Checkpoint #20: Deal with the Devil

Blizzard leaks, major launches for major titles, and another Twitch streamer defects

Welcome back to Checkpoint!

This week we look at some Blizzard leaks ahead of the company’s annual conference this weekend, the release of The Outer Worlds and Modern Warfare, and another high-profile shift from Twitch to Mixer.

Let’s get into it.

Deal with the Devil

The last week has seen some interesting BlizzCon leaks, with Blizzard working to offer up a slate of major announcements to buoy its recent poor fortunes.

ESPN obtained a training guide for the event that contained some tidbits about the arrival of Overwatch 2. If the report is correct, it’ll feature a four-player story experience set in Rio de Janeiro, with hero talents and in-game items. The PVP game will feature a new mode, Push, starting with a map set in Toronto. And it looks likely that we’ll see a long-awaited hero, Echo, arrive with the game.

I'll be watching with interest in the hopes that talents don’t make their way over to the PVP side. For me, the most interesting part about Overwatch comes from combining heroes with fixed toolkits and allowing the final outcome to hang on a mixture of reactive strategization, mechanical skill, game sense, and teamwork. I don’t see heroes whose abilities change depending on time investment and leveling as an appealing addition to that.

To wash away the bad taste left by Diablo: ImmortalBlizzard seems sure to announce Diablo IV. Leaks from a Diablo art book set to ship the day after BlizzCon make references to the fourth installment.

Of course, BlizzCon’s timing means it will fall under the shadow of recent scandals. The onus is on Blizzard to use the opening ceremony to deal with the Blitzchung controversy in an appropriate and satisfying way so that attention can fall on its announcements. With BlizzCon protests planned and other game companies doing a much better job of supporting basic human rights, even by doing very little, the pressure is on.

Release the Hounds

The Outer Worlds, a role-playing game in a setting reminiscent of the Fallout universe, has landed and reviewers and players alike are loving it. If you’re an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, it’s already included in your subscription.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare also launched this week, and its reviews are what we’ve come to expect of Call of Duty games: a flawed but serviceable shooter that continues the tradition of the series.

Hot on the heels of the Realm of Magic pack, we’ve got unofficial confirmation of a university-themed Sims 4 expansion called Discover University. University expansions are a mainstay of the series, with The Sims 2: University and The Sims 3: University Life both favorites among the playerbase.

Flailing Fallout 76 has announced a $12.99/month subscription that enables private worlds, unlimited junk storage, a survival tent with a placeable fast travel point, and 1650 atoms to use in the shop in each month. Aside from likely being too little, too late, and at a time when single-game subscriptions seem somewhat quaint, the launch has been a mess of issues.

Finally, with developer Starbreeze facing financial woes, it has reopened development of fan-favorite Payday 2, one year after it set the game to end-of-life. The company has acknowledged that it is breaking its earlier promise that any future additions would be free, but is being refreshingly honest about its financial situation and need for support from players who love the title.

Delay N’ Pray

Some high-profile release delays this week. Ubisoft seems to have delayed most of its AAA slate, with Watch Dogs: Legion and Rainbow Six Quarantine blowing into the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Ubisoft shares have taken a tumble on the news.

Meanwhile, The Last of Us Part 2 has been delayed to May 2020.

Muscle Twitch

Two months after Ninja left Twitch for the greener pastures of Microsoft’s Mixer, another Twitch mega-streamer has made the leap. Shroud, who came up as a Counter-Strike player and more recently has played battle royale games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Apex Legends, announced his transition on Thursday.

While it’s too soon to know how this will change the streaming ecosystem, an analysis by Streamlabs and Newzoo earlier this month dissected the impact of Ninja’s move. Mixer’s viewership is actually down, and unless you really love the battle royale genre, it seems to me like it has been a good thing for Twitch. Fortnite, which once dominated the Twitch homepage, has been declining in viewership for more than a year but is down 24% in the last quarter alone.

Since the start of the year, unique channels on Twitch have declined by 32%, possibly due to saturation and increased difficulty in breaking through. But with larger streamers falling away due to business considerations, the average concurrent viewership across all channels on Twitch is up 3.5%. That’s an average across large and small streamers alike, so it’s feasible that upstarts are seeing larger gains, and I’ve certainly been watching more streamers in the midrange. The lesson here is that if you’re passionate enough about your side project to push through the hard times, you’ll be well-positioned to take advantage when circumstances change — and they always do.

That’s it for this edition.

Thanks for reading Checkpoint. If you enjoyed this, please let your gamer friends know about the newsletter — keeping Checkpoint growing helps me keep it going.

Share Checkpoint

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Thanks for your support. See you next time,

- Flob

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Checkpoint #19: Blitzchung Blitzkrieg

An Activision-Blizzard catastrophe, Fortnite's second chapter, the next PlayStation, and new Riot games

Hey readers,

Welcome back to Checkpoint. I’m back from holiday and feeling refreshed, but the gaming world seems decidedly more frazzled than it was before my departure. With stories from the gaming world regularly breaking into mainstream news over the past few weeks, you’re probably no stranger to some of the news we’ll look at today.

Planning to be back with regular programming and a regular cadence from today, but let’s get caught up first.

Activision-Blizzard Makes a Geopolitics Debut

Blizzard Entertainment suspended Hong Kong Hearthstone pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai from Hearthstone Grandmasters earlier this month, after he made a statement in support of the Hong Kong protesters in a post-match interview. The company also fired the two casters hosting the interview. Blizzard quoted a tournament rule that disallows participants from offending any group or damaging Blizzard’s image, a rather broad catch-all that seems designed to enable wide-reaching discretion.

The backlash from large segments of the playerbase, especially in the West, has been fierce and prolonged. A call to boycott has led to many users cancelling World of Warcraft subscriptions and uninstalling games.

In the same vein as last year’s Diablo Immortal debacle, Blizzard is creating headaches for itself by trying to straddle the divide between Western and Eastern markets and access the revenue within both. But fundamental incompatibilities between the two systems — from player tastes to Communist Party values — mean that the company may have to make a choice in order to move forward.

Players aren’t the only ones enraged by these events. Brian Kibler, a Grandmasters caster, responded by quitting, followed shortly thereafter by Nathan Zamora. Original World of Warcraft team lead Mark Kern, who had a hand in encouraging Blizzard to pursue the Classic revival, joined the boycott and cancelled his own subscription. Blizzard employees have staged walkouts, gathering at the iconic orc statue surrounded by plaques enshrining the company’s values. And yesterday, a bipartisan letter from US Congress members asked Activision-Blizzard to reconsider its stance. The letter stopped just short of accusing Blizzard of complicity with the Chinese government — something it saved for Apple — but remained a strong rebuke.

Gamers have even attempted to make Overwatch’s Mei a symbol of the Hong Kong protests in order to get the game banned in China, as happened to the bear himself, Winnie the Pooh.

After nearly a week of radio silence, Blizzard responded by defending its original decision, while halving Blitzchung’s 12-month suspension, and converting the firing of the two casters into a six-month suspension. The company claims that its relationship with China was not a factor in the decision — despite the official Blizzard Weibo account vowing to “respect and defend the pride of our country.”

Blizzard made it clear that it had entrenched itself in this position when, a week after the original event, it also banned a college team for six months after it held up “Free Hong Kong” signs during a livestreamed Hearthstone event.

The company has opted to cancel a New York City launch event for Overwatch on the Nintendo Switch and a Taiwanese World of Warcraft anniversary event to avoid the spectre of protests. 

The controversy has had longer legs than we usually see with scandals in gaming, and with BlizzCon only weeks away, it’s hard to imagine how the company can resolve the matter in time. Protests are planned, and if Blizzard chooses to take a hard stance on ticket-holding protesters, the furore will clearly blow open again.

To make things more interesting, players have crowdfunded the Hong Kong Overwatch team to compete in BlizzCon’s Overwatch World Cup. There’s no doubt that Blizzard will do anything it can to prevent Hong Kong and China from meeting in a match, but there are clearly ways this could go wrong for the company.

Other giants of gaming have added their voices to the conversation. Riot Games, which is wholly owned by Chinese mega-corporation Tencent, has made it clear that it will not allow political statements at its events. Tim Sweeney of Epic Games, 25% of which is owned by Tencent, has said that it will never ban anyone for political speech, with Sweeney pointing to his controlling share in the business for assurance.

Of course, one can argue that proliferate human rights abuses, such as those the Chinese government enacts, transcend politics as much as they are intertwined with them. And we should not allow any Western company that has wooed us for decades with its strong values to cosy up to a repressive regime that runs city-sized concentration camps — not without paying a price.

If you’ve uninstalled Hearthstone, you may be able to find your CCG fix in one of these alternative games.

Link ‘Em Up

Facebook held another Oculus Connect in late September. Aside from some new titles, including a VR Medal of Honor game, the Oculus Quest received a lot of love. A planned update will enable accessory-free hand-tracking, improvements to camera Passthrough, and Oculus Link. Oculus Link will allow users to connect their Quest to a gaming PC over USB-C and access all Rift titles by making use of the PC’s hardware.

The company also announced that Gear VR will not be supported on future Samsung phones.

But if you want to fly around like Tony Stark, you’ll want to grab a PS4 and PSVR ahead of Iron Man VR’s February 2020 release.

That’s Not All, Folks

Fortnite pulled a big stunt this week when it ended its 10th season by sucking the entire map into a black hole, in-game, for players to enjoy in real-time. It then kept the game offline for almost two days, leaving players to wonder what was coming to next — or even if it was coming back at all, as a few openly fretted.

But return it did, with the announcement of Chapter 2. Chapter 2 introduces a completely new map, but as there were no patch notes, players had to figure out the rest for themselves. Those surprises include motorboat vehicles, swimming and fishing for items, and improvements to the battle pass system.

Sony has confirmed that the next PlayStation will be called the PS5, and will come out in time for the 2020 holiday period. It’ll feature an SSD, a new controller with a speaker, variable levels of trigger resistance, and a launch title from the developers of 2018’s Shadow of the Colossus remake.

Riot Games, which we should bear in mind is wholly Tencent-owned, had a lot to announce for its 10th birthday, drastically expanding the number of titles that it plans to have on the market. These include a CCG of its own, a new MOBA for mobile and console, a tactical shooter that seems like a cross between Overwatch and Counter-Strike, and even an animated TV series.

It’s official: Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming to PC in November. You can check out some of the game’s PC enhancements and 4K visuals in this stunning trailer. Just don’t expect any single-player DLC in the future: Rockstar says it is wholly focused on Red Dead Online.

Paradox has announced Crusader Kings 3, a followup to the series’ eight year-old second instalment. The grand strategy title is expected to land in 2020, and is intended to be more accessible than its predecessor — a fault or feature of Paradox games, depending on who you ask.

Finally, Call of Duty: Mobile is out for Android and iOS devices, and despite all assumptions — well, mine, at least — people reckon it’s actually good. If you’re a run-and-gun fan, your next train ride is probably going to be a lot more entertaining.

That’s it for this edition.

Thanks for reading Checkpoint, and bearing with me while I attended to the wellbeing of my mortal coil. If you enjoyed reading, please let your gamer friends know about the newsletter — keeping Checkpoint growing helps me keep it going. And don’t forget to follow the newsletter on social media:

Hit reply on this email to send me feedback about Checkpoint, or just say hello. I’m always happy to hear from subscribers.

Thanks for your support. See you next time,

- Flob

P.S. Get this in your email from a friend, or reading along on the web? Let us help you spend more time gaming. Get Checkpoint every week and catch up on the news in under 20 minutes. No fluff, no fake controversy, and no banner ads: just the gaming content you need to know about.

Checkpoint #18: Detached from Reality

Who needs a pelvis anyway?

Welcome back to Checkpoint!

Lots of news this week: major Oculus announcements, a new Total War game and The Last of Us Part 2 on the horizon, an Overwatch patch that modifies a massive number of heroes, and climate action announcements from gaming companies are just a few of the stories we'll cover.

You might have noticed that I'm sending this issue a few days late. I'm on leave from my day job, and will be skipping next week's issue to take a proper break. By delaying the issue a bit, I'm hoping to get you more of the news you depend on with less of an interruption.

Let's get into it.

An Old Warhorse

PC gaming and cross-platform titles

The next Total War title will be called Total War Saga: Troy and will take you inside one of history's most legendary conflicts.

Untitled Goose Game, a game in which you play a goose getting up to antics and stealing things from people, has released on PC and Switch. Here's a review. It's a short game, around three hours long, though one speedrunner has already gotten it down to four minutes.

The latest Overwatch patch to hit the PTR makes small balance changes to nearly half of the game's heroes. Though this patch takes a scalpel approach to balancing, it seems poised to make massive changes to the current shield-heavy meta, and even return heroes that remain unchanged to relevancy. And some balance changes are less minor than it seems: player reports suggest that changing Tracer's damage falloff from 10 meters to 13 meters makes her a capable Pharah counter.

World of Warcraft has also received a new patch. It concludes the Battle for Azeroth War campaign story, adds refreshed Worgen and Goblin character models, and more.

Afterparty, a successor to the popular Oxenfreeis a game in which you must defeat Satan in a drinking contest. It arrives on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on October 29.

The free-to-play Magic: The Gathering Arena game launched this week, and it's reportedly really good, but not as eye-catching as Hearthstone or Gwent.

The news that one of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's modes, Spec Ops Survival, will be a PS4 exclusive for the first year has caused quite a bit of controversy. One of the game's developers has tried to explain, though the decision appears to have been made at the publisher level.

I think the uproar is justified on this one. It's one thing to release a game on either Epic or Steam, or to build exclusive, first-party titles for different consoles. But charging players the same amount for a game and giving users on one platform extra content is just plain dirty. This Call of Duty will be easy for me to skip now.

Based on this Australian Classification Board rating, it looks likely that Red Dead Redemption 2's PC release is imminent.

One Last Fling

Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch news

The Last of Us Part 2 has been announced and is set for a February 2020 launch, though it won't feature multiplayer.

The The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening remake is out now on Switch, and is getting some great reviewsNintendo also turned 130 years old this week, so a nostalgia trip seems poetic.

From November 22, you'll be able to play just one more turn from your couch, with Civilization VI coming to Xbox One and PlayStation 4. (Of course, it came out on Switch a few months back.)

Detached from Reality

VR, AR, streaming, and other emerging tech

Oculus had a number of interesting announcements at Oculus Connect this year. The company is working on augmented reality glasses (think Google Glass), and is turning the Oculus Quest into a PC VR headset that can play Rift games from November.

There's also this Facebook Horizon social VR world, which is kind of like if someone took the ideas in Snow Crash and made them bland and terrible. Avatars literally end at the waist so that players can't simulate sexual activity.

Instead, you can jump into the next Medal of Honor game in 2020, which will be an Oculus Rift title from Respawn Entertainment.

A bit of streaming news: with Stadia's Founder's Edition nearly selling out, there's a new Premiere Edition available, including a Chromecast Ultra, three months of Stadia Pro, and a controller. On the other side of the aisle, you'll be able to test Microsoft's Project xCloud streaming service in October.

Pay for a Pass

Mobile gaming news

Google has announced its Apple Arcade competitor, Google Play Pass. It's a very similar proposition: for US$4.99 per month, you'll be able to play over 350 titles ad-free.

Meanwhile, the same amount of money (yes, as a monthly subscription) will let you access 200cc racing in Nintendo's Mario Kart Tour for iOS and Android. This would have sounded ridiculous six months ago, but it sure is out-of-touch now.

Playing for the Planet

Gaming culture, industry, and miscellanea

Gaming companies have made a number of announcements this week as part of Playing for the Planet, an industry initiative to combat climate change. Critics say they need to do more, which really applies to everyone and every industry on the planet when it comes to this issue, but incremental progress is better than paralysis. Some of the initatives:

Police are investigating a link between organized crime and the Australian Overwatch Contenders team, hot on the heels of arrests made in a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive match-fixing investigation.

Finally: Twitch has rolled out a UI update, and as with all redesigns ever, it's polarizing. I don't mind it, my friend hates it, and I don't know what you think about it. Reply me maybe?

That’s it for this edition.

Thanks for reading Checkpoint. If you enjoyed reading, please let your gamer friends know about it — keeping Checkpoint growing helps me keep it going. And don’t forget to follow us (okay, me. It’s just me here) on social media:

Hit reply on this email to send me feedback about Checkpoint, or just say hello. I’m always happy to hear from subscribers.

Thanks for your support. See you next time,

- Flob

P.S. Get this in your email from a friend, or reading along on the web? Let us help you spend more time gaming. Get Checkpoint every week and catch up on the news in under 20 minutes. No fluff, no fake controversy, and no banner ads: just the gaming content you need to know about.

Checkpoint #17: Not Enough Chefs in the Kitchen

A clown chef is not a food safety issue. Right?

Welcome back to Checkpoint!

Borderlands 3 is here and it’s hot, Call of Duty players really love minimaps, Steam’s library overhaul beta is available, and Ring Fit Adventure is the spiritual successor to the Wii Fit.

Let's get into it.

A Fall Off the Map

PC gaming and cross-platform titles

Borderlands 3 released on Friday, and people I know have had a blast playing it with friends. Here’s the Ars Technica early impression. At launch, technical issues have been a problem for many, but none of that is reflected in the massive sales figures or the jubilation of my friends.

The lack of a minimap in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has been a source of controversy, and Infinity Ward is already testing a minimap in the beta after fan backlash. Getting used to the lack of a minimap in Overwatch was certainly an adjustment, but I can’t say I ever miss having one in the game now.

Speaking of Overwatch, the latest patch has brought a new mini-event with it: Bastion’s Brick Challenge. It’s a LEGO-themed event for which the top reward is a Brick Bastion skin, so you can giving attacking teams headaches in glossy plastic style. You’ve got until September 30 to earn the skin, two sprays, and two player icons.

There have also been some balance changes, notably to Symmetra’s beam width and damage output. May your barriers turn her into a slightly less terrifying monster from here on out.

Also, the widely-and-justifiably-reviled Paris map has been temporarily disabled. Don’t celebrate too hard — this is in response to a bug that let players shoot through one of the spawn doors, and not an acknowledgement by Blizzard that the map is a balance horror show.

If you need an escape plan when Paris returns, maybe you could run some old World of Warcraft content with a friend? We’re not talking about ClassicBattle for Azeroth patch 8.2.5 will include a new feature called Party Sync, which lets players temporarily scale their level down so that higher-level players can run through content with friends who are levelling.

Steam's library rework is now in public beta, including new game pages, events, and more. It’ll be interesting to see if this has any impact on indie game sales on the platform, which publisher estimates suggest are down 70% year-over-year.

Meanwhile, GOG announced a new client update for the Galaxy 2.0 beta that adds global search and library view customizations. Another underdog game library, Discord Nitro Games, is going away altogether due to lack of use. You can fill the void in your heart with the Rockstar Games launcher — you’ll get a free copy of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on PC if you do.

Of course, the ascendant game store has another freebie for you this week, in the form of the Lovecraftian horror game Conarium.

Not Enough Chefs in the Kitchen

Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch news

We know what Nintendo’s latest weird fitness gadget is for now: it’s an attempt to trick you into getting fit with an adventure RPG called Ring Fit Adventure. You can preorder it now if you need a little art-directed encouragement.

But perhaps you’re less interested in games that trick you into getting fit, and more interested in games that let you simulate sports while you sit completely still. You’re in luck, as the 1983 classic Track & Field has come to Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.

We’ve gotten to see more of the upcoming Link’s Awakening remake, and it’s a complete graphical overhaul.

Do you hate being happy? Do you hate having relationships with the people you care most about? Good! Overcooked 2 is about to worm its way back into your life with a new DLC, Carnival of Chaos, promising to destroy everything in your life that you held dear. You’ll angrily make donuts and hot dogs for carnival-goers. And there are clown chefs.

(Yes, I’ve had some traumatic experiences with Overcooked. Could you tell?)

Finally, get your head around the mysterious Death Strandingwith well over an hour of gameplay footage from the Tokyo Game Show.

Inside and Out

VR, AR, streaming, and other emerging tech

The HTC Vive Cosmos, the first Vive PC headset with inside-out tracking, will start selling on October 3 for US$699. Aside from the release details, Ars has some interesting first hands-on impressions at that link.

If you buy one, you can use it to play the official sequel to the movie Groundhog DayGroundhog Day: Like Father Like Son is a VR game in which you play the son of Bill Murray’s character from the original movie, relearning the same lessons his father did. It is indeed canonical. Sounds weird, but now you know.

A Living Soul

Mobile gaming news

Apple Arcade launches later this week and I’m sure there’ll be a barrage of news and reviews to cover in the next edition, so let’s enjoy the calm before the storm:

Take a Gamble

Gaming culture, industry, and miscellanea

The UK Parliament, unable to make any progress on real issues, is giving gaming a rubdown: it thinks the games industry should spend money on research into ‘problem gaming’ and wants loot boxes regulated under gambling law.

E3 could become more of a festival than a trade show and open itself up to the public for the first time, according to leaked plans.

It’s always nice to see more of this: Football Manager 2020will come in a recyclable, eco-friendly cardboard packaging instead of a plastic case.

Probably a very niche bit of news, but one I’ve hoped to see for a very long time: an official Twitch app is finally coming to the Apple TV. There’s an open beta going on at the moment.

The Offspring is performing a show in World of Tanks, after Marshmello and Korn (whose new album is great) kicked the new in-game performance trend off this year.

Redditor u/halvencyon spent a total of 72 hours over a month and a half building this faithful recreation of Overwatch’s Rialto map in Minecraft.

Don’t lose a Hearthstone Grandmasters match because you’re playing Auto Chess at the same time… which is exactly what this guy did.

That’s it for this edition.

Thanks for reading Checkpoint. If you enjoyed reading, please let your gamer friends know about it — keeping Checkpoint growing helps me keep it going. And don’t forget to follow us (okay, me. It’s just me here) on social media:

Hit reply on this email to send me feedback about Checkpoint, or just say hello. I’m always happy to hear from subscribers.

Thanks for your support. See you next time,

- Flob

P.S. Get this in your email from a friend, or reading along on the web? Let us help you spend more time gaming. Get Checkpoint every week and catch up on the news in under 20 minutes. No fluff, no fake controversy, and no banner ads: just the gaming content you need to know about.

Checkpoint #16: Can We Switch Up This Comp?

Because the hitscan doesn’t seem to be working.

Welcome back to Checkpoint!

It’s a massive news week for gamers, and a good one too. Gears 5 has landed, Overwatch is the latest big hit to get a Switch port, and Apple Arcade promises to make your train commutes much less boring in the future.

Don’t presume it stops there — let's get into it.

Move It Up a Gear

PC gaming and cross-platform titles

Gears 5 has landed! I’ve never been a big Gears player, but the response to this launch has me thinking about diving in. VG247 says it’s the best the series has been in a long time, and Polygon reckons it’s the best PC port this year.

Valve has been working on a library user interface redesign for Steam for a while now, and we’ll be able to take the beta for a spin on September 17. There are plenty of interesting screenshots to check out over on the Steam blog post.

The Sims 4’s Realm of Magic game pack is out for PC and Mac now and reviewing well, allowing you to turn your Sims worlds into a vaguely Hogwarts-themed magicfest. It’s selling for the usual US$19.99, though there’s a lot more content here than in most game packs, including a world.

Filed under very unexpectedCivilization VI now has a battle royale mode. It’s called Red Death and is a custom multiplayer scenario with new factions, characters, and units to suit the format.

The previously-teased Project Resistance extension to the Resident Evil franchise has been revealed as a four-player coop game with online multiplayer. There’s a teaser available now, with more details to come during the Tokyo Game Show this week.

Another week of double freebies on the Epic Games Store — this time it’s Abzu and The End is Nigh. Grab them quickly, as they’ll require a purchase again after September 13. Horror fans should look out for the Lovecraftian Conarium next week.

Move over, daddy dating. KFC is working with Psyop to build I Love You, Colonel Sanders!, a dating sim where you get to date the Colonel himself — or, at least, a much more angular and svelte version of him. I’m not sure how best to move forward from here, but let’s try…

Can We Switch Up This Comp?

Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch news

Nintendo hosted a Direct around this time last week that contained a massive amount of news. The big one: Overwatch is the latest port to come to the Nintendo Switch. It’ll release on October 15, and even makes use of the Joy-Con’s motion controls for some abilities, like Rip-Tire.

Switch Online subscribers will also now get access to 20 classic SNES games, including Stunt Race FX, which has never been re-released on a newer platform before. These games are already available to play. Much like the NES controller that coincided with the NES-on-Switch re-releases, a wireless SNES-style controller is also coming soon.

A whole slew of other ports were announced, including some Assassin’s Creed games, Jedi Knight 2Divinity: Original Sin 2Doom 64, and a whole lot more.

They also teased an odd fitness peripheral and released a Switch firmware update with some quality-of-life changes. Nintendo is hitting the turbo hard without a sign of slowing down in sight.

Red Dead Online’s summer update has arrived, and it’s a big one that includes class-like roles, four new Free Roam events, new weapons and skill cards, as well as general improvements and bug fixes.

If that’s not enough to keep you busy, this month Xbox and PC gamers can fire up Game Pass and enjoyGears 5Dead CellsEnter the GungeonCreature in the WellBad North and more.

Finally, we’ve learned that Xbox Scarlett will feature dedicated ray-tracing cores.

A Display of Force

VR, AR, streaming, and other emerging tech

Is Nintendo planning to take Switch VR beyond the Labo kit and towards something more serious? Who knows — but it has received a patent for what looks like a longer-lasting VR headset made of plastic.

Nvidia recently started certifying some FreeSync monitors as G-Sync compatible, a welcome bit of news for gamers around the world who dislike wallet devastation. This news is potentially even cooler: some of LG’s recently released OLED TVs can now be updated to receive G-Sync support, perhaps making them the best gaming monitors on the market. I suddenly regret saving a few bucks with a Panasonic that is otherwise very good.

And Google says that Stadia users will be able to get a taste of how games perform when streamed with trials for both the service and some of its games.

Raid the Arcade

Mobile gaming news

The big mobile gaming news this week, of course, is all about Apple Arcade. We’ve known the broad strokes of what this service will entail since WWDC 2019, and all the details have been filled in this week.

Arcade for iOS launches on September 19 in 150 countries — including mine and, more likely than not, yours — and will cost $4.99 per month. That subscription will give you access to over 100 games at launch, a number that will presumably grow consistently. Not the worst pricing given the casual nature of mobile games, Apple’s reputation for having a cheeky gouge, and the smorgasbord you get out of it. Apple introduced three exclusives: Super Frogger, which likely needs no explanation, a twin-stick platformer called Shinsekai: Into the Depths, and a rhythm game called Sayonara Wild Hearts.

Exclusives aside, there’s a long list of of new mobile games that’ll be available with Arcade, including Rayman MiniPac-Man Party RoyaleExit the GungeonSkate City, and notably Various Daylife, a new Square Enix RPG.

Arcade will come to iPadOS and tvOS a day later on September 20.

Another Brick in Stormwind’s Wall

Gaming culture, industry, and miscellanea

I always love seeing realistic updates to game environments in Unreal Engine, and this one is particularly beautiful: a lifelike recreation of World of Warcraft’s Stormwind.

You probably joined in the schadenfreude last year when EA’s Reddit comment about Battlefront 2 lootboxes became the most-downvoted comment in the history of the site. Now you get to relive that special joy: this achievement has been forever enshrined as a Guinness World Record.

That’s it for this edition.

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