This week we're looking at closures at Microsoft Studios, basket ball for Rocket League, Gears of War 4 screens, impressive financials from CD Projekt RED, and more!
We're also giving away a copy of Tom Clancy's The Division to one lucky commenter! Simply leave a reply and join the discussion for a chance to win.
Every week, I give my take on some of the biggest Xbox news, rumors and talking points in one handy post every weekend. You can also rely on this weekly column to catch up with all the latest game releases.
Welcome to the latest edition of This Week in Xbox One News.
Microsoft shutters Fable Legends, Project Knoxville
The biggest news of the past week is the fact that Microsoft closed down Danish studio, Press Play, and U.K.-based Lionhead Studios. Lionhead is, of course, famed for the Fable RPG series. The studio was previously led by Peter Molyneux, who became a little notorious for overpromising and underdelivering. Press Play is perhaps best known for Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, which was among the first games launched for Xbox One's Games with Gold program. Windows Central readers may know the studio for its unique Windows Phone titles Max and the Magic Marker, Tentacles: Enter the Mind, and Enter the Dolphin.
Both Press Play and Lionhead had been working on relatively experimental titles for Microsoft Studios. Press Play were building Project Knoxville, a cutthroat multiplayer survival game inspired by The Hunger Games, and Lionhead were working a 4v1 free-to-play spinoff of the Fable franchise, Fable Legends.
I played both Fable Legends and Project Knoxville in early stages of their development. The Knoxville client I played was little more than a prototype, having been the chosen concept from a choice of three as part of the game's open development campaign. Fable Legends was a little different. Even back at Gamescom, Fable Legends felt well realized, with stunning design and enjoyable combat.
Microsoft base a lot of their decisions on telemetry data, and in mid-February, Fable Legends sent me a survey to request feedback on my experiences with its closed beta, which included questions on whether I had been enjoying various aspects of the game. To me, it seems possible that Microsoft pulled the game based on engagement stats gleaned from Fable Legends' closed beta — certainly not a knee-jerk reaction they took lightly. Legends was always going to be a hard sell with the core crowd, some of whom reacted quite negatively to its free-to-play nature.
It's hard to say how well Project Knoxville would've fared out in the wild, but at least, where Fable is concerned, I feel as though the post-Molyneux Lionhead were never given the chance to help the quirky RPG franchise achieve its full potential. UK law dictates that companies go through a 30-day consultation period before closing, which could be why Lionhead reappeared on the Microsoft Studios website after the initial announcement. There's always the chance that Lionhead could retrofit Fable Legends' delicious DX12 art assets into a more traditional title, but there's been little indication of that happening. It's looking pretty bleak. I'll leave you with this comment from Phil Spencer on the matter:
"I really wish every game we started ended successfully. Regretfully doesn't always happen. I'm sad as well, I love Fable."
Either way, I think we can unite in wishing Press Play, Lionhead and everyone affected by the cuts all the best in the future.
CD Projekt RED reveal impressive financials, future roadmap
RPG superheroes CD Projekt RED have given us a bit of insight into just how well the company has done following their runaway success, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. In 2014, the company posted revenues of $25 million, a comparatively small figure in the world of AAA games. Last year was a game changer for the studio, which has now revealed revenues of $200 million, with almost $90 million in profit.
All of this is a result of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which for me represents the best game of this generation so far. CD Projekt RED's ambitious and dark fantasy RPG has won hundreds of awards, many of which include 2015 Game of the Year. CD Projekt RED revealed that The Witcher series has now sold 20 million units to date, as well as some of the studio's plans moving forward.
This year, CD Projekt RED will release the second expansion for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Blood and Wine, set to add an entirely new area to the game. The Polish studio will also launch a separate game, in a game format they've "previously unexplored." Could it be VR? Standalone Hearthstone competitor based on Gwent from The Witcher 3? Plenty of possibilities there.
The company's strategy document also lists a somewhat vague 2017-2021 launch window for their upcoming sci-fi RPG, Cyberpunk 2077, another AAA title, with additional media content and product lines for their existing franchises (which so far, only includes The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077).
A Dualshockers source offered further insights into CD Projekt RED's plans, owing to comments made by Studio Head Adam Badowski. He stated that Cyberpunk 2077, about which we have little information, is "even better, even bigger, even more revolutionary" than its original concept, which he hopes will be a "truly outstanding game."
CD Projekt RED's full financial report can be read right here, and contains additional information about how the studio plan to expand its PC game distribution platform, GOG.com, and loads of awesome pie charts.
The Division's Year One content plans, Far Cry Primal dominates February sales
Despite the slowing down of the Assassin's Creed franchise and talks of a hostile Vivendi take over, Ubisoft have a few reasons to celebrate — at least for the time being. Far Cry Primal took the crown as February's most popular title in the U.S., and The Division has been a huge success story for Ubisoft thus far, becoming the fastest-selling title in the studio's history.
I'll be posting my early impressions of The Division at the start of next week, but I'm more than happy to recommend the game to fans of strategic cover shooters, loot-'em-ups like Borderlands and Diablo, and RPG shooters like Destiny and Mass Effect. If you've yet to pick up the game and are interested, you can check out the first 3 hours on our Twitch channel over here.
As a connected shooter with an "end game" that persists after the story is finished, Ubisoft is looking to keep the game fresh with regular content drops. Some of these will be in the form of paid DLC expansions, either sold separately or as part of the game's season pass, but others will be included in free updates. The first free update will add Incursions to the game, which should form the basis of the game's high level "raid" content, providing squad-focussed activities for greater loot. The trailer above provided further insights.
Have you been playing The Division? What do you think so far? Hit the comments!
Rocket League developer Psyonix teases new game mode
I suspect that Rocket League is a key driver in Xbox's near-doubled February usage statistics, and Psyonix is showing no signs of slowing their push to keep Rocket League fresh. The game already picked up a Batmobile-shaped DLC, new cars based on Dying Light's vehicular update, and introduced an ice hockey mode as a permanent playlist.
Recently, Psyonix teased a basketball-like mode in an image posted on Twitter. It'll be interesting to see if the developer needs to rein in Rocket League's chaotic physics to make basketball work well, as shooting the ball into a hoop will potentially require a lot more precision than bashing it into a traditional goal. We'll have to wait and see!
Check out these fresh Gears of War 4 screenshots
Game Informer has received exclusive access to Gears of War 4, and are releasing a steady stream of new information about Microsoft's upcoming third person shooter. We know that the game features Marcus Fenix's son, set some 25 years after Gears of War 3. Now, Game Informer has released a gallery of screenshots from the upcoming title, which developer The Coalition has described as a showcase for the Xbox One's hardware capabilities. Check them out below!
Giveaway – Tom Clancy's The Division for Xbox One
This week, it's only natural to give away a copy of Tom Clancy's The Division. Ubisoft's connected shooter has already shattered various sales records, becoming the studio's fastest selling game to date. Taking place in a ruined New York City, The Division follows a player-created Strategic Homeland Division agent on a mission to restore order and unravel the mystery of what caused the pandemic that toppled civilization. Join the discussion in the comments for a totally random chance to win!
The winner was Apocd! Check back next week for another giveaway!
ICYMI - Some of Windows Central's biggest Xbox articles of the week
- Microsoft hints Gears of War 4 could be coming to the PC
- Pit People, from the makers of Castle Crashers, brings creativity to the strategy genre
- The Turing Test will wrack your brain in August on Xbox One and PC
- Annual BAFTA Game Awards nominees revealed
- Upcoming Xbox One Preview Program build will once again let you snap achievements app
- You could win a trip to visit Rare and play Sea of Thieves for Xbox One and Windows 10
- Microsoft clarifies its game studio plans, Project Spark servers have been offline for days
- Microsoft may offer compensation for recent Xbox Live outages
- Gears of War 4 to feature new cast of characters and local multiplayer
- The Division's first two expansions coming to Xbox One 30 days before other platforms
New Xbox One game releases for the week ending March 13th, 2016
Blast 'Em Bunnies - Action & Adventure, Family, Shooter - Nnooo
"Blast Bunnies and collect coins to upgrade your weapons. Can you defend your burrow from their onslaught? Pick them off using a carrot rifle, pelt their furry hides with the watermelon pip machine gun or wreak havoc with the runner bean laser."
MagNets: Fully Charged - Action & Adventure, Other, Platformer - Total Monkery
"Polarity City is under threat: the Bloxbots have gone rogue! Usually rather stupid, Polarity City's favourite maintenance cubes have suddenly become dangerous. Far from fixing things, the Bloxbots are destroying everything in sight... and why do they even HAVE lasers, anyway?"
HITMAN - Action & Adventure - Square Enix LTD
"There is a world beyond ours. Beyond nations, justice, ethics. It never sleeps. It exists everywhere. And once you enter....there is no going back. Welcome to the World of Assassination. You are Agent 47, the world's ultimate assassin."
Cel Damage HD - Action & Adventure, Racing & Flying - Finish Line Games
"Take control of the world's nuttiest cartoon drivers to demolish your friends with insane weapons and wacky arena hazards!"
Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition - Action & Adventure, Platformer - Moon Studios
"The forest of Nibel is dying. After a powerful storm sets a series of devastating events in motion, Ori must journey to find courage and confront a dark nemesis to save the forest of Nibel."
Teslagrad - Platformer - Rain Games
"Teslagrad is a 2D puzzle platformer with action elements, where magnetism and other electromagnetic powers are the key to discovering the secrets kept in the long abandoned Tesla Tower."
TOM CLANCY'S THE DIVISION - Action & Adventure - Ubisoft Massive
"New-York City, today. An unprecedented pandemic has struck the city during the fever of Black Friday. One by one, basic services fail. In only days, without food or water, society collapses into chaos."
Tetraminos - Puzzle & Trivia - Bigben Interactive
"The classic arcade game is back in a supercharged version! For beginners or veterans, Tetraminos offers an easy-to-learn, limitless challenge."
And that's a wrap!
I continue to be saddened by the situation over at Microsoft Studios, but it seems to be the reality of AAA game development at that level. Activision, EA, and other major publishers cancel projects and close down studios on a regular basis, but it's quite rare to see one as legendary and beloved as Lionhead up on the chopping block. Hopefully, we'll get more good news to balance out the bad in the run up to Build, GDC, and E3.
What have you guys been playing this week? What do you think of this week's Xbox One news?