RIP Visceral Studios and Hennig Star Wars

EA announced the end of Visceral Studios (Dead Space, Battlefield Hardline) and the revamping of the Amy Hennig’s Star Wars title. From Patrick Söderlund’s blog:

Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design. We will maintain the stunning visuals, authenticity in the Star Wars universe, and focus on bringing a Star Wars story to life. Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.

I’m sure that the details of this fallout will end up on on some of the more sensationalist sites. Patrick goes on to say that the game will now be released at some point after EA’s FY 2019, and what will happen to Visceral. It’s a long fall from the grace of Dead Space. As for Hennig, the Uncharted heavy is currently in “negotiations” about her future status.

What a mess.

Xbox Backwards Compatiability

Via Gamespot, Phil Spencer gives an update on the status of the original Xbox Backwards compatibility program:

“We’re close, we’re really close,” Spencer said when asked for the status of Xbox backwards compatibility. “I have a little dashboard I go to and I can see all the games [and] where they are in getting approvals in the pipeline. I know the games that are coming for the original Xbox but I don’t think we’ve announced them all. We have to do this in partnership with partners, but we’re still on track. I feel really good. The games look great.”

The Xbox boss is confident that the program will launch before the end of the year 2017. Here’s to hoping.

Nintendo boosts Switch production

Via Digital Trends (and Gamespot), news that Nintendo plans to boost Switch production to 2 million units per month. From the piece:

However, as is often the case with Nintendo products, the company is having trouble meeting demand. In order to address this issue, Nintendo is increasing production of the Switch, Gamespot reported. The company is hoping to produce two million units per month in order to meet demand and satisfy its target production numbers.

The Switch has been a great success for Nintendo, though I have to admit I’ve often wondered if their production problems have more to do with artificialness rather poor planning. They have been making consumer electronics for nearly 40 years at this point.

I predicted they would ship 3 million units by the end of the year to North America, and they’re certainly on target to beat that.

RIP Fatman (Barry Dennen)

Sad news from the other day, Barry Dennen, the voice of Fatman in Metal Gear Solid 2, died at age 79. I had no idea how prolific he was. Mr. Dennen also appeared in a number of other video games, in addition to his voice work in animation. One of my good friends also pointed out he played Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar.

To me he’ll always live on as the voice of the memorable, if not very weird, boss Fatman. RIP Mr. Dennen.

Blizzard MMO/RTS planned for mobile platforms

Some news about Blizzard today; apparently the venerable company is planning to develop an MMO/RTS game for mobile. From PCGamesn:

A new set of openings have been revealed for their unannounced projects, one specifically mentioning that the successful applicant will be working on “an unannounced MMO RTS project.” The role is for an “experienced Unity mobile client engineer” and requires iOS/Android development experience.

Blizzard is a slow burn company with an iterative development philosophy. This makes them a juggernaut in whatever genre they decide to move into. Whether it’s RTS (StarCraft), MMO (WoW), CCG (Hearthstone) or Arena shooters (Overwatch), Blizzard makes surefire hits.

PCGamesN has more details at the link, including some good sleuthing on personnel moves. They say it’s unlikely we’ll see anything revealed at this year’s Blizzcon, and I agree with that assessment. But, you never know.

Hideo Kojima in Rolling Stone

Yesterday Rolling Stone posted a lengthy article written by Hideo Kojima. He talks about realism in movies and video games, among other things. Read the article here.

I’ll have an update on this post when I’ve had time to look more into it. Speaking of magazines, I’ve uncovered my archives of about 20 years worth of old EGM, Game Informer, Nintendo Power, GamePro, etc. There’s probably going to be a few updates about that in this blog’s future.

Doom and Wolfenstein II on the Switch

Between deciding the next retro game to play and picking up Samus Returns, I forgot about the Nintendo Direct event on Friday. Color me surprised when I heard the news that Doom and Wolfenstein II are both coming to the Nintendo Switch. Here’s the announcement trailer:

I haven’t kept up with Doom or Wolfenstein, if you take a look at my back catalog you’ll note multiple version there. But I’ve been interested in both these shooters as they seem truer to the roots of their respective series.

For fun, here’s a graphics comparison between the PS4 and Switch for Doom. I expected it to be less pretty.


Best-Selling XBox/Xbox 360/Xbox One Games

Yesterday I took a look at the best-selling games for PlayStation consoles, so today I figured I would do the same for Xbox. I was curious about the absence of certain titles on the PlayStation top 10 lists across generations; namely Call of Duty and Madden. Maybe the Xboxen best-selling lists looks different? Let’s peruse them, as formulated by Wikipedia:

Xbox Best-Selling List

1. Halo 2 (8 million)
2. Halo (5 million)
3. Fable (3 million)
4. Splinter Cell (3 million)
5. Project Gotham Racing (2.5 million)
6. Grand Theft Auto Double Pack (2.49 million)
7. Knights of the Old Republic (1.58 million)
8. Counter-Strike (1.5 million)
9. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (1.46 million)
10. Need for Speed Underground 2 (1.44 million)

Xbox 360 Best-Selling List

1. Kinect Adventures (24 million)
2. Grand Theft Auto V (17.79 million)
3. Halo 3 (14.5 million)
4. Minecraft (13 million)
5. Call of Duty Black Ops (12 million)
6. Halo 4 (9.41 million)
7. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (7.562 million)
8. Gears of War (5 million)
9. Gears of War 2 (5 million)
10. Halo: Reach (4.79 million)

Xbox One Best-Selling List

1. Halo 5 (5 million)
2. Forza Horizon 3 (2.5 million)
3. Dead Rising 3 (1.2 million)
4. Forza 6 (1 million)
5. Forza 5 (1 million)
6. Gears of War Ultimate Edition (1 million)
7. Rise of the Tomb Raider (1 million)

Are you wondering where the last three entries are for the Xbox One? Wikipedia cuts the best-selling lists off at one million units sold. I’m dubious about the numbers and at least Wikipedia is up front about their reliability. Still, I’m shocked to see those figures for the Xbox One. This list can’t be taking into account digital downloads and other sales data (I hope). But if this is even remotely close to reality, then the Xbox One is a dismal failure as a console. Perhaps even worse than the Sega Saturn.

As for the rest: not a real shocker that Halo dominates all of these lists. We finally get to see the COD entries during the X360 years; though I’m a little surprised that Kinect Adventures led the pack with 24 million copies.
But if we can deduce anything from this brief glance at both systems: Grand Theft Auto, FPS and racing games have dominated the charts for the last 15 years or so.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at Nintendo, for completeness’ sake.