#49: Delayed gratification
A warm welcome back, then, to not-E3 — for that was surely what we saw from Sony last night. Which is better, do we think? A widely trailed annual event, upon which the eyes of the gaming globe are firmly fixed, and for which expectations are always through the roof? Or a surprise showcase announced at a week’s notice, from which no one is quite sure what to expect until it arrives? I suppose I can see both sides, though I admit I’m biased towards the one that’s given me so many happy memories and snags me a week in the sun away from the children every year. Either way, it was nice to have something to get excited about at a time of year that usually tends towards the predictable.
This has been a year of two E3s, then — more than that, really, since Sony’s offering last night was effectively two shows in one. The first half was for the progressively inclined: the broadcast was 15 minutes and several games old before we first laid eyes on a white male protagonist, the streak eventually broken by the newly remastered Alan Wake. By then we’d seem some intriguing, diverse and pleasingly leftfield stuff. The second half was for… if not quite the conservatives, then at least the traditionalists, who expect a showcase of this kind to be dominated by famous, well-worn faces, preferably in the act of killing things. There was certainly plenty of that, though I’ll admit my interest had waned by the time God Of War Ragnarok showed up to bring things to a close. Toby Ziegler as Odin, though! Perhaps I should give the PS4 game another shot — I’ve never got more than a few hours in, and the last time I tried, on PS5, it gave me terrible motion sickness.
As a whole, I thought last night showed both the advantages of Sony’s new preferred format, and its limitations. With no live crowd to please, and with those tuning in unsure of quite what they’d sat down for, it was perhaps a little easier for Sony to give airtime to the slightly offbeat likes of Forspoken and Tchia. As the show progressed, however, and the night moved from the warm-up DJ to the headliner rolling out the bangers, I felt it lacked somewhat for atmosphere. The snick of Wolverine’s suddenly emerging claws, for example, would have elicited quite the roar from a live crowd. I mention this too often, but I was in the room at E3 2015 when Sony unveiled Shenmue III, FFVII Remake and The Last Guardian as good as back to back, and I will never forget the noise. Big moments deserve big reactions, not a whispered ‘ooh’ from a lone man afraid of waking up the kids.
A live show wasn’t an option this year, of course — but did Sony really need to announce all those games last night, given the fairly obvious impact of the pandemic on its plans and pipelines? All the big hitters are a way off. Insomniac’s Wolverine is merely “in development for PS5”, the bulk of the studio presumably occupied with the Spider-Man sequel also announced last night that isn’t due until 2023. Ragnarok and Gran Turismo 7 won’t be with us until next year, and even the theoretically more straightforward GTAV update has slipped from November to spring. In all I was impressed with what’s coming, but there was nothing to make a PS5 purchase feel essential in the here and now. Just as well, I guess, given how hard it is to get hold of the things. But still, I expect something a little more immediate from E3, especially when it’s three months late.
The Chinese game industry’s recent woes deepened further yesterday, after government officials summoned game-company executives to a meeting in which it told them to stop focusing on profit, tighten up controls to limit “obscene and violent content” and remove anything that teaches “unhealthy tendencies, such as money-worship and effeminacy”. It also informed them it would be slowing down new online-game approvals as its crackdown on children’s gaming habits continues. Some $60 billion was wiped off Tencent’s value as a result, and you suspect things will get worse before they get better.
Apple has declined to restore Epic Games’ developer account or allow Fortnite back on the App Store in South Korea, despite a government ruling that Apple must allow the use of thirdparty payment systems. Tim Sweeney is annoyed but look, I doubt he would continue to do business with a company that was very publicly suing him.
And oh, breaking news! Five minutes before sending! Shit! The judge in the Epic vs Apple trial has ruled that while Epic failed to show Apple was a monopoly, they were unimpressed enough with Apple’s tactics to order that developers be allowed to link out to thirdparty payment systems. This is huge. I presume Apple will appeal but I have no idea if it even can.
Square Enix has announced Voice Of Cards: The Island Dragon Roars, a card-based RPG that, despite continuing the publisher’s current penchant for overlong, immediately forgettable game titles, is worth keeping an eye on. It’s directed by enigmatic Nier creator Yoko Taro, with regular collaborators Yosuka Saito, the wonderful composer Keiichi Okabe, and Kimihiko Fujisawa also on board.
It sometimes feels the game industry hasn’t learned from its many mistakes, and that things are never going to change. Enter this tale of Mike Wikan, a former Retro Studios staffer who recalls working a 48-hour shift, with a single hour-long break, during a “death march” crunch on Metroid Prime.
Young Horses, developer of Bugsnax, has permanently shifted to a four-day working week. Another one of those things you wish wasn’t news, but good for them nonetheless.
I’ve been quite disappointed with Lego Super Mario — I bought the starter set and the eldest and I fiddled around with it for a bit, but it wasn’t satisfying enough to either build or play with. But this Super Mario 64 Question Block set is just brilliant. That’s Christmas sorted, providing I can get my hands on one. I will fight you if I must.
To close today, a few questions. How long would it have taken you to find out all the above through traditional web-browsing means? How many sites would you have to visit, how many cookie policies would you have to blindly accept, how many stories that didn’t interest you would you need to scroll past, and how many ads would you have to either manually close or try to ignore? Isn’t this just… better? Would you consider a price of less than 14p per day to be worth paying in exchange for the news to come to you, without enduring the painful experience of the modern internet?
If so, perhaps you’d consider a paid subscription to Hit Points. No ads, no SEO, no tracking cookies: just the stuff that matters about the game industry, landing directly in your inbox every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And, in the near future, you’ll also gain access to subscriber-exclusive #content on top. More on that next week. In the meantime, do like and share and all the rest of the stuff the YouTubers say. Have a delightful weekend, and I’ll see you all next week!