled this year, while also not having a physical event to ensure COVID safety. On April 6th, the ESA officially announced E3 2021’s airdates and partners via press release. Taking place from Saturday June 12th to Tuesday June 15th, the completely free digital event has successfully secured the support and content of Microsoft, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Capcom, Take-Two, Warner Bros., Koch Media (of THQ Nordic, Gearbox, etc.), and Konami at this time. Sony, EA, and Square Enix remain as the past presenters currently uninvolved, while Bethesda will have a designated section within Microsoft’s stream. There is still time to sign up, but recent practices by the former two leave it doubtful if anything will change in the next two months, and Square Enix as aforementioned already has an independent event lined up for the summer. Prior to the completely free four public days of the event, June 7th through 11th will serve as private Media Days for major press to receive closed door demos and presentations, getting their NDA’d reports prepped ahead of the news going public, broadly following previous press procedure. This year’s digital event is meant to establish a new template for the conference’s future endeavors, which at this time entails a return to the physical showfloor space in 2022. After exploring the option, the ESA ultimately decided against offering publicly available cloud-streamed on-demand game demos at cost. Its statement to VGC suggests that this idea might still be deemed more feasible for a future E3. On the 8th, a second Future Games Show and the PC Gaming Show were announced for Sunday June 13th, premiering smack dab in the middle of digital E3. More third parties will be scheduling their events around E3 in the weeks to come, while others have already internally moved to elsewhere in the summer to avoid the competition. Yours truly will be proudly covering all of this when I publish E3 2021 in Review on June 18th.
On April 6th, Nintendo announced their latest Switch Online exclusive multiplayer title, Pac-Man 99, which released on the 7th and 8th around different parts of the globe. The battle royale maze game from Bandai Namco and Arika substitutes in for the recently delisted Mario 35 and follows in Tetris 99‘s substantive model of providing customization options, an offline mode, and upcoming DLC and a physical edition, while competing with Stadia’s own Pac-Man battle royale. This won’t be the last update to add value to Switch Online this year.
On April 7th, Twitch announced immediately implemented additions to its Hateful Conduct and Harassment Policy, namely that it is bringing in an investigative third party law firm to more effectively monitor and intervene with misbehavior related to but off the platform, meant to improve its ability to address misconduct both from and experienced by Twitch employees and partners. This includes adjusting the text of the Policy to affirm that it is meant to persecute actions affecting the safety of the platform’s ecosystem even when they are exclusively occurring off-platform.
A Street Fighter 5 DLC update occurred later on the 7th, showcasing new gameplay from upcoming fighters like turtle-wielding monk Oro, an April 19th release date of Rose, the first footage from Rival Schools‘ Akira, and detailing the return of the Capcom Pro Tour esports events from SF5, which will begin on April 17th.
On April 8th: Arkane’s Deathloop was delayed again, rescheduling to September 14th. THQ Nordic and its developer released an announcement trailer for their Destroy All Humans remaster coming to Switch this summer. A new independent presentation on No More Heroes 3 aired. Capcom launched the multiplayer Resident Evil RE: Verse beta before quickly pulling it due to technical issues. Dotemu began revealing the DLC coming to Streets of Rage 4 later this year, featuring three new playable characters, a new Survival mode, expanded character customization, and new music. A free update will arrive alongside the DLC with a new difficulty mode, a new in-depth training mode, and additional player character costumes. Shannon Liao and Elise Favis’ interview about Adobe Flash based games included a section where Neopets developers JumpStart mentioned that they’re exploring bringing the game to Switch.
On April 9th, a new trailer for NEO: The World Ends With You announced its scheduled release date as July 27th 2021.
On the same day, the report of a remake of the first The Last of Us built on a new engine for PS5 accompanied a massive story from Jason Schreier via Bloomberg. This story describes a small group within Sony internal development team Visual Arts Service Group successfully pitching the concept of this remake to Sony leadership, but ultimately forbade a budget to hire new people to work on it, pulled off it after a year to provide support to Naughty Dog on The Last of Us Part 2, and finally had the remake project completely overtaken from them by Naughty Dog at Sony’s direction. Michael Mumbauer, director of VASG since 2007, David Hall, initial director of the remake, and the rest of that pitch group, had been trying to secure their studio a position as more independent developers pursuing their own original projects after so long as a support team. The pitch made to be the ladder to that goal (they had even chosen it over an initial Uncharted remake idea which they recognized as less practical) had left them stuck in the same position as before, and by the end of 2020, the remake’s initial leadership had largely disbanded, with many leaving Sony altogether. Schreier’s report describes this incident as a part of a broader pattern of developer dissatisfaction within Sony, wherein certain studios like Naughty Dog and Guerilla are treated too preferentially and given too much power as part of a larger overly conservative managerial mindset, one where “smaller games only successful in Japan” and the developers passionate for them both internally and externally have been increasingly left behind in favor of the open-world narrative action blockbuster formula. This pattern includes the previously reported downsizing of Sony Japan into support for the AstroBot team, and a new story of Days Gone devs Sony Bend being put on support for multiple Naughty Dog projects up until only last month when they were approved to move over and lead another new IP of their own, after losing lead staff over the conflict.
Over the weekend following Bloomberg publishing the report, former Sony Bend employee and Days Gone co-director Jeff Ross affirmed some of its details but pushed back on others during a video with David Jaffe, stating that his departure late last year was personal and unrelated to Bend’s work with Naughty Dog, and that said work was collaborative and without any realistic concern for the future of the studio. He had worked on a pitch for Days Gone 2 but could not speak further to its status. Schreier quickly and rather harshly responded to both Ross and outsiders observing this discourse, saying Ross is “not telling the truth” and calling those asking Schreier for a response “so naive.” Ross, to his credit, responded thusly: “Thanks to everyone who attended the podcast. I wish I could have been more forthright with some questions. Just remember [Jason] is a journalist who takes his craft seriously. And he has the luxury of being able to be more honest than I’m allowed.” I’d advise my readers to reserve judgment on this story for now.
On April 10th, a fan event livestream for the upcoming Age of Empires IV occurred, and developer Relic Entertainment showed off some key details ahead of its scheduled launch this fall. The game will feature four full length campaigns, with the Norman Conquest campaign being extensively previewed during the stream, and eight playable civilizations will be available at launch, including the new Delhi Sultanate, with more coming after launch.
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