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Gaming Roundup – Stadia Stalled

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, Stadia, Sonic, some extra bits news and, of course, the latest releases!

Stadia Shutting Down

In a move that’s surprised no one, Google’s games streaming platform, Stadia, will be closing down all its first-party development studios.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Stadia launched in November 2019 without any major games to show off the streaming technology, due to the first-party studios being set up only a month before the system’s launch. Which is also why none of those studios have anything to show for their work, as none of them have had time to develop anything of note prior to their shutdown, suggesting Google didn’t know a lot about game development before deciding to develop a gaming platform. Curious.

It’s a real shame for the developers working on projects for the troubled streaming platform, but Google’s entry to the gaming space has been a messy one that seemingly hasn’t paid off. 150 people have lost their jobs with the studios, including Jade Raymond, who’d joined the company as head of the development arm of the platform following her departure from EA. It’s especially unfortunate for her as that departure followed another high-profile cancellation with one of EA’s major Star Wars projects being shuttered. Phil Harrison, the head of Stadia as a whole, gets to keep his job, however.

Stadia will continue (for now), but Google appear to be aiming to push the streaming tech on a B2B basis. Although quite who will buy it is unknown, as other prominent companies moving into streaming already have their own platforms, such as Nvidia’s streaming tech or Microsoft’s Azure, and they seem unlikely to switch any time soon. I’ve a feeling it’s only a matter of time before Stadia’s disastrous life comes to an end despite this optimism.

Hopefully all the developers who lost their jobs over this will find new work soon.

Sonic News

It seems like I’ve been reporting on anniversary news for various major franchises lately, with Tomb Raider and Pokémon both seeing 25th anniversary celebrations this year. And while Sega haven’t officially confirmed any 30th anniversary celebrations for their hedgehog mascot, there sure has been a bunch of Sonic news that’s felt like it’s happening.

First up, Roger Craig Smith is stepping down from the role of the Blue Blur. In a tweet he said goodbye to a ten-year career voicing Sega’s mascot, and later confirmed by Sega. He first voiced Sonic in 2010’s Sonic Free Riders, a Kinect-driven racing game for Xbox 360, with Sonic Colours on the Wii being the first main series entry, and steps down with his final Sonic role being in…Puyo Puyo Tetris 2. Smith’s other prominent gaming roles include Chris Redfield in the Resident Evil series and Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed 2, so we can expect to see a lot more of him across the industry.

It’s unknown who will be taking over, although that’s likely to be news we’ll hear about soon, as Netflix have confirmed a Sonic animated series coming to the platform. Sonic Prime will be developed by the creators of Ben 10 and feature a continuous story set in a multiverse of sorts. Quite what this means isn’t clear yet, but it looks set to be a reboot of sorts for the franchise.

In additional Sonic news, Lego have confirmed the development of an official Sonic the Hedgehog set. Designed through the Lego Ideas platform by UK-based Sega fan Viv Grannell, the set will be based around Green Hill Zone and feature a giant Robotnik mech. Visually it seems to draw a lot from Lego and Sega’s previous collaboration as part of the Lego Dimensions toys-to-life game.

Other News

Here are a couple of extra bits of news this week.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition is now officially confirmed to be releasing in May, with HD remasters of the entire Mass Effect trilogy. This includes upgraded textures but the first game will also be receiving some gameplay improvements to address some infamous issues players have had with the game in the past.

The DLC will also all be included, with one major exception. The first game’s Pinnacle Station DLC will not be included due to issues with the original source code being corrupted. While it could be recreated from scratch, it would add unnecessary costs to development and delay the remaster, so they decided to just drop it. It was also dropped for the PS3 release of the game back in the day for the same reason, so it’s not exactly a new issue.

The Switch has reached 79m consoles sold. This means it has now outsold the 3DS (75m), making it the fifth best-selling Nintendo system of all time. It’s only outclassed by the GBA (81m), the Wii (101m), the Game Boy (118m) and the DS (154m) and it’s only a matter of time before it catches up to two of those. The Switch Lite alone has sold almost as many units as the Wii U did in its entire lifetime. The Switch is a huge success and shows no signs of slowing down.

Warner Bros may soon hold the patent to the nemesis system built into the Middle Earth games. This was an innovative system where orcs would hold grudges and create rivalries with the player. It’s a bit odd that it’s getting it now, but it’s been rejected for years, until an approval was granted in October, meaning it’s only a matter of time before it becomes an official patent. It’s raised debates about the value of patenting gaming systems such as this, and whether it stifles creativity. It’s especially odd because there doesn’t seem to be any plans for Warner to use this in any upcoming titles at present. Will be interesting to see what comes of this.

And now, here’s Mat with the latest in esports!

Big win for UK player at $50k Fortnite Charity event

Hey folks, this week is all about big wins for the UK in esports.

Entertainment brand, Combat Gaming, brought together celebrities, athletes, content creators and pro players for a competitive $50,000 tournament that in BR-game Fortnite will be donated to a nominal charity or cause of their choice.

UK pro Fortnite player Higgsy, took the title alongside his teammates for the competition fellow pro player Vadeal and content creator Milk. Among the runners-up for this charity Fortnite tournament were big names like UK pro Fortnite player Benjyfishy, Arsenal footballer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and streamer TheGrefg.

The $50,000 prize pool was split between the top three teams, with the money going to the players’ choice of charity or cause.

Combat Gaming is a new gaming collective and membership club launched by 38 Entertainment, co-owners of Ellevens Esports alongside footballer Gareth Bale.

This tournament comes off the back of successes last year when CG launched Combat Corona to raise urgent funds during the beginning of the global pandemic. This comprised of two events which saw a combined total of 3.1m live viewers tune in to watch the likes of footballers Gareth Bale, Paulo Dybala, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mason Mount and others like Ed Westwick, Caspar Lee and Trent Alexander-Arnold compete in a FIFA 20 tournament and a CoD: Warzone tournament to raise money for UNICEF and Direct Relief.

More events are planned for 2021, to keep up to speed head over to Combat Gaming now.

British Esports Association announce top tier League of Legends Showdown

The British Esports Association will shine light on the best League of Legends teams of 2020-21 in a championship tournament. This follows the success of the Rocket League All Star Showdown last year.

The top 8 teams have been invited to face off against each other to settle scores and create new rivalries. The tournament will take place during February half term from February 8th to 12th in a single elimination tournament, set up to showcase some of the best League of Legends talent from the winter qualifiers split in the 2020-21 British Esports Championships.

This tournament is a student-led initiative targeting those aged 12+ to still continue to take part in online competition, whilst waiting for the spring divisions split of the British Esports Championships to continue after February half term.

Teams hail from across the UK including Northampton, London, Exeter and Norfolk.

It’s awesome to see that BEA are back with more student lead tournaments following the success of the Rocket League championships last year. As I’ve said before the investment in home grown talent is a positive step to making the UK a pivotal export for esports worldwide – now we just need some decent pros in DOTA!

Matches will be played from home and streamed via the British Esports Twitch channel from 1:15pm on February 8th, 9th, 11th and 12th.

Overwatch team London Spitfire announce return of esports camp

London Spitfire have teamed up with US-based esports events provider Nerd Street Gamers to host an online esports camp for gamers aged 13 and up.

Dubbed “Spitfire Flight School: Powered by Nerd Street Gamers”, the camp will take place from 15th February via Discord, where gamers can take part in a “structured online curriculum” featuring members of the London based pro team. Members taking part include general manager Noukky, coaches CommanderX and Reprize, as well as players Molf1g, Hybrid, Hadi, Kellex will join the camp and provide insight and advice to attendees.

Contents includes seminars and learning about the fundamentals of competitive gaming, map and game strategy, teamplay and experience coached matches, in-house tournaments and other activities.

It costs £99 for the weeklong course, or £149 for a “plus” ticket which also includes some goodies like a team journey, baseball cap, tote bag and socks.

With the rise in popularity of esports we’re starting to see a lot more of these esports short courses crop up for the most popular games like League of Legends, DOTA 2, Valorant and Fortnite and, of course, Overwatch. Not having much experience personally and being way too old to be in competitive esports (sad face) but I think this would be appealing for teenagers to meet their favourite players and learn more about the games they love.

Anyone interested in signing up (or if you have a die hard Overwatch / LS fan in the family) can head over to Nerd Street Gamers to sign up.

New Releases

In new releases this week, let’s start with some ports and remasters. Cultist Simulator has come to Switch in the form of Cultist Simulator: Initiate Edition. It’s a card-based sim game about building a cult following depending on your actions. Meanwhile, the Nioh Collection brings the Nioh series of Soulslike titles to PS5.

Also coming to PS5 is Control: Ultimate Edition, which is the greatest game of 2019 (don’t @ me) now on PS5, with an Xbox Series X/S edition coming soon. A fully upgraded version of the SCP Foundation meets third person shooter title brings better visuals and raytracing to next-gen, and as well as the base game, both DLC expansions – The Foundation and the Alan Wake crossover AWE – are included by default. It’s also available for free for both PS4 and PS5 players this month as part of a PlayStation Plus subscription. So now you have no excuse not to play the greatest game of 2019. DO IT!

Here’s some small indie releases! Valheim is a Viking-inspired co-op survival game set in purgatory, available for Steam in Early Access. Psycholonials is a visual novel game from the creator of Homestuck about social media influencers collaborating with supernatural forces, available for Steam. Blue Fire is a 3D platformer starting a cute little warrior who slashes his way through foes, available for PC and Switch. And finally, Comet 64 is a programming puzzle game inspired by 80s home computers, available for PC.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is the latest title in the long-running anime-styled JRPG franchise Ys. Pretty standard JRPG fare, but getting a few good reviews for those who love the genre. It’s currently exclusive to PS4, but PC and Switch versions are on their way soon.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse: Earthblood (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S) is the latest licensed World of Darkness game, but instead of a complex RPG about social dynamics, Earthblood is a DMC-style action game. Shifting between human, wolf and werewolf forms, the player also has to balance their rage to succeed. It’s getting some mixed reviews though, so be warned.

Available as a free PlayStation Plus game, Destruction All-Stars is a brash multiplayer arena game, exclusive to PS5, where players try and take each other out using a variety of vehicles beamed onto the stage. It’s a bit Fall Guys, and a bit Twisted Metal, and a bit Fortnite. So just imagine all of that mixed together and you have an idea of where to start with this.

Game of the Week

Game of the Week is Nuts (PC, Switch). No, really, that’s the title.

Nuts is a narrative driven game about a nature researcher who’s been noticing something odd going on with squirrels. Using cameras and other investigative tools, your aim is to keep watch over the bushy-tailed inhabitants of a forest because…they’re up to something, you’re certain of it.

It’s such a bizarre premise for a game that I can’t not make it Game of the Week. It’s a game about being paranoid over squirrels, which is just wonderful.

And that’s it for this week! See you again soon with more from the world of gaming!