Welcome to Pixelpop News! This is your one-stop-shop for gaming news, a quick way to catch up on the biggest stories of the week.
This week was… well, it was something alright. Unlike last time, I was under no illusion that this would be a slow news week. In fact, rather than try to say something witty to start us off, let’s just get into it.
So here’s your weekly shot of news. Let us know what you think!
#BlizzardBoycott — …Is This Really News? Wait, They Did WHAT?!
That’s right. We’ve got yet another “boycott” trending in the news this week. But this one is far more serious than the ones we’ve covered in the past.
On October 8th, Blizzard banned pro-Hearthstone player “Blitzchung” for one year and confiscated his price money for saying “Liberate Hong Kong” during an interview. They also fired the interviewers for… no discernible reason. It’s unlikely that either knew what Blitzchung was going to say, and both of them literally ducked their heads when he brought up the subject.
Overnight, hashtags like #BlizzardBoycott, #FreeBlitzchung, and #BlizzardIsCancelled began trending. One of the original WORLD OF WARCRAFT designers canceled his subscription in disgust. Hell, it looks like one of Blizzard’s most famous characters has become a symbol of the Hong Kong protests.
In a brief statement, Blizzard cited a clause in their rulebook stating that they have the right to ban any player for behaving in a way that could damage their image. This kind of vague rule is used by plenty of companies, and its completely up to them how they enforce it.
This Is Indefensible
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my bias here. I’ve played Blizzard’s games since middle school. I’m a die-hard fan of WOW. In fact, Blizzard has quoted an article of mine.
None of that matters right now.
The idea of an American company punishing its players to please a draconian, abusive government is despicable. It literally makes me sick to my stomach. The fact that I was basically raised by this company’s products only makes it worse.
Now, some argue that Blizzard has no choice but to keep China happy. After all, the Chinese gaming market is gargantuan, raking in billions of dollars for AAA companies every year.
This argument ignores the fact that Blizzard/Activision makes billions regardless. They also dodge their taxes and profit off excessive microtransactions, all while overpaying their executives and underpaying their employees.
So pardon me if I can’t sympathize with a company for losing a couple billion dollars they can afford to lose. Just because we expect companies to be spineless, heartless, and short-sighted doesn’t mean we should accept it. It’s also worth noting that China is not the world’s biggest gaming market. That would be the United States. So we have a bit more power here than you might think.
Does Any Of This Matter?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: gamer boycotts usually don’t work, and I don’t see that changing here. But the amount of sustained, intense, widespread backlash is quickly getting out of hand. Blizzard has yet to make an official statement since the vitriol began. They’ve already lost their opportunity to control the narrative. Their silence is deafening.
Gaming boycotts may not work, but the reputation of a consumer-facing company is incredibly important. The backlash has already grown beyond the gaming echo chamber and into mainstream media. Blizzard is in trouble here. The last thing the industry wants is a repeat of the BATTLEFRONT 2 fiasco.
So maybe this will all blow over. Maybe next week we’ll have moved onto the next scandal and Blizzard can breathe a sigh of relief. But with every hour, the ire grows. I don’t think this story is going away, and we’ll be covering it until the end. Stay tuned.
BREAKPOINT — …That Bad, Huh?
In other news, GHOST RECON: BREAKPOINT hit store shelves this week and…it’s not looking good.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: BREAKPOINT is a AAA, live service game that suffers from a lack of focus, a lack of polish, and repetitive gameplay designed around monetization.
It’s such a shame, too. I know its en vogue to hate on open-world games, but I still love them. There’s so much potential in this kind of gameplay, and I really think games like BREAKPOINT are hurting the genre.
It seems I’m not alone either. The game’s getting destroyed by critics and consumers alike.
I’m Sensing A Pattern Here…
So, what is this? The third time in a row we’ve talked about AAA games getting critically panned? I swear, I’m not doing this on purpose.
I’m beginning to wonder if we’ve reached a breaking point here. Sure, AAA games get metabombed all the time, but they usually score well with critics. We live in a world where any score below an 80 is considered “bad”. BREAKPOINT has a 57 on Metacritic. This is unprecedented.
Maybe AAA games are just getting worse. Maybe we’re getting sick of the monetization. Or maybe critics are just tired of the same kinds of games with the same kinds of problems. Either way, something’s happening here. Something new. Could this finally be a turning point for the industry? Will poor reviews and low sales push developers to improve their games? Or will we forget about this the moment the next FAR CRY drops? Only time will tell.
Playstation 5 — FINALLY Some Good News!
But it’s not all bad news this week. Sony has finally revealed details on the Playstation 5, including specs, features, and a release window. The PS5 will launch by Christmas 2020. It features 8k functionality, haptic feedback, and an eight-core processor.
Confused? IGN did a great job breaking down what all these next-gen buzzwords actually mean. To put it simply:
- Cores, RAM, SSD = More power, more complex tasks.
- USB – C = Fast charging for your controllers.
- Adaptive triggers = allow developers to create more realistic trigger pulls. For example, drawing a bow might need a harder pull than firing a gun.
- Haptic Feedback = advanced controller vibration. Similar to the “HD Rumble” of the Nintendo Switch.
- Ray-Tracing = A realistic form of simulated lighting that can improve a game’s visuals.
- 8K = Like 4k, but more. This is an odd one. While a sharper resolution is always good, 8K TVs are barely a thing right now, and they’re not as spectacular as you’d think. Still, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Of course, the only thing that really matters about a new console is the games. We don’t have a lot of info on that yet. But still, a new generation is always an exciting time for the industry. Over the next few months, we’ll be learning more, getting glimpses of games, getting a better look at that new controller. As cynical as I am, stuff like this still gets me giddy. I can’t wait.
PixelPop News – Our Thoughts
So yeah, this was a pretty rough week overall. But honestly, the past few months have been pretty good for video games. For every AAA disaster, we’ve got several solid, well-crafted titles.
If nothing else, weeks like this give me hope for the industry. Sure, a lot of bad stuff happened, but people are pushing back harder than ever. With all these great games coming out, they know the industry doesn’t have to be this way.
The argument I always see is that the AAA companies NEED to work like this. We need the loot boxes, we need the repetitive design, we need the unethical business practices because the industry can’t function otherwise. Then you look at games like DEVIL MAY CRY 5, SPIDER-MAN, or even smaller games like CONTROL or SAYONARA WILD HEARTS, and that argument falls apart.
So yet again, I feel like I normally do at the end of these articles: cautious, but hopeful.
But what do you guys think? How was YOUR week? Let us know in the comments, and check out last week’s article as well!