#216: The week that was

And now for something completely (okay, slightly) different.

Good day to you, Hit Points crew! Apologies to free readers for my absence last week, when I was struggling with some kind of virus. You didn’t miss much, in fairness. We’re in that awkward mid-year limbo, the misty hinterland between not-E3 and actual-Gamescom when an already quiet news cycle is further silenced by the fourth of July.

I’ve noticed a few of my Substack peers tweaking their schedules for the summer, and as Hit Points treads wearily into its third year I’ve been mulling over doing something similar. Summer, as we know, tends to be a quiet time in games. And the relative longevity of this humble publication is both a blessing and a curse. Delighted as I am that Hit Points has found a loyal, stable and growing audience, over time it’s becoming harder and harder to find new things to talk about at my customary excessive length. You know where I stand on blockchain and the metaverse, on Acquisition Blizzard, on the state of the games media, and not-E3, and Geoff Keighley’s fancy wardrobe.

When I launched Hit Points in 2021, I worked five days a week. I figured I’d be able to keep readers informed about the latest goings-on in the game industry while sparing them the often brutal experience of navigating today’s web. That five-day schedule quickly proved unsustainable, but I wonder if there’s a way to recapture the spirit of the early days.

So, for the next couple of weeks we’re going to run a little experiment. Paid subscribers will get a traditional midweek Hit Points experience: a top story, a MAILBAG! if appropriate, and a brief MORE! rounding up the events of the week so far. Then, on Fridays, the entire readership will get what I suppose we can call a big MORE!, broken up into handy sections so you can skip to the bits that most interest you, each with a quick-hit top story and some bullets below it.

I think this might be quite fun. (Equally, it might be quite boring.) Please let me know what you think of it! We are in this together, you and I. Except in August, when I’m going on holiday and just want to be left alone, but we’ll talk about that another day.

Here’s everything that went down this week.


Obviously the big news is the FTC losing its case against Acquisition Blizzard. This isn’t quite a fatal blow — the FTC wasn’t trying to block it outright, merely seeking an injunction to stop Microsoft and Activision closing the deal before the FTC’s administrative hearings in August. But the FTC made the same arguments in this one as it would later on, and the judge found them all to be pretty unconvincing. Within hours of the ruling, Microsoft and the UK’s regulator, the CMA, announced they were pausing litigation while Microsoft and Activision come up with additional remedies to the CMA’s cloud-gaming concerns.

The FTC has appealed the decision (twice, actually; the latest one is with the Ninth Circuit Court) and the CMA has warned that a substantially retooled merger proposition may warrant a whole new investigation. But it does appear to be all over bar the shouting. Activision Blizzard will be delisted from Nasdaq on Monday, 24 hours before the expiry of the original merger offer. It is probably time we started thinking about what comes next: yesterday, in a fun thought experiment, I asked paid subs what would happen if Jim Ryan turned down that Call Of Duty deal, and came to the conclusion that maybe he should. Just £4 a month, folks, and you get to witness me lose my mind in realtime.

  • Chris Charla, head of ID@Xbox and Hit Points reader (hi Chris!), was a keynote speaker at Develop: Brighton this week. GI.biz has a lengthy write-up if you’re so inclined; I’m particularly fond of how he demurred on the question of what makes a game ‘indie’. “In the '90s, I spent an enormous amount of time fighting about what was and wasn't ‘punk’, so I've never gotten too uptight [about] what is and isn't an indie game because all those muscles are burned out.” Lovely stuff.
  • Sticking with Xbox, I am extremely impressed by its new voice reporting feature, that allows users to capture and report clips of unpleasant voice chat. Terrific, forward-thinking stuff, and a welcome solution to a very real problem. As a friend pointed out yesterday, being in third place has really pushed Microsoft to innovate on a lot of gently industry-changing stuff — the accessibility controller, backwards compatibility, subscriptions and cloud streaming, and all that. More of this sort of thing, please, and less of the antitrust stuff.
  • Google Play has opened the floodgates to blockchain and NFT gubbins. Developers must make it clear to users that their game is hitched to 2021’s favourite bandwagon, and they must also abide by the company’s existing real-money gambling policies. “We always want to help developers bring innovative ideas to life,” honked Google Play group product manager Joseph Mills.
  • Retro cloud-streaming service Antstream Arcade launches today on Xbox Series consoles. Already available on PC, Android, browsers and assorted smart TVs, the service boasts a catalogue of 1,300 classic games, which enables the service’s PR to tout the launch as “Xbox’s biggest content drop in history.” Clever.


UK studio Splash Damage is switching to a four-day week, with one vital caveat: it only applies to in-office workers. Hybrid and remote staff will still be expected to work Monday to Friday. Seems a bit rum, that, though quite how the in-office mob are going to police it if they’ve all got the fifth day off is anyone’s guess. Still, progress, of a sort. Good.

The Bromley firm has also been in the news this week for offering “no questions asked” refunds to all Kickstarter backers of the Bulkhead-developed WWII shooter Battalion 1944 after failing to deliver a pledged console version of the game, which launched on PC in 2019. Fair play, honestly. They wouldn’t have been the first Kickstarter project to overpromise, underdeliver, and scarper with the proceeds.

  • Workers at Sega of America have voted to unionise. “We hope our victory today is an inspiration to other workers across the gaming industry,” said Sega of America translator Ángel Gómez in a press release. “Together, we can raise standards for all workers across the industry.”
  • It’s been a busy week for new studio announcements. Denkiworks is a new Kyoto indie founded by former Q-Games and Chuhai Labs folks; Behaviour Interactive has set up a new UK studio in Truro, which sounds very nice indeed as it’s a lovely part of the world; People Can Fly has set up in Montreal, which I have to say is pretty ambitious (read: risky) in the current climate; and EA has revealed Cliffhanger Games, a Seattle studio headed up by former Monolith Productions bossman Kevin Stephens that’s making a singleplayer Black Panther tie-in.
  • Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells is retiring after 25 years at the studio. “I am humbled to see what you all have accomplished,” he sobbed in a memo to staff, “and I am thrilled to have the honour to watch from the sidelines as you all continue to uphold the well-established development culture that has led to our good fortune and string of successful games.” I suppose you could call this development culture ‘well-established’, after a fashion, though I’m sure that’s not what Wells meant.


The Videogame History Foundation has warned that a swathe of classic games are “critically endangered”, after a study conducted in parnership with the Software Preservation Network found that 87% of games released before 2010 are unplayable on modern hardware. Just 4.5% of Commodore 64 games, and 5.8% of Game Boy titles, are still in circulation today.

“I hope this study wakes people up,” said VGHF co-director Frank Cifaldi. “For years, we’ve known that the availability of classic videogames in a legal, safe way has been dire, but no one has ever put a number to that. The results are worse than probably any other medium.” The study calls for libraries and preservation organizations to be granted exceptions to current DCMA regulations; the legislation is set to be re-examined in 2024.

  • Hats off to Sega COO Shuji Utsumi, who poured scorn on blockchain gaming in a Bloomberg interview last week. “The action in play-to-earn games is boring,” he said. “What’s the point if games are no fun? [...] We’re looking into whether this technology is really going to take off in this industry after all.” Utsumi also said that Sega would be keeping its prize IP away from any blockchain nonsense to avoid “devaluing” them, and has shelved plans to develop blockchain games in-house. You love to see it.
  • Or do you? Line Next has trumpeted that it is bringing an “immensely popular” Sega IP to its blockchain platform Game Dosi. Hmm.
  • Razer, maker of a range of remarkably unsightly PC peripherals, is investigating a possible security breach. A hacker claims to have made off with data relating to the Razer Gold cryptocurrency, including its source code and encryption keys, and is trying to sell it for $100,000.


Digital Eclipse, maker of the remarkable retro compendium Atari 50, is making an ‘interactive documentary’ on Karateka, the 1984 kung-fu classic developed by Prince Of Persia creator Jordan Mechner. “Through excerpts from his college journals, galleries of his design documents, and all-new video interviews, you’ll share Jordan’s struggles and triumphs as he creates a videogame like no one had ever seen before,” the studio says on Xbox Wire.

It’ll feature remastered and original versions of the game — the former featuring an optional audio commentary from Digital Eclipse head Mike Mika — as well as playable early prototypes of both Karateka and an unreleased Mechner arcade shooter called Deathbounce. Honestly this is just brilliant. Even better, it’s the first of many, kicking off a series of similar releases Digital Eclipse calls The Gold Master Series.

  • I have no idea what they’re smoking at Limited Run Games, but they have my full support. This week the company held a fashionably late not-E3 showcase in which it announced a host of extremely unlikely remakes and re-releases: Gex Trilogy, the Jurassic Park Classic Games Collection, Clock Tower, and a PC port of PS1 platformer Tombi (known as Tomba across the pond). Absolute madness from soup to nuts. Lovely.
  • Good news for those of you who thought Roblox’s graphics weren’t quite disgusting enough already: an open beta is soon to release for Meta Quest VR headsets. Bleurgh.
  • Battlebit Remastered — this year’s example of the recurring phenomenon where a Steam game explodes and the games media goes ‘where did this come from???’ despite the fact it had like a zillion wishlists — sold 1.8m copies in its first two weeks on (virtual) shelves. Sorry about the media zinger there, I take it back. Does happen quite often, though, doesn’t it. (For the record, Battlebit had 800,000 wishlists.)


  • It’s BitSummit week! I know a few of you are in Kyoto this week for Japan’s much-loved celebration of all things indie. Remember that whenever you are at an industry event, you are duty bound to mention Hit Points to everyone you meet. I don’t make the rules! The rest of you can read this fun GI.biz interview with BitSummit co-founder John Davis.
  • The VGC crew are in Japan this week, and Chris Scullion went to 84, a secretive, members-only Shibuya bar owned by former Nintendo developer Toru Hashimoto that’s stuffed to the gills with vintage, and in some cases priceless Nintendo memorabilia. I am not jealous of this at all. Lovely pics though.
  • Digital Foundry runs the rule over the truly horrific Switch TLOU rip-off, The Last Hope. This isn’t solely about giving something bad a kicking, fun as that always is; it’s a broader commentary on the SEO-ish shovelware that proliferates on today’s download stores, and the Switch eShop in particular.
  • This translated 1999 interview with Shigeru Miyamoto and Toshihiro Nagoshi isn’t news, obviously, but it’s absolutely brilliant and I insist you read it.
  • I sort of want these Pikmin vases. I am, unfortunately, 45 years old.

Well that took longer than I’d expected, haha. Perhaps it’s not been as quiet out there as I thought — there’s a difference, I think, between ‘notable stuff that has happened’ and ‘notable stuff that I have 900-odd words of insight about’. Anyway! How was it for you? Do let me know your thoughts, whether down in the comments, in a reply to this email, or in the ever-lovely Hit Points Discord.

Have a lovely weekend, whatever it has in store for you, and I’ll see you all next week.