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!
I’ll be frontloading the comprehensive coverage of every update on the Activision-Blizzard lawsuit since what I covered of it last time, after the story broke late that month.
Activision-Blizzard News Updates Compilation:
Multiple major events occurred during the same week as my previous Roundup was published, after what I’d been able to cover at publication. On the morning of the walkout protest, protesters organized under the ABK Workers Alliance union responded to the previous evening’s “Letter from Bobby Kotick to All Employees”, stating that it had failed to address most of their main demands, and insisting that the walkout will not be a one-time event and there will not be a return to silence under any circumstances. Activision-Blizzard leadership then unsurprisingly proved they were not to be trusted by choosing the Wilmerhale law firm as its third party auditor, as Wilmerhale has an extensive and infamous track record protecting megacorps like Amazon from unionizing and consequences for their negligent management. 500 Ubisoft employees responded the same day as the walkout with an open letter in solidarity with the ABK Workers Alliance and in opposition to their own executives, hopefully a good sign for future worker action in this industry right now both generally and especially at Ubisoft so desperately needing it.
A ferocious tide of major updates to this story then came out over the next month, starting with everything following having occurred just during August 3rd. Following from the extensive implications of his role in failing to prevent and respond to misconduct within the company, J. Allen Brack stepped down as president of Blizzard. An Activision-Blizzard shareholder proceeded to file their own class-action lawsuit against the corporation for the negligence of its leadership actively damaging its own value. The ABK Workers Alliance sent a new public letter to corporate leadership noting A. that they reject the hiring of Wilmerhale for what it is, and B. as such, company leadership is not taking them seriously, and so the protests will continue. Activision-Blizzard entirely lost T-Mobile as a sponsor, for both its Overwatch and Call of Duty esports leagues. That was a standout for me, how it keeps the heat not just on the Blizzard department of the company but its other cash cow too. Axios published a report on the problems of the company’s HR department, and very soon after, Blizzard’s head of HR Jesse Meschuk followed Brack in leaving the company entirely. Activision-Blizzard’s best acknowledgment of all this was to simply delay its mobile Diablo game. All of that was August 3rd.
On August 5th, as reported by the Washington Post and corroborated soon after, Coca Cola and State Farm began reassessing their Overwatch League sponsorships, starting by pulling ads from that weekend’s events. The next day, August 6th, Kellogg’s followed in T-Mobile’s footsteps and fully withdrew both of its own Overwatch League sponsorships, from the Cheez It and Pringle product lines. If State Farm and Coca Cola do follow suit, that would leave only IBM, Xfinity, and TeamSpeak left as OWL sponsors. August 11th brought three more major departures, as the company fired Diablo 4‘s director Luis Barriga, WoW designer Jonathan LeCraft, and WoW lead level designer Jesse McCree, who was implicated by name in certain incident reports from the California lawsuit, and the namesake for Overwatch‘s popular cowboy hero. Confirmation came that under response from the union, Fran Townsend had stepped down on July 23 as the exec sponsor of the ABK union’s Women’s Network, although she has not departed the company as a whole. Another Washington Post report disclosed further details of misconduct at the company, followed by a Polygon feature on August 12th specifically discussing the treatment of temp contract workers in QA and customer service at Activision-Blizzard.
Coverage of this case brought renewed attention to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s interactions with Riot Games, both the state department’s 2018 investigation still being ongoing and its own lawsuit against Riot filed just back in February 2021, following from the widely reported US$10 million settlement being withdrawn in 2020 because the DFEH was pushing for more on the civil class-action suit’s behalf. The latest update for this case from mid-August is that the DFEH is, for not the first time, alleging that Riot is interfering in the investigation and lawsuits obstructing employees from participating and testifying through misinformation, needless delay, and implied threat of retaliation, in direct defiance of a June 2021 court order. Riot of course denies the allegations.
After extensive delays and production difficulties, Call of Duty Vanguard was announced and its marketing cycle began in earnest, with the full reveal trailer conveniently being timed to August 19th, the deadline for Activision-Blizzard’s formal response to the California State lawsuit. Great to see what is reputed as a disaster of a game being slotted in the Overwatch PR distraction role. Seriously, this game has been a focal point for bad workplace conditions at that company this year, it is widely reported to be a shoddy drastically behind-schedule, technically inapt (PS4/X1 versions compared to Cyberpunk) production at which bodies just keep being thrown in an all hands on deck setup of at least some personnel from every single studio or dev team within the company. It is emblematic of the exact problem so thank you, Activision-Blizzard, for providing opportunity to talk about it in the way you deserve.
By August 24th, both a whistleblower within Activision-Blizzard and the California DFEH in offical statement itself publicly alleged that corporate HR had destroyed the documents requested for turnover as evidence by the lawsuit. …I’m sorry, I need to repeat this, Activision-Blizzard HR probably shredded legal evidence. The whistleblower called for further unionizing and public action, while acknowledging the cynical rationale behind such a baldly corrupt move: the fine for destruction of evidence, for obstruction of justice, still ultimately will cost less than the consequences borne by the contents of the evidence. Soon after, the Overwatch team made another PR gesture with the pledge to rename the cowboy hero (following from WoW cutting references to disgraced fired creative director Alex Afrasiabi a month earlier) and to no longer name characters in games after developers. Strictly speaking it’s not a bad decision on its own, but it’s still so very little relative to the brazen corruption this company keeps displaying. It’s a minuscule drop in the bucket of fucking despair. The argument that the Overwatch team isn’t responsible for the executives means little in face of the facts that Overwatch’s workplace and leadership are very much implicated in the infinite misconduct and mismanagement rap sheet, and the game’s longstanding pattern of being leveraged to skirt over bad PR.
In summation, that company and this developing story are no less a nightmare than before.
July 28th: A new development studio titled That’s No Moon founded by various former Sony, EA, Naughty Dog, and Infinity Ward veteran devs was announced with a startup US$100 million partnership with Smilegate.
July 29th: Hironobu Sakaguchi offered an official statement to Famitsu on the status of his next game Fantasian Part 2: the concluding game was almost finished, very much on track for its previously announced Fall 2021 launch, and it is twice as large as its predecessor, in part thanks to the unexpected degree of success its predecessor received. The game went on to launch on August 13th with the specific date being announced mere days earlier on August 9th.
Annapurna Showcase: Heart Machine finally announced the launch date of 3D action game Solar Ash as October 26th 2021, a timed exclusive for PS4, PS5, and PC via Epic. BlueTwelve provided the first new look at Stray, the backpack cat game, since its June 2020 debut, with a first look at gameplay and an Early 2022 launch window for PS4, PS5, and PC. The player cat-racter explores, solves puzzles, evades danger, and does vital cat-sim actions like licking its asshole and knocking shit over. Long-gestating narrative adventure The Artful Escape was announced as launching September 9th on Steam and Xboxes. And Ben Esposito showcased a new gameplay trailer for Neon White after its debut at the February Nintendo Direct. Several exciting new games were announced as well. A Memoir Blue, an anthology of memories between mother and daughter, for PC, Switch, Xboxes, PSs, and Apple, Storyteller – puzzle game coming soon to Steam and Switch, demo on Steam now, and Skin Deep – roguelike FPS coming to Steam, no release window. After leaking earlier in the summer, the official reveal trailer was finally released for Outer Wilds‘ first and only DLC expansion, Echoes of the Eye launching September 28th with seamless integration into the existing sandbox solar system and story.
Annapurna quickly announced partnerships with Outerloop Games (Falcon Age) for a game about immigrant youth life, Davey Wreden and Karla Zimonja’s new studio Ivy Road for its first game, Jessica Mak for her next musically oriented game, and No Code for their new horror game, their “biggest project ever.” Finally, several port and Game Pass announcements: I am Dead would be coming to PS4/5/Xbox August 9th, What Remains of Edith Finch came to to iOS August 16th, The Pathless is coming to Steam November 16th, and Gorogoa and Telling Lies are coming to Xbox Game Pass.
Ember Lab delayed the release of Kena: Bridge of Spirits again to September 21st 2021 for additional polish. It does look to be finalized this time as preload recently began on PS4 and 5. The first free expansion was announced for New Pokémon Snap to ultimately release on August 3rd, featuring three new levels, 20 new Pokémon to photograph, and several quality of life improvements. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water‘s date for worldwide multiplatform digital rerelease was announced as October 28th 2021 with a new trailer. Physical release seems restricted to Asian territories, although those copies do have full English support, if anyone can afford the import.
July 30th: This summer saw its second major Western indie visual novel rerelease, the one preferred by your reporter here, We Know the Devil, when it surprise launched on Switch on the 30th.
Jason Schreier at Bloomberg, following from Jeff Grubb’s informal comments in his Giant Bomb series the day before, formally reported that Horizon Forbidden West had ultimately been pushed back from 2021 to Q1 2022 after Guerrilla had grappled with the decision throughout the summer. Sony avoided comment on the matter until announcing the currently scheduled release date at Gamescom in late August, when the delay was confirmed. At present after this delay, the only first-party PS5 releases for this fall are rereleases. The major PS5 exclusive of the season is a game Microsoft is publishing.
July 31st: The second annual fireworks update for ACNH was mined to discover that it added additional new data for supporting the Roost café, on top of the older previous older code for the same notable, presently unseen update, raising fan hopes and giving suggestion for the direction of the new content Nintendo promised is still coming.
August 3rd: Polygon published a report by Nicole Carpenter centered around cofounder Steve Gaynor leaving Gone Home developer Fullbright back in March 2021, and the events surrounding it. Gaynor’s behavior has singlehandedly harmed employees and actively hampered the workplace and the development of its current game Open Roads. 15 employees left the studio during Open Roads’ development, at least 10 women, reducing staff size to only six and actively derailing the game’s development, putting it behind schedule and delaying it out of 2021. 12 of the 15 spoke to Carpenter all saying that Gaynor’s behavior helped cause their departure. Gaynor was extremely controlling over the project, demeaning coworkers, micromanaging to even the smallest details, denying their creative input, acting with constant microaggressions, overall maintaining a more subtle but nonetheless harmful environment. The studio had no infrastructure whatsoever for registering complaint and seeking change, making people feel forced to either remain quiet or directly confront Gaynor himself, who dismissed concerns until ultimately agreeing to leave under pressure from Annapurna over the practical damage being done to the studio and the game.
The final update for Kerbal Space Program was officially released, officially marking development going fully towards the sequel currently set for a 2022 release.
Street Fighter V‘s actually final DLC character, Luke, was announced, a generic brand-new character serving as a narrative bridge to the future of the delayed, presently unannounced Street Fighter VI.
August 4th: Pokémon Go players began petitioning and threatening boycotts over Niantic’s August 1st decision to remove the game’s stay-at-home COVID safety features which are not only obviously still needed as the pandemic is not over, but because they additionally worked very well as accessbility features to disabled players and as such should be permanent. Niantic’s response at this time amounts to promising to satisfy concerns without actually reversing the decision. As of August 26th, one of the main demands, a global readjustment of the base interaction radius to the COVID-era 80 meter distance, has been announced and been put into effect.
Ahead of the Director’s Cut/DLC launch later in August, Sucker Punch announced that on September 3rd, Ghost of Tsushima‘s Legends multiplayer mode will be launched as a US$20 stand-alone product with additional content.
August 5th: Nintendo Spring 2021 Financial Briefing: Highlights include: 89 million Switch consoles have been sold as of June 30th 2021; April-June ‘21 being Nintendo’s second best spring hardware sales for Switch, behind only the juggernaut of New Horizons’ peak period in 2020; after less than one week of sales, Mario Golf: Super Rush is the second bestselling entry in that series so far, behind only Mario Golf N64; New Pokémon Snap has exceeded 2 million non-Japanese sales in its first two months of release, surpassing the original (as Nintendo is not the game’s publisher in Japan, Pokémon Company is, Nintendo doesn’t track its Japanese sales); 3D World + Bowser’s Fury has now reached 6.68 million games sold, exceeding the two lowest selling Mario 3D platformers (Super Mario Sunshine and 3D World on Wii U) and bringing 3D World’s combined sales to roughly 12 million; Miitopia on Switch broke 1 million sales in its first quarter after flopping on 3DS. Lastly, Nintendo announced that between August 6th and September 16th, it will be buying back up to 1.8 million shares (1.5% of total shares) and canceling all treasury sales included in this buyback.
French games company Focus Home Interactive announced that it had acquired the smaller French dev-pub, Dotemu, of Windjammers and Streets of Rage 4, via a 77.5% controlling stake.
Another PlayStation blog indie event occurred to highlight several indie games on PS4 and/or PS5. These included both high-profile picks like the ports of Hades, Carrion, and A Short Hike, major sequels like Axiom Verge 2 and Oxenfree 2 (2021 on Switch, 2022 on PS), Platinum’s April Fools retro shooter Sol Cresta (launching December 9th), and lastly Wytchwood, a relaxed fairy tale crafting game about brewing witch potions.
Mario Golf Super Rush’s first free update was detailed and released, featuring the new full New Donk City golf course as advertised at E3, Toadette as a new playable character, and the new Ranked Mode, as well as general motion control improvements.
August 11th: The Life is Strange Remastered Collection was delayed to Early 2022 for all platforms, while the Switch version of Life is Strange: True Colors was delayed from September 10th to sometime later in 2021.
Indie World: Nintendo’s latest indie livestream arrived right on schedule in August, as Indie Worlds and their equivalent predecessors have for years ahead of September general Directs. On August 11th, such brand new titles as Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, a roller skating, graffiti-ing full fledged spiritual successor to Jet Set Radio, were announced. Cyberfunk arrives in 2022 as a timed console exclusive for Switch. Next was TOEM, an isometric black and white photography adventure-game set for Fall 2021 (since scheduled for September 17th). Then, a major port announcement as this spring’s massively acclamed Loop Hero was set to arrive on Switch this holiday. FAR: Changing Tides, a sailing game, showed the first trailer for its Switch version as part of its multiplatform launch in Early 2022. A new expanded rerelease of a 2020 visual novel hit, Necrobarista: Final Pour, was announced as a timed exclusive launching in shadowdrop on August 11th, right after the stream. It was only the first of very many shadowdrops. A dedicated section on Updates for games featured in previous Indie Worlds provided the next batch of shadowdrops: Garden Story as a timed exclusive, Boyfriend Dungeon on all platforms, and Axiom Verge 2 on PC, PS4/5, and Switch.
The next entry in the expansive franchise, Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon was announced for a Holiday 2021 launch. This action-puzzle game supports all existing series amiibo on Switch. The relaxed city-builder Islanders was announced to be debuting its console port as a timed exclusive for Switch launching on August 11th. A brief trailer confirmed that Metal Slug Tactics is coming to Switch in 2022. In a delightful surprise, the beautiful Tetris Effect Connected completed its multiplat cycle by being announced as coming to Switch on October 8th 2021, only a few months after support for the Connected mode came to PS4/5. As long as it’s on Game Pass I probably won’t buy it, but I love the game as much as I struggle with it. I’m…not good at Tetris. Anyway, onto the sizzle reel! Astroneer coming to Switch January 2022, winemaking sim Hundred Days Switch-first Holiday 2021, Slime Rancher: Plortable Edition launching same day as announcement (so soon after Slime Rancher 2 for Xbox Series was announced!), Lumbearjack coming in 2022, roguelike privateering RPG Curious Expedition 2 as the last shadowdrop of the day, fumblecore battle party game Gang Beasts for Switch finally coming in Fall 2021. Finally, Chucklefish’s highly anticipated new major RPG Eastward returned, announced to be launching on September 16th 2021 for PC, Mac, and on Switch as a timed console exclusive.
August 12th: Many months of rumors and rumblings finally led to a formal report at Kotaku by Zack Zwiezen, in addition to input from various other major reporters and press outlets, on forthcoming Grand Theft Auto Remastered Collection, new releases of the early 3D entries GTA III, Vice City, and San Andres refined with Unreal Engine and coming to all current platforms, Xbox One/Series, PS4/5, PC, Switch, mobile and Stadia. The Kotaku report employs corroborated details from three separate sources with track records on Rockstar news (updates for Red Dead Online and GTA Online). These remasters are reported to be in the final stages of development by the Scottish Rockstar Dundee team, previously Ruffian of Crackdown 2 and 3. Plans for the remasters are said to have changed several times and easily could again up until announcement, as they allegedly started as exclusive bonuses with GTAV for PS5 and Xbox Series before pivoting to independent digital retail release in a collection scheduled for fall 2021 around the same time as next-gen GTAV. The console ports are being prioritized and would potentially release first ahead of PC, mobile, and Stadia releases in 2022. Additionally, a Red Dead Redemption 1 Remaster is said to be set to greenlight based on the performance of this collection that would be basically guaranteed to do very well.
Pokémon Presents: The longest Pokémon Presents ever, an almost 30 minute video, streamed on August 18th to provide the first major update on the current series entries since they were announced back in February. Between the long wait, curiosities about these games in particular, and the bizarre social media release date announcements back in June with no followup, there was a lot of energy surrounding this, for better or worse. Before reaching those centerpiece games, the presentation quickly announced several updates for various mobile titles. The Pokémon Company announced the release date for Pokémon Unite‘s mobile version as September 22nd, provided a preview of upcoming additional Pokémon for the FTP MOBA, while announcing a plan for the franchise’s FTP puzzle game to be revamped as Pokémon Café Remix this fall to revitalize its audience, and detailing second anniversary plans for gacha entry Pokémon Masters EX and fifth anniversary plans for Pokémon Go.
An extensive new gameplay trailer for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl showed many familiar moments and characters from throughout the games and additional visual updates to the remakes, confirmed many updated returning features like the Underground, contests, and Union Room, and that the game is in at least some capacity using the Pokédex from Platinum rather than the originals, ands revealed backported features new to Gen 4 like character customization, visible wild Pokémon in the overworld. (A currently unofficial screenshot also suggests the inclusion of Fairy-type abilities.) The full extent of Platinum features in the remakes is still uncertain, but the picture has started getting clearer. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl will launch on November 19th with a new themed Switch Lite available on November 5th.
The second trailer for Pokémon Legends Arceus, coming January 28th 2022, was similarly stuffed with new information. As I reported back in February, the game offers an overhaul of gameplay in strategy, variety, and interactivity within the series’ first full open world and the life of a Pokédex researcher instead of a competitor. Range of exploration within the world increases by advancing your research through capture, training, specialized study, and more. Stealth returns from Sword and Shield, but new capture approaches needed for different types are promised. Seamlessly integrated into the overworld, the new real-time battle system introduces a player health bar that Pokémon can damage, Agile and Strong variants of all attacks which trade off each others’ stats in service to less repetition than type-advantages, deploying multiple attacks in a row or powerful finishers as needed with more risk to avoid abusing them. A “critical” crafting system, updated camps in the wild and an expanded hub area were also introduced. This second trailer expands on the first with greater environmental variety, a thorough showcase of the fully animated running, flying, and swimming Pokémon mounts, while the game build used is visibly significantly updated from previous 2020 build footage used in the first trailer, providing an overall smoother experience. The trailer ended on a brief tease of a plot element involving Pokémon seemingly going berserk. After the trailer, the narrator more explicitly explained the new gameplay systems and described some of the various new Pokémon and new supporting characters.
August 19th: The 25th Anniversary QuakeCon was marked with a new expanded 4K remaster of the original Quake being announced and released to all platforms on the same day. The new expansion for the classic FPS was built by Machine Games. The remaster, Quake 2, and Quake 3 Arena were all added to Game Pass for PC, and the former to Xbox Game Pass, as is requisite now for any releases by Bethesda under its new owner.
August 24th: Three months later, IGN finally updated the public on its editorial conflict over the “How to Help” article on displaced Palestinians. The article has been permanently republished with a new preface addressing its takedown. Several parties together from both within and outside IGN ultimately came to agreement to republish with some edits to satisfy concerns, with the understanding that it shouldn’t have been taken down at all if it could just be updated. Formal policies and processes regarding takedowns and corrections have been updated to prevent this kind of situation from happening again and to better ensure strong editorial input on these matters.
Xbox Gamescom Preshow: The show started with a brief tease of Microsoft Flight Simulator, aptly so with the game’s recent successful console launch. World Update 6 was announced as coming to the game for free on September 7th, bearing updated satellite and aerial data to further enhance the game world one region at a time, this time with Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Eight person competitive online multiplayer is arriving later this fall, and for players on high-end PCs, the update has a change to terrain loading to improve overall performance. A Dying Light 2 gameplay trailer showed off plenty of changes, including a parachute, and Humble Games announced a new partnership with Xbox for all Humble-published games to be Day One Game Pass titles. Magic Doom, AKA Into the Pit, was announced, with an October 19th launch. Age of Empires IV stopped by with a trailer dedicated to the illustrious trebuchet, a new Wasteland 3 DLC was announced for October 5th, and a new State of Decay 2 DLC was announced. Stray Blade was revealed, a fully 3D roguelike action-RPG with a furry companion.
Paradox announced that its smash hit 2020 strategy game Crusader Kings III will arrive Xbox Series on Game Pass and PS5 sometime in the future as a specialized console version with an intensively readjusted UI. Strangely, when this particular announcement was foreshadowed the day before by a Taiwanese ratings board listing for the game on consoles, the ratings board listed it for Xbox One additionally, but the game was only announced for next-gen hardware. I’ve previously reported on this, but Xbox’s Gamescom show did feature a dedicated premium slot for the full launch of Xbox Cloud Gaming via Game Pass coming sometime this fall. Xbox One owners will be able to play Xbox Series exclusive games via streaming, and install annoyances can be cut down on by direct streaming a game instead. But I still don’t have the internet to make this option remotely pleasant. The launch trailer for Psychonauts 2, which I finally started playing this weekend and adore so far, came next alongside a long-awaited update on Image&Form’s The Gunk, with a new gameplay trailer and a December launch window. Lastly, Forza Horizon 5 reappeared ahead of its November launch with a limited edition controller and an extended trailer showcasing the game’s opening drive.
Opening Night Live Preshow: My relationship with the concept of gaming event preshows continued to degrade. After being announced in 2019 and delayed through multiple years, SNK’s King of Fighters XV finally received a specific release date announcement of February 17th 2022. The first series entry built in Unreal 4 will release for Xbox Series, Windows, PS4 and PS5, with its worldwide distribution unfortunately managed by Koch Media, branch of THQ Nordic. An accidental store listing that went up 8 days early broke the day before the official announcement at the start of this preshow. Bus Simulator 21 and the endlessly reappearing Dark Pictures: House of Ashes came next before the Latinx soulslike Dolmen, 2022, and Drinkbox’s Nobody Saves the World, early 2022. A new trailer for rhythm dungeon-crawler Soundfall, which has no release window. Finally, Dream Cycle was revealed, from new studio Cathuria Games and founder Toby Gard, the original creator of Tomb Raider who left in protest of oversexualized marketing plans for the game. Dream Cycle is a first-person action game of swords, sorceries, and shootings, entering Steam Early Access just one day after this article’s publication, September 7th.
Gamescom Opening Night Live:
The opening of Opening Night Live was a major announcement that’s been an open secret for a couple of years, even being actively, explicitly promoted by Geoff Keighley way ahead of premiere, but it is nonetheless a notable moment for the industry right now, the dramatic return of a major HD-era series after 8 years away. The cinematic announcement trailer for Saints Row, a reboot of the crime sandbox series with very humble GTA clone origins, showcased the game’s new Southwestern setting of Santa Ileso and provided a representation of classic heist, shootout, and car chase gameplay. The game is scheduled to launch on February 25th 2022 for PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series, and PC via Epic Store timed exclusivity. The game returns to the formula of truly starting from nothing (the player’s three compatriots in the trailer are the only initial members of the gang) against three main quirky but somewhat grounded rival gangs, in an overall direction consistently described as a step back to Saints Row 2, but modernized in both tech and sensibility. The Volition developers operating under THQ Nordic and Deep Silver have emphasized a belief in change as a good for the series, and I greatly admire the sincerity and integrity of that, even while still disliking THQ Nordic enough to probably stay away. Actress Bryce Charles starred in the trailer as the new Boss in both voice and appearance; the player character is still fully customizable but Charles is now the default voice and default model. This showcase ended with a very brief direct gameplay preview and of course a promise for more to come ahead of launch.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns, the licensed superhero tactical RPG by XCOM’s Firaxis, was first leaked shortly before E3 alongside other 2K games, but wasn’t revealed until its plum second slot at Gamescom. Midnight Suns centers on a modernized form of a 90s team focused on the supernatural, led by a customizable original player character, the Hunter, against Hydra, vampires, and Lilith Mother of Demons. 2K independently released the gameplay reveal trailer on September 1st, confirming comments that the game is a departure from XCOM by showing off a card-based deckbuilding combat system. The distinct upgrades, unlocks, and combos of each team member are all filtered through the player’s hand of cards. The maps are fairly small and simple, but feature environmental effects to be used against enemies. Social links between members of the heroic team within an Abbey hubworld are notably featured, stopping short of romance with “very close friendships.” During the gameplay reveal trailer, director Jake Solomon said the game had been in development since XCOM 2 was finished in 2016. Marvel’s Midnight Suns is scheduled to launch in March 2022 for Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.
The aforementioned latest military shooter boondoggle of the company I spent the beginning of this article eviscerating was featured next in this event. That is all. What’s next? Oh yeah, Halo Infinite. Its launch date was finally announced! December 8th 2021 on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series. The single-player campaign and first multiplayer season are what will arrive at that time, as back on August 20th 343 announced that co-op support for the campaign, and the significantly revamped Forge mode, are simply not ready yet and will be paced out in seasons 2 and 3 respectively during 2022. Another quick chaotic, hook-grappling multiplayer gameplay trailer played to close out the formal information. Additionally, a 20th anniversary Halo controller (Elite wireless series 2, the really expensive kind) and a limited edition new Halo Xbox Series X console were announced for this holiday. Next was an extensive 2D Animated reveal trailer for Roguelike Cult of the Lamb by Massive Monster and published by Devolver, with a gameplay montage at the end. One-man developed Midnight Fight Express is a top down indie brawler coming in 2022 for all platforms. Not impressed with the No Russian joke, I gotta say. A trailer for TMNT Shredder’s Revenge announced a new player character, April O’Neil herself, and showcased fresh mechanics for the history of turtle brawlers, like reviving partners with pizza and team attacks. There was a new trailer for that Demon Slayer game. The new trailer for Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania emphasized its collection of party games, followed by the first paid DLC announcement for the game, Morgana from Persona 5. Hello Kitty was announced as the second in between then and my publication date. And FTP portal shooter Splitgate, which only weeks ago launched on consoles, had a new content trailer for Season 0, available now.
Riders Republic and Far Cry 6 were both featured in the event and are both still published by one of the most harmful companies in this industry. Moving on, Century: Age of Ashes from the Game Awards 2020, the dragon flight combat game is releasing on November 18th 2021 as a free to play game on Steam. UFL was announced, a free to start indie soccer game trying to go up against EA and Konami. After a lot of delays, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, an open world remake of previous Lego Star Wars levels with new content from Episodes VIII and IX, debuted a new gameplay trailer and Spring 2022 release window. The MMO shooter Synced Off-Planet, coming in 2022, got a new cinematic trailer. The Outlast Trials is a four player co-op spinoff of the first-person horror series, after being announced at Future Games Summer 2020 it returned here with its first gameplay trailer and a 2022 launch window. The developers of Black Desert Online made a big splash with a new gameplay trailer for DokeV, a Pokémon-alike focused on capturing creatures from Korean folklore. The game was originally announced in 2019 as an MMO like Black Desert, but with this reveal is now said to be single player only. DokeV offers a variety of movement and action options, with smooth, fast transitions between each. Sim game Jurassic World Evolution 2 was announced to be launching on November 8th. Vampire the Masquerade battle royale Blood Hunt was announced to be entering Early Access on September 7th for stress testing. A brand new theme park sim, Park Beyond, was announced by Tropico 6‘s Limbic Entertainment. The trailer emphasized wacky new additions to classic attractions, like firing park attendees between sections of a ride in cannons. Superbrothers announced the release date for Jett: The Far Shore as October 5th.
As the show approached its wrapup, one of its last big announcements arrived via Mathias de Jonge, director of Horizon Forbidden West at Guerrilla. He confirmed what most of us already knew to be true: work is slowed by the ongoing pandemic and the sheer scale that the polish phase that a game like this has, so it was pushed from Holiday 2021. He announced the new scheduled launch date as February 18th 2022 on PS4 and PS5, and “softened the blow” with the long anticipated PS5 performance enhancement patch for the first game, available the same day. During the last week of August, it was originally announced that Sony was providing no upgrade path whatsoever for the game, only the option to buy one version or both. But then on Saturday September 4th, Jim Ryan responded to criticisms of the decision by announcing that the PS5 version of HFW will now be bundled with the PS4 version at no additional charge. Ryan acknowledged that in 2020 Sony had promised free upgrades for cross-gen titles, and the original decision was made because HFW was delayed out of 2021 (even as PS5s probably won’t be consistently widely available until 2023 at this rate). Ryan on Sony’s behalf committed to a renewed promise for an upgrade path on all future first-party cross-gen titles regardless of when they release, explicitly mentioning that Gran Turismo 7 and the next God of War will have digital upgrades at the price of US$10. With a major PS5-focused event now officially scheduled for September 9th, it won’t be along before the state of the first party Sony slate is updated once again.
Amazon’s New World MMO – after once again delaying the full game release, this time from August to September 28th, another public beta for the title was announced, set for September 9th. There were updates for a Marvel mobile game, a Tales of Arise live musical performance ahead of its presently imminent launch, plus a demo available now for Arise and the reveal of a mobile Tales Of game for the series’ anniversary. Marmalade Game Studio, which specializes in digital translations of classic board games, announced Jumanji: The Curse Returns, exactly what I said the studio does, for the original Jumanji game. Sega debuted a new extended story trailer for Lost Judgment ahead of its launch later this month, and we all still have no clue if it really is the abrupt end to the promising series. Okay, this next thing took me a few times to really process. So, Core is a free to play user-generated online platform ‘metaverse’…thing, like Roblox, and it entered Early Access this year. And at Gamescom Opening Night Live was the announcement trailer for a deadmau5 concert within Core in the vein of Fortnite’s concerts and Lil Nas X’s Roblox concert. But it’s not exactly just a concert, it will be an interactive space with ongoing updates and players involved will…have some impact on his new music video? Ugh, I need to lie down. Anyway, a new Fall Guys Season 5 event featuring limited-time Disney’s Jungle Book costumes was announced. That I understand. Straightforward corporate nonsense. Replaced returned from Xbox’s E3 2021 with…the official release of the song from its first trailer. Not the most captivating update, I gotta admit.
There was new gameplay from Age of Empires 4 and a new September 16th release date for the first major update to Valheim. A new multiplayer trailer arrived for 600 million player strong shooter CrossfireX, imported by Xbox with a new campaign by Remedy, in the game’s first reappearance in more than a year. The trailer only claims that it is Coming Soon. Some premium Keighley shenanigans unfolded with announcing an award for the presently unreleased Elden Ring, transitioning into the Crossfire trailer from that, and then cutting to a representative accepting the award, but with no actual Elden Ring content at any point. Genshin Impact showed gameplay from Aloy’s guest appearance (launching September 1st) and a performance promoting the Genshin Concert on October 3rd. Sloclap’s SIFU returned, accompanied by a new release date trailer (February 22nd 2022 for PC, PS4, PS5) showcasing new setpieces like a cramped artroom where ink is splattering everywhere as the fight commences. The main show of Opening Night Live closed out with a final extended look at Death Stranding: Director’s Cut, following from its Summer Game Fest and Sony State of Play appearances in June and July, ahead of its launch later in September. The PS5-exclusive special edition provides plenty of new features to liven up a second playthrough, like the previously shown catapult, jetpack, Buddy Bot, firing range, and racetrack, but the trailer also additionally details the new story content, infiltrating a stronghold to uncover new secrets.
Future Games Gamescom Show:
The show was hosted by two of Resident Evil Village’s best performers, Maggie “Lady Dimitrescu” Robertson and Aaron “The Duke” LaPlante. It opened with the cinematic announcement trailer of Warhammer 40K: Chaos Gate – Demonhunters, a reboot of the licensed cult classic 90s strategy game, transformed into a fully modernized turn-based strategy RPG coming to PC next year. This was followed by a launch trailer for FTP Super Animal Royale, a new gameplay trailer from Life is Strange: True Colors, and a gameplay trailer for an indie open world action game on PC, Sands of Aura, entering Early Access on October 21st. The usual trailer reel was broken up with a big Virtual Show Floor announcement: nine free demos featured on a special Future Games Show Steam page, for Project Downfall, The Last Cube, Aeon Drive, The Garden Path, To the Rescue, Berserk Boy, Inkulinati, Chicken Police: Paint It Red, and Coromon. The VR title Jurassic World Aftermarth Part 2 is coming to Oculus Quest September 30th, while the magic focused soulslike Project Relic received its first teaser ahead of a scheduled 2023 release. The fishing indie Moonglow Bay returned from Xbox shows I reported on earlier this year for its launch date to finally be announced as October 7th. The ambitious horror game In Sound Mind has been delayed to launching on September 28th for PS5, Series X, and PC, with a specialized Switch port set for later in 2021. Another launch date was announced, August 31st for wacky medieval sandbox Rustler. A new trailer for Salt and Sacrifice detailed its co-op and PVP options like any good soulslike should have. Beaver strategy game Timberborn enters Early Access on September 15th, the indie version of Grounded, Smalland, is coming to PC this year, and Dolmen, another more obscure title I’ve previously covered, received another new gameplay trailer.
The announcement trailer for Trading Time, an adventure game about being stranded with frog people, pretty instantly sold me even without any release window yet for it on PC, Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox. A mid-show “Ones to Watch” montage featured the aforementioned Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, A Wake Inn: Rebooked, Clid the Snail, KeyWe, DEATHRUN TV, a Mythbusters game, Scorchlands, Monster Harvest, and Core Keeper, among others. DokeV returned from Opening Night Live for a deep dive into its previous gameplay trailer, while a new contender in photography horror, Madison, previewed ahead of a launch on PC this fall and console release next year. Arcadegeddon reappeared, Team 17 reappeared with a montage of titles, and a new trailer premiered for Soulstice, which seems to be trying way too hard to leverage Quiet’s actress from MGSV in its lead role as a marketing hook. VTM Bloodhunt appeared again for its September 7th stress test, a September 23rd release date on PC was announced for Medieval Dynasty, and the independent samurai animated series built entirely in Media Molecule’s Dreams, Noguchi’s Bell, had a new trailer. Imp of the Sun was announced, a Peruvian Metroidvania coming next year. A questionably themed Maneater DLC was promoted for its August 31st launch.
Tails of Iron, a 2D action game narrated by Geralt himself coming September 17th to all platforms, debuted new gameplay footage ahead of a montage from Freedom Games after they had their own E3 event this year. They featured such games as Retreat to Enen, Clouzy!, Cat Cafe Manager, Sky Fleet, One Lonely Outpost, Guardians of Hyelore, Mail Time, and Monster Outbreak. Gungrave GORE premiered a new cinematic trailer, and Alaskan Truck Simulator and Hospital Simulator received their turns in the spotlight. Jurassic World Evolution 2‘s marketing campaign leaned into Jeff Goldblum once again while announcing a new temperate forest environment with rain effect, and two new creatures, Ichthyosaurus and Cearadactylus. A new trailer premiered for Serial Cleaners, which after a couple years’ worth of appearances at small shows like this, is finally set to launch across all platforms in Early 2022. Nine Years of Shadows is coming soon and comes bearing veteran Mega Man composers to boot. The show neared its end with gameplay from indie sequel FAR: Changing Tides, the public beta announcement for Balsa Model Flight Simulator, and Team 17 returning again with the new shooter TREPANG2, which seems an aesthetic departure for them. The show closed out with something that’s attracted a decent amount of personal discussion from me, Wolfman, and LibraryLass lately, Nickelodeon All Star Brawl, for which two more characters were announced, April O’Neil from TMNT and the eponymous Catdog.
August 26th: Netflix announced its first rollout of video games on the app with a limited Android beta test of two Stranger Things games in Poland.
Koei Tecmo released a trailer announcing Monster Rancher 1 and 2 DX, the first entry in the series to release outside Japan in a decade, a remaster of the original two 1997 and 1999 games releasing December 9th 2021 for Switch, PC and iOS.
Square Enix released a trailer announcing that Bravely Default 2 was coming to PC in a week on September 2nd, following in the mold of timed exclusivity for Switch-first RPGs like Octopath Traveler.
With confirmation from Suda51 upon launch that No More Heroes 3 is the final entry in that series by Grasshopper, as their deal to borrow the series rights from Marvelous is now over, he discussed in the same livestream how Grasshopper Manufacture is looking to the future. He announced that Grasshopper currently has five games in production, three being new IPs, with building new series that the developer fully owns now being its main priority.
Extensive previews came out across a variety of game press sites for Elden Ring, while Bethesda released the Location Insights trailer for Starfield.
For Starfield, developers discussed three major locations from the interstellar open world, Akila, Neon, and New Atlantis.
August 29th: Takashi Mochizuki at Bloomberg broke allegations of a major development for Sega and for the Chinese software arms race of Tencent and NetEase, that NetEase has nearly completed negotiations to poach and hire Sega’s current creative director Toshihiro Nagoshi. Nagoshi created Super Monkey Ball, has been a lead on the Yakuza series since its debut more than 15 years ago, and became part of Atlus’ board of directors once Sega bought it in 2013.
August 31st: EA Motive developers led a Twitch livestream first look at the Dead Space Remake. The game was revealed to only have been in development for “about a year” so far. As such as the first gameplay footage is a very early work in progress, but nonetheless provides key new details, such as a revamp of the zero gravity sections in both design (promised to be less frustrating) and advanced tech, Necromorph enemies having new visible immersive health bars in gradual degradation of their flesh, and new variety and strategic depth to different weapons and corresponding different dismemberments.
Previous Indie World feature Aztech: Forgotten Gods was delayed from this fall to Early 2022. The game’s first demo will be available on Steam from October 1st to 7th.
September 2nd: Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain, the third overall entry in the series, first since the Wii, was revealed, announced as set to launch globally on December 3rd 2021 as a full retail release for $30. This is Nintendo EPD4’s second game for this year after Game Builder Garage, and like many EPD4 releases, was revealed in a stand-alone trailer rather than a Direct because that’s how they want to handle their “Blue Ocean” line on Switch. This game being fasttracked so soon after the Brain Age for Switch, not the same series, is perhaps a result of this game being able to release in North America, which the new Brain Age never did, allegedly for legal reasons.
For a Bloomberg feature, Takashi Mochizuki spoke with the director of semiconductors, Takeshi Kamebuchi, for Toshiba, one of the top consumer tech and parts manufacturers in the world. Kamebuchi expects chip shortages and resulting console shortages to continue across the gamut of tech industries “until at least September next year”, deep into 2022, and points to the core game hardware producers as “among the customers making the [highest] demands [for parts]…and none of them have a 100% satisfaction.”
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