Publishers Outsourcing Crunch Overseas, Pokémon Mini Returning?

Today: Switch sells as much as PlayStation and Xbox combined in UK — A mole that jumps like a dolphin in the platformer surprise of the year — Valve gives up and makes Artifact completely free to play

Game publishers “buy crunch overseas”

People Make Games has compiled a report about various game development practices, and looked at the role outsourcing studios play – and how they are often crunching just as hard as the developers.

Crunch is a globe-spanning issue for the industry

Making videogames is often an unpredictable process, and teams often have to put in lots of overtime to get games done on schedule. This is called crunch, and can last for weeks, months or even years.

It has been a point of contention for decades, and is widely blamed for exploiting and burning out workers to compensate for bad management and unrealistic schedules. Crunch has also intensified as projects have grown, and it's not unusual for teams to grind themselves down for long periods of time to meet tight deadlines.

The 19 minute report is called Someone Else's Problem: How Game Publishers Buy Crunch Overseas, and People Make Games talked to developers from Malaysia and Indonesia to learn how AAA game publishers exploit cheap labour.

Out of sight: An interesting report from People Make Games has looked into the various practices of game publishers and how they outsourced work, which is often the subject of crunch.

Out of mind: Most AAA projects involve multiple studios as well as outsourcing studios contracted to deliver content. Most of the debate surrounding crunch tends to focus on Western development studios, while outsourcing studios – often in South East Asia – tend to be ignored. People Make Games decided they wanted to do something about that.

Which conflict is Wargame based on?

a) World War I
b) World War II
c) The Korean War
d) The Cold War

The answer will be revealed at the bottom of today's issue. Join up with our community on Twitter and Facebook to discuss what the answer could be.

Finally a use for that art degree

Headstrong Games’ Pokémon Art Academy unleashes your creative energy by teaching you how to draw – you guessed it – Pokémon. Nintendo even held a competition that put players’ artwork on Pokémon trading cards.

Turning colourful doodles into trading cards

Competition winners received 100 copies of the cards featuring their art, which also happened to be the only 100 copies produced, which makes them rather attractive to collectors.

Join our community on Twitter and Facebook to discuss today's fact.

Switch best-selling console in the UK

The Switch dominated UK console hardware sales in 2020, selling 1.5 million units, well ahead of PlayStation 5’s 450,000 and Xbox Series X/S’s 310,000.

Switch sold 1 million units more than in 2019

The sales data was compiled by chart trackers GfK and GSD, presented in a report by the Entertainment Retailers Association. All three platform holders had better years in 2020 than 2019, and EA's FIFA 21 was the best-selling game.

Out of stock: Both next-gen consoles launched late in the year and were severely supply-constrained, which may account for their relatively low sales. Sony's total hardware sales for both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 was around 900,000 while Microsoft sold about 600,000 Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. That means Nintendo sold about as much as both of them combined.

Dare to be digital: Games sales in 2020 were predominantly digital, with only a few heavy-hitters performing better in physical than digital retail: Assassin's Creed Valhalla, The Last of Us: Part 2, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Marvel's Avengers and Ghost of Tsushima.

Pokémon Mini anniversary edition?

Eagle-eyed fans noticed a new and mysterious addition to the categories on Nintendo’s UK website. The “Originally for” filter on the search page now lists Pokémon Mini.

Pokémon Mini looks like a digital Tamagotchi pet

This has been a good year for Pokémon fans so far, with both a remake of Pokémon Diamond & Pearl and a prequel called Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which also takes place in the Sinnoh region.

Monster in your pocket: The Pokémon mini was a handheld console similar to Game Boy, except it was dedicated to Pokémon. Released in 2001, it featured an internal clock, an infrared port which enabled multiplayer, a reed switch that detected shakes and a small force feedback motor.

Switch mini app: Does this new search option mean that the Pokémon Mini is about to make a comeback? The time is certainly right, since it's Pokémon's 25th anniversary and the celebrations have just started in earnest. The question is whether it's a dedicated console, or something more low-key, like a Switch app.

Mail Mole Review

Reviewed by Gavin Herman

Version tested: Nintendo Switch

No matter what you think about Switch, it's undeniably the best console for connoisseurs of fine platforming. That's great for fans of the genre, but probably a bit of a challenge for developers: Making one that stands out is a bit of a challenge. Fortunately for Talpa Games, their debut Mail Mole is outstanding. It's an adorable experimental game, and considerably more exciting than the average big-name game.

Molty is Carrotland's fastest delivery mole, and his vacation has just been interrupted by an urgent message from the mayor. The power plant just died – right ahead of the carrot festival, no less – and Molty must reset the generators and get the power back on. Thus begins an endearing adventure filled with platforming fun.

Somedays, you just need to burrow around in a world with your furry friends

Each stage charges you with reaching and resetting a power generator the only way Molty knows how – by burrowing underground. The movement scheme is novel yet simple: Jump to speed up, and dash by diving back into the soil. For precision platforming, you use your slow burrowing movement to line up jumps, and then execute dazzling series of bounds.

Molty moves more like a dolphin than a mole, leaping out of and into of the soil in wave-like motions that are a joy to execute and master. It's tempting to maintain Molty's momentum, but it's also pretty easy to end up falling right off a ledge.

The unique approach to traversal makes for a lot of variety in level design, and while the number of bottomless pits littering the stages can feel a bit excessive, but levels are short and sweet and invite replay rather than overwhelming you with never-ending gauntlets of tricky platforming.

Mail Mole reminds us that every postal worker matters.

Beat stages to earn batteries that unlock new challenges, and once you've completed a cluster of levels you can return to them to race the mechamoles to earn even more batteries. There's also a bunch of carrots and radishes littered around stages, but there's not that much reason to collect them unless you're a completionist. You can spend them to boost your health or buy outfits for Molty – but since he spends most of the game underground, it's not the best incentive for exploration.

While Mail Mole's world and story is not exactly unforgettable, the movement model and level design more than carries the game. The slightly pointless collectables and profusion of bottomless pits may not be to everyone's taste, but if you're looking for a creative, fast-paced platforming experience, then Mail Mole will put a smile on your face. It will be exciting to see what Talpa Games does next, too!

PROS:

  • Unique movement model
  • Adorable mole hero
  • Fun level design

CONS:

  • A bit too many bottomless pits
  • Not a lot of collectables
  • Bland graphics
7.5/10Good

Mail Mole is now available on the PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Publisher Undergames kindly provided a Nintendo Switch review code to DailyBits for free for the purposes of this review.

Mail Mole Giveaway Winners

A charming 3D platformer called Mail Mole was our latest giveaway, and today is the day we reveal the winners. Drumroll, please…

This week's winners are:

  • Thomas Hall
  • Alexander Wolf
  • Hai Dang
  • Lucas Charles Amery
  • Vincent Siconnelly

Which conflict is Wargame based on?

ANSWER: The Cold War!

Are you sure we'll be home by Christmas?

Wargame is a solid real-time strategy with an alternate history story where the Cold War goes hot sometime in the 80s, pitting NATO against the Warsaw Pact nations in a practically neverending war. The third game in the series, Red Dragon, even stretches all the way into the 90s.

Sure, Command & Conquer: Red Alert also imagined a war between the American and Russian empires, but Wargame is a bit less cheesy and tries to portray the conflict in a somewhat serious fashion. It has been six years since the last game in the series, so it’s about time for Eugen Studios to do another entry. After all, it’s looking more an more like the Cold War never really ended.

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Today's issue of DailyBits was written by Gavin Herman, Erlend Grefsrud, Simon Priest, and Jamie Davey.