May 20, 2021

Axios Gaming

Welcome back to Axios Gaming. It's Megan and Stephen here, plus you. We appreciate you showing up.

Today's newsletter is 1,118 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Meet the Black developers making your new favorite games

Image via The MIX

The Media Indie Exchange is putting Black developers at the forefront with its Black Voices in Gaming Freshman Class, an initiative to highlight developers with games coming out through 2022.

Why it matters: The game industry grapples with diversity across the board, leaving developers who are not cis-gender white men isolated or even alienated from the broader community.

  • That makes it difficult for new voices to rise because they lack the same resources.
  • This is especially true for Black developers, who account for only 2% of the industry, according to a 2020 IGDA survey.

The MIX's Freshman Class initiative is a way to highlight Black creators and create a space for those developers to support each other. This year's class includes 14 games, including titles such as:

  • "Treachery in Beatdown City"
  • "She Dreams Elsewhere"
  • "Super Space Club"
  • "Kena"
  • "KindFolx"
  • "Nour"
  • "Protodroid Delta"

What they're saying: Neil Jones, creator of "Aerial_Knight's Never Yield," says building a community for Black developers specifically is important. Jones teamed up with The MIX co-founder Justin Woodward to help organize the effort and is included for his game.

  • "It's much like other communities, like you see women in games, they often reach out to each other because they have this deeper understanding and the same struggles that they face."
  • "My process that I've gone through with this whole game, it will be very different from, you know, a white woman from Nebraska."
  • "If they're not going to give me an opportunity, I'm just gonna make my own type of space where I can do whatever I want," he told Axios in a previous interview earlier this month.

Woodward also sees it as a growth opportunity and a way for Black developers to share their resources. "I think it's really important within our community that we're able to help each other grow," he said.

  • "A lot of times we're pitted against each other," he said. "This is something that says, hey, you know, we can all exist at the same time."

What's next: Although there are no concrete plans for the next class just yet, the goal is to create one yearly.

2. Epic v. Apple — Week 3

Image: Epic Games

During the third week of the Epic-Apple trial, Apple executives have portrayed their company as a benevolent and helpful gatekeeper to iPhone users and app developers.

Why it matters: It's been Apple's turn to present its side in a trial that will determine whether its restrictions on its app store are illegally monopolistic.

The week started with Apple fellow and former head of marketing Phil Schiller defending iOS app store practices...

  • ... including letting developers advertise against the search terms of other apps (Schiller's take: it helps smaller developers get attention).
  • ... and "anti-steering" restrictions that limit developers' ability to tell app users they can leave the app — and Apple's ecosystem — to go to websites to buy virtual goods and currencies for potentially lower prices (Schiller’s take: the restrictions mostly impact new users).
  • Overall, he said, Apple's control of the app store and approval power over content within it provides users a more secure experience.

Epic's lawyers countered midweek, presenting Schiller and other Apple as stewards of a company facing global regulatory pressure over its market power.

  • Epic pushed Apple's control as meddlesome and at times ineffectual, demonstrating in one colorful trial moment that Apple's vaunted content checks don't preclude someone from downloading TikTok and finding sexualized content.

Discussion about steering app users to websites as a way to get around Apple’s limits has come up repeatedly and has prompted questions from Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

What's next: Apple is expected to conclude its side of the case tomorrow when it calls company CEO Tim Cook to testify.

  • Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday, though it’s unclear when Judge Rogers will issue a verdict.
3. "TimeSplitters" returns from limbo

A new "TimeSplitters" is on the way from original creators Steve Ellis and David Doak.

Why it matters: It's been over 15 years since the last entry in the time-traveling first-person shooter series, "TimeSplitters: Future Perfect" launched in 2005. A fourth game was in the works, but never saw the light of day.

  • The series has had a bumpy road, thanks to muddled business acquisitions and closures. Developer Free Radical was acquired and rebranded as Crytek UK in 2008; it closed in 2014.
  • Deep Silver acquired the series in 2018 and has previously teased its return.

Ellis and Doak have reformed Free Radical Design, a company they founded in 1999 ahead of the original TimeSplitters release in 2000.

  • "We have been working on plans to bring the TimeSplitters franchise back to life, and are pleased to let you know that we are setting up a new Deep Silver development studio to do just that," the company announced via Twitter.

What's next: A lot of waiting. Development hasn't started yet.

4. Mourning in "Final Fantasy XIV"
Screenshot: @localhyurzen

Fans of manga legend Kentaro Miura are lining up in droves in the online world of "Final Fantasy XIV" to mourn the Berserk creator's death, which was announced overnight to stunned fans worldwide.

  • Players are outfitting themselves as Dark Knights, whose look resembles Miura's influential style.

Why it matters: Online games have long been a powerful means for collective mourning, connecting people from around the world to gather digitally to express the depth and scale of a community's grief.

  • In 2012, players of the sci-fi game "Eve Online" renamed hundreds of in-game outposts after a beloved player who had been killed in the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Further reading: Remembering Kentaro Miura, legendary creator of "Berserk," which inspired countless fantasy stories (Gene Park, Washington Post)

5. Money stuff

Chinese gaming company Tencent announced first quarter gaming revenues of $8.3 billion, 78% of it from mobile gaming.

  • While western console and PC-centric companies scramble to expand their mobile gaming business, Tencent says it plans to invest in "large-scale, high-production value games" — which would also include PC and console releases — to attract more of the global market.

Capcom officials noted that their company has created 800 games in its 42-year history. Nearly 300 are available to purchase on currently available gaming hardware.

Rising Swedish gaming conglomerate Embracer Group says its hit PC viking game "Valheim" has sold 6.8 million copies  in the first three months of 2021, making it one of the year's biggest surprise hits.

6. Worthy of your attention

🚀 "Mass Effect" writer reflects on the trilogy's grand ambition. (Cass Marshall, Polygon)

💪 Square Enix calls "Outriders" its "next big franchise" as it reaches 3.5M unique players" (Matt Wales, Eurogamer)

7. A great and terrible hat

We talk a lot about "Resident Evil Village," mods, and the game's big tall lady, but this one from Kallialee is too good to pass up. Every time you look at Lady Dimitrescu, her hat gets bigger.

GIF: Kallialee

Simple, yet perfect.

Got a tip? A story you want us to cover? Email us at megan.farokhmanesh@axios.com or stephen.totilo@axios.com.

🐦 Find us on Twitter: @megan_nicolett / @stephentotilo

Has anyone else noticed some really strange video games coming out? More on that in the near future.