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Image courtesy of Nintendo

Two of gaming’s biggest companies are creating a game together for the third time in five years with a Switch sequel, “Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.”

Why it matters: Nintendo rarely lets other companies work with its characters, making its continued partnerships with Ubisoft a rare sign of trust.

  • The game is a crossover that combines Ubisoft’s feral bunnies with Mario characters in a series of strategic turn-based battles.
  • It follows 2017’s hit “Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle” and 2018’s “Starlink: Battle For Atlas,” which co-starred Nintendo’s Star Fox characters in its Switch version.

Between the lines: Announcements of Nintendo games seldom leak, while Ubisoft’s do often.

  • But “Sparks of Hope” seemingly leaked this morning via Nintendo when a product page went live on the company’s website hours before Ubisoft’s E3 showcase.

Ubisoft’s event Saturday also showcased several other games.

“Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora” (launching in 2022) was teased years ago but finally shown Saturday, offering a look at an upcoming action game set in the James Cameron Avatar franchise.

  • This was Ubisoft’s show closer, a sign it has high hopes for the game.
Image via Ubisoft

Rainbow Six Extraction(launching Sept. 16), a new 1-3 co-op humans-vs.-aliens game that follows from Ubisoft’s phenomenally successful competitive multiplayer game “Rainbow Six Siege.”

  • It was announced at E3 2019 as “Rainbow Six Quarantine” but has received a name change due to COVID connotations.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla,” the company’s big fall 2020 Viking adventure will get a paid summer expansion and a free fall update that turns the game into an educational tour of the Viking age.

  • Ubisoft announced that more expansions are on the way, indirectly confirming that there will be no new “Assassin’s Creed” for some time.

Rocksmith+” is a music learning subscription service that goes into closed PC beta today. It leaked earlier today.

Riders Republic” (launching Sept. 2) is a massively multiplayer extreme sports game.

The event did not include direct mention of the company’s ongoing issues with workplace misconduct that started making headlines a year ago.

  • Last month, the hashtag #holdubisoftaccountable trended, following a report that Ubisoft had not sufficiently improved things.
  • At the end of Saturday's showcase, CEO Yves Guillemot did thank his developers for their work during a “challenging year,” a reference that could, of course, have been referring to COVID.

Go deeper

"Avengers" game attempts a comeback

Screenshot: Square Enix

“Marvel’s Avengers” is running out of time to stage a comeback.

Why it matters: Launched last September with high expectations, “Avengers” was the stuff of game execs’ dreams — globally popular franchise + top development studio + live-service business model focused on players remaining engaged long-term. So its failure is all the more cautionary.

Updated 35 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers — New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

The Robinhood M&A rumor mill churns

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Robinhood's valuation is now just over $11 billion, a fraction of where it traded in August and below that of its last private round of funding. Cue the M&A mongers.

Why it matters: It's not just Robinhood—falling values of growth-oriented tech stocks have raised speculation that formerly high-flying fintechs could be snapped up by more well-capitalized buyers.