#145: Downcast

Practice makes perfect, supposedly. So why are the game industry's broadcast shows going from bad to worse?

Welcome, then, to not-E3 2022 Part II, or as it has been known for many years, Tokyo Game Show. If you’ve somehow not been paying attention, you can find yesterday’s Nintendo Direct here, and last night’s The Absolute State Of Play here (I advise against blinking, there’s not a lot of it).

At this point I am, like many of you I suspect, beyond bored with the format of these things. State Of Play has never been any good — a bland cross-pollination of marketing brochure and corporate training video, farted out guilelessly to the world and salvaged only by the quality of software that is usually on display — so I at least went into it with low expectations. But I suppose it’s time I accepted the obvious truth, and learned to expect the same of a Nintendo Direct. How dreary, how anodyne, how desperately charmless these things have become. The days of Iwata and his bananas, of the executive team done up as puppets, are now a distant, dreamlike memory.

I realise I have said versions of this before, but with platform holders free to choose when they take to the airwaves, rather than jostling for elbow room and eyeballs amid the tumult of something like E3, they no longer seem that bothered about impressing us. Knowing that they have our full attention — that millions of us are watching the stream, that the live-tweeters will keep those at work informed and website news desks will help the rest catch up later — they can trundle along contentedly in third gear. Hence Miyamoto prefacing the whisper-thin announcement of Pikmin 4 with a hypeman pitch for the Mario movie, the Nintendo theme park, and most desperately of all, for Pikmin Bloom. The thing we had all shown up for — a Zelda game that was announced more than three years ago — was over and done with in a minute and a half, with barely a sniff of gameplay footage.

Once again I find myself concerned by the lack of curation on show. A casual viewer of Geoff Keighley’s not-E3 show in June would have come away with the impression that the game industry is obsessed with sci-fi horror. Yesterday’s Direct portrayed us as lovers of farming games, anime RPGs and remasters, to the exclusion of pretty much all else. We are a broader church than this, our tapestry much richer than these supposed showcases increasingly seem to imply. Their continuing failure to reflect it is one of the year’s more worrying trends.

The format of a Direct or State Of Play really doesn’t help. At least Geoff’s not-E3 sci-fi smorgasbord had a sense of pacing, the trailer onslaught broken up by developer chats, pieces to camera and so on. By contrast, Nintendo and Sony’s shows last night seemed to be trying to set a new record for the world’s longest sizzle reel. Of course, when you’re working to that runtime it’s hard to raise more than a simmer, and by the end most of the ingredients have congealed into a formless blob. I couldn’t name you a single anime RPG or farming game from yesterday’s Direct, and I can only blame so much of that on my age.

Part of me wants to think this is just a matter of presentation: that all is in fact fine on Planet Videogames, and pandemic-era restrictions on in-person events have merely knocked the hype train temporarily off course. But that doesn’t quite feel right. Last weekend’s Ubisoft Forward showcase offered further evidence of this creeping creative stagnation; it was 90 minutes of updates on, sequels to and spin-offs from established games and series, followed by the back-to-back announcement of five (five!) Assassin’s Creed games.

Ubisoft has a lot going on at the moment, sure. No doubt it is somewhat distracted. But ten years ago CEO Yves Guillemot was lamenting how long the 360 and PS3 generation was running, because of his belief that new hardware unleashes innovation and de-risks new IP. Fast forward a decade and, two years into the PS5 and Xbox Series era, Ubisoft is treading creative water. Is this because the company is busy putting itself back together after a misconduct scandal that gutted its senior creative team? Has remote work blocked pipelines and held back innovation? Or is Ubisoft simply out of ideas?

I’m sorry for the moan. I really am! I have seen many exciting things this week. There is no game I am looking forward to more in 2022 than Mario + Rabbids: Sparks Of Hope. I am well up for Toby Ziegler’s God Of War. Yakuza Ishin has always been something of a white whale for me — I rescued an import copy from a bin liner before an Edge office move, but have never loaded it up, so intimidated am I by the language barrier — so finally getting to play that, in lustrously remastered form, is wonderful. I am intrigued by the idea of a 20-hour, linear, first-principles Assassin’s Creed. And obviously Hit Points is taking a week off for Tears Of The Kingdom, which Nintendo has thoughtfully decided to release the day after my birthday.

But that tells its own story, does it not? These are all sequels to big success stories; games we’ve known about for years, one way or another. The rest, thrown at me at frightening speed in quick-cut video broadcasts voiced by a knock-off Amazon Marketplace version of Siri, just all sort of blended into one. Two-and-a-half years since the pandemic brought the events circuit to a shuddering halt — and 11 years since Nintendo Direct first came along! — you’d expect the game industry to be getting better at this stuff. Instead, it appears to be getting worse.

Well, most of it. This morning’s RGG Studio shindig, broadcast after I’d written most of the above, was an absolute triumph. It was not merely a marketing event for the Yakuza series — though it absolutely was that, bringing news of three new games — but a proper celebration of it, too. They brought some of the voice actors to the stage, all of them dressed to the nines and looking every bit the end-of-level boss. Just look at these guys!

Perhaps it really is just a matter of presentation. Maybe I’ll watch all this week’s TGS broadcasts, just to be sure. (I will never, ever learn.)


  • Robert F writes in response to Friday’s edition, on the increasingly public war of words between Sony and Microsoft over Acquisition Blizzard — and queries how The Verge got wind of discussions between Phil Spencer and Jim Ryan over COD exclusivity. “It must have come from somewhere,” he says. “Full respect to Ryan if he leaked it, very Machiavellian. I'll be honest: I thought this was done, that Sony had no hand to play. Maybe rolling around clutching your face keeping an eye on the ref can still pay off.” Honestly I hadn’t even considered that Sony had leaked it, though I suppose one of them must have and now you’ve mentioned it, Ryan and co seem the more likely source. Heavens!

The Hit Points MAILBAG! has been a little quiet of late — no surprise, really, since I took the best part of a month off. Let’s get it going again, shall we? You can leave a comment, join me in the Hit Points Discord, or simply reply to this email. (The latter is the way to go if you’d like to remain anonymous, or would prefer your response not to be published.)


  • Before we move on from the week’s broadcast sort-of-festivities, a lesson in optics from last night’s State Of Play. A while back Sony announced PlayStation Stars, a line of digital collectibles that, Sony took great, great pains to stress at the time, are absolutely not NFTs or on-chain or anything like that, despite bearing all the hallmarks of such. Yesterday’s show brought us a first look at PlayStation Stars — and in a triumph of regrettable decision-making, the first one shown was from Ape Escape. Apes are a bit of an NFT red flag, guys! Maybe show the Astro Bot one first instead!
  • Also announced yesterday was the long-rumoured return of GoldenEye 007, which is heading to the Switch Online N64 line-up with online play, and to Game Pass with remastered visuals and improved controls, but no online component. Given the apparently years-long back and forth between Microsoft and Nintendo to get this one over the line, it’s disappointing that the final result should be a product that is fundamentally compromised on both platforms. Ho hum.
  • Beleaguered Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot says the publisher’s future next-gen games will adopt the $70 price point. Inevitable, I suppose, given the rising cost of all things. As always I hope any Ubi staffers reading have already put in for their 16% pay rise.
  • PlatinumGames’ live-service action flop Babylon’s Fall has been removed from sale and is to close down forever in February, a few weeks before its first birthday. At least Bayonetta 3 looks the business, eh. Truly the most inconsistent studio in the industry.
  • Here, PSVR 2 sounds pretty good.
  • Splatoon 3 has been beset by connectivity issues since its launch last week, which makes me feel a bit better about the fact that I haven’t had time to play it yet. Those affected should probably ignore this advice from Nintendo Of America, which instructs you to open every single port on your network, leaving you fully exposed to external attacks. Jeepers.
  • Bonnie Ross, studio head and co-founder of Halo Infinite developer 343 Industries, is stepping down due to a “family medical issue”. Pierre Hintze, formerly head of production, has taken her place.
  • Former Rockstar head honcho Dan Houser has invested in and joined the advisory board of blockchain gami- ack, no, not writing that. Too depressing.
  • Microsoft is redesigning the Xbox dashboard, seemingly to a core brief of fitting as much crap on the screen as possible. Just let me boot into My Games & Apps, will you? Recently Played along the top, then alphabetical tiles of everything else below. I can find the other bits as and when I need them.
  • Good stuff from Chris Dring at GI.biz on the non-appearance yesterday of The Things The Leakers Promised Us. Bit cross about all that. I was well up for Wind Waker.

There you go! I hope all is well with you and yours. As ever, if you’ve enjoyed this edition, please do give it a share! Growth has been outrageous recently, with over 500 new signups in the past month despite the fact I was on holiday, writing nothing at all, for most of it. I would greatly appreciate your help keeping it going. To all you new folks, a hearty welcome. I hope today’s edition has persuaded you to stick around.

Of course, eventually I hope to persuade you to take out a paid subscription. For just $5 a month you can support my independent, ad-free, SEO-ignorant work, gain access to the occasional subscriber-exclusive developer interview (next one at the end of the month, with a fair wind!), and earn my eternal admiration and respect. Have a great couple of days, and I’ll see you all on Friday.