Microsoft changes its game plan

Plus Helldivers 2 and a new Switch…eventually.

Microsoft changes its game plan
image via Owen A. on Flickr.

It was a bad week to be an employee at multiple Microsoft-owned studios, and the closures this week might just be the beginning. That plus the latest on Helldivers 2 and a new Switch launch details are coming…eventually. Let’s go!

Microsoft closes studios

Hi-Fi Rush

Microsoft announced last week that it would close four Bethesda studios in a “reprioritization of titles and resources.” The four studios include: Arkane Austin, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse games. 

Arkane Austin most recently worked on Redfall, a game which suffered from issues at release last year. The studio was apparently set to release an update to the game this month that fixed a number of issues, including allowing offline play. Microsoft also basically screwed over players who purchased the deluxe version of Redfall, and did not receive their content or new characters that cost extra. Microsoft said they will “make good” to those players, but they haven’t indicated yet what that means. 

Tango Gameworks may have been the biggest surprise of the group. In a town hall meeting to discuss the closures, head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty said “we need smaller games that give us prestige and awards.” Ironically, Tango Gameworks launched the award-winning game Hi-Fi Rush in 2023. It was the hit they needed when games like Redfall faltered last year. 

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Xbox president Sarah Bond says part of the reason for the closures is the video game industry’s growth has been flat. From the interview:

In 2023, we saw just some tremendous releases, tremendously groundbreaking games. But still, the growth didn't follow all of that. A lot of that's related to our need to bring new players in and make gaming more accessible. But all of that has been happening at the same time that the cost associated with making these beautiful triple-A blockbuster games is going up, and the time it takes to make them is going up.
And so, so much of our focus as Xbox is about how we do things to help the industry all up, while also ensuring that our brand, everything that we do, is there through this moment of transition.

Criticism of the closures has been fierce, including by developers still employed by Microsoft. Arkane Lyon head Dinga Bakaba took to Twitter:

This is all bad news for gamemakers. Making good and profitable games will no longer keep them safe. To make it worse, Microsoft plans to make more cuts in the near future

The Bethesda studio closures inspired a great deal of commentary. Here are a few worth your time:

Nintendo’s Switching it up

Nintendo made an announcement this week that they will be making an announcement. 

This week’s announcement is that they will formally announce the successor to the Switch before the end of March 2025. There have been plenty of rumors and speculation around the next console from Nintendo, with the Switch being released eight years ago.

There is no indication when Nintendo plans to launch its “next-model Switch,” but the company recently released their financials for 2025, and say they expect a decline due to falling sales of the Switch and its games.

While you shouldn’t expect a new Switch before summer of next year, rumored specs for the device may have leaked through customs and shipping data.

Helldivers 2 update

Last week we discussed how Helldivers 2 alienated a large portion of their player base before revoking their plan to require PlayStation Network logins on Steam. The CEO of Arrowhead games Johan Pilestedt thanked Sony for changing their mind, and said he was “impressed by the willpower of the Helldivers 2 community and your ability to collaborate.”

The war between players and Sony was not without its casualties. A community manager for Arrowhead Studio who encouraged players to review bomb and demand refunds for Helldivers 2 was reportedly fired. This after potentially saving the game from its own demise. 

Meanwhile, Helldivers 2 players are reversing their negative Steam reviews after Sony reversed course on required PSN logins. Other fans are making capes designed from the negative reviews, and they might appear in the game.

Hades 2

🤴🏼 The Rogue Prince of Persia game that was scheduled to release this week was pushed back by the developers because ‘everyone and their mum’ is playing Hades II

✖️ Related: Hades 2 already hit over 100,000 concurrent players on Steam, tripling the first game's record on the platform.

🏅 Pentiment and We Are OFK win Peabody Awards.

🗺️ Pokémon Go players are altering public map data to catch rare Pokémon.

🎢 Netflix launched a Roblox “digital theme park” featuring characters and content from Stranger Things,One Piece, Cobra Kai and more.

🎲 Critical Role created a new subscription service that includes two exclusive shows and live event presale access. 

⏪ Warner Bros. reverses course and now says it won’t delist Adult Swim games.

💸 Warner Bros. also blamed Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League for a $200 million hit to revenue

🃏 GameStop will soon buy and sell rare Pokémon cards.

💰 A court ruled against Activision Blizzard in a $23.4 million patent dispute.

🐦‍⬛ Nintendo Switch is removing Twitter integration in June. 

🚫 While Helldivers 2 no longer requires a PlayStation Network to login, the upcoming release of Ghost of Tsushima on PC will, prohibiting its sale in dozens of countries.

📈 Capcom reported record profits for seven straight years. 

🤖 Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson says “more than 50% of our development processes will be positively impacted by the advances in generative AI." Wilson also says that EA is considering in-game advertisements

🃏 Mark Hamill is returning to his role as The Joker in MultiVersus.

📱 Microsoft is launching a new mobile gaming store in July

🦔 Sega announced Sonic Rumble, a 32-player mobile game. 

🥽 Meta is ending Beat Saber support for Quest 1 in November. 

🎶 The musical game Stray Gods gets new DLC featuring Rent’s Anthony Rapp. Watch the trailer

🤝🏽 Meet Amir Satvat, the man leading efforts to find laid-off developers new jobs.

New Releases this week:

Homeworld 3

Check out our feature on 11 new games to play in May.

5/13: Homeworld 3 (PC)
5/15: Crow Country (PC)
5/16: Lorelei and the Laser Eyes (Switch and PC)
5/16: Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER (PlayStation, Xbox, Switch and PC)
5/17: My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery (PlayStation, Xbox, Switch and PC)

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