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Cities: Skylines II toxicity and more layoffs | This week's gaming news

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It's an awkward time to be a PC player. The platform has more games covering more genres than ever, and even standard PC hardware can deliver pristine, photorealistic graphics. At the same time, some of the biggest titles in recent memory have been absolute messes on PC at launch, like Cyberpunk 2077, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Redfall, the Dead Space and Resident Evil 4 remakes, and The Last of Us Part I. Unfortunately, it looks like we can add Cities: Skylines II to this list — which means I'm eagerly looking forward to the day when we can look back and say, "Man, remember when this game was broken? I'm glad Colossal Order fixed everything and appropriately apologized to its community." At least, I hope that's what we'll say.

This week's stories

Microsoft, macro layoffs

Three months after closing its purchase of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft fired 1,900 people in its Xbox, ZeniMax and Activision Blizzard divisions. This follows a rash of layoffs in video games in recent months — last year, around 9,000 people in the industry were fired, and already in January nearly 6,000 jobs have been lost. It’s a legitimate crisis. Alongside the layoffs, Microsoft officially canceled Odyssey, the survival game that Blizzard had been working on for six years.

Palworld is the zeitgeist

So far, 2024 is the year of Palworld. The game comes from a small, rookie team and it’s been billed as “Pokémon with guns,” though it’s really more like Ark in terms of gameplay. Whatever reference you pick, Palworld is so popular that it’s No. 2 on the Steam charts for all-time concurrent players, right behind PUBG. With all of this attention, it was only a matter of time before Nintendo stepped in — the Pokemon publisher is investigating Palworld for potential copyright infringement, and we’ll see how that plays out in the coming weeks.

Cities: Skylines II and toxicity

The original Cities: Skylines came out in 2015 and ate up the audience that was left behind by EA’s SimCity, which landed in 2013 and was a busted mess. Cities: Skylines scratched that urban-planning itch, and over the years, developers at Colossal Order worked closely with players to foster a thriving mod community on Steam Workshop. Mods, custom assets and let’s play videos have been a critical aspect of Cities: Skylines’ long-term success.

Last October, after months of marketing collaborations with content creators like Biffa and City Planner Plays, Cities: Skylines II came out — and it was a disappointment to many players. The game was originally pitched as a simultaneous PC and console release, but it’s only available on PC and there’s no concrete timeline for when the other versions will come out. There’s been no word on a Mac or Linux launch. There’s also no official mod support for Cities: Skylines II, and when this feature does land, it will be through the game’s publisher, Paradox, rather than Steam Workshop. On top of all this, Colossal Order raised the game’s minimum and recommended PC specs just a month before release, and the new requirements made it unplayable for a large chunk of players. Even with a capable rig, Cities: Skylines II is riddled with visual and mechanical bugs. Simply put, it feels like Colossal Order pulled a SimCity.

The studio has been steadily rolling out updates, and CEO Mariina Hallikainen acknowledged that the game is missing some promised and highly publicized features, like mod support. But in a recent note to the community, she said the conversation with players was becoming toxic and she called for civility. Hallikainen told Engadget she'd witnessed a surge in personal attacks on developers and other players in forums and on social media.

Community members like Philip, the man behind the YouTube channel City Planner Plays, were surprised to hear the word “toxicity.” He told Engadget he's witnessed an increase in negativity and frustration from players, but not toxicity. For Philip and many other dedicated Cities: Skylines players, the feedback has been justified. They want Colossal Order to take accountability for the state of the release, say they’re sorry, and provide a plan to fix things going forward. Maybe throw in some free in-game perks, too.

Collaboration with the community is what made the original game so successful, and the sequel could certainly benefit from crowdsourced improvements. Hallikainen told Engadget that working with content creators and modders has helped direct the updates to Cities: Skylines II post-launch, and the studio still loves working with these players.

This is only the beginning for Cities: Skylines II. Colossal Order intends to support and expand the game over the next 10 years. The original Cities: Skylines didn’t have all of the bells, whistles and mods when it first came out in 2015, and the sequel is starting in a similar position. Colossal Order sees Cities: Skylines II as a fresh foundation, but its core community expected a more complete experience from the jump — especially people who paid $90 for the Ultimate Edition.

We’ve seen titles like No Man’s Sky and Cyberpunk 2077 overcome rough launches to become beloved games down the line, and Colossal Order has a solid track record when it comes to long-term support. However, options like early access and paid betas exist for a reason. At the very least, players should know whether they’re spending money to play a new game, or to help finish it.

Now playing

I’ve been playing Persona 3 Reload, and now that embargo has lifted, I can say it's great. Otherwise, my quest to hit Grandmaster in Overwatch 2 continues unabated.