This week Zed Games team with Maylee, Elliott, and Peter shakes up our expectations by talking this week in gaming news! Then Maylee challenges us in a review of Long Live the Queen, and the crew talks games that truly surprised us with their subversion.
PS5 Price Increase
This past week, Sony has announced that going forward, all PS5 consoles in Australia, Europe, the UK, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and parts of North America will experience a price increase. In Australia we’re looking at an increase of $50 per console, with the digital edition coming to $649.95 and the standard console increasing to a whopping $799.95. This is the first console to increase in price post-launch, and is a disappointment to those who still haven’t been able to get their hands on one since they came out in late 2020. Both Nintendo and Microsoft have made statements assuring consumers that they have no plans to increase their prices, despite the increased manufacturing costs.
Nintendo bans cheaters in Splatoon 3 before launch
Fans of the Nintendo shooter Splatoon were in for a treat on the 27th and 28th of August, with Nintendo hosting a Splatfest online, where players could download a demo of Splatoon 3 and play around online with an array of gear and weapons prior to the games launch on September 9th. Of course, this wasn’t enough for some players who downloaded a mod allowing them full access to an open testing lobby. Unfortunately for them, Nintendo already had their anti-cheat system in place and those consoles now have a full ban from Splatoon.
Future Games Show
On the 25th of August, the Future Games Show gave us a look at a stack of trailers for upcoming games. Snaccoon features a hungry raccoon in a world where snack foods have been banned, Edge of Sanity is a newly announced survival title set for PC, and Backfirewall is a tragedy/comedy set in the world of a smartphone! Alongside some new titles, we also got another look at some previously announced games, such as The new Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me, which was given a release date of November 18th 2022, and yet another trailer for the unreleased remake of System Shock, which still has no date.
Activision Blizzard’s Free-To-Play News
Earlier this month in an Overwatch press release, it was revealed that the new evolution would be going free-to-play to commit to “…an always-on and always-evolving era… for many years to come.” Since then it has been revealed that they will be going against the model announced at BlizzCon 2019, where Overwatch prime and Overwatch 2 could play together. Rather, that because the monetisation model will now be free-to-play, the release of Overwatch 2 on October 4 will replace Overwatch. The Overwatch development team have confirmed that “Content unlocked in Overwatch will automatically carry over…” and matchmaking ratings will not be reset.
In other news, the release of free-to-play Diablo Immortal in China, possibly its biggest market, has been delayed by NetEase at the last minute. It is speculated that this is not due to the newly found hidden mechanic of upgrading legendary gems pushing the average monetisation cost to max-upgrade a single character to over $500,000, but rather a Weibo post from Diablo Immortal’s official account which translates to “Why isn’t the bear stepping down…” This account has been banned from making further posts and hosting company NetEase could see further restrictions by the government which would affect other Blizzard titles distributed by NetEase in China such as Warcraft and Overwatch.
Minecraft gets the banhammer out
Microsoft has upgraded Minecraft server moderation powers with in-game chat reporting coming to Realms and private servers to Java Edition in the 1.19.1 update. Players will now be able to report in-game chat text for violations of Minecraft’s Community Standards from within private servers. These reports will be reviewed by moderators, who will have the power to ban accounts permanently from online play, and may expand to the marketplace and Minecraft Earth. Players may lose access to their own worlds, as per Bedrock-edition Xbox bans. Reviews of bans will be available with players able to submit a case review if the ban does not infringe on Minecraft’s Community Standards, invalidate the End User Licensing Agreement, or break the Terms and Conditions.
Nintendo Direct Mini goes Big
Nintendo had a Direct Mini Partner Showcase June 28 announcing several new games coming to the Switch in the next year. Some notable announcements were…
Return to Monkey Island is coming to Switch as a console exclusive. The highly praised and long awaited game from the original developer and writer Ron Gilbert, Return to Monkey Island was announced as “launching first for consoles on Nintendo Switch this year.” So, while no release date has been set, it sounds like Switch players will be first to walk the plank.
Persona 5 is finally coming to Switch. After being announced at the Microsoft and Bethesda Games Showcase this year as coming to PC, Xbox, and Game Pass October 21st with Persona 4 Golden and Persona 3 Portable coming in the future, Switch fans were feeling left out. But after rumours swirling around for years, it has finally happened. The Switch port for Persona 5 Royal has been confirmed to be releasing the same time as Xbox, leaving only those with a Steam Deck and Switch able to go portable with this JRPG.
Oh yeah, and Portal 1 & 2 are now out on Switch, so that’s also a thing that happened.
This week in game releases
On Thursday June 30 comes comedic adventure cross space combat game The Galactic Junkers to PC, Xbox One and PS4. The 30th is also day of the DLC’s, where Cuphead gets The Delicious Last Course for PC, Xbox One and Switch, Monster Hunter Rise gets Sunbreak for the Switch, and Outriders gets the Worldslayer “Upgrade” for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation.
And Friday July 1st the EA Sports Racing Sim F1 22 comes to PC, Xbox, and PlayStation. Also on the 1st, the 8-bit collection Parasite Pack containing 2D platformer Flea! and the grid-based challenge Tapeworm Disco Puzzle is coming to Xbox, PlayStation, and the Switch.
Sony & Lego invest $2 billion into Epic’s metaverse.
On April 7th Epic released a press statement announcing a partnership between LEGO Group and Epic Games. KIRKBI, the company behind LEGO, announced an investment of $1 billion into Epic for the purpose of creating an age-appropriate, safe digital environment to empower kids to become confident creators within Epic’s metaverse. Online journalists from IGN and Destructoid have speculated that this will be a creation space akin to Roblox, or at least a competitor to their market. Within a week of this, Sony revealed that they have also invested $1 billion into Epic’s metaverse vision, aiming to accelerate Epic’s vision to build spaces where players can be creative and thrive. Further statements on Epic’s plans for the metaverse, including release window and details, are expected later this year.
NFT Gaming News: F1 out, SEGA in.
In NFT news, Animoca Brands has been unable to renew it’s licence with Formula 1 leading to the shut down of one of the first official NFT powered racing game F1 Delta Time. After having the most expensive NFT trade in 2019 with a car in game trading for $100,000 and touting a “play to earn” gaming model, players are left with NFT’s that are now ostensibly worthless.
Players have been given the option to trade their NFTs into the REVV Racing on Polygon ecosystem for “equivalent cars… based on the rarity and power of [the] original” and other replacement tokens.
On the other side of the coin, SEGA has announced a 5 year plan to create a “SuperGame”. According to VP Shuji Utsumi, this would leverage triple A titles currently in development to “go beyond the traditional framework of games”. However, shortly after the announcement SEGA’s CEO CFO, and COO responded with hesitancy, asserting that should players not want NFTs or Play to earn strategies, they would back off the technology.
Aussie wins at the BAFTA.
On April 7th, the 18th BAFTA Games Awards 2022 took place at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and streamed online, opening with a classical remix of Manic Miner and Greig’s In the Hall of the Mountain King. This year’s BAFTA Games Award honoured Aussies with several awards for gaming excellence with Artful Escape being awarded for its Artistic Achievement, and Unpacking being celebrated for its narrative and awarded the publicly voted for, and corporately sponsored, EE Game of The Year.
Other games that received several awards were: It Takes Two, taking home the awards for Original Property and Multiplayer, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, taking both Animation and Technical Achievement awards. The most awarded game of this year’s BAFTA Game Awards, Returnal which was awarded Best Game, Music, and Audio Achievement.
Now for some game releases
On April 14th atmospheric physics-destruction building game Abriss is coming to PC, Cat Cafe Manager that Zahra will be reviewing next week is coming to PC and Switch, and remasters for Bush Hockey League and Tormented Souls are coming to the Switch. Taito Milestones, a collection of Taito’s arcade legacy, also comes to switch on April 15th.
Jumping forward, on April 20th , the action, rogue-lite Ember Knights comes to early access on Steam, and the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed remaster comes to Switch. And on April 21st, coming to PC, why not make aliens soylent green meals in Godlike Burger, try the logic puzzling automation game, Velone, or wrestle with morality in a dark comedy in Trolley Problem, Inc, from The Yogscast. Coming to PC, Xbox, and Switch, the retro-inspired 2D Action RPG Anuchard. And lastly in Lumote: The Mastermote Chronicles, become a squishy bioluminescent creature solving 3D puzzles, coming to the PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.
It’s Time To Vote For GDCA
Online voting is now open for the 2022 Game Developers Choice Awards and the Independent Games Festival Awards. You have until Friday, February 11th at 5.59pm AEST to submit your vote.
All finalists are eligible for the awards, and casting your vote can determine the winning games, with the winners being announced at the Game Developers Conference in March.
Local game Unpacking by Witch Beam is on the finalist list for GDCA and Unpacking and another local game, Webbed by Sbug Games are both on the list for IGF. These games join the ranks with Sable by Shedworks, Halo Infinite by 343 Industries, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart by Insomniac Games, and so much more.
You can check out our Facebook page @ZedGamesAu for links to vote!
Sony Buys Bungie With More Acquisitions On The Way
Sony has announced a deal to acquire Bungie for $3.6 billion, making it yet another large consolidation deal in the games industry. Bungie will be ‘an independent subsidiary’ of Sony Interactive Entertainment, and will remain a multiplatform studio. They promise that Bungie will have the option to self-publish and reach players wherever they choose to play, which may come as a relief to current players who have already had to migrate their accounts in the past.
But Sony isn’t stopping there! Jim Ryan has said that we should expect more studio acquisitions in the future, with Sony aiming to expand beyond the PlayStation console, although the timing of the Bungie acquisition has many suggesting it is in response to Microsoft’s recent acquisitions of Activision, although the Bungie deal has been in the works for over 5 months.
New York Times Now Has Wordle
The popular word game that has taken the internet by storm has been acquired by the New York Times for an undisclosed price in ‘the low seven figures’. Wordle’s creator, Josh Wardle, says the game will continue to be free to play, however the New York Times statement seems to imply otherwise, stating that Wordle will “initially remain free to new and existing players”.
The New York Times does promise that Wordle will have an interesting future ahead, with a team of designers and engineers to further the user experience.
It’s unclear exactly what this means at this point, but many are cautious for the future of this little world game.
Ubisoft Complains That Players Don’t Get NFTs
After Ubisoft announced Quartz in December 2021, an NFT platform that would allow players to buy and sell virtual goods for real-world cash, they had been met with a wave of concern as to the potential environmental impact such a platform could cause, and what NFTs in video games actually mean for players.
The publisher answers critics by explaining that Quartz would use the Tezos blockchain to circumvent the energy-hungry algorithms, so that a single transaction would use roughly the same amount of energy as a video stream. However, this hasn’t stopped criticism, with many asking ‘what’s the point?’.
“I think gamers don’t get what a digital secondary market can bring to them. For now, because of the current situation and context of NFTs, gamers really believe it’s first destroying the planet, and second just a tool for speculation”, said Nicolar Pouard, VP at Ubisoft’s Strategic Innovations Lab.
“But what we [at Ubisoft] are seeing first is the end game. The end game is about giving players the opportunity to resell their items once they’re finished with them or they’re finished playing the game itself. So, it’s really for them. It’s really beneficial. But they don’t get it for now.”
And now for some upcoming game releases!
- Cheftastic!: Buffet Blast (PC)
- Dying Light 2 Stay Human (PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO)
- Apex Legends: Defiance (PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch)
- Model Builder (PC)
- OlliOlli World (PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch)
- Rumbleverse (PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO)
- Sifu (PC, PS5, PS4)
- Unbound: Worlds Apart (PS5, PS4)
With big brands like Nike and Adidas jumping on Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs, it would seem like a mistake for game developers not to do the same. However, Ubisoft’s experimental NFT sales for Ghost Recon Breakpoint appear to have sold just 15 NFTs since their release on the 9th of December.
Jumping on this bandwagon, GSC Game World, developer of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl, announced on the 15th of December their intention to introduce NFTs via auction in January of 2022 and later. These NFTs would range from “genesis” collectables to the rights to be scanned using photogrammetry and inserted into the game as an NPC “metahuman”. Within 24 hours after the publication went live, GSC Game World was hit with community backlash and responded with a tweet saying, “Based on the feedback we received, we’ve made a decision to cancel anything NFT-related in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.” but not before doubling down in a now deleted tweet attempting to reason with the community.
It must be noted that in the third quarter of 2021, NFT games such as Sky Mavis’ Axis Infinity reportedly generated about 2.32 billion US dollars in revenue, paving the way as further incentive for future developers to integrate NFTs into games.
In an unprecedented year for games, Hades now sits alongside Oscar-winning Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond’s Colette for being the first game to win a prestigious industry award in 2021.
In this year’s Hugo Awards, the World Science Fiction Society used its bylaws to create the one-off 2021 Best Video Game award. Many games were nominated with Spiritfarer from Thunder Lotus Games and Animal Crossing: New Horizons from Nintendo coming runners-up to the award winner Hades from Super Giant Games. While Super Giant Games were unable to be there, Greg Kasavin, Creative Director and Writer of Hades had the following to say on twitter.
Wish I could have attended the #HugoAwards in person. I wasn’t able to make an acceptance speech there on behalf of the team though did have a few words here. I’m grateful that the awards are recognizing work in this category, much less the work we did! pic.twitter.com/S9bfSp1i8H
— Greg Kasavin (@kasavin) December 19, 2021
“We are incredibly honoured to be the first-ever recipient of a Hugo award in the category of best video game. We, myself included, grew up experiencing these classic works of science fiction and fantasy, from Ursula K. Le Guin to Philip K. Dick, what have you. That’s when we first came across the Hugo Awards name, of course, as kids.
“To have earned this distinction all this time later, especially alongside such an incredible slate of nominees, games of all shapes and sizes, from teams big and small, it really means the world.”
Keep an eye out in the future as there are rumours floating around online that this gaming category may become an annual Hugo event.
Now for some Gaming Bytes:
HowLongToBeat’s stat breakdown of game releases in 2021 show that Resident Evil Village is the most completed game this year with 2.6 thousand completions of the game so far narrowly beating Metroid Dread with 2.2 thousand completions.
CD Projekt Settles
CD Projekt has settled with suing investors over the release of Cyberpunk 2077 to the tune of 1.85 million US Dollars. The lawsuit accused CD Projekt of misleading investors over the release quality of the game and suing for damages incurred by this.
North America Unionises
North America finally has its first ever video game studio union, formed at the Vodeo Games Studio, developers of Beast Breaker that released for PC, Mac, and Switch this year. The Vodeo Workers United union formed to protect independent contracted workers and salaried staff to maintain a fair and equitable workforce and lock in some of the perks they love… like the 4-day work week they currently enjoy.
Sony Faceplates Finally
After exerting legal pressure to stop the creation of personalised faceplates for the PS5 late 2020 and more recently against dbrand in October of this year, Sony has finally released their own personalised faceplates with 5 different colour offerings of Midnight Black, Cosmic Red, Nova Pink, Starlight Blue, and Galactic Purple.
Now in upcoming games:
On the 23rd of December the 3D platformer puzzler Scarf released by Uprising Studios has you forming an unbreakable bond with your dragon who is also your scarf on PC and Stadia. Teratopia and Tunnel of Doom are releasing their Switch ports on the 23rd.
On the 24th Tunnel of Doom is also porting to the Xbox One and releasing on the 28th of December, the Switch port of Lacuna.
In this weeks action packed episode Zahra takes Monster Harvest round the back of the shed, while Ezie and Elliot rip into Free Guy.
Nintendo’s Direct Announcement
This week’s Nintendo direct announced a stack of new Animal Crossing content coming in the free 2.0 update. Long awaited Brewster will be serving coffee at the Roost, new boat tours with Kapp’n, Cooking, Farming, Gyroids and so much more. However, with some of the content spoiled by datamining as early as 16 months ago, the announcement has left some gamers jaded.
In the same direct, Nintendo announced the Animal Crossing Happy Home Paradise DLC, and its inclusion in the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. While the DLC includes long awaited jobs for Animal Crossing it also carries the Nintendo 64 and Sega Gensis emulation and libraries including the games; Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Banjo-Kazooie, Ecco the Dolphin, Streets of Rage 2, and Sonic 2, to name but a few. Later that same day, the pricing of the Expansion pack was released with it costing at least another $30 on top of the current yearly subscription plan. The video announcing this is currently the most down voted video on the official Nintendo YouTube channel with over 80 thousand dislikes at the time of writing.
In other Sega news, with last month’s closure of the legendary Ikebukuro Sega store after three decades of operation, it was rumoured to mark “the beginning of the end of the golden age of arcade gaming.” However, on October 16 Sega announced via twitter the opening of a new Ikebukuro store to open Friday October 22nd and teased more surprises to come.
In further console news, a report from Hub Entertainment Research shows more people than ever owning both a PlayStation and Xbox with over a third of respondents reporting to own both. And for those searching for one of the consoles, Sony has created an online lottery for those still clamouring to buy a PS5 in the US. By registering their PSN account through Sony they can choose to elect either the standard or digital edition. Sony will then allocate available stock through quoted “previous interests and PlayStation activities” and will inform people via email when their console is available for purchase.
For those waiting for an Xbox Series X or Xbox Minifridge, sadly you’re out of luck with US, UK and Europe selling out of the fridge within 30 minutes of release and the Xbox Series X still hard to find in Australia except through scalpers on eBay.
New Home for NFT Based Games.
On October 15th Age of Rust developer SpacePirate announced that Steam was “kicking *all blockchain games* off the platform, including Age of Rust…” due to Valve extending the policy to ban games with items with real world monetary value to include NFTs. While Valve has not made an official statement, Steamworks onboarding Rules and Guidelines have been updated, now stating that “Applications built on blockchain technology that issue or allow exchange of cryptocurrencies or NFTs.” should not be published on Steam
Epic Games’s Tim Sweeny announced the next day via Twitter that the Epic Games Store would allow NFT titles but not cryptocurrencies with the caveat that they will follow relevant laws, disclose their terms, are age-rated appropriately, and use their own systems to process payments.
Accreditation and Unionisation.
The long-awaited Metroid Dread’s release has been marred by developer MercurySteam refusing to credit employees who worked on the project for less than 25% of the games development time. MercurySteam stated that those who “had significant creative and/or technical contributions” were credited even when they did not meet the 25% minimum. Other developers have faced similar criticism with Ubisoft relegating former Far Cry 6 devs to the “special thanks” section of the credits.
In other business news, Paizo, publisher of the Pathfinder series, a popular tabletop paper and pencil RPG, have had over 30 of their employees form the United Paizo Workers union after the firing of Sara Marie for “undisclosed reasons”. After the fallout, Paizo president Jeff Alvarez, promised vague improvements. The union’s press release claims coverups “by those at the top”, that workers are underpaid, and “subjected to untenable crunch conditions on a regular basis.” The union urges management to voluntarily recognise the union as it “…pushes (sic) for real changes at the company.”
Now for some upcoming games!
On Thursday the 21st, try the 2D biopunk point and click Growbot, or travel the sand seas of Sands of Aura, both coming to PC. Also, Resident Evil 4 VR is coming to Oculus Quest 2, and the Victorian puzzle platformer Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is coming to PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch.
The third in The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes comes to PC, PlayStation, and Xbox on the 22nd.
On Tuesday the 26th, release your inner necromancer in the roguelike The Unliving or the antique restorer within in Workshop Simulator, both coming to PC. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy also comes out on the same day for PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch.
And finally on Thursday the 28th Age of Empires 4 is coming to PC and GamePass, the fifth of the Fatal Frame series Maiden of Black Water comes to the PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch, and the extreme multiplayer sports game Riders Republic comes to PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Stadia.
In Community Announcements:
Springfield Gamers are organising an event to encourage veterans, serving personnel and their families to check out gaming as a hobby. They are a face-to-face gaming club for gamers of board games, tabletop games and roleplaying games.
The event is free for general admission, with a range of demo games like Kings of War, and Gaslands, a board games library, and tournaments of Warhammer 40k, Flames of War & Teamy Yankee happening alongside modelling tutorials. The event will be taking place Saturday October 23rd from 9am to 5pm at the YMCA Springfield Central. Click here for more info or to head over to their Facebook page.
This week Paul takes over Zed Games. Together with Zahra they discuss the news and Firmware updates, then Zahra takes over the helm reviewing Black Skylands before Paul traps us with a review of Webbed.
Sony Lawsuits & PlayStation 5 Shortages
A group of gamers is gearing up to file a lawsuit against Sony this week, arguing that the company runs an unlawful monopoly that limits where players are able to purchase digital copies of PlayStation games to only Sony online stores. This group has said that Sony’s monopoly on digital games means, “they are allowed to charge supercompetitive prices for digital PlayStation games, that are significantly higher than their physical counterparts sold in a competitive retail market.” This lawsuit is designed to hopefully encourage Sony to create a more consumer friendly environment by suggesting a more competitive retail market that doesn’t result in players paying up to 175 percent more for digital games.
Sony are also expecting massive PlayStation 5 shortages that is predicted to last into 2022. Sony have been having some supply issues that don’t have an end in sight. According to Sony’s CFO Hiroki Totoki said, “If we secure a lot more devices and produce many more units, our supply wouldn’t be able to catch up with demand.” Despite supply shortages Sony has sold more than 7.8 million units since November last year. Similar to Sony, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and S are also struggling with supply constraints until after June 20th this year.
Filmmaker claims Capcom took Designs for Resident Evil Village
Filmmaker Richard Raaphorst who directed a horror film Frankenstein’s Army in 2013 has shared online a comparison of images from his movie and Resident Evil Village’s character designs. Many fans of the horror film continue to find similarities. Raaphorst said, “It’s a crazy monster movie filled with my own creature designs, one of which has been used – completely without authorization or credit in the newest Resident Evil game.” For now, there doesn’t appear to be any legal action from Raaphorst just that he wished they’d given him credit. If you’d like to take a look at the images (SPOLIER WARNING) click here.
E3 2021 is coming up fast
Starting on June 12th and running for three days until the 15th E3 Expo is only a month away. Coronavirus has had a massive impact of industry events however hopeful we are that they will return soon we still have a way to go and because of this, E3 2021 will be embracing all the virtual technology it can to bring us closer to the exhibitors this year. There are some big game announcements to come that are currently kept secret as well as more sneak peaks into big releases such as Halo: Infinite, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, Starfield, Final Fantasy 16, a potentially new Sonic game, not to mention the anticipation for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. If you’d like to get updates on what’s happening as well as where everything is to be streamed head over to www.e3expo.com to sign up, it’s totally free.
Game Releases this week:
May 13th: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids comes out on all platforms
May 14th: Famicom Detective Club (Nintendo Switch), Mass Effect Legendary Edition (PC, PS4, XBO), Quantum Replica (PS4, XBO, Switch), Subnautica (Switch), Subnautica: Below Zero (PS4 & 5, XSX, XBO, Switch).
May 18th: Leisure Suit Larry – Wet Dreams Dry Twice (PS4, XBO, Switch)