#220: On the beach

A last look back at the week's events before Hit Points goes on holiday.

Hello, Hit Points crew! Here’s the final instalment of our ‘summer hours’ experiment, which forsakes the traditional Hit Points format for a beefy round-up of the week’s news. How do we all feel about it? I don’t enjoy writing it quite as much as the usual way of things, but sometimes the news cycle forces your hand, and I think it’s a useful tool to keep in the ol’ back pocket for quieter moments.

Yesterday paid subscribers got the usual top-story experience, and the response to it has been so overwhelmingly positive I thought it might be worth an excerpt here. It’s about how the word ‘should’ has wormed its way into how we talk and think about games, and the way modern design trends are turning play into something closer to work.

“This is not a purely professional concern, I feel, not anymore. This cannot be solely considered a journo’s lament in an era where so many companies want us to play their games every day for the rest of our lives, and the best route they have devised to that goal is to turn our hobby into a series of jobs. You should be farming the latest event in your live-service game of choice, to make sure you get all the freebies and cosmetics. You should be grinding the latest battle pass to earn enough currency to pay for the next one. You should be starting the latest Game Pass game that everyone’s talking about, and finishing the one that’s leaving the service at the end of the month. You should be maintaining your Wordle streak, and tending all your other Wordlelikes. You should be playing this weekend beta, this time-limited demo, this fun seasonal event where you can dress your guy up like a dinosaur and bake cakes.”

Some really lovely feedback on this one, thanks to all of you who’ve got in touch. If you’d like to join us for just £4 a month, the link is below, though I should note that Hit Points is about to go on holiday, returning in the first week of September. You’ll still get access to the full archive in the meantime, including access to the all-too-occasional developer interview series Max HP. I hope to resurrect that when I’m back at my desk; it has been far too long, but in my defence I have been far too busy. Onwards!


  • Results season continued this week; once again, I will try not to hang around. Microsoft continued to miss gaming targets in the fourth quarter, with overall Xbox revenue growing by just 1% year on year against an estimate of “mid-single digits”. Well they got the ‘mid’ part right, if nothing else. Hardware sales fell 13%; a 5% rise in content and services was just enough to keep the division in the black. Full-year revenue fell $746m from last year’s record return.
  • Meanwhile, PS5 has passed the 40m mark. The console is tracking slightly behind PS4, taking a couple of months longer to reach the milestone, which PlayStation end boss Jim Ryan pins on pandemic-era supply issues. “Despite the unprecedented challenges of Covid, our teams and our partners worked diligently to deliver PS5 on time,” he trumpeted. “We continued to face headwinds with the pandemic, and it took months for supply chains to normalise... Now PS5 supply is well-stocked and we are seeing that pent-up demand finally being met.”
  • Microsoft is rolling out a new-look home screen for Series consoles. Among its innovations is background art that changes as you switch between tiles, which those of us with mod-chipped OG Xboxes had up and running in XBMC about 20 years ago. Pats on the back all round!
  • The Xbox maker is also clamping down on the use of emulators on its consoles. In the latest step in a continuing sort-of-not-really-arms-race between Microsoft and emulators — they were allowed in developer mode, then in retail mode, banned outright then re-enabled with a Patreon-funded workaround — the firm is now issuing 15-day suspensions to anyone running emulator software on their console, and outright banning any user that uploads it. What a gigantic waste of time. The people just want to play Final Fight and a bit of Parodius, Phil! Let them cook!
  • Hit Points does not normally pay much heed to the latest arrivals to or departures from our various subscription services; frankly, there are only so many hours in the day. But I was rather struck by the news that Media Molecule’s artful games-and-other-stuff creative-platform-thing Dreams will be a PlayStation Plus freebie next month. Back in April, the studio announced that it would be ending live-service support for Dreams on September 1 and shifting focus to its next project. One assumes this was because, despite a rapturous critical reception and highly engaged community, Dreams had failed to attract an audience large enough to justify continued live-ops support. Perhaps giving it away to the tens of millions of PlayStation Plus subscribers could have changed that, and was probably worth a punt before deciding to drop the shutters? I remain unsure that Sony understands just how helpful subscription services can be in situations like this. Ho hum.
  • Meanwhile, PS5 is officially on sale for the first time in the UK, India, Ireland and Germany, though the deal only runs for a couple of weeks.


  • There was some brief kerfuffle this week when reports began to circulate that Ubisoft was closing inactive user accounts even if they had purchased games attached, which would render said games inaccessible. This seemed a bit rum at the time, if I’m honest — particularly given the claim was sourced from The Website Formerly (And Still, To Normal People) Known As Twitter — and, indeed, Ubisoft soon clarified that, while it did prune inactive accounts from time to time, those with PC game purchases attached are “not eligible for deletion”. As you were.
  • Tributes have been paid to John Gibson, a British programmer who worked at Imagine, Denton Designs, Psygnosis and Evolution among others, who passed away recently.
  • Naoki Yoshida is something of a fan favourite, or so you’d think: he is, after all, the man credited with turning Final Fantasy XIV from a trainwreck into, erm, whatever the opposite of a trainwreck is. A train, I suppose? Let’s go with that. Yet apparently not even Yoshi-P can escape the ire of today’s outrage-happy internet. “There's a lot of people who just yell at you, people I've never seen, met, or talked to before. It's weird,” he said in a documentary about the release of the Yoshida-produced Final Fantasy XVI. “What did we do to them? Perhaps they just write it from a place of negativity and malice. It's tiresome.” You should start a newsletter and a Discord, mate. All sunshine and rainbows around here, for the most part.


  • Tencent is buying a majority stake in Dying Light developer Techland. “We have chosen an ally who has already partnered with some of the world’s finest videogame companies,” parped founder and CEO Pavel Marchewka, “and helped them reach new heights while respecting their ways of doing things… I couldn't be happier about us making this giant step ahead toward the future and sharing this moment with you.” No wonder he’s so happy:  reports this week claim he was paid $225m in salary and dividends last year, more than six times Techland’s annual profits of $37m. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose.
  • CD Projekt Red is laying off 9% of its workforce as it seeks what CEO Adam Kiciński calls “teams that are more agile and more effective”. Around 100 staff face the chop as a result.
  • Capcom continues to be in rude health, with a Street Fighter 6-shaped bounce driving a 74% surge in revenue. It has celebrated by acquiring Swordcanes, a Tokyo-based support studio with recent credits on Final Fantasy XVI, SF6 and Hi-Fi Rush.


  • I am quite bemused by Blizzard’s administration of Diablo IV. You may remember that Diablo III launched in a right old state, and its developer worked hard to re-earn the trust and goodwill of its players over time. This time, it’s doing the opposite, taking a well-received launch product and making a right old hash of it. This week the studio hurriedly patched what we shall euphemistically call a ‘quirk’ in the launch of the game’s first season, which by default placed the player’s cursor on the button that purchased the premium battle pass. The noise around this was too big to ignore but in fairness, this is Dark Patterns 101, and Blizzard is far from the first company to do it. The studio has also apologised for nerfing some of the strongest character builds in the game. “We know it is bad. We know it is not fun,” blubbed community manager Adam Fletcher. “We don't plan on doing a patch like this ever again.” Blimey.
  • Evo 2023 — a sort of fighting-game Christmas, Super Bowl and World Cup rolled into one — takes place next weekend, and I am struck and a little bit saddened by a change to the format that sees each game’s finals reduced from the top eight players to just six. Curious stuff, this. I assume it’s designed to accommodate more games than in previous years, but the loser’s bracket comeback is one of the best things in competitive fighting games, and this makes it significantly less likely to happen on the genre’s biggest stage. I’ll still be tuning in, obviously.


  • Sony’s legendary 2006 E3 press conference — that of Giant Enemy Crabs and Riiiidge Racer — is available to view in 1080p for the first time, thanks to documentary maker Noclip’s new history archive.
  • Former Edge editor Margaret Robertson guests on this week’s episode of The Back Page. Robertson’s era of the mag was the one I fell in love with, and while I only got about halfway through the episode on this morning’s dog walk it’s an absolute cracker already. There’s also a story about a middle manager who was still knocking around Edge Towers when I pitched up that absolutely made my toes curl.
  • Next up from Bitmap Books is this celebration of videogame boxes. Lovely stuff.
  • Bandai Namco has begun posting videogame soundtracks on YouTube. At the time of writing, every single Tekken game is represented, but there is nary a Ridge Racer in sight. An outrage. Nice to have Elden Ring’s Malenia music on tap when I’m racing to hit a deadline, mind you.

And that’s your lot! Hit Points is now dropping the shutters for the summer — see you all in September, barring any industry-shaking developments in the meantime. Thank you so much for reading (and putting up with me). Cheerio!