Archive for the ‘Game Articles’ Category

by Jonathan Lee; In The Know

The post-event high of the PlayStation 5 Showcase has had fans buzzing, but new information from Sony has turned that buzz into mild disappointment.

PlayStation 5 will not be backwards compatible with the PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3, as Famitsu confirmed (via Ars Technica). However, Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan told Famitsu that “99 percent” of PlayStation 4 games will be playable on the PlayStation 5.

As Ars Technica also noted, this is an unusual change of heart for Ryan. In 2017, he questioned if PlayStation fans would ever take advantage of backwards compatibility in the first place, despite the fact that gamers have requested the feature for years.

“When we’ve dabbled with backward compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much,” Ryan told Time. “That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”

Some gamers on Reddit bristled at this quote and described Ryan as a corporate suit who is out of touch with his own consumers.

“Is this guy serious?” one Redditor asked. “This is the head of Playstation?”

“Don’t care how good Gran Turismo Sport looks,” said another Redditor. “GT4 has nearly [three] times the cars, better tracks, glorious OST and an actual proper campaign. I’ll always play it … and many other PS2-era games that their modern-day counterparts have yet to rival.”

For Sony, backwards compatibility is most likely not a technical issue. Indeed, people with jailbroken PlayStation 4s have discovered that the console is capable of running PS1 and PS2 games. (In The Know does not endorse jailbreaking a PlayStation — or any device, for that matter.)

The issue more likely has to do with licensing. For many games, the rights to use assets such as music are limited, so a digital version of an older driving game might be pulled from platforms because its sample of Lil Jon’s “Get Low” (skeet skeet skeet) has expired and the publisher doesn’t see the value in renewing it.

Noclip’s documentary on video game distributor GOG.com, which specializes in retrofitting classic titles for modern PCs, showed the enormous amount of work and legal red tape involved in preparing these games for rerelease.

It’s not clear how much console companies stand to gain or lose by limiting backwards compatibility, but there are still a lot of gamers out there who can’t (and won’t) let the past die. And for good reason! Bushido Blade still goes hard.

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by Tom Hoggins via The Telegraph

With the promised Autumn release dates of next-generation consoles Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 creeping ever closer, it seemed that Microsoft and its great gaming rival Sony were playing chicken over who would reveal the cost of their new box first.

Plenty of speculation filled social media over the months since the pair’s summer showcases, but the firms remained resolutely quiet on the pricing issue, perhaps in the hope that the other would go first and last minute tweaks could be considered.

Pushed by either the leak of its budget next-gen alternative, the Xbox Series S, or the need to be aggressive to have any chance of cutting the significant lead Sony had with the PlayStation 4, Microsoft jumped first.

And it went in with two feet. The more powerful Series X will cost £449.99 while the lower-specced Series S will set players back a faintly remarkable £249.99. Both prices were a highly aggressive move in their own right (many expected both the Series X and PS5 to be tipping over the £500 mark) but the circumstances and strategy surrounding Microsoft’s move are somewhat unprecedented in the gaming industry.

The Xbox Series X is launching without any specific exclusives to speak of, with Microsoft happy to say you can play its first-party games on PC or on the upcoming streaming service xCloud. And while smaller, budget versions of gaming hardware are hardly new, they usually come in the middle of a console’s lifecycle. Releasing one alongside a premium model at launch is new territory.

All of this is in service to Microsoft’s growing subscription service Game Pass. This Netflix-style service offers up a library of games to download for a fixed monthly price. All of Xbox’s own Game Studios titles -such as Halo Infinite- will appear on the service, while the company also announced that FIFA publisher EA would be folding in its own EA Play library into the price. Microsoft have been aggressively pushing Game Pass as the fulcrum of its gaming offering for the best part of two years and it will also be the backbone of xCloud.

Microsoft’s approach to its consoles is not about selling boxes as much as it is ensnaring you into a Game Pass subscription. The Redmond giant is even offering a smartphone style 24 month contract for the Series X and Series S, in which you can pay up to £35 a month (for the Series X) for the new console and access to Game Pass. Taken at face value (not including the inevitable offers on subscription that will come from buying the box up front) over the span of two years that would be cheaper for players than buying the box and a Game Pass sub up front (around £18 according to some back-of-the-hand maths).

It is an approach unheard of thus far. And while there are unquestionable risks inherent in committing to a 24-month contract, giving prospective customers an option where they are not forking out £450 at launch will be a tantalising prospect.

Microsoft have so far executed this plan as well as it possibly could have – gaming Twitter was a flurry of positivity after the reveal- but there remains a significant question mark over whether this is the right plan.

Game Pass has received plenty of plaudits for its breadth of choice, but whether subscription is the direction that the mainstream gaming audience will want to go remains to be seen. The dominance of subscription services in other entertainment mediums would suggest yes, but gaming has not always followed the same pattern as its TV or musical cousins.

And there is, of course, the question of the PlayStation 5. Where Microsoft are trying to disrupt the industry model through service, Sony seem to be playing a straighter bat. While it too will be releasing a cheaper (disc-less) version of its PS5 console at launch, its focus so far has seemed more traditional; highlighting its gilded first-party studio exclusives and touting a more significant step into the next generation. While it does have irons in the fire with cloud gaming and subscriptions, Sony hasn’t seemed to have shown the same appetite of building its gaming business around the idea.

To an extent: why should it? Estimates have the PlayStation 4 outselling the Xbox One at around two to one and Sony is widely recognised as having the superior exclusive line-up. Getting gamers to shift allegiance after a successful run is not an easy task and Sony may feel that too much disruption would not serve it well.

Still, the reaction to Xbox’s pricing strategy would have caused plenty of chin-stroking in the executive offices of Sony HQ. PlayStation’s initial riposte may be to undercut the ticket price of the Xbox -who knows?- but it may be keeping one eye on how the monthly contract idea plays out too.

The chances are that Sony can afford to wait it out a little longer than Microsoft. Xbox knows it needed to be aggressive to shift mindsets and further push Game Pass as the future of how we play games. An all or nothing gamble that could fall flat or disrupt the gaming industry entirely. Microsoft look to be making the right moves, at least. Now it is your turn, PlayStation.

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Microsoft wants a “smooth transition” to the full September 15th launch.

by Steve Dent via Engadget

Microsoft is releasing its Android xCloud game streaming service in beta today at 9AM, with just over a month remaining until the full launch. It’s currently only available in preview form for Xbox Insiders, but all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will be able to access the beta version today from Google’s Play Store.

“As we approach the launch of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on September 15, we’re entering a limited beta period to ensure a smooth transition of the cloud gaming experience to the Xbox Game Pass app on Android,” a company spokesperson told Engadget. “Existing Xbox Game Pass (Beta) app users will get the opportunity to test a subset of the available titles as we ready the experience for broader availability next month.”

This limited beta is critical to providing the best possible experience for members at launch and should not be considered indicative of the final experience or library.

If you’re an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriber in one of the 22 xCloud launch countries, you’ll receive a notification that it’s is available to test. There should be about 30 of the 100 launch games available, though you might experience some typical beta bugs. “This limited beta is critical to providing the best possible experience for members at launch and should not be considered indicative of the final experience or library,” Microsoft said.

The program is still on schedule, with the preview being discontinued on September 11th and the full launch happening on September 15th. The Game Pass Ultimate beta app rolls out today at 9AM ET on the Google Play Store, but you’ll need a $15 per month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription to use it.

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Neil Druckmann sent an email to his team after the positive review scores came in, and he ended it with “f**k the haters.”

by Eddie Makuch via GameSpot

After the review scores for The Last of Us Part II came in–and they were very good–writer-director Neil Druckmann sent an email to his team to thank them for their hard work. Druckmann has now shared some insight on what he said in the email, including his response to the haters.

Speaking to actor Troy Baker, who plays Joel in the game, Druckmann said he originally wanted to send thank-you texts to every developer, one by one. However, the team’s sheer size made that impossible. Instead, he decided to send a message on a larger scale. He ended up using email rather than text.

Druckmann said he was writing a text to art director John Sweeney, with whom he clashed often throughout development, and he began to cry. His reason for crying still isn’t clear to him.

“When the reviews hit, he was one of the first people I thought of to text personally. I’m starting to write this text to him, ‘Dude, I know we didn’t always see eye to eye…’ As I’m writing this text, I’m starting to cry, and I couldn’t even understand why I’m crying. I realize I can’t text everybody on the team–there’s just too many people on the team. I just have to write the whole team an email, and I’m not very good at that stuff.”

Druckmann said he doesn’t remember exactly what he wrote to his team, but it touched on how he was getting too much personal praise when people should understand that making The Last of Us 2 was a team effort. He also told his team that he’s never been prouder of any game he’s worked on.

He also had a message for the haters. As it turns out, he isn’t a big fan of them!

“I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I’m writing about my fears like I’m getting too much praise and it’s not being seen enough as a team project–but this is a Naughty Dog game, in every sense of the word,” Druckmann said. “I forget how I ended it, but it was something to the effect of, ‘Review scores are cool, but seeing your guys’ pride is what I live for.'”

“The reviews were awesome, and it’s great to hear people love the game and how much it resonates with them, but nothing comes close to hearing you, or Laura, or John, or any member of the team that has sent me an email since the game has come out to say this is the best game I’ve ever worked on. F**k the haters. Nothing makes me prouder that I’ve worked on in my life than this game.”

Also in the interview, Druckmann spoke about how he does not focus too much on sales. He only hopes his games can make enough money to convince Sony to allow Naughty Dog to keep doing what it does.

“Our job is not to maximize profits or sales,” he said. “The game is selling well, and I don’t care. Just to talk about sales for a second, I just want to sell enough so we can do it again. So Sony will keep trusting us and giving us the creative freedom to do whatever we need to do. And anything beyond that is just gravy.”

For what it’s worth, The Last of Us Part II is a gigantic sales success. The game sold more than 4 million copies in its first three days, setting new PlayStation records.

Naughty Dog is now working on The Last of Us Part II’s new multiplayer/online mode, while the company is also thinking about what might come next like The Last of Us III or something else.

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The Xbox One S will continue to be manufactured

by Tom Warren via The Verge

Microsoft is officially halting production of its Xbox One X and Xbox One S All-Digital Edition consoles. “As we ramp into the future with Xbox Series X, we’re taking the natural step of stopping production on Xbox One X and Xbox One S All-Digital Edition,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “Xbox One S will continue to be manufactured and sold globally.”

Reports of Xbox One X and Xbox One S shortages have surfaced in recent weeks, and there has been an increased demand in Microsoft and Sony’s current-gen consoles during the pandemic. While production is ending on the Xbox One X and the Xbox One S digital edition, it’s likely that stock for some retailers will still be available in the coming months. “Gamers can check with their local retailers for more details on Xbox One hardware availability,” says a Microsoft spokesperson.

Microsoft first introduced the Xbox One X back in November 2017. Designed as “the world’s most powerful console” at the time, Microsoft focused on power and hardware for its 6 teraflop Xbox One X.

The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition was only launched in April last year, as a disc-less version of the Xbox One S. Reports have suggested sales were strong for this particular console, and Microsoft even bundled it as part of the $19.99 monthly Xbox All Access subscription that includes Xbox Game Pass Ultimate access.

Microsoft is planning to continue its Xbox All Access subscriptions for the Xbox Series X launch later this year, offering subscribers an opportunity to upgrade to the new console. The software maker is also expected to launch a cheaper, less powerful next-gen Xbox. Codenamed “Lockhart,” this second Xbox is likely to form a big part of Microsoft’s pricing approach for its next-gen Xbox plans.

Microsoft is rumored to be preparing to unveil this second Xbox next month, after reports suggested the company originally planned to reveal its existence in June. This second console may also be called Xbox Series S and is expected to target 1080p / 1440p gaming.

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Gamers who lost income because of the pandemic actually spent more money on games, Comparecards survey found

by Samson Amore via The Wrap

Video game enthusiasts spent roughly $400 on games and accessories since March, according to new data from LendingTree subsidiary Comparecards.

That’s about one-third of value of the $1,200 stimulus check that the government issued to some Americans in April to offset wage losses brought on by the coronavirus.

Comparecards surveyed roughly 1,000 Americans in June and found that 25% of gamers have upped their spending on gaming since the pandemic began. “Nearly 1 in 4 consumers are spending more on gaming now than they were prior to March 2020, when varied levels of stay-at-home orders were implemented across the country,” Comparecards reported.

28% of those surveyed spent money on boxed or digital video games within the last year. 25% of gamers said they spent money on in-app purchases — which includes expansion packs within a game, or in-game currency.

LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz told TheWrap a combination of in-home boredom and extra pandemic benefits is leading consumers of games to up their spending.

“It makes a lot of sense that people are spending more on gaming. People have a lot more spare time and some of them even have a little more money in their pockets than normal because of government stimulus checks and extra unemployment benefits,” said Schulz. “More spare time plus more money on hand equals a lot more gaming for a lot of folks.”

“It can be totally OK to spend a bit more than usual on your passions during these crazy times,” Schulz said. “Gaming is a major stress reliever for many, many people, and that’s a really important thing during the pandemic. When that spending gets dangerous is when you do it without any thought to your budget or to your debt.”

About 17% of people surveyed said they’d bought a game console in the last year, while 10% reported spending on gaming headsets. Roughly half the Americans surveyed said they didn’t spend any money on games or gaming hardware last year.

The report also found that gamers facing a loss of income because of the coronavirus pandemic actually tended to spend more money on games, despite the lack of disposable income. “The average gamer whose income was impacted spent about $424 on gaming since the pandemic started, while gamers whose income wasn’t impacted spent just under $360,” Comparecards said.

Comparecards broke down the spending by age and gender, finding that 37% of men versus 10% of women reported increasing their gaming spend in the last 90 days. Baby Boomers are the least interested in video games, and their spending only increased 2% — compared to a 37% increase in spending by Millenials.

“While video games are a beloved pastime for many gamers, consumers who don’t typically play games have begun to see the appeal while social distancing, as half of all consumers made at least one gaming-related purchase within the past year,” Comparecards noted. “Men in particular, as well as millennials and members of Gen Z, are more likely than others to have spent money on gaming.”

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by Shingo ITO via AFP

Tokyo (AFP) – Every day, 90-year-old Japanese grandma Hamako Mori flexes her fingers to keep them nimble. Not for knitting or needlepoint, but to keep them in shape for playing video games.

The pensioner known as “Gamer Grandma” spends three or more hours a day battling monsters and going on missions in the virtual worlds of her favourite games, and even has a popular YouTube channel for her fans.

“I’m passionate about playing games every day,” the white-haired widow told AFP in an interview conducted by videochat.

“Every day is an enjoyable day,” she said, describing eviscerating on-screen foes as a fantastic stress reliever.

Mori cuts an elegant, mild-mannered figure, with her hair pulled back into a ponytail and a pair of large glasses perched on her nose.

She begins the videos she posts on her YouTube channel with a friendly “Konnichiwa” and a bow.

But her grandmotherly demeanour disappears when she plays, transformed into a gun-toting character in Call of Duty or a sword-wielding android in NieR: Automata.

Mori, who lives in Chiba, southeast of Tokyo with her family, holds a Guinness World Record certifying her as the world’s oldest gaming YouTuber.

“She always gets into the games,” her only grandchild, 43-year-old Keisuke Nagao, told AFP.

“I think she is slightly different. Ordinary old people are not so enthusiastic about video games as she is.”

– 300,000 YouTube fans –

Mori isn’t new to the gaming world, and has played some 200 titles since she took up the hobby some four decades ago.

Her first console was a Cassette Vision, which she bought in 1981 after being intrigued by her children’s obsession with gaming.

“I discovered that there was this fascinating thing that existed in the world,” she said.

She has played most of the gaming world’s smash hits including “Super Mario Brothers”, “Dragon Quest”, “Final Fantasy” and “Call of Duty”, and admits to sometimes staying up until 2am when she is sucked into a session.

Her favorite games include action-adventure series “Grand Theft Auto” and popular fantasy role-playing game “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”.

“You can do whatever you want to” in a game, she said, describing them as a “motivation in life.”

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Mori usually plays alone at home, but launched a YouTube channel in 2014 to connect with other gamers.

She posts new videos filmed by her grandson three or four times a month and has attracted 300,000 subscribers and millions of views with content featuring her gaming but also showing her daily life.

“It’s fun being watched by a lot of people, rather than playing alone,” she said of her “Gamer Grandma” channel.

Among her videos is one showing her blowing out candles on a cake to celebrate her 90th birthday with her family. Another features her “unboxing” a brand-new PlayStation console.

At 90, Mori is fighting fit, but she says some state-of-the-art games require agile hand motions that can prove challenging.

“It’s getting hard. It really is,” she said, describing exercises she does with her fingers and hands every day to keep herself game-ready.

– ‘Better than doing nothing!’ –

But she has no intention of giving up gaming.

“I won’t put it down just because it’s difficult… It’s better than doing nothing!”

And she hopes with practice she can improve further.

“I want to play well no matter how old I am,” she said. “I want to continue as long as possible.”

Mori is something of an evangelist for video games, and encourages other older people to get into gaming, or find other hobbies that keep them going.

“It doesn’t have to be video games necessarily. But it’s good to do something,” said Mori, who swam regularly until the age of 80 and still knits.

And while Mori said she understands concerns about video game addiction, particularly among young people, she pointed out that gaming may have helped many survive lockdowns over the coronavirus.

“It’s safer to play at home, rather than going out,” she said.

For now, Mori is eagerly awaiting the release of the PlayStation 5, due to hit shops later this year.

“It’s seriously preoccupying me,” she said. “I want one. I really do.”

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by Rich Duprey via The Motley Fool

GameStop (NYSE:GME) business was hurting even before the COVID-19 outbreak, so a pandemic bursting on the scene that closed all nonessential retail should have brought it to its knees, if not killed it off.

While the conventional wisdom says the migration of video game play to digital and downloads has the retailer biding its time until the console upgrade cycle kicks in, a new report suggests that not only has the coronavirus not done in GameStop, it may have actually taught it how to thrive in this new economy.

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Nothing to do but kick back and play

With schools closed, businesses shuttered, and everyone on lockdown and in self-isolation, video game sales and gameplay are soaring.

Spending on hardware, software, and accessories had been in decline as people waited for the newest consoles and the games to go with them: Sales fell 26% and 29%, respectively, in January and February. But NPD Group says they reversed course in March.

As COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and people practiced social distancing, hardware sales surged 63% for the month compared to a year ago while software jumped 34%. Accessories rose 12% year over year.

The report said it was “the highest reported spend for a March month since the $1.8 billion achieved in March 2008.”

Switching up expectations

All three console makers saw strong growth in the first quarter, with hardware sales exploding to $461 million in March alone and the Nintendo (OTC:NTDOY) Switch, a hybrid portable game console, being the biggest winner, setting a record for hardware unit sales that more than doubled from a year ago.

Even Microsoft‘s Xbox One and Sony‘s Playstation 4 grew by 25%.

GameStop became the big beneficiary, particularly because the Switch was not readily available on other platforms, though even it ran into supply problems.

And the hottest game was Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which was available only on the Switch, beating out Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which is available on multiple platforms.

The destination location online

While GameStop initially tried to say its stores were essential and kept them open, it needn’t have risked the ire of its employees, the public, or politicians, as online sales through the video game retailer’s website soared 1,500% between March 1 and April 10, according to data from Earnest Research.

So strong were GameStop’s sales that it was able to handily surpass all other electronics retailers, including AppleBest Buy, and Newegg.

It turns out that GameStop’s history as the go-to retail store for hardware and video games still translates well with consumers when they’re forced to look online.

GameStop needs to build on that reputation in the future, and the coronavirus pandemic may have provided the blueprint for it to do so.

Building on the momentum

It’s probably too soon to say GameStop is out of the woods and that after the upgrade cycle completes it won’t just revert to form.

Yet the video game retailer is under pressure from activist investors who are pushing a comprehensive series of changes that could help move GameStop away from being primarily a physical retailer and more toward digital game sales.

Such sales will only continue to grow, so GameStop needs to go where its business is heading. It got a major assist from a terrible illness and it would be a shame to waste the chance it has been given. Now GameStop needs to show it has learned this important lesson.

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by Brian Womack via Dallas Business Journal

GameStop Corp. is cutting back on pay amid the challenges with COVID-19 – with the bigger cuts earmarked for the higher-ups.

The troubled Grapevine retailer (NYSE: GME) is temporarily reducing the salary of CEO George Sherman by 50 percent, the company said in a statement. There is a 30 percent reduction for CFO Jim Bell and the remainder of the executive leadership team.

“Certain other employees” across its units also will get cuts of between 10 percent and 30 percent temporarily. GameStop offered “certain” corporate support staff the option to temporarily furlough or take a reduced work week or pay program.

GameStop is looking for ways to find traction amid the onslaught of COVID-19 and the restrictions that have been put on its sites under shelter-in-place rules.

Since the company closed stores to the public on March 22, it retained more than 90 percent of planned sales volumes in the two thirds of the stores conducting curbside operations. Still, comparable store sales for the nine-week period ended April 4 dropped about 23 percent.

“We believe our aggressive focus on expense, inventory and capital expenditure reductions will help preserve our financial health as we work to ensure readiness and ramp up operations as soon as conditions allow,” Sherman said in a prepared statement. “The situation remains very fluid and a great deal of uncertainty remains, however, we entered into this time with a strong balance sheet and believe that we have sufficient cash and liquidity for the foreseeable future.”

With retail under pressure, the company did not make a portion of certain lease payments and remains in discussions with landlords.

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I’ve been seated in this exact position for roughly a month now. (Image: Dan Howley)
by Daniel Howley, Technical Editor, Yahoo Finance

The majority of Americans are currently under some form of stay-at-home order, meaning we’re all spending a whole lot more time getting reacquainted with our couches. And with that extra down time, more people are turning to video games — especially as they look to distract themselves from the tragedy outside their doors.

Look no further than the record number of people simultaneously using Valve’s massive Steam gaming platform for proof that gaming is offering people a needed outlet to pass the time and stay in contact with friends and family.

But what if you’re new to gaming, and don’t know what to start with? Or are looking to get back into gaming after a hiatus? Then you’ve come to the right place. Because I’ve got a list of new titles that offer something for everyone who needs to take their mind off the outside world.

‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ – PS4

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‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ is, well, a remake of the classic JRPG with dramatically improved visuals and a far larger story. (Image: Square Enix)

Oh, mamma! “Final Fantasy VII Remake,” is, well, the long-awaited remake of the quintessential JRPG (Japanese role-playing game), “Final Fantasy VII.” Originally released for the PlayStation back in 1997, “FFVII,” as it’s known, is one of the most influential games in history thanks to its fantastic story and addictive gameplay.

Fans have been pining for “FFVII Remake” for years, and with the game finally available, it’s the perfect time to jump on it. Packing stunning graphics and a new real-time combat system, the game is a major technical upgrade.

The remake only goes through the first 4 to 5 hours of the original “FFVII” story, but expands it to 40 hours by adding a dump truck load of new content. Square Enix, the game’s developer, will be releasing additional chapters of the game in the future.

‘Doom Eternal’ – PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch

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‘Doom Eternal’ is the follow-up to 2016’s ‘Doom’ and features more over the top demon-crushing awesomeness than you can handle. (Image: Bethesda)

Good, old-fashioned demon-destroying mayhem. That should be the tagline for “Doom Eternal,” the follow-up to 2016’s outrageous reboot of the “Doom” franchise. What should you expect from this first-person shooter game set in a world overrun by demons?

How about a nonstop heavy metal riff-powered mad dash through stages of some of the most punishing combat you can imagine. We’re talking about running chainsaws through Possessed Soldiers, pulling the eyes out of Cacodemons, and blasting the limbs from Hell Knights.

Everything about “Doom Eternal” takes the franchise’s demon-slaying insanity, cranks it up to 13, and tosses the dial into a hell pit. “Doom Eternal” isn’t just nonstop craziness, though. The game offers smartly designed levels, and the controls are airtight for the kind of fast paced combat the title is known for. It’s a challenging few hours that are time well spent.

‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ – Switch

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‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ is one of the most relaxing, easy going games you can play. As long as you can get your hands on a Switch. (Image: Nintendo)

From stomping demon skulls to one of the most relaxing games to launch this year, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” for the Nintendo (NTDOY) Switch is, at its heart, a world-building game. But the world you build — a deserted island that transforms into a luxurious destination drawing celebrities like crooner K.K. Slider — is so cute and inviting that you feel compelled to keep playing.

You’ll do everything from build essential tools like shovels, axes, and fishing rods, to filling a museum’s exhibit halls with dinosaur fossils, constructing roads, sculpting the landscape itself, and decorating your own home.

With “New Horizon’s” online connectivity, you can even fly off and spend time on your friends’ islands, selling your own wares, and buying items not found on your little bit of paradise. I’ve been playing this game for weeks, and I still instinctively grab my Switch every time I plop down on the couch so I can check up on my townspeople.

‘Persona 5 Royal’ – PS4

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A favorite in my home, ‘Persona 5 Royal’ is an enhanced version of the 2017 original, and features new characters and bosses. Prepare to lose more than 100 hours of your life. (Image: Atlus)

I’m admittedly biased in including “Persona 5 Royal” on this list, because my wife and I are massive fans of the original version of this game, “Persona 5,” released in 2017. “Persona 5 Royal” adds quality-of-life changes to this 100-hour plus JRPG focused on high school students going to class, getting after-school jobs for spare cash, and fighting demons in a parallel dimension called the metaverse.

“Royal” also brings along a new character who teams up with your group of teenage vigilantes. These teens are seeking justice against adults whose desires for wealth, power, and control over others have poisoned their hearts. That’s where you and your friends, The Phantom Thieves, come in.

You’ll battle it out across various dungeons, capturing demons, or personas as they’re known in this game, before you reach your final battle to stave off a worldwide catastrophe. Think of it as a high school melodrama with a ton of addictive gameplay, lovable characters, and a dash of “Pokemon”-style collecting, and you’ve got a decent idea of what “Persona 5 Royal” has to offer.

‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ – PS4, Xbox, PC

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Drop into a 150-player free-for-all with ‘Call of Duty: Warzone.’ I’ve been playing this almost every night to stay in touch with my friends, and, my god, it’s fun. (Image: Activision Blizzard)

I’ve been spending a little too much time with this title as of late. “Call of Duty: Warzone” is a free-to-play battle royale title in which you and 149 other players battle it out across a massive map using everything from pistols to rocket launchers until just one of you is left.

The game, which launched March 10, already has more than 50 million players, and with the team of developers at Infinity Ward and Raven Software continuing to tweak the experience with new game modes and additional weapons, it’s clear this title will have staying power.

Similar to games like “Fortnite” and “PlayerUknown’s Battlegrounds,” you parachute out of a plane over the enormous game map, before diving to the Earth and scrounging for anything you can use against your competitors. The twist, however, is that when you die, you’re sent to what’s called the Gulag for a one-on-one gunfight. The winner is then sent back into the game to fight on, while the loser calls it quits.

I play this game several times a week with my friends, and it offers the opportunity to socialize with them, while blowing stuff up. What more could I ask for?

‘Ori and the Will of the Wisps’ – Xbox, PC

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‘Ori and the Will of the Wisps’ is a gorgeous side-scroller of a game that will challenge you, and may even bring a tear to your eye. (Image: Microsoft)

Looking for more of a traditional side-scroller? “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” might be the right option for you. Though, be warned, this title isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a challenging game that will require you to restart areas over and over again until you can master the controls and timing needed to move forward.

The sequel to the beautifully told “Ori and the Blind Forest,” “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” puts you in the role of Ori, a guardian spirit, who must find his lost friend Ku. This is the kind of game you not only play, but fall in love with thanks to its detailed level design and gorgeous visual styling. And there’s a decent shot you’ll end up tearing up a little at the end.

All you can play options

If you’re not sure whether these games are the right fit for you, you’re in luck, because both Microsoft and Sony offer all-you-can-play services that give you access to hundreds of games for a set monthly fee.

Microsoft’s (MSFTXbox Game Pass costs $9.99 per month, $4.99 to start, to play on PC; $9.99 per month to play on your Xbox One console; or $14.99 per month to access games on both PC and console, and lets you play more than 100 games as often as you want.

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Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass gives you unlimited access to more than 100 games for a flat monthly fee. (Image: Microsoft)

PlayStation Now

PlayStation Now is Sony’s (SNE) answer to Game Pass and starts at $9.99 per month, $24.99 for 3 months, or $59.99 for a year, giving you access to hundreds of games that you can download to your PS4, or stream to your PC.

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Sony’s PlayStation Now is another all-you-can-play option worth checking out. (Image: Sony)

Both options are an outrageous value, and well worth checking out if you’re searching for something to scratch that gaming itch while you’re stuck inside.

Happy gaming.

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