Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Cyberpunk 2077's launch was woefully negative. From falsifying demos to game-breaking glitches, all of it came to a climax after reports of crunch and lack of direction followed the game into launch day. CD Projekt Red has implemented several major patches to fix the game, fixes that were required due to ongoing investigations and the game itself being pulled from the PlayStation Store, but it looks like some restructuring is also being considered. According to a recent investors call, CDPR is considering pulling Cyberpunk 2077 multiplayer from its game goals.
In a recent investors call, seen in the video below, CDPR president Adam Kicinski made a passing comment regarding the multiplayer component that was expected to arrive in 2022. According to Kicinski, the team is currently reconsidering whether or not multiplayer should be a focus or even a thing at all. Tha being said, he did add that online features for Cyberpunk are still important, saying, "We are focusing on bringing online into all of our franchises one day." With The Witcher reportedly getting a new take on the horizon, it will be interesting to see how that online component impacts a famously single-player adventure like the fantasy franchise.Click here to watch embedded media
Whether or not that reconsideration will mean a total axe of the multiplayer mode remains to be seen at this time, but leadership did say that there is still more work to be done to right where the launch went wrong.
There are many reasons why the Cyberpunk 2077 launch went sideways, and it's not just regarding glitches or bugs. The game was mass-marketed with outright lies admitted to by the studio itself. The last-gen trailers for the game were not actual footage, despite being shared as live gameplay, and the directional shifts throughout the development can definitely be felt. The work culture also surrounding the studio does little to foster a solid environment for development, both with the "eh, we'll figure it out as we go" attitude from leadership and with the reports of harsh working conditions.
For now, multiplayer or no, Cyberpunk 2077 development continues with a new wave of updates. To learn more about the history of Cyberpunk 2077's development, and the latest patch notes, check out our game hub here.
The free-to-play PUBG Lite is being shut down, according to its developer, Krafton. The game, meant to be a less technically demanding version of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, launched in 2019 in Thailand in beta form before arriving in Europe in that October.
Kraton states that the game will wrap up for good on April 29. The developer has already axed the game’s webpage, player support and has disabled any new downloads. You can still play the game and spend the remaining in-game credits as normal until the shutdown.
Kraton doesn’t cite a specific reason for the shutdown, but left this message on its blog:
“We are deeply grateful for the passion and support from the astounding number of PUBG Lite fans that have been with us. During the strenuous times of the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope that PUBG Lite was able to provide our fans a fun way to stay safe. Unfortunately, we have made the difficult decision to close service after much deliberation, and the time has come for our journey to end. We regretfully inform you that service of PUBG Lite is scheduled to end on April 29th, 2021.”
PUBG Lite’s purpose was to simply allow players with low-end PCs to play Battlegrounds. The game never arrived in the U.S., mainly because PUBG Lite was meant for territories where players that own powerful PCs were less common. Since there are several versions of PUBG floating around, it’s worth clarifying that PUBG Lite is not to be confused with PUBG Mobile Lite, which is simply the phone version of Battlegrounds that is still available here in the U.S.
While PUBG Lite is being put out to the pasture, the franchise as a whole seems to be expanding. Kraton recently revealed PUBG New State, a new free-to-play mobile version of Battlegrounds set many years in the future. There’s also The Callisto Protocol, the upcoming sci-fi horror game helmed by the creator of Dead Space that is canonically set in the PUBG universe. Fortnite may be the face of battle royales in terms of its mainstream attention, but Battlegrounds is still very popular in its own right and shows no sign of going away any time soon.
Any of our Thai or European readers get a chance to play PUBG Lite? If so, what are your thoughts on the shutdown? Let us know in the comments.
- Double Dragon Neon
- Fable II
- Fallout: New Vegas
- Gears of War 2
- Gears of War 3
- Gears of War: Judgment
- Jetpac Refuelled (touch controls enabled)
- Perfect Dark
- Perfect Dark Zero
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- Viva Piñata (touch controls enabled)
- Viva Piñata: TIP (touch controls enabled)
Amnesia: Rebirth, like previous entries in the series, can be a tense, anxiety-inducing experience. At the same time, it’s also an adventure game filled with puzzles to solve. If you’re a newcomer more interested in the story and puzzles (or just a returning player that wants to replay the game without dealing with the stressful insanity mechanic), Frictional Games has added an Adventure Mode designed to cut down the horror elements to create a more liberating, exploratory experience.
Adventure Mode is available now on PC, and will come to the PS4 version of the game in the coming weeks. The optional mode doesn’t change anything about Rebirth’s story, but environments feature increased lighting so that you won’t have to wander around in darkness nearly as much. When you do enter a dark area, the game’s insanity mechanic is disabled, so you’re free to run around in pitch black rooms all you want. The creepy audio/visual effects that affected the player’s sanity are absent as well. Best of all is that monsters won’t attack unless you engage with them first.
While Adventure Mode removes some mechanics, it also adds new puzzles to the experience. This gives you something extra to chew on since you won’t be running for your life as much, while also providing some incentive to revisit the game in a new light.
Frictional added a similar update to Soma called Safe Mode, which the studio says was well-received by players and helped broaden the game’s appeal. It’s always nice to see developers take steps like this to make games more accessible, whether it be disability options, features that address arachnophobia, or by simply making the experience less spooky. Again, Adventure Mode is entirely optional, so horror fans can still enjoy Amnesia: Rebirth in its original form; everyone wins.
What do you think of Amnesia: Rebirth’s Adventure Mode, and will you be giving it a shot? Let us know in the comments!
I wish I could play Disco Elysium for the first time again. This unconventional RPG from developer ZA/UM casts a spell unlike any other game; its surprising narrative, complex world, and flawed characters have the power to transport your mind to dark and delightful places. Though Disco Elysium was exclusive to PC when it originally launched in 2019, The Final Cut brings the experience to consoles, opening this strange world up to a new wave of superstar detectives. And even though it can’t turn back time for those of us who want to relive the first playthrough, The Final Cut’s additions provide a rewarding return trip.
If you’re new to Revachol, the main thing you need to know is Disco Elysium is a story-driven, combat-free RPG that puts you in the role of a police officer investigating a bizarre murder. But as the game begins, that police officer has traveled a drug-addled road to destruction. Through your actions and dialogue during the investigation, you veer toward redemption or ruination (or somewhere in between) as you contend with the warring voices in your head. The tone can shift from hilarious to poignant to soul-crushing in the span of a single conversation, but the writing has a particular knack for highlighting beauty amid bleakness. I don’t want to say too much and risk spoiling any great moments, but Disco Elysium’s unique approach to melding storytelling and gameplay is really something special. For more of the basics, read my original review.Click here to watch embedded media
Disco Elysium won acclaim from critics and players, but The Final Cut isn’t just a re-release. ZA/UM has made several important adjustments to refine the game, but my favorite is the inclusion of full voice acting. Instead of just getting a few sentences to paint the outline of the characters, you now get a more complete sense of their personalities and mannerisms. I enjoyed all of the performances, but the main narrator (voiced by Lenval Brown, who you can hear in the trailer above) especially stands out; this is a text-heavy game, and Brown delivers a staggering amount of information with a style that fits the atmosphere perfectly.
While most of the core content remains unchanged in The Final Cut, new political vision quests let players choose one of four new tasks tied to different ideologies. These mutually exclusive quests open up based on your detective’s political leanings – like communism and fascism – and you ultimately choose which one you’re going to pursue. After saving/reloading to see what they all offer, I am impressed at how well these new objectives fold into the original experience. They don’t feel tacked-on or extraneous; they are natural extensions of the themes that were already there, acting as satisfying punctuation marks. Some of them introduce new characters and areas, while others let you interact with familiar faces in different contexts. The fascist (a.k.a. racist) thread made me laugh the most, but whichever one you choose, the vision quests are cleverly written and have minor-but-lasting effects on the game once you complete them – like visual changes to the big statue in the roundabout, for example.
Click image thumbnails to view larger version
As an isometric RPG, controlling Disco Elysium was previously a mouse-and-keyboard affair. That obviously wouldn’t work for the console versions, so the interface has been adapted for gamepads (and the PC version supports them now, too). However, the controls are the only part of this package that don’t feel improved. The trade-offs aren’t exactly surprising; moving your character directly with the analogue stick is nice, but the map was still originally designed with a point-and-click interface in mind, so certain paths through the world are difficult to see and navigate. I also had several instances where I pressed a button to interact with an object, but nothing happened until I repositioned myself and tried again. On the one hand, that inconsistency is frustrating. On the other hand, Disco Elysium is not a game in which rapid action and response is necessary, so it didn’t interfere much with my overall enjoyment.
No two run-throughs of Disco Elysium are quite the same. If you’re returning to it, The Final Cut is a great opportunity to try out different choices, pursue different ideologies, and see new branches of the story. Plus, if you already own the game on PC, The Final Cut is available as a free update. For console players who have waited to see what the fuss is about, this version presents the complete picture of why this unique setting and story have earned so much praise. Disco Elysium is a must-play game, and The Final Cut is the best (and only, for many people) way to play it.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is currently available on PS5, PS4, and PC. It will launch on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Switch this summer.
Summary: The Final Cut opens this strange world up to a wave of new superstar detectives on console, and the additions provide a rewarding return trip for the rest of us.
Concept: Update an award-winning game with new features, then bring it to consoles for the first time
Graphics: The actual character models are unimpressive, but the stunning art direction and an evocative world present plenty of gorgeous visuals
Sound: Full voice acting gives you an even better sense of the characters, with especially great work from the main narrator
Playability: Adapting a traditional mouse-and-keyboard interface to gamepad involves some trade-offs, but it works (and it’s certainly better than not playing at all on console)
Entertainment: Disco Elysium can be thoughtful, funny, sad, and profound. To see how it artfully navigates that spectrum, you simply need to play it for yourself
Replay: Moderately High
People Can Fly's Outriders RPG-shooter-hybrid is out tomorrow and we thought we'd celebrate by causing a little chaos of our own. We've had a lot of fun with the game's demo that's out now, and it's definitely a looter shooter that harkens back to fond memories of games like Borderlands, Destiny, Fallout, and People Can Fly's own Bulletstorm. So strap in tight, because we're going live!
You can take to the world of Outriders solo or with friends to build up skills, explore untold dangers, make a new future for humanity, and figure out just what the heck that mystery signal really means. We loved our time with the shooter, which you can learn more about right here with our hands-on impressions, and we can't wait to see what this game has to offer beyond what the demo has to share.Click here to watch embedded media
Join Alex Stadnik, Dan Tack, and Liana Ruppert as they become the badasses they were truly meant to be with Outriders. Will we finally be smart and choose different classes? Will we finally make a character we're happy with? Will Dan be able to put up with the shenanigans of Alex and Liana just running in like idiots? Tune in to find out!
We're going live at 10:45 a.m. CT, so be sure to join in, chat with us, and make fun of us for how stupid and unstealthy we really are. Insult us with love. Or just send us some love, either way - come hang out!
You can take on the dangerous world of Enoch for yourself, because Outriders arrives on April 1 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC players. Check out what else is new in the world of Outriders with our game hub, including how it's coming to Xbox Game Pass on day one!
March is almost over, which means a new month is on the horizon for gamers to dive right into new adventures. Just like every month, Sony is offering a few free games for PlayStation Plus members. While March's free games are still available for a little longer, here is what the free PS Plus April 2021 lineup looks like.
Free PS Plus April 2021 Games Revealed
The latest free games lineup includes Oddworld Soulstorm, Days Gone, and Zombie Army 4: Dead War. Personally, I can't recommend Dead War enough, Zombie Army is a hilariously campy zombie co-op adventure that feels satisfying and is super fun to play with friends. If you like games like Left 4 Dead, that is definitely a title worth picking up.
Days Gone was a PlayStation exclusive that also centered around zombies. While the reception was mixed, the journey was stunning and it was fun riding around on a motorcycle taking out zombies left and right.
It's not too late to also scoop up March's games with Final Fantasy VII Remake, Farpoint, and Remnant: From the Ashes, though it is important to note that an active PS Plus membership is required for all of the aforementioned titles. The membership for Sony's online services includes free games each month, exclusive sales on select titles, and unlimited access to game online with friends! The free games remain yours until the membership runs out.
Thoughts on the free PS Plus April 2021 games lineup? How do you feel about PS Plus in general and how it's changed through the years? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below!
New Amnesia: Rebirth Mode Removes Horror Elements and Turns It Into an ‘Indiana Jones-Style’ Adventure
Oddly, these new maps have been added without any fanfare from Activision. Take a look at the Call of Duty Twitter account, and there’s tweets referencing the latest Black Ops Cold War and Warzone updates, but nothing about Modern Warfare. It’s been down to fans and accounts like Call of Duty Tracker to let people know about the update. For more from Call of Duty, check out the massive new Black Ops Cold War patch that reduces the game's huge file size, or our round up of the top roofs in Verdansk (they all make great Warzone sniper spots). [poilib element="accentDivider"] Matt Purslow is IGN's UK News and Entertainment Writer.
A new Multiplayer map quietly went live in #ModernWarfare following tonight's update!Killhouse and its accompanying 24/7 Mosh Pit playlist is now available. pic.twitter.com/nKlWMzvcwH — Call of Duty Tracker (@CODTracker) March 31, 2021
No Man’s Sky pushes out a big content patch today with the expeditions update, which essentially adds seasonal experiences to the game. In expeditions, everyone starts fresh with a number of milestones to seek. Some are very simple and get you involved in the phase structure, while others are far more advanced. Completed milestones offer rewards to let you speed along your journey, and each completed phase (set of milestones) offers a unique, special reward. Basically, if you’re looking to capture the experience and the essence of playing No Man’s Sky anew, expeditions are exactly the kind of system that you’re looking for. Will you capture that “first time playing” feel over and over again?Click here to watch embedded media
The expedition update contains numerous other additions and enhancements, further adding to the story of No Man’s Sky’s redemption arc. The frequency and relevance of the numerous updates since launch is a thing to behold.
Space station missions have been revamped to be more interesting and engaging, and there has been a reward pass as well, so higher level missions should be more enticing than they were before. Weekend events give players incentives to knock out lucrative tasks each week, while Rendezvous Planets give players a hub to build up as they travel through each expedition.
While many games that take a seasonal approach have durations you can set your watch by, No Man’s Sky is planning to add new expeditions regularly, but each will have its own unique duration and theme.
Mission target sweeping has changed to be more entwined into gameplay, requiring players to track a target down instead of just following an objective. This update includes myriad smaller tweaks and additions you can check out here at the official post.
No Man's Sky Expeditions— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) March 31, 2021
🧭 Galactic Expeditions
🥇 Mission Patches
😎 New HUD + 4K UI
🗺 Expedition Planner
🥽 Visor Tech
🏆 Cross-Save Rewards
🛸 Sentinel Balance
🧠 Perf + Load Optimised
😍 Cross-Platform Naming Merge
📌 Improved Pinning
📆 On-going Seasons
Free and out now pic.twitter.com/jD0DCdwAT0
Do you watch your favorite streamers play No Man’s Sky? Do you stream yourself? Twitch drops are coming to No Man’s Sky starting on April 1. You can earn a variety of rewards by simply watching folks explore space, ranging from emotes and character customization to unique ships. Fly in style with your Twitch drops!
Have you gone back to No Man’s Sky in the years after launch? Are you enjoying the updates? Let us know in the comments!
The launch of Cyberpunk 2077 was chaotic, messy, and for so many more reasons than simply bugs. The road leading up to launch was filled with talk centering around "crunch," meaning a work-culture fostered by toxicity and a complete disregard for the developers themselves, and mixed messaging regarding what Cyberpunk 2077 wanted to be. Then it launched, and it was revealed that the demos given to press prior to launch weren't actual representations of the game and that the PC-only review model hid a very broken experience when on consoles. This resulted in Cyberpunk 2077's removal from the PlayStation Store, but as CDPR continues to work hard to make improvements, the team thinks the game is ready to make a comeback.
Sony removed the game from its store when the number of reports came pouring in about how badly Cyberpunk 2077 played on PS4 systems. Game-breaking bugs around every corner, streets conspicuously devoid of NPCs, and a plethora of other problems that made the final picture not line up with what was marketed all pooled together to justify the removal from the PlayStation Store. Sony said that the game can only return when it has met certain consumer standards. This point was driven home even more when numerous investigations launched in polish regarding the studio.
“We have pushed several patches. We have just published a really big one yesterday and we have published several hotfixes. Each and every one of them brings us closer to going back to the PSN store,” SVP of business development Michał Nowakowski said during a recent investors call, seen here. “However, the final decision, you have to understand, belongs to Sony. We do believe we’re closer than further, but of course, the final call is theirs, so let’s wait and see.”
The latest update, which you can learn more about here, was a behemoth of a patch. It also wasn't the first patch to tackle the bigger issues of the game, including how NPCs act, technical issues, and a whole host of other tweaks made to correct the title's course. It's going to be a long road for the company from this point on. The studio has admitted to crunch in the past following the development of The Witcher 3 and promised to do better. When leadership failed to honor their own promise, they instead chose to bury the sloppier parts of the studio culture and the result? The result was that it blew up in the upper leadership's faces. The developers themselves have even questioned those in charge, including investors, as to what is going to be done to ensure this doesn't happen again. With the future of Cyberpunk 2077 in question and The Witcher as an ultimate goal for the team to return to, there is a lot about the CPDR culture that needs to be addressed, both internally and regarding their tarnished reputation with the public.
To learn more about the road leading up to launch, you can catch up on the latest news right here with our game hub.
Sony and the development team over at miHoYo have announced that the PS5 version of Genshin Impact is almost ready to enjoy with a brand new trailer. The latest video for the game shows off the improved features with the next-gen update, including faster loading times, better resolution, and more.
"The PlayStation 5 is an ideal platform to enhance the vast open-world featuring in Genshin Impact, allowing the team to incorporate more thoughts and ideas into the game, both now and in the future," said Forrest Liu, President of miHoYo, in a recent press statement. "That's why we've been working to bring the native PlayStation 5 version of the game to our players as soon as we could."Click here to watch embedded media
With 4K visuals and fine-tuned performance, this open-world action RPG will create an even better experience for players ready to take on the world of Teyvat. The next-gen update will not change the fact that the game is free-to-play. While there are microtransactions, our own Dan Tack mentioned that their inclusion doesn't impact the way the title can be experienced as many feared.
"Genshin Impact is a whimsical, wondrous land dripping with unbridled charm and appeal, combining a ridiculously compelling reward loop with unfettered, continuous discovery," Tack said in his full review. "In this world, I felt like a child visiting theme park for the first time — dazzled, mesmerized, and completely swept away. I only wish the shimmering glow wasn’t marred by a ghoulish monetization model, but that’s something I’m willing to overlook for my ticket to this fascinating realm."
While the improvements on the way with the next-gen update are exciting, the studio has not confirmed when this update is expected to go live. For now, we have a spiffy new Genshin Impact trailer and a smoother experience on the horizon with the PlayStation 5.
Analysts suggest that, in as little as six years, digital game sales could entirely dominate the video game market. It's a shift that’s been brewing throughout the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One console generation; but now, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X generation could become the turning point where physical media becomes all-but obsolete.
Unlike other entertainment industries, video game fans have clung on to the nostalgic draw of boxes, discs, and cartridges — so, why is this acceleration happening now, after years of healthy physical game sales?
For collectors who love adding the latest releases to their shelf, this shift might be frightening to consider. But does digital's dominance necessarily spell the end of physical games, or will collectors show enough interest and spend enough money to keep physical media alive, albeit in a new, more specialized form? And will digital change game ownership, standard pricing, and collecting as a whole?
IGN spoke with several video game industry analysts to get their thoughts on this rapidly evolving marketplace.
Digital Game Sales Are On the Rise
Overall sales of digital versions of video games have slowly been catching up to physical game sales over the last few years. Now, the scale is tipping towards digital more than ever — partially due to the trends set throughout the last few years, and partially due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic keeping consumers from shopping in-person — and pushing them towards digital storefronts.
Digital games have hit big milestones over the last few years. Cyberpunk 2077 reportedly saw the biggest digital game launch of all time. Elsewhere, developers are seeing digital sales outpace physical sales numbers, with Capcom reporting approximately 80% of its game sales are from digital downloads.
Reflecting that shift, Sony and Microsoft have now both released digital-only consoles that eliminate the option of using physical media entirely, but offer enticingly cheaper prices. If you have a more expensive PS5 or Xbox Series X with a physical disc drive, you're still given complete freedom when choosing how to buy your games. See a sale online you can't pass up? Go ahead and order the game with 2-day shipping. Want to make an impulse grab you see in a second-hand bargain bin? No problem.
For years, gamers have been offered that freedom as par for the course. Now, the reality of digital-only consoles effectively funnels consumers down a digital pipeline to PlayStation or Xbox’s more controlled stores. But the reason for that is simple — more gamers than ever prize the ensured convenience of digital over the potential freedom of physical.
Taking a deeper look at sales numbers globally supports the idea that more gamers are starting to favor digital downloads. Instead of lining up at GameStop for the latest release, players are waiting for their digital downloads to unlock at the strike of midnight. In Sony's recent Q3 FY2020 results, we saw digital sales outnumber physical sales throughout the entire current fiscal year.
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Even when we exclude games that are typically digital exclusives, digital sales still have the upper hand. In Sony's "Full Game Software" results for the three quarters of the current fiscal year, digital sales accounted for 74%, 59%, and 53% of overall sales, respectively.
This means, when given the choice between retail and downloads, the majority of players on PlayStation consistently choose digital over physical.
It's not just Sony seeing this shift in numbers. In Nintendo's recent earnings report, the company said digital sales made up 40.9% of all software sales, which is a sizable 12.3% increase year-on-year. Nintendo's digital sales also saw an increase of 104.9% when compared to 2019.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has to be taken into account. Sony's 2020 fiscal year began on April 1, 2020, when lockdowns across the world were reaching their peak. Customers who suddenly found themselves housebound could explain the huge 74% statistic in Sony's first quarter, which ran from April 1 to June 30.
"It's very straightforward: in a pandemic, downloads are the safest and most convenient option for concerned gamers," says industry analyst Dr. Serkan Toto of Kantan Games Inc.
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But as we look at 2020, analysts noted that the COVID-19 pandemic was not an instigator for the rise of digital media, but simply an accelerator of a trend we've seen take shape throughout the last console generation.
"The game industry, as well as consumers, have been gradually shifting towards digital sales before the pandemic already," says Dr. Toto. "COVID-19 has of course been a strong accelerant for that trend, as some physical locations were simply forced to shut down or people generally were not eager to go out anymore."
In 2018, digital games accounted for 43% of Sony’s Full Game Software download, and in 2019 it was 55%. Both are large year-over-year increases from even before the pandemic hit.
The acceleration is significant compared to the start of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One generation. Daniel Ahmad, a Senior Analyst at Niko Partners, said on Twitter that we entered the last generation of consoles in 2013 with digital downloads accounting for 5-10% of total sales. Now, we enter the PlayStation 5/Xbox Series X generation, and digital downloads account for half of the sales.
It's worth noting that we entered the current console generation (2013) with digital downloads accounting for around 5-10% of unit sales.Now we're entering next gen with 50%+ as standard. Packaged sales are still strong, especially during COVID-19, digital is additive overall — Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) July 30, 2020
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
Websites like Amazon, Best Buy, and GameStop have helped keep physical game sales alive during a time when people aren't making purchases in person as often. While you may be hesitant about going out to a store right now, it's easier than ever to go online, add a game to your cart, and checkout within seconds.
In 2020, two-thirds of games sold in the UK were purchased digitally. That's a 20% year-over-year increase from 2019. However, last year also proved players still love cracking open a new game case as 18.2 million games were sold in boxes in the UK — a 2% increase from 2019.
This means digital and physical sales both jumped, but digital increased significantly more. In this case, digital sales numbers rising is more of a reflection of video game sales numbers as a whole going up, not the immediate death of physical media.
"Packaged software sales have been on a decline for the past few years, but this year has been slightly different," Ahmad said. "The impact from COVID-19 expanded the games market as a whole. It led to a sharp increase in digital game sales and helped stem the decline in packaged software sales."
Mat Piscatella, an analyst for the NPD group, says rising digital numbers do not necessarily spell doom for physical games.
"Growth in digital premium game sales is not being offset by matching declines in physical," Piscatella said. "Changes in physical and digital spending are also often not significantly correlated."
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For now, it seems there's a place at the table for both physical and digital sales.
"Recent numbers indicate that physical sales are surprisingly holding up well, as lockdowns don't go on forever and people can still order physical games online even during a pandemic," Dr. Toto said. "At the moment, it looks like the pie has grown overall, without physical imploding."
Analysts believe that digital sales will continue to ascend, but not as quickly as we saw during the unprecedented events of the last year.
"We expect the digital sales ratio to continue increasing, but not at the same rate as 2020," Ahmad tells IGN. "That being said, we are at a point where the overwhelming majority of games sold are via digital download already."
An All-Digital Future?
"Like it or not, but there can be no doubt that the future is digital," Dr. Toto said. "Once people are starting to download games, they are likely never going back to buy them physically."
If you're a hardcore physical collector, you may have felt your heart start beating a little faster after reading that. A silver lining? Video games are as popular and profitable as ever. For the games industry as a whole, analysts expect spending to remain high as we move further into 2021.
"We expect the increased engagement across gaming as a whole to maintain post-pandemic," Ahmad said. "We predict that people who discovered gaming in 2020 will continue playing."
However, analysts do believe physical sales will slowly diminish, leading to digital cementing itself as the primary way players purchase games. Dr. Toto said an all-digital future raises some concerns for consumers.
"What about ownership of a digital game? Is there a guarantee that I can access my download in 20 years or am I effectively just renting it? Why is there no second-hand market on digital? How do platform providers on console aim to solve the storage problems that come with downloads?"
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These concerns have cropped up from time to time throughout the last few years. Some games get delisted due to licensing issues, becoming inaccessible to redownload in order to play or preserve. Also, consumers who rely on trade-ins to help fund future game purchases are hung out to dry on digital storefronts.
"The convenience outweighs any negatives for most consumers," Ahmad said. "That being said, there are moves that publishers can make to increase digital game ownership acceptance among a broader audience, such as offering timed refunds, gifting, or trading."
If you're worried about not being able to add the latest releases to your shelf, don't panic too much just yet. Analysts think the future of physical games will be sharply redirected towards the most hardcore, passionate corners of the fanbase.
"There will continue to be a market for packaged software in the future. While the ratio of digital games keeps increasing, it’s important to note that over 200 million packaged games are still sold each year across the major console platforms," Ahmad said. "We may see packaged game offerings evolve in the future, with a larger focus on special editions."
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Analysts believe physical games aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon. This is partially due to the hardcore segment of the fanbase, and the group of consumers who go to the store to buy physical games as gifts for friends or family members. Most would probably agree it's more fun to gift a physical game than a download code.
But no matter how physical gaming clings on, analysts we spoke to feel set on the idea of digital becoming the true force in the industry in the not-too-distant future. "My estimate is that digital will be the totally dominant form by the end of the decade, after the life cycle of the current PlayStation and Xbox models," Dr. Toto said.
Microsoft and Sony's new consoles launched last Fall and, judging by the length of the last two console generations, this estimate pegs digital game downloads as the completely dominant form of game purchases by around 2027-2028.
Six or seven years may seem like a long time, but in the scope of video games, it's not that far off. The video game industry adapts at a rapid pace, and before you know it, mass-market physical games could feel like a distant memory.
Looking Ahead to the Next Few Years
However, the fate of physical games could rest upon how hard platform holders push the digital-only consoles in this generation, and how much of the player base jumps on board.
"If players gravitate towards the current digital editions of next-gen consoles, which are priced lower, we could see platform holders move to double down on digital-only consoles next generation," Ahmad said.
Piscatella agrees, saying, "the long-term trends will depend on the types of consoles being made, and developer- and publisher-driven initiatives."
But Ahmad was quick to point out that digital sales overtook physical sales even before the digital-only consoles launched, which suggests there are other significant factors in play.
From the publishers and developers’ perspective, digital game sales give them a boost by cutting out the middleman, leading to more profit. Capcom's latest earnings report specifically mentions how digital sales have increased the company's profits by subtracting retailers from the equation.
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"In my view, retailers large and small will be cut out of the game industry's value chain in the long run," Dr. Toto said. "Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo won't say it openly, but cutting out the middleman is clearly where the industry has been shifting towards for years now already."
Even if the goal is to cut them out in the long run, analysts believe stores will continue selling physical games until the market ceases to exist altogether. There's an unquestionable convenience to digital games, but there's also something to be said for swinging by the electronics section to pick up a game on your weekly trip to pick up milk and eggs.
"As long as there is physical retail, they will all keep selling physical games," Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities said. "But the evolution of sales to digital downloads will ultimately impact their health."
Some analysts believe the shift to digital will be gradual, until the point where the majority of fans are used to the digital storefront as the primary way to purchase games. At that point, we may see some big publishers pull the plug on physical game production entirely.
"The tipping point is reached when it doesn't make any economic sense to produce physical games and when the backlash of the fanbase is expected to be manageable," says Dr. Toto. He added we could even see a major publisher shift to digital-only releases as soon as sometime this generation.
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It's not just the big companies that benefit from digital sales. Indie developers and publishers rarely release physical games because digital sales help the bottom line significantly more. For many indie developers, the cost of manufacturing discs just isn't worth it. In recent years, we've seen indie developers creating boutique physical editions of their games once they’ve become a proven success, in some ways leveraging the love of a hardcore audience as a second revenue stream — a model that could be seen as a blueprint for larger developers and publishers in future.
The increasing irrelevance of physical games means less competition for digital storefronts hosted on Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo's consoles. Console storefronts almost certainly won't suffer from the internal competition seen on PC – where Steam, Epic Games Store, and more compete for digital gamers' attentions – and if retailers like Best Buy and Walmart ever fall out of the equation, it gives the publishers a larger slice of the pie. This could end up leading to an increase in prices for the consumer.
"In the future, we will see US $70 as the new standard price for single games," Dr. Toto said. "Some titles are offered with that price tag already." Dr. Toto added that platforms like Xbox Game Pass will likely see price increases as the catalogue grows and the service becomes a more popular mainstream option.
While the timetable may be fuzzy, digital game sales are looking to dominate the market completely, and evidence suggests the shift is irreversible.
"It would be safe to assume that the share of physical premium games within the overall content market should continue to decline over time," Piscatella said. "To what extent and over what time period remains opaque."
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While the speed may be subject to debate, the analysts we spoke to agree the curtain has fallen on the dominance of physical games, saying it's only a matter of time until cases, cartridges, and discs join a past era of game manuals, memory cards, and composite cables (although, somewhat ironically, memory cards seem to be making a small comeback entirely because of digital).
For physical collectors, this may raise some concerning questions about the future of trade-ins, lending games to friends, and game ownership. On the widest possible level, it’s not unthinkable to imagine a future console generation that forgoes physical media altogether, making physical game collecting itself a thing of the past. For players who already primarily buy games digitally, it may be a change that goes unnoticed – until the point when publishers might feel comfortable enough to jack up the cost of their games due to the lack of competition from physical marketplaces.
While the shift to digital sales is all-but inevitable, games companies remain tight-lipped about their long-term plans for how to react to it. Questions regarding disc drives, game preservation, and digital exclusives loom large as the industry enters a new era. Some players are embracing the change and shifting their game libraries from their shelves to their hard drives. Others are clinging on to physical media, planning to stay on the ship until it goes down.
This console generation will, without a doubt, answer some of our lingering questions about physical media's demise. Regardless, it's time we realize the question isn't if digital will become entirely dominant, but when and how the change will impact the way we buy and experience games.
Logan Plant is a news writer for IGN, and the Production Assistant for Nintendo Voice Chat, IGN's weekly Nintendo show. You can find him on Twitter at @LoganJPlant.
Sam & Max have conquered comics, TV, games, and have returned for the first time in over a decade with Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual!. As the name suggests, the Freelance Police are making the jump to VR for an all-new adventure. The game comes to Oculus Quest this summer (and other headsets in the following months) is being developed by HappyGiant with help from Sam & Max creator, Steve Purcell, renown artist Peter Chan, and other LucasArts veterans.
Two questions you’re probably asking yourself are “what are Sam and Max up to this time?” and “why VR?”. We sat down with Mike Levine, CEO of HappyGiant, and lead designer Mike Stemmle, formerly of LucasArts and Telltale Games, to get the skinny on Sam & Max’s next adventure, the new character that players control, and how the team hopes to reinvent the adventure game formula using VR’s more immersive perspective.Click here to watch embedded media
Sam & Max have always been known as adventure games, whether it be the point-and-click style Sam & Max: Hit the Road or the episodic Telltale series from the 2000s. While HappyGiant could have made another title in this mold, VR offered a new twist on the formula that seemed like the next logical step for the genre as a whole. For example, players will pick up and inspect objects with their own hands instead of just clicking them. At the same time, that doesn’t mean the game won’t feature some familiar genre trappings.
“The classic adventure adventure game is dialogue trees and clink[ing] on stuff until something happens or until you show things together, and there's a lot of that in this game.” says Stemmle. “But we also realize ‘we're a VR man, we got a lot of cool stuff we can do.’”
Levine adds that “[VR’s] not going to put away the old kind of games, but it does feel like a progression, like a natural evolution If you do it right, you feel like you're there with them in their world. And that's, that can be powerful.”
To that end, players control a nameless, voiceless rookie recruited by Sam & Max, you’ll aid the duo as they work to uncover a diabolical secret lurking within a sketchy amusement park. The reason players don’t assume the roles of the stars themselves is that the team found that doing diluted the classic dynamic between the two. As a third character, you get to not only watch Sam and Max do their thing but they’ll interact with you directly (with Max calling you all kinds of mean names like “Lumpy”), which the team hopes will be a treat for fans.
The amusement park is owned by Cap’n Aquabear. The good captain’s claim to fame was selling pet tardigrades (think Sea Monkeys) he dubbed “Aqua Bears” that was a fad decades prior. As I mentioned before, Aquabear’s got more going on than just selling cheap micro pets but before you can look into him, you have to prove yourself to Sam and Max by completing their obstacle course. Though we don’t know what that entails specifically, it offers an idea into the game’s philosophy in that variety is king.
Escape rooms, carnival games, bomb defusal, climbing walls, and good old fashioned puzzle-solving are just a few of the things players will get into, and Levine says the game will build upon mechanics as the game progresses. In terms of the world, Levine describes the game as being “pretty massive in scale for VR” with plenty of room for players to freely walk and explore. That said, the game can be played while sitting down as well. Besides interacting with the environment, fans should also look out for tons of Aqua Bears as well as inside jokes and references from the series’ long history.
The switch to VR also forced the team to change its approach to writing comedy. Before players could click on something and have Sam and Max make a funny remark without much interruption. But to make such dialogue breaks feel natural in VR forced the team to reexamine its approach.
“...You have to let the player keep moving, you can't lock them down in place while you read a funny line,” explains Stemmle. “So every time you pick up a burrito and Sam starts saying something and Max says a witty comeback, you have to deal with the fact that the player may very well have chucked the burrito against the wall and has gone over here to something that's actually really important. So you've got to figure out how you're going to cut off lines, how are you going to merge into the next thing. You have to be a lot less precious about your dialogue."
The team is aware there’s a good chance that most of the players who dive into This Time It's Virtual! have never played or even heard of Sam & Max, so they’re committed to blowing their minds with an adventure filled with clever gameplay and sharp writing. Even though it's been a long time since the last Sam & Max title, the series has lasted this long (since 1987, in fact) and has proven its versatility.
“As a Sam & Max fan, it sort of felt like this evolution because they've always been adaptable,” says Levine. “They started in comics, they made a 2D game...then they made 3D games and toys. And Steve Purcell, the creator, you know, he's never been afraid to try new things with them. And, I was thinking about this, like any great comic duo, you can kind of plop them into any situation, and they're going to make it hilarious.”
Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual! launches in June for Oculus Quest for $29.99. It will then release later this year for SteamVR and Viveport Infinity. As for PlayStation VR, that version arrives in early 2022.
Click image thumbnails to view larger version
While Nintendo has made clear that remaining stock of limited products will be sold while stocks last, and download codes will stay functional after March 31, it's clear that time is running out to grab copies for less-than-inflated prices. Amazon US has already ceased selling digital codes for Super Mario 3D All-Stars, and GamesIndustry reports that UK sales for the game rose by 276% in its final week on sale – meaning physical stock may well be hard to come by soon. As you might expect, the 'Mario Dies Today' meme is reaching fever pitch at this point, with fans turning their confusion about Nintendo's decision-making into social media silliness:
スーパーマリオブラザーズ35周年キャンペーンは、本日3月31日をもって終了します。ご参加いただいたすべてのみなさまに感謝を申し上げます。マリオはこれからもますますパワーアップしていきますので、引き続き応援をどうぞよろしくお願いいたします。#スーパーマリオ35周年https://t.co/MPvhfeQ0k8 pic.twitter.com/Xx8RL2uVj8 — スーパーマリオブラザーズ35周年 (@supermario35th) March 31, 2021
Oh yeah, Mario dies today. pic.twitter.com/l3OHRs9b0Z— Apple2k / Daily MegaTen Music (@Daily_Megaten) March 31, 2021
before the joke diesuhh mario dies today this means that bowser will have finally won, poor lad earned it, dude has been fighting mario for so long he deserves to win for once. — Norendera (@Norendera) March 31, 2021
Nintendo still hasn't fully explained the reasoning for arbitrarily cancelling sales, or given an idea as to what comes next. [poilib element="accentDivider"] It's a little over a week until Nintendo – for reasons it has still not satisfactorily explained – removes Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Super Mario Bros. 35, Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros., and the Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary merch collection from sale. It's a situation so bizarre that the internet has attempted to rationalise it by deciding that March 31 is, in fact, the day Mario will die. Last year Nintendo released a number of products to celebrate Mario's 35th anniversary, with the bizarre proviso that they wouldn't be selling them beyond March 31, 2021. In the case of platformer battle royale, Super Mario Bros. 35, the game won't even be playable after that date, and Super Mario Maker on Wii U will also cease level sharing on the day. Oddly, NES re-release, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light will also be removed from sale on March 31 (maybe it's Mario's favourite game?).
Mario Dies Today Bye Bye old friend pic.twitter.com/ysg3NQmoW5— Ariana Nova .H (@mustangs2444) March 31, 2021
Despite confusion from fans – who'd quite like the option to be able to buy or play games after the arbitrary cut-off – Nintendo is really sticking to its guns on this. The company recently formally reminded fans of the removals, and VGC reports that Nintendo's official Tokyo store will even pull physical copies of Super Mario 3D All-Stars off of shelves after the date. Tellingly, even Nintendo seems to understand the confusion this is causing, ending its removal reminder post by assuring fans that other Mario games like Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit will continue to be sold after March 31. There is, of course, the possibility that the affected games will be re-released in new, non-anniversary form after March 31, but Nintendo's made no attempt to, you know, inform anyone about it if that is going to be the case.
Mario dies on march 31— Omega (@Omega__Aurora) March 21, 2021
The closest we've come to a reasoning behind all of this came from Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser, who told Polygon that it's intended as a "celebration", and (thankfully) made clear that "it’s not [a] strategy that we’re going to be using widely, but it’s one we thought was very unique for the actual anniversary." Frankly, that doesn't feel like it's doing enough to explain the thinking here, never mind whether anything is coming after the fact. So, with a dearth of information, the Nintendo community gestalt has come to a single, immutable conclusion: Mario will die on March 31. It might sound wild, but it somehow makes more sense than Nintendo just deciding to stop people from buying or playing the things they made without explanation.
All the mario games are going away on March 31 because Nintendo is killing him— Michael Spiese (@MichaelSpiese) March 20, 2021
The meme has been hanging throughout the months since the March 31 cutoff was announced but, as we enter the final days before the deadline, interest has been picking up. Google Trends reports that searches for "Mario dies" reached a year-long high in the US last week, and Twitter and Reddit are seeing the phrase flying around more and more. You can likely expect that to continue to grow until March 31 itself. It's a very silly meme, but it does speak to the wider issue with Nintendo's messaging here. The company's done so little to explain its decisions to its fans that they've taken matters into their own hands, and come up with an answer to the question that Nintendo probably doesn't like being out there all that much. If it had just taken the time to provide a little more context, it might not be so eminently clear that Mario is on his way to the big Boo Mansion in the sky. I mean, it's not as if Nintendo doesn't have previous here - it did once kill Luigi after all. [poilib element="accentDivider"] Joe Skrebels is IGN's Executive Editor of News. Follow him on Twitter. Have a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Please send an email to email@example.com.
Luigi: We live our lives taking each second for granted.Mario: But what would you do if you knew how much time you had left? Only a few days left before we bid farewell to Mario... forever... Memento Mario Unus Marius#mario35 #mariomemories #march31 #Nintendo #UnusAnnus pic.twitter.com/jV8j786B9T — Kenton Draws Stuff (@ken10drawsstuff) March 22, 2021