Welcome back, friends. Another week has gone whizzing past like a bullet fired from the gun of time, and with those 7 days comes heaps of news. So I’ve compiled a few of the most interesting snippets from across those 7 days and written them up for you to peruse.
I also have to admit to being a bit lazy, this week. I do have a review for a game coming out tomorrow (as I write this) but I haven’t even touched Minecraft Legends. I’m really hoping to cover the upcoming Jedi Survivor since I enjoyed Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order so much, but I’m not sure if I can afford to pick up a copy and EA have no interest in talking to me these days.
So, if you do fancy supporting the site, click that support button up there.
Otherwise, let’s jump into the news.
Gary Bowser was Released From Jail, and will be Paying Nintendo for the Rest of his Life.
The coincidentally named Gary Bowser, who was convicted for helping to sell devices that allowed people to play illegal ROMS on various consoles has been released from prison early due to good behaviour. Presumably, that means he did not attempt to take over the prison with an army of Goombas and then murder Mario.
To catch you up, Gary Bowser pled guilty in 2022 to being a part of the hacking group Team Xecuter which had allegedly been running for years, selling a variety of devices designed to allow people to play pirated games on their hardware. Bowser was extradited to America from the Dominican Republic and was sentenced to serve 40 months in prison for his crimes of piracy, which while still quite substantial was a lot better than the 5-year sentence requested by the government.
Bowser’s early release seems to be due to good behaviour. He apparently worked a prison job, spent a lot of time doing suicide watch and generally kept himself out of trouble, which isn’t too surprising for a 53-year-old man whose crimes did not involve violence. He’s currently in Northwest Detention Center, waiting to be transported to Canada where he can pick up his life once again.
However, Bowser also has a very large, Nintendo-shaped cloud hanging above him in the form of $10 million. In a separate civil case, Bowser was ordered to pay Nintendo restitution for the damage he helped cause.
According to TorrentFreak, who has spoken with Bowser, he’s already paid $125 from his prison job. Nintendo also isn’t allowed to take any more than 25-30% of his earnings per month, but it hardly takes a mathematical genius to determine that Bowser will be paying his debt until he dies.
If this seems like a harsh punishment, you’d be right. Both Nintendo’s lawyer and the judge indicated this case was an opportunity to send a message and deter others from attempting similar things. Bowser just so happened to be the daft bastard who got in the way of Nintendo, who are notoriously brutal when it comes to dealing with just about anything they don’t like.
A recent example occurred just a few weeks ago when they proceeded to come down like a tonne of shit-covered bricks on Youtuber PointCrow whose 1.6 million subscribers know him for his Zelda gameplay and mod videos. Nintendo has taken a dislike to his videos which often display modded gameplay of Breath of the Wild and launched a campaign of copyright striking his videos, including those that don’t show any modified gameplay. Other YouTubers have been hit, too. These actions have sparked a lot of backlash toward Nintendo, with people pointing out that the mods are for a singleplayer game and don’t affect anyone else, and that people still have to buy the game before modding it.
However, it’s important to remember that Nintendo did not pass judgement and cannot be held responsible for the judge’s ruling.
Sony Enters Into Agreement to Buy Firewalk Studios
While Microsoft is busy trying to buy one of the biggest publishers/developers in the world, Sony is quietly working away on acquiring a few more studios of its own. This time Sony has announced it has entered into an agreement to buy Firewalk Studios
I’m excited to announce that we’ve expanded our relationship with Firewalk Studios and are thrilled to welcome them to PlayStation Studios. Firewalk is home to a remarkably talented team of creatives who have launched some of gaming’s most celebrated experiences, and they’re already hard at work on their first original AAA multiplayer game for PlayStation.Herman Hulst
If you vaguely recognize the name it may be because Sony agreed to publish Firewalk’s first-ever game in 2021 which was described as a AAA multiplayer title. And Firewalk certainly had the credibility to back up the plan, having been founded in 2018 by several former Bungie employees as part of the ProbablyMonsters collective of studios.
Currently, we know absolutely nothing about Firewalk’s first project except that it’s multiplayer, but we can speculate a little. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it will likely be a live service game as Sony has made their intent on entering that market very clear, stating that they plan on launching no less than 10 live service titles by March of 2026.
This is backed up by King of all things Playstation Jim Ryan who said, “Firewalk Studios is led by a world-class team that is highly experienced and deeply passionate about creating exceptional multiplayer games that foster memorable shared experiences. I’m confident the studio’s upcoming project will be a robust addition to PlayStation Studios’ portfolio, and its live service and technology expertise will be instrumental in helping grow PlayStation’s reach.”
This purchase also continues Sony’s tradition of snapping up studios it already has close working relationships with, which is quite different from Microsoft’s strategy of buying everything that moves in case it makes a game.
Do remember, though, that Sony and Firewalk have only entered into an agreement and the sale must go through all the regular legal channels, meaning it could be cancelled. That seems unlikely, though.
Focus Entertainment has Acquired Dovetail Games
Sticking with acquisitions, Focus Entertainment has announced its purchase of Dovetail Games, the sixth studio that Focus has snapped up within just a few years. Dovetail joins the likes of Deck13 and Dotemu.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz last year, Yves Le Yaouanq talked about Focus Entertainment’s plan, saying “We’re trying to create something more like a Federation of talents and studios, with a focus on meaningful synergies — so an expert RPG studio that’s enriched by another studio’s narrative expertise, an FPS studio benefiting from the roguelike experience of a different team, one studio’s custom engine used by another and, why not, some internal studios collaborating on a crazy project.”
And talking about this specific deal, Focus said, “We like their business model based on fully-owned IPs and creating recurrent revenues from regular content updates to a passionate and committed community of fans. Dovetail is perfectly aligned with our strategy and is led by a very talented senior management team who are excited about growing the business further.”
Dovetail is specifically known for its simulation games like Train Sim World and Train Simulator Classic, as well as several fishing titles.
“From our first meeting with Sean and the talented team at Focus it was clear that we share much in common, most notably a deep-rooted passion for simulation gaming, a commitment to deliver engaging and rewarding experiences for our customers and an underlying set of values that both empower our people and support their career journey. As a business we are ambitious and we believe that Focus’ publishing and distribution power will amplify our own talents as a digital publisher, allowing us to grow in key markets such as North America with access to a wider network of resources and new monetization opportunities. I am extremely proud of the company and strong brands that we have built over the past 14 years and look forward to joining Focus Entertainment’s confederation of entrepreneurs.” said Dovetail in their official press release.
The cost of this deal has not been mentioned.
At this point, Focus Entertainment has become a very well-positioned beast to dominate the single A and double AA spaces. It has a pretty impressive array of games that it has launched, including titles like the recent Plague Tale: Requiem and Atomic Heart, plus a lot of upcoming titles. I’ve reviewed a number over the years like the excellent Battlefleet Gothic: Armada II, the bloody fantastic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge and the less brilliant Call of Cthulhu.
Just recently, Focus announced that it had seen revenue growth of 36% which it attributed to various strong games releases. The future is looking bright for Focus, then. And will presumably include trains.
Microsoft Says Hi-Fi Rush Was a “Breakout Success”
Microsoft has come to the defence of Hi-Fi Rush following some speculation by Jeff Grubb that the critically adored game had not made “the money it needed to make”.
Speaking on the latest episode of the Game Mess podcast, Jeff Grubb said, “Based on what I’ve heard, it just straight up didn’t make the money it needed to make. I mean it got good reviews, the buzz was good, so where do you put the blame for something like that? Is it the price? Was it the shadow drop? Could it have sold more? Or is it Game Pass?”.
But Aaron Greenberg, vice president of marketing for Xbox, countered these claims on Twitter.
Hi-Fi RUSH was a break out hit for us and our players in all key measurements and expectations. We couldn’t be happier with what the team at Tango Gameworks delivered with this surprise release.— Aaron Greenberg 🙅🏼♂️💚U (@aarongreenberg) April 21, 2023
Game Pass has changed the landscape in terms of what it means to be a success. We used to be able to judge a game’s success purely on its sales numbers and profit, but now it’s far murkier than that. In documents made available through the ongoing attempted acquisition of Activision-Blizzard by Microsoft, it was confirmed by Microsoft that Game Pass does cannibalize sales, though the exact percentage was redacted.
Grubb’s statements also fly in the face of Microsoft’s prior comments that Hi-Fi Rush was “one of the most successful launches for Bethesda and Xbox in recent years” with over 2 million players checking it out. But those claims are also kind of vague: how many of those players just fired it up for a few minutes? And by what measure was it successful?
I imagine the game was successful in the sense that it was a great advertisement for the subscription service, but it also probably didn’t sell many copies. Still, from what I can tell, it didn’t have a huge development budget, either, so Microsoft will probably be very happy with the overall result.
I guess the real proof will be if we ever see a sequel.
Cliff Bleszinski Wants to Revive Lawbreakers
Earlier this week industry veteran Cliff Bleszinski, best known for the Gears of War games, which I ranked here, dropped a Tweet that he was awaiting word from his lawyer regarding Lawbreakers, his ill-fated multiplayer shooter from 2017 for PC and PS4. The game was developed by Boss Key Productions and published by Nexon, but despite getting a strong critical reception the game sold poorly. As a result, the game was shut down completely by 2018 with Boss Key stating that it wasn’t earning enough money to keep the servers running.
Sadly the failure of both Lawbreakers and Radical Heights resulted in Boss Key Productions founders Cliff Bleszinski and Arjan Brussee shuttering the studio just four years after it opened its doors.
Weirdly, though, it seems in the midst of everything Cliff Bleszinksi lost track of the LawBreakers IP, meaning, or at least that’s what his Tweet seemed to be indicating. It looks like he’s discovered the owners, though.
Well, turns out Nexon does own the rights to LawBreakers. @owenmahoney how about sliding into my DMs so we can talk about a resurrection?— Cliff Bleszinski (@therealcliffyb) April 19, 2023
The bigger question is whether Nexon would have any interest in reviving a failed hero-shooter. It seems unlikely a sequel or reboot would attack any more attention, although anything is possible. But they might be willing to sell off the rights considering they aren’t doing anything with it either. Mind you, over the past few weeks American McGee could vouch for how tightly companies love to hold onto properties even when they have no plans for ever resurrecting them – EA turned down his attempts to finally get a new Alice in Wonderland game.
UK Boxed Game Charts
The new data for boxed sales within the UK has been released and with it comes with a few slivers of interesting information.
Dead Island 2 takes the top slot and has already become the third highest-selling game of the year following some pretty strong reviews across the board. The general consensus seems to be that despite its tortured development, X managed to pull something great together.
A big surprise is Minecraft Legends taking the second spot. Since it launched on Game Pass on day one, I honestly didn’t expect it to even chart this week and yet here it is. However, only 5% of its sales were on Xbox while Playstation accounted for 19%. The other 76% of boxed sales were on the Nintendo Switch. While I’m hardly surprised at the small percentage of sales on Xbox, I am gobsmacked that there is such a whopping difference between the Switch and Playstation. Perhaps we’ll learn more when digital sales are revealed, though Nintendo does not report those.
Meanwhile, the Mario titles have slipped backwards following their solid sales boost following The Super Mario Bros. Movie success.
|New Entry||1||Dead Island 2|
|New Entry||2||Minecraft Legends|
|New Entry||3||Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp|
|2||4||Mario Kart 8 Deluxe|
|5||6||Super Mario Odyssey|
|3||8||Resident Evil 4 Remake|
|6||10||God of War Ragnarok|
Harry Potter: Quidditch Champions Announced
Hogwarts Legacy was quick to explain that there would be no Quidditch, a fantastical sport that’s a major component of the Harry Potter universe. It turns out, though, that Warner Bros. intends on providing people with the chance to jump on a broomstick and grab the Snitch, announcing the existence of Harry Potter: Quidditch Champions, a multiplayer sports title.
Unbroken Games is on development duties, a relatively small studio with a somewhat under-the-radar career. They’ve self-published two titles (Fantastic Plastic Squad and Fractured Lands) before working on the forthcoming Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.
Details are otherwise thin on the ground. We do know Quidditch Champions will not be linked to any other Harry Potter game, but we don’t yet have any ideas about pricing, a release date or even platforms.
Sign-ups for closed testing have been and gone, but players will likely be under tight wraps when it comes to sharing details.
I admit, I’m kind of excited to see what they do with a dedicated Quidditch game. The sport is a pretty cool concept in the books (even if the scoring doesn’t make any sense to me) and the movies managed to do some cool stuff with it, although I’ll never forgive Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire completely skipping the Quidditch world cup match between Bulgaria and Ireland.