Game News Roundup: October 2021

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!

Activision-Blizzard News Updates Compilation Returns with a Vengeance:

On October 7th, after the EEOC reached a tentative settlement with A-B, the DFEH filed a motion to intervene in said settlement on the basis that it has procedural errors and could negatively affect the DFEH case. By October 9th, this conflict between two different government agencies, which until this point were in official workshare agreement for their respective investigations escalated when the EEOC filed a conflict of interest claim against the DFEH because two lawyers that previously worked on the EEOC’s A-B investigation were now part of the DFEH A-B team and had been an active part in the motion to intervene in their former employer’s settlement discussions. The DFEH filed its counter-objection on the 11th. The next day after that, Judge Dale S. Fischer denied the DFEH’s ex parte motion, thus requiring the agency to wait a full seven days after its remote meeting with EEOC representatives before the original intervention motion can be officially filed. On the same day, the DFEH went ahead and quickly replaced the lawyers who were creating the conflict of interest. Once the week had passed, on the 19th the DFEH proceeded to file the intervention motion, confident it had satisfied requirements, but Activision-Blizzard had prepared in the interim.

Activision attempted to seize the opportunity of the situation by filing on the same day to move the DFEH lawsuit to another court, to fully pause the DFEH lawsuit pending fully examining the DFEH’s violations, and to disqualify the DFEH from its own trial if the violations review calls for it. On that same day, Activision made a move on the PR front as well, former George W Bush cabinet Fran Townsend published another letter on the situation surrounding A-B. In it she proclaims evidence of how seriously the company is taking things, stating that “In connection with various resolved reports, more than 20 individuals have exited Activision Blizzard and more than 20 individuals faced other types of disciplinary action.” Townsend points to other policy steps supposed to satisfactorily address the issues that fail to match the scope of the problem. Current and former employees remain unconvinced by Townsend’s new statement and the publisher’s overall response, especially keeping in mind Townsend initially decrying charges as wholly false and irresponsible.

On October 25th, LA County judge Timothy Patrick Dillon formally denied Activision’s request to pause the lawsuit. The case for Activision successfully hindering the DFEH suit is starting to look thin. In the middle of that week, employees at Vicarious Visions felt “blindsided” when leadership abruptly announced during a company call that their studio, recently incorporated into Blizzard, was now being fully dissolved and becoming Blizzard Albany. Employees testify feeling disappointed, even actively misled by leadership into believing they would retain some independence and not just be a support team. Finally, on October 28th, Bobby Kotick and Activision-Blizzard made the ‘biggest’ attempt yet at improving the company’s image after these past few months, releasing another public letter in which further policy changes are outlined and it’s announced that Kotick’s annual salary will be reduced to a minimum ($62, 500) with no further bonuses or compensation “until the Board has determined that [the company has] achieved [its] goals and commitments.” The letter’s policies are: permanently dropping forced arbitration as the company’s union had repeatedly demanded, the promise of new zero-tolerance practice and policy on harassment designed to belay warnings in favor of immediate termination, a pledge to increase the percentage of women and nonbinary people in the workplace and invest $250 million USD towards accelerating opportunities for diverse talent, provide new annual public reports on the status of pay equity, and providing new quarterly reports on progress made in improving workplace culture, as well as expanding coverage of the issue in preexisting annual reports. It’s a step forward on policy, it’s all certainly somewhat more effort than say, Ubisoft has put in, but it needs more and it needs to all be demonstrable. Replacing Wilmerhale is one of the bare minimum good faith actions here and yet it still hasn’t occurred.

Regarding Kotick’s latest salary adjustment: As various other reporters have rightfully pointed out: 1. No matter how much he reduces his own future profits, Kotick had already received a $150 million USD bonus in stock earlier this year, on top of the millions he’s already sitting on, he remains comfortably richer than any person should be 2. Kotick has still made no effort to address the personal allegations of misconduct surrounding him, and 3. th overtly suspicious overall timing of this, right after the failure to halt one of the lawsuits, amidst further Activision stock fluctuations, right before Activision’s next earnings report. An expensive disaster of a game is about to launch to a possible record underperformance, the company’s release calendar is almost empty and wracked with ongoing struggles in its biggest projects. All in all, on top of the usual empty corporate PR, there’s a distinct likelihood the salary move is actually just rebalancing the books for shareholders, compensating for profit losses. The next day after the latest letter, the ABK Workers Alliance publicly accepted the move as a significant victory for them while also pledging to remain active in their organizing and vigilance, specifically reissuing the demand that any internal investigations be conducted by an unbiased third party, for which the yet to be replaced Wilmerhale firm does not qualify.

October 5th: Masahiro Sakurai hosted Super Smash Bros. Ultimate‘s final presentation to announce Sora from Kingdom Hearts as the final DLC character for the massive crossover. In previous Famitsu column entries and interviews over the past three years, Sakurai had discussed the 2015 Smash Ballot and its serious impact on the choices made for planning Ultimate. Ridley, King K Rool, Banjo-Kazooie, and Simon Belmont among other newcomers, plus previously cut veteran fighters like Snake, etc., all performed very well on the ballot, directly leading to them as priorities for Nintendo and “Everyone is Here!” chosen as the next game’s theme. But it was only here at this final presentation that Sakurai was able to, at long last, be completely transparent and announce that Sora was in fact the overall winner of the ballot, making him a top priority for Nintendo to carefully yet aggressively work to secure ever since across multiple rounds of negotiations between 2015 and 2020. Steve from Minecraft was also in production for that long, although the actual negotiations for him were fairly simple, it was down to proper implementation of Sakurai’s design plan for him that he took so long.

Between the video presentation and his penultimate Famitsu column later in October, Sakurai further detailed the process to secure Sora. Sakurai and an ailing Satoru Iwata met in April 2015 in response to the ballot’s immediate runaway favorites being challenging third party characters like Sora and Banjo-Kazooie. They quickly agreed that the ballot results should not be publicized for the time being due to the stir and expectations they would cause, but that they would be honored as best as possible with the plan for Smash Ultimate, which began to be formulated at that time. Negotiations were so contentious that at one point, Fighters Pass Volume 2 was approved and finalized as only the first five characters, with Sora legally finalized later than every other third party character, but included last-minute nonetheless due to his groundswell of support. A chance meeting between Sakurai and a Disney rep at an awards show (possibly Japan Game Awards 2019, where Sakurai is known to have attended and both Smash and Kingdom Hearts 3 were nominated?) apparently helped in Sora’s securement. Sora was only confirmed sometime in the narrow window between the initial September 2019 general announcement of additional Smash Ultimate DLC and the announcement of Pass 2 with six characters in January 2020. It didn’t get easier from there, Sora was subject to constant reviews and requests during development from both Disney and Square Enix, including Tetsuya Nomura himself, who praised Sakurai and the Bandai Namco dev team on announcement day.

In closing out the presentation, Sakurai personally announced that the main Kingdom Hearts series so far was coming to Switch. The Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix collection, 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue collection, and Kingdom Hearts 3 + Re:Mind DLC, will each release on Switch as Cloud Versions in the near future, as well as a collection of all three. Much discussion and disappointment ensued over the decision to only release Cloud Versions; the main reason it played out like this is that Square Enix simply refused to allocate any budget for the ports and required that the PC ports from earlier this year be used instead to save money.

The package of Sora as a full fighter with a stage, music, etc. released on October 18th alongside Mii costumes for an Octoling and Judd the cat from Splatoon, and the Doom Slayer from Doom ’16 and Eternal. While the classical Disney licensing is unsurprisingly very limited, mostly restricted to the reveal trailer, one of the alt costumes is heavily stylized, based on the Timeless River 20s cartoon world. 

Before I continue, it really does need to be said that after roughly 90 main playable characters in this series, there still isn’t a single black person among those main characters, and that’s an undeniable major failure on Nintendo’s part, on these developers’ part. It is a confluence of systemic factors from throughout the games industry and audience that ultimately leads to this point, but that’s no excuse for the individuals with the power to make the difference here, especially in the face of the harmful stereotypes and creative choices within Super Smash Bros. Ultimate itself. Sakurai must do better and Nintendo must do better.

October 6th: Signature Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch experienced a major data leak via 4chan that Wednesday morning, a 125GB torrent file was uploaded publicly, which featured Twitch client source code and security tools, streamer payout totals and other personal information, and a prototype for a digital storefront operated by Amazon Game Studios which would attempt to compete with Steam and EGS.

Not long after its acquisition by Embracer Group earlier this year, Gearbox saw some executive changes. Randy Pitchford will remain CEO, but is no longer President. Pitchford is henceforth focused on leading multimedia development like the Borderlands film at the new Gearbox Studios, while CTO Steve Jones is now managing executive duties and the game development branch as President.

Universal Studios Japan had two major announcements this fall, the first being finally confirming the Donkey Kong Country expansion to Super Nintendo World, opening in 2024, and the second being announcement of a long-term partnership with The Pokémon Company to develop multiple projects for Pokémon content within Universal theme parks. The first project is projected by the partners to be seen by the end of 2022.

October 7th: Toshihiro Nagoshi, founder and director of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, Sega Creative Director, and member of Atlus’ board of directors, officially confirmed his sudden and wholehearted departure from Sega after Bloomberg’s Takashi Mochizuki broke the news the previous month. Nagoshi, who had only just transitioned to Sega’s creative director earlier this year, who had been literally called “The Man Who Won’t Leave Sega,” is leaving for Chinese developer NetEase Games. It is undeniably a startling development without much current explanation behind it. On October 21st, NetEase fully acquired Suda51’s Grasshopper Manufacture. When Sega announced that Nagoshi and RGG’s Daisuke Sato were leaving, it was confirmed that writer and producer Masayoshi Yokoyama would would become RGG’s new director and that he is part of the development of the sequel to Yakuza: Like a Dragon as we speak.

Developer Eidos Montreal announced that it is pivoting to four day 32-hour work weeks, however Quality Assurance workers are regrettably excluded from the new policy due to being classified as contractors under Square Enix rather than Eidos itself. Contractors are unacceptably treated as second class employees throughout the games industry.

Square Enix announced that Dragon Quest‘s longtime composer Koichi Sugiyama passed away at 90 years old on September 30th. Sugiyama had completed his work for the upcoming Dragon Quest XII before his passing. Sugiyama undeniably had a major influence on the series and the state of video game composing, but was also a notorious homophobic conservative nationalist who promoted denialism of Japan’s imperial war crimes. For a strong extended discussion on this subject, I recommend this highly personal article hosted by a colleague of mine and written by Chris Lawrence, a nonbinary Japanese-Canadian games journalist.

October 8th: In response to the recent widespread leaks, Rockstar officially announced Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition early, with an extremely vague teaser trailer. As widely predicted, the full, original announcement trailer was released on October 22nd, the 20th anniversary of GTA III’s launch and “GTA Day.” This collection of GTA 3, GTA Vice City, and GTA San Andreas remastered in Unreal Engine 4 will launch digitally for PS4/5, Switch, Xbox One/Series, and PC on November 11th 2021, taking the slot of the delayed GTAV next-gen edition as reported, and physical editions for PS4, Switch, and Xbox One+Series will release on December 7th. No statement on previously rumored mobile and Stadia releases at this time, but they’re if anything likely shunted to 2022 as was reported. This remastered collection features significantly refined visuals, updated gameplay for aiming, shooting, and UI modeled on GTA5, a new dynamic weather system, and support for both gyro and touchscreen controls on Switch. The collection’s physical release for Switch is being distributed and published by Nintendo itself as the latest in a line of major third party releases exclusives and partnerships, and potentially features the entire collection on cartridge with no download required. There is no consistency between retailers and regions on whether the physical release has a “download required” marker on it or not, so the jury is currently out on this with no definite answer. Any previously available digital versions of the individual games are being removed and replaced with the remasters, which includes the San Andreas remaster being added to Xbox Game Pass, while the GTA 3 remaster will be added to PS Now.

On the same date as Metroid Dread and the Switch OLED’s launch, Nintendo released the second volume of the Ask the Developer interview series, this time focusing on the R&D for the Switch OLED revision. The fourth and final part of the extensive piece featured Toru Yamashita discussing the Joy-con controllers. When the OLED was first announced, the Joy-cons packaged with it were officially described as basically the same as any existing Joy-cons, but Yamashita explains that he and others in R&D have at least attempted continuously over the past four years to make improvements to them, and are still doing so. Multiple small adjustments to internal components to improve wear resistance and durability of controller thumbsticks (for both Joy-cons and first party Pro controllers) have been made without Nintendo ever previously advertising and discussing them before, as a typical extension of Nintendo’s opposition to transparency. Nintendo’s official thumbstick reliability test was also quietly changed after the Wii U era test was deemed insufficient. All currently sold controllers feature these adjustments and further adjustments will continue to be made, but that hasn’t yet seemed to meaningfully decrease the number of thumbstick drift cases reported.

Tencent continued its shareholding spree by buying a 22% stake in horror dev Bloober Team for $19.5 million USD, making it Bloober’s largest external stakeholder.

Crystal Dynamics updated Marvel’s Avengers with pay to win features by taking the game’s existing XP boosting consumables and incorporating them into the buying in-game currency with real world money infrastructure previously only used for cosmetics. This decision is unsurprisingly proving widely unpopular, especially on the heels of the “slowing down the XP grind” update and the game’s addition to Game Pass to reach new players earlier this year. It’s blatantly obvious that the desired effect is for new players to run into the slow grind, want to catch up to friends or the existing playerbase generally, and pay extensively to catch up. It’s exploitative and embarrassing, and as noted by critical players, it blatantly breaks the developer’s previous public ‘promises’ to keep microtransactions exclusive to cosmetics (a system which was already unfair to a different kind of player) in the name of desperately squeezing more money out of a failed game.

October 11th: Word broke that a major dispute is brewing between the two corruption riddled corporations Electronic Arts and FIFA in negotiations for the FIFA video game series. The global soccer/football organization wants to exert greater control over the license, increasing the licensing fee and decreasing EA’s monetization of the franchise in the terms for the next contract. If a deal isn’t reached by the current contract’s expiration date, December 2022, EA will be required to change the name of its video game series and attempt to sustain its sales without the established brand, a bold move EA has internally indicated it is willing to do.

October 12th: Capcom launched the 20th Anniversary website for the Ace Attorney series. Based on potentially outdated materials from last year’s Capcom hack, a brand new Ace Attorney 7 may be announced during this anniversary season. With the success of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles to build off, it’s likely to see at least some momentum on the previously dormant series.

October 13th: Quantic Dream lost again in court when an appeals judge ruled in favor of a female employee who was unfairly dismissed, having been punitively fired for making complaints against sexual harassment in the workplace.

October 15th: The Animal Crossing: New Horizons Direct premiered with a whopping amount of new information, some exciting and some disappointing. The presentation opened by announcing that Update Version 2.0 will release on November 5th 2021, and proceeded to detail all that it features, starting with the Roost café manned by pigeon barista Brewster previously promoted in the September general Direct. New social interactions with both island residents and other players can be experienced within the Roost Café, especially thanks to the café’s amiibo call center, bringing in characters previously unavailable in New Horizons, including some who are completely new to the series as a whole. Kapp’n reappears to provide a charming sea shanty boat tour off the coast of the player’s island, leading to new islands featuring different environments, seasons, and items to explore at any time of the year. Harv’s island is undergoing a major revamp which needs a player’s support to complete its construction. Harv’s island will ultimately feature new permanent installations for various shopkeepers and services. This includes shopkeepers and services that are new to New Horizons‘ playerbase like hairstylist Harriet, who provides exclusive new hairstyles to add to the player’s repertoire, Katrina’s fortune telling, Tortimer’s storage and repairs, and Cyrus and Reese’s furniture customization, but also those more familiar to the newly expanded audience. Shopkeepers that previously operated on unreliable intermittent schedules like Kicks, Sahara, and Jolly Redd among others will now be able to update inventory consistently at their permanent shops. The designers of Update 2.0 have clearly made to sure find mechanically sufficient ways to reintroduce many beloved veteran characters.

Isabelle now leads group stretching for an island’s community in the central plaza, which players can participate in via button or motion controls. The library of food to grow and harvest in the game is being massively expanded to suit the introduction of cooking and various cooking recipes. Food powers up a player to harvest trees, rocks, etc. in single mighty strikes, but also provides charming home decor. Speaking of decor, lighting and ceiling decor items will now be available as part of the broader expansion of home and island customization, which also includes wall accents, various new fence types and customization of fences, and an expansion of the maximum amount of bridges and inclines on one island. Home item storage has been expanded up to 5,000 items, home exterior customization has many new options to choose from, new clothing and flooring patterns are available, and ordinances will be available to help an island operate more closely to a player’s preference (i.e., residents will wake up early if you wake up early), all in service to further personalization and customization. The camera app is also being upgraded, providing a new first person mode and a tripod mode to allow a player into their own close-up shots. New reactions and hairstyles (including but not limited to Harriet’s) are being added. K.K Slider has twelve new songs to play and a new music box is being added to play them when K.K. isn’t around. The reintroduction of various unique Gyroids to unearth, plant, grow, and use also helps expand the game’s musical variety. A new movement option to carefully scooch through tight spaces gives players the freedom to fill their home and island to the brim with items. Island residents have expanded in their interactivity, now inviting players into their homes and inviting themselves into players’ homes.

Everything I’ve discussed up to this point is all featured in the completely free Update Version 2.0, the final major free update for the game. Some of this new content had been previously datamined while it was still in development, like the Roost, harvesting and cooking, and gyroids. Based on the size of 2020’s major updates to this game, which typically entailed one new mechanic introduced at a time, I was expecting these to be gradually doled out piece by piece over many months and months instead of being released all at once. That is why I incorrectly called this not the last major free update to the game. I apologize for the error, but I do suspect the planned approach was changed mid-development in response to ongoing COVID complications. However, Update 2.0 will be matched with a second major update, a paid expansion titled Happy Home Paradise, which was announced during this Direct and will release on the same date as Update 2.0, November 5th, as the game’s sole paid expansion. The housing associations of the Happy Room Academy and Happy Home Academy were featured in every major entry of this series until they were expanded upon with the new Happy Home Designer business introduced in the titular stand-alone game released between New Leaf and New Horizons. The Happy Home Paradise DLC is a significantly more substantial iteration on what began with that stand-alone game, introducing a new resort archipelago which employs the player to design new vacation homes meant to fit the specific preferences of specific vacationing characters. Schools, theaters, restaurants, and gardens are among the facilities that resort homes can incorporate. Players will return from this job able to remodel their own residents’ homes as well. In addition to the significant increase to the total roster of unique items in the base game, Happy Home Paradise provides its own surge of new items and customizations for players to use in both satisfying resort customers and decorating their personal island.

Happy Home Paradise will be available for individual purchase for $25USD, and it will also be available as a feature of the NSO Expansion Pack subscription when the DLC launches on November 5th. The remaining details for NSO Expansion Pack’s launch were unexpectedly included at the tail end of the Animal Crossing Direct due to the DLC being featured within the new subscription tier. NSO Expansion Pack was announced to launch on October 25th at two annual prices, $50USD per year for an individual account and $80USD per year for a family group of up to 8 players. Updates of additional games will continue at a currently still undefined irregular pace, with the previously previewed future titles like Paper Mario labeled as “coming soon/coming next.” Those aforementioned new items available in Happy Home Paradise will remain purchased and available to purchase on a personal island after unsubscribing from NSO Expansion Pack. Only the new islands and the resort job are exclusive to either individually purchasing the expansion or remaining subscribed to NSO Expansion Pack. Additionally, every N64 game in NSO runs at 720p thanks to basic upscaling. Earlier in October, Nintendo of Europe addressed concerns by officially confirming that every game in N64 NSO can be played at 60Hz refresh rate regardless of region and that 50Hz ROMs are merely available as language options, exactly as I reported by relaying the analysis of LuigiBlood. My previous supposition on pricing for the new NSO tier was just barely correct, with the base price being $10 below Xbox Gold and PS+. But with this immediate big leap in price driven by the licensing costs for the expanded library, my interpretation of Nintendo’s strategy reverts to the initial NSO from when it first launched in 2018: start at a high price and keep adding value over several years without further price adjustment. I think, and emphasis perhaps needs to be put on think right now, that will be how it plays out. I think and I hope, but I don’t make any promises or guarantees.

Also on the 15th, journalist Marta Trivi at Spanish press site AnaitGames published an extensive exposé on working conditions at MercurySteam in Madrid during the development of Metroid Dread. This came after previous incidents, reports years ago on bad working conditions at MercurySteam during its time with the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow subseries, and just days earlier before Trivi’s article, numerous former employees spoke out against not being credited on Metroid Dread due to the unacceptable and cruel yet all too common practice within games of refusing to credit employees who left during development and/or didn’t contribute “enough” to a project. Work is work and credit is deserved no matter what, but especially when these developers could testify to their contributions’ presence in the final product itself, as happened here.

MercurySteam’s managerial culture maintains an outright disdainful, devaluing attitude towards its foundational staff. It not only maintains the policy that a developer must have been part of at least 25% of a project’s total dev time to receive credit, its management deliberately and extensively leverages contractor employees and contractor terms to get as much labor done as possible from those workers and then abruptly terminate them early enough so they don’t have to be credited them and they don’t have to be paid more. This is fundamentally exploitative. Miscommunication deliberate and otherwise is constantly cited as an issue affecting employees, sowing distrust and generally making people feel all the more unstable and vulnerable. The policy forbidding and penalizing any discussing of salary and any request for bonuses was at the center of that. (Punishments including deliberate isolation from coworkers and outright abrupt unfair terminations.) In early 2020, studio leader Enric Álvarez released an internal video message promising job security and ‘room for everybody’ despite how unstable things were: he then almost immediately fired a majority of the QA and 3D art teams.

Shortly after that the COVID pandemic was horrifically mismanaged: employees were forcibly rushed back to in person office work as soon as mid-March 2020 with insufficient safety measures, months ahead of Madrid and Spain being battered by COVID that summer. At the time in March 2020, the Professional Illustrators’ Association of Madrid called out MercurySteam for these irresponsible and unsafe practices, as seen here. Further unacceptable mid-pandemic practice was verbally promising full compensation to all staff before immediately attempting to renege that, attempting to withhold pay until enough internal protest and pressure occurred that management did give in and pay after all. There’s plenty more where all this comes from, but that’s the core of it. MercurySteam is one of the most successful game companies out of Spain and it infamously persistently employs and attempts exploitation and abuse of everyone below top leadership at every opportunity, with nowhere near enough consequence. These are solid enough amateur Spanish-to-English translations of Trivi’s article that I recommend if any readers would like to delve further on this matter. I used both my own private translation and those as my sources.

Valve updated the Rules and Guidelines to Steam to firmly state that all “applications built on blockchain technology that issue or allow exchange of cryptocurrencies or NFTs” are not to be published on the storefront, and delisted all applicable games or apps around the the same time. Epic’s Tim Sweeney, in his nature as the worst possible Willy Wonka of Silicon Valley, immediately made a point of announcing that blockchain is welcome on the Epic Store.

October 16th: The second annual DC Fandome event premiered and featured the second trailers for both Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League and WB Montreal’s Gotham Knights, right on cue after the success of these titles’ debuts at the first Fandome event. Neither trailer does much meaningful, they’re generally just montages of cinematics with flimsy attempts at representing absent (Squad) or generic (Knights)* gameplay. They’re story trailers and not particularly unique or compelling ones. Neither game has an updated release window either, still just 2022. Knights I would guess is H1 until further notice, just to put enough distance between them.

*I hadn’t previously seen the extended gameplay footage released for Gotham Knights shortly after the original DC Fandome in August 2020, but it certainly, undeniably exists.

October 18th: Bandai Namco and FromSoft announced a minor delay for Elden Ring, now scheduled to release on February 25th 2022. Alongside this, the companies announced that a closed network test for the game will take place in November.

Hamster, publisher of the Arcade Archives series, filed a trademark for ‘Console Archives’, suggesting some kind of expansion of its software library, though I am honestly unsure which console libraries they could get.

October 20th: Sony commemorated God of War (2018) reaching nearly 20 million copies sold by announcing that it will release for Windows PC and Steam in January 2022.

October 21st: Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone suddenly released the reveal trailer of his new game, Haunted Chocolatier, featuring gameplay footage and said title card, but only an “In Development” status for release. The game iterates on the core RPG, life sim, and social sim gameplay of his massive hit Stardew Valley with a focus on making and selling chocolate in your own fully self-operated chocolate store. ConcernedApe’s comments on the website for Haunted Chocolatier explained several more things: with his development style, it’s easy to put together some video that looks like a finished game, but there is a ton of content [he] still need[s] to make,” so “it will be a while before the game is done;” Haunted Chocolatier has only been in development for a year, but it’s also “actually not the first or only new project” from him, “but it’s the one [he] believe[s] will finish first.” Support for Stardew Valley is henceforth distinctly secondary to these new projects, but it isn’t dead yet either.

Square Enix and Deck Nine provided an update for the Switch release of Life is Strange: True Colors, now dating the digital Switch release to Early December 2021 with a physical release in 2022.

The Capcom Arcade Stadium collection released early this year was permanently changed in a significant way: each individual game can now be purchased and installed individually for only $2USD per, instead of the full $45 set or $15 bundles.

Among Us‘ final release date for Xbox and PlayStation platforms was announced as December 14th 2021. Physical editions for the game are also releasing now that Nintendo’s apparent timed exclusivity is up.

October 22nd: Nintendo and developer WayForward delayed Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp from December 2021 to Spring 2022 for further fine-tuning. Juggling the finalization of multiple games like the Advance Wars remake duology and River City Girls 2 has been challenging for the modest developer and something had to give. A new April release date has since been suggested by certain listings for Advance Wars. December 3rd 2021 still features Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain as the final first party release for calendar 2021.

Square Enix patched Nier Replicant, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider on PC to remove Denuvo DRM, after previously removing it from Life is Strange: True Colors almost immediately after launch earlier this fall. While it’s common to see this happen over time, True Colors‘ was so close to launch, and Nier Replicant has yet to be cracked at all, potentially suggesting a greater shift away from the unpopular software, likely for technical reasons.

CDPR delayed the full next-gen versions of The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 to 2022, delayed any and all further Cyberpunk patches to 2022, and acquired developer The Molasses Flood to work on a spinoff project from one of its main IPs.

October 25th: An anonymous Redditor first leaked (with some inaccurate details) the existence of a Warner Bros. and HBO Max focused crossover platform fighter on Friday October 22nd, followed by Jeff Grubb commenting on the game over the weekend and publishing a formal VentureBeat report on Monday the 25th. This latest Smash clone is Multiversus, a tag team platform fighter currently in early development by an unknown team (speculated to be WB San Diego) which features such halcyon fighters as various iconic DC superheroes, Gandalf the Grey, Adventure Time‘s Finn and Jake, Bugs Bunny, Rick Sanchez, Steven Universe, Arya Stark, and Norville Shaggy Rogers of Scooby Doo. The game’s ambitions don’t stop there: it is confirmed to feature full voice acting and cross-play support, its leaked pitch documents and character select screen (which were quickly hit with copyright takedown) features an original character, and Grubb reported that Space Jam 2 star LeBron James is a leading candidate for a DLC fighter. The game will extensively feature DLC, but WB has yet to decide whether or not the game is free to play.

343i and Microsoft premiered the Halo Infinite Campaign Gameplay Overview trailer, the first extended look at campaign gameplay since the polarizing July 2020 showcase.

October 26th: The full global launch of Niantic’s AR mobile title Pikmin Bloom began rolling out in time for the series’ 20th anniversary. Also, Returnal was updated to 2.0, adding both a new photo mode and a form of save system to address a major complaint about the game. One file is provided for the player to save the game somewhere safe mid-run (save will be not available during combat or narrative sequences), fully quit out, and load back in, at which point the old save file is erased.

October 27th: On Wednesday, Sony premiered a 20 minute State of Play presentation focused on third party and previously announced games. It will most likely be the last Sony presentation of 2021 and serves as a shorter complement to the major first party presentation in September, much like a December Indie World will complement the September Direct.

The presentation opened by announcing Deathverse: Let It Die, a battle royale follow-up to 2016’s Let It Die from publisher GungHo and developer SUPERTRICK without the original’s co-developer, Grasshopper Manufacture. The sequel, set hundreds of years after its predecessor, launches on PS4 and 5 in Spring 2022. The episodic adventure game We Are OFK was further detailed after its previous appearance at The Game Awards 2020; it’s coming in 2022 to PC, PS4, and PS5, and follows the lives of an allegedly real band trying to make it in Los Angeles. Developer Young Horses announced a major free update coming to Bugsnax in Early 2022: The Isle of Bigsnax, which adds a whole new island featuring new story content, a dozen new species of creature and prehistoric giant forms of previous creatures, as well as a customizable home for the player. A new gameplay trailer announced the December 16th 2021 launch date scheduled for Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach, the latest entry in the series owned by infamous neoconservative religious fundamentalist bigot Scott Cawthon. A trailer announced that this summer’s critically acclaimed Devolver-published action game Death’s Door is coming to PS4 and PS5 (and Switch) on November 23rd. A free extra game published by DD comes as a preorder bonus. KartRider Drift is a Korean independent free to play kart racer currently in beta on Steam, and its trailer at this show announced that in addition to Xbox One and Series, it will be coming to PS4 and PS5 in 2022. It features multiple strange cartoony legally distinct knockoff characters of icons like Mega Man and Final Fantasy‘s Black Mage.

SNK announced that a beta for KoF XV will be exclusively available for PS4 and PS5 on November 19th and 20th, ahead of its February 2022 launch. An asymmetric online multiplayer survival game currently in Early Access on PC, First Class Trouble, was announced as coming to PS4 and PS5 as a console launch exclusive on November 2nd 2021, where it’ll be available on PS+ for a month. First Class Trouble is a 3D third person adventure game where characters are working together, racing to prevent disaster on their vessel, but some are secretly working against that goal. It didn’t occur to me as I was watching, but “Among Us with ‘realistic graphics'” was a joke I heard plenty after the presentation. The presentation closed out with an announcement trailer for Star Ocean: The Divine Force and an extended gameplay trailer for Little Devil Inside. The Divine Force is the sixth mainline entry in Square Enix and tri-Ace’s series and its first new entry in five years; it’s coming to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC via Steam in 2022. Little Devil Inside is a 3D third person action game coming in 2022 which started as a Kickstarter project in 2015 from Kody Lee and Neostream Interactive in Seoul. With a surreal Victorian setting, a distinctive visual style, and a dynamic open world, the game made waves before disappearing for a few years, until finally being re-revealed by Sony during the summer 2020 debut PS5 presentation as having been at some point funded as a timed exclusive for the PS4 and PS5. The game will release on Xbox One and Switch after its timed exclusivity wraps up.

Seven months after approving Microsoft’s purchase of Zenimax, the European Commission began its investigation into Nvidia’s pending acquisition of Arm on grounds of concerns about anti-competitive, monopolistic impact. The Commission has until March 15th 2022 to reach its decision on the purchase.

Composer Shoji Meguro left his full time position at Atlus to go independent, with the next game he’s composing for already announced. Meguro will still compose for Atlus in a freelance position.

As the launch of Halo Infinite creeps closer and closer, 343i announced that on January 13th 2022 it will be fully ending legacy services to all Halo games on Xbox 360, in another move to increase resources directed to the new game. The sunsetting will consist of gradual action between November and January, with repeated notification for affected players, data transfers, and halting of digital sales up until January 13th when matchmaking, fileshare, and other online multiplayer functionality will no longer operate. Online servers and full main functionality will remain supported for at least another full year, to Fall 2022 or later. This decision only affects those original Xbox 360 versions of Halo: ReachHalo 4Halo 3Halo 3: ODSTHalo: Combat Evolved AnniversarySpartan Assault, and Halo Wars. The games rereleased via Master Chief Collection or other means to Xbox One/Series and PC will remain supported.

October 28th:

Square Enix announced that it will bring the Tomb Raider series to Nintendo Switch for the first time in 2022, partnering with port studio Feral Interactive to release the more arcade-y subseries Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris sometime next year. This will hopefully be just the beginning for the widely requested major series.

Ubisoft’s latest earnings call featured extensive defensiveness over problems like the long delayed titles in its upcoming catalogue (Prince of Persia Remake, Roller Champions, etc.), and the still rampant abuse and negligence within the company, which got its latest coverage this past month with eight current employees and one former employee discussing unimproved conditions from just this year with Kotaku. But Ubisoft would rather talk about it proudly announcing plans to heavily invest in blockchain technology by funding blockchain game developer Animoca, developing new games built from the ground up on blockchain tech, and integrating blockchain into existing Ubisoft titles. Beyond the blatantly obvious flaws in this plan, (the massively harmful outsized greenhouse gas emissions directly resulting from blockchain and the highly ephemeral, collapsible value of the technology’s market) these plans put Ubisoft in direct inevitable conflict with Valve over the aforementioned ban of blockchain from Steam. My bet would be that Ubisoft blinks first, as much as I would love to see many Ubisoft games removed outright from Steam.

October 29th:

Krafton, the holding company which owns PUBG and its developer among other development studios, acquired the developers of the Subnautica series, Unknown Worlds.

Nintendo of America unexpectedly announced that it will begin closing its Redwood City and Toronto offices. Employees were understandably upset and shocked by the news, but there’s no current allegations of layoffs. Nintendo is requesting that their California employees begin transferring to Redmond, Washington, and their Ontario employees begin transferring to Vancouver, as part of gradually diverting all operations from the closing smaller offices to Nintendo of America’s two headquarter offices. Displacing roughly 100 employees across massive distances between cities regardless of their life circumstances is a rather cold, unfortunate move. As part of this process, SVP of Sales and Marketing Nick Chavez will be leaving Nintendo for Kentucky Fried Chicken and replaced by Ms. Devon Pritchard. Doug Bowser previously held the position before his promotion to NOA President.

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