Category: News

From Celebrations to Lawsuits

Gaming reached unprecedented popularity in 2020
Everyone knows that gaming surged in popularity over 2020 but now that the year is over, we can truly look at the growth it has had.  A recent report from the US said that in 2020, consumer spending across video game hardware, content, and accessories reached 56.9 billion dollars, 26% higher than 2019. The top five selling games of the year were Call of Duty Black Ops, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, Animal Crossing New Horizons, Madden NFL 21, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. This marks the 12th year in a row the Call of Duty franchise took the top spot of the annual US charts. In a parallel trend, InvestGame found investments in the games industry reached a total value of $33.6 billion during 2020, across 664 transactions. On the home front, the Australian gaming industry is now worth 3.4 billion. PWC Australia found that Australian’s are one of the highest per capita spenders on video games in the world even though our video games are “among the highest priced in the world”. Gaming has a huge impact on our economy and society, but it is still largely ignored by our governments. However, later this year a creative economy summit is being held and the video games industry has a lot to show off.

Pokémon begins its 25th Anniversary Celebration.
Last Wednesday Nintendo released a video announcing its year-long celebration of the Pokémon franchise’s 25th anniversary. We can expect new merchandise, events, fan-creations, and of course games. For one thing New Pokémon Snap, the sequel to 1999’s Pokémon Snap, is set to release on April 30th. The video also reveals Katy Perry is a premiere collaborator in the celebrations, suggesting a new Pokémon song is incoming. There are even hints that Pearl & Diamond remakes are in the works.  The fan site Centro Pokémon has confirmed that, according to sources close to the company, remakes of Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl are in development for the Nintendo Switch. The official announcement is possible to come on February 27th, Pokémon day! Pokémon isn’t the only game having an important birthday this year. Beloved franchises Legend of Zelda and Castlevania both turn 35 in 2021.

Riot Games and Bungie team up to sue cheat distributor.
GatorCheats sells cheat software used in Valorant and Destiny 2 that allow players to give themselves unfair advantages in online play. They make anywhere from $90 for a month to $500 for a lifetime subscription, and lawyers allege tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The software is designed to specifically go undetected by Riot and Bungie’s anti-cheating system. Riot and Bungie claim the use of this software in their games has caused “irreparable damage to their goodwill and reputation, and to lose millions of dollars in revenue.” As both games are free to play, and rely on in game purchases for revenue, they cannot afford to lose players to an unfair online environment. This is not the first time someone has been sued for creating cheats, but it isn’t common for two companies to team up in this way.

 

Let’s Start With A BANG

LG are set to showcase the worlds first bending gaming monitors

That’s right you heard me LG are planning to showcase convertible monitors at CES 2021 (Consumer Electronics Show) which this year will be hosted strictly online. LG have designed a new display that can curl around to the desired radius for any player to create the most immersive gameplay experience. LG isn’t the only company having a go with this new tech, Intel have also been reported to have some “squishy” screens. With a price tag of $87,000 on LG’s “rollable” TV the price could be quite high for a fancy new bendable monitor.

If you’d like to have peak at these new innovative bendable screens CES 2021 will start on Jan 11th and run until Jan the 14th the whole show will be hosted entirely online so there won’t be any photos from Las Vegas where it is typically held. There is a very long list of exhibitors for the event, as well as a bunch of different platforms to view the show from so if you’d like more information click here.

Kick 2021 off with Games Done Quick charity event

That’s right GDQ are hosting a speedrunning marathon charity event, they’ve been hosting marathons since 2010 and this year they will be raising money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. This event is no small fry as Game Done Quick have raised over $25 million over it’s lifetime for many important causes. If you’d like to see new world records set live for games such as Sonic, Sonic 1, Sonic 3, Dishonored 2, Divinity: Original Sin II, Diablo 3, Final Fantasy VII, Mega-Man, Metorid, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and so many more head over here for details.

Steam releases the top 150 games from 2020

According to the aggregate of the Steam platform which you can check out on Steam 250 (which is a Steam user review aggregation and evaluation site) you can grab a snippet of what people were loving on the platform up until December 31st. There are the top 150 rated games of 2020 as well as the top 10 which are in the image above. If you’d like to take a look at the full list of games from 2020 or any other year, you can check out the Steam 250 website here.

NBN Completed, KFConsole and Deaths in Gaming.

Australia’s NBN status.

With a mix of mobile towers, satellites, copper cabling and optical fibre, the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, has formally declared that the NBN is now “built and fully operational”. The original plan for fibre optic to 93 percent of Australian homes has been replaced by the current generation NBN, now served by an amalgam of fibre to the curb, building, premises, and node as well as cable internet in city centres. Rural areas are currently being serviced with a mix of variable-speed mobile wireless and low-speed satellite, the latter only attaining up to 3.5 megabytes per second. Minister Fletcher’s announcement is one of the steps required for the privatisation of the NBN; however, the government have stated they are not considering it during their current term.

In related news, Elon Musk’s Internet Service Provider Starlink is looking into providing Australian mobile and satellite internet in the future. Starlink has purchased the rights to utilise the 5G network in Australia, and has previously purchased licences for satellite in several rural centres. With their current technology, Starlink is promising speeds of over 4 times that of the current NBN rollout.

KFConsole

What seemed to start on Twitter as a hoax in June and a jab at the infamous perpetual delays of Cyberpunk 2077 has become a reality. Announced with the statement “The console wars are over.” the KFConsole is the result of a partnership between KFC, Cooler Master, Asus, and Seagate. It boasts twin SSDs, a 9th gen Intel mobile chipset, an RTX graphics card, 4k 240hz output and, the pièce de resistance, a chicken warmer. Sadly, no prices or expected release dates have been revealed since the announcement, but it is already speculated to be a collector’s item.

 

Deaths in Gaming.

Lin Qi, CEO of Yoozoo, the creator of the mobile game adaptation of Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming, died on Christmas Day after being hospitalised with possible poisoning on the 17th. A colleague and suspect identified as Xu, has been detained by police. Reports have speculated that Mr Lin was poisoned by Xu via tea, medication, or blueberries due to salary cuts because of “work disputes” with the CEO.

Photo: Cindy Engstrom

DirectX creator and father Eric Engstrom passed earlier this month. Engstrom was part of the team that created DirectX, originally called ‘Game SDK’, the APIs for programmers to better develop and run games and multimedia on Windows computers. DirectX is also the base API for the Xbox console and where the X in Xbox comes from. Engstrom was eulogised by friends as bossy, chaotic, but mostly exuberant, and joyous. Engstrom leaves behind a huge legacy and is survived by his wife and four children.

Cyberpunk, Steam, & The Switch

Nintendo of America President says Switch is Entering “Midpoint” of its Console Lifespan.
In a recent interview, American Nintendo Boss Doug Bowser stated he believes the Switch console has reached the middle of its lifespan. That doesn’t mean they’re slowing down anytime soon though; many titles are in development for 2021 and beyond. He also addressed the long-rumoured Switch Pro model, stating it is not something Nintendo is focusing on for the immediate future and they will instead lean further into their Switch & Switch lite consoles for 2021. Despite the recent launches of the Playstation 5 and Xbox series X, the Nintendo Switch outsold both in November with 1.35 units sold. Doug credits it’s continued popularity to its mobility and versatility but it’s hard to deny covid-19 played a significant role – you only need to look at Animal Crossings release and the craze that followed. It will be interesting to see how this console progresses next year, and through the rest of its lifespan.

Controversy Surrounding Cyberpunk2077 Continues
Amidst the ongoing drama of Cyberpunk 2077’s release Developer CD Projekt Red continues damage control and a rapid release of patches to address the games numerous bugs. Sony has removed the game from its digital store  “until further notice” but the game is still available in physical copies for those still keen to try it out. Microsoft hasn’t removed the game but issued a warning on its online store stating, “Users may experience performance issues when playing this game on Xbox One consoles until this game is updated.” Both Microsoft and Sony are offering refunds for people who are unhappy with their purchases of the game. After eight years of anticipation, the game has now been dubbed a “flop” by many of it’s disappointed players but there is still a sizeable group of players (mostly on PC) singing the games praises. Love the game or it hate it, it’s impossible to deny it has had one of the rockiest, most controversial releases in memory.

Steam’s 2020 Autumn Sale Was Its Biggest Ever.
In a recent blog post Valve revealed the 2020 Autumn Sale was “the biggest-ever in terms of revenue for developers and publishers”.  Several factors seem to be at play here, a resurgence of popularity for older games, a spread of new games finding success, and of course the ongoing pandemic. During the sale, just shy of a million players bought a game or made a microtransaction on the platform. Even more impressively concurrent users peaked just under 24 million users, 7 million more than the same time a year prior! With Steam’s Holiday sale just around the corner, it will be exciting to see if it can be even bigger.

 

Games, Game Fixes, and Games Awards

The Game Awards 2020

The annual awards ceremony was held virtually last week, unveiling game announcements, as well as announcing the various awards studios, games, content creators, and esport teams have earned.

The Last of Us Part 2 was awarded Game of the Year, Best Game Direction, Best Narrative, and Innovation in Accessibility, a new award added to the Game Awards. Ghost of Tsushima won Best Art Direction, and Best Multiplayer and Mobile Game was awarded to Among Us. Unsurprisingly, Animal Crossing: New Horizons won Best Family Game, and Best Game for Impact goes to Tell Me Why.

You can check out the full list of nominees and winners through The Game Awards website here.

Cyberpunk 2077 gets major fixes

Cyberpunk 2077, the futuristic game that came out last week, has had several updates to fix major and minor bugs that players have encountered. One of these fixes includes modifying a flashing effect on braindances, which previously had a high risk of inducing epileptic symptoms. Thankfully, the effect has been smoothed out, and the flashing reduced, making it safer for players. This prompts an important discussion into accessibility, and the safety of players among the gaming community, and among game devs.

Other fixes include improved stability, fixing missing animations in some cutscenes, improving reflections for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles, and fixes for many quests.

Mass Effect and Dragon Age fans rejoice

During The Game Awards 2020, many games were announced, and major additions to existing games, such as Among Us getting a new map, and Master Chief coming to Fortnite. In addition, teaser trailers for a new Mass Effect and a new Dragon Age game.

The Mass Effect game is in early production, and teases at a new chapter in the series, with the trailer ending with an Asari finding a piece of N7 wreckage.

The Dragon Age trailer offers a little more information, with the return of many familiar characters from previous games. You can check out the Mass Effect trailer here, and the Dragon Age trailer here.

Other games announced includes We Are OFK, an interactive series following the rise of a pop group called OFK, Open Roads by Fullbright, telling the story of mother and daughter on a road trip, Left4Dead and Dead Space both getting spiritual successors, called Back 4 Blood, and The Callisto Protocol respectively. And finally, Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII is joining the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lineup.

Stolen GPUs, Politicians for Video Games, Blind Playthrough, & 2020 Game Awards

40 containers of RTX 3090 GPUs stolen from a Chinese factory.

That’s right over $300,000 worth of high-end computer graphics cards were taken from a MSI factory in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The retail price for a RTX 3090 is over to $2,500AUD, is currently low in stock and in high demand especially coming up to Christmas time where people are looking to upgrade their PCs. The Chinese MSI factory has notified the police and is offering a reward of ¥100,000 ($20,000AUD) for effective and accurate information regarding the missing containers. MSI have also indicated that this may have been an inside job considering the high level of video surveillance and truck inspections conducted on site. The Chinese company has even offered clemency to anyone who took part in the heist provided that they can find the cargo.

A Bipartisan Parliamentary Group for Video Games.

A federal Labor MP and a Liberal MP have teamed up to begin a new parliamentary group that will assist the government in establishing a stronger relationship with the Australian video games industry. It’s called Parliamentary Friends of Video Games and it’s lead by Senator James McGrath and Labor’s Tim Watts. Both MPs acknowledging that, “this industry represents the fastest-growing media in the world.” The intention of the group is to give politicians and industry a forum to meet. This doesn’t mean that there will necessarily be more funding coming to the Aussie industry anytime soon however it does indicate that parliament are showing more interest in nurturing the Aussie Games Industry. Ron Curry, the CEO of IGEA (Interactive Games & Entertainment Association) spoke with 9News saying, “Australians spent $3.6 billion in 2019 on video games, with two-thirds of Australians playing video games. We’re not digging it up. We’re not shipping it. The carbon footprint is quite small. It’s ticking all of the boxes. We’re just trying to chip away at that culture divide that sits between government and the rest of us.”

Twitch removes ‘blind playthrough’ tag due to feedback from disabled players.

Recent feedback from blind people who consume Twitch media have spoken out about the “blind playthrough” tag. The tag has been used to collect streams where players were ignorant to the games story or mechanics. That has now changed as the tag has been deleted, Twitch’s director of community and creator marketing Erin Wayne tweeted, “You can still use ‘first playthrough’ or opt to use it in combination with “no spoiler” for the same sentiment.” Steve Saylor who runs a YouTube Channel called Blind Gamer and is also a media editor of the Can I Play That? Video game accessibility website has said, “Changing the term “blind playthrough” is not SJW’s (social justice warrior) being super sensitive. I’ve said this before, “first playthrough” is a better description anyway. I personally am not offended by it, but I do think it’s a term that can go away. Language changes over time, so let it.”

How to Watch The 2020 Game Awards.

That’s right it’s that time of year again where we celebrate the year in video games. This years Game Awards will feature celebrity guest hosts like Brie Larson, John David Washington, and Gal Godot. As the entire entertainment industry comes together to celebrate in a socially distanced fashion and you’d like to tune in from Australia the ceremony takes place at 11AM AEDT/10AM AEST on Friday the 11th of December. The Game Awards will be streamed across different platforms such as YouTube, Twitch.tv, Twitter, Facebook Live, and Steam.

Movie Klassics, Spoons, TV adaptations and Extra Snacks

Mortal Kombat brings some 90’s nostalgia with new DLC pack

Mortal Kombat 11 has had its fair share of fun DLC so far including Rambo, Robocop, The Joker, Terminator and Spawn but its latest offering takes us back to the infamous Mortal Kombat film of 1995. The Klassic MK Movie Skin Pack includes alternate skins for Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage and Raiden based on the actors that portrayed them in the film, Bridget Wilson, Linden Ashby, and the legendary Christopher Lambert respectively. Their likenesses aren’t the only inclusions however as each actor has also recorded new voice lines.  The DLC pack is out now.

Kadabra’s reappearing trick

Famed magician, self-proclaimed psychic and spoon enthusiast Uri Geller has given Nintendo his blessing to reprint Pokémon cards which featuring the character Kadabra. The production of cards came to a halt back in the year 2000 when Geller filed suit in multiple courts against Nintendo for infringing on his image with the design of Kadabra. The Pokémon, also known as Yungerer in Japan, is a powerful psychic that brandishes a spoon. Posting on Twitter Geller has apologised for his prior action:

The Last of Us TV series is going ahead

HBO has given the greenlight to the TV series adaptation of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Series creator Neil Druckman will be working as writer and executive producer along with other executive producers Craig Mazin and Carolyn Strauss who both recently worked on the critically acclaimed Chernobyl. While still in the early stages of production the official synopsis seems to indicate the series will be starting with the story from the first game.

Quick announcements and delays

Both Cuphead’s final DLC (The Delicious Last Course) and Watch Dogs: Legion’s multiplayer mode have been delayed into next year. Cuphead’s developer Studio MDHR has stated the challenges of development during the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the delay while Ubisoft has noted issues dealing with ongoing bugs in Watch Dogs.

In announcements, Fall Guys has announced their new season Winter Knockout to be released in the second week of December and will feature something called “Ringus Dingus”.

OMORI the Earthbound styled JRPG with art by Omocat has just got a release date over six years after its Kickstarter concluded. You’ll be able to see if it was worth the wait on Christmas day.

Red Dead Redemption 2 has just launched a standalone version of its online multiplayer. It launched on PC and consoles with an introductory price of $7 which will increase after February 15 next year.

Nintendo, Animal Crossing, and The Game Awards 2020

Getting the warm fuzzies from Animal Crossing.

Earlier this month, Professor Andrew Przybylski (@ShuhBillSkee), Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, released a study on the effects of the amount of time playing games on reported well-being. He surveyed 3274 players of Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighbourville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons and found that players of Animal Crossing: New Horizons had a significant positive relationship between the two variables, showing that the amount of time played increased reported wellbeing. These results were particularly prominent in feelings of autonomy and belonging. In brief, more Animal Crossing game time equals more feelings of fulfillment and freedom. Thus, more feelings of happiness and connection.

The study concludes that while there is a significant positive correlation, this was an explorative study, indicating a need for further studies to expand our knowledge into how gaming affects our health and wellbeing.

Nintendo in the headlines

Nintendo is asking businesses to refrain from bringing politics into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and as such has published guidelines. These guidelines focus primarily on keeping the game G rated, removing political content (for example, Joe Biden’s campaign created island), and indirect or direct advertising/ profiteering within the game. Disrespecting these guidelines will result in being “ask[ed] to stop” and possibly being prohibited from future access to the Game.

Nintendo has also ordered the cease and desist of the annual “The Big House” GameCube Smash Bros Melee tournament. The competition, which has run since 2011, had moved online due to the current covid-19 pandemic. This was only possible due to the help of the Wii and GameCube emulator Dolphin, and mods such as Slippi. These allowed for smooth online play, currently unavailable to the Nintendo GameCube.

The tournament was forced to cancel the competition to comply with Nintendo’s claim of “illegally copied versions of the game” and use of the mod Slippi. The cancelling of the competition has led to public outcries of unfair treatment by Nintendo towards the Smash community and the hashtag #SaveSmash trending on Twitter.

The Game Awards 2020

The Game Awards Nominees for 2020 have been announced with The Last of Us Part II, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Ghost of Tsushima, Doom Eternal, Hades, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake going up for Game of the Year.

The big hitters this year are The Last of Us Part II receiving 10 nominations, Hades with 8, and Ghosts of Tsushima with 7, all spanning over several categories from art, music, narration, and the new category “Innovation in Accessibility”.

The Livestream will be broadcast through YouTube at 10 am on December 11th Brisbane time. And don’t forget to place your vote, head over to The Game Awards, and make your click count!

Cyberpunk Valhalla PS5 & Xbox X

The Console Wars 2020

Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox have released their next generation of consoles within just two days of each other here in Australia. Consoles have sold out worldwide with pre-orders filling in moments online with each company expressing an unwillingness to share sales figures just yet. However, Microsoft’s Executive VP Spencer tweeted on Thursday that the Xbox Series X launch was the biggest in their console’s history, and PlayStation’s CEO Jim Ryan shared in a previous interview their expectation to outsell the PS4.

The quick uptake and huge sales of both has led to some early adoption issues/hiccups with hardware faults and crashes on both consoles. The Xbox Series X launch has had some users reporting that the console will turn off during gameplay, some refusing to turn on at all and some with disk tray issues. However the smoking Xbox that made the rounds earlier this week has been proven a fake, with Xbox tweeting,

“I can’t believe we have to say this, but please do not blow vape smoke into your Xbox Series X.”

The PS5 is also battling it’s own sets of issues with Rest Mode and external hard drives causing “Rebuild Database” errors, forcing a database rebuild and in some cases bricking consoles. There have also been issues transferring licences from PS4 and connectivity issues, however androidcentral.com has you covered for fixes.

The real prize for PS5 seems to be the DualSense controller, with the directional haptic feedback, adaptive triggers and longer battery life reviewers are definitely rating it with the games that utilise it. Plus with the recent beta update to steam, both the PS5 DualSence and Xbox Series X controller will be able to be used on your PC… but without the bells and whistles.

 

A Thor-ny Release: Assassins Creed Valhalla

While Ubisoft isn’t interested in releasing sales figures they have announced that it has doubled Odyssey’s launch player count. However, the release is marred by Ubisoft’s “troubled” year and the range of technical issues PC and current gen console users are experiencing.

PC users have had a confusing time where achievements were dropped and confirmed then told the removal was unintended, save files disappearing, input lag and graphical issues. Try over at rockpapershotgun.com for a PC fix. PS4 and Xbox users, however, haven’t got the same privilege with one website saying “…to avoid such problems with the game is to avoid scenes that are visually demanding…”

Cyberpunk 2077 Confirmed, but do we trust it?

There has been a lot of controversy around the Cyberpunk 2077 delayed release, with even KFC poking a jab in a satirical tweet. But CD Projekt have confirmed the release was pushed back due to issues with current gen consoles, maybe Ubisoft could take a feather out of CD Projekt’s book and delay to optimise for current gen consoles.

CD Projekt has tried to quell these fires with further confirmation of the December 10th release date with IGN. There have also been further leaks of achievement lists and character customisations, now with nails and teeth. Personally, I can’t wait to sink my… well, teeth in.

TV, Music, Playtesting, & Pick Ups

The filming of The Witcher season 2 comes to a halt due to COVID outbreak, again.

The second season of Netflix’s The Witcher staring Henry Cavil has stopped for the second time, four people working on the show have tested positive for the virus and those that have been impacted are now being isolated and are not part of the main cast. The last halt on production lasted from March until August. Hopefully, this time it doesn’t stretch for that same length of time.

Steam has a new play test feature for developers.

That’s right, Steam has created a request option so that players may be able to play test games for developers right from the games Steam page. Value is intending on adding this feature so that players no longer need a beta key to gain access. This new feature is called Steam Playtest; developers will also be able to see how many people are requesting access including expressed interest. Valve says that Playtests aren’t intended to replace Steam Early Access and that games can still have a Playtest alongside an Early Access version.

The Gorillaz have a new music video and it’s inside the world of GTA5.

The most recent release from the Gorillaz’s Song Machine project is called The Valley of The Pagans and it takes place within Grand Theft Auto V. The video begins by transporting the cartoon musicians into the city of Los Santos and features Beck’s voice on a call using the iconic iFruit phone from the game. Song Machine is a big music project by the Gorillaz and also features other artists such as ScHoolboy Q and Elton John.

Pick up your Xbox Series X and PS5 safely this week.

With the arrival of the next generation of consoles it’s important to be COVID safe. If you haven’t got delivery and intend on picking up your new Xbox or PlayStation from EB games, JB-HI-FI, or other distribution outlets click here for Kotaku who have published an article highlighting all the different outlets and their coronavirus response plans. Please remember to be kind, patient and respectful so that everyone can have a safe and happy gaming experience.