E3 2021 has added more high-profile participants. The ESA, which organizes E3 every year, announced on Thursday that 10 additional companies will participate, including Square Enix, Sega, Bandai Namco, Gearbox, Turtle Beach, and Verizon.
Some of the other newly announced participants include Xseed Games/Marvelous USA, Freedom Games, Devious Eye Entertainment, and Binge.com.
According to the ESA, these companies will have "major announcements and reveals" for E3, which runs June 12-15 this year as a digital-only event.
"E3 2021 is set to continue its legacy as the premier video game industry event as we add new publishers, sponsors, and partners," ESA president and CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis said in a statement. "We can’t wait to share more details about this virtual event for audiences around the globe."
The announcement of these 10 additional partners comes just days after Konami announced it had pulled out of E3 2021. You can see a full list of E3 2021 participants below.
E3 2021 Participants
Warner Bros. Games
Devious Eye Entertainment
The ESA said developers will showcase the "latest news and games directly to fans around the world" in the new digital format. Pierre-Louis said E3 2021 will continue to be a significant, newsworthy event, even despite the new all-digital format.
"For more than two decades, E3 has been the premier venue to showcase the best that the video game industry has to offer, while uniting the world through games," he said. "We are evolving this year's E3 into a more inclusive event, but will still look to excite the fans with major reveals and insider opportunities that make this event the indispensable center stage for video games."
The ESA said E3 2021's new digital structure will allow "more people than ever" to participate. The group acknowledged that E3 is more than a place for big announcements; it's historically been a forum through which people in the industry form connections and partnerships. This will be maintained in some capacity, the ESA said, though no further details are available.
It is still early days, but the ESA said it plans to hold E3 2022 as an in-person event next year. The group said nothing more about next year’s event, so we'll have to wait to learn more.
It's not just E3 that's going all virtual this year, as Gamescom organizers just announced that this year's show will be only online as well.
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Video game consoles have for many years been sold at a loss, and barring a few exceptions, that status quo of taking a hit on the hardware and making a profit on the software appears to be intact for the Xbox Series X. In the ongoing Epic Games vs Apple trial, Xbox business development vice president Lori Wright, a third-party witness, was questioned by Epic lawyer Wes Earnhardt as to how much money Microsoft earns from Xbox console sales.
"We don't. We sell the consoles at a loss," Wright answered (via Protocol). When asked if Microsoft had ever made a profit off of any Xbox device sale, Wright simply said "no."
Wright also mentioned that losses are offset by games, services, accessories, and subscriptions. While component prices do usually come down over time, so too do console prices in an effort to remain competitively priced in the market, and thereby the companies take a financial knock with each unit sold.
As Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad noted, the PS5 also costs Sony every time one of those consoles is sold, but both next-gen devices are expected to become profitable later in their respective life-cycles.
Only a few consoles have generated revenue over the years, with the PS4 being a prime example thanks to its $299 price tag that remained constant for the latter part of its run. Combined with lower production costs as well, the pricing remained attractive to consumers while it turned a profit for Sony in the end.
The Nintendo Switch is also an outlier, as the hybrid console was profitable from launch day. Nintendo chief executive officer Tatsumi Kimishima explained back in 2016 to VentureBeat that the console would be both profitable and attractively priced for consumers.
The rest of the week has seen a number of fascinating industry secrets revealed from the Epic vs Apple trial, including PlayStation's stance on cross-play possibly being illegal, Fortnite being a huge money-maker for Epic, and Microsoft keeping a close eye on its competition's first-party games.
For more on those stories and other news from the trial, you can check out our dedicated Epic vs Apple court case hub.
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Activision is seemingly teasing that John Rambo is coming to Call of Duty. The official Call of Duty Twitter account showed off the Warzone stats for a player called "SURVIVORJohn#1009062" and many believe this is a reference to Sylvester Stallone's John Rambo coming to Warzone as a new Operator in a future update.
John Rambo is an '80s icon, so that matches up with the new time period for Verdansk '84. People have also pointed out that the statistics shown in the graphic are not random. 552 is said to be the total number of people John Rambo has killed; the 5 is for the five Rambo movies; and the 7 is the approximate runtime for all five films.
Officially licensed Operators would be a big new step for Warzone, bringing it more in line with Fortnite, which has featured all manner of crossovers in the past. Starting with John Rambo would make thematic sense given the '80s setting for Verdansk.
We'll have to wait and see what Activision has cooking for Warzone as it relates to Rambo, but keep checking back with GameSpot for the latest.
In other Call of Duty news, Activision just announced some massive statistics for the series, while the company said its free-to-play games like Warzone and CoD: Mobile have "transformed" the series. Additionally, Activision confirmed that 2021's new Call of Duty game is coming from Sledgehammer (CoD: WWII) and it will have Warzone integration.
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Nintendo's having a great year so far, thanks primarily to its Switch console having outperformed its sales predictions for the financial year ending on March 31, 2021. On the software side, it's good news as well as a remarkable 36 games sold over a million units each on the Switch during the fiscal year, 22 of which were published directly by Nintendo and the other 14 came from third-party publishers.
Of the top ten best-selling games of all time on the platform, the entire list is unsurprisingly made up solely of Nintendo first-party games.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe still leads the pack with 35.3 million sales so far, followed closely by Animal Crossing: New Horizons with 32.6 million sales. That's an incredible milestone for Animal Crossing, as it earned the second place slot in a year, whereas the Switch version of Mario Kart 8 launched in 2017.
Third place belongs to Super Mash Bros. Ultimate with 23.8 million sales, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has sold over 22.2 million units, and the latest Pokemon games have seen over 21.1 million sales so far. You can see the rest of the list below.
Nintendo Switch Top-Selling Titles
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - 35.39 million units sold
Animal Crossing: New Horizons - 32.63 million units sold
Super Mash Bros. Ultimate - 23.84 million units sold
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - 22.28 million units sold
Pokemon Sword and Shield - 21.10 million units sold
Super Mario Odyssey - 20.83 million units sold
Super Mario Party - 14.79 million units sold
Pokemon Let's Go, Pikachu and Let's Go, Eevee - 13.28 million units sold
Splatoon 2 - 12.21 million units sold
New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe - 10.44 million units sold
On that list, Splatoon is the youngest franchise that's exclusive to Nintendo. Company president Shuntaro Furukawa previously mentioned that Nintendo is looking to focus its efforts on developing more original games in addition to its more well-established intellectual properties. As for the rest of Nintendo's business, the last fiscal year saw lifetime sales of the Switch increase to 84.59 million units, which means that the console has now outsold the Xbox 360.
Digital sales of games have increased by 68.5% and downloadable versions of packaged games have made up 59.3% of those overall digital sales, helping the company reach a record operating profit of $6.04 billion.
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Nintendo's board of directors is getting another member, as the Mario company has announced the nomination of Chris Meledandri--the founder and CEO of animation movie studio Illumination--as an outside director to Nintendo.
It's expected that Meledandri will be voted in during the 81st Annual General Meeting of Shareholders in June.
Nintendo said that Meledandri "has extensive experience as a film producer. We would like to nominate him as a new Outside Director with the expectation that he will appropriately supervise our companyʼs management from an objective perspective, while providing valuable advice to our organization, based on his broad experience and insight gained as a leader in the field of entertainment."
The Mario company pointed out that Nintendo's current group of Outside Directors are are made up of lawyers and accountants, and they contribute to Nintendo's Audit and Supervisory Committee. However, Meledandri won't serve on the Audit and Supervisory Committee, Nintendo said, presumably because his strongest skills are elsewhere.
"We believe that the addition of Mr. Meledandri will help to ensure our balance of diversity, including global perspective, knowledge, and experience, further enhancing the effectiveness of our Board of Directors," Nintendo said.
Meledandri is a Hollywood veteran who has produced many big animated films over the years such as Ice Age, Minions, and Despicable Me, among others. He's also a producer on Illumination's Mario animated movie that is currently in the works. Intriguingly, Nintendo's president just recently said the company might make more animated films in the future, and having Meledandri on-hand as an Outside Director seemingly is connected to this.
Nintendo made this announcement as part of its earnings report, which showed a huge year for revenue and profit.
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As part of Nintendo's earnings report for its latest fiscal year, the company announced a new sales number for the Nintendo Switch. The hybrid system has now sold 84.59 million units, which is a remarkable achievement and puts it on a potentially record-setting pace.
Additionally, Nintendo announced that it has now sold 587.12 million Switch games since the platform launched in 2017. According to Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad, the Switch is selling better than the PS4 and Wii--two of the best-selling systems in history--over similar periods of time after launch. Here is Ahmad's chart that shows this.
Nintendo also said in its earnings announcement that stock could be constrained in the future due to the ongoing situation surrounding semiconductor shortages.
"The production of products might be affected by obstacles to the procurement of parts, including the increase in global demand for semiconductor components," Nintendo said. "The consolidated earnings forecast is based on the premise that we will be able to secure the parts needed for the manufacture of products in line with our sales plans."
In terms of game sales, some of Nintendo's biggest releases during the April 2020-March 2021 fiscal year included Super Mario 3D All-Stars and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury. Both were massive successes, selling 9.01 million units and 5.59 million units, respectively. Third-party developers are seeing success on Switch, too, as Nintendo said there were a total of 36 million-seller games for Switch during the fiscal year.
Nintendo's own games continue to be the biggest, however, with Mario Kart 8 sales climbing to a breathtaking 35.39 million copies, with Animal Crossing: New Horizons close behind it at 32.63 million copies sold. You can see the full list of top-seller's on Nintendo's website.
And in good news for Nintendo, a growing percentage of game sales were digital during the period. Digital sales overall jumped by 68.5%, while downloadable versions of packaged games made up 59.3% of overall digital sales.
The Nintendo sales report also contains a slide about future Nintendo games. The highly anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel, Bayonetta 3, and Metroid Prime 4 are all listed as upcoming titles, but they still don't have release dates. They are officially scheduled for "TBA." A document from the Apple vs. Epic court case revealed that Xbox, at one point or another, believed Breath of the Wild 2 might release in 2020.
Overall, Nintendo had a banner fiscal year for the period ending March 31, 2021. Total revenue was $16.59 billion, up 34.4%, while operating profit was $6.04 billion, an increase of 81.8%.
You can find Nintendo's full earnings release here on its website.
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Devolver Digital has announced that it has teased its E3 plans. The company simply just tweeted, “E3 plans have been made”, and left it at that. No other specific details about what kind of games or announcements have been mentioned. This tweet falls in line with Devolver Digital’s sarcastic tone and style, but hopefully, we’ll have more news about the company’s plans for the showcase as the date gets nearer.
When E3 was canceled last year, Devolver Digital, among several other companies, took it upon themselves to create their own digital showcases. The publisher called its own show the Devolver Direct. Either another Devolver Direct show could happen but with E3’s branding this time around, or Devolver Digital could simply integrate its own announcements with whatever E3 has planned.
Some of the Devolver Digital titles we’re aware of so far this year are Shadow Warrior 3, Weird West, and Boomerang X. Some other titles that the publisher released earlier this year include Loop Hero and Olijia
E3 2021 is an all-digital event set to be held June 12-15. Several companies have signed on to showcase there, such as Capcom, Nintendo, Ubisoft, and Xbox. Konami was originally signed on as well, but recently announced that it would be pulling out as it is in “deep development on a number of key projects.”
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Xbox has announced plans to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a series of initiatives meant to highlight the culture and contributions of AAPI community. Alongside a donation match program, Xbox is including a curated list of AAPI games and movies on the Xbox and Microsoft stores, adding a weekly showcase of games featuring AAPI creators and characters to the Xbox Community Game Club, and promoting AAPI streamers and creators on both Twitch and in the Xbox Ambassadors community.
This year marks the first that Xbox has celebrated AAPI Heritage Month, a fact Xbox addressed in its statement. The company said this is due to its deepened efforts to support and celebrate the community during this period of "frightening and reprehensible" attacks and "COVID-19-related hate crimes against members of the AAPI community."
One of the key ways it intends to do this is by allowing Microsoft Rewards Members to earn and donate points to two AAPI-focused charities, Asian American Advancing Justice | AAJC and Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), which will be matched by Microsoft. Minecraft's Mojang studios will be promoting this feature, and has already donated $100,000 USD to AAJC as a part of this initiative.
Over on Xbox's Twitch channel, a schedule has been assembled that focuses on highlighting AAPI creators, developers, and streamers. The schedule is as follows:
Week of May 3 – AAPI Community Appreciation Week, "Let's play and watch games with the AAPI community at the forefront"
Week of May 10 – AAPI Community Takeover Week, "Meet new & familiar faces in the AAPI gaming community"
Week of May 24 – AAPI Community Appreciation Week, "Let's play and watch games with the AAPI community at the forefront"
Creators and players will also be showcased on the Xbox Community Game Club and Xbox Ambassadors community. Over at the Xbox Community Game Club, Xbox is featuring games created by AAPI individuals. In the Xbox Ambassadors community, Xbox has asked various AAPI identifying members "how games with diverse representation have impacted them" and about "their stories about being a member of a gaming community." Their stories have been collected and posted on the site's blog.
Lastly, Xbox fans can find curated lists of AAPI created games and movies listed on both the Xbox and Microsoft stores. A few highlights of the games list include Outer Wilds, created by Japanese American Mobius Digital founder Masi Oka, and Marvel's Avengers, which features a campaign centered around Marvel's Kamala Khan, a Pakistan American woman. Some of the recommended films include Minari, Crazy Rich Asians, and Moana. After May 31, visitors can find these lists by searching for "AAPI Heritage Month" on the respective sites.
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In just 40 or so minutes of a hands-off gameplay demo of Biomutant, I'd watched its protagonist ride a jetski through polluted gooey waters, mount some kind of cat-looking horse thing, operate their own ramshackle mech suit, and hop aboard a flying bat creature. Oh, and there's a flying suitcase, too.
Traversing the world in these many ways is indicative of the level of customization at play in Biomutant. In the final hands-off preview before the game's release, developer Experiment 101 showed a fair amount of new footage that gave a sense of your ability to explore the game world, engage in combat, create your character, and build your own weapons. That freedom seems to be a central tenet of the Biomutant's open-world--you can look how you want, fight how you want, wear what you want, and use the weapons that you want.
The freedom to determine your character in the world of Biomutant begins with character creation, where you make your own mutant animal critter to travel the wastes of the game's post-human world. You can do a lot to create a creature you like to look at, but character creation goes well beyond just having spiffy fur patterns.
As creative director Stefan Ljungqvist explained, character creation has you making a bunch of important RPG decisions as well. You'll determine your species, as well as your core attributes like strength and intellect, and those determine how your character looks as well as its capabilities. You'll also fine-tune your ability to resist environmental issues, like radiation, heat, and cold--which will help determine what places you can easily explore, and how dangerous they become.
There are six species to choose from and six tribes out in the world, Ljungqvist said. While he was cagey about the tribes, it sounds like they might be divided by species--and it sounds like your choice of animal might affect how you interact with them.
That's another running theme of Biomutant's customization: Your choices will influence how other characters deal with you. As you deal with other characters and make dialogue choices, it'll affect your "aura," which can range from light to dark and various shades in between. "Light and dark" doesn't necessarily mean "good or evil," though--it sounds like choices won't be quite so cut and dried. What's more important is that the shade of your aura affects how you interact with other people based on their distinct auras. If you have a similar alignment, you might find people easier to connect with and influence; drastic differences will make for more strained communication.
And, of course, customization plays a big role in combat. The core of Biomutant is a fast-paced, Devil May Cry-like combination of gunplay and melee combat, filled with combos and special abilities. When you build your character, you also define your class, which Ljungqvist described as being more like a loadout than a set of hard-and-fast rules about your character's abilities. You can do things like lean into being more of a commando-style fighter or a precision shooter, or maybe prioritize psionic abilities, but picking a certain class doesn't lock you out from other possibilities when it comes to your abilities and weapons. What it does do is give you lots of options on the battlefield to hit enemies with big area-of-effect psionic attacks, or to slow down time to make sure you land a ton of shots for precision damage.
Combat is also influenced by the weapons you bring to the fight, which is where crafting plays a huge role. It seems like the crafting system in Biomutant is extremely deep; this is a loot-based RPG where you'll be finding all kinds of gear of various rarity and quality levels, and you'll be able to cobble it together to build new things.
For instance, Ljungqvist showed one possibility in which he crafted a mace made out of a cane and the door of a safe, imbued with freezing powers--which came to be called the Cane Stronkbox. Later, he assembled a new gun from a ton of different pieces, each of which determined how it would handle. Setting the stock and trigger meant it would be a two-handed weapon instead of one-handed; choosing a magazine determined how many shots it could handle; picking a certain barrel switched it from a rifle to a shotgun. As Ljungqvist explained, your crafting choices determine not only how the gun will work and what kind of damage it'll do, but even how it handles and how it sounds.
Crafting extends to your armor, too, where you can sometimes add additional components that give you different benefits. You'll be thinking about this, in particular, because armors can have resistances just like the ones you determine for your character at the start of the game. Having the right armor with the right resistance is how you'll survive in some areas of Biomutant. While other places might be gated, for the most part, you'll be able to go anywhere you want in Biomutant right off the bat, Ljungqvist said; you'll just need to find the right armor to survive in some of the more harsh environments.
And that's what seemed most remarkable about our quick, final look at Biomutant--it seems like a vast world with a ton of freedom in how you'll play it. There's a story pulling you along (something about protecting the Tree of Life from Worldeaters and maybe the end of the world), but how you engage with that story and the 8-by-8-kilometer game world is up to you. We'll have to see how that freedom translates into actually playing Biomutant when it finally releases on May 25 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
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