Patch Notes

Patch Notes: Half-Life Is Back, Stadia Launches & Remedy Addresses Control Sales

Yes, I know, Patch Notes dropped off the face of the planet thanks to my legendary laziness. But it’s back and hopefully this time I’ll keep it up. As before this is simply a series where I grab a few pieces of news that interested me in particular and chat about them. This week there’s a new Half-Life game coming, Stadia is officially a thing and the October NPD proves again that Call of Duty is a juggernaut in terms of sales.

New Half-Life Game Announced, But It’s Not Half-Life 3

Half-Life 3 has become a weird part of our gaming culture, a game we’ve all been waiting patiently for that will probably never actually happen. Hell, at this point, do we actually want it to happen? Valve themselves described the prospect of making Half-Life 3 as a, “terrifyingly daunting prospect.” After all this time, after all this hype, could Half-Life 3 ever deliver?

I expect we’ll never see Half-Life 3. But in the mean time we are getting a brand new Half-Life game! IN VR! Titled Half-Life: Alyx, it’s going to be a prequel set between the first game and Half-Life 2, and will follow Alyx Vance and her father Eli as they attempt to spark a resistance movement against the Combine.

According to Valve Half-Life: Alyx is going to be about as long as Half-Life 2, which puts it at around 10-15 hours and therefore makes it one of the more substantial VR experiences, a bit like the awesome Asgard’s Wrath I reviewed not too long ago.

When I first heard about the game I was immediately concerned that it would only ever be compatible with Valve’s own Valve Index VR system, but happily Valve have confirmed that Half-Life: Alyx will be playable on any headset that supports Steam VR, which is pretty much all of them. But as a nice bonus, the game is going to be free for anyone who owns or buys a Valve Index.

This announcement has got me genuinely very excited. I’m not a big Half-Life fan myself, but I am a VR lover and I’ve been patiently waiting for companies to really start pushing bigger VR projects. Valve aren’t going to go into this half-arsed, and I’m eager to see what their take on a triple-A VR game is going to be. It might also just be the sort of high-profile release that VR needs to help get more people to at least try virtual reality for themselves.

Now I guess we can all return to waiting patiently for Half-Life 3. *cough*

Remedy Addresses Control’s Poor Sales

Jess Faden showing off her levitation ability in Control

I’ve mentioned it a few times now, but Control is absolutely amazing, so its failure to really shift copies is a massive shame. Remedy have now addressive this, although their press release certainly is more aimed at placating shareholders than talking to gamers at large. Here’s the majority of the press release, get ready for some hard-to-read wording:

On Wednesday 13th November 2019, Digital Bros S.p.A. – the publishing partner of Remedy Entertainment Plc – released their first quarterly report of the financial year that started in July 2019. The report also covered the revenue recognition regarding sales of the Remedy-developed game Control, which was released on 27th August 2019. Digital Bros S.p.A. disclosed €17.7M of Control game sales recognition during 1.7.–30.9.2019. Also prior to this, Digital Bros S.p.A. had reported a revenue recognition of €9.5M during the financial year 1.7.2018–30.6.2019 based on the exclusive agreement regarding the distribution of Control’s PC version on Epic Games Store.
On May 3rd 2017, Remedy announced the signing of a publishing agreement with Digital Bros S.p.A. regarding the Control game, and disclosed Remedy to receive 45% of game sales net revenue. The revenue share is calculated from net sales, which takes into account deductions such as retail and marketing costs of the game. Once the game starts to sell and before paying the game developer, the publisher is typically allowed to deduct upfront specific costs, such as manufacturing and distribution costs of physical game copies as well as marketing costs.
Additionally, revenue recognition practices differ between Remedy and Digital Bros S.p.A., as Remedy reports based on FAS and Digital Bros S.p.A. reports based on IFRS. Therefore, the figures reported by the companies are not comparable. Based on the aforementioned reasons and especially during the early phases of the game’s sales, Control’s revenue recognition to Remedy takes place with a delay and no direct conclusions can be drawn as to the recognition of net sales share based on the figures reported by Digital Bros S.p.A.
Remedy is commenting this matter with a company announcement as publicly available reports regarding the estimates of Control game sales revenue recognition do not – for the reasons described above – reflect the actual amount or timing of the 45 % net sales revenue to be recognised by Remedy.

I’ll be honest, this is tricky for me to decipher. Really, no solid details on Control’s real-world sales were provided, and indeed the press release seems to very deliberately be trying to muddy the overall picture by indicating that Remedy and Digital Bros. have different methods of tracking sales etc. However, we can safely assume that Control’s sales have not been great since it has failed to chart in the NPD rankings that release each month and rank the top twenty selling games of that month. Plus, the unwillingness to directly discuss the game’s sales performance indicate that it hasn’t done well, especially because developers and publishers always want to taut numbers wherever they can.

Remedy’s games have never sold well, though. They have a history of developing games for their own, small bunch of fans and so far that seems to have kept them afloat, so I hope that Control has solid well in that context and brought them enough success to continue on with the world and their other projects.

You can read the press release in full over at: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/11/14/1947329/0/en/Clarification-regarding-the-Control-game-sales-revenue-recognition.html

Google Stadia Launches

Google has officially launched Stadia, their streaming project that lets you stream games from a high-end PC to any compatible device over the Internet, with the theory being that you can enjoy a variety of games at the highest graphics settings without blowing all that cash on a gaming PC.

With Stadia now available to the public the reviews have been rolling in and its mostly what I fear we all expected: when it works it’s great, but most of the time it doesn’t. I’d recommend reading Digital Foundry’s superb review of the system for a detailed breakdown of how everything works, lag issues and more: https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2019-stadia-tech-review

Prior to launch Google announced a meagre 12-games for their system comprised of relatively old titles such as Mortal Kombat 11 and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, both great games in their own rights but ones that many gamers will have already played. They quickly bumped the list of games up to 24 titles with more to come, but it’s still a quite lean lineuop. On top of that the whole Stadia platform seems to be lacking in basic functionality with a reliance on the mobile app to do a lot of stuff.

A key problem behind Stadia is its whacky pricing system. Currently, you need to buy a Founder’s Edition or Pro Edition then pay a monthly fee. That doesn’t actually give you any games, rather you have to pay for those individually, essentially buying them with Google having already confirmed that pricing will be comparable to normal retail games. In fact, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is currently £27.50, which is including a 50% discount for Stadia Pro owners. You what? There’s also no option to download any titles to your own machine which is a huge oversight. You can only stream them, so even if you’re at home with a nice, beefy computer you can’t get the most out of the game’s you’ve paid for.

There will be a free option coming in 2020 that lets you play at a max resolution of 1080p.

It’s a confusing pricing system for a lot of people, especially in 2019 where services like Netflix require a single monthly fee that lets you access a library of titles.

But by far the biggest hurdle that Stadia currently faces is the looming threat of Microsoft’s own Project xCloud which promises so much more than Stadia. It’ll be tied into the existing Xbox Gamespass, meaning you can instantly stream any game from the massive library of Gamespass title as well as download them straight to your console. Even though it’s in beta xCloud seems to be offering pretty solid performance, and can also be accessed on a much bigger range of devices than Stadia which is severely limited.

Finally, Google has a history of abandoning its projects without hesitation, including those that have an active audience. If Stadia doesn’t perform as well as Google hopes there’s the threat that they’ll simply ditch the service.

October NPD Charts

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019
  2. The Outer Worlds
  3. Luigi’s Mansion 3*
  4. Madden NFL 20
  5. NBA 2K20
  6. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint
  7. WWE 2K20
  8. FIFA 20
  9. Borderlands 3
  10. Ring Fit Adventure
  11. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening*
  12. Mario Kart 8*
  13. Minecraft#
  14. Grand Theft Auto V
  15. Mortal Kombat 11
  16. Overwatch
  17. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  18. Code Vein
  19. Red Dead Redemption II
  20. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild*

* Digital sales not included
# Digital sales only include Xbox One and PlayStation 4

There’s a few things worth noting in October’s NPD which is based upon video game sales in America. In just six days of sales Modern Warfare (read my review) took the top spot and also managed to become the biggest selling game of the year, although if you’re willing to count back a full year to October then Red Dead Redemption 2 remains kings.

The Outer Worlds continues to impress by sitting in 2nd place. It’s the last multiplatform game from Obsidian now that they’re owned by Microsoft, so it’s awesome to see them leaving the independent scene with a bang. Keep in mind that The Outer Worlds is also available on Gamespass, so the fact that it sold so well is even more impressive.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 (read my review) is also impressive because it claimed the 3rd spot despite being launched on October 31st, giving it just a single day of sales before October’s NPD finished. Nintendo also don’t give out digital sales information, so that 3rd position is based purely on physical sales. Finally, Luigi’s Mansion 3 boasts the honour of being the best selling Nintendo Switch game of the last 12-months, though the new Pokemon games might beat that.

Meanwhile, despite Ubisoft admitting that they are unhappy with it Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is chugging along in 6th. And the glitchy, horrible bug-fest that is WWE 2k20 is somehow in 7th, which goes to show that brand recognition can go a long way.

Apart from that the only other thing to mention is that Grand Theft Auto V is somehow in 14th. Seriously, who the fuck keeps buying copies of GTA V?

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