News
Episode
79

Microsoft sacrifices cloud streaming rights for Activision games to win UK buyout approval

Plus Charles Martinet retires from Mario and all the highlights from Gamescom

NEWS THIS WEEK

RELEASE RADAR

  • GOODBYE VOLCANO HIGH - 29 August 2023 - PC, PlayStation 4|5
  • SEA OF STARS - 29 August 2023 - PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
  • UNDER THE WAVES - 29 August 2023 - PC, PlayStation 4|5, Xbox Series S|X, Xbox One, Nintendo 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

FIONA: Hi I’m Fiona Bartholomaeus

KYLE: and I’m Kyle Pauletto

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

KYLE: This week Microsoft makes a big surprising change to its Activision Blizzard deal, Overwatch 2 developers respond to Steam review bombing, and beloved Mario voice actor Charles Martinet retires from the role after 30 years.

Here is the news for Sunday 27th of August. Let’s go!

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

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FIONA: In an unexpected twist for the gaming industry's biggest acquisition saga, Microsoft has altered its mammoth $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

Having faced serious resistance from the UK's Competition and Markets Authority, Microsoft has made the bold move to hand all cloud streaming rights for Activision Blizzard's current and future titles to Ubisoft for the next 15 years. 

Ubisoft has control of how the streaming rights are handled and they are in charge of licensing, so you could see them make deals which would allow Activision Blizzard games to appear in all sorts of different places like with Apple on Mac computers for example. 

KYLE: For those who have kept up with this story, you’ll know that this isn't just a minor concession. 

Microsoft has massively redefined the terms of its acquisition, excluding a significant portion of the cloud streaming rights to prove to the CMA that they're committed to competitive balance in the market.

The CMA is the final hurdle for this deal, so we’ll have to see how they respond, so in the meantime stay tuned to Walkthrough for all the latest.

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KYLE: A couple of weeks ago we saw Overwatch 2 debut on Steam and in response to its launch, the game was heavily review bombed, and has now become one of the most overwhelmingly negatively reviewed games on the platform.

A majority of the comments were about their disappointment with the game failing to deliver on its story mode that was once promised to the players.

In a recent blog Overwatch 2 director Aaron Keller responded to the review bombing admitting it wasn’t a fun experience but it has still been great seeing new players get on board for the first time.

 FIONA: Interestingly a huge proportion of the negative reviews came from users who speak Simplified Chinese, around 60% of them according to gaming analyst Daniel Ahmad.

You might remember that Activision Blizzard had a big deal fall over with NetEase, the Chinese gaming company that licenced all the games for players in China. 

That meant World of Warcraft, Overwatch and everything else just disappeared one day, and players there were pissed. 

And because the international version of Steam is available in China these players have taken to the reviews to vent their frustrations. We’ll link this analysis in the show notes. 

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FIONA: Charles Martinet, the iconic Mario voice actor since the mid-90s, is retiring from the role, with Nintendo announcing that Martinet would no longer be voicing Mario, Luigi, Wario, or Waluigi.

Thankfully, Martinet isn't departing from the world of Mario completely. Nintendo has hired him as the new "Mario Ambassador”, a role that’ll have him travelling the world promoting Mario and interacting with fans.

So to a man who’s wahoos and yahas formed core memories for us all, we say thank you, and good luck.

KYLE: Well that actually brings us to our next story Fi, because the crazy thing is, some fans called this before the official announcement came. 

Back in June, a flurry of speculation spread across the net with super fans saying they thought the voice actors in the new Super Mario Wonder trailer sounded a bit odd. 

[AUDIO OF MARIO]

And they were right. 

Nintendo has since confirmed in a statement to both IGN and Eurogamer that brand new voice actors have been brought in to play Mario and Luigi for the upcoming side scroller but have not said who they are yet.

This is disappointing news for a lot of people. But on the positive side I have to say I do love to see a bit of vindication for some conspiracy theory superfans every once in a while. Good ears nerds, you were on the money with this one. 

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KYLE: EA owned RPG developer BioWare has announced 50 roles will be terminated as it goes through major operational changes.

 In a blog post to the company’s website, the studio’s GM Gary McKay said the layoffs were necessary to shape a more agile and focused workspace.

But livelihoods aside, he did reassure fans that the development of Dragon Age: Dreadwolf is still on track, as well as the next Mass Effect project which is in pre-production.

 So thank god for that right? Right?

FIONA: Ex-Bioware writer David Gaider who now works for Australian game development company Summerfall Studios said that an incredible amount of talent, including the creators of many iconic characters were now gone. 

It’s an interesting insight from someone who is outside of this situation. 

 Sadly this restructuring does seem to be in line with EA’s wider downsizing strategy. Fingers crossed there aren’t more layoffs to come, and good luck to those about to be on the hunt for a new job.

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FIONA: This week Gamescom held their open night in Germany and there are a stack of new and upcoming games.

Age of Empires returns with Age of Empires IV Anniversary Edition. Control your armies with fantastic graphics as the famous real-time strategy game releases for the first time on Xbox consoles, plus it’s available on GamePass.

Alan Wake II, the upcoming survival horror game by Remedy Entertainment takes place in ‘the dark place’ a dream reality that’s created from Alan’s mind. It’s really interesting as live-action footage will be integrated into the gameplay. You can pick the game up on October 17.

KYLE: We got a bit more of a look into the Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty DLC which launches on September 26. The trailer showed more of a dangerous new district, new story quests, vehicle combat, redesigned cyberware and perks and so much more. CD Projekt Red also revealed the base game will get a 2.0 update alongside the DLC, and this will be available for everyone.

Dustborn is a new game from indie studio Red Thread Games that features graphic novel-style art as you and your friends take a road trip of sorts through a dystopian America. Keep an eye out for this one when it lands early next year.

Little Nightmares 3 got an announcement trailer this week and it looks just as spooky and tense as the last games but this one looks to be co-op. No official release date as of yet, but that one also lands sometime next year.

There were so many other games that got trailers and reveals, check them all out in our shownotes below.

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KYLE: That’s it for the big headlines, here’s what’s coming out over the next week and it’s looking like a big Tuesday. 

FIONA: Experience the heart-warming chaos of teenage emotions in Goodbye Volcano High, a dating sim set during the brink of the dinosaur apocalypse. You play as Fang, a typical 18-year-old dinosaur during their final year of high school, pursuing crushes and writing ballads for your band. Goodbye Volcano High comes to PC and PlayStation on August 29th.

KYLE: Also out on the 29th the highly anticipated retro styled RPG Sea of Stars arrives on PlayStation, Switch and PC. It’s got some gorgeous top shelf pixel art along with classic turn based gameplay, and looks like the sort of game you wished you could play back on the SNES. 

FIONA: Dive deep into the techno-futuristic 1970s North Sea in Under the Waves. Play as Stan, a professional diver grappling with loss, navigating both his underwater surroundings and a maze of memories. Traverse breathtaking underwater vistas, pilot a submarine, and uncover Stan’s past on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox on the 29th.

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

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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: We know you love our podcasts, so why not become a monthly backer on Ko-Fi? Your support lets us keep making our shows so why not show the love and sign up to be a monthly backer. It’s easy, head to sifter.com.au/support where support starts from just $1 a month that address again is sifter.com.au/support

FIONA: SIFTER is produced by myself, Kyle Pauletto, Adam Christou, Daniel Ang and Chris Button. Mitch Loh is Senior Producer who also edited this episode, and Gianni Di Giovanni is our script editor, and SIFTER’s 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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Super Mario Bros. Wonder

SWITCH
Developer:
Nintendo
Publisher:
Nintendo
Release Date:
October 20, 2023
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