Sony Might Have To Reveal What It Pays For Exclusive Deals

The last time we were checking in on the legal tussle over the proposed $69 billion sale of Activision Blizzard, Sony was complaining of “harassment” at the hands of Microsoft, who were asking to see all kinds of records, emails and internal documentation as part of the case’s discovery process.

As Game Developer report, though, the FTC’s chief administrative judge D. Michael Chappell has tossed out most (though not all) of Sony’s complaints, meaning that Microsoft is about to get access to a ton of “relevant documents” that PlayStation didn’t want released, ranging from its anti-trust lawyer’s external emails to a number of Senior Vice President’s documentation to the records of former employees.

Most interestingly, though—and I say this on a personal basis, not because I’m any kind of law fiend—is this from the FTC:

Microsoft argues that the Complaint in this case makes a number of allegations regarding high-performance video game console developers’ exclusivity arrangements with video game publishers. Microsoft states that it is aware that SIE requires many third-party publishers to agree to exclusivity provisions, including preventing the publishers from putting their games on Xbox’s multi-game subscription service, and that understanding the full extent of SIE’s exclusivity arrangements and their effect on industry competitiveness will assist in its defense.

Judge Chappell says this is because “the nature and extent of [Sony’s] content-licensing agreements are relevant to the Complaint’s allegations of exclusivity arrangements between video game console developers and video game developers and publishers.”

In other words, Microsoft is free to dig up how much Sony is paying publishers to keep games off Game Pass, and find out any other details or conditions associated with putting a game on a PlayStation console at the expense of any Xbox platforms or services.

I know corporate stuff is usually incredibly boring as hell, but this is one of the rare exceptions where I think seeing some numbers—and those numbers would surely be made public as part of court hearings—would be fascinating. Seeing games become exclusive, or tied up with conditions, is something that directly affects us as fans and customers. It’d be nice to know just how much money is changing hands to make sure that happens!

Note however that if Microsoft does decide to pursue this, they won’t be publishing an all-time compendium; they’re limited to deals made after January 1, 2019 (to limit the work involved in searching records, mainly), so any revelations would only be able to include exclusivity arrangements made after that date.

Elden Ring Stats Reveal What Bosses Killed Players The Most

Malenia shakes her head at all the players who fell beneath her blade.

Screenshot: Bandai Namco

Over 20 million people played Elden Ring. Now, a year after FromSoftware’s open-world Soulsborne released, we finally know which part of the game destroyed players the most. It was Malenia of course. Players attempted to fight her 329 million times, though it’s impossible to say how many of those were exclusively from Elden Ring legend “Let Me Solo Her.”

Publisher Bandai Namco released that stat along with a bunch of other new ones to highlight the 2022 GOTY’s first anniversary. While the infographics don’t say exactly how many times Malenia killed players, it’s a safe bet that her being the most-attempted boss means she was also responsible for the most failed attempts. After all, simply reaching her can be tough, and traversing the hidden areas and high-level enemies blocking the way is not for the faint of heart.

An info graphic shows the toughest bosses in Elden Ring.

Screenshot: Bandai Namco

The second-most-attempted boss was Margit the Fell Omen, which is kind of funny since he’s only the first major fight in the game. While challenging, especially as players are just beginning to get their bearings and grow into more powerful character builds, it’s also probably a testament to how early he shows up. I would be surprised if many of the 20 million players who bought Elden Ring gave up before even encountering her, which makes Malenia’s number one spot all the more impressive.

Read More: Eight Ways To Make Elden Ring Feel New Again While You Wait For DLC

The number one cause of death, meanwhile, was enemies and NPCs. That’s how 69 percent of players bit the dust (nice). Player-vs-player kills were only a measly 2 percent. Most summons were for co-op as well. Only 12 percent of online play was players invading one another, a reminder that PVP makes up a passionate but very small part of Elden Ring’s overall experience. FromSoftware was no doubt right then to balance the PVE and PVP parts of the game separately.

An info graphic shows the most used spells in Elden Ring.

Screenshot: Bandai Namco

The final revealing bit of these newest stats is that Rock Sling was the most cast spell, while Blessing of the Erdtree was the most acquired incantation. What this means is that many players were seemingly running the same basic builds. Blessing is a straight heal, while Rock Sling is exactly what it sounds like, whacking enemies for high damage and also staggering them. “Sling is King,” mages have chanted since the game came out. A year later they’ve been proven correct.

We’ll see how all of that compares to what players get up to in Elden Ring’s upcoming paid DLC, Shadow of the Erdtree. While there’s no official release date yet, players have already spent a collective lifetime analyzing concept art for clues about what the expansion will bring and concocted new fan theories about what new secrets will be unearthed.

            

Diablo IV’s Open Beta Stats Reveal The Two Most Played Classes

Now that Diablo IV’s beta is over, Blizzard has shared some interesting stats about the loot-grinding RPG and the way folks played it. Some of it is expected, like the fact that The Butcher killed over one million people while Ashava the Pestilent murked some 10 million others. But alongside revealing that y’all put in 61 million hours, making it the “largest Beta in Diablo franchise history,” the studio also shared the two most-played classes during the test window.

Read More: Diablo IV Is The Perfect Head Empty, Kill Shit Game

Diablo IV is the latest isometric action-RPG in Blizzard’s long-running loot-driven series. Slated to launch on June 6 for most platforms (except Nintendo Switch, sorry y’all), the game ran a few different betas for folks to test out some gnarly demon-killing tools. I had a great time with the beta, and Diablo IV has quickly become my most anticipated game this year. As my colleague Eric Schulkin said during our VGChat, you can tell that real time and care was put into it. So I wasn’t all that surprised to see some of the stats Blizzard tweeted on March 30, particularly the two classes that were played the most.

Necromancers and Sorcerers dominated hell

Blizzard announced that folks played over 61 million hours, making Diablo IV’s open beta “the largest beta in Diablo franchise history.” That’s an impressive number of hours, but it’s not the only stat Blizzard had for us. While Ashava and The Butcher, two of the beta’s most ferocious enemies, slayed millions of folks, it came at a price. Both jerks were felled by players as well, with Ashava dying some 107,426 times and The Butcher getting bodied 576,662 times. (Considering that Ashava killed 10,163,397 players, that means she only roughly died once for every 95 deaths she dished out, making her a formidable foe for sure.) And even though the total player death surpassed 46 million, the game’s hellspawn stood no chance, as y’all decimated almost 30 billion monsters! Billion with a B. But wait, there’s more. The most compelling stat here is that the Necromancer and Sorcerer were the most played during the beta.

What makes this particularly interesting is that the Necromancer was only available during one of the game’s two beta weekends. Diablo IV’s early access beta, which ran from March 17-20, featured only the Sorcerer, Barbarian, and Rogue. But once the open beta came around, which lasted from March 24-27, the Druid and the Necromancer were unleashed and ready to lay to rest Mommy Succubi Lilith’s demonic army.

I never did check out the Sorcerer because I was too busy playing the Necromancer, who is absolutely busted once you level them up. With abilities like raising skeletons from corpse piles and exploding dead bodies to deal damage, alongside passive buffs that increase your attack speed with every kill and up your max skill gauge, the Necromancer is pretty damn cheap. The class can make short work of even the most fearsome of bosses and trash mobs. At one point during my time with the Necromancer, I had seven skeletons rolling deep with me as we jumped various dungeon bosses and overworld enemies. Within seconds, these hellish goons were reduced to little more than flesh piles for me to either use to summon more skeletons (if any were killed during the exchange) or to heal my undead homies up for the next fight. My shadow Rogue is still dope but I dunno, the Necromancer just hits different. Even Diablo general manager Rod Fergusson knows this as just before the game’s open beta ended, he suggested folks “play Necromancer.” Well, I can see why.

Read More: Diablo IV Classes Won’t Always Feel Balanced, Blizzard Says

It’s no secret that classes won’t feel balanced off the rip. As Blizzard said in March, “Not all classes at level five should have the same power.” I noticed the strength difference between my shadow Rogue and what I’m calling my blood Necromancer. However, I think it’s situational now. Like, my Rogue is good for mobility, while my Necromancer is perfect for mowing enemies down with her wide-sweeping scythe. Both classes are fine, but yeah, I can comfortably say that the Necromancer felt stronger during the open beta. So knowing that, I’m not surprised to see the Necromancer and Sorcerer absolutely dominate the gates of Hell. Maybe it’ll be the same when the game launches in full this June. We don’t have long to wait to find out.

 

Tears of the Kingdom Creators Reveal The Smelliest Links

Link, hero of the Legend of Zelda series, has been through many visual changes over the years. We could all rank our favourites there. But have you ever stopped and wondered how the different Links across the timeline smell?

I’ll be honest here, I have not, so I’m very glad Megan Farokhmanesh, writing for Wired, thought to ask this important question. It’s not often games critics and journalists get interviews with important Japanese developers, so when they do—and having everything go through a translator never helps—interviews tend to end up being about boring, predictable stuff.

Here, though, right off the bat, Tears Of The Kingdom Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi and producer Eiji Aonuma are asked “Which version of Link, across the long-running series’ dozens of titles, would smell the worst?”

Aonuma points to Breath of the Wild’s version of the character, who wears a barbarian-style outfit with a bone cap and furs. “That might be kind of smelly,” he says, noting its “wild animal odor aroma.”

Fujibayashi, who says that “across the many decades” he’s given interviews he’s never been asked to consider which hero is most in need of deodorant, cast his vote for Twilight Princess. Although Link spends much of his time digging through dirt and running through dungeons as a wolf, Fujibayashi is thinking of one specific moment. “There are some scenes in Twilight Princess where Link engages in sumo wrestling with the Goron tribe,” he says. “I imagine he’s pretty smelly in that situation.”

Good answers! Now I’m trying to think of which Link would smell the best, and keep coming back to the freshness of early-game Wind Waker: a lovely blend of sun, sea, sand and coconuts, which is exactly how the whole game smells in my mind.

Please don’t think I’m only posting this here because of the stinky discourse, either, because the interview also gets excellent—and surprisingly blooper-filled—answers to “What are the best—and worst—things you’ve created with Ultrahand and Fuse?” as well, which you can check out over on Wired.

Vtuber’s Face Reveal Concert Is Unraveling On The Internet

Dacapo is shown lipsyncing into the camera.

Image: Algorhythm Project

Sometimes, opening up TikTok is like walking into a crime scene and having to piece together what happened. That’s what several users are experiencing right now as they try to sort through how a VTuber concert spawned dozens to hundreds of responses and a new meme format on the platform. If you have been seeing videos of people bopping to the left and right with their eyes covered, then showing their face to roaring applause and are just as confused as I was, here’s a quick explainer of what the hell is going on.

The VTuber performance took place on July 1 at the Cosplay Arts Festival in Thailand. In a video streamed to attendees, the digital performer known as Dacapo was synced up to Shinunoga’s pop song “E-Wa,” and at the beginning of the video, the character’s hair obscures his eyes. As he moves side to side throughout the song, his eyes are gradually revealed, which led to a spike in cheers from the audience in clips of the show.

Because the internet loves to bully others online, the entire display and the crowd reaction have brought upon a new joke format on TikTok, primarily targeted at the stiff animation and the face reveal that prompted such a loud reaction from attendees. On top of this, there’s been specific ridicule aimed at people for paying to go to the event, with many claiming the show cost $300 USD to attend. However, that was not the case. The concert itself was free to attendees of the Cosplay Arts Festival, which cost 300 Baht to enter and equates to roughly $9 USD.

Honestly, I have no horse in this race beyond noting how quickly the internet loves to latch onto misinformation about things they don’t like. “E-Wa” is a pretty catchy song, though.

Did Super Mario Bros. Wonder Demo Hack Reveal New Mario Actor?

Update 10/13/2023 3:25 p.m. ET: The speculation surrounding who voices Mario has been brought to an end. Kevin Afghani, who also voices Arnold in Genshin Impact, confirmed on X (formerly Twitter) that he had stepped into the plumber’s boots.

The Verge reports that Nintendo also confirmed the news via an email which stated, “The voice actor’s name is Kevin Afghani.”

The original story follows below.

Fans believe they might have discovered who the new actor for Mario is in Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

In June, Nintendo revealed an all-new 2D side-scrolling Mario platformer called Super Mario Bros. Wonder. While one section of the internet was captivated by the upcoming game’s new power-up that transforms Mario and friends into elephants, other keen-eared fans were distracted by how “off” the Italian plumber’s various utterances sounded in the trailer. Nintendo confirmed in August that longtime Mario voice actor Charles Martinet was stepping away from the series, transitioning to an honorary role as a “Mario ambassador” for the company. Now, one Mario fanatic claims to have committed what the kids call a “cool crime” to figure out who the unannounced new Mario voice actor is.

Pre-order Super Mario Bros. Wonder: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

According to Video Games Chronicle, an anonymous 4chan user claims they acquired a “kiosk demo” of Super Mario Bros. Wonder from a retail store in the U.S. and has hacked into it to obtain previously unrevealed information. On Wednesday, the anonymous user posted images of an unverified list of voice actors, which filtered out across other websites like ResetEra and Twitter. Although the list gained an air of credibility thanks to attached screenshots of previously unseen levels allegedly from World 1 of Wonder, it didn’t specify what roles the name-dropped actors would be voicing. This in turn led to a bit of online investigating on fans’ part to narrow down the potential Mario actor by cross-referencing each actor’s previous works.

After Famiboards user MondoMega whittled down the 21-person list by removing any female, foreign, or returning Mario cast member names, the list of potential western Mario actors came down to just two: Kevin Afghani (Arnold from Genshin Impact) and Mick Wingert (Heimerdinger from Arcane). The running theory in this makeshift Mario Wonder actor ARG is that the plumber’s new voice is probably Wingert. Why Wingert? As VGC notes, Afghani’s performance as Arnold sounds similar to Wonder’s talking flower, which would make veteran voice actor Wingert the likely pick for Wonder’s Mario.

Nintendo

Read More: Super Mario Bros. Wonder Is A Whole New Approach To 2D Mario Games
Pre-order Super Mario Bros. Wonder: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

After giving Wingert’s demo reel a quick listen and discovering that he’s voiced a wide range of similarly plucky-sounding characters over his career—from Baki Hanma’s Kaku Kaioh, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim’s Shu Amiguchi, to virtually every character in the Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness game—I wouldn’t be surprised if he were the new voice of Mario. Plus, Wingert’s high-energy voice print maps nicely to Nintendo’s adventurous plumber. Of course, we’ll find out come October 20 if Wingert is in fact the new voice of Mario or if a bunch of internet sleuths just got in a tizzy over nothing.

GTA 6 ‘Leak’ Has Fans Hopeful A Big Reveal Is Imminent (Again)

A 4chan user alleges they’ve watched a new trailer for Grand Theft Auto VI, Rockstar Games’ years-in-the-making action-adventure game that’s already been leaked so hard we might as well call it a river. And GTA fans, always eager for the smallest morsel about their upcoming obsession, seemed ready to turn off their critical faculties and enjoy a sweet dose of hopium.

Fans on Reddit in particular got worked up, clinging to the October 26 trailer release date the 4chan user claimed to have seen (or lifted from a GTA leaker on Twitter, who “confirmed” in September that the 26th would be important), as well as the supposed game details 4chan’s alleged leaker claimed to have memorized (many of which were previously provided by 2022’s info flood). The fans don’t fully believe the 4channer, they say, but…what if?

GTA lovers have been clinging onto “what if?” for most of the decade since Grand Theft Auto V released. They’re aching badly for more big-time crime in Rockstar’s huge, seedy, cynical worlds, so much so that they see portals to it everywhere. This dirt road in Virginia is shaped like a roman “6”—surely that’s a sign. The golden femmebot embracing the Rockstar logo in some random promotional art is also a sign, somehow, that GTA 6 is on its way. This nondescript photo of a flat house in the recent San Andreas remaster, nestled next to images of instantly recognizable Rockstar environments, is a sign, too, as is this t-shirt in GTA Online.

Rockstar, of course, remains habitually silent through all of this all-consuming sleuthing; it hasn’t made any official GTA 6 announcements since 2022, when it informed fans in a Twitter post that the game’s development “is underway.” GTA obsessives have had to make their own fun since then.

Kotaku reached out to Rockstar for comment.

Read More: GTA 6 Leaker Hacked Rockstar With Just An Amazon Fire Stick In A Hotel Room

“Saved this for the 26th,” a popular Reddit comment said about the 4chan post, which claims the predicted October 26 trailer will reveal “two cars drag racing,” “underwear guy running down street with snake,” “ferris wheel,” and about two dozen other Mad Libs entries. “I don’t believe it but we’ll see.”

“idec if its fake,” wrote another commenter, “the miniscule chance that it’s real is enough to get me going.”

“Hope is a beautiful thing,” someone replied.

Publisher Take-Two expects GTA 6 by 2025, suggests its financial forecasts—but those are also subject to wishful thinking.

Switch 2 Hype Peaks As Nintendo Nukes Original YouTube Reveal

The Nintendo Switch was first revealed via a three-minute trailer posted to YouTube on October 20, 2016. Seven years later, Nintendo has pushed the video to private, reigniting fans’ excitement for a much anticipated announcement of the Switch 2, and also destroying an important piece of history in the process.

The disappearance was first noticed on the gaming forum ResetEra, where users joked about what it might mean, including if a Switch 2 reveal might now be imminent. That, sadly, seems very unlikely, given Nintendo’s repeated insistence that it won’t have any new hardware to discuss until the start of its next fiscal year in April 2024. The company also has two big games left to sell this year: Super Mario Bros. Wonder and Super Mario RPG Remake. Nintendo doesn’t usually like to steal the spotlight away from one product by surprise-announcing another.

The original 2016 Switch reveal was notable for a bunch of reasons. Unlike the Wii U, which got the full red carpet rollout at E3 2011, Nintendo relied on a single YouTube trailer to get everyone excited for its successor. Instead of executives describing all of the new handheld hybrid console’s functions in detail, fans got to see a video of the device in action, showing both people playing alone in their living rooms, and sitting around picnic tables at night by the basketball court.

The video highlighted the Switch as a machine for portability and sociability, epitomized by the now infamous scene of hipsters playing Super Mario Odyssey at a rooftop party in the city. It eventually garnered over 50 million views. Here’s a re-upload of it by Gamespot:

Gamespot

So why did Nintendo remove it all of the sudden? Is the company trying to get old marketing out of the way so a similarly-named Switch 2 doesn’t have to compete with it in the algorithmic SEO abyss of the modern internet? Or did it simply decline to renew the licensing rights for the White Denim song used in the trailer? That’s usually the reason why video game marketing materials get delisted from YouTube, though it’s not completely clear why Nintendo would abandon the most recognizable commercial for a console that’s still selling millions of units a year, especially heading into the 2023 holiday season.

Nintendo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Switch has been an unexpected boon for Nintendo, catapulting it from talk of a desperate merger with other tech companies following the failure of the Wii U, back into contention for being the maker of the number one gaming platform in terms of first-party exclusives, convenience, affordability, and just plain fun. Many see the Switch reveal as not just a flashy ad, but an important piece of the company’s legacy and gaming history more generally.

“Nintendo should take the steps to ensure the Switch reveal video stays on their channels forever,” tweeted former head of social content for Nintendo of America, Kit Ellis. “They may disagree, but it is an important piece of video game history. It’s time for a mindset shift on things like this now that their official museum is on the way.”

As for what this means about the impending announcement of the Switch 2, or whatever Nintendo ends up calling its next console, it seems clear one way or another that the company is finally gearing up for the upcoming reveal. Multiple reports of Switch 2 developer kits at Gamescom proved Nintendo’s next hardware is already being shown behind closed doors to development partners. Even if the official announcement is still several months off, more leaks seem inevitable at this point. Hopefully, whatever the Switch 2 is capable of, whether it’s 4K resolution or backwards compatibility, we can still party with it on the rooftop.

Correction 10/18/2023 11:12 a.m. ET: The song used in the original Switch reveal trailer was not by Imagine Dragons.

           

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