Axios Gaming

Picture of a gaming controller.
June 28, 2022

Happy Tuesday. I still haven't introduced my kids to video games. Probably will this month. But they are starting to "play" interactive Netflix movies on their own. So, they're gamers now?

Today's edition: 745 words, 3 minutes.

1 big thing: Nintendo’s odd June

Video game screenshot of a person in a medieval-style village at night, while large magical red flames shoot into the sky
Harvestella. Screenshot: SquareEnix

June is winding down with mixed vibes about the Nintendo Switch’s remaining 2022 offerings.

Driving the news: Nintendo aired a “Nintendo Direct Mini” today, a showcase that requests tempered expectations right in its name.

  • The 26-minute video focused on third-party games, meaning Nintendo is nearing the end of June without fleshing out the rest of its first-party 2022 release schedule.
  • It usually announces its big games for the holiday season by mid-June, tied to the E3 show, which didn’t happen this year.
  • But many games from its third-party partners stood out today.

Highlights included:

  • Harvestella — A mix of farming, socializing and fantasy combat from Square Enix, slated for Nov. 4.
  • Disney Dreamlight Valley — An apparent intersection of chill Animal Crossing gameplay and Disney characters, scheduled for an “early access” debut on Sept. 6.
  • Mario + Rabbids: Spark of Hope — The Ubisoft-made tactical combat crossover sequel announced last year, dated for Oct. 20.
  • Persona 5 Royal — The hit PlayStation 4 role-playing game now coming to Switch, Xbox and PC on Oct. 21.

Plus: The showcase revealed two intriguing 2023 games:

  • Lorelei and the Laser Eyes — a surreal-looking game from Simogo, makers of the acclaimed Sayanora Wild Hearts and Device 6.
  • Blanc — a hand-drawn, black-and-white game about a cub and fawn making their way through snowy landscapes

What’s next: Surely a big Nintendo announcement is coming at some point.

  • Nintendo’s penchant for releasing one or more big games each month from September through December suggests it still has more of its own 2022 creations to reveal.
  • Splatoon 3 is locked in for September, but October is open, November’s got a Pokémon and December has nothing … so far.

2. Engineering hype

Video game screenshot of a cartoony blue hedgehog character running down a realistic highway
Screenshot: Sega

A brief look at how the sausage is made — or at least promoted:

  • On May 31, the upcoming game Sonic Frontiers starts a multiweek coverage blowout (videos, articles, interviews) at IGN. Publisher Sega focuses on presenting the game’s “open-zone” format, a less linear approach to level design for the long-running franchise.
  • Fans fret about how the game looks, how it appears to play and the departure from that linear style.
  • On June 10, Frontiers is demoed for other press members in L.A., who are told they can cover any part of the game they see, except for its — surprise — semi-secret linear levels (this doesn’t stop blurry footage of one of the levels from leaking).
  • Today, Nintendo shows off Frontiers during an online showcase, focusing on its exciting-looking linear levels. Fans rejoice.

3. Need to know

🚇 A spinoff to massively successful mobile game Subway Surfers (more than 3 billion downloads lifetime), called Subway Surfers Tag, will launch on the Apple Arcade subscription service on July 15.

🚉 The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train system in San Francisco and Oakland will set up a classic Pong and Galaga kiosk at its Powell Street Station in September, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

💰 Shareholders of Swedish gaming consortium The Embracer Group have approved the issuance of new shares, clearing the way for a controversial $1 billion investment from a Saudi-funded gaming organization.

🐵 Researchers say chimpanzees’ use of a simple, touch screen hunting game is teaching them how the primates reason their way through a physical space, Newsweek reports.

4. Pokémon Go, but with basketball

Two video game screenshots. The left one shows a virtual basketball player with the chance to recruit him. The other shows two players competing on a real-world map
Screenshots: Niantic

Pokémon Go makers Niantic have announced NBA All-World, which is designed for players to walk their neighborhoods to recruit power forwards instead of Pikachus.

Why it matters: Pokémon Go is huge, and riffs on the concept are abundant. But imitators have struggled.

Details: Walking around the real world to find basketball players (recruit them by beating them in a shootout) is only part of it.

  • Players will also be able to unlock power-ups, clothing and other items by heading to “drop zones.” Niantic defines those locations as “shoe stores and other retailers.”
  • Perhaps you can detect the potential business model here of a game that sends people to real-world stores.

What’s next: Niantic is trying a lot of things, all of them based on mixing video games with the real world.

  • A couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles, a Niantic employee showed me an upcoming pet game called Peridot that let me scan the environment around me and send my virtual pet toward real plants or water sources to eat and drink.
  • I found it quite charming.

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🐦 Find me on Twitter: @stephentotilo.

Let chimps play more video games, I say.

Editor’s note: The first story has been corrected to show that Harvestella is expected to release on Nov. 4, not Sept. 4.