Layoffs and weird PR emails

Let’s all take a breath. Layoffs are still churning in the video game industry, even as the frigid winter air is beginning to thaw. Amid the turmoil of these past few months, there are still things to be excited about: new games and hardware, the evolution of established franchises, and plenty of small teams building surprises to shake up the status quo. Look at all of the rad things happening over at Playdate for just one example of positive momentum in video games (we’ll talk more about this next week).

Breathe in, breathe out.

Now, let’s dive back into the news cycle:

This week’s stories

PlayStation layoffs

The layoffs crisis in video games isn’t slowing down, and the latest company to announce drastic staffing cuts is PlayStation. Sony on Tuesday fired roughly 900 people from its PlayStation division and fully shut down its London Studio, which had been building a co-op multiplayer game for PS5. Insomniac, Naughty Dog and Guerrilla all lost employees, despite being behind some of the platform’s most successful games in recent memory. First-party studio Firesprite was also hit by the layoffs, and it reportedly had to cancel a live-service Twisted Metal project. It’s barely March, but already more than 7,000 video game workers have been laid off in 2024; last year, more than 9,000 people in the industry lost their jobs to layoffs.

Happy Pokémon Day!

February 27 was Pokémon Day, and in celebration, Nintendo revealed two new games: Pokémon Legends Z-A and Pokémon Trading Card Game Pocket. Pokémon Legends Z-A is set in Lumiose City, which you might remember from Pokémon X and Y on the 3DS, and it looks like it features Mega Evolutions. Pokémon Legends Z-A is due to hit Switch in 2025. The other title, Pokémon Trading Card Game Pocket, is a mobile game that should land on Android and iOS devices by the end of the year. It’s exactly what it sounds like — Nintendo is putting the physical card-opening mechanic inside your phone, complete with flashy animations and addictive sound effects when you rip off the digital packaging. You’ll also be able to engage in quick battles. Nintendo has clarified that Pocket will not have NFTs, but it is described as “free to start,” so expect microtransactions.

Random PR roundup

It’s been a strange and slow week here in Engadget video game land, so I thought we’d have some fun this episode. As tech reporters, we receive ridiculous emails from startups and PR agencies literally every day, and even though we don’t end up covering many of the proposed products, some of the messages themselves deserve a moment in the spotlight. Many of the pitches we get are just silly or tone deaf, but some of them are outright dystopian. And honestly, I thought you all might enjoy seeing some of the weirdness that hits our inboxes.

This is all meant in good fun — I appreciate the communications teams who are just trying to sell their stuff in creative ways. The real enemy here, as always, is capitalism.

So, here are some emails that recently found their way into my inbox and made me go wut:

GameScent – New Groundbreaking Device Enhances Player Immersion by Releasing Gameplay Corresponding Scents

“As players dive into a game, GameScent’s patent-pending adaptor captures audio in real-time. These real-time audio cues are processed by GameScent’s innovative AI to release scents that correspond with the on-screen action. Inhale the smoky aroma of battle, the exhilarating scent of speeding race cars, the calming fragrance of a forest, or the fresh smell of rain after a storm.”

Unsurprisingly, this little doodad comes with replaceable scent cartridges, though it’s unclear how to actually buy those at the moment. Scents include gunfire, explosion, racing cars, blood, sports arena and other brotastic flavors.

Is this… cool? There’s definitely a fun idea here about the future of immersion, right? Or I’ve completely lost the plot. Either could be true.

Seeking Products for Pickleball Stories? (Samples Available)

Ma’am, this is Engadget.

Deconstructeam Delivers a Valentine’s Day Surprise of Cosmic Proportions

This was for the game The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood, and the surprise was a huge dildo. I thought the whole email was cute, actually — it was tasteful and coyly advertised a giveaway in partnership with a well-known adult toy company. The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is a sexy game and it stars a muscular behemoth the size of a planet, so it all made sense. It just didn’t fit in our general news feed, ya know?

(Story Idea:) Here’s Doom Running On A Robotic Lawn Mower: Yes, A Robotic Lawn Mower! (You Have To See It To Believe It!) (Video Included)

“I am reaching out with a great story that is sure to go viral… This spring, Husqvarna will make the iconic 1993 video game DOOM, available to play on the company’s robotic lawn mowers.”

I find this email charming because it’s just a traditional, infomercial-style email with lots of unnecessary exclamation points and parenthesis. I respect it. But seriously, are we still doing this Doom thing? Next you’ll be asking me if this lawn mower can run Crysis and making jokes about Leeroy Jenkins, and I’m just here in 2024, begging for some new references.

The best part of this one is the fact that, after I added it to my list of silly emails, we actually hit this as news on Engadget dot com. Who’s the joke now? (It’s me).

Meet My Regina | PC Preview – Dickhead-Destroying Extravaganza Cookie Cutter

“I’ve got something to show you, Jessica.

She’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever held between my legs.

She’s small but tough and can take a beating.

And everyone knows she’s smart because she has a British accent.

She’ll giggle if you tickle her just right.

And she even glows in the dark!

Are you ready to meet her?

Good. Well, here she is!”

I asked to be removed from this list.

Bonus Content

  • In more layoffs news, Until Dawn studio Supermassive Games fired about a third of its workforce, or roughly 90 employees, and the team is reorganizing. Also, indie studio Die Gut Fabrik, which created Sportsfriends, Johann Sebastian Joust and Saltsea Chronicles, has halted production amid funding issues and developers there are looking for other jobs.

  • Nintendo is suing Yuzu, a popular and long-running emulator that allows players to put their Switch games on other platforms. Nintendo argues that the app is “facilitating piracy at a colossal scale,” and says it illegally circumvents DMCA protections. Nintendo wants Yuzu shut down and the company is seeking damages.

  • Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth finally comes out on February 29 and our review from Mat Smith is live now. He’s a really big Final Fantasy nerd, and he really liked Rebirth.

Now Playing

Home Safety Hotline is the perfect game to play at your desk, on the PC, so you can let the mid-90s computer interface fully engulf your senses. In this game, you take calls from people complaining about pests and paranormal creatures invading their homes, and using a detailed reference guide, you identify what’s going on and help them sort it out. Or, you get it wrong and get fired while a family of three screams for their lives on the other end of the line. There’s also a broader meta-horror unfurling in the background, and I’m having a lovely, spooky time sorting through all of it. Home Safety Hotline is out now on Steam.

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