Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, the state of the industry! And some other things.
GDC State of the Industry Survey
Every year, the Game Developer’s Conference sends out a survey to its members to determine the state of the industry.
And there are some interesting bits of data in this year’s results. For a start, the industry is slowly creeping towards greater diversity, with the percentage of men in the industry dropping from 80% to roughly three quarters. Obviously, there’s still a long way to go to balancing that a little better, but it’s a positive trend.
Questions on platforms and funding painted a picture of where the industry is at too. PC and mobile still dominate as platforms, largely due to how accessible and open they are. But behind that, the PlayStation 5 is proving to be the most popular. 30% of developers said their next project would be for PS5 vs 25% for Xbox Series X, an increased gap between previous projects developed for PS4 and Xbox One. VR is also less appealing to developers, with 38% of respondents saying they were working on a VR title, a drop from 46% last year.
21% of developers stated that 100% of their revenue was coming from the PC market, with much of that revenue coming from either Steam or the developer’s own website. Despite their increased presence, GOG and Epic Games Store weren’t bringing in much, with developers reporting no income at all for 85% and 78% of developers for each storefront respectively.
There is also, unsurprisingly, no love for the typical 70/30 split offered by most storefronts, which is possibly why the Head of Xbox Studios Matt Booty (heh) this week announced that Microsoft’s storefront would be shifting to an 88/12 split in favour of developers, at least for PC (no word on the Xbox itself).
We also got an insight into how developers have been coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, with 44% of developers reporting delays to their projects. It’s not a surprising stat considering how all over the place release dates have become in the past year, but now it’s official. However, going against the narrative that working from home can be detrimental to a project, 66% of respondents stated they felt their productivity had increased or remained the same working from home. Hopefully this statistic will see the industry making greater concessions for remote working in future.
For more on the survey’s findings, the full report can be found here.
Mo Money Mo Problems
Concerns around EA’s gambling-for-children FUT mode in the FIFA titles have heightened this week, as a document linked to Canadian news source CBC seemed to highlight exactly how much EA are pushing the “surprise mechanics” of its card packs. This document includes a company presentation which states that players will be “incentivized to convert” to the gambling mode as they are “doing everything we can to drive players there”. Elsewhere, the document states that “all roads lead to FUT” highlighting how much they want to push players to spend there.
EA have hit back at the leak, stating that the document is confidential (ie. we weren’t supposed to see that) and that it’s also out of context. EA have not detailed what the context is, however, leaving us only to speculate what they mean by pushing players to the gambling that is a “cornerstone” of their game. Perhaps it might be a good idea to clarify that when legislation is seemingly on the way.
At another notoriously terrible publisher, the issue of money has arisen. Bobby Kotick of Activision has proclaimed his renewed contract will feature him receiving a halved salary, dropping to a mere $875k a year. Before you weep for this terrible loss, however, it should be noted that the fine print states his bonuses may increase by 200%, which puts his income…let me do some quick maths here…exactly where it was to begin with. Which leaves him earning $30 million if his income from last year is any indication.
In unrelated news, Activision Blizzard made 190 members of staff redundant back in March, after reporting another year of record profits. Also this week it emerged that staff from Crash Bandicoot 4 developer Toys for Bob have been let go and the remaining staff pushed onto working on Call of Duty.
Mario Party is Online, About 2 Years Late
In a bizarre bit of news, Nintendo have announced online multiplayer functionality will be arriving for Super Mario Party. This doesn’t sound that weird until you realise that the game launched in late 2018, and this update came out of nowhere.
There have been many requests for online functionality since the game’s release, and it’s a full year since lockdowns began, when a mode like this would have been the best thing to add. Of course, there is a chance that they decided to do it a year ago and it’s just taken this long to get it all working, which is fair, but doesn’t make the news any less of a surprise.
Quiet week this week in terms of numbers, but each release is a fairly big one. To start, Sony first-party title Days Gone hits PC this week. The game that combines motorbikes and truckloads of zombies can now be played by non-PS4 players. Not one that caught my attention, but apparently good if you’re not utterly bored of zombies like I am.
A classic returns! R-Type Final 2 (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S) is the latest edition of Irem’s beloved sidescrolling space blaster, and the first game in the series for over a decade. It’s also the first game in the classic formula since 2004’s R-Type Final, which this game is unsurprisingly a direct sequel to. So if you like your space shooters, this is the game for you.
Speaking of space shooters, Sony’s latest PS5 exclusive Returnal comes from the developers of Resogun, although it is quite a departure. Starring an astronaut called Selene, she crash lands on a planet stuck in a time loop. As she explores the ever-changing world, she experiences strange visions that relate to her past, while every death resurrects her back at her spaceship. Combining roguelikes with the combat of Control and the spooky hallways of P.T., Returnal is quite an odd game and I’m not sure how I feel about it.
Game of the Week
You know what game I loved back in the day? Pokémon Snap. A rail shooter where all your shooting was done with a camera and all your targets were Pokémon, it was a fun, creative time where you’d have to work out how to get the best shots of Game Freak’s adorable creatures.
So it’s with great excitement to announce this week sees the release of New Pokémon Snap, which is also Game of the Week. As the name suggests, it’s a new Pokémon Snap, with the core gameplay largely unchanged from the 1999 N64 original. You are a Pokémon photographer, so you head out in a self-driving pod and take photos as you drive buy, occasionally using tools to encourage certain behaviours and take even cooler photos.
New Pokémon Snap promises more of this, with a few modern tweaks and adjustments, and of course, looks so much better. I’m excited for this, and you should be too.
And that’s all for this week! See you again with more next Friday!