E3 doesn’t technically start until Tuesday, but the leaks are already arriving fast and furious. Now that winter has come from HBO’s Game of Thrones, creator George R.R. Martin’s got several other projects in the works, including, reportedly, a new video game.
Looks like everything is leaking before E3. Elden Ring is probably next up.
Word is we’ll be hearing more about that last bit on Sunday, during Microsoft’s big kick off press conference. For now, however, we’ve got a smattering of information about Elden Ring from Daniel “ZhugeEX” Ahmed. The perennial game leaker tweeted out a poster for the title, which is said to be a collaboration between Martin and Hidetaka Miyazaki, best known for his role in FromSoftware’s Souls series.
In addition to Xbox One, the title is also set for release on PS4 and the PC. Supernatural powers and monarchical kingdoms abound, making this pretty standard fare from the A Song of Ice and Fire writer. Beyond that, details are pretty thin at the moment, so stay tuned to TechCrunch’s E3 coverage, which kicks off in earnest on Sunday.
Well, here’s a bit of surprise news this evening: At some point in the future, …
Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road) returns as intrepid reporter Eddie Brock, infected with a parasitic alien symbiote that gives him super powers, in Venom: There Will be Carnage. Directed by motion-capture icon Andy Serkis, it’s the sequel to 2018’s box-office smash, Venom. After being delayed for nearly a year due to the ongoing pandemic, Sony just dropped the official trailer, in which Brock/Venom must battle serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson, Zombieland), infected with another alien symbiote dubbed Carnage.
(Some spoilers for first film below.)
A Venom film was in development at New Line Cinema back in 1997, although the project didn’t really get off the ground until Sony acquired the rights to the character, as well as Spider-Man. Sony initially planned for Venom and Spider-Man to inhabit a shared universe, given their history in the comics. (Spider-Man was Venom’s first host, before moving on to Brock, and the character gradually evolved from villain to more of an antihero.) The disappointing box office performance of 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 changed those plans, and Venom was re-conceived as a standalone film, with Tom Hardy signing on as the star and Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer agreeing to direct.
That first film served as an origin story for our antihero. A bioengineering firm called the Life Foundation discovered a comet covered with symbiotic lifeforms and brought four samples back to Earth. Brock’s then-fiancée, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon), shows him classified documents revealing that the foundation is conducting human/symbiote experiments. The symbiotes need oxygen-breathing hosts to survive, but they invariably end up killing those hosts.
Hot on the story, Brock breaks into the research lab and ends up infected with one of the symbiotes, named Venom. Venom reveals that the symbiotes are intent on taking over Earth by possessing/devouring all humans, but Brock ultimately strikes up a bargain with Venom, and they decide to protect Earth instead. Together, they take on Life Foundation CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal), infected with a symbiote called Riot.
Venom was released in October 2018 and was roundly panned by critics, several of whom specifically bemoaned the lack of a Spider-Man connection. Audiences, however, begged to differ. Venom racked up $856 million globally and was the seventh-highest grossing film of the year. Hardy had already committed to two sequels, and a midcredits sequence featured Harrelson’s Cletus Kasady taunting Brock (who is interviewing Kasady for a story) from his cell. Kasady vows to escape and bring “carnage,” leaving little doubt as to the villain’s identity in a sequel.
Audiences particularly responded to the burgeoning relationship between Brock and Venom, who remained secretly bonded at the film’s end as a kind of hybrid vigilante. One scene in particular—Venom giving Brock a lingering French kiss while transferring from Anne’s body back to Brock’s—launched a thousand ships for “Symbrock.” Sony embraced the fan response by marketing the home release with ads playing up romantic-comedy overtones.
The trailer for Venom: Let There Be Carnage plays up more of a bromance/odd-couple angle, opening with Brock and Venom preparing breakfast—with mixed results—as Venom raspily sings along to “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” Brock’s friendly neighborhood convenience store owner, Mrs. Chen (Peggy Lu, Always Be My Maybe), is back to provide comic relief, Williams reprises her role as Anne Weying, and Naomie Harris (Skyfall, Moonlight) plays a secondary villain named Shriek—because even serial killers like Kasady need a love interest, and this one can manipulate sound.
Other than Kasady’s escape and emergence as Carnage, the trailer gives little away as to the actual plot, although there do seem to be elements from the Maximum Carnage storyline. Chances are, if you enjoyed the first Venom film, you’ll like the sequel, too.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage opens exclusively in theaters on September 24, 2021.
Sony thinks demand could continue to outstrip supply of the PlayStation 5 into 2022. That’s according to a Bloomberg report citing a number of unnamed analysts who listened in on an explanatory call following Sony’s recent earnings report.
“I don’t think demand is calming down this year, and even if we secure a lot more devices and produce many more units of the PlayStation 5 next year, our supply wouldn’t be able to catch up with demand,” Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki reportedly said.
Sony has been warning for months that worldwide shortages of semiconductors and other components have made it hard to increase production for the PS5. But this is the most direct sign that those shortages will extend past this year and into the next.
Sony President and CEO Jim Ryan said in February that he expected PS5 supplies would “get better every month throughout 2021,” leading to “really decent numbers indeed” by the second half of this year. But Totoki amended that statement in April to say that it’s “not likely” Sony could “drastically increase the supply” before the company’s fiscal year ends in March 2022.
Supply problems aside, demand for the PS5 seems to be matching that of the early days of the PS4, which has sold over 115 million units to date. The PS5’s 7.8 million sales through March and 14.8 million additional projected sales in the current fiscal year are broadly in line with sales of the PlayStation 4 at the same point in its life cycle.
But while the PS4 was in short supply in the early months of 2014, by August of that year, Wired was citing the lack of retail PS4 shortages as one reason behind the system’s unexpected success at the time. In other words, the difference between shelves full of PS4s and shelves empty of PS5s is due to the supply, not demand, levels between the two systems.
Totoki reportedly told analysts that he “can’t imagine demand dropping easily” for the PS5, and that situation would continue to put pressure on Sony to increase supplies in any way it can. But with the company already taking a loss on every system sold, spending more money to secure scarce chips over competitors could be difficult (if it’s possible at all).
Put it all together, and you have a situation that could mirror that of the Nintendo Wii, which remained hard to find on store shelves for well over a year after its late-2006 release. That situation got so bad that former Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime had to actively deny that there was a conspiracy to keep Wii supplies artificially low.
Today, of course, Nintendo is facing the same semiconductor shortages as Sony in trying to keep up with demand for the Switch, as are many carmakers. All told, it looks like the “big scramble” for silicon chips is set to continue for a while.
Games industry journalist Jason Schreier has left his mark over the years by digging up behind-the-scenes dirt at sites like Kotaku and Bloomberg, but he may be best known for Blood, Sweat, and Pixels. This 2017 book broke down like a Schreier’s “greatest hits” collection: Every chapter followed a particular game and its lead studio through a wild “triple-A” period in the late ’00s and early ’10s.
If you’ve read BSP or any of Schreier’s other investigative stories, you’ll likely notice common threads at modern game studios, no matter which genre or specific company is involved. The first brilliant stroke of his newest book, Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Game Industry, is to take that concept a step further. Individual games and studios get an occasional spotlight, but this time, Schreier often follows individual developer résumés to answer a few huge industry questions.
Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry
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What are the common woes faced by game developers big and small? Why is the industry so fickle? And what hope is there for developers caught up in a job market so clearly marked by tumult and layoffs?
How close we came to Epic Scrooge
Press Reset has less in the way of tantalizing news nuggets than you might expect from an average Schreier production, though if you’re simply looking for a mix of gaming history and secrets, you’ll find those gems along the way.
But in a media world where a single headline can be plucked, shared, and misconstrued without anyone reading the source material, Schreier makes the wise decision to focus on arguably more humdrum stories of individuals whose experiences routinely get lost. To be fair, “humdrum” means these aren’t necessarily shocking stories about abuse and harassment. Rather, this book showcases the anger and mourning that individuals experience when confronted with an all-too-common game-industry issue: layoffs.
Press Reset begins with a surprisingly frank dive into Warren Spector’s history as a game developer, fueled largely by his own quotes and insights. This opening section may lull you into expecting Schreier’s reporting-as-usual approach for the rest of the book. And the chapter does include its fair share of private boardroom moments. One of the book’s brand-new tidbits confirms how the Epic Mickey game series began: Disney pitched its megaton mouse to Spector as an available license—minutes after Spector suggested he was more interested in making a new Scrooge McDuck game. In another anecdote, Spector admits that he spent “a few months” in the mid-’00s working with Valve and Gabe Newell on a Half-Life 2 episode before that project was canceled.
You go public, you survive for decades, you get acquired, or you go out of business.
Yet the chapter sneakily sets a tone for the rest of the book by making clear that Spector—who’s among the most idolized industry innovators thanks to his work on System Shock and Deus Ex—has never been immune from the game industry’s capriciousness. Again and again, Spector would receive funding from a new publisher or business partner, only to see money dry up in ways that forced his hand. His story emphasizes Spector’s unpleasant decisions along the way. Usually, he had to decide whether to keep projects going at any cost or contend with publishers’ whims.
“The reality of the games business is, there are four endgames,” Spector says to Schreier in the book. “You go public, which nobody does. You survive for decades, like Valve. You get acquired. Or, you go out of business.”