Page 1

MCV 928 THE FUTURE OF GAMING ISSUE

STAR CITIZEN:

FACING THE FUTURE 27.10.17

01 MCV927 Cover_V5.indd 1

23/10/2017 17:22


MAKE SOMETHING UNREAL with the most powerful creation engine.

Everything is Included to Build and Ship The Unreal Engine is a full product suite that comes production ready out of the box without the need for additional plugins or purchases. Any Project, Any Size Break free from barriers with tools and workflows that put you in control. Whether your team is made up of five or 500 developers, Unreal’s pre-built, modular systems, customisable plugins and Un source control integration empower you to meet each project’s unique needs.

Download for free at www.unrealengine.com

Untitled-1 1

10/23/2017 2:36:41 PM


The future of gaming issue

27/10/17

10

Augmented future

Can AR thrive where VR has stalled? Kuju, Climax and Dream Reality Interactive give their verdict

Features

Talking about Star Citizen

18

We talk to Star Citizen’s Chris Roberts about communication, community and more

Of Mice and Men

22

Polyarc tells us why storydriven VR titles like Moss are the future of the platform

Staying grounded

30

PlayerUnknown himself on PUBG’s success and the upcoming Xbox version

Page 5 The Editor • Page 6 On the Radar • Page 8 Opinions from the industry • Page 38 Margin Makers • Page 40 Sales analysis • Page 42 Big releases • Page 48 End Game – community and events October 27 MCV 928 | 03

03_MCV928 Contents_V4.indd 1

25/10/2017 17:24


“I can’t see much difference between loot crates and Panini sticker books”

TheEditor Hitting the lootpot The entire MCV team has been hard at work for months now opening innumerable loot crates, and while we thought it might never happen, that exact website that we really wanted finally popped out of one. So this week we launched the all new MCV site. The website is another big step in bringing the the brand up-to-date. It’s fully responsive, so you’ll be able to read the latest games industry news on your mobile as easily as on your desktop PC or on the printed page. The site is part of a year-long strategy to update the brand. We hope you’re enjoying the fortnightly magazine redesign, and our daily newsletter went responsive earlier in the year as well (sign up via the website if you haven’t already). In addition to all that, we have a revamped lineup of events, including the bigger, better Future Games Summit this week. And if you’re reading this article at the event itself, I’m actually standing over by the tea and coffee right now staring into your soul made you look! And Happy Halloween by the way. Another part of MCV’s makeover is for a more stringent, more transparent and more accountable MCV Awards for early next year. We’ve already reached out to publishers, but do get in touch if you have any feedback about nominations, judging or criteria. Speaking of changes, I’m sad to be saying goodbye to our news editor Katharine Byrne. She’ll be much missed, but given she lives in Bath and our office is in London, I don’t begrudge her a job where she doesn’t have to travel halfway across the country. Finally, returning to the recent uproar over loot crates, it’s clear that games with micro-transactions should be clearly marked at retail, as the app stores do already. As to whether crates constitute gambling, I can’t see much difference between them and Panini sticker books, with the key being whether it’s possible to cash out your loot. Presuming that isn’t the case, adults should take responsibility for their own spending, while publishers and platform holders should be sure that parental controls are sufficient and have been properly promoted.

TheTeam

Seth Barton sbarton@nbmedia.com

Katharine Byrne News Editor

kbyrne@nbmedia.com

Marie Dealessandri Senior 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

October 27 MCV 928 | 05

05 MCV928 Leader_V4.indd 1

25/10/2017 17:25


ontheradar

Future Games Summit 2017 October 31st – November 2nd, London

This year’s Future Games Summit has arrived. Armed with a jam-packed schedule of speakers, attendees will get to hear keynote talks from Facebook’s director of gaming EMEA Damian Burns, Blizzard Entertainment’s senior director of audio and composer Russell Bower, YouTube’s EMEA gaming director Ina Fuchs and ESL UK’s managing director James Dean. A host of panels and interactive roundtables will also be on offer, plus a 24-hour game jam and Esports Workshop.

Develop:VR November 9th, London

Microsoft unleashes Xbox One X November 7th

After much hype and anticipation, Microsoft’s 4K-powered Xbox One X finally launches in just over a week. It should provide a welcome boost to 4K TV sales, according to Xbox’s Albert Penello, who told MCV earlier this month that TV manufacturers were very keen on the console due to the “mutual benefit” it provides on both sides of the market. That said, some retailers have also told MCV that stock levels for the One X are only a fraction of their original Xbox One numbers, which might somewhat tarnish the otherwise promising hardware launch.

Following its successful launch last year, Develop:VR comes to London’s Olympia next month. Brought to you by the team behind Develop:Brighton, this year’s one-day event has a new focus on the commercial opportunities presented by both virtual and augmented reality, and will also look at exploring the tools and techniques required to produce top notch VR and AR content. Industry tickets are available now, and Ukie members can get ten per cent off with the code DEVR17UK.

06 | MCV 928 October 27

06 07 MCV928 On The Radar_V7.indd 1

25/10/2017 15:33


Call of Duty: WWII shoots onto shelves

November 3rd

Activision’s flagship shooter franchise returns on November 3rd. To celebrate its release, Sony is releasing a limited edition PS4 bundle alongside it, featuring a green camouflage console. Can WWII unseat FIFA 18 at the top of the UK charts? Flip to page 42 to read our sales predictions

Yorkshire Games Festival November 8th-12th, Bradford

The Yorkshire Games Festival returns to Bradford’s Science and Media Museum next month for its second edition, featuring talks from the likes of TT Games, Frontier Developments, Criterion Games, Ninja Theory and Wargaming to name just a few studios in attendance. The event will also have a dedicated school’s day on the first day of the festival where KS2 and KS3 students can learn how to code and create compelling game stories. Industry tickets are available now, starting from £35.

Snipperclips comes to retail

PlayersXpo October 28th-29th

This weekend, PlayersXpo will return to Dublin’s Convention Centre, promising to be the biggest show of its kind the country has ever seen. 20,000 visitors are expected across the two-day event, filling 4,500 square metres of exhibition space as well as a 2,000-seat auditorium. Attendees will also be able to challenge YouTube celebrities at their favourite games and try plenty of unreleased console titles.

November 10th

Switch indie gem Snipperclips – Cut it Out, Together gets its very own retail ‘Plus’ version, following a successful run as part of a special Joy-Con pack earlier in the year. Snipperclips Plus includes the base game plus 30 new levels.

SPONSORED BY

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

PRE ORDER TOP 5 TW

TITLE

01 02 03 04 05

Call of Duty: WWII (PS4) Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4) Assassin’s Creed Origins (PS4) Days Gone (PS4) Final Fantasy VII (PS4)

Publisher Activision Take-Two Ubisoft Sony Square Enix October 27 MCV 928 | 07

06 07 MCV928 On The Radar_V7.indd 2

25/10/2017 15:33


guestopinion

Ian Livingstone CBE - Chairman, Sumo Digital and former Executive Chairman, Eidos

G

Sign the BGI petition today

ames have been successfully developed in the UK for nearly 40 years. It is a great British success story, but the industry remains under-funded by government. Games companies face market failure in access to finance, low recognition of games’ cultural and economic impact by the public, media and policymakers, and shortages in the latest skills. The British Games Institute is a proposed new national agency to champion games, fund the production of cultural games, games festivals and heritage, and help enable cuttingedge skills to be acquired. The campaign launched this week to win government funding has garnered over 3,000 signatories in just three days on Change.org and clearly resonates with the industry. More than 500 games, arts, investment and education organisations have supported it. The film industry addresses similar challenges through the British Film Institute, which works alongside six trade bodies, multiple regional screen agencies and other arts bodies to fund film production, heritage, culture, festivals and skills. Games deserve a richer, better coordinated, and more generously funded ecosystem. Rick Gibson has worked tirelessly on this campaign, and we recently submitted an 80-page funding bid to Treasury with formal support from Ukie and TIGA. The BGI will be an agency funded by public money and independently governed by sector representatives. It will not be a membership nor a lobbying organisation and, therefore, will be able to allocate public funding without conflicts of interest. The BGI will perform a role that trade bodies cannot, and will work alongside and complement the industry trade bodies which have previously lobbied government to fund

such an agency or a dedicated new fund for games culture. Through a long consultation involving over 100 organisations, we have matched our plans with the sector’s needs, and amassed support from influential figures such as Lord Puttnam CBE, Nicola Mendelsohn CBE from Facebook, Caroline Norbury MBE from Creative England, former Culture Minister Ed Vaizey MP, Hasan Bakhshi from Nesta, Jason Kingsley OBE, Carl Cavers, Andy Payne OBE, and many games, investment, arts and education leaders too, all of whose supportive quotes are visible on our website. Organisations that the BGI could partner with, like the National Videogame Foundation, FutureLearn, NextGen Skills Academy, Made in Creative UK, and over 20 leading games universities are also vocal supporters. A lot of people want the BGI to happen! The BGI will address the strategic challenges the sector faces by funding a wide range of games culture programmes, from games produced by diverse innovative teams, to festivals and research, heritage preservation, and online training in the latest skills the sector needs to stay worldclass. The BGI will champion games at the top table of publicly-funded cultural bodies, collaborate widely with excellent existing initiatives, and work with multiple partners to ensure we have a flow of diverse new talent coming in from schools and universities. Games have long been cultural products that reflect their creator’s culture, values, humour and identity. We believe that government should take a more strategic approach to fostering growth in the video games industry and highlighting its cultural impact. We believe that a national agency for games – the equivalent of the BFI – is long overdue. Please join us and sign our petition.

Ian Livingstone CBE has a formidable CV in the UK games industry, co-founding Games Workshop, authoring Fighting Fantasy novels, launching Tomb Raider at Eidos and now as Chairman of Sumo Digital and Vice Chair of Ukie, among many other industry roles 08 | MCV 928 October 27

08 09 MCV927 Comment_V4.indd 1

25/10/2017 17:37


guestopinion

Inka Nieminen - Graduate Games Designer, King

Insights from the European WiG Conference

A

s a young, female games designer, the 2017 teams will assist us – a balance of people from all walks of life Women in Games Conference provided an helps us develop our understanding of wider audiences. exciting opportunity to discover more about I was also very encouraged to see there are far more the key issues directly affecting me and my female game industry professionals and students out there colleagues. It also highlighted the efforts being made to than I realised. Attending a games industry conference with encourage more women to consider a career in gaming. a mostly female audience and massive number of female I attended the conference following my completion speakers (36 out of 49) was eye-opening. I was inspired to of the King summer internship scheme. I was given the hear keynote speaker Anita Sarkeesian speak at the opening. opportunity to attend the conference as a result of winning I met her afterwards which was a great honour as her the Student Award, which I applied for as a Game Design Tropes vs. Women in Video Games video series was greatly student at Abertay University. influential for me. It made me a more mindful player and has The internship scheme is one of the many ways in which had a lasting effect on the way I now design games. King is demonstrating its commitment to discovering and The future looks bright for women in the video game nurturing female talent – I’ve been lucky enough to join the industry. We are seeing more women entering the sector and company as Graduate Game women are also increasingly Designer as a result. The present in leadership roles, experience challenged many which is inspiring to see. As a “A balance of people from all of my existing preconceptions result, I’m now confident that walks of life helps us develop our I’ve entered into an industry of the industry, so here are my insights from the conference. women can succeed and understanding of wider audiences.” where Diversity brings innovation progress to the top. and new avenues to video Women really do benefit games. Women can offer a different perspective and range from a space where it’s easy to talk about female-centric of experiences, which is valuable for any developer trying issues, specifically in video game development. The Women to make innovative games that will appeal to a wide range in Games Conference is a great example of a forum tackling of audiences. At King, we strive to make games that appeal these big issues that can be difficult to talk about in other to many different types of people, so it’s crucial our own settings. production teams reflect the diversity of our target audience. Having a sense of belonging as a woman in a traditionally At times, though, it can be easy to forget about the people male-dominated industry can be difficult, especially as who don’t already play games that you might want to appeal women haven’t always been seen to play such a key role in gaming. It’s good to be reminded how big and valuable the to. You have to ask: “Would someone who’s new to games female game design community is. want to play this?” Of course, increasing the diversity of our

Inka Nieminen is a graduate games designer at King who graduated with a BA Game Design and Production Management, Computer Games and Programming Skills from Abertay University earlier this year. She also has extensive experience as a QA tester, working at Junkfish and Outplay October 27 MCV 928 | 09

08 09 MCV927 Comment_V4.indd 2

25/10/2017 17:37


Augmented future With all the necessary smartphone tech right here in our hands, can AR thrive where VR has stalled? Katharine Byrne talks to Climax, Kuju and Dream Reality Interactive about what the future holds for augmented reality

10 | MCV 928 October 27

10 11 12 14 15 MCV928 AR_V7.indd 1

25/10/2017 15:33


Pictured left: iOS 11 will introduce support for Apple’s ARKit and new augmented reality experiences

A

fter decades of false starts and experimentation, augmented reality finally hit the mainstream last year thanks to Niantic’s summer smash, Pokémon Go. It was a potent mix of gripping gameplay on accessible hardware, and its mobile DNA meant it could be played anywhere, anytime. The AR market is only going to get bigger, too, as this year has seen both Apple and Google release their very own augmented reality dev kits, ARKit for iOS and ARCore for Android. But while Google’s ARCore is certainly exciting, the number of supported devices in consumer hands – Google’s own Pixel phones and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 – pales in comparison to the numbers of iPhones, with all models launched in the last two years supporting ARKit, and that gives Apple a crucial headstart. “ARKit is a huge deal,” Kuju’s head of studios Brynley Gibson tells MCV. “Although not as all-encompassing as people had hoped for, Apple has clarified its commitment to AR with its new handsets and the ARKit middleware. Their earlier roll out of ARKit has already seen some wonderful looking tech demos and it was not surprising to see Google follow quickstep with their announcement of ARCore. Both platforms will help build AR as a serious public-facing business.” Simon Gardner, CEO of Climax Studios, agrees, saying ARKit “should be pretty big” due to having such a large user base. “The potential Day One installed base of Apple devices able to run ARKit is north of 380m units. That’s a game changer for a new platform, and with ARCore coming in March 2018, the mobile AR market has real potential.” Indeed, founder and CEO of Dream Reality Interactive (DRI) Dave Ranyard says having this many devices in your addressable market “gives a lot of confidence to developers like DRI because we can be more confident about breaking even on a new title or IP.” That’s not to say ARCore will be dead on arrival come March, however, as Gardner is confident Google’s tech will be “equally important” as long as it works across a similar range of devices. “It will allow hundreds of millions of people to experience true AR for the first time,” he adds. “None of the usual iOS vs Android commercial issues will go away, though, I expect.” REALITY CHECK Studios are certainly confident about the potential of AR,

then, but they’re split over whether it’s currently a better investment than its closely-related cousin, VR. “Ask me next quarter,” says Gardner. “Everything in the creative industries is a risk. Like VR before it, the success of AR will be about getting across the message of its existence, but the real advantage is the more social and inclusive nature of smartphone AR. You can easily show friends your latest AR game and hand them the device with minimal instruction.” Ranyard shares a similar opinion: “The markets are clearly of different sizes, and the audiences are very different. Think of PC vs mobile gaming as a similar question. There are some commonalities to the tech and the creative, but there are differences as well. The risk and reward need to be balanced with the type of game or experience being created – it’ll be different for each studio. For us, we have a lot of experience in both AR and VR, so ARKit is a great fit for our skillset.” For Gibson, there’s a fear the best AR experiences will fall into the same problem as current VR headsets, in that they’ll only be available on the most expensive handsets, thereby limiting the user base even further. “This will only be for a fraction of the time compared to VR, though,” he adds. “More importantly, developers need to work out what makes AR unique, which clearly takes time and experimentation. Meanwhile, users need to discover what their occasions of play are for AR – where does it fit into their life? “Ultimately, I believe AR will become a go-to experience in mobile gaming for several reasons. Consumers don’t need to buy a dedicated headset, they don’t need space and they’re not closed off from the real world like they are with VR. AR will also benefit from all the learning so far in mobile gaming, including retention and analytics. And while we’re confident that VR is still going to be huge in entertainment, offering something truly unique, AR and mixed reality could well become mass-market more quickly.” One thing they’re not worried about, however, is storefront visibility. “Apple seem to have made a good start on dividing out the AR store space and seem to be making a concerted effort to get the AR message out into both the specialist and mainstream media,” says Gardner, and Ranyard agrees: “My understanding is that AR is of strategic importance to all the platforms, so I do not see this as a concern,” he says. “We need to learn what consumers like and how

October 27 MCV 928 | 11

10 11 12 14 15 MCV928 AR_V7.indd 2

25/10/2017 15:33


Pictured above: Climax Studios’ ARise make use of ARKit functionality to control the game

they want to engage with AR. Remember when mobile games all had virtual joysticks? Then developers tried different touch mechanics and consumers voted for their favourites with downloads.” Gibson, meanwhile, feels like it’s a bit too early to tell whether more needs to be done to help AR games stand out on mobile storefronts, but says the current situation is certainly encouraging: “VR hasn’t had a major problem with this, so I don’t think AR will.” SECOND SIGHT Having the technology to make mobile AR games is one thing, but as with any new platform, creating a compelling experience that keep players coming back for more is quite a different proposition. In Climax’s case, it chose to focus on the physicality of moving a device around a central play space. “With ARise, we use ARKit functionality to actually control the game,” Gardner explains. “You only have to tap the screen once at the start to select the level and then it is all about moving the device to solve the

puzzles. It uses the system to know where the player is actually looking to a fine degree, and we use perspective and overlapping objects to unlock puzzles.” The response has been “very positive,” too, he adds. “One surprise issue was that some people didn’t realise the camera has to be uncovered and in some cases, they inadvertently cover the lens. Once that was understood, the majority of customers seem happy and the reviews have been good. And the initial sales, over the short time we have been out, are high.” It’s still early days for Apple’s ARKit, of course, but Gardner says to never underestimate the benefits of getting onto a platform quickly. “It’s massively important,” he says. “By seizing the ARKit opportunity early, we made some space and created awareness that in the past we might have found difficult. We have been very active in getting the game in front of media at press events and have had great coverage across games, technology and general press. We were even lucky enough to meet Tim Cook during his recent visit to London.”

12 | MCV 928 October 27

10 11 12 14 15 MCV928 AR_V7.indd 3

25/10/2017 15:33


Shoot’em up nostalgia of the 90’s arcade games

Early November 2017 SRP: £12.99

Also available – Shoppe Keep PS4 – Out Now – SRP: £14.99

Tel: +44 (0)1869 338833 www.contact-sales.co.uk trade@contact-sales.co.uk

MCV-Ad_CB-SK_Oct17.indd 1

Tel: +44 (0)1274 684 668 www.linkdistribution-uk.com info@linkdistribution-uk.com

17/10/2017 15:14


Pictured above, from top: CEO of Climax Studios Simon Gardner and Kuju’s head of studios Brynley Gibson

It wasn’t hard to demonstrate the game, Gardner adds, as the very nature of augmented reality makes it much easier to demo than one of the studio’s typical VR titles. “We have found that ARise has been simpler to both demo and make marketing materials for, such as videos,” says Gardner. “By being able to show people actually playing the game and moving the device around, they can get a sense of the game style and the way you play it. The smiles in our promo videos of people playing the game are genuine – they were playing the game and enjoying it.” Dream Reality Interactive, on the other hand, has taken a slightly different approach to AR with its yet-unreleased title, Orbu. “Remember the beer drinking apps of the early App Store? That’s where we are with AR,” says Ranyard. “I have made AR games for well over ten years; there is a mind-set shift in making them and creating interactions. The touch interface to AR with iPhone is actually very useable and simple; I think we will quickly see deeper, repeatable mechanics. This is something we have focused on with Orbu.” In the latter, players must navigate a Japanese-themed garden by interacting with the real world environment, using a simple slingshot mechanic to direct the game’s titular creature around the world. Feeding fish and other animals by knocking food toward them as they travel will also earn them rewards as they solve puzzles and discover hidden items. “The ease of use of ARKit for development and for consumers is so much better than anything I have worked on in the past, I just see possibilities,” Ranyard continues. “I think we will see some AR games that match Minecraft, Candy Crush and Clash of Clans, but it may take time for them to surface. When working on new tech or platforms I always say: do one simple mechanic really well. This is our approach to ARKit. With this we can learn and then build on it to develop more complex and layered mechanics over time.” Indeed, as long as AR is an integral part of the game and avoids simple gimmickry, then AR titles should have a bright future, regardless of whether they have a household brand attached to them, says Gibson: “It’s an exciting time for any studio with expertise in this sector,” he says. “AR is being billed as revolutionary for mobile gaming – and other applications – and it feels like now that the technology is part of core device functionality we are about to take a big step towards the mainstream. Yes, Pokémon Go did that to some extent, but it was primarily a geo game with an immensely popular brand attached. Regardless, it teased to consumers the possibility of how magical and exciting AR can be. “As with any emerging format, there are challenges ahead for developers planning to dip their toes in the sector. We

need to learn what works and find the best types of games that work for AR where it is part of the gameplay. Having worked on camera games going right back to EyeToy, and combined with our experience over the past couple of years in VR, we’re now working on new AR projects – including the recently announced AR game for Conspexit. We can’t really talk about the game at this stage, but I think we can say immersive technologies used in all walks of life shows how there’s nothing it can’t be used for. “We’re also working with Ralph Creative to bring AR and VR experiences to brands outside of gaming. There is a huge interest as marketing departments and more can see the potential of using AR and VR in all sorts of applications. Brand work is always important to help build a new medium as marketers have the money to try new ways to engage people. Users get content and developers get to eat plus grow their skills. This all leads to great original content being created down the line.” AUGMENTED EVOLUTION Whether AR will ever return to consoles, however, is debatable. “There are quite a lot of cameras out there,” says Ranyard. “The instruction of AR to a mainstream audience could increase awareness for console owners. Let’s see what happens. Maybe in the early stages of AR, we’ll see console titles connect with mobile AR apps for certain features.”

14 | MCV 928 October 27

10 11 12 14 15 MCV928 AR_V7.indd 4

25/10/2017 15:33


Pictured above: Dave Ranyard, founder and CEO of Dream Reality Interactive, which is currently working on AR title Orbu (pictured left)

Indeed, Ranyard posits that had his Wonderbook project for the PS3 been made for mobile back when he worked at SCE London Studio, it might have found a much more natural audience. “The reception to Wonderbook was awesome,” he says. “Ultimately, I think it was on a gamer platform, whereas the younger audience it was designed for had graduated to phones and tablets. Had the camera been included, I suspect Wonderbook would have continued and still be around. “I see slices of these older console games becoming very successful on mobile, though. Look at Musical.ly. It’s the user-generated content video upload feature of SingStar from the PS3 days, but streamlined and designed for mobile. I see similar things happening with Wonderbook features and mobile AR.” Gardner goes as far as saying that AR might even replace consoles at some point: “I truly believe that AR hardware will become so ubiquitous that it will replace all of the screens in your life, and so by definition, the technology will become a replacement for consoles,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean everybody will be running around the world killing zombies. There will still be a place for games limited to a static, framed screen.” He adds it will eventually become “a ubiquitous technology” used for everything from business and news to social and entertainment: “The ability to reduce friction

in the delivery of information and entertainment will be irresistible to most people. It has started in business – HoloLens – and will continue as the technology gets smaller, lighter and cooler. As a disruptor technology, it will unify our use of current screen devices into one handy portable package – AR glasses. There are many technological issues to overcome, but they will happen. It’s just a question of when. I’d probably say more than two years.” Gibson and Ranyard are both in agreement: “AR will be always on, all the time,” says Gibson. “Your life will be augmented, from the simplicity of glancing at clock and calendar appointments to deeper training and work. Some form of wearable such as specs makes sense. I can see everyone playing AR all the time on their own and with others. It is hard to overstate how big AR is going to be.” Ranyard adds: “AR will become integral to our modern lives, just like photos and videos have become on smartphones. Just like we’ve all become used to using maps on our phones, in a few years’ time we’ll all wonder how we managed without AR.”

“VR is still going to be huge in entertainment, but AR and mixed reality could well become mass-market more quickly.” October 27 MCV 928 | 15

10 11 12 14 15 MCV928 AR_V7.indd 5

25/10/2017 15:33


M

London calling Riot’s head of publishing Mark Cox will be speaking and networking at our forthcoming Future Games Summit Esports Workshop. Jake Tucker speaks to him about Riot’s plans for the UK, and why the firm is sponsoring the one day event

ark ‘General_Coxy’ Cox is Riot’s UK head of publishing and the driving force behind the company’s new London office, one of several satellite offices the company is bringing together across Europe to help manage each country’s League of Legends community. Each office will still report to the EU headquarters in Dublin and the Berlin office, the latter of which oversees esports in the region, but by building these local offices Riot hopes to better connect with the player base in each country at a grassroots level. These offices have been springing up for the last two years, although the UK has been somewhat tardy, perhaps the result of Riot looking to plan things out better after closing their creative services office in Brighton just a few years ago. “Riot came to the UK because we want to connect with our players locally,” says Cox. “And I think the point of that is esports.” Cox says that Riot is under no illusions about the state of the UK esports environment, both in terms of the League of Legends scene and in general, referring to it as “pretty undeveloped.” Riot’s goal in the UK is to develop a clear path for amateur players to move up to a pro level, and one of its ‘prime goals’ is to build out this route map and then show promising players that it exists. “Ultimately it’s all about the players,” Cox says. “Giving them that absolute clear understanding; if they’re playing in a grassroots league we want to point the way right from where they are to the EU LoL Championship Series (LCS). “Deeper than that, lots of our work will focus on education around investor sustainability and sponsorship and making sure that our organisations become really solid businesses so they can be there for a long, long time. When we looked at League as a video game in esports, we planned for it to last for generations. However, if you want an esport to last generations, you’ve got to have the teams and the players set up for success. And that’s what we want to help them do over the coming years.” Cox admits one of the problems is that there aren’t any UK teams with a “national flavour” at the top tier.

16 | MCV 928 October 27

16 17 MCV928 Riot_V6.indd 1

25/10/2017 15:33


Pictured leeft: Xxx

“Fnatic is an example,” he says. “They don’t really have that true national flavour to them, so they’re not a UK team. They’re just based there for business purposes. So for local leagues that we have running at the moment, we really want to develop a player’s sense of identity so that fans can grasp hold of them and follow their story.” Cox refers to the LCS as “very established” with “very established teams” and says that it’s time for the local teams and local players to be given a clear vision for how they can aspire to reach the top tier. “Historically, it’s something we haven’t been that great at communicating on a local level,” he admits. Riot’s London team will be fluid in its actual activities, at least to start. Part of the team’s tasks will be to work out exactly how Riot can help the community grow, and organisations to grow into stable and formidable contenders. “We’re not going to create it all for them, but we want to use our resources to connect them with the right people, and help them make the right choices. So, running regular annual general meetings for the teams, getting them in front of LCS teams so they can impart their information and some local knowledge around merch and streaming, and getting them in front of partners like Twitch and Facebook, and really getting them to level up their own profiles so they can start building a sustainable business.” STRONG IDENTITY Cox feels the UK is held back by the professional development side of things, which means that sponsors, partnerships and other economic factors aren’t where they are in other regions. “The economics of running a business are quite far behind, and that can mess up an organisation’s sustainability,” he says.

“Whatever brand, whatever franchise, we need to be heralding amazing teams, taking part in amazing events and just throwing our hat into the ring and saying, ‘We’re here, let’s all help each other.’” “For me, it’s at that developmental place that we’re still way behind on. And I think every publisher has a responsibility within their brand or within their ecosystems to help those games do that. And that’s not necessarily through monetary contributions and always throwing money into prize pools or throwing it into salaries. It’s more about education and helping these guys live off of their organisations and getting structured in a way where they become self-sustaining.” For the future, Cox wants to see a “very strong” local scene that’s built from the grassroots up. “We see a scene that runs from high school or uni all the way through to some sort of division two, division one and then a premier league. We want to give these players a chance to get scouted for a go at the LCS, but also a sustainable UK ecosystem that has strong brands, strong players and a strong identity. That builds a strong sense of community in the UK and, ultimately, that’s why we’re here. “ As part of its strategy to strengthen its position in the UK, Riot is the headline sponsor for our Future Games Summit’s Esports Workshop event. So we ask Cox what’s key about esports in the UK? “A key reason behind sponsoring the Esports Workshop, and by extension any event we sponsor in the UK, is that I feel that Riot can play a really strong role in developing UK esports, and I think that’s important. I don’t care what brand or franchise it is that helps the scene grow, but I don’t like seeing the UK so far behind in the esports industry as we’ve found ourselves. “We should be at the forefront, and I think that’s the important thing – not whether it’s for League of Legends, or Overwatch or even Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Whatever brand, whatever franchise, we need to be heralding amazing teams, taking part in amazing events and just throwing our hat into the ring and saying, ‘We’re here, let’s all help each other.’”

October 27 MCV 928 | 17

16 17 MCV928 Riot_V6.indd 2

25/10/2017 15:33


IN SPACE‌

Everyone can hear you talk Seth Barton talks to Star Citizen’s Chris Roberts about communication, community, development scope, recruitment, release dates and more

18 | MCV 928 October 27

18 19 20 21 MCV928 Star Citizen_V6.indd 1

25/10/2017 16:50


Pictured left: Star Citizen creator Chris Roberts

S

tar Citizen is arguably the biggest game in development right now. Big in terms of budget, at $161m (£122m) and rising, big in terms of staffing, with 457 developers across four main studios, and big in terms of community, with 1.89m supporters to date. But most of all it’s big in scale, a epic space game from the mind that brought us Wing Commander. Despite its massive size, creator Chris Roberts is concerned with things on a more human scale when we meet to talk. We’re not the only ones talking, either, as we’re surrounded by conversations of an altogether more virtual nature. Roberts is stood in the middle of a large room. In front of him is a video mixing desk and a huge TV, and around him sit numerous staff on gaming PCs with Roberts directing their actions all while switching between their feeds on his TV. What they’re all doing, in the Star Citizen universe, is talking to each other. But the brilliant bit is that their faces are moving as they do it. FACE TIME While the ‘Star’ part of the game gets the most attention, it’s the ‘Citizen’ bit that’s just as important to Roberts. He may be building a huge and complex interstellar playground, but it will be its inhabitants that really bring it life. And to do that they need to be able to communicate effectively. To that end, Star Citizen is introducing face-tracking via webcam to the game, including “what your expressions are, where you’re looking and it brings your voice into the game, so it maps onto your avatar’s face,” Roberts tells us. “Your voice gets treated correctly, too, so if I’m standing behind you, it will positioned correctly. If I’m wearing a helmet, it will be filtered. In a big room, there will be an echo.” That’s a big step-up from the usual handling of player chat in a game, which is usually divorced from any in-game situation. Roberts demos the tech, and though it’s early days, it definitely enhances communication and adds a sense of player presence. You can see whether someone is looking at you as they talk, and there’s

a notably different feel to hollering across a big room compared to speaking to someone right next to you. “Letting people exist in this virtual world is one of the priorities for us,” Roberts explains, adding that the FPS-like pace of his game makes typed chat unsuitable. “If I’m in the pilot seat of a ship and someone is in a turret, and I’m like ‘get the guy on the right’, then by the time I’ve typed it, he’s not there anymore. “You can do it with TeamSpeak or Discord, but what we’re trying to do is put you into this world, and make it easy to access. So if I’m wandering around this station and I meet you, and I can just say hello.” Roberts identifies playing together and community as the key elements in creating a game with a lifespan of ten years or more, name checking World of Warcraft and Eve: Online. “It adds a lot to the sense of going on an adventure with my friends. One of the big goals of Star Citizen is to allow that, and we’re quite focused on how players can communicate, talk and interact together because we’re trying to build this online game to last for a long time.” Of course, all those players aren’t waiting for Roberts’ fancy voice technology to make their feelings known. With such a huge community playing builds of the game as they’re released, the game’s forums are jam-packed with opinions. “The problem online is a small number of people over-amplify their voice, which can distort the feedback. They trample over other people’s opinions.” When it comes to forums, Roberts has some advice: “Read everything, see everything, but don’t take things personally. I only respond if something resonates with me.” He goes onto to explain that much of it is just difference of opinion. However, despite being open to ideas, his message to some commenters is: “People have supported me to make the game; they haven’t supported me to make your game.” Roberts can always temper all those raw opinions with data, too. “In some ways, the big data is more powerful than the individual comments. The comments give you colour, but with the big data I

October 27 MCV 928 | 19

18 19 20 21 MCV928 Star Citizen_V6.indd 2

25/10/2017 16:50


Pictured right: In order for players to be able to communicate effectively, Star Citizen is introducing facetracking via webcam

can see who’s playing, what area of the game they are in, what ships they are using… We can absolutely see who’s playing, who’s registered, who’s downloading, and also on our website, we know how many registered accounts we have, how many actually look at the forums and how many actually comment.” He then quickly demonstrates that even in a fan-backed game such as his, it’s still a very small percentage of people who post most of the forum comments. Another important avenue of communication is events: “We’re more focused on events where we can interact with the community, so Gamescom or PAX, where it’s much more fan-driven. That’s our model: direct to the gamers and interacting with them and no middle people at all. It’s nice to have feedback in person, people tend be nicer than they are on the internet.” CONTENTNAUTS While Roberts is dead set on making ‘his’ game, the game itself is far from dictatorial in its approach. In fact, he’s relying on his players to fill it with interesting interactions – and even at this point, they’re not disappointing him: “There’s already a large part of the community that are really cool, streaming the game and talking about their experiences,” he enthuses. He tells us how one player’s ship got damaged and they were stuck in space, asked for help over chat, and someone flew out from one of the space stations to rescue them. “They are telling this story, like they were there, and it’s cool. It’s those kind of things that you think, ‘That’s great, let’s do things that help support that – how can we get players to co-operate that way, to send out a distress beacons so other people can come and get them?’.” Of course, anyone who knows anything about science fiction will be fully aware of the further emergent possibilities around distress beacons, which can be used for many nefarious purposes. “We’re really focusing on systemic design,” says Roberts. “That should create emergent behaviour for a lot of things. It’s just giving the players the tools to do it. That’s one of our mantras – to build the systems and give the tools to the players – and, yes, we’ll put some designed content in, but we also want them to drive it. It’s the only way for a world like this to work. Otherwise, you can’t feed it with enough content.” STAR DATE UNKNOWN If you’ve been following Star Citizen’s progress, you probably know it’s taken quite a long time to make. Progress is steady, with the latest 3.0 version more like a proper Alpha build of the game, including key features such as planetary exploration. It’s currently in final

testing by a closed group of player-testers under NDA. But for games such as Star Citizen, the whole concept of release dates feels like an anachronism. “I get quite frustrated with people looking at it through the prism of yesterday’s game business – a game like Star Citizen doesn’t have a release date,” Roberts confirms. “What it does have is us saying ‘It’s going to be at least this, and we’re probably going to grow features beyond this’. And while we’re building it, you can play it. “Normally, the reason why people hold onto a release date is because ‘That’s when I can play it’ but you can already play Star Citizen now,” he explains. “You can’t play the Star Citizen that it will be, but you can play everything we’ve got to a level we feel comfortable letting the external world play.” Going back to the face-tracking technology, we wonder if this is an example of the kind of feature-creep that can delay big games unnecessarily? “We’re kind of happy with what the big picture feature set is,” he answers. “We’re working on all the bits that can tie it together. One of the main goals of the game is to allow people to properly do things together,” he says returning to a previous theme. “Except it’s all in the first person detail you’d expect in a triple-A game. You can get into a small ship, a big ship with other people, a massive capital ship, fly from planet to planet and do all these things. It’s a huge level of both scale and fidelity.”

20 | MCV 928 October 27

18 19 20 21 MCV928 Star Citizen_V6.indd 3

25/10/2017 16:50


It’s not just the cost of living, though: “We get basically 25 per cent of the UK cost back from the government. And that allows us to hire more people. We wouldn’t have as big an office in the UK if that deal wasn’t there. I think that was a very good move for the government to do that, because now we have around 250 in the UK, by far our biggest group of people.” Frankfurt is the company’s other big European outpost: “That’s where Crytek’s CryEngine originally was, and we’ve got a lot of the original engineers that built the engine,” Roberts explains. The game now uses Amazon’s Lumberjack, which is a spin-off of CryEngine. “We started [hiring] a couple years ago when they did the deal with Amazon, and in that particular case some of the core people had been there a long time and were looking for something else. Bethesda was trying to recruit them, Epic was trying to recruit them, and we thought: we’re not going to poach from Crytek, but if you guys are leaving no matter what, then we’d rather you come and work for us, as we need you in the ecosystem. “We’ve got this philosophy of going where the talent is, rather than making the talent come to you. These people are world class, but you could only get a fraction of them to move to Manchester or Los Angeles, so we’ve got a studio [in Frankfurt] with some great talent, which we really needed.” With that description, it’s easy to understand why it’s taking a while. “One of the reasons it’s taken so long is that we’re going for a sims level of AI,” says Roberts. “If you’re doing an FPS campaign, then there’s some AI, but it’s combat AI and actions are scripted. With us, our planets orbit and rotate around stars, and there’s night and day cycles, so the AI will have their schedules and you should just be able to populate a farmer and he’ll get up in the morning and go to his field, eat some lunch, and go back out to work. It’s all very systemic. That kind of AI takes much longer to build and have work.” BRIDGE CREW Roberts has a significant development ‘farm’ of his own, with 457 people currently employed by his company Roberts Space Industries, which is around 100 more than last year, with around fifty open positions at present and another big ramp up for customer service to come soon. “We try to be quite smart about development costs, so we do a lot in the UK and two-thirds of our developers are in Europe. It’s far more cost effective. Over here you can have two developers for the price of one in the US. In the places where there’s game development in the US, the price of living is really high. We’re up in Manchester and it’s a lot cheaper to live there than in LA. The average salaries in the industry are less for that reason.”

NEXT GENERATION Star Citizen remains an insanely ambitious project, but Roberts is sane enough to know it’s all really about people – be they players or developers – not ships or planets or the great voids between them. It’s those people that are shaping Star Citizen, now and for many years to come. The game is far from finished, but this humancentric outlook, both in the game and beyond it, looks promising. Many games attempt to get players to work both cooperatively and competitively to generate emergent gameplay, but far fewer manage to pull it off. If it can achieve even a fraction of its huge potential, Star Citizen might just be aWarcraft-class MMO goliath, and those don’t come along every solar cycle.

“Letting people exist in this virtual world is one of the priorities for us. What we’re trying to do is put you into this world, and make it easy to access.”

October 27 MCV 928 | 21

18 19 20 21 MCV928 Star Citizen_V6.indd 4

25/10/2017 16:50


Of mice and men Polyarc’s co-founders Chris Alderson and Danny Bulla speak to Marie Dealessandri about the challenges of self-publishing and creating an indie studio, and why storydriven and accessible titles are the future of playing in VR

22 | MCV 928 October 27

22 23 24 25 MCV928 Moss_V5.indd 1

25/10/2017 15:34


Pictured leeft: Xxx

A

s a company, Polyarc is still relatively unknown. But as individuals, Polyarc’s cofounders Chris Alderson, Tam Armstrong and Danny Bulla have contributed to some of the most renowned games from the last decade. From Red Dead Redemption to Destiny, they have helped shape the future of some of today’s biggest triple-A franchises. But while some developers can only dream of working on such titles, Polyarc’s trio of founders chose to close this chapter of their lives in May 2015. “A couple of years ago when we decided to leave, we had just finished Destiny and we had gotten early demos of new VR hardware that was coming out, specifically the ones with tracking controllers,” design director Danny Bulla recalls, having worked at Bungie for three years as a senior gameplay designer. “We saw an opportunity to create content for a new way to play. We have always wanted to tell our stories and that’s why we were working at those companies, to help tell those stories. We had learned a lot, so this was an opportunity for us to create stories and worlds of our own, but also on a platform on which we felt like we could take the time to grow our expertise and a platform that needs content right now.” Art director Chris Alderson, who also worked at Bungie as character art lead for seven years, continues: “VR provides a lot of room to create something that feels new and exciting. But we’ve also been doing shooters and violent games for a while, so it’s really fun and refreshing to work on something that is good and pure and nice.” These feelings are the cornerstones of Polyarc’s debut title Moss, a PS VR exclusive coming this winter. Here,

players embody the companion of Quill, an adventurous mouse in a fantasy world. It’s a breath of fresh air compared the usual VR fare, which so far has tended to favour first-person perspectives and the horror and walking simulator genres. So a story-driven, accessible and colourful third person action title like Moss really stands out. “So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Alderson enthuses. “I’ve never worked on a project that everyone liked as much. On the artistic side, there’s something a bit magical about creating an environment, being inside of it and feeling it rather than just seeing it on the screen, to have a character you can actually interact with and look at in the eyes. That emotional response between those environments and those characters, what you can create, was just an exciting opportunity for us.” Bulla is just as enthusiastic, emphasisng just how different Moss feels compared to other VR titles right now: “It might just be the right time, the right place, the right team and where gaming’s at in general,” he says.

“VR’s a small market and we’d love the opportunity to reset expectations.”

EMBRACING THE CONSTRAINTS The story and the emotional bond between the player and Quill are both instrumental to Moss’ gameplay, says Alderson: “We love stories and characters and that’s what we want to bring to life. And I think that’s something that’s kind of lacking in VR at the moment. So I think it’s a good opportunity for people like us to come forth.” Bulla continues: “To double down on that point, I don’t think it’s that VR can’t do stories. But the reason

October 27 MCV 928 | 23

22 23 24 25 MCV928 Moss_V5.indd 2

25/10/2017 15:34


Pictured above, from top to bottom: Polyarc’s Chris Alderson and Danny Bulla

we set out to do it is because it’s part of a good game to us. People want to be immersed in a world, they want to be immersed in a story. It’s the fantasy they’re diving into and VR helps us to immerse them. “Telling a story is just as difficult in VR as it is in gaming, comics, books or movies. Making a game for VR is no different than making a game for consoles, which is no different than making a game for mobile – your constraints are just different. So it’s just about embracing those constraints. “The reason Moss exists is because we asked ourselves, ‘What would be a good game for VR?’ and not go the other way around, not try to bring a game to VR. So a lot of the challenges we faced were just finding out what VR was good at. And by doing that, we found out what it wasn’t good at.” Polyarc also wanted to create a title that would appeal to a large audience, as the future of VR lies in its increasing accessibility, the studio believes. “If you look at where VR is, it’s a very small market and we love the opportunity to reset the expectations of VR games,” Bulla says. “It’s also very important for us that anyone who has a VR headset can play the game. Because it’s such a small market, we want the accessibility there. We talk about our audience being people who are trying VR for the first time.” Alderson agrees: “We don’t want people fumbling around. You use three buttons and a joystick and that’s all you need, on top of the headset. We wanted to bring on as many people as possible and that’s why we asked ourselves, ‘Who are we alienating and what would be exciting for most people?’.” COOKING UP A STORM Chatting about accessibility in VR leads us to talk about Resident Evil VII: Biohazard’s VR demo, Kitchen. The VR horror experience was a big win for Capcom, and the finished game was both a critical and commercial success. But it’s certainly not the most inviting and accessible way to try VR for the first time. Polyarc wanted to take the opposite approach with Moss, Alderson explains: “We want to bring people in, we want to be very inviting for everyone. We made a lot of decisions that way, like the lighting and the colour palette. Maybe people are attracted to Resident Evil, you can see videos of people reacting to some of the scares [in the Kitchen demo]. We wanted to do the same thing, but to the other extreme. We tried to make a warm world with one character, and you want to be a part of Quill’s world and take care of her.” That also meant pushing the boundaries of development, with Alderson highlighting the “new

ways of doing things” that came with developing in VR, like the importance of spatial audio and good animation: “You need to make sure that a character is convincing enough to make you want to bond with it and grow some sort of relationship with that character. If the animation is not convincing enough, then the character feels static and almost robotic and it gives the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve.” THE PRICE IS RIGHT Despite their extensive experience in development, creating a new kind of VR experience like Moss didn’t come without challenges, Bulla adds. “We’ve gone through so many challenges and learnt from them and it hasn’t always been successful in terms of the actual features or the art or the game design or the code, but we’re always learning from it.” But the difficulties weren’t just on the development side, he continues: “Tam [Armstrong] started a company before, but it was [Chris’ and my] first time creating a company so there was a lot of business challenges and networking. We built our developer relationships throughout the years, but we were starting from scratch for the business side of things. A lot of our time early on was spent just networking and learning that side of things.” Polyarc also had to decide whether it wanted to partner with a publisher for Moss, as the title has benefited from an impressive word-of-mouth buzz since it was first unveiled. “As it stands, Moss is going to be published by us,” Bulla says. “It’s going to be a digital-only title and then we’re going to see what’s the best decision possible for Polyarc. You can see that we take our game development really seriously, but we’re also trying to be responsible and make the smartest decisions for the business side of things. “We think the future of Polyarc will be the cohesion of both of those. If, down the line, we stumble upon things that make the most business sense for the project that we’re doing, then we won’t turn it down. But it has to make sense.” Going down the self-publishing route does, of course, afford the team more freedom on key decisions like the release date, for example. “Being a small studio, it’s a benefit that we get to choose this kind of stuff,” says Bulla. “But it also means that we need to make that smart decision of when is it going to reach the most people, when are they going to have the time to play the game and when are they going to be ready to play a game like this, so we have it nailed down to winter time but we’re still working out the exact date.”

24 | MCV 928 October 27

22 23 24 25 MCV928 Moss_V5.indd 3

25/10/2017 15:34


The developers also have to carefully consider Moss’ price, which can be tricky due to the novelty of both the platform and the title. “We definitely don’t want to take advantage of anybody who has a headset. I do feel that it’s a novel thing that may be a bit priced up,” Alderson says. “We bring in a lot of people to play test the game and we also ask them, ‘What kind of value would you find in this game?’ and we’re narrowing it down as we go. Everyone we ask gives us a better idea of what to expect.” Bulla agrees: “We talk about it a lot. Again, being independent means we have a lot of flexibility on what’s it’s going to be and we’ve totally been on the other side as players. We appreciate that when you play a game sometimes you’re like, ‘I would have paid more for that’ or ‘I wish I didn’t pay this much for that’. “So there’s this balance to find and our decision making process at the studio has been that, when the game is done, we’ll be looking at it and thinking about how much value we are providing versus how much do we need to continue to be who we are. So it’s really going to come down to trying to find that place right in the middle.”

CAT AND MOUSE After shaping the future of triple-A shooters, the Polyarc team seems to be on track to shape the future of playing in VR too. Or at very least change how VR games are perceived and open up virtual reality to a new audience. Despite this, Alderson and Bulla remain down to earth about their ambitions: “In the long run, if we can keep making games, if the company Polyarc survives, I’ll be happy,” Alderson smiles. “We have this IP, we have another couple of ideas for other games that will be set within this world and we also have other IPs in other genres of games. We don’t want to be a one IP, one genre, one game company. We love to work on different games at a time, but still keep the team really small.”

“Moss is going to be a digital-only title, and then we’re going to see what’s the best decision possible for Polyarc.” October 27 MCV 928 | 25

22 23 24 25 MCV928 Moss_V5.indd 4

25/10/2017 15:34


VR’s first port of call Following its first ever price cut, Katharine Byrne talks to Vive’s Graham Breen about the headset’s ever-expanding ecosystem and the success of its Viveport subscription service

A

lot has changed at HTC since we last spoke to the company in May. Not only has it announced a brand new standalone VR headset for Google’s Daydream platform aimed at the Chinese market, but it’s also struck a $1.1bn (£821.7m) smartphone deal with the very same search giant, which will see Google receive a non-exclusive licensing agreement for HTC IP plus a number of its employees. If all that wasn’t enough, it’s also permanently knocked £160 off its Vive headset, bringing its new price down to £599. That’s still £100 more than Oculus’ new price for its Rift and Touch bundle, but for Graham Breen, program manager EMEA virtual reality at HTC, it’s the quality of the Vive’s original content that remains its greatest strength: “[August] was the right time to reduce the price for Vive because we’re entering a key purchasing season with some of the biggest and best VR titles on the horizon,” he tells MCV. “We have new partners and content coming online daily and we believe that lowering the price for Vive will boost VR adoption across the globe and bring in more consumers, content creators and accessory partners. “The focus from Vive has always been around bringing the highest quality and most engaging content through VR. Over the past year, we’ve seen incredible multiplayer

games launching – a great example being Star Trek Bridge Crew from Ubisoft this summer. This has definitely helped to take gameplay to another level and brought in a wider audience of games. Gaming styles are a very personal thing, but the great news is that with Fallout 4 and all of the other new launches this year, there really is something for everyone on Vive.” Indeed, with more than 1,600 Vive titles now available across Steam and its own Viveport platform, not to mention over 30 new apps launching every day, Vive’s marketplace has grown “at a tremendous pace,” according to Breen, adding that “the rapid growth of content available is a win for VR overall.” That said, he’s still keenly aware of the discoverability challenges that affect both customers and content creators during these periods of growth, which is why the firm launched its own Viveport subscription service earlier this year. For £6.99 a month, users can get unlimited access to a special premium tier of VR apps and experiences that rotate every month, allowing them to try a huge range of content before going on to buy them. “In launching Viveport, we responded to demand from developers who were looking to reach people with their content,” Breen explains. “Since launching, we’ve seen over 200 developers bringing their content to Viveport. “We’ve also launched our Viveport subscription service, allowing people access to an ever-growing library of

“Lowering the price for Vive will boost VR adoption across the globe and bring in more consumers, content creators and accessory partners.”

26 | MCV 928 October 27

26 27 28 MCV928 HTC Vive_V4.indd 1

25/10/2017 16:50


Pictured above: Graham Breen, program manager EMEA virtual reality at HTC

curated content for a monthly fee. Both services have seen successful launches and strong engagement from Vive users.” Europe, in particular, has been a strong hotbed of talent for Vive. “We don’t go into regional breakdowns in terms of sales, but what has been particularly good to see from Europe is the mix of people using Vive – from gamers wanting a great experience through to developers who have built great content and also businesses using Vive. Some of the most popular games developed for Vive have been from European developers – Space Pirate Trainer, for example.” It’s not just the games industry that’s benefitting from Vive’s thriving ecosystem, however, as Breen explains: “VR is changing every industry imaginable, from gaming and entertainment, to art, design, engineering and education. Among businesses working with Vive, one area we’ve seen a really strong uptake in is the automotive sector with companies such as Audi using

Vive in its showrooms and Jaguar Land Rover using Vive for the most recent launch events.” ARCADE FIRE Another key focus for Vive is the growth of location-based VR through its Viveport Arcade portal. With increasing numbers of VR arcades cropping up around the world, these out-of-home experiences are quickly becoming the first point of contact for prospective headset owners, making them great opportunities to showcase the very best the platform has to offer. “The range of content we’re seeing at arcades is growing all the time,” Breen says. “We’re seeing some arcades working with consumer titles and that, in turn, is increasing awareness for many of these developers. We’re also seeing some arcades creating bespoke experiences often with specific installations such as Bandai Namco’s VR Zone in Tokyo. “We’ve seen development teams of all sizes jump into VR as a new frontier of creativity, experimentation and gameplay and there is definitely space for both methods

October 27 MCV 928 | 27

26 27 28 MCV928 HTC Vive_V4.indd 2

25/10/2017 16:50


allowing larger players and smaller independent arcades to thrive. With Viveport Arcade we’re offering support for arcades who want access to a range of content without having to create it themselves. We fully intend to keep Vive open to developers and to be the best VR platform to develop for. One of the key driving forces for Viveport is our ability to provide new revenue streams to developers, which is a big part of why we launched a VR subscription service. Whether it is direct game sales, revenue from [Viveport] Arcade, subscription models or getting your content on more devices, we will be there.” All types of games have potential to be big arcade hits, too, says Breen: “The thing about Vive, is that once you put

“We expect VR to touch people in more ways, including many that we haven’t even thought about yet.”

the headset on, it doesn’t really matter where you are in the real world,” he says. “The key is really just choice. Content is key, no matter where it is experienced. We will continue to invest heavily in the Vive ecosystem and introduce products that make VR creation easier and faster and lower entry-costs to VR development. Vive Trackers alone will serve as a paradigm for SteamVR development.” New hardware like its object-scanning Trackers will be vital if Vive’s to keep up the speed of today’s current development scene. “What’s been really exciting to see is how the content has evolved,” says Breen. “Games and experiences have been constantly improving. This only shows signs of continuing further with the upcoming launch of triple-A games such as Fallout 4 VR, L.A. Noire and Doom VFR. “Beyond games we’re seeing a growth in other ways of using VR, with some companies such as UPS using Vive to train drivers. We expect this to continue evolving and for VR to touch people in more ways, including many that we haven’t even thought about yet.”

28 | MCV 928 October 27

26 27 28 MCV928 HTC Vive_V4.indd 3

25/10/2017 16:50


Untitled-1 1

10/23/2017 11:19:55 AM


30 | MCV 928 October 27

30 31 32 MCV928 PUBG_V5.indd 1

25/10/2017 16:51


Pictured left: PUBG’s creative director Brendan Greene

Staying grounded

The future of games is rarely certain, but we can be sure that 2018 is going to be a huge year for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Seth Barton talks to the man himself about Xbox, esports and not knowing who anyone is in the industry

B

rendan Greene may be the creative director on the fastest growing game in the world, but he’s still got his feet firmly planted on the ground – or, in this case, his behind firmly planted on a street kerb as we find the most convenient place for a quick chat around the back of the huge, esports-focused Hall 9 at Gamescom. He’s buoyed by the success of the game’s invitational tournament going on nearby, but also happy to talk about why Bluehole has chosen Microsoft and the Xbox as its preferred partner for the console version of his game. When the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Xbox deal was first announced back at E3, the game was already a trending brand. But since then, it’s gone stratospheric, smashing concurrent player records on Steam repeatedly. It’s arguably Xbox’s biggest exclusive this year, although there’s still no confirmation of a release date beyond 2017 – though even that might only be as an Xbox Game Preview initially – and while a physical version is something the company is interested in, it looks increasingly unlikely to come alongside the digital launch. Putting all those uncertainties to one side, we ask Greene the obvious question – why go with Microsoft when PlayStation has the bigger install base? “With Unreal Engine, we can port relatively easily to Xbox, but we still have to do a lot of optimisation and performance work to do, and that’s why we partnered with Microsoft to publish,” he answers. “We’re using the Windows universal platform, so essentially the games are the same.” Beyond that, Greene is keen to replicate the Early Access model that has given the game so much success on Steam.

“Xbox have the Game Preview program, which is so important for a multiplayer game, to balance it correctly. We can essentially release it into a beta. It’s invaluable, working with players to make the feel of the game better. Early Access and Game Preview are just great programs for developers if they are used right.” The company is also receiving significant technical assistance from Microsoft, who is obviously keen to get the game to Xbox owners as quickly as possible. “We have a small team in Spain, Anticto, that were looking after the main part of the Xbox port, while the main team in Korea were looking after the PC version. But now we’ve partnered with Microsoft, they’re sending engineers to Korea and Spain to work with us and really get the best version of the game. We want to keep it equal on both platforms, we want the game on Windows and the game on Xbox to look and feel the same.” We’ve played a preview version of the Xbox code, albeit running on a PC rig, and it certainly feels like the same game to us. Both Greene and Microsoft have talked about there being a single version of the game, but what does that mean in practice, and, more importantly, will there be crossplay? “We’re still discussing that,” he says. “Because they’re such equal versions of the game, we want the ability for both platforms to play against each other. We love that idea, but we have to do it in a fair way. We’re maybe looking at keyboard and mouse versus keyboard and mouse, or controller vs controller. We don’t know yet, we’re still talking to Microsoft.”

“Early Access and Game Preview are just great programs if they’re used right.”

October 27 MCV 928 | 31

30 31 32 MCV928 PUBG_V5.indd 2

25/10/2017 16:51


With Microsoft having announced upcoming support for keyboard and mouse on Xbox for the first time, there are intriguing possibilities with players being matched by controller type rather than hardware box. “We have an Xbox One version running on a PC, but it’s the Xbox One version. The view distance is a little shorter, but up close the game looks pretty similar to the PC version. So I’m happy enough with that. “It’s going to take us some time to really get it polished completely, and that’s why the Game Preview program is great, it allows us to get millions of people to give us their feedback, especially for a console shooter where you need that to get the controls feeling solid, so that people feel that it’s competitive.” HOME GROUND ADVANTAGE It’s certainly getting competitive, too, although Greene admits the game has a long way to go before it becomes a finished product. “We’ve got a lot we can improve,” he says. “No one has done a battle royale esport before, so we don’t know where to go with it yet. That’s why we’re working with an organisation like ESL to figure out the best format and the best way to observe 80 people at the same time.” Those mass player counts made the game a huge hit with Twitch streamers, but are now proving somewhat trickier to tame for esports coverage. Greene and his team are working on tools to cope, though. “We’re working on the 3D replay system that will really benefit the esports end of things, because all deaths will be recorded and you can just replay them as you see fit. It’s going to take some time, but we’re going to slowly build a great platform for it.” Of course, it’s not just early days for PUBG as an esport, but as a game overall. “We’ve been out four and a half months,” says Greene. “People tend to forget that we’re not a fully featured game yet. We’re coming at the end of the year and we’ll have so much more by then. This platform will be so much more stable.” It will be an interesting journey. Strong strategies emerge in all competitive games, but counters are usually discovered by the opposition, creating a shifting meta. In battle royale, however, players can’t afford to take actions specifically to counter only one or two other players. So the game needs to be cautiously designed to encourage the kind of behaviours the developer wants to see. Greene agrees: “Exactly, we’re all about the balance and working with players, to really get the game to a state where people feel it’s competitive enough, and the great thing about the community is that they are vocal about it and they know that we listen. We have so many people that are really passionate about seeing battle royale as an esport. They really want to give their feedback and

their suggestions, and we take it all onboard. We may not implement it, but we do take it onboard to make it the best version we can.” WINNER WINNER... It’s not always clear, even to the victor, just why you won a particular round of PUBG, so we ask Greene whether he can offer any more clarity on the reason for the game’s huge success. “I’ve had to think about this a lot, and really I’m still thinking. It’s a very basic game. It’s easy to understand, though it’s hard to master. It’s a big playground, and we just give our players the freedom to do whatever the hell they want. You want to run round in a pair of boxers and have a frying pan as a helmet and that’s it? Good for you, buddy. It’s that freedom that has captured people’s imaginations.” Greene started his route to development as a selftaught modder for the Arma series. “I basically took elements of games that I enjoyed when I was creating the battle royale game mode. I saw the survivor games, I always liked the idea of a last-manstanding deathmatch, I liked the looting system in Day-Z and developed my own after that. It was just a game I wanted to play from playing other games and thinking, ‘If this was a little different’ or, ‘If I add this’...” He also feels his outsider, non-industry background has given him something of an advantage. “I come from being a player, not an industry veteran, and that’s given me something of a leg up, as I’m not tied down to knowing too much about the industry. I was speaking before Richard Garriott at a dinner with Microsoft, and they said [in awed tones], ‘Oh, you’re speaking before Richard Garriott,’ and I said, ‘Who the fuck is Richard Garriott?’ And they all looked at me with dropped jaws,” he laughs. “But that’s me, I haven’t been in the industry for very long. I was a photographer and a DJ and that end of stuff I know a fuckton about, but when it comes to games I could be standing beside the most famous people in games and I would not know who they were.” That’s not to say Greene isn’t a people person. In fact, he’s pushing himself to meet the community as much as possible: “When I get a chance to go to conventions, there are so many fans that want to meet me. Giving them that opportunity is no big effort for me, but some of them love meeting me and I love to give them that chance if I can.” And from next year, it looks like there will be even more fans keen to meet the now not-so-mysterious PlayerUnknown. It’ll be a busy year for both Greene and the game, and a hugely exciting one for what is still a fledgling genre.

32 | MCV 928 October 27

30 31 32 MCV928 PUBG_V5.indd 3

25/10/2017 16:51


A20

WIRELESS ­AVAILABLENOW­

www. limedistribution. co. uk


Blood, sweat and tears Marie Dealessandri talks to Dontnod’s narrative director Stéphane Beauverger and Focus Home Interactive’s president Cédric Lagarrigue about upcoming title Vampyr

34 | MCV 928 October 27

34 35 36 MCV928 Vampyr_V4.indd 1

25/10/2017 15:34


D

ontnod has had an unexpected journey in the games industry to date. On the verge of bankruptcy at the end of 2013 following Remember Me’s flop, the French studio then came back from the dead two years later with episodic smash hit Life is Strange. With its future now secured, the extra breathing room has allowed Dontnod to refocus its efforts on an altogether different type of title – the action RPG Vampyr. Development on the game actually started long before Life is Strange came out, but the latter’s success doesn’t seem to have affected Vampyr’s production. “If you start to worry about what people will think of your work based on your previous work, then you don’t work at all,” narrative director Stéphane Beauverger tells MCV. “You have to go with your heart and your guts. You have to go with the way you feel; you want the player to feel emotions and to be tempted by the shades of grey you’re going to create.” Of course, Dontnod is renowned for trying something new with each game, as none of its portfolio adhere to one specific genre. All of them, however, have something in common – a strong narrative – and Vampyr is no exception. If Beauverger jokes about the studio wanting to do this title because “vampires are cool and there are too many games about zombies,” he rapidly explains it was actually the scenario’s good story potential that attracted the team to the idea in the first place. “I think what was the most interesting for me from a narrative point of view is that vampires are one of the very few creatures who are aware of what they are, what they were and they have their own duality,” he says. “Whereas the zombies, the ghouls, the werewolves are just stupid creatures most of the time. “The vampire is a trickster. He’s living among the humans, he’s trying to manipulate them, so it was interesting to create someone who is torn by some kind of personal conflict. This is the kind of thing I wanted to explore – to become a vampire without deciding to be turned, to have to deal with this new condition and understand how it works, who you can trust, and who you can’t.” This theme of internal conflict can also be seen in the game’s setting, which was initially supposed to be America in the 50s, but was then changed to early 20th century London.

“That was before I worked on the project,” Beauverger explains. “When I arrived, I said that, for me, the main interest of the vampire is the duality between light and shadow, believing in science and believing in supernatural things, science vs religion, humans vs creatures, and so on. So we looked at what could be a really interesting era for that. “The beginning of the 20th century is very interesting because the laws of Darwin, the evolution theory, have been discovered, and slowly science is pushing away religious beliefs and superstitions. “And Vampyr’s hero, Jonathan Reid, is from a scientific background. He’s a doctor, he believes in science, he believes in progress, and then he becomes a vampire and everything is twisted. He now has to understand that everything works with very different rules, so this is the first reason why we chose this specific era. “It’s also the end of World War I. Millions are dead, and the Spanish flu epidemic is killing many people, more people than the war itself actually, and the city of London is really on the verge of scrambling down. So [as Reid] you come back to your hometown and realise that you’ve been turned into this creature and that the city is about to fall and it’s up to you, as a doctor, to make a difference. But what will you decide to do?” Putting the story into players’ hands is another common theme in Dontnod’s games, but here, the path players choose to follow will have a much deeper impact on the game’s ending. “Will you try to become a humanist vampire and just have a quick bite or, on the contrary, do you want to play a heartless creature who just wants to create mayhem? It’s up to you,” Beauverger smiles. “The game will not punish you or give you hints about the way you’re supposed to play, but there are different endings. There is one specific ending you can get if you manage go through the game without killing anybody.” Of course, the most efficient way to progress and level up is to kill and drink citizens’ blood – you are a vampire, after all – but Vampyr will also reward players who don’t kill at random. “All your potential targets have secrets, friends, families, jobs and purposes,” says Beauverger. “Some are saints, some are desperate, some are mad, some are criminals, some are good people, some look like they’re good people, so it’s up to you.

“I think many people will come from the Life is Strange experience and face a new game by the Dontnod team.”

October 27 MCV 928 | 35

34 35 36 MCV928 Vampyr_V4.indd 2

25/10/2017 15:34


Pictured above: Dontnod’s Stéphane Beauverger

“If you want to take someone at random and kill him, you have the right to do so, but if you want to investigate and understand who he is, you will get more interesting character sheets on your potential targets and then can make a better choice,” he continues. “There will also be moral ambiguity; there are no good or bad actions. This is the most important aspect of the storyline for me – how do you cope with freedom of action when there are so many bad consequences? Because you are a creature of tragedy, you are a vampire, you are a character of a sad story, and there can’t be a good ending.” GROW BIGGER OR DIE After partnering with Capcom for Remember Me and Square Enix for Life is Strange, Dontnod is now teaming up with fellow French firm Focus Home Interactive as publisher on Vampyr (see our interview with Focus’ president Cédric Lagarrigue, opposite). “They gave us so much freedom on the creative parts of the project, it was a great pleasure to work with them,” Beauverger says. Vampyr is a big project for both Focus and Dontnod, with a team of 60 to 80 people working on the title, compared to 50 to 60 for Life is Strange. But when asked if Dontnod has triple-A ambitions with Vampyr, Beauverger is categorical:

“Of course not,” he says. “Triple-A has become a strange thing. For me, it means millions in development budget, and that’s not the kind of game we create. You can’t compete with triple-A. You can only try to create a good game, with a lot of coherence, a strong narrative, good combat mechanics, good gameplay, and hope that when the player puts down the controller they say ‘Wow, that was a journey’. “There is a rule in the video game industry: if you don’t grow bigger, you die or you get eaten. As long as you get success on your project, you can create more games, which cost more and are more ambitious, but it’s a very slow process.” Life is Strange’s success allowed Dontnod to go even further with Vampyr and Beauverger very much hopes that the game’s fan base will follow the studio in this new adventure. “I think many people will come from the Life is Strange experience and try to face a new game by the Dontnod team and see what kind of stories and sadness and strange characters we have created this time,” Beauverger says. “The main difference, perhaps, is that Vampyr is an action RPG, so you will have to prove some skills in combat. But people who like Dontnod’s approach on video games and narrative will be interested by the project,” he concludes.

36 | MCV 928 October 27

34 35 36 MCV928 Vampyr_V4.indd 3

25/10/2017 15:34


Focus: “Vampyr will be considered a success when around 1m copies are sold” Focus Home Interactive’s boss Cédric Lagarrigue talks about the publisher’s ambitions for Vampyr and why he’d choose a sequel over DLC for the title How did you and Dontnod start working on Vampyr and how did the idea come to be? These past few years, the vampire theme has been heavily-exploited with success in movies, TV and novels. Strangely, the game industry did not appropriate this phenomenon, even though the vampire universe suits it perfectly. With their emphasis on moral choices, character development, and narrative, we thought an RPG would be the perfect way to explore this. I played and loved Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, but it was released over ten years ago. We’ve been looking for years for a studio with a good vampire game project and Dontnod presented Focus with a new project. The artistic and narrative dimensions were exciting. Last year we talked about Focus’ growing ambitions and move away from PC titles – is Vampyr the culmination of this? Consoles have actually been weighing more than PC for a few years now. Our PC revenue is constantly increasing, but we now achieve 70 per cent of our global revenue on consoles. Our development budgets have increased a lot, and almost all our games are now multi-platform. Focus has, however, digital publishing embedded in its DNA. We have true expertise in digital releases. We now generate nearly 60 per cent of our revenue through digital sales on consoles and PC.

Vampyr certainly looks ambitious and it feels like it has the potential to compete with triple-A RPGs. How have you invested in Vampyr compared to your previous titles? It is bigger than our previous titles, but is on-par with other games currently in production at Focus which will be released after Vampyr. Our budgets, even if they do increase, are that of games filling the space between blockbusters and independent games. It is true that the game is impressive and has a strong personality, but because of its budget, it is not a triple-A. However, the universe, theme and quality of the game all allow it to exist in stores next to the blockbusters. But this is also currently true for many games with smaller budgets, on less retail-focused platforms such as PC. Audiences have evolved a lot during the past few years. Players yearn for new experiences, originality and less generic direction. There’s room for blockbusters, but players are ever fonder of different experiences. Vampyr was recently pushed back to Q1 2018. How has that affected your marketing campaign? Many things we had planned for the coming weeks have been delayed to early next year. This has forced us to rework the communication schedule a little, but we are not completely turning it upside-down as the delay is just a few months. We decided to produce a few extra

videos, including a big ‘making-of’ the game. We wanted to delay the game in order to give it the best opportunity to reach our objectives, which have not changed. What are your sales expectations for the title? It is always very difficult to make forecasts with a brand new IP. The game benefits from a solid budget, superior to most independent video games, however it is not a blockbuster, whose budget would be over €50m. From our investment, it will be considered a success when around a million copies are sold, but it will only need half of that to be profitable. These are numbers we now reach and exceed regularly with most our games. Vampyr benefits from strong recognition and expectations, which will only increase over the coming weeks. It has everything it needs to become a nice surprise on the market. What features of the game are you most proud about? The ‘Citizens’ system, which fits the curse aspect of the vampire, is very original. The player is doomed to kill in order to survive and become stronger. Players won’t just feed on unnamed prey. They will make difficult choices, as the main character is a doctor as much as a vampire. They save lives, but also kill to survive. By investigating potential victims, it’s up to the player to inform themselves on whether a character ‘deserves’ to be fed on or not. The impact of every choice will be felt through the story and the game’s various districts. It is very captivating and adds a lot to the experience. How long are you going to support the title? This is a purely solo experience; we did not plan DLC. We would prefer, if the reception of the game justifies it, to think about a sequel. We and Dontnod already have some ideas, as there’s so many incredible things to offer in such a universe.

October 27 MCV 928 | 37

34 35 36 MCV928 Vampyr_V4.indd 4

25/10/2017 15:34


Sponsored by

g

gaming merchandise uk

MARGIN MAKERS:

CALL OF DUTY: WWII

Call of Duty season has returned, so it’s time for retailers to update their shelves with the latest merchandise from Activision’s newest entry, WWII. Marie Dealessandri checks out what’s new

Astro A20 CoD Edition Astro Gaming just expanded its range with the A20 wireless headset, which also comes in a special, officially licensed Call of Duty edition. Unveiled at PAX West, the A20 has a battery life of up to 15 hours. SRP: £159.99 Manufacturer: Astro Gaming Distributor: Lime Distribution Contact: 0844 8933933

38 | MCV 928 October 27

38 39 MCV928 Margin Makers_V4.indd 1

25/10/2017 15:35


FPS Freek Call of Duty: WWII Kontrol Freek has released its annual Call of Duty edition of its high-rise thumbsticks. Featuring the Infantry Division emblem, they’re available for both PS4 and Xbox One. SRP: £13.67 Manufacturer: Kontrol Freek Distributor: Lime Distribution Contact: 0844 8933933

Call of Duty: WWII Deployment Kit Edition The Deployment Kit edition of Prima’s guide to Call of Duty: WWII includes a flashlight, a WWII-themed metal canteen, a dog tag, a 192page writing journal, a character artwork poster, a high-quality replica piece of propaganda artwork, and a history book covering the major events of WWII so you get your facts straight before you start playing. SRP: £79.99 Manufacturer: Prima Games Distributor: DK Contact: sales@uk.dk.com

Call of Duty: WWII collector print - Front Line Beach This 30x40cm print is part of GB Eye’s new collector range, which features eight different prints and was created for the release of Call of Duty: WWII. SRP: £16.99 Manufacturer: GB Eye Distributor: GB Eye Contact: uksales@gbeye.com

38 39 MCV928 Margin Makers_V4.indd 2

Call of Duty: WWII Freedom Star hoodie As always with big releases, Numskull has created a new collection for the launch of Call of Duty: WWII. This hoodie is part of the new range, which also includes badges, keyrings, wallets, T-shirts and, more importantly, a camo onesie so fans can get comfy while playing. SRP: £34.99 Manufacturer: Numskull Distributor: Rubber Road Contact: 01707 800 881

25/10/2017 15:35


chartanalysis

Chequered flag

GT Sport took the top spot last week, while The Fractured But Whole and WWE 2K18 fought for No.3

A

fter three consecutive weeks at No.1, FIFA 18 has lost the top spot in the UK weekly charts to PS4 exclusive Gran Turismo Sport. EA’s title still made it to No.2, though, despite sales being down 45 per cent. It’s a similar situation to last year, where FIFA 17 remained at the top for three weeks after launch before being knocked off by another EA title, Battlefield 1. Having launched early last week, Gran Turismo Sport debuted at No.1 to good sales, breaking the cycle of recent bad performances from other racing games. As GfK pointed out, it’s the first appearance of the 19-year-old franchise on a current-gen console, as the last entry in the series was 2013’s Gran Turismo 6 on

Considering the racing genre’s recent struggles, GT Sport certainly stands out, with Week One sales up 172 per cent compared to Forza Motorsport 7. PS3. However, the data firm also pointed out that sales for Sony’s GT Sport were far from reaching the same heights as Gran Turismo 5, whose Week One sales were over three times higher back in 2010. Compared to other PS4 exclusives that released earlier this year, GT Sport’s Week One sales were just eight per cent down compared to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, but it still pales compared to other titles, such as smash hit Crash Bandicoot and Horizon Zero Dawn, with sales down 37 per cent on Crash and 35 per cent on Horizon. Considering the racing genre’s recent struggles, however, GT Sport certainly stands out, with Week One sales up 172 per cent on Forza Motorsport 7 and a whopping 438 per cent up on Project CARS 2. Meanwhile, Ubisoft’s South Park: The Fractured But Whole entered the charts at No.3, with Week One sales for the follow-up down just seven per cent compared to 2014’s The Stick of Truth. 2K took the fourth spot withWWE 2K18. Unit sales were down 18 per cent compared to last year’s instalment, but revenue was actually up five per cent thanks to good performances from the £79.99 Deluxe and £129.99 Collectors editions. GfK also said that WWE 2K18’s strong Day One sales actually put it ahead of South Park in terms of units in the first 24 hours after launch on October 18th, but that Ubisoft’s title then caught up later in the week.

UK WEEKLY PHYSICAL CHART TOP 10

Title

Format

Publisher

01 Gran Turismo Sport NEW PS4 02 FIFA 18 PS4, XO, NS, 360 03 SP: The Fractured But Whole NEW PS4, XO 04 WWE 2K18 NEW PS4, XO 05 Middle-earth: Shadow of War PS4, XO 06 The Evil Within 2 PS4, XO, PC 07 Destiny 2 PS4, XO 08 Grand Theft Auto V PS4, XO, 360, PS3 09 Forza Motorsport 7 XO 10 Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy PS4

Sony EA Ubisoft 2K Warner Bros Bethesda Activision Rockstar Microsoft Activision

Source: Ukie/GfK, Period: Week ending October 21st

For its second week on shelves, Middle-earth: Shadow of War fell three places to No.5 with sales decreasing 74 per cent. The title had a somewhat disappointing launch on October 10th, with physical sales down 18 per cent compared to its 2014 predecessor. Despite this, Shadow of War has clearly been another victim of digital shift, as despite performing below expectations at retail, the title did really well on PC, taking No.5 in the Steam charts on Week One, and selling almost 400,000 copies on the platform in just a week, according to SteamSpy. Elsewhere, Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Warriors debuted at No.16, having launched just one day before GfK closed its report for the week, and THQ Nordic’s Elex entered the charts at No.25. Further down the charts, Sold Out’s Rogue Trooper Redux debuted at No.37. Overall, with the wealth of new triple-A titles hitting shelves, the market had a big boost last week, with unit sales up 11 per cent, and revenue up 19 per cent weekon-week to reach £18m.

Briefly beaten by WWE 2K18 mid-week, South Park: The Fractured But Whole eventually managed to take No.3 in the charts

40 | MCV 928 October 27

40 MCV928 Chart Analysis_V3.indd 1

25/10/2017 15:35


Ad Template.indd 1

10/10/2017 15:33


biggamereleases

Release date:

Call of Duty: WWII

03/11

Developer: Sledgehammer • Publisher: Activision • Distributor: CentreSoft • Platform(s): PS4, XO, PC • Price: £59.99, £49.99 (PC)

Call of Duty: WWII is an "authentic, gritty, cinematic experience."

The publisher says...

The press say...

How well will it do?

For this new entry, Call of Duty is going back to its roots with a WWII setting. Developer Sledgehammer promised a realistic depiction of the conflict, but fans can rest assured – there will still be Nazi zombies. Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg said the team at Sledgehammer has been focusing on "delivering an authentic, gritty, cinematic experience that honours both the epic scale, and the human struggle of the greatest war the world has ever known." Sledgehammer's studio head Glen Schofield added they wanted to "tell a realistic story set in a true inflection point in human history." n

Having played the multiplayer beta back in August, The Telegraph's Sam White said CoD: WWII "feels much faster" compared to Battlefield 1. He added that it offers a "far more streamlined and traditional shooter experience" than the futuristic entries of the franchise. But this also means it's "less environmentally dynamic." IGN's Ryan McCaffrey also praised CoD: WWII's new War feature, a 6v6 narrative-driven mode with a series of objectives: "The resulting chaos focuses the action to a single point while keeping tension high for both sides, as well as offering players various play styles and ways to succeed within each match." n

Last year's Infinite Warfare launched to disappointing numbers, with Week One physical sales down 50 per cent compared to 2015's Black Ops III. As a result, a return to a more historic setting may well be key to winning back fans. What remains to be seen, however, is whether WWII will reach the same heights as Black Ops III. Even with the WWII setting, it seems unlikely, especially given the major shift to digital and increasing competition in the FPS genre, from both its close thematic rival Battlefield 1, and Activision Blizzard's own success with Destiny 2 and, of course, Overwatch. n

42 | MCV 928 October 27

42 44 45 46 MCV928 Big Releases_V7.indd 1

25/10/2017 15:36


EXPERIENCED AND DEDICATED ACCOUNT MANAGERS INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING DAILY DEALS AND REGULAR PROMOTIONS EXCLUSIVE PRODUCTS

info@linkdistribution-uk.com

+44 1274 684 668

October 2017

Scrappage Offer: £2,000 2 Part exchange ANY disc repair machine against an Eco Master machine (either new or reconditioned) and receive £2,000 part exchange value against your purchase

totaldiscrepair.co.uk/master Call:

01202 489 500

Email:

sales@totaldiscrepair.co.uk October 27 MCV 928 | 43

42 44 45 46 MCV928 Big Releases_V7.indd 2

25/10/2017 15:36


biggamereleases

Release date:

Need for Speed Payback

10/11

Developer: Ghost Games • Publisher: EA • Distributor: CentreSoft • Platform(s): PS4, XO, PC • Price: £59.99, £54.99 (PC)

Need for Speed Payback will "challenge what players expect from racing games."

The publisher says...

The press say...

How well will it do?

EA's Need for Speed returns after a one-year hiatus with Payback, which was revealed at E3 this year. Executive producer at EA-owned developer Ghost Games, Marcus Nilsson, promised to "challenge what players expect from racing games." He added that Need for Speed Payback will bring together the "deepest customisation, an impressive roster of cars, intense races and open world pursuits." He continued: "From the story, to the different characters you can drive as, to the varied missions, to the edge-of-yourseat moments, this is our vision for what action driving entertainment means today." n

Most previews to date have compared Need for Speed Payback to film franchise The Fast and the Furious, mainly due to the similarities in their respective story arcs. For Digital Trends' Michael Rougeau, Payback actually "tries too hard to look like The Fast and the Furious." However, he said it's not "inherently a bad thing" and that the two could "pair well." He wasn't impressed by the gameplay, though, criticising the way it "rips control away" from the player with too many cutscenes. Trusted Reviews' Michael Passingham said he was "optimistic," but he also hoped the handling will be tweaked "to be a little more engaging." n

The Need for Speed reboot in 2015 launched to decent sales, charting at No.3 in the weekly charts and only beaten by FIFA 16 and Call of Duty: Black Ops III, which released the same week. EA's clearly learned from its mistake, as it's launching a week after CoD this year. However, with the wealth of recent racing launches, EA will have to go the extra mile in order to convince driving fans that Payback is worth buying. That said, it should be able to count on its dedicated fanbase and the fact that Need for Speed is more than 'just another racing game', thanks to its open world, action driving and set of characters with specific skills. n

44 | MCV 928 October 27

42 44 45 46 MCV928 Big Releases_V7.indd 3

25/10/2017 15:36


biggamereleases

Release date:

07/11

Sonic Forces

Developer: Sonic Team • Publisher: Sega • Distributor: Koch Media • Platform(s): PS4, XO, NS • Price: £27.99, £35.99 (NS)

Sonic Forces' 3D mode "brings something a little different to the Sonic experience."

On the back of Sonic Mania's critical and commercial success, Sega is about to launch its second Sonic title of the year next month. Sonic Forces was unveiled at SXSW 2017 and will also come in a shiny Bonus Edition that includes in-game add-ons and a controller skin. Players will be able to create their own characters, too, with seven animal types to choose from: hedgehog, wolf, bird, rabbit, bear, cat and dog. The game introduces new modes as well, including both 2D and 3D levels.

Having played the latter at Gamescom, Tech Advisor's Lewis Painter said 3D "brings something a little different to the Sonic experience" and is "a welcome feature for those of us that struggle when playing classic side-scrolling Sonic games." Meanwhile, Nintendo Life's Alex Olney said Sonic Forces "disappoints at nearly every turn." He added that, on the Switch, "it runs like an asthmatic slug through a salt mine, and the gameplay is bland and utterly predictable." n

Release date:

10/11 Football Manager 2018 Developer: Sports Interactive • Publisher: Sega • Distributor: Koch Media • Platform(s): PC • Price: £39.99

When all other PC games choose to go digital-only, the Football Manager franchise keeps releasing every year as a physical product to good sales, too. This year is no exception, with the new entry hitting shelves in two weeks with a limited edition. Football Manager 2018 is set to be one of the best titles in the series so far, thanks to a wealth of new features being introduced, starting with the new Medical Centre. According to PC Gamer's Joe Donnelly, it "aims to provide a comprehensive overview of

your team's injuries, which in turn should help you avoid them." The title also has a new graphics engine, a new 'Dynamics' feature in which the work you do in the dressing room impacts the performance on the pitch, and a revamped scouting system that will "better reflect how real clubs recruit players," Sports Interactive boss Miles Jacobson said. He added that the title will also include "improved stadium designs and match presentation," as well as "increased depth to sports science and tactics." n

Football Manager 2018 brings "increased depth to sports science and tactics."

October 27 MCV 928 | 45

42 44 45 46 MCV928 Big Releases_V7.indd 4

25/10/2017 15:36


biggamereleases

Digital releases The pick of the crop from upcoming digital downloads This is the Police

Developer: Weappy Studio Publisher: THQ Nordic Platforms: NS Price: £24.99 Release date: Out now

OUT NOW

Ahead of its physical release in December, This is the Police released on Switch a couple of days ago. Weappy Studio and THQ Nordic's strategy title lets players embody police chief Jack Boyd in a city plagued by crime. The story is influenced by his decisions as he's 180 days from retirement.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds

31 10

Developer: Guerrilla Games Publisher: Sony Platforms: PS4 Price: £15.99 Release date: November 11th

Stifled

Developer: Gattai Games Publisher: Gattai Games Platforms: PS4, PS VR Price: TBC Release date: October 31st

Singapore-developed Stifled is a sound-based stealth thriller, with the world around you reacting to the sounds you make. This allows you to progress, but it also attracts enemies, so players have to find the right balance between noise and quiet in order to survive. A PC release is also due soon.

Release schedule

07 11

10 11

Wuppo

Developer: Knuist & Perzik Publisher: Soedesco Platforms: PS4, XO Price: £10.99 Release date: November 10th

The first piece of DLC for Sony's hit Horizon Zero Dawn is landing on PS4 in two weeks. In addition to a brand new icy area, The Frozen Wilds will also unveil new characters and machines, as well as a new storyline. The DLC will be included in Horizon's Complete Edition launching in December.

Having successfully launched on PC in late 2016, sidescrolling action platformer Wuppo is making the leap to consoles this November. The Dutch title also includes RPG and twin-stick shooter elements in a weird and colourful world populated by strange creatures.

Title

Format

Genre

Publisher

Telephone

Distributor

October 27th Assassin’s Creed Origins ATV Drift and Tricks Just Dance 2018 Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Trilogy Nights of Azure 2: Bride of the New Moon Quar! Battle for Gate 18 Raiden V Director's Cut Rugby 18 Super Mario Odyssey Superbeat Xonic Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Yomawari: Midnight Shadows

PS4, XO PS4 PS4, XO, NS, PS3, 360, Wii U PS4 PS4, NS PS4 PS4 PS4, XO NS NS PS4, XO, PC PS4, Vita

Action Racing Dance Fighting Action-RPG Strategy Action Sports Platformer Rhythm FPS Horror

Ubisoft Funbox Media Ubisoft Bandai Namco Koei Tecmo Koei Tecmo PQube Big Ben Nintendo Rising Star Bethesda NIS America

01279 822 822 01246 810623 01279 822 822 01564 330607 01462 476130 01462 476130 01462 677 844 01462 487 373 01753 483700 01564 330607 01564 330607 020 8664 3485

Exertis Open Exertis Advantage Open Open Open Open Open Advantage Advantage Open

October 31st Deer Hunter Reloaded Monopoly Rapala Fishing Pro Series Spintires: Mudrunner

PS4 NS PS4 PS4, XO

Simulation Board game Simulation Simulation

Maximum Games Ubisoft Maximum Games Focus

01480 359 403 01279 822 822 01480 359 403 01256 385 200

Open Exertis Open Koch Media

November 3rd .hack//G.U. Last Recode Call of Duty: WWII

PS4 PS4, XO, PC

Action-RPG FPS

Bandai Namco Activision

01564 330607 01216 253 388

Advantage CentreSoft

46 | MCV 928 October 27

42 44 45 46 MCV928 Big Releases_V7.indd 5

25/10/2017 15:36


DISTRIBUTION

CLICK DISTRIBUTION

c l

C

LIME DISTRIBUTION

GAMING ACCESSORIES

distribution Ltd

Video Game Wholesaler • Global Distribution

Global sourcing network

for: Video

Games - Consoles - Accessories

Overstocks Specialists

Interest free credit accounts available

150,000 units in stock and ready to ship today +44 (0)208 670 5180

@

20 + years industry experience

Accounts for small retail businesses welcome

ian@clickdistribution.com david.torres@clickdistribution.com

clickdistribution.com

Est. 2003

Tel: +44 (0)208 670 5180

ENARXIS DYNAMIC MEDIA

Tel: +302 1090 11900 FLUID DESIGN

Web: www.clickdistribution.com

DISTRIBUTION

Web: www.enarxis.eu CREATIVE

rich experiences for brands that entertain creatiVe / design / digital / motion / licensing Tel: +44 (0)121 212 0121

47 MCV928 Directory Page.indd 1

Web: www.fluidesign.co.uk

Tel: 01622 845 161

Web: www.limedistribution.co.uk

25/10/2017 10:29


endgame

This issue, Shadow of War takes over London, VR Bound crowns the best in virtual reality and more

Shadow of Phwoar To celebrate the launch of Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Warner Bros took over London earlier this month, with Sauron’s dark forces looming large over the city with huge shadow casting projections. Orcs, drakes and caragors were seen all over the capital alongside a real-life orc squad to keep those pesky rangers at bay.

Play Expectations Replay Events took over Manchester’s ‘Event City’ last weekend for its latest Play Expo Manchester event, showcasing the likes of Jagex, PQube, Ubisoft, Lucid Games, Techland and more. Replay Events director Andy Brown commented: “Our sixth Play Expo in Manchester was by far our most successful yet with huge attendance, a record number of indie developers attending, an incredible range of industry experts and celebrities hosting fascinating panels and a simply massive selection of merchandise available. Consumer satisfaction was at an all-time high and we’d like to thank everyone who attended for making it our most successful show ever!”

48 | MCV 928 October 27

48 49 50 MCV928 End Game_V4.indd 1

25/10/2017 15:37


VR Awards VR Bound’s very first VR Awards took place earlier this month, where Oculus’ team (pictured below) won headset of the year for its Rift and Survios’ Raw Data was named Best VR game of the year. Meanwhile, Google’s Tilt Brush was named best VR experience, and its Daydream View headset the best mobile VR headset. Other winners included The Void’s Ghostbusters: Dimension, start-up LiveLike and Ikea’s Ikea VR. Daniel Colaianni, executive producer of the VR Awards told MCV: “From the hundreds of conversations with VR professionals across the world, to meeting many of those faces on the night of the VR Awards, seeing smiling, talented individuals celebrating each others achievements as if they were their own was a highlight of the evening’s events.”

thedraft industry appointments

Sumo Digital has expanded its studio management team with five new hires. DAVID WILTON (pictured, top left) joins the board as group CFO, while GARY DUNN (top right) has been appointed portfolio director, JIM WOODS (middle left) as senior development director, SCOTT KIRKLAND (middle right) as development director and MARTIN CONNOR (bottom left) as studio design director. In addition, co-founder PAUL PORTER (bottom right) will now take on the title of managing director of Sumo Digital. Porter commented: “Adding this level of expertise and experience further strengthens the team as we continue to grow.” The Rt. Hon ED VAIZEY MP (pictured opposite, top right) has been appointed as vice chair of the British Esports Association. Previously, Vaizey worked as culture minister between 2010 and 2016, where he secured vital tax breaks for game studios, and is currently MP for Didcot and Wantage. “I passionately believe that esports has a great future – in the UK and all across the world,” Vaizey said. “We’ve got a real opportunity here, it’s still a young industry and I think we can really put the UK on the map.”

Former MCV content director ANDREW WOODEN (below) has founded Game Theory Media, a new PR and events agency. “Game Theory Media offers an affordable alternative to having an in-house communications and events operations. We have an entirely scalable set of b2b and b2c services to fit any budget and any business size.”

JESS KINGHORN (below) has joined Official PlayStation Magazine as staff writer. “Previously I wrote for PC gaming website Pixel Judge, but I’ve always kept up with the PlayStation family,” she said.

October 27 MCV 928 | 49

48 49 50 MCV928 End Game_V4.indd 2

25/10/2017 15:37


Uni Sans SemiBold

endgame

Who’s who? Seth Barton Editor sbarton@nbmedia.com Katharine Byrne News Editor kbyrne@nbmedia.com

Fighting the good fight

Marie Dealessandri Senior Staff Writer mdealessandri@nbmedia.com

Revolution, London’s premier fighting game community event, expanded to Emirates Stadium’s Rocket Complex earlier this month, drawing 500 competitors from all around the world, including the US, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Europe. Supported by Bandai Namco, PQube, Square Enix and Nintendo, and sponsored by Rice Digital, players were able to go hands on with upcoming fighting titles including Dragonball Fighter Z, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT and Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st].

Presents

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

NewBay Subscriptions: The Emerson Building 4-8 Emerson Street London - SE1 9DU e: subs@mcvuk.com www.mcvuk.com

FIVE SECOND FACTS

1m

$199

368,913

MCV has an exclusive media partnership with Famitsu – Japan’s leading video games analyst and news source

2m

$10,000

NewBay Media Europe Ltd is a member of the Periodical Publishers Association

ISSN: 1469-4832 Copyright 2017

Xbox console exclusive Cuphead hit 1m sales in just two weeks, with 60 per cent of total copies sold on Steam

The price of Facebook’s new standalone Oculus Go headset, which is set to launch in early 2018

The number of Classic Mini: SNES consoles sold in Japan during its first four days on sale

As of September, the Nintendo Switch has now sold 2m units in the US – and that’s before Mario even launches

The amount of money awarded by Wired Productions to mental health charity Take This

MCV is published 24 times a year by NewBay Media Europe Ltd, The Emerson Building, 4th Floor, 4-8 Emerson Street, London SE1 9DU

The Emerson Building, 4th Floor 4-8 Emerson Street. London, SE1 9DU All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system without the express prior written consent of the publisher. The contents of MCV are subject to reproduction in information storage and retrieval systems. Printed by Pensord Press Ltd, NP12 2YA

48 49 50 MCV928 End Game_V4.indd 3

25/10/2017 15:37


Untitled-1 1

10/23/2017 10:10:17 AM


Untitled-1 1

10/23/2017 2:33:10 PM

MCV928 27th october  
MCV928 27th october