This Week in Games
by Heidi Kemps,
Hey TWIG followers! How's your week going? We're into February now, and there still aren't enough PS5s to go around. But that's okay, because there's still plenty of good stuff to play on current-gen systems. Such as Cyber Shadow, which I reviewed over on GameSpot!
We got some juicy news this week, so let's get readin’!
STADIA CONTINUES ITS GOOGLE DEATHMARCH
Folks, you ever see a word or phrase trending on Twitter and just know that the reason it's there is most likely bad? Because whenever I see the word “Stadia” in gaming news, my first reaction is immediately “oh, now THIS is gonna be some garbage.”
Remember when Google announced Stadia with the intent to bring exclusive, AAA gaming content to the streaming platform, bolstered by studios headed up with big-name hires from across the industry? Folks like Assassin's Creed creator Jade Raymond and Shannon Studstill from Sony Santa Monica? A little over a year past launch, and there's… none of that. The only real feather in Stadia's cap has been “It can run high-spec Cyberpunk 2077 without problems!”
And while Google is still not giving up on the Stadia idea, they've decided to get out of the game-making business, shuttering all of their Stadia studios to be buried in the ever-expanding Google Graveyard next to Google Glass, Google Plus, and Google Reader. Their struggles to be taken seriously in the game industry (and attempts to get instant clout by bringing in known talent) are eerily reminiscent of fellow tech giant Amazon's struggles in the gaming space – but Amazon has at least managed to get games out. Sure, they've pulled them later after terrible critical and consumer reception, but there was a product there at some point!
Google says that they'll instead be focusing on “strategic partnerships,” which as far as I can tell is corporate speak for “buying exclusivity.” We may have seen this just this week with Sega's Judgment, which was announced for re-release on PS5 and Xbox Series… and Stadia. But not any PC platforms like Steam or the Epic Store. Seeing as how Sega's made a big deal about previous Yakuza games hitting Steam, this smells of Google swooping in with a giant cartoon cash bag on their back to make a last-minute offer.
In summary: I hate that a bunch of people got roped into working for Google's gaming division, thinking they would make something awesome, and then were kicked to the curb because Stadia is trash and Google doesn't know what they're doing. So, anyone want to place bets on when the whole Stadia thing gets shitcanned altogether? I'll say 2022.
WHO WANTS TO HEAR ALL ABOUT CORPORATE RESTRUCTURING?
So, in the past two weeks, two big videogaming firms have announced that they're going to do some serious corporate restructuring. Probably not coincidentally, both of these companies also happen to be deeply involved in the arcade and pachinko/pachislot businesses – entertainment businesses that are suffering right now because people aren't going to crowded arcades and parlors for fear of plague.
First off: Konami. Yes, Konami has drastically scaled back their console-gaming business, but it still exists! Remember Contra: Rogue Corps? Yeah, I want to forget that one too. But they've also been putting out the M2-developed Contra and Castlevania retro collections, and right now Momotaro Dentetsu, a popular digital board game franchise, is on an absolute tear through the sales rankings in its Switch incarnation.
Konami is going to dissolve its current production divisions “to respond to the rapid market that surrounds us&rdquo – i.e., to deal with this Corona stuff – which merges them all into a sort of big ol’ game-producing slime. This seems like a smart move right now, given how some markets (Switch) are red-hot while others (arcades) have flatlined – why keep people in places where they're not needed? The initial announcement made folks concerned, but it doesn't feel like much is going to be changing in the long run. Maybe the next round of Bemani updates might take a bit longer?
And then there's Sega. They made headlines a few months ago with the announcement that they were selling the lion's share of their arcade operations to Genda Inc., who, thus far, seem to be running said arcades business-as-usual. (Well, besides all of the state-of-emergency-imposed restrictions.) They announced that further restructuring will take place. A split-and-absorption type merger among Sega-Sammy's smaller company units will happen, with Sega Group Corporation handling everything videogame-related (consumer, mobile, and arcade) while the Sammy division handles all of the gambling nonsense. They're both still under Sega-Sammy control, but will operate as separate companies. Also, Toshihiro Nagoshi is stepping down from his role as Chief Creative Officer, but will be filling a new role as a general Creative Director at Sega. So don't worry, Yakuza fans, that series won't be stopping anytime soon.
Of course, any Sega corporate news has people screaming that SEGA'S GOING TO BE BOUGHT OUT!!! as usual, looking for reasons why Microsoft is planning to acquire them or something. I don't think that's happening, guys! You don't have to lose it every damn time this happens!
Still, there are other things afoot at the Big Blue House…
A SHAKEUP IS HAPPENING WITH SONIC'S CAST AND CREW
This seems like a bit of a Sega-heavy news week, doesn't it? Following up on last week's news that Roger Craig Smith is leaving the role of Sonic the Hedgehog, we have a bunch more Sonic-related news, mostly involving staff departures. Voice actors Cindy Robins and Colleen O'Shaughnessy have both confirmed that they, too, are not going to be doing any Sonic-related VO work in the near future.
No. I'm sorry to say I am not.— Colleen O'Shaughnessey (@VOColleen) February 2, 2021
It's true. I'm loading out with my brilliant compadres.— Cindy Robinson (@RedHeadSaidProd) February 3, 2021
Cindy Robins voiced Amy Rose since 2010, while O'Shaughnessy performed as Tails and Charmy Bee, among others. With these character departures, it's becoming clearer that Sega's doing a major overhaul of the Sonic voice cast for some reason. What could be behind this…
Yes, it's true! SEGA's legendary video game icon Sonic the Hedgehog will star in a new 3D animated series from @SEGA, @WildBrainStudio and @ManOfActionEnt premiering on Netflix in 2022. pic.twitter.com/ydJto8c8i8— NX (@NXOnNetflix) February 1, 2021
OH! Okay, this all makes a lot of sense now. Folks might remember that there was a big Sonic cast change back when 4kids dubbed Sonic X for North America, as the previous game's actors were replaced by the 4kids crew. It seems safe to assume that this new Netflix series is causing something similar to happen. But perhaps not all of the cast is gone, as Michael Pollock, who voices Sonic's eternal nemesis Dr. Eggman, is being extremely coy about whether or not he'll be returning to voice the mad doctor.
It's not just the voiceover cast facing turnover, either. Also leaving are Ken Pontac and Warren Graff, who have been writing the story and dialogue for Sonic games since around Sonic Colors, and depending on what kind of Sonic fan you ask, they're either pretty good at writing silly, humorous dialogue or they're the worst thing to happen to Sonic since 2006. IDK, I thought Sonic Colors and Forces were fun, dialogue-wise. (It's also important to remember that the Japanese side of things probably did most of the story beats those two had to adapt.)
Of course, Sonic fans at large can't agree whether all of these departures are a good or bad thing. Sonic fandom being argumentative? Must be a day ending in “Y”!
WEEKLY FIGHTING AND “FIGHTING” GAME NEWS ROUNDUP
Iori Yagami? In a new King of Fighters game? Color me shocked. SHOCKED, I tells ya!
Yeah, if the sarcasm up there wasn't obvious, this is the most obvious inclusion ever, but it is the first time we're getting a glimpse of the longtime fan favorite in the KoFXV engine. Next week will likely see a reveal of one of his teammates; Kyo and Chizuru seem like likely candidates.
Meanwhile, if you're interested in Windjammers 2 – and a lot of folks who love fighting games also dig Windjammers, I've discovered – there's another free open beta happening for the next few days. My partner tried it out the other night and said that the netcode, while better than the last beta, still needs some improvement. Other opinions I've read seem optimistic about further improvements before the release. Why not give it a download and try it for yourself?
Righto, I think that about wraps stuff up. Got any burning opinions on this week's newsworthy items? Join us in the forums below for some spirited chatter! Just, please, don't be obnoxious about Sonic. I'll be back again with This Week in Games next week, and you miiiiiiight be seeing me pop up in a different column on ANN soon, so keep your eyes peeled. Have a great weekend!
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