This Week in Games
The Tales Mobile Curse

by Heidi Kemps,

I don't know what I was expecting in game news this week, but I can say that I certainly didn't expect the revival of decades-old gaming drama.

But here it is. Someone managed to get ahold of an old build of Duke Nukem Forever from 2001 and uploaded all of its assets and data to The Internet Archive. I'm aware that some of you reading this column weren't even alive when Duke Nukem Forever was first announced, so you might not understand the significance of this. But for those of us who were online and religiously following game news in the late 90s and early aughts, this is historic… even if it makes the sad state of development the game was in extremely clear. Duke Nukem Forever was the ultimate case of development hell: extremely hyped, eternally delayed, constantly reviving and falling silent, and then finally releasing in 2011 under a different development team to an overwhelming “wait, that's it?” I don't think anything will ever top it, unless Star Citizen actually releases.

But the release of these materials has reignited memories in many of its former development staff. Bad memories. And it's reignited a fight over who's to blame for Duke Nukem's fall from grace. It started with a blog post from former 3D Realms and Apogee Software founder Scott Williams, who stated that “DNF was a constant money pit for the company” and putting the blame on unnamed internal powers that shot down ideas like handing development over to future Warframe creators Digital Extremes. This didn't sit well with former DNF director George Broussard, who took to Twitter with his comments.

Aww yeah, it's 2000s forum wars all over again! Duke Nukem: now and forevermore the game franchise of disappointment and drama.

TALES OF LUMINARIA SHINES NO MORE

Tales of Luminaria, Bandai-Namco's heavily-promoted, all-original mobile Tales series title, is shutting down. The Tales series on mobile feels particularly cursed, as this is the fifth Tales game so far, and many of those five games have faced shutdowns in one form or another. But what's particularly OOF-inducing about Luminaria is that, despite a lot of a promotion, co-development from Shironeko Project studio Colopl, an anime tie-in, and a lavish simultaneous localization effort, it went from startup to shutdown in a mere eight months.

Luminaria's failure calls to mind another recent mobile bomb: Sega's Sakura Kakumei. Sakura Kakumei was similarly heavily promoted and budgeted, featured co-development from a studio with a proven hit (DelightWorks, now Lasengle, who worked on Fate: Grand Order), and stumbled almost immediately out of the gate. Sakura Kakumei could be seen as the Sakura Wars franchise not being the big draw it was years ago, but Tales? Tales is pretty big right now off the success of Tales of Arise. Of all the Tales mobile games, this should have been the one that would take off.

So, what happened? I didn't play Luminaria myself, so I don't have any personal opinions about the game's quality, but folks I know who did play it say that the gacha-tization was particularly egregious, and frustrating content locks and other gameplay barriers were prominent. This likely turned a lot of players off, as gacha games have to walk a fine line between convincing you to open your wallet but not looking like obvious pay-to-win cash grabs. Luminaria, it seems, veered too far into blatant “we want you to spend money” territory. (If you've played Luminaria and have opinions, please do post them in the forums – I'm interested in hearing your experiences with the game.)

It's also worth noting that Tales of Luminaria isn't the only recent high-profile mobile game flop from Bamco: their latest [email protected] game, Poplinks,announced its closure after about a year and a half in service. That game was a bit of a head-scratcher: I don't think [email protected] fans really wanted a music/puzzle game spinoff when they're already invested heavily in the numerous other [email protected] mobage. Even most die-hard fans get some franchise fatigue after a while. But two big, heavily-promoted mobile games based on tentpole franchises shuttering after a brief service period within the span of a month isn't a great look for Bamco, even if they do have several other mobile titles raking in moolah.

If anything, this further shows how absolutely cutthroat the mobile game market has become. It was once viewed as a cheap development platform with lots of monetization potential. Now the market and player expectations have matured to the point where games cost multi-millions in development and marketing and the future success of a title can be determined within months, if not days. Even a tie-in with a big, established franchise or developer is not a guarantee of success. It's got to be rough for any new mobile game entering the market – success is based on player spending, but when players are worried that the game might die in a matter of months, they're not going to spend, making it even harder to compete against the long-established mobile powerhouses.

Will Bamco ever try another mobile Tales game again? Who knows, maybe Luminaria is the final nail in that particular coffin. Maybe someday publishers will realize that not everything has to have a mobile spinoff.

DO I REALLY HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THIS STUPID STREET FIGHTER THING

Here's some non-news that somehow blew up! Okay, so, earlier in the week Daniel Lindholm, a freelance composer for the Resident Evil and Street Fighter series, was livestreaming a Q&A on YouTube where he made an offhand comment about characters in future Street Fighter games – specifically, Fei Long, CAPCOM's obvious tribute to legendary martial artist and film star Bruce Lee.

“…I mentioned earlier a character I would like to rewrite the music for would be Fei Long…I do have other sources — not only CAPCOM, but friends of mine in the U.S., who are very close friends with the Lee family — and they have basically said that any kind of resemblance to Mr. Bruce Lee is now omitted for comedic effect, comic stuff. It needs to be honorable… That's why we won't see Fei Long again.”

This is prime “I heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend, and I trust my friend of a friend, so it's gotta be real” kind of stuff that probably should be taken with a tablespoon of salt. But that didn't stop it from blowing up on social media and turning into prime clickbait, with headlines proclaiming FEI LONG WILL NOT BE RETURNING TO STREET FIGHTER! and fueling speculation that Quentin Tarantino was somehow at fault for this happening because of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and ugh, my head hurts. Daniel immediately walked the comments back to numerous news outlets, calling them “hypothetical” and claiming the whole thing was ruining his relationship with CAPCOM. (He also deleted the stream archive, but the internet never forgets.)

It got so bad, in fact, that the estate of Bruce Lee commented about it on Twitter:

While Daniel probably shouldn't have been running his mouth about that sort of stuff on stream, hypothetical or no, the fact that so many folks took it as some sort of official confirmation is, frankly, kind of disturbing. Just more evidence that people nowadays will believe anything they hear online if it comes from a source with even the smallest degree of authority. Anyway, moving on…

ASSORTED NEWSBITS

  • Fiscal-Year reporting is in, and CAPCOM had a pretty good year, with RE8 moving over six million units and Monster Hunter Rise shifting 4 million. They're planning on releasing “multiple major new titles” through March 31st of next year, several of which have already been announced: Exoprimal, Street Fighter VI, and likely the mysterious Pragmata.
  • Nintendo, meanwhile, stated that the transition to the Switch's successor is a “major concern” in an investor meeting. I mean, yeah, new console launches are always a major concern, aren't they? Nintendo's had some real ups and downs in their launches, though, so I can see why they'd be extra worried that people might not migrate from the Switch when a follow-up platform comes around…
  • Warner Bros. Multiversus, the Smash Bros-like featuring a bunch of characters from the Warner/Discovery media empire, will have a closed alpha in the near future, which you can sign up for on the official website. WB Games will also be hosting a special 2v2 tournament for the game at this year's EVO event. I do wonder what the reception for the game at EVO will be like, since Smash isn't part of this year's lineup, and Smash players are a primary target audience…
  • According to Gematsu, the trademark for cult dark RPG series Shadow Hearts has been renewed in Japan. Don't get too excited, though: it may just be for re-releases of the PS2 games on the newly-revamped PS Plus series. But we can dream, can't we?

Okay, I think that about wraps things up. Like I said above, if you played Tales of Luminaria and have any insights into the game's poor reception, I'd very much like to hear about your experiences and invite you to post your thoughts in the forums (linked below, as always). But even if you haven't played this week's big topic of discussion, there's still plenty of news worth reflecting on, so don't be shy – share your thoughts! Thanks as always for reading, and have a lovely spring-weather weekend!


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