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MCV 931

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Brilliantly diverse

We talk to Square Enix’s CEO Yosuke Matsuda about Tokyo RPG Factory and the globalised games market

11/12/17

Features

Rebels with a cause

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As Rebellion celebrates its 25th anniversary, we look into its enduring success

Ten trends for 2018

20

2017 is on the way out. Here’s our pick of what’s going to be big in the coming year

Being Fork Parker

28

Devolver Digital’s Graeme Struthers and Harry Miller discuss the firm s evolution

Page 5 The Editor • Page 6 On the Radar • Page 8 Opinions from the industry • Page 38 Margin Makers • Page 42 Sales analysis • Page 44 Big releases • Page 48 End Game – community and events • December 11 MCV 931 | 03

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“We increasingly found that the most dynamic areas didn’t fall squarely under one brand or another.”

TheEditor A perfect union

While the political establishment blunders closer to a rather messy divorce, here at MCV we’re celebrating the recent marriage of our gaming brands, a three-way union of MCV, Develop and Esports Pro. Our brands are all progressive types and genderneutral to boot, but in the interests of clarity they’ll all be taking MCV’s name, while still retaining their individual identities. A marriage of convenience this is not. The UK games industry is more diverse than ever, encompassing a myriad of businesses and skillsets. And we increasingly found that the most dynamic areas didn’t fall squarely under one brand or another. With a unified team and a single website we can be more agile, covering the most important and impactful stories around. Myself and Marie have been joined by Jem Alexander from Develop and Jake Tucker from Esports Pro – so we’ve certainly retained the expertise. And if you too are an expert in one field, then worry not. Develop and Esports Pro will retain individual homepages on the new site, and their own social channels and newsletters, so you can easily filter for the content that’s most important to you. As for the magazine you’re holding, it will return in the new year as a bigger, sharper-looking monthly publication. Designed to sit at the heart of the UK games industry, it will champion the most exciting businesses, the smartest talent, the latest technologies and of course, the very best games. Over the last year MCV has been covering a broader remit than before, as the design, development, marketing and sale of video games become increasingly sophisticated and interwoven. Just look at the number of titles with streaming-specific features and microtransactions to see how far we’ve moved along. Speaking of moving along, we’re shooting through our advent calendars and this is the last MCV of the year. Thank you very much for reading and supporting MCV over the last year. Myself and the team are super excited to show you what we’ve got planned for next year, whether that’s new and improved events, the new magazine, greater social engagement or the new site.

TheTeam

Seth Barton sbarton@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

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ontheradar

PG Connects London 2018 January 22nd-23rd, London Pocket Gamer Connects London will gather the best from the global mobile industry for two days at The Brewery this January. Featuring ten tracks of talks (including global publishing, indie, monetisation, raising funds, esports and more), PG Connects will host over 140 speakers, including Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail, 22 Cans’ Peter Molyneux, Ukie’s Jo Twist and much more. Running alongside PG Connects will be XR Connects, dedicated to the VR, AR and MR industry (and will include talks by nDreams’ Patrick O’Luanaigh and Rhianna Pratchett), and PC Connects, focused on the global PC games industry.

Time to be jolly

Gamesforum London January 24th-25th, London

The Mobile Games Forum is rebranding to Gamesforum, and will return to central ondon with its first cross-platform event. osted at ounty all, Westminster, the conference will bring together attendees from across the PC, console and mobile industries. Over 80 speakers are set to appear across six content tracks during the two days, including Bossa Studios’ Tracey McGarrigan, Curve Digital’s Alex Moyet and Mike Bithell of Bithell Games. The tracks cover topics such as marketing, design, VR and AR, esports, the global games market and video game culture.

Something is coming. You’re eating a single small chocolate every morning, there’s a tree living inside your home, and you had a horrible hangover on a random Wednesday – yes, it’s Christmas again! The winter holiday is truly the holiday of gaming, so join us (not literally of course, the communal MCV household is packed already by a roaring fire, half-comatose through overeating, a glass of something boozy to hand, and enjoy playing some bloody great games. Merry Christmas to you all from all of us at MCV.

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New year, new Ni No Kuni

January 16th

he follow-up to Bandai Namco and evel- ’s hit is landing on and midJanuary. Ni No Kuni sold 1.7m copies worldwide and was critically acclaimed. Unlike its predecessor, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom didn’t see any involvement from Studio Ghibli, but is still highly awaited.

Monster unter World is coming

VFX Festival 2018 February 6th-8th, London

The creative industries will gather at Rich Mix for the VFX Festival this February. The festival assembles leaders from the VFX, games and animation industries through a range of talks, workshops, panels and interactive exhibition spaces. More headliners are to be announced but, as far as games firms are concerned, Creative Assembly and limax have already confirmed they will be presenting at VFX.

January 26th onster unter World is hitting shelves in January, for PS4 and Xbox One, with a PC version to follow. here’s a -exclusive beta until tomorrow and the full PS4 game will feature the opportunity to play as Aloy, ori on ero Dawn’s main character.

MCV Awards 2018 March 8th, London

The next MCV Awards will take place on March 8th at The Brewery, with brand new categories, under four agship groups ublisher Awards (with includes prizes such as Marketing Team of the Year, New Games IP and Indie Publisher of the Year), Media and Agency Awards (featuring PR Agency or Games Event of the Year), Retailer and istributor Awards, and ndividual Awards with ndustry ero and MCV Person of the Year up for grabs). ead to www.mcvawards.com before ecember th to submit an entry.

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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

Publisher

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Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4) Ni No Kuni II Collector Kings Edition (PS4) Days Gone (PS4) PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (XO) Final Fantasy VII (PS4)

Rockstar Bandai Namco Sony Microsoft Square Enix

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guestopinion

Iain Simons - CEO, National Videogame Foundation

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Building cultural confidence

he last month at the National Videogame Arcade Recently, some industry colleagues proposed a British has been confusing and I’m knackered. I’ve spoken Games Institute. There’s been some turbulence around it, it’s at a national cinema exhibitors conference about not a perfect proposal, but it’s marked out some vital ground. our new festival idea, we’ve announced a new There’s no mainstream, tangible support for games culture video game music event, planned out the Monument Valley that we can see. The Arts Council is interested in games, exhibition, welcomed a delegation from Indonesia who sees but some way from having a cohesive policy, BAFTA does us as a model for public engagement in creative industries, some amazing work but it's not going to add a ‘G’, the BFI welcomed over 2,000 paying visitors to the galleries, had a is naturally dedicated to film. The BGI has described itself board meeting for EFGAMP (that’s a bunch of European as a ‘centre of gravity’ for games culture, something for the museums trying to reform copyright law so we can preserve floating, weightless mass of vital game culture to orbit. The games easier)... And that’s just our stuff. There’s a tonne fact that the BGI has captured the imagination as much as it of equally brilliant work has demonstrates the size of happening around the country. the vacuum its proposing to It’s video game culture and it’s Why is there still a case to answer for help fill. happening, right now. When I was a kid, I learned games? When will people acknowledge how to play the guitar because So, why is there still a case to answer for games? Why that they're fundamentally interesting I loved it. I can feel the value don’t games have any cultural in sitting and playing music. and valuable in and of themselves? confidence? I don’t mean in At a videogame skills event the insoluble ‘are games art yet’ recently a number of major debate that used to be a panel at every conference. I mean, publishers were talking about how they were looking to bring when will people acknowledge that they’re fundamentally computer science to kids, all through the lens of driving the interesting and valuable in and of themselves? production. A colleague who funds major creative projects The argument that gets batted around most is that games leaned over to me and asked: "This is all good, but what make a lot of money, therefore they must be culturally about the kids who want to learn how to make games but valuable. I think people objectively understand that games don’t want to be in the games industry?” For me, that’s the have economic value. The problem is they don’t understand point. It’s can’t all be about production, it can’t all be about that games have intrinsic, cultural value. They’re weightless, the economy. People make games for lots of reasons and floating around untethered to anything and the instinct to they’re doing it right now, even as you read this. If we can auto-trivialise is too strong. There’s such amazing work being create a funding mechanism that can recognise that kind of made, and yet potential focus is pulled from it by making creative value, it would be amazing. trailers about smashing up women with hammers. Finally, gravity.

Iain Simons is the CEO of the National Videogame Foundation. It runs the National Videogame Arcade, GameCity Festival and lots of other brilliant work that you can check on www.thenva.com 08 | MCV 931 December 11

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guestopinion

Max Scott-Slade - Game Design Director, Glitchers

How video games can save the world

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es, it’s a bold statement but one that I stand by – prevent accidents, cure diseases, or at the very least improve video games can in fact save the world. All of us are day-to-day life for millions of people around the world. no doubt aware of how much more our industry is The accessibility of data such as this allows us as game worth than TV or movies, but it’s the other kind of designers to refine our titles, paving the way for increased value of our audience that interests me most, their engagement. accuracy in data collection. For instance, our Alzheimer'sOn one hand, what I’m referring to is players’ love of the tackling mobile game, Sea Hero Quest, gave us a pool of over products and how vocal they can be in giving the feedback 3m players' data to draw from when designing the VR version that ultimately shapes them. While not unique to games, of the game. From this pool we were essentially able to cherrythis is more pervasive than any other medium. On the other pick the most appropriate and effective designs for levels within hand, I’m talking about the defining aspect of what makes the game. The information on how players navigate this simple a game a game – the audience in a new world created for test was fed back and made for some fascinating insights them to explore and become concerning Alzheimer's. immersed in. Every change Our aim was always to apply in direction, button-push this as a fun game to play, on Imagine if every game out there was and small decision in that top of everything else. But designed with some background aspect imagine if every game out world displays a wealth of information about how people of feeding into the kind of research that there was designed with some themselves work, which in turn aspect of feeding could have significant real-world impact? background can feed into processes that can into the kind of research that have far-reaching implications. could have significant realWe’ve seen player power feeding in to these processes, world impact? Before you know it we could have triple-A racers such as with the Folding@home project, now shuttered after feeding into driverless vehicle technology, narrative adventure a successful five year run in which 100m hours of player time games giving extra detail to research on empathy, perhaps even was donated. Yet while this made massive contributions to the a match-three title contributing to colour-blindness research. power Stanford needed to fold proteins, it was just power that After all, there’s a huge amount of psychological knowledge was given by the players, nothing more. that goes into monetisation strategy these days, whether What we now have the power to do is examine every in the time-based waiting system in Candy Crush or the move a player makes to determine how they respond to infamous loot boxes that have caused such a storm recently. certain situations. Depending on how a game’s data is used, Why don’t we channel what we learn from that into some it can teach us incredible things about how the brain works, causes that can affect real change around the world too? Perhaps we can save our planet and the humans within it, not human behavioural psychology, reaction speed, hand-eye coordination and loads more. With this information we could just sell to it.

Max Scott-Slade has over ten years experience within the games industry, during which he has launched a number of successful game IPs. In 2013, he co-founded award-winning London-based studio Glitchers, where he currently resides as game design director December 11 MCV 931 | 09

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guestopinion

Paul Gardner - Partner, Wiggin LLP

Games and gambling – When two worlds collide

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any in the games industry will have heard it constitute gambling in one country but does in another. referred to as the 'gaming industry' – a term But this is not just an issue about loot boxes. confusingly used by some betting firms. This Among the furore on that subject, another development can be mildly irritating, but at least easy has received less attention. In October, the UK Gambling to correct. In recent weeks however, this confusion has Commission wrote a letter to online operators regarding become increasingly visible and concerning. adverts featuring images likely to appeal to under 18s. The most obvious manifestation of this has been in The immediate reaction amongst people in the games relation to loot boxes. In some sections of the media, these industry may be to think that this does not affect them, have been unthinkingly referred to as gambling, even when because they are not providing gambling services. At it is clear that the mechanics of the particular loot box one level this is correct. However, it does take the highlighted does not constitute gambling. Commission a step closer to the games industry. With so much noise in the We know from the media, this misunderstanding paper published by the To assess whether or not a can be much harder to correct. Commission in March this However, it is just as incorrect particular loot box does constitute year that its primary interest and unhelpful to completely relates to social casino gambling requires a careful review gaming. However, its more dismiss this criticism and to claim (as some have done) that general concern is to protect of its mechanics. loot boxes are not gambling. children and 'vulnerable' The fact is, they can be. people from getting drawn into gambling. There are games To assess whether or not a particular loot box does that are not casino style games but that do have very similar constitute gambling requires a careful review of its mechanics to gambling. mechanics. In particular, it depends on the nature of the So putting this together, it is easy to see how the stake and the nature of the prize. Commission might start to look at games with these For example, is the stake purchased (or even partly mechanics that also appeal to children. There are some purchased) with real money and can the prize be exchanged similarities with the issue around IAPS that arose in 2013, for something of real world value? Looking at different loot except that potentially this would be much more serious. boxes, it is possible to identify at least three different types The good news is that the Commission has (unlike of stake and three different types of prize, so these elements regulators in some countries) adopted a process of alone generate nine different mechanics. consultation and learning. However, it does not serve the To further complicate matters, the position varies in each interests of the games industry to dismiss this issue and country, so it is entirely possible that a loot box does not there is certainly no room for complacency.

Paul Gardner is a lawyer and early adopter of the Atari 2600. He specialises in commercial transactions and regulatory issues relating to the computer games industry 10 | MCV 931 December 11

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Brilliantly diverse Square Enix’s CEO Yosuke Matsuda shook up the Japanese development model with Tokyo RPG Factory, a move which reflects wider changes at the company, reports Seth Barton

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iversity isn’t the first word that immediately springs to mind when you think about Japan. Yet Square Enix has built an impressively diverse portfolio over the last ten years. Most big publishers have their annual bankers, meanwhile the company synonymous with Final Fantasy only releases a flagship title in that series far less regularly, while Tomb Raider hasn’t struck upon any regular schedule either. Then there’s the Avengers project, Left Alive, Life is Strange, Nier Automata, Deus Ex, Just Cause and many more. It’s not easy to predict the firm’s roadmap but its strength in depth, its diversity, is undeniable. Keeping up with that lot is no mean feat, but Yosuke Matsuda, president and CEO of Square Enix seems to be on top of it all. We get the impression he’s a keen moderniser, with numerous projects to shake up both development and distribution of the company’s titles. VOLUNTEER FORCE Square Enix has always made RPGs, but has recently benefitted from a new approach in how it creates such games with the creation of Tokyo RPG Factory in 2016. Responsible for hit game I Am Setsuna, and the soon to be released spiritual follow-up Lost Sphear. The formation of the studio was radically different to how internal Japanese development teams are usually put together. With the company taking a more indie-like mentality to the studio’s creation. That all started with Matsuda spotting an opportunity in the market. “I came up with an idea that the traditional turn-based style of RPG was something that not many companies were making, so I looked at this and thought it might be a nice idea to get someone to create some games in that style and see how we could work on that,” he tells MCV. However, the current development structure at Square Enix wasn’t set up for quick iterations on smaller projects: “We realised that to do it within the traditional framework of Square Enix as a company there would be a number of limitations, things that would make it harder to do.” That wasn’t to say the staff wasn’t keen though, with many “who were very passionate about these sort of games,” Matsuda says. “They all put their hands up and said they’d love to make a game about this.

“So we wanted to try out a slightly different style of development team based around a single project proposal and people who had volunteered to make a game like that, and that’s how we came to the idea of starting Tokyo RPG factory.” This is a very different approach to that which dominates development in Japan and in many companies in the west too. Talented developers often get stuck making games that aren’t to their personal tastes, which can negatively impact those projects. Matsuda’s plan, then, was to hire internal and externally-recruited talent without telling them that the new studio would be part of Square Enix. “The original plan was to create a team of people who were attached to a project, though they weren’t necessarily attached to the company doing it, to gather together a team of people who were going to have their loyalty towards this project. I wanted to try that out.” So can we expect more such project-centric studios? “I’m really hoping the Tokyo RPG factory grows to have its own house style and personality as a developer, it will be really good to have lots of different studios with their character like that. It’s really case by case, though, looking at the future, whether we’ll add more studios of this type.” INDIE GAP In Europe, of course, such smaller development tasks are usually taken up by indies, who have become adept at filling genres that major publishers have left behind. But the lack of a Japanese indie scene is what could have held back innovation in the country. “I think there’s that difference where the indie scene is not so advanced in Japan, it’s just adapting to the cultural landscape,” Matsuda confirms. And part of that cultural landscape has been a lack of PC gaming, which is an important part of the grassroots of the western indie scene, with modding of popular games often being a first step into full development. “Very few people have a gaming PC in Japan,” he also admits. While the indie scene in Japan has grown over the last few years, Kyoto’s Bitsummit being the best example, there are still issues that hold the scene back. “For example, when we were first starting out, Kickstarter just wasn’t big at all Japan,” Matsuda says. “It’s still not massive.”

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Pictured above: Lost Sphear on Switch, Tokyo RPG Factory’s second title

The approach contrasts strongly with that of the Square Enix Collective in Europe. Though the desire to create an agile project-centric team is similar. “The idea of creating a project, putting a flag up and getting people to come in and work on that is something we could have done in the same kind of manner as the Collective in Japan. That option was there. But because that kind of thing is not so established in Japan, it would have been much harder to get people in, which is why we choose a different approach. “The overall objective is pretty much the same: we’re trying to do similar things, but it’s just the environment we’re trying to achieve those things in is different, so we adapted to the environment in a way we felt was best.” And that objective was to create games in a faster, more flexible way, to create games that could make the most of the growing trend for digital distribution in Japan, which was already becoming dominant in the west. GOING GLOBAL Improving Square Enix’s digital sales is something that Matsuda brought up in the company’s recent end of year report. It affects the company in many ways, both giving Tokyo RPG Factory’s titles wide reach, and also allowing more western games into Japan. Looked at either way it’s a powerful force for globalisation in once quite separate gaming markets. “I think that certainly there’s been a desire for different kinds of games and different tastes all around the world, and the change with the hardware and the way games are distributed now means it’s a lot easier to pick up the titles you want to play from wherever they are and I think that’s had an influence,” Matsuda says. “In the past in Japan, you had people who were really interested in western games, and they did exist, but obviously most of these games were only available on PC. So people found it really hard to get hold of them and play them. But that’s now changed and a lot of these games are put onto console.” SUPER SWITCH Another way in which the company is looking to diversify is by embracing the Switch, though with no announcements of western franchises to date. Square Enix is somewhat biding its time when it comes to the platform. “The Switch is a very attractive and important platform for us,” Matsuda says. “As a games company, having that

breadth in our portfolio is very important, with the Switch being such a unique piece of hardware.” In Japan, Square Enix is pleased to see an alternative to the PS4, and one that provides very different opportunities to the market’s dominant device. It also seems a natural home for Tokyo RPG Factory’s undemanding titles, though the studio and its first title came too early for that to be planned. “When we started work on Project Setsuna, the Switch wasn’t even out yet, there was no information about it,” Matsuda continues. “We really set out to make this style of game and to make it on home console. But we didn’t really have any particular ideas about which console we were going to go for in the planning stage.” A happy coincidence then that Setsuna and Lost Sphear are both great fits for the hardware. And other announced titles, such as Dragon Quest 11, will reinforce that longcherished relationship between Square Enix and Nintendo hardware: “For gamers, Nintendo is very closely attached to the JRPG, because so many of them came out back in the Super Nintendo days.” BACK CATALOGUE MODEL Matsuda stated in a recent company report that he’s keen to improve the company’s digital fortunes. On this subject, he reveals a handful of ideas to improve sales and widen its digital offering with updates to classic titles: “The very first of those is to completely renew and overhaul our website. The second one is creating an app to make it easier for [consumers] to get their hands on games. Everyone gets their information through smartphones now, so we created an application to make it even easier for them to know what titles are there to buy.” Square Enix has an enviable back catalogue, which Matsuda is keen to make more of: “One of our other big initiatives is to get as many as our past titles available via digital releases. Among the younger generations of gamers, you’ve got lots of people out there who may have heard of our past titles but have never had an opportunity to play them. “So we think that programme of porting and transferring the older titles over to newer platforms, such as the Switch, is very important. So that people get that awareness of our back catalogue. Just straight ports isn’t cutting it, we need to update those and modernise them to make something that works for modern gamers too.” I Am Setsuna did well as a digital title, Matsuda continues: “Certainly for these kind of smaller titles the percentage on digital is a lot higher.” But physical is very important, he adds: “For people who do want a boxed title, we very much want to provide them with a collector’s edition of the game, and addressing their needs in that way.”

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SERVICE GAME Arguably Square Enix has been slow to take up the monetisation models that have proved so rewarding – and controversial – for many its competitors. We ask if a broad strategic move to games-as-a-service is in the offing? “I think that really depends on the overall design of each individual title,” Matsuda answers. “Our feelings on it is people have bought those games and we want them to be able to enjoy them and play them as long as possible. So after they’ve completed the game, to add extra things and give them new things to enjoy. That’s an important thing and very vital for us to provide that.” No grand Take-Two style statement of support there for the model, with Matsuda seeing microtransactions as more suited to mobile titles than console games. And that’s despite the Japanese mobile market having been pivotal in inventing some of the most prolific microtransaction models – most notably the Gacha model where players buy random heroes. “Overall it really comes down to customer perceptions, what people expect and want in a home console game is perhaps quite different from what people want in a mobile game and it’s looked at in a different way. The way that console games are made, the volume of content and how much effort goes into them, there’s something in that which doesn’t fit in the mind with microtransactions.” A swathe of microtransactions aren’t on the horizon then, but Square Enix has certainly upped its game when it comes to post-release support, with Final Fantasy XV being a good example. Though adding content to something already so epic in size can be no easy task. “Even though you’ve made a very big chunk of content, you still have to think how can we enhance that, how we let people share that experience with each other,” Matsuda says. Square Enix has been at the forefront of episodic content, having been involved with both Hitman and Life is Strange. Though the decision to go episodic lay with the development teams, Matsuda explains: “It’s a very difficult thing to make that decision, there’s no obvious standard that this is definitely not going to work for an episodic game. It really does depend on what the development team wants to express with it.” That’s not a decision that Square Enix will be getting involved in anymore, having parted ways with IO at considerable expense. Though Life is Strange, at least, continues to fly the flag for the episodic model.

“Nier: Automata is in the Nier series, but it’s completely different in many ways,” Matsuda says. “Left Alive follows in a similar mould in that way,” with the latter title being based in the popular Front Mission universe, though graphically it highly resembles Metal Gear Solid, which should give it far greater appeal in the west. “It’s something that we have to keep doing really, we have to keep making new games. With development teams being so much bigger than they used to be, it’s not easy to create massive new IPs at that level, but it’s something we have to keep trying to do otherwise things get staid.” And Matsuda feels that the same name on the game doesn’t represent a lack of originality: “For Final Fantasy it’s a little bit different, they have numbers on them, but they’re essentially all new IPs in their own way. Everything about them is different each time.” HOLLYWOOD CALLING Square Enix’s next port of call is a double collision with Tinseltown. It’s co-producing the Tomb Raider movie, though Matsuda says we should direct any questions about that to Warner Bros rather than him. Though with a release date of next year, and rumours abounding of a new Tomb Raider game, 2018 looks to be a big year for Lara Croft. He’s similarly tight-lipped about the upcoming Avengers project, despite the company attaching huge development resources to the upcoming game that is yet to be dated. With both Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal working on the game, which will feature ‘shared gameplay’ and ‘various modes and campaigns’, it looks likely to be Square Enix’s first big step into games-as-aservice, and under the mightiest of fandom microscopes.

Pictured below: Life is Strange concept art by Dontnod’s Edouard Caplain

SQUEQUELS Japanese game franchises are often long-lived, with innumerable sequels, and while Square Enix is keen to continue appeasing fans of its big brand RPGs, it’s been more experimental in other areas. Bringing in fans but without simply iterating the experience, and to great success.

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Rebels with a cause On Rebellion’s 25th anniversary, Jake Tucker pays the studio a visit

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Pictured left: Jason Kingsley, Rebellion’s CEO and creative director

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ebellion is a company full of unique characters that has spent the last 25 years pushing technological boundaries. Take the company’s head of art, Chris Payton. His desk is littered with Playmobil. Three-inch tall figurines line his monitor, taller ornaments reach out across the workspace. Payton says he knew his desk was becoming a shrine to the plastic toys after he installed the train set. A button on his desk sends a train bursting out from behind his monitor, rolling back past the computer, vanishing behind a figure of Sniper Elite hero Karl Fairburne. This is family. Or as close to a family as you can be while still ensuring you get video games out of the door. Speaking to several veterans of the company, Rebellion’s internal motto seems to be to push the envelope, to take on technical challenges and emerge victorious. Jason Kingsley, CEO and creative director of Rebellion says that the company was born out of freelance game work that he and his brother Chris, a co-founder and the company’s CTO, were doing alongside their PhDs. “We were doing more and more computer game stuff,” says Jason Kingsley. “But we also ended up doing quite a lot of management, because nobody else in the team was doing it. So we ended up managing projects, and trying to coordinate things a little bit, as well as our freelance tasks and we weren’t getting paid for it. “ So the brothers decided to found Rebellion together and go into business for themselves. Rebellion’s first project was the demo for a dragon flying game that pitched dragons against Viking longships. The Kingsley brothers took the game to Atari’s office in Slough. “Atari was a shadow of its former self,” Kingsley recalls. “It had huge offices with amazing brown round Hessian wallpaper that was very faded. We went through one empty room after another to finally get to people’s offices. It was amazing. It was like something out of an apocalyptic scenario.” The game was shown to a few people, including the CEO of Atari. “He said: ‘Oh, this will be brilliant for our new Atari Jaguar console’,” Kingsley explains. “The Atari people went: ‘What new console?’ The first time anybody in Europe had heard of the Atari Jaguar was when their CEO told people in our meeting that this would be good for that console.” The dragon versus longship battler wasn’t commissioned, but Atari had the license for an Alien vs Predator game, and they wanted Rebellion to make it for them. This was the team’s first game developed in-house and required Rebellion to hire staff and rent out an office. Kingsley states that working with such an established license

as their first game was a “very respectful” process, that Rebellion started out with “complete confidence.” Atari was expecting a side-scrolling 2D beat-em-up, but Rebellion won the firm over on an “into the screen 3D thing” that ended up being one of the earliest first-person shooters. Kingsley describes the Atari Jaguar classic as “truly innovative,” with the team pulling out all the stops with several techniques that hadn’t been seen before: building and photographing models to scan into the game as texture maps, characters animated with stop motion techniques and 16-bit colour. The gameplay had a unique quirk, too, allowing gamers to play as the villains, both predator and xenomorph. These additions resonated with gamers and Alien Vs Predator became the best selling game on the Atari Jaguar. This success meant that when Fox decided to move into games, the firm approached Rebellion to create a new version of Alien vs Predator for the PC, one that featured full 3D, giving xenomorphs the memorable ability to skitter across the ceiling. This was a technical challenge as well as a gameplay choice: many developers of the era were saving polygons by making their ceilings less detailed than the floor because a player wasn’t likely to look at it closely. For Rebellion, every wall and ceiling were a floor. A shortcut would be impossible.

“We’ve always wanted to make games that we want to play.”

TOO AMBITIOUS “One of the problems we’ve always had at Rebellion is that we’re always too ambitious in how we create our environments,” Kingsley says with a smile that indicates he’s not too upset. Take Sniper Elite, an FPS game about taking out soldiers of the Third Reich at long range, perhaps Rebellion’s bestknown franchise in recent years. “A sniping game means you need to be able to zoom into the distance,” Kingsley continues. “For a lot of people that don’t have sniping in their games, they don’t have to worry about distance and the number of polygons. “We often feel that we’ve made a rod for our own backs with some of our creative decisions, but our technical team is so good that they can make the best of it and make it really work. And that’s why our games are successful, and why, I think, games like the Sniper Elite series are right up there with the best games in the world from the very expensive and very well funded big studios.” Kingsley says that the firm is “absolutely” drawn to technical and gameplay challenges that they can try to conquer. It’s something shared by the entire company.

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Everything Rebellion creates is built on its own technology, so the studio uses its own engine, and tries to avoid middleware where possible so that everything is tooled towards the game it’s been created for. “If there’s something we need it to do, we can make the engine do that,” says Kingsley. “We don’t have to worry that ‘Oh, the engine can’t do that so we have to compromise our creative visions’.” It’s not just in the engine tech, too. Payton, who’s been with Rebellion for a decade, and the company’s head of art for just over six years, has gone from overseeing three people to 19, but he’s also seen art in video games go through a substantial change. “Budgets have gone up, naturally, but also what you can do in the same amount of time goes up. For example, the heads of our characters separate from the bodies,” says Payton. “There’s a little line around the neck and that’s how we can change heads. In Sniper Elite 3, it took us ten days to make a head, and that would be done by eye, essentially. We would do reference photography, we would cut and paste bits of skin, bits of eyes, things like that. This would take ten days to make it. Now, it takes us ten days to make a head by programmetry, so we’re not actually saving time, but the quality improvement is massive. All those subtleties make a face a face, and that’s what we’re really looking for.” This is a typical example of Rebellion’s development process: Payton talks about how improvements in the workflow, new technologies and tools or even innovative solutions have come forward to reduce the requirements of games, to squeeze as much performance as possible out of consoles and PCs. Then the team comes in and uses this extra power to try to add a new feature or make things look better. “As much as we make things a little faster, a little better in terms of performance, we’re also making battles bigger, putting in higher quality textures or creating higher fidelity shaders,” says Payton. He adds that the Kingsleys, both Jason and Chris, are very supportive of teams taking big risks if they think there’s a payoff. Payton hints at an internal feature that a small team has been working on for months, that has now brought results that Rebellion is hoping to integrate into a new game. All very vague of course, but it shows something about Rebellion: that the studio is constantly iterating and improving on things, pushing forwards not just to keep gamers invested but also to create something the company wants to play for themselves. This focus on bettering themselves led to the art team pulling out and reworking the rendering system between

Sniper Elite 3 and its sequel, the well-received Sniper Elite 4 but it also means that, of all the projects Payton is most excited about at Rebellion, he’s hoping he’ll get another chance to go back to World War II, as he’s got unfinished business with the Nazi-killing sniper Karl Fairburne. “I would love to make another Sniper Elite game,” he enthuses. “I think it’s an artistic thing, when you’ve been making something for a while, I think the last third of it, you’re already thinking: ‘Shit, if I do this again, I’d be doing that or I’d be doing this.” MAKING GAMES FOR THEMSELVES Jason Kingsley suggests that the reason Rebellion throws itself so entirely into every technological challenge is that, fundamentally, they’re making games for themselves: “We’ve always wanted to make computer games that we want to play. That’s the truth of it. We don’t do much in the way of analytics or analysis of what’s the next big thing in computer games, because we just like making the games we like to play.” For a studio with such a strong drive to create its own unique visions, Kingsley describes work-for-hire as a relatively limiting prospect, and says the company moved out of work-for-hire at a time when the market was changing. “It was becoming more difficult to work,” he says. “The prices for projects were coming down, it was getting harder and harder to have enough people, and then you get a gap between projects and people say: ‘Have you got 100 people ready to go tomorrow?’ And you go: ‘Well how could I have thought to have 100 people sitting around for six months while you decide to do a project?’ It is a difficult thing to manage and there are still very successful people that do work-for-hire, but prices have gone back up again now so people who work-for-hire are charging much more now than they used to.” Still, the change in the market encouraged Rebellion to transition into making their own games. Kingsley went about this in two ways, pivoting Rebellion towards creating its own titles and buying up IPs he’d worked with or wanted to work with. This led to the acquisition of several older licenses they’d worked on such as Battlezone, but also the wholesale acquisition of comics outfit 2000AD, giving the studio unlimited access to the characters and scenarios described within the comic book’s pages. Now the company is truly independent, working on its own games free of shareholders, publishers or any other commitments. Kingsley says it sometimes still doesn’t feel like a real job even after 25 years.

“Our mum has stopped asking when I’m going to get a proper job, at least.”

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“Our mum has stopped asking when I’m going to get a proper job, at least. That stopped about a decade ago, but until that point she was still expecting us to get bored of this and go on to get a ‘standard’ job. Computer games creator is a new type of job, and we were among the very first wave of people to get involved in the industry.” Video games are often viewed as a hit-based industry, but Kingsley says they’ve managed to be consistently successful over the last 25 years by being sensible with budgets and scope. “I don’t think [games] is a hit-driven industry if you do it right. I think you can make a game for a sensible budget, and you can quite probably sell enough to get the money back to do it again. Yes, our games don’t sell 10m units on Day One, but very few games do. I’m led to believe lots of people exaggerate their numbers, because they’re public companies and they need to reassure shareholders. “The problem comes when the game is so expensive to make, that even if it sells very, very well, it hasn’t made enough money to make it a viable business,” Kingsley says, pulling figures out of the air. “That’s the tension. If it costs you $50m to make a game and you get $49m back from selling the game, well, that’s bad business. If you can make a game for $10m and sell $15m, then you’ve made $5m profit and you can put that back into the next game.” THE PORTFOLIO APPROACH Rebellion’s stability, Kingsley opines, is down to its portfolio approach to games so that there’s a mix of projects of different sizes landing at different times with manageable budgets. There’s plenty of room for experiments, but the team doesn’t gamble everything on a single game. The company has experimented with VR with Battlezone – “a huge financial success for Rebellion,” Kingsley says, adding that Rebellion is “going to stay in VR.” The studio is also experimenting with remasters of earlier games, with a recent Rogue Trooper release doing good numbers for the company, although Kingsley says the team isn’t keen to just continue retreading old ground when there are new games to release. New games in this case takes the form of Strange Brigade, a four player co-op shooter that channels something distinctly British in its story of four pulp-era adventures battling mythological creatures for ancient relics and profit. If it works out, it’ll be another successful IP for Rebellion. If not, the studio has several more ideas for what might come next. Kingsley describes the portfolio approach as a desire to avoid gambling everything on one project. But, as it turns the page on its second quarter-century, the company feels like a sure bet.

From AvP to VR: Selected titles

Alien vs Predator Atari Jaguar, 1994

Alien Versus Predator PC, 1999

Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC, 2003

Sniper Elite PS2, Xbox, Wii, PC, 2005

Rogue Trooper PS2, Xbox, Wii, PC, 2006

Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army PC, 2013

Sniper Elite 4 PS4, Xbox One, PC, 2017

Battlezone VR PS4, PC, 2017

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2018

2017 is on the way out and while the world as a whole looks to be having a tough time, the games industry has delivered hit titles, bold new ideas and the life-dominating PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds to keep us interested. Still, no time for nostalgia, a new year is calling. Have a browse through our pick of the biggest trends of 2018

Our pick of the big trends for next year

2:

1:

Servicing the community

All the biggest games are services now. Embrace it. In 2018 expect everything possible to be packed to the gills with DLC, microtransactions and season passes. Maintaining a triple-A game with new content and multiplayer support is expensive and, as a result, publishers are trying to find the best way to keep players on the hook. Expect to see publishers treated with derision and scorn for their attempts to survive. To paraphrase the famous quote misattributed to Churchill: “Microtransactions are the worst form of monetisation, except for all the others.”

Royale rumble

The biggest splash in 2017 wasn’t from loot boxes or even a big publisher, but the ridiculous success seen by Korean outfit Bluehole and its battle royale game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. It’s a coup that scores of developers are already trying to emulate. Some of these will be liberal appropriations like Epic’s Fortnite Battle Royale while others will borrow elements, like GTA Online’s Motor Wars. Through 2018 expect to see mechanics and entire games inspired by PUBG making an appearance, each of them hoping to see even a fraction of the success enjoyed by the groundbreaking title.

3:

Virtually over?

It’s been ‘the year of VR’ for quite a few years now, but 2018 is the first that hasn’t had the weighty headset of expectation perched on its head. 2018 won’t turn the format into a mass market smash hit either, but rest assured, it isn’t going anywhere. Speaking to MCV, Unity boss John Riccitiello said virtual reality right now is like a young Picasso: talented but not at a level to paint his masterpieces yet. This means VR needs some time, and while the gold rush seems to continue, it’s going to be a few years before both software and hardware are refined enough to woo a mainstream audience.

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4:

6:

Crate expectations

At the cutting edge of microtransactions, with a financial model that’s existed since the football sticker albums of the late 70s, loot crates could become persona non grata as the furore over Star Wars Battlefront II’s loot boxes looks ready to encompass the entire galaxy. It’s not the first game to be accused of unfair microtransactions, but the Battlefront II outcry has had the weird effect of elevating the Belgium Gaming Commission to hero status after they suggest loot boxes should be banned. That gamers have fallen in love with the idea of government intervention just a decade after uniting against US lawyer Jack Thompson to resist government censorship makes the mind boggle. Is it gambling? Maybe. Do the big publishers do enough to justify their profits? That’s up to the consumer. Do you trust the government to come in and make these decisions for you? This writer is veering heavily towards no.

5:

Lots of great games...

2017 was a great year for games and 2018 looks set to have a variety of interesting games. The most anticipated game by far is Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2, which is set to launch towards the middle of 2018 and GAME’s CEO described to us as the most important title of next year for the company’s results. This time last year we said Sea of Thieves was “set to amuse many with its co-op centred pirate antics” and a year on we’re still waiting for that amusement to start. The game should be a big hit, as it’s a truly modern mix of emergent, social, streaming-friendly gameplay. Elsewhere, Far Cry 5 will see players cast as the new deputy sheriff in town, waging a guerilla war across the U.S heartland against a religious cult. It’s a grimly topical setting, and could just be tripped up at launch by even grimmer real-world events, with mass shootings in the US becoming more common and more politically loaded. Keep an eye on Anthem too, Bioware’s MMOFPS might be giving off a ‘Destiny by EA’ vibe right now, but Bioware’s background in creating worlds and characters could deliver something special later this year. One thing we’re not worried about in 2018 is the quality of the product, although that inevitably puts a strain on consumer’s time...

...which will each take longer to play

The end result of all of those microtransaction hooks and the shift towards games-as-a-service means that gamers are going to be pouring more money and time into each release. Money and time aren’t unlimited, so you can expect players to play fewer titles. This is going to make a competitive industry even more difficult: people have been struggling with discoverability on digital storefronts for years, but as people start to buy fewer games, these problems will be exacerbated. For the lucky few who end up retaining these players, there’s going to need to be a bigger push than ever to make sure these gamers have enough content and support. Expect this market to be frothy, with players picking their games based on a mixture of pre-release hype, online buzz and witchcraft, and developers and publishers will be bending over backwards to keep their audiences.

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7:

8: Will Brexit really mean Brexit?

The wait for Brexit seems interminably long, and we still don’t know how long it will be. Whatever happens, 2018 will be critical to the nature of the UK’s departure from the EU. Brexit is unequivocally a bad thing, according to the UK games industry, although it has created some silver linings, such as reduced labour costs for overseas investors and more government attention than we’ve had in years. As things stand, the UK has one of the strongest games industries in the world, buoyed by easy access to European talent and the ease of trade for digital and physical goods across the European single market. As the tumultuous mess that is the Brexit negotiations edges closer and closer to a resolution, all of these things are at risk and it’s anyone’s guess exactly how it will afffect the industry. However, Ukie’s Jo Twist said in the aftermath of Article 50 triggering in May: “We’re already showing the world that we are a leading global creative economy, and we will remain so outside of the EU.” There’s still time for the government to pack everything up and shelf the whole thing. We should be so lucky.

The shift to digital

Another year, the same story, but the continuing shift to digital in all areas of the games industry remains important. This year, Destiny 2 launched to just under half of the physical sales of its predecessor, and Activision’s financials claimed that half the sales of Bungie’s highly anticipated FPS were digital. Fast forward to late November, and Take-Two president Karl Slatoff told the Credit Suisse Technology Conference that he expects a purely digital future in “probably less than 20 [years] and maybe more than five [years]” as the friction on digital purchases starts to smooth out. Digital has been brilliant for the industry as a whole, providing a bewildering quantity of games and genres. But no one wants to give up on £750m of boxed games sales and you can’t squeeze a console down a broadband connection either (though Nvidia are giving it a good try).

9:

GAME & Watch

2017 is turning out to be a good year for GAME. In August, shares soared by 35 per cent, and it recently sold off its Multiplay Digital business to Unity for £19m. Retail has been boosted forward by the Nintendo Switch, plus a stronger showing of key Q4 titles bodes well. Still, physical game sales continue to shift online. GAME is responding by putting a lot of pies in a row and stuffing its fingers into them: ecommerce, esports, events and instore merchandising have worked well, in addition to commercial partnerships that have seen NFL athletes in GAME’s flagship Wardour Store location. Expect to see more bold moves from GAME in 2018 as it continues to reorganise the business to match the changing behaviour of consumers.

10:

A new MCV

MCV is going to have a huge 2018. With our gaming titles unified under one brand and one site, we’re really excited at everything we’ll be able to achieve in the new year. MCV is here to help the industry grow and prosper, get in touch with anyone on the team and let’s talk about making things bigger and better in 2018.

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Engaging with Tamriel As The Elder Scrolls Online ends its free-to-play week to celebrate its ten million players milestone, Marie Dealessandri talks engagement strategy with Zenimax Online Studios’ president Matt Firor

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T

amriel’s running like a well-oiled machine. Every quarter brings a fresh batch of content for Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls Online, engaging more and more players each time. Yet, ESO’s success was not a foregone conclusion, as the MMORPG hit a few bumps when it launched back in 2014 and was met with mixed reviews. Three years down the road, and with developer Zenimax Online Studios having worked hard to polish the title and provide regular content, ESO just released its eighth piece of DLC, Clockwork City, and reached ten million players earlier this year (and 2.5m monthly active users). A milestone that the studio celebrated last week by offering a Free Play Week and organising in-game events to please its community. And the ESO community is something Zenimax Online Studio president and game director Matt Firor is really proud about. “ESO has attracted a lot of players since launch, we announced we had ten million players last June so I think the community has evolved into a very stable group of people that love Elder Scrolls games and online RPGs,” he tells MCV. “We

have a lot of crossover of console players, Elder Scrolls players, traditional MMO players and they all kind of mix together in ESO and it makes the game better for that because it’s not just one type of gamer. I was reading the message board and there was a console player who was playing for the first time and was like ‘How do I play this game? I’m used to Grand Theft Auto!’ But that’s why it’s so good, it’s because it has a really diverse mix of different player types.” Bringing the game to console a year after release is what helped ESO to diversify its fanbase, Firor explains. “We had a big change when the console versions launched. That brought in all these players who played Skyrim and Oblivion on consoles. That brought in a lot of good energy because it brought in people who weren’t very much tied to traditional WoW-style MMOs. I think that was the biggest change. And it was all for the better because now different types of players mix and everyone learns to play the game they want to play.” He’s keen to emphasise that knowing who your players are is the key to engagement as it allows the team to aim content at different types of players – and it probably explains why the game has met with so much success.

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Pictured above: Zenimax Online Studios’ president Matt Firor

“You can have three different players who play ESO regularly describe the game and they’ll describe a completely different game because it’s so big and there’s PvP and there’s dungeons and there’s exploration… But, with each of our DLC, we try to aim the content at a different player type so that everyone has new things in the type of gameplay that they like. So in Morrowind, for example, we added a huge zone and a lot of stories and exploration but we also added a new PvP type. We also had the Horns of the Reach, which is a dungeon DLC, so we really try to keep new content coming to each of the different kinds of players.” Morrowind was more than DLC though. It’s what Zenimax Online Studios calls a new chapter: a full expansion pack that released in June and also launched at retail. For Firor, boxed products are another key to maintain engagement, as they act as a reminder. “Sure retail means boxes but it also means digital sales on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, or on Steam. So it’s definitely relevant. I would say in Europe it’s a little more relevant than in the States or Canada where a lot of people download, meaning mainly digital sales. But it’s always good to have a ‘new product’ [at retail] because it keeps the game very fresh in people’s minds. They walk into the store and they see it like ‘Oh, I remember that!’, so it’s always good.” It proved to be a smart move as Morrowind had strong physical launch sales in the UK despite being a digital focused title. And there’s more of this strategy to come, Firor tells us. “Morrowind was the ‘next level’ of our strategy and it’s proven to be very very successful so I think we’ll stick with, hopefully, annual chapters, like bigger things, and then DLC every quarter. We’ll keep up with that.” Chapters like Morrowind help to expand the community as well, as players are free to start from this point without knowing the base game. As such,

Morrowind’s success marked the beginning of a shift of strategy for Zenimax – one that the company will continue to apply in the future, Firor says. “Part of the strategy we started with Morrowind was when we release a chapter, we want players to start there, right? So it almost feels like a new game and it’s funny cause most single-player console games are 20, 30, 50 hours of content – that’s how big Morrowind is! It’s the size of a full console game. And so if a player wants to buy the game, just play through Morrowind and then stop, that’s fine. It has its own tutorial and it’s a little better than the old tutorial because that was done so long ago. “So every time we do a chapter, we’ll do that, we’ll have a tutorial and you could just start and play there or you can bring your own character over. And that gives new players the chance to jump in and they don’t feel like they are behind the curve.” FINDING A BALANCE Despite 2017 being a troubled time for microtransactions, ESO’s economy doesn’t seem to be affected by such controversy (though you’d always find complaints about it on the game’s forums), with its business model having found a balance between non-compulsory subscriptions, microtransactions and in-game currency purchases. “We still have subscriptions and a lot of players still subscribe, it’s just optional, and so our DLC model is that if you subscribe you get access to all the DLC [for free], or you can buy them with in-game currency. So that has been very successful. And, of course, we have the Crown Store which is more for customisation and cool mounts and stuff like that and that’s done super well too.” Having finally found its pace despite middling beginnings, ESO is now here to stay, as Matt Firor and his teams have ambitious plans for the MMO’s future. “We have a good thing going, we’re extremely successful, we just want to make sure we keep DLC coming, make sure we fix bugs and polish combat and keep a lot of content coming through chapters,” he says. “We have two years, at least, of things I know are going in and then we have ideas for after that.” He continues: “Regular content, keeping players happy, that’s all we’re doing. ESO is very much a gameas-a-service, which is a term we don’t use a lot but it really is a service at this point, and so we want to make sure that it works and keep a lot of new stuff coming in.” With ESO being well on track to keep achieving great things, and having worked at Zenimax Online Studios since day one, we dare to ask Firor if he and his teams will ever work on a new project anytime soon. He smiles: “At some point maybe but we have so much more to do on ESO that it’s hard to think about that.“

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Being Fork Parker Marie Dealessandri has a chat with Devolver Digital co-founders Graeme Struthers and Harry Miller about the firm’s recent success stories, the evolution of its strategy and its infamous imaginary CFO

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his year has been ridiculously busy and ridiculously successful for Devolver Digital. Serious Sam VR titles, Strafe, Gorn, Absolver, Ruiner, The Talos Principles, High Hell, Reigns: Her Majesty, Stories Untold… All these games (and more) released this year, winning accolades and collecting critical acclaim. Not content with being universally praised, most of these indie gems were also big commercial successes, starting with martial arts title Absolver. The Sloclap-developed game became Devolver’s biggest ever launch back in August and shifted 250,000 copies in under a month, making it Devolver’s fastest selling title. The indie publisher’s partnership with Sloclap finds its roots as far back as 2015 when the studio, founded by former Ubisoft Paris employees, had just started working on the title. “We saw some clips of Absolver two years ago and we reached out to [creative director] Pierre Tarno as he was going to be in London. So myself and [Devolver producer] Andrew Parsons went to meet him to see a demo of the game,” Devolver’s co-founder Graeme Struthers recalls. “We really liked what we were seeing, the art style is pretty different to everything else we’ve seen. And then we introduced Pierre to [Devolver’s co-founder] Harry Miller because it was a big project, bigger than the kind of things we often do, to see what we could bring together.”

Needless to say Devolver was right about the potential of the project and its scale. Miller remembers Absolver being an absolute no-brainer: “[Sloclap] made it easy on us because the quality was already there. You could play it and it was fun, unique, great art. Easy choice really.” Absolver even got a limited physical release, which remains unusual for Devolver – the publisher has ‘Digital’ in its name after all. There were precisely 3,250 physical collector’s editions per platform up for grabs, and that brief incursion into physical releases worked very well, Struthers tells us: “We looked at the market, we looked at what other companies were doing and what had been going on in our space for the past five to six years and the idea of doing limited runs was very appealing because the hardcore fans are interested. It’s worked really well, it’s been a big success.” Another area in which Devolver has seen success this year is with its films division, which released a Call of Duty documentary a few weeks ago (simply called CODumentary) looking back at the evolution of the hit franchise. “Devolver Films has released a lot of movies, about 70-ish, and I think it’s safe to say the projects that have done the best have had a game angle, and obviously Call of Duty fits nicely into that,” Struthers

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“The Devolver brand is lifted by all those individual games and we get the benefit of all of that.”

Pictured above, left to right: Devolver’s Graeme Struthers and Harry Miller

says. “Those kind of projects have been fantastic on Steam so obviously we’re interested in that type of content.” NEW CHALLENGES The aforementioned success stories are only the tip of the iceberg, as Devolver has been experiencing a massive boom in the past few years, which can be traced back to the successful launch of Hotline Miami in 2012. “Since we started the company, every year has been bigger,” Struthers says, with Miller adding: “This year we had kind of a slow start, with fewer games in the first six months. Next year is going to be very big for us.” Among the titles lined-up for next year, Struthers mentions Onebitbeyond’s The Swords of Ditto and Fourattic’s Crossing Souls, both of which have already generated an incredible buzz from their various preview events. Devolver’s distinctive marketing strategy also has a lot to do with its titles being visible before they even launch. From the uncanny (and unforgettable) E3 ’conference’ this year to its fictional CFO Fork Parker or its press releases mocking the standards of the sector, the indie label has crafted a unique approach to PR. “PR is a very important part of Devolver, perhaps the most important part of marketing for us,” Miller readily confirms.

Struthers continues: “The PR guys we work with and the big variety of games that we have – and this is not me making a lazy cheap shot against other companies – means they’re not really involved in the sequel machine, they’re getting fairly interested in the new games. “The Devolver brand is lifted by all those individual games and we get the benefit of all of that. And when you’ve got Fork Parker in your life, you can be fairly irreverent about the industry you’re in.” Devolver being indeed the irreverent company that we know, it makes it particularly difficult to have a serious look into the publisher’s strategy. So naturally, when we ask Struthers to tell us a bit more about the evolution of Devolver’s approach to publishing, he answers in a laugh: “You can’t even say that we had a strategy. So we still don’t really have one.” He adds, more seriously: “I think we’ve got a lot of strong development partners that we’ve worked with for many years. So obviously it works for us and it works for them. We’ve added a few new teams [this year], Sloclap with Absolver, Raikon with Ruiner, and we hope it’ll lead to further partnerships. When we get together with other people, we like a good dynamic, a good relationship and we want to keep working together.” Miller adds: “We look for opportunities. There’s no set genre we search for, if there’s a game that we think is unique and should be brought to the public then we go for it.” However, if the core strategy hasn’t changed much since Devolver’s inception, the publisher has been looking more and more at ‘emerging’ markets. “One thing that has been happening in the last three or four years is we’ve been trying to understand markets like, say, Russia, Japan, Korea and China – we’ve put a lot of effort into China in the last year,” Struthers explains. “That’s not just localising, but also what kind of games may have appeal, how you present those games… Media varies hugely in some countries compared to other countries, so I think that’s probably the biggest change for us in the past four to five years. “We’ll still make probably about eight to ten games in a year, sometimes a few more, but we’ve been focusing much more on China, how can we make those games visible in China. Same in Brazil, same in Korea. That’s a nice, interesting challenge.”

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10/23/2017 07/12/2017 2:33:10 PM 14:43


The PQube Quest Distributor turned publisher PQube has had a big year, hunting out niche titles such as Cat Quest and releasing them across multiple platforms. Seth Barton visits the team to talk to head of marketing Geraint Evans and global sales director Kevin Hutchinson to find out how it’s all gone and what’s coming up in 2018

Pictured above: PQube’s global sales director Kevin Hutchinson

What market changes made you decide to grow your publishing portfolio? Kevin Hutchinson: PQube became successful as a distributor, but what set us apart was the level of PR, marketing and social support we gave to the titles we worked on. We were never satisfied with just being a ‘box shifter’. We always wanted to pay more attention to the games we were working on – genuinely caring about them and looking to add value to clients who came to us. So you could say we were doing ‘publishing’ work on some games we were distributing – contributing hugely to the success of our distribution titles by investing in our marketing efforts. In this sense, transitioning to a publishing model was easy for us. Our marketing, PR, social media and community management was making a demonstrably big impact on our client’s sales. Our operational capability has always been solid and efficient. That infrastructure for success was already in place. The next step was finding products. It’s here that PQube has always been a little… leftfield. Our staff play a lot of games. Our product knowledge is second to none – we also have great interest in unusual games and genres and a strong desire to look at what’s going on in niche or emerging markets. Big budget first-person shooters are out. Unique titles that show invention, or have perhaps a more unusual hook, are most definitely in. How do you find the right kind of games for you? Is there even a PQube-style game? Geraint Evans: It depends on which audience you ask. To some, PQube has always been synonymous with

racing simulations – having rejuvenated the MotoGP brand and established new IP like Ride and MXGP. To others, we’ve been a long-standing part of the fighting game community in Europe – with the likes of BlazBlue and Guilty Gear. To many, we’re the company who helped prove visual novels were a viable genre in the West, with the incredible success of Steins;Gate. Elsewhere, PQube is the company brave enough to take risqué titles like Senran Kagura and Gal*Gun and demonstrate that, yes, these titles can not only work, but also find a significant audience with the right approach. While these games are all different, one thing unites them in that they all cater for very specific audiences. Audiences who aren’t necessarily interested in what the mainstream has to offer, often feel marginalised or that they’re not particularly catered for and that their passions are misunderstood. Gaming is so diverse now that you can’t broadly label ‘racing games’ or ‘Japanese games’. Even something as niche as visual novels have levels of sub-genre. Key to making those games successful is understanding those differences, understanding the passions of our development partners, and how you find the audiences that can lead you to success. A ‘PQube-style game’ is really a ‘game that PQube likes and has a passion for’. All of our marketing team loves games. We only hire people who have a real passion for games and have a firm understanding of what is going to work and what isn’t. So whether that’s helping a developer to tune their experience, or taking a finished product and understanding the best way to market it, we have the expertise to make an impact. Internally, anyone can

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source, sign and champion a potential product, which means everyone is emotionally invested in the product – and that makes a difference in the energy that goes into its promotion. The business has a lot of strings to its bow, does this attract possible partners? Kevin Hutchinson: Yes, absolutely. For many of our partners we’re a safe pair of hands, in that we have a global capability. The bread and butter of getting a game to market is well taken care of. But then on top of that, PQube has this incredible community and social network which helps give our titles an immediate boost in visibility. This is something we’ve taken great pride in nurturing and is one of our greatest assets. This comes from years of putting in the groundwork – whether it’s through our consistently active online communities or just putting in the hours at consumer events across Europe, US and Asia. We also have a huge amount of experience in creating fantastic artwork and merchandise to support our partners’ brands – PQube’s overall expertise in a number of areas means we’re well equipped to deliver, but also have the wealth of experience necessary to

quickly adapt to challenges and changes. In that sense we’re a very flexible and nimble company when required. Is the physical market getting tougher, in terms of finding stockists? Do you know how many of your physical games are sold online as opposed to on the high street? Kevin Hutchinson: There’s an obvious shift to digital, it’s something we’re all seeing. It’s arrived a little later than expected for us, but we’re really starting to see that migration accelerate now. That said, PQube’s titles sit a little outside the norm – particularly for Japanese games. Anime-style games in particular have always struggled to find stockists with an enthusiasm for them but, interestingly, fans of these titles are extremely passionate about physical product. Wherever possible we will still continue to support as many platforms as we can. Likewise, high value Special Editions will also continue to be an important part of our business. But yes, that shift is happening. The landscape is very different now than it was even just a couple of years ago, but it’s something we’ve understood – and have been ready for – for a number of years now.

Pictured above: PQube team with: - Top row: production manager Bryce Hsiao, video editor Natalie Smith, product manager Matthew Pellett, and PR & product manager hardware Jonny Lupton - Bottom row: game development manager Harrison Lewis, product manager Anne-Lou Grosbois-Favreau, head of marketing software Geraint Evans and PR manager Peter Fury

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The digital market is certainly getting more crowded, how do get the message out? Geraint Evans: Good old-fashioned hard work and a sprinkling of creative genius. I think our release of Fight of Gods is a good example of our approach. Firstly in terms of how we select product and how the team can take a game which had absolutely zero expectation from the public and press, barely any budget and then elevated it to a position where everyone knew what it was and what it achieved. The same goes for our most recent success Cat Quest, which went to No.5 in the charts on Switch on release. It was a small, unassuming little RPG from an extremely talented developer. The team just got it right away, and immediately knew how to approach it, and how to treat it. We are quite often met with a certain level of apathy from the press. After all, games journalists can’t write about everything they see. We understand that, and I think quite often you have to just accept that you can’t get blanket coverage from the media and then ask, ‘Okay, so where now?’ How does that change your approach? Who do you speak to? How will you get your voice heard? Find evangelists in your own community, reach out to like-minded YouTubers. And if you don’t have your own community? Then put the time in to make and nurture one. We’ve consistently taken products to the top of the charts without taking large sums of money out of the pot. That means we are more innovative, more creative and we’re not squandering what is, ultimately, the developer’s money, on a ton of ad spend. What trends in the games business will dominate 2018? Kevin Hutchinson: Steam has been dominant for so long now, one of the biggest changes we’re going to see is the emergence of new digital marketplaces. Visibility on Steam is a real challenge since Steam Direct. While Greenlight was an annoyance to many, it slowed the rate of releases. Now there’s a tsunami of

Steam content – and we’re seeing the same thing happen to Switch. For example, in the last couple of weeks thirty-six games have released on Switch; only four have charted (Cat Quest among them) and so recognised decent sales. Discoverability is now a big, big issue for developers. This is why we’re seeing a rapid move away from selfpublishing and developers actively seeing out PQube to understand how we can help them. What’s your biggest challenge to further growth? Kevin Hutchinson: Finding new product is always the main challenge. Without the right games we don’t have a business. It’s no longer about who can offer the biggest minimum guarantee – it’s about who can deliver the biggest lifetime revenue back to the developer. That means not just launching a product but working it throughout its life, and we have invested heavily in building a team that does this for every product we sign. We have to play smarter, and part of that process is looking at what we can offer as a publisher in the first instance to make sure we deliver. We offer good value and we are a reliable and fair partner. We give a product focus where, often, a larger publisher can’t. Second to that, is where and how we source our games – and that comes down to the quality and passion of our staff. Identifying the right developers and the right product, and then understanding that product to bring it to market properly, with the right creative energy. We are also increasingly interested in emerging markets for games. Gamescom, GDC – all great hunting grounds for sure, but I think looking to these shows alone, it’s easy to become blinkered. You can almost train yourself to become numb to looking in unlikely places. Taking a chance on unlikely product, seeing the good in a product where others may not – it’s here that PQube has always been strong. Staying true to that philosophy is very important to us.

“Find evangelists in your own community, reach out to like-minded YouTubers. And if you don’t have your own community? Then put the time in to make and nurture one.” 34 | MCV 931 December 11

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1

2

3

2017 highlights 1. CAT QUEST The cutest RPG you’ll ever play and an instant chart success on Steam earlier in the year, and then with continued strong sales on Switch and PS4. 2. WHITE DAY The infamous cult horror-classic in Korea is an example of PQube’s continuing dedication to scour the world for interesting products – and then leveraging its contacts with key influencers to ensure exceptional visibility. 3. FIGHT OF GODS The game that got Steam shut down in Malaysia on launch. Came out of nowhere, but with a week of well timed and intensive PR around the inclusion of Jesus and Buddha as a playable characters, it became an immediate worldwide success – and continues to sell on Steam Early Access.

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Drop the deck Mix some rocking beats in Harmonix and Hasbro’s DropMix DJ game that is shaping up to be a Christmas chart topper. MCV talks to Harmonix to find out more

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C

ollectible card games have a long history, but whether its Magic or Pokémon, they’ve always been an all-consuming passion, rather than a casual drop-in. While DropMix is a game, and it does have collectible cards which are sold in packs, the similarities end there. Instead Hasbro and Harmonix have created an NFC card-driven DJ game that lets anyone play on the wheels of steel. We talk to Jonathan Mintz, creative lead for DropMix at Harmonix about the new game, how it works, and why consumers should be excited. What is DropMix – how do you play it? DropMix is a dynamic and fast-paced music-mixing game. Players blend hit songs – each featured on a DropMix card – from awardwinning artists to create mind-blowing mixes. Get together and face-off with friends to master the mix, with no music-making skills required. DropMix cards are embedded with Near-Field Communication (NFC) chips, the same technology that enables digital wallets in smartphones like Apple Pay or Android Pay. When the NFC chips interact with the electronic DropMix board, the data is beamed to the player’s smartphone or tablet app via Bluetooth. The software in the DropMix app on the player’s smartphone or tablet then compiles the data into a seamless one-of-a-kind music mix. If you create an amazing-sounding mix, you can save it to – and share it from – the app. Place a card on the DropMix board to add its music to the mix. You can put down and pick up cards at will and the music mix will update on the fly. You can replace tracks in the mix by picking up cards from the board and putting down a new card. The app drives gameplay, with a range of exciting game modes to play – Clash, Freestyle and Party.

From that DropMix was born and it’s been a great partnership. We collaborate on everything from development decisions to music selections and game rules to physical design. Did all the tracks have to be specially reworked for the game? The tracks don’t need to be ‘reworked’ but, as in Rock Band, there’s a decent amount of hand authoring that needs to be done to turn music into gameplay. For DropMix this includes selecting and editing which parts to use for specific cards, making sure they work at all of our allowable tempos and in all of our allowable keys, plus a few other nerdy odds and ends. How do consumers get additional tracks? DropMix comes with a Starter Set of 60 cards, with further cards available separately in Playlist and Discover Packs, which include 16 and five cards respectively. Who is it aimed at? Music lovers of all ages, anyone who’s ever dreamed of being a superstar DJ, anyone who wants a fun party game that also provides the soundtrack!

To order DropMix contact Exertis on 01279 822800

Do you need a mobile device as well then? Yes. The DropMix app is available for iOS and Android, and will run on the majority of smartphones and tablets. You can connect your device to a Bluetooth speaker to pump up the volume. How many music tracks are there? There will be more than 300 DropMix cards featuring hit songs from popular artists in the 2017 collection. From these, players can create millions of possible mixes. How did the idea come about? Harmonix invented the modern music gaming genre and we’re always looking for new ways to innovate in the space. We saw an opportunity in the trend of music mixing – bringing unexpected songs and artists together in ever-changing ways. It’s never been done before as a game. There are lots of overly complex DJ style apps but never a game like this. Together we decided to combine Hasbro’s expertise in digital and physical integration with Harmonix’s expertise in music gaming.

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HORIZON ZERO DAWN Sony is going big on Horizon Zero Dawn this winter, between the Complete Edition that just released (see page 44 for more on this), the ability to play as Aloy in the upcoming Monster Hunter World (out on January 26th) and new merchandise ranges. Marie Dealessandri reports on the latter

Aloy Hoodie Insert Coin has just released a brand new Horizon Zero Dawn collection, perfectly timed for hristmas. ts agship item is this Aloy hoodie, which brings together the futuristic-but-tribal stylings of the game’s world into an sleek, stylish and warm hoodie, the o cial announcement said. t’s available to pre-order now. SRP: £45 Manufacturer: Insert Coin Distributor: Insert Coin Contact: 01702 521 850

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Horizon Zero Dawn Metal Keychain eleasing ust in time for hristmas, this keychain shows the emblem of Aloy’s clan, the ora. SRP: £7.99 Manufacturer: Gaya Entertainment Distributor: aming erchandise Contact: hello gamingmerchandiseuk.com

Faro T-shirt his -shirt displays aro Automated olutions’ logo and the silhouette of a orruptor, one of the many creatures populating Horizon Zero awn’s world. t’s part of nsert oin’s new range, which also features three other -shirt designs. SRP: £22 Manufacturer: Insert Coin Distributor: Insert Coin Contact: 01702 521 850

Horizon Zero Dawn Aloy Plush his o cially licensed plush of Aloy is part of tubbins’ extensive range of ony gaming figures, from Journey’s The raveler to od of War’s ratos. t’s available to pre-order now. SRP: £15.49 Manufacturer: tubbins Distributor: eo Contact: 01223 789 780

Horizon Zero Dawn POP! Games Vinyl Figures A brand new Horizon Zero Dawn range of unko figures ust released. t includes Aloy, a Watcher both pictured above), as well as Erend and a member of The Eclipse. SRP: £12.99 Manufacturer: unko Distributor: eo Contact: 01223 789 780

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Horizon Zero Dawn Aloy Stand Framed Collector Print his x cm high uality collector print comes with a custom made 25mm frame. There are two other collectible Horizon Zero Dawn designs available. SRP: £16.99 Manufacturer: GB Eye Distributor: GB Eye Contact: uksales gbeye.com

Horizon Zero Dawn Collector’s Edition Guide his am-packed guide to Horizon Zero Dawn gives players everything they need to know about the title. An o cial digital guide for he ro en Wilds also just launched to complement this base-game bible. SRP: £27.99 Manufacturer: uture ress Distributor: uture ress Contact: sales future-press.com

The Art of Horizon Zero Dawn his art book features over images, sketches and pieces of concept art from Horizon Zero Dawn. here’s also a collector’s edition priced at , that also includes an exclusive art print signed by the members of the uerrilla ames art team and which comes with slipcase. SRP: £29.99 Manufacturer: itan ooks Distributor: itan ooks Contact: sales@titanemail.com

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11/20/2017 07/12/2017 4:17:30 PM 14:43


chartanalysis

November’s big shots Call of Duty: WWII shot straight to No.1 this November, while EA struggled on Black Friday

T

he combined effect of a new Call of Duty title and Black Friday deals had a very positive impact on retail this November, allowing the market to reach its highest so far this year. With 4.4m copies shifted, sales were up nine per cent year-on-year and a whopping 125 per cent monthon-month. In terms of revenue, the market reached £166m, which represented a 12 per cent rise year-onyear and a 107 per cent growth month-on-month. Surprising no one, Call of Duty: WWII took the top spot in the monthly charts this November, with impressive sales. Compared to the first month of last year’s entry, Infinite Warfare, sales for WWII were up 56 per cent, confirming that returning to the FPS roots with a Second World War setting was the right move for Sledgehammer and Activision. WWII also did better

The market reached its highest so far this year in November, with over 4.4m copies shifted and revenues reaching more than £166m. than Call of Duty: Black Ops III, with Month One sales up 14 per cent compared to the 2015 hit. As a result, Activision Blizzard took the top spot in the publishers charts in November, with 37.7 per cent of the market in value, easily beating EA and its 19.8 per cent market share – and this is despite EA having three titles in the Top Ten. The opinion-dividing Star Wars Battlefront II debuted at No.3, with a 39 per cent drop in sales compared to its predecessor – though a lot of it could be accounted for by the shift to digital. The only other new entry in the Top Ten is another EA title, Need for Speed Payback, whose sales are down 22 per cent compared to the last entry in the franchise, 2015’s reboot Need for Speed. On the back of the Star Wars Battlefront II controversy, Need for Speed Payback was also under attack for its microtransactions system (which EA has now started tweaking). This could partly explain why it has failed to reach the sales of its predecessor, combined with the fact the reviews have not been especially kind to the title. Elsewhere, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon entered the charts respectively at No. 12 and No.13, allowing the 3DS to slightly improve its share of the market, both in units and revenue.

UK MONTHLY PHYSICAL CHART NOVEMBER 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10

Title

Format

Publisher

Call of Duty: WWII NEW FIFA 18 Star Wars Battlefront II NEW Assassin’s Creed Origins Gran Turismo Sport Super Mario Odyssey Forza Motorsport 7 Need for Speed Payback NEW Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Forza Horizon 3

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

Activision EA EA Ubisoft Sony Nintendo Microsoft EA Bethesda Microsoft

Source: Ukie/GfK, Period: October 29th - November 25th

Meanwhile, Sega landed two titles in the Top 50: Sonic Forces charted at No.17 for its first month in the listings, while Football Manager 2018 debuted at No.39. This helped the publisher to come back in the publishers’ Top Ten in terms of units shifted, at No.10. Other new entries in the charts included the console versions of The Sims 4 at No.18, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 at No.24, L.A. Noire at No.27, Skyrim VR at No.33 and Just Dance 2018 at No.40. Interestingly, Sony’s PlayLink titles Knowledge is Power and Hidden Agenda also debuted in the monthly charts, respectively at No.28 and No.31. However, most of these sales are likely to come from hardware bundles, as part of the Black Friday deals. As another effect of Black Friday, most of the IPs in the Top Ten have seen their sales increased, the most notable one being Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Bethesda’s FPS climbed three spots to No.9 for its second month on shelves, with its sales increasing an impressive 133 per cent.

Star Wars Battlefront II debuted at No.3 with a 39 per cent drop in sales compared to its predecessor

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sales@totaldiscrepair.co.uk December 11 MCV 931 | 43

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biggamereleases

Release date:

06/12

Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition Developer: Guerrilla Games • Publisher: Sony • Distributor: CentreSoft • Platform(s): PS4 • Price: £49.99

Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition includes exclusive content, all the title's updates and the first expansion, The Frozen Wilds

Sony's biggest exclusive title of the year is back with a Complete Edition, just in time for Christmas. On top of the base game, it features all the content from the digital deluxe edition: a digital art book, an exclusive PS4 theme, two outfits and their associated weapons, and three resource packs. All the updates released since launch are also part of the Complete Edition, including the new difficulty modes. Of course, it also comes with the latest DLC (which

released in early November), The Frozen Wilds, which The Guardian said is "blessed with better lip-sync and even more beautiful graphics," adding that "some of the icy landscapes are nothing short of breathtaking." In his review, Polygon's Chris Plante labelled the DLC as "a collection of missing missions" and said: "The Frozen Wilds doesn’t add much new, and shares Horizon’s flaws, but the expansion operates fine when taken as simply more of a great thing." n

Release date:

22/12 Mario Party: The Top 100 Developer: Nd Cube • Publisher: Nintendo • Distributor: Open • Platform(s): 3DS • Price: £34.99

Family-friendly title Mario Party: The Top 100 is the perfect Christmas gift for 3DS owners. Compiling the best minigames from two decades of Mario Party titles, updated to match today's graphical standards. It can be played by up to four players. Having already released in North America, Mario Party: The Top 100 has gathered mixed reviews though, with a current Metascore of 57 based on 14 critics. Polygon's Allegra Frank wrote that focusing on

Mario Party's minigames is a "genius" move but ends up being "not as nice as it sounds." She added: "That’s the cruel irony of a game that goes hard on the minigames and light on everything else: too much of one thing is often, well, too much." Meanwhile, Hardcore Gamer's Kirstin Swalley said it "can make for an enjoyable title for younger players" but "is lacking in the more complex and competitive nature that fans of the [Mario Party] series have come to look forward to."

Mario Party: The Top 100 "can make for an enjoyable title for younger players"

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n

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biggamereleases

Release date:

12/12

Fallout 4 VR

Developer: Bethesda Game Studios • Publisher: Bethesda • Distributor: Advantage • Platform(s): HTC Vive • Price: £39.99

Fallout 4 VR is exclusive to HTC Vive and doesn't include the title's DLC

Announced at E3 2017, Fallout 4 VR is finally launching this December. Unlike Skyrim VR, it's coming out without its DLC and not releasing on PS VR – though it's getting a physical release on HTC Vive. HTC also announced earlier this year that Fallout 4 VR will be included in every purchase of its Vive headset going forward. In his review for the title, VR Focus' Kevin Joyce was pleased with the improvements made

to the game since the E3 demo, pointing at a more streamlined menu system for instance. He also said that, even without the DLC, it still "provides a wealth of content – perhaps more than any VR title to date – and for that it could be argued that repaying the premium price for entry is wholly worth it." Meanwhile, having played an earlier build, Digital Trends' Mike Epstein said Fallout 4 VR "just isn’t as fun as playing Fallout 4 the old-fashioned way." n

Release date:

12/12 Resident Evil 7: Gold Edition Developer: Capcom • Publisher: Capcom • Distributor: CentreSoft • Platform(s): PS4, XO • Price: £39.99

Having sold 4m units and recently being awarded a Golden Joystick Award for its VR mode, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is now coming back in a Gold Edition, physically for PS4 and Xbox One, and digitally on PC. This Gold Edition includes all the content from the base game, plus all its DLC: Banned Footage Vol. 1 and Vol.2, as well as End of Zoe and Not a Hero, which both officially release on December 12th as well. Not a Hero is a free update, while End of Zoe

is a proper expansion that can be purchased on its own for £11.99 or as part of the £24.99 Season Pass. All this content is also PS VR compatible, so needless to say this Gold Edition is a pretty good deal for those who haven't played Resident Evil 7 yet and it should easily find its place under the Christmas tree. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was critically acclaimed when it launched in January this year, with the ability to play in VR being particularly praised. n

Resident Evil 7: Gold Edition includes all the DLC and is PS VR compatible

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biggamereleases

Digital releases The pick of the crop from upcoming digital downloads Nine Parchments Developer: Frozenbyte Publisher: Frozenbyte Platforms: NS, PC Price: £17.99 Release date: Out now

OUT NOW

Frozenbyte just released blast'em up title Nine Parchments on Switch and PC, with PS4 and Xbox One versions to come as well. Players take on the role of wizarding students looking for spell parchments. The title can be played solo or co-op and combines real time action with RPG elements.

Stationeers

12 12

Developer: RocketWerkz Publisher: RocketWerkz Platforms: PC Price: $25 (£18) Release date: December 12th

Gang Beasts

Developer: Boneleaf Publisher: Double Fine Platforms: PS4 Price: £11.99 Release date: December 12th

Having successfully released as an Early Access title on PC and Oculus Rift, Gang Beasts is now coming to PS4. This ridiculously fun multiplayer couch title sees players battle each other as jelly-like characters. The PS4 version will introduce new modes, including co-op.

Release schedule

14 12

Yooka-Laylee

12 12

Developer: Playtonic Publisher: Team17 Platforms: NS Price: £34.99 Release date: December 14th

Dean Hall's latest title is getting out of Early Access this December. Stationeers has been gaining a lot of traction since its soft launch this summer, though the studio has warned players to "manage [their] expectations" as "the game is very barebones." Stationeers puts players in charge of their own space station.

Yooka-Laylee is finally getting the Switch treatment. It will include all the updates made to the game since its launch on other platforms, including a new camera mode, and improved controls and menu options. Pre-orders kicked off last Thursday. There's no word of a physical version yet.

Title

Format

Genre

Publisher

Telephone

Distributor

December 12th Fallout 4 VR Okami HD PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

HTC Vive PS4, XO, PC XO

Action RPG Adventure Battle royale

Bethesda Capcom Microsoft

01564 330607 01216 253 388 01279 822 822

Advantage CentreSoft Exertis

December 22nd Mario Party: The Top 100

3DS

Party

Nintendo

01753 483700

Open

January 16th Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition

PS4

Fighting

Capcom

01216 253 388

CentreSoft

January 19th Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker’s Memory PS4 Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom PS4, PC Soldam: Drop/Connect/Erase NS

RPG RPG Puzzle

Bandai Namco Bandai Namco Dispatch

01564 330607 01564 330607 01902 861 527

Advantage Advantage Pavilion

January 23rd Lost Sphear

PS4, NS

RPG

Square Enix

01256 385 200

Koch Media

January 24th The Inpatient

PS VR

Survival horror Sony

01216 253 388

CentreSoft

January 26th Monster Hunter World

PS4, XO, PC

Action RPG

01216 253 388

CentreSoft

Capcom

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22/11/2017 09:57


endgame

This issue, we stayed up past our bedtimes for The Game Awards, stayed up past our bedtimes for the Ukie Christmas Party, and stayed up past our bedtimes to watch the Jingle Jam charity stream. Roll on the holidays

The Game Awards With a slick and engaging event, The Game Awards has now fully cemented its place in the gaming calendar with a starry mix of gaming talent and reveal trailers, all of it organised and anchored by Geoff Keighley. The big winners on the night were equally deserved as they were predictable, with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild picking up three awards, including Game of the Year. Meanwhile, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was also lauded three times. On the trailer side, Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding was probably the main talking point. Norman Reedus is back in action, complete with pregnancy overtones, reverse gravity, self-mutilation and a crab. You have to watch it to understand, really, although of course you will not understand a single thing about it.

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Ukie Christmas Party Ukie’s annual Christmas drinks went off with a bang last week. The office space was packed when we arrived, so much so that we could barely squeeze out of the lift. The event was supported by Jagex, which provided goodie bags and lashings of booze, including its own-brand RumScape rum. The other highlight was the recording of a ‘Marioke’ Christmas charity single – so watch out for that.

thedraft industry appointments

Jagex has made a trio of senior appointments to strengthen its publishing and product operations as it extends its RuneScape titles to mobile. JOHN BURNS (pictured above) joins as SVP publishing, having most recently worked in the same role at NCSoft, and also held positions at Trion Worlds, Electronic Arts and Activision. Burns said: “Jagex is an industry leader in live games, recognised for the incredible rise of RuneScape, a passion for its players and its commitment to innovate. 2017 has been an exciting year for the company with the announcement that the RuneScape franchise will come to mobile for gamers to adventure anywhere at any time and a focussed portfolio expansion through product investment to deliver titles that will engage and excite fans globally. I am looking forward to being part of the Jagex team and helping further build on the historical success and accelerate the company.’’ CASSIA CURRAN (pictured left) joins Jagex as head of business development after a fiveyear stint with NetEase in Hangzhou where she was international business development manager, responsible for bringing developed mobile titles to the Chinese market. Curran will lead Jagex’s outreach to external studios while seeking investment and partnership opportunities that would contribute to Jagex’s portfolio. Curran declared: “With an enviable performance record in recent years driven by its success in Western territories, coupled with an open door to the Chinese market through its hanghai-head uartered

parent, Fu Kong Interactive, Jagex is perfectly placed to talk investment and partnership opportunities with studios.” Meanwhile, NEIL MCCLARTY (pictured left) is promoted to VP, product management, with the responsibility for leading the strategic growth of Jagex’s portfolio of live games through both franchise extension and new product development. uring his decadelong experience at the studio, Neil was part of the team that led a renaissance for the iconic MMORPG series, McClarty commented: “This year, the RuneScape franchise hit its highest membership reach for five years and our evergreen performance enables us to build out our product roadmap across PC and soon on mobile. We have the best in the business at running games-as-a-service giving life to deep and engaging living game worlds, and we will capitalise on that expertise to take both the franchise and new titles to multiple formats and markets.” KEZA MACDONALD, recently departed from Kotaku UK, has joined The Guardian as its games editor. MCV had strongly suspected the appointment, partly because she’s perfect for the job, but also because we spotted her coming out of The Guardian o ces by random chance. Macdonald said: “I’m very excited to continue The Guardian’s standard-setting video games coverage in its new home in the Culture section. I’m also delighted that my parents now finally understand what my job is, which is going to save me a lot of circular conversation at Christmas dinner.”

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Uni Sans SemiBold

endgame

Who’s who? Seth Barton Editor sbarton@nbmedia.com Jake Tucker Contributor Jem Alexander Contributor 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 Charlie Gibbon Account Manager cgibbon@nbmedia.com

Jingle Jam End Game usually covers events that have already happened but, while Yogscast’s annual Jingle Jam charity livestream has already raised $3.4m via Humble Bundle, it’s still pushing on to a grand target of $5m. Games, board games, cooking and plenty of gin are all going to feature, so head over to Twitch and get involved. The Jingle Jam runs from 11am to 11pm up to December 22nd.

Presents

Over 5m votes were cast in every category of The Game Awards this year

11 Mega Man 11 has been announced, but it’s still a few outings behind Final Fantasy

90m

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

5m

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

20th

$15,510

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

ISSN: 1469-4832 Copyright 2017

Discord is approaching 90m users and the firm is looking for a UK office

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will get out of Early Access on December 20th

That’s the price of Bitcoin as we go to press. God knows what it’ll be by the time you read 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

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PC Gaming Cases & Storage

Exertis recommends Windows

Any quality gaming rig needs a great case to house the essentials. We offer a range of cases to suit all needs including brands such as Corsair and Fractal. We also have a fantastic selection of SSD & HDDs from WD, Samsung and Seagate to name a few, as well as cooling and PSU options from EVGA, Coolermaster and more.

1 2 3

7

4 5

6 (1) Samsung 960 EVO 500 GB Internal SSD (2) WD Blue (500GB) 3D NAND SATA 2.5 inch Solid State Drive (3) Cooler Master Cosmos C700P E-ATX Full-Tower (4) Corsair Hydro Series H100i v2 High Performance Liquid CPU Cooler (5) Corsair Crystal Series 570X RGB ATX Mid-Tower Case (6) CORSAIR RM750X 80+ 750w GOLD MODULAR PSU (7) WD Black Performance 4 TB Internal HDD

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PC Gaming Peripherals Having the right keyboard, mouse, mouse mat and headset are all vitally important for not only the look and feel, but also gaining the edge in competitive gameplay. Exertis has great range of peripherals from industry leading brands including Corsair and HyperX.

Exertis recommends Windows

1 2

4

6

3

5 (1) Corsair K95 RGB PLATINUM Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (2) HyperX Cloud Revolver - Gaming Headset (3) Corsair GLAIVE RGB Gaming Mouse (4) Corsair M65 PRO RGB FPS Optical Gaming Mouse (5) Corsair MM800 RGB POLARIS Gaming Mouse Pad (6) HyperX Cloud II - Pro Gaming Headset

No-one knows gaming better than Exertis. Whether your customers are first time gamers or battle-hardened extreme enthusiasts, we’ve the best selection and widest range of products from the leading vendors in a market place worth £4.2 billion in the UK last year. Our components business is ever-growing; our dominant market share with multiple brands and product categories, alongside strong relationships with key partners such as Microsoft, puts Exertis in an increasingly unique position to satisfy the needs of our customers, whichever sales channel they are in.

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MCV931 11th December  
MCV931 11th December