The Summer Game Fest is set to return alongside hundreds of new games

Summer Game Fest logo announcement

Normally gamers rally around the Electronic Entertainment Expo for big announcements. Better known as E3, it is the premiere video game conference that attracts millions ever year. However, due to COVID restrictions last year saw E3 replaced with the Summer Game Fest, an online only alternative.

It was unclear until today if E3 2021 was going ahead but we now know that isn’t the case. Instead, a second Summer Game Fest has just been announced. Much like last year’s this event will host most of 2021’s biggest game announcements. From AAA blockbuster titles to exciting indie projects, just about every upcoming game will be showcased in one form or another.

Plenty of support

Summer Game Fest Skate 4 reveal

Being this year’s largest gaming event, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of the industry titans are supporting it. We already know that the likes of 2K, Activision, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, and Sony will all be attending. In fact, the only major publisher that probably won’t make an appearance is Nintendo. The Japanese tech giant has moved away from traditional conference events in favor of its own Nintendo Direct format in recent years.

Furthermore, you won’t have to wait too long to see the Summer Game Fest in all of its glory. It has been announced for June 2021. Once June arrives the festival will be broadcasted across several popular livestreaming website such as YouTube and Twitch.

The main appeal of the Summer Game Fest is that it is where publishers come to announce their biggest titles. Last year’s festival saw highly anticipated titles like Skate 4 and Crash Bandicoot 4 announced. Equally, Sony and Microsoft used the event as an opportunity to showcase both of the new next-gen consoles.

It’s clear then that even the largest companies in the industry won’t hesitate to show what they have made. Expect the Summer Game Fest of 2021 to house the biggest announcements of the year. To keep updated you can sign up to the official SGF website for more information in the near future.

Stat tracker SBMM Warzone shutdown by Activision lawyers

SBMM Warzone logo feature

SBMM Warzone is a Call of Duty: Warzone stat tracker used by the battle royale’s community. It has played an important role for players looking to improve themselves. By comparing various stats, the tracker was able to give you an idea of your rough skill level. However, it appears that Activision is not happy with its existence.

American publisher Activision has ordered SBMM Warzone to shut down its operations. Their deadline to reply is today and failure to do so will end in legal action being taken. The Belgian site has since announced its closure but has reached out to Activision for a possible partnership.

Why Activision doesn’t like SBMM Warzone

SBMM Warzone office

Without an understanding of how Warzone works this move may seem odd. SBMM did not make money out of what it was doing nor was it directly affecting Activision’s operations. All the website did was provide a platform for players to see in-depth stats for themselves and other players.

However, there was two aspects of SBMM Warzone that Activision likely took issue with. The stat tracker had a system where it would create a rank representative of your lobbies skill level. These ranks varied from Bronze to Diamond. This was necessary as Call of Duty: Warzone itself does not have either a ranked mode or skill rating system.

Activision doesn’t want people to understand the ins and outs of its skill-based matchmaking system. By having a platform which ranks players and lobbies it makes it easier for players to do just that. Furthermore, SBMM Warzone could be considered a breach of privacy from Activision’s point of view.

Large corporations are held to high standards by organizations like the European Union when it comes to privacy management. Allowing a site that leaks various details of its users’ gameplay could be punishable in the future. It may be considered overly cautious, but Activision has the right to protect its user’s data if deemed necessary.

Astria Ascending is a new JRPG made in collab with Final Fantasy devs

Astria Ascending promo art

Publisher Dear Villagers has today revealed its latest work, Astria Ascending. Ascending is a JRPG made in collaboration with several industry veterans. Amongst those includes developers who have worked on Final Fantasy and Nier: Automata. It will launch in 2021 on PC, Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.

It will also feature on Microsoft’s signature Game Pass service at launch. This means that you can check it out on Xbox consoles before paying the full price. It is currently unknown if it will be making its way onto Game Pass for PC too.

A gorgeous hand-drawn JRPG

Astria Ascending screenshot official

Astria Ascending is a gorgeous title that features some of the best art the industry has to offer. Set in a world of chaos, players control various Demigods who are aiming to save the world. A mysterious force is putting their world at risk at it is up to these eight heroes to stop it.

Each of the eight heroes has their own unique story and narrative. You’ll have to cross give 5 cities, 25 dungeons, and 30 hours of gameplay in order to conquer Astria Ascending’s story. A 100% completion run is expected to take closer to 50 hours for most players.

Outside of its main story, Astria Ascending also features various side quests and mini-games. One of which is an original fantasy-themed token game not playable anywhere else. The majority of gameplay is turn based with unsurprising similarities with the Final Fantasy series. Developer Artisan Studios is best known for its work on Super Neptunia RPG and specializes in 2D RPG design.

Dear Villagers’ head of publishing Guilaurme Jamet described the development process as “a delight.” Furthermore, Jamet called it “an honor,” to work alongside so many industry veterans. It should be interesting to see what Dear Villagers and Artisan Studios can come up with.

Publisher Team17 has a new tactical shooter in the works, Ready or Not

Ready or Not Promo image

You probably know Team17 best for its iconic Worms franchise. The turn-based artillery series became a hit in the 90s and has since become the staple of Team17. But in recent years the publisher has been expanding its catalogue of games. The latest addition to its line-up is the newly announced Ready or Not.

Developed in partnership with Void Interactive, Ready or Not is an upcoming squad based tactical shooter. It depicts SWAT team missions where you and your teammates are tasked at deescalating tricky situations. This includes hostages, raids, and anti-terrorism.

Are you Ready or Not?

Ready or Not gameplay shot

The best comparison on the market right now is probably Rainbow Six Siege. Both are tactical shooters that place a focus on teamwork and strategy. However, Team17’s new project isn’t just limited to competitive multiplayer. According to the Steam page, it will also launch with a “story-rich campaign.”

Developer Void Interactive is claiming Ready or Not will have over 60 unique items at launch. These tools and attachments will allow a player to build their gun exactly as required. From optics, muzzles, magazine types, and foregrips, the weapon customization looks detailed. Potentially, it could be on the same level as something like Warzone’s gunsmith system.

Team17 studio head Chris Coates gave his thoughts on the announcement. Coates believes Void Interactive are a “hugely ambitious studios,” and that his team is “excited,” to be working on the title. The FPS market isn’t something Team17 has ever tried to enter but Ready or Not will change that.

Arguably, this new addition moves away from the kinds of games Team17 are known for. Their most popular three games: Worms, The Escapists, and Overcooked, are all family friendly. However, Ready or Not is a simulation focused on intense competitive play. Adding a new dynamic to its library could help Team17 diverse its brand identity.

Activison remove R1 Shadowhunter Crossbow from Warzone and Cold War

Warzone R1 Shadowhunter Crossbow early release

Yesterday Activision accidently released the R1 Shadowhunter Crossbow early into Warzone. It could be unlocked via an in-game challenge or purchased from the store. It However, the publisher has reversed the change and some fans aren’t happy.

Anyone who purchased the bundle has been refunded for their purchase. You’ll be able to re-purchase the bundle again when it goes live again later. Assuming it is planned to be a mid-season release, players can expect the R1 Shadowhunter Crossbow to drop early next month.

It hasn’t gone down well

Warzone R1 Shadowhunter Crossbow bundle

Had Activision simply removed the crossbow Call of Duty fans may have not been too bothered. However, the publisher has chosen to reset all progress players made with the crossbow. If you earned mastery camo on it you won’t have unlocked once the R1 Shadowhunter Crossbow is released.

Unlocking Gold camouflage on a gun can take several hours. In Black Ops Cold War especially, gun levelling is very slow. This is an unusual move as in the past Activision has not punished players for similar situations. For example, some Modern Warfare players have unlocked the Sykov pistol early and have kept access to it for months.

On one hand, I can understand Activision’s position. It was an unintentional release and it likely doesn’t want anything messing up its release schedule. AAA games like Call of Duty usually have strict schedules that developers have to adhere to. It’s currently unclear why this mistake happened in the first place.

However, there was no indication that the R1 Shadowhunter Crossbow was released by accident. Therefore, it seems unfair to punish the most dedicated players who put aside time to play your game. As far as we can tell, there is no plans to revert this decision. Once the crossbow releases for real next month players will have to level it up again from scratch.

EAGate investigations continue as Electronic Arts confirm FUT corruption

Electronic Arts has today confirmed it is officially investigating the recent Ultimate Team allegations. Furthermore, its investigation has confirmed that the FUT marketplace has become the victim of corruption. In a movement labelled EAGate, FIFA fans are outraged by the allegations held against EA.

In its statement EA has said the following: “The alleged behavior is unacceptable and in no way do we condone granting or purchasing player items in exchange for money. This practice runs counter to the game’s competitive integrity. ” The sports game publisher has already begun to hand out bans to any offenders. Also, any involved employees will be fired once identified.

FIFA corruption

EAGate FIFA 21 pack screen

For those not familiar, EAGate involves Electronic Arts’ most popular sports game, FIFA. In FIFA players can buy packs with real money to potentially obtain rare player cards. However, some gamers have found a way around these unfavourable odds. Although the alternative is hardly ethical.

It turns out some EA Sports employees had been selling rare cards to a select group of players. For a cost some players have been purchasing these rare cards instead of relying on pack luck to obtain them.

The rumored price for these rare cards is in the region of $2500. Although some of the biggest transactions have exceeded $3000. For that price you can get two Team of the Year cards and three Icon prime Moments cards. Earning those same cards through packs would likely cost several times that.

By offering these cards on the market EA has effectively devalued its own pack system. Any players who have sunk thousands into packs were not being offered a fair service. For the same money they could have just guaranteed themselves better players. And given that FIFA’s packs have already come under fire in the past, this certainly doesn’t help. EAGate looks like it will be around for quite a while.

Survival horror FPS Metro 2033 is free on Steam until Monday

Metro 2033 free on steam feature

Occasionally, Valve showcases its generosity by offering a free game on Steam. Although not as common as its Epic Store counterpart, we have gotten some good deals in the past. And of the deals the current offer of Metro 2033 might just be the best.

Metro 2033 is a survival horror first person shooter developed by 4A Games. The Ukrainian developer has only worked on the Metro series to date but has staff from all over. Many of its employees have previously worked on franchises like STALKER and Cossacks.

Cream of the crop

Metro 2033 steam gameplay

Of its many works Metro 2033 is arguably the best game 4A Games has ever made. It is a critically acclaimed shooter that had critics head over heels when it released in 2010. On PC it currently sits at an incredible score of 90 on Metacritic. That’s good enough to match the likes of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Furthermore, the Metro series is well known for its drop-dead gorgeous visuals. This means even though this is a ten-year-old game it still looks good. Cranking up the settings on a modern gaming PC is sure to produce something that could pass for a modern title.

It’s worth knowing that you won’t get access to everything with this free package. Whilst Metro 2033 itself is fully playable, the same cannot be said for trading cards. Any Steam trading cards attached to Metro are only obtainable in a paid copy of the game. Also, this offer only applies for the original game and not the 2014 remaster.

Outside of getting a free copy of Metro 2033, you can also buy the rest of the franchise on sale. Details on the full sale can be found on the official Steam website. In my personal opinion, the best deal is probably Metro Exodus at 70% off. Exodus is a great game and well worth trying at that price.

The EU has approved Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda

EU Bethesda takeover approved feature

Microsoft has managed to overcome a major hurdle in its acquisition of Bethesda. Despite originally announcing the move last year it had yet to go through. This is because the EU was investigating if Microsoft acquiring Bethesda could potentially be anti-competitive.

However, in an announcement made last night the EU has now approved the transaction. Specifically, Microsoft have acquired the rights to ZeniMax Media, Bethesda’s parent company. This move is thought to be in the $7.5 billion range. This is second largest acquisition of a company in video game history. Falling just behind Tencent’s purchase of Supercell in 2016.

EU gives the thumbs up for Bethesda purchase

EU Bethesda Fallout 76 boss fight

The decision was made by the European Commission. The Commission is a sub-sector of the European Union responsible for passing legislation. There were some concerns over what the EU would think of this takeover, but it was approved in the end.

According to the EU, Microsoft acquiring Bethesda is not a problematic move. In a statement, it confirmed that “the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns.” This is because neither party have a huge share in the games industry and competitors are aplenty.

It may seem odd to hear that Microsoft has a relatively small share of the industry, but it isn’t wrong. When compared to its near 80% monopoly of PC operating systems, its control of the games industry is minimal. The Commission usually only blocks transactions in cases were said acquisition would effectively end competition. An example of this would be Apple trying to purchase Android.

Regardless, this move is sure to spark a huge shift in the industry. It is unprecedented for a large games publisher to be purchased by another studio. And with the EU approving the Bethesda takeover, Microsoft now has one of the industry’s premier RPG makers on its side. If this results in hit franchises like The Elder Scrolls becoming exclusive is hard to say. But we will likely find out Microsoft’s intentions soon enough.

An improved Nintendo Switch Pro console could be coming soon

Since its release in 2017, the Nintendo Switch has performed exceptionally well. And now Nintendo looks to be ready to build on its success. According to a new report, an improved Nintendo Switch Pro console is in the works and could be later this year.

The Nintendo Switch Pro will be a huge detour away from the existing console. Instead of focusing on affordability, the Switch Pro is aiming to be a games console for the mainstream market. In order to accommodate this, Nintendo is upgrading their hit hybrid platform in several different ways.

Nintendo Switch Pro upgrades

Nintendo Switch Pro controller

The current Switch makes use of a cheap to produce 6.2-inch LCD screen. However, the rumoured Pro will use a custom built 7-inch Samsung OLED screen instead. However, it is thought to still be a 720p display despite the other hardware improvements.

Speaking of hardware, Nintendo is not playing around. The Nintendo Switch Pro is expected to have both a GPU and CPU capable of outputting 4K visuals. If Nintendo is aiming for 4K 60 frames per second or 4K 30 is unclear. But given the technical limitations of the former, 30 FPS seems more realistic.

In many ways the Pro seems more akin to something like the Xbox One X than the Series X. Nintendo is offering an enhanced version of an existing product rather than pushing the Switch into the current generation. It’s currently unclear if the Pro will cost closer to the current Switch or to the PS5 and Series X.

As for where this leaves regular Switch owners, it’s hard to say. The report does suggest that some games could become exclusives to the Nintendo Switch Pro. This would primarily be third-party games that likely wouldn’t have made their way to Switch otherwise. Regardless, early adopters of the Switch may feel disappointed that their purchase could be getting devalued.

The next Need for Speed game delayed as Criterion shifts focus to Battlefield

Need for Speed

The next Need for Speed was originally touted for a 2021 release. However, following the purchase of Codemasters, Electronic Arts has delayed it until 2022. Criterion Games were originally responsible for its development but will now pivot into co-developing the next Battlefield instead.

EA was hoping to get Need for Speed out earlier to hit its one racing game per year quota. However, the acquisition of British publisher Codemasters has freed up time for Criterion Games. As racing game specialists Codemasters will likely release F1 2021 to fulfil that quota instead.

Change of approach

Need for Speed 2021 delayed gameplay Heat

EA chief studios officer Laura Miele recently spoke to Polygon about the decision. According to Miele, Need for Speed is “owned,” by Criterion meaning that it gets to make all of the final decisions. From design choices to release schedules, EA is trusting it to call the shots.

This change of approach does make some sense given the history of Need for Speed. Although it started life as the premier arcade racing game, recent years haven’t been kind to it. For many, the last great game in the franchise was Hot Pursuit, released back in 2010.

Funnily enough, Hot Pursuit was also the last mainline Need for Speed game to be developed by Criterion. Although it did also produce the Most Wanted remake which was unfortunately rushed and as a result lacked feature. Hopefully EA sticks to its word and gives Criterion the time and freedom to make the games it wants to.

After all, history suggests doing so is a good idea. Criterion Games has been responsible for some of the greatest arcade racers ever made. Anyone who grew up playing 2000s racing games surely has fond memories of Burnout 3: Takedown. If the new Need for Speed can capture even a fraction of Takedown’s personality it is sure to be something special.