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Today in Video Games – May 15, 2017

The biggest video games stories from Monday, May 15, 2017, including Devolver Digital, HTC Vive, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, and a mobile Zelda game.

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Zelda Sheikah Slate

The biggest video games stories from Monday, May 15, 2017.

HTC Vive gets a finance option

Quite fancy the idea of a virtual reality headset, but don’t want to take on a second mortgage to do it? Well, HTC are going to let you take on a second mortgage small credit loan, to spread your pricey headset’s payments over two years, Eurogamer reports. At retail a headset costs £759, but with 24 low, low monthly payments of £34.84 (plus initial shipping) it’ll wind up costing you a total of £836 and change. That’s an interest rate of 9.9% if you’re counting.

You’re still going to need a PC costing a grand (or more) to play it on, so it hardly democratises VR in the same way as PlayStation VR, but it’s something.

The Legend of Zelda might be getting a mobile game

If the rumours on the Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall, sorry) are to be believed, Nintendo are working on a mobile version of The Legend of Zelda. At the current time we have no idea what that means, but based on Nintendo’s dramatic variety thus far – a Panini sticker album of a card game in Fire Emblem Heroes, a freemium endless runner version of Mario, and an as-yet unreleased Animal Crossing title – it could be pretty much anything.

Nintendo have always been wary of cannibalising their handheld market with mobile games, but they have effectively already done it with the Nintendo Switch consheld, so all bets are off at this stage. Get your Sheikah Slates ready, folks.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 announced

If you want to make an impact, drop a teaser featuring the adorable Baby Groot while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is romping around in theatres globally.

Officially announced todayLego Marvel Super Heroes 2 will launch on November 14, 2017 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, with a Nintendo Switch release to follow “later this year”. Given there’s not much time between the multi-platform release and the new year, we’d wager Marvel and TT Games will be trying to get that onto Switch before Christmas.

Parappa the Rapper is getting a spiritual sequel

Jeez, have we not had enough of spiritual sequels yet? Didn’t we learn our lesson with Mighty No. 9, or Yooka-Laylee? Well, in any case, Parappa the Rapper’s Masaya Matsuura and Gitaroo Man’s Keiichi Yano have joined forces to create a new rhythm game, tentatively titled Project Rap Rabbit.

Predictably, Project Rap Rabbit is coming in the form of a Kickstarter, and they’re looking for… £855,000? And the Stretch goal for a Switch version is nearly five million dollars? I’m done. Someone else finish the rest of this segment.

Speaking of Kickstarter fatigue

Head on over to Eurogamer to read this interesting piece on the state of play with crowd-funding in the games industry. It covers where everything started, how it got so big, and why it might now be contracting; or at least, shifting sideways onto more business-focused platforms like Fig.

“We’re going to need a bigger balloon”

Devolver Digital, the indie publisher famed for their irreverent, unofficial E3 antics, are stepping up their game again this year. As ever, they’ll be tipping up in a parking lot over the street from the LA Convention Center’s South Hall, but instead of a rough-and-ready tailgate party, they’re switching things up with a gentile picnic.

The Devolver Indie Picnic will be free to all E3 2017 badge holders, and will be open each day between 11am – 7pm, from June 13 – 15, 2017. We’ll see you there (if E3 haven’t popped their balloon before the event starts).

Remember PS1 classic RPG Arc Symphony?

No, and neither do we, but apparently lots of people are doing, in spite of the fact Arc Symphony never existed. Between the relatively convincing box art, the chatter online, and the fact that Japanese RPGs did often fail to see Western releases in those days, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was true.

People really got behind Arc Symphony on social media:

Really, really behind it:

Dig a little deeper and you find that most of the chatter has come from a group of Toronto game developers. Before too long, it was revealed that Arc Symphony was a combination of clever hoax and even cleverer publicity stunt, for Sophia Park’s new itch.io game of the same name.

Hitman might have a stay of execution

And finally, some good news, following the surprising news last week that Square Enix are seeking a buyer for IO Interactive. If rumours from German site Gamestar are to be believed, IO Interactive will retain the rights to the Hitman franchise, and season two of the rebooted, episodic will still be in the works.

It’s unusual for the IP rights to go with the developer and not the publisher, but given that Square Enix are trying to sell IO Interactive – and not just shutter the studio entirely – it would certainly make them more valuable and desirable.

More from Thumbsticks

If you want to keep up-to-date with the latest games coming to Nintendo Switch, 3DS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One, bookmark our New Releases page. And if you’re a PC gamer, make sure you have the right specs for the latest games by visiting our System Requirements roundup.

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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.

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Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders are now open

Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders are open right now, but will there be an excess of units available?

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Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders are open right now, but will there be an excess of units available?

Good morning everyone. Here’s a public service announcement for our UK readers (at the time of publication) and our North American readers a little later.

Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders open today to 8 am at a variety of online retailers around the globe.

Here’s a list of Xbox Series X and Series S pre-order retailers confirmed by Microsoft, but it won’t hurt to check other stores if it looks like demand is outstripping supply.

Hopefully, the issues experienced with the PlayStation 5 pre-order rollout won’t be repeated. Microsoft has reportedly taken steps to avoid that situation by warning retailers that their allocation of consoles will be reduced if they break the street date and time.

Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders

UK – 8AM BST

United States – 8AM PT

Canada – 8AM PT

Good luck!


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Playstation CEO doesn’t see the Xbox Game Pass model ‘as sustainable’

PlayStation CEO and president Jim Ryan doesn’t see the Xbox Game Pass model “as sustainable” and doesn’t plan to imitate it on PlayStation 5.

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That’s a pass from PlayStation supremo Jim Ryan.

In what is likely the most significant divergence in approach to the coming generation, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO and president Jim Ryan said in an interview with gamesindustry.biz that PlayStation won’t have its own first-party Xbox Game Pass-esque subscription equivalent for PlayStation 5 anytime soon.

“For us, having a catalogue of games is not something that defines a platform,” Ryan says. “Our pitch, as you’ve heard, is ‘new games, great games’. We have had this conversation before – we are not going to go down the road of putting new releases titles into a subscription model. These games cost many millions of dollars, well over $100 million, to develop. We just don’t see that as sustainable.”

This runs counter to Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s statements last year. In a podcast with Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb, he said: “The only concern I ever see people talking about is sustainability. I will say Game Pass right now is doing very well for us, and our developers, the people who are in it.”

He’s also denied that by releasing first-party titles they’ve been burning money. “We feel good in the business that we’re running now. We’re definitely investing in it, but not investing in a way that’s unsustainable.”

Xbox Game Pass is one of the most disruptive new business models right now in the industry, now reaching 15 million subscribers, up from 10 million as of the end of April 2020. This pales in comparison to the 90 million active users of Xbox Live, but speaks to the ultra-fast growth it’s seeing. It’s inspired others to follow suit, including Ubisoft with Uplay Plus, Apple with Apple Arcade and EA with EA Access. (Which itself is soon to be itself bundled with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate/PC subscription.)

Sony’s own Playstation Now, boasting just 2.2 million subscribers, has even incorporated downloads in response to the service.

Developers show mixed to cautious enthusiasm on such a service model. There are positive signs for third-party games, however. Games like Descenders, from UK publisher No More Robots, have seen massive sales boosts for being on the service due to increased visibility.

With the announcement of the acquisition of Bethesda by Microsoft today, one effect of this divergence in strategy might allow a switch from system exclusives on Xbox to availability on Game Pass at launch as a system selling point.


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Xbox buys Bethesda, publisher of The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Doom

Game publisher Bethesda Softworks now owned by Microsoft.

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Game publisher Bethesda Softworks is now owned by Microsoft.

The acquisition of Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax Media by Microsoft for $7.5 billion might just mean all future releases for popular IPs in the Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Dishonored, Quake and Prey franchises will be Xbox console exclusives.

The exact implications of this are still uncertain. In an interview with Bloomberg, Xbox boss Phil Spencer vaguely clarified that they’ll “take other consoles on a case-by-case basis,” leaving open the possibility of a software-over-hardware strategy, as with Minecraft and Minecraft Dungeons after Microsoft acquired Mojang Studios in 2014. Equally, Ninja Theory’s Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is a PC/Xbox exclusive, so there is also that precedent. 

In an interesting twist, it also means Microsoft will have two timed PS5 exclusives, in Arkane Studios’ Deathloop and Tango Gameworks’ GhostWire: Tokyo, a commitment Microsoft has now confirmed it is sticking to.

It has been confirmed that new Bethesda and Zenimax games will join Xbox Game Pass on release for console and PC in what is surely a major competitive move in itself.

The acquisition also reunites Bethesda with Obsidian under Microsoft, meaning Obsidian might once again have access to the Fallout IP for a follow-up to the wildly popular Fallout: New Vegas. It’s certainly something the fans would love to see, even with Obsidian already moving on with its own IP in last year’s The Outer Worlds.

Speaking on the acquisition, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said:

“We will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. One of the things that has me most excited is seeing the roadmap with Bethesda’s future games, some announced and many unannounced, to Xbox console and PC including Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios.

“Like us, Bethesda are passionate believers in building a diverse array of creative experiences, in exploring new game franchises, and in telling stories in bold ways. All of their great work will of course continue and grow and we look forward to empowering them with the resources and support of Microsoft to scale their creative visions to more players in new ways for you.”

Whilst any Xbox console exclusivity has yet to be confirmed, it’s another set of significant additions to Microsoft’s growing list of first-party Xbox Games studios. Bethesda, id Software, Arkane Studios, MachineGames, and Tango Gameworks all join Microsoft’s earlier acquisitions, including Obsidian Entertainment, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, Double Fine Productions, Compulsion Games and Undead Labs. Also of note, last week the CEO of Bungie shot down rumours that Bungie had been in similar acquisition talks with Microsoft.

It’s a next-gen strategy that seems to answer criticisms Microsoft faced with the Xbox One, which boasted few first-party exclusives compared to its Sony rival.

Preorders for Microsoft’s two new consoles are set to open tomorrow at different times depending on your region.

Updated: September 21, 2020, 6.55 pm BST

This story has been updated to reflect further comments from Phil Spencer to Bloomberg on whether Bethesda, now an Xbox studio, will still release its games on PS5.


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WB Games attempts to distance Hogwarts Legacy from J.K. Rowling

Hogwarts Legacy is embroiled in controversy over its tacit association with the original author of the Wizarding World.

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Not exactly the legacy they want.

With the open-world RPG Harry Potter game whose existence was leaked way back in 2018 finally revealed to the world, it should have been a slam dunk of an announcement. Perhaps at one time, it would have been.

But Hogwarts Legacy has instead found itself embroiled in controversy over its tacit association with the original author of the Wizarding World.

In an official FAQ, the publisher of the new Harry Potter game from Portkey Games –⁠ a WB Games subsidiary specifically for Harry Potter games –⁠ and Avalanche Software emphasised that “J.K. Rowling is not directly involved” in its development. It comes as calls for a boycott of the game hit social media over the author’s litany of problematic comments on transgender issues.

It’s not the first time such an FAQ has denied the author’s involvement. 2018’s Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery mobile game FAQ also featured such a disclaimer. However, the latest FAQ has arguably greater significance now given that in the intervening two years J.K. Rowling has come under greater fire. Whilst in 2018 she was criticised for liking a transphobic tweet in what her PR people called a “middle-aged moment”, the author has since made her own controversial comments about transgender issues.

The increasing backlash against J.K. Rowling and just how it might affect them has never been lost on the game’s developers. Bloomberg reported that many in the team felt “uncomfortable” when the studio’s management didn’t address the author’s comments.

WB Games was more cagey over the potential royalties the author might earn from Hogwarts Legacy, with a spokesperson declining further comment to Kotaku. Whatever the financial arrangement, unlike gaming boycotts –⁠ of, say, Ubisoft, Riot Games, Blizzard, Naughty Dog and EA, where their bottom line is often the target as a means of engendering change in said companies –⁠ this boycott appears more symbolic and personal. As the first significant Harry Potter product to be revealed since the author’s most recent comments, many might see this as an opportunity to distance themselves from the author and a once-beloved franchise that’s become toxic by association.

We’ll have to see if WB Games can do anything more to reassure fans before Hogwarts Legacy’s release in 2021.


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New Xbox One releases (September 21-25, 2020)

Mafia: Definitive Edition and Rebel Galaxy Outlaw headline this week’s list of upcoming Xbox One releases.

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New Xbox One game releases
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Mafia: Definitive Edition and Rebel Galaxy Outlaw headline this week’s list of upcoming Xbox One releases.

Xbox One owners can lead a life crime this week in the eagerly anticipated remake of 2002’s Mafia. The city of Lost Heaven has never looked better, but we’re interested to see how Hangar 13 has fleshed out the experience. The addition of motorcycles is a fun place to start.

Meanwhile, players of Rebel Galaxy Outlaw can live their lives on the outer rim of law and order. This sequel from Double Damage builds upon the strong foundations of the first game with improved dogfights, an engaging story, and an even better soundtrack. If you find Elite Dangerous too overwhelming, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is an accessible blend of arcade and simulation sci-fi that scratches the same intergalactic itch.

Other new Xbox One release highlights include Port Royale 4, procedurally generated track laying game Unrailed!, and satirical dungeon crawler, Going Under. Halo ODST‘s Firefight mode is also coming to Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Tuesday.

Each new game can be purchased from the Xbox One digital games store or the Microsoft web store. We’ll update this post throughout the week with any late additions to the lineup.

New Xbox One releases: September 21-25, 2020

Monday, September 21, 2020

  • No releases

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

  • Halo ODST: Firefight (The Master Chief Collection)
  • Rebel Galaxy Outlaw
  • Tennis World Tour 2

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

  • CastleStorm II
  • The Drone Racing League Simulator
  • Jet Set Knights
  • Unrailed!
  • Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbols Adventure

Thursday, September 24, 2020

  • Going Under
  • Little Big Workshop
  • Tears of Avia

Friday, September 25, 2020

  • Mafia: Definitive Edition
  • Nexomon: Extinction
  • Port Royale 4
  • Sentinels of Freedom
  • Shotgun Farmers
  • Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia

Swoop by the Thumbsticks new releases page for the latest games. You can also follow us on Flipboard, Facebook, Google News, and Twitter

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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