Stores and publishing

App stores news, their innovations, and the success of certain games on them. This section also features articles about the peculiarities of game publishing.

The Federal Trade Commission has expressed disapproval of the recent price adjustments for Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass, unveiled last week. In a document submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals, the FTC argued that Microsoft's "actions are inconsistent" with its earlier statements regarding price hikes, asserting that this maneuver "is exactly the sort of consumer harm from the merger the FTC has alleged." The revised pricing structure, set to take effect on September 12, encompasses increases across existing Game Pass tiers and introduces a new standard option that excludes day-one releases
The year 2024 has witnessed unexpected indie titles leading the Steam charts. Games such as Palworld, Balatro, and Manor Lords have achieved remarkable sales, surpassing numerous AAA releases on the platform and emerging as some of the top launches this year. While some titles had built anticipation before their release, others, like Gray Zone Warfare, gained traction unexpectedly. Although Gray Zone Warfare had garnered a niche and loyal following in the previous year, its commercial performance was unforeseen, selling 400,000 units within the first 48 hours and exceeding 900,000 copies in less than a month. Several external factors played a role in its success, but a significant contributor was the game's strategic Early Access release, launched just as the development budget was dwindling and necessitating public release
New insights into Valve's organizational structure, employment practices, and workforce numbers have surfaced in the context of an antitrust lawsuit involving Steam. Though segments of the documents submitted in Wolfire's lawsuit against Valve were obscured, Pavel Djundik of SteamDB identified that some information remained accessible beneath the redaction, including details of Valve's employee numbers, compensation, as well as gross margins and commissions spanning from 2009 to 2021. In 2015, Valve's Steam division employed 142 individuals, but by 2021, this figure had decreased to 79, even as nearly 10,000 games were launched on Steam that year
The newest Microcast can now be downloaded or viewed. This week's episode features James and Chris discussing Microsoft's alterations to Xbox Game Pass, which include price hikes across all existing tiers and the launch of a new Standard tier that excludes day one releases. The discussion delves into the company's strategy for its subscription service, in addition to its fresh 'You don't need an Xbox to play Xbox' ad campaign. The episode also touches on the atmosphere at Develop Brighton 2024 and Nintendo's unconventional teaser campaign for an upcoming horror game
Embark, the developer behind The Finals, has issued an apology to Xbox players following the delay of its comprehensive 3.4 patch on Microsoft's consoles. While the update was successfully deployed on PC and PS5 last week, Xbox users are facing a "lengthy delay" due to an unspecified issue that is hindering the 3.4 release on the platform. "We're currently working together with Microsoft on the situation that's blocking the 3.4 release on Xbox. I currently don't have an ETA for when we will be able to release, but as soon as I learn anything, I will share it with all of you," an Embark spokesperson stated in the official Discord channel
If there were any lingering questions about Xbox's dedication to Game Pass (and industry speculation earlier this year suggested there were many), the company has decisively addressed them in the last two months. It started with the announcement that Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 will be available on Game Pass the same day it launches globally. This was followed by a dynamic Xbox Summer Showcase, during which every first-party title was accompanied by the phrase: 'Play It Day One On Game Pass,' covering games into 2024, 2025, and beyond. Xbox is clearly committed to ensuring the success of Game Pass. However, there is a significant obstacle. Game Pass subscriptions have stagnated over the past 18 months. Additionally, the performance of premium Xbox game sales has been underwhelming. Notably, Hellblade 2 did not even enter the Top 100 in Europe following its release in May
Ex-employees of Nintendo and Sega have established a new firm called First Break Labs, focused on supporting independent game developers. The company intends to offer funding and marketing assistance to partnered studios, leveraging over 20 years of its team's experience with both indie games and major AAA titles. Alfonso Cubias, the chief publishing officer, has a background of over five years as head of product marketing at Sega and has held senior marketing positions at Digital Extremes and SmileGate
Microsoft has revealed plans to raise the prices of its current Xbox Game Pass tiers and to launch a new Standard tier, which will not feature games upon their initial release on the service. According to a post on the company's support site, Game Pass for Console will be discontinued for new subscribers. The new Xbox Game Pass Standard option will be priced at $14.99 per month and is expected to become available "in the coming months"
Tim Bender, the CEO of Hooded Horse publishing, disagrees that Manor Lords has fallen into the "early access trap." This opinion was previously expressed by Raphael van Lierop, the head of Hinterland studio, who pointed to infrequent updates and a decline in the game's online presence. According to Bender, none of this is a problem for Manor Lords
Sony Interactive Entertainment will make a return to this year's Tokyo Game Show. According to VGC, the company hasn't had a major presence at the event since 2019. It did attend last year but focused solely on independent titles. Sony revealed its 2024 line-up during the digital State of Play presentation in May. The line-up features the live service multiplayer game Concord, PC versions of Until Dawn and God of War, and Astro Bot, all set to be released before the event.
Mystic Forge, an independent publisher, has secured €2 million in funding, with ForsVC and ROM Utrecht Region leading the investment round. The capital infusion will enable the publisher to allocate more resources toward its expanding library of games. Co-founder Paul Hanraets stated, "This investment allows us to broaden our portfolio and secure additional titles." Hanraets also emphasized the company's global operations and its dedication to supporting the gaming ecosystem in Utrecht and Belgium
Microsoft and Amazon have formed a collaboration to expand Xbox Cloud Gaming to a broader range of devices, including the newest versions of Amazon's Fire TV Stick. According to a blog post by Microsoft, the Xbox app will be accessible on Fire TV in two specific markets starting next month. This initiative will allow Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to play cloud-based games from Microsoft's extensive library. Initially, the app will be available exclusively on the Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Stick 4K Max, both of which were launched last year. These devices are priced at $49.99 and $59.99, offering a cost-effective entry point for Xbox gaming enthusiasts