Neill Blomkamp: ‘It’s inevitable that the uncanny valley just goes away’District 9 director talks about his experience creating the ADAM short films with UnityChristopher DringHead of Games B2BThursday 30th November 2017Share this article Recommend Tweet ShareThe ADAM collection of short films have been an impressive demonstration of Unity’s cinematic capabilities.The game engine provider has been working on ways to combine its technology with that of the film industry, which led to the creation of ADAM – a Webby Award-winning five minute YouTube short that has been viewed more than 4m times.Unity then teamed up with Neill Blomkamp, the movie director famous for District 9, Elysium and Chappie, to extend the ADAM story with two further chapters. The second seven minute short focused on the story’s hero, a political dissident who has had his brain removed and placed inside a robotic shell. The third, out today, focuses on the world’s sinister villains. The videos certainly demonstrate just how far real-time graphics have come in telling cinematic stories, but also some of the limitations. Specifically around the uncanny valley, and how there’s something not quite right about the human faces. But Blomkamp is convinced we will get there.”There’s two components to that,” he tells GamesIndustry.biz. “The first one is that the software itself, as well as the computational power of whatever rig you’re running it on, is going to get better and better. I think it is inevitable where a line is crossed where the uncanny valley just goes away. “At the same time that is happening, you are also dealing with the changing population, which is just becoming more and more ok with the idea of real-time graphics – even if they are uncanny valley. You know better than anyone, there are millions and millions of gamers playing PUBG or Battlefield or whatever it may be, and they accept how that looks. It doesn’t mess with their enjoyment of playing the game, or watching the cut scenes. I think that the population is more accepting of it, as well, as time goes on. Those two things working together equals lots of people being ok with real-time.”The changing audience acceptance of real-time visuals in storytelling is a key component to this. Blomkamp doesn’t think we’ll be seeing major real-time motion pictures anytime soon, but that as the modern gaming audience grows up, it is something that the big movie studios will consider.Director Neill Blomkamp”If you take a 13 year-old that’s playing Call of Duty, when they are 60… I am sure they are going to be ok watching a film in real-time,” he says. “Although who knows? it is sort of a question of when the demographic changes. Nothing is being implemented at this very second, so it’s a case of watching the audience change and the tastes modify.”He continues: “It would be difficult to 20th Century Fox to agree to this way of making stuff, at the moment… in the future it will change, probably.”The way big films are made is a response to what the audience says that they want. The more Battlefield players that are out there, who are familiar with the way that this looks, the more it will become accepted.”ADAM is an interesting project and something that’s uniquely suited to Blomkamp’s OATS studio, which is working on a series of impressive, VFX-heavy short films, hoping to find something that can be developed into something bigger. It’s not too dissimilar to the creation of his District 9 movie, which was developed from his 2006 sci-fi short Alive in Joburg.Unity has offered something compelling to OATS. Although the heavy lifting in creating the assets and the scenes are the same, the studio can then reuse or tweak everything in real time, and revisit the locations without having to rebuild the sets. “Our lighting artists inside OATS, who come from a traditional background, were the most affected by working in real-time,” Blomkamp notes. “The thought of going back to having to wait for ages and not update things in real time, was quite strange for them. They definitely felt it was something that they’d like to keep on using.”He adds: “It is extremely beneficial. I think that it will become extremely beneficial for other people over time.”As an example of how demonstratively helpful it is, we want to be able to make stuff cost-effectively because we are an insane, weird studio and we have to make low-budget stuff. We have our own motion capture stage, so once we take the hit on building all the assets and setting-up the scene, from that point on, we can revisit that scene by bringing the actors back and doing new episodes as much as we want. The cost associated with doing that is only as costly as bringing the actors in for a day, because everything is set up. That is a massive difference compared to building bespoke one-off scenes in visual effects, that will have to be built from the ground-up. That is a very, very helpful thing.”Blomkamp would like to see ADAM become a feature filmTo supplement his team of VFX artists, Blomkamp added additional games people to the team to help them with the real-time work, but ultimately says the process was ‘relatively pain free’. He expects to use the system for other OATS projects going forward.But what now for ADAM? The world has been created and the characters teased, so where does Unity and Blomkamp go next with the concept? And what does success even look like for a high-end seven minute short film that’s available for free on YouTube?”Ultimately, at some point it would be very cool to make an entire real-time film out of ADAM. The subject matter is uniquely conducive to doing that, which is kinda cool. That would define success. If you talk about it as an IP, or a story, I think ADAM has a lot to be mined in terms of themes, characters and ideas. That could be mined in game form, or film, or more recurring episodes like the ones we’ve already made. But I think getting to make a feature film out of it would be pretty cool.”Blomkamp has a long love for games. His movies always play with themes familiar to gamers (sci-fi, dystopian futures, action, aliens), and he has worked on creating Halo short films (plus the aborted Halo movie).”I like games, but I’m not really making games,” he says. “It’s definitely a case of being interested in how to apply [the technology] to film. Uniquely for us, it is very applicable to OATS. If I didn’t have this weird studio, it wouldn’t have been as obvious to me because I wouldn’t have really known how to use it, or what the application could be. In this environment, it suits us, basically.”The three ADAM short films total under 20 minutes in lengthFilm technology has long been used by games developers, and now we’re seeing that go in the other direction. But what about the content itself? Much has been made of the convergence between the film experience and the game experience. Are we looking at a step closer towards that?”I don’t really know what that is going to look like myself,” Blomkamp says. “It could look like a lot of other things we are already working on. For instance, if you made a real-time film, it could be experienced differently. You could choose different points-of-view to look from. Things like that. But it is still a passive experience. It doesn’t have this tree branch, forking effect of different choices that you make. It’s not clear to me right now how you merge film and games in terms of the structure of the story. But I think if you made a traditional film in real-time, that opens up options, that could be quite interesting. But it’s mostly to do with point-of-view.”Of course, we are seeing some interactive experiences being tried in VR. Indeed, Elijah Wood’s own production studio is creating a VR project with Ubisoft.Related JobsSenior Game Designer – UE4 – AAA United Kingdom Amiqus GamesProgrammer – REMOTE – work with industry veterans! North West Amiqus GamesJunior Video Editor – GLOBAL publisher United Kingdom Amiqus GamesDiscover more jobs in games But Blomkamp is sceptical. “I am not sure how around for the long road VR headsets are,” he says. “I think real-time as a graphics platform is here longer than potentially an Oculus is. Oculus has to turn into something that is easier to use for people to fully adopt it.”You can watch the ADAM short films on YouTube here.Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry8th July 2021Submit your company Sign up for The Daily Update and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox. Enter your email addressMore storiesAdopt Me developers unveil new studio, Uplift GamesTeam behind hit Roblox game has grown to over 40 employeesBy Danielle Partis 13 hours agoDeveloper wins against Grand Theft Auto DMCA takedownTake-Two loses claim to reversed-engineered source made by fansBy Danielle Partis 16 hours agoLatest comments Sign in to contributeEmail addressPasswordSign in Need an account? Register now.
Overwatch to get Lego sets and Nerf merchActivision Blizzard Consumer Products Group reveals new projects as it pursues more partners at Licensing ExpoBrendan SinclairManaging EditorTuesday 22nd May 2018Share this article Recommend Tweet ShareActivision Blizzard is levelling up its merchandising game. The company’s Consumer Products Group today announced a new slate of partnerships for Overwatch, Call of Duty, and other brands with more likely on the way as it promoted its presence at the Licensing Expo 2018.Related JobsSenior Game Designer – UE4 – AAA United Kingdom Amiqus GamesProgrammer – REMOTE – work with industry veterans! North West Amiqus GamesJunior Video Editor – GLOBAL publisher United Kingdom Amiqus GamesDiscover more jobs in games Starting with Overwatch, Activision Blizzard has chosen Hasbro as its partner for the online shooter’s master toy license, with “a wide range of play experiences” on the way, spearheaded by a line of Overwatch Nerf products. On top of that, Lego is readying multiple Overwatch building block sets, and next month will see clothing retailer Uniqlo roll out a line of Blizzard T-shirts. Other Overwatch merchandising partners include Spirit Halloween and Disguise (for costumes), Bioworld International (bags and accessories), and Insight Editions (stationery and a cookbook).Over on the Activision side of the business, the company has lined up new Call of Duty merchandise, including action figures from McFarlane Toys, Risk and Monopoly variants from USAopoly, homeware and accessories from Pyramid, and more. Crash Bandicoot and Spyro are also seeing their licensing opportunities proliferate after the publisher recently revived both properties for current-generation consoles, with collectibles on the way from NECA/Kidrobot, joining Funko Pop and GameStop Totaku figures as well as an assortment of apparel and accessories licensors.”Since debuting at last year’s Licensing Expo, we’ve begun to successfully realize our vision of offering more value and more opportunities for our global licensing and retail partners by leveraging the blockbuster franchises that Activision and Blizzard have created and expanded over many years of dedicated development,” Activision Blizzard Consumer Products Group CEO and president Tim Kilpin said. “For our hundreds of millions of players around the world, we’re working hard to build lasting global franchises that they can connect with across game platforms and through esports and vibrant transmedia story content. We are well positioned to continue playing a leading role in shaping the future of entertainment.”Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry8th July 2021Submit your company Sign up for The Publishing & Retail newsletter and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox. Enter your email addressMore storiesEA leans on Apex Legends and live services in fourth quarterQ4 and full year revenues close to flat and profits take a tumble, but publisher’s bookings still up double-digitsBy Brendan Sinclair 4 hours agoUbisoft posts record sales yet again, delays Skull & Bones yet againPublisher moves away from target of 3-4 premium AAA titles a year, wants to build free-to-play “to be trending toward AAA ambitions over the long term”By Brendan Sinclair 8 hours agoLatest comments Sign in to contributeEmail addressPasswordSign in Need an account? Register now.
Dead Trigger 2 passes 100 million downloadsFive-year-old mobile zombie shooter is now Madfingers Games’ most successful game everPress ReleaseThursday 2nd August 2018Share this article Recommend Tweet ShareCompanies in this articleMADFINGER GamesAugust 2, 2018 – Brno, Czech Republic – MADFINGER Games is happy to announce that their game Dead Trigger 2 has reached 100 million downloads, making it the studio’s most successful game to date.”I would like to personally thank all 100 million Dead Trigger 2 players who have shown their support and love for this game,” said Marek Rabas, CEO and Creative Director of MADFINGER Games. “Most of the success was achieved because the game was something mobile players experienced for the first time ever – console quality graphics and smooth controls.”Dead Trigger 2 has won numerous awards. It received the App Store Best of 2013 Award, plus 148apps’ Best Time Killer, Best Action Game, and Best Arcade Game in the iOS category, and their Best App Ever award 2013 for Android. In 2014 it received the Czech national Best Mobile Application of the Year award, and Dead Trigger 2 still regularly appears on top ranking lists for best mobile games, best graphics and best mobile FPS.Related JobsSenior Game Designer – UE4 – AAA United Kingdom Amiqus GamesProgrammer – REMOTE – work with industry veterans! North West Amiqus GamesJunior Video Editor – GLOBAL publisher United Kingdom Amiqus GamesDiscover more jobs in games The game’s popularity has garnered an amazing 2.7 million 5-star reviews on the Google Play and App Store. The cult zombie shooter has also made its mark on popular culture, making cameo appearances in the 2017 action movie Unlocked and the animated series American Dad.Dead Trigger 2 made a huge impact on the world of zombie apocalypse titles with its 600 gameplay scenarios including Story Campaign, Global Missions and Side Quests combined with weekly in-game events. Even five years after its release, Dead Trigger 2 is still bringing players excitement and plenty of things to enjoy.MADFINGER Games are thankful to their wonderful Dead Trigger 2 fanbase for their ongoing support. The development of a big new update is currently in progress. While the studio gears up for a major announcement later this summer, Dead Trigger 2 fans can take part in competitions for in-game items on its social networks and on MADstream, the weekly streaming session with the community.Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry8th July 2021Submit your company Sign up for The Mobile newsletter and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox. Enter your email addressMore storiesEA leans on Apex Legends and live services in fourth quarterQ4 and full year revenues close to flat and profits take a tumble, but publisher’s bookings still up double-digitsBy Brendan Sinclair 3 hours agoEA Play Live set for July 22Formerly E3-adjacent event moves to take place a month and half after the ESA’s showBy Jeffrey Rousseau 5 hours agoLatest comments Sign in to contributeEmail addressPasswordSign in Need an account? Register now.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and replySign in to contributeEmail addressPasswordSign in Need an account? Register now. Spider-Man sells 3.3 million in three daysFriendly neighborhood wall-crawler tops Ghost of Sparta as Insomniac exclusive claims title of “fastest-selling first-party PS4 game” from God of WarBrendan SinclairManaging EditorThursday 20th September 2018Share this article Recommend Tweet ShareRelated JobsSenior Game Designer – UE4 – AAA United Kingdom Amiqus GamesProgrammer – REMOTE – work with industry veterans! North West Amiqus GamesJunior Video Editor – GLOBAL publisher United Kingdom Amiqus GamesDiscover more jobs in games Spider-Man is a hit. With more than 3.3 million copies sold in its first three days of sale, Insomniac Games’ PlayStation 4 exclusive open-world action game is now the fastest-selling first-party PS4 game to date, Sony announced on Twitter today.The previous holder of that title was God of War, which launched in April and racked up 3.1 million copies sold through downloaded copies and physical versions sold through to customers.The game’s sales success is not terribly surprising. Spider-Man launched September 7 to a wave of critical adulation, and UK retail numbers quickly pegged it as the fastest selling game of 2018 so far, and the fastest-selling Marvel-branded game in history. It also topped the GSD charts for Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Australia. In its second week, it held off challenges from new releases Shadow of the Tomb Raider and NBA 2K19 to retain the top spot on the UK retail charts.Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry8th July 2021Submit your company Sign up for The Daily Update and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox. Enter your email addressMore storiesEA leans on Apex Legends and live services in fourth quarterQ4 and full year revenues close to flat and profits take a tumble, but publisher’s bookings still up double-digitsBy Brendan Sinclair 3 hours agoEA Play Live set for July 22Formerly E3-adjacent event moves to take place a month and half after the ESA’s showBy Jeffrey Rousseau 5 hours agoLatest comments (1)AbdulBasit Saliu Mechanic, Flowmotion Entertainment Inc2 years ago WOW!
Strategy Analytics: Nintendo to take back console market leadership in 2019Analyst predicts Nintendo will sell 17.3 million consoles in 2019, overtaking both Microsoft and SonyRebekah ValentineSenior Staff WriterThursday 29th November 2018Share this article Recommend Tweet ShareWith Sony seemingly preparing for a quiet 2019 and Microsoft rumored to also be on the cusp of an end to its hardware cycle, next year may prove an opportune time for Nintendo to take back control of the hardware market. At least, research and analytics group Strategy Analytics seems to think so.In its Global Game Console Market Forecast, Strategy Analytics predicts that Nintendo will sell 17.3 million Nintendo Switch units worldwide in 2019, outstripping a predicted 17.1 million PS4 and PS4 Pro units from Sony and 10 million Xbox One and Xbox One X units from Microsoft. That said, overall 2019 console revenue is predicted to drop by 10%.Related JobsSenior Game Designer – UE4 – AAA United Kingdom Amiqus GamesProgrammer – REMOTE – work with industry veterans! North West Amiqus GamesJunior Video Editor – GLOBAL publisher United Kingdom Amiqus GamesDiscover more jobs in games For 2018, Sony remains the leader, with its systems accounting for almost half of all gaming consoles being used, and 84% of these being PS4 or PS4 Pros. Total, global sales of consoles in 2018 have reached 46.1 million units, the highest that number has been since 2010.In addition, the report states that console ownership is up, with 45% of North American households and 20% of Western European homes owning at least one console.”Contrary to some expectations, the global TV games console market remains healthy,” said Strategy Analytics director David Watkins. “Many pundits have written it off over the years, for reasons ranging from the emergence of cloud gaming to the dominance of mobile devices and the arrival of VR, but it refuses to die. In fact, there is an argument that the enduring appeal of the TV games console, now in its sixth decade, continues to demonstrate the weaknesses and limitations of alternative games platforms.” Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry8th July 2021Submit your company Sign up for The Daily Update and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox. Enter your email addressMore storiesMicrosoft game revenues up 50% in Q3Continued Xbox Series X|S demand pushes hardware sales up 232% as Xbox content and services jump 34%By Brendan Sinclair 14 days agoBlaze Entertainment announces home gaming consoleThe Evercade VS, focused on retro gaming, will be available to pre-order in May before a launch in NovemberBy Marie Dealessandri 18 days agoLatest comments Sign in to contributeEmail addressPasswordSign in Need an account? Register now.
Critical Consensus: Tom Clancy’s The Division 2Critics lament the lack of political heft in its story, but The Division 2 gets much right that BioWare’s Anthem got wrongMatthew HandrahanEditor-in-ChiefTuesday 26th March 2019Share this article Recommend Tweet ShareCompanies in this articleUbisoftThe critical appraisal of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is notable for being considerably better than that which greeted The Division in 2016. It is also notable for the sheer number of times that Anthem is mentioned — and the comparisons do little to flatter EA BioWare’s troubled release.Of course, as online third-person shooters with a focus on loot the two games have much in common, but the resonant message from critics is that they are polar examples of how these huge, ambitious projects can turn out; Anthem got it wrong, The Division 2 got it right.The Daily Telegraph, for example, opened its positive review with a tribute to “just how thoroughly competent” the game is at launch. “If that immediately sounds like damning Ubisoft’s militaristic looter-shooter with faint praise, that isn’t the intention,” reviewer Tom Hoggins said. “Launching a persistent online game in the vein of Destiny et al and having it hold together is bloody hard. Just ask Anthem.”Launching a persistent online game and having it hold together is bloody hard. Just ask Anthem” Tom Hoggins, The Telegraph”Maybe it is just the disappointment at BioWare’s sci-fi scramble of incessant loading screens, connection issues and disparate adventuring talking, but I half expected to go into Ubisoft’s game facing a clutch of the same issues. But that hasn’t happened; I fired up The Division 2, crafted my macho bearded soldier man and sent him into the post-apocalyptic capital to shoot bad guys and find sweet new knee-pads.”And several hours later, I’m still enjoying a compelling, mechanically satisfying — if aesthetically uninspiring — shooter. And that’s with very few technical hiccups, aside from the odd floating corpse and texture pop-in.”The emergence of games-as-a-service (GaaS) forced critics to answer some difficult questions. After a few decades of competing to be the first to reveal which number on a five-star, ten-point or percentage scale they had bestowed upon each new release, reviewers were faced with a new breed of products that defied absolute opinion, growing and shifting and changing over time; they could start poorly and find stability, or start confidently and become great. Adapting their methods to accommodate the growing popularity of GaaS is perhaps the single biggest reason why so much of the press has reluctantly ended the love affair with scores and stars. It feels good to be an authority, but many games now take months and even years to reach what can be considered a final state. By most accounts, however, The Division 2 is taking its first-step on what could be a very long journey with a rare degree of polish and technical solidity.Many critics used Anthem as a counterpoint to praise how well The Division 2 nails the fundamentalsThis was pointed out by PC Gamer, which also drew a comparison to Anthem. After 25 hours “wrestling” with BioWare’s game, PC Gamer’s Samuel Roberts expressed gratitude for the myriad ways in which The Division 2 is a more considered and streamlined user experience. It also displays a knack for drama and set-pieces that is so often absent from games that must find ways to keep players engaged for hundreds of hours.”Each main campaign mission feels like a real event,” Roberts said. “Given that no one really makes linear third-person shooter games now — here they’re isolated parts of a massive open world looter game — it’s easy to forget what these kind of levels feel like when they’re designed well.”Each main campaign mission feels like a real event… It’s easy to forget what these kind of levels feel like when they’re designed well” Samuel Roberts, PC Gamer”There’s an amazing excursion into the American History Museum, where there’s a (probably tasteless) firefight in the midst of a Vietnam recreation exhibit, complete with royalty-free version of The End by The Doors playing in the background. Then there’s a gunfight in the Air & Space Museum’s planetarium and Mars exhibits, which for a few minutes make you feel like you’re playing a sci-fi shooter. “The finale of the campaign, meanwhile, offers a long battle on the roof of the Capitol Building, which is a great location for a selfie with the game’s photo mode once you’re done. The choices of setting for the main missions give them a lot of flavour. The longer strongholds that bookend the campaign, with one for each of the three factions, offer the biggest and most exhilarating set pieces in the game.”As with all Ubisoft open-world games, The Division 2 is generously loaded with activities that fall at different points on the scale between essential and perfunctory. However, Rock Paper Shotgun noticed an attention to detail that prevents these myriad tasks from feeling too much like busywork. It is in the design of the game’s major set-pieces, as PC Gamer pointed out, but also in the smaller corners of the world itself. The Division 2, RPS said, gives the usual Ubisoft formula, “a lick of humanity.”Make no mistake, The Division 2 is in no way political”This is… a world of detail and atmosphere,” said reviewer Brendan Caldwell. “You leave behind dusty boot-prints as you walk, and can make out the sound of bullet casings hitting the floor as you fire. Axes are buried in doors, abandoned mid-scavenge. In the beta, I found a dead man behind a bar with his dog lying next to him, also dead.”Best among this world of detail are the quarantine zones, where you’ll find no bandits, but plenty of gloom and audio diaries. These buildings encased in yellow warn-o-plastic are islands of quiet post-disaster storytelling in a sea of shootiness. Nothing attacks you in these moody hallways, they’re just places you can visit if you want to feel unsettled at the scale of humanity’s ruination. They feel like an olive branch to singleplayer types who want to slow things down and explore. “One of them is an old natural history museum, where the huge model of a mammoth looks over a disturbing amount of body bags. I wish more of [Washington] DC had the confidence to throw away the waist-high cover and let the player take in the horror of a capital city gone to shit. Because the atmosphere of these yellow ghost houses makes them some of the best scenes in the game.””Best among this world of detail are the quarantine zones, where you’ll find no bandits, but plenty of gloom and audio diaries” Brendan Caldwell, Rock Paper ShotgunThe absence of “shootiness” in these areas will be welcomed by anyone who misses the linear third-person shooters mentioned by PC Gamer’s Samuel Roberts. Nevertheless, the majority of critics have praised The Division 2’s gunplay, and the combat intelligence displayed by both its enemy forces and its friendly factions — Polygon among them, which noted that, “it’s so easy to overlook the game’s forgettable story when the moment-to-moment action is so damn good.””There is no way to overpower my adversaries by stats or grinding alone,” said reviewer Owen S. Good. “My two options, from level 3 to level 30, are either to git gud or get help. And getting help, from the AI or other humans, is where I find the heart of the game.”NPCs are much more involved and effective than their Big Apple predecessors in the first Division game. I work with civilian settlements whose residents fight, with real guts, to retake city blocks and intersections. In one firefight I was holding on for dear life behind an algae-blooming fountain, waiting to see a sniper’s flashlight so I knew where to aim, when two friendlies ran up and shot the bastard like a rabid dog.”I made up an emergent narrative for them on the spot: Meet Tim and Kim! They, uh, are analysts for the Department of Health and Human Services, and have season tickets for DC United! But what was remarkable was that I was the one drawing fire while Tim and Kim made the final kill. Friendly characters will rush to your aid when you fire a flare to signal the start of a control point battle, and you can always join them in battle if you stumble upon them fighting off one of the game’s enemy factions.”In fact, there is very little dissent around The Division 2. The games press is united on the many areas that Ubisoft Massive (the game’s lead studio) has succeeded, and it also speaks with one voice on the principal aspect in which it fails. In each of the reviews mentioned here, the praise for shooting, looting, set dressing and set pieces is dragged by a big black mark against the game’s story — to the degree it can be said that The Division 2 has a story at all.Ubisoft has created a beautiful world, with myriad stories in its finer detailsThe Telegraph declared it “wafer-thin,” Polygon called it “forgettable,” and PC Gamer noted that The Division 2, “barely makes me pay attention to its story at all.” Every single review surveyed in preparation for this article focused on Ubisoft’s widely discussed attempts to distance itself from any perceived political statements in the game’s post-catastrophe Washington DC setting. Few had a kind word to say about the validity of that stance, and fewer still were less kind than VG247.While reviewer Kirk McKeand commended The Division 2 for, “getting the basics right,” Ubisoft’s obvious reluctance to engage with inherent parallels between the world it has created and the one in which we live arises throughout his otherwise positive review.”Ubisoft made it clear that The Division 2 had nothing to say pre-launch. To its credit, it was totally right. It has nothing to say at all” Kirk McKeand, VG247″At one point, I shoot some men so I can create a fresh water source for an encampment of survivors. This is a world where people don’t have access to water or crops, but everyone has exploding remote control cars. Priorities were pretty messed up when the apocalypse went down. “Of course, everyone has the most important thing you need in a survival situation: a gun. ‘Did you own a gun? Did your neighbour?’ the intro asks, definitely not holding up a mirror to the very real gun ownership debate in the US.”McKeand continued: “Ubisoft made it clear that The Division 2 had nothing to say pre-launch. To its credit, it was totally right. It has nothing to say at all. It’s a game about holding down a button and watching numbers pop out of a man, getting stronger by finding more loot, then doing it all again. There’s nothing like the surge of accomplishment you feel from securing a high-end, tactical bumbag.”If some of the frustrations can be ironed out, it could be the best of its genre. But for the love of god, please let your writers say something if you ever make another one.”Whether the head-on tackling of global politics is what The Division 2 lacks is at least open to debate. Game developers have (at best) a spotty track record in doing so, but it’s easy to understand the frustration at Ubisoft having spent so much time and money creating this particular alternate reality, and ignoring its resonance with our present moment. This complaint is as common among The Division 2’s reviews as any point of praise, but it’s worth noting that not every critic lamented the absence of direct political commentary.Related JobsSenior Game Designer – UE4 – AAA United Kingdom Amiqus GamesProgrammer – REMOTE – work with industry veterans! North West Amiqus GamesJunior Video Editor – GLOBAL publisher United Kingdom Amiqus GamesDiscover more jobs in games “Many other reviews will likely tackle the political half-heartedness of its story,” said Rock Paper Shotgun’s Brendan Caldwell. “But not me, not this week. Sometimes it’s better to leave the incessant chatter of current affairs quarantined in our everyday lives.”Suffice to say, I’m enjoying it more than its predecessor. It is chunky, it is moreish, and every time I come back to it in the evening it is like taking a big bite out of one of those mega Snickers you can only find in the cinema. All this praise might seem out of place moments after critiquing the game’s toothless practice of political commentary by obfuscation. But honestly, don’t worry about that. “We humans are idiot creatures of contradiction, and we can thoroughly enjoy a rock solid shooter even as we recognise it as being vapid hogwash.”Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry8th July 2021Submit your company Sign up for The Publishing & Retail newsletter and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox. Enter your email addressMore storiesUbisoft posts record sales yet again, delays Skull & Bones yet againPublisher moves away from target of 3-4 premium AAA titles a year, wants to build free-to-play “to be trending toward AAA ambitions over the long term”By Brendan Sinclair 6 hours agoFirst-party Ubisoft titles will now be branded as ”Ubisoft Originals”Change was made alongside the announcement of new Tom Clancy titleBy Danielle Partis 1 days agoLatest comments Sign in to contributeEmail addressPasswordSign in Need an account? Register now.
Bethesda’s Pete Hines: “E3 needs to be something all of us support”The Bethesda exec calls for the industry to decide the future look of E3 and to back itChristopher DringHead of Games B2BWednesday 12th June 2019Share this article Recommend Tweet ShareCompanies in this articleBethesda SoftworksBethesda believes E3 is a really important event for the games industry, and it has called upon its fellow publishers to unite to secure its future.This has been a challenging year for the Los Angeles expo. EA has once again staged its own event away from the main show, while Activision Blizzard has decided against a large presence. The biggest loss, however, is PlayStation, which did not attend in any capacity.Yet it remains a popular week for consumers, and this year brought some major announcements and game reveals. Pete Hines, senior vice president of global marketing and communications at Bethesda, is aware that there are differing views on what E3 should be, but he says the industry needs to get together to decide its future, and then back it. “I think it’s a really important show for our industry,” he tells GamesIndustry.biz. “I think there needs to be a lot of discussion between all of the companies on how this looks going forward. “Part of my thing is, if we are going to do it as an industry, then we need to be into it. We can’t have everybody deciding to go off in their own little directions to do this or that. I think folks need to be here, they need to participate. If we have to change the size or scope of that… okay. But I want it to be something that all of us, as an industry, get together and support. And have it be something that’s positive and sustainable.Related JobsSenior Game Designer – UE4 – AAA United Kingdom Amiqus GamesProgrammer – REMOTE – work with industry veterans! North West Amiqus GamesJunior Video Editor – GLOBAL publisher United Kingdom Amiqus GamesDiscover more jobs in games “It’s not a very specific answer, but I don’t think I am the guy to solve what it should be, either. I do just want us to figure out a way for us to walk together, and a way that achieves everybody’s objectives as best as possible.” Hines continues: “We are the greatest form of entertainment on the planet. It’s a great chance to put a spotlight on a great industry. We should not underestimate the importance of that. We are bigger than the sum of our parts when we come together for something like E3.”Our full interview with Pete Hines, where we discuss rescuing Fallout 76 and the future of VR, will be released later.Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry8th July 2021Submit your company Sign up for The Publishing & Retail newsletter and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox. Enter your email addressMore storiesMicrosoft’s Zenimax acquisition approved by EUUpdate: European Commission has no concerns with the deal impacting the common marketBy James Batchelor 2 months agoMicrosoft requests EU approval for ZeniMax acquisitionEuropean Commission’s antitrust regulators will decide by March 5By James Batchelor 3 months agoLatest comments (1)Shane Sweeney Academic 0Sign inorRegisterto rate and replySign in to contributeEmail addressPasswordSign in Need an account? Register now. A year ago Maybe a controversial opinion, but I think there needs to be no best in show award, no Nintendo following Sony following Microsoft parade.It turns a legitimate event into a competition where not coming number one can be worse then not attending.Such an expense show to put on, and in a slow year a bad presentation can hurt the stock price.
The GamesIndustry.biz Podcast: Why do we need unions?Latest episode available to download now, also discusses EA and Epic at UK Parliament inquiryJames BatchelorEditor-in-ChiefFriday 21st June 2019Share this article Recommend Tweet ShareYou can now download this week’s GamesIndustry.biz Podcast, in which Rebekah, Matt, Brendan and Haydn discuss two of the biggest issues the industry faces.First up, following comments from Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick and even US senator Bernie Sanders, we discuss the ongoing debate around unions.Zelnick’s interview with GamesIndustry.biz kicked off a debate this week about whether games professionals who are comfortably compensated would even be motivated to unionise. We weigh up the many other reasons why the call for unions is getting louder.Related JobsSenior Game Designer – UE4 – AAA United Kingdom Amiqus GamesProgrammer – REMOTE – work with industry veterans! North West Amiqus GamesJunior Video Editor – GLOBAL publisher United Kingdom Amiqus GamesDiscover more jobs in games Then, after EA and Epic appeared in Parliament earlier this week, we discuss how the way they represented both their own companies and the industry in general could have been improved. As the UK government’s inquiry into immersive and addictive technologies continues, the games industry could find itself facing more scrutiny from other governments around the world.You can listen to our latest episode below, subscribe to our RSS feed, or download the file directly here. It is also available via Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Overcast, Player FM, TuneIn and other widely-used podcast platforms.All our previous episodes can be found here.Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry8th July 2021Submit your company Sign up for The Daily Update and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox. Enter your email addressMore storiesGearbox, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple oppose Texas anti-trans lawBorderlands developer even suggests it would expand out of the state if law is passedBy James Batchelor 20 days agoGerman legal reform to set new standards for loot boxesBundestag passes youth protection law that would require clear descriptors for games featuring loot boxesBy Matthew Handrahan 2 months agoLatest comments Sign in to contributeEmail addressPasswordSign in Need an account? Register now.
The subtle art of crisis managementFrom epic crunch to 8chan AMAs, the games industry is never far from a scandal — but PR professionals face many challenges when reacting to calamityKhee Hoon ChanMonday 24th June 2019Share this article Recommend Tweet ShareEvery time a high-profile corporate mistake crops up in games media, the flurry of reports are usually followed by statements from the studios involved. At other times, however, it’s also followed by deafening silence.Take, for instance, the reports of mandatory crunch at Epic Games on Fortnite, the gaming phenomenon that brings in millions of dollars each day. That period placed apparently huge stress on many employees and contractors, but Epic was conspicuously silent on the matter — aside from a brief statement on remedying the “incredibly rare” occurrences of 100-hour work weeks. Instead, it was essentially business as usual in the days that followed; Epic went ahead with the planned release of an Avengers crossover event in Fortnite, and CEO Tim Sweeney issued an ultimatum to Steam on Twitter, declaring that Epic would stop pursuing exclusives if Valve committed to a permanent 88% revenue share for developers and publishers.”I had entire sections dedicated to everything that could potentially go wrong. I never see that in games, or have it asked of me” Epic’s response to the crunch issue was somewhat flippant, and speaks to a lack of consistency among games companies when dealing with moments of crisis — this was the verdict of a number of PR practitioners I spoke to, who moved into games after learning their trade in other industries.”I’m a little shocked by the lack of standard practices, which I learned while working on my degree and in my former job [in another industry],” said one person, Amanda, who requested anonymity in order to speak openly on the matter. In her PR work before switching to games, “I wrote literal books on what I would be doing, laid out step by step, with a month or so’s worth of research going into a campaign. I had entire sections dedicated to everything that could potentially go wrong. I never see that [when I’m working] in games, or have it asked of me.”While the backlash to Epic’s crunch was swift — largely due to the fact that it was far from the only studio enforcing harsh working conditions — the response was far better than that which followed THQ Nordic’s PR calamity in February. The publisher hosted an ill-advised Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session on 8chan, a site associated with the full gamut of controversial, even illegal content — from child pornography to hate speech. Epic responded to accusations of crunch at its company by carrying on as usualIn response, PR and marketing director Philipp Brock told GamesIndustry.biz that he erroneously agreed to the session without carrying out “proper due diligence to understand the history and controversy of the site.””It seems that this move [by THQ Nordic] is a very scattershot approach,” said Selena Sheikh, a freelance public relations (PR) consultant who worked with businesses in the science and technology spaces, as well as games companies. “This is a controversial way of [reaching out to your audience] because they went to a highly controversial site; one that’s targeted to a certain type of people.”Even for different channels, you usually have different ways of aligning [or presenting] your messages. My question is: What are they promoting? Are they looking for gamers of a certain demographic? And why?” “Even if you have the most interesting idea, if you just randomly release it you don’t know what the feedback is going to be” Such mistakes aren’t unique to the games industry — the Pepsi-Kendall Jenner ad quickly springs to mind — but the spontaneous manner in which these decisions were made took Sheikh by surprise. Clearly defined targets and goals are essential to any PR strategy, and extensive research and planning should be factored into every step of a PR campaign — be it announcing a product launch or publicising an event. “You need to research some ideas first to see if this has been tested before,” Sheikh added. “Even if you have the most interesting idea, if you just randomly release it you don’t know what the feedback is going to be.” One method is to run trial groups, to see if the plans would work with a group of beta testers — a common practice in PR in most industries, Sheikh said, and one that is relatively simple to organise in games due to the vested interest of the fans. This research can be carried out in the form of a survey or even a mock Reddit AMA.”They can [turn it into] a contest or something and get those beta testers to test it, make them sign a confidentiality agreement [if necessary] and see whether the campaign can run,” Sheikh added. “That’s better than maybe just saying, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll just do it at 8chan, because it’s controversial.'”THQ Nordic’s controversial use of 8chan puzzled many PR professionalsAmanda, who works at a PR agency, observed that anticipating mistakes like that of THQ Nordic is difficult in games, due to the tendency to only bring in an agency late in the development cycle of a specific product.”What I’ve seen happen often is that we won’t get a client until they have a PR problem to be solved,” she said. “It’s hard to clean up a mess I wasn’t prepared for, which goes back to proactive PR being the better approach than reactive.”Sheikh explained how that approach doesn’t play to the strengths of the PR agency or the studio’s PR manager: “When you are doing PR in-house, you have many stakeholders to answer to. But which one is your priority? Is it sales, marketing or developers?” Other issues are created by another aspect of the games PR workforce, a significant proportion of which is staffed by people who joined through other routes than obtaining career-specific qualifications.”Most PR managers at games companies haven’t gone through the traditional PR university degrees that you would need in more traditional industries,” added Daryl, another games PR practitioner who requested anonymity. “Most of us are former journalists, or started in other jobs at games companies… We learned the standard PR practices by observing and doing. “Most of us are former journalists, or started in other jobs at games companies… We learned PR practices by observing and doing” “That means there’s more authenticity and passion, but the first time in your career you’re faced with a PR crisis, it can get scary because it’s not part of your everyday job. You don’t always know what you should do.” Such passion is definitely indispensable to the role, according to Sheikh, but pure passion and invigorating ideas alone don’t make for good PR. This is particularly true for journalists switching career paths, who may not always be equipped with the PR know-how to spin the right messages. “The biggest plus for journalists is that they know where the story is… However, they may not know how to craft the messages,” said Sheikh. “They need to do so from the perspective of the company, and know the company’s background and why they are addressing things in a certain way. [From my experience] some journalists tend to just ask questions, and companies might find that very intrusive.Sheikh emphasised the need for the same basic education for all those working in games PR: “In order to be effective in PR, you need to know how to craft key messages, understand why certain messages have to be said in a certain way, and make sure your company’s business growth is communicated to the press or to the public.”Education can be about going to school, even at a diploma level, or getting training from a PR veteran. Either way is fine. And as a trained PR person, you’ll be able to consider every aspect of the job, you’re thinking about what happens if something fails — product fails, test fails, bugs in the system — and have a response [ready]. That’s when you work very closely with marketing and developers to make sure everything is in sync. Then you can figure out your next step, and figure out what to do in a crisis.”Further complicating the state of affairs is the fuzzy distinction between marketing and PR in the games industry. The two are often treated as one, and can snowball into unrealistic expectations. PR professionals often have to carry out marketing functions — such as organising events or producing their own ads — which can add up to a significant amount of extra work. Responses to crisis vary wildly across the industry — in the case of NetherRealm’s crunch culture, Warner Bros was almost silent”My job is to manage reputations and communicate, but I find even clients approaching me to speak to consumers or work on advertising materials,” said Amanda. “Sometimes I’m stuck doing it because this is just games PR. In my previous role, this would have been unacceptable.” In smaller studios, the line gets muddier still. “Smaller studios usually have one PR manager, and maybe an agency helping out if they have the means for it,” said Daryl. “And that PR person will usually wear many hats, not just liaising with press but also influencers, writing copy for store pages, managing events, and being a de facto community manager, too. They must think about every aspect of communications and may not have the biggest media list to work with, but they’re also working with much smaller budgets.””I feel like I play a role in gatekeeping, but I would love to work on campaigns where our scope wasn’t just ‘gamers'” These issues seem prevalent in the games industry, and Sheikh stressed the importance of hiring a dedicated communications manager for every company — someone who understands how to shape and communicate brand image and values to the public, and can work with PR professionals. “They can help manage the changes that the industry or the company is going through, to help them craft proper messages, and conduct proper research, in order to further the company’s purpose,” she elaborated. “They can be someone who has dabbled in marketing or PR, but [their experience] cannot be completely unrelated… A lot of people [in this role] at least have a diploma or a degree in Communications. You should at least have basic knowledge, or even have done an internship, so you’ll know what you’re in for. “Otherwise, they should definitely work with an external agency they can trust — a vendor that can bring objectivity and a clearer perspective to refine their messages with.” This focus on producing the right messages may not seem like much, but it is crucial. The right messaging can be used to reach beyond the core audience of seasoned gamers, and so the ability is tied to long-term growth. “Is it okay to rely on this small base of audience? What about people who will potentially buy your games?” Sheikh asked. “As any company that needs to drive revenue, it’s not easy to do so if you only keep reaching out to the same group of people.” Amanda also talked about the need to communicate with non-traditional audiences, something that was more common when she worked in other industries. Related JobsSenior Game Designer – UE4 – AAA United Kingdom Amiqus GamesProgrammer – REMOTE – work with industry veterans! North West Amiqus GamesJunior Video Editor – GLOBAL publisher United Kingdom Amiqus GamesDiscover more jobs in games “In my old jobs, I was able to craft different messages for other [audiences] when I thought I may have a chance at entertaining their interest,” she said. “Here, I’m just looking for the core gamer most of the time, and it makes me a little sad. I feel like I eventually play a role in gatekeeping, but I would love to work on campaigns where our scope wasn’t just ‘gamers’. That may be a strange train of thought, but I feel like plenty of titles are done a disservice when their aim is just to communicate with the core.”In a time marred by revelations of crunch, harassment and foolhardy business decisions leading to the collapse of entire companies, the industry itself is going through its very own PR crisis. The first step to overhauling this image is about encouraging its stakeholders — from indie developers to AAA studios — to adopt a more consistent and thorough communications. Better preparation, solid research, and deliberate strategies overseen by a dedicated communications manager. “It’s all so you can better your brand at the end of the day,” Sheikh said. “So you won’t have to spend as much resources and effort trying to recoup and polish your image again.”Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry8th July 2021Submit your company Sign up for The Daily Update and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox. Enter your email addressMore storiesEA leans on Apex Legends and live services in fourth quarterQ4 and full year revenues close to flat and profits take a tumble, but publisher’s bookings still up double-digitsBy Brendan Sinclair 2 hours agoEA Play Live set for July 22Formerly E3-adjacent event moves to take place a month and half after the ESA’s showBy Jeffrey Rousseau 4 hours agoLatest comments Sign in to contributeEmail addressPasswordSign in Need an account? Register now.
UK retailer GAME keeping its Belong arenas open for nowUpdate: Retailer has now decided to close them until further noticeRebekah ValentineSenior Staff WriterMonday 23rd March 2020Share this article Recommend Tweet ShareOriginal story, March 18, 2020: UK gaming retailer GAME is keeping its physical store locations open for the time being, and has outlined the precautions it is taking against the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).The company has said it is providing hand sanitizer in all stores, and that it is instructing employees to clean all surfaces “regularly.”This includes the gaming stations in its Arenas, which GAME says are being fully cleaned after each use. Additionally, empty stations between players or groups are being left “where possible.”Both Arenas and regular retail stores are remaining open, but Game says it may have to vary opening times or close individual locations due to staff availability.Finally, Game has cancelled and postponed various tournaments and events across its Arena locations.Meanwhile, US gaming retailer GameStop has cancelled all its upcoming in-store events and shut down in-store gaming stations, but employees have expressed concerns that they are not being supplied sufficient cleaning products, and are being forced to use existing personal, vacation, or sick leave if ill despite the pandemic.Update, March 20, 2020: Game’s decision to remain open is “having a huge human impact” on its employees, according to one manger. Speaking with Eurogamer, an anonymous manager working for Game said staff are either having to remain at home and lose money, or go to work and risk infection of spreading the virus. “Staff are being put under immense stress as we are all worried about loss of earnings,” they said. “Obviously we don’t want to spread the virus if anyone comes down with symptoms but we are equally worried about how we are going to get by. We want to share our passion for some great releases but we’re worried about what that could mean for our health.”Staff who follow government advice to self-isolate will be entitled to statutory sick pay, which is just £94.25 per week; for context, the average price of a one bedroom flat in the UK is around £600 a month. “Many are having to grapple with the idea of staying at home and losing all income, or coming in with symptoms and risking spreading the virus because they can’t afford to self-isolate,” said one worker. The state of UK retail is already a precarious one, and earlier this year Game announced plans to close 40 stores across the country. Update, March 23, 2020: This weekend, GAME announced it has closed its Belong arenas until further notice.Related JobsSenior Game Designer – UE4 – AAA United Kingdom Amiqus GamesProgrammer – REMOTE – work with industry veterans! North West Amiqus GamesJunior Video Editor – GLOBAL publisher United Kingdom Amiqus GamesDiscover more jobs in games In a statement, the retailer said the decision followed the Government’s latest measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus.”Although this is extremely disappointing, the welfare of our employees, players and communities is paramount, and we recognise that these new measures help protect that,” the company wrote.Game is working with publishers to arrange free online activities and tournaments to replace events that would have been held in Belong arenas.Additional reporting by Haydn Taylor and James BatchelorCelebrating employer excellence in the video games industry8th July 2021Submit your company Sign up for The Publishing & Retail newsletter and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox. Enter your email addressMore storiesResident Evil: Village is the third biggest PS5 launch so far | UK Boxed ChartsBut physical sales down over previous Resident Evil gamesBy Christopher Dring YesterdayEpic reportedly offered $200m to Sony for PlayStation exclusivesThe firm also reportedly started discussions with Microsoft and noted that securing first-party Nintendo games would be a “moonshot”By Marie Dealessandri YesterdayLatest comments Sign in to contributeEmail addressPasswordSign in Need an account? Register now.