This week in gaming: Microsoft acquires Bethesda, Nintendo releases a new Kirby game, and more!
In the spirit of keeping our readers up to date with what’s happening in the video game industry, the Doublejump Digest is a brief collection of the major news stories from the past week. Keep an eye out for the Digest every Sunday night, and head on into the archive for news from weeks gone by!
- Although the long-awaited Marvel’s Avengers was “ripe with potential”, Harry found that its “underbaked” combat mechanic, gearing system and presentation values leave it feeling “uninteresting and flat”.
- John continued his dive into the launch title history books, looking at how Luigi’s Mansion grew from tech demo-turned-launch title to “a great series all its own”.
- Zack took a look at the recent Switch release of Adventures of Pip, finding that although “Tic Toc Games could have done more with its resolution-swapping hero…it’s a fun time regardless.”
- Liam reviewed Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, which he called “a great game, but…not a good remaster.”
Microsoft has acquired ZeniMax Media — meaning that Microsoft has acquired Bethesda:
Microsoft surprised the gaming world by announcing that it has acquired ZeniMax Media — the parent company of publisher Bethesda Softworks and its subsidiaries Bethesda Game Studios (Fallout and The Elder Scrolls), id Software (DOOM), Arkane (Dishonored), MachineGames (Wolfenstein), ZeniMax Online Studios (The Elder Scrolls Online), Tango Gameworks (Ghostwire: Tokyo), and more — in a deal worth US$7.5 billion.
As of this writing, Microsoft has committed to honouring Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo’s timed PlayStation 5 exclusivity, but interestingly now lists Bethesda Game Studios’s Starfield as only “coming to Xbox console and PC”. Following the acquisition announcement, Microsoft also announced that DOOM Eternal will be added to Xbox Game Pass from October 1.
In Xbox hardware news, Microsoft and Seagate revealed that the 1TB Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S will retail for AU$359 and will be released alongside both the Xbox Series S and X on November 10.
Sources: Sony has far more standard PlayStation 5 consoles in stock than Digital Editions:
Sony’s PlayStation 5 preorders opened a little over a week ago, and quickly sold out. Notably (if unsurprisingly) however, demand for the AU$599.95 Digital Edition was far higher than the AU$749.99 Standard Edition.
Sony doesn’t appear to have anticipated this, though, with Ars Technica finding that the company has delivered far more of the flagship console than the Digital Editions. The outlet surveyed a number of GameStop locations across the United States, and found that “only about one quarter of GameStop stock” is in the Digital Edition — on average, locations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania had the smallest Digital Edition allocation at just 13%, while those in Cleveland, Ohio and Dallas, Texas topped the group at 33%.
Japanese outlet AV Watch (as translated by VGC) was able to ask Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan about the disparity, but Ryan declined to comment, saying only that his company “[plans] to produce the necessary number of units to meet the demand for that model type.”
In other Sony news, the company has launched “a new destination for news from Sony Interactive Entertainment”, known as SIE.Blog. While the official PlayStation Blog will continue to be our destination for product news and updates, the company promises that SIE.Blog will “give [readers] a view into the company behind PlayStation” — focused on “the people behind the products and experiences you love”.
Nintendo announced and released a new Kirby game:
The company reacted to Kotaku spotting an erroneous listing on the company’s website earlier this week by immediately releasing it just a day later. The game is Kirby Fighters 2, a sequel to Kirby Fighters Deluxe, which is itself a standalone title derived from a minigame in Kirby: Triple Deluxe. It will allow players to take control of no less than 17 different versions of the iconic pink blob, as well as other franchise stalwarts like Banana Waddle Dee, King Dedede and the Meta Knight as they duke it out in battle — Super Smash Bros. style. The game is available now on the eShop for AU$30.00/US$19.99.
Blizzard co-founder/CEO launches new publisher, establishes two new studios:
Blizzard Entertainment co-founder and former CEO Mike Morhaime has announced that he has set up a new “game company” named Dreamhaven alongside former Blizzard veterans.
The company will act as a publisher for two subsidiary studios: Moonshot Games (led by Jason Chayes (Hearthstone), Dustin Browder (StarCraft II), and Ben Thompson (Hearthstone)) and Secret Door (led by Chris Sigaty (Hearthstone), Alan Dabiri (Heroes of the Storm), and Eric Dodds(Hearthstone)).
Neither Dreamhaven nor its subsidiaries revealed specific details about their upcoming games, but the former did commit to “creat[ing] original gaming experiences that foster meaningful connections between players”. Given the pedigree of the people involved, we can expect to see a trading card game announced sometime in the near future.
The Game Awards are still going ahead:
The event’s creator and host, Geoff Keighley, took to Twitter to announce that The Game Awards would be the next major event to go ahead despite the restrictions COVID-19 has imposed on the world, streaming live on December 10 from three locations: London, Los Angeles and Tokyo. In addition to announcing the show itself, Keighley also announced that the show will feature a new award, for Innovation in Accessibility. This award will recognise “developers that are pushing the medium forward by adding features, technology and content to help games be played and enjoyed by an even wider audience.”
Shortly after the announcement, Keighley told Variety that the event was never in danger, and it would have gone ahead even if he had to present it from his own home. Following the success of other live-streamed virtual events and award ceremonies, we’ll see the show’s customary award presentations, performances and world-first game announcements; with major developer support already in the books, this year’s event is already looking like it’ll be a success.
Future Club is a worker-owned studio comprised of former Skullgirls devs:
After Lab Zero Games studio head Mike Zaimont essentially dissolved the company amidst allegations of misconduct from staff members, the 16 employees who were left without jobs — including Mariel “Kinuko” Cartwright, Jonathan “Persona” Kim and Brian “EU03” Jun, who left the company before Zaimont’s power trip — have banded together to form Future Club, an employee-owned co-operative studio that is “currently developing new IPs”.
In a group interview with VICE Games’ Patrick Klepek, designer Earl Gertwagen explained that the decision to operate like a co-op (the company is not legally seen as one) came about because the employees “really want this team to be rewarded for the efforts they’re putting in towards the game…[and] to feel they’re invested in the game and the quality of the product and the survival and sustainability of the team itself.”
As of this writing, Future Club has not announced what it’s working on, although given that Skullgirls IP holder Autumn Games and Skullgirls Mobile developer Hidden Variable have both committed to “[working] with the many talented individuals [who left Lab Zero]”, there is a chance that Future Club might be recruited to continue its work on the Skullgirls franchise as part of its foundation.
The UK Government is calling for evidence of loot boxes’ impact:
The UK government has opened up a consultation, asking members of the public to submit evidence on the impact of loot boxes. This is all so that the government will have “a clearer understanding of the size of the loot box and in-game purchases market in the UK, how it operates, and the impact of current protections such as parental controls and consumer regulations.” In the eventuality that the findings do indeed “support taking a new approach to ensure users, and particularly young users, are protected”, the government has also made promises that it stands ready to take action.
This is but the latest in a series of news that began with the international response to EA introducing loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront II and which continued, most notably, with Belgium banning loot boxes altogether.
Among Us developer cancels sequel, plans to add new content to original game:
The team member known as PuffballsUnited released an article earlier this week announcing that Innersloth has “decided to cancel Among Us 2 and instead put all our focus into improving Among Us 1.” PuffballsUnited noted that although the main reason Innersloth was working on a sequel was because “the codebase of Among Us 1 is so outdated and not built to support adding so much new content,” but due to the original title’s recent surge in popularity the three-person team didn’t want to split up its player base; as such, Innersloth’s new focus on Among Us will involve “going deep into the core code of the game and reworking several parts of it.”
PuffballsUnited assured readers that all of the features that the team was planning to add in Among Us 2 would instead come to Among Us, announcing four major focus points:
- A fix for the server issues that have plagued the game — there’s no ETA for that at the moment, but it’s “taking up all development time on [team member Forte’s] end”;
- Player cosmetics and “certain colour-focused tasks (like wires)” to enable support and accessibility for colour-blind players, which “should also open the potential for more colours”;
- An account system with friend-list functionality in order to add social networking and a sense of community to the game; and
- A new stage based around PuffballsUnited’s other property, Henry Stickmin.
Although the developer hasn’t provided any ETAs for the updates, PuffballsUnited promised that the team has “LOTS of other things planned too, [but just needs] to prioritise and organise all [its] plans.” More to come, for sure!
French consumer advocacy group claims that the Switch suffers from “planned obsolescence”:
UFC-Que Choisir released a statement (translated from French) earlier this week, announcing that it had filed a “planned obsolescence” claim against the Switch due to the renowned “Joy-Con drift” issue that sees the controller’s analog sticks getting stuck in a particular direction even when the player is not touching them.
This fresh claim follows a similar precedent as a class-action lawsuit filed in the United States last year that is currently in arbitration; despite Nintendo France director Philippe Lavoué assuring players that the company would repair or replace faulty Joy-Cons “even when the commercial warranty has expired”, UFC-Que Choisir claims that although Nintendo did make changes to the controller’s design “a few months ago”, the issue still persists.
Not satisfied with just telling Nintendo to fix it, UFC-Que Choisir commissioned experts to analyse the controllers and came up with two potential causes for the Joy-Con drift: premature wear and tear to the controller’s circuit boards; or a “sealing defect” that lets too much dust, sweat and other foreign objects into the controller.
At this stage, Nintendo has not responded to this fresh claim.
DONTNOD has founded a new studio in Montreal, focused on creating a new IP:
The Life is Strange and Tell Me Why developer announced that this new studio, which will feature Luc Baghadoust as its Executive Studio Producer and Michel Koch as its Creative Director, aims to take advantage of the “true metropolis of video games” that is Montreal in order to “find its new collaborators.” It’s DONTNOD’s first property outside of its headquarters in Paris, France, and the company is planning to “[integrate] around ten people by the end of the year” as it works on creating “a memorable new narrative title.”
CEO Oskar Guilbert explained that “[its] presence on the American continent is very important but it is also natural” for the studio, which is looking to “create authentic, original and inclusive works.” The company did not elaborate on what the new IP is going to be, but we’re sure to hear more about it as the team begins to flesh out.
Naughty Dog renames Outbreak Day, has a bunch of announcements in the lead-up:
For the past seven years, Naughty Dog has promoted an “Outbreak Day” on September 26, to connect the in-game lore — September 26 is the date that the Cordyceps Brain Infection reached critical mass — with real-world activities. This year, however, the company came forward a few days in advance to explain that “[it] didn’t feel right continuing on under the ‘Outbreak Day’ banner”, and announce that “this Saturday and moving forward, September 26 will be known as The Last of Us Day.”
The Last of Us Day came around yesterday, and it came with a number of announcements:
- Naughty Dog is working with CMON — which has created the Bloodborne and God of War board games in the past — on a The Last of Us board game. There’s no release date for the game just yet, but the developer has promised to keep us updated.
- Naughty Dog is also launching a new The Last of Us Part II Photo Mode Contest for October — each week, the winners will receive a “coveted Ellie Edition” and the runners-up will win a The Last of Us Part II Limited Edition DualShock 4 controller.
- An official cosplay guide for Abby is now available on Naughty Dog’s official website, featuring “high-resolution renders of every facet of Abby’s design.” Just don’t look it up anywhere else, because the comment sections are a complete joke.
- World-renowned collectible distributor Mondo debuted “a special vinyl release of The Last of Us Part II Original Soundtrack by Gustavo Santaolalla and Mac Quayle”, with album art and two new screen-printed posters illustrated by Tula Lotay. The vinyl will be available until supplies are exhausted, while the posters will be available for pre-order until 9:59pm Pacific Time on Wednesday, September 30 (2:59pm Australian Eastern Time on Thursday, October 1).
- There’s a free PlayStation 4 system theme available on the PlayStation Store, and all of the existing The Last of Us Part II themes and avatars are free on the store until 11:59pm Pacific Time on Monday, September 28 (which translates to 5pm Australian Eastern Time on Tuesday, September 29).
- All of the Last of Us Part II merchandise on the PlayStation Gear Store is available at up to 40% off, and the PlayStation Store itself is offering a 50% discount on The Last of Us Remastered, The Last of Us: Left Behind and “select The Last of Us Remastered Factions Bundles” all weekend.
NOTABLE GAME RELEASES
- Kirby Fighters 2 (Switch)
- Mafia: Definitive Edition (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
- RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition (PC, Switch)
VIDEOS AND TRAILERS
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time — Gameplay Launch Trailer:
Everyone’s favourite marsupial returns in this gameplay launch trailer for Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About TIme. Experience new worlds, play around with new abilities and choose between the many new playable characters (alternate-dimension Tawna!) when the game releases on PS4 and Xbox One on October 2.
Noita — 1.0 Release Date Trailer:
Having been in early access since September of last year, Noita, “a magical action roguelite” where every single pixel is simulated, is finally coming out of early access on October 15. There’s no word on whether Noita is coming to platforms other than PC yet.
Destiny 2: Beyond Light — Europa Trailer:
The latest trailer for Destiny 2’s upcoming expansion, Beyond Light, invites players to uncover the mysterious history of the frozen moon of Europa. Find out exactly what lies beneath the wasteland and fight the “dark empire” when Destiny 2: Beyond Light releases on Google Stadia, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S on November 11.
Ghostrunner — Nintendo Switch Release Date Trailer:
Ghostrunner, the fast-paced cyberpunk action title coming our way from All In! Games, is also set to release on the Nintendo Switch. The Switch port, which looks about as good as we would hope, will be available day and date with the other platforms (PS4, Xbox One and PC), which is to say October 27.
Serious Sam 4 is out now:
The latest instalment in Croteam’s long-running alien-killing series serves as a prequel to Serious Sam 3: BFE (which is itself a prequel to the 2001 original), and features some of the iconic invaders from the series’ past along with the par-for-the-course massive arsenal of weapons with which to send them packing.
It’s available on Steam and as a console exclusive on Google Stadia… which isn’t available in Australia and New Zealand, so console players will have to wait until next year for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions.
Airplane Mode brings the other side of Microsoft Flight Simulator to Steam next month:
Bacronym Games and publisher AMC Games have announced that they plan to release “air passenger simulation game”, Airplane Mode, on Steam (for Mac and Windows) on October 15. The game will let players “enjoy the thrill of travel by enduring flights lasting [six] hours or longer” in real time. It’ll launch with two flight options — a six-hour flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Reykjavik, Finland, and a shorter 2.5-hour trip from the same starting point to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
The game will feature a smattering of content to keep you entertained during your flight, some of which will be exclusive to Airplane Mode. At US$11.99, it’s a great way to experience all the absolute nightmares of air travel at a very, very small fraction of the price.
INTERESTING READS FROM OTHER OUTLETS
- Marvel’s Avengers shows how subtitles are more complicated than just text: Vice
- Supergiant Games’ Hades has sold more than a million copies: Twitter (Supergiant Games)
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Autumn update is set for September 30: Twitter (Nintendo)
- DOOM Eternal coming to Xbox Game Pass on October 1, PC later this year: Xbox Wire
- New Xbox App is live on mobile: Xbox Wire
- Microsoft has redesigned the Microsoft Store on Xbox: Xbox Wire
- No Man’s Sky gets a monster expansion in Update 3.0, Origins: Hello Games
- Amnesia: The Dark Descent is now open-source: Frictional Games
- Baldur’s Gate 3 delayed, but only by a week: Twitter (Larian Studios)
- Xbox One X’s sales rank on Amazon rose by 747% after Series X pre-orders opened up: Twitter (@AndrewAlerts)
- Members of the media have already got their hands on Xbox Series X consoles: Twitter (Geoff Keighley)
- Nioh 2’s next expansion arrives on October 15: PlayStation Blog (Team Ninja)
- IGN Spain accidentally leaks local competitive and co-op multiplayer modes for Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time: ResetEra
- SEGA is working on a Yakuza movie: Variety
- Adidas is making Cyberpunk 2077 shoes: Kotaku
- Xbox Series S has already gotten a price cut in Japan: Kotaku
- Amazon’s got a new cloud gaming service: The Verge
- Dragon Quest XI and XI S combine for 6 million shipments and digital sales around the world: RPG Site
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Also published on Medium.