Welcome back to the weekly gaming headlines, my friends. Honestly, not too much caught my attention this week, but there were a few pieces of news worth discussing.
Coming up I’m going to be reviewing the charming Ravenlok, the very intriguing The Last Cast of Benedict Fox and then Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. On top of that, Steelseries are sending over a keyboard for me to review which I’m pretty excited about.
So let’s just hop into it all, shall we?
- Game Launches From the Past Week
- Sony’s Financial Report Shows PS5 is Crushing It
- The UK Blocks Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activision Blizzard
- ROG Ally Specs and Price Leaked
- UK Boxed Charts
- Redfall’s System Requirements Won’t Be a Pain in the Neck
Game Launches From the Past Week
It’s been a pretty stacked week in terms of new games launching with something for everyone. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has proven to be the Chosen One, holding a Mighty rating on Opencritic. Plenty of glowing reviews talk about how it seems to improve on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in almost every way, although reports of various issues have also been appearing. Eurogamer Portugal, for example, had this to say: “It is impossible to recommend the PC version at this time, which was precisely the version we had access to. We’ll be keeping an eye out for updates until launch. If performance improves, we will update this review. It’s a shame to see a game of this caliber compromised by technical issues.“
The amazing crew over at Digital Foundry offer an excellent breakdown of the PC version’s poor performance.
The Steam user reviews are also pouring in and it doesn’t look good. At the time of writing (28th April) there are over 12000 user reviews that have given it a Mixed rating. PC gamers really feel like they’ve been getting the sharp end of the shit-covered stick lately when it comes to ports, so let’s all hope Respawn can get it fixed ASAP.
The good news is that console users do seem to be getting a more playable experience, which I’m thankful for because I’ve picked up the PS5 version. I’m really looking forward to it, but there’s no excuse for the piss-poor PC performance, especially after the first game suffered from similar problems.
Meanwhile, Dead Island 2 has burst out of its long and tortured development cycle in far better shape than anyone dared to dream. PCGamer wasn’t too impressed with it, scoring it just 55 out of 100, but Attack of the Fanboy loved it, saying: “Practice your best one-liners because Dead Island 2 will have you run toward danger and swagger down the streets of Hell-A while egging the zombies on like your favorite pulp hero. The beautiful graphics, tight combat, eccentric cast of characters, and F.L.E.S.H. system prove why the long-anticipated sequel to the beloved franchise was worth the wait.”
Rock, Paper, Shotgun also seemed to appreciate Dead Island 2’s focus on fun, stating “Dead Island 2 doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a daft, messy romp through undead LA, and this carefree, capricious attitude is precisely what makes it fun.”
It seems like Dead Island 2 is doing quite well in the court of public opinion, too, because it has apparently surpassed 1 million copies shipped already.
On the smaller end of the scale, Strayed Lights has managed to get itself a score of 75 on Opencritic, including an 8.0 from Game Informer. The most important, handsome and talented reviewer, though, gave it 3 and a half stars out of five, saying “Strayed Lights is a gorgeous journey through a dreamlike world, one that is often haunting in its size and sense of loneliness. It’s a fantastic debut, a promising start for a new studio looking to make its mark in the incredibly competitive indie-game market. A few missteps hold Strayed Lights back and stop me from recommending it to everyone, but for the right group of people this is an excellent game.”
Me. It was me that said that. I’m the most talented. And most handsome. And you can read my review of Strayed Lights here.
Advance Wars 1+2 also came out, remastering a classic and delivering a Strong rating of 86 on Opencritic, while Minecraft Legends, an RTS spin on the block-building game, has managed a score of 71. Oh, and consider giving Cassette Beasts a whirl as it’s doing very well on Opencritic and is available right now on Game Pass.
Now that we are in May we enter the stomping grounds of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. A few hands-on previews have been praising the new building systems that let you smash together various objects to create absurd contraptions. It begs the question, what score can we expect to see this mammoth sequel get on Opencritic?
Let’s not forget the launch of Redfall, too, which at the time of publishing is around 24 hours away. Microsoft will be looking for a win here, especially after we found out how poorly their consoles are selling. Personally, I’m kind of excited to check Redfall out, probably because of how much I love Arkane. I’m really hoping they pull something special out of the bag.
And finally, before we jump into the news properly, I wanted to highlight a pretty awesome product this week on Amazon. This 128GB USB 3.1 thumb drive for just £5! Please note, by clicking on the image below you’ll be taken to Amazon via my affiliate link, so if you buy it I’ll get a little commission.
Sony’s Financial Report Shows PS5 is Crushing It
Sony has published their financial results for fiscal year 2022 and within the report there’s a little glimpse at how well the Playstation 5 is doing.
Over the last quarter, Sony has shipped 6.3 million Playstation 5’s, the second biggest quarter for the console with the biggest being the prior quarter which had the benefit of Christmas boosting sales. That 6.3 million number also makes the PS5 the highest-selling console ever in that quarter and brings the total number of PS5s shipped to 38.4 million, which also makes Sony’s machine the 17th best-selling console. By comparison, the Xbox Series X/S sits at 24th with an estimated 18.5 million consoles sold.
The report breaks down the sales per quarter, listing the PS5 as selling 2.4 million, 3.3 million, 7.1 million and 6.3 million in the respective quarters, bringing the total number of consoles shipped that year to 19.1 million. That means Sony has narrowly achieved its previously announced projections of 19 million consoles being shipped across the fiscal year. It looks like Sony has well and truly sorted out the supply chain issues that once plagued their console and made it hard to find.
Other notable details included in the report were that sales of first-party titles were up, presumably due to huge successes like God of War: Ragnarok and Horizon: Forbidden West. However, the company did note a decline in the sales of non-first-party titles.
Sony also revealed that its operating income had dropped due to an increase in development costs as well as the acquisition of Bungie.
Over on Microsoft’s side of the fence, the Xbox appears to be struggling. The company still doesn’t provide any solid numbers, but we do know that sales of the Xbox Series S/X are down 30% from the previous year.
Of course, it doesn’t help that Microsoft hasn’t exactly been churning out first-party titles to entice new players. Hi-Fi Rush was an excellent shadow-drop that delighted fans, but it’s also not a massive triple-A title designed to draw in customers. Meanwhile, the upcoming Redfall has been stumbling along, reeling from bad headline to bad headline. A lot of hope is getting pinned on Starfield delivering something special at the end of the year.
The UK Blocks Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activision Blizzard
In a surprising turn of events the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has decided to block Microsoft’s plans to buy Activision Blizzard for a staggering $68.7 billion, the largest deal in the history of videogame mergers and acquisitions.
It’s a shocking twist because in late March the CMA issued a press release stating that there would not be any dangers to the console market if the deal went ahead. Many assumed this meant that the CMA would likely vote to allow the purchase
So, what changed? According to the CMA, their move to block the deal comes down to Cloud-based gaming.
The CMA then goes on to list Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft as some of the most popular games on console and PC, and that Microsoft already holds a strong position within Cloud gaming. They go on to say that while Activision does not currently offer its games on Cloud, the growth of Cloud gaming leads them to believe that they will in the future. The CMA concludes by saying, “We have therefore concluded that combining Activision’s strong portfolio of games with Microsoft’s current multiple cloud gaming strengths would enable Microsoft to harm current and emerging cloud gaming competitors by withholding Activision games from them and, unlike in the case of consoles, we have not found that there are any material reasons to stop it doing this.”
Microsoft has recently made a variety of moves to help alleviate concerns, including offering some form of decade-long streaming deal to EE, entering into a contract with Nvidia and signing an agreement with Nintendo to bring future Call of Duty games to the Switch, which would presumably have to be done via streaming as it seems unlikely the Switch could handle new entries in the series natively.
Much of the CMAs case appears to build on speculation about the future of streaming games. In their statement, they point out that cloud gaming has tripled within the last few years in the UK, and also make the claim that Microsoft already holds a dominant position in cloud-based gaming. Furthermore, they also cite a belief that acquiring Activision-Blizzard would lead to Microsoft increasing the price of Game Pass, although I think that will occur regardless because the service is already incredibly cheap for what is offered and seems unsustainable in the long term without a higher subscription price.
Naturally, Microsoft plans to appeal the decision. The CMA, however, is notorious for rarely overturning its decisions.
During a chat with a BBC podcast, Microsoft president Brad Smith voiced his displeasure with the findings of the CMA, citing a failure to understand the cloud gaming market. He pointed out that the cloud gaming market is currently tiny, saying that Microsoft can’t even stream to 5,000 people at once in the UK.
“It’s all about a potential concern about what can become the cloud streaming of games, but this business is so small today that Microsoft can’t even stream games to more than 5,000 people at a time in the entirety of the United Kingdom. And so for regulators to step in and seek to torpedo a 68 billion dollar global transaction out of a concern about a part of the business that is so small and to reject so many proposals to try to address their concerns, I think it leaves people worried.” said Brad Smith in the Podcast.
The deal could still move forward yet, though, It may mean Microsoft having to make more concessions to appease the CMA. Michael Pachter has been saying for a while that a potential concession would be Microsoft carving out a UK version of Game Pass with the promise that Activision Blizzard titles will not be included in it.
Nvidia also weighed in on the CMA’s findings, Tweeting out this:
GeForce NOW and other cloud gaming providers stand to gain an even deeper catalog of games if Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision is completed.— 🌩️ NVIDIA GeForce NOW (@NVIDIAGFN) April 27, 2023
We see this as a benefit to cloud gaming and hope for a positive resolution.
Keep in mind, Microsoft has already crafted a 10-year deal with Nvidia to bring its games to Nvidia’s own GeForce Now streaming platform.
I do believe cloud gaming will be a major part of the future, even though I’m not personally convinced about the actual experience, and I think Microsoft agree considering they’ve been laying the groundwork for a major expansion into that market. Indeed, I’ve heard rumours and speculation that the Xbox’s supply constraints may be due to Microsoft taking a large chunk of the consoles to fill up their servers, a classic case of taking a short-term loss now for a hopeful future gain.
But I also think the CMAs grounds for blocking the deal are a little thin, based on a lot of speculation surrounding a nascent technology. A lot of work needs to be done to make streaming games viable for anything other than slow-paced titles, especially when it comes to twitch-shooters like Call of Duty where a split-second of lag can cost a match.
Finally, while I’m not a fan of mergers and acquisitions, much-preferring companies to remain independent, I do worry that if this deal falls through then Activision-Blizzard could get potentially get bought by a far worse company such as Tencent.
ROG Ally Specs and Price Leaked
The Asus ROG Ally is a handheld gaming PC looking to do battle with the Steam Deck, but details have been thin on the ground in regard to pricing and exact specs. That might have changed, though, if some recent leaks are to be believed.
First, Khumail Thakur, the review editor for Stuff India, spotted the ROG Ally listed on Best Buy before it was removed.
Best Buy product page leaked the price of the Asus ROG Ally. It will be priced at $699 dollars for the 16GB/512GB variant. pic.twitter.com/CbfERTkGT4— Khumail Thakur (@wickedkhumz) April 27, 2023
The page lists the handheld machine as launching on June 13th of this year for $699.99. It also lists the machine as boasting an AMD Z1 Extreme CPU, 16GB of RAM and Navi 3 graphics and a 512GB SSD.
This seems to match up with prior leaks which listed the same price and specs.
A similar leak also mentioned what seems to be a cheaper, basic version of the Ally which comes with a standard Z1 processor and a 256GB SSD.
This competes quite well with the Steam Decks pricing. A 256GB Steam Deck sells for $530, while a 512GB version costs $650. Keep in mind, the ROG is supposed to be more powerful than the Steam Deck, too, although Valve’s machine also has a version that costs just $399 due to coming with 64GB of eMMC storage.
As for the differences between the Z1 and the Z1 Extreme, Asus has offered some official answers. According to them, the Z1 Extreme is armed with eight Zen 4 CPU cores and 12 RDNA 3 graphics cores, resulting in a claimed 8.6 teraflops of power. If true, it would utterly decimate the Steam Deck which is around 1.6 teraflops.
The regular Z1 version drops the CPU core count to six for CPU and four for the graphics, adding up to a claimed 2.8 teraflops of power which still stomps on the Steam Deck.
Asus has also stated that it will reveal pricing and release details on May 11th, so we don’t have long to go until we find out how accurate these leaks are.
I find the rise of handheld gaming PCs to be utterly fascinating, mostly because of how much power can now be packed into such small devices. I don’t think they are ever going to be a massive market due to their cost but I can see a small but profitable niche being formed. Plus, now that Sony are bringing their games to PC, a handheld PC might be the closest thing we will ever get to a modern handheld Playstation.
UK Boxed Charts
The UK boxed charts tracking sales of physical copies of games have been released. Unsurprisingly, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has taken the top slot, becoming the second-biggest boxed launch of the year behind Hogwarts Legacy which is still levitating along in 5th place.
Despite this, Survivor is 35% behind its predecessor’s launch. There’s a likely explanation for this, though: digital sales have grown hugely since the first game came out in 2019. Once digital sales get released later this week, we will get a much fuller picture.
We also learned that a whopping 82% of boxed sales were on Playstation, while Xbox accounted for just 18%. It’s worth noting that digital tends to be far more popular on the Microsoft console, though. Still, it’s hard not to see this as somewhat emblematic of the current balance of power between Sony and Microsoft.
It is possible to extrapolate a little more information from the game’s PC release. SteamDB lists Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order as having a peak concurrent player count of 46,550 while Survivor has managed 63,597. This gives an indication that the initial launch, despite the many issues, does seem to have drawn in a lot more players.
Meanwhile, Dead Island 2 has slipped down a spot into second, seeing a sales decline of 45%. I know that might sound like a lot, but for a big triple-A title that’s actually quite good as they typically see sales numbers fall off a cliff past the first week. Considering the long, convoluted development of Dead Island 2, which went through several developers, I think Deep Silver and Embracer will actually be quite happy with Dead Island 2’s performance.
Speaking of falls, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp dropped out of the top 10 into 17th place following a sharp 62% drop in boxed sales.
|Last Week||This Week||Title|
|New Entry||1||Star Wars Jedi: Survivor|
|New Entry||2||Dead Island 2|
|4||4||Mario Kart 8 Deluxe|
|6||6||Super Mario Odyssey|
|12||9||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2|
|8||10||Resident Evil 4 Remake|
Redfall’s System Requirements Won’t Be a Pain in the Neck
Redfall has taken a beating in the news cycle thanks to poor reception to its gameplay and the reveal that it would only have a 30FPS mode on console at launch. Thankfully, its PC requirements offer a little bit of good news – they don’t look too bad!
- CPU: Intel Core i5-8400 @ 2.80GHz or AMD Ryzen 5 1600
- GPU: AMD RX 580 / NVIDIA GTX 1070 / 6 GB VRAM
- System RAM: 16 GB
- OS: Windows 10 64-bit
- Storage: 100 GB SSD
- CPU: Intel Core i7-9700K @ 3.60GHz or AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
- GPU: AMD 5700 / NVIDIA RTX 2080 / Intel ARC / 8 GB VRAM
- System RAM: 16 GB
- OS: Windows 10 64-bit
- Storage: 100 GB SSD
- CPU: Intel Core i7-9700K @ 3.60GHz or AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
- GPU: AMD RX 6800 XT / NVIDIA RTX 3080 / 10 GB VRAM
- System RAM: 32 GB
- OS: Windows 11 64-bit
- Storage: 100 GB SSD
One thing to note is that it recommends an SSD regardless of what machine you are running. I think we’re going to see this become more common now that modern consoles use speedy SSD drives to drastically improve loading times, fast travel and texture streaming. If you aren’t already using an SSD in your machine I highly recommend making the jump, especially as you can now get sizable drives without wrecking your bank account. For example, you can pick up a 2TB drive from Samsung for around £120 or a 1TB version for about £68. If you run your OS from it you’ll notice a huge bump up on speed, and games load so much faster!