Bobby Kotick Is Gone
The now-former CEO of Activision Blizzard has officially stepped down now that the 2023 year has ended and the acquisition by Microsoft proceeds. He won’t be the only executive-level employee leaving, with more expected to depart as the transition process develops. Otherwise, the leadership teams for Activision Publishing and Blizzard will remain in place.
The now-vacant CEO spot won’t be filled, and instead executives will report directly to Matt Booty, President of Microsoft Game Content and Studios.
Minecrafters, Grab Your Picks…
If you forgot that there was a Minecraft movie on the way, well, here’s your reminder. And now you also know that Jack Black, who has played Bowser in the Super Mario Bros. Movie, will be starring as the main man himself, Minecraft Steve. You may also know Jack Black from a few other films. The movie will be directed by Jared Hess, known for Nacho Libre, and Napoleon Dynamite.
Jason Momoa had reportedly been in negotiations to voice Minecraft Steve last year.
The Minecraft movie has been in development since 2014, while filming began in December 2023. It is scheduled to release in early April, 2025, meaning it will have been in development for 10-ish years. It hasn’t been the smoothest journey for the movie, as a few directors have dropped out, and the initial release date of May 24th, 2019 obviously not working out.
The Mouse Is OUT!
And a horror game has already been created within 24 hours of ‘Steamboat Willie’ entering the public domain. The game, called Infestation 88, has a terrifying depiction of the mouse hunting the player down in a spooky warehouse.
Disney is rather infamous for its heavy-handed approach to protecting its copyright, as the company has been reported to discourage a stonemason from carving Winnie-the-Pooh into a child’s gravestone. In fact, Steamboat Willie was initially set to enter the public domain in 1984, but the company lobbied US copyright laws to extend to “the life of the author plus 50 years”.
Now that the fated day has finally arrived, along with Infestation 88, a horror movie has been announced, as well as NFTs created, dubstep remixes mixed, and just generally making the mouse do things that Disney definitely wouldn’t approve of.
The 2023 Steam Awards
Let’s round up another round of awards! The Steam Awards is pretty straightforward, nominate your favourite games and then vote for them! Games also can’t win more than two categories.
Sit Back and Relax went to Dave the Diver, and the Labour of Love Award was granted to Red Dead Redemption 2.
Better With Friends went to Lethal Company, and Most Innovative Gameplay went to Starfield.
Outstanding Story-Rich Game and Game of the Year goes to Baldur’s Gate 3.
Some News Nibbles
Peanut Butter, a shiba inu, will be participating in Awesome Games Done Quick, a charity speedrunning event. He is probably the first dog to get into speedrunning video games, and he will be beating Gyromite in front of an audience.
The PlayStation 5 has officially passed 50 million units, managing to sell 10 million units in the latter half of 2023.
Square Enix has expressed a desire to apply AI technology ‘more aggressively’ to create ‘new forms of content’ for consumers, with Square Enix president, Takashi Kiryu stating “I believe that generative AI has the potential not only to reshape was we create, but also to fundamentally change the processes by which we create, including programming”.
And now for some upcoming game releases!
- War Hospital – PC, PS5, XBX
That’s it for game releases. You have a week to work through your backlog before games start getting released again.
This week Paul heads the Zed Games crew with Cam and Peter to talk the week in Gaming News reported by Maylee. The team then discuss the 2023 Gaming Awards, before Paul takes us on a walk on the wild side through the Irish countryside in Highland Song, and Tobi rounds it out with an obsessive look into the idle game Progress Knight.
So grab your walking sticks and auto clicking macros listen here or find us at your favourite podcast player.
This week the Zed Gamers goes wild, with Maylee talking Roblox in Gaming News, Caroline travels through bits, chips, and cosmic insanity with a review of WORLD OF HORROR (ALL CAPS), and Cameron gets convoluted in a remake/remix/rewind twisty twisted review of Air Twister.
Take-Two Talks Taking More
Last week saw GTA 6 developer Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick have a different take on gaming pricing. While gaming fans hold the game time to price value high, Zelnick wants to take that on board with future titles with a statement to investors saying
“In terms of pricing for any entertainment property, basically the algorithm is the value of the expected entertainment usage, which is to say the per hour value times the number of expected hours plus the terminal value that’s perceived by the customer in ownership, if the title is owned rather than rented or subscribed to.” While this does sound like a dollar per hour measurement, he has clarified the statement this week that this is not a linear relationship, but rather a statement on the value of games. And we can definitely trust the CEO of Take-Two, a company whose biggest earner is GTA Online.
Game Engine Gamemaker Goes Game Dev Friendly
In the wake of Game Publishers Unity and Epic calling for price “restructuring”, Gamemaker, a popular tool for creating 2D and 3D games, has released their new price point and bucked the recent trend. Because of the recent three-fold increase in active users since they joined the Opera family, instead of gouging the user base and changing from a monthly model to a per game install or price per hour played, Gamemaker is celebrating the explosion in users by announcing a new free option for non-commercial use with the ability to export their games to Windows, Mac, and Linux without paying any fees. They’ve also included their asset bundles for use in this free tier. Upgrading is also simple, want to monetise? $99.99USD. Want to put it on consoles? Well, that’s an Enterprise subscription. With games utilising this engine like Undertale, Webbed, Honey, I joined a Cult, and over 290 more listed in Gamemaker’s showcase, we can be sure to see a gamut of Indi games from this engine in the future.
Roblox Sued Over Child Safety
In the pandemic years Roblox saw a massive influx of underage users (over 60% of users are under 16 years of age) due to the social nature and declaration of safety for minors that the platform claims. The community guidelines claim that ““Roblox is a safe space for meeting online friends, chatting, and collaborating on creative projects.” And “If your child is under 13, we make it extremely difficult for strangers on Roblox to contact them.”
However, a group of parents have filed a civil action suit against Roblox for not meeting their end of the deal, with claims of grooming, sexual content, and the inability to monitor their children’s purchases due to Robux obscuring transaction worth.
Roblox Corp provided a statement to PCGAMER disputing the allegations and reinforced that the site was safe “for people of all ages.”
Now for some quick gaming bytes!
- Xbox is running a Bluey Sweepstakes to celebrate the upcoming release of Bluey the Videogame coming to PC and consoles. The winner will not only receive the game but also receive a custom Bluey Themed Xbox Series S and controller. Wackadoo!
The perfect way to play Bluey The Videogame: with a #Bluey Xbox!
— Xbox (@Xbox) November 17, 2023
- This week Half-Life turned 25 and celebrated by a going free for a limited time. Valve also released a special anniversary update for the game which included bug fixes, official Steam Deck support, multiplayer maps, and more.
Now it’s time for this week’s game releases!
Friday November 24, survive the post apocalypse in the side scroller shooter Evil Diary coming to PC and consoles.
Tuesday the 28th, take a train ride home through civil war in the RTS Last Train Home coming to PC.
On Wednesday the 29th, get stuck in time loops in puzzle/adventure game Orten Was The Case coming to PC and consoles.
And next week on the 30th, find yourself one cup at a time in Pixel Cafe coming to PC, Switch, and next gen consoles. Want to play FTL but as a roguelike with friends? Well, This Means Warp has you covered, coming to PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch.
Game Engine Dev News
After the backlash against Unity’s contentious plan to charge developers extra fees for each game installation as of last month, Unity is parting ways with CEO John Riccitiello. Riccitiello has stepped down as CEO, and all major seats at the Unity Table, effective immediately. Unity’s announcement of his near decade-long tenure ending rave about his contributions rather than his recent price gouging – sorry, I meant subscription model.
While the change in pricing structure from Unity was almost universally panned, it hasn’t stopped Epic from taking the idea on board with the announcement of a per-seat licensing fee for licensees in Film, TV, Automotive and other fields… but excluding the gaming industry. This would primarily affect studios using the technology for real-time CGI like Disney (The Mandalorian), Warner (The Batman), and HBO (Westworld), as well as small companies who primarily use the system for 3D animation (3rd World Studios). This price restructuring also comes after a recent layoff of nearly 900 employees. CEO Tim Sweeney has attributed these changes to recent financial difficulties at Epic Games, primarily due to the company’s heavy reliance on Fortnite’s revenue over the last 6 years.
CD Projekt Makes Headlines
CD Projekt have announced the cost of bringing Cyberpunk 2077 Update 2.0 to all platforms as well as the recently well received DLC Phantom Liberty totalled around $125.9 million dollars. That’s almost $200 million in Aussie dollar bucks.
In totally unrelated news also at CD Projekt, CD Projekt employees, along with others in the Polish video game industry, have formed a union in response to multiple rounds of layoffs at the studio in the last year (totalling around 170 lost jobs). The union’s goal is to improve workplace and industry standards with legal power and a stronger collective voice. The union aims to address these issues and protect the gaming industry’s potential by providing a stronger voice in times of crisis.
Hopefully this gives them the job security they need, unlike the Dragon Age: Dreadwolf QA unionised workers we reported on in June of 22 who have all been laid off in September. Bioware’s head of marketing, Liz Corless, said in an email this was due to “…the end of a fixed term client contract.” And according to a former employee Keywords Studio (their employer) has “…no more work available” while posting job vacancies for QA work. The union has filed a complaint against the studio this week.
Nintendo Formally Steps Away From The WiiU & 3DS.
Nintendo announced this week that they will formally be discontinuing the online support for the Wii U and 3DS in April of 2024. This will include all online play, ranking systems, and data distribution for all Nintendo titles. However, this does not include eShop support! You will still be able to update and redownload purchased software. And for you Pokéfans, the Pokémon bank and Poké Transporter will also continue to be supported until further notice.
And now for some upcoming games!
Friday October 13, get ready for Christmas with The Grinch: Christmas Adventures and Transformers: Earthspark – Expedition both coming to PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch.
Monday October 16, cozy hex strategy game Growth comes to PC.
Tuesday October 17, cyberpunk RPG Cyber Knights: Flashpoint comes to PC, or enjoy the roguelike autobattler Legend Creatures 2. Both coming to PC.
Oh and Sonic Superstars is also coming to everything the 17th as well.
Wednesday October 18 brings us Alaskan Road Truckers coming to PC.
And next week on Thursday October 19 comes a heap with The 7th Guest VR for PC VR, Quest and PSVR2. Agatha Christie – Murder on the Orient Express from developer Microids coming to PC and Consoles. Or how about you get your vehicle combat experience with Chaos on Wheels coming to PC. Pick up the twin stick shooter and tower defence game Endless Dungeon, coming to PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. Maybe battle for your sanity in the Lovecraftian horror Forgive Me Father 2 coming to PC. Or for a social experience, grab a friend to rob the rich to give to the poor in the co-op action game based in a Robin Hood world Gangs of Sherwood coming to PC and next gen consoles. Or shoot at your friends in the large scale, top down, multiplayer shooter Operation Valor coming to PC. Or just play a few games with them with The Jackbox Party Pack 10 coming to most platforms.
Video Games Fighting Sex Trafficking
A group of researchers from Texas, U.S.A. are utilising a federal grant to use a video game as a tool designed to extract data from the myriad of press releases and other datasets. Datasets that would normally be very inaccessible, and time consuming to sift through.
Instead, players of the game called “Dark Shadows” will be able to assist. How does it work? Players will get to act as an investigator for a fictional crime. As the player solves the crime and finds clues, actual human trafficking data will also be sorted by proxy. In time, the AI driving the program will learn to sort more effectively, and it is hoped that the algorithm may be able to make connections between various datasets for people to investigate.
GameStop’s Chairman Thinks GameStop Should Make Money
Ryan Cohen, chairman of GameStop, a major games retailer, has written a passionate email about the need to practise “extreme frugality”, and how “the company has no use for delegators and money wasters”, as the company continues to struggle.
GameStop has already initiated waves of layoffs in 2022, Ryan has already fired the CEO he himself picked, and the company has already tried NFTs and meme currency, so it’s not too clear what else could be done, however Ryan did finish his email with:
“I expect everyone to roll up their sleeves and work hard. I’m not getting paid, so I’m either going down with the ship or turning the company around. I much prefer the latter. It won’t be easy. Best of luck to us all.”
Who Is Crossing Over With Magic: The Gathering?
That’s right! Fans of both Doctor Who and Magic: The Gathering can look forward to five new cards, all themed around the good doctor and their timey-wimey adventures.These cards will be coming to the commander decks. Here’s what they’re called:
All of History, All at Once a Sorcery card.
Regenerations Restored, an Enchantment card.
Rory Williams, Legendary Creature – Human Soldier.
The Pandorica, a Legendary Artifact.
The Wedding of River Song, another Sorcery card.
Gaming Laptop Spotted In Court!
Donald Trump’s lawyer has been using what looks like an Asus laptop, complete with an underglow cycling from blue to orange, in court. There’s no point to this, it’s just a little funny to imagine.
And now for some upcoming games!
- Detective Pikachu Returns – Switch
- Sunshine Manor – PS4, XBO, Switch
- Sword Art Online Last Recollection – PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO
- Forza Motorsport – PC, XSX
- Lil Gator Game – PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO
- Roblox – PS4
- Wild Card Football – PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch
- The Front – PC
- Honkai Star Rail – PS5
- Total War: Pharaoh – PC
- Company of Heroes Collection – Switch
- Haunted House – PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch
Chillin’ out on Zed Games this week, Maylee, Caroline and Cameron talk the IP buyout trend in this weeks Gaming News discussion, Caroline dives deep into gameplay loops in a review of Dave the Diver, & Maylee tries to get to the relaxation station in Metro Mini.
Call of Duty Uses AI To Find Toxicity
Call of Duty is no stranger to less-than-pleasant behaviour from players, like many massively popular games with an online component. What is Activision doing now to combat it? Activision is now teaming up with Modulate, an AI program developed specifically to filter through voice chat in order to flag, and deal with, problematic behaviour.
It’s still in its early stages, with ToxMod, the tool being used, entering beta testing on North American servers. The tool is already used in a number of online games, but Call of Duty would certainly be a large task.
The program isn’t capable of banning players, but instead will monitor voice chat in real time, flag problematic behaviour depending on context, and then provide this information to moderators to take action. In theory, you can still cuss out your friends when they’re taking their sweet time getting to you, so players shouldn’t be worried about being boisterous.
The game developer company, Deep Silver Volition, developer of titles like Saints Row, and Red Faction, has closed its doors after 30 years of development. It hasn’t been a smooth journey for the company, with Volition’s Saints Row reboot facing negative criticism upon reveal. After a transfer from Embracer, and a multi-billion dollar deal collapsing, Volition has been shut down while Embracer goes through some pretty significant restructuring.
IPs including Saints Row and Red Faction will be transferred to another subsidiary, Plaion.
“For 30 years now you have played our games – sometimes you’ve loved them, sometimes you’ve been disappointed with them, but you’ve always been there… We can’t thank you enough for sticking with us throughout this time.” Volition says in a letter to its community.
Did you like that cat game that came out last year? The one where you’re a little kitty cat in a futuristic city populated by robots? Well, it’ll be hitting the big screen! Annapurna Animation, who developed the film Nimona, will be developing an animated film based off of the game.
“It’s a buddy comedy about a cat and a robot, and there’s such a hilarious dynamic. So, there’s comedy inherent in this, but there’s not one human being in this movie. I think it’s one of the reasons why the game was incredibly popular,” says Robert Baird, Annapurna Animation boss.
Annual Diablo Expansions
Blizzard will be releasing multiple expansions for Diablo IV on an annual basis, with each year being broken up into quarterly seasons, with long-term storylines promised.
This roadmap isn’t unusual for developers, to space out new content on a regular basis. The 11 year long gap between Diablo III and Diablo IV has also been cited as a reason, and it’s hoped that this approach will help rectify that.
Season 2, Season of Blood, has been announced as part of GamesCon opening night.
Arcane Season Two!
Season two of Arcane, the Netflix animated series based off of Riot Games’ League of Legends game, will be premiering in winter 2024 (or summer for us Aussies). Woohoo!
And now for some upcoming games!
- The Dragoness: Command of the Flame – Switch
- Toss! – PC VR, Quest, PSVR 2
- Fae Farm – PC, Switch
- NBA 2K24 – PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch
- Eternights – PC, PS5, PS4
- The Isle Tide Hotel – PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch
- Heretic’s Fork – PC
- Super Bomberman R 2 – PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch
- Ad Infinitum – PC, PS5, XSX
- AK-xolotl – PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch
- The Crew Motorfest – PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO
- Heavy Duty Challenge – PC, PS5, XSX
- Sugar Shack – PC
That’s it this week in gaming news!