Game News Roundup: December 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

Previously in the ongoing clusterfuck that is Activision-Blizzard’s existence, a new major story had just begun when 20 contractors at Raven Software had been abruptly, unceremoniously fired after repeated reassurances to the contrary and having already relocated cross-country for their positions. By Monday December 6th, 60 remaining workers at Raven Software acted in solidarity with their fired colleagues when Activion’s latest physical and remote walkout protest began to demand that every QA tester, newly terminated and otherwise, be given the full-time positions this corporation can easily afford to provide. From there, things escalated quickly. The walkout protest became the #WeAreRaven ongoing outright work stoppage and strike which has since lasted for more than a month straight at time of publication. By Day 2 of the strike, several more QA teams had joined from across ABK in Minnesota, Texas, and California, including Blizzard’s headquarters in Irvine. On Thursday December 9th, a strike fund Gofundme was published to gather financial support for the continually striking workers, who ABK stopped paying, as well as the former Raven employees. At publication, more than $360,000 USD has been raised and funds had started reaching the workers in need before the end of December.

The announcement of the Gofundme is where the walkout officially became a long-term strike, and also where months of careful planning to transform the ABK Workers Alliance into a full official union suddenly sprung into action, spurred on by the sheer audacity of the Raven situation. Works began signing on with the union via widely distributed union authorization cards. A thread here describes the complex, extended processes they’ll need to go through to reach the active union. The day after the announcements, chief administrative officer Brian Bulatao, a former Trump administration employee, had sent a mass email (which was immediately publicly exposed on social media and via The Washington Post by workers in the process of quitting) throughout ABK corporate, attempting to consciously discourage employees from joining the prospective union by laughably claiming that the existing processes were better for them than gaining union representation. According to widespread public testimony, this only helped many more employees to get off the fence and commit to signing their union cards. During the strike, on December 21st, just a little over a month after the Wall Street Journal report and Dan Bunting’s departure, Treyarch issued a typical vague apology to the allegations that were part of the impetus for this most recent organizing. At publication the email remains to my knowledge the company’s only real acknowledgment of the still ongoing unionizing, even as Call of Duty Warzone has infamously semi-imploded in these past weeks from an onslaught of bugs with no QA team to fix.

On December 8th, independent of the walkout, attorney Lisa Bloom and her client Christine, a current Blizzard employee of four years, held a public livestreamed press conference outside Blizzard’s headquarters where they spoke out about Christine’s experiences of sexual harassment at Blizzard. Christine’s experiences were described at length and a series of demands were issued. Amongst the numerous times she’s been subjected to mistreatment, Christine was demoted after filing formal complaint against a supervisor who propositioned here. Lisa Bloom had previously spoken on social media and directly to Blizzard on Christine’s behalf, but the company’s negligence towards them spurred the women to further action. Lisa Bloom rightfully called the EEOC settlement from September “woefully inadequate.” Bloom herself is a highly public figure with a complicated history in high profile legal cases regarding sexual violence. She’s frequently represented victims/plaintiffs against the likes of Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, John Conyers, Donald Trump, and most recently Prince Andrew, but she was also part of the legal teams of both Harvey Weinstein and former Amazon VP Roy Price, and took a book adaptation deal with The Weinstein Company while on his legal team. She did leave both positions and apologize for representing Weinstein, but from the totality of the record on the matter, her character does not look good.

Geoff Keighley’s The Game Awards Two Thousand and Twenty One

The Pre-show as it always does featured both eight major announcements and several awards, making it just an annoyingly mislabeled/marketed first half-hour of the event. It started with a release date trailer for Xbox platform timed exclusive Tunic, the action game with the cute fox, which is now set to launch on March 16th 2022. SNK announced another character for King of Fighters 15, Krohnen, and a second PlayStation exclusive open beta set for later in December. Gun Media premiered the announcement trailer for its new licensed slasher franchise asymmetric multiplayer game, following from having to end development on Friday the 13th due to the recently concluded Victor Miller lawsuit. This game is none other than “A game based on true events,” AKA The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I relatively enjoyed my time with Friday the 13th, but I have two big questions here. Will it have better QA? And can Leatherface feel as good to play as Jason did even a pretty inherently different style?

Anyway, there was a new cinematic trailer for Homeworld 3 that at least gave more information than its presence at E3 did, with a look at its new take on the setting and a Late 2022 release window. In a move I don’t find especially reassuring for them learning from past mistakes, Telltale Games returned to announce a new game without having given any updates on Wolf Among Us 2 in the past two years. They announced The Expanse: A Telltale Series with the help of actress Cara Gee returning as her character from the about to conclude TV series. Square Enix and Platinum Games debuted a trailer announcing the launch date of their live service action game Babylon’s Fall as March 3rd 2022 . Lastly, there was a trailer for a new update from Chivalry 2, and a story trailer for Capcom’s Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak expansion. Still set to arrive this summer, the game will release alongside three additional new amiibo.

Geoff Keighley started his time hosting this year’s event by offering an extended statement on abuse in the games industry. It was strictly speaking more than nothing, even still somewhat affecting for this rather jaded writer. I thought its inclusion of external mass harassment was understandable. However, it was significantly undermined by two decisions: first, a steadfast aversion to specifics, to naming names in the statement itself, even the company we all already knew wasn’t really participating in the show this year; second, yeah you probably knew this was coming. You featured Quantic Dream’s new game, Geoff. Come on, man. It may well have been Disney/Lucasfilm Games’ money he received that was provided to secure the slot, but with the extent of the cultural problems at that studio, the stuff we saw out of those trials in France just this year, the overall extent to which David Cage is Quantic Dream, it’s just inexcusable.

The first reveal of the ‘main show’ was a striking turn-based action game focused on a South Asian family cooking, skating, and fighting their way through drama and evil exes. Thirsty Suitors is Coming Soon in 2022 from developer Outerloop and publisher Annapurna. Next was the gameplay premiere trailer of co-op title Evil West, which is coming in 2022 from Flying Wild Hog. The stylish side-scrolling roguelike Have a Nice Death was announced with a charming animatic and some gameplay footage; it’ll be available on Steam Early Access starting in March 2022. As games I’ve previously covered, Evil West was soon joined by Planet of Lana returning to announce that it will feature the music of The Last Guardian composer Takeshi Furukawa, and to show off a new desert environment in the world of the Xbox console exclusive adventure coming in 2022.

As the second announcement in the series’ year-long 25th anniversary cycle, Atlus revealed that spinoff fighting game Persona 4 Arena Ultimax will be rereleased on March 17th 2022 for PS4, Switch and Steam. Originally developed by ArcSys Works and released for arcades, PS3, and Xbox 360 between 2013 and 2014, Ultimax is effectively both a sequel to the first Persona 4 Arena and an ultimate updated version. It features significant refinements to the fighting system, an expanded roster, and the first game’s story mode alongside multiple follow-up story modes, encompassing the casts of both Persona 3 and Persona 4. This is likely all Atlus has to satiate the fighting fans in its audience due to ArcSys being busy with other projects. Atlus has confirmed that the next anniversary announcement will be in February 2022.

Xbox made its biggest appearance with an extended first look at gameplay footage from Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga. It was undeniably impressive. Hellblade 2 currently still has no official release window, and it was but the first AAA first party Xbox game to fully publicly reemerge. For now, the rest still have to wait. After I among others previously reported on it in September, Quantic Dream’s next game, Star Wars Eclipse, was officially announced here with an extravagant but very vague cinematic trailer depicting the game’s High Republic era setting. Eclipse is a next-gen exclusive open world narrative adventure game being written and produced primarily at Quantic Dream Paris, and which has made little development progress amid ongoing technical and workplace difficulties. Tom Henderson continued to be a primary public source on the game after its reveal, as you’ll see below, but someone else posted multiple images from the reveal trailer on Twitter a week before the Game Awards. The account was quickly suspended.

Amazon announced the new Western release date for its imported MMO Lost Ark as February 11th 2022. This was amusingly placed right in the middle of most of the event’s biggest announcements. Warner Bros Games and Monolith Productions brought the cinematic announcement teaser for Wonder Woman. Monolith Productions is not to be confused with Nintendo first party developer Monolith Software; these are the guys that did No One Lives Forever and FEAR, and Wonder Woman is their first game since Middle-earth: Shadow of War in 2017. As the latest in a long line of recent AAA superhero game announcements, Wonder Woman is a single player third person open world action game featuring an original story and employing the Nemesis system that Monolith pioneered and trademarked in their Middle-earth series last decade. After teasing it via DLC and the recent remaster, developer Remedy Entertainment was finally ready to announce Alan Wake II, Remedy’s first full survival horror game which is scheduled to launch for Windows, Xbox Series, and PS5 in 2023 from sighs publisher Epic Games. Alan Wake 2 features the original actor and model for the eponymous character returning and is built in the Northlight Engine introduced by Quantum Break and whose physics were spectacularly shown off in Control. This game is a new story, as the story that was part of the sequel pitch to Microsoft right after the original’s launch in 2010 was already used in American Nightmare.

Sega and Paramount premiered the first Sonic movie sequel trailer, and Sony premiered some quick new gameplay footage from the increasingly imminent Horizon Forbidden West, after these big announcements. After Sony had repeatedly pushed it back with its timed exclusivity deals, a trailer officially announced that Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade was finally coming to PC on December 16th 2021 as a (timed) Epic Store exclusive. Square Enix really loves taking money from Epic, huh. That PC port went on to considerable negative reception for limited features and technical issues. An overlong “funny” ad played next, featuring sigh Lil Dicky promoting and making announcements for Xbox Game Pass for PC. He convolutedly announced that it’s now retitled to PC Game Pass for clarity, and announced several new upcoming games as now officially Day One PC Game Pass games. Those four are Sniper Elite 5, Flying Wild Hog’s Trek to Yomi, Pigeon Simulator, and the currently untitled next game by Hugecalf Studios. These were highlighted in a montage of Day One PC games also featuring Bethesda’s Redfall and Starfield, Total War: Warhammer 3, STALKER 2, Atomic Heart, Slime Rancher 2, A Plague Tale: Requiem, Pupperazi, Somerville, Replaced, Scorn, Eiyuden Chronicle Rising, and Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator. That was followed by a new trailer for the latest Destiny 2 expansion, The Witch Queen, coming February 2022.

About 16 months after Silent Hill creator Keiichiro Toyama left Sony to found his new studio Bokeh and return to horror game development, he came to the Game Awards to formally announce it with a cinematic trailer for Slitterhead, which will feature fellow Silent Hill veteran Akira Yamaoka as its composer. Horror fans like me are eating again, truly. There’s no further official info on Slitterhead yet beyond the impressions left by the trailer and its titular monsters. Next was the reveal trailer of Nightingale, a multiplayer first person shooter/survivaler from debut studio Inflexion, founded by Aaryn Flynn after he left Bioware. Nightingale will enter early access on PC in 2022. A Lady Gaga tracklist for VR hit Beat Saber was shadowdropped, followed by a brief trailer for LOTR: Gollum, which is coming to all platforms later this year. After being planning and considered since 2019, a trailer officially announced that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will become permanently free to play starting on January 12th 2022. Then Jumpship and Chris Olsen’s Xbox timed exclusive side-scrolling adventure game Somerville, which was previously shown at E3, had another new trailer ahead of its 2022 launch showing off its multiple player characters amidst an apocalyptic backdrop.

An unexpected musical performance themed to Cuphead‘s Delicious Last Course follow-up led directly into a long-awaited new trailer for the DLC, announcing a June 30th 2022 launch date for all platforms, Xbox, PlayStation, PC, and Nintendo Switch. A multiplatform physical version packaging both the base game and the DLC is still confirmed to be coming after the DLC, likely some months after at the rate of ongoing distribution and manufacturing issues. The first full trailer for the next new 3D Sonic the Hedgehog arrived next, announcing its retitle from Sonic Rangers to Sonic Frontiers, its Holiday 2022 full multiplat launch window, and confirming some of what was previously rumored about it by showing off its new open world of Starfall Islands. At an investor meeting later in December, Sega also confirmed that the game had been originally scheduled to launch in 2021, but they delayed it to 2022 for maximal polish before its first trailer back in 2021. Moving, on there was a trailer for a new character class in Warhammer: Vermintide 2. A new trailer for Tchia announced a Spring 2022 launch window and further showcased its mechanic of transferring your control through different wildlife. Sony and Square Enix announced Forspoken‘s launch date as May 24th 2022 while WB finally had its first gameplay trailer for Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League‘s co op combat. And the announcement trailer premiered for the next-gen exclusive Warhammer 40K: Space Marine 2, arriving more than a decade after the original game.

The second trailer for the new Saints Row provided a first look at its evolution of the series’ trademark gameplay. Fall Guys had another licensed costume event, and newly minted hit WB franchise Dune had the first of two game announcements this month: Dune Spice Wars, a 4x real time strategy game entering Early Access on PC in Early 2022. (The second is a survival game by Nukklear.)Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands had a story trailer featuring its many celeb-voiced characters and a March 25th 2022 launch date. Among Us VR was announced. Yep. Anyway, Genshin Impact had new characters announced, a Rocket League mobile spinoff was announced, next-gen Pokemon-alike DokeV returned from Gamescom with a music video, and rhythm FPS Metal: Hellsinger revealed new gameplay and its full musical collaborator list. Spiders showed a new trailer for their steampunk action-RPG Steelrising which reiterated its June 2022 launch window for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series. Another licensed sci fi narrative adventure game to rival the Telltale one, Star Trek: Resurgence, was announced for a Spring 2022 launch on Xbox One/Series, PS4/5, and PC via the Epic Store; this game developed by Dramatic Labs, a studio created by former Telltale alumni who didn’t return when Telltale relaunched, starting unfortunately with Kevin Bruner, whose mismanagement and verbal abuse helped sink the original Telltale.

Iron Galaxy revealed their Epic-published wrestling battle royale Rumbleverse coming in February, followed by yet another Dying Light 2 trailer, which at this time is still also set for a February launch. The first full trailer of A Plague Tale: Requiem premiered, revealing the updated gameplay for the sequel ahead of its launch later this year. Remedy returned with a cinematic trailer for their bespoke CrossfireX story mode. Both of the shooter’s modes are now finally set for a February 10th release date on Xbox. Fortnite Chapter 3 had a promotion alongside fellow battle royale, bane of my existence for how many times I’ve covered it, Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodhunt. Co-op horror shooter GTFO was announced as Available Now. A trailer for space combat game Chorus simply advertised the fact that it had launched the week before. The first full trailer for the Halo Paramount+ series premiered, featuring a lot more information, but still emphasizing how well they nailed the Master Chief armor over anything. There was a lore trailer for Elden Ring which was obviously catnip for me, but I won’t dwell on it. The final fully new reveal was the trailer for ARC Raiders, the first game from ex-Battlefield team members’ Embark Studios. It’s a free to play co op shooter with various sci fi enemies, and it’s coming later this year to PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Windows PC, and Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud service.

The Matrix Awakens, a stand-alone, next-gen exclusive, free tech demo written and directed by Lana Wachowski and built in Unreal Engine 5 by Epic Games, was officially announced as Available Now (after it was previously leaked and soft-confirmed in the past week) as the final announcement alongside a brief trailer for the new film, The Matrix Resurrections. While ending the event on a movie tie-in once again is pretty goofy, there’s at least a somewhat better explanation this year than “Half-Life Alyx dropped out last minute and we needed something” like back in 2019. That explanation, the full extent of the partnership, didn’t become full public knowledge until after the premiere of the new Matrix film on December 22nd two weeks later:

Spoilers for The Matrix Resurrections
The Game Awards are a plot point in the film, where in a new layer of the virtual world, Thomas Anderson created the original Matrix narrative as a video game which won Game of the Year against 1999’s tightest competition like Silent Hill and System Shock 2.

Everything Else

December 6th: Advisory and support org Game Workers Unite Australia announced that it will transition into a full union in early (March targeted) 2022, becoming Game Workers Australia. This is Australia’s first full dedicated games industry union, with industry workers previously being eligible for and part of either Professionals Australia or the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance. Free membership is available to all, while paid membership provides the additional support of protective legal action, active organization, and lobbying, the benefits of being part of Professionals Australia to many who’d never qualified before.

December 7th: Sony released a new trailer for the Uncharted Legacy of Thieves Collection which announce January 28th 2022 launch date for PS5, but no date for the PC version yet. Sony then aggravatingly delisted the individual PS4 versions of both Uncharted 4 and Lost Legacy, leaving only the previous bundle of both and the incoming new PS5 version bundle as options for attaining the games longterm. 

December 8th: Ritsumeikan University announced that its game development professor Masayuki Uemura, AKA the lead design architect of the NES and SNES before his 2004 retirement from Nintendo, had passed at 78 years old on December 6th.

December 9th: A historically significant Arcade Archives release for the next week was announced, Mirai Ninja, the source of the first ever movie based on a video game, both released in 1988. This is also Mirai Ninja’s first console release. 

December 10th: Rebekah Valentine wrote and published a major new IGN feature on Bungie’s ongoing reckoning with past and present cultural issues, speaking with 26 current and former employees from the last decade of Bungie’s history, who testified to both how far the major developer has come after publicly announced improvements this year, and how far it still has to go. I really recommend reading the whole article in this case, but will do my best with a relatively brief summary. The 26 anonymous sources described ongoing verbal abuse and intimidation, sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia, ableism, and deliberate obstruction of systemic improvements, etc., both as broader cultural problems and particular incidents from particular perpetrators who were often treated preferentially and protectively at the expense of their victims. “Almost every major team at the company” is described as having seen these issues and incidents in the past going back to Halo and as recently as during the ongoing Destiny 2 DLC cycles, but they were infamously especially concentrated in Bungie’s narrative team.

The narrative team faced crunch problems going as high as 100 hour work weeks, and poor support from leadership on matters from trying to ease the crunch workload to female staffers being harassed by fans. The Destiny narrative team is described as highly mismanaged during most of its operation (from at least before Destiny 2′s launch to two years after launch) with little oversight over both the writing itself and team leaders who mistreated their employees. Staff writers’ contributions were formally approved, included, then rewritten and erased at last minute without warning, then told they just needed thicker skins. These patterns of mistreatment continued across several generations of different creative leads. Most of the sources from the narrative team were very reluctant to name names out of fear of repercussions for both themselves and others who had filed complaints. Cookie Hiponia, who was there from 2016 to 2019 and has many stories to tell, was the one worker who consented to being named.

Bungie’s narrative team had to reach a breaking point in 2019 where many of the writers, including every single woman on the staff, had quit or threatened to quit all at once, before their concerns were finally taken seriously and the current leads mismanaging them were fired. There’s substantial testimony to how things have improved since, with better funding, hiring, oversight, etc., and intensive details to elaborate on this, but any current employee however optimistic would say there’s still plenty of room for further improvement. Some of the distinct problem employees whose behavior is covered in the article are still at the company today, including an HR employee highly protective of serial perpetrators. And lastly, the degree of sacrifice their predecessors had to endure to get them this far is simply unacceptable. They deserve the recognition this coverage only begins to provide them.

Elsewhere on December 10th, Developer Midgar Studio and publisher Dear Village released a trailer to announce that their indie RPG Edge of Eternity will release for consoles on February 10th (PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series) and February 23rd 2022 (Cloud Version on Switch), after its PC launch last summer. Newly added alongside the console versions will be a Japanese voiceover track to better match the game’s classic JRPG influences.

Embracer Group’s premiered a Saber Interactive Showcase following from Saber’s presence at the Game Awards (Space Marine 2) the night before. Saber is a contractor studio for other companies’ work, from licensed fare to ports like The Witcher 3 on Switch. At the introduction they mentioned something announced in October that I’d previously missed, that Saber is publishing a story focused horror gam based on the A Quiet Place horror franchise and set to launch sometime in 2022. The first look at it will be sometime early in 2022. The presentation proper started with confirming free native next-gen PlayStation and Xbox upgrades/versions for World War Z: Aftermath coming sometime in 2022 alongside a new game mode. Evil Dead The Game was discussed and detailed by chief creative officer Tim Willits, Geoff Keighley and Bruce Campbell, saying that it’s just about finished ahead of its February launch and that Ash Williams is actually represented as four different playable ‘generations’ and classes of the character aging through the series’ history. This was followed by the announcement trailers of racing games Dakar: Desert Rally and Redout II,1 and the steampunk RPG Circus Electrique, all scheduled to launch in 2022 for most to all current platforms. The show ended with replaying Space Marine 2‘s reveal trailer.

Dai Sato announced on this date that legendary writer Keiko Nobumoto had passed away from esophageal cancer on December 1st at the age of 57. The two worked together on Cowboy Bebop, Wolf’s Rain, and Samurai Champloo, but have also both worked in games writing. Nobumoto was part of the story and script team for the original Kingdom Hearts.

December 13th: During an extended preview of Forspoken with the press, the game’s isekai’d black woman protagonist Frey was repeatedly described in stereotypical ways (“being very angry,” “fallen through cracks of society,” “on the verge of prison”), with one particular comment quickly going viral and drawing criticism. Motion capture and voice over director Tom Keegan described actress Ella Balinska as having a “naturally very hip-hoppy kind of walk” during her performance. This is far from the first time Square has faced concerns of mishandled black representation just in the last couple years. You don’t have to look hard to see people talking about Barrett in FF7R, or the black party member in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, and it shouldn’t be hard to see why. Luminous Studio brought in a western creative team for the game, but nobody on that team is black. These are if nothing else things worth acknowledging.

Ubisoft announced that chief studios operating officer Virginie Haas is leaving the company a little over a year after she took the position, only saying that she will “pursue other activities,” indicating that she left with no position already lined up. She also has no current successor for the position.

After Advance Wars‘ delay earlier this fall, WayForward announced that River City Girls Zero‘s release is delayed for additional polish to Early 2022.

December 14th: Square Enix released a new trailer announcing the launch date for its Switch exclusive racer Chocobo GP as scheduled for March 10th 2022. The game’s free ‘Lite Edition’ demo will release at some point prior to provide access to tests of the game’s 64-player tournament mode, the prologue of the game’s story mode, save import to the full game, and local and online multiplayer support for anyone with a friend who owns the full game and hosts the matches upon launch.

Dotemu finally announced that Windjammers 2 is scheduled for a January 20th 2022 digital launch on Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Windows, and Stadia, with a physical version from Limited Run available in the months after.

When Xbox announced the final Game Pass updates for 2021, this included the news that Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza Kiwami 2, and Yakuza 0 will have left the service on December 31st, thus officially ending the series’ reign of having every main entry on the service. Well, there goes my most affordable way of playing all of it.

December 15th: Nintendo Indie World presentation

Nintendo’s final presentation of 2021 continued their commitment to annual Spring, Summer, and Winter Indie World events, and they threw several major announcements at us right out of the gate. It began by announcing that Sabotage Studio’s widely hyped Kickstarter turn-based RPG, a prequel to The Messenger called Sea of Stars, is launching on Switch in Holiday 2022 alongside its PC, PS4, and Xbox One versions. The game features a free-roam world rendered fully in classic 2D pixel-art and guest composer Yasunori Mitsuda from the Chrono series. Next was the announcement of a game which is fully exclusive and highly optimized to the Switch, the full 3D local co op adventure game Aliisha: The Oblivion of Twin Goddesses, which features dramatic story-shaping choices and is launching in Spring 2022. Publisher Chucklefish and debut developer Robust revealed the full version of Loco Motive after it first began as a 2020 Game Jam project. Loco Motive is a point and click adventure comedic murder mystery on the best mystery setting of all: a train. Inspired equally by Agatha Christie and golden age LucasArts games, Loco Motive is launching in Summer 2022 on Switch and PC. From the creator of Coffee Talk arrived the announcement of Afterlove EP, a romantic narrative adventure in a gorgeous art style coming to Switch, PlayStation, and PC in Summer 2022.

After two years in Early Access, the highly varied sidescrolling action game Dungeon Munchies, featuring combat, platforming, cooking, and crafting, launched in 1.0 on PC and Switch as an Available Later Today TM shadowdrop. An acclaimed 2017 musical puzzle game saw its sequel confirmed for a February 2022 release on Switch after its 2021 PC launch: Figment 2: Creed Valley. A free demo on Switch for the upcoming game became available on the day of reveal. A digital tabletop game collection Let’s Play! Oink Games, featuring local and online support, was announced as a timed console exclusive Available Later Today. This collection features Startups, Moon Adventure, Deep Sea Adventure, and A Fake Artist Goes To New York, which was prominently featured in an excellent installment of Polygon’s Overboard videos, and will add extra games over time. Announced only a few months earlier, Endling: Extinction is Forever got a prime feature in the presentation. It’s a cel-shaded 3D survival game about the last fox family navigating the world as it’s wracked by climate change induced natural disasters. Reminiscent of This War of Mine, the game will try to bring together gravitas in themes and gameplay alike (pups’ survival depends on your choices) when it comes in Spring 2022 for Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.

OlliOlliWorld returned to finally confirm a February 8th 2022 launch on all current/previously announced platforms at once. WayForward nimbly punched their way around having to announce the bad news of a delay to Summer 2022 for River City Girls 2, completing the assortment of delays for all their major games. They managed to avoid the worst thanks to the delights of newly confirming an expanded roster of six total playable characters with expanded movesets from their previous appearances, reconfirming online co op support and an expanded world to explore, and most importantly, a charming The Music Man joke.

Sizzle reel: Dinosaur zoo sim Parkasaurus is coming to Switch Spring 2022 after only being on Windows PC for years, the stand-alone multiplayer expansion Don’t Starve Together to the hit survival game is also coming to Switch in Spring 2022 after previously hitting other consoles, one of 2021’s biggest critical hits Chicory: A Colorful Tale was announced as Available Later Today for Switch in a delightful surprise (leaving only its Xbox release still to go), quirky co op party game Baby Storm was announced and is launching first on Switch January 21st 2022, a recent indie soulslike GRIME is coming to Switch in Summer 2022 after its PC launch last summer, Dontnod announced its publishing debut with WW2 narrative adventure Gerda A Flame in Winter coming to Switch as a console exclusive and PC from developer PortaPlay in 2022, Thai puzzle game Timelie was announced as Available Later Today coming to Switch first among consoles, and Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery is coming to Switch and PS4 in Spring 2022 after its 2021 launch. Lastly, One More Thing TM arrived yet again, and the final reveal was for none other than the critically acclaimed Kickstarter surreal horror JRPG Omori by Omocat, which is coming in Spring 2022 to Switch, PS4, and Xbox One after its December 2020 PC launch.

Other December 15th events

On the heels of expanded unionizing efforts across the world, indie studio Vodeo officially formed North America’s first certified video game union, Vodeo Workers United. Vodeo was founded earlier in 2021 by Threes creator Asher Vollmer, released its first game in September 2021, and has now achieved a milestone any big corporation covered elsewhere in this article could’ve done at any time, but instead chose violence. Vodeo’s union is voluntarily recognized by its management and includes in its membership and coverage all 13 employees working remotely across the US and Canada, including both full-timers and independent contractors. Vodeo Workers United has since begun contract negotiations to ensure the best possible workplace and legally enshrine benefits the studio was already providing like four-day work weeks. VWU is formally partnered with the macro labor unions of both the Communication Workers of America’s Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, or CODE-CWA, and Game Workers Unite Montreal. CODE-CWA represents more than 700,000 workers and is currently aiding the ABK Workers Alliance with its own unionization fight.

Right around the same time Ubisoft was launching its first NFTs in Ghost Recon Breakpoint to poor sales, it thought maybe it should announce something less controversial too. And so after being long rumored, Ubisoft released a press release and a video on December 15th to officially announce and promote Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Remake, 8 years after the previous most recent mainline entry in the series. Far Cry 6 developer Ubisoft Toronto is currently early in development on a remake of the critically acclaimed 2002 original game built in the current Snowdrop engine, the same as the new James Cameron’s Avatar game. The developer interview contained in the first press release includes key tidbits, like the insistence that, despite Ubisoft being Ubisoft, the game is not being reimagined as an open world, it will remain true to the original’s design. Additional details include that many veterans from the series’ development over the last 20 years, including that first game, are onboard, and that this remake is being treated as the base for which a future of the series will be built.

Nate Austin, cofounder of Wildermyth developer Worldwalker Games, officially confirmed for a Fanbyte podcast and an article by Imran Khan that their recent critical hit tactical RPG (which is designed to procedurally and dynamically capture something closer to the freeform tabletop RPG experience in video game form), is coming to Nintendo Switch in the future. Austin says that development on the Switch port will take “at least a year.”

In less than 24 hours, NFTs for S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 were both announced and fully canceled after public backlash.

December 16th: Nintendo announced another NSO Expansion Pack update for immediate release, with five more Genesis games added to the premium tier of the service. These are Altered Beast, Dynamite Headdy, Sword of Vermilion, Thunder Force II, and ToeJam and Earl. This means that ultimately six additional games were added to NSO in December and seven were announced, after Paper Mario 64 was announced on December 3rd and released on December 10th, the same day Nintendo announced that Banjo-Kazooie would release for NSO in January. This seems to demonstrate that updates can come more regularly, in greater quantities and with greater transparency than some feared, but also that they are now fully divided by system and approached differently in terms of lead-up.

December 21st: Embracer Group/THQ Nordic capped off another year full of games company buyouts both from it and others with the announcement that it has reached an agreement to purchase the US’ third largest comic book publisher Dark Horse Comics, a deal which is expected to finalize in early 2022. The purchase price is officially undisclosed but is based on buying 100% of the company’s shares. This announcement came shortly after Bloomberg broke the news at the beginning of December that Dark Horse was considering going up for sale. This is most likely part of plans for further investment into multimedia projects for Dark Horse’s more than 300 properties, which notably don’t include the many creator owned series Dark Horse is most known for like Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, or the many external series licensed to Dark Horse like Star Wars.

December 22nd: Void Interactive announced that its SWAT team FPS which just entered early access, Ready or Not, had lost its publisher, Team17 only a few days after a member of its team had rather enthusiastically asserted that the game will feature a school shooting level. This wasn’t the first time that had been confirmed, but the reignited controversy from the more recent comment is widely believed to have caused Team17’s departure. On December 23rd, Void Interactive released a new statement attempting to further manage its PR regarding the controversy.

You don’t always see “Yes, we told that guy in particular
to cut this shit out” said quite this explicitly.

December 26th: Square Enix announced that it has delayed Dragon Quest X Offline‘s currently Japan-only launch from February to Summer 2022 for additional polish. The game’s planned DLC was also described as delayed in turn.

December 27th: As reported by Shannon Liao for the Washington Post, Riot Games officially announced that it reached a new settlement in its ongoing gender discrimination class action lawsuit: after almost agreeing to a $10 million settlement in 2019, the new settlement is worth $100 million paid by Riot Games in compensation to members of the suit. $80 million will go directly to at least 2300 current and former employees for damages incurred at the workplace between 2014 and 2021, and the remaining $20 million will cover the plaintiffs’ legal fees. In the settlement, Riot agreed to be monitored by a third party (which must be approved by both Riot and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing) for the next three years, presumably through 2024, to oversee HR complaints, HR responses to complaints, and handling of equal pay. The third party can recommend changes which can be actively enforced by the case’s main judge, Elihu M. Berle. That judge at this time still has to review and issue final approval of the settlement at a currently undated hearing.

Naoki Yoshida published the first official development update on FF16 in some time via the game’s social media accounts. He explained that as many suspected, his previous declaration that the game would be seen again in 2021 failed to be met due to ongoing difficulties from COVID. The entire team is still working from home and managing that has been a major obstacle for both communications and asset delivery. He specifically said that the game’s development progress was delayed “by almost half a year” by these issues, in turn adjusting its marketing schedule. However, he believes that the adjustments the team made over the course of 2021 will prevent further issues to an extent. Additionally, the details he provides of what development remains indicate that the game is in its final extended polishing phase rather than still in content completion. The game’s second main trailer was ultimately delayed out of 2021 and into Spring 2022 around when Forspoken will release and complete its marketing cycle, as I previously predicted. 

Humongous Entertainment announced via trailer that some of its classic kids’ point and click adventures, Putt Putt Travels Through Time and Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell, are both coming to Nintendo Switch on January 3rd in the West and January 6th in the East. I simply couldn’t ignore this story knowing there are others passionate about Humongous’ games in our community. Pajama Sam better not be far behind!

Capcom confirmed via Twitter that more information on Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is coming in Spring 2022, most likely in both dedicated presentations from Capcom and the next Nintendo Direct. 

December 28th: Remedy and Tencent announced a co-publishing and investment deal for an original upcoming game. This game is a free to play co op PvE shooter built in Unreal Engine for PC, consoles, and mobile. Per the official press release, hiring for the multiplayer project’s team began in 2018, but it’s still very early in development, still in “proof of concept.” Remedy will publish it in the West, Tencent will publish and localize it in the East, and Tencent will produce and publish the mobile version. It is currently unclear whether this is a second multiplayer game separate from the previously announced multiplayer spinoff of Control, or if they are the same project. Remedy will be currently working on the multiplayer project/s, the sequel to Control, and Alan Wake 2 at the same time, with the latter being furthest along in development.

On the evening of December 28th, it was suddenly announced by the NFL that the widely acclaimed football coach and commentator John Madden, namesake of the signature video game series since 1988, had peacefully died at his home at the age of 85. Madden was passionate about and had active input on EA’s Madden games for many years; he saw them as an educational tool for the sport he loved so much he dedicated his life to it.

December 29th: It’s been quite the year for social platform and game creation system Roblox: It went public this year at a massive multibillion dollar value, but it’s also seen renewed critical coverage of serious issues and allegations. This includes the self-explanatory shittiness of the company’s leveraging of microtransactions towards its massive audience of mostly children, a problem whose spotlight on has only increased over time. Most prominently, People Make Games released two videos this year alleging the company’s significant mismanagement of the interaction between its game-creating side and its aforementioned audience of minors, amounting to at best negligence and at worst active, considerable exploitation of and profit from child labor. And then on the 29th, Jesse Drucker and Maureen Zarrell released a New York Times report on big businesses exploiting a legal loophole from a 90s small business tax act in order to accomplish extensive technically legal tax evasion, with the Roblox Corporation being the chief subject of the report’s allegations.

January 3rd 2022: Jason Schreier’s first story of the new year was perhaps not the most shocking, but it is nonetheless valuable: a precise underlining of Ken Levine’s persistent capacity for mismanagement and failure via the latest example, Ghost Story Games’ continued failure to release its first game after more than seven years.2 For clarity, I’m saying now as explicitly as possible that this story is unrelated to the highly rumored BioShock 4, which we’re likely to see announced this year; Levine moved on from the series while remaining at the same publisher, and BioShock 4 and Ghost Story Games’ project have been in development simultaneously and with no direct connection between them.

15 current and former employees of the developer formed from Irrational’s ashes say that a single project in development since 2014 has suffered from Levine’s consistent failure at cohesion and communication. It has been rebooted countless times, it still has no name, and it missed its first launch target in 2017. Levine has coasted on the good will afforded to him from past successes, alleged to be given very little oversight from longtime partner and parent company Take-Two Interactive. And these sources testified that said lack of oversight has damaged the product as much as it has the employees themselves.

Levine left Irrational because he wanted to work on a smaller team again, but all patterns indicate that he still has no sense of restraint or scale. He committed to having a team of less than 30 people total and a three year production schedule, and then he without hesitation completely blew the project beyond proportions with demands of AAA production value and a constant influx of cuts and additions, putting it entirely on the backs of his subordinates to try to make it work. It’s all perfectly parallel with everything we’ve now long known about the mishandled developments of BioShock and BioShock Infinite. And Levine has allegedly remained consistently unwilling to listen and even actively hostile towards employees that question this state of things, this decision making, leading directly to the many departures that provide the backbone of this story.

January 4th 2022: Sony’s first announcement of the new year was via a PS Blog post about PlayStation VR 2, now officially titled that alongside the PSVR2 Sense controller. The PSVR2 headset features a new OLED screen, as first reported last summer, and the controller features integration of the DualSense’s core features. The post concludes by announcing a new PSVR2 exclusive first party game, Horizon: Call of the Mountain, from Guerrilla and Firesprite.

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