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Editorial

How Microsoft’s Rumoured Purchase of IO Interactive Represents an Important Change in the Industry

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Hitman Microsoft

Microsoft has clearly been eager to acquire capable talent throughout 2018 having purchased five studios including Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout: New Vegas) and Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice). With these acquisitions in mind, the credible rumours that Microsoft now seeks IO Interactive, the developer behind the Hitman series, can only be good news for everyone involved.

For Microsoft, these acquisitions represent an effort to rebuild and refocus after years of missteps. Aided by the well-received Xbox Game Pass, backwards compatibility, and more powerful iterations of the original system, the Xbox One has been somewhat redesigned from a failed all-in-one media device to a gaming system capable of rivalling any other. Though this effort has largely worked for Microsoft’s image, what it still critically lacks is games.

Since the Playstation 4’s launch, Sony has excelled in terms of first-party exclusives with those like Uncharted 4, God of War, and Spider-Man (just to name a few), each defining the otherwise average system. Meanwhile, the Xbox One only received fewer titles that either pale in comparison or released for other platforms anyway. Now with a decent platform of its own, Microsoft’s natural next step would be to develop some great exclusives for it.

Though late, the company’s recent acquisitions only make sense to solve this problem while simultaneously saving smaller, struggling studios. The purchase of Obsidian may have been a shock to fans, but to the company itself, a partner like Microsoft is “absolutely critical” for it to continue making the experiences that it wants to make. Of course, Microsoft has a great interest in helping these studios make games for its systems — but providing them with financial aid while maintaining their creative liberty in the meantime is an important step in the right direction.

For IO Interactive, finding a partner like Microsoft is all but necessary. Hitman 2’s lack of cutscenes demonstrates the financial hit the studio took after leaving Square Enix, and while the game may have released to “very positive” reviews, sales are reportedly low — too low for the studio to continue to function without aid of some sort. Many are doubtful that the studio would even survive to produce another Hitman if the rumours about Microsoft’s purchase are not true.

Beyond providing such benefits, moves like Microsoft’s also have the potential to shape the games industry for the better. Encouraging smaller developers to thrive means they may no longer be chained to companies such as Square Enix and EA who push for malicious business practices at the absolute detriment of consumers and the overall success of their games. For IO Interactive specifically, this freedom is just what it needs to distance itself from Square Enix’s practices that previously hindered its success and flourish on its own.

Perhaps such acquisitions represent an unfortunate time in which developers seemingly cannot make it independently without significant struggle. However, to see companies like Microsoft helping smaller studios create the games they envision and encouraging them to do so in a market dominated by triple-A titans is encouraging—a win-win situation for both consumers and developers alike.

For more coverage on your favorite single player games, as well as new and exciting upcoming releases, stay connected with OnlySP on Facebook and Twitter.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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