Earlier this week, Paradox Interactive removed a user-created Stellaris mod of questionable taste from the Steam Workshop. The "European phenotypes" mod in question limited the galactic strategy game's human race to white characters with European names, the perfect addition for those who don't want people of color in their universe. Paradox said the comments surrounding the mod were more the problem than the mod itself, so the modder responded by re-posting it to the Steam Workshop with a hefty dose of snark "as an experiment to test how far Paradox will lie about banning my other mod."
While the modder is within his rights to make such changes to the game and even share them with the like-minded, Paradox is equally within its rights to question that modder's motivation and refuse to let a platform within its control be used as a breeding ground for bigotry. Just because it's legal for someone to make and sell Nazi flags doesn't mean Amazon has to carry them. (Oh for... seriously Amazon?!?) While this mod seems more in favor of obliteration of non-white people rather than segregation, I would still enjoy the trace irony in it being forced off Steam and onto a "separate but equal" (read: clearly inferior) hosting site.
Just because it's legal for someone to make and sell Nazi flags doesn't mean Amazon has to carry them.
Paradox should boot the second iteration of the "European phenotypes" off Steam just as it did the first. Frankly, I wish more developers and publishers would take that sort of active role in moderating their online communities, telling certain customers that the studio would rather lose their business than allow them to represent their game's communities. You only have to look at the responses to the Paradox tweet regarding the mod to know that losing those people from the community should be considered no loss at all. Letting them stay not only reflects poorly on the company fostering such hate, but as Twitch and Blizzard no doubt realized last week, it threatens to turn off a whole lot more people than it brings in. And with an IPO on the way, Paradox can't afford to tell potential shareholders it's willing to make that trade-off.
In other news about trade-offs, the Entertainment Software Association did its best to make E3 open-to-the-public without actually making it open-to-the-public by announcing E3 Live, a free fan event that will take place next to E3 proper this year in the adjacent LA Live complex. Attendance will be limited by tickets (all of which were given away in less than a day), and the organization expects 20,000 gamers to brave traffic around the convention center to check out the latest games, score some swag, and purchase collectibles.
It'll be interesting to see just how many of those internet ticket claimers actually show up for E3 Live, but the idea itself is a good adaptation to keep E3 relevant in an era where gaming consumers don't wait for the usual E3 crowd of media and retailer attendees to tell them what to be excited for. They're perfectly happy to have the hype injected intravenously, and publishers are equally ecstatic to manage that interaction themselves; E3 Live is just another way of meeting a demand that's already out there.
E3 Live is a good adaptation to keep E3 relevant in an era where gaming consumers don't wait for the usual E3 crowd of media and retailer attendees to tell them what to be excited for.
Finally, we're losing hope that 2016 will be the year video game movies stop sucking. The Angry Birds movie is doing respectably at the box office, but critics have not been overly kind. It has already made up its $73 million production budget, but still has a ways to go before it can offset its staggering $400 million marketing push.
Last month's Ratchet & Clank could actually be closer to turning a profit than Angry Birds, despite dreadful box office numbers and even worse reviews. If there's a silver lining for Sony, it's that the PS4 tie-in game was excellent, and is selling decently to boot.
As for next month's long-awaited Warcraft movie, that's shaping up like yet another turkey. The first wave of early reviews hit this week, and they have not been kind. It's a shame, as director Duncan Jones' previous projects Moon and Source Code are a fascinating pair of sci-fi companion pieces well worth checking out.
There's at least one faint hope left for 2016, with Assassin's Creed launching December 21 and starring Michael Fassbender. The recently released first trailer seems to capture all the hood-wearing, sleeve-dagger stabbing, parkour-inspired action of the games, but even stellar reviews might not be enough to attract movie-goers when it comes out less than a week after the Star Wars spin-off Rogue One.
Other news in brief...
- The Game Marketing Awards have been doled out, and Microsoft's Xbox team took home Marketing Team of the Year. Check out the extensive list of winners here.
- Microsoft's cross-network play debuted this week, as Xbox One and PC Rocket League players can now go head-to-head.
- Starbreeze and Crossfire creator Smilegate have teamed up to work on the StarVR software platform. It's the third joint venture in two weeks for Starbreeze, which has also formed new companies with Acer and IMAX.
- Adweek's Power List of the top 100 leaders in marketing, media and tech saw the gaming world represented. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick ranked 24, while Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson came in at 56. No doubt they will lord their accomplishments over Elon Musk, who ranked a relatively paltry 72 on the list.
- The Strong Museum in Rochester, New York this week opened its Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences exhibit, showcasing a number of the games and individuals the organization has honored through the years. (If you go, be sure to check out the Pinball Playfields exhibit too!)
- GameStop slightly beat its guidance for the first fiscal quarter, thanks to non-game business like cell phones and collectibles. Speaking of which, the company namechecked Five Nights at Freddy's merchandise as a big revenue driver for collectibles, right up there with Pokemon cards and Minecraft tat.
- The International Mobile Gaming Awards has announced a new South East Asia competition, taking place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 8, 2016. Developers can sumbit their games here.