Sep 17, 2021

Axios Gaming

Hi everyone, Stephen Totilo with your final Axios Gaming newsletter of the week.

  • Question for all of you: What's the first game you remember playing? I think mine was Pac-Man in the arcades.

Today's newsletter is 1,263 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: “Diablo” developers speak on game and company issues

Image: Activision Blizzard

The creators ofDiablo II: Resurrected” say people should “do what they feel is right,” when considering whether to buy next week’s big release from Activision Blizzard.

Why it matters: “Resurrected” is the first game from Activision Blizzard since California filed an anti-discrimination suit against the company, largely over sexism, harassment and other workplace problems at Blizzard, where the “Diablo” series was created.

  • “It was definitely very troubling to hear these types of things,” “Resurrected” design director Rob Gallerani tells Axios, referring to the misconduct allegations.
  • “And we really wanted to support our colleagues and our co-workers.”

Between the lines: The remake is primarily being made by Vicarious Visions, a studio in upstate New York that has long worked on non-Blizzard games and was not implicated in the suit.

  • But the allegations still caused the team to self-reflect, Gallerani says, which involved studio management reaching out to employees to ask what could be done better.
  • “We heard a lot of really positive things, but I don't think that we ever get a pass on that,” he says. “We always need to keep asking.”
  • The controversy also triggered a “scrub” of the original content of “Diablo II” for any problematic references. Names and quests are being changed in other Blizzard games, but Gallerani says the check found nothing.

Details: The remake wasn't expected to be controversial when it was announced in February.

  • 2000’s “Diablo II” is a beloved fantasy classic that lets players team up with friends to hack through legions of hellish foes while collecting ever-better loot.
  • Gallerani refers to the project as a “double-decker cake” of 100% of the original game’s code — tweaked only for the remake’s online and security systems — with a new visual engine on top of it.
Amazon warrior in "Diablo II Resurrected." Image: Activision Blizzard

Changes include new looks for the game’s characters, including its female Amazon warrior.

  • Her original, more sexualized design has been criticized by some, including a longtime Blizzard fan who once publicly challenged Blizzard over its "Victoria’s Secret" approach to female character design.
  • “A lot of those points of view weigh very heavily on us,” Gallerani says, though he says her revamp for the new game was primarily due to an effort to make all the characters look more like warriors who battled hell demons, rather than people who “rolled out of a nightclub.”

The bottom line: Some long-term fans are now hesitant to support Activision Blizzard games, demanding that the company meet employee demands for reform.

2. Things change

"Kena: Bridge of Spirits." Image: Ember Lab

Nothing underscores how many of the season's big games have been delayed than a revisit of release dates that we listed three months ago. Here's our June list, printed again, with some updates:

  • July: "Monster Hunter Stories 2" (Switch), "Microsoft Flight Simulator" (Xbox Series), "F1 2021" (PC, console)
  • August: "12 Minutes" (Xbox), "Kena Bridge of Spirits" (PC, PS) ➡️ delayed to September, "Psychonauts 2" (PC, PS, Xbox)
  • September: "Riders Republic" (PC, console) ➡️ delayed to October, "WarioWare: Get it Together!" (Switch), "Deathloop" (PC, PS), "Rainbow Six Extraction" (PC, console) ➡️ delayed to 2022, "Diablo II: Resurrected" (PC, console)
  • October: "Far Cry 6" (PC, console), "Metroid Dread" (Switch), "Back 4 Blood" (PC, console), "Battlefield 2042" (PC, console) ➡️ delayed to November, "Guardians of the Galaxy" (PC, console), "Age of Empires IV" (PC), "Mario Party Superstars" (Switch), "Ghostwire: Tokyo" (PC, PS) ➡️ delayed to 2022
  • November: "Just Dance 2022" (PC, console), "Forza Horizon 5" (PC, Xbox), "GTA V remastered" (PS5, Xbox Series) ➡️ delayed to 2022, "Shin Megami Tensei" (Switch), "Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl" (Switch), "Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker" (PC, PS),"Call of Duty: Vanguard" (PC, console) *️⃣(just announced in August)
  • December: "Halo Infinite" *️⃣(just scheduled in August), "Advance Wars 1+2" (Switch), "Dying Light 2" (PC, console) ➡️ delayed to 2022
3. You ask, we answer

It's Friday, so time for more reader Q&A.

Q: Do you think Sony or Microsoft would ever come up with a way in which you can purchase something similar to a Firestick or Roku device to play games directly on the TV instead of having to buy an Xbox or PlayStation, and just pay a monthly subscription?

A: Yep. Already in the works for Xbox. Microsoft announced (vague) plans for a "streaming device" of some sort last spring.

Q: Is there a reason that Sony and Microsoft price their consoles at only $500? It seems to me that they’re leaving money on the table and letting resellers eat a lot of that profit. Why not raise the MSRP of the consoles?

A: Competition, for one.

  • In 2006, the PS3 launched at $500 and $600 against an Xbox 360 that was already out for a year at $300-$400.
  • More crucially, it also went up against the 2006 Wii, which launched at $250.
  • That cheaper and more innovative Wii raced ahead of the other two.

Now we've got new high-end Xbox and PlayStation consoles at the same price, $500.

  • But note that their lower-end models are priced differently: $400 for the no-disc-drive PS5, $300 for the weaker but still capable Xbox Series S.
  • Last year, Xbox boss Phil Spencer told me he expects that lower-end S to outsell the $500 unit in the long term.

Do you have a question? Send it by replying to this newsletter.

4. Need to know

🌈 Clive Sinclair, the creator of the affordable and influential ZX Spectrum home computer (and inventor of the pocket calculator), has died at the age of 81. The Spectrum birthed much of the British game development scene, as Kotaku's John Walker explains.

🎮 Game developer Jennifer Scheurle is stepping down from her position as chair of the Women in Games group at the Independent Games Developer Association after several developers came forward on Twitter with claims of abuse.

  • The people speaking out also criticized the IGDA of inaction in the face of reports of abuse, prompting the group to say it needed more information.

⚽️ The controversial and lucrative Ultimate Team system will return in this year's "FIFA 22," with a twist: EA will offer "preview packs" that let players preview the contents of some packs before they buy them, an option tested earlier this year.

🐶 Classic PlayStation racing series "WipEout" is getting a mobile spinoff called "WipEout Rush" that uses "merge" and "idle" gameplay to focus on race management.

  • "Rush" is being made outside of Sony by Rogue Games, whose CEO acknowledged that some console players may be skeptical, as they at times act like "mobile games burned down their house and killed their dog."

👂An Ars Technica reporter overheard an apparent Nintendo employee saying he's working on "the thing after the Switch," and, well, that's all he got.

5. Worthy of your attention

Their dad transformed video games in the 1970s — and passed on his pioneering spirit [StoryCorps].

Anderson Lawson, on his father, Jerry: "He gave [us] a book, 101 BASIC Computer Games, and he forced us to figure out how to make our own games. So [my cousin] and I made a game on one of the computers dad had. I had so much fun doing it.
That influenced me in my decision to become a computer scientist, and it changed the whole direction of my life."
6. Ikea's gaming chair (and desk)

The Utespelare chair and desk. Image: Ikea

Gaming furniture has become so mainstream that Ikea will be launching a gaming line globally net month.

  • Ikea is promising 30 products, including gaming desks, chairs, mug holders, neck pillows, ring lights "and many more."
  • The goal, aside from tapping into a big market, is to offer furniture that offers "better ergonomics and functions so that gamers can become even better at what they do without wearing out their bodies," according to Ikea designer Jon Karlsson.

🎁 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 us on Twitter: @megan_nicolett / @stephentotilo.

Thinking a lot about this newsletter's MSRP.