We've made it to the end of January, and we're ready to close out the month with another Etch Play weekly roundup. We've been checking out Apple Arcade, playing Hitman 3, and observing how GameStop has become the talk of Wall Street. Enjoy!
We’ve been having a lot of fun playing a bit of Sea of Thieves recently. This week the game released a new update, Season One, that they’ve been working hard on as they try to breathe more life in to a game as it enters its third year of running. Seasons introduces a new progression system that runs for approximately 3 months bringing new gameplay, rewards and live events. Players have to work their way through 100 levels unlocking rewards as they go. The new update is completely free and there is a premium element, aptly named The Plunder Pass, for those who one to get even more as they progress through the levels. We’ve had a tonne of fun playing this game recently (check out our YouTube video) so this update is perfect timing and definitely going to keep us sailing the seas for treasure.
Last weekend I caved and picked up a copy of HITMAN 3. This final instalment in the current phase of the franchise has been extremely well received both critically and commercially. IO Interactive announced earlier in the week they have recouped project costs within the first week, which is an amazing achievement. I've finished an initial play through of the main story line but will be revisiting the stunning locations to explore the endless side stories and challenges whilst I eagerly await IOI's take on a new 007.
As I have mentioned before, I use GeForce Now for gaming on my Macbook pro. I've been using it for over a year now and haven't had any issues with it, mainly for playing Rocket League and Counter-Strike. The only issue I do encounter is the internet speed, but if I use the Ethernet cable and not the WiFi it works without any problems.
On Wednesday Unity announced their first release of 2021, the 2021.1 beta. This version has some cool new features, as well as building on the performance gains they started in their early 2020 builds. The two big things for this in my opinion are the introduction of Bolt out the box, and localisation improvements. Bolt is a visual scripting tool, which is aiming to give more power to artists and designers, so that they rely less on programmers, or even help programmers prototype their work faster. The localisation improvements aren't in the editor itself, but are actually in the tools used to help developers localise their games, which in today's connected world is surely going to go a long way in helping a lot more developers reach markets they normally couldn't.
There are a lot more improvements too, in regards to scripting, performance profiling and even some artist tools, so you should go check out everything in the beta over on the Unity blog, after you've finished this one of course 😉
The biggest games-adjacent news story this week is the GameStop stock saga. As a brick-and-mortar retailer, GameStop's publicly traded stock has been on a downward trend thanks to the rise of digital sales of games and, of course, the pandemic.
When companies are on a downward trend, Wall Street investors often engage in something called "shorting", which is essentially betting that the performance of specific assets will get worse. They borrow stock in the company, sell it with a promise to buy back, wait for the price to go down, then (as agreed) buy it back - making profit on the difference.
This week though, the internet hivemind of WallStreetBets on Reddit decided to thwart the shorters by buying GameStop stock en-masse, and refusing to sell it. The outcome? Billions of dollars lost by hedge funds who bet big on GameStop's decline, as GME stock price has skyrocketed. Amateur investors have rejoiced at outsmarting the 1%, with an unusual investment strategy which has paid off so far, but the long term effects remain to be seen.
Since then, things have got messy: Other shorted stocks have been boosted, and some investment platforms have blocked people from putting more money into GameStop and similar stocks. But one thing is now clear: Sometimes, the economy makes no sense at all.
This week I decided to take a free month long trial of Apple Arcade. I've never been a big mobile gamer, (other than playing Snake on my old Nokia back in the day), but as this is such a huge segment of the gaming market, I thought I'd dip my toe in as a consumer. I think I'm finally getting the hang of touch screen gaming!
I kicked off by playing Alba, as this came heavily recommended by my friend Amy (who has guested on our YouTube channel previously). It's a cute little game developed by ustwo games where you complete challenges on a holiday island, searching for wildlife and cleaning up the environment. It's nice and relaxing, and very addictive.
I also have played through the first episode of Little Orpheus from The Chinese Room, which was a lot of fun. This is a side scrolling adventure game where you take on the role of a Soviet Cosmonaut re-counting his journey to the centre of the earth.
Today also sees the release of Gods Will Fall, published by our friends over at Deep Silver and developed by Clever Beans. It looks a lot of fun and I'll be sure to pick up a copy. Congrats to everyone involved!
Epic Games Store have released stats showing off how its game storefront grew in 2020. It announced there are now over 160 million accounts on PC, which is an increase of 52 million since 2019. Monthly active users almost doubled from 32 million in December 2019 to 56 million last month and Epic claims that their daily active user count of 31.3 million is a 192 percent boost.
One of the ways that Epic have kept players returning to their store is by giving away free games. Last year, they gave away 103 games and players claimed a staggering 749 million copies of them. Unsurprisingly, Epic have announced that they are committing to giving away titles in 2021.
You can read all the stats here.
Thanks for joining us for another weekly roundup. Let us know what caught your attention by sending us a message over on Twitter. If you can't get enough of us, we have even more content on our YouTube channel, and we also have a live show every Thursday at 4pm on our Twitch channel, where we chat news, play some games and discuss videogame marketing.
In fact you can watch yesterdays show right here 👇