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!
February was such a packed month for news (and my analysis dipped a little too much into overanalysis on occasion) that some stuff which technically should’ve been in the previous roundup is here instead. My apologies.
February: The Saul Zaentz Company and its Middle-earth Enterprises division abruptly decided to lay total claim to much of the licensing rights for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and immediately put them up for auction, based on their contractual stipulation with Warner Bros that WB’s stake reverts to Zaentz Co. if it doesn’t actively support the franchise enough. Zaentz Co.’s attempt seize and sell off franchise rights would among other things potentially run interference on WB Games continuing its Middle-earth: Shadow of games, or using LOTR in the upcoming MultiVersus. Amazon is said to be first in line at the Zaentz Company’s auction, hoping to build off its upcoming TV series. The latest update on this matter is that Warner Bros has reached out and began a private mediation process with Zaentz, seeking to resecure its claim on the rights by arguing that the franchise is kept active enough. There is no officially detailed final resolution of those negotiations at this time.
Following Elden Ring‘s massively successful launch, public negative employee reviews about From Software began to resurface, which paint a picture of a very unhealthy workplace with poor pay, severe overwork, and hostilely sexist conditions, like pregnant employees being made to leave the company rather than provided with accommodation. The page seems largely abandoned, with the majority of reviews from a decade ago in 2011 and 2012, prior to it experiencing two major shifts in 2014, Hidetaka Miyazaki becoming president and the developer being purchased by Kadokawa. The most recent are from 2016 and indicate both negatives and positives, such as one woman’s review saying that she doesn’t see any sexual harassment and suspects that the office has had to improve from past incidents.
In past stories where studios are described as starting to improve, I’ve been clear that genuine growth is good, worth appreciating and encouraging, but also that it doesn’t erase what has already occurred and how unacceptable that harm was. With regrettably limited info to go on, I’ll say that’s true here too, with lingering uncertainty of just how much growth there’s been. Harm to workers is unacceptable regardless of context or age, and the great games that From produces can only be greater coming from a healthier, more accountable workplace. I hope they are striving towards that, and I hope if they are not that the consequences for that are coming.
March 3rd: As reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio for Bloomberg, an unnamed parent in Illinois has filed (as of January 2022) a $5 million USD class-action lawsuit against publisher Take-Two Interactive for the sale of loot boxes to minors in the NBA 2K game series. This latest development in the long-brewing global conflict around loot boxes and how corporations have taken advantage of minors through them specifically entails in its text how the child in question was at the time of purchase, as many children are, unaware that these microtransactions are non-refundable. The suit charges Take-Two with deliberate deception on both this specifically and the broader marketing of loot boxes to minors.
March 8th: Dave Michaels and Jeffrey Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department and Securities Exchange Commission have respectively opened two separate insider trading investigations of Bobby Kotick and several other ABK shareholders. Kotick met with Alexander von Furstenberg in January, then Furstenberg and co. purchased shares shortly after on January 14th, merely four days before the public announcement of the ABK acquisition deal. Barry Diller, Furstenberg’s stepfather and Kotick’s “longtime friend” and colleague on Coca-Cola’s board of directors, is of particular interest to the investigations. At the end of March, Michaels and Kirsten Grind added an additional report with further details on the investigations.
March 10th: In what to me is a blatant attempt to recapture the recent success of Halo Infinite’s early multiplayer launch, Blizzard announced that the PVP half of Overwatch 2 is being launched ahead of the new PVE campaign mode. This has now already begun as a very private closed alpha test launched on the same day as the announcement. The first somewhat more open beta test will begin in late April for PC players.
March 19th: Teddy Amenabar reported at The Washington Post that the planned start of a new Overwatch League season in May is moving forward with no currently attached sponsors whatsoever. Out of all the sponsors which pulled out since the ABK controversies started, four have confirmed to the Post that they are opting out of the esports league’s entire 2022 season, with no sign of returning.
March 24th: Following from her successfully attained financial settlement from England’s Prince Andrew, attorney Lisa Bloom filed the latest official lawsuit against ABK on behalf of her anonymous client, a current employee of Blizzard who we’ve covered before. Five ABK employees are named in the lawsuit which charges them and the corporation with ceaseless sexual harassment (including advances, kissing, and touching without consent) and retaliation for complaining about said harassment over the past five years. The lawsuit requests not only financial compensation, but also the immediate removal of Bobby Kotick and concrete policy changes to help prevent more cases like this from ever happening again.
A report at TheGamer discussed conditions at ABK’s and Women In Games International’s event at the 2022 Game Developers Conference, featuring various public and private testimonials on how the event was rife with abusive behavior and known abusers. Most notably, attendee Javiera Cordero stated that multiple women were assaulted during the event without any response yet from event organizers.
Following from Raven QA’s letter to Microsoft the day before, which called on Microsoft leadership to publicly encourage ABK to recognize the Game Workers Alliance union, Microsoft VP Lisa Tanzi issued a public informal statement to the Washington Post asserting that any successfully recognized union within ABK will be honored and ubobstructed by Microsoft upon completion of the acquisition. The obvious problem here is this depending on ABK being willing to stop its relentless union-busting and give recognition to begin with, and the implicit sense of the difference between Microsoft cooperating with an already approved union and a willingness to actively itself give approval to a burgeoning union if needed.
March 29th: Judge Dale S. Fischer ruled to approve ABK’s $18 million USD settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, months after the settlement was first proposed and delayed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s efforts. This resolves exactly one of the numerous active lawsuits against the publisher.
ABK abruptly and completely lifted its office vaccine mandate at the same time as sending the message, as written by Brian Bulatao, that it wants its workforce to fully return to the office by June. Anyone who wishes to still work from home is required to undergo an approval process to “prove” they need WFH, where requests are already being denied and some are being told flat-out that they’re not allowed to WFH anymore. A current Blizzard employee provided backing testimony. Jessica Gonzalez, former ABK employee and ongoing organizer for both prospective ABK unions, argues that these are effectively further anti-union tactics by easing the monitoring of organizing employees.
The negative response to this irresponsible and harmful policy change has only just begun as I type this, as a walkout protest has now been announced to take place on April 4th, my day of publication. This latest walkout protest has these demands: reinstating a vaccine mandate for in-office work which had already been in place for months without incident, and reinstating remote work as a permanent and equally available option, in order to maintain the safest and respectful possible hybrid workplace. Anti-vaxxers immediately brigaded the walkout protest announcement. In almost immediate response to the walkout plan, Brian Bulatao relented and adjusted the vaccine mandate rule so that each individual studio can decide its vaccine policy. Blizzard (“for at least the new few months”) and three separate QA offices instated their respective vaccine mandates as a result. The walkout will still proceed in order to fight for permanent remote work options and more equal access to safer in-office work for all ABK studios.
Four center-left US Senators have newly sent an open letter to the Federal Trade Commission’s chair calling for as thorough an investigation as possible of the Microsoft-ABK deal due to both companies’ history of mistreating workers, and to seriously consider rejecting the deal if it’s found to further harm workers.
March 7th: Ahead of the game’s appearance at the State of Play event later in the same week, developer Luminous Productions and publisher Square Enix announced that they were delaying Forspoken from May to October 11th for additional polish time.
A $30 USD expansion to Sega and RGG’s Lost Judgment was detailed: the Kaito Files was set to launch on March 28th and focuses on supporting character Masaharu Kaito.
Piko Interactive announced that its long-gestating remaster of the 90s 3D platformer Glover is set to launch on April 20th for PC. Piko faces criticism for how it cheaply buys, flips, then refuses to further support old gaming IPs while aggressively policing emulation of said recently acquired IPs.
Deadline exclusively reported that a live-action God of War TV series is in early development, with Amazon negotiating for co-production and distribution rights to the series much like they are with Mass Effect. It’s only been a couple years since Sony first started discussing a major expansion to their plans for first party PlayStation film and TV franchises, and they’ve clearly managed some impressive success and fast progress on that front since. As I’m typing this, an 8000-worker warehouse in New York has unexpectedly and successfully become Amazon’s first union off an April 1st vote.
March 9th: A major update came in via Stephen Totilo at Axios on the gender discrimination class-action lawsuit filed against PlayStation in November 2021. Sony filed to dismiss the lawsuit and right at the deadline to respond to the dismissal attempt, eight more women, one current and seven former employees, stepped forward to join the lawsuit. The workers have submitted extensive written statements describing systemic issues, including sexual harassment, discrimination in promotion opportunities and towards working mothers, and aggressive dismissal of women’s contributions, all across various US offices. Some referred to many other women they’ve worked with that all left their respective workplaces in droves and for the same reasons of systemic mistreatment, and having since remained silent out of fear. They testify that a third party had found cause for concern, while Marie Harrington, a 16 year veteran of PlayStation, asked superiors to address the issues shortly before her departure, both to seemingly no avail. Harrington also described witnessing massively disproportionate conditions in promotion reviews, such as one session where four women total were considered compared to almost 70 men.
That article was published on the same day as a major State of Play presentation by Sony. The presentation was focused on multiplat third party titles, barring one first party update. This leaves lots of remaining questions about what Sony’s first party schedule looks like for the rest of the year now that Horizon Forbidden West and Gran Turismo 7 are out. The closest official date left is a general 2022 window for God of War: Ragnarok. Previously announced third party games given minor features in the State of Play were: Ghostwire Tokyo, Forspoken, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin with its new demo releasing ahead of launch, and Trek to Yomi by Flying Wild Hog. A new, free major 3.0 update for Returnal, known as Returnal: Ascension, was announced for a March 22nd release. The Ascension update was detailed further in an extended video released a week later, and it features new story content, new two player co op support in the main game, and the Tower of Sisyphus challenge mode.
New announcements were as follows: ExoPrimal from Capcom, a brand new multiplayer mecha vs dinosaurs shooter IP which exists to mock Dino Crisis fans; …licensed multiplayer mecha shooter Gundam Evolution, TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection a collection of 13* classic Ninja Turtles games coming to Switch, PS4/5, PC, and Xbox One/Series for $40USD in Fall 2022; Kaiju brawler GigaBash coming to PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, Switch, and PC later in 2022; Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R, a new highly expanded remaster of a critically acclaimed licensed late PS3 fighting game, coming to PS4 and 5, Xbox One and Series, PC, and Switch in Fall 2022. The event ended with two back to back brand new games from Square Enix, the strategy RPG and original IP The DioField Chronicle coming in 2022 to PC, Xbox One/Series, PS4/5, and Switch, and the action RPG Valkyrie Elysium, coming to PS4, PS5, and PC in 2022. This is the first main entry in the cult classic Valkyrie Profile series since the PS2 and DS entires in the late 2000s, and it’s developed by Soleil instead of traditional developer tri-Ace, who is busy with the latest Star Ocean.
* Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time for both SNES and Arcade for the first time in decades, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game (NES), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project (NES), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters for NES, SNES, and Genesis, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Sega Genesis), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of The Foot Clan (Game Boy), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Back From The Sewers (Game Boy), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Radical Rescue (Game Boy).
Nintendo of America and WayForward announced that Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp has been delayed again, this time indefinitely out of cultural sensitivity to the war in Ukraine. The series takes a light, satirical approach to warfare, but more crucially it features a faction directly based on Russia. It also has a history with public tragedies, as the launch of 2001’s Advance Wars came the day before the 9/11 attacks, likely affecting its performance and delaying its release in other regions. Nintendo made a point of emphasizing that they will announce a new launch date for the remake duology as soon as possible.
WB Games and WB Montreal officially announced Gotham Knights‘ scheduled launch date as October 25th 2022. Later in March on the 23rd, Rocksteady publicly announced that Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League has been delayed from 2022 to Spring 2023, confirming Jason Schreier’s previous report on it. Really, the Gotham Knights announcement was already a tacit admission of this, but I’m glad it’s over with now for being fully official.
Ikumi Nakamura had an exclusive interview with IGN discussing her new game studio, Unseen.
Square Enix launched an official dedicated Youtube channel for its massive catalogue of classic game soundtracks.
March 10th: A Netherlands appeals court ruled in favor of EA, overruling the 2020 ruling on whether EA’s FIFA card packs are gambling and rescinding the fine initially levied.
During a livestream, developers EA Motive officially set the release of Dead Space Remake for Early 2023. This came very shortly after Jeff Grubb discussed the game being pushed from October 2022 to 2023.
Further console support for Elite Dangerous, including console ports for its major expansion, Odyssey, have been canceled after extended development difficulties since the expansion’s launch in spring 2021.
Universal Studios Hollywood set a 2023 window for opening its stripped-down Super Nintendo World park, officially making it the first Nintendo World outside Japan as Orlando and Singapore’s parks won’t be completed until 2025 at current estimate.
A major unexpected update for the PC and mobile versions of Chrono Trigger was released, sparking speculation that Square could do more with the game soon, like modern console releases.
March 11th: After the distinct possibility and risk was noted in late February at the outset of the war in Ukraine, the two leading neon suppliers in the battered nation officially closed their factories and halted all operations to keep their employees safe, another major shift in the ongoing semiconductor and microchip shortages. The world’s major chipmakers have stored at least six months’ worth of previously produced neon gas to use in production, in anticipation of further conflict after Vladimir Putin first attacked and occupied Ukraine in 2014. These reserves will need to be fully depleted, and/or the factories would need to receive direct damage, before the factories’ closure can actively begin to significantly affect semiconductor and microchip operations. The state of the war continues to move in Ukraine’s favor, with much territory retaken, but nothing is yet certain and nothing can undo the lives lost and damage done in this senseless attack.
The Dallas Morning News published a full page open letter by Human Rights Campaign in its Friday newspaper, an open letter in opposition to the heinous state executive order of Greg Abbott which penalizes parents and healthcare organizations that affirm trans children and steals those properly supported children away from their parents, signed by 65 major companies with operations in the state of Texas, including Microsoft, EA, and Gearbox. At this time enforcing the law is in the midst of being contested by advocacy and legal organizations for blatantly obvious reasons. Some argue that an action like this letter has zero material value, disregarding the fact that even these smaller actions from major corporations typically don’t happen without allies and marginalized peoples within those companies actively fighting for it.
F-Zero X was added to N64 NSO on the 11th, followed by Alien Soldier, Super Fantasy Zone, and Light Crusader being added to Genesis NSO on March 16th, and then Mappy-Land, Dig Dug II, and *sigh* Earthworm Jim 2 for NES and SNES NSO on March 30th. In Japan, Earthworm Jim 2 was substituted with Harvest Moon SNES. In Japanese the game is Farm Story, suggesting that the current solution settled on by Nintendo and Marvelous for including the series’ backlog on NSO is…only doing so in territories where the title isn’t owned by a different company. Hopefully they find their way to a more elegant solution soon.
Both of these updates’ announcements were adjusted in response to the invasion of Ukraine: F-Zero X was meant to be announced right after Majora’s Mask‘s addition as had occurred with the previous N64 games, and instead it was only announced three days before release; while the data in the Genesis NSO app directly indicates that the three games were originally scheduled to release in late February and were actively delayed by a few weeks out of sensitivity to the war’s outbreak. Relatedly, it is widely speculated and fairly likely that Nintendo and Xbox’s joint announcement of the planned rerelease of Goldeneye 007 was delayed out of sensitivity to the war, due to the game’s plot heavily involving Russian geopolitics and warfare, as the announcement was widely reported to be coming by February or March.
March 12th: LinkedIn sleuthing determined that Dan Neuburger departed The Initiative, where he was the director on the Perfect Dark reboot, in February.
March 13th: Electronics manufacturing took another major hit as a COVID outbreak shut down a Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China.
March 14th: With ongoing financial difficulties and Nvidia’s failed buyout no longer available as a windfall, parent company SoftBank is reportedly terminating hundreds of jobs within the hardware company Arm, potentially up to 15% of the roughly 4400 workers.
March 15th: Capcom held a Digital Event presentation for upcoming major expansion Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak, announcing its scheduled launch date as June 30th 2022, and providing various additional details on the new story and gameplay. Sunbreak will have both a stand-alone $40 digital and physical release, and a bundle combining Rise and Sunbreak which is triple the size of Rise itself, more than 19GB total.
Developers Wide Right Interactive, of Jackbox-style party game What the Dub and Freedom Finger, officially announced their new release, Rifftrax: The Game. Launching on May 5th for PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC, the party game (officially licensed and collaborated-upon from the Rifftrax team) features 250 movie clips for up to six players to compete on who can provide the best joke about, either writing their own jokes or selecting material scripted and performed by the Rifftrax commentators. My politics obviously don’t align with Michael J. Nelson’s, but news is news as I’ve been clear before in this series, and the works of major indie devs is of course news. And I did appreciate Nelson disavowing certain bigoted and extremist former colleagues of his.
EA confirmed that there’d be no EA Play Live event this summer after several consecutive years of hosting it. However, this is not strictly because they don’t have enough to talk about. Two major AAA titles in (unofficial title) Jedi Fallen Order 2 and Dead Space Remake are both still set to release in the next 12 months. Games will simply be detailed on their own individual internal deadlines instead of being grouped together regardless of progress, and will appear at their own appropriate events like the Star Wars Celebration in late May, which is widely reported to be where the first trailer for Fallen Order 2 will debut.
As the latest in a long long line of investments, biggest games publisher by revenue Tencent acquired a majority ownership stake in the Spanish developer Tequila Works, of Rime, The Sexy Brutale and currently Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story. This is an extension of Tencent’s overall stake in Riot Games and the League of Legends franchise.
Notable news to come out of Xbox’s March Game Pass updates included: Zero Escape: The Nonary Games being ported to Xbox platforms for the first time ever, the day one additions of Weird West and next-gen exclusive snowboarding game Shredders, and Square Enix’s Guardians of the Galaxy joining Game Pass less than six months after launch in attempt to improve the game’s performance.
March 16th: The latest Starfield update video was released, and features discussion of gameplay and the first (very brief) gameplay footage of the upcoming RPG.
Square Enix and developer Arika provided an initial official response to the reception of their Switch exclusive racing game Chocobo GP, which is considered to be very solidly designed at its core, but ruined by being laden by microtransactions.
March 17th: Sony premiered a 20 minute State of Play presentation dedicated exclusively to Hogwarts Legacy, due to their marketing deal on the multiplatform RPG. The game is launching in Holiday 2022 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PC, and now Nintendo Switch as well. The latter was suddenly, officially confirmed and reconfirmed by those working on the game shortly after the presentation. It is a native port with a retail release. There’s increasing documentation of how Joanne Rowling is poisoning the image of herself and the franchise and how distancing has increasingly become necessary for it, how society at large is starting to reject her for directly funding and serving as a mouthpiece with a massive platform for the virulent organized hate movement of anti-trans activism. If they know they need to attempt to distance themselves, why shouldn’t everyone? But you can’t meaningfully distance your franchise from the person who still ultimately owns and profits directly from it. That money goes towards her obsessive support for the movement. Period.
With the “season 1 finale” of The Dark Pictures already on the way, Supermassive Games has now also announced a new unrelated project from a new publisher in their same horror adventure mold, The Quarry, coming this June 10th to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and Windows from Supermassive and 2K Games. This game is a more direct spiritual successor to Until Dawn with its bigger scale and lighter tone, and as such it has by far the biggest cast and set of stunt-castings (at least cumulatively) of the developer’s catalogue since that 2015 game. There’s a whopping nine total playable characters amongst a cast featuring David Arquette, Justice Smith, Skyler Gisondo, Ariel Winter, Lance Henriksen, Grace Zabriskie, Brenda Song, Evan Evagora, and Ted Raimi among others. However, accessibility and multiplayer features unique to the later TDP games are transferred over to this new game. Never mind that I’m a big fan of the developer’s work generally, this feels like it has real potential to make a bigger splash like Until Dawn did and give the developer the chance to move away from the struggling Dark Pictures games.
Another game was announced, this time the fully 3D, procedurally generated sequel to the heist focused indie Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine via a teaser, AKA Monaco 2. There is no current release window.
The free Kaycee’s Mod expansion to indie hit Inscryption officially launched.
March 18th: A new VentureBeat feature and a new People Make Games video covered separate stories of workplace abuse across four different indie game developers, speaking to dozens of employees and related colleagues in the process. The GamesBeat article is about Moon Studios, developers of the Ori Metroidvania duology, who were very early to the all-remote game development trend since being founded in 2010. All testimony, and it’s a massive pool of distinct testimonies, points directly and exclusively towards the studio’s two founders Thomas Mahler and Gennadiy Korol, who have consistently and intensively verbally abused, harassed, mismanaged, overworked their employees, and subjected them to reactionary and offensive beliefs and comments, such as various slurs and “joking” about committing genocide against Jewish people. The founders have used their status as the studio’s private owners to resist all pressure to improve or change whatsoever. Multiple notable reporters went ahead and explicitly, publicly stated what the article only implied: Microsoft and Xbox formally parted ways with Moon after Ori 2 because of the abuse at Moon and how it showed no signs of stopping. That’s how drastic it was, and that’s why Moon’s next game is at Take-Two instead.
People Make Games mainly covered two studios: Mountains, developers of Florence, and Funomena, developers of Luna and Wattam. Conditions at Fullbright of Gone Home and Open Roads have been previously covered, but the video does feature new comments by Fullbright employees regarding publisher Annapurna’s negligence towards their problems, which affected Funonema and Mountains as well. Founders were another unifying factor across the studios’ stories, with Mountains’ Ken Wong being eventually voted out by his employees to protect them from his ceaseless abuse, and Funonema’s Robin Hunicke having to be kept away from her victims with a pile of chairs blockade.
On March 29th, an unexpected update came when Funomena’s social media announced that they’ll “be forced to close the studio” if the new funding investment they’re currently negotiating for doesn’t come through. Chris Bratt of People Make Games had revealed this first earlier in the day, saying that all contractor positions had already been terminated on the 23rd, and employees felt blindsided by the news. Employees were not informed they were running out of money and had to immediately scramble to find new work, now knowing they would likely receive no further paychecks from the studio after April 1st.
Lastly, I’d also be remiss to not acknowledge that the author of the GamesBeat piece, Dean Takashi, is himself divisive at best within my field. I’ve personally seen him criticized by both fellow industry press and fans for taking an overly neutral to promotional stance towards blockchain gaming and abusive/negligent leaders in the industry, being overly dismissive towards the controversies around them. If you only remember him as “Cuphead tutorial guy” I wouldn’t blame you for being shocked there’s also actually legitimate criticism as well.
March 21st: Jade Raymond’s new Haven Studios was officially announced to be fully acquired by Sony/PlayStation, almost exactly one year after it was founded. Haven is now PlayStation’s first Canadian first party developer. Haven’s co-founder left mere weeks ago in a potential response to this deal before it became public knowledge. Haven’s untitled PS5-exclusive live service game currently in early development is rumored to be planned for a simultaneous PS5 and PC launch, making it among the first PlayStation first party games to do so if true.
Yomiuri and Kotaku reported that a middle aged man from Toyokawa, Japan was arrested on March 16th for sending twelve separate death threats to Sega’s offices in the span of three months. He’s confessed to the crime and said that he was “lost in an online game and frustrated” when he started making the threats.
As your resident trans journalist, I’d like to briefly express my appreciation for the news that Testament, a long-time member of the Guilty Gear fighting game series cast, is being reintroduced in Guilty Gear Strive‘s DLC as an explicitly trans character with an openly trans voice performer.
CD Projekt Red officially announced the next The Witcher game as entering development, directed by Jason Slama and built in Unreal Engine 5. It will be the start of a new distinct game series for the franchise rather than Witcher 4.
Nintendo Switch system update 14.0 released, adding the long-requested feature of folders for easier organization of a user’s games library. It also enhances the previously added Bluetooth support.
March 22nd: Netflix announced the addition of three new games to its app. Two released alongside the announcement, a remaster of the PS3 store game Shatter and an educational RPG called This is a True Story. The third game, Into the Dead 2, is coming soon.
March 24th: Weeks after their erratic serial hacking spree first started and quickly became publicly infamous, seven British youths believed to be members and leaders of the hacking group Lapsuss were officially arrested. Lapsuss had targeted Nvidia and Samsung as I previously reported, and since hit Microsoft, Ubisoft, EA, and Okta prior to these arrests, stealing and publicizing both private assets and personal information. The arrests hit very shortly after a Bloomberg report discussed their ringleader’s identity in vague terms. The City of London Police soon issued their official statement on the arrests. Even with their crimes now likely under control, I really do encourage anyone reading with accounts with these companies to update their passwords and security just to be safe.
The latest Future Games Show Spring Showcase was also held. Here‘s a full list of announcements, but some highlights include: the announcement of Deliver Us Mars, a sequel to Deliver Us the Moon; the announcement of indie platformer The Cub; the announcements of Lego Bricktales and The Time I Have Left; details on the PC port of Death Stranding: Director’s Cut; and the 1.0 launch of Dorfromantik.
March 25th: Xbox revealed its new publishing division focused on cloud gaming, led by director Kim Swift, formerly of Valve and Google Stadia.
Following the release of GTAV and Online for next-gen consoles earlier in the month, Rockstar announced its latest form of excess monetization: GTA+, a premium membership exclusive to the next-gen version of Online.
March 27th: Indonesian indie game developer Mohammad Fahmi of Coffee Talk and the upcoming Afterlove EP suddenly passed away that weekend at the far too young age of 32, as announced by his family on his Twitter account.
March 28th: In commemoration of the long-running shonen franchise’s 25th anniversary, One Piece Odyssey was announced. This big budget JRPG with an original story by the creator Eiichiro Oda is developed by ILCA of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, and coming to PS4, PS5, Xbox Series, and PC later in 2022.
March 29th: Sony’s extensive revamp of its PS Plus and PS Now services, previously very accurately reported on as Project Spartacus, was officially announced via the PlayStation Blog. Sony details this thusly: PlayStation Now is being fully folded into PlayStation Plus as the second of now three distinct tiers of service available on PS4 and PS5, just as Xbox Game Pass and NSO have hierarchical tiers. This revamp begins a rolling launch in June 2022 with it being meant to be active in most territories by the end of June. The “Essential” base tier is PS Plus as it previously existed, the “Extra” second tier is PS Plus and PS Now together featuring up to 400* PS4 and PS5 games across download and streaming, and the “Premium” top tier features timed trials of full new games and many additional retro games from the PS1, PS2, PSP, and PS3 systems on top of the hundreds of PS3 games that were already in PS Now. All retro systems are available in both downloadable native emulated option and cloud-streamed option, except for PS3** which remains cloud streaming only. The timed trials are likely very similar to EA’s or those which Sony offered in a very limited capacity last fall, hopefully with some improvements.
**There is a likely desire of parity between the service on PS4 and PS5, so native PS3 emulation remains off the table at the very least until PS4 support is further diminished.
The tiers’ pricing is as follows: base tier – $10 USD monthly and $60 annually, second tier – $15 monthly and $100 annually, top tier – $18 monthly and $120 annually. That puts the monthly pricing at the extreme end, but the annual pricing at the generous end, below Game Pass Ultimate and the cumulative monthly costs of the lower tiers. In an accompanying interview with Chris Dring at GamesIndustryDotBiz, Jim Ryan reaffirmed that day 1 first party releases on their service are not a financially or developmentally viable option, and reaffirmed his belief in live service games being more significant long term than game catalogue subscriptions. PlayStation is expanding cloud streaming into new markets as part of this revamp, but for markets that won’t have cloud streaming available at the service revamp’s launch, an alternative premium tier called Deluxe will be included at a reduced price with all other benefits, including the native retro games and timed trials. Existing PS Now subscribers will be migrated over to the Premium tier at no additional charge until renewal, while current Plus subscribers convert more directly to the Essential/basic tier. More details on the new PS Plus will come as launch approaches.
Nintendo officially announced that Breath of the Wild 2 is delayed from 2022 to Spring 2023 for all the polishing time it needs. The video announcing this featured brief brand new footage from the game. The game will now most likely launch around the sixth anniversary of the first’s March 2017 release.
After releasing for Xbox, PC, and Switch in November, Unpacking was confirmed to be coming soon to PS4 and PS5 by publisher Humble Games.
Native next-gen console versions of Apex Legends were released.
Sony announced that it will shut down the online servers of Everybody’s Golf on September 30th. It’s effectively dead now given that developer Clap Hanz has moved onto its self-owned golf game with no desire to return to Sony.
One of the “biggest successes in crypto gaming” was struck with a major hack and theft alleged to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, further exposing the instability and unreliability of the also heinously exploitative industry.
March 30th: The European Union took another step towards putting the Digital Markets Act into law by agreeing on its current text ahead of the vote on it later this year. It’ll go into effect in 2023 if it passes, and it is currently expected to pass easily. The bill seeks to regulate and reform big tech, but one stipulation would legalize sideloading on mobile app stores. The likelihood of this transferring from the mobile ecosystem to the gaming console system is slim, but I remain concerned about the consequences.
The final release date trailer for The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe was released, setting the latest updated version of the indie classic as coming to Nintendo Switch, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, and Steam on April 27th 2022. According to developer Crows Crows Crows, “the script for the [new edition’s] new content is longer than the script for the original game.
March 31st: It finally became official: Just like in 2020, there is no E3 event whatsoever in 2022. E3 is fully canceled again. By the end of March, the ESA had begun confirming this to outside contacts, then it was quickly, widely, and independently verified by reporters at major outlets. Within hours of it publicly breaking, the ESA had both privately and publicly confirmed the cancellation in official statements.
There has been no physical event in three years even as GDC, Tokyo Games Show, PAX, all go physical again, and there will be no digital event unlike 2021. It’s not accurate to say that this year’s digital E3 event was canceled after the physical event was, because the ESA failed to ever secure a digital event to begin with, just as I reported earlier this year. They never had the needed partners onboard to make it happen. Even those who were still supportive reported poor communication and organization from ESA as they attempted to arrange a digital event together over the past two months. Officially, the ESA intends to regroup and try again in 2023 with a physical and digital event. But the likelihood of regaining enough partners to stand after already losing them once seems slim at best to me. The organization will have to take these efforts and the need for it to change and improve very seriously.
Why did they lose those partners so quickly? It came down to two factors: the ESA is an incompetent, costly, and harmful relic, a complete mess, and it has the trustworthy competition to viably replace it. Those combined together and led to, by all indications and consensus, Geoff Keighley and his Summer Game Fest fully supplanting E3 by drawing too many partners away. Keighley teased on social media as he timed a new update on Summer Game Fest 2022 right to when the news broke. Keighley himself was among the first longtime ESA partners alienated by their dysfunctionality, and Summer Games Fest has made considerable gains in success since he first emergency arranged it in 2020. I realize the sheer degree of power this seemingly random, unassuming Canadian man now holds in the games industry seems arbitrary and inexplicable, but the fact is that he’s built up and sustained many strong relationships as well as legitimate organizing and leadership prowess across more than 20 years in the industry. I was vocally dissatisfied with his handling of workplace abuse as an issue of discussion at last year’s TGAs, and I remain very critical of him, but understanding and appreciating what he has undeniably accomplished is worthwhile too.
Ethan Gach at Kotaku exclusively reported on workplace issues and development difficulties at developer Undead Labs on and before their current title, State of Decay 3, which remains in pre-production two years after announcement and even more since work began. 12 anonymous current and former employees of Undead Labs testified on matters of leadership mismanagement, overwork, abuse, and misogyny within the workplace, especially in the roughly four years since the Microsoft acquisition. Microsoft is described as overly hands-off, allowing the workplace’s culture to fester for years until improvement has only just started to develop in the past six months. Studio founder Jeff Strain attempted to get ahead of the article by preemptively posting a response on Medium once he received questions from Kotaku. Strain self-published all of Kotaku’s questions and his responses instead of giving them to Kotaku, and within an overly defensive framework.
Stephen Totilo at Axios reported that Sony’s PlayStation division is terminating up to 90 employees in North America despite its ongoing success and growth. The merchandise and retail marketing teams are being primarily affected, with the latter, its primary duty being communication with physical retail stores, allegedly being completely shut down.
Following from the launch of Solar Ash last fall, Heart Machine debuted an announcement trailer for a 3D continuation of the world Hyper Light Drifter, Hyper Light Breaker, which will release in early access by Spring 2023.
Much like Bandai Namco recently did, Capcom announced that it is raising the base salary at its Japanese offices by 30% starting with its new fiscal year which just began on April 1st. New bonuses and revamps of the HR department are also being introduced. All of these are about damn time given continued inflation and that Capcom is coming off its fifth consecutive year of record profits and two of their fastest selling games ever driving the previous fiscal year.
An obscure late PS2 game, the regionally exclusive Kamiwaza: Way of the Thief, has been announced as rereleasing in Fall 2022 as a remaster on Switch, PS4, and PC.
April 2nd: Two follow-ups to the indie fighter Rivals of Aether were announced: Rivals 2, a fully 3D fighting game and direct sequel which targets a 2024 release, and a turnbased roguelike spinoff titled Dungeons of Aether.
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