#187: Desperate measures

Reality is for chumps as Acquisition Blizzard nears its endgame.

The Acquisition Blizzard saga is nearly over. You can tell, because it is becoming increasingly apparent that we are past the point of cogent legal arguments or even, if we are honest, basic common sense. The time is over for precision, as a concept: we are in real spray-and-pray territory here. All the good ammo is gone, and Microsoft and Sony must now load their guns with whatever old shit they can lay their hands on.

Thankfully, for the three of you who aren’t completely fed up of this display by now, shit is in plentiful supply at the desk of Lulu Cheng Meservey, Activision Blizzard’s CCO, EVP of corporate affairs, and increasingly Muskian poster-in-chief. It was she, you may recall, who brought us that dismal The Last Of Us pun, and the unspeakably embarrassing bicycle meme. Meservey’s been at it again this week, dropping what I am sure she, and the band of r/gaming shitposters that appears to comprise the Activision comms team these days, figured was absolute dynamite. Behold:

I think this tweet is supposed to be some sort of smoking gun? Honestly not sure. To me the only thing noteworthy about it is you just know there was at least a ten-minute debate between Meservey and her band of edgelord interns about whether double-line spacing was ‘a bit too LinkedIn’. The head of PlayStation, which has spent the last 12 months spelling out its opposition to Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of one of Sony’s greatest revenue generators, just said in plain language something we all already knew to be true? Well, fuck Hit Points sideways. How very dare he.

I don’t blame Merservey for this, really. She is just the latest in an ever-lengthening line of public figures who have found themselves in a role that comes bundled with a slavering band of fanboy acolytes, who will spend all day in your mentions telling you how brilliant and hilarious you are, and leap to your defence if any detractors show up. No doubt that goes to one’s head after a while. But regardless, let us briefly marvel at the cognitive dissonance on display. Firstly, the CCO of Activision Blizzard is angry with Jim Ryan for telling the truth. That is certainly revealing, but perhaps not in the way Meservey imagines. Secondly, here’s the top reply to Meservey’s not-really-bombshell:

Fuck about.

Elsewhere, Microsoft has doubled down on president Brad Smith’s curious choice of messaging at EU HQ the other week. Smith, you may recall, framed Microsoft offering Call Of Duty to Nintendo and Nvidia for ten years as opening COD up to ‘150m new players’. This week Microsoft has taken out full-page ads to restate that claim in at least two UK newspapers. There are 125m Switches out there, and GeForce Now has 25m subscribers. So, 150m players. That’s just maths, mate. You can’t argue with maths.

Or can you? I believe that in this instance, yes, you very much can. Many of those Switches will be owned by people that also own other systems on which COD is already available. Many will be owned by people that are too young to legally play it. And many will be owned by people that think Call Of Duty hasn’t really been any good since the original MW2 — possibly overprojecting here, sorry — and simply aren’t that fussed about it anymore. Microsoft saying that Acquisition Blizzard would mean 150m new COD players is like me saying today’s Hit Points is going out to the five or so billion people who have internet access worldwide, because you can view it in a web browser. I mean we’re big, and we’re growing all the time, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I’m not projecting 5bn readers for this thing until November.

If you think today’s edition has been a bit one-eyed so far — focusing a bit too much on Microsoft, and saving Sony from the fury of its ire — then firstly, I assume you have not been reading Hit Points for long. This is an equal-opportunity snark factory, thank you very much, and I have said plenty of unkind things about Sony over the last 18 months. Besides, relax! I have saved the very worst of this week’s developments for last, and it is entirely a Sony invention. And I really do mean ‘invention’.

This week saw the publication of both Microsoft’s and Sony’s responses to the concerns of the UK’s antitrust watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority. These filings represent, in effect, the last roll of the dice for the two firms’ legal eagles before the regulator makes its decision. So perhaps it is unsurprising that, after emptying their Italian leather folios of all the good arguments, the lawyers have opted to chuck in some absolute bullshit as well, just in case. These folks do bill by the hour, after all, and time is running out. Once again, behold:

“Swiftly detecting any diversions from, and ensuring compliance with, a commitment as to technical or graphical quality would be challenging. For example, Microsoft might release a PlayStation version of Call Of Duty where bugs and errors emerge only on the game’s final level or after later updates. Even if such degradations could be swiftly detected, any remedy would likely come too late, by which time the gaming community would have lost confidence in PlayStation as a go-to venue to play Call Of Duty.”

Good heavens.

I am reminded once again of Double Fine Psychodyssey, the incredible, 22-hour documentary series about the making of Psychonauts 2 that Hit Points praised at length to paid subscribers earlier this week. Every so often the viewer becomes a fly on the wall in a level-design brainstorm session that, by meeting’s end, has about 200 ideas hurriedly scrawled on a whiteboard.

Obviously, over time, that list is whittled down to the half-dozen or so suggestions that are sufficiently innovative, entertaining, inspiring and workable, and most of the rest is forgotten forever. Here Sony deploys — to regulators and the watching world — something that, in a sane world, would have been the first thing wiped off the board. Perhaps it was left up because it was suggested by someone too senior to be embarrassed in front of their subordinates? I am struggling to see a plausible explanation for it, honestly, for we are fully into the realm of fantasy here.

A legal filing, surely, should not be this cringeworthy. As a measure of where we are at the moment, though, I have to admit it’s a perfect fit. Hang in there, you lot! It will all be over soon, I’m sure, because we just hit the bottom of the barrel.


  • Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad is reportedly being delayed again, from May to later this year, following the overwhelmingly negative reception to its gameplay unveiling in last month’s State Of Play. As Bloomberg, who broke the story, notes, a delay of a few months seems unlikely to yield the level of overhaul required to placate the doubters. My thoughts this morning are with the good folks at Rocksteady, who have clearly spent the last seven years trying to make a decent game out of the bandwagon-chasing nonsense foisted upon them by their corporate overlords, and were mere weeks from finally being free of it.
  • Somebody ring the bell! Outgoing Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda has called sales of magical banter simulator Forspokenlacklustre” and admitted that “many of the new small and mid-sized titles we launched [last] year did not perform as well as we had expected.” Man, I’m going to miss this. Hope his successor keeps it up.
  • Take-Two has laid off an unspecified number of staff at its indie publishing label Private Division. Hit Points has a number of chums over there, and a few more readers besides, and my thoughts are with everyone affected.
  • Meta appears to be building a Game Pass-style subscription service for its Quest VR headsets. While Hit Points is generally a bit wary of such things, I think this is a pretty good idea. The economics of VR gaming are pretty rough, with a high upfront hardware cost and games that, in the context of the wider industry, are pretty expensive for what they are. There’s plenty of stuff I’d like to check out, but would never pay £25 for, and I doubt I am alone in this. Meta’s been worried about user engagement on Quest, particularly among those who’ve recently bought a headset, and this is a sensible way to put that right.
  • Crank-powered handheld curio Playdate is getting a price increase in April to offset higher manufacturing costs. To sweeten the pill of the $20 bump, Panic has launched an on-device download store. The rather blandly named Catalog launches with 16 games, of which 11 are brand new, and two are free to download.
  • Lince Works, Barcelona-based developer of the Aragami series, is closing its doors. “The last couple of years have been particularly difficult as we shifted towards the development of new IPs and a new course for the company,” reads a statement posted on Twitter. “We were ambitious about what we wanted to achieve as a studio, but sadly, although we made good progress, the economic context was not favorable and we ran out of time.”
  • Bethesda’s Starfield has been delayed until November. It’s actually only been delayed until September but come on, let’s be honest with ourselves here.
  • Your Friday fun begins with this excellent collection of legendary design documents
  • Continues with a two-and-a-half hour DJ mix of PlayStation-game drum&bass...
  • And ends with some italo-disco Mario covers. Lovely stuff all round.

There you go! My apologies for my recent silence, which I won’t go into here as paid subs heard all about it on Tuesday. If you’d like to join the ever-growing ranks of the fully paid-up Hit Points army, and receive an extra edition every week, you may do so in exchange for £4 a month by furiously clicking the below button as if your very life depended on it. I expect you only need to click it once but it’s best to be sure, isn’t it.

Have an excellent weekend, whatever it holds — I assume we’re all playing the Resi demo at some point, mind you — and I’ll see you on the flip. Ta-ta!