Howdy, squad. It’s me again! Welcome to this week’s GYGO, where we round up the biggest weekly gaming news and bring it to your lovely ears and eyes. This week’s news was equal parts fun and surreal, with a pinch of ugh. But only a little ugh this week! Mostly, this week brought us delightful, if mystifying, tidbits. Like this one:
Farming Simulator Gets an eSports League
Farming Simulator, a longstanding PC game series beloved for its… hyper-realistic… farming… is finally (?) becoming an official league esport.
The Farming Simulator series’ developer, GIANTS Software, announced on January 23 that the company is “ready to dive deeper into the world of eSports” by forming a full-fledged Farming Simulator league. In July 2018, the Swiss company hosted FarmCon 2018, which included the first Farming Simulator Championship in Schwandorf, Germany, to “test the waters” of competitive play. At this inaugural event, hardcore Farming Simulator 19 players competed to be the first to grab bales of hay using forklifts, then stack them on a trailer platform. The hyper-realistic gameplay means that players are simulating the real thing—effectively, driving real tractors with real physics moving real hay bales to real trailers. In other words: it’s harder than it sounds.
With the success of this first event and the “first season” of competitive Farming Simulator, GIANTS Software will be taking competition a step further by bumping the Farming Simulator Championship up to the Farming Simulator League, a full-fledged esports league with ten tournaments spread across Europe. The new league will pit players against each other in Farming Simulator 19, the newest game in the series, released in November 2018.
At the end of the 2019 season, the best teams will compete for the title of Farming Simulator Champion—and the prize pool will total 250,000€, or about $280,000 USD. Its sponsors include big names like Logitech and Intel. No, really, this is serious business. It may be bewildering to me personally, but I have no doubt there are many farming fans across the globe who are super excited right now.
Facebook Does Yet Another Bad Thing
The latest item in the neverending lineup of bad Facebook news: documents surfaced this week that suggest Facebook has known it was defrauding children and families through its online games since as early as 2011. In games like Ninja Saga and Angry Birds, minors were manipulated into spending thousands of dollars by using a credit card to make a single in-game transaction. After one transaction, the system retains the credit card information and continues making charges as the minors continue using the game. Parents would then get a surprise bill in the mail weeks or months later. They also, in most cases, refused to give the Facebook users’ money back.
The defrauding was so common, in fact, that Facebook employees had their own internal lingo for the practice, which they called “friendly fraud.” They even had an abbreviation, FF, which they used in documents. And what’s worse, Facebook actually did find a way to stop the fraud—but they didn’t enforce it. They prioritized their revenue, instead. One document, an internal Facebook memo circulated to developers, describes an explicit educational effort to encourage developers not to solve the problem. Over 135 pages of documents support the allegations.
My New Year’s resolution was to deactivate, and eventually delete, Facebook. It’s been a very long time coming, and this is just one more reason to plunge into Facebook-less life. Join me?
Who Will Be the First Netflix for Video Games?
Game streaming, akin to what streaming services like Netflix and Google Play have become for movies, is right on the horizon. NVIDIA, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Verizon, and even Apple have started making announcements on what they have in the works related to game streaming, and it’s looking like these services might start becoming available as early as 2019.
New Shark Species Named After Galaga
Full disclosure: this is straight up my favorite news from this week. In the same sediment pile where SUE the (canonically nonbinary!) T-Rex was discovered in 1990, scientists discovered over 20 fossilized teeth that belonged to a brand new species of shark. The teeth are oddly shaped and bear a striking resemblance to the spaceships in the classic 1980s arcade game Galaga, which is utterly delightful. In fact, the teeth look so similar to the spaceships that the scientists who discovered the new species decided to name it after the game. And thus was (re)born: Galagadon nordquistae. (The second part of the name is a nod to Karen Nordquist, the Field Museum volunteer who discovered the fossils.)
Some More Gaming Tidbits
Some people have been whispering that Fallout 76 is going free-to-play just three months after its release, following a recent barrage of Bethesda’s bugs, breaches, and unethical bullshit. However, Bethesda squashed the free-to-play rumors, tweeting that “There is no truth” to them. But… that doesn’t change the fact that their $276 Fallout 76 jacket looks like a bag.
Chinese games giant Tencent was revealed this week to have used a real live person’s identity in their video game Ring of Elysium, sparking questions of identity theft in video games. Also this week, Tencent may have had a game deleted for “malicious” activity. So that’s… good….
Nintendo has delayed the development of Metroid Prime 4, which was announced for Nintendo Switch at E3 2017, stating that “the current development progress has not reached the standards we seek in a sequel to the Metroid Prime series.” Nintendo is rebooting the project, reexamining and changing the existing development structure, and shifting development to Retro Studios, the original developer of the Metroid Prime series.
According to the Entertainment Software Association and The NPD Group, consumers in the U.S. spent over $43 billion on video games in 2018, marking an 18 percent growth from 2017.
A bunch of new indie games were announced for release on the Switch during Nintendo Indie Highlights, including CrossCode, WarGroove, Pikuniku, and many more. The ones that I’m particularly excited for are Inmost (hoooly shit this game looks good), When Ski Lifts Go Wrong (which is out now), and the newest wonderful iteration of Goat Simulator (out now and looking as surreal and goaty as ever).
In Other News…
- PUBG’s latest map, Vikendi, is now out for the console versions of the game
- Epic Games acquires digital humans tool maker 3Lateral, cuts ad deal with Appodeal
- Valve says it’s unfair that Metro Exodus is exclusive to Epic Store
- Sony is moving out of the UK because of Brexit, but PlayStation will remain
- New publisher Wellbeings will focus on mobile games that address health issues, such as chronic pain, anxiety and depression
- The American Ninja Warrior video game trailer looks pretty bad
- There’s a fan-made Persona 5 board game and it’s great
- BlocBoy JB sues Fortnite over ‘Shoot’ dance
- Influencer plans say a lot about Epic Games Store’s vision of itself
- A Celeste piano album is coming, and it sounds (and looks) great
- Rogue One writer says EA has “catastrophically mismanaged” Star Wars games
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate nearly featured Decidueye instead of Incineroar
- Jagex insists potential sale by its Chinese owner will not affect RuneScape or Old School
- Tetris world champion tries to play using a DDR mat, does okay
Emily Durham is a science writer by day and a Sidequest copyeditor by night. When she’s not writing or editing, you can find her doodling science headline comics, sewing korok cosplays, or taking blurry pictures of her two perfect cats. She tweets sporadically at @EmilyRoseDurham.