#115: New Head of Sony Worldwide Studios

TODAY: Luigi is big in Japan, dethrones Call of Duty: Modern Warfare — In a parallel universe, Tom Hanks starred in Super Mario Bros instead of Forrest Gump — Playtonic addresses Banjo-Kazooie rumours

Top Story

Guerrilla Games co-founder is new head of Sony Worldwide Studios

The PlayStation 5 is coming out next year, and Sony is in the middle of a massive global restructuring in preparation for the new console generation. The overhaul has cost a few jobs, while others are being shuffled around. Worldwide Studios chairman Shawn Layden left his position last month, and now Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida has stepped down too. Yoshida will stay with Sony, working on a new indie developer outreach program.

Yoshida’s replacement might come as a surprise: Hermen Hulst, managing director and co-founder of Killzone and Horizon: Zero Dawn developer Guerrilla Games. He is assuming his new role starting immediately according to Sony, and has already begun managing their projects and studios.

The Art of Guerrilla Game Development

PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan talked to GamesIndustry.biz about Hulst’s appointment, and started by noting the significance of hiring a European as president of Worldwide Studios: “Hermen is one of the most effective and well-respected leaders in the video game industry. He is a passionate advocate for the teams he leads and understands how to empower creative talent to build great experiences. I have no doubt Hermen can lead our teams to deliver compelling and diverse experiences at a steady cadence.”

Says Hulst himself: “I have worked closely with PlayStation and the entire Worldwide Studios family since 2001,and I have the utmost respect and admiration for the creative talent and ambitious ideas within the network of studios across the US, Europe, and Japan.”

Angie Smets, Jan-Bart von Beek and Michiel van der Leeuw will become joint studio heads at Guerrilla, which most recently assisted Kojima Productions with Death Stranding and is presumably hard at work on a new PlayStation 5 project.

Time For A Quick Daily Quiz?

What are the ghostly Boos from the Mushroom Kingdom named in Japan?

  • Boo Guy
  • Boo Diddley
  • Hitodama
  • Teresa

The answer will be revealed at the end of this issue!

News Bits

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is top of the Japanese charts, apart from Persona 5

Luigi is big in Japan! Luigi’s Mansion 3 has sold 150,000 units in its first week and is currently sitting at the top of the Switch charts and second in the general charts, only beaten by Persona 5 Royal for PlayStation 4.

Both games are outselling heavy hitters like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Ring Fit Adventure, Dragon Quest XI and mainstays like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Smash Bros. Ultimate and Minecraft.

Except for Persona 5 Royal and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the entire Japanese top 10 consists of Switch games. The console itself sold 53,125 units, compared to 4,992 PlayStation 4s. Pretty impressive!

Daily Fact

The Super Mario Bros Movie was inspired by Ghostbusters, Batman, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The 1993 live-action Super Mario Bros. movie starring Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper is – to put it mildly – a strange beast, yet also a weirdly compelling cheese-fest. The story of how it came to be is considerably better than what the movie itself serves up, and is littered with unbelievable decisions. Did you know Nintendo decided to turn down creative oversight because they felt it was impossible for the movie to hurt Mario’s brand?

It’s also pretty interesting to consider what inspired the movie: The dark comic book cityscapes of Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well as the comedy and weirdness of Ghostbusters.

The producers tried to enlist Harold Ramis – who played Egon Spengler as well as writing Ghostbusters and acting as producer, director and writer on a number of classic movies – to direct the adaptation. Wise man that he was, he turned down the offer, but the opportunity clearly stuck on his mind since he namedrops the game in the second Ghostbusters.

It’s a-me, Danny-o

Casting must also have been an interesting process, with Danny DeVito being offered Mario, Arnold Schwartzenegger offered Koopa and – believe it or not – Tom Hanks was offered Luigi. In the end, the producers passed on Tom Hanks because he’d suffered a few box office failures in the last few years. Life is like a box of chocolates, eh?

Unsurprisingly, there was a string of rewrites during development, which contributed to an uneven tone that veers all over the place: One scene is a family-friendly comedy, while the next is full of strippers. Fortunately, it all turned out good in the end, right?

VR Roundup

Valve release SteamVR 1.8 – The Audio Update

After no less than five months of audio issues, Valve has finally released an update that fixes the Valve Index’s playback problems. Most VR headsets deals with audio the same way: Once the headset is plugged in, audio is piped through the headset.

But the Index wasn’t automatically switching the audio device, forcing players to change the audio source via the operating system’s audio settings. In some cases, this required the user to restart a game before the sound would work.

The update also included a number of other fixes, with one standing out in particular: Skyrim VR has had strange bugs on the Index, and it looks like Valve has finally fixed them. They also fixed the glitch that stopped the A button from working while the dashboard was open, and the Knuckles controllers should no longer be recognized as Wands instead.

Vader Immortal Episode III releasing this month

ILMxLAB has has announced that Vader Immortal Episode III will launch for Oculus Quest and Rift on November 21st. Director Ben Snow has outlined the story: “Vader Immortal: Episode III begins with Vader having seized the powerful Bright Star artifact, and returned to his castle to activate it…Working with your droid companion ZO-E3 and the Mustafarians, you need to get back up to the castle and try to stop Vader before he destroys life on Mustafar.”

Snow also confirmed that players “must confront Vader face-to-face and try to stop his plans”, which hopefully means a lightsaber duel with Black Helmet Man himself. Vader Immortal Episode III is the last entry in the Vader Immortal series, but thanks to its success we can probably expect more Star Wars VR games alongside the console games, movies and TV series.

Pavlov VR update introduces zombies and new maps

Pavlov VR is in Early Access, and has just received a substantial update that introduces a new zombie mode named Killhouse playable either offline or in online co-op. as well as two new maps. Other additions include anti-cheat software, the ability to play Hunt offline and a variety of fixes. The developer also promises “new maps on a regular basis from now on until release date in Feb 27 2021”.

Daily News

Yooka-Laylee creators won’t be making a new Banjo-Kazooie for Microsoft

Playtonic’s Yooka-Laylee kindled a hope in Rare fans’ hearts that it would usher in a new era of cute mascot platformers. The studio was made up of former Rare developers after all, and while Yooka-Laylee had its flaws, it definitely carried on the Rare house style.

Last week, rumours started spreading about Playtonic and Microsoft teaming up to work on a brand-new Banjo-Kazooie – but Playtonic has just denied it.

Rare Revival?

The rumours started after former Rare artist Ed Bryan announced that he had joined Playtonic – and tweeted a picture of a Microsoft bag. This naturally led to a wave of unsubstantiated speculation that Microsoft was planning to buy Playtonic and put them to work on a new Banjo-Kazooie.

The rumours became persistent enough for Playtonic to step in and set the record straight: “We aren’t working on a new Banjo-Kazooie game and we remain an independent studio”. The statement also mentions that they’d love the opportunity, but that it’s very much up to Microsoft. They also found it amusing that so much speculation could be sparked by Ed’s old bag.

Deleted scene from the Super Mario Bros movie clears up a slimy plothole

The Super Mario Bros. live-action adaptation is the essential and archetypical videogame movie: It took the cute and lovable Mario universe full of mushroom people, turtle soldiers and plumber heroes saving princesses and turned it into Dredd vs Batman in Jurassic Park.

In spite – or perhaps because – of its irreverent approach to the source material, the movie still has a cult following. SMBmovie.com has spent years compiling information about the movie, and they’ve just uncovered a new deleted scene, which clears up a bizarre plot hole involving a slippery and inexplicable puddle of slime.

Plumber alert!

If you’ve seen the movie, you might remember the scene where Koopa (played by Dennis Hopper) turns Toad (Mojo Nixon) into a Goomba soldier, which leads to Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) escaping by shoving Koopa into the same de-evolution machine – after he slips on a puddle of slime that appears out of nowhere.

Fans have obviously been wondering where that slime came from, and the newly-discovered and until-recently-lost scene finally explains it! After de-evolving Toad, Koopa forces a sneezing technician into the machine and sets it to “Primordial” since he doesn’t like germs. The technician promptly explodes into a puddle of, well, primordial ooze after emerging – and that’s what Koopa slips on!

That’s poetic irony, right? Pretty much casts the movie in a whole new light. It really makes you think!

News Bits

Hitman 3 is “well underway”

It’s been a year since Hitman 2 reared its bald head, and according to Io Interactive, most of the team has moved on to working on Hitman 3. While there’s still more Hitman 2 content on the way, the team is “looking increasingly to the future”.

Io Interactive adds that “in real terms, we’re moving more and more of the Hitman 2 team to join the next Hitman game, which is well underway.” The November update brings the last major update to Hitman 2, although more contracts and targets will be added throughout 2020.

Weekly Giveaway

Europa Universalis: The Price of Power

We are doing a bonus giveaway in colloboration with Aegir Games to celebrate the Europa Universalis: Price of Power Kickstarter campaign. To participate, you need to visit the Kickstarter page, put down a pledge for the full game and send us your Kickstarter backer name by email.

Everyone that enters will receive a free key for Iconoclasts on the system of their choice, and also has the chance to win two Nintendo Switch Lites! The winner of the first giveaway for the actual board game was announced last week, so check your emails if you missed it.

The giveaway is open until the Kickstarter campaign ends on Thursday, and winners will be announced the following day.

Quiz Answer - Did You Get It Right?

What are the ghostly Boos from the Mushroom Kingdom named in Japan?

Answer: Teresa!?

Bet that’s not what you expected! The Boo ghosts are indeed called Teresa in Japan, and that’s not just some Japanese word that looks like the name Teresa. It is, however, a pun on the word ‘tereru’, which means ‘to be shy’, which makes sense considering how they hide their faces when you look at them.

The Boo design was inspired by a ghost from Japanese folklore named ’Hitodama’, while ‘Boo Guy’ is an undead Shy Guy. What about ‘Boo Diddley’? That’s the full name of the Boos from Super Mario Bros. 3 and yes, it is a reference to the singer Bo Diddley. Super Mario Bros. 3 also introduced the seven Koopalings, who are all named after famous singers. Maybe someone on the translation team was a music fan?

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