Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ scores are in, it’s a global hit

The anticipation for Nintendo’s latest installment in its Animal Crossing series will soon reach its climax. On March 20, New Horizons officially launches as a Nintendo Switch exclusive. Buyers can rest easy as early reviews suggest fans are in for something special.

As of right now, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is sitting at a very comfortable 91 on Metacritic. Of the 44 submitted critic reviews, ten of them gave the hit life simulator the maximum score of 100. Amongst those includes reputable gaming publications like VGC and VG247.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Incredibly, all 44 approved reviews so far have given the new Animal Crossing the thumbs up. Not even one of them hit Metacritic’s mixed or negative criteria, hinting that New Horizons may be a once in a generation sort of game.

The lowest submitted score is an 80, shared by 4Players, Post Arcade, and GAMINGbible. With those kinds of numbers nothing else released this year can even compete. Even Microsoft’s brilliant Metroidvania Ori and the Will of the Wisps only achieved a 90, with two mixed reviews. For Ori, the user score is identical to the metascore. It’ll be interesting to see what players think of New Horizons when they finally get their hands on it.

animal crossing new horizons vault

Speaking of Nintendo, the Japanese publisher also recently announced an upcoming Direct. However, it won’t be a full-scale Direct announcing any huge titles as many had hoped. Instead, they will use the opportunity to provide a platform for various indie developers to showcase their talents.

The Nintendo Indie World will broadcast on Nintendo’s official YouTube on March 17 at 10:00 PT. Even if it’s not what you expected, it might still be worth checking out. Many of the Switch’s best titles are underappreciated indie titles. Who knows, Nintendo might ever use the opportunity to reveal something big about Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

200 player support is coming to Warzone, just not quite yet

When Warzone launched on Tuesday many players found themselves asking the same question. Why is it limited to only 150 players? Currently, you can only play in 150 player lobbies and teams of up to 3 people. However, we now know that the rumoured 200 player game modes will be coming at some point in the future.

In an interview with USA Today, Infinity Ward co-head Patrick Kelly gave various details on Warzone’s future. Most notably, the Modern Warfare dev confirmed that 200 player lobbies are coming to Warzone, just not quite yet.

200 player Warzone is on the way

According to Kelly, Infinity Ward itself is “already playing with 200 players.” Also, he makes a fair point when saying that its impressive Warzone supports 150 players from the get-go, as most other battle royale settle between 60 and 100. The biggest takeaway from Kelly’s remarks though is that Infinity Ward is planning to release a 200-player game mode “a little bit later.”

Given the sheer scale of Warzone’s map, this isn’t too surprising. It implements every Ground War map bar Aniyah Palace as well as a further six regular Call of Duty maps. Specifically, there’s Scrapyard, Vacant, Atlas Superstore, Killhouse, Broadcast, and Gulag.

activision blizzard map warzone

It’s clear that a lot of time and care went into the development of Warzone’s map. Some players have caught on to a potential Easter egg of sorts, although details are still sparse. What we do know is that scattered across the map there are various computers you can interact with. Equally, there’s a secret bunker with a keypad you can also interact with.

The future of Warzone looks promising. As well as a 200-player update, it’s these small hints that suggest Infinity Ward has big plans in store for its battle royale. It’s possible we could see something akin to Fortnite’s seasons where large areas of the map change over time. Alternatively, perhaps a PUBG styled content release plan could be a more suitable path.

Mario Kart Tour multiplayer finally goes live

When it released last September, Mario Kart Tour quickly became one of the best mobile games on the market. It was everything fans loved about Mario Kart tucked away into their phones. Well, almost everything. Unfortunately, at release the game had no support for multiplayer.

That will no longer be the case going forward. In an update released yesterday, Nintendo officially greenlit the racing game’s online play. As with the core platform titles, players will be able to play against their friends or compete worldwide. All online races support up to eight different players.

Mario Kart tour race

Mario Kart Tour

There are a few steps to take before you can jump online. You’ll need a Nintendo Account set up and be connected to the internet. Alternatively, mobile data is fine but be cautious as Mario Kart Tour can use up data quickly. Once your Nintendo account is linked, all your friends added on Switch will appear automatically.

The Global Multiplayer uses constantly rotating cups to determine an active track list. Every 15 minutes the active cup will change, meaning learning all the tracks is crucial for winning. As with single player, winning will net you tons of position points. You’ll also earn various base points and bonus points based on what you do during races.

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Despite this update, there are still concerns over Mario Kart Tour’s monetization. Many complaints have focused on Nintendo’s $4.99 a month Gold Pass service. For $60 a year you get a watered-down battle pass, access to Gold Races, some in-game badges, and the 200CC category.

Even worse, Mario Kart Tour has many of its karts and racers locked behind a greedy gacha system. This means that you throw money at the game for a chance at landing the racer you want. Given how bad your odds are, it’s far more likely you just end up short on cash. Hopefully, the addition of multiplayer means that Nintendo are taking Tour more seriously, and improvements to its business model will be made in the future.

EA Servers force pro FIFA players to determine winner with rock, paper, scissors

FIFA

Esports is the pinnacle of competitive gaming. It’s where elite virtual athletes go head to head to determine who the best in their field really is. That is unless you play FIFA. At a recent competitive EA licensed tournament, two players had to resort to a game of rock, paper, scissors to determine a winner.

The in-game invite system wasn’t working properly and likely due to time constraints, Shaun Galea and Hasan Eker couldn’t play their game. Instead, they had to resort to a game of rock, paper, scissors. Despite his best efforts, Shaun lost with rock after tying three times in a row throwing paper. Who needs elite gaming skills when you can just dominate at a children’s hand game?

FIFA 20

FIFA isn’t a very good competitive game

If truth be told, FIFA has never been a good competitive game. The core issue is that the games are sports simulations of real-life football. They are primarily designed for casual sports fans to play rather than core gamers. As a result, the gameplay is relatively simplistic and lacks a significant skill ceiling.

This follows the news that EA has opted to ban FIFA content creator Kurt0411. The publisher was unhappy with his supposed threats aimed at various Electronic Art employees. After banning Kurt0411 from playing all of their titles, EA has continued on to try and get his Twitch banned as well.

FIFA 20 arena

Whilst EA doesn’t name any specific incidents, many believe it was likely caused by the stream where he openly spat on the EA logo. Considering Kurt0411 was a professional FIFA player before his ban, behavior like this can be considered somewhat childish. Still, having a multi-billion conglomerate effectively bully a pro player isn’t exactly a good look for the publisher either.

From rock, paper, scissors to attacking pro players, the FIFA competitive scene isn’t dead, but it’s far from thriving. If EA wants their sports game to be taken more seriously they need to step up their game. For the time being, I don’t anticipate FIFA to become anything more than just yet another mediocre eSport.

Borderlands 3 is coming to Steam alongside Guns, Love, & Tentacles DLC

Borderlands 3

Gearbox has sure been spoiling us as of late. Just yesterday the publisher announced that Borderlands 3 will finally be coming to Steam. From March 13 onward, fans will have the choice to buy the looter-shooter on both the Epic Games Store and Steam.

Many gamers have an issue with the Epic Games Store so I’m sure they’ll be pleased to hear this news. Even though the Epic Store is attractive for many developers, it fails to appeal to its actual customers. Many of Steam’s core selling points such as game gifting, mod support, and customer reviews don’t feature on the Epic Store.

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Borderlands 3: Guns, Love, & Tentacles DLC

Otherwise, Gearbox has also confirmed Borderlands 3’s second major expansion will be coming soon. Announced for a March 26 release, Guns, Love & Tentacles will focus on the relationship between Wainwright and Hammerlock. More to the point, they’ll be getting married. I’m not sure how a Pandoran marriage exactly works but it should be interesting.

Just to recap, in Borderlands 3’s main story you work alongside Wainwright and Hammerlock from chapters 11 through 16. Specifically, they help you find a vault key fragment and in return, you deal with Hammerlock’s psychotic sister.

GAIGE Borderlands 3

The hype is real for the new DLC as vault hunter Gaige makes her debut in Borderlands 3 at last. With the fan-favorite anarchist back, we now know where half of Borderlands 2’s cast ended up. The likes of Axton, Salvador, and Krieg are still missing in action.

We don’t know many specifics about the DLC yet, but we can make some fair assumptions. For one, expect plenty of new legendary weapons, gear, and cosmetics. Also, as per the Borderlands DLC tradition, there should be at least one more vault to hunt down. If you’re interested then you can pick up the Borderlands 3 Season Pass on the Epic Store for $49.99. Alternatively, you can wait for its Steam release next month.

The Xbox Series X is a legitimate console powerhouse

Xbox Series X

Microsoft has confirmed various details on their next-gen console. The Xbox Series X was first announced at E3 as Project Scarlett, but no specific information was disclosed. However, we now know just how powerful the new Xbox will be.

In an extended post written by Xbox head Phil Spencer, all of the Series X’s specifications have been announced. Also, Spencer even highlighted several of the console’s unique selling points. This new information is somewhat of a surprise given that the largest gaming conference, E3, doesn’t take place until June.

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Xbox Series X

So, what did we actually find out? For one, the next-gen Xbox will be powered by a 12 teraflop AMD graphics card. In layman’s terms, that’s twice as powerful as the Xbox One X and eight times as powerful as the original Xbox One.

As for performance, that beefy GPU will enable developers to pursue better frame rates than ever before. Microsoft is setting 120 FPS as their standard for next-gen. Keep in mind, many Xbox One titles like Forza Horizon 4 and GTA V run at just 30 FPS.

GTA 5

Phil Spencer explains that the Xbox Series X will support Variable Rate Shading (VRS). Effectively, this is a console exclusive feature that can make games get even more out of its already powerful graphics card. This seems to be comparable to the PlayStation 3’s SPUs which help create many iconic first-party titles like The Last of Us.

All of these incredible specifications do beg an obvious question. How much is the Xbox Series X going to cost? Phil Spencer doesn’t give us much of a clue in this post, but we can take an educated guess. The Xbox One launched at $499 but when the Kinect was dropped it was widely available for just $399. Since the Series X uses far more expensive hardware but won’t have a mandatory Kinect, somewhere between $499 and $599 seems to make sense.

Square Enix will have tons of Final Fantasy on display at PAX East

Square Enix

Square Enix has confirmed their official plans for PAX East 2020.The upcoming video game conference is the biggest of its kind around this time of year. It’s a great platform for publishers and developers alike to showcase their upcoming games.

For Square Enix, that means a whole lot of Final Fantasy. Both Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy XIV Online will have dedicated playable booths for attendees. There are also plans in place for an Outriders developer panel featuring lead writer Joshua Rubin.

outriders

Square Enix at PAX East

For many fans the most exciting aspect will likely be Final Fantasy VII Remake’s confirmed playable demo. The original Final Fantasy VII is a timeless classic that can easily be considered one of the greatest JRPGs ever made. The trailer for the remake was announced way back in June 2019, but this is the first time the public will be able to actually play the game.

Otherwise, there’s going to be a signing session courtesy of Square Enix featuring some of Final Fantasy VII Remake’s most prevalent voice actors. This includes Britt Baron (Tifa Lockhart), John Bentley (Barret Wallance), and Briana White (Aerith Gainsborough). If that isn’t to your taste, you can instead get a picture with Cloud’s signature Hardy Daytona motorcycle.

final fantasy xiv online cinematic

It’s not just Final Fantasy VII fans getting represented. Square Enix has plenty of things to do for its avid Final Fantasy XIV Online players too. For example, you can take on the Ruby Weapon Battle Challenge to win yourself an exclusive t-shirt. Alternatively, there’s going to be a poster giveaway drawn by lead character concept artist Yusuke Mogi that all PAX attendees are eligible for.

PAX East kicks off February 27 and continues on until the following Sunday. Square Enix isn’t the only publisher attending by any means. In fact, you can expect pretty much every major AAA publisher and developer bar Sony to be there. If you’re in a position to travel down to Boston for the weekend then it’s well worth the trip.

Coronavirus to cause Nintendo Switch shortage in Europe and US

Coronavirus

Just last week, news reports came out comforting Nintendo fans as the Japanese publisher confirmed the coronavirus wouldn’t impact western Switch sales. However, a report posted by Bloomberg suggests shortages could hit western shores as early as April 2020.

Nintendo’s problem is that a lot of the Switch’s components are manufactured in China. Given the coronavirus’ devastating impact on China, it’s understandable that continuing to produce these parts is impractical. The timing of this outbreak couldn’t be worse for Nintendo as its releasing Animal Crossing: New Horizons on March 20. If they can’t supply consoles for what would otherwise be a system seller, profits will be affected.

animal crossing new horizons

How bad is the coronavirus?

Of course, from a general point of view, the coronavirus is awful. Currently, the coronavirus is reported to have taken around 1800 lives. Of those, all but five have been cases confirmed in China.

What’s taken people by surprise though is how the coronavirus has indirectly impacted other nations. Many countries worldwide rely on China’s production and exportation. One study suggests that over 5 million businesses will be negatively impacted by the coronavirus.

switch sales

Source: Statista

As for Nintendo, they’re already in trouble. Not only are Switch consoles out of stock in Japan, it won’t be long until these issues affect the west too. Nintendo’s original claim that this wouldn’t impact Europe or North America was based on the fact that the units for February and March had already dispatched. However, come April, new consoles will be needed to keep up with public demand.

Despite being a Japanese company, the U.S is by far Nintendo’s biggest market. According to their financial report, 43% of all income was dependent on North American sales. Equally, Europe is Nintendo’s second-largest market, contributing 27% of total revenue. Losing out on 70% of their income source, even if just for a short while, would be calamitous. All we can do for now is pray that the coronavirus doesn’t get any worse.

Activision Blizzard’s financial report details a very successful 2019

Activision

Every so often, something magical happens in the video game industry. Large publishers like Activision have to submit financial reports to their shareholders detailing how successful the year was. This matters because it’s usually the only time these AAA publishers are actually honest.

So, when I opened up Activision Blizzard’s report I was ready for some juicy information, but they didn’t have much to hide. The truth is Activision has had a great year and their latest financial report proves that.

Activision’s Financial Report

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The primary focus of the report was firmly placed on Modern Warfare. Whilst it’s likely Activision was confident it would do well; its numbers are seriously impressive. PC sales alone increased by 50% in comparison to Black Ops 4. Equally, Modern Warfare’s overall sales increased by a “double-digit percentage,” when compared to its predecessor. 

Meanwhile, Call of Duty Mobile managed to stack up 150 million installs worldwide. This helped it top download charts in over 150 countries and finish top 15 in grossing mobile titles. Speaking of Mobile, Activision’s acquisition of KING back in November 2015 has continued to pay dividends. As usual, Candy Crush Saga was the top-grossing title across all U.S app stores.

Blizzard’s Financial Report

world of warcraft

However, the Blizzard half of Activision-Blizzard had less to celebrate given their various PR mistakes. Regardless, there’s no doubting that the launch of World of Warcraft Classic did a great job of resurrecting a once declining MMORPG. Blizzard claims WoW’s player base over doubled thanks to the release of Classic.

Outside of WoW, the report touches upon Overwatch’s expansion to Switch and the latest Hearthstone expansion. Unfortunately for Blizzard, their newest release, Warcraft 3: Reforged, has gone down as yet another PR disaster. Perhaps if they hadn’t claimed all user content in the first place, this wouldn’t have happened.

If you want to read through the various financial details, be sure to check out the report yourself. There are listings for revenue, profits, taxation, and just about anything else an Activision shareholder would need to know.

Even the NHS Hates Video Game Loot Boxes

Loot boxes have gotten a bad rep ever since EA took things too far with Star Wars Battlefront 2 back in 2018. Since then many nations like the Netherlands and Belgium have out-right banned loot boxes and made selling them a criminal offence. Similarly, a recent statement made by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) suggests that they’ve become the latest member of the anti-loot box club.

The NHS’ health director, Claire Murdoch, has claimed loot boxes are “addictive,” and putting “young people’s health at stake.” Whilst she doesn’t necessarily want loot boxes completely banned, Ms. Murdoch has made it clear she believes selling them to minors should be illegal.

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On behalf of the NHS, she outlined a few criteria that could be regulated in order to make loot boxes more ethical. Her primary requests are that loot boxes shouldn’t be sold to minors, all RNG related odds should be completely transparent to players, and mandatory spending limits should be put in place to protect vulnerable individuals.

The statement reads: “55,000 children are classed as having a gambling problem,” in the UK and realistically there’s only one way these kids are getting addicted. With zero access to casinos or adult arcades, the assumption is that both online gambling and accessible loot box filled video games are to blame. After all, even a kid-friendly mobile title like Pokemon Masters is filled with microtransactions and loot box mechanics.

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The NHS’ Argument Is Hardly New

If truth be told, these findings and claims from the NHS are by no means new. Just last September, the UK Parliament published findings accusing games publishers of a “lack of honesty and transparency.” Unfortunately, UK law has never been known for developing quickly.

All proposed legislation has to go through various stages before being approved. Firstly, someone has to propose a formal bill which sources from some sort of public demand. Usually, either the government or individual MP will do so to make themselves more popular in the long-run.

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After this, these NHS proposed laws would need to be formally drafted, go through three readings in parliament, get approved by multiple committees and then do all this again in a separate house. It’s undoubtedly a thorough process to make sure no half-hearted laws get passed.

The reason the NHS are even making this statement is because a loot box ban has hardly been touched by parliament. As of today, a formal draft has not been proposed nor have any readings taken place. In other words, we’re still a long way off having any meaningful loot box regulation in the UK.