Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, bizarre lawsuits, PlayStation backtracks, fighting game tournaments, plus all the latest releases! And Knuckles.
Bowser Sues Bowser
It’s already hilarious that Nintendo of America is headed by Doug Bowser, whose shares a name with Mario’s famous foe, but that got even funnier this week as Nintendo of America filed a lawsuit against a hacker named…Gary Bowser.
Bowser (the hacker) and his partner, Max Louarn, are alleged by Bowser (the CEO) to have formed an international pirate ring allowing people to take on Bowser (the giant lizard) in an unauthorised manner. The hack group they led, Team Xecuter, were said to be distributing devices for hacking the Switch, allowing players to load pirated and modded games onto the system.
Nintendo have been trying to down Xecuter for a while, suing sites selling the devices in the past, and their lawsuit details the group’s years of activity including similar devices for the 3DS.
If Nintendo don’t hire a lawyer called Mario for this, they’re missing an opportunity.
PlayStation U-Turns on Store
After recent news that Sony would be closing down the PS3, PSP and Vita stores, the reaction has not been pleasant. Game preservationists, patient gamers still catching up on 7th generation titles and consumer advocates alike all protested the idea of the stores being shut down. Not to mention the indie developers actively making digital releases for the Vita who hadn’t been informed of Sony’s decision prior to its public announcement, leading them to wonder what was going to happen to their work.
It seems that Sony noticed, as the decision has now been reversed. Mostly, anyway. The digital storefronts for both the PlayStation 3 and Vita will now remain active for an indefinite period of time, but the PSP’s store is still shutting down as planned.
This is good news, and hopefully it will lead Sony to look into stronger preservation efforts before taking this decision ever again.
However, despite these PR issues for PlayStation, the PS5 is fastest-selling console in American sales history, in terms of both units and dollar value, as mentioned in this thread reporting on NPD sales figures. It’s not the best-selling console in March though, as the Switch remains ahead, but it’s still impressive for Sony’s system. That said, it’s not clear how many of these sales went to legitimate buyers or to scalpers, which seems to be the current problem with getting a system for many people.
Departures and Moves
Another high-profile departure from Activision Blizzard happened this week, as Blizzard veteran Jeff Kaplan announced he was leaving the company after 19 years.
During his time at Blizzard, he started out as a designer on World of Warcraft before being promoted to a directorial role. After stepping down from this role in 2009, he would later go on to become lead designer for Overwatch, a role that he held until this point. He’s a noted presence for the Blizzard community, acting as the face of the game he helped to spearhead, and his departure has led to a number of tributes.
He is set to be replaced on the Overwatch team by Aaron Keller, another co-creator of the shooter.
He’s not the only high-profile departure this week, as Shaun Escayg, director of Square Enix’s ill-fated Avengers game, has left Crystal Dynamics and hopped back to his old stomping ground, Naughty Dog. During his previous time with the company, he served as director on the superb Uncharted spin-off, The Lost Legacy. And now he’s back, although hopefully not relegated to that unnecessary Last of Us remake they are allegedly working on.
It’s another blow to a game that should have been a success on paper, but has done little to win over gamers or Marvel fans to any degree. So much so it’s been a financial failure, which may be the source of the next news story.
Square Enix is Not Up For Sale
In a somewhat bizarre story this week, news emerged out of Bloomberg Japan that Square Enix is being courted for an acquisition deal by multiple companies. While no companies were named, Sony and Microsoft were quickly rumoured by casual observers, largely due to Square and Sony’s current close relationship and Microsoft devouring every other company in the industry in a way that increasingly raises monopoly concerns with me.
All very curious, until Square Enix issued a firm denial of the report. While normally companies in this situation choose to remain coy, this swift decision to nip the rumours in the bud indicate that Square Enix is absolutely not up for sale. Their three-sentence statement (PDF) flatly stated that “we do not consider selling off the company or any part of its business, nor have we received any offer from any third party top acquire the company or any part of its business.”
So what’s going on? According to economic adviser David Gibson, he reckons it’s banks trying to drum up business off the back of the weakness of the Avengers game. Of course, this call to swoop in while the company is weak would require ignoring the vast success of titles like Final Fantasy VII Remake, which seemingly offset the losses from Avengers.
It’s possible that both sides of this are true. Big companies might have been pushing offers in an attempt to purchase the Japanese publisher, but at the same time, you can’t buy what isn’t being sold, and Square Enix aren’t selling. And it would seem an odd decision, especially when the company is already receiving external investment from Sony and Tencent, and (Avengers aside) they seem to be in good financial shape overall.
In fact, Square seem more interested in E3, which they have confirmed this week they will be attending with a showcase of their own, after publishers such as Nintendo and Ubisoft confirmed their own showcases a few weeks ago.
Eagle-eyed Canadians caught a glimpse of the Sonic 2 movie set this week, and we can now confirm the presence of a popular sidekick in the next movie. Knock Knock! It’s Knuckles.
Props for Sonic, Tails and Knuckles were seen on set in British Columbia, where the second movie is being filmed. Now while the first movie and the second movie’s teaser trailer have made it blatantly obvious that Sonic’s fox friend would be joining the cast, this is the first confirmation that the musclebound, non-chuckling echidna will also be there too. We don’t know who will be playing either of these friends, but if Dwayne Johnson isn’t Knuckles I am going to be very disappointed.
Also in adaptation news, the new Mortal Kombat movie is out this week, launching on HBO Max in the US and on Amazon Prime for us in the UK. The first 7 minutes are free to view here.
Elsewhere in adaptation news, Netflix have confirmed the fourth and final season of the Castlevania anime will be coming to the platform on 13th May. Finally wrapping up the story of Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades and Alucard, the season will be the first without the involvement of series creator Warren Ellis, following a series of sexual assault allegations last year (which he denies).
There is also confirmation that Netflix will be looking into spinoffs set in the same universe. My first thought on hearing this is that the series will move away from the story and characters of Castlevania and into some of the game series’ other time periods. Here’s hoping for a Rondo of Blood/Symphony of the Night era series.
Netflix have also confirmed the return of the DOTA anime, but why ask me about that one when I can pass you over to Mat, who has this to say about it? And then I’ll leave you with him for the esports news!
Thanks, Leigh! As a big fan of DOTA, I will always welcome more content. However, the first season of DOTA: Dragon Blood was just…okay. As a fan I certainly enjoyed the easter eggs, and as an anime fan I loved the art style and action set pieces. However, I felt the series was far too ambitious for it’s run time. There were some story lines and characters I felt could have been sacrificed for the sake of strengthening a few of the others. While the ending was interesting, it reinforces the notion that this series was always a set-up for something better – I just hope it makes good on that promise!
Japan Fighting Game League Heads for the UK
Red Bull Kumite, a big fighting game tournament in Japan, have just announced a 2-day event in May, in the UK.
Red Bull Kumite London will be taking place on May 22nd and 23rd – will include the first major Street Fighter V tournament of 2021 and a Guilty Gear Strive showcase.
The event will be streamed live on Twitch and YouTube across both days from the Red Bull Gaming Sphere in London, which has also been transformed to match the spirit of the Red Bull Kumite legacy.
Red Bull Kumite London will bring together 16 of the best Street Fighter V competitors. The competition was originally held in Paris from 2015 to 2018 then moved to Japan in 2019. Fighting games esports are less popular in the UK compared to Japan or Europe, therefore a big-league tournament heading here is always exciting news for fighting game fans.
Tune in to the tournament on their Red Bull’s official Twitch here.
Guild Esports Bag Another Win
I’ve mentioned Guild Esports a lot recently, and this latest update is no different. Guild Esports won their second major trophy, after their Rocket League team achieved first-place in the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) EU Spring Regional.
The tournament, which took place between 15th and 18th April, saw Guild Esports’ Rocket League team secure first place. Thomas ‘ThO’ Binkhorst, Joseph ‘Noly’ Kidd and David ‘Deevo’ Morrow defeated Aether in the finals to secure prize winnings of $30,000 (£21k). This event was viewed by a continuous peak Sunday broadcast of over 100,000 viewers on Twitch.
These results have cemented Guild Esports as one of the top European Rocket League teams, and one of the top UK teams generally, as they now take their place at the next two major Rocket League competitions: the RLCS Season X– Spring: European Major, taking place on 15th and 16th May with a $100,000 (£72k) prize pool.
All I can say is well done guys; you’re doing UK Esports proud! For more information on the upcoming league please click here.
Warwick University Crowned NSE Esports Uni Of The Year 3rd Time In A Row
A massive well done to the University of Warwick Esports team, retained their title as National Students Esports (NSE) UK Esports University of the Year. This makes it an unprecedented third year in a row they have won the title.
For those who don’t know, the National Student Esports (NSE), is a body for student Esports in the UK that was set up in 2018. It’s an impartial organisation which assesses the performance of university Esports teams across games – think of it as the Esports version of the Guardian’s Uni League tables.
Warwick Esports reached the top of the table with 3,027 points, over 1000 points ahead of the University of Southampton (second place with 2,006 points) and another midlands team, Staffordshire University in quick succession (third place with 1,815 points).
“Our first two wins were great on their own, but this third win really allows us to say that we’re creating a legacy in university Esports. A legacy of excellence and sportsmanship that future students will be inspired to surpass,” said Joshua Mankelow, president of Warwick Esports.
He added that the university is establishing a reputation within the university Esports community for being the best around and that Warwick Esports want to lead by example by being advocates for diversity and inclusivity and acting as a stepping-stone into the Esports industry.
Lastly, he added that the achievement would not be possible without Warwick Esports’ grassroots movement, fielding more than 40 teams of all standards during the year.
Daniel Zeng, who was president of Warwick Esports for the duration of the competition, said: “I am incredibly proud of everyone’s efforts over the past year. I handed the society over to a bigger and better team, and I have no doubts that we’ll be pushing the limits for what university Esports has to offer over the next year.”
I’m biased, because they’re West Midlands, but as an avid follower I can say this title is very well deserved. Let us hope this talent translates into the UK industry! You can see the full university Esports table here.
In ports this week, Judgment comes to next gen consoles. One of my Games of the Week back in 2019, Judgment is a detective spin-off of the Yakuza games, where private detective Takayuki Yagami gets drawn into a case that ties back to his past. If you can stop yourself getting distracted with drone racing and Puyo Puyo along the way, that is.
In smaller releases, Maskmaker (PC, PSVR) is a VR title where you explore magical world as a maskmaker’s apprentice. We Are the Caretakers (PC in Early Access) is an Afro-centric sci-fi RPG, bringing turn-based strategic combat into a world of peril, and a story focused on environmental preservation. Don’t Forget Me (PC) is a stylish cyberpunk adventure/puzzle game all about delving into memories and uncovering the mysteries within. It’s the concept for Dontnod’s Remember Me but looking more focused, more pixelated and, hopefully, more enjoyable. And Buildings Have Feelings Too (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One) is a city builder with a twist – all the buildings are alive, and you have to maintain their emotional needs as well as balancing the budget.
(Warning: trailer opens with a sweary rant by Laura Bailey)
The big release of the week is Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139… (yes, really, that’s the title, and yes, I copied and pasted it), a remake of 2010’s Nier, the predecessor to the highly acclaimed Nier Automata. An action RPG featuring elements of hack n slash and bullet hells, with a party consisting of a talking book and a foul-mouthed girl in skimpy clothes, Nier Replicant has been refined from the original release with the help of Automata co-developer Platinum Games. If you enjoyed Automata and never played the original game, this is the best way to catch up.
Game of the Week
Game of the Week this week is Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (PC, Switch) because when a game has a title like that, it’s demanding to be called Game of the Week.
Set in a corrupt vegetable society, Turnip Boy is accused of tax evasion and now is setting out to commit petty crimes to bring down his debt and then bring down the government. The whole thing is a chaotic take on the old school Zelda formula, and it looks ridiculous in all the best ways.
And that’s it for this week! We’ll be back with more from me and Mat very soon!