Category: News

Apple, Amazon, and Animal Crossing

 

xCloud and Stadia violate App Store guidelines

It has been suspected that issues would arise as Microsoft’s xCloud service, and Google’s Stadia, turned their focus towards Apple devices, but it has been confirmed by Apple that such services violates the App Store guidelines, and cannot exist on iOS in their current forms.

In an official Apple statement: “The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search.”

The main reason cited for rejecting xCloud and Stadia on the App Store is that they offer access to apps Apple can’t individually review. Back in March, Apple offered a very similar justification when they were asked about potential anti-trust issues with Apple’s Arcade game subscription service, which the company runs.

In a statement from a Microsoft spokesperson: “Our testing period for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to games on iOS via the Apple App Store. Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content. All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalogue are rated for content by independent industry ratings bodies such as the ESRB and regional equivalents. We are committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform.”

Twitch Prime will become Prime Gaming

With Amazon rebranding the company’s live streaming platform. Although they are dropping the Twitch name and focusing on the Prime part of the brand, the service will continue to offer the same benefits subscribers are already used to. This includes a free monthly Twitch subscription you can use on your favourite streamer, exclusive in-game content, and free games that you keep forever.

Nintendo has reported selling 22 million copies of their March release: Animal Crossing New Horizons

The Switch game continues to be the driving force behind Switch hardware purchases since its release. With an operating process of $3.39B in revenue, and Switch sales up 166%, Animal Crossing New Horizons is now the second best-selling Switch game, running behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Nintendo states that of all the new Switch consoles that were played for the first time during the last 3 months, more than half of them played New Horizons on the first day.

Riot Ubisoft and Halo Infinite

Riot’s LEC league nearly partners with an openly anti-LGBT sponsor

An announcement from NEOM which is a city created by the Saudi Arabian government, that was born under a regime that comes with a history of human rights abuses that includes persecution of LGBT people. Many involved with Riot including esports casters, players and developers were speaking out against the partnership in troves. This all comes after not just last year Riot Games were accused of a toxic and sexist company culture. Fortunately, however Riot have tanked the partnership with NEOM due to the community outrage. Riot have released a statement saying, “As a company and as a league, we know that it’s important to recognize when we make mistakes and quickly work to correct them. After further reflection, while we remain steadfastly committed to all of our players and fans worldwide including those living in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, the LEC has ended its partnership with NEOM, effective immediately.”

Halo Infinite developers 343 Industries are getting flack for their recent revel at Xbox Games Showcase

Many complaints have been flooding in about Halo Infinites lighting, low texture details and overall flat graphics. 343 Industries have addressed the issue in a community update, John Junyszek the Community Manager has said, “We do have work to do to address some of these areas and raise the level of fidelity and overall presentation for the final game,” he says. “The build used to run the campaign demo was work-in-progress from several weeks ago with a variety of graphical elements and game systems still being finished and polished. While some of the feedback was expected and speaks to areas already in progress, other aspects of the feedback have brought new opportunities and considerations to light that the team is taking very seriously and working to assess.” There still isn’t a solid release date for Halo Infinite due to come out in Summer this year.

Ubisoft update Tommy Francois is officially no longer with the company

Tommy Francois was Ubisoft’s vice president of editorial & creative services, Business Insider reported on the situation stating that ‘sources with knowledge of the matter’ claim that Tommy was fired following the investigation, that is a number of harassment and abuse allegations pointed at Tommy, however Ubisoft have not disclosed the nature of his departure, so for now it stands as speculation. Francois’ departure comes after several other executives stepped down including vice president Maxime Beland, head of human resources Cecile Cornet and chief creative office Serge Hascoet.

Time for a Clean Up

A complaint posted on Glassdoor reports burnout and crunch at Respawn

Glassdoor is a reviews website where both current and previous employees can share their experiences about working at a company. The complaint was posted by a current full-time employee at Respawn who are the developers of Apex Legends, the post details that the studio was struggling with the negative side effects on businesses relating to COVID-19. A snippet of the lengthy review says, “Mostly every other company has extended project deadlines to accommodate for lower efficiencies and general stresses or anxiety during COVID-19, but not on the Apex project. I feel extremely stressed and burnt out trying to keep our seasonal releases on the same aggressive timeline as pre-shelter in place productivity. I currently work 12 – 13 hours a day and there is no separation between my home and work life.” Chad Grenier Respawn’s Apex game director has acknowledged the studio struggled during the pandemic, he further addresses the complaint on Reddit saying that he insisted that Respawn has always had it’s employees best interested and health in mind however the transition to working remotely was very hard on the team.

Ubisoft has a plan to address the studio’s culture of misconduct

Over the last month Ubisoft has been dealing with immense backlash from the game’s community over a number of its employees being named as abusers, those employees have either been dismissed or resigned. Ubisoft’s CEO Yves Guillemot has said, “I am determined to make profound changes in order to improve and strengthen our corporate culture. We already have acted swiftly and firmly, announcing, and introducing large scale initiatives intended to transform our organisation.” Yves plans of using a five-part plan to ensure the safety and inclusivity of all its employees. Below is a screenshot for Gamasutra’s report of the Plan.

U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) wants to stop U.S. military recruiting through Twitch

AOC is determined to stop the Army, the Navy and the Airforce from putting its messaging in front of impressionable young people and children, she tells Vice, “War is not a game, and the Marine Corps decision not to engage in this recruiting tool should be a clear signal to the other branches of the military to cease this practise entirely.” The reps for New York’s 14th congressional district filed a draft amendment that should prevent the military from using funds from the House of Appropriations bill to maintain presence on Twitch or any video game, esports, or living streaming platform. The Committee is due to meet this week let’s see how it all turns out.

That’s all this week in gaming news.

COVID-19 Effects, Games Archive and What’s Next

How COVID-19 has affected the games industry

Due to a recent survey conducted by Game Developers Conference (GDC) 33% of it’s developers reported that the game they were working on has been delayed, having to relocate working from home has been the largest contributing factor. In the report 70% of the developers had to make that move from the beginning of the pandemic. Some studios reported that the move to working remotely went smoothly, however some partnered companies who lagged behind were responsible for their delays.

Other reasons for delays that were reported included barriers to accessing required hardware such as gaining access to development kits which can be highly policed by companies for security reasons. There were also struggles to record voiceovers and audio work for home and not to mention the ambient stress that pandemics can cause. For developers that didn’t have delays 41% claimed they had felt their productivity drop because of the lockdown. 35% said their creatively decreased and 26% said they have seen a decrease in their household income. However, on a positive note 12% of people have said they will no longer work in an office environment and prefer to work from home even after a vaccine is released.

Hundreds of free to play unreleased prototype games have become available

Some of the most iconic games such as Double Dragon, Street Fighter 2, Mega Man 3, AKIRA, Prince of Persia, Dr Mario, NBA JAM, Killer Instinct and many more have been uploaded to Internet Archive and anyone can download to play. This archive contains 934 ROMs playable on any browser and stretch from 1983 to 2001. Some of the games uploaded by The Hidden Palace which are a video games preservation wiki include Spyro The Dragon, and Earthbound (Mother 2) from an EPROM cartridge. If you’d like to look at the Internet Archive click here.

What’s coming up for the Summer Games Fest

On July 23rd Microsoft Xbox Games Showcase will be featured on loads of different streaming platforms that include Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook pages. Where we will be getting a sneak peak into Halo Infinite as well as appearances from Hellblade II, Psychonauts 2, and potentially Everwild.

Gamescom have their Opening Night Live hosted by Geoff Keighley on the 27th of August and in September PAX Online begins which will be replacing PAX West and PAX Australia this year. PAX Online will span 9 days and contain 24-hour content from September 12th to the 20th.

If you’d like more details on the schedule click here.

Online Events and Sales

Big announcements from Ubisoft Forward

Due to COVID-19 the typical E3 press conference was hosted online where Ubisoft revealed more information about its biggest upcoming games. Such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion, Hyper Space, and Far Cry 6. Ubisoft also announced that there will be another showcase later in the year. They also announced in a tweet before the show started that certain challenges the company is currently facing will not be addressed directly in the show. That tweet is referring to the resignations of a number of Ubisoft employees under investigation for sexual assault and abuse. CEO Yves Guillemot has promised massive changes for the company and intends on appointing a head of workplace culture as well as creating a position for a head of diversity. Some of the announcements from Ubisoft Forward event are Far Cry 6 launches next year on the 18th of February, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will be available on November 17th this year, Hyper Scape is now in open beta as of the announcement, and Watch Dogs: Legion launches on October 29th.

Steam has added Community Reviews to its Homepage

Steam has for many years displayed reviews from players as part of its user experience, now however Steam will feature reviews that are rated as “helpful” on the front page. This is supposed to be a new way to assist players with making recommendations for new or popular games. These helpful reviews are called “Community Recommendations.” According to the Steam blog post there will be more features coming to Steam over the coming months, including this new concept of “micro trailers” which is going to offer video previews of games in shorter periods of time.

PAX Australia & US are launching its first online global gaming event

Since so many events are cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic broadcasting online is the next best thing. Co-founder of PAX Jerry Holkins said in a statement “PAX online will recreate that shared experience, along with everyone’s other favourite elements from game reveals, exclusive hands-on experiences, the chance to hear from and speak with your favourite game developers, journalists as well as content creators, and so much more.” PAX Online will be the ultimate virtual gaming experience with PAX merchandise remaining available for purchase. The best thing is the event will provide fans with 24-hour-a-day content for 9 days all of course free of charge!

Big July Sales for Games

PS4 are having big sales on the PlayStation Store this month as end of financial year comes around. PlayStation have discounts on over 240 games, bundles, and add-ons for some the best PS4 games including Bloodborne, Monster Hunter World, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and a lot of Assassin’s Creed games. If you’d like to check out a list of games on sale click here.

A Rough Week In Gaming News

Ubisoft executive Maxime Beland resigns after assault allegations

Ubisoft also revealed that Tommy Francois the Editorial Vice President is on disciplinary leave pending the outcome of an investigation, Tommy has also been suspended until further notice. There are also reports of another employee at Ubisoft in Toronto being fired for engaging in behaviours that don’t align with what is expected as an employee. Maxime Beland’s resignation follows after a string of allegations posted on social media accusing him of choking a female employee at a Far Cry party as well as several other forms of sexual harassment. Ubisoft were reportedly aware of those allegations and chose not to act. Yves Guillemot Ubisoft’s Chief Executive has released a letter titled ‘Change starts today’ that details Beland’s resignation and Francois suspension, it also goes on to say, “Ubisoft will not tolerate workplace misconduct and will continue taking disciplinary actions against anyone who engages in harassment, discrimination and other behaviours that infringe on our Code of Fair Conduct.”

Death Threats and harassment for The Last of Us 2 team

Developers of The Last of Us 2 Naughty Dog have issues a statement condemning harassment after several members of the team were subjected to abusive messages. The game was launched on the 19th of June and since then fans upset with outcome of character narratives have been spewing hateful comments, some of the team affected are Neil Druckmann and voice actor Laura Bailey. Just recently the studio released a statement in support of their staff saying, “Although we welcome critical discussion, we condemn any form of harassment of threats directed towards our team and cast. Their safety is our top priority, but we must all work together to root out this type of behaviour and maintain a constructive and compassionate discourse.” Despite the vitriol The Last of Us 2 has shown to be a massive hit for Sony, it’s one of the fastest-selling PS4 exclusives to date, selling 4 million copies in just the first 3 days.

Kongregate a web gaming company and video game publisher are no longer taking new game submissions from Flash

The company announced on recently that there are over 128,000 games available on the service and that there is unlikely to be any more. Kongregate also says that they will be shutting down many of the site’s social features as well as GamesIndustry.biz reports that several staff were laid off as part of the shift. Adobe announced that it would end support for Flash this year and multiple browsers now block the standard default. You can however still play the games manually when you enable Flash. Head over to the Kongregate website to see what Flash games you can still play.

Trump Banned, Aussie Games Industry and Free Stuff

Donald Trump gets suspended on Twitch for hateful conduct

Trump typically uses the Twitch platform to broadcast rallies online as well as other events. After Twitter had reported to Twitch that his channel has been suspended Twitch released a statement saying, “Hateful conduct in not allowed on Twitch. President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.” There were two instances that constitute hateful conduct, one where Trump calls Mexican immigrants “rapists” from a 2016 campaign rally that was recently re-broadcast and a comment from a recent rally where he accused a hypothetical “very tough hombre” of “breaking into the window of a young woman whose husband is away” to illustrate a point about what would happen if people couldn’t dial 911. Twitch says, “Like anyone else, politicians on Twitch must adhere to our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. We do not make exceptions for political or newsworthy content and will take action on content reported to us that violates our rules.

The Australian video games industry is skying rocketing in popularity

Working in the games industry is quickly becoming one of the most desirable career paths for Australians. Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) says that 91% of Aussie household have a piece of video game hardware, the industry in Australia could be worth $24 billion by 2023, and they project that esports alone could reach $3 billion in just three years. A recent report from Lenovo is showing that 1 in 12 Australians between the age of 16 and 45 now say their dream job is in gaming. Which equates to over 800,000 people. Not to mention that recently the coronavirus pandemic saw more than 1.2 million people turning to gaming for social connections. Unfortunately, the federal government isn’t showing any support of the industry. Ron Curry the chief executive of IGEA says, “With the current government, it’s culturally embedded in them not to support video games. Our brightest and smartest talent is leaving and going offshore. There’s a whole number of ways games could be used beyond pure entertainment and I think that’s the exciting part of the industry and where those transferable skills are.” Hopefully, we soon see a change in the mindset around the games industry in this country.

Humble Bundle raises over $4.3 million for the Fight for Racial Justice

The charity bundle was launched in early June and ended with close to $4.4 million dollars. Humble said in a statement, “In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmuad Arbery, and tragically many more in the Black community, we’ve teamed up with developers, publishers, and creators to help support organizations fight for racial equality.

Unity’s Learn Premium suite for game developers is now free

Learn Premium is an educational platform for everyone and anyone who is looking to create using the game engine. Unity made the move to help folks stuck at home during COVID-19 however they have now decided to keep the doors open indefinitely to help those looking to better their understanding of the Unity engine. For those of you interested in learning more click here.

Mixer shutdown, development funding and Comic books

Mixer shuts down and fuses with Facebook Gaming

As of July 22nd Microsoft’s streaming platform Mixer will be closing and intends to move existing partners over to Facebook Gaming. This shock announcement means that anyone partnered with Mixer or who streams on Mixer will be transitioned to Facebook Gaming which started on the 23rd of June. Phil Spence the head of Microsoft’s gaming said in an interview with The Verge, “I think the Mixer community is really going to benefit from the broad audience that Facebook has through their properties, and the abilities to reach gamers in a very seamless way through the social platform Facebook has.” All this is designed to compete with Twitch of course by combining the audiences of Mixer and Facebook Gaming they might stand a chance against the streaming giant. For anyone who currently has outstanding Ember balances, channel subscriptions or Mixer Pro subscriptions you will receive Xbox gift card credits. The biggest news of course is what do big names like Shroud and Ninja do since being paid to make the big move to Mixer? It is rumoured that they’ll be able to return to Twitch if they so choose, let’s wait and see what happens.

Kowloon Nights a global video game investment fund has launched a $2 million fund for Black creators

This fund is called the Fairchild Initiative and will support creators and studio that work with PC and console projects. Kendall Davis an advisor for Kowloon said in a statement, “Kowloon Night was founded on the idea of empowering creators to create memorable games and stories, and the Fairchild Initiative carries the same ethos. I am proud to lead this initiative with a focus on empathy, infrastructure, and mentorship.” Any development studio that is majority-owned by black creators who are looking to apply for the grant or seeking further information click here.

Cyberpunk 2077 has been delayed again

Cyberpunk 2077 has been moved to November 19th in a statement released from CD Projekt Red saying, “Those of you who are familiar with the way we make games know that we won’t ship something which is not ready. “Ready when it’s done” is not a phrase we say because it sounds right, it’s something we live by even when we know we’ll take the head for it.” They go on to say, “Our intention is to make Cyberpunk 2077 something that will stay with you for years to come. In the end, we hope you understand why we did what we did.” To see the full statement see image below.

In lighter news Cyberpunk 2077 will be getting a comic book adaptation called Trauma Team the series will be published by Dark Horse Comics and is set to release on the 9th of September this year. The comic is said to follow the story of Nadia and emergency medical technician for Trauma Team International, and the sole survivor of a failed rescue mission. She then agrees to continue work on a new mission and she finds herself and her team in an even more dangerous situation.

Not E3 Announcements and PAX Aus 2020 Postponed

Summer Game Fest, IGN Summer of Gaming and of course PS5 Announcements

That’s right let’s recap some of what’s been happening with the replacement E3 events this last week. Due to the coronavirus pandemic E3 2020 was cancelled earlier in the year however thanks to the awesome power of the internet streaming vir Twitch, YouTube and other platforms has made game publishers and developers game reveals, announcements and revolutionary game changes easier to broadcast despite the physical setbacks.

Let’s run through some of the highlights so far

Star Wars Squadron was announced by EA and dropped the reveal trailer teasing you with; space combat, X-wings, Y-wings, A-wings and more.

PS5 unveiling which showcases a design not yet seen in any other console made by Sony. If you haven’t already seen the memes circulating might I suggest checking it out. Jim Ryan the President of Sony Interactive Entertainment has said, “The PlayStation sits in the living room of most homes and we kind of felt it would be nice to provide a design that would really grace most living areas. We think we’ve been successful in that.”

Just before Sony PS5 reveal Xbox dropped another promo for the Xbox Series X showing off new footage of games as well as some gameplay.

PlayStation also revealed many games coming to the future gen console, some of the big ones to highlight are:

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales as a stand-alone game. PlayStation blog post says, “The latest adventure in the Spider-Man universe will build on and expand Marvel’s Spider-Man through an all new story, Players will experience the rise of Miles Morales as he masters new powers to become his own Spider-Man.”

There’s also Horizon Forbidden West the sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn this instalment will feature Aloy yet again travelling farther than ever before where she will encounter new wildlife, beautiful scenery, and of course captivating narrative.

Ratchet and Clank are back in a new game that will feature a story about multiple dimensions.

Other games coming to the PS5 are: Resident Evil Village (Sequel to Resident Evil 7), Hitman 3, Demon’s Souls Remake, GTA 5, The Last of Us Part III, Destiny 2, Gran Turismo 7, and NBA 2K21. There are many many more and if you’d like to check out the full list click here.

PAX Australia 2020 has officially been postponed

The PAX team posted a statement on the 16th of June saying, “It is with a heavy heart that today we announce the postponement of PAX Australia 2020, due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 in Australia and globally. While we can’t move forward with PAX Aus 2020 in the way we normally would, we are finding new and exciting ways to connect you and the PAX community with your favourite content and creators. Stay Safe and be kind.”

(Full Statement Below)

PlayStation Pays Up, Freeplay and Gamer Grandma

Sony has been ordered to pay up $3.5 million after falsely advertising games to Australian customers

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that Sony customer service representatives told customers that Sony wasn’t required to refund digital currency if it had been longer than 14 days since the purchase. Every time a user would try to purchase a game on the PlayStation Store an email would be sent asking the user if they would like to “Top Up” their digital wallet. Little did they know that these funds added were “non-refundable”. This notification would pop up when a user would try to purchase a game but had insufficient funds. Chair Rod Sims of the ACCC has said, “Consumer guarantee rights do not expire after a digital product has been downloaded and certainly do not disappear after 14 days or any other arbitrary date claimed by a game store or developer.” Sony has admitted liability and is expected to pay the ACCC’s legal costs as well as the settlement of $3.5 million.

Hamako Mori is the Guinness World Record holder for the oldest gaming YouTuber

At 90 years old Gamer Grandma plays her way into the record books, every day for 3 hours or more she plays games like Call of Duty, Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto or NeiR Automata. She then shares her experience on YouTube for her more than 320,000 fans. Hamako says that she is really looking forward to getting the PlayStation 5 when it comes out. She also says, “you can do whatever you want in a game, games is what makes me motivated in life.” Congratulations Hamako on your world record.

Freeplay Independent Games Festival starts on the 10th of June

Freeplay is the world’s longest running independent games festival based in Melbourne and brings in the likes of many independent game developers. With so much on from public events, exhibitions, workshops, and awards the idea behind Freeplay is to bring all from within the games community and alike together to celebrate the artistry of indie development. This year is a bit different with everything being hosted online but if you’d like to look at what the schedule and the full details click here.

Itch.io have a Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality

This special deal features over 740 games with the value of over $3,000 for just $5 all in order to raise money to help support organizations that are working directly with those affected by racial injustice, inequality and police brutality against black people. All the money raised will be donated to NAACO Legal Defence and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund. If you are looking to support this cause or maybe you are a developer interesting in adding your project to the bundle click here.