Gaming Roundup – Not So Sensible World of Soccer

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, EA splits from FIFA, Xbox goes down and Wata face consequences.

FIFA and EA Split

There’s been some animosity between EA and global football association FIFA for a while now, but the divorce is now final. EA have confirmed that after the release of FIFA 23 later this year, all football games released by the company in the future will instead be branded EA Sports FC. (link)

It’s quite a major shift, especially as the FIFA games are a major earner for EA, and to suddenly drop the FIFA name might be seen as a bad decision. However, due to the way football rights are handled, the EA Sports FC titles will still contain team and player names due to separate agreements with individual leagues such as the UK’s Premier League, and with FIFPro, the international footballers’ union.

A New York Times article back in October suggested that the fallout between EA and FIFA may be down to licensing disputes, with FIFA allegedly wanting to double the cost of the license. And with this being the case, it seems EA quite literally are taking their ball and going home.

FIFA have reacted well to the news, and by well I mean they’ve thrown a professionally worded tantrum. (link)

The international soccer federation is currently seeking partners to make their own game, and knowing how FIFA allegedly spend their money (link), blackjack and hookers are indeed likely.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino issued strong words towards EA, stating that football fans would only care for the authentic experience, and that anything they hand the name to in future will be “the BEST” (capitals not mine). It’s quite a statement that comes across as the angry rantings of a child. Or, perhaps, an infantino.

It’s an interesting situation and it’ll certainly be interesting to see if EA Sports FC has the power to remain the monster cash cow the series has been with the FIFA branding.

Xbox Off

Xbox players have been experiencing major outages across the service and found themselves unable to play many of their games. The outages affected not just the ability to buy or stream games, but also blocked people from accessing games they’d paid for and already had downloaded.

On Friday last week, Microsoft’s support team confirmed that there were issues (link), and while they claimed to have resolved the issue on Saturday (link), problems persisted. It should be noted, however, that these issues only affected those playing on console, as services such as Game Pass for PC remained active.

The status of the Xbox network has been erratic since. While officially the issue has been fixed, users are still sporadically reporting issues and left unable to access the games they own.

Naturally, it’s led to a lot of criticism against Xbox, who famously faced backlash over their plans to introduce an always-online requirement in the early days of the Xbox One, and are seemingly back in that position again. Only this time, the issues are actively affecting people rather than being theoretical. Twitter user “Does It Play?” criticised the issue (link), even stating that this is not an issue on PlayStation or Switch, where single player games can launch offline with ease.

Hopefully the issues can be resolved soon, and I especially hope it doesn’t hit PC Game Pass because I’ve got Forza Playlists to complete.

Class-Action Lawsuit Launched Against Wata

A class action lawsuit has been launched against Wata. You may not know who they are, so allow me to explain.

Wata are a video game grading company, meaning they will look at your old video games, seal them in a plastic case similar to security cases for hard drives at Currys and then assign them a numerical value depending on how many teeth marks your baby sibling left on the case 20 years ago.

They were in the news quite a bit over the past couple of years. If you remember the many breathless headlines about incredibly common retro games like Super Mario Bros going for millions of dollars at auction (link), they were generally involved. Basically, those copies were high-grade copies, meaning pristine cases, manual and box all present, and the game in full working condition. The value was determined by a high grade from Wata, whose big old seal of quality seemingly became God overnight.

It also caused havoc in the retro gaming market. What was previously a market for nostalgic millennials wishing they hadn’t sold their copy of Skies of Arcadia years ago (shout out to Ryan here) or delightful weirdos who decided they needed every single US-released Wii game in existence (link) now became a haven for market speculators. And when a market gets infested with market speculators, you better believe the prices go sky high and those already expensive copies of Skies of Arcadia now require a second mortgage.

Well, a year ago, YouTuber Karl Jobst released a comprehensive report on suspicious activity around the grading and speculation, centred heavily on Wata. (link) The report alleged that Wata colluded with the auction houses to artificially increase the value of the games, and fuelled a frenzied speculation market that not only brought them a ton of profit, but also violated their own terms of service.

A class action lawsuit has now been brought forward by people who’d gotten their games graded by Wata, with these allegations of artificial price inflation at the heart of it all. (link) Numerous allegations raised by Jobst’s documentary are included in the lawsuit, such as three men involved with Wata and Heritage Auctions buying and selling games amongst themselves to increase prices and a deceptive appearance on The History Channel’s Pawn Stars show (in a clip that has since been removed from History’s website, although not from YouTube).

These allegations claim that this inflated value on their graded products allowed them to increase their prices, all while taking increasingly longer to complete the grading process.

As someone who isn’t a fan of the sealed-in-plastic-cases and graded side of the retro market, I’ve disliked Wata’s behaviour from the start, with the over-inflated Mario games being a major question mark for me from day one. It’ll be interesting to see the outcome of this case, so I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it.

In other news, Bethesda have confirmed that both Starfield and Redfall will be delayed. Starfield is their main studio’s upcoming RPG, basically Elder Scrolls and/or Fallout in space, and was set for a November release, while Redfall is Arkane’s upcoming co-op vampire hunting game, originally set for a summer release. Both games are now set to release next year. (link)

While a successor to the Switch is certainly on the way, it’s at least two years away according to analysts and Nintendo also have concerns about it. Specifically, president Shuntaro Furukawa seemingly wants to avoid a Wii U situation, where naming and marketing were so obtuse that people assumed the Wii U was simply a weird tablet controller for the Wii and not a new machine entirely. (link) Of course, with the Switch still doing absurdly well in sales, it’s unlikely we’ll see a new system from them any time soon, but it’s nice to know they’ve learned from past mistakes.

Capcom have announced their ninth consecutive year of growth, with 2021’s massive profits being driven by Monster Hunter Rise and Resident Evil Village, along with back catalogue titles, merchandise, arcade operations and eSports all riding high too. And in a rare positive move for the games industry, they have confirmed they intend to reinvest most of this back into the workplace, improving conditions for their workers, including raising base salaries across the company. Capcom are clearly one of the good ones right now. (link)

New Releases

We’re going to kick off new releases with Harvest Days (PC), an Early Access farming game that’s…basically just that. You manage and operate a farm for a laidback time. Exactly what you’d normally expect from the genre.

Achilles: Legends Untold (PC) is an action RPG in Early Access that looks a bit like Diablo but the developers describe as being a Soulslike. Which is an interesting concept when you’re playing as an invincible Greek warrior. I assume enemies are just really good at attacking your heels?

We Were Here Forever (PC) is the latest in the We Were Here series of co-op puzzle games that’s been quietly doing the rounds on Steam for a few years now. The games revolve around a sinister castle out in the frozen wastes, full of puzzles and challenges that you and a friend must work together to solve, and this entry has more of that but bigger and bolder than ever.

Salt and Sacrifice (PC, PlayStation) is the latest attempt to take the Souls formula and turn into 2D. The sequel to Salt & Sanctuary, Sacrifice brings more of the same for fans of the original. There are some changes, such as chase sequences and a more segmented world, but overall it’s more boss-killing platforming action like before.

Brought to you by former Suikoden staff, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising (PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox) is an independently developed JRPG that intends to set up a new franchise. The prequel to the upcoming Kickstarted retro revival Hundred Heroes, Rising sees you play as three characters all seeking treasures in some mysterious ruins. You take control of a young scavenger, a mage in training and a kangaroo mercenary in a side scrolling action RPG adventure, switching between them on the fly. It looks kinda neat!

Songs of Conquest (PC) is a tactical RPG crossed with a strategic builder sim, as you plan both your town construction and army formations to lead to victory. With its unique gameplay ideas and its absolutely stunning pixel art visuals, this was a contender for Game of the Week.

For more turn-based strategy fun, Cantata (PC) sees you exploring strange alien worlds while battling other factions for dominance. There’s some really interesting things happening visually in this one, and the environment itself also gets its own turns to mess with your plans for some added challenge, so this is an interesting one.

In the latest example of Square Enix seemingly throwing out every game idea possible at the moment, The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story (PC, PlayStation, Switch) is them attempting a mystery FMV title. You play as mystery writer Haruka Kagami who finds herself investigating four murders from the past 100 years. Looks interesting, although Square Enix’s quality has been wildly mixed lately and they’ve never attempted this genre before, so be cautious.

The big release of the week is Evil Dead: The Game (PC, PlayStation, Xbox), which is a big bold multiplayer title based on the Evil Dead franchise. It’s basically Dead By Daylight but with more Bruce Campbell (and yes, his chin has been lovingly rendered).

Game of the Week

Game of the Week this week is Soundfall (PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox), which is the latest attempt to bring rhythm mechanics into other genres. It’s basically a dungeon crawler akin to Diablo, but the twist is you’re encouraged to do everything in time with the music for more damage and bonuses.

You play as a musician named Melody (bit on the nose there, guys) who gets transported to a mysterious musical land where she has to fight across 10 distinct zones I order to save all music and then return home.

There’s a huge amount of style and confidence in this title, and that’s especially impressive from a first-time team. Soundfall got a surprise release this week via Nintendo’s Indie World presentation, but I’m glad it got my attention quickly enough for it to become Game of the Week.

And that’s all for now! See you again next week for more from the world of gaming!

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