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Gaming Roundup – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like E3

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, we’re looking back at the past two weeks of news and releases!

Of course, this is because there was no roundup last week due to a combination of illness (on my part) and a busy schedule (on Mat’s part), so it just wasn’t possible to get a roundup out in that time. So this week, we’ll be making up for lost time!

It’s Not E3 Yet But It Seems Like It

E3 doesn’t begin officially for two weeks, but that doesn’t stop the announcements and, of course, the rumours have started already. Here’s what we know so far, starting with the confirmed news.

Sony showed off the first gameplay for Horizon Forbidden West, and while for the most part it looks like it plays much like the first game, there are some new additions that look like massive improvements. For a start, protagonist Aloy’s traversal skills have expanded, with a grappling hook and a Breath of the Wild style glider added to the mix, both of which open up a lot of possibilities. Most excitingly though is the inclusion of swimming, with deep sea sections that look as expansive as what you’d find on land. The melee combat options have also improved, and by that I mean it looks as if there are melee combat options now, and not just a basic swing of Aloy’s staff.

Naturally it’s Horizon, so we can expect more robot creatures, and the gameplay demo did not disappoint, with the “Tremortusk” we saw in the announcement trailer taking up a big chunk of the dmeo and looking insane. But the new reveal, and the more intriguing addition for me, is the velociraptor-style robots that appear to hunt intelligently in packs.

Sega held a Sonic focused event which mostly showed some small celebratory things they’re doing around the franchise’s 35th anniversary. This includes a Sonic-themed update to Two Point Hospital, as well as Sonic appearances in upcoming titles – a Sonic mascot outfit for the recently announced Olympic game Sega are putting out, and Sonic the Fighters being playable in the arcades in not-Yakuza detective sequel Lost Judgment.

The biggest announcements were the confirmation of a classic Sonic compilation (although Sega’s claim of being able to play them “like never before” is bizarre when they release a Mega Drive collection every other week) and Sonic Colours is getting a remaster for modern systems this September. There was also a teaser for a new Sonic title coming next year, although not much is known about this.

Also, despite leaving the role a few months ago, Roger Craig Smith is back as Sonic, seemingly out of nowhere. It’s not clear what went down behind the scenes here, but he is definitely back, as he also showed up during the presentation.

Square Enix held a Dragon Quest oriented event at 5am on Thursday, largely because they figured they were only really speaking to Japan anyway (it was the more sociable time of 1pm for them, after all). Dragon Quest 12 led the announcements, promising a possible push towards the West with…sigh…a darker tone, and a simultaneous worldwide release. The director also promised changes to the battle system, prompting jokes about how Yakuza changed its battle system due to the protagonist’s love of Dragon Quest, so clearly DQ12 is going to change its battle system to Yakuza’s.

A remake of Dragon Quest 3 was also confirmed from the developers of Octopath Traveler, with DQ3 being reimagined in Octopath’s pseudo-2D artstyle. Other announcements include Dragon Quest Treasures, a spinoff of DQ11, and an offline version of the Japan-only MMO Dragon Quest X.

Speaking of Square Enix, there is a rumour floating around that they’ve been working with Koei Tecmo on a game set in the world of the original Final Fantasy. Team Ninja, known for titles such as Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden and Nioh, is set to be the lead developer, and it wouldn’t be unusual for them to work with Square Enix since they already did so for crossover arena fighter Dissidia Final Fantasy NT.

Rumours are suggesting Nioh is the best place to look for what kind of game this is rumoured to be, since it’s set to be a Soulslike action RPG titled Final Fantasy Origin, with PC and PS5 releases suggested, and will likely receive an early alpha in the coming months. This is likely to be confirmed at E3, as soon as we know when Square Enix’s show is likely to be held.

Another prominent rumour, this time suggested by Bloomberg and corroborated by Eurogamer, is that the long-hinted Switch Pro model will launch later this year, and that Nintendo will be announcing it prior to their currently unconfirmed E3 Direct. As this is roughly the 400th time we’ve heard this rumour, take it with a grain of salt until we hear official confirmation.

More news is, of course, on its way, with publishers gradually confirming their E3 showcases. Microsoft have confirmed the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase will be happening on 13th June at 6pm UK time. It’s unsurprising that the Xbox and Bethesda conferences have combined, although if I’m entirely honest, the Bethesda conference often felt completely pointless outside of its first year, so the separate show won’t be missed.

Finally, Geoff Keighley is going ahead with his Summer Game Fest this year, despite its presence last year being a result of E3 not going ahead in any form. That’s like running a rail replacement bus when the trains are running on time. Sure, you could take it, but do you really need to?

The show promises to open with a performance from Weezer and, my god, Keighley, can you just…not? For once? People are here for game announcements, not your late 90s teen playlist made flesh. My god. I swear if this man was in charge of Glastonbury, he’d have Hideo Kojima come out as the headliner. Yes, I’m still as annoyed as I was when I made my Game Awards video, why do you ask?

The State of Play

A Sony investor report is offering some significant insights into where PlayStation is currently sitting within the market, and what Sony have got planned.

First of all, Sony have seen record earnings in a transition year, in other words, they’ve been doing better in the past financial year than in any other console launch year. 2020 saw net sales of 2,656bn yen, which is more than double what they made in 2013, the PS4’s launch year.

This is partly because of the PS5 launch, which has seen 7.8m units sold (although it’s not clear how many of these went to scalpers…) but the PS4 is still going strong, most likely because of how few people can get a PS5 and also how few games are exclusive to PS5 right now. Sony are reporting excellent engagement, but they do acknowledge that the Covid-19 pandemic may have played a part in this, as they project this engagement figure may drop off over time.

This ongoing financial success with PS4 also tracks with the statistic that actual hardware sales are becoming less and less essential for Sony, as software, services and peripherals have gone from 52% of their revenue in 2013 to 80% in 2020. And with 48m PS Plus subscribers, that certainly checks out (which is double Xbox’s 23m Game Pass subscribers even though, admittedly, Xbox have the better service imo).

And with this reduced importance of hardware sales, there seems to be more desire to push into other markets. The most notable examples of this from the report include expanding their geographic regions using PC releases of more games, with Uncharted 4 touted as the next big title to hit PC. There’s also a push towards more mobile titles and looking to create, sigh, more live service experiences. Should be interesting to see how this shapes their business decisions in coming years.

On a final note, one positive statistic to emerge from the report is the changing demographics. Only 18% of PlayStation owners in the 1990s were female, while today the percentage of female players across PlayStation platforms is 41%. This is a reflection of the welcome shift away from the perception of gaming as a male-only pursuit, although this will no doubt annoy some people on the internet who will claim it’s inaccurate because they’ve never met a woman who’s into games. Oh would you look at that, like clockwork.

Netflix Moving Into Games?

Rumours are flying around that Netflix may be looking to make a move into the gaming space. A report in The Information says that Netflix are reaching out to games industry veterans in the hopes of bringing them on board, while other reports suggest that the film and TV streaming service may be looking to launch an Apple Arcade style service that would host indie titles alongside bespoke titles developed on their properties (e.g. Stranger Things).

It wouldn’t be a bad idea in theory. Netflix have already touched on gaming with the many gaming IPs they’ve helped turn into original productions on their service, with Castlevania and the recent DOTA anime shows being major examples. They also helped produce the interactive Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch, which was basically an FMV game anyway.

It would be interesting to see Netflix move in this direction, and here’s hoping they do a better job than Google or Amazon have done so far.

And now here’s Mat with some esports news!

Warwick Invests in New Esports Centre

Big news this week – The University of Warwick has announced that its investing £275,000 to establish a new flexible esports Centre to be located at the heart of Warwick campus. It will operate alongside new facilities to stimulate innovation in a newly refurbished basketball court as part of the newly named ‘Junction’ facility.

Warwick, of you remember from what I reported a few weeks ago, retained its title as UK Esports University of the Year, winning the award for a third successive year.

The new Centre will not only provide a facility that can help in training and research into esports but will also provide a medium sized esports competition venue – with the ability for equipment to be easily and quickly relocated for grander scale events.

The University’s investment of over a quarter of a million pounds will provide all the initial physical infrastructure and equipment for the Centre making it the equal of any other such facility in the UK and the first at a Russell Group university. Within the US Collegiate scene, university investment is driven by varsity programs and aimed to attract player talent. In the UK, university esports investments have surrounded esports degree programmes. However, the University of Warwick are choosing to break away from this norm.

The focus of the facility will be on providing opportunities for the wider community, as well as for students and the esports society. This will include outreach programmes with local schools, community groups, and larger bodies such as Women in Games.

Clare Green, a Women in Games Ambassador and Creative & Digital Communities Manager at University of Warwick said:

“Unlike traditional sports, it is a level playing field. Whether you are neurodiverse, whether you are male, female, physically disabled, or able bodied and regardless of age, all people can play together. This is what is so exciting about the esports industry. There is a lot of work to do in terms of diversity and inclusion, but this Centre provides us with a genuine opportunity for positive actions and change.”

The university is now seeking launch sponsors to support the Centre in bringing esports to communities beyond the campus and providing bespoke, accessible coaching, training, and development activities to all. Activities will work to support a wide range of esports careers, not just players. All launch partners will sit on an advisory board to embed the facility in the wider esports infrastructure and provide a talent pipeline and remain connected to wider industry.

Jack ‘Coach’ Fenton, who is a consultant on the esports Centre project and a past President and co-founder of the University of Warwick Esports Society said:

“Considering the multi-disciplinary nature of esports, a vast range of external stakeholders have been identified that we are seeking to partner with. These represent external bodies that include corporate organisations, those committed to equality and diversity, national organisations that promote esports, regional & national skills councils, local schools, and charities. The University of Warwick Esports Society itself has already raised thousands of pounds for the charity Special Effect, which work to adapt gaming materials to suit people with disabilities. By working with these great foundations, we want to continue to foster relationships that help promote diversity and inclusion in esports.”

“We look forward to working closely with many of these organisations but key to doing so will be raising financial support to enable us to offer tangible benefits around coaching, skills development, job opportunities and establishing a scholarship scheme focused on diversity and inclusion.”

The Centre will seek to work closely with regional and national partners including CWLEP, Create Central, and WMCA to lead on esports. This is good as it shows an investment from local authorities in esports, recognising the potential benefits from it and related industries. I’ll be excited to see how this centre progresses – well done, Warwick!

Anyone interested in sponsoring the new Centre should contact the Creative Futures team on email: esports@warwick.ac.uk

Over to you Leigh!

New Releases

New Releases

Thanks, Mat! So this week, new releases will be covering releases from the past two weeks, including a double bill of Games of the Week because it’s last week’s choice plus this week’s. And with so many games out in the past two weeks, this could take a while. But let’s go!

 

In ports, we have FMV mystery game Erica coming to PC after being exclusive to PS4, as well as turn-based Indiana Jones RPG Pathway and comical Shark-PG Maneater coming to Switch.

 

Speaking of Switch, the 3DS’ bonkers life sim/RPG hybrid Miitopia has been ported over to Nintendo’s current system, with its absurdly detailed Mii creator still intact. Meanwhile, cult classic PS2 JRPG Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne gets a remaster for PC, PS4 and Switch, maintaining its American title for Europe this time (it was originally Lucifer’s Call over here), but still featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry series.

 

You like narrative-driven indie games on PC? You’ve got a good selection from the past two weeks. Of Bird and Cage is a metal album in video game form, and if that sounds completely bizarre, everything I’ve seen of it confirms that it is. The Longest Road on Earth is another music-driven game where four short stories demonstrate the essence of everyday life. And for a non-musical adventure game, Lacuna is a sci-fi noir point and click where a murder investigation turns out to have cosmic ramifications of some kind (you have my attention…).

 

Oh god, the indie games don’t stop. Pecaminosa (PC, Switch) is another noir game about a detective helping the ghost of a mobster in a top-down action RPG. Mayhem in Single Valley (PC) is an action game about preventing the apocalypse that you’ve set in motion, and looks completely chaotic. And for something a little more chill, The Wild at Heart (PC, Xbox) is a cosy little game about two kids in a magical forest.

 

We’re still going! Very Very Valet (Switch) is a chaotic multiplayer title about cartoon valets where anything goes, while King of Seas (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One) is a pirate action game about sailing the procedurally generated seas and plundering booty, as pirates are famous for doing.

Are we done? Haha nope! World’s End Club (Switch) is the latest game from the developers of Danganronpa, but instead of a Saw-style murder game, the protagonists are instead thrown into a post-apocalyptic world with a story about friendship in harsh times. It combines visual novel and platforming elements and looks to be a quirky and fun time.

Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (PS4, Switch) is a remake of the Sega classic Wonder Boy in Monster World, only now the wonder boy is a girl. Developed with members of the original team, it promises to be a faithful remake with enough modern sensibilities to treat it as a brand new title. If you were a fan of the original, this likely has the power to move you.

EA have a multiplayer title that’s drawing quite a bit of attention. Knockout City (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox) is dodgeball crossed with Overwatch. Personally, I find the whole game obnoxious in a “how do you do fellow kids” kind of way, but it’s getting some positive reviews so clearly it’s just me who can’t find much to like in it. Might be worth a look, maybe?

And the big release of the past two weeks is Biomutant (PC, PS4, Xbox One), an apocalyptic open-world game where you play as a mutated animal in a world of monsters and tribal disputes. It’s got a bit of a goofy sense of humour and plenty of 60s Batman style “sound effects” during combat. Looks like fun, although reviews are kind of all over the place.

Game(s) of the Week(s)

Two Games of the Week this week, one for last week and one for this week. Let’s go!

Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield (PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox) is last week’s Game of the Week. It’s a stylish as hell runner game about a guy named Wally seeking out the mysteries of his past in a Japan-inspired world. It’s fast-paced, looks gorgeous and has a slick hip hop soundtrack that just adds to the general cool of it all.

Weaving Tides (PC, Switch) is this week’s Game of the Week. It’s a gorgeous puzzle game set in a woven land. You play as a character named Tass, who rides carpet dragons through this world, using them to weave and stitch parts of the world together to solve puzzles, defeat foes and untangle the mysteries of this strange place. It looks beautiful and unique, and for that it deserves some attention.

And that’s it for this week! Me and Mat will be back with even more news from the world of gaming!

 

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