EA has officially closed Visceral Games, the studio responsible for Dead Space and Battlefield Hardline, and the developer's ambitious new Star Wars project (codenamed "Ragtag") has been handed off to another internal EA studio.
Visceral Games is no more, and one of the big reasons EA likely canned the studio was because of their upcoming Star Wars game led by Amy Hennig. EA is embracing the games-as-a-service business model that essentially sees games lasting much longer and making more long-term money via microtransactions and lootboxes. I've reported on this in the past, and predicted that pretty much every new EA game--or AAA game from a big publisher--will have microtransactions and embrace this model. Sadly, Visceral's new Star Wars project just didn't fit this model, and EA has decided to dismantle the studio entirely and hand the project off to EA Vancouver, who will make a game from the assets and bones of Project Ragtag while incorporating that critical GaaS hook. This marks the second time EA has shut down a studio recently, the first being BioWare Montreal, who was shut down after the humiliating reception around Mass Effect: Andromeda.
In a recent blog post, EA exec Patrick Soderlund announced Visceral Games' closure and explained what the future holds for Project Ragtag. "Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game," Soderlund said. The exec went on to say that this linear story model just didn't mesh with player testing--and, more importantly, EA's all-in monetization business model. "Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design."
"A development team from across EA Worldwide Studios will take over development of this game, led by a team from EA Vancouver that has already been working on the project," Soderlund said, then explaining that Visceral Games will die off, despite being a wholly-owned studio. The Star Wars project was essentially strike three for Visceral, with the first two being Dead Space 3 and Battlefield Hardline. "Our Visceral studio will be ramping down and closing, and we're in the midst of shifting as many of the team as possible to other projects and teams at EA."
While the gaming world is dominated by the likes of Battlegrounds, Fortnite, Star Wars: Battlefront II, and others... don't forget massive fan favorites like Team Fortress 2, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Valve is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Team Fortress 2 with one of the games largest updates ever; Jungle Inferno. The new update relocates your heroes to tropical climates, with a story ripped from the script of Jurassic Park. Mann Co. President, Saxton Hale, has opened up Yeti Park. But there's a twist! The yetis escape and start causing all sorts of problems, as you can see in the video above.
Another surprise is that Valve released a new map, which is the first in-house map created since 2015, as well as some yeti-related taunts. The company has also unleashed five new fan-designed maps, with more content planned in the new Jungle Inferno content pack that will be released over the next couple of weeks.
Seriously... if you haven't picked up a Nintendo Switch and played Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you really ought to. It's one of the best games I've ever played, safely tucked into my top 10... but PUBG is definitely my #1. YouTuber BSoD Gaming has a great comparison between the Switch version, and the PC version with all of the bells and whistles.
To get the best experience out of the comparison, watch the video in 4K. First off, the visual style of Zelda: BotW is instantly apparent, but it is highlighted in the PC version with all of the mods. We have a new graphics pack, which adds much more contrast and saturation to the world, resulting in a much more luscious world.
The one big thing that I will point out, that I haven't seen anyone talk about yet. Most of you know I'm a huge graphics/PCMR kinda guy, but the actual experience of playing Zelda: BotW on the Nintendo Switch in portable mode. It's an amazing experience in portable mode, almost as if Nintendo made the Switch just for Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It runs at 720p 30FPS, and as someone who games at 3440x1440 @ 100FPS+ it's a huge drop, but BotW is worth it.
Man, oh man... the amount of hours I pumped into my Sega Genesis, NES, and SNES... but now, Analogue is tempting me with their new Super Nt.
SuperNt is a new console that is capable of playing the massive 2200+ library of SNES and Super Famicom cartridges at 1080p, with no lag, and is compatible with every single accessory out there. The new console will play SNES games at 1080p, all while looking super-fly, as if it was designed this year.
The new console runs games from 480p to 1080p, with both NTSC and PAL support, as well as 48KHz 16-bit audio. There's even the same controller ports as the original SNES, with the new Super Nt capable of having its firmware updated with an SD card. Analogue has even included scanline options, scaling options, and more in order to get the exact image you want on your TV.
The new Super Nt will cost just $189.99 and will come in four different colors: Black, Classic, SF, and Transparent. Super Nt is expected to ship sometime in February 2018, with pre-orders up on Analogue's website.
Monolith and WB Games have announced a weekly calendar timeline of post-release events for gamers to tackle in the war-torn world of Middle-earth.
One of the main reasons Shadow of War has lootboxes is that WB Games wants the experience to last quite some time; with the help of the devs at Monolith, the publisher has effectively turned Shadow of War into a service game, complete with an optional online mode with a distinct multiplayer hook. And one of the traditional benefits of this monetization strategy is free post-release content updates that typically keep players engaged and so they "stick" to the game. Now Monolith has revealed a small slice of this post-release engagement with a weekly list of rotating challenges.
All in all the calendar isn't too impressive, but it's not a timeline of content perse, more of a smattering of community-driven challenges and mini-events that net specific rewards. Each challenge week is separated into weekly and weekend challenges that rotate on a week-to-week basis, and the ending challenges seem to be geared towards online play. All in all I expected a bit more from Monolith on the engagement front, but the game is still young and they'll have time to roll out more updates and the like. And of course the team just launched Shadow of War so they need a breather--any dev team needs a fair bit of R&R after launching a massive game like this.
Sumo Digital, the UK-based independent games developer known for titles like Crackdown 3, Dead Island 2 and Forza Horizon 3, plans to go public with an IPO worth $198 million, British publication The Times reports.
Sources familiar with the matter tell The Times that Sumo Digital are currently preparing to go public in London in an IPO worth £150m, or about $198 million based on recent conversions. The developer has hired Zeus Capital to help plan the IPO, and the company's co-founders, Carl Cavers and Paul Porter, will receive significant portions of the offering thanks to their current stakes.
Interestingly enough, Sumo Digital is currently run by equity firm Perwyn, who has majority of the company's stake after a buyout in 2016. It will be interesting to see how this IPO affects the development of future games such as Crackdown 3, which has been delayed to 2018, and Deep Silver's often-delayed Dead Island 2.
We've known that Borderlands 3 is in the works for quite some time--last April Gearbox officially confirmed the third chapter is in development--and 2K Games label parent company Take-Two Interactive has even strongly iterated that Borderlands 3 will release in the company's fiscal year ending March 2019. Now a new job listing has popped up to give us a few more details.
The listing calls for a writer to help "punch up" the story and plot outlines, including writing up voice-over dialogue and in-game text for missions and interactions. Gearbox wants candidates to have a penchant for humor and inject comedy into the mix--another staple of the Borderlands series--while staying true to the plot arc.
Like other major publishers such as Activision, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Rockstar Games, 2K Games, and Gearbox Software, uses recurring monetization streams via microtransactions and in-game purchases to act as safety nets in case new IPs backfire.
Making AAA games costs a lot of money--sometimes even $100 million--and publishers are typically risk averse when it comes to new IPs. But some publishers, like Ubisoft, have used new IPs as a gateway for a new interactive digital business model and have tremendously benefited from taking that risk. But Ubisoft's new IPs and digital games all have one thing in common: they're monetized via in-game purchases. This isn't a mistake: if, say, For Honor tanked, Ubisoft could buffer the loss with microtransaction earnings from a successful game like Ghost Recon: Wildlands or Rainbow Six: Siege. This is part of the biggest and more lucrative digital strategy the games industry is currently following, and will be a big part of gaming's future because of the tangible benefits it offers.
Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick recently spoke out on the topic, discussing the merits of microtransactions and how they help big publishers make key decisions. If it weren't for the big billion-dollar treasure trove of earnings from GTA Online's microtransactions over the years (analyst firm SuperData says GTA Online has made over $1 billion in earnings to date), Take-Two (and more specifically Gearbox) would've been hit a lot harder by Battleborn's failure. And if it weren't for those recurring revenue streams, which continually bring in money, Battleborn may not have been greenlit in the first place as the publisher would be more risk adverse than they already are.
"It's vastly more risky to create new IP than it is to create sequel IP. The problem is if all you do is create sequel IP you're burning the furniture. And it's not creatively all that interesting. We don't see that as pursuing or fulfilling our mission if we're not launching new IP," Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick said at Goldman Sachs' 26th Annual Communicopia Conference.
"Every one of our divisions is working on new IP, to a greater or lesser extent, and we expect to bring new IP to market. But we have to be selective because if we do it and we get it wrong, it's very costly. And again we have gotten it wrong occasionally and it has been costly."
UK MP Tracey Crouch, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has responded to the popular petition regarding lootboxes. Her answer? It's basically up to the Gambling Commission what answers are taken.
Following the ESRB's affirmations that lootboxes technically aren't gambling and the ratings board can't define it as such, as well as the European ratings board PEGI delivering a similar response, frustrated gamers and concerned citizens in the UK formally wrote up a petition asking the government how it plans to "protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling, and loot boxes within computer games."
Today the UK's Tracey Crouch delivered a response, and it's not what loot-box haters wanted to hear. The MP notes that regulations outlined for gambling and loot boxes have been outlined by the government's Gambling Commission in a position paper released in March 2017, and that commission is "keeping this matter under review and will continue to monitor developments in the market."
Rocket League are introducing their first themed-event for Halloween, Haunted Hallows. The timed event introduces new crates, in-game items and a new form of currency, Candy Corn. Haunted Hallows begins tomorrow- October 16 and runs through to November 6.
Candy Corn is Haunted Hallows limited-time currency and is earned by completing Online Matches. The Candy Corn currency can be redeemed for Halloween items, Decryptors, and locked "Haunted Hallows" crates. Candy Corn won't expire on November 6 when Haunted Hallows is finished, you will still have the option to spend remaining currency for one-week post-Halloween Hallows.