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 Strikes Back:
When Vicarious Visions was merged into Blizzard in January, Jennifer Oneal was promoted out of her acclaimed studio where she’d worked for 13 years to become Blizzard’s VP of software development. A little over six months later at the beginning of August, she was promoted again alongside Mike Ybarra to become Blizzard’s first female co-President, replacing J. Allen Brack. Now, as of the beginning of November, she has announced plans to leave the company entirely at year’s end. This was announced in the company’s latest quarterly earnings call, which is what I’ll be discussing next, but I assure you we have more to say about Oneal’s very turbulent year soon enough.
Activision-Blizzard was only the first of several major games publishers to have an earnings call that week. Along with Oneal quitting, the publisher detailed what they considered to be a relative financial underperformance but still entailed gaining more money than almost anyone ever will, and announced yet more delays to both Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4. All of this bad news led directly to the company’s largest stock drop in thirteen years, down by 14%. This will be the first of several events that further contextualize Bobby Kotick’s desperate PR move from last month. The second was the first launch sales data for Call of Duty Vanguard published on the game’s second weekend. In at least one region, the game had its worst performance since Call of Duty 4 in 2007, and overall it had a 40% decline from the previous entry.
The Wall Street Journal published a bombshell report on November 16th which did, as you probably heard, manage to significantly further escalate this company’s public scandals. The report at its core further widely exposed the extent to which Bobby Kotick personally was and is aware and negligent to the rampant abuse within the company, actively covering it up, and being a perpetrator in the abuse himself. The report provides a sweeping degree of sourcing and evidence to its claims both generally and in specific incidents.
A supervisor at Sledgehammer Games, Javier Panameno, repeatedly got his employee too drunk and raped her until she left the company, and sexually harassed another employee. Panameno was fired significantly later in 2018, and has since also left Zynga once it opened an investigation due to the WSJ’s investigation. Bobby Kotick deliberately kept his board of directors uninformed of both the rape and an out of court settlement with Panemeno’s first victim. When Treyarch’s Dan Bunting was investigated for sexual harassment and the investigation recommended his termination, Bobby Kotick intervened to keep him because of his role in Call of Duty’s production. Like Panameno, Bunting did eventually leave, quitting recently once he became aware of WSJ’s investigation.
Kotick’s own cases of mistreating women and keeping them quietly settled include him firing a flight attendant from his private jet for complaining about being sexually harassed by the pilot1, and repeatedly harassing an assistant of his, even threatening to kill her. The board of directors was kept unaware of many incidents, such as most to all of those described in the original DFEH lawsuit, including the harassment-induced suicide.
Since the lawsuits against the company first began this summer, since the investigations first began in 2018, Kotick has repeatedly lied to his board of directors about his knowledge and handling of misconduct and downplayed what he couldn’t lie about. He is personally part of maintaining a culture which abuses, protects abusers, and silences victims and praises the abusers that it can no longer protect.
A major part of the WSJ report was asking Jen Oneal to providing further context on her rapid departure from Blizzard after becoming its co-leader, to which she agreed. Only one month into her tenure as co-president, she sent an email to Activision legal to first discuss her resignation. She’s quoted as saying, “it is clear that the company will never prioritize our people the right way,” and described her history of being sexually harassed, consistently “tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against” over her 14 years with the company. Oneal was consistently paid less than Mike Ybarra during their shared tenures within the company before and after the promotion to the exact same position as co-president, including a raise that Ybarra received post-promotion which ONeal did not receive. Her multiple requests for equity as co-president were continually rejected and a contract with equal pay was only offered after she had already formally quit, as a lure back in. Oneal personally divulged and published that final detail only after Mike Ybarra had discussed them both starting as president with their previous salaries at first, without any of the additional context.
The day after the report, the Activision-Blizzard Board of Directors issued what is still at publication its only official response. It stands by Bobby Kotick. So much for zero tolerance.
Very shortly after the WSJ published its report, the ABK Workers Alliance immediately responded by engaging in several actions. They organized and staged a walkout, and worked to circulate and publish two petitions demanding that Bobby Kotick be immediately removed from the company. One petition is just for members of the group or otherwise employees of the company, and one petition is for the public to show solidarity. Within days, the internal petition had more than 1300 signatures and the public petition had several thousand. As of this article’s publication, the public petition has more than 32,000 signatures.
By Friday November 19th, leaders at all three major console producers had internally responded to the new report, as Jim Ryan, Phil Spencer, and Doug Bowser issued memos to all of their respective employees to more explicitly, actively condemn Activision’s abuses and failures, particularly the board’s protection of Bobby Kotick, and declare how they are acting on the matter at this time. Spencer said that Xbox is evaluating its partnership with A-B and making ongoing adjustments, while Bowser said that Nintendo has directly addressed Activision and their partnership, has worked with the ESA on improving policy on workplace abuse, and is assessing further action.
When Imran Khan at Fanbyte made the first report on Bowser’s email a few days after it was sent, Nintendo did publicly confirm that the description of the event and the email’s contents was accurate, without disclosing further details about the actions it’s taken. All three emails did ultimately have to be leaked in order to become public knowledge. This is yet another example of how we need legally mandated better public transparency in this industry and the corporate world as a whole. As such, each of these publishers should also publicly address their own past failings in conducting safe workplaces. Nintendo of America has at least one case, Greg Everage making the Redwood offices unsafe for four years; it took him sexually assaulting a coworker to be terminated. Bill Gates is now publicly notorious for his inappropriate conduct with employees, on top of further reports of mistreatment at Microsoft and Xbox. A class action gender discrimination lawsuit against Sony Interactive Entertainment for behavior at its California office was literally just filed on November 22nd, mere days after Ryan’s email. And even more recently, the same day I’m finishing this article, Sony has just confirmed that it fired a senior vice president who’d been with them for eight years after he was caught on video in an independent pedophilia sting operation earlier this week.
To Microsoft’s limited credit, they also just had a positive development on this front as well. Last week, Microsoft’s shareholders protest voted against leadership and demanded greater transparency on harassment claims and the handling thereof, an action first suggested after the 2018 class action lawsuit and exacerbated by the revelations this year about Bill Gates’ actions at the company. Microsoft president Brad Smith’s immediate answer to the vote was a verbal promise for better transparency both internal and external, with some elaboration. He declared that a third party will review how Microsoft handles harassment claims and publish the results, that Microsoft will globally and publicly publish greater information on its gender pay gap data, and gave an example of a disclosure they will provide more of. In the previous fiscal year (July 2020 to July 2021), Microsoft investigated 51 complaints and found 47% substantiated.
Ultimately though, I stand by what I said before: these leaders should do more, but I am sincerely, affectingly heartened by what they’ve already done, because I expected nothing, and what I got was decency. When you’re in power, there’s so much to lose by doing more than nothing. And this was more than nothing. However obligatory, that counts for something.
On November 23rd (though it didn’t become public knowledge until more than a week later) six state government treasurers joined the chorus of mounting public and government pressure on Activision-Blizzard. The treasurers of California, Oregon, Delaware, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Illinois, who directly manage their government’s investments in big hirers like A-B, wrote and sent a joint letter to A-B’s board of directors to demand more serious action, stating that they want a meeting to discuss its unsatisfactory response to the company’s troubles and that they are considering directly calling for Kotick to resign. If this meeting doesn’t occur by December 20th, further action will be taken. Some of these states have active investments and shares in Activision-Blizzard and are being directly negatively affected by the company’s major stock drops and broader failings. These treasurers are effectively threatening to withdraw support and sell their stocks, further damaging the company.
Statements issued to Axios by Illinois treasurer Michael Frerichs and Massachusetts treasurer Deborah Goldberg respectively, are as follows.
“We’re concerned that the current CEO and board directors don’t have the skillset, nor the conviction to institute these sweeping changes needed to transform their culture, to restore trust with employees and shareholders and their partners.”Michael Frerichs
“This particular case has been waiting for the board to step in and do an investigation. A true investigation, an outside investigator. And, I mean, what was it, two weeks ago that they said they stand by the CEO?”Deborah Goldberg
Geoff Keighley did a promotional interview with The Washington Post ahead of the Game Awards next week, in which he addressed the question of his event’s intersection with Activision-Blizzard. He saw it as something to navigate very carefully, saying “We want to support employees and developers” in effectively all respects, both coming forward with their stories and being able to present their games.2 This, or more accurately secondary coverage criticizing his perceived neutrality, especially the headlines thereof, quickly went viral and inspired significant criticism, prompting a response further clarifying himself, in which he confirmed that no Activision-Blizzard announcements will be featured in the show, i.e., he hasn’t received any money from them, at least on that account. Keighley is clearly trying to ride the fine line between nuance and wishy washiness, possibly feeling, rightly or not, that he’s limited in what he’s capable of as basically a marketing guy. I don’t think he fully succeeds riding that line, so I don’t strictly begrudge the criticisms he’s received, but I am feeling more complicated about it than usual. How much is “supporting developers in all ways” just unchallenging for himself and how much is it maybe the right perspective? Frankly I was frustrated with how many criticisms of Keighley seemed to be responding exclusively to a headline as if it were a direct quote instead of any direct quote. Ultimately I do think the comments are worth criticizing for not taking a strong enough stand on the issue, but I’d prefer people were doing it in a more effectual, meaningfully engaged way.
On Friday December 3rd, employees of developer Raven Software started publicly discussing that the contractors in their Quality Assurance division, after being promised for months that a pay restructure was being designed to soon increase their wages, most of them are instead being terminated between now and January 28th. In addition to being strung along and tossed away, these workers were newly relocated to Wisconsin for these positions and now must scramble to find new work in a new place. The workers that do remain are being given $1.50 raises, new benefits and bonuses, and even becoming full employees, but the majority are being fired to make these improvements “cost-effective,” despite Raven’s Call of Duty Warzone being profitable in billions of dollars. Kotaku reporting’s sources reconfirmed all of this.
And finally, also last week, whistleblower employee Jessica Gonzalez, who first broke the news of Activision-Blizzard destroying legal evidence, publicly announced her resignation from the company and departure from the games industry after a considerable personal effort to attempt to improve the company from within. Her stirring words pictured below.
November 2nd: Following a brief bout of limited testing, Netflix Games more fully launched on the service’s app, albeit currently only on Android and with only five games.
As determined by examining an increase in the overall series sales numbers, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is now believed to have successfully surpassed Capcom’s lifetime sales target for the duology after only its first quarter, likely and hopefully further paving the way for the previously planned Ace Attorney 4-6 collection and Ace Attorney 7.
Almost a month after adding a pay-to-win system to Marvel’s Avengers by making XP-boosting consumables purchasable with real money, Crystal Dynamics officially responded to widespread criticism, apologizing and removing the feature on the same day. Later the same week, Spider-Man as the next playable hero was officially announced to be arriving 14 months after launch on November 30th, still exclusive to PS4 and PS5 players.
The final entry in Masahiro Sakurai’s Famitsu column was published after an 18 year run, featuring an extensive interview providing an overview with new info on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, its DLC cycle, and the series’ future. The only real answer on said future is that it remains more uncertain than ever for now due to Sakurai’s advancing age, degree of involvement in the series, and how demanding the scope of Ultimate was.
Major publishers’ earnings calls for the July-September quarter continued throughout the week. Take Two’s call on Wednesday brought two major announcements, along with the usual update of GTAV managing to sell more copies in its 96th month of release than many games do in years or their entire lifetimes. Take Two announced that its licensed superhero game from Firaxis, Marvel’s Midnight Suns, is delayed into the next fiscal year and the second half of 2022. Take Two also announced that it was canceling developer Hangar13’s current project, Project Volt, which had been in development for four years, during which it was repeatedly rebooted. The game was previously described as an open world game with Lovecraftian elements, and at the time of cancellation had been logged as a $53 million USD loss for the company. It was determined that the amount of time it would still take to complete the game was too great relative to its costs and profit margins. Take-Two held a meeting days later with Hangar 13 to discuss the studio’s next steps, which ultimately confirmed that there will be no layoffs.
Yacht Club Games delayed Shovel Knight Dig to 2022. Later in the month, however, Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon was confirmed for a December 13th launch on Switch, PS4, and PC.
Just in time for EA’s Andrew Wilson to officially take a positive stance on blockchain tech and employing it in the future, EA and Xbox built further on their partnership when they announced that all Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will have access to a ten hour free trial of the full game for Battlefield 2042 on November 12th, one week ahead of launch. This put Game Pass Ultimate at parity with the privileges extended to any EA Play subscriber, and near-parity (no trial limit) with certain pre-orderers. No word on if the ten hour time limit accounts for install time.
November 4th: The earnings calls continued until morale improved, with Nintendo publishing their quarterly financial update at the usual time of mid-afternoon for Japan, middle of the night here in North America. This update covering sales between July and September 2021 didn’t bring much in the way of shocking news at first, mostly trends continuing apace, like evergreen games selling well and 2021 being a decline from 2020 but still the Switch’s second best performing year overall. Data on major October releases did come in, just at a slightly slower pace, we’ll get there.
The Switch reached roughly 93 million consoles sold, including the Switch OLED’s preorders. Skyward Sword HD was the quarter’s biggest seller at 3.6 million copies sold, putting it already roughly equal with the original’s lifetime sales, per admittedly outdated records. WarioWare: Get It Together! went unmentioned on the new sales documents, indicating that it didn’t reach one million copies sold in its first month of release. As of the end of September 2021, NSO now has over 32 million subscribers. NSO Expansion Pack’s subscriptions from October 25th to the time of briefing on November 5th (Japan time) are included in that.
The biggest news only came a few days later once the full presentation was published online: over the next five years, Nintendo is massively reinvesting its profits from the current generation back into game development as well as multimedia IP development, to the tune of 100 billion yen/$900 million USD for first party game development, 300 billion yen/$2.7 billion USD for the Universal Studios theme parks and new Nintendo stores, and 50 billion yen/$450 million USD for non theme park licensing, first and foremost film and television projects.
After I reported on it earlier this year, Devolver Digital officially entered public trading at an initial value of $950 million USD. Sony and NetEase both immediately became shareholders in Devolver, purchasing 5% and 8% of the company’s total stocks, respectively.
Creative Assembly announced that Total War: Warhammer 3‘s launch date is February 17th. Later in the month, it was confirmed that Total War development is pivoting fully to this upcoming entry soon, once the last expansion for Troy releases on December 14th.
November 5th: Square Enix’s own earnings call delayed the FFXIV expansion Endwalker to December 7th (Dec. 3rd for pre-order early access) due to a need for additional polish, while also announcing that due to its satisfaction with sighs the Million Arthur franchise NFT trial set, it intends to begin fully investing in and commercializing NFTs.
November 7th: Ubisoft announced ’emergency’ pay raises in attempt to retain widely departing senior staff. These raises are scaled to existing salaries, which seems like an unnecessary optics blunder in this particular context.
Developer Q-Games announced that they will rebuild and relaunch The Tomorrow Children in 2022 after purchasing all rights to the game from its previous publisher Sony. It’s since been confirmed in a Famitsu interview by Dylan Cuthbert that when the game returns, it will still be on PS4, but it will no longer be free to play or have microtransactions, and its servers will be replaced.
November 9th: Major VFX company Weta Digital announced that Peter Jackson has sold its tech division, featuring 275 engineers and its full suite of software tools and technology, to Unity Software for $1.65 billion USD. Unity intends to make Weta’s software open source.
Riot Games revealed the rhythm-action game HexTech Mayhem: A League of Legends Story by the Bit.Trip developers as a tease ahead of its events later in the month.
November 10th: As the headliner for its showcase, on the verge of The Gunk’s December launch, Thunderful announced and release a teaser trailer for a brand new game in their hit SteamWorld series, SteamWorld Headhunter, a fully 3D third person co op action game. No release window, platforms, or other details are available at this time.
Valve officially delayed its first shipments of the Steam Deck handheld from December 2021 to February 2022, with customers’ more recent orders being in turn delayed further into 2022 and even 2023. Valve is alongside Nintendo and Sony in continuing to be hit hard by supply chain and distribution chain issues, as the latter two both had to once again cut down down their planned total shipments of their respective hardware through the current fiscal year, in turn cutting down their sales forecasts as well.
Bandai Namco announced that its crossover fighting game Jump Force will be delisted in 2022 over license expirations.
November 11th: The GTA remaster trilogy officially launched to a very wide and very poor reception, primarily due to technical issues and poor choices in the visual updating. Multiple major patches since have already addressed a lot of the major or at least most widely viral issues. These patches are detailed here and here. Unfortunately at the same time as the latest update on November 30th, Rockstar delayed the game’s physical versions, pushing the Xbox and PS4 physical releases to December 17th and the Switch physical release to Early 2022.
November 12th: The Verge published an interview with NoA President Doug Bowser in which he revealed some significant additional sales info to complement the previous week’s briefing. In the US during October, the Switch Family sold 711,000 consoles, a very solid performance, 3% lower than last year’s insane constant overperformance, and 314,00 of those, almost half, were units of the new Switch OLED. Meanwhile in the US alone in its launch month of October, Metroid Dread officially sold 854,000 copies across physical and digital release, instantly becoming the series’ best launch ever by far and setting/breaking several series records in the process. The US is the bestselling region for Metroid and its previous best launch was the first Metroid Prime, which sold less than half of what Dread did, roughly 360,000. It’ll be kinda fun to add the data of Metroid Prime’s sales on Switch to that comparison next year. Bowser also noted, without specific data, that they’ve recorded a major sales spike for Animal Crossing: New Horizons since its big final updates.
November 15th: A 20th anniversary Xbox event was held, during which more than 70 additional older games were updated to be backwards compatible with Xbox One and Series, and Halo Infinite’s full multiplayer surprise-launched a month early as a treat for fans who’ve been waiting a very long time for Infinite. The Infinite multiplayer launch was almost delayed by a last minute technical issue, but it was patched over the weekend. It’s officially labeled as an open beta, but open betas don’t go this long. All of this was independently leaked by several reliable reporters ahead of its announcement. Xbox confirmed that this will be the final addition to the current backwards compatibility program due to having reached what Xbox considers to be the limits of what it can accomplish through legal and technical hurdles. The internal BC team is now fully shifted over to supporting FPS Boost (eventually, after a current pause) and maintaining 1:1 compatibility between Xbox One and Xbox Series.
All 76 newly backwards compatible Xbox games (Some of these games aren’t on the digital storefront and require an original physical disc to play.) :3
Every game updated with FPS Boost support on 11/15:4
At initial update, TimeSplitters 2 and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect had an error where the aim sensitivity was too high, but as of December 2nd had been updated again to resolve the issue.
Developer 343industries also announced the same day that multiplayer seasons of Halo Infinite were now six months instead of four, further delaying the second and third seasons, and the launches of co-op campaign support in season 2 and Forge mode in season 3 respectively, by an extra two months each.
November 16th: Riot Games held a presentation on various games within the expanded League franchise. Both the aforementioned Hextech Mayhem and the turn-based RPG Ruined King were surprise launched right after the presentation on November 16th. Both of those games are on Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Riot also revealed a single player adventure game by The Sexy Brutale‘s Tequila Works, Song of Nunu, provided details on the action-platformer CONV/RGENCE coming in 2022 from Double Stallion, and very briefly teased one more new game. Later, the Undercity Nights events led into some new details on the League fighting game, which won’t launch until 2023 at the earliest. None of this makes up for Riot’s long, unchanged history of obstruction and abuse. I’m quite sad to know that I won’t be able to play any more games from Tequila, I really liked Sexy Brutale.
Bandai Namco released a trailer announcing a new Dragon Ball game riffing on asymmetrical multiplayer horror like Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th, Dragon Ball: The Breakers, coming in 2022 to Switch, PS4, Xbox One/Series, and PC. A week later, a second gameplay trailer was released and the game’s closed beta was detailed, having since begun on December 3rd.
Jenny LeClue 2 was announced to be in development by its official Twitter account.
November 17th: Volition announced that it’s delaying the upcoming reboot of Saints Row from February to August 2022 to extend the game’s QA and polishing time.
Capcom officially delayed its upcoming next-gen Pragmata from 2022 to 2023, a delay which had been rumored since as early as January.
Per personal sources, House of the Dead Remake has been delayed to 2022, with a new release date reportedly coming soon.
November 18th: Following from Sony’s acquisition of EVO earlier this year, eSports organization Panda Global announced on Twitter that it had secured a partnership with Nintendo of America to hold licensed Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Super Smash Bros. Melee competitive events in North America starting in 2022. Nintendo of America confirmed this less than 20 minutes after. More details on these cash-prize events are coming soon.
This is the first time Nintendo has ever agreed to license competitive events featuring their games to outside parties in a more active and enthusiastic partnership, rather than sticking to fully organizing them in-house and staying relatively hands-off to anything ellse. This is also the first time in history for a Nintendo-sponsored Melee event to occur. Nintendo has had a negative relationship with unlicensed outside competitive events in the past, especially those related to the ever-fervent Melee scene, having a history of cease-and-desisting these events as recently as earlier this year and last year. Nintendo of America and especially marketing manager Bill Trinen have been at the forefront of a more active and positive relationship between the publisher and the esports community.
After multiple major leaks about it last month, and teases from WB social media the previous evening, WB Games and developer Player First officially announced the crossover platform fighter Multiversus with a rather extensively detailed trailer featuring plenty of gameplay. The game has been in development since 2019 as Player First Games’ debut title, and will launch in 2022. All of the marketing for Multiversus so far across social media has emphasized the previously reported full voice acting.
The game ultimately is free-to-play, with in-game purchases, “many more characters continually added,” and “upcoming content-filled seasons,” all distinctly mentioned without current elaboration on exactly how its ftp system works, beyond the dailies and battle passes visible in the trailer. Public registration for prelaunch playtests opened on the game’s official site on the same day as announcement.
Multiversus will release for Xbox One/Series, PS4/5, and PC via Steam in 2022; no Switch or mobile version is currently confirmed, although the FAQ on the game’s crossplay mentions that crossplay support is “across all launch platforms,” suggesting that it could be yet another game ported to Switch post-launch.
The confirmed voice cast so far is as follows: Kevin Conroy as Batman, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark, George Newbern as Superman, Tara Strong as Harley Quinn, Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, Eric Bauza as Bugs Bunny and Tom&Jerry, Jeremy Shada and John DiMaggio as Finn and Jake, Estelle as Garnet, as well as Andrew Frankel as original character Reindog, newer voice actress Abby Trott* as Wonder Woman, and The Loud House‘s Daniel DiVenere taking over as Steven Universe.
*(Netflix Evangelion, Fire Emblem Three Houses)
After some delay Sloclap fully scheduled a new launch date for Sifu, announcing that it will release for PS4 and PS5 on February 8th 2022.
Developer OverBorder and publisher Team17 delayed their indie soulslike Thymesia from December 2021 to 2022 mere weeks before launch.
The first trailer for WWE2K22 was released, featuring new and returning highly requested gameplay modes. But will it be able to compete with the AEW game by the WWF No Mercy guy? We’ll see.
Developer 343industries has in just a few weeks undergone multiple cycles of planning, designing, announcing, and releasing updates to address criticisms of Halo Infinite‘s live service systems, sppecifically its Battle Pass, starting since the 16th, one day after launch. Most recently, it was confirmed that no modes are not exclusive timed events, those are previews ahead of full updates. As such, 343i will be adding additional permanent game modes and playlists over time, with the first batch set to come before the end of December.
Several rounds of changes were made to the battle pass for faster, more consistent XP gain, among other things. Battlefield 2042 is facing similar problems endemic to how the industry has largely approached the live service structure in a tedious, shoddy, and exploitative fashion. At best still pointless distractions from very satisfying and fun core gameplay, like in Halo’s case.
November 19th: Playtonic Games announced that Tencent has purchased a minority stake of its shares, providing the indie with a sizable investment to expand both its development and publishing fronts without losing any creative control. Playtonic will hire more developers and increase its number of teams and offices, with a plan for 90 total employees in another two years, expanding all three of its dev teams, a new HQ, and more games being worked on at once. A gamesindustry interview details this further, including that a direct 3D platformer sequel to Yooka-Laylee is among the project plans.
Bandai Namco released an announcement trailer for Pac-Man Museum +, a follow-up to the original Museum with games that one didn’t include, and some that haven’t been released in over a decade. But there’s uh, there’s still no Ms. Pac-Man. This collection is scheduled to launch in Early 2022 for Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and Switch.
After roughly a decade of rocky independence, Harmonix Music Systems, developers of Rock Band, DropMix, Fuser, and the first two main Guitar Hero games, announced on the 23rd that it had been acquired by an abusive bloated mass corporation yet again. Instead of Viacom (or its partner on Guitar Hero being bought by Activision), Harmonix has now been bought by none other than Epic Games. Harmonix is immediately pivoting from its creative, experimental stand-alone projects to “creating musical journeys and gameplay for Fortnite.”
After more than 20 total years at Bioware, Matt Goldman, Dragon Age 4‘s post-reboot senior creative director of the past four years, has left Bioware again. Goldman’s replacement hasn’t yet been named.
Annapurna released a new accolades focused trailer for Twelve Minutes, which additionally announced that the game would release for PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch on December 7th. The game’s years as an intensely hyped indie featured at Xbox events ultimately ended with its storytelling and ending becoming fairly controversial, but the timed exclusivity and porting deals Annapurna probably arranged years ago certainly weren’t anticipating that.
The latest development update for Street Fighter V, alongside further detailing and announcing the release date (November 29th) for the game’s final character Luke, featured comments by Takayuki Nakayama declaring that there will be “more information next year” for their next project and the future of Street Fighter, indicating that after extended internal turmoil and unofficial rumblings, Street Fighter 6 might be on track to be announced and maybe even released in 2022. Street Fighter 6 was previously delayed out of 2021 due to developmental difficulties and as of the Capcom leaks late last year is scheduled for a 2022 release.
Major Hollywood presser Deadline officially broke the news that Amazon Studios has nearly completed a licensing deal for developing a Mass Effect live action TV series. This had been previously teased early this year by actor Henry Cavill when he suggested he was doing research for a “secret project” with what was quickly determined to be a printout of a Mass Effect wiki page.
Nintendo announced and released the final major free update for Mario Golf: Super Rush, featuring Wiggler and Shy Guy as new characters, two new full golf courses, and two new game modes, Target Golf and One-On One-Putt , alongside various smaller QOL patches.
Worker cooperative indie dev Motion Twin announced and released the latest update for its hit action game Dead Cells, the “Everyone is Here” crossover event featuring weapons and skins from fellow indie action games Hollow Knight, Hyper Light Drifter, Guacamelee, Blasphemous, Curse of the Dead Gods, and Skul: The Hero Slayer.
November 24th: Video Games Chronicle broke since reconfirmed news that Fawzi Mesmar, DICE’s head of design since 2019 who worked on both Battlefield and Star Wars Battlefront, has departed from the company, claiming that he’d previously discussed it with execs some time ago that he wanted to leave once 2042 launched. He formally left on November 26th after announcing it to colleagues earlier that week.
November 27th: Spike Chunsoft announced Enigma Archives: Rain Code, the latest ‘dark mystery’ from Too Kyo Games, ‘the main’ Danganronpa team, without much further detail at this time.
November 28th: During the second anniversary livestream for 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, Atlus and Vanillaware announced that they are porting the game to Nintendo Switch, releasing it on April 12th 2022 in the West and April 14th in Japan.
November 29th: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and several co-sponsors (including one of my home state senators!) on Cyber Monday reintroduced a bill intended to crack down on scalpers using automatic bots to buy up wide swathes of popular holiday goods from online retailers, including the latest graphics cards and gaming consoles, and resell them at insane markups. The bill is based on the 2016 Better Online Ticket Sales Act (for live event ticket scalping) which 1. outlawed ticket scalping and set a significant fine to punish it, and 2. tightens regulations to incentivize both ends of the problem, the scalper and the seller. There’s plenty of logistical complications to this having the tangible impact it should have, but it’s still appreciable to see.
November 30th: Only two weeks after it was publicly delayed out of 2021, IGN exclusively premiered the release date trailer for Sons of the Forest, announcing a May 20th 2022 launch for PC.
December 1st: EA and Respawn announced that they will delist the original Titanfall from all digital storefronts and services on March 1st 2022, likely provoked by ongoing, severe hacking and security issues for the game and its follow-ups. Multiplayer servers will remain for the time being after that date.
Ethan Gach via Kotaku reported from several store manager sources on GameStop’s latest harmful practices and messy experiences. Six different employees discussed how a pay freeze has remained in place for the last two years, keeping management and other salaries at $9 USD an hour, well below new averages in the retail business, even after the company’s manipulated, massively inflated stock performances earlier this year which did significantly benefit executives. Staying open on Thanksgiving while many other retailers didn’t was sprung on GameStop employees last minute, and the company’s increased emphasis on online orders and shipping has been built not on improved infrastructure, only on increasing exploitation of workers, pushing some to 18 hour work days this Black Friday.
December 2nd: In the wake of a troubled launch for Battlefield 2042, EA informed GameSpot to announce some major structural upheaval within the company. General Manager Oskar Gabrielson is leaving DICE and EA at the end of this year, following from Fawzi Mesmar’s aforementioned pre-planned departure. Gabrielson will be replaced by Rebecka Coutaz. Respawn’s Vince Zampella is taking an additional duty on top of his already ample responsibilities by becoming the new overall boss of the Battlefield franchise, while two separate dev teams (Marcus Lehto’s new studio in Seattle, and Ripple Effect, developer of 2042‘s acclaimed Portal mode) are immediately providing support to 2042 and long-term working on distinct branches of the newly expanded ‘Battlefield universe.’ The former is focused on the story mode side of the franchise while the latter will provide a “new experience in the 2042 universe.”
December 3rd: Jason Schreier broke the story via Bloomberg that Sony has a new subscription service in the works, Project Spartacus. Currently expected to launch in Spring 2022, it will “likely retain” the PlayStation Plus branding while effectively replacing and merging the offerings of both PlayStationPlus and PlayStationNow on both of its main platforms (PS4 and PS5) to create Sony’s best value offer yet. While plans may not yet be finalized, official documents provided to Bloomberg described a three-tier system in which the first matches existing PS Plus benefits, the second provides a larger ongoing catalog of PS4 and eventually PS5 games (likely an expansion of the PS5’s PlayStation Plus Collection feature?), and the third most notably offers a library of classic PS1, PS2, PS3, and PSP games along with additional new extended demos and extended game streaming options. Beyond Schreier himself saying not to expect big first party games available on the service day one, that shouldn’t be expected regardless because Sony doesn’t want or feel the need to lose money on this service like Xbox does with Game Pass.
Previous reports of PS1, PS2, PS3, and PSP support on PS5 may have been connected to the development of this service, but we don’t yet have all the details on exactly how these retro offerings will work. How many newly available retro games will be added on top of the existing meager offerings? Will the quality of emulation improve? How will they be accessed, i.e. not streaming-only like PS Now was, and will permanent purchase and installation options still be available for both existing emulated retro games and new ones? We do know per Schreier that Sony is expanding its investment into cloud gaming, likely with Microsoft’s xCloud in mind. And how will each of these tiers be priced anyway? An additional source, Nate the Hate, says that PS1 will be available at the service’s launch, while PS2 and PSP will be later and he has no info on PS3, and that “hundreds” of first party and (presumably temporary) third party PS1 games are planned for the service.
EA and Codemasters announced the release date for GRID Legends as February 25th 2022. Their press release announced and detailed the game’s story mode, Driven to Glory, and discussed the game’s multiplayer features like its cross-gen and cross-platform support.
It suddenly became public knowledge ahead of the game’s contention at the Game Awards next week that, in March, Josef Fares’ developer Hazelight Studios had to file to formally abandon its trademark for its latest game, It Takes Two, due to a copyright challenge claim filed by publisher Take-Two at the game’s launch. Hazelight has said that it’s hopeful the matter can be resolved, but that it cannot comment on ongoing disputes. This is one of many erroneous trademark and copyright claims filed by Take-Two in recent years against companies or products with generic commonalities or even only vague similarities to their own products’ names like the Mafia and Civilization series or the Rockstar subsidiary. Starrocks and Rockstar Axe Throwing are two companies similarly affected, and infamously a new Ubisoft IP went through a similar experience ending in a permanent change in title due to claim by Monster Energy. When Attorney Richard Hoeg spoke to Eurogamer for their coverage of this story, he said that in just the last three months alone, Take-Two has extended at least 25 different challenges like this.
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