I love video games, and I love the industry news and events that come up, so I am going to post a round-up of stories that mattered to me in the last week in the gaming world. This week Activision Blizzard piss off the entire industry, Respawn take on Fortnite, and Nintendo announce new(ish) Zelda and Mario games.
This week has been a tumultuous one for the industry, with Activision Blizzard’s earnings call with investors causing controversy. The short summary of the story is that Activision have had a record year, with huge profits, and their reaction to this news is to fire roughly 800 members of their staff. On the face of it, it’s an extremely unethical and irresponsible move from the people in charge at Activision Blizzard.
The business side of things, it seems like their reasoning is relatively sound. They are planning to cut down costs whilst producing more games, which is an understandably attractive proposition for any business. The worry here is that you cannot increase production, cut costs, and still maintain the quality of games that we, video game players, demand.
To play devils advocate, they have just lost Bungie, and the Destiny franchise has gone with the developer. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the layoffs are related to the marketing side of Activision that were focused on the Destiny games. However, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick inferred that despite “recording record results” they still fell below the expectations for 2018, leading to revised, lower expectations in 2019 and this is why they are “restructuring”. Kotick avoids the words layoff and firing very purposely, spinning everything to a positive for the investors he was speaking to.
The people being laid off are all talents, and I am sure will find roles elsewhere, but its a measure of the unrealistic expectations the big video game companies have. They are not content with making a lot of money, they need to make all of the money. Every year has to be bigger, exponential growth is the target, and that is not an attainable one. Their “ambition” is much more suited to the word “Greed”.
Apex Legends FTW
In much more positive news, Respawn (creators of the underappreciated Titanfall franchise) dropped their take on the Battle Royale craze that has a hold of the gaming world lately with Apex Legends. They are not the first to jump onto the wagon of course, even Fortnite was after PUBG, which itself was a mod for another game before that.
Apex Legends takes the basics of the game, i.e. drop in a large map, scramble and scavenge for weapons, ammo, and armor, then fight it out/hide in a small room until you’re the last one left standing. Apex’s unique selling point, and the ace up its sleeve for me, is the hero shooter mechanics they introduce. Blizzard’s Overwatch game is the best example of a Hero Shooter, and what Respawn have done is take the best elements of that genre, and smash them together with the Battle Royale genre, and make it work perfectly.
I have played a fair bit of Fortnite, a little of PUBG, and a lot of Overwatch back in the day. Apex Legends is as accessible as Fortnite, as fun as Overwatch, and as intense as PUBG. I haven’t enjoyed playing any of the other games on my own very much, but Apex makes playing with randoms in your trio incredibly easy, all without having to use your mic. The RB/R1 button is used brilliantly to communicate with your teammates in a way that is actually effective.
The shooting mechanics are solid, better than Fortnite and PUBG, although perhaps a little behind Call of Duty Blackout. There is no building to master here, the main barrier to entry in Fortnite, and the class abilities are useful without ever feeling overpowered. It’s a very solid game, a great foundation for Respawn to build on and create a rival for Fortnite’s Battle Royale crown. At the moment there is only one game mode, but I expect to see a lot of support for Apex, just like Epic offered with Fortnite.
Nintendo New Game News
I recently sold my Nintendo Switch, as it had been sitting gathering dust for the last 6 months after I had finished with Overcooked. Smash Ultimate is fun, but i have a friend who owns it, and playing alone did not appeal to me at all. So after this weeks Nintendo Direct announcements, I have to say I am… happy I made that decision.
Fire Emblem has never been a franchise I know or care much about and it’s never appealed to me, but there is a lot of news for that out there if that’s your kind of game. There are 2 games I was intrigued by in the direct, Super Mario Maker 2 and Tetris 99.
Mario Maker seems like a great idea, allowing the huge community to create their own Mario levels will lead to some brilliant and creative experience’s. The Little Big Planet franchise had its hooks in me for a hot minute back in the PS3 days, playing other people’s creations was really entertaining. I was never a creator myself, but it was a really cool idea. Mario Maker aims to capture that promise, and deliver it with the polish we expect from the Mario franchise.
Tetris 99 I don’t fully understand, but it sounds fascinating. Essentially its Tetris Battle Royale. 99 players all play at the same time, the winner being the last one out I assume, or perhaps there is a timer and it’s whoever has the highest score in that time. Its a clever way to make tetris competitive, and it’s the only reason I miss owning a switch right now.
The other announcement people might really care about is the remake/remaster of Links Awakening. I never played it, I have never really enjoyed a Zelda game and the art styled doesn’t appeal to me, but I know I am very much in the minority on this one. For those of you that want to relive the 1993 Game Boy classic can do so later this year.
That’s it for this week in gaming, thanks for reading!
Credit to Kinda Funny Games Daily, Kotaku, and The Verge for some of the information above.