Game News Roundup: July 2022

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!

ABK Updates

July 6th: A whole two months after going to Activision leadership with their demands and concerns, which received no response, the ABK Workers Alliance officially announced that they were embarking on their fifth walkout protest (on July 21st) from their workplace, right in time for the first anniversary of the organization’s formation. This walkout protest is focused on demanding that ABK more actively engage with protections for its employees against the myriad oppressive legislation actively targeting marginalized groups and their civil rights across the United States. For further description of demands and current organization underway at ABK, check out these articles speaking with representatives Jessica Gonzalez* of the CWA and Kelvin Liu of Blizzard Albany.

*Reporter’s disclosure: Jessica Gonzalez is a personal contact and acquaintance of mine.

July 18th: Microsoft’s proposed buyout of Activision Blizzard King was revealed to have begun approaching major milestones in its potential finalization. September 1st 2022 is the deadline for the UK’s regulatory board, the Competition and Markets Authority, to make an initial decision on the deal. Per reporting at the mergers and acquisitions focused publication Dealreporter, Microsoft has satisfied the FTC’s requests for further info/documents on the buyout, moving the investigation forward. This has been noted elsewhere to have the potential to activate a 30 day window for review and final actions by the FTC, but that would be dependent on Activision having also satisfactorily complied with the Second Request already, which…let’s call that less likely. But investigations can’t stay open forever when there’s money to be made, so we’ll see how it goes, especially since the buyout is now union-endorsed after the labor neutrality contract.

July 19th: The QA department of Blizzard Albany, AKA the former Vicarious Visions, developer of Diablo II: Resurrected and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, is joining its sister studio Raven Software and unionizing. They publicly filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board on this date after management refused to give voluntary recognition to an unanimously formed 20 member union on Thursday July 14th. The union is filing under Game Workers Alliance – Albany to make it easier for other divisions within ABK to join the macro GWA union over time.

July 28th: Competitive Overwatch players on opposing teams went on strike by refusing to play during the Contenders Summer Series tournament, after the event’s Blizzard admins blatantly and arbitrarily changed the rules mid-match in order to treat one team preferentially by declaring them to win and advance faster than they should have.

Everything Else

July 5th: In May, subsidiary Kadokawa Games and its CEO Yoshimi Yasuda spun off from the Kadokawa multimedia conglomerate to reform as Dragami Games. In June, Yasuda began teasing that his new studio would revive a cult classic IP that it retained from Kadokawa in the departure, 2012’s Lollipop Chainsaw. Now, weeks later, more concrete details were given: Dragami’s first game is a Lollipop Chainsaw Remake set to launch in 2023, it will depart from some of the original’s signature stylistic choices with a more realistic artstyle and less licensed music than the full soundtrack selected by filmmaker James Gunn.

Gunn and Suda51 proceeded to immediately clarify on social media that neither of them, nor Grasshopper Manufacture, have any current active involvement in the project, they were merely informed of its existence somewhat earlier than the public as a courtesy. This creates yet another circumstance where the desire for a game to return to easy availability is resolved without really being resolved due to the degree of meaningful difference in a rerelease. Difference is not inherently bad, just look at the remake’s opportunity to no longer feature a confessed real life pedophile. But the freedom to be able to choose between an effectively preserved original and a revised version in most circumstances, in this or any medium, is still a strongly held value of mine as well.

Square Enix announced the launch dates of two of its fall titles, original strategy RPG The DioField Chronicle developed by Lancarse, and Valkyrie Profile followup action RPG Valkyrie Elysium developed by Soleil, via social media followed by full trailers. DioField Chronicle will launch on September 22nd for PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, PC, and Switch, while Valkyrie Elysium will launch on September 29th for PS4/5 and November 11th for PC. The digital deluxe version of Elysium packages in an exclusive brand new port of the PSP game Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, an enhanced rerelease of the series’ debut game.

A Rockstar Games insider, corroborated by Kotaku’s Zack Zweizen, reported that due to the poor reception of the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy rereleases from late 2021, several different other planned rerelease projects have been currently entirely shelved in favor of going completely hands-on-deck for development of Grand Theft Auto 6. Those projects are a GTA 4 remaster, an aforementioned Red Dead Redemption 1 remaster, and the (confirmed only after the Kotaku article) native next-gen versions of Red Dead Redemption 2. Rockstar will only return to these projects after GTA 6 launches, and will reassess how to approach their development because of GTA Trilogy. EDIT: In all likelihood, at the very least these rereleases will be in-house now instead of outsourced like The Trilogy: Definitive Edition was.

Mere days after the conclusion of the latest Summer Games Done Quick charity speedrunning event, one participant publicly confessed to faking part of his broadcast speedrun. His run has been removed from Youtube VOD and he was subsequently, immediately, permanently banned from GDQ. Mekarazium did not fake his main run of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, but for the bonus incentive run of the game’s DLC, he edited together various recordings of previous runs to make the most impressive-looking one possible and submitted it as if he was doing it in real-time during the livestreamed event. Some discrepancies had already been caught by viewers before he told a SGDQ representative. Both during the initial ‘run’ and in comments to both GDQ and Kotaku afterwards, he postured about the “message” of his actions.

July 6th: Square Enix and Luminous Productions announced the second public delay of new original IP Forspoken, pushing the action RPG from October 2022 to January 24th 2023. Officially this is to give the game even more time for additional polish, but it is also motivated by trying to give the game space to itself rather than risk competing more directly with and being crushed by other more major holiday games like God of War: Ragnarok and Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.

Epic Games unexpectedly announced that they were delisting their and Lana Wachowski’s highly advanced next gen exclusive licensed Unreal 5 tech demo The Matrix Awakens from all digital stores three days later on July 9th, less than a year after its release. Anyone who had downloaded the game by that point will retain access to it, even redownloading after previously fully deleting it.

Xbox Game Studios announced that Xbox 360 games will no longer be featured in the Xbox Gold monthly game giveaways as of October 2022, as the end of a nine year era for the original version of the service’s feature. This doesn’t affect any games previously attained through Gold giveaways, but it does affect the value of the base Gold online service. Xbox Gold will now equal PS Plus Essential (and Game Pass/PS Plus Extra/Premium) in only offering games that only remain available while a subscription is active, while Original Xbox and Xbox 360 games in the monthly giveaway are classified as full digital purchases that remain continually available regardless of subscription status. More than ever, it’s time for basic online services on consoles to become free and decoupled from expensive and elaborate subscription catalogs, even speaking personally as a happy customer of some said subscriptions.

After months-long outages, Nintendo finally restored service to two of its digital storefronts, the Wii Shop Channel and the DSi Shop. New sales stopped being supported on these stores years ago, but redownloading already purchased games is once again available to all customers, likely on new servers.

July 7th: After Japan’s highly popular conservative former prime minister Shinzo Abe was unexpectedly assassinated on the evening of July 7th in the US/day of July 8th in Japan, French conservative nationalist politician Damien Rieu used famed developer Hideo Kojima‘s image and implied he was the killer, inspired by racist, reactionary comments on 4chan about Kojima’s alleged resemblance to the assassin, and exaggerating Kojima’s progressive politics. This accusation, complete with Kojima’s face unobscured, was publicly presented uncritically by multiple news outlets around Europe.

Both Rieu and the news stations have since retracted and/or apologized for the accusations. Shortly after, Kojima Productions’ social media publicly condemned and threatened potential legal action over the false accusations. The assassin allegedly confessed to actually being motivated by opposition to the Unification Church or Moonies, a highly controversial conservative religious organization with extensive influence in Asian national politics, including connections to Abe among other current and former world leaders.

GameStop corporate managed to find new lows to sink to in its ongoing financial struggles by resorting to another large round of layoffs which as always largely targeted the ground-level workforce instead of the overpaid executives (except for the Chief Financial Officer, he did get canned), and then launching an NFT marketplace the next day. These firings included gutting Game Informer’s staff for the third time since 2019, while those NFT sales brought in more than $40,000 within the first 24 hours. It’s a meager drop in the bucket for the scale of this company’s debts, expenses, and harms inflicted, while still being far more money than should ever be ‘earned’ by such means. They were also selling an NFT based on the image of a 9/11 victim’s suicide for weeks before finally delisting it.

iam8bit released a trailer announcing that it is producing and distributing a full physical release for Psychonauts 2 (set for September 27th 2022) after the game had previously been digital-exclusive for all except original crowdfunders.

French publisher Nacon held a Nacon Connect presentation to get in on the post-E3 Summer Direct game. Nacon is perhaps best known through a couple of its subsidiaries, like Greedfall developer Spiders, or Blood Bowl developers Cyanide. (Or its ongoing legal dispute with Frogwares.) Nacon also handled remaining European distribution for the Sega Dreamcast after its discontinuation. In the Connect event, Nacon had five reveals among roughly 20 total announcements. Strategy game Crown Wars: The Black Prince by developer Artefacts was revealed for a scheduled 2023 launch on PS5, Xbox Series, Switch, and PC, with brief gameplay footage in the trailer. Most of the brand new reveals were scheduled for 2023, namely Gangs of Sherwood, ParadiZe Project, and Ravenswatch (early access), as well. Gangs of Sherwood is a gritty multiplayer Robin Hood game, much like 2021’s Hood: Outlaws and Legends, for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series. Ravenswatch is a 3D roguelike for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series. ParadiZe Project is an open world co op survival game for, wait for it, PC, Xbox Series, and PS5. Lastly, there was a Terminator survival game developed by Nacon Milan announced with a cinematic teaser.

Several new accessories, controllers and headsets, were announced. Cyanide’s next two games, Blood Bowl 3, and Chef Life both for PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, and Switch, were dated for Fall 2022 and February 2023 respectively. Another sim game, War Hospital, got a fresh look and reaffirmed 2023 release window for PC, Xbox Series, and PS5. Sports games featured were WRC Generations and Session: Skate Sim for Fall 2022, and Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown for 2023. Exploratory next gen action game Hell is Us showed off new concept art and updated to a scheduled 2023 release window. Hekate’s 2023 cross-gen survival horror game Ad Infinitum showed new gameplay footage. Cross gen adventure brawler Clash: Artifacts of Chaos saw new gameplay footage and a launch delay from November to February 2023. Spiders’ hotly anticipated soulslike Steelrising updated its launch date to September 8th 2022. A pre-delay LOTR Gollum was featured.

Lastly, it was only a new gameplay reveal trailer, not its initial overall debut, but RoboCop: Rogue City (an FPS starring a returning Peter Weller, scheduled for a June 2023 launch on PC, Switch, PS5, and Xbox Series) was the main thing to go viral out of the presentation, and not for good reason. It garnered a lot of online criticism as something that seems at best overly self-indulgent, at worst actively effectively supporting the same political conceits the original RoboCop film is critical of, and then of course inspired a defensive counter response from CHUDs and trolls.

It was announced that Kazuki Takahashi, creator of the long running hit Yu-gi-oh franchise and video game series, passed away at the far too young age of 60. The franchise infamously became exclusively focused on the fictional card game Duel Monsters due to its outsized merchandising success, but it was created by Takahashi to be a celebration of every and all kinds of games.

5 years after its initial reveal and nine years after it began development, Ubisoft finally re-revealed the open world pirate action game Skull and Bones in a dedicated presentation video. Updated gameplay footage was shown and a November 8th 2022 launch date on PC, Xbox Series, PS5, and…cloud platforms Google Stadia and Amazon Luna, was officially announced. Ubisoft was unable to get out of its contractual requirement from the Singaporean government to release the game by this year after almost a decade of co-funding development, and the publisher is widely understood to be sending the game out to die with little to no post-launch support, barring a miraculous scale of launch success.

Daniel Mullins Games and Devolver released a trailer announcing that their critically acclaimed 2021 game Inscryption will release on PS4 and PS5 this summer. No date was initially given, the August 30th release date was only announced almost two weeks later, as the port wasn’t finished yet by the initial trailer. The game is also expected to arrive on other consoles in due time.

The ESA formally announced a new external partnership with additional organizers, namely the company ReedPop, to help sell its alleged plans for a return to form next year with a physical E3 event. Most relevantly, ReedPop manages the PAX East and West events, but it has a broader history with successful major events like Star Wars Celebration, C2E2, and New York Comic Con. E3 had been trying and failing to chase being more like PAX for years before its COVD-era struggles to retain game partners, and it’s hard to imagine that getting the PAX guys themselves is all they needed to make it work this time, let alone actually win back the numerous publishers that abandoned it.

Even as Nintendo and Sony withdrew, Xbox finally officially confirmed that it will participate in Gamescom 2022 only a little more than a month before the event, where the publisher’s marketing emphasis on the current fiscal year will continue.

Meta/Oculus Quest VR was announced to no longer require a Facebook/Meta account after the policy had been widely decried for years and led directly to outages of the site preventing the headsets from being playable. However, Meta is also raising the price of what was the most affordable VR headset on the market, the Meta Quest 2, by a whole $100 to a total of $400 USD, without any changes to the product. On top of the company’s other actions like the whole en masse harvesting and selling of personal data and and direct platforming of reactionary misinformation campaigns.

Then, on July 27th, the Federal Trade Commission unexpectedly filed to block Meta’s latest acquisition attempt, Within, the developer of VR fitness app Supernatural. The FTC’s new more progressive head Lina Khan cites both Meta’s more general extensive and aggressive history with the VR market, and Supernatural being the only viable competitor to Beat Saber, which Meta already owns. Khan is focusing on the more narrow charge of specifically monopolizing fitness VR in order to better accomplish active change after broader charges have struggled in the past. Leah Nylen of Bloomberg then alleged that Khan did actively override significant internal pushback in order to make this complaint official.

Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that the country’s government is exploring creating its own proprietary game engine to support the local game development scene, in response to Unity and Unreal being part of the ongoing boycotts against them since their invasion of Ukraine. Kotaku’s sources within said Russian game industry recognize the flaws in such a plan thusly: “the government would need to invest tens of millions of dollars just to match the built-up ecosystem of logical blocks, assets, and plugins available via other game engines.” Not to mention the difficulty of accessing other basic resources like video cards, another industry boycotting Russia.

Developer Bloodious gave a minor delay to the release of the Switch version of its new first person survival horror game Madison, from July 8th to July 29th, with the Switch port’s physical release being pushed to August 26th.

Inkle announced a bundled physical release on Switch for two of its acclaimed adventure games, 80 Days and Overboard!.

The indie publisher of card based RPG I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, who also managed such games as Chicory and Night in the Woods, announced that its latest will release for Switch on August 25th alongside PC and PlayStation versions.

The first N64 NSO game to not be previously announced, Pokémon Puzzle League was announced and released for NSO Expansion Pack in the West while Custom Robo and Custom Robo 2 were added in Japan, bringing each region’s offerings to an equal 17 N64 games total. Upon release, Nintendo made sure to say that more N64 games are coming to the subscription service even as no new roadmap of multiple games is provided now that all previously announced games are added.

July 8th: Some classic games industry snooping around job listings determined that three straight years of considerable success for Respawn’s free to play battle royale Apex Legends was enough to finally get a new single player shooter in the Titanfall/Apex series greenlit and have devs recruited specifically for it. The project is described as an ‘incubation’, meaning essentially that it’s extremely early in development and not fully committed to yet, which isn’t surprising given the several different projects Respawn had already formally announced they were working on.

July 11th: A ransomware hacker group claimed to have successfully attacked and stolen from Bandai Namco as the latest in a long line of recent cyberwarfare incidents affecting the games and tech industries. Shortly after, Bandai Namco confirmed that it had been hacked and was still assessing the scope of the attack, stating that it hadn’t successfully hit any core businesses in Japan, only subsidiaries elsewhere in Asia. It’s unknown as of yet what might have leaked due to the hackers’ actions, though do be wary of a graphic that began circulating again right after the hack was reported, taking advantage of said news in order to gain an air of legitimacy. That graphic was a known fake that was made and published before the hack ever occurred.

An out trans developer at Bungie issued a firm public statement demanding that her employer reassess its healthcare policies, specifically its partnership with Premera for employee health insurance, as Premera consistently and steadfastly refuses to cover gender confirmation surgery under its insurance plans.

In June, an Osaka district court ruled to uphold the federal ban on gay marriage in Japan. Some weeks after, Nintendo Japan HQ, or NCL, responded and publicly updated its Corporate Social Responsibility webpage to explicitly underline a policy it first adopted in March 2021: Nintendo Japan recognizes all common-law marriages and domestic partnerships and equally provides workplace marital benefits to all employees in all partnerships of these kinds, even though the Japanese government doesn’t recognize them and doesn’t require said said benefits.

July 12th: In the first new first-party reveal since unexpectedly ducking out of a traditional Summer Direct, Nintendo released the reveal trailer for Kirby’s Dream Buffet, a fully 3D digital-exclusive party racing spinoff for the pink puff to continue celebrating the series’ 30th anniversary. Featuring four player local and online multiplayer and taking very loose inspiration from both the series’ Gourmet Race and Air Ride, and contemporary hit Fall Guys, the game is centered on Kirbys competing in obstacle courses to reach birthday cakes first and eat the most cake across multiple rounds. Currently with only a Summer 2022 release window, I expect Dream Buffet to be carefully shadowdropped sometime this quarter, and to be available on both the eShop for individual purchase and packed into NSO EP.

Horror narrative adventure developer Supermassive Games announced that they have entered a deal to be fully acquired by the gaming department of Nordisk, a more than 100 year old Danish multimedia entertainment corporation. Supermassive most recently launched The Quarry, and they have their previous series’ ‘season finale,’ The Dark Pictures: The Devil in Me, coming this fall with a new trailer out now. Nordisk moved to increase its 30% share stake in Supermassive to 100%, and Supermassive approved. Nordisk also owns Avalanche Studios, developers of Just Cause and currently the upcoming Xbox exclusive Contraband (not Avalanche Software of Hogwarts Legacy), and has partial stakes in companies such as Raw Fury and Mercury Steam.

In time for the series’ 35th anniversary, Konami announced via social media that it has formal plans to restore the availability of multiple entries in the Metal Gear/Solid series (various editions of MGS2 and MGS3) after they were all digitally delisted in late 2021 due to the licenses expiring for newsreels contained within the games.

After newly and recently being elected to Japan’s House of Counsellors, before taking office on July 26th, politician Ken Akamatsu announced that he is preparing a proposal and plan for Japan to adopt a federal system for video game preservation complete with publicly available playability.

July 13th: On the morning of July 13th, Unity announced yet another expensive acquisition, the ad tech firm Ironsource, mere weeks after enacting cost-cutting measures squarely at the expense of workers by abruptly firing hundreds of staffers and activating a hiring freeze in June. Unlike the previous acquisitions, Ironsource only serves monetization that will benefit executives instead of employees or outside developers. Widespread vocal criticism of Unity’s misplaced priorities emerged from both inside and outside the company. This was only exacerbated by CEO John Riccitiello’s comments shortly after, responding to criticism of said emphasis on monetization by outright insulting game developers. A parody of Riccitiello, based on his time at EA, is featured in Travis Strikes Again due to Suda51’s experiences with Riccitiello during the development of Shadows of the Damned.

Nintendo confirmed that the Twitter Direct will continue until morale improves by releasing the launch date trailer for Bayonetta 3, announcing that the game arrives exclusively for Switch on October 28th 2022 while showcasing many new story details and other news. The trailer explained that the witch’s new foe is humanity itself, which has created living bioweapons known as homunculi for conquest, and that this challenge is so great Bayonetta must work alongside new fellow witches, like the katana wielding Viola teased in the September 2021 trailer, and even alternate Bayonettas from other universes. Alongside this, it was also separately announced that the new game will feature an optional ‘Naive Angel’ mode limiting the game’s more mature content, making it more comfortable to play on handheld in public or amongst family, and that Bayonetta 1’s Switch version will receive a limited, dedicated physical release in 2022 after previously only being a digital download code from either the eShop or Bayonetta 2‘s physical edition.

July 14th: In a new livestream, publisher EA and developer Full Circle of the upcoming skate., the first series entry in more than a decade and colloquially known as Skate 4, controversially pulled back the curtain on the game by announcing that it is a free to play live service with cosmetic and “convenience” microtransactions, coming to PC, mobile, Xbox, and PlayStation (with crossplay/cross-save) in the future.

A US Senate bill with $52 billion USD allotted to boost domestic semiconductor production to address microchip shortages was brought to the floor mid-July by majority leader Chuck Schumer. By July 28th, it had passed both the Senate and House, and awaited President Biden’s signature. This will directly affect all major gaming hardware producers alongside of course other industries like automotive. The bill was carved out from much larger “China competitiveness” legislation, with one concern being that Taiwan as a major source of microchip manufacturing is vulnerable to being interrupted by action from China at any moment, much like the microchip manufacturing in Ukraine affected by the war.

July 15th: Sony announced that its acquisition of Bungie, original developer of Halo and current developer and owner of Destiny, has now been completed. Sony’s purchase of Haven Studios also finalized earlier in the same week.

Halo Infinite saw its limited test run for campaign co op and mission replay start on July 15th and conclude on August 1st ahead of a full release in Fall 2022. The test run provided no option for online matchmaking whatsoever in co op, requiring the use of third party coordination and communication tools like Discord, and for now at least Xbox and 343 are sticking with saying that the final release will have no online matchmaking either.

July 16th: Digital Extremes revealed their new game Soulframe at their latest Tennocon event. Soulframe is a free to play MMORPG which extends the franchise and universe of their signature hit game Warframe, but it’s focused on fantasy melee action instead of sci fi shooting.

July 18th: Zynga announced another delay for its first console game, the free to play Switch exclusive Star Wars Hunters, pushing its launch for Switch and mobile to 2023 for further polish.

Following all of the series’ past entries arriving on Switch in 2020, publisher Microids and Oddworld Inhabitants announced that Oddworld: Soulstorm, the reimagined remake of an expansion to the original game, will release on Nintendo Switch as a special ‘Oddtimized’ edition, optimizing for the console’s features and system. There is no current release window, but there are multiple limited-release physical versions announced.

Sony and PlayStation made another investment into the esports arena when it announced that it had acquired, a website which serves as a dedicated platform for the hosting of digital esports leaderboard tournament events. Repeat will continue featuring games outside the PlayStation first party slate.

Xbox announced an animated series in development based on Obsidian’s kid-friendly survival game Grounded, with Brent Friedman of the acclaimed Star Wars: Clone Wars/Rebels series attached.

July 19th: Back in May, Raji: An Ancient Epic on PC saw a free overhaul update called Enhanced Edition. It basically compiles all intended patches for the game in one. This updated edition will be the basis for the game’s now announced forthcoming physical release, and the free update was also released digitally for PlayStation and Xbox on July 20th and Switch on July 28th. The Enhanced Edition features: a full Hindi voice option, overall rebalancing and enhancements to gameplay, visuals and performance, bug fixes, the new easy story mode and hard one hit kill mode, plus ray-tracing and DLSS/FSR support on compatible hardware.

After the launch of Empire of Sin in 2020, Romero Games announced its untitled next project and recruitment efforts for it on social media, an original first person shooter built in Unreal 5 in collaboration with a presently unannounced major publisher.

July 20th: The latest veteran-founded independent game studio to reveal itself was Wildflower Interactive, founded by Bruce Straley, the co-director of Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us who left naughty Dog in 2017. Wildflower’s stated goals as a studio are collaborative creation, a healthy workplace, expansive ideas, and definitely smaller scale than a studio like Naughty Dog works at.

Mojang posted an official policy banning all NFT products and blockchain technologies from Minecraft.

July 21st: In its latest fiscal briefing, Ubisoft announced that it was delaying the launch of next-gen exclusive Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora from November 2022 into the next fiscal year (between April 2023 and March 2024), failing to align with the new film premiering in December, in order to further polish the game. Internal sources suggest that the game’s looks and performance are ready, but its gameplay actually being fun is very much not. Contacts for Ethan Gach at Kotaku also say that “some of its more interesting edges were shaved off in later production” as is typical for Ubisoft games.

Gach and Jason Schreier at Bloomberg offered the latest updated reports on the broader state of Ubisoft development shortly after. In the briefing, Yves Guillemot discussed the delay and cancellation of other planned games in vague terms which the reporters filled in, clarifying that the next Assassin’s Creed, Valhalla expansion turned smaller standalone game Project Rift, was also delayed to next fiscal year, while Splinter Cell VR and FTP live service Ghost Recon Frontline were both among the games fully canceled in order to consolidate development. Ubi also newly pulled one producer of one of its other AAA games over to Avatar, while continuing to chug away on the live service Assassin’s Creed Infinity, cut raises for staff, freeze budgets, and generally do the kinds of things not especially symptomatic of a functioning corporation.

Tom Henderson’s contribution to this latest round of Ubisoft coverage was that new playtesting has astonishingly begun for Beyond Good and Evil 2.

An extended new gameplay-focused trailer for The Last of Us Part 1 was released not long after extensive leaks and the game officially going gold earlier in July. Some but not all of Part 2‘s gameplay additions were confirmed for the remake, like updated AI design, the optional perma-death mode, photo mode, and expansive accessibility features, plus new additions like speedrun mode and haptic feedback integration.

The new trailer for TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection announced that the game will launch for all platforms on August 30th 2022.

July 22nd: Indie dev and publisher Tender Claws announced that it was the latest North American games company to unionize, with voluntary recognition from management and 100% of employees joining.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 got out into the market early as games are wont to do, and a unique discovery was made by players using hacked Switches with higher clock settings than the Switch uses by default. The game is programmed to innately near (96%) max out the performance settings on the console for best possible game performance at the expense of heat and battery management, and it’s programmed to seamlessly auto-adjust to the higher clocks of the hacked Switches with matching higher performance. This is impressive, unique software engineering, and also directly implicating that the game was designed to auto-optimize to a new, forthcoming, more powerful Switch’s settings so that Monolith Soft wouldn’t have to develop a dedicated upgrade patch, which would take far more resources.

July 23rd: Indie developer Lucas Pope announced that his first game Papers, Please is releasing for mobile iOS as a single-pay app on August 5th. Pope joked about console ports also taking nine more years to arrive.

July 24th: Your illustrious gaming news journalist Lovely Lily Bones turned 26 years old and officially lost her parents’ health insurance coverage, so please bear with me if some small delays crop up for my work in the next weeks as I divide my time between writing and trying to get new health insurance.

July 25th: For the first Giant Bomb Game Mess Mornings episode of the week, Jeff Grubb exclusively reported on a new AAA single player only open world Marvel game based on the hero Black Panther and the setting of Wakanda. Grubb teased discussion of the game following the release of the first trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever from San Diego Comic Con 2022 over the weekend. Grubb reports that the game is in early development, most likely in development from a new Seattle-based studio founded by Kevin Stephens, formerly of Middle-Earth: Shadow of War/Mordor, and being published by EA. The game’s setup is said to have a custom original character as the next heir to the titles of Wakandan ruler and protector, just as in the films where T’Challa inherited from T’Chaka and someone new will inherit from T’Challa.

PlayStation store listings repeatedly leaked details on the yet to be announced Tactics Ogre Reborn from Square Enix, first in June and now more fully in July. The series’ original debut entry Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together was first released for Super Famicom and PS1 in the 90s before receiving a PSP remake, and this new release is understood to be an updated HD version of said PSP remake. It’s listed for a November 11th 2022 launch date on PS4 and PS5 (the only platforms the PS Store would mention), and is said to feature many new enhancements from full voice acting in two languages to gameplay overhauls.

Daedalic and Nacon announced that LOTR: Gollum was indefinitely delayed from its previous September 1st launch date (thus no longer aligned with the Amazon series’ premiere), estimating “a few months” being added and an exact announcement in the near-future for both the multiplatform and Switch releases of the game.

July 26th: Jason Schreier came out swinging right as July was ending with multiple major formal reports in the last week of the month. First he declared that the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic Remake has had development paused and launch indefinitely delayed pending an ongoing project assessment. A ‘vertical slice’ demo of the game was finalized on June 30th 2022 and soon presented to Lucasfilm Games and Sony (co-funding the game and publishing it as a timed PS5 exclusive). On the ground devs were confident in what they produced, but the partners were so dissatisfied with the presented demo that in the first week of July, Aspyr abruptly fired both the game’s design director Brad Prince, and art director Jason Minor, and ordered said pause and delay.

Aspyr’s studio heads told employees that they are “looking for new contracts and development opportunities” in the likelihood that Aspyr no longer leads development on KOTOR Remake, whether out of reassignment or full on project cancellation. Fellow port-house and Nordic subsidiary Saber Interactive was officially confirmed as a support studio on the title in May; per some of the contacts from Aspyr, Saber taking over as the lead developer on the project, or even the sole developer, is on the table as an option. No decisions have been made yet in the assessment.

Including pre-production, Aspyr began working on KOTOR Remake in 2019, hiring on numerous new workers for the company’s very first full from the ground up project, including many developers with history at Bioware, including the original KOTOR itself. Embarking on an ambitiously scaled AAA remake of a widely popular classic game as your very first full game…it was never going to be easy, and Aspyr unfortunately wasn’t prepared for that. Their original launch target was Holiday 2022, which slipped to 2023, and now 2025 is seen as the more realistic option given the state of things. The demo unfortunately really did not help, it sucked up too much time and resources and actively further pushed back the game reaching launchable state, even before underwhelming executives and creating a new ceiling of polish to reach.

Publisher WB and developer Player First officially launched their IP crossover platform fighter MultiVersus in fully public open beta alongside the addition of new fighter LeBron James representing Space Jam 2. LeBron was announced merely four days earlier at San Diego Comic Con 2022 alongside the game’s next two characters, Rick Sanchez and Morty Smith of the eponymous Adult Swim hit series. Morty releases in early August at the start of Season 1 while Rick, who was part of the game’s original Fall 2021 leaks, releases slightly later this year. Given my past leak and preview coverage of the game, I felt it was only right to deliver a full review in the Games Thread after spending a week with the game, directly addressing its disgustingly intensive predatory monetization and how it directly pressures players and worsens the experience of actually quite strong core gameplay.

July 27th: Schreier’s next major report is about a game that he’s been informally discussing for a very long time, Rockstar’s next major game Grand Theft Auto 6. The broader narrative he presents is this: after Fall 2018, when Red Dead Redemption 2‘s successful launch went head to head with newfound widespread coverage of the inappropriate workplace culture at Rockstar in both social behavior (drinking, strip clubs, offensive humor) and labor abuses, the company has (according to more than 20 current or recently former employees) successfully underwent earnest efforts to improve and significantly change its culture, which has in turn affected the design of GTA6.

In the past near four years, the company has: instituted anti-crunch measures and policies*, ousted several abusive managers including Imran Sarwar, specifically introduced new management structure to minimize the level of abusable power previously held by individual directors like Sarwar, introduced new mental health, time off, and leave benefits, converted contractors to full time employees, drastically reduced its gender pay gap, and added/improved sensitivity and behavioral policies. The publisher and developer is now described as a longtime “boys’ club transformed into a real company,” creating “morale higher than it’s ever been.” This also affected GTA6’s development, a production that had already lasted four years as of 2018 that does now have to move even slower because it’s affected by COVID, adapting to new forms of team coordination, and trying to no longer excessively overwork employees.

*Including general flexibility on scheduling instead of the strict deadline enforcement that often dovetails with crunch. Release deadlines should never come before workers’ rights and health, especially for a company with the sustainable profits of GTA Online.

The contents of GTA6 have also evolved in both practical and cultural ways thanks to the evolving workplace culture. For the first time, one of the game’s two bespoke main playable story characters is a woman, and a woman of color at that, a Latina in the series’ classic Vice City/Miami setting. Women are playable in the original top-down game and GTA Online, but in terms of fleshed out playable women characters, this is still a notable step forward for the series. The intended scope of the game’s world for launch was reduced from “large swaths of North and South America” to a more standard modern sandbox of the city and its immediate surrounding area (still larger than any previous GTA, including more interiors), with the hopes to add these concrete open world expansions over time in post-launch live service releases.

As launch is increasingly not expected until 2024 or 2025, some developers in Edinburgh did quit in protest of the development’s slow progress, but Schreier’s sources testify to their improved enjoyment of this changed process and changed workplace, and the practical benefits it’ll have longterm for publishers, workers, and players alike.

In its biggest, most direct move yet to compete with Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation announced that all eight current mainline Yakuza games will be joining the PlayStation Plus service in some capacity, starting in August with Yakuza 0 and the remakes of the PS2 originals joining the Extra and Premium tiers while Like A Dragon is one of August’s monthly giveaway games for all three tiers. 3, 4, 5, and 6 will follow before the end of 2022. Yakuza 0/1/2 rejoined Game Pass in June after a brief time away, restoring one of the service’s greatest values for the foreseeable future, and PlayStation will soon be able to almost match it.

July 28th: The second annual Annapurna Interactive Showcase premiered right on the heels of general acclaim for the publisher’s latest title, Stray. (Stray did not have something to show here because even AAA devs rarely have their DLC ready to show right after launch anymore, let alone a team as small as BlueTwelve.) The event opened with Thirsty Suitors, a Persona and Yakuza alike focused on South Asian-American culture and personal reconciliation which we’ve seen regularly since its initial reveal at the 2021 Game Awards. The featured demo for the game was largely the same footage previously seen at Tribeca Games Spotlight in my summer event articles, but the game’s developers were finally ready to commit to its 2023 release window and its launch platforms: PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series/Game Pass, and Switch! The demo is also out now on Steam.

Next was Hindsight by Joel McDonald, a narrative adventure about navigating your past, which launches on August 4th for Switch, PC, and Mac. Then, the reveal of Bounty Star: The Morose Tale of Graveyard Clem by developer Dinogod, a story-driven 3D mecha action game set to release in 2023 for both gens of Xbox and PlayStation, plus PC. A representative of Mobius, developers of the critically acclaimed Outer Wilds, checked in to confirm that yes, the game’s Switch port is still in development after it’s been a no-show for actual release since appearances at the February 2021 Nintendo Direct and Summer 2021 Annapurna Showcase. They admit to being overly optimistic with previous release estimates and will not make any further announcements about the port’s release until it’s actually finished. But in the meantime, they did announce that the full game, including its expansion, will see native next-gen versions, supporting 60fps performance, release on Xbox Series S|X and PS5 on September 15th, available as free upgrades for all current owners.

A series of port announcements for other established Annapurna games, the PlayStation timed exclusives The Pathless, Maquette, and Solar Ash, followed. The Pathless from the developers of Abzu (and team members from Journey and Flower) will be coming to Xbox One/Series/Game Pass and Switch, Maquette will come to Game Pass and Switch, and Solar Ash will come to Steam and Game Pass, all in Winter 2022. Lastly, What Remains of Edith Finch was also announced to have native next gen free upgrades on Xbox Series and PS5 in 4K60fps, which shadowdropped right after the presentation. Hollow Ponds revealed Flock, a co op game about being birds flying through the sky, which is coming soon to Xbox, PlayStation, and Steam. Their last game, the previously PlayStation-exclusive kite game Hohokum, was announced to be Available Now on PC.

Several games from developers both new (Forever Ago by Third Shift, untitled project by Yarn Owl) and familiar (Keita Takahashi and Uvula, Kentucky Route Zero‘s Cardboard Computer, If Found‘s Dreamfeel) were given striking but brief teases. Cardboard Computer are employing low budget motion capture from their smartphones in order to bring full, active 3D animation to their new game. I recommend watching the full presentation to enjoy hearing from all these developers firsthand, especially the touching story of Yarn Owl’s formation. Lastly was the reveal of the next-gen exclusive, cinematic, 3D first person survival horror game The Lost Wild, an aspiring spiritual successor to Dino Crisis complete with dinosaur enemies updated to modern scientific standards. Naturally, this was a hugely exciting announcement for my partner Lass and I. According to developer Great Ape Games on their website, a Late 2024 launch at earliest is currently anticipated for PC with subsequent console releases planned, as the game only began active development this year after years of pre-production.

Nintendo continued its summer news cycle apace by releasing the trailer for the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Wave 2 DLC, announcing that it would release one week later on August 4th and feature an exciting set of courses, most notably the classic Waluigi Pinball from Mario Kart DS and a brand new course called Sky High Sundae, produced first for Mario Kart Tour but reserved to release here first. It’s the first Tour-originating course with anti-grav implementation. The full list is as follows: Mario Circuit 3 from the original Super Mario Kart, Kalimari Desert from 64, Mushroom Gorge from Wii, New York Minute and Sydney Sprint from Tour, Snow Land from GBA, and the aforementioned Waluigi Pinball and Sky High Sundae. Another new update on Pokémon Scarlet and Violet ahead of pre-orders opening for Japan in August, a dedicated Splatoon 3 Direct, and the next Indie World, are some of the few remaining speculated announcements from Nintendo that would arrive prior to a Fall Direct.

Warhammer 40K Darktide was delayed again, pushing its launch on PC from September to November 30th 2022, while the next-gen Xbox versions are coming “shortly after” but with no currently defined date.

Vox Media abruptly fired 39 staffers across its divisions so it could save money elsewhere assuredly not going to workers. One employee was Polygon’s games video producer Jenna Stoeber.

July 29th: Chinese games industry giant Tencent confirmed to Axios that for the last year it has employed Ashraf Ismail, the former creative director of Assassin’s Creed who was fired from Ubisoft in 2020 due to abuses of power, including an exploitative extramarital relationship with a fan. Ismail is at a new Canadian studio under Tencent, which also allegedly employs many other former Ubisoft Montreal devs, and works in conjunction with Timi Studio Group, a prolific mobile developer which made Pokémon Unite among many other games.

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