Sony is buying Insomniac Games, the Japanese company announced Monday, making Insomniac the 14th internal studio under the Sony Interactive Entertainment banner.
The companies did not disclose financial terms of the acquisition, which has not yet closed.
“Insomniac Games is one of the most highly-acclaimed development studios in the industry and their legacy of best-in class storytelling and gameplay is unparalleled,” said Shawn Layden, chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios, in a news release. ”We have enjoyed a strong collaborative partnership with the studio for many years, and are thrilled to officially welcome them to the Worldwide Studios family. The addition of Insomniac Games to SIE WWS reiterates our commitment to developing world class gaming experiences that can only be found on the PlayStation platform.”
”Joining the WWS family gives Insomniac even greater opportunities to achieve our studio vision of making positive and lasting impressions on people’s lives,” said Ted Price, Insomniac Games founder and CEO. “We’ve enjoyed a special relationship with PlayStation practically since our inception. Our partnership amplifies our potential, and Marvel’s Spider-Man was a testament to this. We’re excited to take the next step in our growth alongside our longtime WWS partners. Most of all, we look forward to delivering fresh, new experiences for our fans.”
Insomniac was founded in 1994 as Xtreme Software by Ted Price, who is still the company’s CEO today. The studio has been independent until now, although it is best known as the creator of franchises that debuted exclusively on PlayStation platforms, like Ratchet & Clank, Spyro the Dragon, and Resistance. Insomniac’s most recent game is Marvel’s Spider-Man, which launched in September 2018 on PlayStation 4 and has sold more than 13.2 million copies worldwide as of July 28.
Little Nightmares is getting a sequel and it looks just as creepy as the first game. Little Nightmares 2’s first trailer was revealed at Gamescom Opening Night Live, and the game’s senior narrative designer, Dave Mervik, was on-hand to give a few extra details about the sequel.
While the first Little Nightmares was entirely focused on Six as she attempted to make her way out of the Maw, the sequel will give her a little companionship with a new character called Mono. According to Mervik, Mono and Six will journey to a place called the Signal Tower, which will play a central role in the story.
The trailer doesn’t give many details away about the game, but we do see a few outdoor environments, something that wasn’t really in the first game. Mervik, mentions that the sequel will take Mono and Six through areas like the woods and abandoned shacks, so it seems that this game could be significantly bigger than just the Maw that Six explored in the first game.
Another departure from the original that Mervik revealed is that Little Nightmares 2 will feature some combat. The trailer shows off a few kitchen utensils that appear to be the game’s weapons. Mervik says players can use to keep try to keep themselves safe, which probably means that they’re more for defending yourself than actually attacking anything.
Little Nightmares 2 is coming sometime in 2020 to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One.
Need for Speed Heat’s first gameplay trailer, which debuted Monday during Gamescom Opening Night Live, offers a look at all the different ways that racers will be able to improve their reputation on the streets as they attempt to fend off the cops.
Heat, the first entry in the long-running racing franchise since 2017’s Need for Speed Payback, is being developed by Ghost Games. Taking place in the fictional town of Palm City, which appears to be an analog for Miami, Heat focuses on giving you the opportunity to drive around during the day and the night — with different styles of racing available at each time.
When the sun is out, sanctioned races will take place in a competition known as Speedhunters Showdown. You’ll earn rewards as they race in the form of Bank, and use them to tweak their cars to prepare for the nighttime. The cops will enforce the law, but they won’t be too aggressive during the day.
It sounds like there isn’t a defined day-night cycle; you’ll be able to switch to night racing when they’re ready. When it’s dark, illicit street races will become available for you to earn Rep — but that will also raise your level of heat, which will bring out some rogue cops who will stop at nothing to, well, stop you.
Heat will be integrated with a mobile app, NFS Heat Studio, which is now available on Android and iOS. The app will allow you to collect, unlock, and customize cars — and then push those designs into the full game. Need for Speed Heat is set for release Nov. 8 on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. EA Access and Origin Access subscribers will be able to get started early on Nov. 5.
Star Theory and Private Division revealed Kerbal Space Program 2 at Gamescom Opening Night Live on Monday.
A follow up to 2011’s Kerbal Space Program, the sequel looks to increase what players can create. The trailer shows a group of Kerbals — tiny green people — taking to the stars once again. An official description of the game promises “exciting new parts, stunning visuals, colony building, interstellar travel, enhanced modding, and multiplayer.”
In Kerbal Space Program 2, it looks like players can colonize the Mun with their little Kerbal astronauts. The trailer also shows off a bit of space station gameplay, rocket building, and the creation of incredible fortresses.
While the trailer is cinematic, the Kerbal art style looks to have grown significantly since the first game. As players adventure onto the Mun, their team of Kerbals will look a bit more stylish than before.
Kerbal Space Program 2 is set to launch in early 2020. For a longer look at Kerbal Space Program 2’s creation, check out the nearly-10-minute developer trailer above.
THQ Nordic has announced the return of Comanche during today’s Gamescom Opening Night Live stream, showing off a teaser trailer and a brief look at the helicopter sim. You can watch the video at the top of this post.
The trailer promises objective-based multiplayer combat and intense dogfights. One of the more interesting details revealed by the gameplay teaser is the ability to use drones to engage in close-quarters battle. Few other details were given about the game.
“Critical security breach reported,” an official description of the teaser trailer reads. “Loss of classified military documents confirmed: The Blueprints for the advanced reconnaissance and attack helicopter RAH-66 Comanche have been leaked. The activity of a whistleblower is most likely. As a reaction, SACEUR has authorized THQ Nordic and Nukklear to continue with the production of Comanche as fast as possible to counter any possible threat and to start an ‘Early Access’ program in early 2020.”
Comanche was originally a series of PC games in the early ’90s in which players could fly the titular helicopter in a voxel-based engine, which helped it stand out from competing flight sims of the day.
Eberron, a world with magical airships and floating cities, brings a fun steampunk element to the fantasy roleplaying game. Originally conceived as the winning entry in a competition to create a new D&D setting, the world of Eberron is more pulpy and noir-inspired than the traditional Forgotten Realms. Eberron was available in both the 3.5 and 4th Editions of D&D, and now it’s making its way to 5th Edition.
Wizards of the Coast released a prototype PDF last year called Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, but Rising from the Last War marks the first official 5e adventure set in the war-torn world.
In addition to an adventure set in the misty, mystical Mournland, Rising from the Last War brings Eberron’s artificer class to D&D 5th Edition. The first new class added to 5e, the artificer uses arcane science to create magical inventions and infuse objects with magical powers. Also returning are Eberron’s dragonmarks, magic sigils that appear on a character’s body, and dragonmarked houses, powerful families descended from dragonmarked ancestors who wield their considerable influence from the shadows.
Not everything in Eberron: Rising from the Last War is recycled, though. New to this edition is a new mechanic called the group patron. According to Wizards of the Coast, the group patron allows parties to share a joint background, helping to flesh out backstories and explain why your group is adventuring together.
Eberron: Rising from the Last War is available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but a special alternate cover will only be available at local game stores. The hardcover book costs $49.95 and will be released on Nov. 19.
What is it about con artists that makes them so irresistible? Stories about things like the Fyre Festival implosion, or Anna Delvey’s upper-crust grift capture the imagination in their their audacity. These tales of greed also obscure a more universal truth: scammers are some of the world’s best anti-heroes.
As a society, “we get fascinated with a thief, with the idea of outsmarting someone,” says Dave Proctor, game director for the upcoming video game The Big Con. In it, players will take on the role of a teenage hustler who is trying her best to save her family from loan sharks. One problem: She’s got no money. Enter the con. You’re going to need to wear disguises, sneak around, pickpocket, and rip people off, all in the name of making it through another day.
The Big Con, which was announced last week, is a coming-of-age comedy where players must solve puzzles and pull fast ones on other characters. It’s being developed by Mighty Yell, which is comprised of developers like Jill Murray, who has worked on triple-A games like Tomb Raider, and Saffron Aurora, who is responsible for the game’s unique art direction.
“I’m a fan of stories like Frank Abagnale, or Helga De La Brache, people who hustled to weave a line through life,” Proctor said. “To survive and live, praying on the rich and moving on.”
Proctor recognizes that there’s a moral gray area here, largely stemming from the fact that not all scams are inherently malicious.
“Now what they did is still lying and theft, but it’s… different,” Proctor explained. “There’s a difference between Matchstick Men and The Big Short. I prefer the former. Smaller stories with characters just making choices to live.”
Here, Proctor sees a good avenue for juicy character development.
“Sometimes we aren’t perfect and we make decisions to protect ourselves or save our little family video store,” he said.
Judging by the research Proctor has explored for The Big Con, it’s likely that we’re going undertake all sorts of hilarious and ingenious scams.
“I love studying and reading about old con tricks,” Proctor said. “Like salting (sprinkling gold ore on a property and saying it’s worth a lot) or melon drops (I carry a watermelon and bump into you and drop it and now you owe me for the watermelon) and all the variations of those.
“In the face of something like Fyre Festival it almost seems artisanal. Almost wholesome. Because it’s about conversation and relationships and not just money.”
Kendall and Roman are sent to investigate Vaulter, the online media company that Waystar spends most of season 1 trying to buy. The site’s traffic has been down ever since the sale and they need to figure out why, and whether or not it’s worth saving. But just like everything on Succession Vaulter’s rise and fall has some complicated, real-world history behind it.
First: Is Vauter real?
How Vaulter lost all of its traffic in the time between when Waystar bought the site and when it was gutted isn’t exactly explained, but Succession clearly has some ideas. In particular, the phrase “pivot to video” is mentioned by Jeri as something they’ve already tried. If you pay attention to the digital media industry, as the writers of Succession clearly do, you’ve probably heard the phrase “pivot to video” at least once or twice. Around 2015, with Facebook videos all over users’ timelines, websites starting looking to video as an untapped vein of potential profit.
The numbers backed it up. Viewership stats looked massive, with millions of viewers per video, far higher than most sites would get for a single piece of written content. These higher numbers could then be given to advertisers who would be eager to grab at any opportunity to get their ads to millions of people at a time. According to the numbers broadcast by Facebook, there were a billion users just waiting for videos to be put in front of them.
In turn, companies like Vice, Mic, and Mashable laid off employees and expanded their video teams. But many quickly found that video wasn’t performing quite as well as they had planned. And video is a big investment, it doesn’t spin up overnight. Videos took time to make, were expensive, and at the end of the day, the Facebook numbers themselves just seemed lower than they had in the pivot planning phase.
In the world of Succession, the digital media implosion happened exactly the same way. Vaulter sold itself to Waystar Royco on the basis of sparkly Facebook numbers. Straight from the company’s founder Lawrence, in the episode, we hear that it’s due in part to Facebook changing their algorithm. The result of these struggles is Waystar, or at least Logan and Roman, choosing to gut the company.
When Waystar Royco, specifically Kendall, bought Vaulter back in season 1, it was bright and shiny. It had all the potential in the world and seemed to be a growing digital media brand. Now, however many months later (really, how does time pass on this show?) the company is in a downward spiral. Lawrence calls it just a few bad traffic months, but for Waystar, it’s a more complicated. A segment of the business stopped making money, at a moment when everything needs to. If they’re going to survive Sandy and Stewy’s takeover, then Logan has to prove that he can make Waystar profitable, so they cut Vaulter down the minimum.
At a site like Vaulter, which seems to cover many different topics (“These Old Photos of Soviet Dental Schools Are Peak Dystopia Porn,” “Wait, Is Every Taylor Swift Lyric Secretly Marxist?” “5 Reasons Why Drinking Milk on the Toilet Is Kind of a Game-Changer”) certain things are bigger traffic draws than others. These high traffic areas are supposed to help prop up areas that may not get as much traffic as the time that has to be put into them. In the case of Vaulter, that would mean “food and weed,” which Kendall mentions as the two successful verticals, would help support things like in-depth reporting. But since all that matters is maximizing the site’s profit, Kendall cuts them down to just the verticals that are still performing.
Kendall cuts the site’s staff down to an editor, some interns, and says that they’ll rely on user-generated content. In other words, Kendall is trying to pair Vaulter down to its cheapest and most essential elements. What’s the absolute minimum he can pay to keep the traffic rolling in.
The Mic connection
While there are, sadly, quite a few examples of Vaulter in the real world, it was hard to ignore the similarities to Mic. Mic was founded in 2011 and quickly established itself as a growing online media company. However, in 2017, the company shifted its focus to “pioneering new forms of visual journalism” in the form of social media video. The ad dollars never rolled in; about a year later, the company sold for just $5 million, far less than the millions it would have been worth just a few years earlier. That same week, the owners fired a majority of the site’s staff, not unlike what we saw Kendall do in this episode.
When Lawrence explains to Kendall that it’s just a few bad traffic months and a change in the Facebook algorithm, it’s hard not to hear echoes of Mic co-founder Chris Althchek. During what would be the final meeting for many of Mic’s employees Althchek said, “Facebook caught us by surprise at a really bad time.”
In the episode, Kendall makes it clear that the staff forming a union is his worst case scenario. It’s a line many in digital media have heard in the past few years as, often in response to quick pivots in strategy, online newsrooms have unionized. Some of the early high-profile efforts were undertaken at Vice and Gawker in 2015, but since then sites like Vox Media (which owns Polygon) and Mashable, have formed unions of their own.
The purpose of unions in digital media, among many other things, is to give the sites’ employees an assurance that they fair and equal pay, strong benefits, and have a seat at the table at key decisions. But none of this is why Kendall is particularly worried about the looming threat of unionization. One of the very likely demands of the union would have been fair severance packages, guaranteeing several weeks of severance pay and compensation for unused vacation days — basically all of the things that Kendall explained the fired employees of Vaulter wouldn’t be getting.
Succession’s vision of Vaulter may feel cruel and cold, but it’s not entirely an invention of the show. The history of online media over the last five years has been complicated, and in a bid to increase profitability some outlets are now in precarious places. In Succession, Vaulter’s really the only example of online media we know about so it sits in its dire straits alone, but in the real world it’s got plenty of company.
No date or launch information was given, so it’s unclear whether the game will be available to purchase on Google Stadia on the game’s launch date on other platforms: April 16, 2020.
A new developer diary released during today’s Stadia Connect offers a behind-the-scenes look at the game and, more importantly, Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand. You can watch that video above.
Google Stadia is expected to launch this November in 14 countries. The only way to get Stadia within its early launch window is to purchase a Founder’s Edition pack to enable the service, Google said.
The Stadia Founder’s Edition will include a Chromecast Ultra, which supports the 4K gameplay that Google is promising; a limited-edition “midnight blue” controller; a three-month Stadia Pro subscription, plus one voucher to give the same subscription to a friend; and the ability to reserve a Stadia username early, which is tied to the user’s Google account. The Founder’s Edition will launch in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
Google will reveal more details about Google Stadia, the company’s ambitious streaming platform that will launch later this year, during a livestream on Monday, Aug. 19. The latest episode of Google Stadia Connect is “all about the games,” Google says.
Today’s Google Stadia Connect, which will stream in advance of this week’s Gamescom convention in Cologne, Germany, will begin at 1 p.m. EDT / 10 a.m PDT. Google promises “brand-new trailers” and behind-the-scenes looks at upcoming Stadia games.
In June, Google confirmed a long list of games that publishers and developers are bringing to Google Stadia. More than 30 games from publishers such as 2K, Bethesda Softworks, Rockstar Games, Square Enix, and Ubisoft will come to the streaming platform. Google also has its own in-house development studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment, led by veteran developer Jade Raymond.
Google Stadia is expected to launch this November in 14 countries. The only way to get Stadia within its early launch window is to purchase a Founder’s Edition pack to enable the service, Google said.
The Stadia Founder’s Edition will include a Chromecast Ultra, which supports the 4K gameplay that Google is promising; a limited-edition “midnight blue” controller; a three-month Stadia Pro subscription, plus one voucher to give the same subscription to a friend; and the ability to reserve a Stadia username early, which is tied to the user’s Google account. The Founder’s Edition will launch in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. It retails for $129.99 in the U.S.; full country-specific pricing can be found on the G-Store, which is the only place Google is selling it.