Category Archives: Gaming

Sony Confirms It’s Delayed Half Of It’s 12 Planned Live Service Games

Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) has halved the number of live service games it plans to release over the next few years, it’s confirmed.

According to VideoGamesChronicle, SIE had previously said it planned to have 12 live service titles in the market by its fiscal year ending in March 2026 – up from three during its last business year ended this March.

However, earlier this year, PlayStation’s management team confirmed that it had partnered with Destiny studio Bungie for a “rigorous portfolio review” process. According to press reports, this has led to some projects being scaled back.

During an earnings call on Thursday, Sony president, COO and CFO Hiroki Totoki seemingly confirmed that this review had results in some games being pushed back due to quality concerns.

Among the 12 titles in development are a The Last of Us online game, a Horizon online game, and an original IP from PlayStation’s London Studio.

Game Developer reported that Sony’s planned output of live-service games has hit a stumbling block, as six of those intended 12 titles have been pushed back. During its recent earnings call, president Hiroki Totoki explained the unannounced titles were being delayed due to quality concerns and ensuring they live up to PlayStation’s first-party standards.

According to Game Developer, last year, Sony made clear the company wanted in on the revenue of live-service titles like Destiny 2 (whose developer, Bungie, it now owns) and Fortnite. Since then, multiplayer spinoffs for Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us and Guerrilla Games’ Horizon franchises have been confirmed to be in development.

In the case of Naughty Dog, said spinoff was revealed to be quietly shelved this past October. Earlier in the year, it was reported that the game (currently known as Factions) was suffering from a lack of clear vision and general quality.

Kotaku reported that Sony was betting big on turning PlayStation into a live-service juggernaut, but it sounds like the platforms shift into online multiplayer games hasn’t been anywhere near as quick or smooth as it once hoped. Unlike originally planned, Sony’s president Hiroki Totoki told investors six of the company’s 12 upcoming live service games won’t arrive until 2026 and beyond.

According to Kotaku, Sony’s president went on to say that its big live service push for PlayStation remains the “unchanged policy of the company,” but that “game quality” will be the most important thing overall as it makes production and scheduling decisions.

The full slate of 12 games had originally been promised by around the end of 2025. The man who made that promise, Jim Ryan, is currently in the middle of retiring as the head of PlayStation.

Kotaku noted that live-service games have been a gold mine for the companies who have managed to make them work. Money players spend in games like Madden and Call of Duty now outpaces revenue from sales of the games themselves.

Personally, I think there is potential for live service games to be extremely fun. For example, I play a lot of Diablo IV, which is a live service game. These types of games can make it easier to group up with friends or to jump into random encounters with strangers.

Crunchyroll Is Adding Mobile Games To Its Subscription Service

Crunchyroll is getting into gaming, Mashable reported. On Tuesday, the anime streaming service launched Crunchyroll Game Vault, a destination for mobile games, for both its Mega and Ultimate Fan subscribers.

The company said the Game Vault is now available for Android users and will be available on iOS “very soon.” The Game Vault launched with five titles – Captain Velvet: The Jump+ Dimensions, River City Girls, Wolfstride, Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery, and Inbento, and won’t have in-app purchases. The games will also be “free,” although you’d already be paying either $10 or $15 for a Crunchyroll subscription.

GameSpot reported that anime fans will soon have a new avenue to play top anime video game hits, as Crunchyroll has announced new and exclusive games on mobile devices to all Crunchyroll Mega and Ultimate members beginning today.

Crunchyroll Game Vault will add to the service in waves, in a model similar to how Netflix Games operates in the Netflix app. The first wave includes five games, with three of them being exclusive to Crunchyroll’s service on mobile devices.

Multiple games in the first wave of Game Vault offerings are hitting mobile devices for the first time. Among them is River City Girls – the old school beat’-em-up from Arc System Works – and Wolfstride, an RPG which was previously only available on PC. Both games will be Crunchryoll Game Vault exclusives on mobile devices.

The Verge reported that the Crunchyroll Game Vault is available today for free to subscribers of the Mega Fan and Ultimate Fan tiers of Crunchyroll – the two higher-cost tiers available – and at launch, there will be five titles. Much like on Netflix or Apple Arcade, the games will all be free and devoid of in-app purchases.

According to The Verge, most gaming subscription services tend to offer a large breadth of titles, it sounds like Crunchyroll’s will be more focused. The company says it will feature “premium mobile games specifically for fans of anime and anime-inspired entertainment.” And while there are only five games at launch, Crunchyroll says the vault will “feature continuous additions to its line-up, with a whole new wave of titles coming soon.”

For now, Crunchyroll’s games offering seems like a nice bonus, not unlike the digital manga included in the subscription’s higher tiers.

The news comes a day after Crunchyroll announced a partnership with Walmart that will see Crunchyroll-branded “fan shops” in 2,400 retail locations in the US, selling things like Blu-ray collections, vinyl records, and physical subscription cards.

VentureBeat reported that Crunchyroll Game Vault is the latest step the anime streaming service is taking to reach fans through games. Crunchyroll games has published a number of anime-inspired games, including Street Fighter: Duel, My Hero Academia: The Strongest Hero, and the upcoming One Punch Man: World. Moreover, Crunchyroll Games is publishing all of the Game Vault launch titles for mobile.

In my opinion, this news is going to make fans of anime very interested in playing the anime-inspired games that Crunchyroll is offering. It appears that to access this content, you need to purchase a $10 or $15 for a Crunchyroll subscription.

Blizzard President On The “New Era” Under Xbox

The dust is finally starting to settle from Microsoft’s huge acquisition of Activision Blizzard, but even Blizzard president Mike Ybarra still isn’t exactly sure how things will change for the company, The Verge reported. “I literally haven’t sat down with [Microsoft Gaming CEO] Phil [Spencer] and said, “So, what does all this mean?” Ybarra tells The Verge in an interview.

Ybarra doesn’t seem worried, though. As part of his opening remarks at Friday’s BlizzCon 2023 keynote, Ybarra said that the show as the start of a “new era” for the company.

“I think the way [Spencer] approaches building teams and focusing on culture and enabling creative freedom is going to give Blizzard a lot more of that sense of being an independent studio than ever before,” Ybarra says. “That’s what I really mean when I talk about a new era of possibilities, of empowerment, of serving players even better than we ever have.” (It probably also helps that Ybarra worked for Spencer for eight years before joining Blizzard.)

Right now, things are “pretty much business as usual,” Ybarra says. Spencer and his team visited Blizzard recently, but “it was more about just meeting people,” Ybarra says. “They didn’t want to talk about business.” It seems like that means any Microsoft-driven changes might be a little ways out: Spencer has already said not to expect any Activision Blizzard games on Xbox Game Pass until 2024, for example.

Video Games Chronicle reported that the Xbox maker completed its $69 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard last month, in the process of taking ownership of franchises including World of Warcraft, Diablo and Overwatch.

Discussing the idea with The Verge, Ybarra said he thinks Blizzard will be afforded more freedom that has previously been the case.

Ybarra, who joined Blizzard in 2019 following almost 20 years at Microsoft was joined by Spencer on stage during BlizzCon’s opening ceremony last week.

Microsoft’s head of gaming, who recently visited the Warcraft studio with Xbox’s leadership team to meet employees, proclaimed “the future of Blizzard is brighter than ever” during last week’s fan convention.

“Blizzard’s influence is everywhere, and because of its enduring legacy and phenomenal, revolutionary development, with a care and a craft that is incredibly rare in this industry,” he said.

“Our commitment at Xbox is to bring more great games to more players, in more places. And now that Blizzard is part of Xbox, we will nurture the essence of what has made Blizzard unique.

“We are going to empower our new colleagues in a culture of trust, inclusion, and collaboration, to continue what they do best: redefining existing genres, creating new, never before seen experiences, and uniting players globally in new ways – in Azeroth, in Sanctuary, in near-future Earth, and beyond.”

I didn’t go to BlizzCon this year, but I was able to watch some of the panels online. It sounds like Blizzard gaming and Xbox are going to be a good match. I’m looking forward to seeing what this merger will do for both companies.

A Recap Of Epic Games VS Google

The first day of the Epic Games vs. Google antitrust trial ended after both sides gave opening statements and two witnesses testified, VentureBeat reported.

According to VentureBeat, Epic’s lead attorney Gary Bornstein opened with a chart that showed the Google Play Store accounted for 90% of app installs in the year the lawsuit was filed, 2020, despite the fact that Google “will say” that the Samsung app store is installed on 60% of all Android smartphones. But Bornstein noted that a tiny sliver of the market share belongs to Samsung.

Bornstein argued that Google pays actual potential competitors not to compete and gives them money and other things of value. Bornstein says this is anti-competitive.

Epic also said it knows that Google will argue that it allows “sideloading” of apps as an alternative to using the Google Play Store. But Epic Games said Google through hoops in the way of users who were considering sideloading. Epic said that Google’s 30% fee for its app store operating profit amount to $12 billion a year and carry a 70% margin, compared to 24% in 2014.

Bornstein said that Google’s codename for shady deals was Project Hug, where Google allegedly paid developers such as Riot Games not to compete with the Google Play Store.

Bornstein also said that because many of Google’s alleged anticompetitive acts started in 2019, Google didn’t need those things to protect its fledgling app store. Rather, it merely intended to protect its monopoly. He also said that Google doesn’t have a monopoly on making app downloading secure, and that side-loaded apps didn’t represent a real security threat.

CNBC reported that Google is headed back to court for its second antitrust trial in two months, this time in defense of its Android Play Store.

According to CNBC, while Google continues to argue against monopoly claims brought by the Department of Justice and a bipartisan group of states in Washington, D.C., District Court, the company now has to simultaneously face off against Epic Games in a federal court in San Francisco.

The trial involving Epic, which began Monday, revolted around Google’s treatment of third-party developers, and will be closely watched by Apple, which operates the rival iPhone App Store. Both companies have been accused by developers of taking an unfair cut of revenue from in-app payments and for making it harder for app creators to communicate with their customers.

An Epic victory could force Google to make changes to Android, where it charges a 15% to 30% fee on digital goods and services purchases within the apps. It could allow Epic to get its store pre-installed on devices, potentially making it easier for users to bypass Google’s store to download games.

CNBC reported that at issue with the DOJ’s monopoly case, which went to trial in September, is whether Google violated the law through exclusive agreements with mobile phone manufacturers and browser makers to make its search engine the default for consumers. That case could determine whether Google is able to continue using its heft to keep its prime positioning on smartphones.

It seems to me that the Epic vs Google case is one that seems to keep ending up in courtroom battles. Eventually, we will know the outcome of this particular case. But that might not be the end of this battle.

Unity Announces Leadership Transition

A press release on BusinessWire, titled: “Unity Announces Leadership Transition” was posted today. From the press release:

Unity (the “Company”) the world’s leading platform for creating and growing real-time 3D (RT3D) content, today announced that John Riccitiello will retire as President, Chief Executive Officer, Chairman, and a member of the Company’s Board of Directors, effective immediately. James M. Whitehurst has been appointed Interim Chief Executive Officer, President, and a member of the Board. Roelof Botha, Lead Independent Director of the Unity Board, has been appointed Chairman. Mr. Riccitiello will continue to advise Unity to ensure a smooth transition.

The board will initiate a comprehensive search process, with the assistance of a leading executive search firm, to identify a permanent CEO.

“Working with Unity under John’s leadership has been one of the highlights of my career. John joined the Unity Board in 2013 and stepped in to lead the Company in 2014, at a time when we faced significant challenges,” Mr. Botha said. “John has led Unity through incredible growth over the last nearly 10 years, helping us transition from a perpetual license to a subscription model, enabling developers to monetize, building other game services to serve our creator community, leading us through an IPO and positioning us as a pioneer in the developer community. Unity would not be where it is today without the impact of his contributions. I remain excited for the future of Unity.”

“It’s been a privilege to lead Unity a decade and serve our employees, customers, developers and partners, all of whom have been instrumental to the Company’s growth,” Mr. Riccitello said. “I look forward to supporting Unity though this transition and following the Company’s future success.”

“I am honored to join Unity as Interim CEO and President at this important time in its evolution,: Mr. Whitehurst said. “With the Company’s experienced leadership and passionate employees, I am confident that Unity is well-positioned to continue enhancing its platform, strengthening its community of customers, developers and partners, and focusing on its growth and profitability goals. I look forward to working closely with the Board and our talented global team to execute on our strategy, and I anticipate a seamless transition.”…

GameDeveloper reported that this news comes one month after Unity sparked two weeks of backlash over the decision to charge developers based on the number of times their game was installed. After poor reception (and the realization that some implementations of the plan could bankrupt developers), the company shifted gears and devised a new system that will ask to either pay 2.5 percent of their revenue or a fee based on the number of “initial engagements” their game receives.

Windows Central reported: “It took a while, but the widely expected resignation of Unity’s CEO is finally here.”

Windows Central reported that over this past summer, Unity decided to implode itself by announcing a huge swath of price restructuring changes for developers in its ecosystem. The short lead time and lack of transparency led to a massive backlash, which eventually saw Unity roll back many of its plans.

The Verge reported that Unity’s new interim CEO is an outsider: Whitehurst is an advisor at Silver Lake, a private equity firm that owns about 9 percent of Unity. (He also spent 12 years as a CEO of Red Hat, an IBM subsidiary known for a specific flavor of Linux.)

According to The Verge, Riccitiello is almost certainly responsible for some of Unity’s growth too. He ran the company for nine years, nearly half its existence, into an era where half of the world’s top games were built using its engine (according to the company’s IPO filing in 2020). But the company has never made a profit, losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

In my opinion, it sounds like John Riccitiello caused enough problems at Unity for him to be removed from the company. It sounds like the people at Unity were more than ready for him to leave.

Amazon Luna Subscribers Can Now Buy Individual Ubisoft Games

Late last year, Amazon Luna and Ubisoft deepened their partnership by allowing subscribers to stream the developer’s games that they already own on PC. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that Amazon has chosen to team up with Ubisoft to debut a new feature on its cloud gaming service: The capability to buy games from the platform and not just stream them, Engadget reported.

Subscribers can now purchase select Ubisoft games from the developers portal on Luna, and the selection includes several Assassin’s Creed titles, the Far Cry games, Child of Light, and Watch Dogs.

Customer will be able to purchase any game they want from within Luna, using their Amazon account and as long as their Ubisoft account is linked. The e-commerce giant says subscribers will own the license for any game they buy, and they’ll be able to play either in Luna-enabled devices or on a computer if they download the title for offline play via Ubisoft Connect PC launchers. The list of Luna-enabled devices include Fire TV devices, Chromebooks, and phones.

9to5Google reported that Amazon Luna has been struggling to some extent with big library shuffles, but the cloud gaming platform is now introducing a big new feature – the ability to buy games.

According to 9to5Google, with most cloud gaming platforms available today, everything is tied behind a subscription. Xbox Game Pass has a rotating library of games that you can stream from the cloud, but you don’t really own any of the titles that can be streamed. GeForce Now and several similar services take a different approach, with the subscription used to access the cloud platform, and all of the games being ones that you’ve purchased on PC.

Amazon sent the following to 9to5Google:

At Luna, we’re always trying to find new ways to bring more games to more people. Which is why we’re excited to announce that customers can now buy individual games on Luna. Now, customers have more ways to buy Ubisoft games like Assassin’s Creed: Mirage, and playing on their Fire TV, smartphone, and any of our growing list of compatible devices.

GameDeveloper asked the question: “What does Ubisoft have to gain from the cloud streaming market?

According to GameDeveloper, in 2018 Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told investors that cloud streaming would help bring the company’s triple-A games to more players. His comments were particularly aimed at players who only owned mobile devices, not expensive game consoles or high-end PCs.

Notably, Guillemot also said that at the time that the company would prefer to stick with a traditional marketplace model to sell copies of streamable games, the same as buying them for a full price on a platform like Steam. The company seems to be sticking to that plan after five years of experimenting in the market.

…If Ubisoft can ride that awareness (players awareness of cloud streaming platforms) it will be able to develop bigger audiences – and revenue streams – for games like Assassin’s Creed Mirage and other upcoming titles.

In my opinion, people who have Amazon Luna, and/or have a mobile device or PC, could find themselves not just buying, but owning, the Ubisoft games that are being offered. They will own the games they purchase, and not have to worry about it disappearing from a gaming console.

Epic Games To Update Unreal Pricing For Devs Outside Game Industry

A week after laying off almost 900 employees, Epic Games announced that it’s increasing the price to use Unreal Engine – not just for the game development community, Game Developer reported.

The news came from Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney himself in a presentation at Unreal Fest 2023. In a video captured by Fortnite Creative developer Immature (and spotted by Game World Observer), Sweeney explains that developers using Unreal Engine in the film, TV, automotive, and other industries can expect to start paying a per-seat licensing fee.

He claimed that the pricing model will not be “unusually expensive or unusually inexpensive,” and that its pricing structure will be similar to subscription services like Maya of Photoshop. Sweeney said he wanted to announce these changes now in the name of “transparency”.

GeekWire reported that the recent round of layoffs at Epic Games impacted its office in Bellevue, Wash., with 39 employees affected, according to a new filing with the Washington state Employment Security Department (ESD).

According to GeekWire, Epic, headquartered in Raleigh N.C., is arguably best-known as the developer behind the popular shooter Fortnite. It’s also the creator of an eponymous digital storefront for PC games and the publisher of the Unreal Engine, a high-end toolkit for game development and 3D modeling.

“For a while now, we’ve been spending way more money than we earn,” Sweeney wrote. “Investing in the next evolution of Epic and growing Fortnite as a metaverse-inspired ecosystem for creators. I had long been optimistic that we could power through this transition without layoffs, but in retrospect, I see that this was unrealistic.

GeekWire reported that affected employees, per Sweeney’s memo, have received a severance package that includes career transition services and six months’ base pay and healthcare.

Engadget also reported that Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney says the company is adjusting Unreal Engine pricing for non-gaming developers in fields like film / TV and automotive.

“We haven’t officially announced this, but in the interest of transparency, we want to put it out there,” Sweeney said in an presentation from Unreal Fest 2023. The CEO did not mention the specific pricing but said Epic’s licensing model would resemble those of tools like Maya and Photoshop.

According to Engadget, Sweeney sounded (understandably) determined to differentiate Epic’s price hike from Unity’s. The latter stirred the ire of countless developers as it announced a per-install pricing model that many smaller developers claimed would put them out of business. Unity ended up walking back many of the plan’s most contentious changes.

The Verge reported that in posts on X, Sweeney clarified that educators and students will be able to continue to use Unreal Engine for free, and there will be a minimum revenue threshold for indie filmmakers and others whose commercial projects earn below a certain amount – though Sweeney didn’t specify what that threshold would be.

It sounds to me like CEO Tim Sweeney believes that his company is failing, and decided to solve that problem with layoffs. I’m hoping that the workers who were laid off will apply to other gaming companies, and get hired quickly.