Happy Wednesday! May your inbox be blessed and clear, I say, with a weekend’s worth of new game announcements clogging mine up. I love a new game announcement as much as the next person, but imagine a world where we get a neat little digest instead of roughly 800 emails at a time. No, let’s go a step further and imagine a world without email. Ah, bliss.
Anyway, here’s what’s been happening in the world of games this week!
Fallout 76 faced criticism for its empty world, bugs, and more on its release. A new report from Kotaku shows that many of these issues stem from mismanagement, crunch, and systemic overwork at Bethesda and Bethesda’s parent company, ZeniMax.
Sisi Jiang’s interviews with 10 former Bethesda and Zenimax employees revealed that many workers were asked to sign non-disparagement clauses, leaving them unable to speak publicly about mismanagement at their workplace. That mismanagement included QA testers working 10-hour days six days per week, surveillance and encouragement to “snitch” on fellow employees for taking too long using the bathroom, and having to borrow developers from other ZeniMax games to solve Fallout 76‘s many issues at launch. Many of those problems were brought up by developers prior to the game’s launch, but reportedly ignored or dismissed by management. Interview subjects also claim that many employees suffered physical injuries from the long hours spent working on the game.
This isn’t Bethesda’s first time in the spotlight for crunch and similar mismanagement issues. They came under fire for tying Fallout: New Vegas development studio Obsidian Entertainment’s royalties to review scores—scores the company was unable to meet, especially after reported pressure from Bethesda to release on time whether the game was polished or not. In an IGN interview, Todd Howard said some amount of crunch was “healthy” for studios. These attitudes are pervasive throughout the games industry—Jiang’s report on Fallout 76 is just the latest example.
In better and related news, Bobby Kotick announced on June 10 that Activision Blizzard would voluntarily recognize the Raven Software’s QA union and enter collective bargaining negotiations. However, Activision Blizzard has also denied pay raises to organizers and sent out memos against unionization. Kotick’s announcement came after Microsoft, which is in the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard, announced that they would recognize the union when the deal is finalized.
On June 6, all 16 members of Keyword Studios’ Edmonton office, the team that does QA work for many BioWare projects, voted to unionize. Conversations around organizing began at the studio following a “return to work” order in March that would award higher pay to employees who returned to the office. These workers are not BioWare or EA (BioWare’s parent company) employees, but EA’s director of corporate communications Lacey Haines said in a statement that the company would respect “the right of workers to choose.”
Summer Game Fest and More
Summer Game Fest, the online hype machine pioneered by Geoff Keighley, began last week, and there’s roughly one million new games on the way. IGN has a roundup of all the games we can anticipate from day one, but here’s a few I’m personally excited about (leave your faves in the comments!):
- Highwater, a game about exploring the world after the effects of climate change become especially pronounced, looks like my brand of melancholy beauty.
- OK, I don’t actually like metal or shooters, but Metal: Hellsinger looks like a blast—ya girl loves a unique rhythm game!
- American Arcadia looks like a game I’ll buy for myself and then make my husband play it because I find it too stressful but I really, really want to know what happens.
Here’s what’s got me jazzed from those showcases:
- Will The Garden Path be the gardening game I’ve always wanted? Only time will tell, but it sure looks joyful!
- Witchy shit and solitaire? Deal me in for Soulitaire.
- (deep breath) oh-my-god-a-Snufkin-game
- I’ve never done an escape room in real life, but I have played many hours of escape-the-room Flash games, so Escape Academy looks like my jam.
- A game about organization? Are you kidding me?? Sign me up.
- I am intrigued by As Dusk Falls, which looks like the kind of choice-and-consequences mystery I crave.
And while I don’t do platformers myself, this one deserves a special mention—congratulations to all the Hollow Knight fans out there who have been waiting ages for Silksong news. Still no release date, but you’ve got a gorgeous trailer to look at!
In other news…
The little guys from Among Us (amonguses?) are coming to Fortnite, because why the hell not? Everything’s in Fortnite!
Axie Infinity, a “play-to-earn” (AKA cryptocurrency-based game), is crumbling. Some players have dumped tens of thousands of dollars into the game, which is rapidly shedding users while the prices for its digital assets crash
I wrote this article about Axie Infinity, the most famous “play-to-earn” video game. Tl:dr version: it was not a good way for most people to earn money, and the developers now say earning money was never actually the point, anyway. 1/12https://t.co/iUH8mHakiw
— Joshua Brustein (@joshuabrustein) June 10, 2022
I will no doubt fall in love with every character in Dragon Age: Absolution, a new animated series in the hit game franchise coming to Netflix in December, whether I want to or not.
Overwatch 2 has a release date: October 4. It will be free to play at launch.
Alex Kipman, co-creator of Microsoft HoloLens, is resigning from the company after misconduct allegations. Many women who worked with Kipman made complaints about his inappropriate behavior, including showing off “VR porn” to fellow employees.
Gary Bowser, who is not the same person as Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser, was sentenced to pay over $14 million earlier this year for doing marketing and customer services for a hacker group working on Nintendo game piracy. A US Department of Justice lawyer argued that the reduced sentence—$4.5 million to be paid monthly in payments not exceeding 10% of his monthly income, plus almost three years in prison—was intended to make an example of Bowser and to deter future piracy, with the implication that this is a good thing. It’s a deeply cruel sentence, especially given Nintendo had an almost 500% increase in profits the year that Bowser was arrested.
Gary Bowser owes Nintendo $4.5 million, which the DOJ says will make him an “example” and leave him “socially isolated and financially destitute. https://t.co/LhJ2LRVR95
— Waypoint (@waypoint) June 7, 2022
Voice actor Billy Kametz, known for roles in Persona 5 Royal, Pokémon, and Fire Emblem passed away last week from colon cancer. Kametz’s family encourages donations to the Colon Cancer Coalition in lieu of flowers.
Lastly, it’s the end of an era. Giant Bomb co-founder Jeff Gerstmann is leaving the site after 14 years. Gerstmann has launched his own podcast and Patreon page to continue his work in gaming on his own terms.
Melissa Brinks is Sidequest’s editor in chief, co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast, author of The Compendium of Magical Beasts, and an aspiring beekeeper. She once won an argument on the internet, and tweets at @MelissaBrinks.