Hey all! Tokyo Game Show is starting up as I write this (Wednesday night), and announcements streams are scheduled to go on for a few days. Sometimes I delay the column a bit when I know some big announcements are happening, but since TGS is a multi-day thing, I'll likely be playing catch-up next week with any big news that gets dropped… though I may write up a few newsbits from tonight. We've already got one BIG news story this week, so I'm not exactly strapped for content or anything.
Meanwhile, hey, did you know 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is out this week? Fellow ANN games writer Myles reviewed it here, and I reviewed it over on GameSpot, and we both liked it a whole heck of a lot! It really is a gem of a game that's being overshadowed by everyone trying to preorder PS5s and Xboxen, and something I want to write about more in the future.
Also, if you're interested in Japanese indie games – which, let's face it, are really underrepresented compared to Western stuff – you should definitely follow Asobu, a newly-formed collective of Japanese indie developers working together to promote their games both with Japan and abroad. They debuted a showcase of upcoming Japanese indie games earlier this week, and it's all really rad-looking stuff. Have a look!
MICROSOFT MAKES THE BIG PLAY, ASSIMILATES A MAJOR PUBLISHER
Oh boy, this is quite the news. Just a day before Xbox Series S/X preorders went live, Microsoft dropped the five-ton newsnuke on the industry: they are purchasing Zenimax, the multimedia conglomerate that owns multiple developers and publishers, for $7.5 billion USD. Among the companies under the Zenimax umbrella are definitely a few names you have heard of: id Software, Arkane Studios, Machine Games, Tango Gameworks, and Bethesda Softworks, among others.
Or, to put that purchase in game terms: Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein, Dishonored, The Evil Within, Ghostwire Tokyo, Fallout, and The Elder Scrolls. Like… holy crap, that's a lot of classic and contemporary game history right there! And now Microsoft can do whatever they damn well please with it!
Of course, the first question on everyone's minds is, “so does that mean all of these IPs and future games from these developers are going to be Xbox exclusives from now on?” After all, Arkane's Deathloop is currently a PS5 exclusive, and both classic Doom and modern TES: Skyrim are known for being ported to every machine under the sun. I can understand the concern – most folks don't want to invest in every console, especially now that the top-of-the-line models of both the PS5 and Xbox Series are $500 MSRP. According to a Bloomberg article, any currently announced multiplatform games will remain so, but other will happen on a “case-by-case basis.”
What's encouraging, however, is how several Microsoft-owned games and characters have appeared on non-Xbox platforms in recent times. Microsoft owns Minecraft, and could easily make that Xbox exclusive if they wanted… but they don't, because Minecraft is extremely popular and makes much, much more money for them by being multi-platform. Games like Cuphead and Ori have also gone to other platforms, and Banjo and Kazooie are in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Microsoft might own and fund the development of a lot of these games, but if they see an audience for them outside of the core Xbox fans – and don't anticipate these players picking up a new console anytime soon -- they don't want to leave that money sitting on the table.
So – in my educated speculation – you'll likely still see big names like Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Doom being multiplatform… eventually. What's likely is some manner of timed exclusivity or special Xbox-only content to make things sweeter on the “home platform.” Smaller games or new IP appearing outside Xbox might be more iffy. Either way, this is probably the biggest first-party developer/publisher purchase in… well, ever.
Of course, after this news came out, people were running wild with studio acquisition suggestions, like having Sony buy Konami and Nintendo buy Sega… not realizing that a lot of these companies are or are part of massive multimedia conglomerates that dwarf Zenimax. I don't think Sony is particularly interested in running Konami's numerous fitness clubs, nor is Nintendo particularly keen on managing Sega-Sammy's portfolio of amusement parks, arcades, and pachinko parlors.
So here's my question: will Bethesda games be less buggy with the backing of Microsoft's coffers? We'll just have to wait and see, I guess!
THE 3DS IS OFFICIALLY OUT OF PRODUCTION, PRESS F TO PAY RESPECTS
Nintendo announced that they have officially stopped production of the 3DS family of systems after a solid ten-year run, leaving the Switch as both Nintendo's “portable” and “home” console. It's sad, but not really surprising – with the Switch being a runaway success, development on new 3DS offerings had basically died off among first and third parties. Nowadays, if you want a portability-focused console, you'll get a Switch Lite (or just use your smartphone!).
Still, the impending death of any console leaves us to reflect on its life and the games it brought us. The 3DS's launch was notoriously rocky: the software well was so dry for the first several months that Nintendo gave early adopters a bunch of free NES and Game Boy Advance games as an apology (which I still have on my system!). But after things really got going with the system, it was a must-own.
Kid Icarus Uprising is particular favorite of mine: some folks had issues with the control scheme (which I can understand if you have big ol’ fists), but it clicked with me pretty quickly. I really, really liked how Uprising seemed to revel in its video-game-ness, frequently indulging in goofy humor, fourth-wall-breaking, and surprising the player with lots of strange and unexpected story and gameplay beats. I wouldn't mind seeing Uprising redone for the Switch, though – if the control scheme was an impediment for some folks’ enjoyment, then a new version with different controls would let more people see what makes the game so great.
Other noteworthy 3DS exclusives include a bunch of Fire Emblem games, Shin Megami Tensei IV and Apocalypse, several Etrian Odyssey titles, Bravely Default and Second, Kirby Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and plenty more. And that's not counting download-only eShop stuff. Have you played Pocket Card Jockey? That's the best damn horse-racing/solitaire mashup you'll ever get your mitts on!
The 3DS isn't 100% moribund yet -- there may still be some boutique releases and cheapo eShop offerings coming – it's pretty obvious that it's now officially out to pasture. It had a great run, keeping Nintendo fans happy through the painful Wii U years and managing to outdo the PlayStation Vita without really trying, so while it didn't quite hit the sales numbers of the original Nintendo DS, it's still an overall success that left us with a lot of fantastic times. Enjoy your place in the Kingdom of Nostalgia, little guy.
So, what do you think about Microsoft's latest acquisition? Are you worried that your favorites won't be multiplatform anymore? Do you have any particularly fond memories of the 3DS? Have you been caught in next-gen preorder hell? Join us in the forum for plenty of fun chitchat about the wild ride that is the game industry! I'll see you again next week with some TGS roundups!