Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, mergers & acquisitions and the importance of not believing rumours.
Mergers & Acquisitions
It’s been a big week for capitalism in the games industry, although whether or not that’s good for consumers is yet to be seen.
First of all, Sony have acquired a new studio. Savage Game Studios formed in 2020 and currently have no releases yet, but they specialise in mobile game development. It’s part of Sony’s push towards more live service games, and to give them a foot in the mobile space. It’s certainly a better decision to acquire a studio specifically to focus on the mobile market than to push it on existing studios, but the push towards live services is a concern. (link)
Sony have also invested a bunch of money into Dark Souls developers FromSoftware, along with Chinese megacorp Tencent. Sony have bought a 14% stake, while Tencent, via a subsidiary, have acquired 16.25%. It’s a decision that makes some degree of sense for Sony, as they own the rights to FromSoft’s critical darlings Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne, but Tencent’s investment is more concerning, as they’re a company that already own a big chunk of the industry as it is. (link)
Speaking of Chinese companies that are slowly swallowing the industry, NetEase have bought Quantic Dream, developers of Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human, making them the first European studio owned by the corporation. The studio is set to still run independently, however. (link)
All these acquisitions come mere weeks after Embracer Group exploded even further with acquisitions in (sit down, it’s a long one) Middle-Earth Enterprises (Tolkien properties), Limited Run Games (short print run publisher for indie devs), Tuxedo Labs (Teardown), Tripwire Interactive (Maneater, Killing Floor), Singtrix (vocal processing tech), Tatsujin (Japanese arcade game studio), Bitwave Games (small Swedish studio), Gioteck (gaming accessories) and an undisclosed company. This coincided with the completion of the deal to buy Square Enix’s Western properties, including Tomb Raider, Deus Ex and Legacy of Kain. (link)
It’s all kind of concerning, to be honest. At this rate, the entire industry is going to be owned by Microsoft, Sony, Embracer and a handful of Chinese megacorps, and I fail to see how that’s beneficial for anybody who isn’t a shareholder.
It’s not just me saying that, either, as the UK government has expressed significant concern for Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision. Reported as this roundup was being written, the Competition and Markets Authority believes that the acquisition may affect competition with the British games industry, as Microsoft could withhold Activision’s content from other platforms (which includes the absolutely massive Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, so that’s a big deal) and give their streaming and subscription services an edge that no other company can compete with. This means the deal could be blocked if Microsoft fail to take steps to address the concerns, and if it’s blocked here, other countries may follow suit. (link)
And in all this excitement, the games press tripped over itself to report on the biggest scoop of them all – Amazon buying Electronic Arts. Except it wasn’t true. Someone made it up. And then it proceeded to be reported as fact across the industry, only to be revealed as false by CNBC. It was a farce, quite frankly, and was honestly embarrassing for everyone involved. I know everyone’s just reported what everyone else is saying (hello, yes, this roundup is 100% guilty of this, I’m aware) but can we just try and verify things occasionally before printing them? That’d be great. (link)
Resident Evil Series Cancelled
Only just over a month after its debut, Netflix have confirmed that the Resident Evil series starring Lance Reddick as Wesker will be cancelled.
This isn’t really surprising, as reaction from critics and fans alike has been overwhelmingly negative. On Metacritic, the series has a 53% critic rating and a 14% user score, while Rotten Tomatoes handed it 55% from critics and 27% from the audience. This negativity has extended to the audience figures, which failed to capture any kind of word-of-mouth bump in its second week, a metric that Netflix often use to gauge how successful a show is. This is likely because most word-of-mouth discussion of the show mostly consisted of “it’s bad, don’t watch it” which is a significant problem (link)
Wild Arms and Shadow Hearts Directors Start Joint Kickstarter
It’s not unusual for directors of classic video games to take to Kickstarter to launch spiritual successors to the franchises that their previous employers aren’t interested in investing in anymore. What is unusual is for two of them to team up and launch a single Kickstarter for two separate projects. (link)
Matsuzo Machida, former director on the Shadow Hearts franchise, and Akifumi Kaneko, former producer and lead designer on the Wild Arms franchise, have teamed up to jointly fund their separate projects. Machida is working on a horror RPG called Penny Blood, clearly drawing influence from his past work, while Kaneko is working on Armed Fantasia, which is a Western-themed RPG where characters are equipped with weapons called ARMs, so it’s basically just Wild Arms. The music in the Kickstarter trailer even threatens to break out into a full-on rendition of the first game’s “Into the Wilderness” theme, which does make sense as Kaneko has hired the same composer as his old series, Michiko Naruke.
At the time of writing, the Kickstarter has reached its initial goal, and is steadily moving its way through the stretch goals. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how these projects turn out.
This week in re-releases, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cowabunga Collection (PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox) brings together 13 TMNT games released by Konami between 1989 and 1993, including the NES Turtles game and Turtles in Time for both Arcade and SNES. That’s pretty rad!
The Last of Us Part I (PS5) is the massively hyped and arguably unnecessary “from the ground up” remake of 2013’s zombie classic The Last of Us. It’s certainly a great game, although I definitely have questions about the need for this re-release. Despite all the claims about changes, it’s mostly visual changes with some minor gameplay tweaks, so probably best to only look into this if you somehow never played the original (or if you want to save a few quid, just get the PS4 remaster).
In small new releases, Orx (PC) is tower defence meets Carcassone, as bizarre as that sounds, Chenso Club (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One) is a fast-paced action-platformer about five girls fighting aliens, Galahad 3093 (PC) is a mech battler starring the Knights of the Round Table (yes really) and Scathe (PC) is a fast-paced FPS romp through the underworld.
Immortality (PC, Xbox Series X/S) is the latest FMV mystery game from Sam Barlow, best known for Her Story. An actress from the mid-to-late 20th century has gone missing, and you have to search through video clips to find clues on what might have happened to her. It’s getting some rave reviews, although personally I never quite got the appeal of Her Story so this isn’t grabbing me much personally.
Game of the Week
Game of the Week this week is Tinykin (PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox), a game where some ex-Ubisoft devs said that if Nintendo won’t make Pikmin 4, then we’ll do it ourselves.
You play as Milo, a scientist in the far future who’s rediscovered Earth, but there’s a problem – he’s tiny and the world is stuck in 1991. In order to survive this ordeal, he must recruit tiny creatures named tinykin who can aid him in his exploration with their special powers.
It is, essentially Pikmin with a little more platforming. It’s got an adorable art style and looks like it has a great sense of fun and humour throughout. If this isn’t one of the big indie breakout successes of the year, I’ll be very shocked.