#129: No jacket required

A look back at yesterday's Summer Game Fest — or, if I may be so bold, Nights in Shite Satin.

Summer Game Fest, then. I think we can all agree on the most important takeaway from the evening’s sort-of-festivities: what in the ever-living fuck was going on with Geoff Keighley’s jacket? Was it polyester? Pleather? Had he fashioned it from the remnants of a broken gaming chair? An hour in my wife appeared, having successfully got the youngest to sleep, and reckoned it was Duchess Satin, a fabric commonly used on the bridal scene. Was Geoff planning a live goth wedding to eternal bestie Hideo Kojima to close out the show? You wouldn’t put it past him, would you. Either way, yuck. Fuckedness Satin, more like.

After that I’m afraid I could barely concentrate on videogames; this was now a deeply strange fashion show. Glen Schofield, on hand to show off The Callisto Protocol, should not wear a blazer, though I would of course never say that to his face. Despite his gruffly threatening voice and intimidating heft, Glen is in fact a sensitive soul and a true sweetheart. A few years back I had dinner with him and his then COD brother in arms, Michael Condrey. I arrived early to find Glen was already there; he was sketching in a portfolio and he spent 20 minutes talking quietly and very precisely about his art while I sipped my gin and tonic.

So, yes, lovely man. The blazer looked terrible, but next to Geoff in his mismatched bridesmaid’s suit Glen just about got away with it — unlike Johanna Faries, the Call Of Duty general manager who, opening her wardrobe doors before going on a globally livestreamed stage show being watched by millions, let her eyes pass over the power suits and business-casual clobber typical of the executive set and thought, ‘Yep, dungarees’. Later, NFT-loving voice actor Troy Baker looked like he’d spilled a drink backstage and had to borrow some trousers off a runner who was a foot shorter than him. Closing out the show was Neil Druckmann in a $125 henley that didn’t fit. It wasn’t until Geoff had left the stage and handed over to Day Of The Devs that we finally saw people who appeared to have got dressed with their eyes open.

If anything I was grateful for the distraction, given the calibre of game Geoff had to show us. As I pointed out earlier in the week, the Hype God’s move to lower expectations for the event was a worrying sign, but in hindsight I’m not sure he went far enough in preparing us for just how wet of a fart he had brewing. It was not purely a question of quality — I am sure many of these games will turn out just fine. Rather, it was a matter of curation. There was far too much sci-fi, way too much horror, and also too much sci-fi horror. And violence was the dominant language of the day. No surprise with things like this, admittedly, but with so much genre-sharing going on, it seemed to stick out even more than usual.

Occasionally, during my old days on Edge, as we were putting the finishing touches to an issue I would suddenly realise the review section was full of 7s. I’d read them all again; maybe a couple were secretly 6s in disguise, and maybe one, on closer reading, deserved 8. Perhaps we could push one of the 7s to next month? Most of the time there was nothing I could do, but at least I tried. I’m sure Geoff did his best, too, but he ended up in much the same situation. Just as I always had to fill a review section because the mag had a fixed pagecount, so Geoff has now committed to filling a 90-minute show three times a year with new, exciting, (mostly) triple-A videogames. And sometimes, as we saw last night, the industry just doesn’t have enough games to back it up — particularly at E3 time when every platform holder, publisher, media company and their dog are putting on their own show. There are only so many games to go around.

Geoff did his best to style it out — no mean feat in that jacket — and after Druckmann had followed his t-shirt off stage we got the only really big news of the night: an open declaration of war on E3. “Summer Game Fest will return in June 2023,” he said, “as a digital and in-person event to bring the gaming community together.” This just days after the Entertainment Software Association pledged that E3 would return, as a digital and in-person event, in June 2023. Clearly Keighley has calculated that E3 has been away for too long, and that he has done enough to claim the void for himself during its absence. E3 is dead; long live Keigh3. I kind of respect that, if I’m honest — particularly from someone whose career really should have been over the moment the Doritopope meme was born — but he’s going to have to do a whole lot better than he did last night if he’s ever to succeed in consigning E3 to the lanyard-stuffed dustbin of history.

His gauntlet thrown firmly down, Geoff then handed over to Day Of The Devs, the Double Fine indie shindig which this year marked its 10th anniversary. I am not sure the creative divide between triple-A and indie games has ever felt so stark (and not just because of the outfits). As Summer Game Fest’s Venn diagram of sci-fi and horror showed, triple-A bods tend to think in terms of genres — and verbs, as Troy Baker acknowledged in one of the show’s rare moments of insight — while indies trade in concepts. We went from ‘sci-fi horror thirdperson shooter’ to ‘you run a bed and breakfast in the woods, but you are a bear’ and honestly, it was no contest. There was loads here to like but my pick was the opener, Time Flies. It’s a great idea, terrifically funny and was a true tonic after the ultraviolent, extravagantly raytraced, otherworldly oppression of the show that preceded it.

And then there was Devolver, the final act of the night but by no means its headline act. Quite the opposite, really. I have never bought into Devolver’s counter-cultural anarcho-punk shtick. It has always seemed contrived, too precise and refined, like the marketing copy on the back of a can of overpriced craft beer. I thought last night was a new low in this regard, primarily because Devolver went public at the start of 2022, floating on the London Stock Exchange valued at almost a billion dollars. I do not think you get to take the piss out of industry consolidation when Sony and NetEase used said flotation to take a significant stake in your business. I am not sure you still get to satirise the business and working practices of traditional videogame companies while, across the hall, the bean-counters are looking for possible efficiency savings in order to maximise value for shareholders. You have become what you purport to hate, Devolver, as if you weren’t already. Glass houses and all that. The clothes were okay, though, I suppose.


A couple of things. First, enough of you replied the other day to say you’d love a Hit Points not-E3 Discord server that, fine, I made one. Come on in! I’m sure it goes without saying that this won’t really work if there’s only like three people in there so perhaps we could all kindly agree to jump in for a watchalong of the Xbox briefing on Sunday. I’ll be there, drinking and doing dad jokes and trying out Hit Points material in realtime. One day this will probably be a subscriber-exclusive thing, but for now, welcome one and all. It’s got a channel called ‘#exciting-lunch-discussion’, which I feel has to count for something.

Secondly, the other day I made some changes to Hit Points subscriptions — permanently lowering the cost of a monthly sub, and switching the currency from US dollars to Her Majesty’s Great British Brexit Pounds. This was a great idea in the sense that a bunch of you were persuaded to sign up for a sub. However, it was also a terrible idea, in the sense that it doesn’t actually work.

It transpires that, despite letting me change the billing currency in the Hit Points dashboard, I can only accept payments in pounds from people who have never had a paid subscription before. Everyone else gets an error message saying they can’t have two currencies on their user account. I took it up with Substack and they were like ‘lol yeah sorry, doesn’t work like that’. They gave me two choices: either cancel all this week’s new paid subscriptions, switch back to dollars and ask them to sign up again, or keep it in sterling, but cancel literally everyone else’s subscription, give them a pro-rata refund, then ask them to sign up again.

Obviously: no, not doing that. I’ve switched back to dollars for now, with the monthly fee set at $5 (the lowest Substack will allow) just to minimise hiccups as subs renew. I am also looking at migrating from Substack to a platform that actually, you know, works. Nothing to report just yet as I’m still in research mode — and there’s a chance Substack will get its finger out and make the seemingly straightforward actually possible — but please bear with me. More news as I have it.

All very embarrassing, this. Sorry for the bother, and thanks to those of you who brought it to my attention.


  • “Could World Of Warcraft Classic be a good example of how reboarding has worked?” writes James in response to Wednesday’s edition, on the trouble with going back to live-service-y things after a break. “Once your user base peaks and starts heading steadily down then strip it right back and go back to the start. There was definitely a big chunk of nostalgia in going back to vanilla for lots of people, but I can also see how much the hard prune of all those layers of complexity made it easier to get back into. The questions are how much of your core user base would stay with you, and do you have a big enough number and deep enough pockets to risk it?” Good shout, this, though one that wouldn’t work for Destiny specifically because Bungie’s business model involves re-adding years-old content every so often in a smart, if somewhat cynical, leveraging of player nostalgia. WOW is a huge blind spot for me, you know. Maybe it’s time I finally took the plunge? Bit scared of it if I’m honest. Addictive personality.

“As a fellow former Destiny obsessive who hasn’t played in a long time — and as a game designer who has worked almost exclusively on live-service games — there is one thing that often worries me,” says Ferruccio. “That feeling of coming back home and realising why you left in the first place is the single biggest issue I have with these kinds of games, both as a creator and user. Why do you stop playing live-service games? In my experience, it’s because you're disgusted: just like an infinite buffet, you stop because you can't take it anymore. And the smell that was appetising now triggers less pleasant feelings. I guess my thesis — and my worry — is that most live-service games, by design, leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. They burn goodwill until you just leave.

“I loved Destiny, I really did. I was so invested in its world, the smoothness of the core gameplay and the bits of narrative, and I still think it's one of the most stylish renditions of space fantasy. But the thought of getting back in is less than appealing, because I know that sooner or later the grind will kick in. As a game maker, I can't help but think that this is a real, big problem. Yes, Bungie will dry their tears with dollar bills, and in general successful live-service games generate as much money as small industries, but still: a game that leaves a bad taste in your mouth is surely not optimal?” Terrific point, this, and wonderfully written. Thanks for getting in touch.

  • Here’s Paul: “I can’t be the only person who consistently reads the title of Gala Games’ NFT-powered multiplayer cowboying game as Grift, can I?” No, sir, you cannot.


  • Yesterday Microsoft just chucked out a bunch of potentially industry-shaking news: Game Pass streaming through native apps on 2022-model Samsung TVs, and the ability to cloud-stream non-Game Pass games you own. There’s also a bunch of cloud-type stuff for the Edge browser and some new functionality for games on Windows 11. A surprising move given we’re all expecting Sunday’s Xbox briefing to be a bit quiet; perhaps there’s hope for not-E3 2022 yet.
  • The Grammys are finally adding a videogame music category next year. All well and good, but as someone who has spent the week listening to YouTube DJ mixes of old videogame drum&bass tunes, this is at least 25 years too late. (Thanks to VGC editor Andy Robinson for walking me to the edge of the rabbit hole.)
  • Oh! I was interviewed about the life and possible death of real-E3 for a feature in the new issue of Retro Gamer, which is in yon shops and digital stores now. Thanks to Hit Points pal Lewis Packwood for letting me yammer on about old-man stuff. Once again, a reminder: you must now all address me as a Thought Leader.
  • While we’re at it, the new Edge cover is an absolute beaut. Heavens above.

That’ll do. Gosh, what a bumper edition that was, though I suppose it’s that time of year. If this has struck a chord with you, do give it a share; with no SEO to tweak, algorithms to game or marketing budget to spend, I am exclusively reliant on the goodwill of readers to help Hit Points continue to grow. And of course, remember that paid subscriptions are now nice and cheap, though you’ll have to pay in dollars for the moment. Since I wrote the Intermission another newsletter provider has got back to me about moving everything over and it sounds pretty promising. I’ve been hurt before, of course, so I shall do my due diligence and keep you all informed.

Have a wonderful weekend, whatever you’re doing — I will be building furniture for my parents, shushing children and counting calories — and I’ll see you on Mond- wait! I’ll see you on Sunday at 6pm UK time in the Hit Points Chums Discord server for the Xbox and Bethesda not-E3 briefing. Until then!