This Week in Games
A Little Too Quiet

by Heidi Kemps,

Howdy, friends! I'm currently working on a Granblue Fantasy Versus review now that the North American version is out -- look for that this weekend! A lot of you folks on the opposite coast went to PAX East, which sounded like a good time from all of the reports I heard. Even without Sony around, it seems like there were some great games shown and some really cool panels that took place. It didn't seem like much came from the show in the way of announcements, though, which is unfortunate because I have a column to fill here.

To be honest, I'm expecting March to be a pretty dry month for gaming news. Not just because March is packed with releases and publishers would rather focus your attention on those rather than what's coming down the pipe – it's because all of the stuff in the news right now (the US election drama, continued COVID-19 spread) is dominating peoples’ attention at the moment. Japan's in a similar situation, with COVID-19 fears shutting down schools and big gathering spots and lots of March and April events being cancelled. Peoples’ minds just aren't on games right now… unless they're holing up in their houses and playing all of the March releases. Something tells me a lot of people are going to be regularly visiting their Animal Crossing island in lieu of real-life travel for the next couple of months.

There's still some news worth talking about, though, so let's get to it.

THE OTHER SHOE DROPPED, AND GAME DEVELOPERS CONFERENCE IS POSTPONED

Last week, I wrote about how a bunch of exhibitors were pulling out of the yearly Game Developers Conference in San Francisco over concerns about COVID-19. People were predicting that the event was going to wind up being cancelled, and… shortly after last week's piece went live, the announcement came that GDC 2020 is being “postponed” until later this year when all of this has hopefully blown over.

Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of folks stuck in a crappy situation. For smaller developers, GDC is a pricey but necessary expenditure to network, attend seminars, and possibly ink a few funding/publishing deals. While GDC passes and official hotels in the con block are being refunded, there are still lots of non-block hotel bookings and plane tickets that folks can't get their money back on. I can't blame anyone for booking cheaper lodging months in advance -- those downtown convention hotels are ridiculously pricey. Some folks might snidely say “they should have bought travel insurance!” but, as a family friend who was planning to travel to Coronavirus-laden Italy this month found out, travel insurance doesn't cover the “act of God” COVID-19.

Some folks are trying to make the best of it, though. A few community leaders are setting up mini-gatherings in downtown SF, several GDC speakers are planning to broadcast their presentations online, and a GDC Relief Fund has been established to help the small developers the cancellation hits hardest. If GDC does reschedule for later this year, though, I get the feeling that a lot of folks who found themselves in financial distress due to the cancellation are probably not coming back this year. Or possibly even next year.

Allow me to digress just a little bit here. If you are planning on going to any conventions in the next couple of months, I'd definitely keep tabs on exhibitor and guest cancellations, because those act as the canary in the coal mine for a con cancellations – no guests and exhibitors means no con. Eyes right now are on Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, which has seen numerous guests and exhibitors (including DC Comics) pull out in the wake of several new Coronavirus cases in the region. As of this writing, it's still happening – as is next month's Sakura-Con – but if more folks get cold feet, the situation could change. Big events several months out like Anime Expo, E3, and EVO are still full steam ahead, but scheduled events happening in the next 90 days or so are much less of a sure thing. My advice: start looking into refund policies now, just in case.

GRANBLUE FANTASY VERSUS AND DEATH STRANDING GET PC RELEASE DATES

Rejoice, PC friends! You are getting more great Japanese games very soon! In fact, you're getting 2020's hottest new fighting game (for now) in just a little over a week!

Granblue Fantasy Versus is coming to Steam, and it's got all the bells and whistles of the PS4 version: the RPG mode, the extensive training features, and support for several different kinds of controllers, including keyboard. (Yes, people play fighting games on keyboard, and a lot of them are extremely good!) The base game is $59.99 USD, while a season pass with all of the first wave DLC characters is $79.99. (By the way, it seems like DLC character number five is the super-cute Zooey, if a leaked PlayStation Store description is anything to go by.)

One thing worth noting is that the PC version of GBVS doesn't come with the mobile game goodies you can claim with a serial code in the box, like the PS4 version does. I'm not sure if this also means that some of the other Granblue Fantasy mobile game rewards you can claim through GBVS (like completing the GBVS RPG mode) are also unavailable on PC. (It doesn't really matter to me, since I play GBF on iOS and Apple's stupid rules prevent you from entering serial codes on that version… sigh) There's no cross-platform play between PS4 and PC, either, so figure out where all your friends are going to be playing and plan your purchase accordingly.

But that's not all – we've also got a date for Death Stranding on PC! The game will be releasing on June 2, 2020 for both Steam and the Epic Game Store, so play it on whichever you prefer! The Steam page, however, mentions that the game will be using the much-loathed Denuvo DRM. Why do they even bother with this stuff anymore, seriously? Most of the time DRM winds up getting cracked in days and actively makes the games using it worse, performance- and compatibility-wise, effectively punishing honest consumers. Hopefully it'll get dumped from the game eventually.

SHINSUKE KODAMA IS OUT AT CAPCOM

Shinsuke Kodama announced on Twitter that he has formally departed CAPCOM. I have to admit, I didn't really know what Kodama has worked on, so I went and looked it up. Thanks, MobyGames!

So, Kodama was a planner on Megaman Battle Network 6, Designer and writer on the Megaman Star Force series, lead planner on The Great Ace Attorney, and, uh… apparently he was also a planner on CAPCOM Fighting Jam, but if we can forgive Yoshinori Ono for his involvement in that game, we can certainly forgive Kodama too. Oh, and some work on the Ace Attorney/Professor Layton crossover game, too. Certainly not a bad resume.

Anyway, Kodama's situation seems similar to that of fellow recent CAPCOM departee and former Versus series showrunner Ryota Niitsuma, who hadn't really done anything of note there in the past few years. Kodama's latest credit is directing the Ace Attorney Trilogy collection from last year, though I don't think you really have to direct much when it comes to a pretty basic retro set like that. I do wonder if the pair was growing frustrated with their situations at CAPCOM and simply decided to move on. Here's hoping he finds something fruitful elsewhere – he seems particularly skilled at developing concepts and stories, so there should be no shortage of places looking to put his talents to use.

Yeah, this week was a little slow on news, huh? Since we moved new game releases of the week out of this column, there's not really a place to talk about the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo that popped up on PSN Monday. I actually haven't played it yet – too busy with GBVS – so no hot takes from me right now, I'm afraid. But I'm sure a lot of you downloaded it and have your own thoughts, so why not share them in our lovely forums below? Anyhow… Stay safe, play games, and remember: facemasks do nothing to prevent virus transmission, so leave stock available for the workers who do need them. Thanks for reading!


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