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!
Content warning for several varying discussions of real world violence, from attempted murder to the recent violence in Gaza. All will be signposted appropriately.
I waited to do this story to ensure maximal sensitivity and accuracy. The founders of miHoYo Co. Ltd., developers of the mobile open-world hit Genshin Impact, survived an assassination attempt in their office in Shanghai. The suspect was apprehended and arrested on April 24th after breaking into their building but before anyone was harmed, intending to stab the studio’s founders and then die by suicide. The perpetrator was upset about an update for the game Honkai Impact 3rd which had already been pulled and apologized for at the time of the attack.
On May 5th, Nintendo surprise released an announcement trailer for Game Builder Garage, an extensive game-building and programming game releasing for $30 at retail on June 11th. This is the latest release from EPD4, one of Nintendo’s most experimental development teams, having produced Brain Training, Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo Labo, and 1-2 Switch for the hybrid console since its 2017 launch. Per info from Emily Rogers and Imran Khan, Game Builder Garage was delayed from fiscal 2020 to this late Spring release due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was Labo05, the final entry in the Labo line expanded significantly from the previous programming mode, before its planned marketing as a Labo release was dropped altogether. The game has support for USB computer mice, allows integration of Switch hardware features such as eight person multiplayer, IR sensors, and motion controls into player creations, and those creations can be shared and downloaded over NSO.
On the same day, the Switch port of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 was announced to be releasing June 25th.
Nintendo Financial Earnings Release: Switch console sales are at 84.6 million units sold as of March 31st, passing the GBA and PSP, and roughly passing or tying with the Xbox 360. Fiscal 2020 ultimately had 28.8 million units sold total, beating the Wii’s best year and behind only the DS’ two best years for best year of gaming hardware sales ever. January-March 2021 was also the console’s bestselling fourth/first quarter yet. The primary first party game for this final quarter of fiscal 2020, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, reached 5.6 million sales by the end of its first quarter, already within spitting distance of its lifetime sales on Wii U (5.86 mill). Ring Fit Adventure and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe each exceeded 10 million copies sold by year’s end, adding up to 11 Switch games and counting that have reached that benchmark, beating the DS’ ten to set a new Nintendo software record. Luigi’s Mansion 3 was very close to this milestone as well by fiscal year’s end. Nintendo broke another record, the highest ever “operating profit” for a console manufacturer’s single fiscal year at 640.63 billion yen, Nintendo being the previous record holder with its April 2008-March 2009 fiscal year of peak Wii and DS success. Link’s Awakening Remake became the sixth bestselling individual entry in the Zelda series at 5.5 million copies. I looked into the tracking of Zelda sales by accumulating all releases/versions of a particular entry, but records of sales numbers on Virtual Console are spotty or outright unavailable. 14 third party Switch releases sold at least a million copies just during the fiscal year, including of course Monster Hunter Rise and Momotaro Dentetsu. The company’s official translation of the conference call Q&A which occurs after each financial briefing can be found here.
In its briefing, it was briefly disclosed that Nintendo has nominated Chris Meledandri, film producer and current CEO of Illumination, to join its Board of Directors, pending a vote of approval at a shareholder meeting on June 29th 2021. Meledandri is far from the first “outside director” Nintendo’s board has ever seen, a position required for public companies to provide advice and votes from a different perspective, but it’s hard not to speculate given the context surrounding this. It’s possible that this is indicative of further expansion within Nintendo and Universal’s partnerships on Illumination projects and the theme park.
May 6th – That Thursday, news of Sega’s Lost Judgment, the sequel to 2019’s detective-oriented Yakuza spinoff, leaked ahead of an extended announcement trailer the next day, which the Judgment website had been counting down to recently. The trailer dated its release for September 24th (on PS4, PS5, X1 and Xbox Series) and was accompanied by a livestream with Toshihiro Nagoshi where it was formally established that the Yakuza franchise will be continued on two tracks at once, the turn-based RPG track introduced for mainline games by Like a Dragon, and the previous beat-em-up real time action track which will live on through the Judgment spinoff series. More context on this news is coming up shortly in the roundup. Lost Judgment is said to increase the emphasis on action from its predecessor, with three distinct fighting styles and enhanced stealth and traversal including jumping, climbing, and wallrunning, all shown off in the trailer.
A personal childhood favorite, the 20 year old co op hack and slash Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance was announced to be brought back by the current iterations of Interplay and Black Isle. This upres port, which goes up to 4K on compatible platforms, released on May 7th for PS4, 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series, while the Switch port came about two weeks later on the 20th due to some technical issues, and the mobile and PC versions are arriving later this year.
The ESA updated E3 2021’s lineup with a news release, confirming Square Enix, Sega, Bandai Namco, Gearbox, and Marvelous-Xseed as major participants. Other publishers, developers, and/or sponsors have been announced as well, like Freedom Games, Devious Eye Entertainment, Turtle Beach, Binge.com, and Verizon. On the 27th, the ESA provided another official update, adding Razer, Intellivision, Yooreka Studio, Tastemakers/Arcade1UP, NetEase, 24 Entertainment, Norton Gaming, GuliKit and SK Telecom. Keep in mind that some of these participants will be highlighted through the official E3 app and portal rather than the main broadcast. Before either of those, a website error occurred that was mistakenly reported as an update to the presenter roster, eventually determined to be an internal listing of E3 2020 participants that went public on accident.
May 10th – Lucasfilm Games made the latest announcement in its phoenix like return to prominence this year, releasing a trailer for Zombies Ate My Neighbors + Ghoul Patrol, coming to Switch as a dual-pack on June 29th. This will be the first time these games are rereleased since the Wii Virtual Console, which closed a few years ago. This new release includes full save state support, achievements, two player local co op, music players, galleries of concept and marketing art, and a video interview with one of the original developers. On the same day, IO released a 720p 60fps update for the Switch cloud version of Hitman 3, and Capcom divulged upon launching Resident Evil Village days earlier that its motion capture was recorded at the Sony Santa Monica studio. This is notable because Capcom had for AAA releases been largely reliant on Just Cause Productions, the mocap studio owned by Dante voice actor Reuben Langdon. Capcom’s relationship with Langdon has grown increasingly controversial due to his support for QAnon and “Stop the Steal” and opposition to progressive social movements.
May 11th – A major interview in Famitsu with Sega’s vice president Shuji Utsumi was published, offering some very important information. He revealed that Yakuza Like a Dragon is now and already the bestselling entry in its series thanks to its global multiplatform launch in 2020, and as such, that observing events like this and the success of Persona 4 Golden‘s Steam launch has now made multiplatform simultaneous worldwide releases a major priority for more of their series to boost their success, specifically pointing to Atlus’ software as an opportunity for growth. Utsumi also confirmed that Sonic news was coming soon, foreshadowing the digital presentation and teaser trailer discussed later in this article. Electronic Arts announced that their digital presentation series EA Play Live will return on July 22nd. THQ Nordic and parent brand Embracer Group announced several more acquisitions, Kaiko, Appeal Studios, and indie developer Massive Miniteam. Kaiko has handled recent rereleases for the publisher like Kingdoms of Amalur and Darksiders, while Appeal is behind 90s adventure game Outcast and its remake, and a current untitled open world project. Nordic has also founded and established two new subsidiaries, a distributor and an animation company.
May 12th – A minor cult classic XBLA and Xbox games published release, Toy Soldiers HD, was announced to be ported to Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and Windows in August. This will be published by a company formed in November 2020 by none other than the charged with financial crimes star of my End of Acclaim article, Greg Fischbach.
May 14th – Square Enix had previously held three FF14 Fan Festivals throughout a year, each for a different region of the game’s playerbase (Japan, USA, Europe), but for 2021 they were consolidated into a global digital event across the weekend of May 14th through 16th, with a keynote on the first day bringing the biggest news. Naoki Yoshida presented the full trailer for the Endwalker expansion, which announced a November 23rd release date (with early access for those who preorder), confirming the second new job/class as a scythe wielding Reaper, several new locations to experience in the expansion, and confirming the heavily fan-requested addition of the cute bunny-people Viera now having male PCs and NPCs instead of only female.
May 16th – During the Israeli military’s most recent days of massively disproportionate assault upon the Gaza strip, on the 15th major games press like IGN and Game Informer published articles with links to charities for helping Palestinian victims and civilians, accompanied by a Palestinian flag in the site header/logo. These acts of highly mainstream solidarity and platforming of support for a marginalized, colonized community were noticed and shared widely, and inspired other outlets to follow in their footsteps, before the flag was replaced and finally both articles were abruptly deleted on Sunday morning. The company’s “official” public statement soon after described the post as having “mistakenly left the impression that we were politically aligned with one side.” IGN editorial staff quickly began working on an open letter towards executive leadership at parent companies Ziff Davis and J2 Global, decrying this removal which occurred without their input or permission. The letter objects to the various harms of this act, particularly both sides-ing helping innocents in a humanitarian crisis, and calls for full transparency and commitment from management towards reinstating the article and preservation of common editorial independence and journalistic integrity. It was published on Monday the 17th and ultimately accrued signatures from 82 out of 238 staff. Steven Strom at Fanbyte provided an update on May 26th directly from various IGN employees. IGN’s Peer Schneider offered listening and open discussion, before quickly backtracking by claiming singlehanded responsibility on the article’s removal as a scapegoat for corporate management. “Morale is [now] at an all time low” after a meeting with Ziff Davis president Steve Horowitz, who explicitly described and treated the conflict as exclusively the fault of IGN editorial, and as such only IGN editorial is accountable for it. From there Horowitz sowed discord between IGN editorial staff by claiming that some of the letter’s signees were deceived and coerced into doing so, to which he provided no evidence, while uplifting those who did not sign as proof that most of the company did not support it. For many employees there is now a tangible lack of faith in IGN as a space for good journalism to be crafted and supported.
May 17th – News of AT&T offloading Warner Bros. into a merger with Discovery broke on Sunday ahead of an official announcement on Monday May 17th. AT&T will have a shareholder stake to profit from the new merged media company, but will no longer have any management control, passing it over to Discovery’s chief executive. This development spread concern about how WB Games might be affected by the deal, with rumors of AT&T retaining ownership of some game developers and not others. Discussion of this matter was of course in addition to rightful broader concerns about the increased media corporate consolidation this represents. For some time there were conflicted reports but finally on June 1st the new merged company of Warner Bros. Discovery was formally established, and (pending regulator approval of ) this company is now confirmed to retain sole ownership of a presumably intact WB Games as part of its larger media catalogue. At this point there is still nothing known for sure, so I will keep you readers updated when I can. Sony published a previously filed patent for a digital platform in which users can observe live esports events and participate in live betting on them, using currencies ranging from real money to bitcoin and in-game items. This is disturbing as a signifier of the continued expansion of gambling’s presence within the industry, companies’ exploitative employment of it towards younger players and people with addictive personality, and for the clear implications it has for Sony’s own plans toward its recent co-acquisition of the EVO fighting game event. Nintendo released the new extended overview trailer for the upcoming Mario Golf: Super Rush, showcasing the full base game playable roster, more of the story mode, and fully explaining Speed Mode, in which every golfer tees off at once and races through the course’s obstacles to complete it first. Overview trailers for other imminent first party releases like Miitopia, Game Builder Garage, and DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power all arrived in mid or late May as well.
May 18th – Per Marie Dealessandri at GamesIndustry.Biz, French publication Le Télégramme published an investigation in early May revealing that a first wave of legal proceedings at Ubisoft is due to start this month in relation to the harassment cases, led by local games workers union Solidaires Informatique. According to Le Télégramme, accountability has been failed across the board as minimal changes have actually occurred at Ubisoft almost a year after the allegations first widely went public. Implicated HR Director Cécile Cornet has only just now left the company in May, replaced by Anika Grant of Uber, a company with its own dense history of abuses. Sources within Ubisoft state that HR staff below the Director who were part of mishandling previous harassment reports still haven’t been replaced, while at Ubisoft’s Canadian offices, “nothing has changed.” New harassment cases have been filed since the initial reports last year, and those reporters were sidelined in December. Several key perpetrators haven’t left the company, like Florent Castelnérac, who has a dozen reports of harassment by him, but is being protected by management, and Hugues Ricour, who left his previous position but still works at Ubisoft elsewhere.
A new amiibo of Princess Zelda and a Loftwing bird for the upcoming Skyward Sword HD remaster was announced, sparking controversy from the news that the ability to freely teleport between the ground and sky worlds, without moving all the way to specific teleport spots, is seemingly locked behind the figurine, which costs $25 US. Team Cherry officially stated that it has no announcements for E3. I appreciate their effort but even as someone who had an excellent time with Hollow Knight earlier this year, I honestly doubt this will tangibly improve the situation, certainly not change the behavior of people who have been making everything about Silksong for months. The Xbox Series and PS5 versions of GTA5 were officially announced to both be launching on November 11th 2021, after our website widely mocked its plum position in the inaugural PS5 showcase.
May 19th – The Telegraph reported that Devolver Digital is preparing to go public later this year at an estimated value of $1.4 billion. Geoff Keighley announced that the return of his SummerGameFest will start on June 10th. Sega confirmed its participation in the event during the 5/27 Sonic Central presentation. Genesis classic Mega Man: The Wily Wars was announced to be receiving its first ever dedicated physical release in North America via a Genesis cartridge from Limited Run, which is also only its second official rerelease ever, after its inclusion in the Sega Genesis Mini. After I’d seen discussion and inquiry about this here on The Avocado, I thought this was worth featuring here: Tweaktown editor and reporter Derek Strickland provided an official statement from Private Division and Take Two that Obsidian and Xbox maintain full publishing rights over The Outer Worlds IP due to the terms of the contract between the companies. Lastly, Square announced that in its first month after launch, new IP Outriders had more than 3.5 million players and that this success has put it on track to become its next major franchise.
May 20th – After its announcement on the 11th, an Overwatch 2 event aired, presenting several new multiplayer maps while revealing two separate highly controversial decisions regarding PvP modes. The role queue system introduced in 2019 is now confirmed to be continued into the new game without seeming alternative. Meant to help team balancing, it’s been criticized for having drastically restricted player creativity and increased match load/wait times. The other decision is switching PvP to 5v5 instead of 6v6 by cutting the second tank slot. Pro teams and friend groups built around the six person team structure, especially members that preferred or specialized in tanking, are distraught.
May 24th – Over that following weekend, rumors came in strong on Reddit, Resetera and elsewhere about major incoming E3 leaks and one project in particular set to be announced. Imran Khan at Fanbyte gave the full, succinct scoop on Monday. He reported that the game is
Khan also reported that this info came to light when much of Square Enix’s E3 presentation abruptly began leaking out, including the game’s demo plans and logo ahead of its tentpole position in the show. This alpha demo entitled Stranger in Paradise is planned to release this summer. This has definitely been the headliner of these Square E3 leaks and is the only part that has fully broken through into public access, but things have popped up here and there, and now that as of June 3rd Square has provided a (deliberately vaguer, less complete than last time) description of contents in their presentation, I can put at least some stuff together for you. The world premiere of a new game from Eidos-Montréal is a
1, while the respective first look and deep dive on the upcoming Life is Strange releases will include confirmation on the Switch versions and those titles will be significantly optimized for the Switch revision, whether or not Square will be able to talk about that yet. Details on the Babylon’s Fall update haven’t trickled down to me, but it’s nice to know there is one, huh? Same for Avengers. Lastly, with less confidence I can also say I’ve heard rumblings of a new 16-bit Final Fantasy collection. And as Khan rightfully points out in the article on FFO, it should be kept in mind that both this game’s marketing is clearly ramping up enough that it will be seen soon one way or another, and that anything could change up to the presentation’s actual airing, so acknowledging this game’s existence is not dependent on whether or not it appears in the E3 presentation in particular.
The trial of Epic Games v. Apple reached its closing arguments on Monday May 24th. As I’ve reported and discussed previously, the crux of the debate is: Epic deliberately violated Apple’s terms of service, but Epic argues that its violation is justifiable on the basis of being caused by Apple’s wrongful behavior in managing its App Store. Epic’s proposed solution to this isn’t to directly address only the specific most prohibitive rules and behaviors by managers of digital storefronts, or scale these based on whom they are actually harming most, i.e. not other multibillion dollar companies like Epic, but instead simply drastically restricting the overall ability of digital storefront owners to control and enforce over their own stores. Apple undeniably is doing harm and does need to be reined in, but this isn’t that, this is an embarrassing chaotic free for all far worse than even the state of Steam that would vastly destabilize the digital ecosystem of gaming and beyond. Epic’s goals of Fortnite being reinstated to iOS, and it leading to unrestricted third party store incorporation into a storefront, to sideloading on iOS and other digital storefronts becoming legally permitted, have no legal basis on which to happen. As Judge Rogers pointed out on the final day of the trial, “your (Epic’s) economic substitutes destroy consumer choice,” by leaving so much room for companies to intrude upon and undermine each other in a serious way. This is simply not beneficial to publishers, developers, or customers. This trial has exposed some of the vulnerabilities and self-contradictions in Apple’s management philosophy, but it has far more vastly exposed just how thin and self-motivated Epic’s argument really is. Still, hopefully what this has done on the Apple front can have positive consequences, like adjustments made to anti-steering beneficial to customers and businesses alike, and other storefronts including Apple following in the recent footsteps of Google on better commission scaling, without the destructive inanities Epic proposes solely for its own benefit.
In the third and final full week of the trial, some particularly notable headlines were raised during review of the deposition of an Xbox business executive asked to speak on bringing xCloud to iOS and other platforms. xCloud on iOS negotiations were famously contentious throughout the fall of 2020 before it was finally able to beta launch in April 2021, and Apple’s behaviors and policies in that are very much the same ones Epic has been attempting to litigate out of existence due to their experiences with Fortnite. Certain portions of the Xbox exec’s deposition transcript and associated documents were ordered redacted by Nintendo because, and I quote directly from Nintendo via Stephen Totilo here, they “reflect competitively sensitive information about negotiations between Nintendo and Microsoft.” The context and evidence here is clear that Microsoft and Nintendo have had negotiations about bringing xCloud streaming to Switch. Given the ongoing positive state of relations between the companies, the strongly backed word of further collab news coming later this year, and what we have here, it seems distinctly possible and even likely that negotiations could have ultimately finalized towards making this landmark deal happen in a way both parties were satisfied with. If that’s true, it’s certainly for the best that it could happen in a mutually satisfying way rather than in the unbalanced freeform terms Epic was attempting to introduce to digital storefronts.
After closing arguments on the 24th, and a joke about releasing the verdict on the anniversary of when the conflict first started, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers made a point of saying that she wants the verdict to be ready while the testimonies are still fresh in memory, but a specific timetable can’t be offered on that. All of the thousands of pages of testimony will be reviewed again before the verdict can be complete. A special thanks to The Verge’s staff for the intensive coverage of this trial that kept me informed while writing this passage. I wholeheartedly recommend looking there first for further detail if you are so inclined.
May 25th – Sam Machkovech at ArsTechnica released an exclusive report that Valve has been secretly building an all-in-one handheld gaming PC built to run most Steam via Linux. This device, with built-in gamepad and touchscreen controls, will enter into the Switch and phone dominated mobile gaming market with a target to launch by the end of this calendar year if the supply chain comes together. Discussion of the device, currently codenamed SteamPal, first began when a Steam Database discovered a change in Steam’s code to which that codename was attached, and indeed had been previously found last September under a previous codename with a “[Platform] Optimized Games” string. No specific details on cost are provided beyond noting that Valve’s willingness to take a loss on sale could easily clash against the state of supply shortages driving up production costs, and the larger pattern of handheld gaming PC hardware struggling to reach a competitive pricepoint or viably enter the market at all. Machkocvech concludes the article on the note that like the various unrealized software and hardware projects only divulged by last year’s Final Hours Half Life Alyx document, the whims of Valve management could still turn on a dime with this project and cancel it without it ever becoming publicly official.
Thomas Happ formally delays Axiom Verge 2 again, now targeting a Q3 2021 release. As a gesture to fans, the documentary short film about the first game’s production was made free to watch on IGN. After teasing it last year, Sega announced Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown, a new edition of the final entry in the series worked on in collaboration by original devs Sega AM2 and the Yakuza series’ Ryu Ga Gatoku studio. A digital PS4 exclusive releasing June 1st for purchase and through PS Plus, this game rebuilds the original from the ground up in RGG’s signature engine, is optimized for esports with 16 player lobbies and tournament options, and features new background music and updated visuals.
May 26th – From here on out, fucking hell where do I start…
Nintendo and Game Freak unexpectedly gave a stand-alone update on the current upcoming Pokémon games via social media. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were announced to be releasing on November 19th 2021, while Pokémon Legends Arceus is set to launch on January 28th 2022. The box art for each game was revealed, and first party pre-orders went up. In hindsight, it’s clear this was a bridge to Arceus being presented running on Super Switch the next time it’s seen, wherever that might be.
The next Monster Hunter Digital Event aired, further detailing Stories 2 and Rise‘s 3.0 update. 3.0 launched that evening, introducing two new monsters, and most significantly updating the ending to resolve the cliffhanger that the story ended on at launch, completing postgame. Capcom also outlined a roadmap graphic covering monthly updates from June through August.
Blizzcon was canceled in favor of Blizzconline for the second year in a row. The event set for early 2022 will be accompanied by COVID safe smaller in-person events.
The Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase, which will be available from both E3 and Summer Game Fest along with Xbox’s various channels, was announced to be streaming on Sunday June 13th at 10 AM Pacific. (Which Jeff Grubb accurately reported the day before it was announced.)
Epic Games released a Welcome to Unreal Engine 5 Early Access video, further demoing its tech while releasing UE5 in fully public early access ahead of its full launch in 2022. Features showcased include the advanced character creator, the new lighting tool, the Nanite graphics tool, the Motion Warping tool for reaction and movement, and the World Partition system for developers to work on the same virtual world or section without getting in each other’s way.
Square Enix held the Dragon Quest 35th anniversary stream on Wednesday night, with more updates for the series promised for later in the year. The first announcement was mobile puzzle game Dragon Quest Keshikeshi, coming later this year to Japan first and eventually worldwide. The Japan-exclusive MMO Dragon Quest X had both of the next two announcements, that the Version Six update for the game is coming soon and that a chibi Offline version is coming in 2022. The presentation was starting to frustrate live viewers before winning back the crowd by announcing Dragon Quest III Remake, a faithful HD remake of the traditionally most popular entry in the mainline RPG series, built in the acclaimed “2D-HD” engine of Octopath Traveler and the forthcoming Project Triangle Strategy. It will have a simultaneous worldwide launch as part of Square Enix taking the series fully into modern digital publishing. A new spinoff game, Dragon Quest Treasures, was announced penultimately. An experimental (very different from the mainline RPGs’ systems, per the dev commentary) treasure-hunting RPG about the childhood of Erik, one of Dragon Quest 11‘s party members, Treasures, like the stream’s other major titles, is set to launch simultaneously worldwide, but currently has no release windows or platforms. After taunting the audience with 12s throughout, the presentation closed with a logo teaser announcing Dragon Quest XII: The Flames of Fate, the next mainline entry in the seminal RPG series. The teaser amusingly lingers on a flaming eleven for quite some time before the second I in the Roman numeral finally emerged. It too will be a simul-launch with no further release details, and the producers discussed plans for it to be a significant step forward for the series after the traditionalist 11, with a revamped combat system and a darker story. Social media and job recruitment posts later in the week confirmed that DQ12 will run in Unreal Engine 5, and that story writing for the game is complete.
May 27th – Sega hosted the Sonic the Hedgehog series’ 30th Anniversary presentation, via the inaugural entry of a new presentation series, Sonic Central, on the Sonic Youtube channel. Sonic Colors Ultimate, a remaster of the best Wii-exclusive entry in the series, was announced to be launching September 7th 2021 on Xbox One, Xbox Series, PS4, Switch, and PC exclusively via the Epic Store. The announcement trailer suggested new content for the game, and the physical edition comes with a Baby Sonic keychain. Roger Craig Smith then dashed in to announce and preview a Sonic 2D short films series featuring him and other voice actors, which will begin with two shorts based on Colors, coming this summer. Sega announced Sonic Origins for a 2022 release, a compilation of widescreen HD remasters of the series’ 16 bit entries, Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Knuckles, and Sonic CD, coming to “the latest platforms” with added features. The teaser trailer contained updated footage from the Star Engine versions of 1, 2, and CD built by Christian Whitehead and co., and an upres of the original 3 and Knuckles, which Sega went on to confirm would be widescreen in the final release. This new remaster of 3 and Knuckles is currently in development and rumor has it that Whitehead and his collaborators returned to finish it, to complete this collection. The inclusion of 3 is notable as Sega had turned down Whitehead’s first pitches for it in the early 10s, and it has missed several recent rereleases like the Genesis Mini and Sega Ages line, reportedly due to licensing issues with its music. Finally, a brief cinematic teaser played to announce the next new 3D platformer entry in the series, coming in 2022 to Switch, PS4 and 5, Xbox One and Series, and PC.
Frankly your guess is as good as mine on what the teaser on its own was supposed to signify beyond that, but some details have cropped up despite Sega’s best efforts. A datamine of the video listing found the phrase Sonic Rangers over and over in the strings, a title which an official Sega press release went on to accidentally publicly use before being retracted. So that seems pretty definitive. Once people caught wind of this, that title was traced back to a January 2021 4chan post by a supposed focus tester of the game. Two other posts from possible focus testers have since been found, once which went up on the day of the presentation, and one from August 2020. All three offer much of the same details, describing it as an open world where you platform and fight enemies in a forested environment, and solve puzzles to unlock stand-alone boost mode courses. There’s also apparently a skill tree and XP system, which is wack, and the loop symbol from the teaser is referred to as the Spincycle and described as Sonic’s new signature move.
The presentation’s more minor announcements included: A free digital anniversary concert, featuring both a full orchestra and the indie rockers Crush 40 returning from their work on the series in its early 3D era, coming this summer. There’ll be an update for Olympics Games Tokyo 2020 featuring a weirdly proportioned playable Sonic. Two Point Hospital will add a Sonic Item Pack on July 30th. Lost Judgment will feature a playable version of fighting game Sonic the Fighters in arcades within its setting. Amazon Luna and PS Now updates – Sonic Forces, Team Sonic Racing, and Sonic Mania. Some mobile updates. And there was a brief interjection from the upcoming Netflix Sonic cartoon’s producers.
Developer Techland hosted a livestream announcing a scheduled December 7th 2021 launch for the long delayed and newly retitled Dying Light 2: Stay Human. Eight minutes of gameplay were showcased.
Sony aired a dedicated State of Play presentation for Horizon Forbidden West later that day, with 14 minutes of straight gameplay in a vertical slice sequence, which showcased various new items and weapons like a hologlider to parachute during falls, a grappling hook/hookshot, and the previously seen dive mask. On Twitter shortly after the presentation finished, Guerrilla Games stated: “We don’t have an exact release date just yet, but development is on track and we will have an update for you very soon.” Along with further detailing everything shown at this presentation a week later on June 3rd, dev Mathijs de Jonge in an interview on “hardwarezone.com” had this to say: “We have just successfully completed our beta milestone, which is pretty far along. We’re now in the final stages of development. So we are polishing the game and fixing bugs. We are also wrapping up certain aspects of the game, like some of the machines being behind schedule – because it takes an enormous amount of time to build them. We’re working on the final cinematic. So, we’re really wrapping up. There’s still a lot to do with a game of this size and magnitude, but we’re in the final stages.”
After more than a year of sustained campaign of protest, Kotaku took down a certain article, this decision reportedly having come directly and immediately from the site’s new editor in chief, Patricia Hernandez, upon entering the position. Artist and designer Nathalie Lawhead started and led the campaign because parts of their interview about their sexual assault by Jeremy Soule, particular details about this experience, were disclosed off the record and under duress, but then were publicized anyway.
The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes released a new trailer and an interview with its executive producer on Polygon, showcasing gameplay and discussing Supermassive’s efforts to incorporate fan feedback and keep improving their games, ranging from sensitivity consultation on its handle of 2003 Iraq as a setting, to addressing criticisms of the anthology’s previous entry for a lack of narrative divergence.
An incomplete form of crossplay support for Borderlands 3 was officially announced, as Randy Pitchford brought forth the news on Twitter with the addendum that support for PlayStation consoles was ultimately removed from the support patch in order to receive certification from publisher 2K. This is only the latest entry in the ongoing saga of Sony opposing, then delaying and hampering crossplay with strict demands of compensation in exchange for it, which previously came up during the Epic v Apple Trial entry above.
May 28th – Ubisoft released an extended first look at gameplay for Far Cry 6, during which they announced a newly scheduled October 7th 2021 release date. I saw that somewhere in this reveal is a gun which plays and then fires Macarena records, among the various new weapons. A good reminder for us once again that amidst the deeply insidious corporate management, Ubisoft still employs some people with creative, if questionable, ideas.
Forever Entertainment’s Artur Gregoznyc was interviewed on the Fragments of Silicon podcast, divulging various details on House of the Dead Remake. Highlights: the game will launch first on Switch, it features brand new voice acting intended to deliberately preserve the original tone of the series, it targets running in 720p at 60fps docked, 30fps handheld, it features both Classic (original gameplay with updated visuals) and Horde (faster paced with much higher enemy count) modes, and both HD Rumble and gyro controls are supported. 505 Games’ recent fiscal briefing was discovered to mention “a second version in development” for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, text which was removed shortly after public notice of it began. On the evening of June 3rd, this was finally answered when the Bloodstained Twitter account stated the following: “Regarding recent reports, 505 Games and Artplay are in very early planning stages for a Bloodstained sequel. However, current development resources are focused on completing Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’s upcoming content. We have a lot planned for you.”
May 29th – Koch Media scheduled its presentation for Friday June 11th at 12 PM Pacific, before the official E3 days actually begin, further underlining the complexity of what event coordination looks like under all-digital terms. The name Koch Media represents the larger conglomerate of Embracer Group or THQ Nordic, and in turn notable subsidiaries like publisher Deep Silver and port team Saber Interactive. Gearbox, a recent acquisition of the conglomerate, operates still somewhat independently to appease Randy Pitchford and will likely have a separate E3 show of its own given its listing on E3 Expo.
May 30th – Peter Fabiano, who’s worked at Capcom in localization and other fields over the past 13 years, most recently serving as producer on Devil May Cry 5 and Resident Evil 3 Remake among other major titles, announced his departure from the company, moving to Bungie. Two Point Campus, the apparent followup to Sega’s recent successful hospital sim Two Point Hospital, was leaked that night by going up early on the Microsoft store.
May 31st – A Japanese PlayStation Blog post provided new details on Bandai Namco’s Tales of Arise, that it follows the free upgrade path from PS4 to PS5, that it features both a 60fps performance mode and a 4K mode, detailing the PS5 version’s use of Dualsense features and the SSD, as well as showcasing the cover art and several screenshots. Other news out of Japan was the official final story update for the mobile game Kingdom Hearts Union X(Cross). A puzzle game on Apple Arcade, LEGO Builder’s Journey, was listed for the Switch eShop and Steam, ahead of official confirmation the next day and a June 22nd release. Dontnod’s Tell Me Why became free to own on the Microsoft store for the next month in observance of Pride, while itch.io announced its Queer Games Bundle, a 200+ package of games all created by LGBTQ+ developers where all dollar spent towards it will go directly towards paying living wages for all of these devs while boosting their production budgets. The fundraising goal is $5 million and can be supported with either a Pay What You Can tier or a $60 AAA tier.
June 1st – Electronic Arts and DICE announced that the currently untitled next Battlefield game will finally be revealed at 7 AM Pacific on June 9th. As far as I’m aware, this is EA’s only direct contribution to the actual E3 season ahead of its broader July livestream. It is however generously treating Need for Speed fans to a surge of unwarned deletions for series entries (Carbon, Undercover, Shift, Shift 2, and The Run) ahead of their servers going offline on August 31st. After the base free online version came to Windows and Xbox last year, the specialized Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis was announced to officially launch June 9th 2021, coming worldwide to Xbox and Windows and additionally available for Switch and PS4 in Japan ahead of an eventual Western release for those versions as well. Crysis Trilogy Remastered, with stand-alone releases for Crysis 2 Remastered and Crysis 3 Remastered for those who already bought the first entry last year, were announced by Crytek with a teaser trailer. Those two and the trilogy package are coming sometime this fall to PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, Switch, and Windows. Apropos enough to a conversation Wolfman and I were having, the ESA announced an awards show focused on the most anticipated games shown during their event, broadcast on the E3 2021’s final day, the 15th. The awards will be chosen by editors from Gamesradar, PC Gamer, Gamespot, and IGN.
On the morning of June 2nd, Nintendo finally, officially confirmed that a 40 minute E3 Direct will air on June 15th at 9 AM Pacific followed by around 3 hours of gameplay showcased in Nintendo Treehouse Live. From what I hear the total length of this year’s Treehouse Live is the result of a compromise between Nintendo and the broader ESA over scheduling conflicts.
From French labor union Solidaires Informatique, like with Ubisoft: on May 27th and 28th, a trial was held in Paris court between Quantic Dream and two French newspapers, Le Monde and Mediapart. David Cage’s studio was suing for defamation over the newspapers accurate reporting on its practices of fraud, and systemic toxic corporate culture which included the casual creation, proliferation, and promotion of “racist, homophobic, transphobic and Nazi” materials. Anecdotes from the trial include: an approximate dozen identical letters of dismissal for various employees, all for disagreeing with Cage, Cage running out of the courtroom and tearfully pleading that a defense attorney was impugning his honor and interfering with his business simply by reading out a list of offensive public comments he’d proudly made on record, and when when chief operating officer Guillaume de Fondaumiére said, “I’m not under oath, so can I lie?” before blatantly lying to the lawyers’ faces. The verdict is scheduled for July 8th, but by all accounts the conduct of Cage and the studio’s other representatives during the trial only further demonstrated the case against them.
June 2nd – After fans and observers had been anticipating it basically since it was initially announced, Sony finally officially delayed its untitled upcoming God of War sequel to 2022, as announced by Sony Santa Monica on Twitter and discussed in a new PS Blog interview with Herman Hulst. Hulst also discussed further investment in PC releases of first party titles, Sony Bend and Asobi’s next games, and that both the next God of War and Gran Turismo 7 are being developed for PS4 and PS5, which he really made a point to affirm. “You can’t build a community of over 110 million PS4 owners and then just walk away from it, right? I think that’d be bad news for fans of PS4, and frankly not very good business. Where it makes sense to develop a title for both PS4 and PS5 — for Horizon Forbidden West, the next God of War, GT7 — we’ll continue looking at that. And if PS4 owners want to play that game, then they can. If they want to go on and play the PS5 version, that game will be there for them [too].” I wholly support the decisions and reasonings on general principle as I’ve made clear before, I want as many people being able to play a game as possible wherever possible, I jut also wish there had been more transparency about this situation since last June, even if that meant admitting to decisions simply not having been made yet.
Later on the same day, Sony’s PS Blog officially announced that Team Asobi, off the critical success of Astro’s Playroom, has been expanded in resources and personnel from a development team to a full first party studio.
Inkle, developers of 80 Days, the Sorcery! series, and Heaven’s Vault, surprise-released their new title Overboard!, a highly replayable narrative adventure game about getting away with murder, on Switch eShop. Psychonauts 2, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and Age of Empires IV have all gone up on ratings boards ahead of likely E3 appearances. The next Devolver Direct was announced for Saturday June 12th. And Nintendo has started sending out a new survey asking, “At the price of $50, how interested are you in buying the next game in the WarioWare series?”
June 3rd – The rest of the full official E3 schedule was published over the course of the 3rd through the 8th. early that morning, finally completing that schedule and its strange waiting game. Gearbox will have a full press conference/event at 2PM Pacific on Saturday June 12th, Square Enix will have a full 40 minute Square Enix Presents digital presentation on Sunday June 13th at 12:15 PM Pacific, WB Games at 2 PM Pacific, the PC Games Show at 2:30 PM Pacific, and Future Games Show at 4 PM Pacific, will also be on Sunday, Take Two Interactive (10:15 AM Pacific) and Capcom (2:30 PM Pacific) will be on Monday June 14th alongside a slew of indue devs and pubs, and Bandai Namco will be at 2:25 PM pacific on Tuesday June 15th after Nintendo. Geoff Keighley offered a comment shortly after that people should be prepared for Take Two, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and WB Games to not be the full E3-scale events/presentations people might be expecting.
Lastly, to offer some brief comments on recent matters related to my previous reporting and commenting:
I’m simply not going to do more extended reporting on the Switch revision until it’s official. I had a lot of stuff prepared on it but I will just happily save it for some stand-alone article eventually or E3 in Review or something because the atmosphere around it is so unpleasant right now. But the facts are these. This revision is real. It’s going to factories in Asia for mass production in a matter of weeks and there’s simply nothing falsifiable about that. It will be announced sometime this summer, and we’ll talk about it then.
When I was asked about Jeff Grubb’s statements about Kojima and Xbox, I tried to convey that the info was likely accurate and that the status of the negotiations was serious, but my phrasing failed to communicate this, for which I apologize. According to Grubb, the negotiations had gone to the lawyers, a serious step in contract negotiations, but not one which can’t still end in falling through. I got too caught up in emphasizing that.
The heavily rumored Donkey Kong game I’ve previously reported on, which we’ll probably see at E3, became widely discussed after a Youtuber, neocon jackass LonelyGoomba, and a discredited, piggybacking* faux-insider, Zippo, went viral for mentioning it. These two not only deserve no credit for the rumor, which first broke at least a year ago, they also spread misinformation about it. Until NintendoLife went on to state this month that a trusted contact said it was 2D, no known sources had been able to comment definitively on the game’s format. And the statements of the game being “from the Mario Odyssey team” is simply inaccurate: while some programming personnel from EPD8 may have worked on it, the creative leadership of Mario Odyssey (and 3D World, Captain Toad, Bowser’s Fury), the people you associate that phrase with, did not work on it because, per NatetheHate, they are busy with the next full 3D Mario title.
*I realize this is somewhat ironic coming from me, but I maintain a policy of transparency that I merely aggregate and relay the properly sourced and credited, publicly available info of other reporters who I have no intention to undermine, and I maintain an understanding of trust with my small, familiar readership that they should have this knowledge, wouldn’t have it without me, and will be responsible with it.
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