Welcome to FictionTalk’s Month in Review, the roundup where we take a look at the stories that stood out the most to us during the past 30 days or so. In order to keep things fresh and interesting, each story will be covered by a different writer. Different perspectives make for a better roundup as far as we’re concerned. September had a good amount of juicy stories so let’s not waste any more time and jump straight into it.
Next-Gen Pre-Order Fiasco
September brought with it the opening up of pre-orders for the upcoming PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. And these pre-orders brought with them chaos and confusion.
PlayStation opened up its pre-orders first, with PS5 pre-orders being set to go live on September 17th. But certain retailers seemed to have jumped the gun and opened up pre-orders early. Creating hysteria and a rush to pre-order that felt even more bamboozling after Sony’s announcement regarding pre-orders of the PS5.
You see, Sony claimed a little while back that they would announce a pre-order date that gave consumers an ample amount of time to prepare for it. Secondly, they had just wrapped up a PS5 livestream the day before pre-orders were supposed to go live (in reality a few hours before they went live) where the announcement wasn’t even mentioned.
Sony would later acknowledge and apologise for this whole calamity. Promising that more PS5 units will be available through to the end of the year, after retailers sold out console very quickly. Maybe this move by Sony was an attempt to combat scalpers? Who knows.
On the 22nd of September pre-orders for Microsoft’s Xbox Series X/S went live. And they didn’t go too smoothly either.
Upon pre-orders opening up, websites collectively encountered a bunch of issues including outright crashing. They just couldn’t handle the sheer amount of people trying to access them all at once.
As well as the constant crashing websites, systems were failing to allow users to checkout, telling customers they had the maximum amount of Xboxes in their cart despite not having any in their basket; sending out emails to customers who had opted to collect the console in-stores when the option hadn’t been selected by the customer.
Microsoft had given a good amount of time between the announcement of the pre-order date and the opening up of said pre-orders, making things feel a bit fairer and less befuddling.
Some retailers had implemented a queuing system to try and keep things in order. Though it didn’t seem to help much. Sites still crashed and queues were exceedingly long with people finally getting access to pre-orders, only to be met with issues and sold out consoles.
The Xbox Series X/S pre-orders felt like an online version of those Black Friday videos you see every year, and I can’t help but feel it couldn’t have gone any other way. You just had to be on the right website at the right time and have luck on your side. Or go to a local store and hope they haven’t sold out.
Since the initial pre-orders went live, we’ve seen smaller batches of PS5s and Xbox Series Xs becoming accessible to consumers, only to be snapped up fast. Xbox Series S, on the other hand, can still be found available to pre-order around the web.
2814 ‘Voyage/Embrace’ EP
Vaporwave collective ２８１４’s latest offering is a pilgrimage through a uniquely gorgeous and expansive soundscape; one that leads the listener into a completive state under the guise of an ambient two-track EP. Running at about 30 minutes in length, “Voyage/Embrace” uses the time to let you soak in the journey it wishes to portray.
From the torrential downpour and distant tone of Voyage to the tranquil optimistic hues exhibited within Embrace, the EP had me nostalgic for memories I’ve never had, in places I’ve never been to. The swelling sirens and ominous echoes of synths ebb and flow throughout, providing a perpetually undulating soundtrack to a feeling of solitude; but one that leaves comfort in being alone.
There’s a definite meditative motif that runs deep within this project, one that is as patient as it is with you. Though it’s accessible enough to belong on a “lo-fi ambiance to relax/study to” playlist while you work or walk, when given the opportunity – use it as a guide for your own self-reflection session.
For a deeper look into ２８１４ “Voyage/Embrace”, you can find the full review of the EP here.
Former CEO of Blizzard Entertainment Starts New Company: Dreamhaven
After leaving Activision Blizzard in 2018, Mike Morhaime, former CEO and Co-founder of Blizzard announced together with his wife, Amy Morhaime, on September 23rd their new game company, Dreamhaven.
This new game publisher is working with two game development studios, Moonshot Games and Secret Door. Dreamhaven has not yet announced any games they are working on, but has mentioned that the games that are to be released will focus on creating a sense of wonder with vibrant worlds that reflect on the companies’ values.
— Dreamhaven (@DreamhavenEnt) September 23, 2020
In a recent interview, Morhaime mentioned that both he and Amy are funding this newly founded company and explained that it is important to be able to control the company’s destiny and interests early on. He also went on to talk about the importance of creating a haven, a safe and friendly place for creators, instead of having financial pressures from shareholders. Dreamhaven clearly has visions for the long-run, instead of focusing solely on short-term profits.
Furthermore, a lot of senior employees from Blizzard have decided to also join this new-founded company together with the Morhaimes. This could have been out of loyalty to Morhaime, but it could also have been something to do with several employees speaking up about the working environment at Activision Blizzard. Morhaime spent nearly 27 years with Blizzard, but it was not clear why he left his position as CEO.
Microsoft Acquires ZeniMax Media
Microsoft announced on September 21st its plan to acquire ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Software, Arkane Studios, and id Software, among other high-profile gaming studios. The tech giant paid a grand total of $7.5 billion as part of the deal, making it one of the biggest purchases in gaming history. However, many would say this was money well spent considering what Microsoft got in return.
The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Doom, Prey, Dishonored, and Quake are just some of the franchises owned by Microsoft now. There’s also Starfield, Bethesda’s highly anticipated new IP and The Elder Scrolls Online, which is being developed by ZeniMax themselves. And let’s not forget about Deathloop and Ghostwire Tokyo, two new IPs that, ironically enough, will remain PlayStation exclusives according to Microsoft.
While Microsoft claims that it has no plans to interfere with the development process of any of these games, it’s a bit difficult to take that statement at face value. The fact that it announced the acquisition just one day prior to opening pre-orders for the Xbox Series X seems to indicate that the deal was part of a bigger ploy meant to build hype around the new console. Hinting that some of our favorite franchises might be Xbox exclusive at some point in the future certainly helped feed the hype machine.
Having said all that, Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax will probably result in more positive than negative changes at the end of the day. Particularly in the case of Bethesda, a company that can’t seem to do anything right lately.
A lot of Microsoft’s decisions have been surprisingly consumer-friendly in recent years. And the company is clearly in dire need of good exclusives for the Xbox Series X, so here’s hoping that they can bring out the best in Bethesda & co. We’ve already seen what the worst looks like and it’s not pretty.