Welcome back to a new year of 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!
Hey, I gotta give fair warning every time, this is another really long one. I’m sure that’s not surprising with how eventful this month turned out.Please feel free to pace out your reading, do whatever you need. Thanks for your support.
Activision-Blizzard Updates Compilation: Money Never Sleeps
Okay now that’s out of the way, I know I usually try to go as purely chronological with this as I can. But we all understand why that kind of needs to be overridden in this case, right? Right.
On Tuesday January 18th, Microsoft officially bought Activision Blizzard King for approximately $70 billion USD.
Pending international federal antitrust review and finalization1 over the next 18 months, at the latest by the end of Microsoft’s next fiscal year in June 2023, one of the top ten biggest public game companies in the world will own another of the top ten game companies. Call of Duty, Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Crash Bandicoot, Candy Crush, all will become Xbox first party.
This deal in certain respects is in the same ballpark as Disney and Fox, AT&T and Warner Bros, but more importantly it massively exceeds every other similar deal within the games industry’s history, from Activision’s own $18.9 billion merger with Vivendi and $5.9 billion purchase of Candy Crush maker King, to Take Two’s purchase of Zynga one week earlier. Literally, Take-Two broke the acquisition record with Zynga before this broke the record again. This deal is roughly ten times the cost of Microsoft’s previous 2020 purchase of Zenimax. It squarely increases Xbox’s revenue to put it at the number 3 spot for annual revenue among public gaming companies, behind only Tencent and Sony, and of course further inflates Microsoft’s overall revenue and value to continue be way too far beyond almost any gaming company, leading exactly back to it being able to do something like this. Now, yes, it’s true that the games industry does indeed remain considerably more competitive than say, film or telecom. It’s good to keep perspective. But I’m not going to downplay this either, not when the risk remains of these acquisitions encouraging more to occur, possibly even effectively forcing them in the long term, acts of survival and arms race.
This will almost certainly be the most contentious antitrust review since Disney-Fox and the likely failed Nvidia-Arm deal. Regulators will have to consider the implications of 1. consolidating two major publishers’ finances, 2. putting this many previously neutral development studios under one roof, and most importantly, 3. how Microsoft can harm rivals with game exclusivity, especially of course with Call of Duty, which is a massive revenue stream for PlayStation. The series’ four most recent entries, Vanguard, Cold War, Warzone, and Modern Warfare, were all among 2021’s bestsellers on PlayStation and as a whole, even with consecutive under-performances from the first two.
Per numerous reporters along with both Xbox and ABK’s own official statements, all ABK business will, upon closing of the acquisition, answer to newly promoted and retitled CEO of Microsoft Gaming Phil Spencer. Both Kirsten Grind and company at Wall Street Journal across two separate reports, and Dina Bass and company at Bloomberg, all on the same day as the announcement, report that Kotick is departing not only the CEO position, which Spencer’s officially announced status already implies, but the company of ABK as a whole. Likely at request from Xbox and ABK leadership alike, he has allegedly signed a specific deal (with corresponding golden parachute severance) agreeing to this departure as a PR decision once both the purchase is complete and Kotick’s current contract expires in March 2023. Whether any other of the numerous corporate leaders within ABK who have abused and protected abusers, from the board of directors to developer heads and more, will depart as well, that remains to be seen.
After the announcement, Kotick publicly claimed that the acquisition had nothing to do with the Activision’s controversies, but all internal testimony points the contrary. According to the WSJ reporters, their extensive sources, and the timeline of the negotiations it was their very own bombshell mid-November feature exposing that Bobby Kotick knew extensively of the abuse within ABK, covered up the abuse, and participated in the abuse, which led to Phil Spencer first approaching Kotick about buying out the company only two months before the deal had been reached and announced. When Spencer was issuing that company-wide statement about reviewing all aspects of Xbox and Activision’s relationship, he was at that very moment meaning that he believed stepping and taking over ABK was the best way to salvage how badly ABK had poisoned the well of the games industry as a whole, how badly Bobby Kotick had personally poisoned ABK. He also understandably saw that despite all of Kotick’s hubris, it was this very situation that would make him want out if nothing else would.
Microsoft had apparently expressed interest in buying Activision in the past, but Kotick was always very resistant, prideful in his history with the company, until circumstances created the opportunity for a “graceful exit” (in his eyes) after scandal. Kotick remained resistant even when Spencer first approached him in November 2021, his first response being to put word out, see who would outbid Microsoft. He got no takers. Meanwhile, Kotick was rapidly losing leverage with the Board which so infamously stood by him in public, they were getting anxious and saw that the controversy was sustaining itself long enough they might be forced to oust him to satisfy shareholders despite their reluctance to go against a longtime colleague Ultimately, Spencer’s offer was the perfect opportunity for all involved.
Despite the certain elegance of it all, it’s painfully difficult to imagine that the extent of Spencer’s plans for cleaning up the company’s image can possibly match up to what we already know is the extent of the problem within ABK. It realistically simply won’t be enough, and I for one am not going to settle for that when I also know a hardworking, burgeoning union that will most likely be stagnated both by the limbo of the deal approval window and the eventual active involvement of the new parent company. We know Microsoft’s own failures on workplace conduct. We know what Microsoft does to unions, and it’s quite literally exactly what the #WeAreRaven strike was about.
Shannon Liao at The Washington Post reported on Thursday January 20th that an internal all-hands remote video conference had been held within ABK that same morning to address and discuss the acquisition news. Bobby Kotick himself hosted and answered various questions from employees, in what was supposed to be a 30 minute event, but Kotick was 7 minutes late and wrapped up early, leaving it at only 16 minutes total. Several employees spoke anonymously with WaPo to say that they became more suspicious and afraid of upcoming layoffs after Kotick said Microsoft is committed to “retain[ing] as many of our people as possible” instead of simply retaining everyone. An anonymous employee separately told Kotaku that they knew several coworkers who submitted questions about gender discrimination and the Raven strike, but Kotick and his question reader deliberately skipped them. The article concluded on two important comments. The first was from Phil Spencer stating that before making the announcement, Activision had to present a forward plan to him on addressing workplace culture. The latter is a deeply striking statement from a Blizzard employee that completely resonated with me, seen in full below.
“All the fear and anger felt is still tied up in Bobby Kotick and what harm he will inflict until the torch is passed to Microsoft. He likened Activision to be as important as his children and I feel like he will not let go of it. With no mention of the strike, the lawsuit, or any of the continuing issues, there may as well have not been a Q&A at all. We could’ve read a press release and slept an extra 15 minutes.”
Also on January 20th, Bloomberg issued a follow-up report from Jason Schreier, having preliminary discussions with ABK sources on their reaction to the buyout. Foremost, more than a dozen (out of course a company of many thousands) all agree: “they’re relieved that something — anything — has actually happened that could fundamentally change the company’s course.” Kotick’s exit will likely be enough for some struggling employees at least in the immediate term. I don’t blame them one bit, of course, from my own ABK contacts I really do understand and sympathize, but I also do still hope for more. Schreier also reports that multiple high level employees, anticipating a pivot to Microsoft’s managerial approach, are already discussing moving Call of Duty away from annualized releases, improving both game quality and workplace quality.
After the acquisition announcement and talks between leadership later that same week, Sony and Xbox both commented on Call of Duty‘s status and the broader question of multiplatform ABK releases going forward.
In addition to what I will discuss below, there’s Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV: Overwatch 2 already has longstanding contracts in place for both PlayStation and Switch releases, while Diablo 4 has one for PlayStation. Overwatch as an established live service game was already an easy prime candidate for continuing cross-support: Xbox hasn’t messed with either of Zenimax’s live service games, Fallout 76 and Elder Scrolls Online, because abruptly cutting off an existing audience of a live game is simply too bad of PR, in addition to these also having existing contracts to honor. The free to play battle royale Call of Duty: Warzone currently on PS4 and PS5 thus also fits the bill. But there’s going to be a lot of single player games and a lot of games still in concepting or early development that might not be so lucky
Less than a week later on the 25th, Schreier (with assistance by Dina Bass and Takashi Mochizuki) had another report on ABK, his most recent at publication. This time he was completely focused on the status of Call of Duty. One 2022 and two 2023 entries in the Call of Duty series, games which are already well into development and had existing contracts already in place, are all still set to release on PlayStation to honor existing agreements as Xbox did with Deathloop and Ghostwire previously. This is confirmed by four different sources to Schreier and his Bloomberg colleagues. The games are Infinity Ward’s sequel to the 2019 Modern Warfare reboot, set to launch later this fall, a traditional annualized entry by Treyarch set for 2023, and a next-gen exclusive iterative followup to Call of Duty: Warzone, “a completely new game for better hardware,” per Tom Henderson. (Henderson has also reported that Modern Warfare II is cross-gen, Treyarch’s game is the first next-gen exclusive entry.)
It’s fairly definite now that 2024 is the very earliest that Call of Duty could be taken away from PlayStation. And that risk can’t be ignored given what we currently are told on games like Elder Scrolls 6. It is admittedly a substantial window for Sony to pursue replacement revenue streams, especially now with a majority cut on Destiny 2‘s revenue and future live service games waiting in the wings. I remain fairly sure that Sony would still rather not have to lose and outright replace Call of Duty at all, volatile as such a thing is, and I feel that some significant compromises from Sony for the sake of continually securing the shooter franchise are at least plausible. I truly believe that if these arrogant businessmen can find it in their hearts (or wallets, or antitrust approvals) to just share instead of further radically reshaping everything, the industry will be better for it. I can only hope they do, and I dearly hope that Microsoft remotely does right by the many hardworking developers at ABK.
Everything else from ABK
January 11th: It had been reported from ABK Workers Alliance members and contacts for at least a week at that point, but it was on this date that Activision gave formal confirmation. ABK reassigned many contractors and employees from various other studios within the company to handling Quality Assurance for Call of Duty: Warzone, rather than actually communicating with the striking Raven QA members whatsoever. Beenox, High Moon Studios, Toys for Bob, and Activision Shanghai among others, adding up to more employees total than were terminated at Raven in the first place, all began substituting for the striking devs.
January 17th: Another Wall Street Journal report by Kirsten Grind gave the latest update on ABK internal goings-on, and Bobby Kotick himself in particular, only one day before the Microsoft announcement. The report was focused on Kotick and ABK leadership’s attempts to satisfy internal and external scrutiny while in typical Kotick fashion doing as little as possible and diminishing transparency and accountability as much as possible. ABK approved, produced, and scheduled a summary report compiling the disciplining or terminations of more than 70 employees, and the filing of roughly 700 misconduct complaints, all just since July 2021 when these matters first became widespread public knowledge. This would theoretically be a natural form of practicing what is preached regarding the company’s documented, formal insistence that it’ll improve transparency.
The report was scheduled to be released ahead of the winter holidays, but in a classic move, Bobby Kotick deliberately held it back at the last minute. He didn’t want it to “make the company’s workplace problems seem bigger than is already known.” Going beyond a claim that it blows things out of proportion, which we’d expect from him, and explicitly saying that he wants to prevent people from knowing the scale it actually is at if and when possible. Multiple examples of new, recent attempts from external partners to intervene were disclosed for the first time by the WSJ here. The New York state comptroller joined other financially invested state governments’ attempts to put pressure on ABK, requesting an annual transparency report from ABK like the one Kotick sabotaged. The comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, officially stated to the WSJ that all options are open to him to address the problem. Meanwhile, minor (owning slightly more shares than Kotick himself) private shareholder Fidelity International explicitly threatened to sell off its shares and reach out to other shareholders if its recommendation, for Kotick to be put on administrative leave during a proper third party review, was not heeded. Both of these occurred in late November.
Kotick has still yet to face any tangible consequences for his consistent and blatant attempts to obstruct internal and external partners from assessing the company’s situation, and the ABK Board of Directors’ support for him is unchanged. The likelihood that he will remain in place with nothing to worry about remains depressingly high, up until the equally depressing matter of it likely taking Xbox’s forceful, expensive intervention for us to even just get Kotick eventually taking a generously compensated exit.
January 19th: Activision’s post-announcement SEC filing regarding the Microsoft acquisition/merger was found to make a series of flagrantly deceitful claims, that there was (at the time) no ongoing strike or union activity to the company’s knowledge, no material allegations of sexual harassment since 2018, and no ongoing legal proceedings which would have material adverse effects on the deal or its value. This is blatantly, provably illegal and the degree to which this denial of reality can be likely achieved without consequence is chilling. CODE-CWA almost immediately called for the SEC to investigate the corporation over its claims, and so far, that is it.
January 21st: As the seventh week of the #WeAreRaven strike came to a close with still no outreach from ABK leadership, the Quality Assurance team at Raven Software officially announced its attempt to form its own union, the Game Workers Alliance, with the full support of the CWA and the ABK Workers Alliance. The leftover money from the crowdsourced strike fund will be saved for future organizing and striking efforts. Well, if Raven was willing to go through with this even after the acquisition announcement then maybe there’s reason to be optimistic –
January 24th: Raven QA officially voted to approve its proposed union by a roughly 80% majority, and afterward, ABK management immediately issued a reorganization of Raven to deliberately distance the union’s members and leaders from each other, moving them to separate departments across the studio. The union began on Friday and was broken up by the next Monday. Raven is based in Wisconsin, a state which does not have a sterling track record on labor laws, so unfortunately the likelihood of consequences for these particular blatantly unacceptable actions on ABK’s part is low.
January 25th: ABK failed to meet the deadline for recognizing Raven QA’s union, so workers began preparing to file for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board. ABK’s response was sabotage plain and simple, an attempt to forcibly expand the union vote from just the QA department to the entire studio. A majority of 300 is harder to secure than a majority of 30, and it’s an unfair framework when the QA department has only ever tried to unionize itself, not push it on anyone else.
Blizzard and CEO/willing corporate tool Mike Ybarra announced its first brand new IP since Overwatch on social media, a currently untitled multiplatform survival game. The announcement was teased by Ybarra days before, described the game as advanced enough in development for Ybarra to “played many hours of this project,” and the announcement was accompanied by the game’s first concept art. This was so overt as yet another example of Blizzard being deployed as a PR distraction (in this case from ABK’s aforementioned latest union busting) that at least one reported admitted he was expecting a different unannounced game doing the distraction job instead.
February 3rd: A new Warcraft game debuting the series on mobile was announced during ABK’s latest earnings report.
Everything else non-Activision
January 5th: Xbox and Ubisoft officially announced that the Ubisoft Plus subscription service is coming to Xbox consoles later this year, after it spent its first two years and change as PC-only. Additionally, they announced that Rainbow Six: Extraction, following in the footsteps of other recent multiplayer titles, would be on Xbox Game Pass on launch day. These dual announcements confirm part of rumors swirling for months about Ubisoft putting its service onto Xbox consoles and then onto Game Pass Ultimate. I’ve joked many times about news stories hitting right after I publish my previous News Roundup, and this one felt like possibly the biggest yet.
This news was also only the beginning of a huge month of Game Pass announcements and additions, ranging from day one indies like Pupperazi, Drinkbox’s Nobody Saves the World, and Windjammers 2, to Mass Effect Legendary Edition, Spelunky 2, Death’s Door, series coming to Xbox for the first time like Danganronpa and Taika no Tatsujin, the return of Outer Wilds (without its new expansion) and the Hitman Trilogy (via Hitman 3 plus the passes to play the previous two games with Hitman 3’s additions).
Independent game platform/store Game Jolt abruptly informed numerous developers that their games were being immediately taken off the site because it would “no longer allow content that depicts, solicits, promotes, normalizes, or glorifies sexual acts”
January 6th: E3 2022 was officially canceled with no current formal commitment to a digital backup plan like last year. That’s the actual appropriate headline for this story, despite how poorly it’s occasionally been reported and headlined since it happened a month ago. After previously declaring a physical E3 2022, the ESA announced the cancelation of its physical event for the third year in a row, citing the ongoing safety concerns surrounding the COVID pandemic, especially the transmissibility of the Omicron variant. The ESA did not formally commit to a digital E3 2022 in its announcement, only offer vague PR comments about “the future of E3” and “more details” later. Many in the public just assumed they had without checking. Additional details and context to this have already come in, from a variety of major games reporters and contacts who explicitly say that the ESA didn’t commit to anything beyond no physical event because it can’t confirm a replacement digital event yet. There is nothing to commit to because it does not have the needed commitments from major game publishers, and it is distinctly possible it will never receive them, based on impressions of negotiations going continually poorly over these past months, from aforementioned various reporters and sources.
My most cynical guess would’ve still been the event limping along in digital only form for years on end, but it’s distinctly possible now it won’t even get that far. If another united digital E3 event is never finalized, as it looks right now, the answers for why are ultimately pretty simple. Every software-only games publisher has to pay in money just to receive E3 branding and marketing, none of the additional benefits of the physical E3 era. This cost is simply not going as far as it used to. The ESA’s broader capacity for fuckups like repeatedly doxxing its participants does it no favors either. The game publishers are doing the work of making their digital presentations, and these presentations get the views either way, so why not cut out the middleman.
IGN’s Rebekah Valentine said the following on the day of the announcement: “Multiple folks told me their understanding was that the physical event had been quietly canceled months ago.” Mike Futter even directly pointed to specific evidence from the Los Angeles Convention Center’s 2022 schedule, showing that the ESA canceled their reservation of the convention hall in early November before the Omicron variant’s first cases. The implication with the other information in mind is that the ESA wasn’t at any point making its decisions out of safety concerns, but simply using them for cover once companies started playing hardball about returning again.
Elsewhere, with the new year came a “State of Bioware” blogpost which officially updated the company’s hiring policy so that it now takes the applications of permanent remote workers from anywhere in North America for any positions, instead of requiring relocation to Austin, Texas or Edmonton, Canada where its offices are.
In a depressing if better than nothing bit of industry crossover, gaming discount and restock trackers like Wario64, ACPocketNews, and PS5restocks_etc began announcing restocks of COVID home tests alongside their other products. Nicole Carpenter at Polygon spoke with some of the individuals on their decision, who stated plainly that they want to help people in what way they can.
January 7th: During the Q&A section of its latest management meeting, Sega directly expressed a willingness to back off from plans about NFTs and associated products. It hasn’t actually committed to any changes of plans, which it’s made a point of noting, but this is nonetheless a first for the major games publishers with NFT plans. Later in the month, indie publisher Team17 would go on to announce NFT products without any consultation of its own development partners, and quickly canceled their plans following widespread backlash. Much later, on February 2nd, a Kotaku feature by Ethan Gach was published, covering how considerable tides have shifted behind the scenes at Electronic Arts over its own previously discussed enthusiasm for NFTs and crypto products.
On February 1st, EA, like many video game companies during that same week, had its latest investor call on their performance in the holiday 2021 quarter. CEO Andrew Wilson has been infamous for years within the company for his enthusiasm for crypto/blockchain, but at the call, he backed down considerably on them, calling them the venture capital fads they are and saying “Right now, we’re not driving hard on them.” This came primarily from two things: extensive pushback from various developers within the publisher, and the plan for FIFA NFTs being a major sticking point in the currently ongoing very contentious negotiations with the FIFA organization to renew EA’s license for its soccer games. In the internal comms channel where much of the pushback occurred, some bootlicker stupidly attacked their coworkers for daring to have input on something their names would involuntarily be on, but corporate leadership at least had the instinct to intervene, disavow and penalize the attacker, which is more than you can say for say, ABK, which loves its attack dogs.
January 8th: Footage and images began to leak online from Bandai Namco and FromSoftware’s currently in development new Armored Core game.
January 10th: Take Two Interactive announced that it bought Farmville and Words with Friends creator Zynga for $12.7 billion USD in both cash and stock. The deal is set to close by mid-2022 after a negotiated 45 day window open for any companies to offer a higher bid. n looking for entry into the mobile market and had been talking with Zynga for a year before reaching the current agreement. Despite being largely remembered for Facebook games from the late 2000s, the mobile-focused developer massive in both scale and success, with millions of customers, billions in revenue, and more than 2000 employees, albeit also with some instability and debts which led directly Zynga taking the current offer. Zynga also has the upcoming mobile focused multiplayer game Star Wars Hunters, a partnership in which Nintendo had reportedly invested considerably, securing console exclusivity on Switch after the initial 2018 deal for the game between Zynga and Disney.
Meanwhile, Tencent neared finalization on its own latest purchase, a deal to buy accessory maker Black Shark Gaming. This is an investment in the metaverse, as Tencent will reportedly have Black Shark focus on building VR headsets.
January 11th: Sega opened a new office in the city of Sapporo in order to help improve development efficiency.
Ubisoft officially announced the Switch port of Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection, set to release on February 17th. Compiling remasters of Assassin’s Creed 2, AC: Brotherhood, and AC Revelations, this had been previously leaked last fall directly by one of the reporters I source from.
Developer Okomotive announced the multiplatform launch date for their boat adventure game FAR: Changing Tides as March 1st.
January 12th: Nintendo stand-alone released the second trailer for Kirby And the Forgotten Land, announcing its launch date as March 25th 2022 while showcasing new gameplay, from two player co-op to a flourishing Waddle Dee village hubworld wwith minigames and amiibo support.
Following from the new class-action settlement late last year, Riot announced a new temporary policy update, expanding its Queue Dodge program to all employees for the month of January. Queue Dodge was previously used to soften the blow for new hires who choose to leave during their first six months at the company, being provided an upfront payment equal to 10% of what their annual salary was. In addition to covering all current employees for the month, the expanded Queue Dodge offers 25% of their salary, three months of subsidized health care, and continued eligibility for an end of fiscal year bonus. This incentivizes those current employees who don’t fit the planned changes to attempt to improve the workplace to simply leave and not cause any problems instead of remaining for the sake of staying afloat financially. This is…a tough one to judge.
It was reported from Takashi Mochizuki and Debby Wu via Bloomberg that Sony is keeping its PS4 supply chain active for another year, in a reduced capacity, to support their sales quotas and supply partners without worsening the already dire strain on the PS5 supply chain. It would’ve originally concluded with the end of 2021.
Developer and publisher GSC Game World announced that it had delayed the release of its first game in six years, STALKER 2, from April to December 2022.
January 13th: As soon as PUBG went fully free to play across platforms, parent company Krafton immediately began filing copyright infringement lawsuits against the company Garena, the Apple and Google app stores hosting Garena’s Free Fire games, and Youtube for hosting videos of the Free Fire games, due to the series starting very shortly after PUBG‘s original release while directly copying numerous assets alongside the broader overlapping battle royale mechanics. That Krafton isn’t suing, you know, the innumerable other entries in the genre tells me they probably have a case here, but involving various hosting platforms will probably only complicate the matter.
Xbox took the opposite path from Sony thanks to the benefits of the Series S supply chain already achieving the same effect; Microsoft formally ended manufacturing of the Xbox One S as the last in the X1 line still standing, thus ending Xbox One manufacturing as a whole.
Nvidia and Epic Games announced that they had developed a touchscreen-oriented cloud streamed mobile version of Fortnite for Nvidia’s GeForce Now service. The closed beta for Fortnite on GeForce Now began mid-January ahead of a full release soon. The real reason this made headlines is that GeForce Now is supported on iOS devices, thus this is bringing Fortnite back to iOS without involving Apple’s app store, more than a year after Apple’s legally reaffirmed seemingly permanent removal of the game from the Apple store for TOS violations. Apple did have to give approval for this to go through, in the same way that they accepted Microsoft’s compromise of putting Xbox Cloud Gaming on iOS browser and not the app store. Otherwise this would be exclusive to GeForce Now on Android.
Platinum Games’ President and CEO Kenichi Sato announced that he actually departed the positions at the end of 2021, replaced by former VP and former Clover CEO Atsushi Inaba. Sato remains in an advisory role.
IOI held a major Hitman 3 update presentation to lead into the game’s second year of support. The announcements included several new game modes, including one with roguelike elements, a currently undetailed full bonus level like Hitman 2‘s New York and Maldives, the game’s Steam release after a year of Epic exclusivity on PC, the arrival of PC VR support for the whole trilogy of games, and the trilogy’s arrival on Xbox Game Pass.
The 2015 video game of Ryan North’s To Be or Not to Be surprise released on Switch after six years on PC and iOS.
One of the only major complaints for KOTOR on Switch was that a text box simply noting “Combat mode engaged” was too large, vision-obscuring, and unable to be removed during combat. Aspyr originally stated that it was intended design with no further concern, but enough feedback resulted in a patch for it being confirmed on the 13th.
January 14th: FFXIV was announced to be going back on sale on January 25th, some weeks after this temporary move was made due to the severe server congestion which the MMO has been plagued with since the Endwalker expansion’s launch in December. The ‘relaunch’ is in conjunction with the rollout of an additional data center in Oceania to help with said problem. Naoki Yoshida also announced that the FF14 team will be reconfiguring or expanding data centers across Japan, Europe, and North America during July and August, to further address the congestion issue.
A FAQ on the recently revealed RTS Dune: Spice Wars explained, among other things, just how barebones it’ll be at the start of its planned early access period. Both the campaign mode and multiplayer will not be available initially. There are four factions at ‘launch.’ There are no current plans for player-made mod support. And there is no public price point yet.
A trailer released to announce that the polarizing (Y2K, not Yeek as I always think it says in text) YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG will release a free revamping ‘Definitive Edition’ update across all platforms later in 2022.
January 17th: Beloved British stop motion studio Aardman Animations of Wallace and Gromit and the forthcoming Chicken Run sequel (now with 100% less Mel Gibson!) has given new details on their current video game project with Bandai Namco after announcing the collaboration in 2020. It will be an original open world 3D action game, not based on any of their previous properties, and is built in Unreal Engine. This admittedly is a description you can apply to many modern games, but the fact that it’s Aardman still brings a lot of novelty.
January 18th: Square Enix formally announced the release date for all the Kingdom Hearts series Cloud Versions on Switch, February 10th 2022. $40 USD for 1.5 + 2.5 Remix, $50 for the 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, $50 for Kingdom Hearts 3 + DLC, and $90 for the Integrum Masterpiece complete bundle of all aforementioned.
The Switch and PlayStation ports for The Artful Escape were announced, releasing January 25th. I will withhold my comments on this game of which I played about half, I already have an article which will deal with it as you all know.
Per NPD and Mat Piscatella, 2021 in total matched a previous major record for the Pokémon game series. Dollar sales in the US of physical Pokémon games in the US reached their highest annual total in 21 years, since the year 2000 at the tail end of the initial franchise fever. The launch of the Sinnoh remakes, along with the launch of New Pokémon Snap and residual sales of Sword and Shield, on their own were able to match the combined success of Pokémon Gold and Silver, Pokémon Yellow, and the numerous spinoffs of Stadium, Puzzle Challenge, Puzzle League, Trading Card Game: The Video Game, and Hey You Pikachu. Without even counting the digital sales of those Switch games, or the massive launch of Legends Arceus afterwards.
Just in time ahead of the Cuphead DLC, its cartoon’s premiere date of February 18th was announced with a new full trailer.
January 19th: Techland delayed Dying Light 2: Cloud Version on Nintendo Switch to “within six months” of the initial launch date. All other versions stayed on February 4th.
January 20th: On the same day that publisher Warner Bros and developer TT Games announced the likely final release date (April 5th) of the long-gestating Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, Polygon published Jack Yarwood’s feature on crunch, discrimination, and mismanagement during the game’s development at TT Games. Work began on Skywalker Saga in 2017 at the same time as many employees were attempting to internally speak out against the company’s history of severely overworking employees for harsh deadlines on low salaries with outdated tools. Unfortunately, their voices fell on deaf ears, and the abuse was only exacerbated by the troubled development of the newest game.
The entire foundation of the company’s Lego games series, going back to 2005 when Traveller’s Tales first became TT Games, was forcing the completion of the games on annual deadlines by any means necessary. More than 30 anonymous current and former employees spoke to Yarwood about these issues and their history, telling of regular 80-100 hour six day work weeks with minimal compensation. Gender discrimination is another described longstanding issue within the company, with a severe gap for women on pay, contract opportunities, and promotion opportunities, as well as verbal harassment. The company took on new management in 2020, which has since seen accusations of nepotism, but also the beginning of improvements within the developer. Some very recent positive steps at TT Games have been reported by multiple of Yarwood’s sources. The company has began instituting and enforcing limits on overtime, and agreed to switch to using Unreal Engine like developers had requested both before and after the introduction of the technically flawed engine specially created for Skywalker Saga. Like with the previous report on Bungie, the news of improvements arrives bittersweet, having taken far too much and too long to get there.
Nintendo’s release of Banjo-Kazooie on NSO EP brought with it more news. At the same time, Nintendo announced that Majora’s Mask will be the next N64 NSO game in February. Additionally, it’s now been certified that emulation improvements have come within the monthly updates that added Paper Mario and Banjo-Kazooie, making graphical adjustments and input lag improvements for Ocarina of Time, among other changes across the N64 library.
Indie tabletop RPG company Possum Creek takes its next project to Indiegogo, departing Kickstarter after many years over the crowdfunding platform’s pro-blockchain stance.
Square Enix announced another delay for the release of Life is Strange Remastered Collection for Switch, pushing it to an unknown time later in 2022. All other versions of the game did still launch on February 1st, although there are presently lingering technical issues. At least I’ve heard that True Colors is very well optimized on Switch, so hopefully the remasters will be as well once they’re done.
January 21st: Take-Two finally set the new release date for the physical Switch version of the GTA remaster trilogy, as February 11th.
January 22nd: After multiple delays to both the game and the livestream featuring the final announcement, Platinum Games finally officially announced that its shooter Sol Cresta will launch on February 22nd 2022.
January 25th: Ian King, Giles Turner, and Peter Elstrom at Bloomberg reported that Nvidia just warned its partners and shareholders that its attempted acquisition of fellow hardware company Arm will not go through, right after the European Commission set a May 25th deadline for their decision on the deal. After more than a year, Nvidia has completed failed to convincingly argue to any of the various regulators around the world that the buyout wouldn’t give it undue power over the microchip industry, and is widely expected to either see the deal fail this spring or formally abandon it before that happens. As a result, current owner Softbank is preparing an initial public offering on Arm to create additional revenue alternative to the many billions of dollars that Nvidia offered. According to Bloomberg’s sources, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Intel, and Amazon among others campaigned successfully directly to regulators against the deal. I can’t say that exactly is how I would want to see it happen, but I am grateful to see at least one major industry consolidation fail. It absolutely was too much power for Nvidia to have as already the second biggest chipmaker.
EA and Lucasfilm Games issued dual press releases announcing Respawn’s three current projects, all in the Star Wars universe. They are a first person shooter, a strategy game, and a direct sequel to Jedi: Fallen Order. The shooter will be directed by Peter Hirschmann, who previously worked at LucasArts on the original 2000s Star Wars Battlefront games. The strategy game is primarily developed by Bit Reactor, a new independent contractor studio founded by former Firaxis members, while Respawn is producing and publishing it. Both the RTS and the FPS have only just entered development and are several years away from release. And the existence of both the FPS and Fallen Order 2 had leaked prior to the announcement, with reports on the latter dating back to early last year. (I had actually covered this in a Patron-exclusive feature just before the official announcement was made.)
There’s a few different layers of messaging to this announcement. Foremost, it is a further massive investment by EA into Respawn after the success of both Apex Legends and Fallen Order, and it demonstrates that the partnership between EA and Lucasfilm Games remains intact. When Lucasfilm Games first started announcing its various new non-EA (Aspyr, Ubisoft, Quantic Dream, Zenimax for Indiana Jones) gaming partnerships last year, it was easy from the outside to be skeptical of the official reassurance that EA was still part of Star Wars going forward. This firmly puts those doubts to rest, but as the sequel to Fallen Order (Star Wars Jedi: New Subtitle) has been in development for years, those doubts didn’t have a basis in reality at that time either. When Lucasfilm Games went to EA to renegotiate their original 10 year exclusive contract, EA had basically just Fallen Order and its massive success (More than 10 million copies sold in less than six months) to thank for the fact that they only lost the exclusivity itself and not the entire partnership.
EA is also expressing how its management of the Star Wars license has evolved after the combination of Battlefront 2‘s critical, financial, and legal difficulties and Fallen Order‘s success. According to Tom Henderson, DICE pitched Star Wars Battlefront 3 to EA last year and were turned down because the games were too expensive to be sufficiently profitable after Disney took their revenue cut. Henderson had accurately reported these now announced titles at that time. These new single player focused titles can still have AAA production values with significantly smaller budgets, and thus more easily recouped costs. Battlefront and Battlefield‘s recent struggles* put DICE into a tenuous position and help made Respawn the easier immediate reinvestment of the two, though ultimately DICE is kind of too big to fail. As the biggest team of the company, EA has a need to keep supporting it and hope for better.
*At the investor call and earnings report the week after this announcement, CEO Andrew Wilson said plainly that Battlefield 2042 has not met expectations.
Lienzo announced the release date of their Indie World feature Aztech: Forgotten Gods via trailer. The game will launch on all platforms on March 10th.
January 26th: Crytek released an official announcement teaser of Crysis 4, which will be the series’ first brand new entry in at least ten years, as this game is very early in development. This comes after two years of successfully releasing the remastered original trilogy to all current hardware. This isn’t really relevant, a lot changes in ten years, but it’s funny to think about how Crytek’s former CEO Cevat Yerli said, when Crysis 3 first launched, that calling a future entry in the series “Crysis 4” would be misleading.
Paradox released a new trailer showcasing the next-gen console versions of Crusader Kings 3, which are now officially set to release on March 29th on both PS5 and Xbox Series. Polygon’s article here provides a very solid preview of how the console port plays, which seems helpful for both existing fans, and newcomers to a reputable but intimidating series making its console debut. And Paradox Interactive is a troubled workplace, but right now at least this company can say it actually agreed to its union and works with them, which far from everyone in this industry can say.
Valve officially announced the release date of the Steam Deck hardware as February 25th.
No Man’s Sky developer Hello Games returned to its first game Joe Danger after many years, remastering it and its 2014 second sequel, and fixing them on iOS after they were no longer functioning due to the hard 32-bit/64-bit transition. This was in the works for years, and although Hello had already wanted to revisit the game after neglecting the game in favor of dev’s the biggest hit, they were specifically inspired to do the work and get it done thanks to a father and son who bonded over the games. Mike Fahey of Kotaku brought that backstory, something very personal to him as a fellow father of an autistic son, to the public light.
January 27th: Spike Chunsoft released a new story trailer for Somnium Files: nirvanA Initiative, announcing its worldwide launch date as June 24th 2022.
Sega and Two Point Studios announced that their next sim game Two Point Campus will launch on May 17th 2022.
Iron Galaxy indefinitely delayed its upcoming wrestling battle royale Rumbleverse less than two months after announcing it at The Game Awards and very shortly before its previously scheduled February release. All existing Early Access purchases will be refunded and and a new beta test will be held on February 12th.
Ubisoft announced that it is ending development on its free battle royale Hyper Scape, shutting down all servers for the game on April 28th, less than two years after its summer 2020 launch.
After until now only showcasing PS5 footage, Guerrilla Games officially released…the first PS4 Pro footage of the now imminent Horizon Forbidden West, which has also officially gone gold.
January 28th: Sega announced that it was fully withdrawing from the arcade business, selling all its remaining arcades in Japan to Genda, Inc, AKA GiGo. In June 2020, Sega postured a lot about pushing arcades forward with state of the art tech, but by the end of that year had already started selling shares and establishments to Genda, 85% of shares to be exact. All Sega arcades will be renamed to GiGo. I wholly discourage anyone from actively fearmongering over this at this time, but I suppose I should acknowledge that in this current season of industry acquisition fears, some have discussed the notion that this selloff is in anticipation of Sega being bought by a company that doesn’t want or can’t own current holdings like the arcades. But the main reason for this selloff, the reason it started back in 2020, is of course simply that arcades’ revenue was seriously damaged by COVID even in a region like Japan where arcades were still flourishing.
Evil Dead: The Game was delayed at the last minute from a February release to a May launch.
January 31st: sighs *On that Monday morning, it all happened so quickly when Sony stock prices were suddenly paused pending an announcement, and mere minutes later, industry press got their scoops out just ahead of the official announcement. Sony Interactive Entertainment had purchased Bungie, developers of Halo and Destiny, for $3.6 billion USD.
According to Sony’s own presentation to shareholders, one third of the deal, more than a billion dollars, will go towards retention incentives paid out over several years, which is to say, direct financial compensation to Bungie’s 900 current employees to keep them on both during and after the completion of the buyout. Sony’s genuine primary interest in this particular deal is the skill and experience itself of the current employees at Bungie, so immediately losing even some of that pool of developers to other big publishers is a serious loss on investment. Sony seeks to leveraging that body of skill and experience towards the optimal possible development and release of live services, as well as their overall technical development and multimedia plans.
An increased focus on and investment in the live service and multimedia models have been brewing at Sony for years, and this is just the next step. In the same aforementioned shareholder meeting held just last week, Sony said they plan to launch 10 new live service games in the next four years, by March 2026. (Along with doubling first party revenue by 2025…fuck me, has Jim Ryan ever heard of aiming low and hitting right on target?)Sony has committed to putting a lot on the line for the sake of accomplishing this as effectively as possible, as we’ll soon see.
Bungie and Sony have explicitly confirmed out of the gate that Destiny 2 will continue to be fully supported in content and cross play across all platforms, just like the aforementioned previous acquired subscription and FTP live services. However, this goes far beyond that, as Bungie’s terms for the deal required its operation as an independent self-publishing subsidiary, with the ability to keep releasing even future games multiplatform intact as very firmly indicated by both companies. “Q. Bungie has future games in development, will they now become PlayStation exclusives? A. No.” The extent to which this goes is of course not currently clear. It may well only go as far as launching day one on PC and PlayStation instead of PC releases taking ages. But it’s distinctly possible that the long-debated adage of more sales on more platforms is a win win for everyone could finally ring true in at least one instance.
Christopher Dring at GamesIndustryDotBiz took lead on this story, speaking directly with Jim Ryan and providing the following details. The deal between Sony and Bungie had been in the works for roughly the past 5 to 6 months, back to summer 2021, well before the initial offer from Microsoft to Activision was even made, let alone known outside the companies. Bungie’s acquisition definitively and factually was not in response to the ABK acquisition, or the purchase of Zynga. These deals do not happen that quickly. Activision at two to three months was abnormally fast. However, in his immediate interviews after the Bungie purchase was announced, Jim Ryan did threaten/promise to “expect more” acquisitions by PlayStation. Dring also reinforces what I reported above by asserting straight from speaking with Jim Ryan that multiplatform games are a specific goal and investment of Sony’s in this deal.
I’d be remiss to not discuss the previous reports of workplace cultural issues at Bungie in this context, considering that some regrettable and complex matters have come up further (thank you Washington Post for this piece) just since the buyout a week ago. Employees at Bungie below leadership learned of the buyout at the same time as the public did, which is common and considered a legal necessity, though still a difficult position to be put in. And employees expressed conflicted feelings, pointing to Bungie’s history of struggling under big publishers and breaking free, at both Microsoft and Activision, and have concern about how their relationship with Sony will look despite all these big assurances right now. “If we remain as independent in design and direction as our leadership claims, it will be good, I think. However, Sony-owned studios are not famed for their great working conditions.” Some are skeptical of these incentive payouts, worried that their protracted schedule over years amounts to “golden handcuffs.”
Lastly, multiple reporters indicate that Bungie and Microsoft did have acquisition negotiations after Bungie’s independence from ABK, but that Bungie’s combined asking price and request of full independence caused Microsoft to back out. This tracks with all the aforementioned details of the deal to which Sony has now agreed.
The other big gaming acquisition of the day was David Wardle selling his free daily game Wordle to The New York Times for a “low seven figures.” Wardle was overwhelmed by the attention to him that the game brought, making him eager to distance himself from it. He saw it as a natural transition for a game inspired by other NYT word games, but also tried to make sure to get a contractual commitment from the Times corporation to keep the game free for existing players, at least in some capacity. The company is naturally keeping details vague right now.
Roughly two years after the MLB successfully convinced Sony to agree to making the MLB The Show game series multiplatform going forward after 20 years of PS exclusivity, Nintendo officially announced that MLB The Show 22 will come to Switch on April 5th alongside its other versions as the first MLB The Show entry on Nintendo hardware. Based on the crediting in the announcement trailer and from the Xbox versions of MLB The Show 21, this Switch port is developed in house by Sony San Diego, which is a wild thing to say or read.
Koei Tecmo’s holiday quarter sales briefing included the re-release of former Nintendo exclusive Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, from its October launch to the end of December 2021. The first two months of sale for the game’s multiplatform rerelease had a total of 340,000 copies sold worldwide. The original version was both Wii U exclusive and Japan-exclusive for its first thirteen months of sale, and data for it is harder to put together for various reasons, but what I have is that it sold roughly 46,000 copies total in three months by the end of 2014 according to Media Create. So the game and series are doing better now, to put it lightly.
Devolver and Flying Wild Hog finally announced the launch date of Shadow Warrior 3 as March 1st.
February 1st: The rebooted G4TV hosted a Yacht Club Games Presents livestream, featuring updates about the company’s various published titles, and culminating in an extended feature on Yacht Club’s first internally developed project since Shovel Knight: King of Cards, their first brand new full game outside the Shovel Knight series. For the already launched Shovel Knight spinoff Pocket Dungeon , both substantial free updates and paid DLC were announced and detailed. Quality of life and accessibility features, bug fixes, and new content are all in in the forthcoming free update, while the paid DLC will add online multiplayer and mod support, as well as more currently unannounced features. The forthcoming Shovel Knight Dig still has no new release window, but it is close to completion, and new levels and characters were shown off. The soundtrack of Cyber Shadow was officially released on the same day as the presentation.
Finally, they got to the big main reveal: the debut trailer for Mina the Hollower played, followed by an extended demo showcase on Xplay. Mina the Hollower continues the spirit of Shovel Knight‘s retro stylings into a new direction, combining the Gothic Horror aesthetic with Game Boy Color 8-bit graphics (Link’s Awakening DX with 60 frames per second) while 2D Zelda and pre-Symphony Castlevania are key mechanical influences in this action-adventure game. Mina the Hollower has no current release window, though a late 2023 estimate with room for necessary delays was later given. A Kickstarter launched alongside the reveal trailer in order to secure $300,000 to complete the game’s budget. (A goal which naturally had already been matched and exceeded in the Kickstarter’s first day online.) They didn’t provide exact numbers, but Yacht Club was firm in stating that they’re covering the majority of the game’s budget themselves. The Kickstarter’s primary goal is providing an avenue for community feedback and contributions just like Shovel Knight had. It’s a regrettable choice of platform if nothing else.
February 2nd: The first Sony State of Play of 2022 was a 30 minute deep dive on Gran Turismo 7. This game saw brief fears of another delay after a previously announced press event for it was removed from the schedule, but it was ultimately just moved to the day after this State of Play stream, February 3rd. The new date was chosen both for timing with the stream and for being better for series producer Kazunori Yamauchi’s schedule. Yamauchi was able to answer questions live during the event. On the 2nd ahead of the State of Play, PlayStation social media officially announced that Tango Gameworks’ timed exclusive Ghostwire: Tokyo will launch on March 25th 2022, and that the game would have its own dedicated final showcase the next day. This in turn sets the game’s Xbox Series release date as March 25th 2023.
Jason Schreier at Bloomberg broke the story that Warner Bros has quietly hit its latest video game delay due to COVID and other difficulties, internally delaying Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League to 2023 ahead of publicly announcing it. Sources straight from the publisher did give the info to Schreier and other reporters, but Schreier also pointed to a statement by Jason Kilar on Twitter the previous as a subtle hint on the matter. The Warner CEO directly promoted both Hogwarts Legacy and Gotham Knights when discussing this year’s video game releases, without mentioning Rocksteady’s game, which was originally announced for 2022 at its initial 2020 public unveiling and had seen its first gameplay trailer just last month at the Game Awards. At time of publication, Warner has no comment on the delay reports.
Another new independent game studio has been officially announced. A sizable team of developers and leaders from across the industry, from Insomniac, Bethesda, and Capcom to Giant Sparrow (Edith Finch), Fullbright (Gone Home), and Game Band (Blaseball), have founded the studio, Gardens, on $4.5 million USD in startup funding and the principles of a healthy workplace (including a 35 hour work week) and community-oriented games.
Xbox and PlayStation’s earnings reports came in weeks earlier than Nintendo’s, but are more meaningful juxtaposed directly. The PlayStation 5 has sold 17.3 million units through the end of 2021 and the Xbox Series hardware has sold roughly more than 12 million. That makes Xbox Series still the fastest selling Xbox generation by a slim margin, largely thanks to the Series S. PlayStation reported $24.87 billion USD in revenue for calendar 2021, putting it in the lead while Xbox reported $16.28 billion USD in revenue for calendar 2021, its best calendar year on record. Nintendo’s calendar year revenue was $15.3 billion USD. However, operating income (how much money a company has earned after compensating costs) is competitive in a different way between the three: Nintendo’s operating income for 2021 was $5.4 billion USD while PlayStation’s was only $2.63 billion USD. And Xbox doesn’t report operating income because that would be admitting it’s probably still operating at a loss for 20 years straight. Nintendo can earn the least overall, but it also spends the least of the three, (especially in Switch production versus PS5 or Xbox Series X), thus profiting more overall.
Both PlayStation and Xbox are selling every device they put out, but are failing to meet demand and in some cases, failing to meet previous projections and targets set. The PS5 at first was outpacing the PS4, but that fell away by mid-2021 and has only gotten starker thanks to the shortages currently only getting worse, not better. The PS4 by the end of 2014 was at 20.2 million, a significant lead on PS5 that will necessitate improvements in the supply chain to make up, no more no less. Fiscal year forecasts had to be cut again across the board for Sony, Nintendo, and Xbox. The PS5 at first was outpacing the PS4, but that fell away by mid-2021 and has only gotten starker thanks to the shortages currently only getting worse, not better. The PS4 by the end of 2014 was at 20.2 million, a significant lead on PS5 that will necessitate improvements in the supply chain to make up, no more no less.
Nintendo’s latest investor meeting and earnings report, covering October through December 2021, set perhaps a new benchmark for setting milestones and breaking major records for the company, after years of regularly achieving both. Through the end of 2021, the Switch has sold 103.5 million consoles, officially surpassing the 100 million mark, and both the Wii and the original PlayStation’s totals to become Nintendo’s overall bestselling home console and enter the top 5 for bestselling game hardware overall. It also reached 100 million sold faster than both the Wii and PS4. Selling slightly more than 10 million consoles in the most recent quarter also goes to show both how the Switch still endures and how it is starting to slow down (and the effects of the ongoing shortages). 4 million of those 10 were OLED models.
In software, Metroid Dread has now officially become the second bestselling entry and overall fastest selling entry in the series worldwide out of the gate, having sold 2.7 million copies in its first three months of sale. (2.5 mill of which were outside Japan.) At the end of December it was only roughly 130,000 copies behind Metroid Prime 1’s lifetime sales. It can be hard to judge with rereleases, but this certainly looks good for the prospective performance of the widely reported Metroid Prime 1 rerelease. The outsourced Pokémon Sinnoh remakes have sold roughly a combined 14 million copies in their first two months or less of sale, compared to Sword and Shield hitting 16 million in their first months two years earlier. Mario Party Superstars sold more than 5.4 million copies in its debut quarter, mildly outperforming the launch of its predecessor and becoming the series’ second bestselling entry instantly.
A few other games from 2021 (Big Brain Academy: Brain vs Brain, WarioWare: Get It Together!, and Game Builder Garage) all surpassed their first one million sales during the holiday quarter. That puts the latest WarioWare squarely in the middle for the series, behind its bestsellers (Smooth Moves on Wii and Touched on DS) but ahead of many other entries. Holiday 2021 overall was the Switch’s best quarter ever for software sales. The top ten bestselling Switch games now all exceed at least 13 million copies. You can see all the evergreens’ latest accruals here and here. Later in the day, Nintendo social media officially announced that Pokemon Legends Arceus had sold 6.5 million copies in its first week of release, surpassing the launch weeks of both the Sinnoh remakes and Sword and Shield even without two versions. Lastly, in their presentation, Nintendo made a special note that between physical and digital, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has sold more than ten million copies in Japan alone, making it the first to hit double digits and the single bestselling video game ever in Japan.
As usual at this time, there are only rough transcripts of the Q&A section of the meeting, no full translations will be available until after I schedule this. I will do my best. President Shuntaro Furukawa asserted that maintaining and even regaining momentum where possible, instead of allowing the Switch to slow down as badly as past Nintendo hardware has, is their top priority right now. Furukawa very clearly communicated that part of that momentum is keeping the current install base going forward into new hardware instead of pursuing hard resets too excessively as they have before. As has been said and practiced consistently since Iwata and Koizumi were first planning the Switch in 2014, Nintendo software, hardware, and systems (NSO) will flow into each other as an iterative family.
When Furukawa was asked about current tech trends like NFTs and the Metaverse, he essentially gave a wait-and-see answer. I’ve said before that I’d love executives to be more firm in their statements, making condemnations when necessary even if shareholders make a fuss. That applies here too. Some slight stock losses are worth some integrity, and businessmen of all stripes still avoid stands as much as possible. But the message here is still clear enough and shouldn’t be misconstrued either. There is no serious interest expressed in these products. “We don’t know how to use it to bring joy” indeed. Furukawa similarly was neutral to negative on the topic of acquisitions, preferring to continue to invest in existing partnerships in other ways. He is, however, still open to acquisitions when deemed necessary, like securing Next Level Games once they were up for sale. The comment below by Chris Dring of GamesIndustrydotbiz rings regrettably true.
Nintendo also announced that more Humongous Entertainment point and click adventures were launching on Switch that day, namely Spy Fox in Dry Cereal, Pajama Sam 1 and 2, and Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo, following from the release of Freddi Fish 3 and Putt-Putt Travels Through Time a month earlier.
February 4th: Hugh Langley at Business Insider broke the story of how Google is attempting to pivot from Stadia’s failure by abandoning the Stadia platform in favor of having started to license its effective cloud streaming tech to other companies.
Many, myself included, understandably expected that the closure of Google Stadia’s internal development studios marked the effective end of the company’s real efforts with the service. And ultimately, that is still true, even as a trickle of third party games still arrive to the service. Various current and former internal sources communicated that the Stadia platform is no longer prioritized, having ended the pursuit of both Stadia exclusives and expensive and protracted deals for major third party games. Instead Google has now wholly focused its strategy in the games industry on so far successfully courting partners like Capcom, Bungie, Warner Bros, and…Peloton. It is pursuing these licensing deals to simultaneously leverage the undeniably high quality of streaming tech built for Stadia while securing revenue to compensate for the high costs of developing the platform and tech.
Google’s transition on Stadia was also motivated by panic at the highest levels of leadership over increased consolidation in the games industry. The initial Microsoft-Zenimax announcement, I quote, “scared the crap out out of Google executives,” and by the time of the in-house developer closure, “any appetite among Google executives to own any studios completely went away.” Another action that’s part of said transition is was decreasing Phil Harrison’s influence and independence, making him answer directly to Google’s head of subscriptions.
Those licensing negotiations began in 2021 and some have already started coming to fruition, as Peloton did reveal games running on their bikes last summer, while AT&T (before it began selling off WB) put a free cloud streamed release of Batman: Arkham Knight on its browser in October. Both of these are officially or reliably confirmed to be using the rebranded Google Stream tech. The sources describe the pitch for Capcom as cloud streamed demos of its major and upcoming games on its website. Bungie had previously explored building its own streaming platform, and entered its negotiations with Google under a plan of Google providing the technical foundation for a platform which Bungie would fully own and control, using it to reach even more audiences and platforms for Destiny 2 and future games. The Capcom and Bungie deals are reportedly currently making headway, but seemingly not yet finalized. It’s also currently unclear if Sony’s existing contract with Microsoft to use the latter’s cloud servers would obstruct a separate Google contract.
After his site reported on this story, The Verge’s Tom Warren made a seemingly speculative suggestion that aptly connected some current dots. Bungie wants to do cloud streaming, Google can do the streaming so Sony doesn’t have to, Bungie has Sony’s permission to stay multiplatform and explicitly wants to use Sony’s funds to expand to further new platforms, and so…Destiny 2: Cloud Version on Switch (circumventing the game’s massive file size) is a distinct possibility. With how many platforms Destiny 2 is already on, Switch, Epic store, and further expansion on mobile are some of the only major options left.
Rockstar Games, after many years of rumors, requests, and more, informally but officially confirmed for the first time via social media that the next fully new entry in the Grand Theft Auto series is in active development, more than 8 years after the original launch of GTAV. This came alongside announcement of the new launch date of next-gen GTAV, March 15th. They also confirmed save transfer support for both story mode and Online from previous versions of the game. Responding to the announcement that day after years of his own intermittent reporting on the game’s development, Jason Schreier suggested a full GTA 6 trailer could come this year, but doesn’t expect the game to release until at least 2024.
Square Enix announced via social media Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden, a stand-alone followup to the previous Voice of Cards RPG (The Isle Dragon Roars) last year, still developed by Yoko Taro and company. This second entry in the series will launch on Switch, PS4, and Steam on February 17th.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the nation’s direct sovereign wealth fund, made 5% minority stock investments in each of Capcom and Korean publisher Nexon, after previous major moves into the games industry: fully acquiring and merging two esports orgs, ESL and FACEIT, and acquiring similar minority stakes in EA, Take Two, and ABK. This is should not be strictly confused for the Saudi Crown Prince’s company and its majority stake in SNK, they are distinct entities, though obviously connected in both being extensions of the same ruling family with the same human rights record.
February 6th: Composer Tommy Tallarico stepped down as the CEO of the rebooted Intellivision, replaced by business officer Phil Adam, while Tallarico is now Chief Creative Officer. Intellivision has seen persistent setbacks for its Amico hardware and appears to finally be attempting a meaningful change to accomplish an improvement.
Nintendo Japan and Shonen Jump announced that last fall’s Demon Slayer game from Sega is coming to Switch worldwide this June.
wipes sweat from brow Phew, that was a lot. I’m going to enjoy some rest. I suspect that before the next time I see y’all here on these pages, someone else will be delivering news Directly.
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