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"Redfall." Image via Bethesda/Microsoft

Many of the most exciting games announced at this year’s E3 have something in common: You can play them with other people.

Why it matters: A lot of the chatter about where video gaming is going involves either the scarcity of single-player games or the success of competitive multiplayer phenomena such as “Fortnite” and “Call of Duty: Warzone.”

  • But co-op games — in which you team up with other players to compete against the computer — are on the rise.

A co-op cornucopia:

  • Ubisoft’s Saturday E3 presentation opened with a co-op game: “Rainbow Six Extraction” (team with other players to infiltrate alien-infested bases).
  • Xbox’s Sunday E3 event closed with one: “Redfall” (team up with other players to fight vampires).
  • Plus: Microsoft announced “Contraband” (“a co-op smuggler’s paradise”), Warner Bros. showcased “Back 4 Blood” (a spiritual successor to 2008’s pioneering people vs. zombies game “Left 4 Dead”), and Team 17 announced new content for its popular co-op cooking game “Overcooked: All You Can Eat.”
"The Anacrusis." Image: Stray Bombay

What they’re saying: “After we shipped ‘Left 4 Dead,’ the first thing I said to a bunch of people was, ‘More people should make co-op games, because it just makes more sense,’” former “Left 4 Dead” project lead Chet Faliszek told Axios.

  • It’s happened in fits and starts with well-received releases such as “Deep Rock Galactic” and “Payday 2.”
  • But many games merely feature co-op as an additional mode, not really incorporating team play as a fundamental part of the game.

In 2019, Faliszek and Kimberly Voll announced they were starting Stray Bombay, a studio to specialize in co-op games.

  • At this E3, Stray Bombay announced its debut game “The Anacrusis,” a co-op adventure in which people play as humans fending off an alien attack on a spaceship. The game’s AI director interprets players’ approaches and preferences then tailors the game’s enemies, items and overall flow accordingly.

Between the lines: One of the year’s surprise hits is “It Takes Two,” a fantastical co-op game about a couple with problems.

  • It debuted in March as the 22nd best-selling game in the U.S., according to tracking firm NPD, then rose to ninth in April and charted well again in May — a sign it has legs.
  • It comes from Hazelight, a studio whose previous game, the two-player prison break “A Way Out,” was its co-op debut.

The bottom line: This is a format no doubt fit for the current moment, when people crave the kind of companionship that’s been hard to come by in the past year.

Go deeper

Russian hackers target Iowa farm co-op

Farmer in Iowa. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Russian hackers launched a ransomware attack on an Iowa farming co-op and demanded $5.9 million to unlock the company's computer networks, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: NEW Cooperative, a member-owned alliance of soy and corn farmers consisting of over 8,000 members, was forced to go offline on Tuesday due to the cyberattack. The system is used to track food supply chains and feeding schedules for millions of chickens, hogs and cattle.

Chapter 2 of "Deltarune" to be released free

Image courtesy of Toby Fox

Toby Fox, creator of indie darling "Undertale," is releasing the second chapter only of his new game, "Deltarune," for free.

Why it matters: "Deltarune" is the episodic, highly anticipated sophomore title from creator Toby Fox.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.