Rundown (3/08-3/14) Dark Mornings

Wherein I discuss the expo eliminating epidemic, a new sports ball challenger, big money warzone fun times, a potential new horizon for Playstation, and a bad, yet rad, drive.


This is probably the pettiest preamble I’ve ever gone on for a Rundown, but this past week I’ve been struggling to wake up at my usual time on account of the daylight savings time.  At first, I thought that it was because I was not making up for the hour of sleep I skipped out on, but as the days have gone on I’ve realized that despite having never considered sunlight or day cycles to be an important part of my routine, I actually had grown accustomed to waking up around sunrise.  Now when I get up at 6:45, everything’s dark for about 30 minutes, and my body thinks that it’s still sleepy time. When in actuality, it’s banking time! And that is why daylight savings time should be abolished. Because it inconveniences me for about a week before I get used to it.  

With that taken care of, and starting with the biggest story first, E3 2020 has been cancelled due to concerns over the coronavirus.  This is not all too surprising considering how many other events have been shut down or postponed due to fear of spreading a deadly illness, but it is still an upsetting occurrence that is bound to have a substantial impact on the games industry throughout 2020 as marketing plans have been thrown out the window, the entire press cycle needs to be reconsidered, and the gaming audience will not be granted a deluge of meme-rich press conferences to enjoy.

Am I personally upset by this?  Well, yes and no. As I have said many times in the past, E3 is video game Christmas.  It is a time of ravenous indulgence in all things video games, where the entire community gathers around, watches conferences, talks about them with friends and colleagues, and gets excited because getting excited is fun.  However, the event is also a tiresome time for the gaming press, as they need to put out an obscene amount of content in a single week between videos, interviews, podcasts, and hastily written news blurbs. It is a strenuous time for game developers, as they often need to work extra hard on polishing up enough of the game to make for a decent trailer that will go to dictate their game’s future success.  And it is a turbulent time for the decision-makers in gaming, who forego the frantic furor of the show floor and engage in backroom deals that dictate the futures of games and studios.

So, yes, it is a mixed bag as it were, but now… now we do not get any of that because the Entertainment Software Association is being at least somewhat virtuous by worrying about the health and safety of their members and the community they represent.  This will assuredly have some long-term repercussions that I can only vaguely guess at the moment, but I think it is safe to say that one of them will be a rise in publisher sponsored digital events a la Nintendo Directs. Though that, and anything else I could predict, would be pure speculation.  For now, all we know is that Microsoft, Ubisoft, and Devolver have confirmed their plans to carry out their originally planned E3 presentations in the form of digital events that they will detail in the coming weeks, while Nintendo and Square Enix are looking into other ways to carry out their originally scheduled plans for E3.  So at the very least, the event’s spirit will be carried out this year, and who knows, things might actually be better this way.  

However, it will necessitate a lot of new plans from the major publishers who planned on hosting their own E3 conferences, such as Warner Bros. Interactive.  Yes, according to reputable games journalist Jason Schreier, E3 2020 was originally going to feature a press conference from Warner Bros, which was where they planned on revealing the Batman game that WB Montreal has been working on sporadically for an entire generation, the Harry Potter game that was leaked in 2018, and whatever the heck Rocksteady has been working on since 2015.  But I guess now they’re busy deciding if they want to do their own digital event, announce these games via press releases, or have these games announced via an Xbox or Playstation digital event.  

Continuing to talk about industry-wide issues, and matters that do not necessarily pertain to the types of games I typically discuss in these Rundowns, 2K Games recently announced a multi-year partnership with the NFL in order to produce non-simulation American football games.  A move that I find to be of interest, as this will mark the first time EA’s Madden series had any substantial competition since the mid-2000s when EA signed an exclusivity deal with the NFL and proceeded to begin putting out titles with little in the way of new features or refinements aside from new monetization methods.  

Optimists could say that this will bring forth a sort of resurgence in American football games, but considering how 2K Games is not particularly better than EA when it comes to iteration and sketchy monetization practices, with the NBA 2K series being particularly egregious, I doubt that would change much of anything, due to how the primary purchasers of these games are customed to the routine of picking up an annual Madden, know how to play Madden, and likely do not want anything more than Madden.

It’s similar to why I theorize that the Call of Duty series retains its annual release schedule, as opposed to being a persistent live service— because much of the audience have a casual connection to video games, and are accustomed to routine purchases.  However, Activision Blizzard has tried continuously to branch the series off into that direction with games that are presented as spin-offs of sorts, and exist as supplemental pillars to the main games. Like last year’s Tencent-affiliate-developed Call of Duty Mobile, which saw immense success at launch.  

Now, they are attempting to further encroach into the free-to-play battle royale foothold established by Fornite and Apex Legends with the recently released Call of Duty: Warzone, which amassed over 6 million players within 24 hours and has been received warmly as far as I can tell.  Which is good because I like it when people are having fun with their video games.  However, I cannot help but view this title as a revenue center for Activision, built and polished by Infinity Ward and the publisher’s many support studios with the expressed goal of further monetizing and extending the life of their precious cash cow through monetization practices that become increasingly dubious throughout the game’s life.  Though the more I think about it, the same could be said for most games with aggressive or persistent monetization strategies.

Ugh, I’m getting cynical again, let’s try to find an uplifting story for once… oh, here we go.  As previously reported by Jason Schreier back in January, Sony has formally announced that Horizon: Zero Dawn is indeed making its way to the PC platform via Steam sometime this summer.  A move that very well could pave the way to a generation of non-exclusivity (except for Nintendo) as most major first-party titles eventually make their way to PC, and most third-party titles launch on the platform regardless.  However, being coy and not riling up the community with what could very well just be an experiment on Sony’s behalf, there are currently no plans to bring other titles to the platform.  Still, it is a much-appreciated gesture and one that I will probably appreciate for myself… whenever I get around to it.

Yes, yes, I am few things other than punctual when it comes to reviewing most video games, with the topical reviews of mine being several weeks out of fashion once they are published in addition to being few and far between.  That being said, I will try to be punctual in my coverage of the latest title from Too Kyo Games… which is actually going to be an anime by the name of Akudama Drive.  A title that is penned by Danganronpa series writer Kazutaka Kodaka and animated by Studio Peridot that is about a group of characters who exist in the seedy underbelly of an alternate reality grungy sci-fi Japan and… yeah, that’s all I need to hear to give this series a go.  It will begin airing in July, looks pretty dope based on the teaser trailer released, and I’ll probably put up a review of it about a month after it’s released. Because good or bad, I’m sure I’ll have at least some colorful things to say about it.

Anyhow, that’s all the news for this week.  I hope all of you are having a swell time bundled up at home while waiting for COVID-19 to come and go.  As for me, I’ve got taxes to do, novels to edit, and stuff to write, so I’ll catch you supple young eggs on the flip side.  Peace!

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