Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled Hands-On: Turning a Corner

While we’ve certainly gotten a few entries in the genre that have tried to prove otherwise, thus far there’s only been one defining kart-racing game for players to enjoy. And ironically enough, it’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a version that we were introduced to some time ago back on the Wii U, well before it became a household name on the Nintendo Switch.

Of course, we’ll soon be getting some contenders ready to challenge the mighty plumber for his throne. Next month, Sega will debut Team Sonic Racing, which looks to pick up right where 2012’s Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed left off, with the same developers (Sumo Digital) in tow.

However, right after that, Activision looks set to surprise once more with Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. Based on the Crash Team Racing that came out for the original PlayStation in the late 90’s under the developers at Naughty Dog, this Beenox-produced effort looks to recapture the same spark that made Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Spyro the Dragon: Reignited Trilogy such big hits for the company. It’ll be just the breezy ride we need to get us through the heydays of summer.

Crash Team Racing

Back Behind the Wheel

Right off the bat, Crash Team Racing reminds you that you’re in the bandicoot’s world based off of the characters that are selectable within the game. These include Crash himself, of course, along with his nemesis Dr. Neo Cortex, a smattering of his rogue gallery of villains, including a character that’s in a straitjacket and thus driving with his feet, and a few of Crash’s colleagues, including an adorable polar bear and his sister Coco.

Like Mario Kart 8, Nitro-Fueled lets you select from different vehicles. Judging by my test drives thus far, they all play about the same, but there are minor differences that set them apart aesthetically. For instance, it’s pretty cool to be revved up in a ride that features a neat little skull design on the front. Like you’re a Hell’s Angel or something.

You can select your ride before the race begins, then check off that you’re ready to go. You’ll see your final selection alongside the other racers within the game, so you’ve got a pretty good idea of who you’re going up against. This factors in well with the game’s multiplayer component, which we’ll get to a little later in this article.

On the Road Again

Once you are set to race, you’ll be able to select from over 30 different tracks set within the Crash universe. The developers at Beenox (who you may remember from their work on the excellent Spider-Man games Edge of Time and Shattered Dimensions, before they settled in on some Call of Duty side work) have done a great job with track selection here, from tropical settings straight out of the original Crash Bandicoot to a fantastic looking futuristic city, laden with neon-based tunnels and cool side roads to take you off the beaten path. There are some great selections that take place in an underground sewer as well.

For track design, Beenox did its homework, remastering some favorite tracks from the original Crash Team Racing to great effect. But it also decided to add some flavor from the Vivendi Entertainment era of the Crash series, in the form of bonus favorites from the Crash Nitro Kart game that came out in 2003 for Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube. These will mix things up nicely and give players more terrain to run across, even if some tracks may be locked at the beginning. Hey, we’re fine with earning our keep here.

Visually, Nitro-Fueled looks very pleasing thus far. Each character has special animations that show off their flair, particularly that wolf in the straitjacket, who takes it upon himself to even jump for joy after nailing a boost jump off a ramp (and, surprisingly enough, landing solidly back in the vehicle once he’s done- that’s one lucky rider). It’s also great to see their reactions after nailing a drift or shrugging off a power-up that took them out of the loop for a moment. Beenox knows its character design here, and it truly shows thus far.

The track design is also quite enjoyable, especially when it comes to taking advantage of shortcuts. Sure, you could follow the typical path in the game, but savvy drivers may notice some options that will give them a few seconds of advantage as they attempt to regain the lead. For instance, in one stage, I was surprised to find that I could jump across a set of moving gears in one of the industrial areas of the game, shaving precious seconds off the clock and putting me back in a second place position after I had dropped into seventh. Each track is littered with these shortcuts, though some are obviously easier to find than others. It’s pretty neat of Beenox to sprinkle these in, just to keep things interesting.

Nitro-Fueled has a steady frame rate of 30 frames per second on the original PlayStation 4 hardware, but those of you with an Xbox One X and/or PlayStation 4 Pro will be able to enjoy the game at a solid 60 frames per second when all is said and done. These will no doubt be the superior versions of Nitro-Fueled, though there’s nothing wrong with taking the game on the portable front with the Switch, if you can step away from Mario Kart 8 long enough.

Crash Team Racing

Some Warped Gameplay, With a Nitro System That Takes Getting Used To

As for how Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled handles, it definitely has some flair of its own. Vehicle handling feels spot on when it comes to mastering corners and staying on the beaten path, though there are times you may hit a wall if you’re not careful. Fortunately, there’s an interesting boost system that compensates for that.

Beenox could have easily just copied the system that works so well with games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed, in which you simply earn a quick boost after successfully coming out of a drift to get back into a race. However, the developer instead opted for a little strategy, something that actually involves two buttons in order to execute.

Here’s how it works. You use one of the shoulder buttons on the controller to initiate the boost. Now, you need to ensure that you’re going the right way with the analog stick into the drift. Otherwise, you’ll end up turning the wrong way and run the risk of rolling right off the track or hitting some debris on the side of the road. This can throw off your momentum. So make sure you’re set to go into the drift before trying to pull it off.

Now, once you do that, you begin going into the drift. You’ll see some black smoke that’s ready to pop up from the rear of your vehicle. Once this happens, you can hit the other shoulder button and you’ll earn a mini-boost that will help you gain some speed as you turn. You need to be precise with this or you’ll miss the opportunity.

Savvy players that get a hang of this system will be able to use it three times going into the drift, which can definitely serve as a plus when it comes to staying in a race. It’s a tricky system, but I actually like what Beenox has done with it. It adds a bit of flair that you weren’t usually expecting from the likes of a Crash game.

As for the rest of the handling, it’s smooth. The game features a neat system where you can earn boosts coming off of jumps just right at certain points on the track. The turning feels pretty precise, and being able to use power-ups is almost like second nature.

On top of that, jumping also serves as a benefit to break open barrels that are holding Crash’s precious fruit inside. By collecting this, your power-ups actually become stronger, whether it’s adding a little more kick to the rockets that you fire, or protect yourself a little bit longer with shielding. So it never hurts to track these bad boys down and add them to your arsenal. Some of them you have to hunt, but that’s just part of what makes Crash Team Racing so special.

Crash Team Racing

Bring Your Friends For This Party

That said, the AI we went up against during our hands-on was pretty brutal. We started out ending up somewhere around fifth to seventh place just because computer drivers were much more skilled than us. Thankfully, Beenox devs did note that the difficulty could be adjusted, in case there are younger players or family members out there that want less of a challenge and more of a Sunday drive, as it were.

And then there’s the option to race alongside friends. Nitro-Fueled will come with various multiplayer abilities, including being able to take on others online. The game will feature up to eight players racing at once. Beenox didn’t say if cross-platform play was possible (it’ll likely be specific to machines, like Xbox One players for Xbox One X, etc.), but it’d be nice to see this go cross-network, if possible.

We didn’t get too much of a chance to test out multiplayer, but the connected races we did take part in were smooth, and getting a race started didn’t take too long at all.

Now, for those of you that prefer more of a local challenge, you’re going to get it. Crash Team Racing does support up to four players in split-screen, just as the original games did, so you can hop in and toss around power-ups at your buddies and scream in sweetness as you take that decisive first-place victory. It’s a fun feature that’s a staple for a game like this, so, as the Beenox rep told us, of course it’s included. And that includes the Switch as well, meaning that Mariohas some competition from Crash once again. (We won’t forget Sonic either. The next couple of months should be fun for cart racing fans.)

So whether you prefer online competition or going at it locally, Nitro-Fueled has your multiplayer fix covered. And that’s an important factor for those of you that like to connect during a race.

Get Revved Up

There are still questions to be answered when it comes to Nitro-Fueled, like how the Switch version will handle or how good the game really looks with advanced Xbox One and PlayStation 4 hardware. But we’ll get those answered, ahem, down the road?

For now, the point is that Crash is once again back behind the wheel, and Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled looks set to continue the ride that we began taking with N. Sane Trilogy nearly two years ago, celebrating a legacy that’s been long overdue for a comeback.

Crash Team Racing

Beenox has done its homework with the game’s visuals and feel, and though the boosting system could take some getting used to, it’s unique and intuitive once you do get the hang of it. The game is a lot of fun, especially once you take advantage of the shortcuts and really show your friends a thing or two when it comes to dominating a race.

Whether Crash can knock off the mighty Mario has yet to be seen, but regardless of end result, Nitro-Fueled might just be the fun ride that a lot of folks are looking for when it rolls up on June 21 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. I will certainly be waiting in the garage to roll out once the dog days of summer kick in, and it’ll make for a nice treat once we’re through whatever E3 has to offer.

UPDATE: So we talked a little further with the team and it appears there was some miscommunication at the event. The game will run at 30 frames per second across the board on all platforms, including Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. That said, though, it does look quite good in this state, so it shouldn’t affect the game’s performance in the least.

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MMO Money: A Week of Lawsuits and Nintendo Being Awesome

Lawsuits abound this week in the online gaming world with both Activision Blizzard and Epic Games the focus of new lawsuits. Meanwhile, Nintendo gives us a much-needed breath of fresh air with how they treat gamers and their employees. Bidding for Nexon is set to begin in April with the list of bidders reduced to just 5. Find all of this and more in this week’s MMO Money.

 

Nexon Shortlists Five Bidders for the Company

There has been quite a lot of interest in Nexon recently from major companies around the world including Disney, EA, Comcast, Tencent, and many others. But, Nexon has now lowered that list to just 5 bidders. Those five include Tencent and Kakao Corp. along with three private equity firms, Bain Capital, MBK Partners, and an unidentified firm. Quite significantly Netmarble isn’t included in this list. Netmarble had been putting together a consortium of Korean firms to bid together, believing that selling to an overseas company will damage the local games industry. In fact, this may be why we don’t see any Western-based interests in the shortlist. Bidding for the 98.64% share of Nexon that is expected to be worth as much as $13.3 billion is expected to begin in early April.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

Nintendo Asks Mobile Partners to Stop Players From Spending So Much

In a time when it seems like all game companies are after is your money Nintendo comes out and gives you a little bit of faith in the industry once more. The company is concerned with its self-image and has asked some of its mobile game development partners to adjust the microtransactions in their games so players are less likely to overspend. A source at CyberAgent, who owns the developers of Dragalia Lost told the Wall Street Journal, “Nintendo is not interested in making a large amount of revenue from a single smartphone game. If we managed the game alone, we would have made a lot more.”

This also comes less than a week after a recruitment page for Nintendo shed some light on what it’s like working for the company. The average salary is ¥9.03 million, that’s $80,000, employees can potentially get bonuses in June and December plus a pay increase every April. The average workday at Nintendo is seven hours and forty-five minutes long. As if all of that doesn’t already sound amazing full-time employees stay at the company for an average of 13.5 years. Anyone familiar with the games industry in the West will know that developers tend not to stay in one company for very long. If you’re interested in knowing more about that check out this article from Polygon.

From a personal point of view both of these pieces of news make me more likely to look at Nintendo games and support what they’re doing. Their views and the way they treat their employees is a breath of fresh air in the games industry today.

 

Source: Wall Street Journal, Games Industry

 

 

Vivendi Sells Remaining Ubisoft Shares

Ubisoft Joins Forces With Horror Movie Studio

Its been almost a year since Vivendi announced it was going to stop trying to acquire Ubisoft and finally the remaining shares it had in the company have been sold. The remaining shares it had was about 5% of the company, €429 million.

At one point in time, Vivendi owned a 27.3% stake in the company and though its attempts to own the company completely failed they did bring in about €2 billion, a capital gain of €1.2 billion. Though they failed to achieve their original goal you can hardly call the entire thing a failure. I’d love to fail my way to €2 billion, that’s about $2.2 billion USD. Vivendi has stated that they will honor their agreement and not buy shares in Ubisoft for at least 5 years.

Vivendi had previously owned Activision Blizzard but it sold the company to an investment group led by Bobby Kotick and Brian Kelly for $8.2 billion. That deal pushed Vivendi out of the games industry for 3 years until it bought its way back in with a hostile takeover of Gameloft.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

A New Law firm is Encouraging Shareholders to Sue Activision Blizzard Over Bungie Split

Another law firm is inviting shareholders to join in a class action lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, accusing the company of misleading shareholders over the end of its partnership with Bungie. The firm’s loss submission form makes the following claims:

Activision failed to disclose that “the termination of Activision Blizzard and Bungie’s partnership… was imminent”

That this termination “would foreseeably have a significant negative impact on Activision Blizzard’s revenues.”

And as a result “Activision Blizzard’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all times.”

Activision Blizzard previously said that the split from Bungie was because Destiny 2 failed to meet financial expectations. But in a recent SEC filing, the company recognized $164 million in revenue from Destiny for 2018 as a result of the split.

This comes at a time when shareholders for Activision Blizzard aren’t too happy with the company. They’ve had to warn investors that cutting hundreds of jobs (800 in total) may damage the company. They even went so far as to say there can be “no assurance that our business will be more efficient or effective” than it was before this new strategy.

Why can’t you be more like Nintendo?

 

Source: Games Industry

 

Man Sues Epic Games Over Predatory Loot Boxes

While we’re on the topic of lawsuits we should mention that Epic Games is being sued, yet again. This time though it isn’t because they used a dance in their game, instead it’s over allegations that Epic Games has engaged in predatory schemes with loot boxes in Fortnite. They allege that Epic intentionally designed Save the World to hinder player’s progress if they didn’t spend real money. They also say that Epic has “made a fortune on in-game purchases, preying in large part on minors who are especially susceptible to such predatory tactics.” The lawsuit accuses Epic of violating California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, and Unfair Competition Law.

What the lawsuit doesn’t mention though is that since January Epic Games now shows the contents of loot llamas in Save the World before they’re purchased with V-Bucks. So it is possible that the lawsuit won’t go anywhere since they’ve already made changes to the areas that the lawsuit covers.

 

Source: Games Industry

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Bungie and Activision Part Ways

If there is one headline you’re going to see quite a lot of today it is that Bungie and Activision part ways seemingly amicably. The two started working together in 2010 and have since created Destiny and Destiny 2, games that have together delivered more than 50 million games and expansions to players around the world.

The announcement of the separation came via the Bungie website which stated “We have enjoyed a successful eight-year run and would like to thank Activision for their partnership on Destiny. Looking ahead, we’re excited to announce plans for Activision to transfer publishing rights for Destiny to Bungie. With our remarkable Destiny community, we are ready to publish on our own, while Activision will increase their focus on owned IP projects.”

There is no date for when Bungie will be fully independent again, thought the announcement does state that they’re already in the early phases of the separation. They also stress that they will be making the transition as seamless as possible for players. This includes service for Destiny 2 on BattleNet where the game will continue to get full support on the client side.

This also comes at a bit of a bad time for Activision. Just yesterday new divisional presidents within Activision were announced. Meanwhile on the Blizzard side of Activision-Blizzard things are looking rather grim. Mike Morhaime, the former President and co-founder of Blizzard is stepping down from his advisory position with the company after having left his position in October. Over the last few months, there have been a number of notable departures from the company along with reports of a massive shift in the culture at Blizzard. All of this leaving fans wondering what is going on at Activision-Blizzard.

As for Bungie, this is seen by many as a good move for them. Back in June, they received a more than $100 million investment from Netease that will allow the company to create new worlds, moving away from Destiny. Bungie has filed a trademark for something called Matter, but so far, whatever that is hasn’t been announced.

What do you think about this move? Does it spell doom for Bungie or is this exactly what the company needed? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Source: Bungie Official Site

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MMO Money: Tencent Gets Budget Cuts and More Quarterly Reports

More quarterly reports have been released in the last few days and it isn’t really very good news. Activision-Blizzard saw a drop in stock price after the release of their quarterly report. While NCSoft is more of a mixed bag. Perhaps one of the biggest stories, however, is that Tencent gets budget cuts to try to reduce the amount they’re losing as the saga with the Chinese government continues.

 

Tencent Gets Budget Cuts

Tencent mobile financials - MMOGames.com - Your source for MMOs & MMORPGs

We’ve been following the Tencent story for a few months now as the company hemorrhages money in the face of China’s ever-increasing crackdown on the gaming industry. The company has spent much of 2018 losing billions of dollars, $190 billion in value as China has continued to step up their efforts to get kids gaming less. Tencent has started to respond to this after months of waiting it out did more harm than good. All games that haven’t made it through China’s licensing process are now being hit with budget cuts.

It is the unlicensed games that are the biggest concern for Tencent. They’ve pours millions into these games that have just been sitting there since this all started in April when the freeze on new licenses was introduced. It was hoped that Tencent would be allowed to continue getting approvals through a special “green channel” but, after months of waiting for that to come to pass China has killed that possibility.

This is, of course, starting to have a knock-on effect on the international games industry. Newzoo actually lowered their global games forecast for the year. It isn’t clear how long this will continue but, some analysts believe it could be March 2019 before the whole Chinese audience problem is worked out.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

NCSoft Quarterly Report Has Ups and Downs

Total sales are down in the third quarter for NCSoft according to their most recent quarterly report. Sales are down 7% quarter on quarter and 44% year on year to KRW 403.8 billion. This meant that the operating profit for the company is also down, 13% quarter on quarter and 58% year on year.

For the five PC games that NCSoft reports on there was a 1.5% growth quarter on quarter. Lineage II, Aion, and Guild Wars 2 all had revenue higher than the second quarter. Lineage and Blade & Soul were both down, though only very slightly.

Mobile gaming, which was so massive for them in Q3 2017 with 551,032 million KRW is down to 216,490 million KRW this quarter. That is up from last quarter, however. That is in part thanks to the resilience of the Lineage M update effect. NCSoft does have a number of mobile games in the works, so once these start releasing we’ll see the sales numbers go up again.

In Taiwan, sales went up 68% quarter on quarter thanks to Aion’s F2P conversion. However, royalty revenue went down 44% quarter on quarter because of the elimination of one-off Lineage M Taiwan revenue. Korea continues to be their biggest market which has always been the case for NCSoft.

In NCSoft’s future, we have several mobile games to look forward to, though none of them have release dates yet. We also know that Wildstar will be shutting down on November 28th.

 

Source: NCSoft Quarterly Report

 

Activision-Blizzard Quarterly Report Causes Stock to Drop

Weaker than expected results in the Activision-Blizzard have caused an 11% drop in share price for the company. This is the second time in a week that this has happened. The first came with the disastrous reveal of Diablo Immortal at Blizzcon.

Analysts suggest that there is pressure for current titles to perform better than they are. This makes sense because Activision-Blizzard doesn’t have a whole lot scheduled for 2019 yet. Another Call of Duty game is expected in Q4 2019. There’s only one other Activision game expected next year at the moment. Blizzard, on the other hand, has both Diablo Immortal which may release in 2019 and WoW Classic which will certainly bring many players back.

What was so bad about the quarterly report? Total revenue was down nearly 7%, Destiny 2 is underperforming, and monthly active users is down. However, PC revenue is up, in part thanks to the launch of Battle for Azeroth, World of Warcraft’s recent expansion.

Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said, “Activision Blizzard’s results for Q3 exceeded our prior outlook as we continue to entertain large audiences, drive deep engagement, and attract significant audience investment across our franchises. Our unique advantage continues to be our ability to create the most compelling interactive and spectator entertainment based on our own franchises, combined with our direct digital connection to hundreds of millions of customers, in over 190 countries. With these competitive advantages we continue to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment.”

But, it would seem that investors aren’t all that convinced. It looks like the rest of 2018 and 2019 might be a difficult time for Activision-Blizzard. But, we’ll just have to wait and see.

 

Source: Games Industry, Quarterly Report

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Activision Blizzard’s Record High In Q1 2018 Financials

‘Tis financial season and Activision Blizzard had a big one, widely driven by World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Candy Crush. Reporting $2 billion in Q1 revenue and 374 million active users across all games, this is a record high for Activision Blizzard in the first quarter of the financial year.

Activision Blizzard's Record High In Q1 2018 Financials

More specifically, Activision made up $92 million of the company’s operating income, mainly on the strength of Call of Duty. Blizzard made up $122 million of the operating income driven by “in-game content” through all of their games, strong Battle for Azeroth pre-sales which are ahead of plans and likely driven by unlockable Allied Races in World of Warcraft, as well as the Overwatch League which has seen huge success this year with “strong and consistent” viewership every week. King then made up $191 million of the operating income, with Candy Crush particularly “reaching its highest net booking since Q4 2013.”

Battle Royale Likely Coming to Activision Blizzard Titles

During the earnings call, Activision Blizzard were asked about what they had learned from Fortnite and PUBG‘s success, to which Activision COO Coddy Johnson commended the battle royale genre’s “compelling survivor mechanics and large, in-game player pools” and how they have “brought tens of millions of completely new players into gaming both on traditional platforms like console and PC, but also on newer platforms for the genre like mobile.” CFO Spencer Neumann commented that the battle royale genre is “contributing to the innovation and expansion we’re seeing in the industry”, while CEO Bobby Kotick added, “When we see people innovate in an interesting and impactful way, we are very quick to figure out how to capture inspiration from innovation. When we see things that appeal to our audiences, we are very good at being inspired by those.”

We already know that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will come with a battle royale mode, but could there be more inspiration taken from this area within Activision’s vast library?

Destiny 2 Looking Glum But New Content Talked About

There was no denying from Activision Blizzard’s Q1 report or the earnings call that Destiny 2 has not reached the level of success expected of it. Johnson offered a view of where they plan to take the game in the future; “The three things we know we’re going to do and that the community is looking for is: make the player more powerful, provide rewards, and make the endgame more meaningful.”

Activision Blizzard's Record High

Overall, Activision wouldn’t reveal any definitive details on the current status of Destiny 2’s player numbers or profit margins, which doesn’t sound all too promising. However, that may be due to change with Warmind’s release next week, also Johnson did make sure to tease a fall expansion bringing many gameplay innovations including one game mode that “introduces a whole new style of play for first-person shooter gaming generally and certainly for the shooter space that Destiny created.” While we don’t have any concrete details on this game mode or the fall expansion for Destiny 2 itself just yet, we get expect to hear more on this during next month’s E3.

 

Our Thoughts

There’s always a lot to take in following this quarterly financial reports, but it seems fairly clear what Activision Blizzard’s record high in this first quarter means for their games. World of Warcraft is recovering nicely with promising sales for Battle for Azeroth, the Overwatch League has been a resounding success, people still spend too much on mobile games, battle royale continues to soar whether we like it or not, and Destiny 2 has some serious work to do if it wants to pull itself back to where it should have been from the beginning. Here’s hoping.

Source: Activision Blizzard Q1 2018 Presentation, GamesIndustry, VG247

 

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