Monday, January 17, 2022

Gaming News: Mafia 3 Developers Project Axed

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Take-Two Interactive, a video game holding company and owner of publishing labels Rockstar Games and 2K, made news this week when it was announced through 2K that work on their newest creation, an unannounced game but known internally as Voltron, would be laid to rest. The project had been in the hands of Hangar 13, a division of 2K and creator of Mafia 3, and the decision to nix the game apparently came as a surprise to those who had been working on it.

The original concept came as early as 2017 and transformed through a number of working titles and manifestations of the original concept. As first reported by Kotaku, an internal memo penned by Hangar 13 studio head, Haden Blackman, to his staff stated, “While the Hangar 13 name and Volt’s working title are not being shared publicly, T2 is announcing today that 2K had made the difficult decision to stop developing on the project. I know this likely comes as a shock, but I wanted you to hear it from me first and provide some context.

“We are confident that there are many opportunities for H13 employees to work on other games in development, both at H13 and across the label,” Blackman wrote. “2K has also assured me that the company believes H13 can deliver a critical and commercial success, and we will begin developing future projects soon.”

Voltron, or Volt, as was the working title, was originally born as Rhapsody but that project was ultimately squelched and the bare bones became part of Volt. Reportedly, the cost of continuing the project was deemed financially untenable by 2K which is why the project has been terminated. Up to 200 people could be affected by the news but it is uncertain whether the workforce will be redistributed throughout the company or mass layoffs will ensue as they did after Rhapsody was canceled.

No Fans at League of Legends World Championships

The effects and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to reverberate vis a vis live events, as the League of Legends World Championships being held in Reykjavik, Iceland this year has seen no fans in its stands nor will there be any for the finale. The event has become so hugely popular and mainstream that many of the best online sportsbooks routinely offer League of Legends and other esports events on its betting menu.

In the past, Riot Games, developer, and publisher of League of Legends has put on extravagant events for their world championships and even for minor events. It’s unlike a League Grand Championship to be so devoid of the palpable excitement and electricity we have come to expect when watching the live events in front of a packed stadium.

But the pandemic has interrupted many esports championships and many companies are reevaluating their commitment to establishing professional leagues across the world. But Riot Games is unlike those companies in that they are making a commitment for even more events with prize money that will turn heads. In this year’s LoL Grand Championship, $2.25 million in prize money is up for grabs with the winner getting nearly half a million dollars.

The initial thrust behind the League tournaments was to use it as a marketing tool and draw attention to the game and the brand. But over those 10 years, esports has exploded in popularity and the professional teams associated with the games are being followed as closely by their audience as any NBA, NFL, or traditional professional sports franchise is followed by theirs.

That devotion is not lost on Riot Games head of esports, John Needham, who stated that his company would be firmly committed to not only continuing its support but expanding it for esports tournaments. In fact, he wants to build the business of esports, the leagues, and the tournaments into a freestanding business entity unto itself that can turn a profit, something that has yet to happen.

“If I can’t make esports a great business for teams and our sponsors, then we’re not going to last long,” Needham said. “We’re very much thinking about, ‘How do we make the entire ecosystem profitable?’

Naturally, the tournaments are a good thing for the video game developers, publishers, and everyone associated with it. But the live events are not something that necessarily makes anyone extra money as these events can be viewed remotely and sold as a streaming service. The teams that enter these tournaments must often pay exorbitant fees and their ability to sustain themselves as profitable entities can be dicey.

This is why Riot Games, under Needham’s watch, wants to reinvest any profits they reap from the tournaments into developing the business of esports rather than put that money back into the actual game which sustains itself quite nicely on its game sales and its many ancillary revenue streams. It seems Needham has the right idea but it will be interesting to see if the rest of the esports world follows.


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