57: To the point
Sony has finally announced the acquisition of Bluepoint Games, confirming one of the worst-kept secrets of the year. It’s further proof that Sony is thinking about acquisitions in a very different way to Microsoft. The Xbox maker’s most eye-catching buyouts — Bethesda, Double Fine, Ninja Theory — have been historically multiplatform studios it wants to take off the market. Sony clearly prefers buying those with whom it already has a firm, and as good as exclusive, relationship: Insomniac, Housemarque, Firesprite and now Bluepoint.
This makes sense, I suppose, given that Sony isn’t buying these studios to bolster a subscription service, as Microsoft is with Game Pass. But nor can it stand idly by while Microsoft and its fellow consolidators slurp up half the game industry. So yes, I see the sense in waving the chequebook at studios that have proven themselves an important, and valuable, part of the PlayStation offering. While Microsoft — and Tencent, EA, Embracer and the rest — are buying to expand, Sony’s attitude is more protectionist; more about shoring up its position than adding to it. Fair enough, especially for the market leader. Bit boring though, isn’t it. Go buy Sega or something.
While the announcement was met with a general air of well-yes-obviously, things picked up when IGN published an interview with Bluepoint president Marco Thrush in which he reveals that the studio’s next project will be “original content”. This does seem a little strange on first inspection. Bluepoint is the best in the world at bringing old titles up to modern standards — this, surely, is why Sony has bought it — but it has no proven track record of making its own games. You can be the best covers band on the planet, but that doesn’t mean you can go off and write your own White Album.
Back in 2018 I spoke to Bluepoint for an Edge feature about remasters. Reading it back this morning was a bit of a PTSD trigger, and not for the usual reasons: I was halfway through writing it when my wife popped her head round the door and told me I’d better hurry up because she’d just gone into labour. I’ve always worked well under a looming deadline, but that was something else. Anyway! With the benefit of hindsight, I can see the argument that making original games is a logical evolution for Bluepoint. But I also see plenty of evidence for why it should just stick to what it does best.
Bluepoint has worked with the same engine ever since its inception, and its technology has grown both more powerful and more flexible with every remaster and remake it produces. Its games do not run solely on the Bluepoint Engine, but rather a bespoke hybrid of it and the one that powered the original version of the game being remastered. Down the years that has meant poking under the hood of some of the best tech in the industry — from Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica and so on — then moving on to the next project with a far more capable engine. That thing is a beast, clearly. Why not make something new with it?
Moreover, the modern Bluepoint project is not just about plugging in old assets and buffing them to a contemporary shine. “As current-gen games get better looking,” Thrush told me at the time, “the gap between what the original game looked like and what it should look like by the time we’re done is getting bigger and bigger. On previous projects we would take existing detail and improve it. Now, we’re creating detail that didn’t originally exist.” You can see the line of thinking that has Bluepoint wanting to make something to call its own.
Thrush was speaking about the Shadow Of The Colossus remake there, and Bluepoint’s work on Demon’s Souls was no doubt orders of magnitude more involved. But still, it was in effect working with tracing paper. Going from that to a blank canvas is one heck of a risk — but a leap that’s markedly easier to take with a Sony-sized safety net to break your fall if it doesn’t work out.
Nintendo has denied a Bloomberg report claiming that multiple developers are working on dev kits for a 4K Switch. We shouldn’t read too much into this given Nintendo’s past form — back in 2012 it denied the existence of 3DS XL, then released it six weeks later.
Sorry if this China crackdown is getting boring for you, but this one’s big: a memo from the state-backed gaming association outlining new restrictions on content. Developers are warned off “effeminate males” and characters of ambiguous gender; they are cautioned against morality systems that allow players to be good or evil, saying “we don’t think games should give players this choice.” Huge implications here, for developers all over the world.
Pleasing stuff from Bungie this week: first, this from CEO Pete Parsons about the studio’s Diversity & Inclusion drive; secondly, the announcement of a renewed focus on accessibility. Bungie is, famously, not without its problems, but I like when it does this thought-leadership-ish stuff (it did similar early in the pandemic, detailing how it had transitioned to remote working and so on). It’s good when big companies explain their thinking and show their workings, particularly in so secretive an industry.
The Game Awards, a sort of Oscars for games if you squint a bit and imagine that people only watch the Oscars for the trailers, will be an in-person event this December.
The Xbox TGS briefing took place yesterday, and you didn’t miss much, though that was worsened by a lack of English subtitles for Phil Spencer’s lengthy discussion with Shinji Mikami, which I’d love to have understood. What little news emerged from the show is ably rounded up by Eurogamer.
Konami has apologised for making a right old mess of eFootball 2022, which launched this week and is already the worst-reviewed game of all time on Steam. As such I suggest tempering your excitement at a VGC report claiming Castlevania, Metal Gear and Silent Hill are set to be revived.
There you go! Ah, what a week it’s been. There will be no Hit Points on Monday; I have family visiting from overseas for the first time since the pandemic struck, they’re only here for a couple of days and I intend to make the most of it. Unless something major happens, I’ll catch you all on Wednesday. Have a great weekend in the meantime!