Another week, another Wednesday! I haven’t been playing many games recently, though I did just try Horrified, a co-op monster-hunting board game. It was a lot of fun! The rules seem complex at first, but once you get into the groove of things it’s a lot of fun with flexible difficulty. We took Dracula and the Creature from the Black Lagoon down on our first try, so you’re welcome for saving the world from a double monster menace.

Anyway, here’s the gaming news this week.

Game Development and Media Labor Issues Are Eternal

Proletariat, also known as Blizzard Boston, is pulling their National Labor Relations Board petition and will not vote to form a union. A Communication Workers of American representative blamed Blizzard’s “confrontational tactics” for the withdrawal, stating that the company “demoralized and disempowered the group.” Employees at Proletariat voiced support for unions in the game industry and stated they hope that management will take steps to address the issues that led the studio to organize in the first place. Some others voiced support for unions more broadly, but felt that this particular decision was rushed during the holiday season.

TCGPlayer, the recently acquired trading card market arm of eBay, is attempting to unionize for a the second time, aided by the Communication Workers of America.

Lest you think the games press is safe, corporate greed continues to whittle away at publications, too. The Washington Post closed its game vertical, Launcher, last week. Twenty people in total at the Washington Post, including Launcher, were laid off, and 30 total positions will not be filled.

EGMNOW, a digital video game magazine, has also been shut down and staff has been laid off.

The Requisite Activision Blizzard Corner

After negotiating with its publisher in China, Activision Blizzard has failed to strike a deal and has shuttered many games in the country, including World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Diablo. Activision Blizzard’s Chinese publisher, NetEase, stated that Blizzard had continued to seek deals with other publishers while asking for a six-month extension on the existing deal. The whole situation has bad breakup vibes and is unfortunate for Chinese fans, who are now without a way to play some of the most popular games in the world.

Polygon rounded up some of the most important news in the proposed Microsoft and Activision Blizzard merger. According to a Bloomberg report, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) attempted to block the acquisition deal earlier than expected in December after a potential agreement between European regulators and Microsoft. The European Commission is expected to object to the deal, with a verdict due around April 11 of this year.

This follows Microsoft subpoenaing Sony on January 17 for information that would aid the defense against the FTC’s case. Sony will likely attempt to limit how much they must comply with the subpoena, as some of the argument against the acquisition includes Sony’s assertion that the deal would give Microsoft, Sony’s competitor, too much of an edge in the field. Other market giants like Google and Nvidia have also voiced concerns about the deal to the FTC.

Several counties have already approved the merger.

Wizards of the Coast Backtracks and Sets Fire to Proposed OGL Changes after Fan Backlash

Paizo announced it would remain committed to a legal battle against Wizards of the Coast (WotC) after the Dungeons & Dragons publisher announced it would be shifting to a new, more restrictive Open Gaming License (OGL). Paizo stated they did not believe that the original OGL could be deauthorized, which would hurt a large number of developers like Paizo and others who have used the OGL to develop games based on concepts from the D&D ruleset. Paizo, with other publishers, is currently developing an alternative license called the Open RPG Creative license, or ORC.

Shortly after this announcement, WotC announced it would abandon the plan for the new OGL entirely, leaving OGL 1.0a in effect, as well as moving many of the core rules of D&D to a Creative Commons license. The company solicited fan feedback for a second draft of the OGL—OGL 1.2—and was expected to continue receiving feedback through February 3, but made their decision on January 27 after receiving feedback from some 15,000 fans.

Paizo reaffirmed their commitment to ORC while voicing approval for WotC’s decision.

In other news…

Audet and Partners, LLP, is investigating claims from Neopets users whose personal information was leaked during a data breach spanning January 2021 to July 2022. The leaked data includes usernames, IP addresses, user emails, dates of birth, genders, and data specific to the game. Affected users are invited to participate in a class-action lawsuit with Audent and Partners.

Kadabra is returning to the the Pokémon trading card game for the first time since 2002. Magician Uri Geller sued The Pokémon Company for unauthorized use of his likeness in Kadabra’s character design, as the character is also famed for using psychic abilities to bend spoons. Geller retracted his complaint in 2020 and stated he is pleased the card will return, citing his granddaughters as the reason for his retraction. The card will return in the Pokemon Card 151 set.

Zelina Vega, a professional wrestler with the WWE, cosplayed as Street Fighter character Juri Han during her appearance at WrestleMania 39. During the appearance, it was announced that Vega would appear as a guest commentary in Street Fighter 6.

During a press tour for The Last of Us TV adaptation, Neil Druckmann told Buzzfeed that a third part to the game may never happen—it depends on if they have a good enough story. He also stated during the same interview that Uncharted 4 will be the last in the series. And you know what? Thank goodness. Whatever criticisms I may have of Naughty Dog’s games, I’m glad they’re not moving forward with either series if there’s no good reason to. The show, however, will go on—it was recently renewed for season two.

Following felony charges of domestic violence, Justin Roiland—animator, voice actor, writer, and producer—resigned from Squanch Games on January 16. Roiland founded Squanch Games in 2016 and the studio recently released High on Life to mixed reception. Roiland also voices both titular characters of Rick & Morty, and has been dismissed from both Adult Swim and Hulu, which runs his show Solar Opposites, following the charges. In 2018, a former Squanch Games employee filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming she was sexually harassed, discriminated against, and wrongfully terminated. The lawsuit was settled in 2019.

Tango Gameworks, best known for The Evil Within series, surprise revealed and released Hi-Fi Rush on January 25. The rhythm-action game is visually and tonally reminiscent of Jet Set Radio and Sunset Overdrive, and features, in my expert opinion, immaculate vibes.

Great news for Critical Role fans (or people who’ve been told that Critical Role is good but don’t want to sit through hundreds of hours of YouTube videos—also known as me). The Mighty Nein, the second campaign, is getting an animated series at Amazon.

Riot Games is the target of a ransom attack holding League of Legends, Teamfight Tactics, and Riot’s anticheat platform hostage. No updates to the games or software will be implemented until situation is fixed.

Annie Wersching, who voiced and did motion capture work for Tess in The Last of Us game, has died from cancer at 45 years old. Wersching was also known for her roles in 24, Picard, and The Vampire Diaries.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame is set to write for an upcoming Tomb Raider series from Amazon. If we can credit Waller-Bridge for the incredible Ana de Armas sequence in No Time to Die, I may suddenly find myself a Tomb Raider fan.

The Day Before, a survival horror MMO in a zombie-infested world, has been suddenly pulled from the Steam store. The developer cited a trademark issue as the reason for the nine-month delay, but fans have begun suggesting that perhaps there never was a game at all.

And finally, despite my well-documented love for trench coats and detective stories, I’ve never watched Columbo—but this tweet might be the thing that convinces me to do it.