February 13, 2023

Happy Monday.

Axios is hosting our second annual What’s Next Summit on March 29 in Washington, D.C., spotlighting the innovations, trends and people that are breaking boundaries and shaping our world. Check out our speaker lineup and register to livestream the event here.

Today's edition: 1,233 words, a 4.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Nintendo's credits "travesty"

Metroid Prime Remastered. Screenshot: Retro Studios/Nintendo

Developers who worked on the acclaimed 2002 Nintendo GameCube game Metroid Prime are publicly voicing frustration that a recently released Switch remake called Metroid Prime Remastered fails to name the game’s original creators in its credits.

Driving the news: Zoid Kirsch, a senior engineer on the original who did not work on the remake tweeted on Saturday that he was “let down” by the lack of full original credits in the new Switch version.

  • The original's technical lead engineer, Jack Mathews, publicly called it a "travesty."
  • He added to Axios: “When my son plays Metroid Prime on the Switch for the first time, the fact that he won't see [my] and my colleagues' names in the credits as the original creators is a punch in the gut."

Details: Metroid Prime Remastered is a level-for-level re-creation of the first game, featuring the same adventure and same gameplay as the 2002 version but with superior, modern graphics.

  • Original and remake were largely created by Nintendo-owned Retro Studios, though the staff at Retro has changed significantly.
  • Remastered's credits name hundreds of current developers at Retro and affiliate studios who worked on the game.
  • The game’s original creators are acknowledged in 15 words at the end of the Switch version’s credits: “Based on the work of Metroid Prime (Original Nintendo GameCube and Wii Versions) development staff.”

Between the lines: Credits for video games are notoriously inconsistent and incomplete.

  • Publishers make up the rules as they go, often excluding developers who left a studio before a project shipped.
  • A spate of remakes and remasters that use much of the art and game design of the games they are based on raise questions about who should get credit.

What they’re saying: “As our industry matures and games are remastered from original designs, code and artwork, it is vitally important that individual credits are preserved as peoples' work is used as a template for future releases,” Mathews says.

  • Mathews noted that a video game remake like Prime’s uses a lot of the code of the original. The remake’s impressive graphics are derivative of the original game’s artwork, he says.

Be smart: Guidelines from the International Game Developers Association, which can advocate but does not enforce game credits, state that “ports, remasters, remakes and re-releases must retain the original names that worked on the game.”

  • EA’s recent Dead Space remake, a more substantive overhaul of the 2008 original of the same name, takes a similar approach as Prime Remastered. The 2023 edition's 20-minute roll of credits ends with a brief thanks to the original team “for inspiring us every step of the way.”

One re-release that did credit the game’s original creators: Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, a 2021 remaster that lists the game’s original 2011 development team by name and first in the credit roll.

2. Interview: Game Freak’s weird ones

Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On. Screenshot: Game Freak

Renowned Pokémon studio Game Freak is committed to making more non-Pokémon games, even if that’s gotten more challenging, Masao Taya, director of the studio’s newest release, Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On, tells Axios.

Driving the news: Ride On, a fun game that somehow successfully mixes virtual horse racing with solitaire, was recently released for the Apple Arcade subscription service.

  • The original Pocket Card Jockey was released a decade ago for the Nintendo 3DS, where it was another cult hit in the line of non-Pokémon Game Freak standouts like 2005’s Drill Dozer and 2012’s HarmoKnight.
  • The new version updates the graphics and lightly tweaks the race rules, but largely plays the same.

What they’re saying: “We believe that it is very important for the studio to continue making and releasing titles outside of the Pokémon series,” Taya tells Axios.

  • “In recent years, the resources needed for game development have grown and grown, so Development Department One has been trying out a style of development where it works with external studios,” he says.
  • Game Freak’s core teams turn out Pokémon games on a near-annual basis, and such games have become increasingly graphically complex, requiring more resources in the process.
  • For Ride On, Game Freak partnered with studios Infiniteloop Co. and Pixyda, both of which have worked with the studio over the past decade, Taya says.

Origins of a Pocket Jockey: Taya is a horse-racing fan who once conceived of a horse-racing-card-game combo but couldn’t nail the project. He credits veteran Pokémon composer Go Ichinose with spotting a version of solitaire on his iPhone that led to a workable design.

  • Pocket Card Jockey begins with a comically macabre event: the player’s struggling jockey dies in an accident, only to be revived with a divine mission to win horse races by doing something he’s good at — playing solitaire.
  • “In the beginning, this game didn’t have an introductory story,” Taya says. It was added halfway through development when his boss asked why playing solitaire made the horse go faster. Joked Taya: “I thought to myself, ‘You couldn’t have told me when we started on this,' while I hurriedly spent a few hours thinking up a story.”
  • Fans of the 3DS original have asked for a phone version, so an Apple Arcade version made sense and was cheaper to commit to, Taya says. “Our thinking was we would first put out a remake, then see what the reception to that would be.”

3. Need to know

⬇️ Spending on video game hardware, software and accessories in the U.S. totaled $4.3 billion in January, down 5% from one year prior, the NPD group reported. Drops in mobile, physical console game sales and game pads were to blame, according to NPD’s Mat Piscatella.

🤔 The departures of veteran Ubisoft developers continues, with Jean Guesdon leaving last week after a 17-year run. Guesdon was the creative director of the acclaimed Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and AC Origins game and had been working on an unannounced project. No word on where Guesdon is headed.

😲 A rare game release date moving up: Dead Island 2, a game infamous for its lengthy development cycle, will now be released on April 21, avoiding a showdown with EA’s Star Wars Jedi Survivor, which was recently delayed to April 28.

👀 The addition of realistic genitalia to some of the female non-player characters in a recent remastering of The Witcher 3 was an “unintended result” of incorporating fan-made Witcher 3 software modifications into the new version, series studio CD Projekt RED tells Kotaku. They add: “This is something we are working to address.”

4. The live-service grind

The Division 2 Season 10 roadmap. Image: Ubisoft

‘Tis the season for service-driven video games to switch to their next multi-month season, which makes it time for your Axios Gaming reporter to cram to catch up.

  • Two weeks ago, I was racing to finish The Division 2's extended 10th season, tracking down some final bounty targets in post-disaster Washington, D.C., nudging the game’s story forward while expecting a changeover to Season 11 by Feb. 7.
  • But Season 11 was postponed with four days to go because of a localization issue ... then postponed again last week after the developers accidentally deleted part of the game's digital infrastructure. No new start date yet.
  • I didn't mean to jinx it, though I did manage to get caught up.

Now I’m looking at a Feb. 28 deadline to wrap up the last two seasons' worth of content for Destiny 2, before that’s all wiped from that game.

  • I’m thinking about the people who say keeping up with live service games is like having another job … yep.

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🐦 Find me on Twitter: @stephentotilo.

Thank you to Peter Allen Clark for editing and Kathie Bozanich for copy editing this newsletter.

Be careful with those fan-made mods, everyone.