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The Week in Video Games – 16th July 2017

What’s been happening this week in the world of video games? We’re here to help with our roundup of the week’s most important news stories.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 - Woody

What’s been happening this week in the world of video games? We’re here to help with our roundup of the week’s most important news stories.

Oculus bundles Rift and Touch in new $499 package

We’re not sure why it’s taken so long, but Oculus have finally launched a bundle containing both the Rift VR headset and two Touch controllers. The even better news is that the list price is now permanently set at $499, and is discounted to $399 for a limited period. Also included – when you activate Touch – are six games: QuillMediumLucky’s TaleToybox, Dead and Buried, and recent VR highlight, Robo Recall.

Nidhogg 2 release date confirmed

Messhof’s Mark Essen announced – via the PlayStation Blog – that the highly anticipated Nidhogg 2 will be released on PC and PlayStation 4 on August 15th. Essen also spoke about the game’s striking new 16-bit art style.

The New Nintendo 3DS ends production

It’s farewell to the New Nintendo 3DS in Japan and Europe. The smaller – and in our opinion, best – model in the New 3DS line is being retired after less than three years on the market. With the Switch selling well, and the New 2DS XL about to launch, it appears that Nintendo is rationalising its production efforts behind the newer, cheaper console.

Guerrilla takes homes two Develop Awards

The UK’s Develop:Brighton Conference was held this week, and the achievements of studios large and small were celebrated at the annual Develop Awards. Guerrilla picked up two awards, including Studio of the Year, as did Rocksteady Studios. Check out the full list of winners.

Ni No Kuni II is delayed until January 2018

Level-5 CEO Akihiro Hino, has confirmed that the release of Ni No Kuni II has been delayed until next year. “We have decided that more development time is required in order to deliver the full Ni no Kuni II experience to our fans,” he said solemnly via a video message to fans.

First Overwatch League franchises announced

The first – but hopefully not last – Overwatch League franchises have been confirmed. Pick your local team to support from those based in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Seoul. So that’s Boston for us. We’ll ignore the slightly inconvenient fact that there’s entire ocean between said city and the Thumbsticks dungeon.

Mario Kart VRoom!

The Bandai Namco developed Mario Kart Arcade GP VR has been unveiled at VR Zone Shinjuku in Japan. Featuring design input from Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, the new arcade experience looks every bit as thrilling as you might hope. Head over to IGN for a full hands-on report and gallery.

Mario checks in

In other Nintendo news, chins were stroked this week when news surfaced of a new trademark filed by the Japanese game maker. What is Nintendo Check-In? Speculation suggests it might be related to Nintendo’s esports strategy, its upcoming mobile app, or perhaps the new Super Nintendo World theme park in Tokyo.

40,000 Steam accounts are banned

Kotaku reports on the news that Valve has banned over 40,000 Steam accounts in the days following the Steam Summer Sale, more than double the previous high.

Xbox One updates roll out

Maybe when Microsoft are done fiddling with the Xbox One dashboard they will get round to making some new first party exclusives. In the meantime, the latest update adds the ability to upload custom Gamerpics, and stream gameplay via Mixer with up to three chums. Check out the full list of tweaks and changes.

The Star Wars Battlefront II Open Beta set for early October

The Open Beta for the excellent looking Star Wars Battlefront II will open on October 6th for players who have pre-ordered the game. If you haven’t pre-ordered, firstly let us congratulate you, secondly, you will be able to join in the fun on October 7th. Eurogamer summarises the included content.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is coming in 2018

Tetsuya Nomura introduced a new trailer for the Kingdom Hearts 3 at this weekend’s D23 expo. As well as revealing that Woody, Buzz and the rest of the Toy Story gang are joining the game, it also confirmed a 2018 release date. The game itself looks in very good shape.

Game on for Mike Ashley

Popular shopkeeper Mike Ashley has purchased a 26% share in the beleaguered video game retailer, Game. It’s not a chain we have a lot of time for here at Thumbsticks – due to its aggressive sales tactics, rather than its generally helpful staff – and we don’t expect his involvement will improve things.


More from Thumbsticks

And don’t forget to check out next week’s Xbox One and PlayStation releases.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

Thumbsticks editor and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Dragon Quest XI, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Transistor.

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Four new Minecraft fighters announced for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

The shock reveal of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s new Minecraft characters coincided with a Twitter outage as delight poured in.

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Minecraft Steve Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Nintendo / Microsoft

The shock reveal of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s new Minecraft characters coincided with a Twitter outage as delight poured in.

Nintendo announced on stream that Minecraft’s Steve, Alex, Zombie and Enderman will all be joining as playable fighters for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Once this second Fighters Pass is through, the total roster will number an impressive 86.

The announcement coincided with widespread Twitter downtime, leading to many users (half-) joking that the announcement had “broken Twitter“.

Nintendo confirmed that Steve and Alex will either be available to players who purchase the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighters Pass Vol. 2 for £26.99 or Challenger Pack 7, which can be bought separately for £5.39. This challenger pack includes the two fighters as well as a new stage and seven music tracks. 

The Fighters Pass Vol. 2 currently boasts only Min Min from ARMS, but four more characters/challenger packs are yet to be announced.

A full live-stream presentation on the Steve & Alex fighters is due October 3rd, which you can watch on the Nintendo UK YouTube channel. Expect a release date during that stream.

Minecraft seems a natural fit for the mega-franchise, given smashing is among Steve’s main activities. As for building, I’m not holding my breath that we’ll see a redstone calulator in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate anytime soon.


Follow Thumbsticks on Twitter and Facebook for daily video game news updates.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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Nintendo: Remember to charge your Switch at least every six months

Nintendo Support tweets out a warning to all those letting their console gather dust – it might not be the same when you return.

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Nintendo Switch Battery Charge
Nintendo / Thumbsticks

Nintendo Support tweets out a warning to all those letting their console gather dust – it might not be the same when you return.

Lithium batteries are a pain as much as they’re a convenience. Whilst we’d love them to be magic items we can imbue with power, instead the darn things are subject to real-world physics and require good maintenance practice. Typical.

Nintendo Support took to Twitter to push this message home for the Switch, saying:

“The battery built into the game console may become unchargeable if it has not been charged or used for too long. Please charge it once every six months.”

I’d go further and recommend you cut that to every month. Keep your batteries at room temperature and aim for partial discharges over full ones (around 50% is the sweet spot). Since batteries are under the most strain when they’re fully charged or completely empty, neither overcharging nor completely draining is ideal.

A few months ago PSPs were similarly suffering from underuse, leading to battery swelling and even bursting.

Who are these Switch-owning monsters who leave their consoles so unloved for half a year at a time? Have they not seen that Super Mario 3D All-Stars is out? That said, I know I’ve been guilty of leaving my own console discharged for perhaps two months at a time. Don’t look at me.

Whether it’s the battery of your Switch, your phone, (or for god’s sake check that PSP now!), we could all probably do better to look after the future explosives we sleep next to at night.


Follow Thumbsticks on Twitter and Facebook for daily video game news updates.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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Super Mario Bros. 35 is out now on Nintendo Switch

The new Super Mario battle-royale game is out now for Nintendo Switch Online members.

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Super Mario Bros. 35 - Nintendo Switch
Nintendo

The new Super Mario battle-royale game is out now for Nintendo Switch Online members.

The Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary celebrations continue apace with the release today of Super Mario Bros. 35 on Nintendo Switch. The game is based on the 1985 NES classic but adds a battle-royale gameplay twist similar in format to Tetris 99.

The game sees 35 players compete online across classic Mario courses, beginning with the iconic World 1-1. The platforming gameplay comes as naturally as breathing, but this time, defeated Koopa Troopers and Goombas are sent over to other players’ courses to disrupt their progress. You’re also up against the clock which counts down from 35 seconds and has to be topped up by stomping on enemies. The fun continues until there’s one Mario left standing.

It’s a simple concept, and in our brief time with the game, a well-executed one. Matches are chaotic and pleasingly clumsy with familiar levels made significantly more challenging. The game is also exquisitely produced with a user interface that echoes Super Mario Maker.

Here’s the launch trailer.

Super Mario Bros 35 is free to download and play for Nintendo Switch Online members at no additional cost. Weirdly – and just like the recently released Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection – the game is only available until March 31, 2021. To get it, navigate to the Nintendo Switch Online section of the Switch eShop.


Get updates on the latest Xbox One, Switch, and PlayStation 4 video games via our new releases page. And follow Thumbsticks on Twitter and Facebook for daily news updates.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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October’s PlayStation Plus games are fast and frightening

Sony has confirmed the two PlayStation 4 games coming to PlayStation Plus in October 2020.

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Sony / Thumbsticks

Sony has confirmed the two PlayStation 4 games coming to PlayStation Plus in October 2020.

First on the starting grid is EA’s Need for Speed Payback. Which Need for Speed is that you ask? It’s the 2017 effort from Ghost Games. The racing isn’t actually that bad, but the game is dragged down by creaky storytelling and aggressive microtransactions. It’s worth a quick spin.

Next up is Vampyr, Dontnod’s 2018 tale of bloodlust and revenge set in Edwardian London. It’s a distinctly AA game but not without merit for fans of gothic fiction and Hippocratic hokum. In our review, we said that a “vivid sense of time and place, and a fantastic central idea, soon turn pale with repetitive combat and a forest of conversation trees.” It certainly doesn’t suck.

Both of next month’s free PlayStation Plus games are available to download from October 6, 2020.

PlayStation Plus free games – October 2020

  • Need for Speed Payback
  • Vampyr

September’s PlayStation Plus games – PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Street Fighter V – are available to download until next week. And if you’re playing on Xbox One, Microsoft has also confirmed the four titles coming to Games with Gold in October.


Take a look at our new releases page for regular updates on the latest Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PS4 games. You should also follow Thumbsticks on Facebook, Google News, Twitter, and Flipboard.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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CD Projekt Red reneges on ‘non-obligatory crunch policy’ for Cyberpunk 2077

Developers will have to crunch, and crunch hard, until Cyberpunk 2077 releases in November.

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Cyberpunk 2077 crunch
CD Projekt Red

Developers will have to crunch, and crunch hard, until Cyberpunk 2077 releases in November.

In 2019, before Cyberpunk 2077’s big E3 showing, CD Projekt Red requested an interview with Jason Schreier, then of Kotaku. Schreier, now with Bloomberg, is one of the industry’s foremost voices on video game labour and conditions, with a level of access many of us dream of.

In that conversation, which was published on Kotaku, CD Projekt Red co-founder Marcus Iwiński spoke of a “non-obligatory crunch policy” for developers working on Cyberpunk 2077, and promised that the developer, famed for its intense crunch on games like The Witcher 3, wanted “to be more humane and treat people with respect”.

Now, weeks out from the release of Cyberpunk 2077, Schreier reports that mandatory crunch is now in effect at CD Projekt Red, following an email from studio head Adam Badowski.

Per the Bloomberg article, quoted verbatim as Thumbsticks has not seen the email directly:

“Starting today, the entire (development) studio is in overdrive,” Badowski wrote, elaborating that this meant “your typical amount of work and one day of the weekend.” The extra work would be paid, as required by Polish labor laws. Many other video game studios don’t pay for overtime.

“I take it upon myself to receive the full backlash for the decision,” he wrote. “I know this is in direct opposition to what we’ve said about crunch. It’s also in direct opposition to what I personally grew to believe a while back — that crunch should never be the answer. But we’ve extended all other possible means of navigating the situation.”

It’s important to stress at this point that crunch is not simply “a bit of overtime”, as many armchair commentators on social media are quick to suggest. Crunch, in video game development terms, is the systematic failure of project management that leads to extended periods – weeks, months, or sometimes years – of development staff working horrific hours with no respite. That will often involve six- or seven-day weeks, evenings and weekends, totalling 60-, 70-, or 80-hour weeks. Week in, week out. For months. Delays to release dates, which you might think offer a reprieve, often simply extend and elongate the crunch.

CD Projekt Red is always keen to point out that – as per Polish labour law – crunch is paid overtime for its employees, reportedly time-and-a-half for evenings and double-time for weekends. This sounds brilliant to our American friends and colleagues, who – far removed from the sorts of working time protections we enjoy in the EU – might have to perform similar crunch with no additional remuneration, only holding onto the vague promise of bonuses should the game perform well upon release.

And for an odd evening here or there, or the weekend before release, that would be fine. That would just be regular overtime.

But when crunch is a culture and lasts for months – or years – it’s no wonder that burnout is endemic in this industry and attrition rates are so high. It’s also often referred to as “optional” but there is a tacit expectation that everyone must crunch; just look at Rockstar, where the Housers reportedly expected everyone to be working if they were, and they were always working. Nobody wants to be seen as letting their teammates down when everyone else is suffering together, missing their families, struggling with their mental health and exhaustion.

Crunch is far from the only issue with Cyberpunk 2077, with questions around the game’s use of racial stereotypes, cultural appropriation, and attitudes towards transgender people circling since that E3 demo. And no doubt people will still buy it in droves. A large portion of the gaming public simply won’t care about the cultural harm or the conditions its developers face. Or, at least, will care less about that than their desire to play the hot new video game. Some will see working on a game like Cyberpunk 2077 as such a “dream job” that people should suffer any poor conditions with a smile.

But we once thought that the food industry wouldn’t change, as was the case with battery-farmed eggs. Then, when the public stopped buying them in favour of higher-welfare options, the industry changed its ways. The same is true of the cosmetics industry and the growth of cruelty-free products with the “Leaping Bunny” accreditation, or the market for ethically-sourced produce with certifications like “Fairtrade” or “Rainforest Alliance”.

These campaigns prove that when the public votes with its feet – or more to the point, with its wallet – then the industry of production can change.


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Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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