May 18, 2021
Welcome back to Axios Gaming with Megan Farokhmanesh and Stephen Totilo.
Today's newsletter is 1,184 words, 4-minute read.
1 Big Thing: PlayStation tops the Steam charts
Sony PlayStation's "Days Gone" is currently the top-selling game on PC gaming marketplace Steam, just a day after a release that was unthinkable not long ago.
Why it matters: For the last several years, once unbreakable rules about where games appear have snapped, as games from two of the big three console makers now frequently make it to PC and even mobile.
Between the lines: "Days Gone" was made by one of Sony's internal development studios and was released for PlayStation 4 in 2019 to mediocre reviews, though it developed a loyal following.
- The action-adventure is set in a vast swath of Oregon wilderness in which a player rides a motorcycle and fights for survival after a global pandemic (too real, Sony).
- Under gaming's old rules, "Days Gone" would have been consigned to success or failure on Sony's consoles.
- But Sony announced plans last year to bring some top PS4 games to PC, beginning with 2017's woman-vs.-robot-dinosaurs adventure "Horizon Zero Dawn," which became an immediate PC hit.
The big picture: Console makers that used to rely on marquee exclusive games to sell loss-leading hardware now also see a benefit to getting their expensive productions in front of an even bigger audience.
- Millions of people may own a PlayStation or Xbox, but there's another market of the millions more who don’t and have been happy to play games on PC.
- The potential audience on mobile is even larger, though big console games can't run on phones unless they're streamed from a remote server that runs the game.
These changes were triggered by Microsoft, which began offering Xbox games for PC and console as a package deal in 2016, eroding the need to buy its console to play its games.
- While Sony is only bringing back catalogue PlayStation games to PC, Microsoft has now spent years selling its new Xbox games to PC players on the same release date.
- Microsoft is even pushing its games to phones, as it expands a recently launched cloud gaming program that streams some of its biggest games to mobile devices.
What's next: While Microsoft has made its Xbox consoles an optional purpose to play its games, a PlayStation remains mandatory to play Sony’s highly-regarded exclusives when they launch.
- As for Nintendo, don't hold your breath. The Switch maker famously keeps its content to itself.
2. Former Overwatch MVP suspended
Rio Games is suspending "Valorant" pro player Jay "Sinatraa" Won for six months "for failing to fully cooperate" with a sexual harassment investigation.
Why it matters: Won is a former Overwatch League MVP, and one of the most prolific "Valorant" competitors. In March, Riot suspended Won after former girlfriend Cleo Hernandez came forward with graphic allegations of emotional and physical abuse, which included audio recordings.
Although Riot says its Competitive Operations team was not able to come to a definitive conclusion, it has "serious concerns" over his conduct during the investigation.
- "It was determined that on at least two occasions Sinatraa misrepresented certain facts, made false statements, and did not cooperate with the investigation in a way expected of a professional VALORANT esports player." That includes failing to provide audio and video referenced in Hernandez's original post.
- Riot adds that as law enforcement has become involved, "we will defer to the authorities to make further investigation into and factual findings related to the allegations."
- Won will also have to complete professional conduct training.
Riot says it will reopen the investigation and "take further appropriate action" should additional information arise "from law enforcement or otherwise."
Won said on Twitter he's "spent the last 2 months reflecting on how I can be better as a person."
Following the announcement, Hernandez said that "the legal aspect will develop slowly" and depends on her emotional strength, as working with authorities "has so far been one of the most traumatizing things I've done in my life."
- "I want to be able to move on from this and just exist like i always have in the past and talk about the overwatch league with my friends without getting death threats and called a whore," she said on Twitter.
- "I hope people can understand that if he was truly innocent he would have complied with the investigation like he said he was going to in the first place, but instead he lied to the investigators and refused to participate."
The bottom line: Won's suspension will last through Sept. 10. He'll be able to return for Last Chance Qualifiers and Champions.
3. "Grand Theft Auto V" set to dominate yet again
An "expanded and enhanced" version of "Grand Theft Auto V" will be released on Nov. 11, Rockstar Games announced today, locking in a marquee pre-Thanksgiving spot in the year’s gaming calendar.
The big picture: In a fickle industry of changing tastes and ever-improving tech, video games released in 2013 aren’t supposed to still be a big deal in 2021, let alone stand ready to be one of the year’s biggest releases.
- But "GTA V," a crime adventure set in a fictionalized Southern California, is a blockbuster game like nothing else.
- Across versions released for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC — and then for Xbox One and PS4 — it has sold more than 140 million copies since launch, according to publisher Take Two.
- It is still high on the charts, including on Twitch, where it’s one of the most-watched games people stream.
Rockstar revealed last year that a new version of "GTA V," with better graphics, better controls and who knows what else, would come out for the new PS5 and Xbox Series S and X consoles.
- The online multiplayer mode has been expanded repeatedly, as Rockstar has developed new content for the game long after it might normally have ceased.
- After all, "GTA V" came out just five years after 2008's "GTA IV."
- Not surprisingly, today’s announcement made "GTA 6" trend on Twitter as fans wonder when Rockstar will finally make a proper sequel.
4. IGN employees push back
More than 60 IGN employees signed an open letter yesterday asking the corporate management of the world's biggest gaming media site to restore an article encouraging relief aid for the Palestinians.
- The Friday article had been deleted on Sunday. An unsigned message on IGN's Twitter feed calling the posting politically one-sided and an "error," was widely viewed as the work of management, not editorial.
- "[T]his was a clear instance of corporate overreach and demonstrated blatant disregard for the most basic standards of journalistic integrity and editorial independence," the letter states.
The latest: IGN general manager Peer Schneider acknowledged the letter during the site's standard editorial meeting today, two sources at the site told Axios. Schneider noted that leadership was trying to figure out a path forward.
- "You guys are being heard," Schneider reportedly said.
- The sources expressed relief, saying it didn't seem like retaliation was coming.
5. Money stuff
Bad Robot Games, the gaming division of director J.J. Abrams' production company, has announced $40 million in Series B funding.
- The company boasts some top talent, including Valve veteran Anna Sweet as CEO and "Left 4 Dead" lead designer Michael Booth.
- But it has yet to reveal, let alone release, any games since its 2018 founding.
6. Worthy of your attention
🎮 Coming Soon to Xbox Game Pass: "The Wild at Heart," "Conan Exiles," "Knockout City," and more.
⛔️ Ubisoft has reportedly made minimal changes following abuse allegations. (Marie Dealessandri, GamesIndustry)
🎤 Guilty Gear voice actor resigns so black women can be cast. (Jeremy Winslow, GameSpot)
🔪 The Ascent is what you get when a group of veteran developers makes whatever they want. (Chris Tapsell, Eurogamer)
⚽️ "FIFA 21" will feature a player tragically murdered in 2006. (Luke Plunkett, Kotaku)
7. Arts and crafts time
Reddit user Antogzlz created a LED paper lamp of a Gigantamax Pikachu, and now you can too. There's a tutorial on YouTube if you want to brave making your own at home. It only took him more than 50 hours to finish.
Anyone else scheduling part of their life around a live service game these days?