Axios Gaming

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It's Megan, and this is Axios Gaming. Wanna see something absolutely bizarre that I can't stop thinking about? Try this tweet (SFW, I promise).

OK, back to video games now.

Today's edition is 1,052 words ... 4 minutes.

1 big thing: Changing workweeks

Islets. Image courtesy of developer Kyle Thompson/published by Armor Games Studios

Indie developers are leading the charge on adjusting their working hours to shorter schedules to better suit modern mental health needs and responsibilities.

Driving the news: Indie developer Armor Games is permanently moving to a four-day workweek after a three-month trial period.

  • CEO John Cooney publicly announced the news on Twitter, adding that the transition took time across the entire team to get right: "The flow of a 32 hour week is different. ... Establishing that 'this may/may not go okay,' coupled with team-wide communication, check-ins, and sharing was critical to making it work."

Speaking to Axios, Cooney said that the change dramatically improved work/life balance across the team.

  • "Folks were taking classes, spending more time with family, doing all the chores that eat into the weekend, expanding their hobbies, or just totally relaxing. ... By Monday, everyone comes to work ready and rolling."
  • One of the bigger challenges the team faced was adjusting to the new pace; Cooney said the first few weeks "felt fast and very busy, and it caused extra stress for folks as they had to recalibrate how their weeks played out."
  • A four-day week wasn't Armor's only plan. The team looked at a 9/80 work schedule — a compressed work model in which employees work eight nine-hour days and one eight-hour day in exchange for an extra day off — but Cooney says a four-day week "felt like the big leap we wanted to take."

The big picture: Smaller developers such as Boyfriend Dungeon creator Kitfox Games and Bugsnax developer Young Horses have been some of the first to fully adopt the new work schedule, with others like Outloop maker Falcon Age following suit.

  • Guardians of the Galaxy developer Eidos-Montreal is one of the biggest studios to adjust its workweeks; it made the shift last October.

Yes, but: Challenging production schedules in games can make the shift difficult, even for smaller teams.

  • Studio Ko_op Mode moved to four-day weeks early in the pandemic, only to have to temporarily shift back to five days to meet deadlines.
  • "There was a lot of resistance to going back to five-day weeks," community manager Marcela Huerta told Game Developer. "A lot of us said 'this is just not something we want to do.' We had gotten used to the four-day weeks. They were so helpful for our mental health."

What's next: Cooney says the team is still "working through challenges," given that "the world still works Friday," as well as Saturday and Sunday.

  • "... Some processes don't see the productivity benefits of a short week as much as others."

2. Fortnite's sneaky iOS return

Image courtesy of Epic Games

Fortnite has returned to iOS, thanks to a workaround through NVIDIA GeForce NOW service.

Why it matters: Apple and Epic have spent a great deal of last year locked in a legal battle that involved Apple removing the game from its stores.

  • A judge ruled that Epic "failed in its burden to demonstrate Apple is an illegal monopolist" and is therefore not entitled to the other remedies it sought.
  • With NVIDIA's service — which runs through the Safari web browser — people will be able to stream a touch-friendly version of Fortnite on their iOS devices. (An Android version is also available.)

Yes, but: The game still isn't back on the App store.

What's next: A limited-time closed beta begins next week on mobile. Sign-ups open today.

  • "We’re working alongside the team at Epic Games to develop an experience all Fortnite gamers and GeForce NOW members will enjoy," the beta's page reads. "The closed beta will be limited in time, but we do not have an exact timeline for how long it will last."

3. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart leads the way

Image courtesy of Insomniac Games

Organizers for the annual D.I.C.E. Awards have announced this year's nominations: 59 games across 23 categories.

The details: Insomniac Games' Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is prominently featured in this year's nominations, with nine nods across categories such as outstanding achievement in art direction, family game of the year and game of the year.

  • Deathloop is close behind with eight nominations, also including game of the year. Inscryption, It Takes Two and Returnal are the other nominees in the category.
  • Kena: Bridge of Spirits and Resident Evil Village are also nominated across multiple categories, with four each.
  • Voting begins today on nominees.

What's next: The awards are scheduled for Feb. 24, in-person in Las Vegas and livestreamed; Jessica Chobot and Greg Miller will host.

4. Need to know

⚡️ The Official Pokémon YouTube channel released a 13-minute gameplay video for Pokémon Legends: Arceus, due out Jan. 28, that offers a look at a handful of the game's areas, mechanics and more.

🪦 Microsoft is no longer making Xbox One consoles, The Verge reports.

🕴 PlatinumGames CEO and president Kenichi Sato stepped down from his position and will now serve as a company adviser. He is replaced by Atsushi Inaba.

🗣 Second Life's creator, Philip Rosedale, is returning as an adviser to its parent company, Linden Lab, Axios' Ina Fried reports.

🏠 Ubisoft's reboot of its combo buildup and real-time strategy game The Settlers launches March 17 for PC. A closed beta kicks off Jan. 20.

5. Worthy of your attention

Xbox has its own nail polish now, as gaming companies welcome beauty deals (Shannon Liao, WaPo)

“We’re in this moment of really overcoming that idea of the gamer being just that one demographic, that preconceived notion of the gamer being in the basement, and usually a man, 18 to 30-something," said Marcos Waltenberg, global partnerships director at Xbox. “It’s much more than that now. ... We’re now tasked with talking to a lot more people than we used to as a company, a few years ago.”

6. Please be nice to developers

Final Fantasy 14. Image courtesy of Square Enix

Final Fantasy 14 director Naoki Yoshida w0uld like players to stop verbally abusing his team. His very understandable plea comes by way of an interview with Radio Mog Station.

  • In a translated version from Reddit, Yoshida notes that while he considers himself to have a good mental state, staffers who work on the game are often hurt and ultimately drained by player abuse.
  • He also expresses a sentiment that players should imagine they're speaking face to face with a developer before sending feedback — think about how they might feel, and be polite.

If you're mad about a game and thinking about taking your frustration out on a developer, may I offer some advice? Shut up. Shh, shh shh. Just stop.

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

Editor's note: Yesterday's newsletter incorrectly stated Embracer fully owned Valheim's studio; it owns a partial stake.

Still thinking about that tweet, never not thinking about that tweet.