Welcome to the Weekly Knockout, our weekly round-up of the biggest gaming news for the week ending 3rd July. This week there was remasters, reboots and reimaginings galore, a Ford car dealership liked the art of Firewatch a little too much and we explore some potential fallout from the UK’s recent decision to leave the European Union.
NOTE: Audio version of the Weekly Knockout can be found on iTunes, or at the bottom of this page.
This Week’s 8 Biggest Stories
1) Batman: Return to Arkham delayed indefinitely
The bundled remasters of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, originally set for a July 26 release for PS4 and Xbox One, no longer have a release date, according to an official statement on Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s Arkham Knight forums.
“After reviewing the progress of the project, the team at WB Games has decided to delay the release of Batman: Return to Arkham to give the team at Virtuous Games additional time to deliver a polished Batman Arkham game experience,” according to the official post. “We do not have a release date yet and will be sure to communicate that once we are sure the game will be ready. We know this is disappointing news, but we feel the extra time will allow the team to create the best gaming experience for our fans.“
Return to Arkham was announced just last month for $49.99, with both games and all their additional DLC remastered using Unreal Engine 4. After the infamous debacle with the Arkham Knight PC port—which was near unplayable thanks to various bugs and glitches, leading to customer outcry and mass refunds—maybe some extra polishing wouldn’t hurt.
2) Bioshock Collection (finally) announced
Speaking of remasters, 2K Games has announced BioShock: The Collection—to the surprise of precisely no one. It will be released on September 13, 2016, on PC, PS4, and Xbox One for $59.99, and is said to include remastered visuals.
The port is being handled by Blind Squirrel Games and the collection will include the original BioShock, BioShock 2, and Infinite, “all single-player DLC,” and a “never-before-seen” video series that features Ken Levine. BioShock 2’s online component will not, however, be included disappointing I’m sure all ten of its multiplayer fans. According to 2K, “BioShock Infinite is not being remastered on PC because it already meets current-gen console standards and runs smoothly on high visual settings.” But, “if you already own BioShock, BioShock 2, and/or Minerva’s Den on Steam, you will be able to upgrade to the remastered version of the respective title(s) for free after release.”
So why wasn’t this a surprise? Last September, a retailer leak suggested that the trio was headed to PS4 and Xbox One.The box art for BioShock the Collection appeared later on, as did an official Brazilian, Taiwanese and ESRB rating. This week, people found text references to the compilation on the publisher’s site and the cover art hosted on its servers (before it was swiftly taken down), and assorted screenshots from The Collection started making the rounds on NeoGAF.
While it’ll be nice to see a new lick of paint for the 2007 original, it’s the sequel I’m looking forward to reappraising. While an engrossing diversion, Bioshock 2 was maligned upon release for simply being too similar to its predecessor. Many players also never tried out its excellent DLC, Minerva’s Den, which was masterminded by Steve Gaynor and many of the team who would go on to develop Gone Home and Tacoma.
3) System Shock reboot is getting help from industry veteran
News of the Bioshock Collection brings us nicely onto recent developments with its spiritual predecessor, System Shock. The classic 1994 sci-fi role-playing game is being given a modern “re-imagining” by Night Dive Studios.’ The game’s Kickstarter campaign, which was launched on June 27, has already (at the time of writing) gained nearly $680,000 of its total $900,00 goal.
You’d be wise, of course, to treat these crowdfunded endeavors with hefty fistfuls of salt, but new details have emerged that could help assuage fears. Designer Chris Avellone, whose credits include Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment and Fallout: New Vegas has joined the project. The former Obsidian Entertainment and Interplay member will “help shape and direct the existing narrative of System Shock,” according to Night Dive.
Avellone’s experience with more modern open-world games was cited as a key reason for bringing him onto the project. He’ll join other members of the Fallout: New Vegas team on the project as well. It’s one of the several reboots Avellone has in the works — he recently announced he’s working on the next Prey, which Bethesda debuted at this year’s E3.
A PC demo of the game, which has been rebuilt from the ground up with the Unity Engine, has been made available and is a free download for anyone, not just backers.
4) Ford uses Firewatch visuals for sales event
Did you like Campo Santo’s wilderness adventure game, Firewatch? Did you admire graphic designer Olly Moss’ stylish vision of Wyoming? So did Ford, apparently. So much so, they decided to use some of the game’s key art to promote their summer sale at a local dealership.
Panic Inc, co-producers of Firewatch, were alerted to lovely bit of plagarism by a fan on Twitter, prompting them to reply with the following tweet:
Campo Santo’s co-founder, Sean Vanaman also saw the tweet and weighed in:
When looking closer at the tweet, the email comes from Quirk Ford, a Massachusetts Ford dealership. The image in question was a part of Quirk’s campaign for Ford’s Freedom sales event.
A Ford spokesperson for the advertising department responded to the claims, telling Game Informer: “We always use DMCA [a US copyright act] compliant sites when getting images,” citing WideWallpaper.info as the specific source of the image it used. There is no guarantee however that the images on that site have not been stolen themselves.
Vanaman refuted the spokesperson’s claims, saying on Twitter: “That ‘update’ is BS as their mailer actually includes elements from our old website that aren’t available on any wallpaper site. Indeed, a quick Google search for the image used in the ad can actually be found directly on Campo Santo’s blog. The image that the dealership pointed to has the same dimensions as the original on Campo Santo’s site, but with an added 200 pixels at the bottom of the image.
Vanaman continued, “We live in a time of infinite free content so it’s really no wonder everyone thinks everything is free on the internet.”
Quirk Ford did, however, eventually issue an apology via Twitter. All’s well that ends well?
5) Overwatch’s latest update brings Competitive Play to PC
Blizzard Entertainment updated Overwatch on Windows PC this week, with a patch that finally adds Competitive Play. The tier-based mode will go live for PC players wanting a more aggressive version of the hero-based shooter, but those on consoles will have to wait.
“We know this isn’t an ideal way to deliver new content, so we’re going to continue to refine our patching processes over the next few months in an effort to sync up our release dates across platforms as closely possible,” a community manager wrote on Battle.net. “Although our Battle.net client will always allow us to be more agile on PC, we hope to reach a point where we can release major updates on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 simultaneously.”
The PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game are expected to receive the update in the coming weeks. The mode first appeared in a closed beta prior to Overwatch‘s launch, but it went back into development until last week’s open beta. Changes made since its original incarnation include penalties for abandoning a game, placement matches, golden weapon skins and other features.
I know our Overwatch reviewer, Evan Buck, has been enjoying Competitive Play tremendously. He said of the launch game: “It hosts some of the most impressively blood pumping and adrenaline-fueled action to hit the shooter scene in a very long time. The interesting and loveable cast of mass murdering magic orb wielding mech piloting scientist apes keep the game feeling endlessly refreshed—with Overwatch I can’t wait to come home every day and just play.” You can read the full review here.
In related news, Overwatch currently boasts the largest share of players at Korean internet cafes, according to Gametrics. The website, which tracks and charts what people are playing at more than 4,000 of the country’s internet cafes, lists Overwatch as the game of choice for more than 30 percent of cafe patrons, besting League of Legends‘ 27.8 percent share. Prior to this week, League has kept the top spot since August 2012.
6) Sonic the Hedgehog celebrates his birthday with a new game in 2017
Sonic is getting another video game to celebrate his 25th anniversary, launching sometime in 2017. Full details are coming July 22 at San Diego Comic-Con; an event that will be live-streamed.
Sonic’s latest endeavor is the Sonic Boom series, tied in with the TV franchise of the same name. Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice is due for the Nintendo 3DS this September. In 2011, on Sonic’s 20th birthday, Sega launched Sonic Generations, the last Sonic platforming title published for Xbox or PlayStation.
When last seen, Sonic was on Twitter taking shots at Mighty No. 9, which finally launched on Tuesday. This seems a bit self-indulgent for a 90s relic with an embarrassing good to bad ratio of games to his name, but then again, this Twitter feed is the single best thing he’s done in almost two decades. Whether the 2017 Sonic title will be in any way relevant or even well-executed is another question entirely, but we can only hope.
7) PlayStation Plus line up for July
PlayStation Plus subscribers have several free games to look forward to in July, and one of those is a completely new title. Furi for PlayStation 4 launches next Tuesday, July 5, but PlayStation Plus members will get the game for free the same day. You can watch a trailer for the game below.
PS4 owners will also receive Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell. For those members interested in Paragon, Sony is also offering early access to the game ahead of its open beta. Not only will subscribers be able to play it ahead of the August 18 launch, they will also receive a starter pack that includes $40 worth of add-ons.
Here’s the full line-up of July’s free games, including titles for PS3 and Vita owners:
- Furi, PS4
- Saints Row: Gat out of Hell, PS4
- Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, PS3
- Fat Princess, PS3
- Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, PS Vita
- Prince of Persia: Revelation, PS Vita
8) Xbox Games With Gold
The Banner Saga 2, the sequel to the 2014 role-playing game from Stoic, will debut on Xbox One as a free Games With Gold title on July. This is actually earlier than anticipated; Stoic had previously said The Banner Saga 2, which launched in mid-April on Mac and Windows PC, would arrive July 26 on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Publisher Versus Evil announced today that the PS4 version is now scheduled to be released July 5.
The Banner Saga 2 (regularly $19.99) will be free all month long to Xbox Live Gold subscribers, while the other Games With Gold title for Xbox One, Tumblestone (reg. $19.99), will be free from July 16 through Aug. 15. It’s a puzzle game from the Quantum Astrophysicists Guild that includes arcade modes, a story campaign and multiplayer offerings.
Both of July’s Xbox 360 Games With Gold titles will also be playable on Xbox One via backward compatibility, as usual. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, which was originally released in March 2008, will be free from July 1-15. Tron: Evolution (reg. $14.99), a tie-in for the 2010 film Tron: Legacy, will be free for the second half of the month.
This Week’s Financial Report
Depending on which Briton you ask, the UK’s referendum vote to leave the European Union is either a travesty or a cause for celebration. But either way, there could be surprisingly pervasive effects on the larger games industry. It should be noted, however, that if its government choose to act upon the general public’s desire to exit the EU, there are still years of negotiations ahead before a split can be finalized. In a fascinating article by Eurogamer, some of the possible implications have been explored. In brief:
- The free movement of skilled labour could lead to a talent deficit.
- Multinational companies may scale down their operations – Rocksteady, Rockstar, Media Molecule, and Rare, for instance, are all owned by multinationals who may find it harder to work in the UK.
- A weaker pound could mean more expensive games.
- Hardware will be more greatly affected than software.
- Importing games may become cheaper, however.
- The threat of recession: as gaming has become more popular and its audience has broadened it has become more exposed to the effects of a recession.
Piers Harding-Rolls, director at analyst IHS Technology, told Eurogamer that any change will probably affect hardware more than software, which could mean mid-generation upgrades like Project Scorpio and PlayStation Neo being more expensive in the UK than they would otherwise.
Harding-Rolls said “The impact of Brexit on pricing depends on whether the exchange rate impact is sustained for a long period of time and whether it moderates after this initial shock. Any currency exchange rate swing is more likely to impact console hardware pricing over software, as margins on hardware are generally tighter than on software.”
“It’s worth noting that we have the most competitive retail environment for games sales in Europe and this keeps our games pricing low compared to mainland Europe. I wouldn’t expect the recommended retail price of games on existing platforms to change if the pound’s weakness continues, but there may be a moderation on discounting based on reduced margins.“
Andy Payne, founder of AppyNation and former UK Interactive Entertainment chairman, suggested Brexit could make video games cheaper as the pound fluctuates.
“It is likely that imports will get cheaper as our currency rebalances,” he said. “That may mean that physical games could be cheaper, unless of course there are import tariffs again given that all PlayStation games sold in the UK are manufactured in the EU.
“Given that the direction of travel is digital, then a weaker pound could deliver cheaper games to UK residents. But the EU Digital Single Market rules which are not yet agreed, may change a lot for consumers.”
A lot to mull over for sure. For this UK resident, I’m going with the sound strategy of hiding under a duvet until the country stops imploding.
This Week’s Weird News
Time for a bit of levity. Street Fighter 5 director Takayuki Nakayama outlined some of the game’s rejected and reworked characters in a recently translated post on the Capcom Fighters Network website. It turns out that some of the earliest character concepts for Street Fighter 5 were some of the game’s most bizarre, including a “Fighting President”, a “Literary Master” (who perhaps flings copies of The Great Gatsby at other combatants) and a character who inadvertently sheds her clothing as she fights.
Because, video games.
Here’s Nakayama’s explanation of the unnamed fighter: “When this cutie starts fighting, her clothes start becoming more tattered due to her clumsiness.”
Few of those characters actually have names; instead they’re often listed as “The Teacher” (an early version of FANG) or “Soccer Fighter” (a Brazilian soccer player who could kick fireballs, but was too close to another Capcom fighter, Roberto from Rival Schools.)
All these characters would have been brand new to the series. Street Fighter 5 ended up with 16 characters at launch, of which four were brand new: FANG, Laura, Necalli and Rashid.