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Summer Game Fest: Where did all the AAA games go?

It’s a weird year for video games. We’re 19 months into a fresh console cycle and support for the PS4 and Xbox One is finally tapering off as developers shift focus to the PS5, Xbox Series X and PC cloud gaming platforms. The pandemic slowed or paused development on a generation of games, and studios of all sizes are being absorbed by the biggest names in the room. The industry is in flux and the rest of the year reflects this instability. Put simply, there aren’t a lot of huge games coming out in the second half of 2022.

Right now, the video game space is made up of delays, big promises and more delays. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look forward to — between indie and AA developers, cloud libraries and mobile games from Netflix of all companies, this period of transition will still be packed with plenty of things to play.

The 2022 holiday release calendar definitely looks thinner than it did a few months ago, but the first half of the year was fairly busy with games like Horizon Forbidden West, Elden Ring, Pokemon Legends: Arceus, Gran Turismo 7, Kirby and the Forgotten Land and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. And those are just the well-funded releases with big, shiny ads — the year has also been good for indie and AA titles like Neon White, The Quarry, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, Sifu, Tunic, OlliOlli World and Salt and Sacrifice already available. The summer’s peppered with even more small but fantastic-looking games, like the cyberpunk cat simulator Stray, Sam Barlow’s Immortality and the wildly anticipated Cuphead DLC, all due out by the end of July.

Cuphead

Studio MDHR

Weirdly enough, Netflix is also helping to fill in the gaps with a new push into mobile gaming, and its latest titles are a treat. Poinpy, the new game from the creator of Downwell, is particularly addictive. Netflix is also publishing the next titles from the studios behind Monument Valley and Alto’s Odyssey, and all of them are free, without ads or microtransactions, as long as you have an active Netflix subscription.

On top of all that, mid-tier publishers like Devolver and Annapurna have a steady stream of strange, high-quality games coming out at all times. And, of course, there’s Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Plus Premium, NVIDIA’s GeForce Now and even Google Stadia — cloud-gaming services that bring hundreds of classic and new titles to essentially any device with a screen.

Desta

ustwo

So, yeah, there are plenty of fresh games heading our way this year; it’s just that there won’t be many AAA blockbusters out of Microsoft or Sony. Whether we like it or not, these studios set the pace of the industry, and gaps in their release schedules can make it feel like development has stagnated across the board. And right now, there are a lot of AAA gaps. What makes it worse is the fact that Microsoft and Sony have announced and then abandoned multiple huge projects over the past few years, giving all of us something concrete to miss in every showcase.

In late 2019 and 2020, Microsoft announced massive games including Fable, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Everwild, Avowed and Outer Worlds 2, and it hasn’t said much more about these projects since. On top of that, there’s everything going on at Bethesda, the largest brand under the Xbox Game Studios banner. Bethesda’s shiny new sci-fi RPG, Starfield, was delayed out of 2022 earlier this year alongside Arkane’s online vampire shooter, Redfall. Meanwhile, it looks like Elder Scrolls 6 has at least five more years left in development, and Fallout 5 may not come out until the next console generation. The biggest Xbox exclusives still landing this year are High on Life, As Dusk Falls and Pentiment, three mid-sized games, two of which were literally announced this month.

Sony is in a similar situation. It has more AAA exclusives hitting the market in the second half of this year than Microsoft, with Forspoken, God of War Ragnarok and The Last of Us remake on the calendar, but there are still plenty of unknowns in the PlayStation lineup. Final Fantasy XVI was a highlight of the PS5 announcement stream in 2020, but we just got a release window of summer 2023 for that one. There’s been zero to little information about other games Sony’s had in the works for years, including Wolverine, the Knights of the Old Republic remake and Spider-Man 2. A standalone multiplayer mode for The Last of Us is still MIA, and we’ve yet to get details on the “multiple game projects” that Naughty Dog is also working on.

There are a couple of big cross-platform games due to come out this holiday season, including Hogwarts Legacy and The Callisto Protocol, but fanfare for these titles has been fairly muted so far.

As for Nintendo, it’s playing by its own rules, as always, and it has Splatoon 3 and Pokemon Scarlet and Violet on the roster this year, plus whatever it announces during its next Direct showcase. It has its own troubles of course — Breath of the Wild 2 was pushed back to 2023, and then there’s Metroid Prime 4, which was announced in 2017 and… yeah.

Breath of the Wild 2

Nintendo

The sense of insufficiency in the industry this year is the result of the console makers announcing things too early, with too much fanfare and too many impossible release windows. Of course the pandemic didn’t help, but as it stands, these studios promised the world and then went quiet on multiple massive franchises, and the silence is particularly deafening as we enter an anemic six months of AAA releases. Thankfully, there are so many amazing indie games available right now and coming later in 2022, and between cloud, mobile and PC services, there are more ways to play these titles than ever.

As Jonathan Blow would say, time is a construct anyway, and thinking of life in terms of weeks, months and years is a futile effort to logically contain chaos. Long story short, there’s a lot to look forward to in the video game universe. It may not all be coming this year — or the next, or the next — but with more games to play on more platforms than ever, we should all be plenty entertained.

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Game

Watch the Summer Game Fest showcase here at 2PM ET

E3 would normally be held around this time, but it this year. Still, there are over the next few days that will shine the spotlight on dozens, if not hundreds, of upcoming games. One of the biggest events on the docket is , which is set for 2PM ET today.

Host and producer Geoff Keighley has tried to by noting that, while there will be some new game announcements, the focus will primarily be on previously revealed titles. There will be details on , , , , ,  and much more.

Rumors suggest the stream will also feature  and perhaps a release date for . One thing that definitely won’t be included is a trailer, . Don’t expect to hear a peep about either.

Keighley says the event will run for over 90 minutes. Be sure to stick around afterward for the indie-focused Day of the Devs event. The Summer Game Fest showcase is available to stream on a ton of platforms, including , , , , and even in IMAX theaters. To make things even easier for you, the YouTube stream is right here:

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Xbox Winter Game Fest is about to serve up a ton of indie game demos

With The 2021 Game Awards just around the corner, Microsoft has announced that it will once more host a collection of game demos for Xbox owners to check out. Officially called the ID@Xbox Winter Game Fest Demo Event, this two-week event will give Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One owners the chance to check out some upcoming indie games. Unlike the Steam Next Fest, which runs for a week and includes more demos than anyone could ever hope to complete in that timeframe, the Winter Game Fest event will be a little more manageable.

Xbox indie games on display

Before we can dive into the details about the Winter Game Fest Demo Event, it’s probably good to have a refresher about what the ID@Xbox program actually is. The ID@Xbox program allows independent developers to self-publish games to Xbox consoles, and while that’s big enough on its own, the program also supports developers in those endeavors by doing things like providing free dev kits and documentation.

Since this is an ID@Xbox event, that means all of the titles on display will be indie games destined for self-publication on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, or both. Microsoft says that it will have demos for more than 35 games on display, and with the event slated to run for two weeks, that should be plenty of time to check each one out (for motivated players who want to try every single one, at least).

Microsoft says that it will share a full list of the demos that will be available closer to the event’s start date, but it named five of the participating games on Xbox Wire today: Loot River, Death Trash, Blacktail, The Tale of Bistun, and Nobody Saves the World.

When does the Winter Game Fest Demo Event begin

Since this is a tie-in event with The Game Awards, it comes as little surprise to hear that the Winter Game Fest Demo Event will kick off on December 7th – just a couple of days before The Game Awards. The event will run for two weeks, wrapping up on December 21st. In today’s announcement, Microsoft also made a couple of points that players should consider before diving in.

The first thing to keep in mind is that these aren’t going to be like traditional game demos in that they won’t necessarily be representative of the finished product. Since many of these games are still early in development, what we see in a given demo could drastically change by the time the full game actually releases.

Microsoft also warns players not to put off playing any demos that catch their eye, as most demos probably won’t come back after they disappear on December 21st. In short: play any demos you may be interested in while you’re sure you have the chance during the event, because there’s no guarantee that they’ll be published to the Xbox Demo channel later.

As for The 2021 Game Awards, you’ll be able to catch the show live streaming on a huge number of platforms on December 9th at 7 PM EST. The nominees for each category have already been announced, and they include a packed ticket for Game of the Year 2021.

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Game

Pokemon GO Fest 2021 start times and rundown in kickoff videos

This weekend starts Pokemon GO Fest 2021, with all sorts of celebratory events and happenings therein. The game Pokemon GO started approximately 5 years ago, making this the official fifth anniversary event, and the biggest Pokemon GO event of the year. With the start of the event series, Niantic CEO John Hanke presented a video welcoming everyone to the party and another “podcast” was released by the company to start the event off right.

Below you’ll see the first “Pokemon GO Fest 2021: Event Kickoff” video with Niantic CEO John Hanke. This video gives users a quick overview of what the event will consist of and how the world of Pokemon GO is going right this minute. It’s been a long time since we called it – and it remains true today: Pokemon GO is the best game EVER: Here’s why (June 30, 2016).

Niantic also released a video with Niantic 3D designer Crag Kintzmann. This video shows a step-by-step process of constructing this year’s official Print at Home kit for Pokemon GO Fest 2021. This design was created in the first place by Niantic designer Ting Tey. You can find this kit at Niantic ready to download and print.

Finally there’s a Pokemon GO “podcast” of sorts from Niantic in the form of a video posted to YouTube. This video has a still frame of two Pikachu near the Pokemon GO Fest 2021 logo, onstage and ready for musical action.

Pokemon GO Fest 2021 has a start time of 10AM local time on July 17, 2021. This event ends at 6PM local time, also on July 17. The second half of the event will begin at 10AM local time on July 18, 2021, and will end at 6PM local time this same day. Take a peek at the timeline below for more information on the goings-on with this event and tips on how to succeed in this multi-day journey.

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Pokemon GO Fest code leak shows major fan favorite Mythical release

Intrepid seekers of future data looked at codes delivered with the latest version of Pokemon GO this week and found some secrets. Early peeks at updates to the game can be found if a person knows where to look – and this week’s update to the game included a DOOZY of a leak as such. At this point we’re going to issue a SPOILER ALERT for those of you who wish to remain excited and surprised by what’s coming next.

If you’re ready to be surprised, but want to wait until the event takes place, turn back now! We’re looking at a sneak peek of the game that’ll have its most major in-game event this weekend, complete with a reveal of a Mythical Pokemon that’s not yet appeared in the game in any form.

The Pokemon found by Pokeminers on The Silph Road is none other than Hoopa! Are you surprised? This is the Mythical Pokemon Hoopa, the same Hoopa that had his own Pokemon movie special release. This is the Pokemon whose powers seemed so impossibly top-tier that we thought there was no way he’d be entering the realm of Pokemon GO – but hey! There he is!

Per leaked dialogue from the game, Professor Willow says – or will say – “I was just out on a stroll and witnessed the most incredible sight. Several rings had appeared in the sky, and as I stared up at them, something truly remarkable occurred.” Willow goes on to say, “Legendary Pokémon began emerging from the rings as if by magic!”

Unfortunately, it would appear that Hoopa will not actually be available to capture DURING the event. It’s been suggested by the folks at GO Stadium (as shown in the Tweet below) that while Hoopa will appear at GO Fest 2021, he will not be able to be caught. It’s very likely that Hoopa will play a role similar to the movie, releasing Legendary Pokemon for players to battle. We’re talking wild and generally super-rare Pokemon up in Raid Battles aplenty!

Yes, Ben, it’s not Hoopaning. On the positive side of the situation, it would appear that Niantic remains confident that trainers will one day be able to catch Hoopa, somehow or another. Text in the game suggests that “it doesn’t seem like Hoopa is in the area at the moment. Let’s use this time to prepare to catch it, hm?”

The game also includes not-yet-used text that suggests that “You’ll need your skills at their sharpest to catch Hoopa.” It’ll likely be a situation where GO Fest 2021 sets us up for another major event in the future, an event that’ll bring Hoopa to trainer collections in a very real way. For now, it’s all about the HOOPS.

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Pokemon GO Fest 2021 with Pikachu Rock Star and Pop Star

This week we’re taking a peek at some new details released on Pokemon GO Fest 2021, specifically about the newest set of Pikachu monsters you’ll be able to get during this event. If you’re playing right now, you’ll likely see some flying Pikachu around town, complete with a 5-shaped balloon. This is just one of a wild collection coming to the festival over the next few weeks!

Tickets required

If you’re dropping in on Pokemon GO Fest 2021 on July 17th, you’ll want to buy a ticket. Ticket holders will gain access to Special Research that’ll allow you to pick Pikachu Rock Star with METEOR MASH (charged move.) You could also get a Pikachu Pop Star with DRAINING KISS (charged move.)

On July 17 you’ll find Rock Star and Pop Star Pikachu appear in Snapshot images and in the wild based on your choices. Special Research on July 18th will deliver Flygon with EARTH POWER, and Gardevoir with SYNCHRONOISE. Both of these advanced Pokemon will also appear more often if you drop Incense.

Avatar items in the in-game shop will appear with a ticket – shirts with Whismur, Exploud, and Loudred-inspired patterns, new “face stickers”, and a guitar case backpack. Those will still cost you extra – if you complete Special Research, you’ll get a Meloetta Shirt for “free.”

Tickets or no tickets

Pikachu will appear with a Meloetta-inspired hat! Event hours on Saturday and Sunday, the 17th and 18th of July, will deliver the Meloetta hat Pikachu to the public. This monster can be Shiny!

This event will also feature 1-star raids with potentially shiny Seino and fancy dress Galarian Ponyta and Galarian Zigzagoon. Both of these fancy dress Pokemon will also have the Meloetta hat! There’ll also be 3-star raids with Galarian Weezing, Hitmontop, and Cranidos.

Stick around as we learn more about this event series and keep your eyes peeled for Pikachu. There’ll be more fancy dress Pikachu out there with fancy hats and rock and pop and music outfits than you can shake a stick at!

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Pokemon GO Fest 2021 Ultra Unlock: Time, Space, and more

This week the folks at Niantic released new information on Pokemon GO Fest 2021, including the Ultra Unlock. This system of unlocking bonuses will take place in what the company calls the “Global Challenge Arena”, and only for “ticket holders” as such. It’ll happen with a new collaborative challenge each hour during the event – if trainers complete each challenge, they’ll get a bonus for the remainder of said hour.

Once all of the Global Challenge Arena Ultra Unlock challenges are unlocked, there’ll be “bonuses that will occur after Pokemon GO Fest 2021. It’s quite likely we’ll see bonuses for those that do not hold tickets, too – wouldn’t want to leave so very many people out of the party once they’re no longer able to buy a ticket, after all.

Ultra Unlock Part 1: Time

Trainers will need to complete “a total of eight global challenges” in order to take part in Ultra Unlock Part 1: Time. Given the way these sorts of challenges have gone in the past, this shouldn’t be an issue. Once Time is unlocked, “the flow of time till be disrupted!”

The bonus for this unlock will start on Friday, July 23, 2021, at 10AM local time. It’ll run until Tuesday, August 3, at 8PM local time. The reward is that “Pokemon from various eras will be appearing more often.”

Ultra Unlock Part 2: Space

If trainers move on to completing 16 global challenges, the Ultra Unlock Part 2: Space reward will be unlocked. This reward will start on Friday, August 6, 2021 at 10AM local time to Tuesday, August 17 at 8PM local time. During this bonus, “Space itself will be distorted as Pokemon from various places appear!”

Ultra Unlock Part 3: ???

The third part of the challenge series has not yet been revealed. Niantic is being mysterious about this one, safe the requirements – trainers will need to complete a total of 24 global challenges during Pokemon GO Fest 2021. Part 3 of the series will start on Friday, August 20, 2021 at 10AM and will last until Tuesday, August 31, at 8PM local time, assuming it’s achieved and unlocked.

We’re thinking we’re going to see our fair share of newly-released Pokemon, Pokemon that’ve not yet been available in Pokemon GO, and weird oddities. All the Unown and unknown Pokemon we can handle!

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Pokemon GO Fest City Activations: Are you on the list?

Niantic is ready to launch Pokemon GO Fest 2021, and with it, a series of City Launches. In-person events – without the same sort of requirements for gathering in relatively close quarters – will appear in a set of 22 cities in Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the United States. To attend these special gatherings, you’re encouraged to get a special “Niantic Live Events” ticket, which you can attain from Niantic’s Event Ticketing page.

The Niantic Event Ticketing page suggests that users will need to sign in with their Pokemon GO account to get tickets to Niantic Live Events. In this latest iteration of the ticketing system, Niantic says there’ll be two ways in which tickets to real-world Pokemon GO events will be distributed now and in the future. Some will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, while others will have random drawings “for a chance to purchase tickets.”

For Pokemon GO Fest 2021, there’ll be smaller-scale in-person experiences in 22 cities around the world. They’ll all take place on ONE day: July 17, 2021, from 10AM to 6PM local time.

There’ll be an event in the following cities in Europe and Asia-Pacific:
• Auckland, New Zealand
• Linz, Austria
• Dresden, Germany;
• Essen, Germany
• Hamburg, Germany
• Sevilla, Spain
• Paris, France
• Warsaw, Poland
• Bristol, U.K.
• Edinburgh, U.K.
• Liverpool, U.K.
• London, U.K.

In the USA, chosen cities include:
• San Francisco, California
• Denver, Colorada
• Atlanta, Georgia
• Chicago, Illinois
• Indianapolis, Indiana
• New York City, New York
• Seattle; Washington
• Nashville, Tennessee
• Austin, Texas

In a Mercury News interview with Niantic product marketing director Michael Steranka, it was suggested that this series will have a “much lighter touch” than in-person events of the past. “The intent is to create locations that players can attend,” said Steranka.

In-person events on the 17th will have Niantic staff in each chosen city, mostly to assist with “real-life displays” that players will more than likely want to use for selfie photos. One example of this sort of real-life display is a Charizard wing attached to the side a building.

Niantic will not supply food trucks, bathrooms, merch booths, cell towers, or any other sort of assistance to Pokemon GO trainers. Instead, events are being centered in the business districts – downtown – in each of their chosen cities. Plenty of bathrooms and the potential for businesses to see a day of high traffic.

Do you plan on attending one of these city events? Will you be traveling to one of these centrally-located events for the potential bonuses and unique Pokemon they may spawn?

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Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Revealed at Summer Games Fest

Gearbox and 2K revealed Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, a Borderlands spinoff adventure, at Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest on Thursday. The game features a star-studded cast, including Andy Samberg, Will Arnett, Wanda Sykes, and Ashley Burch, who will be reprising her Borderlands voice role of Tiny Tina.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a high-fantasy take on Borderlands that, according to Burch, should remind players of the Borderlands 2 DLC Assault on Dragon Keep. While the game will include elements and characters from past entries in the Borderlands franchise, it is a stand-alone game. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands‘ announcement shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as the game’s existence was leaked recently.

Shoot ????, loot ????, slash ⚔️, and cast ✨ your way to defeating the Dragon Lord ???? in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands ???? arriving early 2022!

???????????? https://t.co/HukTP2kt9d pic.twitter.com/tLkQrsjucU

— Tiny Tina's Wonderlands ???? (@PlayWonderlands) June 10, 2021

That being said, the game’s packed cast of talented voices wasn’t expected at all. Andy Samberg will be voicing captain Valentine, while the robot Frette will be played by Wanda Sykes. Will Arnet will lend his gravelly voice to the game’s antagonist, the Dragon Lord.

Playing to its high-fantasy theme, players can expect to find spellcasting and character customization (likely wizard robes and barbarian armor) in Tina Tina’s Wonderlands. According to the game’s description, “Bullets, magic, and broadsword collide across a chaotic fantasy world brought to life by the utterly unpredictable Tiny Tina, who makes the rules, changes the world on the fly, and guides players on their journey.” In all, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands sounds like a game of Dungeons & Dragons, just with machine guns and Tina as your DM.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands doesn’t have a set release date, but will come out in early 2022 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store.

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Pokemon GO Fest 2021 has a new Shiny pair and cheaper tickets

This morning Niantic revealed information about Pokemon GO Fest 2021, a celebration of the 5th anniversary of the launch of Pokemon GO! This event will feature a drastically reduced price for tickets, apparently thanks to the fact that this is, indeed, the 5th anniversary of the game. Instead of $15, tickets this year will be $5.

Trainer photos will appear in the Pokemon GO app for the first time at this event. Trainers will be encouraged to share photos on social media with hashtag #PokemonGOFest2021 “for a chance to see their photos featured during the event.” The Pokemon GO app will feature photos in Today View.

This event will initiate the release of Shiny Sawk and Shiny Throh for the first time ever! This will also be the first Pokemon GO event that’ll also be a music festival. Trainers will “play the role of show director” for this show.

Trainers will “help Professor Willow and the team leaders put on an incredible concert celebration by choosing between certain Pokémon to join the festivities.” There’ll be Special Research that’ll deliver giant rewards, one of which includes an encounter with a Mythical Pokemon.

There’ll also be special event Pokemon with “dressed-to-impress special event costumes.” These costumed Pokemon have appeared in Pokemon GO before – but these Pokemon might very well have DIFFERENT costumes than before. Generally, these Pokemon don’t end up being very useful in battling or defending Gyms, but they ARE fun to keep.

This year’s Pokemon GO Fest will include a brand new Global Challenge Arena. In this event within an event, Trainers will complete themed collaborative challenges – all on the Saturday of the event. The full event will take place on July 17 and 18, 2021.

You’ll be able to purchase a ticket for this event soon for the approximate price of $4.99 USD. That’ll be different depending on your local currency “plus any applicable taxes and fees.” There’ll also be “fun surprises and exclusive perks” courtesy of Google Play (which might mean we’ll see Android-exclusive bits and pieces), as Google Play is the official event sponsor for Pokemon GO Fest 2021. Stick around as we learn more!

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