Andre's Gaming Odds & Ends: FTC v. Microsoft, June 2023 Game Hype Rankings, Nintendo Direct Top 3
Andre gives his thoughts on the FTC v. Microsoft trial. This issue also features his June 2023 Top 10 Video Game Hype Rankings, Demo Thoughts, and Nintendo Direct Top 3.
A Brief Detour
This is a brief detour from my special showcase issues. I want to get in another issue of Gaming Odds & Ends because it’s been a little too long since the last one! The major FTC v. Microsoft case recently wrapped closing arguments and I need to my thoughts out there. Plus my June 2023 Game Hype Rankings needs to be published. All of these showcases really shook up my outlook for the rest of 2023.
FTC v. Microsoft
Microsoft is trying to close their $68.7 billion dollar purchase of Activision Blizzard. Activision Blizzard owns many prominent video game franchises like Call of Duty, Warcraft, Diablo, and other games ranging in size and prominence.
The FTC wants a preliminary injunction granted to prevent Microsoft from closing its deal ahead of a separate legal challenge that’s due to commence on August 2nd.
The stakes are high. Microsoft has until July 18th to try and close its proposed acquisition; otherwise, it has to pay $3 billion in breakup fees to Activision Blizzard or renegotiate new terms.
If you click the link above it has live reporting of the full trial by Tom Warren of The Verge. You have to click the pages at the bottom of the article. Most of all the knowledge I have of the trial is due to the reporting in The Verge.
I found the five day trial to be very illuminating due to some of the arguments being made and not made at all.
FTC & Sony
The Federal Trade Commission is supposed to be there to protect the consumer from monopolies, but unfortunately the FTC totally failed in putting together a case centered around protecting the consumer. They spent the entire trial arguing on behalf of Sony rather than the consumer. How would consumers be negatively affected if Microsoft bought Activision Blizzard? Instead, the FTC lawyers spent most of the time whining about Call of Duty potentially being removed from Playstation, despite the fact that Xbox CEO Phil Spencer has repeatedly said Call of Duty will remain on Playstation. One of the biggest moments of the trial came during the closing arguments when Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley had enough:
"It's not the harm to Sony that we care about. Its the harm to consumers we care about" -Judge Corley
I have very mixed feelings about this Microsoft/Activision Blizzard deal because I do actually worry about monopolies negatively affecting the industry as a whole, but it does have positives. The one big positive about the deal is for Blizzard Activision employees to hopefully in the future no longer be under the rule of their terrible and disgusting CEO Bobby Kotick once the deal goes through.
Is the Nintendo Switch a competitor console?
One of the more interesting arguments in the case is the FTC trying to downplay the Nintendo Switch as a console competitor to try to present Playstation 5 as the only competitor to Xbox Series X. The argument is that the Nintendo Switch can’t match the processing power of the Playstation 5 or Xbox Series X. This is true because the Nintendo Switch is one console generation behind. The Nintendo Switch is pivotal to the console monopoly argument because the Xbox Series X is in third place behind both the Nintendo Switch and Playstation 5 in sales. Microsoft argues that they have the Xbox Series S, a cheaper console with less processing power than the Xbox Series X, to specifically try to compete with the Nintendo Switch.
My opinion on this matter is that the Nintendo Switch is a console generation behind the Xbox Series X/S and Playstation 5, so that explains the tech power gap. The moment a new Nintendo console enters the market it will be an instant competitor for everyone. That being said, I still think the Nintendo Switch is a competitor, but only for the demographic of parents with kids. I’m willing to bet that when a parent walks into a Gamestop and is presented with the options of Nintendo Switch with many kid-friendly games (and cheaper) versus the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5, the parents are likely going to choose the Switch. Despite the Switch lagging behind in tech, it’s still doing very well and is having a great 2023 when it comes to desirable games.
There were some other interesting things in the trial, but these topics were the main things I wanted to chime in about right now. Definitely read the trial reporting on The Verge to get the full story. The sealed verdict is expected in the coming days. It will likely be leaked to the press so we’ll all find out soon!
My Game Hype Rankings: June 2023
June was a big month to digest due to all of the new game announcements and game updates. The list below has eight new games. Since I wanted to get a lot of the new games in for my June rankings, I decided to remove Street Fighter 6 (June 2) and Diablo IV (June 6) because they already released. I also dropped Final Fantasy XVI (June 22) because I can’t play it now due to not having a PS5, my hype also fizzled, and I wanted to make room for more games. I put together this list in the last week and removed a few other games that will be explained below.
This biggest highlight of all the showcases in June was clearly Starfield. I talked a bit about this in my previous showcase newsletter, but I still can’t believe this game turned it’s hype around in one year. Last year this game was expected to release at the end of 2022 and was delayed, but it was not something that presented itself as something extraordinary. Starfield gives players the ability to explore over 1,000 planets, build space outpost bases, build/capture spaceships that you can walk around in and fly, and mold your character to your style of play while participating in a deep story. Starfield is definitely the most ambitious game with many promises since maybe Cyberpunk 2077 (2020). Technical flaws aside, Cyberpunk 2077 couldn’t even deliver on many of their promised features, so some of us gamers are a little skeptical that everything promised in Starfield will deliver and run well. I’m much more optimistic about Starfield because Bethesda does have a relatively good track record, even if their games are known for being a bit buggy and glitchy on release. This is a game that I expect my September gaming to be dominated with playing.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is a game I’ve been keeping track of from afar during its Steam Early Access Beta period. The release date was announced earlier to be August 31, but just days ago it was announced the game will release almost a month earlier on August 3rd (only for PC). Clearly Larian Studios was trying to avoid overlapping with the release of Starfield. According to a new developer interview on IGN.com, Baldur’s Gate 3 is going to take AT LEAST 75 to 100 hours to finish, that could extend up to 200 hours depending on how much the player wants to do in the game. I guess I know what game is going to take up my August gaming time until Starfield in September.
I never played the previous Baldur’s Gate games, but I’ve read that this isn’t a difficult game to learn for new folks. As a fan of RPGs, I’m so impressed with the depth of customization offered to players:
11 races with 31 subraces
46 subclasses across 12 classes
Over 600 spells and sub-spells
I think Baldur’s Gate 3 is going to surprise a lot of people, including myself!
Sea of Stars is an old school RPG inspired by Super Mario RPG, Illusion of Gaia, and Chrono Trigger. This is another game I followed the development of, and just recently I played the demo. I enjoyed the demo and that’s why this is all the way up to #3 on my list. It’s also great that this will be released on Xbox Game Pass. More thoughts on Sea of Stars further down in my Demo Thoughts section.
Demonschool is a turn-based tactics game inspired by Persona, Shin Megami Tensei, and Italian horror cinema. This is another game I’ve been keeping my eye on since last year. I’m a fan of turn-based tactics games, but the ones with some flavor to them grab me the most and Demonschool has just that! What immediately stands out is the aesthetic and art direction. This is definitely a game that is flying under the radar that has high quality indie game development based on all of the trailers I’ve seen. I’m still waiting for a release date. Currently at #5, Demonschool may very well shoot up to #1 on my rankings by October.
Mortal Kombat 1 is a game I’m sort of excited for due to the direction the game is going, but not quite enough for it to be super high on my rankings. There is still a lot that has yet to be revealed about the game, so I’m waiting like everyone else. (I did write more about Mortal Kombat 1 in my previous showcase issue in case you missed it.)
Sonic Superstars was one of the biggest surprises of all the showcases in June. I’m looking forward to it, but all Sonic games are so similar that it’s hard for me to put this super high on my list of priorities. Still, what Sonic Superstars is doing with the graphics appears to be a huge leap forward for the franchise. I think the introduction of four player coop and ability to play as either Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, or Amy is pretty cool. I think I speak for a lot of people about waiting to see if this is good before pledging a buy or pre-order, as Sonic The Hedgehog hasn’t had a very good gaming history in the last decade or so. I’m a bit more than cautiously optimistic because I’ve seen other gameplay videos that gives this game a lot of promise.
Pacific Drive was a big surprise indie game with an interesting concept that I couldn’t ignore. The game is centered around driving a station wagon in the mountains. while also maintaining and repairing the station wagon for your own survival. Pacific Drive attempts to flip the survival genre so that instead of worrying about your personal survival, the focus is instead on the station wagon. The trailer does a very good job showing the customizing of the station wagon, a system I could find myself enjoying. I’m generally not someone into cars, but I really appreciate a good concept of a video game. Pacific Drive sits at #9 for conceptual reasons. I look forward to learning more about the game.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is at #10 mostly because I don’t have a Playstation 5 to play it. Since this game will feature playing as both Miles Morales and Peter Parker I think that’s an interesting concept. I look forward to learning more about this and hopefully at some point playing it on Playstation 5 or a later PC port.
The games that were released in May were also removed the previous list.
Paper Trail was previously at #2 and was removed because the release date is pushed back to 2024. I’m only putting 2023 titles on my list until the end of the year.
I played the demo of Viewfinder recently and decided to removed it from my top 10. My thoughts are right below this.
This is a game where hype for other games just moved past this one. The release date has been stuck on “Q3 2023” for too long without any updates. I’m still looking forward to this one, so it may return to the list later.
Viewfinder (July 18, 2023)
I played the demo of Viewfinder near the end of June during the special Steam Next Fest. This is a puzzle game where you have to use and place pictures to create objects/locations to reach the next destination. The concept of Viewfinder is really cool, the art direction is amazing, but the gameplay just didn’t feel that satisfying for a puzzle game. Everything I did just came way too easy for me. When I play puzzle games I want a feeling of satisfaction like I overcame a challenge. Viewfinder is cool conceptually, but at least in the demo version it just didn’t work for me. I might still play it at some point, but it’s no longer a top 10 hype game for me.
Sea of Stars (August 29, 2023)
I’ve been looking forward to playing a demo of Sea of Stars since I knew a demo existed on the Nintendo Switch. Finally, the PC demo was released during the Steam Next Fest and I played it from beginning to end. I really like the visual presentation of the pixel graphics, but what stood out the most to me was the combat system. The combat is turn-based like old JRPGs, except the player decides the turn order for your team. Unlike other turn-based systems, the player can still have an affect of the battle after using certain attacks and defending against attacks by precisely pressing a button with certain timing. For example. I was using a magic character that cast a projectile that bounces off targets back to you, but to get the projectile to ricochet you have to time the button press to bounce off of you to hit more enemies. The combat is essentially its own mini-game that has a lot of benefits, but it isn’t that hard to pull off either.
I knew I liked the game because I completed the entire demo and was annoyed I couldn’t play more of it. Sea of Stars releases on August 29, and I intend to at least start my playthrough until Starfield releases.
Nintendo did well with their Nintendo Direct presentation on June 21st. They showed off a lot of new games coming to the Switch. I strongly recommend watching it because it exceeded my expectations. It was highlighted by three games that I selected as my top 3.
1. Super Mario Bros. Wonder (October 20, 2023)
Super Mario Bros. Wonder was announced last and totally surprised everyone. It’s a 2D Mario game that has a nice aesthetic, four player coop, and features these weird Wonder Flowers that can alter the level in mysterious ways. Everything about the game has a traditional 2D Mario appeal with enough new stuff to make it a new unique product. At the very end of the trailer Mario turns into an elephant, and I can’t wait to learn more about that! It feels like old times with a new 2D Mario and Sonic game on the way in 2023.
2. Super Mario RPG (November 17, 2023)
Super Mario RPG was another shocking announcement. This is a remake of the Super Nintendo version. It's another game I haven’t played yet, although I just realized I can with my SNES Mini. The graphics are definitely a significant upgrade from the SNES version I always wondered why they never re-released this one on modern consoles or made a brand new one. This is pretty cool and a definite winning decision by Nintendo to do this.
3. Star Ocean The Second Story R
(November 2, 2023)
Star Ocean The Second Story R is a remake of Star Ocean: The Second Story (2000) with full Japanese and English voice overs. Star Ocean is a JRPG franchise that has existed for over twenty years, and is a franchise I’ve always had in the back of my mind many years ago as one I should eventually try. A bunch of Star Ocean games exist, but Star Ocean: The Second Story is considered the best one and now it’s being remade with upgraded features. The story is supposed to be very good, as it allows players to make important choices that impacts the story. This is releasing on multiple platforms, including PC, so I’m going to have to add this to my bucket list. 2023 just keeps getting better!
COMING SOON More From Andre Shortcast #03: Diablo IV Progress Report
My next issue will be another special showcase issue.
My last shortcast (linked above) I discussed what I look for in video game showcases.
Thanks for reading this issue of Andre’s Gaming Odds & Ends !!
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