Pokémon GO has thrived during the pandemic, raking in $2 billion

Pokémon GO promo feature

The pandemic has been troublesome for the games industry. Many development teams have had to adopt a stay-at-home model which can make team project difficult to organize. And in the case of some games like Pokémon GO, their core design just doesn’t work during a pandemic. Given this you’d think Niantic’s signature AR game would be struggling. But that is not the case at all.

According to SuperData, Pokémon GO raked in just short of $2 billion in 2020. For comparison, last year it made just $900 million. It’s 2020 total revenue outclasses several other mobile titans including League of Legends and Candy Crush Saga. Not bad at all for a game that’s reliant on its players going outside.

How Niantic adapted to COVID

Pokémon GO city screenshot

Obviously, Pokémon GO’s design was not going to work during a global pandemic. Not only would it be stupid for Niantic to keep GO the same, it’d be dangerous. A key part of Pokémon GO’s gameplay is that players have to meet up in real life to trade and battle. Encouraging its player base to break the law for a slight benefit in a video game wouldn’t exactly be a good look for Niantic.

So instead, the American developer went back to the drawing board and made some crucial tweaks. Both incense and PokéBalls were discounted considerably to help players not become overly reliant on PokeStops. Also, the walking entry requirement for the GO Battle League was dropped from 3 km to zero.

That’s not all either. Niantic used the opportunity to make some fundamental changes to Pokémon GO’s spawn rates. From August the spawn rates of all Pokémon were increased. This includes legendary raids which are now more common and can be accessed remotely.

Don’t get too comfortable though as these changes are not permanent. These quality-of-life improvements are short-term necessary changes for Pokémon GO to live on. Niantic’s vision of its AR game is still very much to encourage players to head outside and exercise. Any COVID related gameplay changes are planned to be removed June 2021, dependent on the state of the pandemic.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 developers have been acquired by Nintendo

It’s not every day that Nintendo announces that it is adding a new team to its family. But earlier today the Japanese tech giant unveiled that it has purchased a 100% stake in Next Level Games. NLG is a Canadian studio best known for its work on Luigi’s Mansion 3.

However, Next Level Games have also worked on several other Nintendo titles over the years. Back in 2009, it was responsible for both ‘Punch-Out!’ reboots. Equally, in 2013 it released Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Some of its earlier games include NHL Hitz Pro and Mario Strikers Charged. Given that NLG hadn’t developed a none Nintendo game since 2011, this move seems sensible enough.

More Luigi’s Mansion to come?

Luigi's Mansion original gameplay

The acquisition itself appears to have been relatively straightforward. Nintendo states that it has purchased a complete share in the Vancouver based developer. The final details will be finalized on March 1 pending satisfaction of all relevant parties.

Nintendo’s handling of its now signature Mario spin-off series has been a mixed bag. The original Luigi’s Mansion was released in 2001 but didn’t receive a sequel until 2013. Although it has aged very well over the years, the original was not received well at launch.

One reason for the initial backlash was that not everyone was happy regarding its development. Despite being a spin-off, Luigi’s Mansion was marketed as the premiere GameCube launch title. A more traditional mainstream Super Mario game wouldn’t come until a year later in Sunshine.

However, those days are officially numbered. With both Dark Moon and Luigi’s Mansion 3 releasing in the 2010s, Nintendo is all in on everyone’s favourite green plumber. The acquisition of Next Level Games supports that idea too. Although it is possible that Nintendo will instead have its new addition work on a brand-new series instead.

FIFA 21 icon Swaps 2 plus Headliners promo are now available

Icon Swaps 2

Continuing on from the first set of Icon Swaps, EA just released the second set of objectives. This second set will allow players to earn the remaining ten tokens. These tokens can be traded in FIFA 21 for various rewards including unique player packs and various legends of the game.

Much like the first set, Icon Swaps 2 features objectives primarily across Squad Battles and Friendlies. However, this time around the sports game’s competitive mode, FUT Champions has also entered the fray.

Icon Swaps 2 nerfs golden goal rule

FIFA 21 icon swaps 2 objectives

The first Icon Swaps was well received in the community thanks to its golden goal rule. Whenever a player scored first, it became tradition that the opponent would leave and forfeit the game. This sped up the grind and allowed players to earn tokens faster.

However, EA has attempted to put a stop to this. For Icon Swaps 2 you are required to finish games in order to complete many of the objectives. One example of this is “Score in 10 separate matches using Premier League players.” If you score a goal and then leave you will not earn progress towards this objective.

Alongside Icon Swaps 2 EA has also released a new promo. Dubbed Headliners, these cards are better versions of the existing one to watch cards. When a player performs well in real life and receives an in-form, their respective Headliner card will also improve. Whilst a One to Watch card simply matches its in-form counterpart, the Headliner card will have slightly better stats.

Also, Headliner cards are selected specifically because the player in question is playing well in real life. This makes it more likely that they’ll receive upgrades in the future. The most expensive of these new cards is a 91 overall Bruno Fernandes which is extinct at 2 million coins on PC. Headliner cards will be in packs for two weeks whilst Icon Swaps 2 ends February 12. So, you’ve got plenty of time to grind out the new objectives. Good luck!

CD Projekt RED is being sued by its own investors for misrepresenting Cyberpunk 2077

CD Projekt RED

After everything it has been through, I doubt getting sued was what developer CD Projekt RED needed right now. But after upsetting its investors, that’s exactly what has happened. As posted by Business Wire, the Rosen Law Firm investor is suing CD Projekt RED for misleading them.

The Rosen Law Firm believe that the Cyberpunk developer failed to disclose vital information regarding the state of its new game. Specifically, it is unhappy at the failure to mention the issues present on current-gen consoles. The law firm believes that the Polish developer withheld this information in order to keep investors interested.

CD Projekt RED: From bad to worse

Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay open worldThe lawsuit references multiple shortcomings on CD Projekt RED’s behalf. Outside of the game’s obvious bugs, Rosen Law Firm were also unhappy with Cyberpunk getting removed from the PlayStation store. Also, the mandatory refunds requested by Sony and Microsoft would have negatively affected investors.

Truth be told, they may have a point. It’s difficult to believe that the Cyberpunk developers weren’t fully aware of the RPG’s issues. And even if it didn’t expect a backlash this strong, hiding those issues is still both legally and morally questionable.

Some may give CD Projekt RED the benefit of the doubt but it’s likely this was deliberate. After all, it also refused to provide console review codes ahead of Cyberpunk’s launch. Instead, only offering critics the chance to cover the superior PC version. It wasn’t just aware of the issues, but dedicated to do everything possible to hide them.

Regardless of mistakes made, CD Projekt RED is not taking this lawsuit without a fight. The Polish developer claims it made no effort to mislead investors or cause them to “incur losses.” It also points out that Cyberpunk 2077 still sold over 13 million copies in a week and has scored a strong 86% on Metacritic.

Halo Infinite has not been cancelled on Xbox One contrary to recent rumors

Halo Infinite

Earlier this week a rumor started to circulate that Halo Infinite would not be coming to Xbox One. The game’s user interface designer, Chad Mirshak, changed his LinkedIn page to only list PC and Xbox Series X/S. This led franchise fans to start panicking that Microsoft had abandoned its old platform to avoid holding Infinite’s visuals back.

But base Xbox One owners will be glad to hear that this isn’t the case. Halo community manager John Junyszek gave a clear answer in response to these rumors On Twitter. When asked, Junyszek made it clear that Infinite is still coming to Xbox One and that he’d like to be left to “enjoy the holidays.”

Halo Infinite is still coming to Xbox One

Cyberpunk 2077 unfinishedAlthough this rumor was mostly baseless, the concerns aren’t completely unreasonable. After all, the recent disaster that was Cyberpunk 2077 has put people on edge regarding the treatment of old hardware.

Developer CD Projekt Red released Cyberpunk 2077 in a nearly unplayable state on both PS4 and Xbox One. It was clear that it hadn’t put in the necessary time to optimize for those systems. A similar fate falling upon Halo Infinite is less likely but not out of the question. After all, no one saw it coming with Cyberpunk either.

But there’s little reason to be concerned at least for the time being. Microsoft has shown no signs that it is looking to abandon the Xbox One in the near future. Both Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass are still fully supported on both its old and new platforms. Also, to this day even the Xbox 360 servers are still alive and kicking.

Microsoft has a good track record of supporting its old products. And I doubt the American tech giant wants to split off its fan-base with Halo Infinite. Even if it has been delayed, I suspect the wait will be worthwhile. The new Halo has the potential to become the defining game for next-gen consoles.

Valkyrae leaked her YouTube earning by accident and they’re insane

Valkyrae social media profile picture

It’s no secret that being a big-time internet star pays well. Be it YouTube, Twitch or even Facebook Gaming, having a large following is going to earn you some serious money. And that fact has once again been proven true by Valkyrae.

Rachell Hofstetter, better known as Valkyrae, rose to prominence recently thanks to her Among Us videos. Back in October it was revealed that she was the fastest growing streamer in the world. At the start of this year, she was at an already impressive 880,000 subscribers. Over the course of just 12 months this number has grown to a staggering 2.6 million. The craziest part? The bulk of that growth has occurred over just the last five months.

How much does Valkyrae earn?

Valkyrae income leakWhilst her growth is impressive, it’s not why you’re here. On a recent stream Valkyrae accidently leaked her monthly earnings. Whilst searching through her analytics tab, she scrolled down too far and revealed the tracked revenue.

Apparently, 36.4 million monthly views and over 8 million hours of watch time will net you $172,000 a month. Her annual income can’t be figured out as it’s not as simple as just multiplying this number by twelve. YouTube views fluctuate far too often for that method to work. But what’s for sure is that Valkyrae is likely earning in excess of a million dollars a year via streaming alone.

Truth be told, these numbers aren’t actually that surprising. For comparison, there was a study that calculated a reasonable prediction of Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg’s annual income. As the largest independent YouTuber on the planet, the study estimated he is earning over $70 million a year.

Clearly, it pays to be a big content creator. There’s no easy path to get there but who knows. With a bit of luck and a good idea anyone can make it. Both Valkyrae and PewDiePie started out as humble, independent content creators. So why not give it a try?

Blizzard to finally unveil more Overwatch 2 details in February

Overwatch 2

First revealed at Blizzcon 2019, Overwatch 2 was a big deal. But over 13 months later we’ve still heard nothing new from Blizzard. That is until now. In the latest Overwatch developer update video, lead designer Jeff Kaplan confirmed more details are on the way.

In the developer update Kaplan admits its “been too long,” and that his team have been “quiet,” regarding Overwatch 2 news. He explains that COVID has affected development and that there’s still “a ways to go.” But come next February fans will at least finally get some much needed new information.

Overwatch 2 at Blizzcon

Overwatch 2 kanezaka new map

Blizzcon 2021 is set to be hosted online next February. Alongside the other Blizzard titles, Overwatch 2 is expected to star as the event’s big announcement. We now know that more details will be coming but exactly what we should expect is still unclear. It could be a beta, another cinematic, or even a release date.

Outside of Overwatch 2 news, this update also confirms that a new map will be arriving on live servers soon. Named Kanezaka, it is based in a small Japanese town on the outskirts of Hanamura. This is likely where the Shimada brothers, Genji and Hanzo, grew up. Unlike Hanamura, Kanezaka is a free for all map that will only be playable in deathmatch game modes.

Supposedly the new map features a ton of easter eggs that could hint at potential future content. Some members of the Overwatch community are already speculating that a new hero called Brit could be in the works. Brit was first seen in concept art for the original game but has reappeared on a billboard in Kanezaka. Given how many new heroes are expected to feature in Overwatch 2, it’s not out of the question.

For the time being, all we can do is wait until Blizzcon. It’s not ideal that we’re having to sit around and pray for some Overwatch 2 news, but it shows that Blizzard care. Neither Kaplan or his team want to rush the long awaited sequel out and release a bad game. In that regard, being patient is still the best thing we can do as fans.

Bugs Bunny and LeBron James want you to make the next Space Jam game

Space Jam game

Microsoft, Bugs Bunny, and LeBron James. That’s probably not a set of names you expected to see together but here we are. As part of Space Jam’s marketing campaign, Xbox wants franchise fans to create a game for them. More specifically, they want an arcade styled retro game in the style of many 80s classics.

The new competition has some official rules that you may want to read over. The general idea though is that you send in a proposal with the genre, a key image, and a short description. The description of your game proposal must be less than 500 words to be eligible.

Your dream Space Jam game

Space Jam A New Legacy competition prizeA New Legacy is the sequel to the original 1996 classic film Space Jam. The premise sees a team of basketball stars have their powers stolen by evil monsters. Back then it was up to Michael Jordan and his Disney cast teammates to get them back. But the sequel is a little different focusing on LeBron James and his son Bronny.

Having the opportunity to create your very own game is not something many people get to do. But two lucky winners of this competition will have their proposals brought to life. They will be converted into mini-games in the official Space Jam: A New Legacy game releasing next year.

Also, competition winners will have their names added to the game’s official credits. And if that’s not enough for you, there’s even a set of LeBron James memorabilia up for grabs. Even sports brand Nike are getting behind the campaign and offering various goodies for would be winners.

The announcement rounds off by confirming that Microsoft and Warner Bros. have “more exciting news,” in the works. So be sure to keep an eye out for any future updates on Space Jam game if you’re interested. As for the movie itself, that’s set for a July 21 release in cinemas.

FIFA 21 Icon Swaps have arrived alongside the new Freeze promo

Icon Swaps

As per tradition, EA Sports today unveiled its latest Icon Swaps for FIFA 21. For many players this is the most exciting part of Ultimate Team’s yearly life-span. Not only is it a great opportunity to earn yourself a legend of the beautiful game, but this year has added unique player packs too.

The format developer EA Canada seems to have opted for is based around player choice. If you want to play it same and get a guaranteed icon, you can. If you’d rather risk your tokens for a big pull instead then that’s an option. Alternatively, you can play it safe with the new player packs and build up assets for a squad building challenge down the line.

FIFA 21 Icon Swaps

FIFA 21 Icon Swaps Freeze promoThe guaranteed icons that you can net for season one are Vidic, Hagi, Suker, Koeman, and Henry. These vary in cost with Henry being the most expensive at seventeen tokens. As of week one, you can only get up to eight tokens. Five of them are awarded through Friendlies whilst the other three can be earned in Squad Battles.

If you’d prefer to build up your assets instead, there are packs for just that. Two tokens can be traded in for two Ultimate Packs. Three tokens nets you five 85+ overall rated players guaranteed. Finally, five tokens will earn you an incredible twenty five 83+ overall rated players guaranteed.

And today’s updates doesn’t just stop at Icon Swaps. Replacing the previous FUTMAS promo, the new Freeze promo has plenty to offer. The most notable part of the promo is the full Freeze team that comes along with it. This includes several meta defining cards like Mane, Martinez, and Hazard.

Throughout the event EA Sports will be releasing daily SBCs to go alongside the full Freeze team. There will also be several new objectives to focus on for untradable Freeze cards starting with Yannick Bolasie. Sound like a lot? Then be sure to get stuck into Icon Swaps as soon as possible to not miss out.

Halo Infinite looks set for a Spring 2021 release after initial delay

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite was supposed to be the Xbox Series X’s big launch title. But after a criminally underwhelming reveal at Xbox Summer Games 2020, Microsoft opted to delay it. Despite claiming that COVID was the cause, it’s seems likely that the American tech conglomerate was concerned about the rough state it was in.

An exact release date was not given at the time of the delay, but new details have emerged. In an interview with Dan Allen, Master Chief’s mo-cap actor, Bruce Thomas, confirmed a Spring 2021 release. When he was asked about Infinite’s development, Thomas stated it was “wrapped up,” and “ready to go next Spring.”

Are we getting Halo Infinite sooner than expected?

When the delay was first revealed, there were some concerns about how long Xbox fans would have to wait. With a game of Halo’s stature it could easily take over twelve months to fix. The presented campaign demo was plagued with a lot of difficult to address problems. This included rough texture work, assets popping in, and the now legendary Craig the Brute.

Craig was supposed to be a terrifying alien Brute trying to kill Master Chief. But due to some suspect face modelling he ended up looking more dopey than scary. The internet ran away with it and a viral meme was born. Regardless of the jokes, it did prove something about Halo Infinite. It needed more time.

Halo Infinite Craig the Brute

To Microsoft’s credit, rather than rushing it for the Series X launch it did delay Halo Infinite. And if Thomas’ claims of a Spring release are to be believed, the wait won’t have been that long anyway. Most gamers haven’t even had a chance to pick up a next-gen console yet due to stock shortages. So giving developer 343 Industries a little more time seems like a win-win situation.

All we can do for the time being is wait. Hopefully, Halo Infinite lives up to the hefty expectations placed upon it. Because there’s no doubt that Microsoft’s shiny new console is in desperate need of some big releases. Although a nice addition, there’s only so far relying on Xbox One backward compatibility can get you.