This Week in Games
Bobby Kotick Retire Bitch

by Heidi Kemps,

The biggest story in games these past few months has been the gradual revelation of miserable work conditions and the disgusting corporate culture of Activision-Blizzard. With ever new article published and every sad attempt of ATVI to enact damage control, I'm always like, “this is it, right? This is the worst thing. There is no conceivable way things at this godforsaken shithole of a company and the people involved with it could possibly get any worse.”

And yet, like clockwork, every time I say that to myself, an invisible omnipresent narrator manifests to continue the story with “It got worse.”

BOBBY KOTICK IS AN EVEN BIGGER SLIMEBALL THAN WE ALL SUSPECTED, SO LET'S KICK HIS ASS TO THE CURB ALREADY

I know I've been going in on Activision a lot since the story of their terrible corporate culture broke, but honestly, I don't enjoy writing about them. Hearing week after week about new layers of their awfulness being gradually revealed is mentally exhausting. But it's important to address. Simply trying to ignore it while focusing on announcements or releases solves nothing and helps no one.

And, after this week's revelations about Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, we need action now more than ever.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal published a bombshell report (content warning, as usual, for discussions of assault and abuse) about just how much Bobby knew about the goings-on under his nose at Activision-Blizzard (a lot) and how much he did to fix the problems (practically nothing). It's sickening stuff, particularly when it mentions a higher-ups at frequent Call of Duty developers Sledgehammer Games and Treyarch being credibly accused of sexual assault and harassment to practically no repercussions whatsoever. (At least one of those accused, Dan Bunting of Treyarch, has resigned in response to the report.)

Also sickening are some accounts of Bobby's own misbehavior, including making threats to have a personal assistant killed and “destroying” a flight attendant suing him over harassment on a private jet he owned. Among other things. What a lovely human being.

Oh, and remember Jen Oneal, who was supposed to lead Blizzard alongside Mike Ybarra after numerous top executives there left amidst allegations of misbehavior? She resigned early because she, too, had endured sexual harassment at the company and, despite her new leadership position, was still getting paid less than Ybarra. Let that sink in: Activision-Blizzard couldn't even get appointing the right people needed to fix its problems right.

Damage control began even before the story was published: Activision-Blizzard suddenly gave everyone the week of Thanksgiving off, y'know, out of the goodness of their hearts and totally not to pre-empt any labor protests. It didn't work: hundreds of employees walked off the job that day to call for Bobby's resignation. Bobby then got his buddies on the Activision Board of Directors to stick up for him, because one of the biggest hobbies of people in power is keeping their pals in positions of power no matter what.

So far, the damage control hasn't been working. Activision-Blizzard stock tanked after the WSJ report, and it's now down around 28% since the start of the year. Online and offline protests are still going strong. First parties are weighing in on the situation, as well: An internal email at Sony penned by chief Jim Ryan discusses how displeased they are with ATVI's response to the numerous exposes, while Microsoft has been even harsher, with Phil Spencer saying he is “deeply troubled” and “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision-Blizzard.” The pressure is coming in from all directions, but Bobby's still trying to cling to his position as long as possible. Can he hold on much longer?

For the sake of the industry, I sure hope not.

NARUTO'S IN FORTNITE, AND IT'S GETTING WEIRD

Okay, onto less heavy stuff. Fortnite is huge, we know that. It's not just a Western thing, either – battle royale games are very popular across Japan and Asia, as well. It's taken a little while for Japanese media publishers to really glom on to the popularity of battle royales (and Fortnite in particular) for international promotions, but it looks like the floodgates are really going to open soon. First, we had CAPCOM introducing characters from Street Fighter and Resident Evil as skins, and now we've got our first Shonen Jump cross-promotion with Naruto and company joining in the melee. Skins for Naruto, Kakashi, Sakura, and Sasuke can be purchased separately or as part of bundle packs.

Of course, the internet being what it is, everyone immediately started showing off how ridiculous things could get with these skins.

It's easy for those of us who aren't caught up in Fortnite to laugh and roll our eyes at how ridiculous this all looks, but when you check on how the Fortnite faithful are reacting… well, they are loving it. Nothing but joy all around to see these beloved anime ninjas slurpin’ on Slurp Juice. And, if you're a potential licensor, that positive cross-promotion what's important, not Sasuke's lack of dignity while he's doing the Robot.

With that in mind, it's probably safe to assume that this won't be the last anime crossover Fortnite will be seeing. So why not make some predictions? I feel like One Piece in Fortnite is probably going to happen, and My Hero Academia would go over wonderfully. Dragon Ball would be a huge deal, but Bandai-Namco is so closely tied with DB games at this point that anything would have to go through them, and they're more likely to say no. For non-Jump properties, Sword Art Online would be amusing on many levels, as would Cowboy Bebop… but they'd probably go with skins based on the live-action version for the latter, so ew, no.

But hey, speaking of online games and Dragon Ball

DRAGONBALL THE BREAKERS IS BASICALLY DRAGONBALL BY DAYLIGHT

Since the battle royale genre is now quite well-established at this point – and since Fortnite itself now offers better brand promotion than a standalone licensed battle royale game -- developers of license-based games have moved on to looking at other online game formulas to adapt with well-loved properties attached. One recent hit that's been getting lots of attention lately is Dead by Daylight, an asymmetrical horror game where a group of players has to outwit another player assuming the role of a killer. DbD's been around for a while, but has really picked up steam (pun not intended) in the past couple of years, including getting crossovers with numerous horror-media franchises. It might do Fortnite numbers, but it's got a sizable playerbase that's made others take notice. Like Bandai-Namco Games. Hey everyone, what if we made Dead by Daylight… with Frieza?!!!

Dragon Ball the Breakers is the latest spin on the one-powerful-player-versus-a-group-of-relative-weaklings formula, with uber-foes modeled after the likes of Cell, Frieza, and Majin Buu. The trailer shows a distinctly Dragon Ball twist on the concept, with survivors using skills like Oolong's transformation and various Capsule Corp devices to keep their opponent at bay. It's still got an element of horror to it, but it's a very cartoony, T-rated kind of merciless murder.

The Breakers is an interesting application of the license, though I don't know if people will really take to it, since part of the appeal of Dragon Ball games is playing as super-powered warriors, not the relatively weak side characters. Dragon Ball the Breakers is set for release on Xbox One, PS4, and PC sometime next year. No word yet on pricing or DLC plans, but this is one I could definitely see being launched as a free-to-play title with constant updates.

ASSORTED NEWSBITS

  • Warner Bros. Multiversus has been confirmed to exist, to nobody's surprise. While the rumors about it being Netherrealm-developed were incorrect, it is going to be free-to-play and implement cross-platform rollback netcode. Here's the trailer:
    I'm still quite cynical about the “Smash but more corporate” trend, but I must admit, I did laugh at the “THAT'S ALL FOLKS” destruction animation. They're also making sure to emphasize unique interactions between characters and having the original voice actors come onboard, two things that the recent Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl was heavily criticized for lacking. Depending on how it plays (and how bad monetization is), it could be a solid Smash alternative. Just remember that it's still a giant ad first and foremost.

  • Microsoft announced a whole slew of new backwards-compatible original Xbox and 360 games for the platform's 20th Some of the more interesting additions to the library include a bunch of Dead or Alive games, the criminally underappreciated Binary Domain, Gunvalkyrie the original NieR, Otogi and Otogi 2, Ridge Racer 6, Timesplitters 2 and Future Perfect, and beloved celebrity kusoge masterpiece 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. Unfortunately, this is the last backwards compatibility update for the foreseeable future, so those of you hoping for things like Outrun 2, Spikeout Battle Street, or Jet Set Radio Future are sadly out of luck. But who knows what future remakes and remasters might happen?
  • Idea Factory and Compile Heart are teasing another game in the Neptunia Yeah, big surprise, I know – they like to print money with that franchise. The focus this time around seems to be on the sister characters introduced back in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2.
  • CAPCOM has scheduled a Street Fighter V fall update stream at 3 PM PST on November 23rd, just before Thanksgiving. We'll be seeing more of the final DLC fighter, Luke, alongside other announcements.
  • The Monster Hunter Rise/Sonic the Hedgehog collaboration begins on November 26th. The trailer's pretty great.
  • Well, I think that wraps things up for this week. Writing about ATVI is always mentally tiring for me, but at least I've got the Arcade Archives release of one of my favorite games, Raimais, to look forward to playing when I'm done.  Here's a serious question: After all we've learned about Activision-Blizzard, could you ever see yourselves buying games from them again? I know I won't be touching anything their name is on with a ten-foot pole until all of the corporate rot has been surgically excised… but I wasn't a heavy customer of theirs to begin with. How about Fortnite – what anime and manga series do you think would be a good fit for the game? Is Dragon Ball the Breakers something you'd be interested to try? What about Warner Bros. Multiversus? There's plenty to talk about, so I invite you to share your thoughts in our forums, linked below. Have a good weekend, everyone!


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