By Matt Gerardi
Welcome back to The Roundup, the New York Videogame Critics Circle’s weekly look at our members’ writing and news from around the world of videogames. We’re on the precipice of a shockingly jam-packed February for games, but before we get there, The Roundup is taking one last look back at the month that was. This week, we’re sampling a little bit of everything that made this January an abnormally eventful one: industry-shifting news, astronomically anticipated releases, and plenty of leftovers from the holiday shuffle. Let’s get to it.
With Kingdom Hearts III finally awakening from its 13-year slumber, Austin Walker and several members of the Waypoint staff embarked on a psychedelic podcast journey through the series’ mythology. With nearly a dozen different games and re-releases and cutscene collections to cover, untangling this Gordian Knot of anime tropes is no easy task, but the Waypoint crew approached it with enough enthusiasm and earnestness to intrigue even the most ardent Kingdom Hearts skeptics. You can find their first 90-minute episode here or through your podcast catcher of choice. With around 10 more games to go, hopefully they can keep this up. Godspeed.
While Austin and his team work to prep listeners for one of January’s biggest games, Sherri Smith gave Tom’s Guide readers a look ahead to one of February’s major releases, Far Cry: New Dawn. This follow-up to Far Cry 5 is going full post-apocalyptic, but Sherri came away impressed with its lively, colorful rendition of the nuclear wastelands we’ve gotten so used to exploring. You can read more of Sherri’s impressions here.
And speaking of nuked-out wastelands, stalwart Critics Circle intern Kimari Rennis has been spending time in the acrid Appalachia of Fallout 76. Kimari is a huge fan of Fallout and Bethesda Softworks’ role-playing games, and despite all the negative buzz surrounding this multiplayer outing, she went into 76 still holding out hope. Sadly, the game’s online nature meant gutting the quirky characters and rich backstories that connected Kimari to Fallout in the first place. The brightest glimmer of fun, she found, was in tackling this barren landscape with a group of friends, but is that worth burning down everything players love about the series? You can find Kimari’s thoughts on that question and more right here.
One of the biggest game industry stories to begin unfolding in the last few months is the burgeoning digital-store war between Valve, owners of Steam, and Epic Games, makers of Fortnite. Thanks to the wild success of its online shooter, Epic has welcomed countless new players to its Epic Games Store, and it’s begun making moves to capture big exclusive games and position its service as a more developer-friendly alternative to Steam. Jordan Minor reported on the latest wrinkle in this ongoing conflict: Epic’s acquisition of the upcoming shooter Metro Exodus for exclusive release on its store. Not only will it be skipping Steam, but the game will also be $10 cheaper on Epic’s service. Sounds great, right? Well, things get a little messy when you consider Metro Exodus was available for preorder on Steam for months. Jordan explains how this will all be shaking out.
From Beyond The Circle
The history of videogames in Brazil has long been a fascinating one, rife with colorful piracy and customization. Writing for Deorbital, Matheus Fernandes gives an overview of the world of Brazilian videogame modding, a practice that has roots going back to specially localized NES-era games. Fernandes’ most crucial argument, though, is about the importance of these regional modding scenes in our age of globalization and appropriation, as local developers use games as foundations to provide players with experiences representing the cities and cultures in which they live.
The popularity of various shooters and fighters and strategy games has powered the esports boom of the last decade, but while League Of Legends pays out millions of dollars and Overwatch headlines the Barclays Center, there are still grassroots communities coming together around serious high-level play of countless games. Your humble Roundup author just happened to profile one, the world of competitive Super Smash Bros. 64, earlier this year, and now for Engadget, Gregory Leporati, penned a fascinating feature about the passionate players driving the competitive Dance Dance Revolution community. There’s even a lovely local hook to this piece, with several of the major players in Leporati’s story hailing from the New York-based community organizers at RhythmCore Gaming.
On January 30, Nintendo took another step closer to completely shutting down the Wii Shop Channel, the digital store from its Wii console that allowed players to buy independent and retro games. That was the last day for users to spend any money they had sitting in their Wii wallets to purchase items. While anyone can still log in and download any titles they’ve bought in the past, even that functionality will be ended at some unannounced future date, effectively shutting users off from any works they paid for over the years. Online services get shuttered all the time, but we don’t often hear about major stores like this crumbling completely. Over on Motherboard, Karl Bode and Emanuel Maiberg argue this is the perfect time to remember the digital era has removed almost all ownership we have over the art we consume. And in a medium where preservation has never been a priority for creators, that’s a scary reality to face. We can’t and shouldn’t, the authors and their sources say, trust publishers to rectify this. Instead, the only path toward widespread videogame preservation is, as it always has been, piracy.
That’ll do it for this week’s Roundup. Thank you for reading, and see you next week!
Matt Gerardi is a writer from New York, the former games editor at The A.V. Club, and a member of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.