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! This time will be a Game News Mini of sorts ahead of a full, on-time May Roundup at the end of the month, E3 2021 in Review on June 18th, and a “the rest of June” Roundup sometime later in the summer.
Thanks and credit for the banner image as always goes to the Avocado’s one and only Space Robot!
On April 13th, my personal 2020 Game of the Year, Call of the Sea, was announced by its developers to be coming to PS4 and PS5 in May. I’m very excited more people will get the chance to play this game and I encourage my readers to do so. On the same day, the PS Blog announced the PS5’s first major system software update, which released the next day. Said update enabled transferring PS5 games onto external USB storage, ahead of further external storage support later this year, along with cross-gen Share Play between PS4 and PS5, and improved personalization options like screen zoom. In addition, new mobile app features like support for joining PS5 multiplayer sessions, managing PS5 storage, viewing and comparing friends’ trophies, and filtering the PS Store, were all added around the same time.
Nintendo’s next Indie World presentation aired on April 14th. The presentation opened with narrative roguelike Road 96 following from its announcement at the Game Awards 2020. After appearing in the id@Xbox show I reported on last time, the sci-fi 3D runner Aerial Knight’s Never Yield was shown next, its demo coming to Switch the same day ahead of the game’s launch on May 19th. Annapurna showcased two games, Last Stop, an anthology adventure game set for a full multiplatform launch in July 2021, and Hindsight, coming later this year and exploring the full span of the lead woman’s life. The next game in the skateboarding series, OlliOlli World, was revealed for a Winter multiplatform release. Two puzzle adventure games, The Longing, based around existential real-time waiting, and There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension, both shadowdropped on Switch. TMNT Shredder’s Revenge was announced to be coming to Switch and scheduled to launch later this year. Much anticipated RPG Cris Tales reconfirmed its scheduled July 20th release and released the demo previously available on PS platforms to Switch that day. The very surprising appearance of Konami brought with it the debut of GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon, a remake Konami contracted from indie team GuruGuru of a Japan-exclusive Famicom action game. This project is set for a May Early Access release on Steam and a 2022 Switch release. Aztech: Forgotten Gods is a 3D open-world action game based in a sci-fi interpretation of Mesoamerican culture and coming to Steam and Switch in Fall 2021. Hand drawn roguelike action-platformer Skul: The Hero Slayer is set for Switch in Summer 2021 after its earlier PC release. A sizzle reel featured such games as driving game art of rally, with a multiplatform release this Summer, KeyWe coming August, Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective set for this Spring, puzzle-adventure Weaving Tides set for May, first official albeit brief footage from Forever and MegaPixel’s House of the Dead remake, coming later this year, 2D action RPG ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights releasing June 21st, a 3D adventure game called Beasts of Maravilla Island coming to consoles in June, and finally the nigh-universally recognizable Fez, which shadowdropped that day. The presentation ended on the first, brief reveal of Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals, set to release in 2021.
On April 15th, following from announcements earlier in the month, Ubisoft detailed its E3 presence as a full Ubisoft Forward digital presentation at 12 PM Pacific on June 12th, the opening day of this year’s all-digital E3.
Later that day, the second Resident Evil Showcase premiered. Another new Village trailer was shown, before the multiplatform demos previously teased and reported were fully unveiled. These demos offer snippets of both the village and the castle areas of the game and were given a staggered release of timed playable windows over three weekends, the first two being the village and the castle on their own on PS4 and 5, and the last being fully multiplatform and featuring a launcher of both area demos. On the 26th, due to criticisms of the limited availability windows for the previous two weekends, the final stage of the demo was extended from 24 hours to more than a week, now ending on May 9th at 5 PM Pacific, the end of the game’s opening weekend. Mercenaries mode was announced to make a surprise return after many years of requests. (Re: VERSE was delayed to a summer launch around the same time.) A new trailer played for the Netflix anime Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, narrowing its release window to July 2021. Brief details on the next upcoming live-action movie followed. A Dead by Daylight Resident Evil Anniversary promotional event was announced for June, with more details to come on May 25th. The presentation closed out with the reveal of the previously leaked next VR release for the series, RE4VR, coming to Oculus Quest 2 and PSVR. Keep in mind this is separate from the leaked RE4 Remake.
On April 19th, due to public outcry, Sony announced a full reversal of the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita’s digital store closures. The PSP store will continue to not take new purchases past the previously announced July date. On the same day, Maddy Thorson and Extremely OK Games announced via social media the studio’s next game after Celeste, Earthblade, an RPG so far only presented via a brief “vibe trailer.”
On April 20th, in a somewhat shocking development, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan was announced to be departing Blizzard entirely after 19 years, in the latest point of concern for both the company as a whole and its multiplayer shooter series. Assistant director Aaron Keller will replace Kaplan in his position on the series. Only vaguely positive, official PR statements are available in terms of acknowledging the exit.
Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda stated in a Nikkei interview that the company has “several other games lined up, which we plan to announce at E3 2021 in June.” With available context, it’s not totally certain whether the next Square Enix Presents will be part of E3 after all, or if it will occur later in the summer after those announcements occur at other presentations like Nintendo’s. Speaking of, there was a recent error on the E3 site which some inaccurately read as a further disclosure of E3 2021 partners.
April 21st was a big day for Japanese publishers, frustratingly so as a woman caught between still trying to rest after the work on the previous Roundup and imminent personal life challenges. Via social media, Capcom finally, suddenly, somewhat randomly, posted a trailer confirming the release of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, the new remake compiling the newly localized pair of spinoff games in the legal visual novel/puzzle series, which will release for Switch and PS4 on July 27th. A new trailer for Bandai Namco’s Tales of Arise released, officially announcing the game’s release date as scheduled for September 9th in Japan and September 10th worldwide. This trailer confirmed dedicated PS5 and Xbox Series versions of the game on top of its previously announced platforms, and an IGN interview with producer Yusuke Tomizawa later the same week revealed that the RPG would not feature the cooperative multiplayer the series had been previously known for. A Polygon interview with Life is Strange: True Colors lead writer Felice Kuan, and voice actor Erika Mori, detailed the technical leap for the series represented by TC and the Remastered Collection through very detail-oriented full body motion capture for the new game and full facial mocap for the remasters. Also, after weeks of testing, Xbox officially launched free Xbox Live support for roughly 70 free to play games.
On April 22nd, Nvidia software engineer Jerry Chang stated in a forum discussion that “Tegra X1 is approaching end-of-life” in relation to cutting off software support for the chip, thus confirming a key part of my previous report on Nvidia and Nintendo’s future hardware plans. Obviously this still provides no formal timetable on when the chips will be fully phased out.
On April 26th, EA continued a recent trend with multiplayer titles like Fall Guys and Outriders by announcing that dodgeball game and scourge of Direct/State of Play viewers Knockout City will be available on launch day (May 21st) at no extra charge in the EA Play and Game Pass Ultimate services on all applicable platforms.
On April 27th, a surprise free Super Mario Party update was announced and launched, adding new full online support for the Mario Party (boards) and two-on-two Partner Party modes, with all characters and boards available to all players, expanding online Free Play’s roster of supported minigames to 70 out of the 80 total, implementing the Invite Friend and Friend Match features to easily assemble remote parties alongside password-protected private games. This update is reportedly the first time Nintendo has employed its newly developed improved online server infrastructure.
Capcom aired its next Monster Hunter Digital Event, focused on Rise‘s 2.0 update. The update adds new quests and six total new monsters like Chameleos and Apex Rathalos, and it launched later that same day. Paid DLC was only briefly discussed and is limited to things like cosmetics and new music tracks (until the, as per the hack leaks, Iceborne-scale expansion coming next year). The 3.0 update is coming at the end of May and will further flesh out endgame content for the game, which will now soon surpass Street Fighter II for SNES as Capcom’s bestselling single platform game. In very different Capcom news, former Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono further detailed his departure from the company, announcing that he would join mobile developer Delightworks as of May 1st. In his statement he said, “I may be away from the FGC for a while, but I’m looking forward to spending time with you again when I get the chance.”
On April 29th, the next PlayStation State of Play aired, focused on Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart ahead of its June launch, but opening with two “surprise” indie games, namely Subnautica: Below Zero and Among Us. The former of the two different kinds of survival game reconfirmed its May 14th 2021 multiplatform launch in what really was just one more high profile ad for the game, while the latter revealed a PlayStation exclusive set of cosmetics themed after Insomniac’s platformer-shooter series, which Among Us will feature when it launches on PS platforms later this year. The Ratchet and Clank showcase featured cinematics focused on the new Lombax heroine Rivet, extended gameplay which included DualSense integration, new wall-running and air-dashing moves, and new weapons like a Burst Pistol with different firing modes, a double barreled shotgun, a minigun, Rivet’s hammer, and the Topiary Sprinkler, a grenade which turns enemies into defenseless plants.
In other news, per publicly accessed investor documents filed on the 29th, infamous CEO Bobby Kotick has due to shareholder feedback agreed to a 50% pay cut on both his annual salary and bonuses for at least the next two fiscal years (ending March 2023). Of course, like with Randy Pitchford campaigning against anti-trans legislation in Texas, this is something I can individually appreciate without it actually changing my judgment of the character of these rich, powerful men.
On April 30th, Konami officially retracted its previously announced E3 presentation due to difficulty getting all of the products ready to show in time It will have some updates in the coming months on the “number of key projects” in “deep development.” The company’s recent sales success, especially on Switch, and difficulty in other parts of its business, have influenced this reportedly major reinvestment in the games industry.
Also on the 30th, MediaTonic delayed the Switch and Xbox One/Series ports of Fall Guys out of Summer 2021. This delay is in order to fully “include all of the tasty new features we’re working on” from new owner Epic Games’ provided resources. When they do launch, crossplay with the PS and PC versions will be available immediately.
As of May 1st, Crash 4 developer Toys for Bob is currently doing support work for Call of Duty Warzone. After some online discussion of this announcement, an Activision spokesperson asserted that this is not at the expense of continued post-launch support for Crash 4. Public concern about the publisher’s future support for series outside the COD and Blizzard banners remain difficult to shake.
On May 3rd, the Epic Games v. Apple trial began in earnest after last fall’s developments. At publication the trial is of course still ongoing and will be for weeks. In the meantime, much news has been created over matters of confusion on which subpoena documents from various companies are meant to be public record and which were meant to be sealed, inadvertently exposing details of closed door dealings and business practices. Nintendo averted this issue by simply redacting almost everything in its provided documents, but other companies have had to scramble to file for seals for documents after they’re already published, with Sony in particular having since successfully gotten some of these pulled. Third parties interrupting active court proceedings for confidentiality requests has only complicated things further. Matters brought into public light during this situation include but are not limited to: intensive financial details from Epic including Fortnite revenues and transactions for its store’s free games and exclusives, records of strict demands and opposition offered by Sony in its dealings with other game companies, especially on the matter of crossplay, emails between Phil Spencer and Tim Sweeney indicating collaboration towards a shared goal of changing the state of digital storefronts to their benefit, (and relating it to Spencer having “still not given up” on xCloud coming to other consoles), and confirmation that a previously rumored Samus skin in Fortnite was pitched before negotiations potentially fell through. Records of the trial itself have included Epic Games representatives, including CEO Tim Sweeney, effectively admitting that children participating in microtransactions has a centralized role in their business which they are incentivizing, and that the “fighting for everyone” branding of this Apple feud and court case is merely spin only employed once they knew they wouldn’t individually receive the desired exemption on revenue sharing. For immediate substantive and thorough coverage on these developments prior to my future work, I recommend following Rebekah Valentine and Tom Warren among others.
On May 4th, The Witcher 3 director Konrad Tomaszkiewicz departed CDPR after a months-long investigation into allegations of him continually acting as a bully in the workplace. VP and head of product of Stadia John Justice departed Google the same day. French publisher Microids, recently of the widely panned XIII remake and the forthcoming console ports of Beyond a Steel Sky, surprise announced Flashback 2, a new sequel to the 90s cult action platformer coming in 2022 for PC and consoles. Dragon Quest Builders 2 surprise launched for Xbox and PC via Game Pass, featuring cross-save support between these particular versions.
With Nintendo’s next financial briefing later this week, and its E3 scheduling later this month, there’s plenty of info on the horizon, but in the meantime, new developments in the field of leaks, rumors, otherwise currently unofficial news are still afoot.
In discussing Nintendo’s upcoming software on a recent podcast episode, fellow games journalist Nate the Hate offered some new interesting tidbits, namely that in addition to previously rumored Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask should be expected to be on Switch before the end of the Zelda anniversary season in March 2022. He says N64 games on NSO are expected to arrive during this timeframe, so that is likely how those latter two will be arriving, hopefully alongside a returning Super Mario 64. In addition, he expects Metroid Prime Trilogy to arrive sometime in the next year, its release window potentially depending on when the previously reported Metroid 5 is ready to release. He also reconfirmed my previous report that Xenoblade developer Monolith Soft’s next game is likely to be announced this year for a release sometime during the fiscal year.
On Sunday May 2nd, deliberately done ahead of Nintendo’s next sales update, Japan’s foremost business publication Nikkei released a report on Nintendo’s plans for the fiscal year, covering much of the same ground as Bloomberg and smaller sources have in the past months. Nikkei’s staff report that Nintendo is planning to release “a follow-up Switch model capable of better graphics”, and has set production output of Switch family consoles for this fiscal year at 30 million units, per various sources, including directly from the parts suppliers Nintendo is speaking with on accelerated production. It’s nothing new, but it is another major, consistence source adding to this ongoing story. Regarding the revision’s launch window, per Nate the Hate, “[He has had] no indication of a [calendar] 2021 launch in several months. All info on [his] end has been pointing to 2022.” He cited the chip still not being finalized and parts/supply complications as two of the several variables informing this. When I asked him about the possibility of these issues pushing the revision’s release past March 2022, he said, “As of this moment, I don’t think that is anything to be concerned over.”
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