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From the new gameplay trailer for Hellblade II. Screenshot: Ninja Theory/Xbox

Thursday night’s The Game Awards featured dozens of world premiere trailers and a smattering of awards. (It Takes Two won best game.)

Why it matters: The show offered a look at big-budget publishers’ priorities for the near term.

  • Some prominent themes popped out.

Big studios tied to big brands:

  • Warner Bros. revealed that its studio Monolith, fresh off two Lord of the Rings games, is building a Wonder Woman adventure. The game will use the studio’s patented Nemesis system, which tracks enemy characters’ interactions with players.
  • Disney, which recently ended its Star Wars exclusivity deal with EA in favor of working with more studios, revealed the previously leaked Star Wars Eclipse. It’s an original adventure from the controversial Quantic Dream studio, which has been mired in legal fights over reports of workplace misconduct.

New studios trying to recapture old glory:

  • Dramatic Labs — a studio full of people who made pioneering, choice-filled narrative adventures for Telltale Games — revealed a Star Trek game slated for the spring.
  • Inflexion Games — a studio run by a former manager of beloved role-playing game creators Bioware — unveiled an online fantasy crafting game called Nightingale.
  • Embark — a studio with numerous ex-Battlefield developers — showed off a sci-fi shooter called ARC Raiders.
  • The lead creator of the classic horror game Silent Hill announced a disturbing-looking project called Slitterhead.

A push for realistic graphics:

  • From one of the first trailers, for Xbox exclusive Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, to the final reveal, an Unreal Engine 5 tech demo set in The Matrix universe, the mega-studios were promoting game graphics that look closer to lifelike than ever.

Also notable:

  • Remedy is making Alan Wake 2 for a 2023 target release, 13 years after its predecessor.
  • Outerloop Games, a studio that focuses on work featuring underrepresented cultures, showed Thirsty Suitors, an action adventure game about family and relationships.

About that other thing: TGA host Geoff Keighley condemned game industry workplace misconduct in his opening remarks, though he didn’t name any companies and coupled it with criticism of player toxicity in online games.

Go deeper

The NFL has an extraordinary grip on America’s media diet

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The NFL has had a banner season in terms of ratings and engagement, thanks in large part to the return of fans to stadiums, a slew of suspenseful games and of course, some off-field drama.

Why it matters: The 2021 viewership spike has quieted concerns regarding 2020's COVID-related decline, while also justifying the $100+ billion in media deals the league signed with its partners in March.

Updated 19 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.