Burning Bridges – This Week in Games

Boy, it’s a messy week for online services starting with the letters TWIT, huh? There’s a lot of toxicity and anger online right now, and I don’t blame anyone who wants to take a break from their online lives and play The Stanley Parable for a while. For me, though, there’s news to report, so I can’t completely disconnect for the weekend just yet.

So, let’s talk about… people getting very angry on Twitter, followed by people getting very angry at Twitch. Hopefully once we’ve got all of that out of us, we can relax a little. Maybe.

YUJI NAKA JUST WENT NUCLEAR

It’s always an interesting time when a prominent figure in gaming history decides to just throw tremendous amounts of shade on social media, and especially when that shade involves a game that’s pretty notorious. That’s precisely what Yuji Naka did over on Twitter this Thursday, emerging from the shadows and publicly burning his bridges with publisher Square-Enix.

The game in question, as you’ve likely already guessed, is Balan Wonderworld, the Square-Enix published action-platformer that Naka and former Sonic co-creator and current Arzest boss Naoto Ohshima both worked on. You might recall that I was very hyped for Balan initially due to its pedigree and my desire for more big-budget, original 3D platform games on the market, but the final product was a disappointing mess. While Naka’s tweet thread was entirely in Japanese, it didn’t take long for folks to translate it, and he is very clearly unhappy about how Balan went down.

To start off, Naka alleges that he was forced out of the director’s position about half a year before release, and filed a lawsuit against Square-Enix that kept him from speaking publicly about it until now. According to Naka (and the court documents, he claims), he was forced out for two reasons: A rather mundane dispute over a soundtrack-related YouTube promotion, and Naka “ruining the relationship” with co-development company Arzest through comments he made about the game being buggy. He also puts a lot of blame on Square-Enix producer Noriyoshi Fujimoto for making the team crunch.

(Fujimoto, as you might recall, was the guy who penned this public “YOU JUST DON’T GET IT, OPEN YOUR MINDS” response to folks reacting poorly to Balan’s demo and asking for the game to be delayed.)

He ends his tweetstorm with some incredibly harsh words:

Daaaaaaayum. At this point Naka seemingly does not give a shit about making amends. And, I mean, given that we’ve seen Square-Enix higher-ups talk joyously about a metaversal NFT-laden future where fun plays second fiddle to the ability to earn, it definitely hits hard. This isn’t the first time Naka’s been screwed out of his work, either: publisher Kadokawa Games basically took his Rodea the Sky Soldier IP from him, made mediocre 3DS and Wii U games from it, and released his original (and much better) Wii game as an afterthought. It’s easy to see why he’s bitter! (Also, I couldn’t help but notice he’s no longer Twitter buddies with Naoto Ohshima, who he’s always had an on-again off-again friendship with, so I assume that they’re not on speaking terms for the foreseeable future.)

Of course, there are plenty of rumors of Naka himself being difficult to work with, and many folks are bringing up the commonly-heard (though not well-corroborated) story of Naka supposedly “ruining” famous cancelled Saturn title Sonic X-Treme… though that game was basically cursed from the get-go, I’m afraid. But I don’t think this is a matter so much of who is right or wrong, but that Balan was horrendously mismanaged in a bad work environment, and it shows in the final project. It’s a cautionary tale, and one I really wish had a better ending.

CHANGES ARE REPORTEDLY COMING TO TWITCH, AND NOBODY’S HAPPY

In the modern-day gaming landscape, Twitch is a huge deal. It’s helped mint e-celebrities, turn small games into massive global hits, and allowed many folks to transform their gaming hobby into a career. But there may be changes in store, if a recent article from Bloomberg is any indication.

According to the insiders quoted in the piece, Twitch is considering lowering the revenue from subscriptions and bits for its top streamers to 50%, down from 70%, while encouraging them to run more ads during streams. There may also be tiered partnerships with varying revenue splits, some of which would allow streamers to live-broadcast on other websites like YouTube and Facebook. None of this is finalized, however, and if the higher-ups at Twitch sense backlash they might just drop the whole thing.

So we know what we need to do: make a whole bunch of backlash and broadcast it. LOUDLY.

Full disclosure: My partner is… well, a Twitch Partner, though he’s not one of the mega-popular streamers: he’s just a guy who plays primarily arcade games in front of a couple hundred people for a few nights every week. This is a nice way for him to make some extra cash and have fun doing it, not a full-time career. Since he’s not pulling in tens of thousands of viewers, these changes might not even apply to him. But there are a substantial number of streamers for whom this is their livelihood, even if they’re not household names, and those are the folks I worry about with potential Twitch changes. Running ads during gameplay time can be very difficult, and I don’t think many folks are particularly interested in branching out to other streaming services after having spent years building Twitch audiences.

Also, Twitch‘s parent company is Amazon, and Amazon makes about a bazillion dollars every second. Why the hell do they need to take more money from the people who make Twitch what it is? How is that going to help anything? The logic behind these proposed changes is baffling – all of it sounds like something that would drive away streamers and viewers instead of fueling more growth.

Anyhow, none of these changes are set in stone yet, so hopefully these ideas get dropped and Twitch manages to continue in its current state, which is fine just the way it is. Actually, how about giving more of a cut to the creators? Jeff Bezos really doesn’t need another yacht for Christmas.

THE LEGEND OF MANA ANIME HAS A TRAILER AND A DATE

Hey, remember that Legend of Mana anime announcement from a while back? Well, good news, it’s still happening – in fact, it’ll be broadcast and streamed later this year! Here’s the brand-new, English-subbed trailer introducing the staff and cast (make sure you have captions turned on):


And here’s the key art for the show:

Rather than attempt to adapt the whole massive, meandering plot of Legend of Mana, the staff at Graphnica and Yokohama Animation Lab are focusing on the Jumi storyline, which is arguably the most compelling out of LoM’s long-running story threads. A wise decision, if you ask me. Jinbo Masato is in the director’s chair, and notably, beloved maestro Yoko Shimomura is credited with the music – though whether she’ll be providing all-new compositions or just see bits of her game OST reused isn’t clear. A firm date hasn’t been set just yet, but we should have animated Mana by year-end. Will it be good? Hmmm… given the track record of gaming anime, I wouldn’t get hopes up too much, y’know?

Speaking of the Mana series, mobile action/RPG spinoff Echoes of Mana is now available. I’ve downloaded it but haven’t been able to play it much yet, though I did manage to get a bunch of characters I wanted off of my initial roll, so I’d call that a success. But I swear, if I see a single awful little dudbear in my rolls I am deleting this app SO HARD. Dudbears are the worst.

ASSORTED NEWSBITS

  • Granzella announced that R-Type Tactics, the turn-based strategy spinoff of their famous shooter series, is re-releasing on modern platforms sometime in the future. Both R-Type Tactics I and II will be included in the set, though specific release timing and platforms are as of yet unknown. You might recall that the original R-Type Tactics on PSP was localized and released in English as R-Type Command, though it apparently didn’t set North America on fire as the second game remains a Japan exclusive. Since NISA picked up R-Type Final II for international sales, maybe they’ll license this bundle, too?
  • AQUAPLUS‘s latest entry in the Utawarerumono series, Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs, has been announced for PS4, PS5, and PC via Steam for release on September 8th of this year. Interestingly, only the Steam version has been confirmed for an English-language release so far, and that will drop simultaneously with the Japanese digital release. Here’s a trailer!

  • Sony has detailed their rollout of the new, tiered PS Plus that includes options for an on-demand library of classic games and (in some territories) cloud streaming. Southeast Asia will get the new PS Plus first on May 23rd, followed by Japan on June 1st, North and South America on June 13th, and Europe on June 22nd. It’s also being reported that Sony is demanding publishers make ~2-hour playable game trials of titles priced $34 and up specifically for the service. Sounds like a pain in the ass for devs, but what are you going to do, tell Sony no?

Alright, then, we’ve wrapped things up for this week. Got any thoughts about this week’s news? We can guarantee that the ANN forums will never be bought out by billionaires having an extended, divorce-fueled midlife crisis, so please come join us there for delightful chitchat about gaming topics. (Link conveniently placed below!) Take it easy, folks!

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