#21: The new normal

One of the few advantages of not-E3 is that this year I am not sat here the week after the show, back at my desk and miserable, willing the jetlag away and, in particular, struggling through the traditional post-show headcold. Lockdowns have changed the way we think about big crowds, and I’ll admit to a little shudder whenever I think of events like E3: thousands of people from all over the world crammed into an air-conditioned convention centre, opening doors with handles that have been touched a hundred times in the last ten minutes alone, sharing controllers at demo stations, shaking hands and high-fiving and hugging. The whole thing gives me the shivers, which I suppose is appropriate in an ironic sort of way.

As such, I felt a certain chill at the news that PAX West is returning to its Seattle home in September as an in-person event. Organisers ReedPop were the final holdout on the event circuit last year, running a socially distanced PAX East despite a host of companies pulling out. So I guess there’s a certain logic in it being the first to try and open things back up. I understand that events companies have been devastated by the pandemic, and so will be particularly keen to return to business as usual. And I suppose PAX is better than, say, E3. There’s less global travel involved, and if my sole visit to PAX East is any guide, half the crowd will be masked up through some form of cosplay and there’ll be an organic sort of social distancing thanks to all the enormous anime shoulder-armour. But it still feels a bit premature, doesn’t it?

I suppose context is everything. There were around 16,000 new Covid cases yesterday in the US. The UK, with about a fifth of the US population, had over 11,000, and we’re still talking about opening back up next month. We are still stuck with the government that got us into this mess, while the US is under new management. And there are still another couple of months to go before PAX West flings open its doors. Seattle had 52 new cases yesterday. Maybe it’ll be fine.

I hope it will be. I miss travel. I miss events and my industry pals. I particularly miss sipping cocktails in plush hotel bars thousands of miles away from the children. But I wouldn’t walk into a bustling convention centre right now if you paid me, much less pay someone else $200 for the privilege. While I totally get why event companies would like to think everything’s going to be fine, it isn’t yet, and I’m not the only one who’s going to need a little more convincing before I pack a carry-on and head to the airport. Being stuck indoors under lockdown has been miserably hard. Going back to normal, whatever that is, might just be even harder.


  • A quick update on last week’s story about Facebook trialling in-app advertising in Oculus games: Resolution Games, maker of one of the three games involved, has pulled its game Blaston from the scheme after a community backlash. Jolly good, though as far as Facebook is concerned ‘tis but a flesh wound.
  • More on Nintendo’s attitude to leaks, as covered in Hit Points on Monday: the two printing-company employees who leaked info from the Pokemon Sword & Shield strategy guide onto Discord have been ordered to pay $150,000 each in damages and costs.
  • Crystal Dynamics’ redemption job on the dour Marvel’s Avengers stumbled somewhat yesterday when a new patch somehow displayed players’ IP addresses on screen. It’s being hotfixed today but jeepers, what a mess.
  • I enjoyed this thread from Bungie’s Joe Blackburn on how the Destiny developer filters milestone feedback, not least because it’s very similar to how I structure consulting reports and I spend my every waking second craving some form of validation. I may yet sleep tonight.
  • Xbox streaming service xCloud has been updated with Series X server blades — some games now offer 120fps streaming, and load faster. The cloud stuff was rather underplayed at not-E3, understandably given the extent to which Game Pass stole the show, but this is the real long game for Microsoft, no doubt.
  • EA has overhauled its executive compensation scheme after a backlash from shareholders. Gleaming automaton Andrew Wilson still stands to make $39 million this year.
  • Tencent’s latest investment is a majority stake in Spec Ops: The Line developer Yager. The Chinese juggernaut now has holdings in over 30 foreign studios.
  • I keep forgetting to shout out the new issue of Edge, which is on sale now. I’m not in this one, but don’t let that stop you. It’s a cracker, as per.
  • Phantom Abyss, the async-multiplayer-Indiana-Jones-Roguelike that I thought was one of the highlights of not-E3 last week despite its abundance of hyphens, is now on Steam, and is already the top-selling game in Early Access. Let’s put today’s edition to bed so I can go and play it… now.

There we go. An immediate advantage to dropping to three editions per week: there’s just lots more to talk about, eh. Thanks to those of you who’ve got in touch with thoughts about the cadence question, I appreciate it enormously. Keep it coming! And as usual, if you’ve enjoyed this, please share it far and wide, and sign up if you haven’t already. If you’d like to support Hit Points financially — and earn, in the process, my eternal adoration and respect — do consider a paid subscription. See you soon!