02:21 – Super Mario Rumors
04:31 – Bonus Payments at Gearbox
07:47 – Data Insecurity Allegations against House Party
09:41 – BAFTA Award 2020 Winners
10:50 – Niantic buys 6d.ai
12:28 – Cross-play in Jedi Academy gets console player Younglings murdered by PC Jedi
13:17 – Nintendo sued by Gamevice
14:00 – Wargaming sues Blitz Team
14:51 – Atari Gamebox sues Tin Giant
Corona News Round-Up I
16:37 – Event Cancellations or Delays
20:55 – Postponed Games
24:43 – Covid-19 as a constant work issue : Kojima Productions / Chinese industry ramps up again / Wyrmwood Gaming https://youtu.be/cKRHOwS9g7A
26:33 – Covid-19 vs Retail
30:26 – Internet Traffic Reductions
32:17 – New Games: PlatinumGames, Biped, Windbound, Going Under, Bounday, John Wick Hex, Nier: Replicant remaster, The Outer World (Switch), Sea of Thieves (Steam)
34:23 – Twitch introduces Mod View
34:45 – Activision vs. CoD Warzone Cheater
35:18 – Horizon: Zero Dawn: The Comicbook
35:34 – Ryan Reynolds enters Dragon’s Lair
36:00 – Techroundup Required Reading
36:22 – Kalypso Media & Koch Media, New Studio
37:16 – April Fools’ Round-Up
Corona News Round-Up II
39:29 – Streaming surges / Sales surge / Player counts surge
41:44 – #PlayApartTogether
42:42 – Deals / Sales / Free Stuff
46:10 – Fundraising Efforts
47:10 – Folding@Home
48:04 – Games that have changed: Animal Crossing / Ringfit Adventure / Persona 5 Royal / Pokémon Go / Board Games
51:42 – Outro / What If I joined Kinda Funny
Hello and welcome my friends from all over the world.
My name is Kai. You can also call me Arvel or Arvel Crynyd as I am known throughout the internet. Two years ago I’ve been trying to push my own YouTube channel with a more news oriented program called The Nerdesschau which eventually evolved into The Gamingschau. Here in Germany we have a news show at 8 o’clock called Tagesschau in the evening that collects all the necessary news items of the day and I thought, I could do this for gaming. Well, it wasn’t that successful to be honest and I did it for a couple of months. However, with the Corona virus outside and having been subject to short time work, I have some additional time available to try out some things again. And yeah, I’m bored as well.
Another thing was the Kinda Funny Up and Comer program that’s going around the internet since the start of Kinda Funny Games 4.0 at the beginning of 2020. Actually, I won’t be participating to put it bluntly. But I’ve been thinking, what if I would actually join Kinda Funny and do a Gaming News show, what would it look like. I have been doing this kind of format only in German before and this one-off pilot show is just an experiment of how my old former show would look like in English. Or sound like. And I hope you’ll enjoy it. Or at least put you to sleep.
This show was always meant to be less of an influencer but more of an explaining show with some research being done on the topics as well as topical grouping. And I’m trying not just to focus on a single particular issue, but sometimes on a wider topic in general. We will be discussing several big topics of the week, some smaller news items and of course a huge section of the show that is dealing with the changes and blows that occur during this Corona crisis. You will find the script for the script some time in the next couple of days on my blog together with a big ass of links (it’s like 4 pages long…) So without further ado let’s get to our topics of the last week
Super Mario Rumors
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the release of the original Super Mario Bros game on the old NES. Nintendo has been known in the last couple of years to celebrate those round anniversaries to some extent. The re-release of Super Mario All-Stars on the Wii was part of the 25th anniversary celebrations in 2010, while the first Mario Maker was the big highlight of the 30th anniversay in 2015, so in general it’s only natural that Nintendo would do something similar for the 35th anniversay as well. The first report on the line-up for this year’s celebration event was published by videogameschronicle that later got supported by additional sources by eurogamer. The report states that Nintendo was planning to have their E3 presence to be focussed mainly on the Super Mario franchise with several remastered games, information about the upcoming Mario movie by Illumination Entertainment, the Universal Studios theme park attractions and a new Paper Mario game. Those remasters for the Switch could potentially include Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy and a Deluxe version of Super Mario 3D World upgraded with additional content and levels. Other resources also mention those games being bundled into a Super Mario All-Stars Collection for the 3D Mario games and Super Mario 3D World being a stand-alone Deluxe version of the game, similar to previous deluxe versions of Mario Kart 8 or New Super Mario Bros. U. With this line-up Nintendo would be close to having ported all of the major console adventures of the Super Mario franchise on the Switch with only Super Mario All-Stars and New Super Mario Bros Wii missing, and thus making the Switch the ultimate Super Mario machine of all-time. But let’s wait and see if Nintendo makes these rumors official in an upcoming presentation. I could bet that they would be putting these things in a big Nintendo Direct within the next two or three months.
Bonus payments at Gearbox
According to an article by Jason Schreier from Kotaku, employees at the Borderlands 3 studio Gearbox are not amused about recent comments from the company management, in particular the studio’s CEO Randy Pitchford because expected bonus payments will be significantly lower than many employees expected. In general, Gearbox lets its employees participate on the success of the company with a bonus system. While some reports mention a below-average salary compared to average salaries in the video game industry, this is supposedly compensated by splitting profits that the company earns with a 60/40 relation. 60 per cent remain within the company, while the other 40 per cent is distributed amongst the employees. Those within the company that have been working for the Borderlands developer for a longer period of time, are getting a bigger piece of the pie as well. However, Gearbox hasn’t had big hits in the last couple of years with flops such as Aliens: Colonial Marines or Battleborn, so the overall bonus payments throughout the last years had been rather small. With the success of the new Borderlands game last year, several employees had been promised a big bonus in up to six-figure-regions. According to multiple sources that wanted to remain anonymous, during a meeting in the last week however, Randy Pitchford told other employees that these bonus payments were lower than expected. Supposedly reasons for this reduced bonus payment were higher development costs, graphics engine changed in mid-development and larger company growth. Allegedly, Randy Pitchford also mentioned to his employees that they could quit the company if they wouldn’t like that reduced bonus payment.
In a statement to kotaku, which is the news site that broke that news item, Gearbox ignored to comment on the actual allegation and praised the royalty bonus system that would pay out the studio talent for the first profits since Borderlands 3 has become profitable.
In general, bonus payments are always a subject for mistrust within a company, because employees are in general not in the position to participate in company earnings. There are lots of different models in various industries that let the employees earn additional bonusses, for example company shares, unionised tariff-based bonusses or for helping the company with new IP or suggesting new employees. But in this case, employees have been misled in the past such that some have already made plans for buying new cars or buying houses with those bonusses. For me personally, this is a sign of bad internal communication within the company or a bad recognition for the work of employees. I think it would have been totally understandable if one of the execs would have said that „Due to the current financial situation, we are considering to post-pone payments of bonusses up to certain scale“ and would shift this to a later date. Anyone would understand this in our current world-wide situation. But those statements may lead to a situation where a big chunk of the company start to think about quitting the company for real.
House Party under Fire
Epic Games’s chat application Houseparty has been made subject of several severe accusations against it’s security and integrity. Houseparty started off as a video chat software at the Epic Games Store in late 2018. Think of it as a Zoom meeting app, but with at most 8 users joining a chat room and they play small games in it. In mid 2019, Epic Games bought Houseparty for an undisclosed sum. Now, in the midst of Corona crisis, more and more users start to find the app and try it out for the first time. Then, several users reported hacked accounts for their Netflix, Spotify accounts or even credit cards. Several users then tried to frame it as if Houseparty was responsible for the data breaches and published those accusations throughout the internet over social media. Houseparty then assumed a „Paid commercial smear campaign“ and offers a „1 million dollar bounty for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign“. Security experts are hesitant towards any statements for or against the app as actual proof against Houseparty’s supposed wrong-doing is non-existant so far. Maybe it was some other app that was installed recently or did someone click a strange email, is the general consensus. But to be honest, why would a company of the size of Epic Games, a multi-billion company invest in a company that supposedly uses criminal programming? This doesn’t make sense and would open up the question why they wouldn’t use this kind of software in other apps or games… like Fortnite.
Before we now jump into the big Covid-19-related news items, we’re going to have a look at some of the smaller news items this week.
BAFTA Games Awards
Due to the current Covid-19-crisis, standard award celebrations can no longer be done as a big event, so for this year, the entire award was presented by Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain who was streaming directly from his living home while some of the guests and winners were shown via Zoom. Overall, Outer Wilds and Disco Elysium were the winner of the evening with each of them winning 3 awards, which included for Outer Wilds the win for the Best game award. Other games that won at least once were Path of Exile, Untitled Goose Game, Call of Duty: Mobile, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Observation, Ape Out, Apex Legends, Kind words (lo fi chill beats to write to), Death Stranding and additional awards for voice talents for Martti Suosalo in Control and Gonzalo Martin in Life is Strange 2.
Niantic buys 6d.ai
Pokémon Go has bought yet another company. This time it’s a startup company called 6D.ai that has been specialising on 3D mapping. 6D.ai has been developing several tools to create 3D models of environments from several off-the-shelf-smartphones. Think of it as several people walk around with their smartphones, each of them generate a 3D model that is being combined and stitched together in the cloud. Now this company has officially joined a large group of other start-up and gaming companies such as Escher reality, Sensible Object, Marvel Strike Force developer Seismic Games and Matrix Mill. Niantic has often shown their future ideas for augmented reality that include machine learning to classify detected objects, to use the 3D maps to generate occluding AR objects that interact with real-world objects and a planet-scale approach for their Augmented reality applications.
On a personal note, when I was writing this news item, I somehow ended up on Niantic’s careers page and let’s just say I was impressed about how specific the job description was concerning the use of non-linear least squares problems with sparse Jacobians and the Levenberg-Marquardt optimization algorithm. And for some reason I was thinking back of the old days at the university when I tried to teach this stuff to the kids and maybe now go and work for Niantic…
EXECUTE ORDER 66
Some kind of error happened in the recently released game Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. Technically it’s a good thing that for some reason this game is able to cross-play from the start. But it’s not a good thing for new players with the console version on PS4 or Switch, because PC gamers become actual Jedis with this game while PS4 or Switch players are like Younglings in Episode III for those PC Jedi. Aspyr Media already announced a patch that is going to deal with this issue, but until then, it’s Execute Order 66 if any PC player joins their game.
Coming up next are three more legal topics…
All good things come in threes
… or bad things in this case for Nintendo. The gaming peripheral manufacturer Gamevice filed a third lawsuit against Nintendo. As their main product is a detachable controller for smart phones that introduces D-Pads, thumbsticks and the usual A,B,X,Y buttons, they seem to believe that Nintendo’s Switch console and their JoyCons violate their patent. Their original patent sounds quite general for this kind of technology, however they seem to want to invoke import bans on Switch consoles. As the first lawsuit was dismissed in 2017, they only recently tried to repeal the second infringement lawsuit, while now introducing another. Let’s see what will happen here.
Wargaming vs. Blitz Team
Another lawsuit is currently brewing in Belarus between the maker of the World of Tanks series wargaming.net and the small startup company Blitz Team for violation of trademarks. This is a little more spicy, if you consider the fact that this company called Blitz Team consists mainly of former team members of wargaming.net that were developing the World of Tanks Blitz series and already called themselves internally Blitz Team during the production of the game. At some point, the management team left the company and started their own company named Blitz Team. According to a statement to gamesindustry.biz, wargaming.net has been issuing at least 8 lawsuits against Blitz Team since 2018.
Tin Giant vs. Atari
Theoretically, Atari Gamebox’s VCS should have been in stores in March. But there have been things brewing behind the scenes of the concept since the latter half of last year. The system for the kickstarter funded retro console was supposed to be designed by former Xbox system architect Rob Wyatt. While the console was supposed to be developed in a very tight timeline, it seems that Atari Gamebox was supposedly not paying salaries of up to 260000 US dollars. The lawsuit also contains a defamation suit because supposedly employees from Atari Gamebox put the blame on the VCS’s delay onto Rob Wyatt and his company. On the other hand, Wyatt puts the blame back and mentions mismanagement of the project. The truth may lie somewhere in the middle. In another turn of events, Atari actually managed to gather enough parts by the end of March to build the first 500 units after the closure of Chinese factories led to another delay in the production timeline.
This concludes the Law and Order section of today’s show and I think we are ready for the first part of our major topic for today: The influence of Covid-19 towards the gaming industry and things close to it. In general, in those strange days where most of us live in a self-isolation state, it seems like every news item about this virus seems to be negative, but there are also quite good news as well. But in this first section we will focus first on the more negative parts of this global pandemic.
Covid-19: The Bad News
Delays and Cancellations
Ever since the Coronavirus started to spread out into the US and Europe by the end of January and mid-February the first ramifications were visible during PAX East in Boston in the end of February when most of the companies cancelled their scheduled appearances. While PAX East was still happening, March’s GDC event in San Francisco was cancelled entirely and is now supposed to take place in August… if Covid-19 is no longer an issue by then… which I honestly believe will not be the case. Because up until then, many other events have been cancelled, shifted or will become online-only. Here’s a round-up:
- E3 in June has been cancelled already some time ago, but several companies had been shifting towards parallel keynote events either before or during E3. Bethesda’s Pete Hines announced via Twitter that they will not be doing a digital presentation as an E3 replacement. Furthermore, they also cancelled the upcoming 25th QuakeCon in Texas that was supposed to be in early August.
- Apex Legends events that were supposed to be live events in April and May have been switched to online-only events under the Stay and Play initiative that EA launched. More on this later.
- Amazon Prime Video is planning to do a virtual South-by-SouthWest festival after the original event in mid-March was cancelled by the Mayor of Austin, Texas. Film makers may opt in to stream their movies on the streaming platform
- Finally, the student showcase USC Games Expo that was supposed to take place in May will now be online only.
- Combo Breaker, which is a big fighting game tournament that previously held several competetive events for Tekken 7, Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate got completely cancelled without a replacement for the event that was scheduled for May.
- Similarly, Pokémon Championships in Columbus, Ohio in June and in London in August got cancelled without a replacement as well.
- The Summer Games Done Quick event that was supposed to happen by the end of June got shifted to mid-August and additionally an online-only stream marathon will happen from April 17th – April 19th with donations going directly to a humanitarian organisation.
- Also, July’s RTX Austin event got shifted to Labor Day weekend in September.
Looking at those shifts and cancellations, it seems like that the end of July / beginning of August is the current sweet spot for most of the shifts or cancellations. So far, there are two big question marks still remaining, Comic Con in July and Gamescom in August. Even though Gamescom started selling tickets to the event already on the same day, E3 got cancelled, it seems likely that Gamescom will still take place. Even if it will only be an online-only event. Geoff Keighley’s Gamescom: Opening Night Live Event was already considered to be an online-only event. Current plan is to wait until May to re-evaluate the situation and decide then. Up until then, some of the halls that are usually used for Gamescom might see a similar use-case as the Excel convention center in London that is currently transformed into a large mobile hospital. Currently, Hall 8 of Kölnmesse is considered to become a mobile hospital as well. Cologne is currently also one of the major hotspots for Covid-19 cases in Germany. On a more positive note, on Sunday, the Entertainment Software Association ESA confirmed the 2021 dates for the rebirth of the E3 conference. If nothing goes wrong and all is well in about a year from now, you can all go to LA from June 15 up until June 17th.
However not only events are being cancelled or shifted. Disruptions in the production chains are also problematic for a variety of game releases as well. One of the first games to be pushed back was Fast & Furious Crossroads in mid-March which was initially tacked on the release of the newest movie release of the Fast & Furious franchise. Since this movie has been shifted to next year, the developers may have some additional time to polish the game a little more. IndieGame SkateBIRD got shifted to 2021 but not due to Covid-19 but because the game development seems to be more complex than initially expected. Then, last week inXile entertainment shifted the release for Wasteland 3 back to August 28th from the initial planned date of May 19th. Next on the list is Minecraft Dungeons that was supposed to launch this month but will now be released on May 26th, in order to keep programmers safe from Covid-19.
According to The New York Times, Amazon was planning to start their own cloud gaming streaming platform, code-named Project Tempo, some time in 2020. Due to the disruptions of the current crisis, it seems likely that this project is shifted to 2021 as well. However, Amazon might ship two games in May, one is a science-fiction shooter game called Crucible and an MMO named New World which takes place in an alternate-universe 17th Century. But let’s wait and see about those games if they will release those by next month.
Then, Sony dropped a bomb on Thursday when they delayed the promising Iron Man VR and The Last of Us 2, both of which were planned to be released in May. The thing is striking here is the fact that The Last of Us Part II is nearly finished and ready to go. The messages of Sony Interactive Entertainment and Naughty Dog that were published via Twitter seem to hint at logistical issues in the production chain and final delivery that would hinder them to ensure a best experience for everyone. Whatever that means. It’s also strange that they also delay the game indefinitely. At that point I would like to know how many people like to buy this game digital only or in retail. Because if the game was completely finished, then they could release it digital only for the time being until logistics are back on track. But that’s just my small uninformed opinion. But it will be interesting if Ghost of Tsushima will have a similar fate soon as this game is scheduled only a few weeks later than the initial release date of The Last of Us Part II. But according to PlayStation no other delays are currently planned for now. Let’s wait and see. Also it might not be the best idea to publish a game that deals with the fallout of an infectious disease in the midst of an outbreak of an infectious disease. For example, I’m a big fan of the board game Pandemic. And it seems pretty unlikely to see the third season of Pandemic: Legacy anywhere near any board game store in the foreseeable future.
Oh… and for some reason, over the weekend some new footage seems to have been leaked online showing some new scenes from the now indefinitely delayed game.
Covid-19 as a constant work issue
One example that shows the safety precautions for development studios could be seen last week as the offices of Kojima Productions were temporarily shut down as one co-worker was tested positive for Covid-19. All staff members had been sent into home office afterwards and the facilities were cleaned afterwards as well.
Meanwhile, after weeks of working from home, Chinese game companies seem to be returning to their usual work environment as an article by gamesindustry.biz suggests. However, it seems likely that work culture seems to be changed compared to previous working conditions. Communication skills seem to have improved and could allow additional remote work whereas office work might include strong sanitisation protocols, wearing of face masks or protective gloves and regular temperature measurements.
While countries like China and South Korea are starting to go back to a new normal while trying to prevent a second wave of infections, more and more companies are essentially shut down. Some companies that produce software can shift their work to home office to some extent. However, companies that involve manufacturing have bigger issues with shelter-in-place orders. Wyrmwood Gaming in Massachusetts 3is producing physical game tables and they had to ramp down their production facility from 65 workers down to a bare minimum crew of 15. They have an interesting run-down of their current business strategy on their YouTube channel which I can only recommend to watch.
Covid-19 vs. retail
The biggest blow to the video game industry has probably been at the retail area so far. Several countries have issues nation-wide lockdown procedures and would allow citizens only go out to work or buy necessary items like groceries or medicine. Other countries needed to evaluate first what would be considered an essential store. In Germany the decision was made several weeks ago to close down several non-essential shops and it was clear that shops that sell electronic devices or games are closing down immediately. The two biggest electronic stores Media Markt and Saturn think about post-poning paying their rent, asking for a two-billion euro help fund and put 20000 workers to short time work. While all of their stores are closed, buying online is still possible with the additional ability to collect the items directly at the store from a dedicated pick-up service.
Similarly, in the UK the situation might me more dire for workers. Since March 24th the British government closed down non-essential shops as well. This meant the closure of 247 stores of the GAME retail store chain. Now, the company furloughed the entire staff. Up until the end of April, every worker will receive their original paycheck, however after that, they will receive 80% of their salaries, capped at 2500 pounds by using the recently introduced Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Furthermore, the entire executive scheme cut their annual salaries to 40000 pounds according to a report by Eurogamer.
Meanwhile in the US, things are getting more… cringy, I guess. Ever since the debacle two weeks ago when GameStop declared itself an essential retail shop that they had to call back only two days later, while also shifting towards a „delivery at the door“ service. Only some US states like California or Massachusetts stepped in and denied even this kind of service and completely shut down the stores. Granted, GameStop is currently fighting for its last breath of air as it is being drowned by debt and is in serious need of a ventilator in order to survive, but the longer this crisis holds, the more questions arise if GameStop, who was already batteling to survive, will make it to the end of this crisis.
However, Still. Could be worse. Take Game X Change for example. Employees of this retail store chain in Southern US spoke to Kotaku about some or their internal recommendations. As with Gamestop in the early days of the crisis, Game X Change ignored the local authorities’ call to close down non-essential stores. However, since this decision means potential health issues for their store worker and customers, they provided an internal list of recommendations as provided by a registered nurse that the vice president of retail of the company just happened to know. This included tipps like gargling vinegar, drinking lots, using sunlight to somehow burn off the virus from clothing if they are not able to wash it, avoid eating or dringing cold things, breathing exercises to prove lung capabilities. And of course 20 seconds of hand washing. Which might be the only valid health recommendation on that list. Seriously Wash your Hands. God damn it.
Covid-19 Internet traffic reduction
Since everybody is sitting at home, doing stuff over the internet like watching movies on streaming platforms, do online gaming or watching porn, several content platforms have reacted on their end to reduce bandwidth problems. Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, Facebook, amazon Prime, Playstation Networks and others have reduced their bandwidth capacities. Even Pornhub is reducing their load while also offering Premium access for free. In order to cope with the sudden need of stable internet access for remote work, the European government asked ISPs and content providers to put on the brakes. Steam changed automated update rules, so that games that haven’t been played regularly get their automated updates some days later. Some reduced their bandwith by 25%, Disney+ in France shifted their initial start of the streaming service two weeks back to April 7th, while all other European countries started to watch The Mandalorian since March 24th now. Others removed the 4K viewing option and lower the image quality. Some of them even applied similar bandwidth strategies in the US as well.
But honestly, Pornhub Premium is actually the most intelligent method to reduce the bandwidth, because maybe if you see the actual good stuff via Premium, you might finish a little earlier than usual… think about it…
I’m sorry I had to end this little section on Covid-19 news with this lame masturbation joke. But let’s come to more positive topics. NO. Not cum. I meant let’s move on to more positive topics.
New games announcements
Platinum games announced an announcement this week after shocking, i mean annoying the world with their annual April fool’s joke, but more on that in a bit. Since the beginning of this year, they announced 4 big reveals throughout the year. The first being a remaster of The Wonderful 101 via kickstarter, the switch to starting self-publishing of games and the start of PlatinumGames Tokyo. As announcement number 4 ended up being an April’s fool joke, they announced another „Bonus Stage“… whatever that means.
Shortly before Sony released the information on the postponement of Iron Man VR and The Last of Us Part II, they provided more announcement news on new Indie games coming to the PS4 in 2020. The list contains, Biped, Windbound, Going Under, Boundary and John Wick Hex. Biped is a co-op puzzle game that kinda looks like a mixture of A Way Out and Death Squared, Windbound looks like a third-person survival game, going under is a dungeon crawler with a tech industry twist and John Wick Hex is… well a John Wick game. Duh. I myself, however will have a look out for Boundary, which looks like a first person, action shooter in space, with players flying around in space suits and shoothing things like Roger Moore in Moonraker. If Donald Trump was a gamer, this would be the game that would bring people to inlist to Space Force.
Other new announcements were made this week for a remaster of Nier: Replicant for PS4, Xbox One and PC, The Outer Worlds for Switch, and Sea of Thieves will be coming to the Steam platform in the near future.
Then off to some smaller news items
- Twitch introduced the Mod View that gives Moderators several widgets and graphical interfaces. This makes it easier for Mods to see users, gives information about the stream quality, and easy interfaces that don’t require to type in text commands.
- In a blog entry on the Activision Games Blog, the Call of Duty Staff mentions that they have banned over 50000 perma bans already, including cheats, hacks, aimbots, wallhacks and other things after the free-to-play game dropped three weeks earlier. The game was already played by 30 million players after 10 days, however Call of Duty Top Players like Keemstar or Courage mention that the game is currently overrun by hackers or cheaters
- Looking to adapted video games in other media, Horizon: Zero Dawn is getting a comic book series by Titan Comics that takes place after the events of the game and will launch in the same time frame as the PC adaption, which means summer 2020.
- According to the Hollywood Reporter, Ryan Reynolds is currently in talks to do a movie adaption of the old 80s interactive animated video game Dragon’s Lair for Netflix. He could potentially play the main role as Dirk the Daring as well as producing the movie with his Maximum Efforts Production company. And I could bet my ass off that Dirk will dring Aviation Gin in this one.
- As a bit of required reading, I recommend the rundown in an article by Polygon that dives into the long-term Xbox Strategy as well as a direct comparison for the hardware specs of the Xbox Series X and the PS5. I also include a link to a kotaku article that describes why the new Xbox looks like a fridge.
- Then in more local gaming industry news, the makers of the Tropico franchise, Kalypso Media has partnered up with Koch Media now on a global level to distribute their games after this arrangement was only Europe-based so far. This deal might come in handy in the future, as Kalypso also announced the creation of Claymore Game Studios in the German town of Rectaltown, I mean Darmstadt. This new dev studio will focus on the creation of a new game in the Commandos franchise.
Note: I also included this news in particular in order to point to the fact that the correct pronounciation of Koch is… Koch and not Coke or Cock or Cook. It’s Koch. Damn it.
April Fool’s Day Jokes
As promised earlier, we wanted to have another look at some of the April Fools’ Day jokes that made the rounds this year.
- For Honor shrank the players to mini sizes
- The makers of Rivals of Aether showed the progress of their development in a Nintendo Direct style presentation… that somehow escalated pretty quickly.
- Warframe did something similar as a video presentation.
- Minecraft announced the inclusion of multiple dimensions into their game in a very trippy sci-fi-esque video.
- Mobile game Asphalt 9 introduced SightDrive, a tongue-in-cheek technology that would put facial expressions and eye twitches as control input into the game.
- Codemasters announced DiRT Rollers; The Official Marble Racing Video Game after several Marble Racing videos you can find on YouTube.
- FDG Entertainment showed several artstyle images from a new Duck Tales game in the new animation style of the current TV show… only to find out at the end of April Fool’s day that this was an an actual pitch for an actual game that Disney apparently said no to.
- Sega announced Football Manager 1888.
- As mentioned earlier, Platinum Games showed a collaboration that resulted in a… Classic Arcade shooter game together in an actual arcade.
- PUBG showed a Fantasy Battle Royale update in a promotion video.
- World of Tanks showed a new base vs. base mode a.k.a. Turret Town.
- Mortal Kombat 11 is now family friendly, with all brutalities, like severed heads replaced by suddenly appearing emojis.
- Capcom released Neco Drop: Cat Friends Nation, a Street Fighter-themed connect-3-like puzzle game with cat versions of the fighters.
- Guild Wars 2 got giant cats.
- Crytek released a new image from a Crysis game, but had the HTML source contain meta key words like April Fool.
- And Overwatch got Googly Eyes.
Now, let’s have a look at the more positive news coming from this Covid-19 hellscape that we all live in right now. Let’s have a look at what has changed for gaming fans in the last couple of weeks.
- Several streaming sites see a big surge in viewer stats in the first quarter of the year according to an analysis y Rebekah Valentine at Gamesindustry.biz. Twitch reached 3 billion hours of views in total, whereas YouTube has only a third of that number with about 1.1 billion total hours. Facebook Gaming has 554 million of total hour views, whereas Mixer has actually a declining viewer number of 81 million hours in total. In comparison to Q4 2019 every streaming platform except Mixer. Only in considering lock-down-times from February to March, Mixer can show a rise in viewership. However, Mixer has been in other positive news, as they promised to gift all partnered streamers 100$
- Similarly, due to the general lockdown in most western states, digital market stores show a surge in digital download sales and even in physical sales depending on how hard the lockdown procedures are from country to country. This is from an an article by Christopher Dring at gamesindustry.biz.
- Concerning the concurrent player counts, player counts are also spiking. Steam saw an uptick of concurrent player counts on a daily basis over the last couple of weeks. In mid-March, Gamesindustry reported that concurrent player counts on Steam were crossing the 20 million mark for the first time. Two weeks later, the record has now been pushed to slightly over 24.5 million users on April 4th. Similar spike can also be seen for mobile games.
Interestingly, this is being enforced right now by the World Health Organization. Last year, excessive gaming was included into the international classification of diseases by the WHO, but now in order to fight the spread of the Coronavirus they support the Hashtag #PlayApartTogether. And this includes a huge chunk of the gaming industry like Riot Games, Ubisoft, SEGA, Activision Blizzard, Twitch, Unity or Zynga. Heck, even Kim Kardashian joins this Hashtag. In general this is seen as an awareness campaign in order to encourage social distancing and bringing special events, exclusives, activities and the like to some of their games. Similarly, EA is having their own Hashtag-Movement under the umbrella „Stay and Play“ or „Stay Home. Play Together“ with new events in their sportsgames or action games like Battlefield V or Apex Legends. At time of this writing, the big three don’t seem to participate yet in this industry movement, but they have other means of letting people stay at home. Which brings us to the next item on the list.
Free Games, Events, Deals, Add-On Stuff and so on
- Ubisoft introduced a so-called Friend Pass from March 30th to June 16th for owners of Ghost Recon Breakpoint to play with friends that have not bought the game yet. All they need is a trial version of the game and a PS+ or Xbox Live Account on consoles. Furthermore, Rayman Legends was free on PC up until April 3rd. Which is now several days in the past. I’m sorry. But they are planning free content and new additional stuff for several of their other games throughout April. They explicitly name dropped Assassin’s Creed and Just Dance here.
- Humble Bundle has a huge sale with 71 items for 28 Euro and it contains lots of games like Into the Breach, Undertale, Hollow Knight, The Witness, Superhot, Broken Age, Brütal Legend and comic book starter volumes from Saga, Undiscovered Country or The Boys. 100% of the revenue is going for medical supplies.
- PSN started their spring sales in Europe and it contains games like Jedi: Fallen Order or Death Stranding reduced by 42%. Furthermore, next months PS+ games will be Uncharted 4 and DiRT Rallye 2.0
- Nintendo also started a spring sale in Europe on April 2nd with around 300 games of up 80% deals. Then on April 9th a second batch of games will be included, including Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Kirby Star Allies and others. Note: Most of these things are for the German, or European Shops.
- Xbox Games with Gold’s Games for April/May are Project Cars 2 and Knights of Pen and Paper. On the Xbox 360 side they have Fable Anniversary and Toybox Turbo. Project Cars 2 and Fable Anniversary are already available from April 1st, while the other games start on April 16th. Xbox also started a huge 2020 spring sale with reductions on more than 1700 games of up to 67% price reductions. Then there are also additional sales on Game Pass and Hardware bundles.
- Another one of those deals that have already gone is the GDC Relief Bundle that was available until April 3rd on itch.io. It was a set of 174 small indie games with a pay what you want approach, similar to a Humble Bundle. This was meant as a means to help small devs that would have shown their games during the cancelled GDC event in March.
- Speaking about Humble again, they have another BAFTA sale with most of the nominated games being reduced.
- Epic Games also started their Spring Sale which will last until April 16th with saves up to 75%.
Massive Fund Raisers
Many Game companies have started donating to medical institutions, Covid-19 response funds, local hospitals and other organisations that stand on the frontlines of the current crisis. According to a sum-up by gamesindustry.biz this list includes companies like Ndemic, Luckbox, MyTona,CD Project, Riot Games, Twitch, Humble, Take-Two with Rockstar Games, Paradox Interactive, QubicGames, Gamedev.world, Outfit7. Mixer-Streamer Ninja donated as well, Nintendo and Razer donated masks, Apple donated 7 million dollars to relief efforts in China and Sony started a global relief fund of 100$ million dollars with a three pillar approach. With this money, Sony wants to aid frontline medical workers, educators and creative people from the entertainment industry.
Researchers vs. Covid-19
Researchers want to get help from people with PCs at home. Scientists all over the world are trying to find a cure against the novel coronavirus, but in order to do so, they would need additional information about the virus. This includes several simulations about how the virus theoretically behaves against given substances and ingredients. As a result only a fraction of substances would stand out at the end of the simulations that would then be tested against infected test subjects and may speed up the research on a potential substance against the coronavirus and Covid-19. So if you have a big gaming PC and can spare some of your Teraflops or a few cores on your graphics time, now is the time to help some scientists.
Games that have changed
We have talked about a lot of disruptions in the gaming industry: how work has changed, how the production and development has become more difficult, how gamers as a social group has changed, how retail vs. digital consumption has changed. But we haven’t talked about how games themselves have changed.
- Animal Crossing has basically become the game of this time and age. While everyone is locked away, it is possible to build their own island and visit each other from far away. But to be honest, I have never played any Animal Crossing game so far, and I’m still hesitant towards it. However, it fills me with joy to see so many people easing up while sharing their progression on social media. Such a positive vibe in such a negative time. I think it’s the perfect time for this day and age.
- Ringfit Adventure is the next game on the list. Initially this game came and went more or less couple of months ago. But since gyms and playgrounds have closed down, this seems like a perfect way to switch it up and use this theoretical successor to the Wii Fit games. Now this thing is sold out basically everywhere and it’s good to see that Nintendo still pushes the game with new free content updates. The problem for me is… For some reason I should do more in this crisis. I have Beat Saber, Audica and Pistol Whip ready to go on my Oculus Quest and still, it’s lying around. I’m getting lazy.
- Well, if you have too much time at hand, Persona 5 Royal just came out and… well… it’s like 100 hours long. Have I ever played a Persona game? Actually also no here. Shame on me. But maybe it’s now the time to do so.
- A game that actually has changed drastically is Pokemon Go. The entire game is based around the fact to walk around in the society and find things. With items, Pokemon or other things appearing more frequently in regions where lots of movement is happening. To this end, Niantic want to integrate external sporting activities into the progression system, introduce possibilities to join raids from the comfort of the couch, reduce prices for in-game items and reduce necessary walk distances for all of their mobile games. It will be interesting to see if the game can keep their player base with those drastic changes in the game.
- Last but not least, Board games have changed as well. With our most recent social distancing orders, playing board games or visiting friends in person has become impossible. My friend group for example has started to do a replacement pub quiz via zoom. Last saturday we also tried out a boardgame evening via zoom. And it worked. We had a wonderful time together … while being apart. It’s like we are living in a Hideo Kojima game right now. But without a screaming baby hanging in front of me… Although someone actually did that as well.
So this is the end of today’s Gamingschau. I hope you enjoyed it or had a good night sleep. Anything is fine for me. As I stated in the beginning, I don’t want to throw my hat in the ring for the Up and Comer program, but this was somewhat of an experience of how my old show would look like for an english speaking audience. And you might say something about it, either down in the comments below or via social media. Maybe I could do this again some time, but let’s wait and see.
But if I would work at Kinda Funny… what would I do then?
To be honest, I would probably end up more on the Kinda Funny side. I could definitely see me reviving the comic book show, introduce a board game show named Kinda Dicey and would participate on some of the Screencasts. But I think I would like to do a 10 minute-long show that would be exclusive content throughout the void between the shows. Kinda Voiding. But I haven’t thought about what this would be about. I mean… it’s just a show to fill the void, right?
With that I would like to thank again for watching this video and maybe we will see each other in the future, until then
Kai says Bye.
- Super Mario
- BAFTA Games 2020
- Jedi Academy
- Gamevice vs. Nintendo
- Wargaming / Blitz Team
- Covid-19 Events
- Game X Change