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.
Summer’s winding down and the holidays are months away. So you’d think this would be a slow news week. Honestly, I was worried I wouldn’t have much to talk about. But halfway through the week, the floodgates opened. This was a pretty big week for the games industry. From major legislation to controversial releases to highly-anticipated trailers, this was anything but a slow news week.
So here’s your weekly shot of news. Let us know what you think!
The UK Says Loot Boxes Are Gambling, Surprising No One
According to a report from the UK’s House Of Commons, loot boxes should be considered gambling and children shouldn’t be able to buy them. The report cites a lack of honesty and transparency from game companies as well as a lack of research on the effects of loot boxes on children and problem gamblers. To quote the report:
Now, this is big news but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Rather than regulate themselves after the BATTLEFRONT 2 fiasco, the industry kept pushing the envelope when it came to microtransactions. Like it or not, the government was bound to step in eventually.
This news comes around the release of games like NBA 2K20. Over the past few years, these games have slowly gone from legitimate sports simulators to online casinos with a basketball minigame. They’re also rated “E For Everyone”, meaning they should be suitable for all ages.
Well, according to the House Of Commons, they’re not.
So what does this mean for games like 2K? What does it mean for the industry as a whole? Will Parliament move to ban loot boxes? Or will they find new ways to keep them away from kids? Whatever their decision, this could be a serious blow to the industry.
The AAA market has completely restructured itself around loot box culture. Many of these games are intentionally slow and grindy in order to encourage the purchase of in-game items. What happens when you remove the only means to bypass the grind? These companies have been propping themselves up on the absurd amounts of revenue they make from gambling. Once you start poking holes in that safety net, what happens next? Only time will tell.
NEWS FLASH: NBA 2K 20 Is A Mess
Speaking of 2K 20, that game’s having some problems of its own. Even without loot boxes, it’s suffering from major technical issues. Even a recent patch hasn’t fixed all the bugs. Many complain about the game’s online servers, which are prone to lag and frequent crashes.
But the problems run deeper than bugs. Despite a surprisingly decent story-mode, many feel the aggressive microtransactions distract from the gameplay, which itself feels stagnant and shallow. 2K is supposed to be one of the biggest games of the year. But, as I’m writing this, it’s gotten lukewarm reviews from major critics, and it’s been absolutely panned by vocal fans.
Like clockwork, players took to Twitter to voice their concerns, with #Fix2K20 rising to the top of our feeds:
— . (@typfrederick) September 9, 2019
Unfreeze rep bars
Faster loading screens
Buff shooting slightly
Buff stamina slightly
Faster badge progression
Lower VC prices
Huge rep boost for all of 2K20
— MJ (@MJ6xx) September 9, 2019
— KRYPTO9095 (@krypto9095brand) September 9, 2019
2K20 is a perfect microcosm of the AAA industry. It’s the logical conclusion to a market that relies on microtransactions, releases unfinished products, and has a total disregard for consumer satisfaction. This is what happens when you build a game from the ground up to exploit “whales”. When you have a small group of people willing to spend thousands of dollars on microtransactions, nothing else matters.
BORDERLANDS 3 Has Another Controversy — Wait, Again?!
What? You thought we could go a month without another BORDERLANDS controversy? Think again.
The game releases on today, September 13th, but for whatever reason, the publisher only sent review copies to a select group of websites, citing “security concerns”.
But that’s not even the weird part. What’s weird is that the outlets that actually got to review the game received a buggy, outdated version. Even stranger, instead of giving out digital keys for the game, the publisher provided critics with Epic Store accounts with the game pre-loaded. There’s nothing “wrong” with this, but it feels overly complicated and inefficient.
Now here’s the real piece of news: Gearbox told these outlets not to mention any of the bugs. On one hand, this makes sense. If they fixed the bugs in the final version, then there’s no point in mentioning them.
But how do we know what they fixed and what they didn’t? What if the release version is broken in its own way? How can anyone honestly review a game without knowing how it actually plays? I’m honestly a little stunned that so many outlets were comfortable with reviewing this game in the state that it’s in.
All of this begs the question: why did they give out an outdated version, to begin with?
Well, some think the Epic Store is the culprit. It’s practically a meme at this point, but the Epic Store has a ton of problems, especially when compared to Steam. Since BORDERLANDS 3 is an Epic Store exclusive on the PC, this may have been the only way to get the game to critics.
DEATH STRANDING — It Finally Makes Sense… Mostly
Now for some lighter news, there’s a new DEATH STRANDING trailer! Despite the endless memes, it’s become increasingly clear what it’s about…at least thematically.
DEATH STRANDING takes place during some kind of apocalyptic event, where the rules of time and death have lost meaning. America is in shambles, and many have lost hope that the country will ever be whole again.
There’s some obvious overlap between the supernatural nature of this story, and real-life divisions in America. The goal of the game is to “build bridges” between the remaining cities and unite the country once again.
The gameplay is still pretty hard to define. It almost looks like a cross between BREATH OF THE WILD and METAL GEAR SOLID, with some horror elements to round things out. Navigation and exploration seem to be the primary focus, with stealth and combat being important but secondary.
If nothing else, DEATH STRANDING is an anomaly. It seems so strange that a game this bizarre and ambitious is being made at all, let alone with such a huge budget. Good or bad, I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
PixelPop News – The Wrap Up
This week was an odd one. In a lot of ways, it feels like everyone is playing catch-up. The government is trying to catch up to a runaway industry, the industry is racing against consumer backlash, and consumers are just trying to outrun the latest controversy.
But amidst the chaos and cynicism, games like DEATH STRANDING give me hope. Whether or not the game is any good, projects like these remind us that creativity can still thrive in this industry, that passion is still rewarded.
But what do you guys think? How was your week? Let us know in the comments, and check out last week’s article!