Xbox puts a Ring on it

Edition 14 - March 8th to March 14th

Another week in the gaming world has passed and we can finally say that Xbox and Bethesda have officially joined forces. Naughty Dog is hiring for a multiplayer project and EA is currently knee deep in the #EAGate Ultimate Team scandal. For the developing world of gaming, there is never a dull moment. 


XBOX - The Family is Growing

On Tuesday, Xbox officially announced the acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks. The eight game studios joining the Xbox family are: Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios.

The deal was originally announced on September 21st but the agreement needed to pass through the SEC and European Commission review process for approval. According to Polygon, the acquisition will cost Microsoft $7.5 billion and sadly for Xbox fans, the Bethesda games that are scheduled to be timed exclusives on PlayStation will not be changed. Some of the major games currently in development at Bethesda includes Starfield, The Elder Scrolls 6 and an untitled Indiana Jones game from MachineGames in collaboration with LucasFilm Games. 

Xbox Games Pass subscribers benefited from the deal immediately as 20 of Bethesda’s most iconic titles joined its game library. Subscribers to the Game Pass can now dive into different titles from the following game franchises: Doom, Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Rage, Prey and Wolfenstein. Microsoft is consistently trying to add value to the Xbox Game Pass to help drive gamers to their console and service.


Naughty Dog - Some Big Things are Brewing 

Naughty Dog is best known for their Uncharted and the Last of Us franchises, with the latter having a very successful sequel launch at the end of 2020. The Last of Us Part 2 won dozens of “best game” honors and was voted Game of the Year at the Game Awards hosted by Geoff Keighley. Needles to say, Naughty Dog has been achieving great success. 

It appears that they’re not yet done because the studio is supposedly developing a live service multiplayer game. Originally spotted by GameSpot, Naughty Dog posted a job listing on their website looking to hire a multiplayer economy designer who can help “create avenues for self-expression for our players, ensure robust longevity to our games and give players great rewards to strive for”. The listing is most likely referencing ‘Factions’, The Last of Us 2’s unreleased standalone survival multiplayer mode. Video footage of the PvP mode surfaced in the summer of 2020 on YouTube with a 10-second clip showing users controlling multiple characters from the main story and two other characters in a knife fight.

Naughty Dog has confirmed in the past that they were working on a standalone Last of Us multiplayer game but it never came to fruition. The studio's co-president Neil Druckmann also recently mentioned that they’re working on “something cool”. Take from that what you will.


EA - FIFA Ultimate Team Black Market

FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) is a cash cow for Electronic Arts (EA) as it generates over a billion dollars annually. The game mode allows players to use their favourite football (soccer) players on the planet and even a select group of legendary retired players in the form of virtual cards that have no monetary value. Unfortunately, to play with the top tier players in the game users must open packs (paid loot boxes) or play an obscene amount of games to get enough in-game currency (FIFA coins) to afford them.

A corrupt EA employee was selling these top tier FUT cards for thousands of dollars through WhatsApp and other social media platforms. According to leaked screenshots, players who paid this rogue EA employee prices ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 USD were granted 5 of the top items in the game. This has frustrated casual FIFA fans and professional FIFA players since putting the same amount of money into EA’s loot boxes would not generate enough in-game currency to even afford 1 of the 5 items. 

EA Sports FIFA responded to the allegations in a statement they released via Twitter. According to the statement they’ve launched an investigation into the matter and that they do not condone the behaviour they’re being accused of. Since the initial statement, EA updated the community stating they’ve disabled the granting of FUT items and that users who purchased cards for money have broken the Terms of Service and will have their accounts banned. EA says they will take action against any employee involved in these activities.


Game Expansions - March is a Month for DLCs

Downloadable Content, also known as DLC, is a very standard way for game developers to add value and playability to their games post launch. There’s some really exciting content coming out in March so we thought it would be worth highlighting here. (oh, and we’ll have an update on Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 2 once more details drop).

The Outer Worlds: Murder on Eridanos - Murder on Eridanos is an endgame-focused expansion that takes the form of a murder-mystery on the planet of Eridanos. Players will have to solve a complex and strange set of mysteries to figure out who assassinated the spokesperson (Halycon Helen) for a new brand of space vodka (Rizzo’s Spectrum Brown Vodka). The expansion will cost $15 and is set to release on March 17th for PC, PS4, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch (at a later date). 

Immortals Fenyx Rising: Myths of the Eastern Realm - Ubisoft’s Greek mythology inspired open-world adventure game is releasing its second expansion later this month. Myths of the Eastern Realm moves away from the traditional Olympian gameplay and instead players now follow a new hero named Ku on his journey across an open-world inspired by Chinese mythology. This expansion is part of Immortals Fenyx Risings’ $50 season pass and will be available on March 25th.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Flames of Ambition - This is the first DLC part of the ESO’s 2021 The Gates of Oblivion expansion which introduces two new Group Dungeons and multiple new Flames of Ambition sets. Players will find two new exciting PvE dungeon challenges to Tamriel: The Cauldron and Black Drake Villa. Flames of Ambition is already out on PC, and will release for console players on March 16th. 


ESPORTS CORNER 

Some of the world’s biggest esport organizations made major operational changes last week. Team Vitality appointed former Adidas director Guillaume de Monplanet as their new Managing Director and Co-CEO. His role will primarily focus on the team's international expansion plans and brand awareness initiatives. In the United States, Envy Gaming received a $40 million series-c investment round by Gray Television, the largest owners of television networks in America. They will be appointing two new members to the organization's board of directors alongside owner Mike Rufail. Envy currently competes in the Overwatch League with the Dallas Fuel and the Call of Duty league with the Dallas Empire, amongst many other games. 

In the world of social media and gaming, news travels fast, especially when it’s something negative. Last week Valorant pro Jay “Sinatraa” Won was suspended indefinitely due to sexual assault allegations. The investigations are currently ongoing but his previous girlfriend came forward with countless accounts of physical and emotional abuse, including audio and video evidence. NBA star Meyers Leonard was also dropped by Faze Clan after using an anti-semitic slur on stream. Twitch has indefinitely suspended his account and the NBA star issued an apology via Twitter claiming that he “didn’t know what the word meant at the time”.

The esports landscape drastically changed last year due to the ongoing global pandemic. Leagues, tournament organizers, teams and pro players had to find new and innovative ways to compete despite the multitude of challenges. Esports Charts analyzed millions of hours of viewership statistics and found the most popular esports games of 2020 (excluding data from Chinese streaming services). Let’s have a quick look. 

  1. League of Legends - To no surprise, LoL had more than 580 million hours watched which was an increase of 21% from the previous year. Riot handled the pandemic scenario quite successfully and was even able to host some live in-person events. 

  2. CS:GO - Counter Strike came in with roughly 350 million hours watched, a 25% increase from the previous year due to the fact that the game is better positioned for online events, with the majority of team rosters based in Europe. 

  3. DOTA 2 - Although still one of the most popular esport games, Dota’s viewership fell by 11% to 250 million hours watched. This was mainly due to the cancellation of The International 10. 

  4. PUBG Mobile - The mobile battle royale achieved more than 130 millions hours watched in 2020. The game is most popular in the Middle East and Asia, and began to flourish internationally with the addition of regional events. 

  5. Free Fire - Relatively new to the scene, Free Fire grew close to 250% reaching 132 million hours watched. The publisher consistently grew the games audience and viewership by implementing continental leagues and worldwide events. 


The Gaming Roundup 

  • The online gaming platform Roblox has officially gone public on the NYSE. The stock closed at approximately $69.50, but was initially referenced at $45.

  • Call of Duty: Warzone celebrated its one year anniversary this week, marking 365 days of Verdansk. 

  • Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, the Netflix Original anime series releasing later this year is casting Resident Evil 2 Remake actors Stephanie Panisello and Nick Apostolides as Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy.

  • Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time launched on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and the Nintendo Switch this week. The game is set to launch on Battle.net on March 26.

  • Loop Hero, the endless-RPG from the Russian studio Four Quarter has surpassed 500,000 players on Steam. The game was released on February 3, 2021.


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