HomeTech Pushing buttons: With creative developers shutting down everywhere, the future of gaming looks bleaker and duller

Pushing buttons: With creative developers shutting down everywhere, the future of gaming looks bleaker and duller

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Pushing buttons: With creative developers shutting down everywhere, the future of gaming looks bleaker and duller

lLast month, gaming company Take-Two Interactive announced it would reduce its global workforce by 5%, laying off 580 people to cut costs. It was one of many such announcements in 2024, but this case is especially egregious because Take-Two owns Rockstar Games, which publishes Grand Theft Auto, also known as the most successful game in the history of the world. and it is definitely no lack of profits. Last week, Bloomberg (£) reported on Internal documentation showing the possible victims of these cuts: the Intercept Games studios in Seattle and Roll7 in London are about to close. Both are part of Private Division, the independent games label of the giant publisher.

I spent some time with Intercept’s Kerbal 2 Space Program last year when they were preparing for launch. This exceptionally nerdy game about getting little green astronauts into space, which comes so close to the real physics of space flight that it inspired a generation of engineering students, has fallen on hard times. had gone through a study closure and there’s already been a developer change, and its early access release didn’t exactly go smoothly (Rock Paper Shotgun call it a “hot mess”). Kerbal Space Program 2 deserves a chance to turn things around, but it’s understandable why its developer ended up on the block.

Meanwhile, Roll7 was not acquired by Take-Two until 2021 and has since released two successful and critically acclaimed games. OlliOlli World is a fantastic, stylish cartoon skate game with lots of personality. And the equally stylish-looking Rollerdrome (pictured below), a roller-skating deathmatch game, won a Bafta last year for best British game. Roll7 has an interesting 15 year history and, crucially! – profitable games, most based on interesting and original ideas: Not a Hero was a 2D cover shooter in which a purple bunny sent you to murder criminals; Laser League was a combat sports game inspired by Tron.

Every studio closure is a tragedy for the people affected, but this one is personally heartbreaking. I’ve been playing Roll7 games for over a decade, starting with the gorgeously complex 2D skateboarding game OlliOlli, which I obsessed over on my PlayStation Vita for most of 2014, and they’re really good. OlliOlli World (pictured above) is tremendous. I also met (and interviewed) several people at Roll7 over the years, and it was a developer with a unique creative culture. It absolutely sucks to lose a study like this. But it’s also an insult to a studio that, until a few years ago, got by as an independent team.

Rollerdrome. Photography: Roll7

When Eurogamer interviewed While running the studio shortly after the 2K acquisition, co-founder John Ribbins seemed palpably relieved to have been acquired by a major publisher, because he thought it came with a certain level of security. This news is an unwelcome reminder that there is no such thing as security in the games industry, even if his studio is successful by any measure, creating acclaimed and successful award-winning games. Most of the world’s big publishers now operate on an extreme “go big or go home” basis that leaves no room for anything that isn’t grotesquely profitable. When not even a studio like Roll7 can count on the support of a company like Take-Two, can anyone?

However, Take-Two has not yet officially confirmed the closure. “On April 16, Take-Two announced a cost reduction program to identify efficiencies across its business and improve the company’s margin profile, while continuing to invest for growth,” its statement reads. “As part of these efforts, the Company is streamlining its portfolio and eliminating several projects in development and streamlining its organizational structure, which will eliminate headcount and reduce future hiring needs. The Company does not provide additional details about this program.”

The kind of games and studios being “streamlined” out of business here are exactly the kind we need in 2024: smaller, creatively interesting games that offer alternatives to the increasingly homogeneous gaming giants that have been raking in money for longer. of 10 years. years. Roll7’s releases are exactly the type of games that should be part of an artistically and monetarily valuable portfolio for a publisher like Take-Two.

Grand Theft Auto prints money and publisher executives take home tens of millions every year. Is it really true now that such a publisher can’t also support smaller games, even if they win awards and make a profit? What’s the point of having an “indie” publishing label if you’re simply going to buy good studios and close them after just two years?

This is another warning about the vandalism that larger gaming corporations can perpetrate on the studios they acquire, and I’m as outraged by it as I am by Microsoft’s decision. lionhead close in 2016. At the time of printing this newsletter, IGN reported the equally devastating news that Microsoft is closing Tango Gameworks, creators of the brilliant and interesting Hi-Fi Rush and the unique Japanese ghost story Ghostwire Tokyo, along with Arkane Austin, whose last game, Redfall, was a flop, but which He previously had a hand in some of the most critically acclaimed games of the last generation.

Huge, repetitive games played by tens of millions of people shouldn’t be the entire future of gaming. Creative developers deserve better than this, and so do we.

What to play

Good for total cowards… pixel horror game Crow Country. Photography: SFB Games

Styled after a lost PlayStation 1 classic, crow country It is a horror adventure game in which you explore an abandoned theme park full of… mutated guests, and it’s In fact spooky, right down to the lo-fi clatter, splash and creak of all the old rides. Even without all the mutants, this theme park itself is horrible! Why would anyone come here?

I particularly admire the dedication to the mid-’90s low-poly, blurry-edged look, which recalls the best of this era of horror games without endless loading times, annoying controls, and inventory management. If you like the sound of this game’s premise but are, like me, a total coward, I have good news: you can play in an enemy-less mode, so you can solve the puzzles and soak up the horrible atmosphere without the constant threat.

Available in: PC, PlayStation 5
Estimated playing time:
less than five hours

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what to read

Helldivers 2. Photography: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • games station You’ve had an unpleasant week. After its smash hit Helldivers 2 (above) sold millions on PC, the company required PC players to sign up for a PlayStation Network account to continue playing. This resulted in a player revolt, the game being removed from sale in 177 countries where PSN is not operational, over 100,000 negative reviews on Steam, and finally a ignominious descent. “We’re still learning what’s best for PC players,” Sony’s statement reads. That’s blindingly obvious.

  • Florida’s largest version of Universal Studios Nintendo theme park It’s shaping up pretty well.. That Donkey Kong-themed Mine Cart roller coaster looks like just the right amount of scary.

  • In more “big publishers are terrible at encouraging creativity” news, a video from DidYouKnowGaming’s Liam Robertson (via kotaku) explains how the American study indirect visions In the end, he was prevented from working on a slew of interesting projects, from a 3D Donkey Kong platformer to more remasters of Tony Hawk’s skateboarding games, in favor of… even more Call of Duty.

What to click

Question block

A screenshot of the video game Highland Song. Photography: ink

Reader ben provides this week’s excellent question:

“I’m increasingly frustrated by big games like Assassin’s Creed, which try to capture the ‘feel’ of a place but become a massive and repetitive strip. On the contrary, I was surprised how Untitled Goose Game It perfectly captures an esoteric British town, with no speaking characters and relatively simple forms. Can you recommend any other games that accurately represent small-scale regions?

Alba: a wildlife adventure For me it is one of these (with the important caveat that I have never been to Valencia, where it is set). It portrays a small island community and the people, birds, colors and geography of the place feel so intimate and believable. A song from the highlands, meanwhile, represents a place I know intimately: the mountains and austere coast of Scotland. His perfect, light, rough brushstrokes wonderfully communicate the relentless beauty of my home country. And there is the yakuza/like a dragon series, whose perfect recreations of Japanese cities are full of life.

I’d love to hear from readers on this topic: which games set in real places have done a great job of evoking their spirit? If you have a recommendation, question for the ask block or anything else to say about the newsletter, hit reply or email me at pushbuttons@theguardian.com.

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