Axios Gaming

Picture of a gaming controller.
July 01, 2022

It's Friday. Phew. I hope you've had a good week.

No new Sly Cooper games on the horizon, it seems. Bummer. There also won't be an Axios Gaming on Monday, due to the July 4th holiday.

Today's edition is 990 words — a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Halfway there

Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Screenshot: Nintendo

It’s been one of the wilder years for gaming, with half a year to go.

Why it matters: Sometimes you need to stop and take a moment.

Notable trends included big business deals, big waits for games, and some big bets not quite paying off.

Industry giants tried to get way bigger in an effort to reach more players on more screens with games that people will play (and spend money on) for months after release.

  • Take-Two (GTA, NBA 2K) bought Zynga (Farmville, Words with Friends) for $12.7 billion, while Microsoft (Xbox) bid $69 billion for Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty, Candy Crush), and Sony (PlayStation) bid $3.6 billion for Bungie (Destiny).
  • The latter two deals won’t close until the end of the year, at the earliest, pending regulatory approval.
  • Also: The New York Times bought Wordle.
  • Amid the acquisitions, one conspicuous sale: Square Enix taking $300 million from The Embracer Group to be done with Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, and the Western studios making them. Its reasoning: time to refocus on game development in its native Japan.

Heaps of delays caused the early 2022 bumper crop of Pokémon Legends Arceus, Elden Ring, and Horizon Forbidden West to give way to an unusually fallow rest of the year.

  • Nintendo pushed its biggest announced 2022 game, Breath of the Wild’s sequel, to 2023. Microsoft did the same with Starfield. And Sony has held off from committing that its big one, God of War: Ragnarok, will make it.
  • The Warner Bros.-published Suicide Squad slipped. As did some promising indies. Nintendo even delayed its big Mario movie.
  • Many delays were attributable to the expected mix of game-making challenges and pandemic complications. But some will take longer because they were being made by developers whose country was invaded by Russia.

Blockchain blues struck anyone expecting the billions being invested in crypto gaming in 2021 to translate into success in 2022.

  • The NFT market, a key component to many planned Web3 gaming plans, collapsed. Crypto gaming darling Axie Infinity crashed, lost users, and literally got robbed of more than $600 million.
  • Big traditional publishers quieted down about their crypto gaming plans.
  • But the scene also scored a breakthrough, as the Epic Game Store became the first big traditional gaming marketplace to begin listing some Web3 games.

Other notable events:

2. The week ahead

Video game screenshot of a puzzle game involving assembling plastic parts to make a robot action figure
Last Call BBS. Screenshot: Zachtronics

Expect a lot of interesting games from small studios this week and throughout July. As big-budget new releases remain scarce, it's a good time for the smaller folks to shine.

Saturday and Sunday, July 2 & 3

Monday, July 4

  • Independence Day in the United States.

Tuesday, July 5

Wednesday, July 6

Thursday, July 7

Friday, July 8

3. Need to know

🤔 Xbox’s head of Game Studios Matt Booty told employees during an all-hands meeting that he is “confident” the company’s Bethesda game studios are not overworking their employees with crunch, Kotaku reports.

  • This was in response to questions about the outlet’s multi-sourced investigation into the crunch that went into major Bethesda releases, including 2018’s Fallout 76.

🔧 Nintendo is launching a Switch repair service in Japan that users can pay for monthly to get coverage for in-warranty fixes, VGC reports.

  • A Nintendo of America rep confirmed to Axios that it does not offer a similar plan but that "many U.S. retailers that sell our products do offer such programs."

💰 Google Inc. will pay $90 million to settle with app developers who argued Google used agreements with smartphone makers to shut them out of various revenue streams, Axios reports.

🎓 The Sims 4 is getting a new expansion focused on high school, CNET reports.

🤝 Halo Infinite’s long-awaited co-op mode will get a quasi-public beta starting July 11. An official post from the developers explains how to participate.

🚨 EA has posted a bad tweet.

4. Reality check

Video game screenshot showing a white polygonal person riding a skateboard over a flat gray surface
Screenshot: EA

A new trailer for EA’s upcoming Skate 4 shows what a game in development really looks like.

Why it matters: Companies usually give players only the slickest looks at their games, even when those games are, like Skate 4, far from release.

  • That can lead to pressure on developers and disappointment from fans when a released game doesn’t look as good as it did in a promotional video.

The Skate 4 video shows wireframe visuals in some spots and untextured polygonal models in others.

  • It’s still prettied up: paced well, animated to excite and amuse, and staged to show off some of the sequel’s special features.
  • But it’s less varnished than the norm and winning some praise because of that.
  • “This trailer made me tear up: showing actual game dev in progress instead of a hyped-up bs fake cinematic trailer makes me want to devour this game that I did not care about at all 3 minutes ago,” tweeted veteran game designer Adam Orth. “The humility here is giving me life.”

🎁 Like the newsletter? Refer Axios Gaming to your friends to spread the word and get free stuff in the process. Follow the link here to begin.

🐦 Find me on Twitter: @stephentotilo.

Orb of Creation has its hooks in me again. It's dangerous to play.