Oh, hi! As you might expect, we're all playing some of the massive games that have come out over the last month or two, but that doesn't mean there isn't any news to share...
Microsoft Behind Closed Doors
I recently re-subscribed to Xbox Game Pass, mostly to play Starfield. But re-joining has also given me a chance to check out some of the smaller, indie titles on the platform, like Venba and Maquette.
And this month, we've heard a lot about Game Pass, and the Xbox platform in general, thanks to some astonishing leaks of private emails and Microsoft documents. The files, which were accidentally uploaded unredacted as part of the FTC investigation into the Activision Blizzard acquisition, offer a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the Xbox team - and what might lie ahead.
Among the revelations: A disc-less Series X redesign which is likely coming next year, and the plan to launch a next generation Xbox in 2028. In private emails, Xbox boss Phil Spencer muses about buying Nintendo, and the team discusses Game Pass library targets. Most notably, they really underestimated the smash hit Baldur's Gate 3 would be!
What makes Starfield Tik?
As I mentioned up front, I've been indulging in another vision of the future this month: Starfield. It's far from a perfect game, but I'm pleased to report that it's clicking with me - I think this is my personal favourite Bethesda game that I've ever played, despite the flaws - and there's something about it which I've found really interesting from an organic marketing perspective: Starfield is better when you use TikTok.
The depth (and let's face it, obscurity) of some of the systems, quests, items, and places in Starfield is a bit overwhelming, and sometimes it can feel like you're exploring a bunch of big empty rocks for no reason. I've put it down and stopped playing multiple times. But then, TikTok shows me someone doing something new - the location of an interesting gun, or an interesting space station I didn't know was there, or a thing I didn't know you could do. And just like that, I'm booting it back up again. Thanks to TikTok, I'm exploring more of Starfield's universe than I ever thought I would.
Let's check in with Taya to hear about what she's been playing... I'm guessing a certain other RPG is going to feature...
Getting cosy with Fae Farm
September was a whirlwind of a month, and despite still playing Baldur's Gate 3 at every chance, I have also rediscovered my appreciation for cosy games with Fae Farm. On those days where reading walls of dialogue and making life-or-death decisions is just a bit too intense, heading into a bright, colourful world to grow some turnips has been awesome.
Fae Farm is a farming game with a magical twist. Your character can use magic spells to fight scary thorns or make their farming easier, and there are fairies living in the town alongside humans. It reminded me a little of Wylde Flowers, which is probably my favourite farming sim of all time - so I knew I was going to have a good time.
The best part of Fae Farm for me is all the attention to quality of life features I often hope for in new games of this genre. Your farming belt automatically switches to the right tool when you need it - saving time and frustration when you're trying to clear large areas of land or to farm. The shared inventory between your shed and crafting stations means you always have what you need, without having to run between multiple chests to find the right crafting materials.
The little touches of polish also make Fae Farm a delight to play. The music, soundwork and animations are all so lovely - especially for the player character. I don't know why but I'm obsessed with the animation of breaking open gem rocks - when those shiny little crystals literally fly out and you collect them - I don't think I've ever seen a more satisfying gathering animation ever!
All in all, I'm enjoying my evenings in Azoria - and I'm still early on in the main story (because there is a main story!) and I can't wait to see what else is waiting for me.
For a great overview of the game, you can watch this:
Wave of layoffs hits industry hard
Elsewhere in the industry, it's been a difficult month - especially in the past few days, which have seen mass layoffs from a number of games companies. Sega cancelled Hyenas, sparking redundancies at Creative Assembly here in the UK. Sadly not to be outdone, Epic Games announced an astonishing 870-person layoff, hitting a variety of teams, such as Mediatonic.
Outcomes like this are difficult to process, especially in light of the sheer amount of money produced by the gaming industry year on year. Epic Games, for example, is one of the most successful companies in the world, and many top execs have grown eye-wateringly rich off of products like Fortnite and Fall Guys. It's hard to view these outcomes as the result of anything other than careless, rampant corporate greed. If we want to sustain the success of our industry, then the cycle of these big corporations buying up small teams, and gutting them, has to stop - especially when those teams are performing well and making huge profits, just not quite as huge as the shareholders were hoping for.
More Etch Play
You can browse our blog for more roundups like this one. Sometimes, when we're not too busy rolling for persuasion and/or checking out new indie games, we write up a bit of games industry insight, too! If you're interested in our marketing work for games publishers and studios, check out some of our case studies. Until next time!