Axios Gaming

Picture of a gaming controller.

Happy Friday, everyone. Stephen here.

  • We're doing 7 items today, folks.

Today's edition is 1,169 words ... 4½ minutes.

1 big thing: An extra year for "Halo"

Video game screenshot of futuristic soldiers riding a jeep across a forested world at dusk
Screenshot: 343 Industries.

The developers of the much-delayed "Halo Infinite" spent an unexpected extra year polishing their game ahead of its December 2021 launch, but restrained themselves from making massive changes.

Why it matters: In an era of games that are rushed to release, the team for "Halo Infinite" got to explore what happens when the publisher hits the brakes.

  • The sci-fi shooter game featuring iconic Xbox hero Master Chief was supposed to come out last November, alongside the new Xbox Series consoles.
  • Instead, a poor public showing with unimpressive graphics in mid-2020 triggered a one-year delay.

What they’re saying: “The natural tendency is that, [if] you get more time, you're like, ‘We've got to have more stuff,’” the game’s character director, Steve Dyck told Axios.

  • “And it's like, ‘No, we didn't. We didn't do that.’”
  • “The game is the same game we were going to ship a year ago,” associate creative director Paul Crocker said, “obviously more polished because we had more time.”
  • The team used that time to focus on pacing and making selective additions to better introduce some enemies. They also “cleared some space,” Dyck said, to set up big moments in the adventure.

The big picture: Game designers usually get very little time to experience their game as a whole prior to release.

  • Big-budget video games are made by teams of hundreds of people and constructed in parts.
  • That leads to developers often discover only last minute which system don’t work well or, at times, how big their games actually are.
  • Not so for “Infinite” studio 343 Industries, thanks to the delay. "The biggest benefit of that time was time spent with a nearly finished game,” Dyck said.

What’s next: The true benefits of the added year will be clear closer to the Dec. 8 release, when reviewers are able to assess the full experience.

  • Previews released today have praised the early part of the “Infinite” campaign for being fun and feeling polished.
  • But previewers caution that they can’t yet size up the full adventure, which takes the normally linear approach to “Halo” games and sets it in a more open world where players can explore in all directions.

2. Rockstar apologizes

Video game screenshot of a palm-tree-lined city street at night
Screenshot: Rockstar Games

Rockstar Games today announced plans to fix "unexpected technical issues that came to light as part of the launch of "Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy."

Driving the news: The game-maker has been excoriated by fans for the graphically and technically shoddy state of last week's remasters of early 2000s classics "GTA III," "GTA Vice City" and "GTA San Andreas."

  • The company said it will roll out multiple updates to ensure that "the games will reach the level of quality that they deserve to be."
  • It also said it would relist the original PC versions of the game, though only on its Rockstar game store, making no mention of the widely used PC marketplace Steam or console storefronts.

The big picture: While players have become conditioned to games getting new rounds of improvements post-release, Rockstar's approach with the remaster was unusual.

  • It delisted older versions of the games in advance of the remasters, making the flawed new ones the only option available for purchase.
  • It did not release many, if any, copies of the new releases early, making it hard for reviewers to size them up for the public ahead of launch.

3. A former Activision studio head speaks

Photo of a man in a blue dress shirt in front of an Activision logo
Paul Reiche, former head of Toys for Bob. Photo: Robin Marchant/Getty Images

Paul Reiche, the former head of Activision studio Toys for Bob, is questioning the path forward for current Activision leadership, amid calls for CEO Bobby Kotick to resign.

  • "If the new stories I have read are true, I can't see how Activision can continue its success without new leadership," he told Axios.
  • "How far down that goes depends on what we learn about the behavior of those leaders."

Why it matters: Activision's current studio heads have not commented on this week's explosive allegations in the Wall Street Journal that Kotick knew of sexual misconduct at the company.

  • Nearly 1,600 employees have signed a petition calling for Kotick to step down, but the company's board has stood by him.
  • Reiche is no longer at Activision. He sold the studio he co-founded to Activision in 2005 and ran it through its heyday, overseeing the "Skylanders" franchise. But he left the company last year.

What he's saying: "It’s pretty clear that the only forces that can create change at Activision are its customers (whose money is the ultimate corporate goal) its investors and the employees whose talent makes Activision’s games worth buying."

  • "Then you need brave and visionary individuals within the company and investors to stand up, speak out and become the fulcrum for the power in all the other employees and customers."
  • "I believe these ingredients for change exist at Activision."

4. The week ahead

Video game screenshot of a bird warrior fighting a giant enemy shaped like a cathedral
"Death's Door." Screenshot: Acid Nerve

Here's the weekly look at events and notable releases.

  • It's a very quiet one leading into a long holiday weekend in the States.

Saturday, Nov. 20 & Sunday, Nov. 21

Monday, Nov. 22

Tuesday, Nov. 23

  • Release of "Death's Door" for PS4, PS5 and Switch. This indie game about a violent bird was a hit on PC and Xbox and has been frequently mentioned as a potential 2021 Game of the Year.

Wednesday, Nov. 24

  • Not much

Thursday, Nov. 25

  • Thanksgiving in the U.S.

Friday, Nov. 26

  • So-called Black Friday, but don't expect to have an easy time finding the newer consoles in stock.
  • Release of "Date Night Bowling" (Switch, PC) and "Len's Island" (PC)

5. Need to know

🇨🇳 For the first time in 20 years, industry analysts at Niko Partners are lowering their forecast for the Chinese gaming market, Venture Beat reports.

  • The group predicts $47 billion in revenue for 2021, down $540 million due to issues with COVID, licensing restrictions and increased regulation.

💀 Nintendo's failed Wii U console got a new game this week. It's called "Captain U."

🎮 "Call of Duty: Warzone" has delayed its big map change a week until Dec. 8, as has the first season for "CoD: Vanguard."

  • Activision, which has been in tumult, gave employees all of next week off. No explanation given.

6. Worthy of your attention

Meet the ‘cozy streamers’ of Twitch combating hate on the platform [Hannah Cowton, Polygon]

On the surface, cozy streams are easy to spot. They tend to feature slow-paced games, a comfortable atmosphere, and a feeling of escapism. Streamers may also incorporate this in their audio, through soothing alerts or gentle music genres like lo-fi, acoustic, or nature sounds. Visuals are also important — overlays and backdrops are often curated to match that comfy feel, with the streamer’s personal brand giving that unique touch. Blankets, big snuggly sweaters, warm twinkly lighting, and special appearances by pets are all commonplace.

7. The games we barely recall

Screenshot of an old computer game showing the inside of a train
"The Train." Screenshot: Accolade (via Major Thriftwood on YouTube).

I just remembered this computer game I played as a kid: "The Train."

  • You hijacked a steam train in Germany to escape the Nazis.
  • I loved shoveling coal into the engine. That sticks out.

Got any fuzzy memories of games you played as a kid?

  • Send them in and maybe we can get other readers to help identify them.

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🐦 Find us on Twitter: @megan_nicolett / @stephentotilo.

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