Alex Birlo on September 27, 2020
This week we will talk about the huge acquisition Microsoft had made last week – buying ZniMax Media (Bethesda’s parent company), the announcement of Amazon’s cloud gaming service and how You can contribute to the fight against loot boxes – at least in the UK.
Mark Monday, September 21st as a historical date. As that day, Microsoft’s Xbox team had made historically their best move ever, by sealing a monumental deal!
More specifically, and less flamboyantly, Microsoft had acquired ZeniMax Media.
That means that for the “low low price” of 7.5 billion US Dollars, Microsoft bolstered the ranks of their in-house development studios up to 23!
As ZeniMax is the parent company of several industry leading game development studios.
First and foremost, Xbox now have Bethesda Game Studios. You might, by chance, know them as the makers of the entire “The Elder Scrolls” games series. Or maybe as the creators and the partial destroyers of the “Fallout” series – from Fallout 3 to 76, what a ride…
Then we also have ZeniMax Online Studios, who ultimately were only in charge of a single important game, that being “The Elder Scrolls Online”. Which, by the way, is already confirmed to continue being supported on the PlayStation as well.
ZeniMax also had “id Software” under their umbrella.
It is the studio that famously worked on the “DOOM” and “QUAKE” series. Founded in 1991 they are industry veterans, who revived DOOM in 2016 and then expanded upon it in 2020, also porting it to the Nintendo Switch to much success.
One fact the eluded my mind is that ZeniMax was also the parent company of Arkane Studios!
Arkane Studios are also a veteran studio in the video game industry, founded in 1999. They are better known for the, amazing and extremely stylish, series of stealth action games “Dishonored”. And the bold reimagining of “Prey”, that was a major success.
Currently they are working on “Deathloop”, and Microsoft did confirm that they aim to honor the PlayStation 5 exclusivity deal that was arranged in regards to “Deathloop” prior to the deal.
Next in the lineup we have Machine Games.
These guys are the talents behind the revamping of the “Wolfenstain” franchise, with “Wolfenstain: The New Order”, then “The Old Blood”, and “The New Colossus” after that. Until they messed it up with the weird and unbalanced co-op repetitiveness of “Youngblood”, repeating Bethesda’s trend with “Fallout”.
Last but not list, of the biggest studios, we have Tango Gameworks.
It is the Tokyo based studio under ZeniMax, founded by “the one, and only” Shinji Mikami, technically the father of the Resident Evil series.
This studio is known for their great, haunting and atmospheric horror games “The Evil Within” and “The Evil Within 2”. And are now working on “Ghostwire: Tokyo” which was also arranged to have partial exclusivity on the PlayStation 5 and Microsoft confirmed this will remain unchanged as well.
Bethesda, and the studios that come with it, were in a tight spot and losing fans for a while. With some of the bigger failures like “Fallout 76” which makes a slow but welcome recovery à la “No Man Sky”, the troubled “Wolfenstain: Youngblood” and the shallow but colorful “Rage 2”.
With only “Doom: Eternal” and the relative popularity of “The Elder Scrolls Online” to really show off in the past several years, this was a perfect opportunity to grab them and Microsoft used this chance.
And thanks to that, Xbox is now all the stronger for it. In fact, they are now probably stronger than they ever were!
This deal is going to be a great injection of investment and fresh resource into the “Bethesda ecosystem”. In tandem with the addition of all the above mentioned games to the Xbox Game Pass, dramatically increasing their value, and threatening the leading position of PlayStation once again.
So Luna is Amazon’s long rumored cloud gaming service, that like every cloud gaming service, is aimed at letting you instantly boot your games without downloads, on any screen – be it a phone, a laptop, or a TV.
Currently, Luna is not fully available, it is supported only on “mainland USA” so no Hawaii or Alaska. And the only way you can get a spot during the testing period – which I don’t know why you would want that – is through invitations that are sent out to those who sign up.
Right now the library seems fairly limited and is broken into “channels” that will include a “Luna+” channel, the “Ubisoft” channel and more to come. These channels represent libraries of games from select developers or themes – it is not really clear at the moment.
So, that means that the Ubisoft channel will have your usual Assassin’s Creed games and other titles, along with new releases like Valhalla and Immortals: Fenyx Rising.
While the Luna+ channel, for a subscription price, will contain something of a random assortment of new and old games and will allow you to play this library on two devices using the same user, while the Ubisoft channel apparently not.
From what was said so far, pricing during the testing period for Luna+ will be $5.99 per month. They call it “introductory” pricing since they are planning to change it at full release.
Obviously, just like everyone else, they absolutely had to make their own controller with the purple logo button of Luna at the middle.
It supports Bluetooth and USB for offline play on most devices, but you cannot use it with consoles of course. You can use Xbox One and DualShock 4 controllers to play on Luna, though you can always simply use a mouse and a keyboard.
It was in the headlines for a while, but here it finally begins – the UK government launched its “call for evidence” on the loot box case.
So what does that mean…
This call for evidence is a process during which the government is openly receiving submissions of reports both from institutions and common folk, all regarding the debated topic.
Through this, the government says they will get a clearer understanding of the topic and the extent of the negative effects of loot boxes. This will affect the inclusion of loot box regulations in the upcoming revision of the gambling act.
This might be only as another excuse, off the back of the UK government’s stated commitment to review the 2005 gambling act. But at least it is a great way for us to pitch all together and help the progress.
There is an official webpage, where people can submit their “Player Experience” surveys to share their point on loot boxes and their effects on their children, themselves or simply the unethical practice that loot boxes represent in general.
I must mention that this Call for Evidence is also open for positive feedback and since it is open for companies and institutions that have data on the matter, as well, expect EA, 2K and the likes to submit loads of “on the nose” statements about how the “surprise mechanics” increase our enjoyment and enrich gameplay.
You have time to make your submission until the call for evidence closes on November 22, 2020.
Microsoft on acquiring ZeniMax:
Loot boxes in video games – call for evidence: