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"Microsoft Flight Simulator." Screenshot: Team Asobo/Microsoft

Summer is often considered the slow season in gaming, but notable releases have been abundant this July — helped by a widening array of games managing to generate attention.

Why it matters: Consolidation of game-making resources may narrow who can make the biggest-budget games, but other factors, including COVID-19, are offering a counterweight.

Driving the news: This final week of July has been a reviewer's dream (or is that a nightmare?).

  • On Tuesday alone, a trio of big-publisher releases: The dazzling console port of "Microsoft Flight Simulator" game, the long-awaited English release of Capcom's "The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles," and a Square Enix sequel 14 years in the making called "NEO: The World Ends With You."
  • Add to that a slew of notable indies and games this week from smaller publishers, including "Chernobylite," "Blaster Master Zero 3," and "The Ascent"
  • That all follows a prior week that included a mobile spin-off to "The Witcher," a possible game-of-the-year contender in the indie "Death's Door," and massive updates to two of the biggest service games in the market: "Genshin Impact" and "Grand Theft Auto Online."
"The Ascent." Screenshot: Neon Giant/Curve Digital

Between the lines: The volume of game releases is ticking up a little, but part of what's happening is that smaller games are getting noticed more.

  • The pandemic has caused releases from big so-called AAA publishers to slow down, while more nimble indies keep turning work out. "AAA got hit hard by COVID, which left the field vacant for indie devs and smaller studios to swoop in," game critic Ralph "Skill Up" Panebianco tells Axios.
  • He cites the acclaimed small-studio releases "Chicory: A Colorful Tale" and "Boomerang X" as some of the beneficiaries of this.

Another theory: There's a narrowing of the divide between the big games and the smaller ones.

  • "I feel like I’ve seen so much more excitement for smaller games in the last year," Mike Rose, publisher of hit biking game "Descenders," told Axios.
  • He credits indies being showcased on new consoles and in Xbox's Game Pass subscription service: "We’re getting so many people who would normally just stick to ['Call of Duty'] and 'Assassin’s Creed' trying our silly bike game out and feeling like it’s made by a big studio — it was made by three people!"

What's next: We'll have a slight breather next week as releases slow before an August filled with more noteworthy though relatively small-scale games.

  • Make no mistake: AAA will have a quieter fall after a raft of big games expected for this year slipped to 2022, but there will still be much to play.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Nov 5, 2021 - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Digital gifts could win the holidays

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The trend toward digital gifts could accelerate this holidays with supply-chain-related shortages of some tech goods leading to shipping delays and product scarcity.

Why it matters: Digital purchases of game downloads or App Store credits are quick and easy, so those who try it may never go back to physical gifts.

Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults

A vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

Austria's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday in favor of making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for most adults from next month.

Why it matters: The bill is expected to soon pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen in order for the law to take effect Feb. 1, per Reuters. It'd make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a sweeping mandate.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 6 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.