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Gaming Roundup – Corporate Battle Royale

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, Epic take on Apple, Fall Guys force brands to take on each other, offices take on other offices, and I take on all the latest releases!

Epic vs Apple

It’s been pretty hard to avoid this story this week, even if you don’t really follow gaming news. Epic, the publishers of Fortnite and the creators of the ubiquitous Unreal Engine, have gone to war with the big mobile platforms.

It all started with Epic adding a direct payment system into Fortnite on mobile, a method to buy the in-game currency that bypasses the App Store or Google Play. Naturally, Apple and Google didn’t take too kindly to this, and pulled the game from their respective stores.

This has now prompted an endless sparring match between Epic and the other two corporations, as Epic used Fortnite to air a parody of Apple’s 1984 advert, issued a lawsuit about unfair business practices and are going on a charm offensive with their (mostly) teenage fanbase, talking up how they’re the good guys fighting back against a supposed monopoly.

Apple have fired the latest shot, with a threat of removing Epic’s access to iOS tools. This would hugely affect developers’ ability to update games running on the Unreal Engine, as that is wrapped up in Epic’s access.

The whole thing is, quite frankly, silly. Most of Epic’s arguments revolve around the high take that many storefronts take – it’s 30% almost entirely across the board – and to be fair to them, they do take a lower percentage from devs on their own store. But their arguments are also flawed in many ways.

Epic started this spat by screaming about a monopoly that Apple and Google hold over a game that’s also available on PS4, Xbox, Switch and PC. Should also be noted that their claims of a monopolistic hold on the mobile platform look a tad hypocritical when you realise you can’t get Fortnite on Steam or GOG on PC. I’m not saying they have to release their own published titles on a rival storefront (you can’t buy Half-Life on EGS, for the flipside of this), but doing that while simultaneously complaining about exclusivity on mobile isn’t a great look.

They’re also only targeting Apple and Google on this, despite the PS4, Switch and Xbox One each having only one store as well, yet Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft remain untouched (side note: Fortnite is also unavailable through the Microsoft Store on Windows 10). Should also be noted Google Play doesn’t appear to be particularly monopolistic on mobile, as Samsung phones have their own storefront (which Fortnite is still available through).

Plus, at the end of the day, Epic violated the terms of service with the storefronts they were selling their game through. It was the digital equivalent of a food producer setting up a cart in the car park of a supermarket they have a deal with. And, honestly, that’s on them. They chose to do that, and it’s not surprising that Apple and Google responded in the way they did.

And that’s not even getting into the irony of Epic’s 1984 parody. Mocking the competition as being like Big Brother through the medium of a massive screen in front of a captive audience is…a choice. I’ll say that much.

There are certainly conversations to be had about the industry-wide 30% cut and whether or not that’s fair to developers. But the owners of the biggest, most lucrative game on the planet claiming they’re not making enough money because of a storefront’s cut doesn’t feel like the right way to have that conversation. Throwing a tantrum about monopolies while they throw money around restricting access to certain PC games in exclusivity deals doesn’t help much either. Especially as Epic’s tantrum may now also restrict access to iOS tools for the little guys they claim to be fighting for, who never wanted to be dragged into this and are now being punished simply for using a particular industry standard engine.

It’ll be interesting to see how this story develops, but there is a distinct feeling that whoever wins, we all lose.

Fall Guys Put Brands Through Battle Royale

You may have noticed that previous Game of the Week Fall Guys is quite popular right now. It’s dethroned League of Legends as the most-viewed game on Twitch, and social media is ablaze with clips and jokes about how fun the game is. I played it myself thanks to it being free on PS Plus and it really is a lot of fun, the perfect game to drop into if you feel like having a blast on something quick. It’s floppy Takeshi’s Castle, and who can argue with that?

This explosion of popularity has led brands to notice, and tons of companies, including Walmart and KFC, have been jumping at the chance to get noticed by the new hotness, and find a way to sneak their brands into the game. But Fall Guys isn’t the sort of game that just dryly negotiates a business deal. Instead, they’ve taken the game’s own concept and ran with it. If a brand wants in, they need to fight for it, and steal that crown away from other brands who want to muscle in on the popularity.

The challenge to all brands is to issue the largest charity donation to Special Effect, and the winner gets their logo on a costume in the game. It’s a massive bidding war, but the real winner here is Special Effect, an organisation who push to improve accessibility in games, particularly for those with severe disabilities. Most notably, they’ve worked with Microsoft to produce the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which is arguably the industry’s biggest step towards disability inclusion. And as these aggressively thirsty brands battle it out, they get more and more money for their excellent work.

Currently the bidding war is mainly between G2 Esports, popular Twitch streamer Ninja, and…bidet manufacturer Tushy. Yes, really. At the time of writing, the latter are in the lead with, of course, a donation of $420,069.69. Should be noted that Walmart and KFC, so eager to jump on the bandwagon initially, have not put in bids at this time. Interesting.

This is such a brilliant idea and a perfect counter to the increasing amount of sponsorship and product placement. At a time when the upcoming Avengers title is looking less and less appealing because a set of costumes is locked behind your ISP choice of all things, for this upstart indie title to demand brands bow to them with charity donations is genius. I highly approve.

And now, since Fall Guys is about as close as I get to esports most of the time, I’ll let Mat Lovell take over to share what’s going on in the esports side of things!

Get Your Office Involved with WFH League Season 2

Thanks Leigh!

First up, I mentioned the WFH League in my feature on Platform esports a few weeks ago. Well, they’ve just announced that Season 2 is coming with a new look, new games and loads of opportunities for companies to get involved.

The WFH League or ‘Work From Home, Win From Home’ league to give it its full title, is for anyone to take part and represent their companies across several video games. This time round the games featured will be the vehicular football favourite Rocket League (3v3), fighting game Mortal Kombat 11 and the return of the first person shooter CS:GO (Wingman) from Season 1.

A joint venture between esports news media site Esports Insider and the London-based esports bar Platform, the first season took place in late May 2020. Pitched as a way of engaging businesses in the world of esports, 16 teams competed in CS:GO and FIFA 20, generating 40,000 minutes watched across over 18 hours of live broadcast, and produced more than 400,000 organic impressions on social media.

Season 2 will take place online between September 28th through October 14th, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings (BST), culminating in a Grand Finals Day on October 18th, 2020. The competition is open to anyone of any skill level looking to have some fun with their work colleagues.

Even if you’re not really a gamer, this is something cool to try out with your company. It’s easy, fun and, particularly with the likes of Rocket League and CS:GO, it will really promote team working skills (or give you an opportunity to shout at each other in a non-work capacity!)

You can sign up now by visiting their website: https://wfhleague.playbox.gg/

Staffs Uni Esports Degree Sponsored By Teamspeak

VoiP app TeamSpeak has partnered with Staffordshire University to integrate its audio communication platform into the school’s BA (Hons) Esports and MA Esports degrees.

Staffordshire Uni were the first higher education institution to introduce an esports degree and has since founded Digital Institute London which offers a variety of digital degrees. With this new sponsorship, students will have access to TeamSpeak as part of professional setups for broadcasting and esports tournaments as part of their education.

This is TeamSpeak’s latest partnership in the education sector, having already sponsored similar courses in the US. It seems they’re attempting to corner the esports market against competitors like Discord, which has ballooned over the past two years in popularity. More importantly, this is another positive sign of international investment in UK esports infrastructure like the Vindex takeover of GAME’s ‘Belong Gaming’ brand.

Other Stories

Thanks, Mat!

Now, what else has been happening this week?

After experiencing another delay, it’s now been revealed that Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines 2 is losing some key team members. Worryingly, those team members are narrative lead Brian Mitsoda and creative director Ka’ai Cluney, two positions you don’t really want disappearing when you’ve still got a good few months of development left. Mitsoda is especially surprising since he worked on the original game and was lending the project a lot of credibility in the eyes of veteran fans. No reason has been given for their termination.

Untitled Goose Game is getting a major update soon, where the horrible goose gains a friend. Currently just in local play only, the option to play the game in co-op where twice the goose means twice the chaos. It’s out 23rd September as a free update if you want to take a gander.

The National Video Game Museum, up in Sheffield, will be reopening its doors this weekend. It’s been closed since March due to the pandemic, and there were fears it would be forced to close for good due to this. Fortunately, a fundraiser brought in £200,000, well over the £80,000 the team were asking for. As a major supporter of video game preservation, I’m glad to see them still thriving and I wish them the best with their reopening!

New Releases

Oh god it’s a busy week for releases. This might take a while to get through.

Let’s start with some small releases. Griefhelm is game that landed in my inbox that’s out for Steam this week. It’s a sword-battling fighting game of sorts, with shades of Nidhogg but less silly. I honestly wasn’t too impressed with what I played, which got very repetitive very quickly, so, uh…that’s probably not the best recommendation, I guess.

There is also Helheim Hassle for PC, Switch and Xbox One, which is a puzzle platformer about a pacifist Viking who can detach his limbs. And then there’s Raji: An Ancient Epic, released exclusively (for now) on Switch, which is an isometric adventure title with a hint of Prince of Persia, based entirely around Hindu mythology. The fact we don’t see that as a theme for many games is a good enough reason to recommend it on its own!

PGA Tour 2K21 is out too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

We have two licensed games out this week, seemingly out of nowhere. The first is Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time, which is a 3D action game in the vein of Devil May Cry, based on the Adult Swim show. And then there’s Peaky Blinders: Mastermind, a tactical puzzle adventure based on the BBC show about Birmingham gangsters. I do have a review copy of this, and as we’re a Birmingham-based site, I’m required to do a full review of this, so expect that soon. (Side note: I haven’t seen the show, so that’ll be interesting)

Some notable indie titles that are attracting quite a bit attention this week. Rogue Legacy 2 has entered Early Access on Steam and offers more of the roguelike platforming of the highly praised original Rogue Legacy. Gleamlight is looking like a great game to pick up while you’re eagerly awaiting Hollow Knight: Silksong. And finally, Spiritfarer is a gentle platformer crossed with a management sim as you help souls transition into the afterlife.

Because we apparently can never have enough Souls-likes, Mortal Shell is out for PC, PS4 and Xbox. I personally have zero interest in these grimdark, super-hard action RPGs, and I’m tired of everyone trying to ride FromSoft’s coat-tails, but I know there are many who enjoy the genre, so maybe you might enjoy this if you do. Some are claiming it’s Dark Souls 4 in all but name, so take that as you will.

Microsoft have a couple of first party releases this week, and coincidentally, both are revivals. First up is Battletoads, the latest in Rare’s toad-based punch-em-up. It’s the first time we’ve seen Rash, Zitz and Pimple since 2013’s Killer Instinct revival, and their first solo game since 1994’s Battletoads Arcade. It’s more of a straight beat-em-up without the platforming elements of the original games, but still looks a lot of fun. As you’d expect from a Microsoft game, it’s on PC and Xbox exclusively.

And then there’s Microsoft Flight Simulator, the first title in the technical pilot sim franchise since 2006’s Flight Simulator X. You know what to expect with this. Fly planes just like a real pilot, soaring over an impressive recreation of the world generated from Bing Maps (yes, MS are still trying to make it a thing). And right now, the algorithm generating that world is creating some unintentional hilarity, so it might be worth picking it up now to catch that before it all gets patched out. This one’s just on PC, although an Xbox version is promised.

Oh boy. I think that’s everything. Except the obvious…

Game of the Week

Game of the Week this week is Inmost. An early version of it released for Apple Arcade a while back, but this week it got a stealth launch on Steam and Switch, and I’ve been waiting to award it Game of the Week for a while now.

It’s a spooky cinematic platformer with a pixel-art look. I played it back at EGX a couple of years ago, where it impressed me with its style and brutal puzzle gameplay. I’m looking forward to playing the full thing at last, and I recommend that you all check it out if it looks like your jam too.

And that’s all for now! Join us again next week for even more from the world of gaming!

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