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!
This is an earnest content warning for discussions of real world violence and ongoing geopolitical crisis in the below reporting.
Live Free, or Die an ABK Updates Compilation
February 9th: Another major Microsoft store rules update arrived, complete with unexpected comments on the ABK acquisition. These Open App Store Principles build on Microsoft’s previous changes made to improve relations with developers, made in response to matters like the Epic v Apple lawsuit, but also the overall evolving landscape of the tech industry where regulation is starting to be taken more seriously and why that’s imminently relevant for Microsoft. From the outset the blogpost directly addresses its need to send the right message to global regulators and make the convincing argument of the ABK acquisition as something that can be done responsibly. This includes a direct statement of the following, that Microsoft commits at least informally to not only honoring preexisting agreements regarding Call of Duty and other popular ABK titles, but continuing the series on PlayStation beyond those agreements to satisfy Sony’s audience and sustain Sony’s business ecosystem. They state this commitment has already been made directly to Sony and that they will embark on similar discussions with Nintendo and the existing Switch ecosystem.
Now, let’s call this what it is. Microsoft desperately needs good PR to remotely make the ABK acquisition acceptable to the public eye and especially to the international regulators that could sink the buyout deal. They are saying the right things right now and would potentially be able to easily go back on their word once full approval of the ABK deal is secured. The natural question is that we the public have only had a tiny glimpse of the discussions clearly already held between Microsoft and Sony, for all we know Microsoft could already be on the path towards formal and/or legally binding agreements that they can’t so easily go back on. That they might simply, truly need to, or feel they need to, to ensure the deal succeeds. There’s no way of knowing for sure right now, and I’m not one to take a businessman at their word, but it’s necessary to me as a reporter and a consumer to understand and appreciate that both of these mutually exclusive events are plausible possibilities for the near future of this industry.
Previously in January, Microsoft had taken steps on fixing how owners can be stuck in continuing to pay for inactive Game Pass accounts. After this new policy update, in an additional, perhaps overly transparent bid for a better public image, Brad Smith soon separately suggested they’d be putting Call of Duty on the Nintendo Switch family.
February 11th: Shannon Liao and Gus Garcia-Roberts’ next piece at the Washington Post covered Bobby Kotick’s history of viciously aggressive behavior against business colleagues and competitors, going back to his college days in the 1980s. Kotick recruited investors and employees for his startup Arktronics and convinced all of them to take shares as sole compensation. When Apple easily and quickly crushed Arktronics, they realized they’d been duped, and so they sued Kotick, who dragged the suit out for a decade and refused to compensate, even as his job on Activision had by then given him more than enough to pay them back and still live comfortably. The article describes this highly profitable exploitation, as well as scorched earth treatment of enemies big and small, as a consistent pattern and model for Kotick’s entire career, which of course is no great shock by now but still warrants reaffirming.
Call of Duty social media frontloaded several announcements and details for the franchise to accompany and sugarcoat the latest response to ongoing technical issues in Vanguard and Warzone, including the announcements of two new major series entries on which I’ve previously reported. Unlike Black Ops Cold War and Vanguard only being officially marketed in any capacity a mere few months away from launch, both 2022’s Modern Warfare 2 and 2023’s Warzone 2 were officially albeit vaguely announced very early here. Both are developed by Infinity Ward and leverage an updated engine meant to improve on the technical issues Vanguard has faced. QOL updates in the meantime for Vanguard were also discussed.
February 17th: Raven Software QA’s hearing with the National Labor Relations Board began following from the previous developments in its attempt to form the Game Workers Unite union. The hearing proceeded from the 17th through the 22nd as the NLRB reviewed the union petition, employees’ testimonies, and ABK’s unionbusting counterarguments, which demeaned the value of Quality Assurance workers. The still pending decision from this hearing would legally require ABK and Microsoft to recognize Raven QA’s union. During the NLRB hearing, ex employee and GWU cofounder Jessica Gonzalez shared a link to and image of a since-deleted page on the website for the Reed Smith law firm ABK employed for the hearing, which speaks for itself:
Reporters’ Disclosure: Jessica Gonzalez is an acquaintance and contact of mine.
Kirsten Grind at the Wall Street Journal officially and exclusively reported that the various federal and state government regulators have formally expanded their ongoing investigations into ABK in response to overall failures of progress and the buyout deal by Microsoft. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has newly subpoenaed the LAPD for records on Bobby Kotick and 18 other negligent and/or abusive ABK employees, and records on misconduct and criminal activity at BlizzCon. A separate subpoena is for Activision’s directors for additional info regarding the handling of workplace misconduct. The DFEH’s appeal of the ruling on their intervention in the EEOC’s settlement with ABK is ongoing. Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission has submitted its own new subpoena for records and communications of ABK executives going back to 2016. All of these occurred after the January 18th acquisition announcement. ABK is attempting to intervene and cease all of these in Los Angeles County Court.
February 22nd: Tom Henderson and Jason Schreier reported that Activision is now set to internally delay Treyarch’s mainline/premium Call of Duty entry out of 2023 into 2024, the first time the series has seen a major delay and the first time the series has broken its annualized schedule since Call of Duty 2 launched in 2005, two years after the first game. Two new free to play games in the series, including the previously reported Warzone 2, are still set to launch in 2023. This decision is not a result of either Microsoft’s own input yet (which Microsoft can’t legally give) or an otherwise direct response the buyout, it is primarily motivated by Call of Duty Vanguard’s sales underperformance, which made executives realize that the annual entries had started cannibalizing each other’s performances. Somehow only just now after 20 years of this godforsaken series did this occur to the people in charge.
Schreier attacked and insulted Henderson on Twitter for not citing Schreier’s article despite Henderson getting the info out first and independently. Henderson accepted Schreier’s attempt at an explanation, that Schreier’s article had already gone up early on an exclusive tier of Bloomberg’s subscription and he believes that’s how it reached Henderson, but rightfully pointed out that he had no way of knowing that and that Schreier should’ve said that first and privately instead of publicly attacking him.
February 23rd: CNBC published an exposé on Bobby Kotick’s two LLC shell companies meant for ‘anonymously’ donating to the Republican Party, including Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
Pro-labor Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin sent a formal letter to both Bobby Kotick and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, which states that she is following the Raven Software case closely and urges good faith action and remaining uninvolved in matters of union negotiations at ABK and its subsidiaries. This addition of public attention and pressure on the Raven case and the broader union fight at ABK could rear ABK’s sensitivity towards bad PR on this issue, something desperately needed given their behavior so far on union matters.
February 24th: More new lawsuits by ABK shareholders against the company began. Shareholder Kyle Watson in California filed with the SEC charging that the buyout by Microsoft is a deal disproportionately beneficial to ABK executives at the expense of shareholders, and accusing ABK’s own recent SEC filings on the acquisition of being materially misleading and incomplete, which they are as we’ve previously covered. Meanwhile, shareholder Shiva Stein in New York similarly charges ABK with being misleading and incomplete with their SEC filings on the acquisition. Stein is notable as the second most prolific securities plaintiff in the US behind the SEC itself, using her ample funds and position as an investor to force companies to improve their documentation and transparency in matters like these.
March 3rd: At Axios, Stephen Totilo covered ABK’s annual general report to the SEC, in which the corporation admitted to higher turnover rate and increased difficulties with gaining new hires due to the ongoing legal actions against ABK and general public visibility of various workplace issues since July 2021, the increasing disparity of ABK’s revenue sources1, and that after three years of warning, ABK had failed to meet the California government’s requirement of simply adding another woman to the board of directors by the end of 2021. ABK blames the Microsoft buyout negotiations of all things on delaying the process, even as those buyout negotiations only began in November 2021 while the government order came in 2018.
March 4th: The very latest ABK report by Shannon Liao and Gus Garcia-Roberts at WaPo broke the news of the most recent lawsuit the publisher has faced, and it brings us all back to when this all first started last July. The parents of Kerri Moynihan, the woman who died of suicide due to relentless violating sexual harassment in the ABK workplace, an incident which was cited in the original July lawsuit, are suing ABK for wrongful death. The parents charge that ABK deliberately withheld from the police relevant evidence belonging to both the late Moynihan and her boss Greg Restituito, who had a secret relationship with Moynihan, was part of the nonconsensual sharing of her private information, and left ABK one month after her death.
Inexplicably only just now on the 4th did Bobby Kotick formally depart from the Coca Cola’s board of directors, allowed to ‘voluntarily’ announce that he will not seek reelection to the position again, after months and months of mounting evidence for his deliberate harm and neglect of his employees and colleagues.
February 7th: As I had covered the lead-up last time, I feel the need to explicitly mention even though it was pretty obvious, Nvidia and Softbank did in fact officially announce the termination of Nvidia’s attempt to purchase Arm and Softbank’s plans to go public in response to this loss of anticipated revenue.
February 8th: Marie Dealessandri at GamesIndustry.biz investigated and reported on the International Game Developers Association for the full details of its failings in appropriately handling harassment and conduct violations, building off the previous developments last year, of the public allegations against Jennifer Scheurle, the exposure of IDGA’s mishandling of those allegations, and Scheurle’s resignation. Complaints had been made informally against Scheurle’s conduct since 2018, and the victims filed their joint formal complaint in early 2019 as a 16 page file for 11 separate victims extensively documenting Scheurle’s conduct violations towards peers and those reporting directly to her, which include physical assault, harassment, intimidation, manipulation, grooming, and taking credit for the work of others. Screenshots and a consistent detailed timeline of events were included. Testimonies against Scheurle and urges for action from additional industry veterans were included as well.
The IDGA summarily dismissed all of this extensive response and even breached confidentiality by giving the file’s information directly to a friend of Scheurle, who as a result unacceptably and directly approached a victim about the matter. The IDGA’s dismissal was answered by expanding the file over the next year to 34 pages covering 14 victims and additional ally testimonies towards a 2020 resubmission, followed by adding another 78 pages of evidence and testimony by the end of that year, which included misconduct at previous workplaces. Both expanded resubmissions of the complaint file went nowhere until victims started going public on social media in 2021. Multiple testimonies to Dealessandri state that the lack of followup in Scheurle’s case is not an isolated incident in the IDGA’s history, it is a pattern of neglect towards harassment and other conduct violations. More general management failures, of a “this is not a professional and consistent work environment despite its position in the industry” variety, are also discussed.
Circulating in response to Dealessandri’s coverage of the IGDA was Waypoint and Ian Walker’s 2018 article covering how Game Workers Unite was founded in response to the IGDA campaigning against unionization at the Game Developers Conference.
Photographer Judy A. Juracek and Capcom formally filed a joint request to dismiss Juracek’s copyright infringement lawsuit against the company, having resolved the dispute out of court.
After launching in 2020, Square Enix announced that the mobile prequel to Octopath Traveler, Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent, would finally arrive in the West later in 2022. This is popularly believed to be leading into Team Asano’s next project after Triangle Strategy which just launched, a full sequel to the RPG, which Team Asano teased last year.
Several quality of life enhancements, particularly related to voicechat, were added in a PlayStation system update to PS4 and PS5.
February 9th: Spring 2022 Nintendo Direct
As I teased in the previous News Roundup, the first Nintendo Direct of the new year aired later that week. It was truly firing on all cylinders, bringing a shocking and packed lineup for the year even with the holiday months still unfilled, and remaining largely consistent with info ahead of time albeit with some unexpected twists.
The Nintendo Direct opened with the reveal trailer of Koei Tecmo’s Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, a sequel to the 2017 musou in the same mold as 2020’s Age of Calamity, focused entirely on the setting and characters of the Switch’s hit entry in the strategy RPG series. Little is known about the story as of yet, but in musou tradition, the three rival house leaders seem to be united against a new strange threat, and Nintendo’s official website page for the game refers to the return of building support levels and new support conversations between characters. This game launches on June 24th 2022.
As the traditional first round of quick headlines began, the second trailer for Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp premiered after considerable delay. This both confirmed the game’s new eShop listed launch date of April 8th 2022 while announcing various exciting features, such as full voice acting for all the player characters, the return of the level editor mode, complete with sharing custom maps with friends, and mid-battle fast forward and rewind.
Hello Games announced that their rising phoenix space survival game No Man’s Sky is scheduled to arrive on Switch this Summer featuring all five years’ worth of post-launch updates.
Next Level Games finally returned from their triumphant launch of Luigi’s Mansion 3 in 2019 with the announcement of none other than Mario Strikers: Battle League, the first new entry in 15 years for the stylized, aggressive soccer game spinoff series. Reportedly and somewhat infamously, the combination of the series’ second entry on Wii, Mario Strikers Charged, and Super Paper Mario, upset Nintendo by taking the tone of their family friendly flagship Mario franchise too far, leading to a late 2000s active rein-in which seriously affected the Paper Mario series and partly killed Next Level’s volleyball + wrestling Mario Spikers spinoff. Mario Strikers: Battle League features both 5v5 and 4v4 matches, the latter supported in 8 player local and online multiplayer, plus custom stats-changing gear, the use of classic Mario world items mid-game to gain an advantage, and the Hyper Strike. A big focus of the announcement trailer, the Hyper Strike builds on the previous games’ Super and Mega Strikes with a charged personalized ability for each character (Mario uses fire, Luigi has a green tornado) which deploys extremely stylized in-game visuals and can score two goals at once. Mario Strikers; Battle League launches on June 10th 2022.
Next Level working on the project wasn’t fully confirmed until Ars Technica’s Sam Machkovech contacted Nintendo and received said confirmation by February 14th. Later on March 4th, Next Level’s cofounder and president Douglas Tronsgard announced on LinkedIn that he is retiring from the developer and games industry after more than 20 years. Tronsgard leaves the studio in capable hands with Next Level’s new leadership and Nintendo’s full first party support.
The third trailer for Splatoon 3 arrived next, and it was fully focused on the revamped Next Wave of Splatoon 2’s Salmon Run co op horde mode, newly featuring various big boss fights. The game’s release window was unexpectedly only updated to Summer 2022 for now, likely firmly placing it in the second half of 2022 after all.
The cult classic mecha tactical RPG series from Square Enix and G-Craft was announced as triumphantly returning after more than a decade with Front Mission 1st and Front Mission 2, remakes of the series’ 1995 Super Famicom debut and its 1997 direct sequel on PlayStation. These are developed by Forever Entertainment as part of its broader contracts with Square and Nintendo that I’ve covered previously, and they are currently only releasing on Switch. These games were never previously released outside Japan and the series generally is far more prominent in its home country, where the announcement trailer of these remakes actually opened the Direct. The series’ universally panned stealth game spinoff from 2019, Left Alive, was unfortunately its most recent and currently defining appearance in the West. Front Mission 1st (a name which comes from a previous rerelease with added narrative content) is scheduled to launch in Summer 2022 while the second remake has no current release window, it is still quite early in production.
The free to play multiplatform kart racer Disney Speedstorm was announced next for a Summer launch as well, featuring classic characters and settings from across the Disney Animation and Pixar studios. Disney had one more announcement with a port of the 2008 action game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, set to release for Switch on April 20th. It appears to be based on the nerfed Wii/PS2 version of the game rather than the Xbox 360 version, and as such features motion control support as an option. Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection was featured after I previously covered it. The licensed anime action RPG SD Gundam Battle Alliance was announced from Bandai Namco, set to release for PS5, Xbox Series, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC, later this year.
The widely rumored Chrono Cross remaster, Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition, was finally announced, launching digitally April 7th on Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC for only $20 USD. It features the previously Japan and Satellaview(?!) exclusive namesake text adventure tie-in game, The Radical Dreamers, as well as various visual updates and the option to toggle between the original and the remastered visuals, as seen here.
Nintendo next premiered the third trailer for the increasingly imminent Kirby and the Forgotten Land, showing off many new Copy powers and the ability to upgrade them, but primarily debuting the highly memorable, disturbing Mouthful Mode, a fully new and different way for Kirby to achieve powers for battle and traversal. Kirby’s proportions are molded to everyday items and elements that he can’t absorb properly, from traffic cones and light bulbs to the instantly legendary, iconic Carby.
Legendary Japanese-American first generation immigrant and cover athlete Shohei “Shotime” Ohtani introduced the previously reported MLB The Show 22. A quick reminder for the Kingdom Hearts Cloud Version releases popped up next. Then several big new third party announcements hit one right after another: the long awaited Klonoa Phantom Reverie Series, a remastered duology of the series’ original two entries (remaster of the original’s remake for Wii, and remaster of the original PS1 Klonoa 2) launching physically July 8th 2022 in time for its 25th anniversary, the Portal Companion Collection built specially for Switch and featuring both entries in Valve’s iconic puzzle series, and the Live A Live HD-2D Remake.
The Portal Companion Collection arrives later this year, is developed by none other than Nintendo’s hardware partner Nvidia, and is based on the previous release of Portal for the Switch’s sister hardware, the Nvidia Shield. Nvidia has also previously put a Half-Life 2 Collection on the Shield for Valve, so it’s distinctly possible that it will come to Switch next.
Live A Live Remake is based on another previously Japan exclusive cult classic, a 1994 Super Famicom RPG featuring a generation-spanning anthology narrative, and it will launch as a (timed?) exclusive for Nintendo Switch on July 22nd, published by Nintendo in the West.
After years of fans demanding the series’ return, Nintendo Switch Sports was suddenly announced with the sudden launch date of April 29th 2022 for $40 USD digital and $50 physical. This sequel to the beloved, iconic Wii Sports features six games at launch, chambara/kendo sword fighting, volleyball, badminton, tennis, bowling, and soccer/football. Some of those are brand new and some return from the previous entries. Both Golf as a full additional game and support for motion controlled kicking in Soccer are confirmed to be arriving later this year after launch. Both Miis and new avatars called Sportsmates are featured as playable characters as well. Yoshiaki Koizumi and Shinya Takahashi even recorded a demonstration of the volleyball game for the Direct, in a throwback to the live many motion control demos of the Wii era.
The game’s online playtest was hosted over the weekend of February 18th to February 20th for NSO members. You can find my personal testimony of my experiences with the playtest here, but several news headlines came out of the event as well. The text of the official playtest listing on the eShop revealed that the game is employing a simple image upscaler, Fidelity FX Super Resolution. Lastly, the playtest was ultimately, inevitably datamined, where two more sports minigames were found for future release, Basketball returning from Wii Sports Resort and the brand-new Dodgeball.
Two free updates were announced for Metroid Dread: one releasing right after the Direct featuring both a new easy difficulty mode and a one hit death extra hard mode (the game already had one post-game hard mode), and one set for release in April featuring a Boss Rush mode.
As humorously teased by creator Shigesato Itoi earlier in the day, the first NSO base tier update in seven months arrived in major fashion, bearing both of the two globally available entries in the cult classic RPG trilogy, Earthbound Beginnings/Mother for NES and Earthbound/Mother 2 for SNES. The games were added to the service right after the Direct. Shortly after their release, Nintendo released the official Earthbound Player’s Guide online for free, and Itoi and his Hobonichi Mother Project company began aggressively promoting the games’ new release and encouraging people to play, including the release of a heartfelt live action video.
The Direct’s third party sizzle reel quickly kicked in, covering Zombie Army 4, the previously reported Demon Slayer port, former Apple Arcade exclusive Lego Brawls coming June 2022, Sega’s previously covered sim game Two Point Campus coming in May, and the shadowdrop on Switch and PC of Getsu Fuma Den: Undying Moon, GuruGuru’s sequel to Konami’s previously Japan-exclusive announced last year. Undying Moon has two versions: one featuring just the new game and one featuring both it and the newly ported (but largely not localized) Famicom original, which was also a bonus for those who bought the game in Early Access.
Nintendo brought in two final first party announcements to end the presentation, starting with the Booster Course Pass DLC for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, featuring 48 additional newly returning courses from across the series, including the mobile entry Mario Kart Tour, rebuilt in HD and in 8‘s proprietary engine. That doubles the final total in the smash hit game to 96 courses, by far the largest in series history and a huge leap from the 36 in the original release of Mario Kart 8 in 2014. The DLC will release in six waves of eight courses each, starting with Wave 1 on March 18th, set to complete by the end of 2023. The Booster Course Pass costs $25 USD on its own, but comes at no additional charge with the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack premium tier, just like the major Animal Crossing expansion last fall. Wave 1 features Choco Mountain from Mario Kart 64, Coconut Mall from Mario Kart Wii, Toad Circuit from Mario Kart 7, Sky Garden from Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Shroom Ridge from Mario Kart DS, and Paris, Tokyo, and Ninja Hideaway from Tour, covering the veritable gamut of the series’ history. Those who don’t have either form of access to the DLC will still be able to participate in online races on those new tracks against players who do have the DLC.
Finally, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is now officially scheduled to launch in September 2022, as announced by its gorgeous reveal trailer which had been delayed alongside the game for a full calendar year. While Monolith Soft had been increasingly broadly expected to be working on the next new entry in the Xenoblade Chronicles series for years, especially after the 2020 remaster of the first game, 2021 is when concrete word of and info about the game really publicly emerged. Imran Khan’s Fanbyte article back in August is probably the best report about the matter. The gist is this: Actress Jenna Coleman of Doctor Who fame played Melia in the first game and returned as her in the new Future Connected epilogue added to the remaster, which was actively teasing and setting up the plans for the third game. In a June 2021 interview, Coleman mentioned being back in the recording booth for the series, which some assumed was just referring to Future Connected, but was in fact referring to Melia’s return appearance in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, which is visible and audible in the trailer alongside Nia. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was originally set to be announced in 2021 for a Fall 2021 launch, but between the COVID pandemic and broader technical difficulties in optimizing the series’ most ambitious entry yet, the announcement and launch were ultimately delayed by roughly a year into 2022, spring and fall respectively.
Khan very accurately described the game and its narrative framework a whole half year ahead of its official reveal: “The ending of the trilogy takes place in the far-flung future with a few returning characters who have long-outlived their human counterparts from both Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles 2.”
Lastly, Nintendo’s updated official 2022 schedule is now as follows:
February: Earthbound Beginnings and Earthbound via NSO
March: Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Triangle Strategy,
April: Advance Wars, Nintendo Switch Sports,
June: Mario Strikers: Battle League, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes
July: Live A Live Remake
Summer: Splatoon 3
September: Xenoblade Chronicles 3
2022: Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, Bayonetta 3, BOTW2,
Other stories on February 9th included a new Wolf Among Us 2 trailer, a new Jason Schreier report on Assassin’s Creed, From Software successfully beginning to address a dangerous exploit found in the Windows version of their games, which forced the current temporary closure of PVP servers across all titles, and Square Enix announced the PC and mobile launch date for Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster as February 23rd. In the first update since its relaunch announcement in 2019, The Wolf Among Us 2 is now scheduled for a 2023 release on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC via the Epic store. I also only now realized something I’d managed to completely miss in prior coverage on new Telltale, for which I dearly apologize: the new Telltale is as far as I can tell actually just a publisher and has hired distinct contractors for Wolf Among Us 2 (Adhoc) and The Expanse (Deck Nine) respectively, which does eliminate some developmental concerns I’ve previously expressed.
February 10th: Tom Phillips at Eurogamer reported on indie publisher Team17 after its brush with NFT controversy. More than a dozen employees spoke anonymously on seeing the incident, the refusal to communicate with, listen to, or then apologize to developers about those now canceled NFT plans, as just the latest entry in an ongoing pattern of mistreatment, one which includes ever increasing workloads at no improvement in pay.
Imran Khan reported on the widely known but unannounced Resident Evil 4 Remake, which is said to be currently targeting a 2022 reveal ahead of a 2023 launch. The article also discusses matters like the project’s change in lead developers from RE3make‘s M-Two (not to be confused with…M2) to the fully internal RE2make team as leads with M-Two in support, and adjustments in overall tone and design plan. The detail that Capcom actively attempted to court Shinji Mikami to leave tango and return for the remake, that really shocked me. Andy Robinson has pointed out that some of these details were reported at VGC a whole year earlier and that some acknowledgment of that would be appropriate, and that seems fair to me here, though as I said before with Schreier I wish these discussions could be held privately instead of where it’s too easy for it to devolve into fannish side-taking.
The PlayStation Blog hosted another new indies event, which included PVP details and a May 10th launch date for Salt and Sacrifice, new details on VR game Moss: Book II and a 2022 launch coming soon, the announcement of Post Void from Super Rare coming to PS4 anf PS5, announcing hardcore platform fighter Samurai Gunn 2 and the atmospheric Animal Well for PS5, a new playable character for TMNT Shredder’s Revenge, and Hello Neighbor 2 newly coming to PS4 and PS5.
February 11th: The original composers of the Halo series, Marty O’Donnell and Mike Salvatori, are suing Microsoft over 20 years of unpaid royalties for their music and overall breach of contract. The lawsuit actually began in 2020, but the two didn’t publicly discuss the matter until the interview at Eurogamer linked before. If the mediation which began mid-February isn’t resolved, the case could go to court and the composers could block the release of the Halo TV series. Microsoft argues that all of the men’s music was work-for-hire, but they argue that it was licensed to Bungie first as their property and Microsoft hadn’t bought Bungie until over a year after the original deal, so Microsoft has no basis for overriding those original terms.
The 2014 game Never Alone is coming to Switch and a sequel was newly announced for it as well.
Jason Schreier at Bloomberg reported on ongoing internal strife at Ubisoft over its blockchain interests, which includes a highlighted incident of employees leaving hundreds of negative comments on a internal memo about blockchain plans. The company is attempting to move ahead with Ubisoft Quartz despite massive pushback from its developers.
Nintendo officially announced the global end to new purchases for the Wii U and 3DS digital stores as of March 2023, with redownloads of previously purchased games remaining available like they currently still are for the Nintendo Wii. Many exclusive and digital-only games across the two are being completely delisted by this event with little hope of official return, and Nintendo’s previous retro game delivery system, the Virtual Console, is also effectively being permanently and completely delisted, completing their transition to the NSO subscription service. Nintendo’s communications about this announcement make it perfectly clear that NSO and individual premium rereleases like the forthcoming Advance Wars remakes will remain their current way of delivering the remainder of their back catalogue of games to current audiences.
It’s important to be aware of announced additional cutoff milestones which have received a fraction of coverage and awareness relative to the main announcement: on May 23rd 2022, direct credit card use on both stores will be discontinued in all remaining regions, as had previously occurred and been covered for other regions; on August 29th 2022, eShop cards will no longer be useable for adding funds to an independent Wii U or 3DS account, which is called a Nintendo Network ID. The only way left to make purchases on the stores between September and next March will be by adding funds via a Switch account which has merged funds with your Nintendo Network ID, like I have between my Switch account and my Wii U NNID account. Both my credit card and any eShop cards can still be used by this method despite not being available on my Wii U by itself. This extra complication will not repeat for the time being, given that the Switch’s Nintendo Account system is unified across the entire current Switch family with officially confirmed transference with future Switch hardware.
Throughout the rest of February and early March, NintendoLife published two excellent behind the scenes features exploring these impending store closures, their causes and consequences. The former interviews Nintendo employees to discuss the behind the scenes story for this event, while the latter interviews various indie developers on how the store closures will affect them. I highly recommend reading both.
Also on the 15th, after a slow, troubled 2021 for the piece of shit RPG from a piece of shit company, Cyberpunk 2077 saw largely positive results for its major new presentation detailing the game’s 1.5 update and next-gen versions, which released later the same day. The next-gen versions have the usual bells and whistles, while Patch 1.5 for other players offer a bevy of technical fixes and content adjustments, such as reworking perk trees, driving gameplay, AI, and giving love interests additional dialogue.
February 16th: The latest independent AAA studio to be founded and announced was Rebel Wolves from ex-CDPR devs, including the director of The Witcher 3, Konrad Tomaskiewicz, who left CDPR because he was one of the bullies on the dev team receiving many mistreatment complaints. Rebel Wolves is working on an original RPG.
February 17th: Ubisoft’s latest earnings call was held where they laid out the fiscal year schedule, and among other things they made the incredibly bold claim that utter disaster live service Skull and Bones will come out in the next 12 months and totally not get delayed for the umpteenth time.
Speaking of delays, you might have recently listened to the Avocado Gamescast Episode 80, where I revealed the rumor that Mario+Rabbids: Sparks of Hope has been delayed to Late 2022 or Early 2023, or you might have been in the Direct livechat when Merve mentioned my statement ahead of the episode’s release. To contextualize that: at the time of recording, I’d seen personal information to that effect, and Ubisoft had expressed a lack of confidence in meeting the 2022 window for the game at a previous meeting in January. Since then, at this earnings call, the company had hedged the bet again by just listing the game for the general fiscal year, officially opening its release window to through March 2022 without officially announcing a delay as of yet. I just wanted to be completely transparent about this matter.
Riot Games’ new president is cofounder Marc Merrill, who you might remember from insulting a League streamer for speaking out against the abuse at Riot, or being vocally opposed to Critical Race Theory education last year as racist conservatives tend to be right now, or his general neglect towards systemic workplace misconduct as a lifetime leader at the company. What an incredibly promising development for this company’s alleged turnaround.
Kickstarter officially announced a response to the backlash on its plans for blockchain tech, stating that it will indefinitely pause the plans and assess them further before moving forward, and maintain greater transparency with its community. The company has not actually committed to canceling the plans at this time, unlike some others, it is clearly in the ‘wait and see’ phase on whether blockchain will bounce back or not in both fiscal performance and overall popularity, and will follow where those winds go.
Retro Studios updated the banner of their Twitter account with brand new official Metroid Prime art. While I won’t encourage the kind of overanalysis of specific details of the art that I’ve already seen (“the picture is blue because we’re seeing it through Sylux’s visor”???) I do see this as a quiet gesture of progress and potential further updates for the series and the projects Retro is deep in development on, Metroid Prime 4 and the widely reported HD rerelease of the original Metroid Prime.
February 19th: As ABK’s mistreatment of its contractors and QA testers continues in the public eye, Epic Games was reported to be newly hiring hundreds of contractors as full-time employees, with the majority being in QA testing.
February 20th: After a weeklong countdown, Capcom during an esports fighting event released the impressively flimsy and vague announcement teaser of Street Fighter 6. It had no platforms, release window, gameplay footage, nothing to show after the game’s several years in development, just a promise of more info this summer, a generic logo, and uncomfortable cinematic renders of Ryu and…a second character, I’ll get back to that. I’ve been covering this game for more than a year, and while I’m very sympathetic to slow turnaround on delivering game footage, that’s just a reality, I still see this as a questionable attempt at start of marketing, a limp way to cap off all those behind the scenes matters. Maybe a surprise full reveal during the summer like what Street Fighter 4 did back in the day would work better.
Unwilling to face a third failed launch in a row for the series, Capcom in 2020 asked longstanding series producer Yoshinori Ono to depart, delayed the game’s launch from 2021 to 2022, and covered the delay with an unplanned extra season of DLC support for SF5, the marketing of which lasted from summer 2020 to November 2021. The reports of all this were effectively confirmed when Ono did announce his departure in August and the Capcom Hack showed SF6 rescheduled to Holiday 2022. If the game is still on schedule for this year, then that summer update would be the full reveal.
Capcom also announced Capcom Fighting Collection for a June 24th launch on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch. Despite the generic title, this game is a big deal as it’s a complete series collection for the long-dormant Darkstalkers, and reportedly it’s a sales test to determine a greenlight for a new Darkstalkers game. The game features ten games in total: Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors, Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge, Vampire Savior: The Lord of Vampire, Vampire Hunter 2: Darkstalkers’ Revenge, Vampire Savior 2: The Lord of Vampire, plus Red Earth, Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness, Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix, Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo, and Hyper Street Fighter 2. This is the first release outside of Japan for two of those Darkstalkers entries, while Red Earth was an arcade exclusive until this collection.
Okay, so the second character in the trailer is widely understood among my fellow gaming press to be Luke, SF5’s final DLC character, who was previously promoted as the narrative bridge to the series’ next entry. I’m not saying it isn’t Luke, all I am saying is that these aren’t exactly similar character designs, barring the Whataburger logo.
Also on the 20th, Atlus announced Soul Hackers 2 as a global launch in August 2022 on Xbox One/Series, PS4/5, and PC. The original Soul Hackers was a 1997 Sega Saturn RPG ported to PS1, and later the Nintendo 3DS in the game’s first localization. It was a Shin Megami Tensei spinoff and followup to SMT: Devil Summoner.
A new Famitsu article and interview with Tomoya Asano discussed Square Enix’s plans for the HD-2D engine, saying that President Yosuke Matsuda had ordered additional HD-2D projects off the success of Octopath Traveler, resulting in a set of the company’s past SNES games being reviewed as remake candidates and Live A Live being chosen first as seen earlier in this Roundup. Actraiser was the runner-up, leading to its remastered release in September 2021. Following the Dragon Quest 3 and Live A Live remakes, additional Square Enix retro games remade in HD-2D are to be expected. Any concern about overuse of HD-2D can be fairly answered with all the other formats of rerelease and remake Square is currently employing: standard and AI upscaled remasters, FF Pixel Remasters, faithful 3D remakes for Front Mission and Mana, and the full reimagining of the FF7R series.
February 21st: Steam announced for better or worse that it is adjusting sale policies to completely remove the somewhat infamous under 10% and over 90% discounts as options.
Naoki Yoshida announced new upcoming updates to FF14, most notably improvements to solo play coming in April and a visual overhaul arriving with the next expansion.
February 22: Andy Robinson at Video Games Chronicle exclusively reported that 2K has signed a new multi-game partnership with Lego for Lego 2K sports games, which has been looking to continue and expand as expiration looms for its license to Warner Bros and TT Games. Robinson’s sources suggest that a soccer game by Sumo Digital will be the first entry in the new series, scheduled to release later this year in time for the World Cup, followed by an open world racing game by Visual Concepts in 2023.
The full final PSVR2 design reveal occurred, showing the headset for the first time alongside the final design of the controllers.
Bethesda Softworks announced that it is sunsetting the Bethesda.net launcher after six years, transferring all users’ existing purchased games, saves (except for Wolfenstein: Youngblood‘s saves at this time), wallet, live service accoutrement, and mods to Steam starting in April before disabling the launcher in May.
Epic Games updated the public build of Unreal Engine 5 to exit Early Access and enter Preview ahead of a full 1.0 launch later this year. This new build publicly provides many various features and improvements to features as seen in internal games built on this version like Fortnite Chapter 3 and The Matrix Awakens.
February 23: A new Video Games Chronicle report by Andy Robinson and Tom Henderson discussed new details about the ongoing contentious negotiations between EA and FIFA, based primarily around comments made by CEO Andrew Wilson, provided by anonymous sources from an internal meeting at EA back in November. I’ve revisited this story not only because of meaningful new details, but also because I’m disproportionately intrigued by the potential industry sea change from this deal and the psychology of EA’s increasingly clear conviction that FIFA doesn’t provide a sufficient return of investment. Wilson once again communicated clearly that he is willing to part ways with FIFA once the current contract expires at the end of the year, due to both the steep increase in licensing fee it’s demanding ($2.5 billion USD over the next decade, more than double the previous fee) and its status as an obstacle in the development of the game series.
He pointed out that more than 300 other existing license deals in the game series, and their value contributions, will persist without FIFA’s involvement, including all the athletes, and longtime partner FIFA is literally only providing the FIFA name and the World Cup name. The CEO went so far as to diminish the value of the FIFA brand itself to them by calling it just “four letters on the front of the box” in non World Cup years, and in a world where most of their customers aren’t even seeing the physical box anymore, to boot. Wilson elaborated on how FIFA as a partner has been an obstacle for the games both fiscally and developmentally, citing examples like FIFA keeping them exclusively tied to one shoe brand over another, and FIFA’s responses to gameplay additions like new modes and mechanics ranging from outright refusal to being so slow to approve that it takes several years and series entries to properly respond to player demands when it doesn’t practically need to. He claimed to have communicated these concerns to FIFA, but that they fell on deaf ears.
These are plausible and fair criticisms, but I suspect Andrew Wilson of both underestimating just how much the name recognition of association with FIFA benefits their sales, and of deliberately omitting or being vague about conflicts he is well aware are less sympathetic to the average developer or consumer. The original NYT article on these negotiations discussed both FIFA and EA wanting exclusive control over additional revenue streams related to the video games, including NFTs among others. Perhaps in the end the truth will be that these companies were simply too similar to ever be able to sustain this partnership.
EA also released the My Wedding Stories DLC pack for The Sims 4 on that day. I don’t cover every single DLC for a game like this which gets numerous every year, but this was a distinct enough news story through and through. It started with the news that the DLC wouldn’t release in Russia due to concerns over the Putin administration’s homophobic strict censorship of queer content. Then the Sims community publicly fought the decision, insisting on access for all fans to the new content regardless of the consequences. So EA then committed to the game reaching the Russian market as well without any changes to in-game content, just changing the key promotional art of the game which features a lesbian couple. Now that the DLC has released, fans are stricken with the question of what exactly were they protesting for, as the DLC is at launch seemingly unfinished, severely broken and buggy.
February 24th: Late in the night of the 23rd in North America and early on February 24th in Ukraine, Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin launched a full scale invasion of Ukraine, attempting to brutalize the nation into immediate surrender and annexation, which has failed against resistance from Ukraine’s government and citizens. Even as many Russian citizens call for peace, the Russian government and military has committed multiple war crimes in the ons.going invasion, and the Russian public has seen the consequences over the past two weeks. Sanctions and boycotts, as well as resulting broader infrastructural instability, have all taken effect in the increasingly stigmatized nation. The games industry has both directly and indirectly participated in those sanctions and boycotts.
The invasion suddenly took on publicly relevance to the games industry when Reuters reported on Ukraine’s role in the global supply chain for gaming hardware and how the war has made this relevant information. Ukraine is a major source of both neon gas and palladium metal used in the manufacturing of microchips’ semiconductors. If the war on Ukraine continues to be sustained at its current pitch over longer time, along with the more important continued devastating loss of human life and damage to an independent nation, anything using Samsung’s 8 nm semiconductor fabs, such as the RTX 3000 graphics card line, could be directly affected, worsening the existing parts shortages and supply chain issues this industry faces.
Nintendo announced that it had acquired Strategic Research & Development, or SRD, for $500,000 USD. SRD was until now always a legally distinct company, but one very closely tied to Nintendo, working primarily out of Nintendo’s main Kyoto office as an exclusive Nintendo support team for almost 40 years straight. SRD worked on every single Nintendo console game released through the 80s up to the Super Famicom launch, and has in turn continued in this role up to providing support on such recent and major titles as Breath of the Wild and Animal Crossing New Horizons. They are as significant to Nintendo as they are quite obscure to most of the public. Primarily, this sale is occurring because leader and founder Toshihiko Nakago is now ready to retire and cash out, and securing the company from him was a very straightforward, mutually desired process. It will close by April 1st. Despite the extenuating circumstances both here and with Next Level, it’s still easy to see this event in particular as likely prototypical of the near future for Nintendo with regards to acquisitions. They have so many major longterm partners they don’t fully own that could reach this sort of moment and risk divestment at any time, like Intelligent Systems and HAL Laboratory.
Also, on the evening of February 24th, Majora’s Mask released on NSO EP as part of the 2.0 update to the N64 app. The remainder of the core demanded fixes for N64 emulation came with this update, addressing both the Water Temple issue in Ocarina of Time and the crashes in Paper Mario among others. Unlike previous months, Nintendo neither actively announced when the update went live nor did they announce March’s N64 game then or as of yet at time of printing, having done both for each previous new N64 game. It is widely understood that this decision was out of sensitivity to the start of the Russian war on Ukraine, something affirmed by the Pokémon Company explicitly explaining that the ongoing war crisis is why it did not more heavily market the Pokémon Presents at the end of the same week.
Multiplayer dodgeball game and 2021 Direct slotfiller Knockout City is undergoing a major transition as it both goes fully FTP later this year and transfers from EA’s publishing control to being fully self-published and controlled by developer Velan Studios.
General manager Gary McKay delivered an update on Dragon Age 4 and Mass Effect 5 via the official Bioware blog, perhaps in response to Jeff Grubb’s recent comments on the former. With a bit of context, Grubb and McKay’s comments are in basic agreement and form a consistent general picture: Its final post removal of multiplayer stage of pre-production completed in 2021. Dragon Age 4 is steadily in the middle of its active production after multiple major restarts in the past five years, it is successfully hitting regular progress benchmarks and will now be seeing regular public progress updates after years of vague teases. If it stays on track, it will launch in 2023, which has leaked as the new internal target multiple times in the past year, and which Grubb pointed to in his estimate of the game being “at least 18 months out” as the most optimistic outcome when he commented mid-February. McKay’s comment on Mass Effect, that it has entered prototyping, is also consistent with other info and the general state of AAA development: Bioware can only make one full game at a time now, so Mass Effect 5 will not begin active development until Dragon Age 4 is finished.
Plug In Digital, a games industry holdings company with various ventures including two indie publishing labels, became the latest games publisher to enter the NFT business and exit within days due to effective backlash.
February 25th: Just as the Steam Deck officially launched, with an overall good reception, but also some technical criticisms, and its heavily clogged up back orders extending into next year, Valve unexpectedly announced a new first party game optimized for the Steam Deck, which proceeded to launch the following week on March 1st. Aperture Desk Job is a small free Portal spinoff game and tech demo for the new handheld. Additionally, launch interviews with Gabe Newell discussed both how preliminary work has already begun on the Steam Deck 2 and how Valve is currently working on various new games.
February 26th: 2022’s Digimon Con event opened with a 50-minute Q&A regarding Digimon video games, primarily long anticipated RPG Digimon Survive, was held and a new trailer for Survive shown. Chiefly, the team explained that Survive is still set to receive its release date announcement just “a little later,” and that the continuous delays in part came from having needed to change developers from Witchcraft to Hyde.
Ahead of the full details for EVO 2022, EVO social media a point to explicitly announce that Nintendo had withdrawn Smash Bros. from the event for that year. Many were quick to point out Sony now co-owning the event, but while I’m sure that does annoy Nintendo, I suspect the bigger matter for them is that they can focus Smash on their more fully involved, sponsored, and controlled Smash Bros. competitive events via Panda esports, as announced last year.
February 27th: On a Sunday American morning and Japanese evening, a Pokémon Presents actually aired on Pokémon Day, featuring free minor updates for various titles…and also closed by actually announcing Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet, the fully open-world RPG beginning of Generation 9 for a Late 2022, inevitably November, launch. The trailer briefly depicts a setting largely inspired by Spain, especially the autonomous community of Barcelona and Catalonia, battles that continue to seamlessly exist in the game world but may otherwise be more traditional than Legends Arceus‘ battles, the three new starters, and the player characters, who appear to be in uniforms for rival schools.
The presentation’s other announcements were Gen 7 creatures arriving in Pokémon Go starting March 11th, updates for other mobile games like Pokémon Masters EX, Pokémon Cafe Remix, and Pokémon Unite, as well as an event for catching the legendary Shaymin in the Sinnoh remakes up through March 27th, and a series of new narrative quests added for free to Pokémon Legends Arceus. The preceding week of announcements had also included a beta for a new mobile version of the trading card game.
Ahead of a release only weeks away, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax saw a new trailer and the announcement that rollback netcode support will be added to the game in the summer for PS4 and Steam. This produced a lot of discourse which I will briefly cut through: no, rollback netcode is not impossible on Switch, it’s more difficult to implement currently but it is far from impossible, as seen here from a list of Switch fighting games where some do have rollback netcode.
February 28th: Bandai Namco announced the full multiplatform launch date for Pac-Man Museum + as May 27th 2022.
The Twisted Metal TV series starring Anthony Mackie officially received a full first order and pickup at NBC’s Peacock streaming service. The series is described as a half hour action-comedy, and writers from modern comedy series like BoJack Horseman started announcing that they’ve joined the series.
takes a deep breath
March 1st: On February 26th, The Telegraph reported that Nvidia was hit with a devastating cyber attack which completely compromised internal systems, resulting in outages for Nvidia’s email and dev tools, and was later confirmed by Nvidia to have stolen a significant amount of data, originally alleged to be a whole terabyte. There was initial concerns that the cyber attack was related to the crisis in Ukraine, but ultimately the hackers revealed themselves to be a European group (pretending to be Latin American via VPN) focused on matters of ransomware and cryptocurrency, when they demanded that Nvidia remove the mining limiters installed onto its graphics cards.
On March 1st, once Nvidia didn’t respond to their ludicrous demands, the hackers began publicly leaking the stolen data, which included the personal information of more than 70,000 current and former Nvidia employees. The hackers have now since targeted Samsung as well. The staggering scale of flagrant disregard for harming human lives in this indiscriminate theft and leaking, all for the most appalling motivation of service to the similarly selfish, destructive practice of crypto mining, is disgusting and I condemn it with every breath. My deepest empathy is with the victims of these hackers and their actions. As with my reporting on the Capcom Hack in 2020, I feel a journalistic responsibility towards covering this story, and I am spoilering industry-significant details which are only public knowledge by dependence on these unethical actions, so that you readers can opt in or opt out of engaging with them due to the context surrounding them, and to more generally acknowledge the sensitivity of the information.
The hackers also leaked the source code for Nvidia’s DLSS AI upscaling technology as well as info on many future graphics cards, deliberately targeting key exclusive products of the company as retaliation for ignoring their stupid demands. Among many things visibly packaged with the DLSS source code was a folder labeled NVN2, dated as having been updated as recently as February 21st 2022, and containing several files labeled with variations of NVN DLSS. NVN is an abbreviating label that Nvidia exclusively uses for its Nintendo hardware, standing for Nvidia Vulkan Nintendo. The implications are clear that at the very least, the companies are directly evidenced from their own internal data to be have worked on new hardware involving the use of DLSS tech, and that it’s likely to be in some stage of ongoing development given the files being recently and regularly updated, all of which has been previously reported.
There is also additional data corroborating past reporting on the connection between this project and the specific Orin microchip family whose products Nvidia is releasing throughout 2022 and early 2023. Namely, that these files directly reference a T239 chip being used as a custom variant of the T234 Orin chip. T239 was the name of the chip Nintendo would be using as publicly reported by an Nvidia source but never previously officially discussed, Nvidia officially confirmed the T234 name of the Orin chips during presentations last year, and now both are directly connected to each other in this data.
I won’t comment further than offering these facts on a leak and matters that are still officially unannounced.. I said that I wouldn’t return to formal reporting on future Nintendo hardware until it was appropriate to do so, and I can only hope that this can be widely agreed to warrant that conclusion given its significance and strong evidential basis.
Amazon’s cloud gaming service Luna officially exited early access after more than a year (October 2020) and entered full launch in the US across Windows PC, Mac, Fire TV, Android, and iOS devices. Luna now has five distinct ‘channels’ of content offerings after its basic ttier, Luna Plus, Ubisoft Plus, Family Channel, and the new Retro Channel and Jackbox Games Channel, which are exactly what they sound like.
Gizmodo Media Group Union, the labor union of G/O Media’s various publications including games press site Kotaku, went on strike from work due to management’s refusal to meet demands for fairer treatment of all workers and workplaces. Until a deal was tentatively reached on March 6th (pending official ratification by union vote), they were explicitly asking that readers boycott all of those publications during the strike, which I was observing in my sourcing for this Roundup.
Collection for future strike funds can be found here, where all the demands met are also listed. The last demands being negotiated as I was finishing this article this weekend were as follows: a standardized minimum salary to better support the newest and ‘lowest-ranked’ employees at the press sites, which with the new deal is $62,000 USD, freedom to negotiate on healthcare during an employee’s contract instead of only at expiration, maintaining the current max cap on employees’ copay for their healthcare, and a bonus for ratifying the new contract to compensate for G/O management’s continued denial of back pay. The Union’s negotiations have also won 15 weeks of parental leave, 12 weeks of minimum severance pay, diversity initiative budgeting and standards, compliance with trans inclusive healthcare standards, right to publicly speak about workplace conditions, improved terms for editorial independence, and formal guarantee against forced relocation for remote staff.
Bandai Namco’s Japan offices announced that it will be raising the base salary of all employees from April 2022 onwards. All current employees’ salaries will increase on average by 50,000 yen or $435 USD per month and starting salaries will increase by $500 USD. Staff will also now be free to tailor their personal work schedule. Together these will improve employees’ livelihoods and income stability with the explicit understanding from leadership that a happier, safer worker is a more productive worker.
Nintendo added a new Missions and Rewards system to NSO, similar to Xbox Game Pass achievements. Among many other things, it is providing the first new player profile icons to be made available in years. Later, an update to the NSO mobile app’s management of social features was added, making online friends, online status, and friend codes more visible overall and easy to access within the app itself.
Sony officially began merging its previous anime streaming service Funimation into industry leader Crunchyroll, creating the single largest anime streamer upon having received buyout approval for Crunchyroll in August 2021, after contentious review from both the US and Japanese governments. While this is not directly related to the games industry, it is an example of this multimedia company that’s one of the games industry’s leaders explicitly engaging in vertical integration and monopolistic practices, due to both the volume of market covered by the two services together and Crunchyroll’s role in most stages of anime production and release.
March 2nd: GSC Game World officially paused development entirely for Stalker 2 and delayed the game indefinitely due to staff members and their families being faced with dying in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Capcom announced that dedicated next-gen versions of Resident Evil 7, Resident Evil 2 Remake, and Resident Evil 3 Remake, will arrive later in 2022 as free upgrades for all existing customers across PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. These will feature 4K resolution, higher frame rates, ray-tracing, 3D audio, and DualSense integration on PS5.
Tango Gameworks released a brief free visual novel on PS4 and PS5 as a prologue to Ghostwire Tokyo ahead of its launch later in March.
March 3rd: US President Joe Biden signed a bill into law to firmly end forced arbitration in workplace sexual harassment and assault cases, a victory for victims’ rights advocates everywhere. The issue of forced arbitration, in which a company contractually prevents their employee from bringing the issue to court and redirects the matter towards private resolution managed exclusively by the company, has always been exploited to hamper and evade accountability as much as possible, and has recurred across the games industry’s ongoing reckoning with workplace abuse. Just as significantly, according to Vice President Kamala Harris at the signing, the text of the law makes it “apply retroactively, invalidating every one of these agreements, no matter when they were entered into.” That will directly affect known cases at both Riot Games and Activision Blizzard King among others.
Babylon’s Fall launched at last to a staggering immediate underperformance, with the most infamous piece of hard data being that the game has so far peaked at a little over a thousand total players on Steam compared to Elden Ring’s near one million players on the same sole platform. Concerns are abound about both Square Enix and Platinum Games’ recent histories of financial underperformances and outright losses.
WayForward released a trailer announcing that their run and gunner Spidersaurs is departing Apple Arcade exclusivity for Switch, PC, PS4/5 and Xbox One/Series later this spring, complete with new features.
Haven developer The Game Bakers announced and released an exciting and personally important new free update on all platforms for their game, the Couples Update. They explained the game’s narrative had originally been conceived as an anthology featuring a diverse range of eight different romantic couples, but this had to be massively trimmed down for practical reasons, even as the desire to provide a specific kind of meaningful player freedom remained. As such, after launch they had two new actors record all 80,000 lines of dialogue in the game to provide three paths instead of one: the central couple of Yu and Kay can now be played as two men in love or two women in love as well as the original version.
Thatgamecompany announced that it was receiving a new $160 million USD investment from the VC firm Sequoia, which will go towards continued support for Sky: Children of Light, as well as expanding overall game development and staff hiring. Pixar’s cofounder Ed Catmull is also joining the developer.
March 4th: At launch, Gran Turismo 7 introduced a new system in partnership with automotive enthusiast org Hagerty which causes the microtransacted price of in-game cars to keep dynamically consistent with the fluctuating value of that car in real life, resulting in things like a car in Gran Turismo Sport which cost $5 USD now costing $40 in the new game. This…really fucking sucks. No elaborate analysis necessary.
A former Epic Games contractor publicly spoke out about their experience as a trans person with Epic Games’ internal diversity policies, emphasizing that their being outspoken of their criticisms directly led to them being abruptly fired despite their performance reviews being exceptional.
Forever Entertainment released a new trailer for their House of the Dead Remake, last seen at the April 2021 Indie World, announcing its launch date as April 7th 2022.
Kaizen Game Works released a trailer announcing that the very unique Paradise Killer is finally coming to PlayStation and Xbox platforms after a year and a half on PC and Switch. The new ports feature next-gen enhancements and new game features (new characters, no-HUD mode, etc.), which will also be added to the existing versions of the game as a free update on the same date as the ports’ release, March 16th.
Rockstar finally fully detailed the next-gen upgrades of GTA5 and GTA Online ahead of a March 15th launch. The usual performance enhancements are available for both, cross-save support is available on both, and GTA Online will provide a Career Builder mode to help new players with catching up to veterans.
343i delayed the addition of campaign co op out of Halo Infinite‘s second season, which now officially starts on May 3rd, to the third season which will start this fall, and will still feature Forge mode as well.
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