Plus FTC’s applies to temporarily block Microsoft-Activision deal and highlights from the Xbox & Ubisoft showcase
NEWS THIS WEEK
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FIONA: Hi I’m Fiona Bartholomaeus
OMI: and I’m Omi Koulas
FIONA: Welcome to Walkthrough, SIFTER’s weekly recap on the biggest news in video games.
OMI: This week Embracer winds back some of its ambitions, sacking staff, and cancelling games, Xbox and Ubisoft show off their next batch of games, and the Activision Microsoft deal hits a regulator roadblock.
Here is the news for Sunday 18th of June. Let’s go!
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FIONA: Embracer Group after buying up a stack of developers have announced they’re now closing studios, cancelling games and laying off workers.
CEO Lars Wingefors said in an open letter to the company’s 17,000 staff that the company would decrease spending, reduce third-party publishing, focus more on internal IP and increase funding to their large-budget games.
Wingefors also said the studio would try to transition affected staff to other projects internally.
This surprising announcement comes not long after the revelation that a $2 billion deal between Embracer and an unnamed partner fell-through.
OMI: Over the years Embracer group has acquired many different studios including: THQ Nordic, Saber Interactive, Gearbox, Middle-earth Enterprises and more. It’s unsure how these subsidiaries, and games set to release in the next year, will fare.
In some slight good news though Crystal Dynamics has insisted its Tomb Raider project and Perfect Dark game will not be impacted by the restructure and cuts.
OMI: Microsoft's $68.7 billion bid to buy Activision Blizzard has hit another hurdle with the United State’s Federal Trade Commision now applying for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.
In a statement, the FTC said the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction are necessary because both the companies have stated that they may still complete the acquisition at any time.
FIONA: Even though the acquisition was blocked in the UK by the Competition and Markets Authority, the companies can still technically seal the deal. They have approval from the European regulators and are currently trying to appeal the CMA’s block.
FIONA: In new release news… the big events continued this week with showcases from both Microsoft and Ubisoft.
Microsoft kicked things off with a series of big trailers - including a new teaser trailer for a reboot of FABLE starring comedian Richard Ayoade and Obsidian’s upcoming single-player fantasy RPG ‘Avowed’ which has been described by the team as their answer to Skyrim.
Starfield - Bethesda’s long-awaited upcoming single player RPG had an impressive showing with a 45 minute showcase trailer. There were glimpses of the game’s robust starbase & starship crafting system as well as deep dives into the game’s character customization, planet exploration and gameplay systems.
“My favourite way of customising ships is… I make them look like animals - the HMS platypus, as I called it where it had like a giant tail to it. We’ve done spiders, we’ve done mechs. So it’s really whatever your imagination is.”
OMI: I can’t wait to make my own weird ships in Starfield. The game looks massive - and is promising roughly 1000 worlds to explore and traverse. We’ll have to wait until September 6 to see if it delivers.
Forza Motorsport got a release date, it’ll be out on October 10 on Series X/S & PC.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024 was announced and will feature new activities including cargo drops, air racing and even agricultural aviation - chemtrail conspiracy theorists, Microsoft have got ya covered.
There were also heaps of third party trailers and announcements, from a full blown Persona 3 Remake to the latest entry in Sega’s Like A Dragon series: Infinite Wealth featuring an absurdly hunky Ichiban Kasuga waking up naked and confused on an American beach.
FIONA: We’re not done with showcases though - as Ubisoft had quite a lot to unveil at their Forward showcase.
Star Wars: Outlaws is a massive open-world adventure game starring thief Kay Vess on her adventures through the galaxy, escaping dangerous bounty hunters and cartel groups. Ubisoft are promising stealth mechanics, blaster combat, speeder bike and tricksy dialogue and roleplaying encounters.
AVATAR: Frontiers of Pandora received its first proper gameplay showcase, with detailed footage of the game’s combat, open world mechanics and gnarly alien lifeforms. It’ll be out on December 7 on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S and PC.
OMI: We then got an 8 minute gameplay demo of the upcoming "Assassin's Creed: Mirage” - which showcased the series return to its roots of snappy parkour acrobatics and stealthy neck-snappin’ mechanics.
Finally, we got a look at a new entry in the Prince of Persia franchise; The Lost Crown - featuring a bold art-style and what looks to be a very cool mix of 2d metroidvania exploration and action-heavy combat.
For the full details of everything at the XBOX & Ubisoft Forward showcases - you can check our show notes.
OMI: Wake up again, Citizen Sleeper developer Gareth Damian Martin has revealed a sequel to the cyberpunk narrative game, Citizen Sleeper 2: Starward Vector.
An animated trailer was released, introducing the game’s new story and a couple of interesting faces who will take us along another journey to build a refuge among the stars.
Citizen Sleeper 2 will once again draw on the freedom and flexibility of tabletop role-playing games, with a strong focus on dice roles and storytelling systems.
FIONA: The announcement didn’t come with any word of a release date or time frame.
Still, we’re huge fans of the original, award-winning Citizen Sleeper and can’t wait to turn our eyes Starward for the sequel.
FIONA: Exo One, the Australian-made, gravity-based spaceship exploration game is getting a spin off.
Exo Rally Championship will be an off-road racing game.
It’ll take place on similar futuristic landscapes as Exo One but this time you’ll be racing across harsh alien environments in a futuristic land rover.
OMI: This looks to be pretty fun, dealing with the wacky physics, intense weather and hardware breaking temperatures. It’s a single-player game with a career mode inspired by Earth’s legendary rally events.
No release date as of yet but we will keep you updated.
OMI: Overwatch 2’s newest season has arrived and brings several contentious balance changes to the multiplayer shooter.
Crowd controlling abilities that slow players have been brought back into the game with reworks to both Cassidy and Mei’s abilities that have left many tank players scratching their heads.
Troubled support hero Lifeweaver has also received a large array of buffs to bring him into line with the rest of the roster, but it’s unknown if these changes will fix his issues or if the dev team will need to do a substantial rework on how the hero plays.
Season 5 features a fantasy-themed battle pass, complete with medieval outfits for most of the roster and a new limited-time game mode where players must take on a super-charged demon-king reinhardt.
FIONA: That’s not the only Overwatch 2 news though - alongside the reveal of season five, Blizzard have finally revealed details of when and how their scaled-back PvE content will arrive in the game.
Overwatch 2: Invasion will be released as part of season 6 in August 2023 and brings 4 co-operative PvE missions that will cost a minimum $15 dollars purchase to play.
It’ll also feature an Ultimate bundle which will set you back $40 US dollars, or roughly $60 Australian - the most expensive piece of content for the free-to-play game yet.
FIONA: That’s it for the big headlines, here’s what’s coming out this week.
OMI: In space, nobody can hear you scream… in the squad-based tactics game, Aliens: Dark Descent. Command a crew of hardened Colonial Marines to stop a terrifying Xenomorph outbreak from 20 June on PC, PlayStation and Xbox.
FIONA: Get ready for chaos with Crash Team Rumble, a 4v4 party game where the iconic heroes and villains of the Crash universe battle to capture more Wumpa Fruit, releasing 20 June on PlayStation and Xbox.
OMI: It’s time to lose your entire life in another massive Final Fantasy game. Step into the shoes of Clive Rosfield, a warrior granted the title of “First Shield of Rosaria” in Final Fantasy 16 - an epic dark fantasy, action RPG coming to PS5 on 22 June.
FIONA: The Bookwalker: Thief of Tales is a stylish narrative adventure in which you play as Etienne Quist, a writer-turned-thief who can literally dive into books. Try the turn-based combat, puzzles, and mix of top-down and first person gameplay on PC, PlayStation and Xbox from 22 June.
OMI: Last but not least, Dr. Fetus' Mean Meat Machine is the next game from the Super Meat Boy developers, Team Meat. Test your skills with this combination of classic puzzle-gameplay and hardcore platforming, coming to all platforms from 22 June.
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FIONA: This has been Walkthrough by SIFTER, my name is Fiona Bartholomaeus.
OMI: And my name is Omi Koulas. Thank you so much for listening.
FIONA: Walkthrough is our recap of the news but if you want to catch up on all of SIFTER’s stories we’ve got a fancy newsletter. It’s an easy way to make sure you don’t miss any of our interviews or reviews and it’s out every fortnight. Head to sifter.com.au/newsletter to subscribe, that’s sifter.com.au/newsletter.
OMI: SIFTER is produced by Kyle Pauletto, myself, Adam Christou, Daniel Ang and Fiona Bartholomaeus. Mitch Loh is Senior Producer who edited this episode and Gianni Di Giovanni is our Executive Producer.
FIONA: Thanks to Brian Fairbanks from Salty Dog Sounds for composing the Walkthrough theme tune.
Thanks to Audio Technica Australia for their support of SIFTER’s podcasts.
OMI: Thanks again for listening, we’ll be back with more news next Sunday.