Welcome to another week of gaming news! I haven’t played much over the past few weeks, but I will eventually write about Mask of the Rose, the visual novel entry into Failbetter’s extensive Fallen London universe. It’s lovely, if you like squid faces, Victorian manners, and flirting with everybody in sight.

But let’s move on to the gaming news!

Twitch Makes Choices

Twitch’s new Partner Plus program is set to launch this October. The program will replace the existing system, which gives most Twitch partners a 50/50 split of the revenue brought in by subscriptions (with the biggest partners receiving a 70/30 split up to when they reach $100,000). Under the Partner Plus program, all partners will receive the same deal—a 70/30 split up to the first $100,000, after which the split will be reduced to 50/50. Twitch users must maintain a subscriber count of at least 350 to qualify for this plan.

Twitch also introduced a new feature—Hype Chat—which will allow viewers to pin messages to the top of the chat by paying between $1 and $500, depending on what the streamer sets the minimum to. These messages will be subject to Twitch’s usual automod and banned words scanning, and can be unpinned by the streamer or moderators. Hype Chats will also be subject to the 70/30 revenue split.

Though the 70/30 deal is better than the previous 50/50 that most streamers received, many are still not satisfied with the program. As Twitch streamer KleanPlays pointed out on Twitter, supporting your favorite streamer through Twitch by purchasing Hype Chats results in less money for them than sending them a payment direct through PayPal or similar methods.

All this comes after Twitch introduced a new advertisement system in June, which it walked back within 24 hours after negative reception from Twitch streamers and viewers, as well as brands. These changes have no doubt influenced the deals some big Twitch streamers, such as xQc and Amouranth, have signed with rival streaming company Kick, which offers a 95/5 revenue split. However, Kick has less stringent moderation policies than Twitch, and has its roots in online gambling and cryptocurrency.

In other news…

According to notes from a Los Angeles City Tourism Board of Commissioners meeting, E3 has been cancelled for 2024 and 2025. Though there has not been an official statement from the Entertainment Software Association, many people are taking this as a signal of the end of the long-running tech expo, likely due to companies hosting their own events and the popularity of public events like PAX.

Esports have entered the Olympics as of June 22 to little fanfare. The opening ceremony, which was livestreamed on YouTube, attracted just over 1,000 concurrent viewers at its peak, As VG247 points out, the event is only half competition, with the remainder consisting of tech and business activities. With low viewership for this inagural event, it seems unlikely that the Esports Olympics will overtake existing large competitions.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sought and been granted a restraining order against Microsoft to prevent the company from acquiring Activision Blizzard. The terms of the merger include that the deal is meant to close before July 18 of this year, and the restraining order is intended to halt progress while the request for a preliminary injunction is under consideration. Microsoft, in a statement to The Verge, approved of the restraining order and believes it will help in the long run.

Hero Forge, a popular website for creating digital and physical miniatures, has updated their builder to include a number of gender-affirming marks, such as those associated with masectomies, pregnancy, stretch marks, and more.

Despite popular rumor, I am not actually a horse girl—but if I were, I’d be pretty damn excited about the Horse Ranch pack coming to The Sims 4, which will allow players to raise, ride, name, and customize horses within the game.

Iron Lung, a submarine-based horror game, saw a dramatic increase in sales during the period when OceanGate’s Titan submersible was missing. Developer David Szymanski tweeted a screenshot of the spike it sales along with the text, “This feels so wrong.”

 

Following social media reports that Valve had been banning new games that contained AI-created assets on Steam, the company issued a statement that the decision was less about taking a stance on AI-generated content and more about protecting themselves from a legal standpoint. “Stated plainly,” the company said in a statement to Eurogamer, “our review process is a reflection of current copyright law and policies, not an added layer of our opinion. As these laws and policies evolve over time, so will our process.”

Niantic, the studio behind Pokemon GO, is closing its LA office and laying off 230 people. In addition to the closure and layoffs, support for NBA All-World, which released in January, is ending, and Marvel: World of Heroes has been canceled. Other games in progress, such as Pikmin Bloom, Peridot, and Monster Hunter Now are still currently under development.

Unity dropped its association with Atlas 3D Asset Creator, which claimed to be selling AI-generated art assets, after discovering that the company was also selling assets taken from human creators.

Skullgirls has updated its content to remove Nazi-inspired outfits and upskirt shots of an underage character. This decision comes some ten years after the game released, and in light of accusations of inappropriate behavior by Mike Zaimont, one of the game’s creators. These changes have been met with over 2,000 negative reviews on Steam accusing the new developers of censorship.

Daedalic Entertainment is closing the studio behind The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, which was met with almost universal disdain on release. The company also cancelled a second in-development project for the Lord of the Rings universe. Daedalic stated that it will aim to place employees at the closing internal studio in new positions.

In the only news that could possibly make me interested in Among Us (sorry for being this way), Infinity Train creator Owen Dennis has been tapped to create and oversee an animated adaptation of the hit game.

I was going to end on a high note with this incredible Barbie-themed Xbox, but Khee Hoon Chan’s essential writeup of the causes behind all the recent layoffs in the gaming press dropped while I was finishing up this draft. It’s a frustrating, downer of a read that makes me want to grab the powers that be behind the industry by the shoulders and shake them.

As the potential avenues for a career in this sad, silly industry dry up, it becomes ever more important to support the sites you love that do the work you care about. I don’t just mean us (although we’re always an option)—I mean Critical Distance (the roundups are essential too!), Bullet Points, Deep Hell, Unwinnable, Uppercut, and all the rest. We know games are art. We know art needs criticism. We know one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world needs critical and journalistic oversight, and that corporations don’t want to pay for those things. Journalism, as Chan points out, has never been profitable, but that doesn’t make it less essential. Fight for it, keep it alive in whatever form you can, even if it’s just tossing a few bucks toward your favorite indie criticism site.