This week: Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds tops 900,000 players, Mario + Rabbids doesn’t suck, and Blizzard vows to tackle bad behaviour in Overwatch. Here’s our round-up of the most important news from the world of video games.
Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds reaches 930,000 concurrent players
Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds can finally lay claim to being Steam’s most played game. This week, PUBG overtook Dota 2 for the first time with over 880,000 concurrent players on Steam. Then this weekend, the game hit soared even higher, reaching 930,000 players.
Dota 2 still holds the overall record – with 1.29 million concurrent players in March 2016 – but we wouldn’t bet against PUBG taken the crown before too long.
Blizzard to tackle bad behaviour in Overwatch
Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan has outlined how the company intends to reduce unsavoury behaviour in Overwatch in response to a thread on the official Overwatch forum titled ‘Report system is a failure’.
Initial measures include increased suspension lengths, and complete bans for repeat offenders. Punishments will also be introduced for players who manipulate skill ratings. You can read the original thread, and Kaplan’s response, here.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle reviews
Mario + Rabbids + Ubisoft + Guns. It’s a recipe for disaster, surely? Well, apparently not. Based on its critical reception, this unlikely collaboration is the latest in a growing list of Nintendo Switch hits.
Oli Welsh, writing at Eurogamer, tackles the belief that this project was misguided and wrong:
“So wrong that it’s right? I’m not sure, but somehow the developers at Ubisoft’s Paris and Milan studios get away with it. Perhaps because of that anarchic Rabbids spirit, or more likely because this game, among its many other unexpected qualities, is absolutely excellent.”
Tom Hoggins, writing in The Telegraph, found some redemption for the much-maligned Rabbids:
“From Rabbid Peach’s casual leaning against cover and obsession with taking selfies as bosses fall, to a slobbering rampaging Donkey Kong boss, to Rabbid Yoshi’s curiously adorable dinosaur costume they manage to steal the show from their inspirations. Another pleasant surprise in a game full of unlikely triumphs.”
And Russ Frushtick, in his Polygon review, appreciates the game’s successful implementation of Mario into a new genre:
“Mario + Rabbids manages to walk a narrow road, offering up a legitimately challenging squad tactics experience without alienating the family-friendly Mario audience.”
Nintendo loses Wii lawsuit
It wasn’t all good news for Nintendo this week. The Japanese game maker was hit with a $10million bill after losing a lawsuit brought to court by Munck Wilson Mandala, and iLife Technologies. The two companies alleged that the motion sensing technology used in the Wii Remote violates patents used in their healthcare devices.
Nintendo intends to appeal, saying:
“Nintendo disagrees with the decision, as Nintendo does not infringe iLife’s patent and the patent is invalid. Nintendo looks forward to raising those issues with the district court and with the court of appeals.”
Atari to release two new gaming devices
You may have noticed that Atari are making headlines with increasing regularity. Recent months have seen the announcement of the mysterious Atari Box, the unveiling of the truly tragic Atari Speakerhat, and a new game from Jeff Minter.
If it makes you feel nostalgic for the early ‘80s, you might be interested in two new licensed Atari products manufactured by PCube.
The Retro Handheld is a portable console with a built-in screen that takes design cues from the Atari 2600, and the Retro Plug and Play TV Joystick is based on Atari’s classic joystick design and plugs straight into a TV. Both devices include the usual suspects: Asteroids, Pong, Centipede, Missile Command, Breakout and so on. If the games run well it could be worth a look. And then we’re done, OK?
Nintendo continues to attract indies
Nintendo broadcast a new Nindie Showcase on Wednesday, highlighting 20 new indie games coming to the Switch. Titles include the super cute Golf Story, Super Meat Boy Forever, and Kentucky Route Zero. Suda51, also unveiled his latest opus, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. So there’s that.
Sonic Forces dated
Everyone seems to like Sonic Mania, but will the blue blur’s 3D return be so warmly received? We’ll find out in two months when Sonic Forces hit stores on November 7th, 2017. In addition to the release date, Sega have announced a physical ‘bonus edition’ will come with four Sonic Forces art cards, and a Sega/Atlus-themed DLC that includes outfits from Jet Set Radio, Persona, Puyo Puyo, Super Monkey Ball, and Nights.
PS VR gets a better value bundle
We’ve cooled a little on PS VR here at Thumbsticks, but the device remains in demand, and we’re starting to see a renewed marketing push from Sony. It will have a big presence at the upcoming EGX Expo, and in North America it has just received a price cut, of sorts.
The core PS VR bundle now includes a headset, two PlayStation Move controllers, a copy of PlayStation VR Worlds, and the PS camera, which was previously sold separately. It’s yours for a mere USD$449/CA$579.
Sony reveal new crystal DualShock 4 controllers
Sony is also releasing a new series of DualShock 4 controllers. The Crystal, Blue Crystal, and Red Crystal models feature a translucent top panel that lets you see the inner workings of the controller, sort of.
350,000 attend Gamescom
This year’s Gamescom was another success, with over 350,000 visitors making the trip to Cologne. However, analysis by Thomas Bidaux at ICO Partners indicates that there was a year-on-year decline in media coverage of the event. On the up side, there was some good news for Microsoft, with the Xbox One X generating a significant increase in media interest for the Xbox brand.
The Xbox One is dead
Speaking of which, Microsoft has confirmed that the original Xbox One model is now an ex-box. Production ended with the release of the Xbox One S last year, and those few that remain on shelves are the last we’ll see.
Everybody loves Menat
Street Fighter V‘s new character, Menat, arrived this week, and she appears to be a welcome boost for the troubled fighting game. Menat has been an instant hit with players, particularly those who appreciate using combos to show off their skills, and also those who appreciate her, erm, distinctive walking animation.
Try as I might, I can’t seem to interest fellow Thumbsticks editor Tom Baines in a game of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. For him, the SNES original remains king. Jon Irwin’s excellent analysis of the game’s design – published on Gamasutra – explains why he might be right.