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Gaming Roundup – Money For Nothing (But Gears is Free)

Hello! Welcome to the latest edition of the Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, a lot of money chat, and some Internet connectivity problems. Plus, all those big new releases you might be interested in!

SONY SELLS 100M CONSOLES

Sony’s latest financial results (PDF) have been published, and we’ve learned that the PS4’s runaway success has yet to stop and catch its breath. 100 million PS4 units have been sold to date, making it the fastest selling console in history, reaching that goal in five years and seven months. The previous record holder was its own predecessor, the PS2, which reached 100 million units within five years and nine months.

It’s good news for Sony, who are no doubt thrilled with this level of success. The question remains, will they be able to retain this success into the next gen with the PS5? It’s going to be an interesting 2020.

BRITISH TEEN WINS £1M CASH PRIZE IN FORTNITE TOURNAMENT

Speaking of huge successes, the Fortnite World Cup happened over the weekend. While normally this isn’t something I would pay a lot of attention to, this has been a story that’s caught a lot of the mainstream media’s attention so I feel it needs mentioning.

British teenager Jaden Ashman placed second in the team tournament, securing a combined $2.25m (£1.8m) between himself and his teammate. A brilliant interview with his mother revealed a down-to-earth story behind this success, from the expected parent-child conflict over too many games to a dog eating some ID. She also claims that he’ll spend it all on Uber Eats, although Jaden himself has stated a desire to save it towards a house.

And if that sounds like a lot of money, the winners took away £3m (£2.4m). There’s big money in competitive gaming, and I’m sure Jaden’s mum isn’t planning on throwing out his Xbox again any time soon.

ROCKSTAR NORTH AREN’T PAYING TAXES

Speaking of huge sums of money, that’s exactly what Rockstar North hasn’t been paying in taxes. Based on a report by tax think tank, Tax Watch UK, it seems that Rockstar have not only avoided paying a huge amount of money to HMRC, but may have also claimed back money from the tax system.

Grand Theft Auto V is one of the most profitable pieces of entertainment media in history, and yet their UK corporation tax bill has been found to be roughly zero. On top of that, the total tax rate they appear to be on, despite billions in profit, is about 0.9%. This appears to be down to complex tax arrangements between the UK and the US, where it looks like Rockstar is claiming tax responsibility in each country lies in the other.

Tax Watch UK found that HMRC have yet to challenge these findings, meaning they’re getting away with it, and all in a legal manner. What’s worse, Rockstar have successfully gained subsidies and tax relief through the Video Game Tax Credits scheme. This scheme, set up by the UK government to encourage business, is targeted primarily at smaller companies that promote British cultural values (the criteria are outlined here: https://ukie.org.uk/a2f/VGTR). Quite how a major corporation making a game set in a fictional version of Los Angeles qualifies for this isn’t clear, and yet Rockstar have received 19% of the overall spend on the industry since the scheme was introduced.

It’s especially uncomfortable news in the wake of Rockstar adding a casino to GTA Online. After so many publishers have argued that microtransactions and lootboxes aren’t a form of gambling, it’s quite bold of Rockstar to come out with a literal casino. And yes, it’s possible to spend real money, as you can buy in-game currency, which can be exchanged for chips in the casino.

Sounds like a way to dodge gambling laws, and yet in some countries, this hasn’t been enough, and the content has been locked away from fans living there. A full list of the known countries so far has been compiled by the GTA community on Reddit.

Remember when things were simpler than this? Maybe we should turn back to the games of old…

MICROTRANSACTION MISHAPS

Remember Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fuelled? You know, the remake of 1999’s Crash Team Racing from the PS1? Well, it’s getting microtransactions now, because of course it bloody is.

In a statement this week, showing off a dinosaur-themed event for the revamped classic kart racer, Activision snuck in a sentence about the game’s in-game currency gaining options to purchase it with real currency. Many suspected this was going to happen when they saw the in-game economy, but I don’t think anyone expected it so soon.

I have fond memories of the original Crash Team Racing. I still have my old copy, in fact. And one of my favourite memories of that game is not having an in-game economy and no options to purchase anything with real money. It was a complete game and it was a lot of fun. It’d be nice if someone could do that again these days.

But they weren’t the only ones sneaking in microtransactions into games that have no business having them. Last week’s Game of the Week, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, has had a confusing launch week. Many complained about the in-game economy that exists to buy stat boosters and cosmetics, with some of these items available only with a premium currency that you have to, you guessed it, buy with real cash.

But here’s where it gets strange. Within a few days, Bethesda silently patched out the booster trades, and then began to deny they were ever there. PR director Matt Frary took to Twitter to state that the ability to buy stat boosters wasn’t in the game, despite evidence from YouTubers such as Jim Sterling contradicting him.

He then changed his statement to say that this was in the pre-launch build and that must be why the YouTubers were seeing it, despite those YouTubers having bought the game. It’s not a good look for Bethesda’s PR to be gaslighting customers who’ve questioned a decision they’re not pleased with. Which he acknowledged…but didn’t apologise for. Good job, Bethesda PR!

DOOM GETS RE-RELEASE, ADDED INTERNET CONNECTIVITY PROBLEMS

It would be one thing if this was Bethesda’s only PR gaffe this week, but just like we saw with Fallout 76, when one shows up, they end up making more.

Right after last week’s roundup went up, Bethesda made the announcement that the original Doom trilogy – Doom, Doom II and Doom 3 – were all coming to modern consoles. They released immediately, with fans rushing to download them.

And then the problems started. As a game released in 1993, famously before home PCs were widely connected to the Internet, no one really expected to have connection issues playing it now. But because modern publishers can’t just release a game and have the game be out there, many players were informed that they couldn’t play Doom until they signed in with their Bethesda accounts. Yes, that Doom. From 1993. Requiring an Internet connection.

Bethesda claimed it was a mistake, and the login was supposed to be optional, but I do have to question how a mandatory login screen gets into a game from 1993 by accident. Unnecessary login issues aside, it does seem to a good set of ports, but it’s bizarre that this happened in the first place.

RELEASES AND DELAYS

Speaking of classic FPS games on Switch, Doom isn’t the only one. Turok 2 will be coming next week! Kind of convenient after they just released that odd cutesy spin-off just last week.

But there’s more release news! Including:

  • The Outer Worlds, surprisingly is coming to Switch alongside the other confirmed platforms on October 25th
  • Arty PS4 exclusive Concrete Genie, the one about magical graffiti, is coming out on 9th October
  • XCOM spiritual successor Phoenix Point has been delayed yet again, with a new December release date announced
  • Bizarre village life simulator The Good Life, from beloved weirdo Swery, has also been delayed into next year, so you might have to wait a while for some cat-themed adventures

NEW RELEASES

But enough about games that are coming later, what’s out right now?

First up, Oxygen Not Included (PC) has come out of Early Access. It’s a space colony simulator, where you have to manage the resources of a small crew in an asteroid. It’s a bit like The Sims crossed with developer Klei’s previous title Don’t Starve, with the added threat of everyone suffocating in the vacuum of space.

Then there’s Hamsterdam (PC, Switch, Mobile), which I tried a bit of at the last EGX. You’re a hamster trying to liberate the town of Hamsterdam from gangsters, which you do in a series of fast-paced battles. It’s a simple game that plays a bit like a rhythm game with you following on-screen commands and taking part in some minigames. It’s cute and it’s simple and I think it’s worth a try!

Out today is The Church of the Darkness (PC, PS4, XBO), which is a top-down stealth game that sees you infiltrating a cult to save your sibling. It’s got some shades of Jonestown and the developer has confirmed some inspiration from the Source Family of the 1960s. Looks to be a dark and spooky game with some twists. Plus Ellen “GLaDOS” McLain makes an appearance as one of the cult leaders, so that’s an extra bonus.

And finally, because you know I’m keeping you up to date on all the hottest Smash Bros news, the Hero from Dragon Quest dropped this week following a 20-minute presentation from Masahiro Sakurai. He’s got a whole arsenal of stuff using a built-in spell menu and an MP meter. He’s a bit fiddly and might take some getting used to, but a lot of love has been shown to Dragon Quest here. I don’t know what any of it means as I’ve never played that series, but I’m sure Dragon Quest fans are happy.

FREE STUFF

If all these new releases are too much for you, then the usual console subscription packages have revealed their latest freebies for you all, and it’s good stuff all round!

Over on PlayStation, the two free games for this month are WipEout Omega Collection and Sniper Elite 4. So if you want some fast-paced arcade racing with a techno soundtrack or you just want to shoot Nazis in slow-motion gory detail, then there’s something for you here!

From Xbox, your Games with Gold this month include Gears of War 4 and the Diablo-esque Torchlight, with Forza 6 and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow popping up later on.

A good selection all round then, and you’re likely to find something to love there. Well played, both of you!

GAME OF THE WEEK

With the return of Stranger Things, teenagers investigating horror in their neighbourhoods is in right now. Which is where my Game of the Week comes in – The Blackout Club (PC, PS4, XBO). It’s a co-op horror adventure where you have to find out where your friends have been taken, expose a terrible secret and try to stay alive in the process. It’s an interesting premise, and I love the promise of betrayal and secrets hinted at in the trailer. One to play with your friends in a dark room, just in time for Halloween…three months early.

And that’s it for this week! I’ll see you again soon with more news and releases from the gaming world!


Find Leigh on Twitter at @TheCheapFerret and on YouTube at Bobthepetferret


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