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MCV 920 ISSUE 920 30.06.17

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_WORLDWIDE GAMES PUBLISHING & DISTRIBUTION _CONSOLES & ACCESSORIES _WEB & CREATIVE _DEVELOPMENT & TECHNOLOGY _DIGITAL PUBLISHING _MOBILE

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10

Distributed thinking

We talk to some of the UK’s top distributors to get their take on the current state of the industry

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Features

Return of the ‘X’ Men

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Microsoft’s Dave McCarthy talks up the Xbox One X and what’s next for the platform

Sony’s missing link

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Sony’s new PlayLink service could widen the PS4’s mainstream appeal

To be this good takes forever

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We talk to Sega Network’s Mike Evans about its new mobile Forever endeavour

Page 5 The Editor • Page 6 On the Radar – the next two weeks • Page 8 Opinion from the industry • Page 40 Margin Makers • Page 42 Big releases • Page 46 Sales analysis • Page 48 End Game – community and events June 30 MCV 920 | 03

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Coming to Late August 2017

Press Enquiries – James Clements: JamesC@excalibur-games.com G A M E S

Trade Enquiries – Robert Stallibrass: RobertS@excalibur-games.com

PO Box 586, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX16 6BY 04 MCV920_final.indd 1 MCV-Ad_ShoppeKeep_May17.indd 1

www.excalibur-games.com

Tel: +44 (0) 1869 338833 27/06/2017 10:20 23/06/2017 09:47


“A summer break gives everyone a chance to recharge their batteries and their enthusiasm.”

TheEditor Summer gamin’ After the thrills and spills of E3, it’s back to the daily grind for the games industry and the long, slow summer months. Or at least an approximation of summer, where it seems to alternate boiling heat with endless rain. Last summer, we had the smash-hit surprise of Pokémon Go. The game enlivened our days and provided an unexpected boost to retailers’ tills, who were happy to move Pokémon merchandise that had lain largely unloved for many a year. And when that ran low, retailers turned to their distributors, who supplied them with everything they needed. For more on how these key players see the industry, turn to page 10. Pokémon Go was the perfect summer distraction, but unless someone has something very crafty up their sleeve, it looks unlikely that Pikachu’s lightning will strike twice this year. That’s no bad thing – after all, football and other sports don’t suffer because of their natural rhythm across the year. A summer break, or rather a summer lull, gives everyone – from publishers to retailers, journalists to consumers – a chance to recharge their batteries and recharge their enthusiasm. That doesn’t mean we won’t be playing games on the go, of course – the Switch has seen to that – just that the launch schedule doesn’t look quite so daunting for a few short weeks. It won’t last long, with many of us flying out to Gamescom before the end of the summer holiday season in the UK. That timing plays havoc with my family summer routine, but when there’s Kölsch and Hämmche (beer and pork knuckle) in plentiful supply, you won’t hear me complaining. The entire MCV team will be at the show this year, producing the official daily show guide. If you’ve got anything big planned for the show, then please get in touch with us in the very near future to talk about it, we’d love to hear from you. As would the team at Ukie, as they outline on page 8. Back to the present (and the rain), we showcase two big moves from Microsoft and Sony in this issue. The former has now unveiled its Xbox One X console, and we catch up with Xbox’s Dave McCarthy on page 16 to discuss the thinking behind it and how it fits into the overarching Xbox strategy. Meanwhile over at Sony, we talk to Michael Denny on page 22 about the company’s exciting mainstream play with PlayLink, which brings together smartphones and the PS4 in what should prove a big new opportunity for publishers. Hope you enjoy the issue, see you again in a fortnight. Seth Barton sbarton@nbmedia.com

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ontheradar

PlayLink between worlds

Announced at E3, Sony’s PlayLink lets gamers link their PS4 and their mobile phones to enjoy multiplayer games. “PlayLink games turn your smartphone or tablet into a versatile controller – you can swipe, pinch, drag, tilt, rotate or even snap selfies and draw crafty doodles, depending on the game, Sony explained. The first lay ink title to launch will be That’s You! on July 4th, a ‘comedy quiz’ which challenges players and up to five friends to find out what they really think about each other. More titles are due to launch later this year, including thriller Hidden Agenda, quiz game Knowledge is Power and mini-games collection Frantics (pictured).

You can read more about Sony PlayLink on page 22

BAFTA Young Games Designers Awards

Superhot heading to PlayStation this summer Multiplatform hit Superhot will finally launch on S and S this summer. Originally greenlit on Steam in 2013, Superhot was then Kickstarted and released to huge critical acclaim on PC and Xbox ne in early . version then hit culus ift last summer and Superhot made the jump to Vive earlier this year. The title has always been praised for its innovative gamepay mechanic: time only moves when you do.

July 8th, BAFTA 195 Piccadilly Next weekend, BAFTA will crown the winners of its 2017 YGD Awards at a special ceremony at its headquarters in London. Now in its sixth edition, the competition gives young game designers aged between 10-14 and 15-18 years old the chance to design and create their own game. Ten finalists have been selected across each of the four main categories, with successful entrants hailing from across England, Scotland and Wales. Five educators will also be in the running for BAFTA’s Young Games Designer Mentor Award.

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Splatoon 2 bundle hits shelves

July 21st

Insomnia X Resonate July 21st-23rd

Insomnia has partnered with esonate to bring a new mash up festival to Scotland. Taking place at Glasgow’s Scottish Event ampus, Insomnia X esonate will feature PC and console tournaments, with YouTubers also taking the main stage. The event will also include retro, indie and ones. Insomnia X esonate will be Scotland’s biggest gaming festival and tickets start at £15.

The first official bundle for the Nintendo Switch will arrive at retail in the coming weeks alongside Splatoon 2. Priced at £319.99, the bundle doesn’t come with a physical version of the game, but it does include a digital copy of Nintendo’s innovative shooter, as well as neon red and neon blue JoyCon controllers. Also launching alongside the bundle is a Splatoon 2 themed Switch Pro Controller, priced at £64.99, plus three new Amiibo figures – Inkling Girl (Neon Pink), Inkling Boy (Neon Green) and Inkling Squid (Neon Purple). Of course, these are all compatible with both Splatoon on the Wii U and its upcoming sequel on Switch. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a Splatoon 2 Switch carry case launching on July 21st.

Develop Awards 2017

July 12th, Hilton Brighton Metropole

The biggest awards night in the game development calendar, the Develop Awards 2017 returns to Brighton next month alongside the Develop:Brighton conference. These are the only peer-voted prizes for UK and European games developers that focus purely on creativity, teamwork and inspiring innovation, making it a must-attend event for all studios. You can book your tickets now at www.developawards.com. The awards sit alongside Develop:Brighton, which will host over 2,000 developers as they take part in three days of talks and howto workshops. Speakers include Ian Livingstone, Tetsuya Mizuguchi and industry veterans renda and ohn omero.

SPONSORED BY

If you’d like your product, event or upcoming news to appear in On the Radar, email Katharine on kbyrne@ nbmedia.com

PRE ORDER TOP 5 TW

TITLE

Publisher

01 02 03 04 05

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (PS4) Sony Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4) Sony South Park: The Fractured But Whole + Stick of Truth (PS4) Ubisoft ed ead edemption S Take Two Super Mario Odyssey (NS) Nintendo June 30 MCV 920 | 07

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guestopinion

Dr Jo Twist OBE - CEO, Ukie

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Brits abroad

e first took 22 UK businesses to Gamescom our industry that sets us apart from the competition. in Cologne in 2012. The UK industry stand We will continue long after Gamescom to make sure the at Europe’s largest consumer games show UK government understands the potential we have to be has been the focal point of Ukie’s annual even bigger global leaders, and what both industry and International Trade programme ever since, helping the government can do to make sure this happens. industry network with international companies, secure Our (in)famous bunting will be back – this year as part investment and promote the UK industry as a real player in of a veritable feast of classic Britishness to support our the global games scene. pub theme. And we will have more space to squeeze in The stand has continued to grow and scale as the hundreds of guests to our two free open drinks receptions industry has. In 2016 alone, businesses exhibiting with Ukie on Tuesday and Wednesday, held on the stand. secured wins of over £14.46m in three days and exhibitors The UK Game of the Show Award also returns, celebrating made 2,100 new international business contacts. the best of British creativity and innovation with the award As we negotiate our exit from the EU, and we work on for the best UK developed, but as yet unreleased, game on details of future trade deals, show at the expo. Gamescom with Ukie offers a great it is critical that businesses Although our space on continue to make connections, opportunity to increase brand awareness. the stand has been extended, build partnerships and develop the remaining space is opportunities. The UK is already world-renowned for its now extremely limited – but there is still a chance for your games prowess in development, publishing and technology company to be a part of the UK community in the biggest services, so we see enabling companies of all sizes to easily games show in Europe. Gamescom with Ukie offers a access potential business as a key part of what Ukie does as great opportunity to increase brand awareness for games a trade body. companies – whether or not you can be in Cologne – through This year, in the sixth year that Ukie has run the UK sponsorship. Companies can sponsor the drinks receptions, pavilion, we sold out of our usual space in record time, the hospitality on the stand and a variety of the best-loved so we are excited to announce that we have doubled the and recognised Ukie bits and bobs that visitors love. stand size. This means we have space for over 80 of the top We want to make sure our international trade UK content makers, developers, publishers and service programme continues to help the games community build companies coming together in Europe as one strong, the kind of resilient, successful, creative and innovative unified UK games industry, ready to do business. sector we need: the UK remains, and will continue to grow, The diversity of the companies already signed up to as the best place in the world to make and sell games. So be on the UK industry stand mirrors just how diverse come and be part of it. For any enquiries, please contact: sam@ukie.org.uk and talented our ecosystem is in the UK, a feature of

Jo Twist is CEO of Ukie, the trade body for UK games and interactive entertainment, making the UK the best place in the world to make games. She is also deputy chair of the British Screen Advisory Council, London Tech ambassador and BAFTA Games Committee member 8 | MCV 920 June 30

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Distributed thinking Sometimes overlooked in an increasingly digital era, distribution plays a key role in getting products to market. Seth Barton talks to five of the UK’s top firms about the health of their businesses and how they feel about the rest of 2017

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he games industry is a highly-complex marketplace. One that spans almost every imaginable distribution channel, be it physical, digital or some blend of the two. From customers purchasing digital content via a physical card code; to games published by one company, with physical media handled by another, distributed to an online retailer, before being sold and delivered in the post; to a piece of merchandise that’s shipped to a distributor, then onto retailers, before being sold on a shelf in a bricks-andmortar store. While direct digital publishing has been the big story of the last decade, huge amounts of retail product still move through numerous channels before ending up in

the hands of consumers. These distributors play a key role in ensuring that retailers not only have the stock they know they need, but also in seeking out new lines to keep businesses growing. In this issue, we’ve reached out to talk to some of the biggest distributors in the UK to get their take on the state of the games industry, their relationships with retailers and publishers, and how their businesses are coping with the uncertain inevitability of Brexit. CURRENCY FLUCTUATIONS As you’ll no doubt have seen from the news, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around the process of Brexit, and no certainty at all about the outcome – unless ‘Brexit means

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Brexit’ helps you make business decisions. However, one thing we all know about is the rollercoaster ride the British pound has taken in recent months. Jonathan Rose, sales director at Lime Distribution tells us that “currency has made a big impact on not only margin but also the viability of distributing certain products. Where brands have had a strategy to increase pricing to alleviate some of this, consumer driven sales may not always necessarily continue at previous rates seen at lower price points. “This has been quite a challenging year, but we have managed to keep ourselves relatively buoyant with good hedging of currency during periods of positive rates. We have also seen challenges where pricing has caused issues on a cross border level, especially going into Europe where SRPs are showing much lower in GBP vs the euro. We have been working closely with suppliers to manage channels and retailer expectation and strategy to ensure all sell through is as consistent for all parties involved prior to Brexit.” Gareth Phillips, head of commercial at Exertis, also has concerns. “With such a large portfolio of products across console and PC gaming, we have seen both positive and negative impacts. Products we are buying in dollars or euros have increased significantly in price and we have worked with our vendor partners to try and lessen the impact on our customers. The flipside of this is the reduction of imported stock to the UK, which had been reducing our ability to compete on price.” For Click Entertainment’s business development manager Dan Thurgood, however, it’s not all bad news: “As we predominantly do export, we have actually managed to increase our business in non-euro markets.” DIVERSIFICATION With software sales moving slowly but steadily to digital, many retailers have diversified from physical media and consoles into a wide range of products in recent years, including their own digital offerings. We wonder how the distributors are supporting this move, what new product lines they’re selling and how this diversification helps their business. Kevin Young, sales and purchasing manager at Creative Distribution, says: “Our product range is constantly expanding. We typically sample small quantities at first on new product and then gauge the feedback from customers. Be it Nerf guns, Pop! Vinyl figures or board games, we are always willing to stretch

“Currency has made a big impact on not only margin but also the viability of distributing certain products.”

Jonathan Rose, Lime Distribution

the range and find what works. In creating these extra revenue streams, we are filling the gaps left from a reduction in video game sales.” Link Distribution’s sales director Fraser Blackmore is in the same boat: “We’ve gone from being purely video games, consoles and accessories to now attaching gaming-related toys, merchandise and other third-party niche accessories,” he says. “We also now have our own in-store subscription kiosk (Link DGTL) which has gained traction within the last couple of years. Current plans include the development of new product ranges, allowing us to fulfil the needs of the pro PC gamer market with a range of hardware and components to sell alongside our software range.” Other distributors have expanded through mergers, either recently or over time. Click Entertainment’s Thurgood tells us that after the merge with Danish electronics firm Dangaard, it’s now able to add consumer electronics to its growing portfolio. “We have a wide range of product SKUs at all times in stock so we aren’t reliant on the core traditional business model.” Likewise, Exertis’ Phillips has found success through both mergers and a shift to digital. “The Exertis business was formed of many specialist distributors and our combined expertise and product sets have massively enhanced our gaming offering,” he tells us. “Our investment in Ztorm, our digital gaming platform, and the bringing together of two of the UK’s leading PC and console gaming distributors, has allowed us to diversify our gaming proposition without changing our core business or values.” Lime Distribution specialises in gaming accessories and associated products already, so the move plays right into the company’s strategy, says Rose: “With digital sales increasing and having an impact on high street retailers, this is really forcing retailers to become more diverse and look to other potential markets that make sense for them whilst still being related. “This is great news for us as prospective clients look more towards accessories, collectibles and tech. I only see this trend increasing with internet speeds becoming faster and ISPs being more competitive with pricing.” He adds: “We move into many different sectors wherever we see a trend in search trends or products that get us excited. From gaming we have moved into drones and tech.”

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Pictured above, left to right: Click Entertainment’s Dan Thurgood, Fraser Blackmore from Link Distribution, and Gareth Phillips from Exertis

RELEASE SLATE Many of the biggest publishers have slimmed down their release slates in recent years, concentrating instead on building a handful of big titles, although other publishers such as Team17 and 505 Games have since stepped into the physical space to start filling in the gaps. We wonder how this switch in strategy has affected distributors and their clients. Phillips, at Exertis, feels the industry is on the upswing and calls out one of the company’s own titles, the early access smash hit Ark: Survival Evolved, as being one of the highlights for the rest of the year. “The new release slate has been fairly quiet, but after an action-packed E3, where we saw a raft of new products and IPs, we feel that we have a few good years ahead. There are always studios prepared to try new things and we see an example of a digital product moving to physical after an amazingly successful beta with Ark: Survival Evolved releasing this summer.” Creative Distribution’s Young is equally confident about the rest of the year: “I couldn’t say whether there were more or less new releases overall, but we are certainly bringing more to market than we have ever done before. “Working a lot more with smaller publishers directly or through their official distributors, we are finding success on a number of titles that aren’t readily available in the market, helping to bring games to consumers that aren’t available from mainstream retail.” Over at Click Entertainment, Thurgood echoes these sentiments: “There are fewer publishers competing at the triple-A level, so the releases are more focused on big IPs now. That said, there seems to be another boxed release stimulus with the success of indie titles as a good example.” Link’s Blackmore also thinks the year is looking rosy: “In terms of new releases, this year is a big one. More so than recent years, as there’s lots of new hardware to be

excited about, plus the games and accessories that sell with them. We had noted a decrease in physical boxed sales in 2016, but this year is on course to change that.” Rose at Lime, meanwhile, feels there’s at least one title on the horizon that should boost business: “There have been relatively few releases this year to drive sales or attach, but we’re really looking forward to Destiny 2, which is personally my favourite franchise.” Overall, it’s a positive response, then, with distributors feeling there are more opportunities for them now that the big players have vacated the middle-tier release space. The trend may still be toward digital, but the next couple of years look healthy. CONSOLE CYCLE The console business is deviating from its long-held template, with the release of the PS4 Pro and the upcoming Xbox One X. We ask our panel whether they think the recent mid-gen console updates are a positive evolution, and whether new hardware is more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to driving sales of software and peripherals. Click’s Thurgood is upbeat about the new devices, saying: “The consoles seem to be performing [well] and as consumer demand for improved performance and visuals continues, it will hopefully add longevity to the hardware business as a whole.” Meanwhile, Phillips at Exertis thinks the evolution is in step with modern consumer habits: “We have welcomed the mid-gen updates. Technology’s improving rapidly and people are getting used to trading in their phones every 12-18 months for the latest and greatest kit. Multiple SKUs offer more choice and varying price points, so this is a good thing and it will be interesting to see how the install bases play out, as we could see that we have premium and standard version install bases for each format holder.”

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“As a business, we’re on track and the market is more competitive than ever.” Gareth Phillips, Exertis

Link’s Blackmore is also keen: “I personally like these mid-gen updates. It injects interest back into the market and we get buzz around games that make use of that extra power. I’m excited to see what Xbox One X will bring to the market.” It’s not a clean sweep, though, as Rose from Lime isn’t quite so enamoured: “We saw quite a period of time for the PS3 and Xbox 360 to enjoy their life cycles. With these more Apple-esque console releases, these short lifespans don’t necessarily translate well for consumers or developers.” HARDWARE SUPPLY With more hardware than ever, stock shortages are becoming increasingly problematic for distributors, especially when big players such as Nintendo and Sony have both suffered from supply constraints in recent months, the former with the Switch and Classic Mini NES and the latter with PS VR and the PS4 Pro. Exertis’ Phillips admits there have been problems, but also certain upsides: “We have been affected by hardware shortages, and in an ideal world there would always be free supply, but it does help with maintaining demand. Products come and go, as do their supply, and one thing we have learnt is that you cannot build a sustainable business relying on a single product or product set – unless you’re Apple, of course. Console, PC, handheld, physical, digital, accessories, merchandise or retro – we have to be able to offer what consumers want, when they want it.” Click’s Thurgood tells us he’s also managed to cope with fluctuating stock levels: “We managed to provide a good supply to customers and saw a huge spike on Nintendo this year, even with shortages in the market we were able to fulfil demand.” Lime’s Rose is equally proud of the company’s record: “We’re sometimes affected by supply issues, mostly new

manufacturers not forecasting for demand. Generally, though, we work with some really great suppliers.” PRICING AND GROWTH As for the health of the industry overall, Creative Distribution’s Young is somewhat concerned: “Business is currently good, albeit a tad slow, but at this time of the year that’s to be expected,” he says. “We are gearing up for Q3 and Q4 by ensuring the customer base is engaged and they are ready to purchase when the time is right. However, we are finding that a lot of independents are having a tough time. The high street in particular has seen a drastic reduction in footfall over recent years, with consumers increasingly ordering online.” Rose, from Lime, however, has a more positive outlook: “Competition is a healthy thing, but we’re seeing growth as a business as we would expect.” Phillips of Exertis feels the same: “As a business, we’re on track and the market is more competitive than ever. We’ve been working with our vendor partners on promotions, bundles and new initiatives to drive sales across our portfolio.” Blackmore is also keen to talk about Link’s success: “We have experienced exponential growth this past year, partly to do with our diversification and new product ranges, but also our active customer engagement and great service.”

Pictured above, left to right: Jonathan Rose from Lime Distribution and Kevin Young from Creative Distribution

LOOKING AHEAD Distributors are a key indicator of the health of retail. We thought their tone might have been more downbeat given the wider conditions on the UK high street, but the companies we spoke to were keen to talk about how they’re making it work in this tough environment, thanks to diversification and other initiatives. In the near future, we’ll be undertaking the same opinion test from their clients, the retailers, to see if the two match up. June 30 MCV 920 | 13

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Pictured left: Head of Xbox operations Dave McCarthy

Return of the ‘X’ Men With a hugely-powerful new console and an exclusive game line-up that feels distinct from the competition, Xbox has got its swagger back. Seth Barton talks to Dave McCarthy about the next 12 months

W

hen is a hardware generation not a hardware generation? When people keep on launching new hardware in the middle of it. The new Xbox has been discussed by everyone, Microsoft included, for some time now, but the revealing of the final design, name and price at E3 drove home that this is a console generation like no other. We sat down with Dave McCarthy, head of Xbox operations, to talk about the upcoming console and the company’s exclusive line-up for the rest of 2017 – and with an Xbox One X positioned casually on the table between us, it’s an obvious place to start. X MARKS THE SPOT We talk about the name first. It’s a good name, but it’s a tricky balancing act between making sure it feels part of the current ‘Xbox One’ generation, while still differentiating it significantly from the current Xbox One S. We even suggest the Scorpio code name was so popular it might just outlast its planned usefulness. “There was a real appeal to going back to our roots as an ‘X’ box team. That original Xbox was founded on a principle of real technical innovation, opening up some new avenues for games developers, and gamers overall. So it didn’t take us long to land on the X name,” McCarthy explains. “It spoke to us, it meant something in our history. So, as a team, we gravitated to the name pretty quickly. But I like Scorpio as a project code name as well.” The new console’s black exterior is certainly reminiscent of the original Xbox – black says powerful and serious to us, far more so than the friendlier finishes of the Xbox 360

or the Xbox One S. We ask whether the colour scheme was planned all the way back to when the One S launched in white. “Were we that purposeful?” McCarthy muses. “At the launch of the original Xbox One, we did a ‘we made this’ white version of the console for our employees. So we had white in mind, it was actually pretty awesome, people like the design of it in their rooms. And obviously putting together the Xbox One S was a pretty special design moment for us. “Did I know that we were going to land back on black specifically? That might be a bit of a stretch, but it was definitely a journey we went on from launch with that special edition. We also did a special edition of the original Xbox One in white that sold very well.” Purposeful or not, it’s a key difference between two products that are separated by only a single letter – and around £200 in price, of course. The Xbox One X being smaller than the S also came as a pleasant surprise, though it doesn’t help tell a visual story, with bigger often being equated with more powerful – something that’s obvious at a glance with the triple-tiered PS4 Pro. “We put the challenge of ‘could you do it even smaller?’ because we got such good feedback on Xbox One S,” McCarthy explains, adding that it did require “some special engineering methods” to achieve, referencing the high-end vapour-cooling system that lets the console hardware run faster than most thought possible. “We have done something surprising this time, to be able to introduce 40 per cent more processing power, and to really be at the forefront of defining what true 4K is. It’s not just eight million pixels – it’s high dynamic range, it’s wide colour gamut, it’s spatial audio. That felt like it was really getting back to our roots overall.”

“Xbox One X really is at the forefront of defining what true 4K is.”

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“Games load faster and look better, frame rate is smoother. This is the magic of the box.” That’s a tickbox list of pretty much everything you could want from a high-end games console. Of course, there will be those who don’t want all that stuff, particularly at that price, but choice is certainly a good thing, and McCarthy agrees. “I think a family of devices is a familiar concept, so I think you start with this premise. You can’t go wrong wherever you want to enter the Xbox family. Your accessories are going to work across the line-up, your games are going to work across the line-up.” We posit that there’s no bad choice, then, just two good choices? “Honestly, I don’t think there is a bad choice. Xbox One S is a great device right now with HDR gaming, 4K video streaming and 4K Blu-ray support. Alongside Xbox One X, it’s the only console that supports 4K Blu-ray.” McCarthy may be bullish about the One S, but the PS4 is widely accepted to be the more powerful console when it comes to the base version of each machine. With the Pro and the X, though, the situation is clearly reversed. “If you really place a premium on true 4K, the power and performance at that price, I can’t think of anything else in the market that comes close to it overall,” says McCarthy, agreeing with our sentiment despite not being drawn into a direct comparison. HANDS ON(E) Of course, he’s one of the few people to have actually spent time with the console: “I’ve had the prototype kit now for a couple of months, and this may sound silly, but I brought it home, unpacked it, pulled the cables out of the S, plugged them into the X, synced my controller and I was literally playing in under five minutes.” No problems there, then. “And it’s no joke, those games load faster, the frame rate is smoother, and a lot of those titles use dynamic resolution, and so they look better, too. I had my son with me, playing side-by-side and he said, ‘how is Battlefield 1 better, how is Halo 5 better?’ This is the magic of the box.” If that box is powerful enough to lengthen the Xbox One generation, could it go on for as long as the Xbox 360 did then? McCarthy remains tight-lipped on such long-term speculation: “I don’t know if I’d speculate on the length of the cycle. We’re going to continue

to listen to our developers and where they’re going with the experiences. That’s what led us to this box.” PC GONE MAD? Traditionally, the most determined gamers have often shifted toward the PC space, either periodically or permanently, in order to play on the best hardware. With Microsoft being the only gaming brand to have a significant footprint on both sides of the divide, we wonder just how much PC gaming informed the Xbox One X? “If you felt as a console gamer that you had to compromise and you looked longingly at that PC space and said, ‘I want those top-end things’ – well, now you can get them,” McCarthy states emphatically. “The way we look at it, choice feels like the right principle right now. There are consumers that really want to balance price against capabilities. But there will always be customers in your segment of gamers that want the best of the best, and I think that up until now the PC space was really the only place they could go to get that. They now have the ability to get that in the console space.” Many gamers have cited higher frame rates, namely 60fps, as a priority over more pixels, but McCarthy believes that’s a decision the studios need to make. “We’re all about the developer choice there overall. Different developers are going to choose to do different things for different game formats. But the good news is that the Xbox One SDK that everyone writes to will be able to handle that variation. You don’t need a unique version for Xbox One X. It’s just going to know if I’m running a One X, will take advantage of it and going to feel like a premium PC experience overall.” We would argue that a ‘premium PC experience’ would include 60fps gameplay, but while McCarthy won’t commit to it across the board, the One X is certainly a step in the right direction: “It’s been very, very straightforward for developers to get stuff up-andrunning in a day or two on Xbox One X. And what’s exciting about that, for us, is that it leaves them the headroom to do what they want, whether that’s to take advantage of a 2,160 frame buffer, or push their frame rate to the absolute max.”

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Pictured right: Head of Xbox Phil Spencer introducing the Xbox One X during Microsoft’s conference at E3. The new console will hit shelves on November 7th

IS HE THE ONE? Strong competition in console hardware has always benefitted the games industry. No one wants to see a single dominant platform, with all the potential abuses of power that such a monopoly might bring, and while the PlayStation 4 has undoubtedly taken the lead in the current generation, there’s no denying that the Xbox One has still sold well overall – putting in numbers that exceed the previous generation of hardware to avoid any such complacency on Sony’s part. With the Xbox One X, Microsoft looks to be utilising its considerable PC gaming know-how in order to produce what looks to be a practically-perfect console upgrade. After the missteps of the early Xbox One days, the confidence it has in its new hardware is palpable by comparison. The price is high and the big question remains about whether Brexit-struck consumers will part with £450 for the new device – but there’s always been a hardcore of consumers who are happy to pay up for the best device, and the Xbox One X is certainly that. THE LINE-UP A console without games is a like a gun without bullets, however, so we also question McCarthy on the line-up Microsoft showcased at E3, which will be key to building up the desirability of the One X.

Pictured left: The Xbox One family now has two truly different consoles for the first time ever

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The graphical posterboy to date has been Forza Motorsport 7 – no great surprise there, as racing games have long been used as tech demos for new hardware. We got to see the game running in 4K and HDR and the results are stunning. “I think that for a racing simulation, like Forza Motorsport 7, it takes it to a whole new level. You [can almost] feel the heat coming off the cars and the weather effects are frighteningly real.” Beyond that, though, Microsoft’s line-up for the next year is one of strength-in-depth. “You saw [that] in the diversity of game types we showed,” McCarthy says. “We showed community games, indie games, triple-A games, games from around the globe. There are all these different types of games for different types of gamers now. It has never been more diverse. “I think that choice is becoming more and more critical to a gamer’s everyday life, because they do flex across these different experiences, and we have to be able to keep up with that,” McCarthy explains, before going on to run down the company’s E3 showing. We ask whether this year’s showcase was primarily designed to appeal as broad an audience as possible. McCarthy replies: “It was a really conscious experience for us to say we want something that speaks to every type of gamer on our stage. And I can’t say we’ve consciously done that every other year before. It was a principle for the briefing overall that we wanted every type of game for every type of gamer. “You noticed that there were fewer speakers on stage this year. We had too many games overall, it would have been a disaster [to have them all up there] and I like the format of Phil being able to tell the story throughout the show,” McCarthy says. “Of those 42 titles we showed, 22 of them are console exclusive, 18 of those are PC titles as well. Your ability with first party titles from Microsoft – and a lot of the ID@Xbox ones, too – to do things like Xbox Play Anywhere where your license roams, right across those devices, is going to apply to whole first-party line-up. Forza MotorSport 7, Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves – they’re all going to do that.” That line-up defines a clear difference between Sony and Microsoft this year, with Microsoft concentrating on

Pictured left, from top to bottom: Battlefield 1, Forza Motorsport 7 and Sea of Thieves will all take advantage of the Xbox One X’s power

“I think that for a racing simulation like Forza Motorsport 7, Xbox One X takes it to a whole new level.” games-as-a-service-type titles with co-operative and community elements, while Sony focuses on single player, narrative-driven titles. The Xbox offering is closely aligned to its PC gaming titles, too, which hasn’t always been the case. We reckon the announcement of the hugely-successful PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds as a console exclusive was the cherry on that particular cake. “I’m so glad you brought that up,” says McCarthy. “I don’t think console players realise how special that game really is, and if you think about Xbox Live and the ability to bring people together, and then exploit the unique capabilities of the world’s most powerful console then that’s a great combo for us,” he enthuses. We agree, saying the game should be as big as Grand Theft Auto in terms of online players, given its Twitch success to date: “For some console gamers, [our E3 showcase] was their first exposure [to the game], and they’re going to be surprised – it’s going to be huge.” BLACK IS BACK So with powerful new hardware on its way later in the year and a game line-up that is radically differentiated from its main competitor – both in terms of release dates and its underlying business model – Xbox looks to have founds its stride again. There’s something distinct about the brand, too, which allows it to differentiate itself from the competition. That’s great news for the industry. Bringing more of these PC-like experiences to more convenient console hardware will undoubtedly expand the console space, and, more importantly, it will do it without cannibalising what Sony, or Nintendo, for that matter, are trying to achieve elsewhere. It’s great to see the company not simply trying to claw back what it lost in the last hardware refresh, but rather strike out in a direction that’s more suited to the company as a whole. As for the next hardware generation, who knows what that will bring – or whether it will ever truly come to an end in the way we’ve become so used to in the past. Whenever and however it happens, Xbox looks to be viewing the future with more optimism than we’ve seen from the company in many years.

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Sony’s missing Link Sony is looking to utilise casual gamers’ familiarity with smartphones as a recruiting tool for multiplayer console gaming. Seth Barton talks to Michael Denny about PlayLink

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Pictured above: Sony’s Michael Denny, senior vice president of Worldwide Studios

hile games consoles have always had a broad appeal, the increasingly complex controllers required for modern 3D games are not for everyone. Because of that PlayStation has long explored numerous other control methods for its consoles – such as EyeToy, Singstar, Buzz!, Wonderbook and Move. PlayLink is the latest step in that proud tradition of innovation. And that’s a great thing. With 60m PS4 consoles sold worldwide, now is the perfect time for the company to try and bring more players into the fold, which is exactly what PlayLink is designed to do – all via the now ubiquitous smartphone. If you just watched Sony’s E3 conference, you wouldn’t have heard anything about PlayLink however, as that show was aimed squarely at, well, the kind of people who watch E3 press conferences. Instead, PlayLink’s appeal

sits at the more casual end of the market, and Sony is hoping to use core PlayStation 4 owners as a gateway to their friends and families. It might have been omitted from the showcase, but Sony was still very keen to promote the technology at E3, with a dedicated lounge area for press demos. In brief, each PlayLink title, of which there are five announced, has an RRP of £20 and is sold like any other PlayStation title – with physical and digital versions. Each game also has its own free-to-download app (for Android and iOS) that accompanies it, allowing multiple players – most titles support up to six – to play the game using their smartphones as controllers. This all works via the home’s Wi-Fi router, although you can connect phones or tablets directly to a PS4-created hotspot if that’s not an option. To further explain the concept behind PlayLink, we talk to Sony’s Michael Denny, senior vice president of Worldwide Studios.

“Smartphones bring accessibility of how to play these games.”

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Pictured right and below: Narrative-driven title Hidden Agenda, developed by Supermassive, is due later this year

PLAYING SMART “Those of us who are passionate about console games, for whom games are a big parts of our lives, also have friends and family who are non-gamers or casual gamers, so could we find experiences that, on certain occasions, join the two together?” Denny posits. “Could we find games that join gamers and non-gamers?” Of course, Sony has a strong history of doing precisely this, and Denny agrees: “Yes, when you look back at the PlayStation 2 era. It’s very similar to that, games like Buzz! for example. What we introduced was a controller, which had broad appeal and was very accessible: the buzzer controller.” For those unfamiliar with Buzz!, it was a quiz game that came with four controllers, each with a big red button to buzz in and four more buttons to answer multiple-choice questions. “That [controller] is similar to all these games, which are controlled by a smartphone, something that everyone knows how to use, whether you’re a gamer or not. That familiarity just helps pull in so many people who might not be console gamers. It brings that knowledge and

Pictured left: That’s You! will be the first PlayLink title to hit shelves on July 4th

accessibility of how to play these games, making it very pick up and play. People come in and they get it straight away – the fun just starts.” A large part of that fun revolves around interactions between the players: “They are all multiplayer experiences, [and are] in the room as well, trying to encourage a bit of banter between the players so that the experience is very different each time, depending on who you are playing with.”

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“Because it’s a new experience we want to get it out there and hopefully benefit from the viral nature of that.” The experiences themselves are varied, too: “At one end of the spectrum, [we have] That’s You!, which is very much an irreverent party game, that puts knowledge about your friends at the heart of it. “Then we’ve got a more traditional quiz game, Knowledge is Power, but with quite a few twists to it in terms of how it plays and clever use of the smartphone device as well. “At the other end of the spectrum, you have Hidden Agenda, a narrative-driven game by Supermassive, who did Until Dawn. When we saw Until Dawn being played, we saw groups of people getting together, despite there only being one controller for the game. The room decided which choice to make. “So, inspired by that, each player gets to vote on which is the right choice to make in that game. There’s an app for each game. These are very feature rich in terms of each game, whether you’re going to use the screen for drawing or whether it’s just a control device. It needs to be tailored to the exact game.” This is a great move, allowing developers far more control over how they use the smartphone and how it interacts with the TV screen. SECOND STAB Of course, we’ve seen plenty of ‘second screen’ mechanics before, with both Sony and Microsoft touting such functionality at the very start of this current console era. These didn’t stick with core console players, though, so what’s changed with PlayLink? “I just had lunch with Caspar [Field] from Wish Studios,” Denny says. “We were recalling how we first started. We had to have a long gestation period. What we didn’t want it to be was just replicas of mobile games. “You had to be able to use the PlayStation and the TV screen as the central part for the game. The prototyping was a massive part of it, to get that balance right, and then how many of the features of the smartphone you can use in an inclusive way for everyone.”

The key here seems to be that the smartphone is core to the experience, the main and only controller, rather than an optional extra, which is often unnecessary. CLICK THE LINK PlayLink may be aimed at casual gamers, then, but it still needs a PS4 to play on. It’s here that Sony is looking at core gamers to guide their friends and family to the experience – it all sounds like a Christmas around the PS4 to us, but the key question remaining is whether the games will mainly sell to non-gamers. “We do expect them to appeal to gamers as well,” Denny replies. “It’s interesting what you say about Christmas, as we see them as being led by occasions as well, where you might have friends and family around, and you may not all necessarily be console gamers as such. To [provide an] experience where your PS4 can come into play, I think gives the gamer real kudos in the use of their PlayStation.” The games will be available way long before the holiday season, though. “That’s You! will launch on the July 4th and be free to PlayStation Plus owners as well [for a period],” explains Denny. “Because it’s a new experience we want to get it out there, get people trying it, and hopefully benefit from the viral nature of that.” At £20 a game, Sony is pitching the price just right. It’s a valid alternative to buying a movie on Blu-ray, a good evening’s worth of fun, and one that potentially provides a lot more replayability. LINKED IN The future of PlayLink is exciting, then, as the pairing of a smartphone and a TV brings to mind numerous potential ideas. We’re also hoping that PlayLink gains enough initial traction to fully explore all of those ideas as well. “That’s the goal,” replies Denny. “We’re announcing five here, and once you’ve played them, you can see how readily the concepts come to mind in terms of the use of the smartphone with the PlayStation 4. We are getting product pitches in already on it. Who knows what will happen, but it would be great if third parties join in as well.” The idea of recognised characters from other publishers is an exciting one – an Assassin’s Creed history-quiz-turned-puzzle-game anyone? – but then that also begs the question why Sony hasn’t thrown its first-party characters into the mix already? “It’s a very good question, and you’ll notice I’m smiling, but we have nothing to announce,” says Denny. PlayLink is looking great – the games are fun and the timing is perfect. It should be big come Christmas, and it might just be huge by 2018.

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14/06/2017 10:01


To be this good takes forever

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ega is relaunching its 1,000 game retro back catalogue on mobile devices for free. The long-sighted and wide-reaching initiative is called Sega Forever. Last week, we’ve seen five initial launches, including the original Sonic the Hedgehog title, with a new game rolling out roughly every two weeks thereafter. Now, retro gaming has been around so long that it’s almost retro itself. Nintendo’s launch of its hugely sought-after Classic Mini NES added a new fervour to

Sega Forever will leverage the company’s huge back catalogue like never before – Seth Barton discusses free-to-play models, user acquisition, Apple TV, Switch and more with Sega Network’s Mike Evans

the sector; though limited stock for that device restricted it to the most dedicated of fans. By comparison, Sega describes its approach as ‘democratic’ and is aiming to reach as wide an audience as possible with its apps. MCV spoke with Mike Evans, chief marketing officer at Sega Networks and the man leading the new initiative. “The vision behind the project is to change the way the world plays, rediscovers and shares classic gaming content,” he says, and his ambitions for Sega Forever go way beyond the primary draw of the company’s firstparty, free-to-play mobile games.

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Pictured left: The original Sonic the Hedgehog title is part of Sega Forever’s launch line-up

“What we’re doing is bringing two decades worth of classic gaming content, for free, back to mobile. Everything as far back as the SG-1000, through the Master System, Mega Drive, Game Gear, Saturn and Dreamcast,” Evans tell us. ‘Free’ is, of course, a highly contentious term when it comes to apps, but Sega’s plan to monetise its content is both transparent and straightforward. “We’ve spent a long time figuring out how to put the right ad model into this,” Evans explains. “We’ve not put any ads into the game experience, just around the game experience, in the wrapper, and they’re not intrusive. Then there’s a single in-app purchase that disables adverts. Ad-free, it’s £1.99. It doesn’t matter which console, so whether it’s Dreamcast or SG-1000, the idea is simplicity, so consumers understand that proposition. “When you click on ‘play’, at that point an ad would fire, which is a skippable ad. The user can choose whether to watch or close it – like a pre-roll [on YouTube]. The user plays the game, as many times as they like, and then when the user saves the game, there’s a video ad you watch and then you can save. “You can play these games offline, on a plane for instance, but if you want to save offline then you’ll need to purchase the game. Otherwise, you’ll need to have an [internet] connection.” ‘APPENING AGAIN Sega has had both standalone apps and collections of retro titles on the App Store and Google Play before, so what’s really changed? Well, all the apps will now be free, ad-supported, and all the games have their own separate apps – with Sega Forever acting as an umbrella brand and service across them all. “We had a lot of success with the Ultimate Sega Collection, but each time we were prescribing which games went in there. And then you go, ‘I like some of these, some of these are OK, but I don’t like this’, as we’ve decided what you play. Here, you decide what you want to play, you set up your own folder, and it changes the way it works.” This means users simply download the apps they want and create their own personalised collection of games on their device. Evans shows us Mega Drive classic Revenge of Shinobi running on his phone. “We’ve integrated some really nice extra features which didn’t exist in the games initially, so high scores and leaderboards, [which are] socially competitive – ideal for mobile. We’ve taken a lot of

“If we can take a certain number of users from this and readily crosspromote them to another game, then we have a way to really start to control that value chain.” time getting the look and feel right, so you can see the pixelation and the Sega font. We’ve taken blue and gold as the key colours.” COMMUNITY PLAY The key question, however, is why Sega’s launching these games as single apps. “First of all, it’s the idea you can create your own folder [of games]. Also, one app can get very, very large, particularly when you’re dealing with Dreamcast titles as well,” says Evans. “The other thing is a network play, so by launching apps individually, I’m able to [better] manipulate the charts, in order to drive traffic and create some visibility. There’s then more chance I can go to Apple or Google and say: ‘Hey, it’s Space Harrier’s anniversary, it’s the anniversary of Dreamcast, can we do a Dreamcast collection?’ The branding of each different app will be related to the console era, too, so if you have a single app, how do you do the branding?” The apps may be separate but they also share certain key features, which allows Sega to cross-promote new games across the service.

Pictured above: Comix Zone, a launch title, is a bit of an oddity, but it’s remembered fondly by many Sega fans

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endorse it. It’s contextual to the game, or it’s across the board – it’s another good way to cross-promote.” NO RF ADAPTOR REQUIRED Playing classic games on a mobile device is a great way to reach lots of people, but onscreen controls aren’t always the best way to play. Thankfully, Evans has plans in this area, too. “What we’re trying to do is use devices people already have. But imagine if you can send the game up into your Apple TV, Android TV or Chromecast. And the latency is good, it’s definitely acceptable to play these games, we’ve done lots of testing. Everything will work, Bluetooth controllers as well, so if you want a d-pad and that console-like experience, you’ve got it. “Later, down the line, because around 95 per cent of these games are in Unity, I can take these to other platforms and do a dedicated TV component as well: Android TV, Facebook, PD desktop, or even something like the Nintendo Switch,” Evans says, revealing the huge possible scope for the new brand. “The next thing I’m sorting is multiplayer. First of all just local multiplayer, which we can accomplish by Wi-Fi – we’re looking at Bluetooth, but probably Wi-Fi. That’s going to follow not too far afterwards.”

Pictured above: Sega’s Mike Evans is persuasively enthusiastic about the potential of the new service

“Externally, we have the community. We’ve hired a couple of people to come onboard from the community to work with us, and so we have this ongoing piece there, then we have cross-promo, so when you launch a game, an interstitial runs, and on Android I can run push notifications, too, though Apple won’t allow that. “Then we have a Segazine, which is basically a community feed, so we can promote high scores and events. We’ve found that people don’t want to necessarily endorse you on social media by following, so instead on here they can watch what’s going on, they can be part of it, they can follow it but they don’t necessarily have to

“By launching apps individually, I’m able to [better] manipulate the charts, in order to drive traffic and create some visibility.”

VIRTUA SAGA We diverge from the business chat for a minute to ask a couple of key questions – will we see direct arcade conversions and, more importantly, is Panzer Dragoon Saga coming? “When it comes to the arcade boards, it’s not where I’m starting. I’d love to see some of that, but I think that would probably be more of a focus as we extend what we’re doing and down the line. With an Apple TV proposition and a subscription model, we can put some of the more long tail niche content on there as well,” he replies, bringing up the possibility of yet further financial models for the service. Evans would also love to see Panzer Dragoon Saga on the service, but getting Saturn and Dreamcast titles running does require a full port, as emulation on a mobile phone just isn’t up to scratch yet. “I spent some time in Japan, and visited the teams that work on the Saturn and the Dreamcast – some of the original guys are still there.” We suggest that some must have made a pained expression when he turned up and started asking about the Saturn’s architecture, even after all these years. “It’s incredibly complex,” he replies. “We looked at emulating that stuff, there are people who have emulated it online, but the challenge we had was that you have translucent pixels, and emulation automates

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the rendering for this stuff. We thought we could get to about 85 per cent quality, but for Sega we need to push it a bit higher. We have an ongoing R&D project to see if it’s something we can do, [but] for now we’re going to pick off some top titles and do some ports.” He adds: “Going forward it’s what makes commercial sense – what do the community want, how does the project unfold?” HAPPY FOREVER AFTER Sega Forever is just the foundation for a far bigger mobile play by Sega, though, which Evans describes via three key pillars. “What we have is the first model, which is to create an audience for what we’re doing, so we’ll monetise off that immediately from the ads. After a bit of time, we’ll really start to understand the audience, and the relative strength of the IPs in terms of downloads, but also we’re running surveys in the games themselves,” says Evans, showing that building an audience and data on what that audience wants is just as important as monetising the apps straight away. “Then the second pillar of the business is creating game experiences that have strong affinity, once we’ve got decent cross-promotion. The reason is that user acquisition is a big challenge in mobile, and everything relies on it – and we will as well. If we can take a certain number of users from this and readily cross-promote them to another game, then we have a way to really start to control that value chain. It creates multiple points of entry, rather than a single point of entry, it’s all these doors and I can optimise each one. “If you are licensing a brand – and lots of people are licensing brands in the mobile space – then it’s quite expensive to pay the MG [Minimum Guarantee payments] and revenue share. “Sega has a lot of very good brands, so we don’t have to pay for a brand. If you do have to pay, [then] you’re going to target the top grossing. So how can we use these brands to try and create a bluer ocean space? My theory is: don’t just compete in the same way as everyone else in the top grossing space – try and find an area you can dominate. “I spent a lot of time thinking: ‘if I was an indie dev and not at Sega, what would I be doing now?’ In some ways the mobile bubble has been a great nine years but it’s kind of reached a bit of a peak. We’re looking to make experiences that have a strong cross-promotional effect, that looks for genres where there’s low brand penetration, enough return for Sega, build a decent base as well, and operate on a slightly different business model. “The third and final pillar is top grossing. I haven’t forgotten it, but I don’t want to have many, many bets on all different places. I want to focus, take some of

learnings from the [initial] audience and build some experiences for that audience as well, hopefully cross-promote some people in and then do some user acquisition.” Sega isn’t just using its back catalogue to make revenue, then, but neither is it a Trojan horse to pull consumers into something more profitable. Instead, each pillar supports the next, being both profitable in itself but also allowing the company to leverage further experiences off the base it builds. NEVER ENDING STORY? Evans is obviously excited by the launch of a project that’s been over a year in the making: “For us it’s a big celebration of Sega, and [the] guys who have created some amazing content, as well as a celebration of nostalgia, which is bigger than Sega. “There’s going to be people who are very core, but now they can play it on the move. Then you’ve got people who have grown up with it but aren’t ‘gamers’, who would love to play this content but don’t want to play £4.99 for it, so this model democratises what we’re doing. “I hope it proves Sega is thinking differently and thinking about how we can take content to where our consumers are and grow the brands as well. We’ve got lots of ideas, and there’s lots of scope to expand what we’re doing, both [thanks to] the business model we have and the middleware of Unity we’re using.” It’s certainly a persuasive argument and should Sega’s IP prove to be strong enough, then Sega Forever could really be around for as long as its name suggests – or at least the forty-odd years it would take the company to get through those 1,000 first party releases.

Pictured above: Phantasy Star II is a launch title, along with the original Sonic, Comix Zone, Kid Chameleon and Altered Beast – which makes for a Mega Drive dominated launch line-up

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Crash Bandicoot’s N. Sane history CRASH BANDICOOT’S development and publishing history is probably one of the most intricate stories in the entire industry, with the franchise changing masters several times in the past decade alone. Originally a Naughty Dog creation, Crash Bandicoot was conceived under Universal Interactive (Universal Studios’ game division) after the company signed deals with both Spyro’s creator Insomniac Games and Naughty Dog. Mark Cerny was then VP of Universal Interactive and he oversaw the development as executive producer. Sony ended up signing an exclusive publishing deal, while Universal Interactive remained the owner of the IP rights.

But Universal Interactive was then sold to Seagram as part of its entertainment division, which itself ended up being sold to Vivendi in 2000. Sony’s exclusive publishing deal also came to an end at that time. Under Vivendi’s banner, Universal Interactive was merged with Sierra Entertainment and renamed Vivendi Universal Games, with Sierra acting as a subsidiary and becoming Crash’s new home. In 2007, Vivendi merged with Activision and Sierra moved under the control of Activision Blizzard, which later became independent after acquiring enough shares. Activision Blizzard then moved the Crash Bandicoot IP from Sierra Entertainment to Activision the same year.

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Teaching an old coot new tricks

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The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy hits shelves today, which gives Marie Dealessandri the perfect opportunity to look back at the franchise’s hectic history and chat with developer Vicarious Visions about what we should expect from the triple remaster

ollowing up on a fan favourite franchise after a seven years hiatus is never an easy task. But imagine the pressure when the main character of that series has been a key (unofficial) PlayStation mascot for the past two decades. With 18 games over the span of 14 years, Naughty Dog creation Crash Bandicoot started its journey as a PlayStation exclusive and helped define both the platform and the platform holder. However, ever since Sony’s exclusive publishing deal ended in 2001, Crash Bandicoot has been a free agent, appearing on multiple platforms and riding something of an ownership rollercoaster (see Crash Bandicoot N. Sane history, left, for more on this labyrinthine publishing saga). Despite this, the franchise and its main character still feel like they very much belong at home on Sony’s console. It’s fitting, then, that today’s release of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a PS4 exclusive. The series may now sit as part of Activision’s roster, but this collection of remasters bring together the first three iconic Naughty Dog-developed games of the franchise: 1996’s Crash Bandicoot, 1997’s Cortex Strikes Back and 1998’s Warped. For Crash Bandicoot’s comeback, Activision chose to put its trust in in-house developer Vicarious Visions. While today it might be better known for its work on Skylanders, the studio’s past is littered with Crash Bandicoot titles, including 2002’s Crash Bandicoot XS, 2003’s Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced, 2005’s Crash Bandicoot Fusion on Game Boy Advance and 2003’s multiplatform title Crash Nitro Kart. However, even with so much experience under its belt, the team was keenly aware of players’ high expectations when it comes to the return of everyone’s favourite marsupial, as executive producer Nicolas Ruepp explains.

“Many of the developers here at Vicarious Visions are fans themselves, and we’re a pretty self-critical bunch,” he says. “We went into this development with eyes wide open and are fully aware that the stakes were high. The team used this as fuel, and it motivated them to create the most amazing game that they could. We have been heartened by the overwhelmingly positive fan response to those efforts thus far.” With the N. Sane Trilogy, though, the biggest challenge wasn’t just pleasing long-time fans, but also enticing new players to the franchise. Of course, resurrecting old franchises has been a growing trend in the games industry for a number of years now, with titles such as 2016’s Ratchet & Clank and the more recently released Yooka-Laylee, but there’s still no guarantee that they’ll actually appeal to modernday gamers. “The team took great care to preserve the feel of the original experience, while making improvements to ensure accessibility for new players as well,” Ruepp says. “At its core, the Crash gameplay withstands the test of time and is more fun than ever to play. “While we stayed faithful to the original games, the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy has been enhanced in every way. Some notable

“Crash withstands the test of time and is more fun to play than ever.”

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Pictured above: Vicarious Visions’ Nicolas Ruepp

improvements are a unified save game, time trials throughout all three games [via online leaderboards], and analog stick support.“ Of course, Vicarious Visions also made sure the game was revamped to meet PS4 standards, with brand new lighting, animations, environments and recreated cinematics, all of which support 4K and the PS4 Pro. The soundtrack has been fully remastered as well, and original voice actors including Jess Harnell and Lex Lang will be returning, too. “We also added brand new functionality such as making [Crash’s younger sister] Coco playable throughout all three games,” Ruepp adds, which was only revealed over the course of E3. This came as something of a surprise for fans of the series, but Ruepp says it was received enthusiastically by the community.

“We knew immediately that we had to provide players with the same opportunity to experience Coco in all three games.” “The team really wanted to provide something extra special that they knew both fans and new players would love to experience,” he explains. “The idea actually came up early in development, and gained momentum when a few developers created a basic prototype version of playable Coco during a studio game jam. “We knew immediately that we had to provide players the same opportunity to experience Coco throughout all three games in the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.” Though long standing fans of the series would have probably loved to see the trilogy developed by original creator Naughty Dog, it seems like Vicarious Visions has done a great job of remaining faithful to the originals. It even received Naughty Dog’s blessing in the processs – something Ruepp says he’s “thrilled with” – with president Evan Wells recently saying: “Vicarious Visions took amazing care in maintaining the feel and soul of the originals, but brought the visuals up to modern day standards and added a number of new features that’s made them even more fun to play than remembered.” Coming from the much-heralded originators of Crash, whose games have arguably defined significant parts of what the PlayStation brand stands for today, that’s a pretty big endorsement – which will definitely play in N. Sane Trilogy’s favour.

Don’t smash the statue TO celebrate the release of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Activision partnered with Numskull to bring a brand-new merchandise range to retail, as we already discussed in our previous issue. However, it’s not the only firm to launch tie-in items, as high-end figures manufacturer First 4 Figures has also been hard a work on various Crash statues. Partnering with Activision, First 4 Figures just unveiled two figures that are now available to pre-order, with

an estimated release date in August (distributed by Heo in the UK). The exclusive 9” PVC Painted Crash statue will set consumers back $89.99 (£70) and will include a collector’s box, a premium crate-shaped deluxe box, an authentication card, and a leaflet (as well as the hand-painted limited edition statue, of course). There’s also a ‘regular’ version launching, which only includes the leaflet and the collector’s box, which will launch at retail between $59.99 - $69.99 (£47-£55).

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Layton’s mobile journey Professor Layton is back, but not as you know it. Katharine Byrne chats with Level-5 Abby’s Lucy Pozniak to find out what’s new with Layton’s Mystery Journey, and how the series’ jump to mobile could be the making of the franchise

L

evel-5 hit big with Professor Layton back in the late 2000s. Its titular gentleman puzzle solver was one of the early success stories on the Nintendo DS, and it wasn’t long before a string of sequels, a film and even a crossover game with Capcom’s Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright, followed in its wake. Yet despite more than 16m unit sales worldwide, the Layton series has been on something of a puzzle sabbatical for the last four years, leaving many wondering whether Level-5’s British brain-box would ever make another appearance on a Nintendo handheld. You’ll be pleased to hear, then, that Layton is finally making its long overdue comeback later this year with Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy. Only this time there’s an all-new

protagonist and a host of extra platforms in the mix, as Layton’s Mystery Journey will be launching on iOS and Android in July, with a 3DS release following later in the autumn. “We have a new hero, [Layton’s daughter] Katrielle, who’s opening up her detective agency,” Level-5 Abby’s director of games marketing Lucy Pozniak tells MCV. “In addition, whereas previous titles have had bigger, more overarching story puzzles or a main mystery to solve, this one is broken into 12 chapters and it’s about solving different mysteries within those chapters.” That might sound like a small change on paper, but with Pozniak going on to mention “certain in-app purchases” for mobile users and a “fuller package” for 3DS owners, it suggests this particular branch of the Layton family tree

“Mobile gives us an opportunity now to really reach out to a mass audience.”

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Pictured left: Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy will also release on mobile for the first time

has been developed with a much more modern, mass audience in mind than its console-bound predecessors. This presents a number of opportunities for Level-5, not least the chance to broaden Layton’s appeal beyond its core Nintendo heartland, which will be crucial after such a long hiatus. Pozniak wouldn’t be drawn on exact pricing for the mobile version, but provided it’s done right, it could propel the series to even greater heights across the globe, putting it in the same superstar bracket (at least in Japan) as Level-5’s other key franchises, Inazuma Eleven and Yo-kai Watch. Despite its move to mobile, though, Pozniak’s keenly aware that there are still plenty of 3DS owners out there who have been waiting patiently for Layton’s next instalment. These fans, she assures us, won’t be disappointed. “Whether you play it on Android, iOS or 3DS, it doesn’t matter, you’re going to have the same experience,” she explains. “What we’ve done is that we’ve made sure there’s absolutely no disparity between the players, so everyone is getting the same content and the same story. Even with pricing and everything else, we’re very confident about how the fans will perceive it. “We’re not just going to go with mobile like everyone else has gone with mobile and leave the 3DS or the console player behind. The key for us is to make sure we have the same integrity, the same kind of fan experience across all platforms. Mobile just gives us an opportunity now to really reach out to a bigger mass audience, because [before] we were limited to a very [particular kind of ] DS or 3DS title. So now we have the opportunity to talk to more people and find out what really works best for each platform.” Pozniak is also hoping that the game’s new protagonist Katrielle will be another big draw for new players to the series. “Kat’s a fun character. She’s smart and intelligent and witty and funny, so she’s engaging on an intellectual level, but she also has a tomboy side and she’s down with getting her hands dirty, discovering a mystery and getting into a fight, or whatever it might be. I don’t think there’s any part of her that makes it a barrier for men to play or for women to play. “She’s a great conduit between multiple ages and genders and everything in between, so we’re very excited for her to be the hero of this game. It’s a nice way to reinvent the title and keep it relevant and current, and instil that intelligence is important. Muscles are great, but at the end of the day, she gets it done without beating somebody up.”

“Whether you play Layton on Android, iOS or 3DS, you’re going to have the same experience.” Despite the changes afoot, then, it’s clear the Layton legacy is alive and well in this newest addition to the franchise, but don’t expect either of Level-5’s puzzling pair to appear on the Nintendo Switch just yet. “We’ve looked at [Switch],” Pozniak explains. “There are some challenges that we fully understand at this time. One of the things we understand is that the Switch has a portability factor, which is really good for this title. However, the challenge for us is the fact that once you dock your system it’s no longer a handheld, so it’s just understanding that [particular issue]. “In addition, we know there are so many 3DS owners who have played Layton previously, so we want to make sure those people who already have devices in their hands have something to play. So specifically the design at this time is for 3DS, so those players can play some more, and for new players who don’t have a 3DS system, that’s why we’ve co-developed for smartphones, so they can jump on this time. But in the future, we’re definitely looking into adapting for the Switch. We love the Switch and we’re trying to put as much on there as we can, but right now, this title is for 3DS and smart devices only.”

Pictured below: Layton’s new main character, Kat, was a way to “reinvent the title and keep it relevant,” Level-5 says

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New school of Originally released back in 2001, South Korean horror title White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is finally heading to European retail on August 4th courtesy of PQube. Katharine Byrne talks to product manager Matthew Pellett about this cult-classic For those unfamiliar with White Day, how would you describe the game? White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a full remake of the classic first-person survival horror game released in South Korea in 2001. It quickly went on to be something of an underground fan favourite for those gamers who sought it out and translated it for other territories to enjoy. Originally created before the genre began to embrace action over scares, it’s a defiantly old-school horror game set inside a haunted Korean school. Expect resource-based save points using pens and school notice boards – similar to the ink/typewriters of Resident Evil – and limited health replenishment items. There are no weapons, so players need to stealth past the killer janitors who patrol the hallways… and run and hide from them if they get spotted.

When it first came out in 2001, what did White Day do differently compared with other horror games? Though games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Outlast and Resident Evil VII: Biohazard have now established first-person viewpoints for horror games, back in 2001 White Day’s camera was quite unique for the genre. Stealth plays a bigger role in progression than in most other horrors, though some of White Day’s bigger monsters can be vanquished by solving some of the game’s trickier puzzles. One of the biggest departures from a lot of other horror titles, however, is White Day’s adventure gaming DNA. You’ll have the opportunity through branching dialogue options to build – or destroy – relationships with some of your new classmates and your actions and dialogue choices shape the story’s path and ultimately help dictate

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which of the nine endings you’ll receive. There are also swathes of secrets and collectibles to unlock, including 20 ghost stories. These tell the gruesome ends of some of the building’s victims, and they may lead you towards hidden hauntings. Finding these stories and, crucially, working out how to meet the ghosts themselves is hugely entertaining, with your results logged in the main menu almost like a paranormal Pokedex. It sounds quite feature packed for a horror game – does this make it harder to market? Harder to pigeon-hole, maybe, but not harder to market. A wider range of features enables us to talk with different groups of gamers across different territories. Gamers want fresh experiences, and White Day’s mix of ideas and experiences sets it apart from other titles currently available. We’re seeing a lot on interest from all over the world as a result, not just from horror fans but also the vast European adventure gaming community. What improvements have been made to this new version? This is a remake rather than a remaster, so while the base adventure is taken from the 2001 classic, the visuals and audio are all new, and many features, from puzzles to hauntings to endings, have been reimagined or created for this version. There’s even an entirely new character and storyline specially crafted for this PS4 and PC release to ensure that even returning players will have new things to uncover and more mysteries to unravel. We’ve also got a wide range of language options – we’re well aware that the only thing holding back the original from global recognition was its Korean-only release, so we’re delighted to include both Korean and English audio tracks and subtitle options for French, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian and both Simplified and Traditional Chinese. Japanese horror games are well-established in the UK thanks to the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill – why haven’t Korean games gained the same kind of traction? Japan’s role in the genesis of gaming’s popularity and, again, with the surge of the survival horror genre in the ‘90s shouldn’t be underestimated. The Korean development scene isn’t as vast or as well supported as that of Japan and there simply haven’t been the numbers of games, or the opportunities for them to shine, to allow Korean titles to gain wider appreciation. But the territory is a real hotbed of development talent and independent games such as White Day, which really broke new

ground when first released, show why more attention should be paid to the scene. With Korean culture gradually becoming more prevalent in the UK, will we see more Korean titles come to retail? We certainly hope so, and not just Korean titles, either. Here at PQube we pride ourselves on introducing new experiences to western audiences. Sure, we’re best known for our work with Japanese studios, but we’re hugely invested in seeking out the best titles from across the whole of Asia. As for White Day itself, we definitely hope its success can help ensure more Korean titles get worldwide coverage. The developer has some hugely exciting plans for the future, including an entry in the series that will be coming to PlayStation VR. Resident Evil VII: Biohazard did tremendously well on PS VR, and the hunger is there for more great horror series to embrace virtual reality for unprecedented thrills and shocks.

“South Korea is a real hotbed of development talent and indie games such as White Day show why more attention should be paid to the scene.” July 30 MCV 920 | 37

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Secure your tickets now! gamescom-cologne.com International Business Media Services 42 Christchurch Road Ringwood BH24 1DN | United Kingdom Tel. +44 1425 48 68 30 | Fax +44 1425 48 68 31 info@koelnmesse.co.uk

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gaming merchandise uk

MARGIN MAKERS:

AMIIBO

Nintendo announced a wealth of new Amiibo figures at E3, all launching later this year. Marie Dealessandri rounds up all the latest reveals

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Announced alongside The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s at , the miibo figures of the title’s four champions will be available this holiday season. Nintendo said they will be sold as a fourpack, but we expect them to be sold separately as well at some point. It’s not yet clear what content Daruk, Revali, Mipha and Urbosa will unlock, though, or whether they will be compatible with other games.

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Super Mario Odyssey E3’s Super Mario Odyssey trailer got the whole industry really hyped. At the same time, Nintendo also announced these three tie in miibo figures Mario, each and owser in wedding outfits, as the plot of the game is Mario trying to prevent Bowser and Peach getting married. They will be launching alongside the game on October 27th.

Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions These two new miibo figures in the Super Mario series were revealed alongside upcoming 3DS title Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions. This remake of the Game Boy Advance classic, originally from 2003, will also include updated content including the Minion Quest: The Search for Bowser mode, telling the story from Bowser’s minions’ perspective. The Koopa Troopa and Goomba miibo figures don’t have a release date yet, but are likely to hit shelves alongside the game on October 6th.

Fire Emblem Warriors

Metroid: Samus Returns

Koei Tecmo’s Fire Emblem Warriors will land on the Switch this autumn, with a 3DS version due at the same time. Despite being announced back in January, Nintendo revealed at E3 that two new miibo figures will also be releasing alongside the hack-and-slash title: Chrom and Tiki.

Metroid is making its much-awaited comeback on September 15th, in the form of a 3DS remake of 1991’s Game Boy title Metroid II: The Return of Samus. The new title, Metroid: Samus Returns, will be co-developed by Nintendo and Castlevania: Mirror of Fate developer MercurySteam. Two new miibo figures are also due to release on the same date, featuring Samus Aran and a squishy Metroid.

Amiibo SRP: From £10.99

Manufacturer: Nintendo

Distributor: Open

Contact: 01753 483700

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biggamereleases

Release date:

11/07

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age Developer: Square Enix • Publisher: Square Enix • Distributor: Koch Media • Platform(s): PS4 • Price: £34.99

The Zodiac Age aims to be "more beautiful and easier to play than ever."

The publisher says...

The press say...

How well will it do?

Announced at E3 2016, Final Fantasy XII's HD remaster is hitting shelves in less than two weeks, ten years after the original game. Square Enix promised it'll be "more beautiful and easier to play than ever." For the first time, western players will be able to experience the Zodiac Job System, introduced in the Japanese version of the original title. Among other changes, players will be able to switch between the original and remastered versions of the soundtrack. The game has also been fully modernised for the PS4, as it now features trophy support, auto-save and faster loading times. n

Back in 2006, Final Fantasy XII launched to critical acclaim, reaching a score of 92 on Metacritic, and was praised for introducing innovations to the series. Back then, IGN said the game was "a grand, epic, beautiful achievement that has the cojones to build on, not just rely on, what this series has been doing for years." Ten years later, IGN's Zachary Ryan wrote in his preview that The Zodiac Age is a "testament to good art direction." He added it "aims to be a triumphant return to Ivalice. Square Enix has gone to great lengths to address some of fan’s biggest issues with the original release and hopefully this remaster changes some tunes." n

Final Fantasy XII isn't among the franchise's best sellers, but it's still shifted over 6m copies worldwide to date and was the fourth best-selling PS2 game of 2006. It also briefly became the fastest-selling game in the series back in February 2007, when it debuted in the UK. However, there's been a lot of activity around the Final Fantasy franchise compared to recent years, including the launch of Final Fantasy XV and its ongoing DLC support, so whether fans will have enough time for The Zodiac Age remains to be seen. That said, Final Fantasy has a very dedicated fanbase, and we think fans of the original are likely to buy it again. n

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biggamereleases

Digital releases The pick of the crop from upcoming digital downloads

Breath of the Wild: Master Trials

11 07

Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo Platforms: NS, Wii U Price: £14.99 Release date: June 30th

Little Nightmares: Secrets of the Maw Developer: Tarsier Studios Publisher: Bandai Namco Platforms: PS4, XO, PC Price: £7.99 Release date: July 11th

11 07

The first chapter in the threepart expansion for Little Nightmares is releasing on July 11th. In The Depths, players will explore a flooded basement. The second machine-themed section launches this November, while the third episode, due in January, will "decide the fate of The Runaway Kid."

11 07

Black the Fall

Developer: Sand Sailor Studio Publisher: Square Enix Platforms: PS4, XO, PC Price: TBC Release date: July 11th

This beautiful stealth-platformer by Romanian developer Sand Sailor Studio started as an art project wishing to "express rebellion against the mechanisms of a heavily corrupted system, rooted in the decades of communism Romania has endured." It was then picked up by the Square Enix Collective.

30 06

Minecraft: Story Mode - Season 2

The first expansion for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is releasing today. Master Trials sees the player trying to defeat 45 rooms in order to retain the Master Sword's power at all times. There's also a new Hero's Path mode, tracking your every move, a Hard Mode and new equipment.

The first episode of Minecraft's second season, Hero in Residence, releases on July 11th, with the whole season already available to pre-order digitally. Like the first season, it will feature five episodes (without the post-launch DLC) and a boxed release is planned for this autumn as well.

Fable Fortune

Developer: Flaming Fowl Studios, Mediatonic Publisher: Mediatonic Platforms: XO, PC Price: £9.99 Release date: July 11th

11 07

Flaming Fowl Studios' Fable Fortune is finally coming out this July despite its unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign last year. Created by former Lionhead devs, the collectible card game will become free-to-play later this year but players wishing to have early access can buy the Founder's Pack for £9.99.

Developer: Telltale Games, Mojang Publisher: Telltale Games, Mojang Platforms: PS4, XO, PC Price: £18.99 Release date: July 11th

12 07

The End is Nigh

Developer & Publisher: Edmund McMillen, Tyler Glaiel Platforms: PC Price: £10.99 Release date: July 12th

Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen and Closure developer Tyler Glaiel have teamed up to bring The End is Nigh to Steam this July. A PS4 and Switch version are due to release later this year, courtesy of Nicalis. With over 600 levels to complete, players should expect to die a lot.

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Valkyria Revolution biggamereleases Release date: 30/06

Release date: 14/07

Valkyria Revolution

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+

Developer: Sega Publisher: Deep Silver Distributor: Koch Media Platform(s): PS4, XO Price: ÂŁ29.99

Developer: Edmund McMillen, Florian Hims, Nicalis Publisher: Merge Games Distributor: Advantage Platform(s): NS Price: ÂŁ39.99 Valkyria Revolution features both turn-based and realtime combat

Known in Japan as Valkyria: Azure Revolution, this spin-off to Valkyria Chronicles arrives in Europe today. Now called Valkyria Revolution, it's sold with its soundtrack, composed by Yasunori Mitsuda. The title is also releasing as a digital-only title on PlayStation Vita. Inspired by the European industrial revolution, the title features a new hybrid battle system, with both turnbased and real-time combat, a change from previous entries in the Valkyria universe.

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ features over 6,000 rooms

Edmund McMillen and Florian Hims' roguelike hit The Binding of Isaac is finally coming to the Switch in the UK, thanks to a partnership between Nicalis and Merge Games. It will hit shelves in its Afterbirth+ version, which is the definitive edition of the game that includes the two expansions, mod support and items, characters and endings that were not featured in the original title back in 2011. Afterbirth+ includes over 500 items, 50 bosses and 6,000 rooms.

Release schedule Title

Format

Genre

Publisher

Telephone

Distributor

June 30th Aerea Collector's Edition Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Micro Machines: World Series Rising Storm 2: Vietnam The Golf Club 2 Valkyria Revolution

PS4, XO, PC PS4 PS4, XO, PC PC PS4, XO PS4, XO

RPG Platformer Racing FPS Sports RPG

Soedesco Activision Codemasters Iceberg Interactive Maximum Games Deep Silver

01902 861 527 01216 253 388 01256 385 200 01902 861 527 01480 359 403 01256 385 200

Pavilion CentreSoft Koch Media Pavilion Open Koch Media

July 5th That's You

PS4

Quiz

Sony

01216 253 388

CentreSoft

July 7th Accel World Vs Sword Art Online

PS4

RPG

Bandai Namco

0121 506 9585

Advantage

July 11th Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

PS4

RPG

Square Enix

01256 385 200

Koch Media

July 14th Don't Starve Mega Pack Oriental Empires The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+

PS4, XO PC NS

Survival Simulation Roguelike

505 Games 0121 506 9585 Iceberg Interactive 01902 861 527 Merge Games 0121 506 9585

Advantage Pavilion Advantage

July 18th Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

PS4

Adventure

Merge Games

Advantage

0121 506 9585

June 30 MCV 920 | 45

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chartanalysis

Calm before the storm

A quiet week at retail benefited the usual sellers, while renewed stock boosted Switch titles

F

or the 13th time since launch almost four years ago, Grand Theft Auto V is back at the top of the UK weekly charts, despite sales decreasing ten per cent week-on-week. Rockstar’s hit now joins Zumba Fitness in claiming the third most weeks at No.1. GTA V was already at No.3 the week before, but a quiet week at retail with very few games releasing benefitted the title greatly. Of those new releases last week, none of them made it to the Top Ten. 505 Games’ console port of Dead by Daylight debuted at No.16, while Final Fantasy XIV’s new expansion, Stormblood, made it to No.23 for its

The week was quite muted at retail, with unit sales down 20 per cent week-on-week, while revenue declined 22 per cent to £4.7m. first week at retail. Square Enix’s title sold well on PS4 and PC, with 58 per cent of the copies going to Sony’s machine and 42 per cent to PC. This surprisingly good performance on PC had a knock on effect on the week’s overall physical PC sales, too, as it was up 23 per cent in value week-on-week. Meanwhile, Nintendo’s action RPG Ever Oasis debuted at No.28 and, being the only 3DS title in the Top 40, increased the 3DS’ unit sales by 21 per cent week-on-week in revenue. Nintendo also enjoyed good sales on Switch with two titles in the Top Ten, despite sales being 24 per cent down in value weekon-week. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe made it to No.5 thanks to a 45 per cent boost in sales (due to a renewed stock), but Arms saw its sales plummet by 64 per cent for its second week in the charts, falling from No.2 to No.7. Meanwhile, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of Wild’s sales were up 68 per cent last week, allowing the title to jump from No.22 to No.12, also due to renewed stock. Elsewhere in the Top Ten, Dirt 4 reached No.2, its highest position since launch on June 9th, despite sales decreasing 49 per cent. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands also made a strong comeback due to retailer promotions, jumping from No.14 to No.4 with a 31 per cent increase in sales. Horizon Zero Dawn, which made it to No.1 the week before following a price cut, also returned to full

UK WEEKLY PHYSICAL CHART TOP 10 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10

Title

Format

Publisher

Grand Theft Auto V Dirt 4 FIFA 17 Ghost Recon Wildlands Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Overwatch Arms Horizon Zero Dawn Forza Horizon 3 Tekken 7

PS4, XO, PS3, 360 PS4, XO, PC PS4, XO, PS3, 360 PS4, XO NS PS4, XO, PC NS PS4 XO PS4, XO, PC

Rockstar Codemasters EA Ubisoft Nintendo Activision Blizzard Nintendo Sony Microsoft Bandai Namco

Source: Ukie/GfK, Period: Week ending June 24th

price last week, which saw it drop to No.8 after sales declined 75 per cent week-on-week. Overall, the week was quite muted for UK retailers, with unit sales down 20 per cent week-on-week (with 171,389 copies shifted), while revenue declined 22 per cent, sinking to £4.7m. Year-on-year, the market is down 7.6 per cent in units and 8.6 per cent in value. The market should get back on track in the coming months, though, as there’s a surprisingly busy summer period ahead. Nintendo in particular should benefit from a few weeks in the sun with Splatoon 2 launching on July 21st, followed by various 3DS releases such as Hey, Pikmin! and Miitopia, launching alongside the New Nintendo 2DS XL on July 28th. August will then see the release of a few highlyawaited titles that are sure to boost retail sales, such as Sega’s Sonic Mania, Sony’s Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and, of course, Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.

Dirt 4 reached its highest position since launch last week

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endgame

This week, we warped to the world of Stormblood and hundreds of developers game-jammed across the country

Taking London by storm

To celebrate the launch of Final Fantasy XIV’s new Stormblood expansion, Square Enix commissioned a piece of artwork by artists 3D Joe and Max to appear on London’s Southbank. Commuters and cosplayers alike were able to step into the piece and have their picture taken as they peered into Stormblood’s fantastical Ala Mhigo landscape. Square Enix’s Zoher Toutanji commented: “The illusion was fantastic and we hope that it made the public’s journey to work that bit more interesting and really showcases the vibrant gaming culture that exists in the UK.”

Jam session Jamchester, the UK’s biggest game jam for professionals, returned to Manchester for its second year last weekend, attracting over 200 developers for three days of intense game creation. This year’s theme for the brainchild of Gameopolis and HAC100 was ‘Shape the Future’ and judges from Sony, Unity, Supermassive and more were on hand to choose the best titles across eight different categories. The event was also sponsored by Google Cloud Platform, Unity, Amiqus and Studio Venues, and all ticket proceeds went to SpecialEffect.

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Pointing the way

The Future Experience Points (FXP) Festival took place last weekend, which saw over 100 school and college students gather at Cambridge’s Regional College for three days of talks, workshops, mentoring and a two-day game jam. Linked to the computer science curriculum, the festival is supported by major players in the creative digital industry, including Unity, Amazon, Rizing Games, Microsoft and Jagex, and has been designed to give young people an insight into hands-on game development and the types of careers available in the industry.

thedraft industry appointments

MyM Magazine has appointed JAMES PICKARD as games editor. “I’ve been a freelancer with MyM Magazine since the first issue so I’m thrilled to take on the role of games editor. We’ve somehow survived 63 issues in the era of ‘Print is Dead’, so let’s hope I don’t come in and mess it all up.”

GLEN DRURY has joined the board of Conspexit, a new startup aiming to change the lives of the blind and visually impaired through technology. Drury was formerly COO of Blippar and regional VP of Yahoo. Conspexit CEO and CTO Eirik Moseng said he was “thrilled to have Glen contributing his considerable tech business nous,” while Drury added he had “great admiration” for the company’s “grand endeavour.”

Dream ticket

Dreamhack, the world’s largest digital festival, took place earlier this month, which saw thousands of gamers travel to Sweden to take part in a weekend of eSports and LAN competitions. In addition to daily tournaments, fans were also able to meet and greet with dozens of YouTube stars, as well as take part in the Dreamhack World Cosplay Championship.

Mobile studio Hutch has hired RACHAEL EDWARDS (above) as producer and CORENTIN DELPRAT (below) as senior designer. Edwards previously worked at Codemasters and Natural Motion, while Delprat has led teams of designers at Gameloft, Social Point and Square Enix.

Videogamer has hired CHRIS HALLAM (above as staff writer. A newcomer to games media, Hallam will mainly be concentrating on news writing, with editor Alice Bell saying that “his gaming knowledge is very extensive.” She added in the announcement: “We’re very happy to have Chris, and are excited for all the fun cool stuff we can do in the future.

July 30 MCV 920 | 49

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Uni Sans SemiBold

endgame game

Who’s who? Seth Barton Editor sbarton@nbmedia.com

Talk of the town SpecialEffect launched its Twin Town car rally event at Blenheim Palace last week, which will see 100 cars worth £500 head to France in a Top Gear-style challenge over the May spring bank holiday next year. Over 50 teams have already signed up to take part, and more information about registering a team can be found at www.twintown.org.uk. To kick off the launch party in style, SpecialEffect enlisted the support of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke (pictured) and England players Phil Jagielka, Robbie Flower and Andy Cole.

Katharine Byrne News Editor kbyrne@nbmedia.com Marie Dealessandri Staff Writer mdealessandri@nbmedia.com Sam Richwood Designer srichwood@nbmedia.com James Marinos Production Executive jmarinos@nbmedia.com Sophia Jaques Games Sales Manager sjaques@nbmedia.com Charlie Gibbon Account Manager cgibbon@nbmedia.com Caroline Hicks Events Director chicks@nbmedia.com Mark Burton Managing Director mburton@nbmedia.com

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Grand Theft Auto V now has the same number of UK No.1s as Zumba Fitness

Games hardware sales were up 7 per cent year-onyear last month, generating a total of $147m, says NPD

According to SuperData, the total digital revenue from the global games software market grew by 9 per cent in May 2017

The amount of revenue Newzoo expects the global games market to generate in 2017

Steam hit PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has hit 4m sales

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