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!
November 3rd: The Game Workers Alliance union at Raven Software QA revealed that after more than five months and four separate contract bargaining sessions, progress is still almost nonexistent due to the rampant deliberately obstructive and uncooperative behavior by Activision Blizzard King leadership. ABK has ignored or dismissed each and every one of the union’s demands, and refuses to compensate on the clock employees for any of their time spent in these negotiations, forcing the union and its backer the Communication Workers of America to provide the pay themselves. They tried to use said refusal to prevent the negotiation meetings from happening at all. ABK is also still denying Raven QA the overall salary raises that came to every other QA worker at the company earlier this year. The national Labor Relations Board’s previous ruling on said denial means that the matter will eventually go before a judge if ABK doesn’t settle.
November 17th: Most of Blizzard’s current active games (everything but Diablo Immortal) were unexpectedly reported to be losing support and suspended permanently in China as of January 23rd 2023, over collapsed negotiations which ultimately ended a 14 year partnership with local licenser NetEase thanks to, quoting a NetEase executive, “a jerk.” Just a few months earlier, Blizzard had canceled a Warcraft mobile game, to which NetEase dedicated three years and more than 100 devs.
November 18th: An unredacted copy of Epic Games’ ongoing lawsuit against Google over Fortnite’s app store removal was newly publicly exposed, revealing accusations from Epic that Google has repeatedly paid off 24 different hardware and software corporations in deals to stop them from developing rival app stores like the one Microsoft’s now planning. Ubisoft, Nintendo, Riot Games, and Activision Blizzard King are among the listed companies, with ABK alleged to have been paid the most at $360 million over three years. Infamous ABK executive Lulu Cheng joined Google in denying the claims.
November 23rd: Politico published a bombshell exclusive report by Josh Sisco, saying that three separate sources within/surrounding the US’ Federal Trade Commission claim that the organization is preparing to file a lawsuit to block the Microsoft-ABK deal over its anticompetitive concerns. On December 8th, the day after meeting with Microsoft executives, they did just that, explicitly citing control over Call of Duty, and how in previously acquiring ZeniMax, Microsoft claimed to regulars it had no incentive to make ZeniMax games exclusive before it did anyway with Starfield and Redfall. Both Microsoft and ABK are very explicitly, even aggressively prepared to defend their deal in court, but it’s important to note that the FTC filed as an internal administrative complaint, not with federal court. This makes a significant difference for the nature of the proceedings to come and the possible results of the case.
Consider Nvidia/Arm, or Random House/Simon & Schuster. The Nvidia/Arm complaint did serve as a deterrent that was part of the eventual termination of that deal, but it couldn’t do that by itself, while Random House’s failure came from the Department of Justice itself. These internal administrative complaints in M&A situations are usually meant to force further settlement and compromise from the targeted party rather than actually go to trial, so the questions are Microsoft’s line on further compromise versus escalating to court, and how the FTC panel will handle all of this.
Just earlier the same week before the official FTC motion, Josh Kosman’s report at the New York Post made claims about the ABK buyout’s review panel which suggest dissent between the strongly antitrust chair Lina Khan and some of the other panel members. This underlinex just how difficult it is to actually stop major mergers and acquisitions right now, and the relative possibility that Khan’s attempt to block can still ultimately end at an approval with further concessions as they usually do.
The Politico report getting this info out early led to a flurry of additional desperate, formalized PR moves by Microsoft in attempt to head this threat off at the pass (and appease the similarly still unsatisfied European Commission as well). Microsoft prepared legally enforceable contracts guaranteeing the same day launch sharing of Call of Duty games for 10 straight years with respective platforms, in the event of the ABK buyout’s finalization, and delivered them to Sony, Valve, and Nintendo. After the same offer to Sony had already been made and repeatedly publicly discussed, Phil Spencer unexpectedly, personally made the public announcement that they had officially entered the deal with Nintendo on the night of December 6th, and publicly revealed the offer to Valve at the same time. Before the end of the night, Gabe Newell in a show of support made an official statement to Kotaku saying that he didn’t formally enter the deal because he trusts Xbox to follow through without formal requirement. Nintendo’s own statement said that it “confirms the accuracy of the Microsoft statement” with no further comment.
The offers are obvious low stakes scenarios for Microsoft and Nintendo versus a high stakes one for Sony: as the contracts are moot unless the buyout is approved, Xbox only has any new obligations if it already gets its biggest win, so it’s only leverage right now, and Nintendo’s options are either its previous status quo (the last Nintendo COD was Ghosts on Wii U a decade ago) or a huge win for it, while Sony is still stuck with the vulnerability of one of its biggest moneymakers going from guaranteed perpetually available to them to simply not that. At least for now, it would rather focus on the risks that come with attempting to keep Call of Duty truly neutral than the risks of compromise with their biggest competitor. Spencer has firmly dismissed the concept of a COD contract that reads ‘forever.’ All around, this is still only increasing as a messy, complex situation where the outcome is more genuinely uncertain than it has been for a merger or acquisition in some time.
November 29th: While the biggest national regulatory bodies continue to seriously fight back against such massive industry consolidation, another one in Serbia joined Brazil and Saudi Arabia in finalizing unconditional approval of the proposed ABK buyout deal.
After a temporary delisting in service to Warzone 2.0‘s launch, ABK’s massive network of Call of Duty developers finally relaunched the original Warzone and announced the main details of how the ftp predecessor will be supported going forward. Although it’s not as steep as what happened to Overwatch, it’s still very much designed to incentivize players towards the newer game and away from the one’ve already invested time and money into. Two of the game’s three current maps, plus its ongoing modes and support for Fortnite style time-limited seasonal new modes, have all been permanently removed from the game, leaving only the Caldera map from Vanguard and the standard battle royale mode left. This stripped down form will be kept live for the foreseeable future, but all future updates, including the likely returns of some of these missing features, are exclusive to Warzone 2.0. What a damning way to reinforce the exact concerns of preservation, access, and ownership so many of us have about the live service model.
December 2nd: After the NLRB again denied ABK’s obstructive efforts against the union, Blizzard Albany QA counted the votes and officially won the second union election in the massive publisher’s history, just months after the previous successful union vote. 14 developers unanimously voted in favor and were accepted out of a total of 18 votes. Of the other four, one was already formally disqualified, the other three impotently challenged by ABK because they were late due to mail delays, with no real way to actively negate the election victory, just further petty delays.
December 8th: Earlier the same day before Blizzard announced the launch date of its next major title, Diablo 4, ABK QA employees took a new public stand on their mistreatment at the publisher, and Shannon Liao at the Washington Post extensively reported on Diablo 4’s development. She covers the unhealthy overwork and mismanagement Blizzard devs have faced during the game’s production and especially now in lead-up to a scheduled launch, and also significantly addresses the experiences of Blizzard Albany, the former Vicarious Visions, of being brought in late for support and QA dev on the game.
October: Microsoft and Facebook/Meta jointly announced that Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming is coming to the Meta Quest 2 VR headset in the near future. The massively expensive Meta Quest Pro headset, and previously reported developer acquisitions by Meta, were also announced at the same event.
November 7th: The previously successfully unionized indie developer Tender Claws, known for various VR titles and the acclaimed-by-me-and-Merve Wide Ocean Big Jacket, revealed that their next project is the Stranger Things VR for netflix. With a story from the perspective of the antagonist Vecna, the game is scheduled for a multiplatform (Meta Quest and PSVR2?) launch in Late 2023.
For the latest annual N7 Day, Bioware showed a brief teaser for the still in pre-production Mass Effect 5.
On the series’ 16th anniversary date, Netflix and developer The Coalition announced that they are partnering for a series of Gears of War projects, starting with a live-action movie and an adult animated series. Some other major game multimedia news arrived throughout the fall that I didn’t cover sooner, like Henry Cavill departing the eponymous role of Witcher Geralt Rivia from the Netflix series, replaced by Liam Hemsworth from season 4 onwards, or the director confirmation for Netflix’s BioShock movie. More recently, Sifu and Toejam & Earl movies were announced.
November 8th: Marie Dealessandri at GamesIndustry.biz reported that EA has ended developer Slightly Mad’s Project Cars racing series after assessing it relative to the rest of the publisher’s racing game catalogue. EA confirmed this with an official statement to the reporter. Codemasters acquired Slightly Mad in 2019 before EA bought Codemasters in 2021, and the affected employees are said to be being diverted “into other suitable roles wherever they can”, most likely at other projects in Codemasters, such as the F1, GRID, and WRC series. Tom Henderson exclusively reported alongside this news that the Dirt series has also been ended.
Capcom and Tencent announced that they are partnering for a mobile Monster Hunter game developed by Tencent’s Timi studio, who have made COD Mobile, Honor of Kings, and Pokémon Unite, and were the most profitable single developer in the world for 2020.
MTN reported that Sony has contracted Guild Wars‘ NCSoft to produce an MMORPG in the Horizon franchise as one of their many planned live service games for the coming decade.
The actual last Pokémon Scarlet and Violet trailer before launch finally officially teased the past and future variant Pokémon that are part of the game’s story, a key feature which had leaked several months earlier.
Nintendo fiscal briefing, July to September 2022
Three million more Switch consoles were sold during the latest quarter, bringing the total to 114 million heading into the holidays. Lite sales are really falling off a cliff while the OLED has firmly taken the lead as the main model for now. 30% of all Switches sold in the current fiscal year were bought to serve as a household’s second/additional Switch.
Switch game sales really picked up, starting with adding 11 more million sellers for the fiscal year so far for a total of 15. For the biggest new releases, Splatoon 3 sold roughly 8 million copies in its launch month while Xenoblade Chronicles 3 sold 1.72 million copies in its debut quarter, immediately surpassing XCDE’s total and XC2’s launch, roughly matching where XC2 was in March 2019. (XC2 was at 2.44 million copies at the end of 2021) Kirby and Switch Sports’ legs stood strong, with Kirby passing 5 million total, finally making it the bestselling Kirby game ever, and Switch Sports passing 6 million total. Pokemon Legends Arceus picked back up ahead of the start of Gen 9, now at 13.9 million copies total, not far behind Let’s Go and the Sinnoh Remakes which are still in the 14-15 mill range. Animal Crossing: New Horizons passed 40 million copies total and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe should at its current pace hit 50 million copies before the fiscal year’s end.
Nintendo made several corporate announcements, most notably that it is reducing several projections for the complete fiscal year, most notably reducing the hardware sales projection from 21 million to 19, as I anticipated they would need to. Hardware production is in recovery for Nintendo along with the other console publishers, but it was behind for months and it will take time to make up the difference. Nintendo also announced that it is consolidating several Nintendo of Europe subsidiaries, Nintendo France, Benelux in the Netherlands, and Ibérica in Spain, into a broader Nintendo of Europe department over the next two years, with completion of the process anticipated for August 2024. Nintendo claims this merger will improve business efficiency and accelerate decision making for NOE as a whole. The subsidiary offices in each country will remain operational, but they will lack their previous degree of independence from NOE HQ in Germany. Lastly, Nintendo announced that it is once again collaborating with its primary mobile developer Dena, opening a joint venture company in April 2023 which will be dedicated to supporting all of its Nintendo account based services.
November 9th: Disco Elysium legal battle updates:
After the public became aware of the brewing legal dispute over Disco Elysium, both sides went on the offensive with formal public statements on November 9th. Robert Kurvitz and Alexander Rostov wrote a Medium post charging that control over ZA/UM was illegally seized via fraud and used to exclude and expel them for the sake of controlling the series’ creative direction. Meanwhule, ZA/UM’s official statement to GamesIndustry.biz in response elaborated on allegations in the Estonian Ekspress that Kurvitz and Rostov were fired due to severe continuous workplace misconduct and neglect of their employee responsibilities. For GamesIndustry.biz, Danielle Partis reported that her personal sources at ZA/UM confirmed both those misconduct allegations against Kurvitz and Rostov, and the charges of profiteering and corporate malfeasance against CEO Ilmar Kompus and the business side of ZA/UM, describing ZA/UM as”CEO corporate scheming on one side, a toxic auteur on the other.”. Kurvitz and Rostov created an unacceptable toxic work environment of constant verbal abuse and gender discrimination, and they were separately fighting mismanagement of their own creation.
As disclosed in an October hearing, a separate lawsuit was also filed by Kaur Kender against ZA/UM CEO Ilmar Kompus and his shell company Tütreke, which is ZA/UM’s current majority shareholder. This further formally detailed the accusations by the ousted creatives: former majority shareholder Margue Linnamae planned to depart in 2021 having divided his shares equally among fellow partners, but instead Ilmar Kompus purchased all of his shares through a complicated fraud scheme. Kompus’ Tütreke shell corp purchased the first four concept sketches of Disco Elysium 2 for a single euro, thus withholding ownership of the sequel’s existing contents until ZA/UM paid him a whopping 4.8 million euros out of the studio’s game development budget, with which he bought Linnamae’s shares, regaining control over ZA/UM and Disco Elysium 2 anyway. Finally, on December 8th, Kaur Kender voluntarily withdrew his lawsuit after Ilmar Kompus settled and repaid the 4.8 million euros directly back into ZA/UM’s budget. The status of Robert Kurvitz‘s own original, separate lawsuit is currently publicly unknown since its original scheduled trial date of November 28th.
In other news, Bandai Namco released the launch date trailer for Tales of Symphonia Remastered, announcing a February 17th 2023 release on all platforms.
In its first move since officially splitting from EA earlier this year, FIFA announced the release of four games as promotional tie-ins to the currently ongoing 2022 World Cup, all four of which are blockchain-based casual games.
Fall Indie World Showcase
Like the Spring Indie World in May, this presentation arrived quite off schedule from the usual, either very late or a little early depending on your perception from traditional March – August – December Indie World schedule. The event began with Venba coming in Spring 2023 to Switch and PC, a narrative-driven cooking game about an Indian-Canadian family, which we’ve seen elsewhere in the Roundup before. next was Goodbye World, a narrative adventure about indie game game devs which would launch ‘later this month,’ that is to say November 17th on Switch and PC. After making a splash ahead of its Early Access release with a Game Awards 2021 trailer, vividly animated roguelike Have a nice Death finally announced its 1.0 launch on PC and Switch as March 22nd 2023. From French animation studio Cosmo Gatto making their video game debut, Aka is a 3D small scale open world story which will launch for PC and Switch on December 15th. Developer Ahr Ech and publisher Devolver Digital revealed Pepper Grinder, a drill based action platformer and spiritual successor to Game Freak’s Drill Dozer, about a pirate pursuing treasure and vengeance. It’ll launch in 2023 on Switch and PC.
The acclaimed Indonesian dev Toge Productions showed off two different local productions, both their current internally developed game, Coffee Talk Episode 2, and narrative adventure A Space for the Unbound, which has thankfully been rescued from former publisher PQube with the help of Chorus Worldwide. Coffee Talk Episode 2 will launch on PC, Switch, Xbox One/Series, and PS4/5 in Spring 2023. A Space for the Unbound will launch for all the same platforms on January 19th 2023. ONI: Road to be the Mightiest Oni is a 3D action game in which the player controls two different spirits at once, and will launch on March 9th 2023 for PC, Switch, and PlayStation. Desta: The Memories Between is a story driven isometric roguelike with turn based dodgeball gameplay, which will release for Switch, PC, Xbox One, and PS4 in Early 2023 after months as a Netflix exclusive. With traditionally painted backgrounds, Dordogne is a long in development French narrative adventure taking place in childhood and adulthood simultaneously. It’s scheduled to release for PC, Switch, PS4/5, and Xbox One/Series in Spring 2023 from publisher Focus Entertainment and developer Un Je Ne Sais Quoi.
First person puzzle adventure Botany Manor was newly revealed by Balloon Studios, who will launch it on Switch and PC in 2023. Once upon a Jester is from the indie band Bonte Avond who’s branched out, but wanted to center their debut game on the dynamic experience of live performance, and it shadowdropped on Switch and PC right after the show. Rogue Legacy 2 also shadowdrop released, arriving after 6 months of Xbox timed console exclusivity. Returning from the June Partner Showcase, Blanc‘s launch date on PC and Switch as a full console exclusive was updated to February 14th 2023. The sizzle reel kicked off with WrestleQuest coming May 2023 to all platforms, and continued: Wobbledogs: Console Edition to Switch on november 17th, Daniel Benmergui’s latest Storyteller launching for Switch and PC March 23rd 2023, the long and highly anticipated WORLD OF HORROR revealing a Summer 2023 1.0 launch window on PC, Switch, and PlayStation, hand drawn Metroidvania Curse of the Sea Rats scheduled for Early 2023 on all platforms, and ending with 2021’s massively acclaimed Inscryption continuing its console cycle by arriving on Switch December 1st.
The final two major announcements were house arranging, cat-loving puzzler A Little to the Left shadowdropping for Switch that day after a PC launch earlier in 2022, and the delayed, hotly anticipated Golf Story sequel Sports Story finally rising from the ashes as One More Thing TM with a new gameplay trailer and a currently still undefined December 2022 launch date. Devolver Digital confirmed the next day that Inscryption will receive a physical release for Switch and PS5 from Special Reserves. During Japan’s version of the Indie World presentation, an extra game was announced, Tasto Alpha’s The Tower -To the Bottom-, a roguelike deckbuilder releasing internationally for Switch and PC on January 19th 2023.
November 10th: Kevin Conroy, the beloved veteran voice actor who starred in the Batman: Arkham game trilogy after originating the role in Batman the Animated Series, passed away from cancer at the age of 66. This was announced the following day by Conroy’s colleagues from BTAS. After coming out to the public at large in 2016, Conroy was as much an icon to the LGBTQ+ community as he is to pop culture as a whole, and his stirring story about the intersection of his life, his identity, and his signature role, as captured in the comic story Becoming Batman, was as perfect a final tribute as can be found.
November 11th: Asymmetric Publications abruptly announced and launched their new game, Shadows Over Loathing, a Lovecraftian entry in their longrunning RPG series, on Windows and Mac. A Switch port is officially confirmed to be planned for 2023. Multiple former partners of Asymmetric’s head, Zack Johnson, have accused him of domestic abuse and other developers at the studio of abusive behavior.
Krafton, owner of PUBG, bought The Ascent‘s developer Neon Giant. After debuting with The Ascent, neon Giant’s second game will be an open world FPS.
The free Microsoft Flight Sim 40th anniversary update released, adding historical aircraft, returning content from previous series entries, and the debut of helicopters and gliders.
First announced in June 2021 as Project Heron, Remedy and 505 Games have now fully confirmed their game as Control 2, in concepting and pre-production for PC and current-gen consoles alongside the Max Payne Remakes, the Tencent multiplayer game, and the multiplayer Control spinoff, while Alan Wake II is the furthest along in development.
November 14th: Microsoft published the first official Xbox Transparency Report on moderating player misconduct, disclosing that for the first half of 2022, it carried out more than 4 million player suspensions out of over 7 million enforcement actions total. Cheating, including sockpuppet cheat/scam accounts was the action most commonly punished, with various inappropriate personal behavior making up the remaining 2-3 million enforcements.
Nintendo announced the first major post-launch update and new season for Splatoon 3, the Chill Season which began December 1st, bringing Big Run, plus new weapons and stages. Two other pieces of first party Nintendo post-launch content news arrived throughout the month: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC Wave 3 being fully detailed and releasing December 7th, and Golf arriving in Switch Sports on November 29th.
CDPR detailed and announced the release date of the free next gen upgrade/port (and the free netflix tie-in DLC) for The Witcher 3 to be December 14th, just in time to meet that Late 2022 deadline.
A new remote work based game studio, Astrid Entertainment, was founded by former Amazon media exec Sharon Tal Yguado with investment from NetEase among other companies.
Parent company Improbable announced that it will close the servers for its early access free to play shooter Scavengers on December 16th. Improbable began pivot away from games earlier this year by selling off Scavengers’ original developer and investing more into ‘metaverse’ development.
November 15th: On the same day as the launch of their debut game Somerville, developer Jumpship was acquired by Thunderful.
November 16th: Amidst a larger haphazard, somewhat quiet marketing strategy, a story trailer was released as the second main trailer for Fire Emblem Engage, most notably revealing the threat of the summonable classic heroes being corrupted towards evil.
November 17th: Two former Square Enix employees were arrested for insider trading in a scandal that has continued to spool out over the ensuing weeks. The first two arrests were Taisuke Sazaki and Fumiaki Suzuki, who bought stock in the studio Aiming back in 2020 right before it announced that it was making the mobile game Dragon Quest Tact, thus raising Aiming’s stock value. Very soon after, this ongoing investigation led to another arrest, none other than Yuji Naka, the Sonic co-creator still suing Square for ousting him from Balan Wonderworld, who also bought Aiming stock while he worked at Square. Then on December 7th, Naka alongside the aforementioned Sazaki were charged again on insider trading, this time over the dying FF7 mobile battle royale The First Soldier.
During its latest earnings briefing, Embracer Group’s CEO revealed the shocking news that due to the Saints Row reboot’s critical underperformance (notably, he explicitly says its commercial performance did meet projections), Volition has now been transferred over to being a Gearbox subsidiary instead of an independent studio, much like Vicarious Visions becoming Blizzard Albany.
PC Gaming Show 2023 Preview: The event featured Warhammer 40K Darktide and Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader, Ravebound, Jumplight Odyssey, Shadows of Doubt, Level Zero, Untamed Tactics, Bulwark: Factioneer Chronicles, Gori: Cuddly Carnage, The Repair House, Abiotic Factor, Once Human, Ova Magica, Aska, Superfuse, Daydream: Forgotten Sorrow, Endless Dungeon, Clash: Artifacts of Chaos, Moon Mystery, The Great War: Western Front, Cygnus Enterprises, Solium Infernum, Masterplan Tycoon, Floodland, and Crossfire Legion.
November 18th: Rockstar updated its GTA Online policies to target unwanted activities in its roleplay servers, banning the peer to peer sale of loot boxes and licensed music, and all cryptocurrency/blockchain based activities.
While announcing the final launch date (December 6th) of the Last Chapter update for AC Valhalla, the game’s final major update, Ubisoft unexpectedly revealed that the new game plus mode planned for said update was ultimately scrapped from development. Simultaneously, Ubisoft confirmed its return to Steam after three years of focusing on the Epic store and Ubisoft’s own launcher. Valhalla was released on Steam on December 6th, with Immortals Fenyx Rising, Anno 1800, and Roller Champions since added to Steam or confirmed to be added in the near future.
November 19th: On the heels of launching a new mobile game in the series, the falling out and legal battle between Cooking Mama owner Office Create and Planet Entertainment has seemingly, finally concluded with a judge ruling in Office Create’s favor that Planet released Cooking Mama: Cookstar without authorization. The game will be permanently removed from physical and digital sale, Planet must destroy all copies and IP assets in their possession, and they owe Office Create more than 23 million dollars for game profits, legal fees, etc. Yep, it’s a full Too Human.
November 20th: The ‘largest free update yet for Broforce,’ known as Broforce Forever, has been teased for an Early 2023 release on all platforms. The platform shooter’s first update in years will add “new bros and new missions”, but it has yet to be fully detailed.
November 21st: Responding to controversy over Bayonetta 3‘s story and ending, Hideki Kamiya commented (paraphrasing) that Bayo 4 will clear up misunderstandings of said ending. This is the first time the possibility of a Bayonetta 4 has been publicly, officially discussed.
November 22nd: The UK’s CMA regulator launched an official investigation into Apple and Google’s dominance in the mobile ecosystem.
Hamster’s latest Arcade Archives release is a doozy, the first Western and first console release for the famously difficult Tetris: The Grand Master. It will release in December for Switch and PS4.
Team Ninja denied that they discussed plans to continue the ninja gaiden and Dead or Alive series
November 23rd: On the heels of the studio shutting down, Onoma nee Square Montréal confirmed that four of their mobile games would imminently shut down, delisted from sale on December 1st and no longer playable for existing owners as of January 4th 2023. The games are Deus Ex Go, Hitman Sniper: The Shadows, Arena Battle Champions, and Space Invaders: Hidden Heroes.
Netflix’s new job listings revealed that it’s begun work on and recruitment for one of its first fully in-house and original game projects, a AAA action game for PC.
Launching nine days apart, God of War Ragnarok and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet were both quickly revealed to have broken and set multiple records for their respective publishers. Ragnarok sold more than 5.1 million copies in its first week, breaking the record for the fastest selling first party/exclusive PlayStation game ever, previously held by The Last of Us Part 2 and Marvel’s Spider-Man, and setting a record for the God of War series. Meanwhile, Pokémon S&V sold more than 10 million copies in their launch weekend, becoming Nintendo’s biggest launch ever, while also breaking the record for biggest ever game launch in Japan with more than 4 million copies in that country alone, surpassing both Splatoon 3‘s previous record by 600K copies and Legends Arceus‘ current total sales in Japan. S&V’s launch was also as we all now know met by considerable controversy over the game’s technical issues, which are certainly worse than Sword and Shield‘s, whatever that means to you. As of this writing Nintendo has acknowledged these concerns and apologized, and Game Freak has shipped its first of multiple bugfix and performance patches.
November 24th: Tom Henderson at Insider Gaming reported that a AAA survival horror game based on Alien, the franchise’s first since Alien Isolation eight years ago, is in development for a currently scheduled Holiday 2023 launch on PS5 and Xbox Series from Suda51’s development studio Grasshopper Manufacture. Suda had previously mentioned the developer having five games in production with two based on preexisting IPs.
Previous Indie World feature and full Switch exclusive Aliisha: Oblivion of the Twin Goddesses finally launched on this day after originally being announced for Spring.
Jon Peddie Research reported that graphics card sales for July-September 2022 were at a 25% year on year drop from 2021’s own third quarter, claiming that it’s the biggest drop since the 2009 recession.
November 27th: Almost two years after his departure from Nintendo, Takaya Imamura, the artist and character designer of Fox McCloud, Captain Falcon, and Zelda‘s Tingle, revealed his new indie game Omega 6: The Video Game, a text adventure based on his own manga, coming to the Switch in 2023.
November 28th: Ubisoft’s previously revealed RTS reboot The Settlers: New Allies, was newly announced to be launching for PC on February 17th 2023, and debuting the series on consoles before the end of 2023, releasing for Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, as well as the Amazon Luna and Nvidia GeForceNow cloud services.
Self-published developer Offworld Industries revealed their latest game as a 12 player co op licensed title, Starship Troopers: Extermination, which will enter early access in 2023.
A tech startup called Joipaw announced that it’s working on a game console for dogs to provide your pet with mental and physical stimulation.
November 29th: Geoffrey Bunting at GamesIndustry.biz had a new exclusive feature reporting on the current state of workplace conditions at Hidetaka Miyazaki’s From Software as of Elden Ring‘s development, many months after old public employee reviews resurfaced and showed a very sorry state of affairs in the earlier days of the developer’s meteoric rise in the past decade and change. The good news is that Bunting’s sources, workers of past and present at the studio, paint a somewhat improved picture from the days of those employee reviews. Overwork has seemingly been significantly reduced, but it is not absent. It largely occurs in some departments right before launch, but pay is still quite poor, far below Atlus’ for example, and overtime compensation is present but below Japan’s current standards. There is unfortunately no mention in Bunting’s piece of the state of workplace gender discrimination also cited in the old employee reviews.
Smash World Tour shutdown
The Smash World Tour competitive event’s organizers abruptly announced that the 2022 World Tour Championships scheduled for December 9th to 11th, with the largest prize pool in Smash history, and the entire 2023 Smash World Tour circuit, were both canceled completely due to request from Nintendo, losing the organizers “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” The competitive Super Smash Bros community at large immediately mourned the news and its impact on their own livelihoods, suggested that FGC company Panda Global had an influence on the decision, and planned to boycott Panda Global and Nintendo in the future. Panda Global is the only organization which Nintendo fully collaborates with and sponsors for Super Smash Bros events, rather than simply licensing to them like SWT. The alleged sabotage was soon elaborated to be that Panda Global CEO Dr. Alan Bunney had since 2021, after having secured his partnership with Nintendo, began trying to dissuade host locations from booking Smash World Tour by lying that it was already being shut down.
A Nintendo spokesperson soon disputed SWT’s account of the decision by insisting that it never asked them to cancel the 2022 Championship, but SWT responded by posting the full statement they received from nintendo, which does explicitly mention that it does not grant a license for the 2022 Championship due to failure to meet partner guidelines including health and safety. On December 5th, after 10 out of 17 players and influencers in Panda Global’s main roster quit in protest of these events, the company responded by officially announcing that it had fired Alan Bunney as CEO, effective immediately, and postponed the 2022 Panda Cup Final.
November 30th: WayForward committed to launching River City Girls 2 in Japan on December 1st 2022, while needing to delay its Western release to December 15th. Earlier in November, a new trailer revealed that classic Double Dragon damsel in distress Marian will debut as a playable character, having worked out and learned self defense.
After its most recent beta tests, Gameloft delayed its free to play crossover combat racer Disney Speedstorm into 2023 for further polish. The game will support crossplay at launch across PS, Xbox, Switch, and PC.
December 1st: Tom Henderson reported it first as a Game Awards announcement earlier in the week, then Xbox Germany accidentally confirmed it by tweeting about it too early, so Capcom gave the greenlight to release the full announcement trailer: For the first time in the history of the series’ several nintendo-partnered entries, Monster Hunter Rise is no longer a Switch console exclusive, it will release for PS4/PS5, Xbox One and Series S|X, and Game Pass on January 20th 2023, with Sunbreak following later in Spring 2023. The game will support 4K60fps on PS5 and Series X. Nintendo has more readily accepted PC ports on its third party console exclusives in recent years, but it’s pretty shocking to see such a major game completely lose its console exclusivity after less than two years, let alone one we know exactly how much they spent on said exclusivity. Of course it’s understandable for Capcom to want, I’m just curious exactly how and when Nintendo signed off on it.
A reveal trailer was suddenly released for the next entry in the acclaimed indie survival horror series, announcing Amnesia: The Bunker. The game is from the series’ original developer Frictional Games, features major new gameplay elements of open world/sandbox design and a series debut of (limited) combat capabilities in a WWI setting, and is set to launch in March 2023 for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S|X.
After previously leaking, Ben Esposito and Angel Matrix officially announced that their acclaimed game Neon White will release for PS4 and PS5 on December 13th, six months after a timed exclusive release on Switch. The native PS5 edition of the game will support 120fps for compatible displays. The game is anticipated to be released on Xbox One, Series, and Game Pass in the future.
After its first console release on Switch in 2021, thatgamecompany’s Sky: Children of the Light will also be available on PS4 and PS5 as of December 6th.
After Nvidia opened its investigation into the damage inflicted on adapters used with their latest graphics cards, it quickly put the blame on the adapters bundled with their cards, saying that the cords are faulty rather than their own cards’ design. Electronics consortium PCI-SIG since fired back, saying that it’s on Nvidia to test the provided adapters’ compatibility with their own product, and that manufacturers had already alerted Nvidia to potential safety issues with the adapters they chose for their product bundle.
With a week to go before The Game Awards 2022, Geoff Keighley formally detailed Summer Game Fest 2023 as starting on June 8th, just days before the scheduled E3 comeback, as a digital and physical event at the Youtube Theater in California. 2022 was SGF’s first physical event, but 2023 will go farther by opening to attending fans for the first time just as E3 fatefully did five years ago.
December 3rd: On the heels of successfully shipping the game’s first major multiplayer update in many months, Halo Infinite multiplayer director Tom French departed 343 Industries, undoubtedly done with the high pressure of the position.
Former Dead Cells lead developer Sébastian Benard announced that the first game under his indie studio Deepnight Games, nuclear Blaze, will release for Switch and PS4 on April 28th 2023, after previously launching on PC in October 2021.
ArcSys Works’ fighter DNF Duel was announced to be receiving a Switch port in Spring 2023, alongside details for its next DLC fighter and a Grand Balance patch releasing in December.
December 4th: For Dragon Age Day 2022, Bioware released a new trailer for Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, an opening cinematic narrated by Varric and establishing the main narrative thrust of stopping the Solas the Dread Wolf.
December 5th: Roughly 300 workers at the QA department of the entire ZeniMax Media unexpectedly, joyfully revealed that they have a prospective union in partnership with the CWA, ZeniMax Workers United, and that their official union election had already been underway since December 2nd, with voting continuing throughout December. Thanks to Microsoft’s strict observance of its labor neutrality contract from earlier this year, the process for ZWU has been refreshingly streamlined and unobstructed, going straight from an initial filing to the union vote, with voluntary union recognition already confirmed pending election results. Thus likely turning a significant corner of first party Xbox into the largest gaming union yet by a considerable margin. And to be clear, this covers QA for every Zenimax studio: Bethesda, id, Arkane, MachineGames, Shinji Mikami’s Tango Gameworks, ZeniMax Online, Roundhouse, and Alpha Dog.
GameStop was reported to have carried out its latest round of significant layoffs, targeting its blockchain department among many others.
Acclaimed developer Harmonix announced that their latest game Fuser, most likely their last game given that they’re an Epic support dev now, will shut down on December 19th after only two years, disabling sales, DLC, and live service, leaving only two offline modes available to existing owners.
December 6th: THQ Nordic’s release date trailer for brand new 3D platformer Spongebob Squarepants: The Cosmic Shake announced that it will launch for all platforms on January 31st 2023.
Bandai Namco and FromSoft announced and near-simultaneously released a new, free Elden Ring content update, adding opening the game’s colosseums for new PVP experiences with co op elements.
A very substantial first paid DLC for hit indie Vampire Survivors was announced, detailed, and confirmed to be releasing on December 15th.
Following from November’s successful Winter Update bearing Forge and campaign co op, one last new Halo Infinite update arrived before the end of 2022, adding a returning classic map, The Pit, plus new cosmetics and cosmetic customizability and changing all cosmetic armor cores free, and lastly, a well received file browser for multiplayer and Forge matchmaking.
December 7th: Similar to his previous Polybius project, acclaimed designer Jeff Minter and his studio Llamasoft unexpectedly announced a reunion partnership with Atari for Akka Arrh, a new game in the experimental shooter mold of Minter’s catalogue, based on the famous Atari game of the same name. After the original received its first ever wide release after forty years through the Atari 50 collection, the new Akka Arrh will launch on February 21st 2023 for PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, and Switch.
Bandai Namco was discovered to have filed new trademarks for a We Love Katamari remaster and some kind of extension to Tales of Arise.
December 8th: Right before the holidays and a major event in TGAs, parent company Ziff Davis fired at least 10 IGN employees with no warning as part of larger cuts, in the latest regrettable blow to my colleagues in this straining industry.
After the bombshell announcement of Riot Games’ League of Legends franchise coming to Game Pass was made at the 2022 Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase, Riot Games announced on this date that the games would be added to Game Pass on December 12th, while detailing further benefits.
December 9th: Media Molecule’s cofounder and art director Kareem Ettouney announced that he’s leaving the developer in 2023, participating in a farewell livestream with now former colleagues on January 17th.
The Game Awards
The annual Keighleys returned. As an awards show this year was as much of a shambles as ever, and it went deeply overtime into a largely bad extra hour that considerably dragged the overall quality down, but this was still unexpectedly and easily my favorite out of all the ones I’ve seen and covered. The especially excellent first half hour was the Opening Act by Sydnee Goodman, now rebranded from ‘pre-show’ after years of people like me mocking that label. It started with an animated trailer revealing the next major DLC for Dead Cells, the Return to Castlevania expansion coming early 2023 to all platforms, with new levels, weapons, costumes, remixes of classic music, and helpful nPCs Richter and Alucard, all licensed from Konami the legendary series. Then there was two mobile announcements, the free shadowdrop release of Vampire Survivors for iOS and Android, and that Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts: Coming Home, a direct sequel to the original, is coming Early 2023 exclusively to Netflix.
Next was the official reveal of the oft-leaked PC port of Returnal, coming Early 2023, and a brief new trailer for PSVR2’s Horizon: Call of the Mountain. Later in the main show, PlayStation also announced that the remake The Last of Us Part 1 will release for PC on March 3rd 2023. A new asymmetric horror mode called Hide n Seek and a Glass Onion themed costume were revealed for Among Us and released the next day, December 9th. In collaboration with creator Mike Mignola and Embracer Group acquisition Dark Horse Comics, developer Upstream Arcade and publisher Good Shepherd Entertainment revealed HellBoy: Web of Wyrd, a cel-shaded roguelike third person action game based on the masterful cult classic comic, coming to PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, and Switch with no current release window. Beloved character actor Lance Reddick stars as HellBoy in the game’s original story and its gameplay-based reveal trailer. Red Soul Games, with newly attached publisher Raw Fury, had a new major showcase for their debut title, classically styled original survival horror game Post Trauma. Sad Owl Games revealed their first person puzzle adventure Viewfinder, coming to PC and PS5 in 2023.
Piccolo Studio, developers of Arise: A Simple Story, announced their new game published by Private Division, a 3D adventure platformer about restoring a ravaged planet, After Us coming Spring 2023 to PC, Xbox Series S|X, and PS5. The closer for the Opening Act was a one-two punch. Sad Cat Studios finally, triumphantly returned with a new trailer for Replaced after an E3 2021 reveal and their delay out of 2022 and Summer Games Fest due to the Ukraine war’s effects on the developers based in Ukraine and Belarus. The 2.5D cyberpunk side-scrolling action platformer will release in 2023 on PC and as a timed console exclusive to Xbox One, Series S|X, and Game Pass. Lastly, Capcom had Street Fighter 6‘s launch date trailer, featuring new story mode footage, gameplay reveals for the returning Dee Jay and the brand new Manon, Marisa, and JP, showing off preorder bonus costumes, and announcing a June 2nd 2023 launch date, which the PlayStation store had leaked earlier that day. Only three launch roster characters are left to show now, the classic Zangief and Cammy, and the new Lily. Extremely buff MMA Italian gladiator lady Marisa was of course my highlight here.
The main show of the Game Awards kicked off with a major, surprising, and deeply weird three-peat of reveals: Supergiant’s fifth game and first sequel, Hades II, Ken Levine’s long-brewing first game in a decade from his Ghost Story Games studio, Judas, and lastly, nintendo and Platinum Games with TGA’s first new nintendo announcement in years, prequel spinoff Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon! Per Supergiant’s new FAQ page, Hades 2 has already been in development for almost two whole years, from the start of 2021, shortly after its predecessor’s 1.0 launch on PC and Switch. It stars Zagreus’ sister Melinoe, a witch in training under Hecate, seeking to defeat the Titan Chronos and liberate Hades from imprisonment. The trailer showcased new magic-focused combat and much larger, more open environments as a major revamp to the original’s roguelike gameplay. Hades 2 will enter Early Access on PC in 2023, and upon its eventual 1.0 launch, will release for PC and consoles.
Ghost Story Games’ Judas has no current release window, but is set for PC, PS5, and Series X. Just under a year ago, I reported on this game’s extended, mismanaged development thanks to Jason Schreier’s coverage at Bloomberg. In short, Judas has been in development for eight straight years since BioShock Infinite launched and Levine ended his tenure on the series. Levine seriously reduced his total developer count while demanding they keep up with the latest AAA production value and every complex new idea he impulsively wanted to add. Any worker who questioned this state of affairs was berated and kicked out by Levine. Somehow I doubt that one trailer represents some significant salvaging of the project or any change whatsoever to the workplace. All in all, I’m mostly just astonished that this got a trailer before BioShock 4, and that after all that extended chaos, it ultimately does just look like more BioShock.
Bayonetta Origins is a prequel about Bayonetta’s childhood, it’s an isometric cartoony 3D action platformer which screams “This would be Okami 2 if Capcom would let us”, and it will launch exclusively for Switch on March 17th 2023.
The next appearance was a Destiny 2: Lightfall gameplay trailer. Rocksteady’s cinematic launch date trailer for Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League then announced that the game will release for PC and current gen consoles on May 26th 2023, but mostly focused on the debut of the game’s Evil Batman and the reveal that the late Kevin Conroy voiced him as his final appearance as Batman, reprising from his three previous collaborations with Rocksteady. The trailer ended on a “Thank You Kevin” title card. I have no doubts of the sincerity in that message, and of course it’s no surprise that Conroy worked with them again after Arkham, but this was difficult for me to take given Rocksteady’s abusive history and the lingering pain from Conroy’s loss. Another Xbox E3 2021 return far less exciting than Replaced, Party Animals coming Early 2023, appeared during an ad break from the ads show with gameplay footage, and I have gone from neutral on this game to hating it with a fiery passion with just this one ad. Thankfully, next the TGAs dramatically revealed a life-size bacta tank on stage as Respawn premiered Star Wars Jedi: Survivor‘s gameplay reveal and release date trailer, announcing that the game will launch on March 17th 2023 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S|X.
Lots of new gameplay additions were showcased from the sequel, such as rideable living mounts for both land and air and multiple new lightsaber fighting styles. A March release target leaked a long time ago from yours truly among other reporters, and was fully confirmed by an errant early Steam update just days before this show premiered, shortly after Tom Henderson accurately reported that the game’s launch date and gameplay would be revealed at this event. Frankly, beyond my own excitement for the game, it’s just comforting to see a new game hold onto its release date for that long! next, following the 2021 reveal teaser, Maddy Thorson and Extremely OK Games reappeared here with the gameplay reveal of Earthblade, a pixel art action-platformer with “a seamless world” scheduled to launch in 2024. She was followed by a new cinematic beta signup trailer for the MMO Dune: Awakening. Square Enix and PlayStation then announced that a playable Forspoken demo would go live on PS5 that very night ahead of the game’s January launch.
The next major reveal requires some corrections from me, friendly neighborhood reporter Lovely Lily Bones. We did already know thanks to Norman Reedus that Kojima Productions was working on a sequel to Death Stranding, but since Kojima’s other game, the xCloud exclusive Overdose, was the one that saw a new leaked trailer, I made the mistaken assumption in my reporting last month that Overdose was what Kojima was currently promoting with the ARG event featuring actresses Elle Fanning and Shioli Kutsuna. My apologies. In fact, Fanning and Kutsuna are in Death Stranding 2 and that was the game Kojima was marketing, as confirmed when Sony and Kojima Productions presented the official reveal teaser of Death Stranding 2/DS2, exclusive to PS5 and PC, at the Game Awards 2022. It makes sense, this is the game that’s farther along of the two. Anyway, the trailer focused on Lea Seydoux’s Fragile, and featured the returning Reedus and Seydoux alongside an even further radically changed world. Kojima’s comments after the trailer confirmed that these two aforementioned games are his only current game projects.
Ascendant Studios, one of many new studios formed by AAA veterans, revealed their debut game Immortals of Aveum, a UE5 magic based FPS coming to Xbox Series, PS5, and PC in 2023 from EA under its Originals label. Tekken 8‘s third trailer debuted as a traditional gameplay montage with a bunch of returning fighter reveals, Jun, King, Paul, Jack-8, Lars, and Marshall Law, still with no release window. The latest trailer for recurring Keighley mainstay Inflexion’s Nightingale was a gameplay-focused piece ahead of its imminent Early Access release, and I don’t have much more to say about it after my previous coverage. As teased in November, Larian Studios finally announced the 1.0 launch window (August 2023) of Baldur’s Gate 3 with a new trailer showcasing a lot of new story content, The trailer culminated in the triumphant return of fan-favorite Bioware-created companion Minsc, who arrived in style by climbing his way out of a Mimic monster. Digital Extremes and Airship Syndicate revealed Wayfinder, a free online action RPG currently in playtesting on PC and PlayStation, with a broader multiplat 1.0 launch in Fall 2023.
That’s right, Nintendo had announcements plural, as Fire Emblem Engage debuted its inevitable expansion pass with a new trailer. Tiki and the Three Houses lords were revealed as additional summons in Wave 1 available on the January launch day, with 4 total waves arriving before the end of 2023. Blizzard and Halsey introduced a cinematic trailer for the already leaked June 6th 2023 launch date of Diablo 4. Sony popped back in with a full reveal trailer for Horizon Forbidden West‘s major story expansion, Burning Shores, featuring a massive mecha-spider awaiting you in the ruins of Hollywood (Jon Peters eat your heart out), and will launch on April 19th 2023 solely for PS5. I fucking hate it when a cross-gen game’s DLC isn’t cross-gen. It’s so shitty. Why’d you mandate Dragon Age Inquisition be on Xbox 360 if you weren’t going to let me play the Trespasser expansion on Xbox 360, EA? Anyway, Bandai Namco and Amazon announced that they’re bringing free MMORPG Blue Protocol to the West for the first time on PC, PS5, and Series S|X in 2023. Gunfire and Gearbox revealed soulslike shooter sequel Remnant 2 (From the Ashes) coming to PC, PS5 and Xbox Series S|X in 2023. After extensive leaks throughout this year, Splash Damage officially announced Transformers: Reactivate, a licensed online multiplayer action coming to PC and consoles after a closed beta next year.
During one of the non-event ad breaks, Sega unexpectedly announced Company of Heroes 3: Console Edition for PS5 and Xbox Series in 2023. Following from their Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners series, Skydance Interactive had a new look at their recently announced next VR game, Behemoth, which is a Nordic action survival game that will come late 2023 to Meta Quest 2, Meta Rift S, and PSVR2. Keegan-Michael Key introduced another new Mario movie clip as Nintendo’s last appearance for the evening. Don’t Nod continued their journey away from Life is Strange into self-owned IP with the reveal trailer for their new game Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, featuring both cinematic and gameplay footage. It’s an original fantasy action RPG scheduled to launch “End of 2023” for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S|X. After another long silence, Warhammer 40K Space Marine 2 returned with its gameplay reveal trailer and a 2023 release window. ABK continued to belie Keighley’s claims of integrity from last year with the reveal of Toys for Bob’s long leaked (under the name Wumpa League) competitive multiplayer spinoff Crash Team Rumble, coming 2023 to PlayStation and Xbox. After a cinematic announcement at Gamescom, long brewing current gen exclusive soulslike sequel The Lords of the Fallen had its gameplay reveal here, still with no current release window.
Two absolutely bewildering original IPs debuted near back to back as the show stretched on mercifully into its final inning. Meet Your Maker is a multiplayer first person action game with extensive customization and level building elements integrated, it’s from Dead by Daylight‘s Behaviour Interactive and scheduled to launch for PC and cross gen consoles on April 4th 2023. Crime Boss: Rockay City is the debut title of Czech indie dev Ingame Studios, a co op gangster heist FPS set in the 90s, coming March 28th 2023 to PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S|X. The trailer emphasized the game’s all-hasbeen cast, culminating in the reveal of reactionary Chuck Norris. Another trailer for the Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty expansion showcased new Johnny Silverhand material and revealed Idris Elba as a major new character featured. CDPR also recently confirmed a Cyberpunk: Complete Edition will release packaged with the expansion before the end of 2023.
Months after assets from the game leaked and Hidetaka Miyazaki said the game was “almost finished,” and long after he first discussed plans to return to the series in 2017, Bandai Namco and FromSoftware finally officially unveiled Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon with a positively gorgeous cinematic trailer. This is a continuation of what was once From’s foremost series a decade after its last entry, a series which Miyazaki cut his teeth on by directing two of its games prior to Demon’s Souls, Armored Core 4 and For Answer, the latter of which was reportedly a spiritual predecessor to the soulslike genre. Armored Core 6 will launch in 2023 for PC, PS4/5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S|X. Finally, the Game Awards 2022 wrapped up with most major awards split between God of War: Ragnarok and Elden Ring, the latter winning GOTY but being infamously interrupted by a 15 year old troll who Maddy Myers definitively interviewed and dissected at Polygon, and one final trailer. Yoshi P introduced Final Fantasy 16‘s release date trailer, showcasing more story footage and dramatically announcing that the game will launch for PS5 on June 22nd 2023, and only six months later on exactly December 31st 2023 for “other platforms.”I’ll put my cards on the table right here by predicting, with very limited inside knowledge, that PC, Xbox Series S|X, and a new Nintendo console will all see the game on that day.
A whole lot of time and effort goes into making my work here possible. Please show your support however you can to help keep this going, whether that means sharing these articles wherever and to whomever there might be interest, or for those able to, donating to my Patreon dedicated specifically to these writings, which is linked here: https://www.patreon.com/lilytina
Thank you to Marcus TAC, Katie, Brakeman, Jarathen, Sloot, Ninjaneer, Prestidigitis, Frosst, AJ, Nemrex, Stasia, Belladonna, Suoly, Professor, Alanna, Dashboard, Monsoon, and everyone else among them for your personal and financial support of this project. Thank you everyone for your reading!