July 1, 2022
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the media and gaming industries. This Friday, we’re taking a look at the release date controversy surrounding Sony’s God of War Ragnarök, as well as what to read, watch and play this weekend.
The game industry has had a tough time in 2022. Some game companies are resorting to layoffs and canceling projects, and many more have pushed their anticipated releases to next year. That has left a massive hole in the release calendar for the remainder of the summer and fall, with just a handful of console exclusives and the next Call of Duty to look forward to.
Yet no game maker is feeling the pressure to make a deadline quite like Santa Monica Studio, the developer behind God of War Ragnarök. The Sony subsidiary is on the hook to deliver its sequel by year’s end — one of the last remaining holdouts that could help salvage the second half of 2022 — with astronomical expectations for another bestseller in line with the critically acclaimed 2018 reboot.
But there’s no release date yet, leading to speculation of an impending delay. And now, studio representatives have begun pleading with fans to exercise patience.
The recent controversy started with a leak. As many of these episodes begin in an industry that shrouds itself in NDA-protected secrecy, the leaker’s information was thin and largely unverified, delivered largely in a series of cryptic tweets.
God of War may be trapped in a Catch-22. Speculation is running rampant right now over Sony’s strategy around Ragnarök, and at least one plausible theory has emerged: Santa Monica doesn’t want to commit to a release date if it means having to disappoint fans with a delay.
Delays are not ideal, but marketing misfires are worse. The game industry has learned a lot of hard lessons of late, especially around planning during the pandemic and trying to manage fan expectations when dealing with projects that are many months or years away from release.
Santa Monica’s Barlog enjoys a more direct line of communication to Sony and God of War fans as a visible public figure on Twitter. But even Barlog has a boss, and it’s now clear the higher-ups in charge at Sony are calling the shots when it comes to when and under what circumstances the studio can disclose its release plans for Ragnarök.
It’s likely anxiety-inducing for Barlog and his team, but the game industry might believe, rightfully so, that a delay in secret is better than an apology in public.
— Nick Statt
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The enduring popularity of the roguelike deckbuilder — The Verge. The surprising combination of two of the most influential video game genres into the so-called roguelike deckbuilder has, against all odds, inspired a massive and enduring movement in the indie game community. In a great new report for The Verge, writer Lewis Gordon spoke to early pioneers like Magic The Gathering creator Richard Garfield, Slay The Spire designer Anthony Giovannetti and Signs of the Sojourner maker Dyala Kattan-Wright about the evolution of card games and procedural design, and why so many breakout Steam hits these days are incorporating elements of the genre.
“The Tragedy of Macbeth” — Apple TV+. A Coen Brothers take on Macbeth ends up being a lot more interesting than it sounds, thanks in part to the noted absence of Ethan Coen. Directed by Joel Coen, in his solo directorial debut, this monochrome and rather faithful adaptation of the classic Shakespeare tale is a big departure from the duo’s typical dark humor-infused Americana, featuring a legendary performance by Denzel Washington as the title character. The A24 film was released last year in a limited theatrical run, but it did pick up three Oscar nominations and landed on Apple TV+ back in January.
“Stranger Things Vol. 2” — Netflix. The finale of Stranger Things’ fourth season debuts today, bringing an end to the show’s most horror-filled and grave storyline to date. Though this volume is billed as a second part to the show’s fourth installment, it is in fact two extra-long additions tacked onto a season already filled with hour-plus episodes. The first will be 85 minutes, and the second is roughly 2.5 hours long. That’s a lot of “Stranger Things” to tide you over this holiday weekend. I’m hoping for a happy ending, though given the tone so far, it sure seems like “Stranger Things Vol. 2” might have its fair share of tragedy, too.
Neon White — PC / Nintendo Switch. Neon White is best described by its inexplicable mashup of genres. It is one part speedrun-friendly parkour game, one part first-person shooter disguised as a deckbuilder and one part … dating sim. The resulting combination somehow works wonderfully, creating a high-octane action platformer that dares you to try to beat your high scores by striving for near-perfect runs. Between the action, you chat with NPCs and can even romance other characters, sending this bizarre gaming concoction to a totally unnecessary but hilarious new height.
— Nick Statt
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