The question that comes up the most when I meet others in the games industry is, how do I keep up? The answer is simple: I don't. No one does, and no one can. There's always the new thing. It's an endless Las Vegas buffet of crab legs. I used to try though, until I realized it's healthier to accept that there's only so much I can play.
Video games have splintered into even more of a hobbyist field in just the past five years; every writer, every streamer, every YouTuber has their specialty, whether it's in a genre or just in one single game.
That's because, frankly, one single game oftentimes has enough to fuel content for eons. They're what some have dubbed "forever" games. It's why games like Warframe or niche developers like Paradox Interactive can host their own successful conventions. It's why Ninja catapulted to superstardom on the back of just one battle royale.
The past couple weeks have seen a lot for these "forever games." Apex Legends spun into season two, amending many of its recent mistakes. Digital Extremes hosted its third consecutive fan convention Tennocon, where a new open-world expansion, Empyrean, was revealed for Warframe. (It's getting its own Nemesis-like system too.) Final Fantasy 14 launched its latest big expansion, Shadowbringers. It's been a busy time for ongoing games.
Anecdotally, I've seen a lot of new players popping into Apex Legends in my week returning to the game. The reality, though, is a tad more nebulous. While fans like me are enthusiastic by the refresh, it doesn't seem to be doing much to bring large swathes of new players in. On Twitch, Apex Legends has been floating within the top 10 for the past week, but it's nowhere near as big when compared to its landmark debut month. Apex Legends may have hit its stride again, but has it been enough to bring in new players?
The answer, really, is that it has endless competition. Whether in the likes of other MMO-lites like The Division 2 or Destiny 2-the latter now properly calling itself an MMO now-or in free-to-play games like Fortnite or Warframe, or even in games with long-term support like Rainbow Six Siege. It's overwhelming out there. Not just for people who work to cover all these games with equal expertise, but for consumers too.
Every game wants to basically be your forever game. When I interviewed some of the lead developers on Apex Legends at E3 2019, I was told that there will frankly never be a sequel to Apex Legends. Bungie's Destiny 2, from the sounds of it, very much might be in for the long haul; it could be a long while before we even see a Destiny 3 now that it's not at the beck-and-call of Activision. Final Fantasy 14, with each expansion better and more vast than the last, will be going on for awhile too.
I recently started reading Jenny Odell's How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy after confiding with a friend that maybe the reason I suffer from severe stress is the need to constantly be on, whether that's in the relative-privacy of a work Slack channel or on the viral-happy platform of Twitter. Odell writes that we often shed things like happiness in favor of so-called productivity, a downright unhealthy-and all too real-trait for adults living in the modern era.
It's a self-help book, sure, but it's never preachy. If nothing else I wish game publishers and gamers alike would give it a read, as it's got me thinking beyond just my personal health too: Why do we always have to hop onto the new thing with such readiness, whether it's a patch in World of Warcraft or the latest $60 game when we've barely cooled off on the last one?
It's the attention economy, plain and simple; best defined as the scarcity of a person's attention span. In today's attention economy, everything wants a slice of it, whether it's a social media app on your phone or video game publishers with a thirst for microtransactions, such as adding monetary systems to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 months after release, trying to make money off the players who have stuck with the shooter, baffling the very same fanbase in the process. It's Respawn Entertainment having to come out in a blog post to say that contrary to most live service games, it's trying to give its developers a healthy work-life balance and are favoring occasional substantial updates rather than lots of small little ones. Respawn, though running an ongoing free-to-play game, is lightly pushing back against the attention economy, in its own way.
But no one wins, really. The fans either want less or they want more. The developers and publishers are trapped in the same cycle. It's unfortunate. While we have seen some dialing back the ongoing services; what with EA publishing a single-player Star Wars game and all, it's still an exhausting trend that I don't see going away anytime soon.
As for me, my resolution this year was to not force myself to play every new game that comes my way that I'm not required to play for work. And so far, I've been mostly successful. I've been enjoying sinking back into Destiny 2 and Apex Legends as of late, both de facto chore games. The bright side is they're both pretty easy going experiences; I don't feel the pressure to keep up with either of them, really. They're just nice games to play in my free time.
So will I ever see what all the hype about Warframe is about? Probably not. I've learned to accept that rather than stare at it in my library now. And sure, Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers looks neat, but I've accepted that I don't want to play catch up to get to the new content. I'll just sit back and admire those cute bunny women from afar. After all, my attention is valuable, and I can't play everything.
Major Game Releases: July 8 to July 12
Here are the major releases for the week of July 8 to July 12. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2019.
- Dr. Mario World [July 10, iOS, Android]: Dr. Mario is back with a new prescription. Only this time, it's for your phones. Early previews indicate that Dr. Mario World has more in common with match-three games than classic Dr. Mario, but that's okay: match three games are great for phone games.
- SolSeraph [July 10, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC]: SolSeraph is the spiritual successor to ActRaiser that we've all been waiting for. The surprise Sega-published RPG was announced very recently, and is already heading to most major platforms this week. We'll definitely be covering it, and you can look forward to our thoughts on if it does the ActRaiser legacy justice later this week.
- Blazing Chrome [July 11, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC]: Blazing Chrome burns with the fire of a bunch of Contras. The side-scrolling action game is headed to most platforms later this week, and our own Mike, upon playing it alongside the newest entry in the Contra series, had favorable things to say about Chrome.
- Dragon Quest Builders 2 [July 12, PS4, Switch]: Maybe the biggest release this week, at least in the eyes of your pals at USG, is of the long-awaited sequel to Dragon Quest Builders. The sequel to one of our favorite games of 2016 is already shaping up to have even more than its predecessor, as it now includes online and offline four player co-op. Stay tuned for our review later this week!
This Week's News and Notes
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses is quickly approaching, and just one playthrough is allegedly 80 hours long. Yeesh!
- This morning we were treated to a whole lot of new Pokemon Sword and Shield gameplay and gym leader details, with new Pokemon too. We're particularly in love with Alcremie, a whipped… cream Pokemon?
- R.I.P. MAD Magazine. In honor of the satire mag's death, Nadia looks back on an excellent video game parody from its time in the early 1990s.
- Destiny 2: Shadowkeep is just a couple months away, and it looks appropriately eerie from this teaser.
- Last week Caty reviewed the latest EA Original Sea of Solitude. See what she thought of the game here.
- ICYMI: Studio Trigger, the animation studio behind Kill la Kill, animated the opening sequence for Shantae 5. WayForward revealed the animation in full last week.
- There are 10 million accounts out there subscribed to Nintendo Switch Online. That's about 10 million Tetris 99 players! (Maybe!)
- Axe of the Blood God: Kat's out this week, so Nadia and special guest host Ray Barnholt team up to bring you this week's show. They talk about non-RPG franchises that became RPGs, from the obvious Paper Mario series to less-obvious Japan-exclusive RPGs based on Samurai Shodown. Nadia also chatters a bit about Dragon Quest Builders 2 and the ActRaiser-inspired action game SolSeraph. Subscribe and listen here!