Axios Gaming

Picture of a gaming controller.

It's Friday. I hope you're doing okay.

Today’s edition: 1,010 words, 4 minutes

1 big thing: Roe reaction

screen shot of tweet
Screenshot: Twitter

Several major game studios and the largest organization for international game developers explicitly or implicitly criticized today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling removing federal protections for abortion in America.

Why it matters: The games industry is showing an increasing willingness to make political statements — and deal with the pros and cons of taking a stand.

The details: “We believe that bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom are fundamental human rights,” read a tweet today from Sony PlayStation’s Santa Monica Studio, which is working on the expected blockbuster God of War: Ragnarok.

  • “Reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are human rights,” read another, from Sony-owned, Burbank-headquartered Insomniac Games, which has made PlayStation’s flagship Spider-Man games.
  • “Today and every day, we believe that reproductive rights are human rights…” began a tweet from Paris-headquartered mega-publisher Ubisoft, which has large teams of employees in California and North Carolina.
  • The International Game Developers Association said it “condemns the decision.”

Between the lines: The statements echoed and amplified those shared by some game studios in May, when a draft of the court’s opinion leaked.

  • “We remain undeterred in our commitment to stand up for reproductive choice and liberty,” Bungie, which was vocal last month, stated today.

Victors muted: Any celebration of today’s decision among industry players was not visible during Axios’ initial sweep of online reactions.

The big picture: Today’s statements may not immediately and directly affect the games people play, but they are intended to help the people making those games.

  • The Sony Santa Monica statement, for example, vows to “support our team members in receiving access to the care they need.”
  • Bungie’s statement was coupled with a commitment to reimburse employees who need to go out of state for “essential health care needs.”
  • “We are taking this step to ensure our employees in states immediately affected by this decision remain covered,” a Bungie rep told Axios. “We will continue to monitor legislation in other states and take further steps as needed…”

The bottom line: Such comments make clear that the policy of these studios is to support access to abortion.

2. Expansion Thursday

Video game screenshot of armored warriors surrounding a green monster
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak. Screenshot: Capcom

An unusual trio of games gets released next Thursday. They’re all expansions of different sorts, meant to extend or even revive notable titles.

Why it matters: In an era when downloadable updates to games is the norm, they demonstrate how good releases get more content and flawed ones get second chances.

Details: Each is doing things a little differently.

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is the most traditional of the batch, just adding a bit more to a well-liked game.

  • For $8, it will add a new playable character and new levels to the popular and very difficult 2017 side-scrolling Cuphead.

Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is part of a publishing plan from Capcom whereby even the expansions to its hot Monster Hunter series post sales numbers bigger than most stand-alone games.

  • The massive $40 Sunbreak expansion adds to 2021 hit Monster Hunter Rise, which has sold more than 9 million copies.
  • The precedent: Capcom’s 2018 blockbuster Monster Hunter World sold 18 million copies; its massive DLC, MHW: Iceborne, released in 2019, another 9.2 million.

Outriders: Worldslayer is more of a revival attempt from publisher SquareEnix, which initially expressed enthusiasm at the sci-fi game’s 2021 launch but didn’t see sufficient sales to pay the development studio royalties.

  • The expansion extends the original game’s story, but also adds more of a so-called endgame mode that is intended to make Outriders more replayable in the long term.
  • A lack of endgame was one of the main criticisms of Outriders last year. Many modern players expect games to feature systems that turn what they're playing into something of a perpetual sport long after any storyline is complete.

3. The week ahead

Video game screenshot of a cartoon cow dressed as a cowboy shooting a big gun at another character in a small blue airplane
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course. Screenshot: Studio MDHR

The year hits the halfway mark next week. And, if rumors are true, there may even be a Nintendo Direct (not confirmed enough for it to go on the calendar, though.)

Saturday and Sunday, June 25 & 26

  • The weeklong speedrunning festival Summer Games Done Quick begins Sunday with runs of Shadow of the Colossus and Pokémon Snap. (Full schedule /watch here)
  • For esports fans, we recommend a skim of Juked's handy calendar for the weekend’s events.

Monday, June 27

  • Atari turns 50 (more coverage coming Monday).

Tuesday, June 28

Wednesday, June 29

  • Nintendo’s annual shareholders meeting is held.

Thursday, June 30

Friday, July 1

  • F1 22 (PC, PlayStation, Xbox) is released.

4. Need to know

🤔 Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who killed two people last year during a racial justice protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is creating a video game that’s intended to fund defamation lawsuits against the media, the Washington Post reports.

🎮 Blizzard’s first Overwatch game will become unplayable online when Overwatch 2 launches. The sequel will replace the original online, Blizzard developers said in a recent fan Q&A, per Kotaku.

😲 PlayStation 5 supply has been so bad that the newer Xbox models have been outselling it in Xbox-unfriendly Japan, IGN reports, citing figures from Famitsu.

5. MAH-ree-o

Photo of a man with his mouth clamped shut
Photo by Britta Pedersen/picture alliance via Getty Image

A brief timeline of the drama over actor Chris Pratt’s casting as the voice of Super Mario in the upcoming Nintendo-backed animated movie.

  • The movie was recently delayed until 2023, which has only extended fan fretting about Pratt’s suitability for the role.

Sept. 23, 2021: Pratt is cast. Some fans scoff because the Mario in the games usually sounds like an exuberant Italian man, which Pratt is not.

Sept. 25, 2021: "That’s not the voice," Pratt says on Instagram, after doing a bad impression of Mario’s signature line: "It’s-a me, Mario!"

Nov. 22, 2021: Mario movie producer Chris Meledandri says the accent issue will be addressed. "We cover it in the movie."

June 21, 2022: Meledandri predicts: "When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate," before adding, "maybe not entirely. People love to voice opinions."

June 23, 2022: Pratt promises the voice is "unlike anything you’ve heard."

🎁 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.