Rundown (9/05-9/11) Don’t Open Until After Tax Season

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Wherein I discuss my upcoming doom, a return to the spooky northwest, the Sony pseudo summer showcase, justice arising in light of failure, and the continued success of a game I both love and loathe. 

Well, it’s after Labor Day, and you know what that means? It’s time for the second annual Tax Season! Yes, my job as a tax accountant is ramping up again as my boss and I are trying to push out… almost 60 returns within the next month. So… um… don’t expect anything from me over these next few weeks, as my weekdays and weekends are booked, to the point where I don’t even have time to set up my new computer.

…Why did I get a new computer? Well, a friend of mine convinced me that inflation is going to hit the US economy like a ton of bricks, so I bit the bullet and bought a pre-built computer. Now, I would have just built my own damn computer, but the GPU market is screwed by crypto miners, causing even lower-grade GPU pices to spike past $500. With this in mind, and upon doing the math, I determined buying this new computer of mine cost about as much as the components would individually. So I decided to swallow my PC building pride and just byt a new PC outright.

I would love to get it set up, and to play a graphically intensive game to see what this puppy can do, but Nattie is a tax accountant and needs to do a LOT of tax accounting.

The first story to squeak by was the announcement that Remedy Entertainment is remastering their celebrated 2010 title, Alan Wake. A horror-flavored story-driven third-person shooter that quickly earned a cult following, despite never being the massive hit that the publisher, Microsoft, wanted it to be. This was not due to the game’s quality, as it received high scores and a warm fan reception. Instead, Alan Wake’s sales potential was hurt by two things: Coming out in the same week as Red Dead Redemption, and by being a one-in-done single-player title that one could easily clear during a weekend, or through a weekly rental.

I personally played the game back in 2011 when I rented the game from my local library (which offers a robust selection of video game rentals), and I enjoyed it. The game was fun, atmospheric, gorgeous, and had an engaging story. Seeing as how Remedy is still revving up a new project after upgrading and supporting their latest title, 2019’s Control, it makes sense for them to fund a remaster like this. It gives the dev team something to work on while the next project goes through its early stages. Gives this game another chance to find an audience in order to appeal to new and old fans alike. While also granting Remedy the opportunity to work out some of the rights issues surrounding this game.

Back in 2017, Alan Wake, was delisted from the Xbox 360, Steam, and GOG storefronts due to music licensing issues. Then, after a year of unavailability, the game reappeared on Steam and GOG, before returning to the Xbox 360 marketplace in 2019. I’m not sure what the specific issues were, but as a new title, Alan Wake Remastered would need to rework these agreements into something more sustainable for the modern digital era of gaming.

Tangent aside, Alan Wake Remastered is set to launch sometime this fall for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC via Epic Games Store. The Epic Games Store PC exclusivity might seem like a paid exclusivity thing, as it almost always is. But the actual reason is that Epic Games is handling the publisher duties for this title. Presumably as some sort of side agreement after Remedy and Epic formed a partnership last year

Moving on, this week was home to Sony’s PlayStation Showcase 2021, which I guess is their term for something bigger than a State of Play and more comparable to an E3 presentation. I don’t really get why they’d bother with the distinction, but I suppose the name does not matter as much as the announcements and trailers this event had, and it had quite a few. 

The first major trailer was for Project Eve, a Korean action game set in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi world where humanity has been mostly wiped out by aliens. And it is up to the titular EVE, a super sexy soldier lady, tasked to explore the desolate monster-infested ruins of a major city in order to… Do something that involves a lot of boss battles and character action battle sequences against hordes of varied enemies. 

Conceptually, the game reminds me a lot of Nier Automata. And based on the trailer, the game is a gorgeous-looking title in a vividly detailed world, where my only criticisms are the photorealistic charatcer models and an almost dated-feeling emphasis on the main character’s finely shaped tuchus. People sometimes make jokes about how third-person action games involve a lot of butt-watching, and while I never noticed this while playing the game, the developers of Project Eve definitely have, and it shows! Aside from animations where the rump is coveredI don’t think there is a single second of gameplay where the protagonist’s booty isn’t at a good viewing angle.

Butt talk aside, the game seems like something from people who truly understand the character action genre, and truly want to deliver on the sort of AAA blockbusters that you seldom see in the service-based Korean game market. This desire to be something grand does make me a bit concerned, but whatever misgivings I had with this title were brushed aside during the 2:40 mark of the trailer. When the game shows off its gory violence, lets its OST rock on, previews a few setpieces, and embraces its crazier side. Project Eve is currently set to release on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and PC, but no release window has been given.

God of War 5: Ragnarok received its first full trailer, which predictably follows up on the cataclysmic note the game is named after and, like a good sequel, aims to expand things by quite an order of magnitude. The game sends Karatos and Boy beyond the interconnected world of the original and into a new land with familiar faces aplenty, full-on villages for the two to get cozy with, and an absolute deluge of new enemies and skills seen in the expanded combat system. A system that now boasts such things as Kratos chain hooking centaurs and boy riding an a ghost elk, causing a ruckus while controlling the crowd, like a good child-person.

I only know much about the predecessor thanks to an LP by the Super Best Friends, and while that indicated that I would not enjoy the game for how… masculine it is, I still respect what it was trying to do. As such, I guess I could say that I hope that the millions who enjoyed God of War 4 (2018) will similarly enjoy God of War 5: Ragnarok when it launches for PS4 and PS5 in 2022.

Following up on the leak/rumor from last week, Sony unveiled they are indeed bringing the Uncharted series to PC, and PS5, via a set of remasters. However, unlike what the 4chan rumor indicated, this release is limited to the PS4 installments of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. These remasters, dubbed Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection (even though you can’t have a collection of only two games), are set to hit PS5 in early 2022. They will arrive to PC “shortly after” via a port by Iron Galaxy, who, while not the first choice for this sort of project, are still a quality studio, and have produced quality PC ports in the past.

While the news of a PC port made me happy, my personal favorite game from this showcase was obviously Tchia. A game about a cute little black girl exploring a tropical island with gorgeous scenery, a diverse climate, all with a vibrant art style. It all makes for a positively pleasant game, but what immediately puts this on my radar is the Soul Jumping mechanic, which lets the titular Tchia possess the bodies of the cool and cuddly animals and… hundreds of objects. When combined with a surprisingly robust movement system that lets Tchia fling herself far, jump high into the sky, and dive deep into the gorgeous ocean, it is pretty clear that this game is lifting a lot of ideas from Super Mario Odyssey… Which I think is a wonderful approach. 

For as lovely as Odyssey was, it is a very objective-focused game that does not give players a lot of time to chill and hang out. Tchia, by comparison, seems to offer this in strides thanks to its singlar environment and an absence of traditional combat. It’s a title that I definitely need to get around to sooner than later, and is currently set to hit PS4, PS5, and Epic Games Store in 2022.

Aside from these full trailers, there were also a few CG announcement trailers. Now, I have railed against CG announcement trailers for years, and as time goes on, I keep finding them to be an inferior version of press releases. They have less substance, less information, and do little beyond showing a vague snippet of what the game might look like. At least with a press release, you are typically given an indication of some features of story concepts. But with CG teaser trailers… you could get more out of them by looking at a couple pieces of concept art.

Anyway, the CG announcement roundup included Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Remake. A much rumored remake that will be developed by Aspyr, who is not the developer anybody would really think of when a AAA modern remake comes to mind. For those unfamiliar with them, Aspyr is a studio that specializes in publishing, porting, and remastering games for a variety of platforms. They are a respectable studio that does good work from what I can gather, but their biggest claim to fame is arguably how they updated the PC port of Knights of the Old Republic II for modern platforms. In doing so, they saved this game from technical erasure and officially endorsed the Restored Content mod by making it part of the base game. Hell, they even ported the title to Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.

Combine this with the fact that they also released iOS, Android, and Mac ports of the original KotOR, and it’s fairly safe to say that Aspyr probably knows the inner workings of these games better than any other developer (including Bioware). Ss such, it makes sense that they are in charge of remaking this classic title for modern platforms. Or more specifically, PC and PS5.

Marvel’s Wolverine was announced with a vague tone trailer that indicated nothing about the game other than how it the fact that it is being developed by Insomniac games. Which struck me as a touch odd, given how Insomniac is well versed at creating new IPs. This makes the very existence of this game questionable, but I suppose that, after the success of Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018) for PS4, both Sony and Marvel wanted Insomniac to take on another Marvel character. And Wolverine is probably in the top 5, despite his lack of presence in the MCU.

Initially, I thought this meant that a Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018) for PS4 sequel was not being fast-tracked by the developer, only for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (2023) for PS5 to be announced a few minutes later. All via a CG trailer that showed off the OG honky Spider-Man, the 21st century Spider-Man, space fetish Spider-Man, and little else. 

All of these announcements would make for a fairly dense week of news, but on Friday, the prolonged court case between Apple and Epic Games finally came to an end. For those who forgot, the impetus for this court case was Epic trying to get a larger revenue cut from Apple for all Fortnite transactions made on iOS platforms. From minute one, it was a shit show where one billion dollar tech company was trying to screw over another billion dollar tech company. There was no instance where either winning would be a good thing… Which makes me happy to say that there were no true winners from this arrangement… except for everyone else!

You can read the full verdict for yourself, if you are crazy like that, but the gist is as follows: Epic needs to pay 30% of all money they collected from iOS users throughout this past here, and Fortnite will not be allowed back on the iOS store— because why would Apple ever do that? And Apple has 90 days to start allowing developers to include links to alternative payment methods for in-app purchases. Meaning that, assuming app developers care about their revenue, they will actively start pushing customers to make purchases where the developer doesn’t need to eat the industry standard 30% fee.

Regardless of what pundits and executives say, I think this is splendid news for the mobile game industry. It means that more developers will be able to make significantly more money, while Apple will make significantly less. Based on that alone, I think this is the best possible outcome for this case. Epic got screwed over for their avarice. Apple got screwed over for their bad policies with unfair rates. And app developers get to make more money.

Though, there are definitely some app developers that really don’t need more money, such as MiHoYo, developers of Genshin Impact. I have been trying to avoid thinking about Genshin Impact for a while, as the game just makes me upset the more I think about it. Though I do occasionally lose my cool whenever I see how well this game is doing, and it is doing… absurdly well.

A recent report by Sensor Tower claimed Genshin Impact made $31 million during the week of August 25 to 31. A phenomenal figure even when considering this is an intensive global game with hundreds of developers. However, the $31 million in a week was not the success this story was about. It was about how, from the week of September 1 to 7, Genshin Impact made $151 million. 

That is the budget of a AAA video game. If this figure was translated into revenue per unit, this would be a phenomenal launch week for nearly any game, translating to… give me a moment. 151,000,000 divided by $60 per unit times 70% (assuming there is a 30% platform holder cut)… over 3 million copies sold. 

I am utterly baffled by this figure, and how such a manipulative and stingy gacha system can translate into so much revenue. But what absolutely broke me in this article was hearing that, since its launch last September, Genshin Impact has made nearly $1.9 billion… Meaning that it is entirely possible that, before the first anniversary on September 28, 2021, Genshin Impact could make over $2 billion.

…This is going to set such a dangerous precedent in the gaming industry. Once western companies decide to copy this design, the bigger budget side of this industry is just going to completely devolve into engagement prisons with gorgeous production values.

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