It's been hard to focus in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are encouraging everyone to self-isolate and practice social distancing. Most counties in the Bay Area are going into a three-week soft-lockdown, effective at midnight, meaning that starting tomorrow, I won't be able to even leave my house to grab coffee. So, naturally, I'm turning to online video games.
I'm not the only one. Friends near and far have been logging online more than before. On Saturday, I think almost everyone on my friends list was online playing something, which I've never seen before. Steam set a new record of concurrents over the weekend. Everyone's leaning on video games as a familiar ally in this time of lonely self-isolation.
As someone who worked from home even before this pandemic, online games have always been a welcome source of company. Sometimes on chat with friends; sometimes alone, but feeling a sense of camaraderie anyways through just playing alongside strangers in the likes of Apex Legends and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. But lately it's been different. It's more of a necessity now. Just this past Saturday, a friend and I played Call of Duty: Warzone for a solid seven hours—which I would usually be embarrassed about, but considering the circumstances, it helped us both feel less alone and bored in the face of the state of the world.
Discord recently announced how it's helping to facilitate sharing gaming experiences with loved ones around the world during this time. It's upping the Go Live streaming and screen share limit from 10 to a staggering 50. In the game chat company's own words, it hopes it makes "your world a little less stressful."
That's good, because it's bleak out there right now. With loads of people not taking the pandemic seriously and endangering those around them, the United States doesn't even have an accurate tally of how many people are truly infected thanks to the scarcity (and prohibitively high cost) of COVID-19 test kits. It's a terrifying reality. It's become increasingly important to not turn to games for pure escapism, but to remind us of the people and the world out there.
I was reminded of this particularly this morning, when the review embargo for Animal Crossing: New Horizons dropped. Across headlines and social media, I kept seeing the same ol' refrain: Animal Crossing is the game we need right now. I can't fault them either. In more ways than one, it is. In a time where CDC is urging everyone to practice social distancing, a game about living within a tight knit community like Animal Crossing is what we need right now.
That also goes for Warzone. And Doom Eternal. And, as dear guides steward Jake Green mentioned on our Slack this morning, Sea of Thieves. And whatever it is you find comfort in playing alongside friends. We may not be able to have human-to-human contact right now, but we can still maintain those relationships that help us cope with the life-threatening virus on our doorstep. OK, no more corny chatter. Stay safe out there readers. And come Friday, swing by my island of Sunset with your abundance of staying home time.
Major Game Releases: March 16 to March 20
Here are the major releases for the week of March 16 to March 20. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- MLB The Show 20 [March 17 for PlayStation 4]: Late last year, Major League Baseball announced that future MLB The Show entries in the sports sim series would no longer be exclusive to Sony's consoles. That means that starting in 2021, MLB The Show will be coming to new platforms like Xbox Series X. The cross-platform bliss doesn't kick off this year, however, with it remaining a PS4 exclusive for the time being. Considering that MLB just delayed its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MLB The Show 20 is basically your only chance to get your ballpark fix right now. Our Editor-in-Chief and resident sports enthusiast Kat Bailey will have a review for it tomorrow.
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons [March 20 for Nintendo Switch]: It's here. Animal Crossing on Switch is finally here. We loved it, as you can read here in my review that went up this morning. While New Leaf is still the apex of the series, New Horizons' quadruples down on customization, from clothes to plopping down whatever you want on the island itself. New Horizons' decorative community will surely be one to watch.
- Doom Eternal [March 20 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC]: The latest Doom is also out this week, leaving this Friday as a dual-release for the ages. In fact, memes have been sprouting up all over about the shared release date. If you're anything like me, you are just as excited for Doom Slayer's next hellish adventure as you are for your island getaway in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. You can look forward to Reviews Editor Mike Williams' review soon.
- Doom 64 [March 20 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch]: Dropping alongside Doom Eternal is the port of Doom 64. It's even getting a special new chapter. If you pre-order Doom Eternal, you get Doom 64 as a special free bonus.
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week in Gaming
- This week would have been GDC 2020. It feels like so long ago that this year's Game Developers Conference was "postponed," not to mention E3 2020's cancellation just last week. Alas, this week would have been GDC 2020. It's still livestreaming talks all week long, and will be livestreaming the awards this coming Wednesday. If GDC had happened, the poor attendees would have been trapped in the city-wide (and near-Bay Area-wide) lockdown that was just announced this morning.
- Big games are finally out this week. It's been a dry start of the year, but this week, we have a bunch of heavy hitters: Doom Eternal, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and MLB The Show 20. Doom 64 is also coming to modern platforms this week, with a special bonus chapter.
- We learned about the specs of the Xbox Series X today. Our friends at Digital Foundry got an inside look at the specs behind Microsoft's next console, which curiously still has a holiday 2020 release window (even in the midst of this pandemic which will likely impact production in some way). One key factor about it? It will require proprietary cards to expand hard drive space, as you won't be able to play Xbox Series X games off just a USB drive.
- Nintendo's hosting a Nintendo Indie World presentation tomorrow. The technically-not-a-Direct livestream will showcase 20 minutes of information on indie games heading to Nintendo Switch. The stream kicks off thankfully not at the crack of dawn, at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET.
- Resident Evil 3 is getting a demo this Thursday, and an open beta for its online 4v1 mode Resident Evil: Resistance on March 27. The remake of the survival-action-horror will be out for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on April 3.
Axe of the Blood God for March 16, 2020
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
Which RPGs have the best intros? Kat and Nadia talk through the introductory sequences in some of the best RPGs ever made, and why they work and don't work. Why does Final Fantasy 7's opening hit so hard? What about Mass Effect 2? The pair explain what a really good intro can do for a story, and all the ways that a bad one can sap an otherwise good RPG's momentum.