This Week in Gaming: Activision Blizzard employees’ walk-out, Annapurna’s showcase, and even more game delays
It’s been a relatively quiet week for gaming news, at least in terms of big game reveals or delays. Instead, we’ve been watching the industry’s biggest scandal unfold, as well as a new stream from Annapurna. In better news, there have been several good game launches this week to keep gamers busy.
Activision Blizzard scandal grows as employees speak out
The lawsuit alleges years of harassment, favoritism, and pay disparity https://t.co/Hysz2h7K3N
— Vulture (@vulture) July 29, 2021
Following last week’s lawsuit from California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing — in which Activision Blizzard was alleged to have a “frat boy” culture behind the scenes that resulted in many of its employees facing harassment, sexism, and unfair pay — employees of the major game publisher have come forward with their own stories of working for Blizzard, and they are no more pretty than the allegations in the original lawsuit.
Activision’s initial response to the lawsuit was defensive, calling it “distorted” and claiming the company’s culture was nothing like what the lawsuit described. Employees have since staged a walk-out in protest over the company’s policies, demanding change. Activision has since hired WilmerHale, a firm with a reputation for union-busting, to review its policies. Stay tuned as the situation unfolds.
PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S are doing well in sales
This might come as a surprise for those of you who are having trouble finding a next-gen console to buy, but they’re selling by the millions. Within a year of having launched, the PlayStation 5 has already sold 10 million consoles. Microsoft has not released sales figures for the Xbox Series X/S (which isn’t new; they stopped releasing figures shortly after the Xbox One launched) but estimates put the number of consoles sold at around 6-7 million units. Both consoles remain sold out almost everywhere.
If you look at the two consoles as being locked in battle, as the two companies have been since time immemorial, then it looks like the PS5 is winning. However, I wouldn’t count the Series consoles out yet. At the moment, we’ve yet to see the effects of the Bethesda purchase, as exclusive games have not yet been released. But it’s probably more constructive to frame this as a win for the gaming industry as a whole, rather than a competition. By the way, the last reported numbers on Nintendo’s Switch put the number of hardware units sold at 84 million.
Yet more games are delayed… but not all for the same reason
If there’s been one thing that’s a consistent feature about 2020/2021 gaming news, it’s game delays. We’ve gotten many of them this week, some more disappointing than others. Kena: Bridge of Spirits, the upcoming Pixaresque adventure game from Ember Lab, was only delayed a month, from August 23 to September 21. Crimson Desert, the open-world fantasy title from the creators of Black Desert, has been delayed to an unspecified date. In many of these cases, the developers cite the continuing pandemic as part of the issue, as they wish to safeguard their employees’ health.
That’s far from the only reason, however. Splitgate, the breakout indie hit that looks like Halo meets Portal, was delayed to late August due to the current servers not being able to handle the game’s popularity. Other deep cuts include Stray, which was delayed to 2022, and SkateBird, which is being pushed to September. Horizon Forbidden West has not been confirmed to be delayed beyond a doubt, but it’s a rumor that’s looking more and more true as time goes on.
Annapurna holds a perfectly acceptable showcase
Let’s end this week on a positive note: The game publisher Annapurna Interactive, which is best known for titles like What Remains of Edith Finch and The Outer Wilds, held a showcase livestream where it showed off its upcoming games. Several of them are games we’ve seen before, such as Stray, and it was good to finally get more information about them. It was a very nice event, especially considering how turbulent the week has been overall.
Other than the aforementioned Stray, several of the games shown at the showcase are scheduled to be out this year (though, given the number of delays — see above — I wouldn’t necessarily count on all of them making it before the year turns). These include Solar Ash, Neon White, The Artful Escape, and the expansion to The Outer Wilds. Other games that don’t have a definite release date include Storyteller, Skin Deep, and A Memoir Blue.
August’s Free Games Via Subscription Services
For this part of the weekly update, we’ll mention the games that have been added to subscription and streaming gaming services. This usually happens en masse at the beginning of the month. Here are the ones announced this week.
Xbox Games with Gold:
- Darksiders III
- Lost Planet 3
- Garou: Mark of the Wolves
PlayStation Plus Free Titles:
- Hunter’s Arena: Legends (PS4, PS5)
- Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville (PS4)
- Tennis World Tour 2 (PS4)