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Production Company Behind Zero Dark Thirty, Sausage Party Expands Into Games

Annapurna Pictures has built a name for itself over the years, producing films including Zero Dark Thirty, Her, and Sausage Party. Today, the company has announced that it's expanding its focus into games, with the introduction of Annapurna Interactive. The new division's first projects include new games from the creators of Katamari Damacy and Monument Valley.

According to Annapurna's founder and CEO, Megan Ellison, this new branch comes from a longtime love of the medium. "I’ve had a great passion for video games for as long as I can remember," she says. "Growing up, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was one of my all-time favorites. My brother and I ran up quite a bill calling the 1-900 numbers for tips on those games, before the internet provided game-guides. The artistry and diversity of interactive storytelling is exciting and we look forward to exploring the limitless possibilities in gaming. We want to empower artists across this medium to make Annapurna Interactive their home and I believe we’ve assembled the perfect team to make that happen." 

The company will publish Jason Roberts' Gorogoa and Giant Sparrow's What Remains of Edith Finch in spring 2017. In addition, Annapurna Interactive is working with Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi and Monument Valley game designer Ken Wong on their next, unannounced projects.

 

Our Take
Annapurna is starting off with some interesting projects – here's hoping they have the patience to see them all through. These aren't the kinds of games that are going to make AAA studios shake in their boots, but that fits with the direction that Annapurna has taken in the film business as well. Develop quality art, and audiences will come.

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343 Studio Head Josh Holmes Departs Company

Josh Holmes has been the Studio Head for 343 Industries for a number of years, overseeing Halo 5 and working as the Creative Director for Halo 4. Now, however, Holmes is departing the studio in order to pursue independent game development.

Announced on the Halo Waypoint blog, the news comes with some recollections about Holmes' work on the series. "Josh has been an instrumental leader for the Halo franchise," says 343 Founder Bonnie Ross. "I wanted to thank him for everything he has done for us and the Halo franchise, and I wish him the best of luck on his next adventure."

Holmes will be replaced by Chris Lee, previously the Lead Producer on Halo 4 and 5. "He is a tremendous leader and Halo is in great hands with him," said Holmes of Lee.

You can watch us interview Holmes during his tenure at 343 on the development of Halo 4, below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

[Source: Halo Waypoint Blog via GameSpot]

 

Our Take
I wish Holmes the best on his future endeavors. 

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Blizzard co-founder Allen Adham returns to the company after 12 years

Adham rejoins Blizzard after leaving game development entirely in 2004. His new role as senior vice president places him in charge of incubating new projects and ideas at Blizzard. …


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Mafia III Is Now 2K’s Fastest Selling Game, Company Reports

Mafia III has been a divisive game. Even here at Game Informer, we've argued the game is important in some ways, even though Reiner wasn't elated with how the end product turned out.

Whether you knocked the repetitive gameplay or love its unique and confrontational setting, you can't argue Mafia III has gotten off to a good start financially. The Washington Post reports 2K has confirmed the game sold over 4.5 million digitally and to retailers in its first week, making it the fastest-selling title in the company's history.

Mafia III took a number of risks, not the least of which was casting a person of mixed race in the lead role for the game's 1968 setting. Responding to the game's success, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick remarked how it could be a response to the gaming audience's growing acceptance of more diverse characters. "I do think consumers are searching for a representation of our exceedingly diverse world in our entertainment and art,” he said.

[Source: The Washington Post]

 

Our Take
I fell off Mafia III due to its repetitious mission design, but I loved its story, characters, and world. I look forward to revisiting it when there aren't a million other things to play. I'm also hopeful the game's early success means companies won't be as afraid to be more diverse with their choice of lead characters in future games.

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Razer snaps up venerable film audio company THX

Razer has acquired THX, the audio tech company best known for the cavity-rumbling sound which accompanied its logo appearing before the lion’s share of films in U.S. theaters during the ’80s and ’90s. …


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Oculus is now firmly a VR platform holder, not a headset company

Today Oculus wraps up its 3rd Oculus Connect dev conference, half a year after finally releasing the Rift. Thus it’s the first Connect Oculus has hosted as a bona fide platform holder, and it showed. …


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Hideo Kojima Joins Advisory Board Of VR Company Prologue Immersive

Hideo Kojima is currently developing Death Stranding over at the new Kojima Productions, after his fallout with Konami. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have time for something else on the side.

Gamasutra reports the Metal Gear creator has joined the advisory board of Prologue Immersive, a virtual and augmented reality company. The company has worked on big-budget films such as Iron Man, Prometheus, and Godzilla, but also specializes in learning software using virtual and augmented reality. Other notable board members include Kyle and Kimberly Cooper, who has designed a number of film and game title sequences, including those for Metal Gear Solid 2, 3 and V.

You can read Andrew Reiner's latest interview with Hideo Kojima here.

[Source: Gamasutra]

 

Our Take
It makes sense that Kojima, a man whose works never been reticent about exploring the limits of technology both thematically and literally, would take on an advisory position at a VR Company. It's unclear how much of an impact he will have on the company's work, however. 

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Battleborn Sales Below Take-Two Expectations, But Company Not Giving Up

During its earnings call yesterday, Take-Two took a moment to comment on the performance of Gearbox’s latest game, Battleborn. The game has struggled out of the gate, but the publisher isn’t giving up on it quite yet.

In his prepared remarks, CEO Strauss Zelnick was up front about how the game fared with both critics and customers. “While the game launched to solid reviews, its performance in the market has been below our expectations,” he said. “We think there remains an opportunity to grow the audience for this unique experience over time, and 2K will continue to drive engagement and recurrent consumer spending on the title through add-on content and virtual currency.”

The tenor of the comments isn’t entirely unlike how Take-Two spoke about Evolve last year following its release. Recently, new life was breathed into it with a completely free version called Evolve Stage 2.

2K has opted not to monetize the game at all right now. This is led to growing the player base from about 200 to more than 2 million since the reboot one month ago. There is room to introduce purchases for currency tied to cosmetics or major content add-ons later.

Later in the conversation, Zelnick mentioned the two games side-by-side. While this isn’t hinting at Battleborn moving into a free-to-play model, the comparison bears watching. This follows a rapid drop in price that even saw Gearbox’s “hero shooter” as one of about ten games in a Humble Bundle, effectively pricing the game at $ 15.

“So with regard to Battleborn, we're being very frank about where we are, because we're a transparent company,” Zelnick said. “We're still delivering new content to Battleborn. Audiences love Battleborn. We still have virtual currency coming for Battleborn. We're not counting it out for a minute. We're just telling you where we're at now. And equally, we just launched Evolve Stage 2, which is another way to express the IP of Evolve. And we've had over 1 million people sign up to play Evolve Stage 2, and that's super exciting.”

For more on Take-Two’s first quarter, check out our coverage from yesterday’s earnings report.

 

Our Take
For Battleborn to have a real shot at a solid audience, it needs something like Evolve Stage 2. According to SteamCharts, the game’s 30-day average player count is under 1,000. 

The bind 2K and Gearbox are in is that the DLC hasn’t even fully rolled out yet. There are still three characters left to go before the season pass is fulfilled. That’s going to hold up any change in business model for at least the next couple of months.

Evolve has proven that games can be resurrected to solid performance, but not without effort and passion. It will be interesting to see if 2K and Gearbox are up to that challenge.

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Playdead Co-Founder Dino Patti Leaving Company To ‘Seek New Challenges’

Playdead's co-founder Dino Patti has decided to "seek new challenges" and leave the development company after almost 10 years.

Playdead was founded in 2006 by Patti and Arnt Jensen, and received critical praise for its premiere title, Limbo. In the game players traverse a dark and desolate world searching for their sister, tricking spiders and finding clever ways across dangerous environments.

More recently the studio's second title, Inside, came out on June 29 to similar praise.

[Source: Twitter

 

Our Take
Seeking new challenges is always an admirable effort, especially for Patti after receiving critical acclaim for Limbo, and more recently Inside. I'm eager to see whether he might feel establishing a new studio is a suitable next step, or seeing how his skills might apply to another, already successful, studio.

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Sales double at GameStops that are now PokeStops, says company chief

GameStop chief J. Paul Raines recently told CNBC that the retail chain has seen sales double after hosting Pokemon Go-themed promos in 462 stores that are also featured in-game as Pokestops or gyms. …


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