Spring is finally here. The weather has finally been warmer the past few days with temperatures in the 70-degree range. Before then, the winter had made one final push with lows in the upper-30s. But thank goodness that it looks as if it is being phased out until later this year. In the gaming world, it was a week of some nice announcements that I will be including in this week’s wrap-up, as well as an interesting story involving Activision Blizzard. Let’s get to it.
OUTRIDERS AND OCTOPATH TRAVELER SLATED FOR XBOX GAME PASS
It’s happening. Xbox Game Pass subscribers on Xbox consoles, as well as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will be able to play Outriders on its April 1st release date. The only Game Pass subscribers that will not have Day One access are the ones on PC as they will have to wait a little longer. Yet for PC users, there may be some workarounds to check out such as using the XBox app on the Bluestacks android emulator if you have a Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
I played and discussed the Outriders demo in a post earlier this month. The demo was a tremendous preview of the game and I appreciate the approach of giving the players a full game at launch. If executed properly, I truly believe that this game could be winning some awards by the end of the year. Keep in mind though that you will have to be connecting online at all times to play it. There is no offline mode.
Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler will finally be available on Game Pass beginning March 25 for both console and PC subscribers. Since its release in 2018, the classic style role-playing game has sold very well and has also been highly regarded by gamers. Octopath Traveler has also maintained its value as it is usually difficult to find the game for less than the full $60 price tag. But, if you’re a PC gamer, Steam is currently offering the game for $29.99 through March 29. For information about the game can be found HERE.
The look of the game reminds me of Final Fantasy VI for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. That’s a good thing because FFVI was the game that hooked me on classic Japanese RPGs and Chrono Trigger cemented it. I look forward to being able to play this game through my Game Pass subscription.
MORE RELEASES FOR ‘PLAY AT HOME’
Playstation kicked off its 2021 “Play At Home” initiative earlier this month by making Ratchet and Clank available free to download. The game is still available to claim through the end of this month. Earlier this week, the gaming company announced several more free titles that will soon be available to Playstation owners including Enter the Gungeon, Subnautica, Rez Infinite, Abzu, The Witness, Astro Bot Rescue Mission (VR), Moss (VR), Thumper (VR), and Paper Beast (VR). The biggest announcement was that Horizon Zero Dawn would be free for Playstation owners on April 19th.
It looks like Playstation went with an indie theme here, which I have no problem with because I’m a huge supporter of indie games. With Enter the Gungeon, I will now have the game on three different platforms. Subnautica is a game I’ve read a lot of good things about so I am excited to add that title to my library. I ended up buying Horizon Zero Dawn for $10 last December and from what I’ve played, those who have never checked out the game are in for a treat and will be surprised this game was given away for free. Looks like Playstation owners will have many hours of gameplay ahead without spending a dime.
TIGER WOODS REACHES DEAL WITH 2K
Last year, 2K Sports expanded its sports library by releasing PGA Tour 2K21. The game was well–received overall as many gamers found it to be the first time since the height of the EA Sports’ Tiger Woods PGA Tour series that a quality PGA game had been created. But when Woods was removed from the series, the EA franchise went into a quick decline.
Now the Tiger Woods name will be attached to the PGA Tour 2K series as the two sides agreed to a long-term deal this past week. Tiger Woods is the biggest name in PGA history and the agreement ensures that 2K Sports will have that very name connected to its golf gaming series going forward. No financial details of the deal have been disclosed.
Tiger Woods not only attracted many people who had no interest in golf before to start watching it on television during his heyday, but that also extended into video games during his run with Electronic Arts. This is a huge signing for 2K’s new golfing franchise and I expect the sales for the series to increase as soon as the next game has him on its cover.
EA PLAY FINALLY AVAILABLE ON GAME PASS PC
Oh heck yeah! As of Thursday, Xbox Game Pass on PC subscribers witnessed the long awaited addition of EA Play to their Game Pass subscription. The last we had heard of the anticipated feature was back in December, but not timetable had been given regarding its release. EA Play adds more than 60 titles to the Game Pass which include many titles from series such as Madden NFL, Need for Speed, Battlefield, The Sims, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect. Several Star Wars related games are also part of the package. Please note that Game Pass gives players standard access to EA Play and a Pro version with expanded access to the Electronic Arts library is available for $14.99/month.
This is what I’ve been waiting for. The EA library will give Game Pass on PC subscribers a much needed variety of gaming content, particularly in the area of sports, first person shooters, and Bioware role-playing games. With both the addition of Bethesda games and now EA Play, the content you get with a Game Pass on PC subscription just got even better.
LAYOFFS WITHIN ACTIVISION BLIZZARD LEAD TO QUESTIONS ABOUT CEO PAY
It was reported this week that Activision Blizzard esports-related layoffs have ended up affecting nearly 200 employees. The reason given for the layoffs was due to live events being canceled due to COVID-19. One interesting development in this week’s news is that the layoffs have caused investors to question the salary of Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. in 2019, his salary was reported to be in the ballpark of $30 million. Yet that same year, more than 800 employees were laid off.
This is not a good look for Kotick or Activision Blizzard. You’re talking about a company that was able to earn nearly $2 billion in a three-month period last year and so to the public, it doesn’t make sense as to why anyone would have to be laid off. Furthermore, with COVID-19 and how that has impacted people’s lives, it seems that it could have been held off until things became more stable. I totally get all of those sentiments and my heart goes out to those former employees that are now unemployed. Throwing in a $200 Battle.net card within the severance package, which in essence is a gift card to the very place that just terminated your employment, was an insensitive move on Activision Blizzard’s part.
So much is being said about Kotick’s salary in comparison to other gaming organization CEOs, but with as much money as Activision earns, wouldn’t Kotick have a higher salary than his peers? I believe the main issue at hand is not how much he earns, but the premise of why employees were laid off. And then the question could be asked, would the layoffs have ever been looked upon approvingly even if they were delayed until further down the road when things were more normal? Are companies bound to certain rules and expectations just because they earn more money? These are questions that I’m reflecting on and it doesn’t mean I’m taking a stance in favor of Activision Blizzard. It just means I’m seeking to understand the whole picture. I do believe corporate greed does exist, but I’m not quick to jump to that conclusion in every situation without knowing all the necessary facts and details. I’m sure they will be plenty of opinions on this going forward.