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!
And here’s a quick Style Guide/formatting update: For years I’ve kept a format of bold-italic for newly revealed or leaked game titles, italics for all games after that initial reveal. But now a game will lose its italics once it launches and will instead be in plain capitals.
February 8th: The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority regulatory body officially released its provisional decision on the Activision Blizzard King buyout, saying that it opposes the deal as proposed on grounds of anticompetitive risk, and in a massive landmark moment for the current state of games industry acquisitions, the CMA actually put breaking up ABK on the table, proposing three different options for earning its approval of the deal, all of which entail preventing Xbox exclusivity over Call of Duty: 1. selling off the COD IP and related studios in order to sell everything else to Microsoft, 2. breaking off the rest of Activision to sell the latter to Microsoft, or 3. only selling King to Microsoft. The CMA will only be taking responses from Microsoft and ABK through March 1st ahead of its final decision due by April 26th. During the Brussels meeting I mention later, Microsoft President Brad Smith attempted to publicly dismiss the COD divestment proposals as “not feasible or realistic.”
February 13th: As first leaked by a Blizzard employee online and confirmed a day later by ABK, the publisher is planning the start of a company-wide mandated Return to Office, starting in a gradual rolloutas soon as April 10th at three days out of the work week, forcing workers into unnecessary, harmful commuting costs and safety hazards with little prep time. Offices were reopened in 2022, but the RTO policy was delayed due to the initial response.
The original leaker and the A Better ABK workers’ org say that the majority of ABK’s workforce agree they have no interest in ending their work from home either part time or full time. There’s also concern that a potential worker mass exodus in response to this policy would have terrible blowback on remaining workers’ workload and dev costs/operations. Before the end of the same week as the announcement, Blizzard held a Q&A led by President Mike Ybarra, which ultimately left workers more demoralized and outraged than ever and led to a widespread public outcry.
The Communication Workers of America macro-union proceeded to file charges against ABK and Bobby Kotick on February 28th, accusing it of firing two QA testers in retaliation for their comments in favor of remote work. ABK officially stated that the firings were due to the strong language used, and the CWA retorted that profanity used in the context of labor organizing was a NLRB protected right until a rollback late in the Trump administration.
February 21st: Microsoft officially appeared in Brussels at a European Commission hearing to defend the proposed ABK buyout, during which it went on another PR blitz by making two major public announcements on deals with Nintendo and Nvidia. Xbox has signed a contract to bring all first party PC games and ports to Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud streaming service for the next 10 years, with all ABK games included if the deal is finalized. This is Xbox attempting to address concerns of monopoly in the cloud gaming space while explicitly gaining Nvidia’s support for the ABK deal at the same time.
Meanwhile, the previously announced Xbox-Nintendo deal for potential Call of Duty ports has now advanced to a legally binding contract guaranteeing Day 1 releases and content parity for the next decade, with Microsoft President Brad Smith trying to imply that further Xbox ports to Nintendo hardware are in the works as well.
Chris Dring reported for GamesIndustry.Biz that per his Sony sources, Xbox and PlayStation’s meeting and discussion during the EC hearing brought them no closer to agreeing over ABK.
Thanks to reporting by malware experts online, Activision workers only just became aware of a data breach which hit the corporation and directly affected them back in early December 2022, as the publisher never informed them of it after almost three months.
February 23rd: FTC Judge D. Michael Chappell ruled on Microsoft’s subpoena to Sony for the forthcoming ABK-deal trial: Only two of Sony’s eight motions against the subpoena were approved, most notably resulting in Sony now being legally required to divulge all details of recent PlayStation third party licensing and exclusivity deals to Microsoft. The two motions from Sony that Judge Chappell ruled in favor of were limiting the time period of the third party documents to being from January 1st 2019 onward, rather than January 2012, and not providing Microsoft with Sony employee evaluations as they are irrelevant to this case. As a result of this ruling, Microsoft and the public will soon know the exact prices and terms of recent major PlayStation third party deals, including whether some are truly timed or permanently Xbox-exclusionary as Microsoft has alleged.
March 1st: The European Commission officially extended the deadline on their ABK-deal ruling from April 15th to April 25th, putting it right next to the CMA’s own aforementioned deadline as the countdown to these dates marches on. The EC’s boss Margrethe Vestager told Bloomberg’s Guy Johnson that regulators can’t put being first on major decisions ahead of doing their jobs right.
March 2nd: At Reuters, Foo Yun Chee exclusively reported according to three sources that the European Commission is set to approve the proposed ABK deal after the latest licensing deals Microsoft has made with Nintendo and Nvidia, and that the EC is not planning to order the divestment of any assets at Microsoft or ABK for its approval. This comes after the same reporter accurately leaked the EC’s previous antitrust warning against Microsoft three weeks before it was officially confirmed. This is easily the biggest gain for Xbox and ABK in this whole process in months.
Meanwhile, Leah Nylen and Katharine Gemmell at Bloomberg reported that a new private meeting has taken place between Microsoft lawyers and the UK’s CMA regulators, in response to the regulators’ aforementioned provisional decision, on Monday February 27th in London. ABK followed in a separate meeting on March 1st. The corporations and regulators discussed the CMA’s concerns, then offered and assessed new concession proposals. The CMA is open to remedies besides the radical but correct divestment option: One confirmed new proposal is the hiring of a third party monitor to oversee Microsoft’s compliance to the deals and concessions it makes. Another hearing between the CMA and Sony is scheduled for the week of this publication.
February 6th: Several major upcoming games all saw their launch date announcements at roughly the same time: Darkest Dungeon II will exit early access and launch in 1.0 for PC on May 8th 2023 with eventually forthcoming console ports, Xbox timed console exclusive and Lovecraftian Metroidvania The Last Case of Benedict Fox will launch on April 27th 2023 for Xbox One/Series/Game Pass and PC, and EVERSPACE 2‘s 1.0 launch date is April 6th for PC, while current-gen console releases and a ‘fully optimized Steam Deck’ release will follow in the Summer after its last-gen versions have been canceled.
Spitfire Interactive announced their publisher deal and console release plans for their superhero strategy game Capes ahead of its scheduled launch later this year: Daedalic Entertainment has been secured to publish the game for PC, Switch, PS4/5, and Xbox One/Series.
February 7th: Velan Studios revealed their next game after Knockout City and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit: Hot Wheels: Rift Rally, an AR toy-based racing game like Mario Kart Live, which will launch on March 14th for iOS and PS4/5.
Publisher Merge Games and developer Dimfrost Studio announced that their Nordic myth horror game Bramble: The Mountain King will digitally and physically launch on April 27th 2023 as a cross-gen game for PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch.
February 8th: Nintendo earnings briefing and Nintendo Direct:
Nintendo released its latest earnings results for the Holiday 2022 quarter and announced 2023’s first Direct mere hours apart. Most importantly from the fiscal news, the publisher announced it was raising its workers’ pay in Japan by 10% to make up for bad yen inflation and cost of living increases, which President Furukawa called “securing our workforce.” It also reduced several fiscal forecasts again, most notably console sales by another million, from (21 million to) 19 million total for the fiscal year to now 18 million. The hardware shortages and shipment issues the company briefly faced last year are virtually over now, but their residual impact remain combined with the more natural steady post-peak performance decline for the Switch to lead it here. The Switch family has as of the March 3rd anniversary just now entered its unprecedented seventh year on the market, making it already Nintendo’s longest lasting home console generation ever, and the longest lasting handheld since the irreplicable original Game Boy.
For the latest biggest new sales milestones, Switch consoles jumped from 114 million sold to 122.55 million, surpassing Game Boy and PS4 to be the third bestselling gaming hardware of all time behind only the DS and PS2, while Pokémon Scarlet and Violet came in at 20.6 million copies sold in its first two months. That kicks the Sinnoh remakes and soon Let’s Go out of the Switch’s overall top 10, lands it in fourth place for Pokémon generations’ overall performance, and leaves it already only 5 million behind Sword/Shield’s three-year total. For another new release, Bayonetta 3 successfully hit 1 million copies in its debut quarter after Bayonetta 2 needed many years and its Switch port to achieve. You can see me rattle off more minute updates here. Lastly, almost 1 billion Switch games have now been officially sold, breaking the DS’ software sales record.
Now, for the February Direct, a presentation which showed just how vibrant and varied and exciting a slate of games can still be even while working with less. After a couple years straight of Directs which typically packed in truly insane numbers of major first party reveals, especially February Directs, this Direct struck a sharp contrast by slowing down and scaling down, opening and closing with pre-announced games, really honing in on the February to July six month window, but doing so with finesse. It screamed ‘beginning of the end’ while promising a far better end than the Wii or Wii U got in both quality and quantity. We don’t know this year’s holiday games yet, but they never left a holiday fully empty before even at the Wii U’s worst, they aren’t now. Pikmin 4 would be there if it needed to be. Who knows exactly how much longer the wait for the successor will stretch out for, it could easily devolve into mostly ports to fill out the calendar past a certain point, but right now, things still look bright for the Switch audience.
Hosted by Shinya Takahashi, the presentation opened with the Pikmin 4 gameplay reveal trailer, showcasing what looks to be another big leap forward for the series, a favorite of mine, with a ton of new ideas. The game’s more open world will lean further into its future-Earth setting than ever by incorporating more manmade objects with more interactivity directly into environmental navigation and not just the treasures returning from Pikmin 2. All previous Pikmin types are shown to be returning in some capacity alongside the new Ice Pikmin who stun enemies and freeze water solid. The new Oatchi companion dog can carry enemies, charge through obstacles, be ridden across land and water, and sniffs out objectives. Pikmin 2’s cave dungeons look to return in some capacity alongside its treasure items. Most shockingly, the trailer concludes on the reveal of nighttime finally being playable: the series’ many nocturnal enemies getting more dangerous at night had remained offscreen up until now. Pikmin 4 will launch on July 21st 2023.
For the Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Expansion Pass, Wave 3 was announced to release February 15th with new playable hero Masha, while the narrative expansion of Wave 4 was briefly teased complete with footage of the first two games’ protagonists Shulk and Rex returning. It was later joined by the expansion pass for Fire Emblem Engage, Mario Kart Booster Course Pass Wave 4, and the newly revealed expansion pass for Splatoon 3. Fire Emblem Engage focused on more Emblem heroes, with Hector, Soren, and Camilla all in the shadowdropped Wave 2, Chrom, Robin, and Veronica announced for Wave 3, and finally a brief teaser for Wave 4’s Fell Xenologue narrative expansion. Wave 3 was later announced to be releasing on March 8th. Mario Kart revealed a brand new Yoshi’s Island course and the DLC’s first new playable character, Birdo, as a tease ahead of the pack’s full reveal later in this article. As for Splatoon 3, a cosmetic reskin for the Splatsville hubworld was revealed and released before the end of February with a theme of Splatoon 1’s Inkopolis Plaza. The brief reveal teaser for the Side Order story expansion, coming before the end of 2024, featured Splatoon 2’s Inkopolis Square, Off the Hook, and a bleached coral look.
Sega revealed its rhythm action game Samba de Amigo: Party Central as a Switch exclusive launching June 30th; this is the first ever sequel in 20+ years for the original Dreamcast cult classic. Then, another third party exclusive: the long awaited Style Savvy spiritual successor from Marvelous-XSEED was revealed as Fashion Dreamer coming later this year. It features a fully explorable 3D world, extensive customizability in its 1400+ fashion items, and online support. The third party games kept on rolling as the Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania expansion was confirmed to launch March 6th. Mike Bithell’s adventure game Tron: Identity and Dlala’s co op platformer Disney Illusion Island both returned from their initial reveals last fall: the former will launch in April 2023 for PC and Switch as a timed console exclusive, while the latter is scheduled for July 28th 2023 as a full stop Switch exclusive. After leaking in November thanks to Korea’s ratings board, Capcom officially revealed its HD remaster of cult classic Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, which is set to launch in Summer 2023 for Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Ghost Trick was a DS-exclusive paranormal mystery adventure game from the creator of Ace Attorney.
Once acclaimed developer Level-5 spent years retreating into Japan-exclusives, microtransacted mobile games, and NFTs, before beginning an extensive international relaunch here at this Direct in close collaboration with Nintendo. It started with the reveal of action RPG Deca Police for Switch and PS4/5, which really was red flag city with its handling of cops, it was the worst among few down notes in the show for me. Platinum Games then brought Bayonetta Origins back for little new info beyond first party preloads/preorders starting, followed by Don’t Nod with the reveal of a second major game coming this year, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, launching June 2023 for Switch and PC as a timed console exclusive, followed by PS5 and Xbox Series S|X releases in the future. Harmony is a typical Don’t Nod narrative adventure, but now in a more extensively fantastical world and an overtly visual novel inspired aesthetic, and it features Celeste’s Lena Raine as composer. Oh and then the delightful “Role-ing” segment threw We Love Katamari Reroll in with RPGs Octopath Traveler 2 and Sea of Stars (now coming August 29th), which both shadowdropped new demos.
I first reported on Bandai Namco’s next move with Katamari late last year, a remaster of the series’ second major entry, the last to be developed by creator Keita Takahashi, which will launch on June 2nd 2023 for Switch, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, and PC, now with the new Royal Reverie levels. FTP competitive multiplayer air hockey game Omega Strikers was announced to be launching April 27th for Switch, PC, and mobile from Odyssey Interactive. Atlus dug back into the archives and revealed Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection, remasters of the highly unique DS dungeon crawlers’ original trilogy available both individually and as a set come June1st 2023. Soon after the Direct, Atlus reconfirmed that a brand new Etrian Odyssey is in development, with the remasters meant to tide players over as the developer works to adapt the series to new hardware and sustain its development alongside other projects like Persona 6 and Project Re:Fantasy. Too Kyo returned to further detail Switch console exclusive Master Detective Archives: Rain Code and announce its June 30th 2023 launch date.
And then ALL of the first party news came in close succession. Advance Wars 1+2 ReBoot Camp triumphantly returned from a one year political hiatus as preorders reopened and an April 21st 2023 launch date was announced. For the since launched Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, HAL revealed the previously leaked brand new playable epilogue starring villain Magolor. After a painfully contentious, extended period, Metroid Prime Remastered was finally not only revealed, but shadowdrop launched digitally with a physical release on February 22nd, a seemingly arbitrary timing likely serving as the preamble to Metroid Prime 4‘s active marketing. The remaster was produced by a small team at Retro Studios alongside Prime 4’s ongoing development with the help of Iron Galaxy and other support studios, ported into the latest version of Retro’s longstanding proprietary engine and graphically overhauled, and features all three control schemes for the series in one place for the very first time, the original Gamecube tank controls, the Wii motion/gyro controls, and the new twin-stick controls. This slam dunk of an announcement was only hampered by its initial physical launch immediately selling out due to undershipped copies, and its failure to comprehensively credit original developers.
Bandai Namco officially revealed their repeatedly previously leaked Baten Kaitos I and II HD Remaster, a rerelease of the Gamecube exclusive RPGs that Monolith Soft developed before Xenoblade Chronicles. The remastered duology is set to launch as a Switch exclusive in Summer 2023, and many more details arrived in the weeks following the Direct. Just in time before the 3DS and Wii U Virtual Consoles are closed forever, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games were finally officially confirmed and shadowdropped for the Nintendo Switch Online service, with GB/C in the basic tier and GBA in the premium Expansion Pack tier, and online multiplayer support confirmed for all systems. I can’t help but analyze the strategy here as more than just PR to smooth over the end of Virtual Console. I think that, as much as none of us players want to wait any longer, Nintendo could have easily gotten away with withholding the Game Boy Family until the N64 game well was fully dry, but it didn’t specifically to hold out the next major update for even longer, get all retro games planned for Switch 1 out of the way before the thusly simplified transition to service support on the successor console. After all, the plan to directly carry current services over to future hardware has been reaffirmed time after time.
The GB/C launch lineup consisted of: the massive GB Tetris, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, Link’s Awakening DX, Gargoyle’s Quest, Game & Watch Gallery 3, Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (the first THQ Nordic game in NSO history), Metroid 2: Return of Samus, Wario Land 3, and Kirby’s Dream Land. The GBA launch games were: Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros 3, WarioWare Inc: Mega Microgames, newly imported Kuru Kuru Kururin, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Mario & Luigi :Superstar Saga, and Zelda: The Minish Cap. The slate for immediate future titles featured: Kirby Tilt n Tumble, Pokemon Trading Card Game, Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons, Metroid Fusion, Fire Emblem, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, and yes, Golden Sun. Metroid Fusion was later confirmed to be the first regularly scheduled post-launch GBA addition to NSO, announced to be releasing on March 9th to finally complete the Switch’s catalogue of the primary 2D Metroid saga.
Level-5 returned again for one last pair of reveals: Fantasy Life i: The Girl Who Steals Time, and Professor Layton and the New World of Steam. Both are the first major sequels in many years for their respective cult classic life sim and puzzle-adventure series. The former is set for a 2023 release window while the latter with its very brief teaser trailer is not. Level-5 later announced a digital showcase premiering on March 10th and featuring further info on every game they revealed in the Direct, along with Megaton Musashi and Inazuma Eleven: Victory Road. As we delve into the final third party sizzle reel, I of course will mention another exclusive to the Japanese version of a Direct, which this time is the reveal of Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salzburg by Koei Tecmo and Gust. Based on the Japan exclusive 1997 debut of the Atelier series, this remake is scheduled to launch worldwide on July 13th 2023 for Switch, PS4/5, and PC. The previously covered Minecraft Legends, Blanc, MMBN Legacy Collection, Have a Nice Death, Tales of Symphonia Remastered, were all featured in the montage. WBSC eBaseball: Power Pros was revealed by Konami and shadowdropped at a $1 price on Switch and PS4, while the first footage of the new Lion King content in the next Disney Dreamlight Valley update was also shown off.
The Direct inevitably closed with another trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, by far its biggest trailer yet while still leaving so much hidden to preserve the games’ joys of discovery and a possible dedicated Zelda Direct sometime this Spring. The trailer showcases glimpses of new enemies, new weapons, and new traversal features from vehicles to rail grinding, but is mostly focused on the central hook of Ganondorf reawakening, mutating Hyrule’s monsters, and sweeping them across the land in an all out attempted genocide. Official preorders of the game’s base edition, collector’s edition, and new Amiibo all began ahead of its May 12th launch, officially revealing it as Nintendo’s first $70 game in line with many current-gen titles. The contents of the collector’s edition artbook soon leaked online in their entirety, revealing some notable new details still officially not announced, but it too still keeps much hidden, it is definitely not ‘game-ruining’ level spoilers, at least based on my research.
February 10th: Remedy CEO Tero Virtala commented on the states of Alan Wake 2 and their larger development slate in the company’s new fiscal report: Alan Wake 2 is said to be nearing content completion and its transition into the polishing phase of development as it remains on track to launch before the end of 2023, while Remedy is now also expecting to be able to launch one game per year for the next several years, with the Max Paynes Remake, Control 2, Tencent’s Vanguard, and Control spinoff Condor all in line after AW2.
Double Fine premiered its whopping 22 hour production documentary miniseries on Psychonauts 2, Double Fine PsychOdssey, which is available completely free. The documentary, among a lot of other info, revealed that two smaller, ‘weirder’ game projects at the developer were set aside to help complete Psychonauts 2, and are now back in development.
February 11th: Mark Kleiman for Sky news reported that Electronic Arts, in the wake of its FIFA partnership imploding last year, is close to finalizing a new six-year, £488 million pound/$587 million USD licensing deal with Premier League.
February 13th: Sega revealed another oddball of a new game, a sports-puzzle-based PSVR2 exclusive launching later in 2023 called C-Smash VRS, a reimagining of Cosmic Smash for the Dreamcast by developer Wolf & Wood.
After a decade’s worth of delays and reboots, Dead Island 2‘s release date was changed one last time, actually releasing it a week earlier on April 21st to have less competition with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
February 15th: A new digital presentation by Riot Games put Summer 2023 and Fall 2023 release windows on its previously announced upcoming League spinoffs (Convergence and Song of Nunu respectively), and most notably revealed The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story, a 2D action RPG coming April 2023 from the developers of acclaimed indie Moonlighter.
Horizon Forbidden West became the first new first party game to join the PS Plus Extra/Premium catalog, less than a year after the service’s relaunch and exactly a year after the game’s launch.
February 16th: Embracer Group’s latest earnings presentation had CEO Lars Wingefors reporting that he projects five new AAA games will be collectively released over the next five years (2023-March 2028) by recent acquisitions Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal, after shipping three between 2018 and 2023. Wingefors is explicitly counting any games involving external partners as well due to their fiscal upside, meaning that Amazon’s Tomb Raider and Xbox’s Perfect Dark and Fable likely consist three of those projected launches, thus leaving the claim a bit easier to account for, especially given the leaked new IP and new Deus Ex in the works at Eidos. Gearbox, THQ nordic, Saber, and Plaion are all also part of Embracer’s AAA plans for the next five years.
February 17th: On February 6th, Take-Two announced its latest earnings results, during which the publisher announced a $50 million cost reduction program including firings in response to its poor performance for 2022 and specifically the loss it’s currently taking on Marvel’s Midnight Suns, which was confirmed by CEO Strauss Zelnick. By the 17th, far more consequences unfolded for developer Firaxis and Midnight Suns‘ sales performance, as both studio head Steve Martin and Midnight Suns/XCOM director Jake Solomon both officially left Firaxis after more than 20 years. Firaxis’ COO Heather Hazen was transferred into Martin’s former position. Both Solomon and 2K did their best to make the situation look as friendly as possible from the outside, with the biggest act of saving face being that Firaxis officially announced Sid Meier’s Civilization VII as their next game, which was previously leaked in 2022 as a 2023 release. Civ 6 lead dev Ed Beach was confirmed to be Civ 7‘s creative director. Further layoffs at Take-Two were reported in early March.
Sega joined many of its counterparts in increasing all of its monthly employee salaries in Japan to combat recent inflation, with Sega’s raise being in effect as of July 1st 2023.
The Saudi Arabian monarchy’s Public Investment Fund increased its stake in Nintendo on three separate recent occasions, adding up to now 8.26% of stock and becoming the company’s largest outside investor. The PIF stakes in EA and Take-Two had also recently been increased.
Reuters reported that Tencent has now scrapped plans to launch its own VR headset as part of larger cuts in the company and at that department.
February 18th: IGN Fan Fest: Across the 17th and 18th was the latest edition of the annual IGN Fan Fest, which continues to not be especially about gaming news, but this girl promised comprehensiveness, so I do my best. Some relevant and notable features Diablo 4, Redfall, Pinocchio soulslike Lies of P announced to be launching August 2023, the reveal of Punch Club 2, AEW Fight Forever, Bare Butt Boxing, Telltale’s The Expanse, Homebody, Metroidvania 9 Years of Shadows which launches March 27th, and the sequel to 2064: ROM, Read Only Memories: Neurodiver coming this summer.
February 19th: Wrestler and AEW Games producer Kenny Omega officially confirmed the previously reported rumor about what’s delaying their game AEW Fight Forever, saying that they are currently further reducing the game’s violent content in order to reapply and secure the desired T rating. He described the game as an otherwise finished product and looks forward to rectifying current gaps in its roster though post-launch support.
February 20th: Indie turn based RPG sequel For the King 2 saw its latest trailer release from developer IronOak Games. The game is coming this year to PC.
February 21st: Major independent film studio Blumhouse announced that it is establishing a game production studio and publishing label, Blumhouse Games, focusing on lower budget multiplatform original indie horror titles and partnerships with outside indie developers, rather than licensing out its previous film IPs. Blumhouse Games’ President Zach Wood and CFO Don Sechler have history working with external partnerships in the games industry, having both been previously employed by PlayStation among others.
Zenimax, id, and Alpha Dog announced a new mobile game entry in the Doom series, Mighty DOOM, a single touch1 top down shooter launching March 21st for iOS and Android.
February 22nd: Kotaku reported on events surrounding indie RPG The Outbound Ghost, as it recently began disappearing across all digital storefronts in a dispute between developer Conradical Games and publisher Digerati. Conradical contracted Digerati to produce and release the game’s console ports. Due to frustration with alleged unpaid royalties and poor quality control in the console ports, lead dev Conrad Borrell began making public statements on the matters including outright discouraging the purchase of the game, for which Digerati immediately sued him, charging defamation and breach of contract. After that, Conradical began issuing DMCA copyright strikes against their own game on the grounds that Digerati does not own it and cannot keep listing without their permission.
Rovio made waves by announcing that it’s delisting the original 2009 release of Angry Birds on Google Play (and giving it the obtuse retitle Red’s First Flight on Apple’s app store), which it’s explicitly doing to take away the superior experience from new customers and redirect them towards its FTP microtransaction-laden successors. The original having full content at a single 1 dollar purchase created a “competitive advantage” with which the publisher was unsatisfied.
Capcom confirmed that RE4make‘s VR mode has now entered development for it to release as a free post launch update.
February 23rd: During the latest Warner Bros Discovery earnings call, CEO David Zaslav made two unexpected, though long-rumored, official announcements: Mortal Kombat 12 is in development at NetherRealm to launch in 2023, and WBD and New Line have secured a deal with Embracer Group to continue working with the Lord of the Rings license, including new films.
Bethesda announced that the acclaimed veteran game developer and co-creator of Resident Evil Shinji Mikami is leaving his studio Tango Gameworks sometime this year, after more than a decade of founding and leading the ZeniMax studio. It’s not known yet what Mikami will be doing next, but the prospects of retirement, directing at least one more new game after The Evil Within, and returning to Capcom, have all been broached in recent years, with Capcom famously attempting to poach him for the RE4 Remake. Tango for its part is doing well, having announced Hi-Fi Rush reaching two million players on March 1st.
Terraria’s indie dev/pub Re-Logic announced that their employee, QA tester Jason “Leinfors” Parker, had recently passed away after years of prominence in the game’s community and development.
Xbox held a livestream to announce the second paid DLC for Forza Horizon 5, which is entitled Rally Adventure, is set to launch March 29th, and introduces not only a new map to explore and new cars to drive, but also a new deformable terrain system.
A new collection of essays themed to Bloodborne was announced to be publishing later this year. Blood Echoes: A Bloodborne Anthology will focus on newer writings about the PS4 exclusive, but it will also republish a long out of print interview with Hidetaka Miyazaki, and feature new interviews with notable crew and community members.
Lastly for the day, the PlayStation Third Party State of Play:
The event opened with its five new PSVR2 games to keep the train rolling after the hardware launched the day before: The Foglands, Green Hell, Synapse, Journey to Foundation, and Before Your Eyes were all featured or revealed as 2023 PSVR2 releases. The Foglands is a roguelike shooter coming to PCVR and PSVR2 by Well Told Entertainment. Green Hell is a Cannibal Holocaust esque open world survival game that’s already been ported to just about everything under the sun, and this is its second VR release after coming to Meta Quest last year. Synapse is a PSVR2 exclusive sci fi shooter from developer nDreams. Journey to Foundation is a narrative adventure take on Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation series, which Archiact will release for PSVR2, Meta Quest 2, and Pico4 in Fall 2023. The previously revealed PSVR2 port for eye-tracking adventure game Before Your Eyes was announced to be launching on March 10th.
The final trailer for Destiny 2: Lightfall came next, followed by the launch date trailer for Tchia, the hotly anticipated indie that I’ve been covering for a few years now. Tchia is set on open-world islands inspired by new Caledonia and focused on soul jumping through the islands’ inhabitants. Tchia will launch as a timed console exclusive and a Day 1 PS Plus title on March 21st 2023 for PS4, PS5, and PC. The other March 2023 PS Plus games were announced alongside it as Minecraft Dungeons, Battlefield 2042, and Code Vein. Next, Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s VR-focused publisher Enhance Games of Tetris Effect fame revealed their new game for the first time: Humanity, a puzzle platformer about guiding crowds which will launch in May for PS4/5 and PC. This is not a VR exclusive, the VR mode is optional and supports both PSVR1 and 2, and Meta Quest/Rift on PC.
A narrative adventure starring a queer teen dino band, complete with some rhythm gameplay, Goodbye Volcano High finally returned from the 2020 PS5 reveal event to announce a June 15th 2023 launch for PS4, PS5, and PC. For the anime’s 20th anniversary, Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2 revealed their first new Naruto game in five years, Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections. This is effectively another collection of the main four Ultimate Ninja Storm games, but this time rebuilt and re-edited as a more unified experience than a typical compilation, and concluding with a new Boruto-focused storyline. It will feature all previous 124 playable characters, some new characters, and 60fps support on current-gen consoles when it launches later in 2023 for PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, Switch, and PC. While working on this section, I discovered that someone keeps vandalizing the series’ Wikipedia page to baselessly claim this game is also coming to PS Vita. I can’t help but be deeply amused by this.
A new trailer for the long awaited, long in early access RPG Baldur’s Gate 3 announced the exact date of the game’s 1.0 launch as August 31st 2023 for PC (Windows, Mac, and GeForce now) and PS5, putting the game on (some) consoles on Day 1 after all. Larian Studios soon clarified that there is no paid PlayStation exclusivity for Baldur’s Gate 3, the Xbox Series S|X ports are already deep in development and only currently delayed to sometime after the 1.0 launch date due to technical issues with the Series S version, specifically split screen co op support at parity with the Series X version’s quality. The trailer also revealed JK Simmons as one of the game’s main villains.
For the last block before Rocksteady’s closing segment: fantasy multiplayer Wayfinder had its gameplay reveal trailer, currently ongoing closed beta, and May early access release all shown off, while Capcom brought Resident Evil 4 Remake and Street Fighter 6 back together one more time ahead of the former’s imminent launch. SF6 had the gameplay reveals for its final three launch roster characters, the veterans Zangief and Cammy who prove that Street Fighter’s new modern values don’t make it any less sexy, and the newcomer Lily, a spiritual indigenous Latina girl who is immediately a favorite among me and my Latina partners. I’ll be honest with y’all, I didn’t watch the RE4make trailer because I don’t want to see more of the game at this point after I’ve already preordered, but I do know the trailer confirmed the return of the classic Mercenaries mode. Lastly, there was a 15 minute gameplay showcase for Rocksteady’s live service Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League ahead of its May launch. I’ve made no secret of what I think of the game or most of its genre and I’m content ending my coverage of it here.
February 24th: Nintendo confirmed that it won’t be participating in E3 2023, in an official statement to various publications after the previous IGN report that none of the three main game industry leaders were attending this year. All of those core publishers have been gradually retracting from E3 for the past decade, with dissatisfaction over E3 2021 being the evident ultimate killing blow. Xbox is already confirmed to have its own independent physical event at its usual place alongside the annual June Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase, and Sony is planning a major first party focused digital PlayStation Showcase for sometime this Spring ahead of E3. Nintendo as per usual has the least publicly known about its plans, but like I said earlier in this Roundup, it assuredly doesn’t intend to leave its fall release schedule empty forever. Currently, Ubisoft is the only major publisher confirmed for this year’s E3, after Yves Guillemot’s previous amusing comment that “if E3 happens, we’ll be there.”
February 27th: Pokémon Presents: The latest annual Pokémon Day presentation premiered, most notably announcing the paid expansion for Scarlet and Violet, The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero, following in the footsteps of Sword and Shield having an expansion pass in lieu of the old ‘third versions.’ The expansion will bring new Legenadies and more than 200 classic Pokémon into the Gen 9 games’ roster, add two new major areas to the world, and will tell a single complete story across its two parts, which are scheduled to release in Fall 2023 and Winter/Early 2024 respectively. For other news featured in the event, there was the usual slate of mobile games, a very brief teaser trailer revealing a stop motion animated netflix original series called Pokémon Concierge, and the four years in the making re-reveal of Pokémon Sleep, a mobile game about sleep health and data coming Summer 2023. There’s also a new Bluetooth device compatible with Pokémon Go and Pokémon Sleep.
Ethan Gach at Kotaku exclusively reported on the state of Ubisoft Montpellier, the studio which has astonishingly been in pre-production on Beyond Good & Evil 2 since 2007. He says that Managing Director Guillaume Carmona has officially departed the game and the publisher after being absent from work for all of 2023, in the midst of local French government’s official labor investigation of the studio after its many dozens of burnout and sick leave cases from the past year. This parallels creator Michel Ancel quitting Ubisoft to escape the internal investigation of his persistent toxic workplace conduct. The game has lost many more leads since Ancel as the team continues to struggle to balance their massively ambitious initial plans with what’s remotely possible as both technically achievable and satisfactory for players.
After I previously reported on it thanks to a ratings board leak late last year, Obsidian officially announced the new edition of their RPG The Outer Worlds ahead of its eventual current-gen exclusive sequel: the Space’s Choice Edition will give native PS5/Xbox Series ports and significant technical enhancements to the game across consoles and PC, and is the only official package of the base game and its DLC expansions. It will launch on March 7th at $60 USD as a stand-alone purchase, and as a $10 upgrade for existing owners of the base game and the DLCs, not just the base game.
Publisher Playism announced the Switch release date of Ib, the remake of the 2012 indie horror cult classic, as March 9th.
Eidos gave notice that their Switch Cloud Version release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy would be immediately, temporarily delisted as of the 27th, and remain offline untill April 1st as server control transfers from Square Enix to Embracer Group.
February 28th: As publicly revealed first by current and former EA employees, EA in a surprise video call abruptly terminated its entire support studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, firing 200-300 QA testers who made up most of Apex Legends‘ QA team as the latest form of cost-cutting that hurts ground level workers before it will ever shrink the pockets of executives by even one cent.
With Hitman: World of Assassination support now largely complete, IO Interactive gave the first official details on their other new project in development alongside Project 007: Project Fantasy, a new IP and online live service fantasy RPG, which previously leaked under the name Project Dragon and pitched as an Xbox exclusive, though that deal seems to have ultimately fell through.
After roughly one year and 20 million copies sold since Elden Ring’s launch, a traditional much-anticipated paid story expansion to the RPG was at last officially announced on social media as Shadow of the Erdtree with a first look concept art depicting Shardbearer Miquella. The DLC is confirmed to be not current-gen exclusive and coming to all platforms, with no current release window.
In the wake of Forspoken‘s launch last month, Square Enix announced that internal developer Luminous Productions will as of May 1st 2023 dissolve as a distinct studio and be merged into the larger Square Enix production teams, a la Vicarious Visions becoming Blizzard Albany over at ABK. In other Square news, it was clarified after all that the PC port (and presumably any other versions) of Final Fantasy 16 won’t actually be ready in time for the exact timed exclusivity expiration date at the end of 2023, against the usual nature of timed exclusive development. Other comments by Yoshi P inspired a conversation in which, for right now, I’m still sitting back and listening and learning for right now, I don’t feel ready to contribute yet.
Facebook/Meta’s hardware roadmap for most of the remaining 2020s leaked at The Verge, headlined with three new Quest VR headsets, the Quest 3 launching in 2023, a budget model for 2024, and a “way out in the future” premium model replacing the poorly received Quest Pro.
Two Game Pass expansions were announced in short order: the Family Plan tier was released in six more countries for a total of eight, while PC Game Pass is newly available in 40 more countries across Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
A ‘large-scale’ free update was announced and released by Square Enix for The DioField Chronicle, one of the publishers umpteen 2022 games.
March 1st: Telltale Games and AdHoc Studio announced that they are delaying The Wolf Among Us 2 from 2023 to 2024. In a full explainer piece at IGN with Rebekah Valentine, CEO Jamie Ottilie insists that Telltale in its revived form will never crunch again or ship a rushed product, and that these goals, along with broader developmental complications including a newly announced engine transition from Unreal 4 to Unreal 5, are what motivate the decision. Telltale and Deck nine are still scheduled to launch The Expanse: A Telltale Series this year, and the publisher has begun very early work on a third project.
Mainframe Industries revealed their debut title after nearly four years, a fantasy MMORPG titled Pax Dei.
“There is no doubt that I found out about the games before they were made public and bought shares in them.”Yuji Naka
March 2nd: Yuji Naka confessed his guilt in Tokyo District Court standing trial for insider trading as a Square Enix employee, gaining more than $140,000 total in profit off the two separate incidents.
With a month to go before the premiere of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Nintendo began its annual Mar10/Mario Day marketing in conjunction with promoting the film, announcing that the Mario Kart DLC Wave 4 will release on March 9th, announcing a previously leaked new discounted Switch bundle, and detailing waves of promotional sales on Mario games throughout March. The bundle features the standard console model with two red JoyCons, Mario Movie stickers, and the customer’s choice from one of three digital first party games, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Odyssey, or New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe. In addition to the one new character and track shown at the Direct, Mario Kart Booster Course Pass Wave 4 features Amsterdam Drift, Bangkok Rush, and Singapore Speedway from Tour, Riverside Park from Super Circuit, Mario Circuit from DS, Waluigi Stadium from Double Dash, and DK Circuit from Wii.
Capcom announced that a half hour digital event, the Capcom Showcase, will premiere on March 9th featuring further info on Monster Hunter Rise support, RE4make, Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection, Exoprimal, and the rerelease of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.
March 3rd: Square Enix announced to shareholders that it’s seeking to replace current President Yosuke Matsuda with newcomer Takashi Kiryu, who joined Square in June 2020 from Dentsu Innovation Initiative. Matsuda has spent a decade as President, gradually accruing controversy over business strategies like NFTs, a slate of failed live services, and neglect towards CD-Eidos culminating in their sale to Embracer last year. Kiryu’s former employer specialized in blockchain and metaverse technologies, unfortunately suggesting that Square Enix’s commitment to a harmful, wasteful business model is far from over. The vote on replacing Matsuda with Kiryu will take place at the company’s Annual Shareholders Meeting in June 2023, followed by a Board of Directors discussion on details. Square is also planning to move its headquarters from Shinjuku to Shibuya, but the transfer won’t be complete until late 2024 as building’s construction must be finished first.
Nintendo confirmed that it has taken Splatoon 1 and Mario Kart 8 temporarily offline on Wii U to address the security risk it has previously patched out on 3DS and Switch games.
A month after Polygon’s feature investigating the status of Pokémon: Detective Pikachu’s sequel (film, not game), four years after the first premiered, the film was announced to finally have a director and a writer in negotiations, the co-creator of Portlandia and Baskets and the writer of the film The Kings of Summer, respectively. Greater than it being considered “not profitable enough”, or COVID breaking out months later, the actual biggest obstacle to this film’s development was the implosion of the professional relationship between Warner Bros and Legendary Entertainment.
Developer Wolf & Wood, seen earlier in this Roundup with C-Smash VRS, announced the multiplatform launch date of their narrative adventure The Last Worker as March 30th, alongside showig extended Switch gameplay footage exclusively featured at Nintendo Life.
March 5th: Richard Lewis, an esports journalist with a long effective track record in covering Valve’s Counter-Strike shooter series, reported the impossible on Sunday: Counter-Strike 2 will allegedly be announced and released in beta by the end of March 2023. Possibly the true actual least likely to happen Valve game, now being teased with serious backing out of nowhere, between Richard Lewis and files in the latest Nvidia driver updates. Lewis reports that the lack of recent support for CS:GO is a direct result of prioritizing the development of its replacement instead, similar to ABK with Warzone or Overwatch.
At the Dragon Ball FighterZ competitive finals, Bandai Namco unexpectedly revealed a new Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi fighting game is in development. This will be the first new installment in the Budokai/Budokai Tenkaichi series in over a decade.
March 6th: Xbox and Paradox Interactive premiered a partnered digital event featuring brand new games and updates from Paradox’s stable, with the headlining reveal being Cities: Skylines 2, which is set to launch later in 2023 for PC and current gen consoles (and Day 1 Game Pass) after 8 years since the original. Gameplay footage was not shown for the upcoming city builder. The other two new games are The Lamplighters League and Life By You. Harebrained Schemes of the Shadowrun Returns trilogy are developing 30s pulp themed strategy game The Lamplighters League to launch later in 2023 for PC, Xbox Series S|X, and Game Pass, while Life By You is a life sim by Tectonic that was only teased ahead of a dedicated reveal on March 20th. The updates were a Tours and Tournaments DLC for Crusader Kings 3, a DLC releasing March 30th for deckbuilder Across the Obelisk, a March 14th DLC for Stellaris, an expansion for Europa Versalis 4, Mechabellum‘s early access release date announced as May 11th, the shadowdrop release of a visually enhanced Knights of Pen & Paper 3 on Steam, and a new trailer for Age of Wonders 4.
March 7th: Aragami developer Lince Works announced that they are ending game development and shutting the studio down in April, having run out of funding mid-production on the new IP they started after Aragami 2‘s launch. Their two games will be kept available and online for the foreseeable future.
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