This Week in Gaming: Activision Blizzard lawsuit, a new Tom Clancy title, and the return of Dead Space
The week has had some promising moments, most notably in the announcement of new games from Ubisoft and Electronic Arts. However, it’s also been overshadowed by a fresh controversy about sexual harassment at a major video game developer — unfortunately just one more to add to the list.
Ubisoft reveals Tom Clancy’s XDefiant, a F2P arena shooter
Ubisoft held a surprise livestream reveal at the beginning of the week and revealed it was working on a new multiplayer title: Tom Clancy’s XDefiant. The game is a free-to-play multiplayer PvP arena shooter in which gamers play as characters, or rather factions, that have appeared in previous Tom Clancy titles. The characters, or Defiants, will fight each other in 6v6 battles. Each faction or Defiant can be customized ahead of the match.
The game strongly resembles Blizzard’s Overwatch — it’s a hero arena shooter with colorful maps and modes like Escort and Domination. The parallels are clear. Needless to say, there are some fans who are asking why Ubisoft is making this as opposed to other titles in the Tom Clancy oeuvre — like a new Splinter Cell, for example. Note as well that, right after it announced this, Ubisoft revealed it was shutting down the servers of Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad, another colorful shooter starring previous Tom Clancy heroes it released on mobile last year … but that’s probably just a coincidence.
Dead Space returns with a full-fledged remake of the original
During its EA Play Live event this week, Electronic Arts showed off the expected games for most of the show: Battlefield 2042, Apex Legends, and bits and pieces of other content. But at the end of the show, host Austin Creed introduced one final trailer: A dark hallway on a space station, walls covered in blood, devastated by some unknown force. A creature half-hidden in the darkness screaming. And finally, a man in power armor, the spine of which starts glowing, looking at the message on the wall: “Cut off their limbs.” The original Dead Space is getting the remake treatment.
Rumors about a Dead Space remake have been floating around for a while. Fans of the space horror series have been wanting a new game in the series for some time, and while this remake wouldn’t exactly be “new,” the developers have said it’ll be a Resident Evil 2-style remake. This probably means that it’ll have the spirit of the original, but may change up several key parts of the game. The trailer doesn’t show enough for us to tell. The game will be coming out for PC, Xbox Series X/S, and PS5.
The ongoing issues with Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones
Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones is a game that’s been stuck in development hell for a while. Originally conceived as a spin-off of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag focused solely on pirate ship combat, it was revealed with a trailer at E3 2017. Since then, it’s been so ephemeral that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was canceled. Only sporadic confirmations from Ubisoft have given us a notion to think otherwise, usually in the form of constant release date delays. A Kotaku report this week revealed just how deep and frustrating the development cycle for the game has been.
It’s not exactly a surprise that Skull & Bones has behind-the-scenes issues — that’s the conclusion anyone would draw from the number of times it’s been delayed, coupled with how little visual progress has been made. But it’s still galling to hear how the development team at Ubisoft Singapore appears to be stuck in a nightmarish hamster wheel as the game’s development keeps restarting. The report also implies that Ubisoft can’t outright cancel the game due to a deal with the Singaporean government, but Skull & Bones has at least apparently reached the alpha stage of development.
California sues Activision Blizzard for rampant sexism and harassment
Now it’s time for the doozy: The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for its widespread sexism, discrimination, and sexual harassment in its workplace. Specifically, it said the company promoted a “frat boy” culture, and that women made up only 20% of the workforce. Not only were women very unlikely to reach leadership positions within the company, but they were also frequently paid less than their male colleagues and subjected to sexual harassment from those same colleagues, who were never punished for their behavior.
The allegations in the DFEH report are too disgusting to repeat here — you can read the whole complaint here if you haven’t eaten anything lately. If even a quarter of them have any basis in fact, then Activision Blizzard has been party to some truly reprehensible behavior. The company responded to the lawsuit claiming that the DFEH report was “distorted” and that the company culture was no longer like that (implying it had been in the past, perhaps), and added, “It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.” Make of that what you will.