News
Episode
83

Microsoft Activision deal approved in the UK, future Xboxes leaked

Plus Unity plans to alter their controversial developer fees and a new The Lord of the Rings game is on the way

NEWS THIS WEEK

RELEASE RADAR

  • CYBERPUNK 2077: PHANTOM LIBERTY - 26 September 2023 - PC, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5
  • EL PASO, ELSEWHERE - 26 September 2023 - PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
  • PALEO PINES - 26 September 2023 - Xbox Series X|S, Switch, PlayStation 5, PC
  • OVERPASS 2 - 28 September 2023 - PC, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5
  • EA SPORTS FC 24 - 29 September 2023 - PX, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch

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SIFTER is produced by Kyle Pauletto, Fiona Bartholomaeus, Daniel Ang, Adam Christou and Chris Button. Mitch Loh is Senior Producer and Gianni Di Giovanni is our Executive Producer. Thanks to Audio Technica Australia for their support of SIFTER.

TRANSCRIPT

KYLE: Hi I’m Kyle Pauletto

FIONA: and I’m Fiona Bartholomaeus

KYLE: Welcome to Walkthrough, SIFTER’s weekly recap on the biggest news in video games. 

FIONA: This week Microsoft has a big win and a big fail for it’s Activision purchase, Unity sheepishly offers to change their new fees, and there is a cosy Lord of the Rings game on the way. 

Here is the news for Sunday 24th of September. Let’s go!

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PROMO: Join the SIFTER community on Discord at sifter.com.au/discord

KYLE: Well it looks like Microsoft’s big gambit, giving Ubisoft the streaming rights to Activision games has worked, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, the final hurdle to buying Activision Blizzard King, has given preliminary approval to the deal. 

The CMA said the restructured deal addressed the concerns it had around cloud gaming with the final deadline for a decision on the 18th of October. 

That’s the good news for Microsoft because the rest is embarrassing to say the least as documentation submitted to the US inquiry were made public showing off lots of future and past plans to everyone. Whoops. 

FIONA: Documents submitted to the US Federal Trade Commission weren’t properly secured according to the court, which means new consoles, controllers, games and more were made public. 

CEO Phil Spencer has said publicly that the PS5 version of The Elder Scrolls 6 was still being discussed, but those leaked documents revealed that Sony players are out of luck when the game releases around 2026. 

Speaking of Zenimax and Bethesda, remasters for The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion and Fallout 3 were on the cards for 2021, and in an email from 2022 there was a big list of potential game pass games that put one of this year’s biggest hits, Baldur’s Gate 3, into the “second run Stadia PC RPG” category which is underselling it a fair bit. 

KYLE: The leaks also revealed that Microsoft is planning to release a refreshed Xbox Series X and S fairly soon. 

Microsoft has said multiple times that there was no need for a slight upgrade of the current consoles but the documents show otherwise.

Codenamed Brooklin and Ellewood, the upgrade seems to be more compact, lacks a disc drive, has 2TB storage, and upgraded RAM. The document said the consoles will be released late next year, but time will tell.

FIONA: There is also a new controller design, the Sebile has gyroscopes for motion controls, haptic feedback like the Sony DualSense controller and can connect directly to the internet like Stadia’s controller to allow reduced cloud streaming game lag.

The next-gen Xbox console is scheduled for 2028 with development kits likely to launch in 2027, and Microsoft may even release a handheld device dedicated to cloud games.

One of the most interesting things that came from this in my opinion, was the very casual email from Spencer talking about wanting to acquire Nintendo, how they may go about it, but also outlining some of the road blocks on the potential merger.

KYLE: Spencer has since said those emails were just background discussions and the information in them is pretty out of date, but it’s interesting to see what was being discussed.

There was a lot more revealed from the leaks, check it all out in our show notes.

— 

FIONA: Unity’s plan to slug developers with a “runtime fee” every time someone installed a game went over like a salt buffet at a snail convention but the platform holder has said it’s going to adjust those plans going forward.

According to Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, some of these changes could include hard limits based on a company’s total revenue, and developers could potentially self-report their installation numbers. 

It’s kind of vague on how this will affect smaller developers versus bigger players but it’s fair to say a lot of people aren’t waiting around for Unity, actively exploring other options.

KYLE: Early on Saturday Australian time, Marc Whitten from Unity apologised for the proposed changes, walking back the retrospective runtime fee charges, excluding them entirely from people who use the free plan and raised the revenue threshold to US$200K on that free plan before you need to pay anything. 

The fee is still there though, and if you upgrade to a newer version of Unity you’re locked in, but it’s either a 2.5% royalty or the 20c runtime fee, whatever ends up less. 

It’s unlikely though that sentiment will be won back though, with many many..honestly like most developers pledging to drop unity as soon as they can for another engine. 

According to a statement, Terraria developers Re-Logic have come out swinging for the alternative platforms, donating US$200,000 to open source engines Godot and FNA, calling out the flippant way trust was cast aside to squeeze more profits. 

Each engine gets $100k plus $1000 per month, with Re-Logic saying the time is now to get behind some alternative platforms. 

The coolest thing? Terraria doesn’t even run on Unity except for a few components on mobile and console, so this is just about principle for Re-Logic.

 

KYLE: Hey guess what? Ubisoft is making The Division 3. 

That’s probably not a massive surprise for you, but the post-pandemic looter shooter was announced in a press release rather than a splashy reveal. 

Julian Gerighty, who is currently the creative director of Star Wars Outlaws will become the executive producer on the Division series going forward, though will stick with Star Wars until that game ships though. 

FIONA: Massive Entertainment who are finishing up on Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora will develop the third game in the popular series which has a playerbase of over 40 million.

FIONA: And finally Wētā Workshop is doing what they know best and inviting you back into the Hobbiton with Tales of the Shire. 

They are teaming up with Private Division (no relation) for a cosy Lord of the Rings experience. 

KYLE: Not much detail around for this one yet, but you better believe there will be a second breakfast, and I can officially confirm elevenses, though keep listening to Walkthrough where we’ll confirm if luncheon is included. 

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KYLE: That’s it for the big headlines, here’s what’s coming out over the next week.

FIONA: Out on the 26th is the Cyberpunk 2077 DLC, Phantom Liberty. Players will get to explore the new district of Dogtown and play through a bunch of fresh quests, gigs, and boss battles. There’s also over 100 new items and the level cap has been raised to 60. Grab this paid DLC for PC and current gen Microsoft and Sony consoles this Tuesday, sadly it won't be available for Xbox one and PlayStation 4 players. 

KYLE: El Paso, Elsewhere is the next game from indie devs Strange Scaffold, it’s a horror third person shooter where you slow dive blasting guns at werewolves, fallen angels and other spooky things. This will be a bit of a cult hit I reckon, find it on PC and Xbox from the 26th. 

FIONA: Paleo Pines is also out on the 26th, it’s farming sim with super cute dinos, and you get to ride around on a parasaurolophus. And hey you don’t need to worry about setting up a dairy on a farm for dinos so that’s one less thing to micromanage. Pick it up on all platforms on Tuesday. 

KYLE: Out Wednesday is the off road racer Overpass 2. Players can expect better graphics and improved physics, along with new vehicles to navigate diverse terrains. That’s out on PC and current-gen consoles on the 28th 

FIONA: Kicking off on the 29th is EA Sports FC 24, marking a fresh era post their FIFA partnership. It’ll be interesting to see if this game differs in anything but name to the previous series when it comes to all platforms this Friday.

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PROMO: Articles to read, videos to watch and podcasts to listen to on sifter.com.au

— 

KYLE: This has been Walkthrough by SIFTER, my name is Kyle Pauletto 

FIONA: And my name is Fiona Bartholomaeus. Thank you so much for listening. 

KYLE: Did you know SIFTER has an award winning interview show? It’s called Lightmap and is hosted by Gianni Di Giovanni, and we’ve interviewed the developers behind Cult of the Lamb, Broken Roads, Hollow Knight and more. Find Lightmap in your podcast players now, just search for Sifter Lightmap, or watch our videos on SIFTER’s youtube channel. 

FIONA: SIFTER is produced by Kyle Pauletto, myself, Adam Christou, Daniel Ang and Chris Button. Mitch Loh is Senior Producer, and Gianni Di Giovanni, who edited this episode and the script, is our executive producer. 

KYLE: 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.

FIONA: Thanks again for listening, we’ll be back with more news next Sunday.

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