Xbox Game Pass Core Reveals All 36 Games Ahead Of Launch

The full list of 36 games for Xbox Live Gold’s replacement, Game Pass Core, has been revealed a day ahead of its launch. And they’re…they’re really good.

18 years of Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold comes to an end tomorrow, September 14, when it will be taken out behind the company’s Redmond, Washington headquarters and shot dead. An anachronistic hangover of the pre-Game Pass era, Gold and its Games with Gold monthly downloads have recently been limping into obscurity, and at this point it’s a kindness to let it go. In its place will arrive the bouncing new-born puppy, Game Pass Core.

Core, essentially an equivalent to Sony’s PlayStation Plus Essential service, is to be the budget incarnation of Game Pass, lacking access to the service’s full library of hundreds of games, but instead offering a curated selection of 36 titles, along with the somehow still toll-gated access to online gaming. But here’s the thing: they’re 36 really decent games.

We previously learned what 25 of the games would be, but Microsoft kept Goldmembers waiting until the last second to learn the full details of what their accounts would be converting to. Stand-out new titles include Stardew Valley, Vampire Survivors, Among Us, Firewatch, and Dead Cells. Joining the likes of AAA titles such as Dishonored 2, Doom Eternal, and Forza Horizon 4, it’s an eclectic collection that really doesn’t feel like the pile of leftovers a cynical person might have expected. (Hello.)

Core will be priced the same as Gold, at $10 a month, and current customers will be automagically converted over. It’s a confusing price-point, given the fuller version of Game Pass is just a dollar more, and includes all the same games plus literally hundreds more. However, you can also pick up a full year’s worth of Core for $60, which would halve the price, while no such discounts appear to exist for the higher tiers. And honestly, as much as I’d love to gripe, $60 for 36 properly good games is rather good. Meanwhile, Game Pass Ultimate recently upped its price a couple of bucks a month to $16.99.

The catch is, games will only be added to Core two or three times a year, rather than Gold’s system of offering two different games each month. However, as we mentioned, it’s a fine list of games. Here’s the lot:

  • Among Us
  • Astroneer
  • Celeste
  • Dead Cells
  • Descenders
  • Dishonored 2
  • Doom Eternal Standard Edition
  • Fable Anniversary
  • Fallout 4
  • Fallout 76
  • Firewatch
  • Forza Horizon 4 Standard Edition
  • Gang Beasts
  • Gears 5 Game of the Year Edition
  • Golf with your Friends
  • Grounded
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Halo Wars 2
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Human Fall Flat
  • Inside
  • Limbo
  • Ori & the Will of the Wisps
  • Overcooked! 2
  • Payday 2: Crimewave Edition
  • Powerwash Simulator
  • Psychonauts 2
  • Slay the Spire
  • Spiritfarer: Farewell Edition
  • Stardew Valley
  • State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition
  • Superliminal
  • The Elder Scrolls Online
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
  • Unpacking
  • Vampire Survivors

Keen games players will likely have already picked up most of these that interest them in the last couple of years, but then this service really isn’t aimed at you. Think of Core as the version of Game Pass you get your aunt when you buy her her first console, a taster menu of the possibilities of gaming. Heck, just Powerwash Simulator and Fallout 4 would keep most people’s evenings busy for the first year.

Meanwhile, it still sucks beyond comprehension that consoles are still somehow charging monthly tithes for online access. Over at PC Land, it’s all free!

PS Plus September Games Are A Rad Grab Bag Of RPGs, Shooters

A Nier: Replicant image shows artwork of its main characters sitting on a hill.

Image: Square Enix / Kotaku

The fall season is fast approaching and with it comes a new lineup of games for PlayStation Plus subscribers. Keeping in line with last month’s diverse catalog of PS Plus offerings, September’s list features role-playing games, first-person shooters, and gorgeous story-driven games coming to the service on September 19.

First up is Nier: Replicant ver.1.22474487139, the 2021 remaster of Square Enix’s cult-classic 2010 action-RPG, Nier: Gestalt. Summarizing this predecessor to creator Yoko Taro’s later mega-hit Nier: Automata is a bit of a tall task considering its many twists, turns, and multiple endings. All you need to know is you play as a nameless protagonist as he and his party of outcasts battle against hordes of otherworldly monsters to save his kidnapped sister. The game is chock full of anime-esque weapons and even more (slightly clunky) anime-inspired combat and its soundtrack unequivocally fucks.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim – 13 Stories Trailer | PS4

Another big get in September will be the sci-fi time-traveling with mechs (!) saga 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. Developed by Vanillaware, 13 Sentinels follows a group of high school students who summon giant mechs to defend their city from invading kaiju. 13 Sentinels plays like a mix between a tactical tower defense game and a 2D side-scrolling adventure game with lovely background art. If that’s a sufficient elevator pitch for you, I would advise keeping a notepad on hand because the game has a bunch of mind-blowing twists that’ll make your brain whirl.

PS Plus Line-Up For September 2023

Here’s everything else coming to PS Plus in September:

  • Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
  • Star Ocean The Divine Force
  • Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2
  • Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
  • Unpacking
  • Planet Coaster: Console Edition
  • This War of Mine: Final Cut
  • Cloudpunk
  • Contra: Rogue Corps
  • Tails Noir
  • Call of the Sea
  • West of Dead
  • Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness
  • PAW Patrol The Movie: Adventure City Calls

And here are the additional games coming for PlayStation Premium members (it’s mostly more Star Ocean):

  • Star Ocean First Departure R
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
  • Star Ocean: The Last Hope – 4K & FHD Remaster
  • Dragon’s Crown Pro

Looks like a pretty strong month, all told.


The First Three Tomb Raider Games Are Getting Modern Remasters

Revealed during a Nintendo Direct, but in fact happening across all of gaming, the world has learned that the first three Tomb Raider games are returning with shiny new graphics, designed to work on modern consoles. Let me—an old person—gift you—presumably a young person—a piece of insight: You will want to play these games.

Tomb Raider has a bonkers history. It goes all the way back to 1996, almost 30 years ago, when Lara Croft first appeared on the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. And, yes, the cardboard cutouts of Lara and her generous bosom and concerningly narrow waist appeared in every gaming store worldwide. Tomb Raider was an instant phenomenon, and not just because of her tits: This was a genuinely brilliant game accompanying a groundbreaking use of 3D graphics.

Tomb Raider was a key reason a generation of PC owners upgraded to their first 3dfx card. It was a game that everyone heard of, and perhaps is more responsible than anything else for seeing our hobby break out from its specialist niche and find a mainstream audience. And it’s statistically probable that this all happened before you were born.

Like Grand Theft Auto and the itch-inducing belief that that franchise for some reason started with GTA III, there’s now some sense that Tomb Raider began in either 2006 with the excellent Legend, or even 2013 with the franchise’s total reset. Sure, everyone vaguely knows there were some earlier games, but they weren’t on SNES, there isn’t a theme park dedicated to the franchise, they were apparently some weird, archaic anomaly enjoyed by an ancient race lost to time.

Let me tell you something, young lady: The original three Tomb Raider games were absolutely bloody fantastic.

Tomb Raider

And no, not in a rose-tinted, “Ah I remember when…” way, but in the proper, “woah, this level design is absolutely spectacular,” sort of way. In fact, the main flaw you’ll find in these originals is still a problem in all three generations of the games released over the last three decades: the god-awful combat. At this point, tiresomely waiting for the section in which Lara incongruously slaughters crowds of humans to be over is frankly nostalgic.

Talking of nostalgia, all three games are being released with an option to switch between the original blocky polygon graphics, and lovely patched-over modern designs. If it’s anything like the Monkey Island remakes, this means I will spend the entire time obsessively switching back and forth, unable to cope without knowing how every scene looks in each incarnation. Please, I need help.

Lara Croft stares at a distant bee, while stood on some remastered ruins.

Screenshot: Aspyr / Kotaku

We old folk at Kotaku absolutely cannot wait to experience these games again, and even more, to see how all the young-uns on staff react to playing them for the first time. Not having the right cables to attach my PSX to anything with a screen, and the PC versions being such a pain to get working, it’s been so long since I returned to these three games. But every time I previously have, it’s been such a pleasure. Like going home. Literally, when you play Tomb Raider II’s training level in Croft Manor, which is an absolute treasure trove of detail and clattering crockery.

All three games will feature their expansions and secret levels, with the restoration being done by Aspyr alongside Crystal Dynamics (the series’ original developer, Core Design, has long since gone to live on the lovely farm where games developers get to run around with all the space they need). They’ll be out February 14, 2024, on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC, which means you have no excuse.


Xbox Leak Hints At Cost Of Bringing Huge Games To Game Pass

Starfield was supposed to be Microsoft’s biggest release of 2022. When it ended up getting delayed, the company looked into striking deals with third-party publishers like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft for major blockbusters it could bring to Game Pass day-and-date to fill the gap. A new internal email exchange leaked from the Federal Trade Commission trial earlier this year shows exactly how much Microsoft thought those deals might be worth, giving us our best sense yet of what it costs to secure blockbusters like Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Grand Theft Auto V on the Netflix-like subscription service.

“This is really a disaster sistuation for us given all we’ve invested in content across studios at our GP content fund,” Phil Spencer wrote to fellow Xbox exectuives in a May 7 email. He was referring to Bethesda’s open world sci-fi RPG Starfield, whose delay at the time threatened to leave a 16-month hole in the Xbox first-party exclusive release calendar just two years into the Xbox Series X/S’s life-cycles.

Sarah Bond, Microsoft’s VP of gaming business development, responded to the discussion later in the month with a breakdown of major third-party games expected to arrive throughout 2022 and early 2023 that could make a big splash on Game Pass. Those included everything from Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga to Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, including an analysis of how many hours each game was likely to be played on Game Pass, how much it would cost to get the game on the service, and whether the publisher who owned it would be likely to make a deal.

Here’s the full list of estimates:

  • Lego Star Wars: $35 million
  • Dying Light 2: $50 million
  • Cities: Skylines 2: unknown
  • Red Dead Redemption 2: $5 million per month
  • Dragon Ball: The Breakers: $20 million
  • Just Dance: $5 million
  • Return to Monkey Island: $5 million
  • Wreckfest 2: $10-$14 million
  • Baldur’s Gate 3: $5 million
  • Gotham Knights: $50 million
  • Assassin’s Creed Mirage: $100 million
  • Suicide Squad: $250 million
  • Star Wars Jedi: Survivor: $300 million
  • Mortal Kombat 1: $250 million
  • Grand Theft Auto V: $12-$15 million per month
  • Blood Runner: $5 million
  • Net Crisis Glitch Busters: $5 million

The estimates vary wildly depending on the size of the release as well as whether it would be day-and-date on the service. Notably, some games like Assassin’s Creed Mirage and Suicide Squad ended up getting delayed (the latter still doesn’t have a new release date). It’s also funny to see Baldur’s Gate 3, one of the biggest games of 2023, low-balled at just $5 million (it’s out on PlayStation 5 now but delayed on Xbox due to issues with the Series S version).

Bond also notes that games like Suicide Squad and Mortal Kombat were unlikely to come to Game Pass due to corporate tumult at Warner Bros. following the merger with Discovery. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor also appeared to be off the table. Gotham Knights and Assassin’s Creed Mirage were considered much more viable and cost-effective deals. And indeed, while not day-and-date, Lego Star Wars did end up coming to Game Pass on December 1 of last year. Today, Microsoft officially announced Gotham Knights is arriving as well.

Companies like Activision (soon to be acquired by Microsoft) and Sony have been critical of day-and-date deals with subscription services, claiming it devalues games sold for $70. The PS5-maker has specificaly said it won’t bring blockbusters like Spider-Man 2 to its competitor, PS Plus, until years later to avoid cannibalizing sales, arguing that the economics aren’t sustainable for high-quality first-party exclusives. Microsoft has disagreed, promoting services like Game Pass as a way to introduce games to bigger audiences and claiming that it actually increases how much subscribers spend on the platform.

Spencer’s email exchange with Bond ends on a note about what ended up being the biggest game of 2022. “Another option with the hit factor around Elden Ring is to try to get all of the Dark Souls games and make a push with [FromSoftware] and an Elden Ring upsell,” Spencer wrote. “Like that one,” Bond wrote back. “Will do.” It’s not clear if Microsoft is still pursuing that deal.


Epic Games Cutting 900 Jobs, 16 Percent Of Its Workforce

Epic Games Inc., the company behind global megahit Fortnite, the Epic Games Store, and the wildly popular Unreal Engine, is laying off 16 percent of its current workforce. This report, first coming from Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, sees almost 900 employees losing their jobs.

A memo was shared this morning at the North Carolina company, seen by Kotaku, informing staff of the bad news. It explains that alongside 16 percent of staff being laid off, the company is also selling Bandcamp, and “spinning off” most of marketing company SuperAwesome. Earlier today on X, Schreier wrote, “rumors were flying as Epic disabled Slack for employees ahead of the news.”

“For a while now, we’ve been spending way more money than we earn,” says the memo, sent to staff by CEO Tim Sweeney. “I have long been optimistic we could power through this transition without layoffs, but in retrospect I see that this was unrealistic.”

It seems that Fortnite’s failure to continue growing was part of the problem. Sweeney reports that it’s “starting to grow again,” but this is driven by creator content “with significant revenue sharing.”

Despite efforts to reduce spending, Sweeney says “we still ended up far short of financial sustainability.” These layoffs, he hopes, will “stabilize our finances.”

“Laid-off Epic employees will receive six months severance and health benefits,” Schreier said on X, adding that an “all-hands meeting [is] happening shortly.”

This news would be shocking under any circumstances, but it’s especially surprising given Epic’s apparently incredibly solvent state. Fortnite alone has over 230 million players, with 2022 seeing daily user peaks of 34.3 million people. According to Epic accounts, Fortnite was bringing in around $5-6 billion a year.

Those are already massive figures, before you even consider Unreal Engine fees, and revenue from the Epic Games Store, which last year was $355 million. That much money coming in, to an outsider, makes the decision to lose so many staff seem hard to comprehend. However, according to Sweeney, they were still outspending even these amounts.

At the same time, Epic is divesting itself of Bandcamp, a deeply strange acquisition in the first place. It’s being sold to Songtradr. Also, SuperAwesome, Epic’s marketing arm, is being spun off into an independent company under the same branding.

Epic Games Inc. is privately owned, with the majority of the company’s shares belonging to CEO Tim Sweeney. However, the all-consuming Tencent Holdings Ltd. own a 40 percent stake.

We’ve reached out to Epic to ask for comment regarding the situation. In the meantime, Sweeney said to staff in a memo,

Saying goodbye to people who have helped build Epic is a terrible experience for all. The consolation is that we’re adequately funded to support laid off employees: we’re offering a severance package that includes six months base pay and in the US/Canada/Brazil six months of Epic-paid healthcare.

All the best to everyone affected in finding new work as soon as possible.

Popular Battle Royale Fall Guys Hit By Epic Games Layoffs

Epic Games acquired Mediatonic in 2021 after its colorful battle royale, Fall Guys, became a multiplayer sensation early in the covid-19 pandemic. Now, it’s laying off tons of developers at the UK-based studio as part massive cost cutting at the Fortnite maker.

In Epic CEO Tim Sweeney’s email to staff today about the more than 800 layoffs, which was subsquently shared on the company’s website, he said the company would continue to invest in its games. “We aren’t cutting any core businesses, and are continuing to invest in games with Fortnite first-party development, the Fortnite creator ecosystem and economy, Rocket League and Fall Guys,” he wrote.

But some developers impacted by the decision immediately started sharing the news they had been cut from the studio on social media. Staff in the office even apparently took the letters normally used to display the company’s name and rearranged them to spell “Decimation.” The image was tweeted out by Ed Fear, designer and writer on Mediatonic’s 2020 Ace Attorney-style visual novel, Murder By Numbers.

“Unfortunately, I am one of the people affected by the layoffs today at Epic,” he wrote. “I’m absolutely devastated to leave behind so many amazing Mediatonic colleagues who I loved.” Others impacted include game designers, level designers, and artists. It’s not clear how many people in total were laid off from Mediatonic, or how many developers are still working on Fall Guys. A spokesperson for Epic Games declined to share specifics, but called reports that the entire team had been let go “false.”

Mediatonic was cofounded in 2005 in Uxbridge, England by Dave Bailey and Paul Croft. The small indie startup was widely known for making flash games until it released the shooter Who’s That Flying?! for the PlayStation Portable in 2010. It then made a remake of the cult-hit Hatoful Boyfriend and worked on various mobile releases including Gear Pop! and Fable Fortunate. But it wasn’t until Fall Guys became a break-away hit in 2020 that Mediatonic’s profile blew up and it was subsequently bought by Epic.

The parent company transitioned the online multiplayer platformer where players maneuver clumsy beans through surreal obstacle courses from a paid model to a free-to-play one more in-line with Fortnite. This came with season passes and the expectations of constant updates and new costumes for fans to be able to purchase. Epic also pulled the game from Steam. Amid fears it’s been stagnating, some of the game’s hardcore fans routinely pine for a major overhaul and revival.

“Very hardworking, super-talented and genuinely nice colleagues got laid off at Epic/Mediatonic today,” tweeted Fall Guys game designer Beatriz Díaz Martín. “Many of them friends I have worked with for years.”

When big tech comapanies announced mass layoffs earlier this year, Sweeney responded with a meme about how Epic Games banded together when things got tough unlike Google, Meta, and other Sillicon Valley giants. It’s not clear yet whether Sweeney is taking any pay cuts as part of the latest cost-saving measures.


Hatoful Boyfriend Creator Says Epic Games Owes Her Royalties

Art shows a pigeon in front of a pink background alongside the title "Hatoful Boyfriend."

Image: Hato Moa / Mediatonic / Devolver Digital

Mediatonic is best known for the colorful battle royale Fall Guys. Long before it was purchased by Epic Games, however, the UK-based studio created the international HD remaster of the cult-hit dating sim about pigeons that go to high school, Hatoful Boyfriend. The game’s original creator, manga artist Hato Moa, now says she hasn’t received a paycheck for sales of the remaster in two years.

“I’ve got no royalty payment for Hatoful Boyfriend from Epic since they acquired Mediatonic back in spring 2021,” Moa tweeted last week after Epic Games announced over 800 layoffs, with Mediatonic particularly hard-hit. “I don’t think the sales have been zero for two years?” She also said she had previously reached out to Epic but it had never responded. The company did respond to her tweets, however, promising to look into the matter.

A spokesperson for the company directed Kotaku to that tweet when asked to elaborate on the situation.

Released in 2011 on PC, Hatoful Boyfriend sees players navigate romantic relationships as a human student at a school where all of their classmates are birds. Branching storylines reveal secrets about the characters, as well as a horror twist. It quickly became a cult sensation, getting translated into English by fans. When then-Mediatonic creative designer Ed Fear played it, he lobbied the studio to work with Moa on an international remake for a wider release. Fear was one of those laid off by Epic last week.

After Mediatonic was acquired by Epic, its remaster was removed from iOS, Android, and PlayStation stores, leaving Steam as the last place to buy the game. Moa speculated that ongoing sales for the game are probably not much, although recent user reviews which give the game a rating of 97 percent positive indicate that new players are still buying it there.

“Don’t worry, I’m totally fine,” Moa tweeted. “I just wish I had been strong and influential enough to support all of [the] nice people from Mediatonic. They’ve been always nice to me and Hatoful.”


Activision Blizzard Games Should Appear On Game Pass In 2024

When speculation rife that Microsoft expects to finalize its purchase of Activision Blizzard this week, and COD: Modern Warfare III out in a month, it seems people have been wondering when Activision’s games will start appearing on Microsoft’s Game Pass. According to a tweet from Activision Blizzard, it should be some time next year.

The entire debacle of Microsoft’s attempts to buy Activision Blizzard feels it has been clogging up gaming news for years. In fact, it all started only last January, but followed hot on the heels of months of grim and gruesome reporting on the heinous working conditions at the developer’s various studios. This week could see that enormous, shitty chapter come to a close. Presumably so another enormous, shitty chapter can start.

But still, more games on Game Pass!

“As we continue to work toward regulatory approval of the Microsoft deal,” said Activision Blizzard on X, “we’ve been getting some questions whether our upcoming and recently launched games will be available via Game Pass.”

The Verge reported on Friday that Microsoft is getting ready to close the $68.7 billion deal, with October 13 thought to be the Big Day. Of course, this is all being held back by the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is the one international regulator that managed to decisively block the deal. However, being the UK’s CMA, it did it in the most cack-handed way, blathering on about unfair market control of cloud gaming, or some-such abstract technicality.

This complete whiff, entirely ignoring the concerns of, you know, Microsoft forming an actual monopoly, ensured a pathway for the two corporations to renegotiate arrangements such that it would avert the CMA’s peculiar strategy, and a couple of weeks ago it was provisionally stated it had succeeded. We should be finding out this week if the CMA is entirely satisfied, and given that’s likely to be the case, signet-ring-bearing hands will shake and overpriced Champagne shall be popped, as a bunch of extraordinarily rich people stand to get even richer.

Read More: Hold Onto Your Butts, Microsoft’s Massive Activision Blizzard Deal Is Finally Happening

“While we do not have plans to put Modern Warfare III or Diablo IV into Game Pass this year,” continues that Activision tweet, “once the deal closes, we expect to start working with Xbox to bring our titles to more players around the world.” So when? “And we anticipate that we would begin adding games into Game Pass sometime in the course of next year.”

It’s oddly slow, if anything. They’ll be the same company, and they’ve known they would been the same company for the last 20 months, so it seems strange that it’ll take another few months before Microsoft will be hosting what will suddenly become first-party games on its own streaming service.

There’s one small cloud hanging over their grey-suited celebrations: the FTC still has an appear in with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and that decision won’t appear until December. Should it succeed, it would then become about trying to undo the already sealed deal, which would be a whole other level of difficult, and no one surely believes the FTC has the teeth or the fight in it to win.

So, the industry shrinks yet again, with less competition, fewer major publishers attempting to outsell each other, and so less choice and worse prices for the gaming public. It doesn’t seem like the games industry can be far away from the monstrous and idiotic situation of the music industry, in the control of the Big Four record labels. It certainly seems unlikely that any regulatory bodies will be able to stop it, either way.

But you know, you can get next year’s COD on your subscription, so shhhhh.

Epic Games Lays Off Half Of Bandcamp In Sale To Songtradr

“Music is healing,” the late musician Prince once said. Bandcamp co-founder Ethan Diamond told NPR in 2020 that the point of the independent digital music platform he was building was to bring that power of healing to everyone. Many current Bandcamp employees are going to need it. Epic Games, which acquired Bandcamp just a year ago, laid off roughly half its staff today after finalizing its sale to music licensing company Songtradr amid wide-scale cuts at the Fortnite maker. One former employee told Kotaku that nobody’s heard from Diamond since the sale was announced.

“Over the past few years the operating costs of Bandcamp have significantly increased,” Songtradr wrote in a statement. “It required some adjustments to ensure a sustainable and healthy company that can serve its community of artists and fans. After a comprehensive evaluation, including the importance of roles for smooth business operations and pre existing functions at Songtradr, 50% of Bandcamp employees have accepted offers to join Songtradr.”

The rest of the roughly 120 employees will be laid off by Epic and receive six months of severance, even as Bandcamp’s union continues to bargain with the billion-dollar company over better terms. Epic Games bought Bandcamp in March 2022 for $273 million, according to internal documents viewed by Kotaku. According to two former employees, who wished to remain anonymous because they did not want to jeopardize their severance packages, even Diamond was not aware of Epic’s plan to sell Bandcamp to Songtradr until as soon as the night before the deal was announced.

Diamond did not respond to a request for comment sent to his Bandcamp email address over a week ago (it has since been disconnected). Epic declined to comment on whether Diamond was aware of the deal to sell Bandcamp before it happened.

Epic Games announced it would divest itself of Bandcamp in a September 28 blog post that revealed roughly 830 layoffs across the wider company. Employees of the independent music platform, which has been an especially popular place for fans to buy from and support video game composers directly, were left in limbo in the weeks that followed as to whether they would have a job at Songtradr once the sale was complete.

Two former employees said they were immediately logged out of Epic’s company-wide Slack channel once the deal was announced on September 28, despite still being on the company’s payrolls until it officially closed. They also claimed that a majority of the staff had lost access and permissions to the tools needed to perform their regular duties in that time, grinding everything but critical functions within Bandcamp to a halt as staff waited to see who would be laid off.

During the weeks that followed, Bandcamp’s union, which represented about half of the company at the time, called on Songtradr to voluntarily recognize the union while it also negotiated with Epic over how the layoffs to union members would be handled. For example, the game publisher said that no employee who received an offer from Songtradr would remain eligible for Epic’s severance package. They would effectively be forced to take the job at the new company, despite the massive changes to conditions on the ground with Bandcamp being cut roughly in half.

“There’s no way Bandcamp will continue as Songtradr has promised,” one former employee told Kotaku earlier this month. “It’s just completely fucked up.”

The chaotic transfer of ownership and the confusion among staff was due in large part to the nature of the deal between Epic and Songtradr. The two companies agreed to an “asset sale” of Bandcamp rather than a “stock sale.” This meant that Songtradr was only acquiring the technology and platform, rather than the company as a whole, including its staff. As employees waited for the deal to close, many were left in the dark about what was going on and who would ultimately still have a job when the dust eventually settled. According to two former employees, neither Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, nor anyone else on Epic’s senior leadership team, ever held an all-hands meeting with Bandcamp staff where they could ask questions.

The sudden, unexpected purchase of Bandcamp in 2022 and its messy sell-off this month have drawn criticism from many supporters of the platform. “We share a vision of building the most open, artist-friendly ecosystem in the world,” Epic Games wrote at the time of the original acquisition. “The fact that Epic sold bandcamp a year after they bought it shows that they had no plan and no real interest in bandcamp’s mission,” tweeted FTL: Faster Than Light composer Ben Prunty.

It’s not clear what will happen to Bandcamp going forward. ”We are committed to keeping the existing Bandcamp services that fans and artists love, including its artist-first revenue share, Bandcamp Fridays and Bandcamp Daily,” it said in a statement to Kotaku today. Epic will continue to work with Bandcamp on Fortnite Radio and remains an investor in Songtradr.

According to two former Bandcamp employees, those who were laid off were disproportionately from the union. “Songtradr had no access to union membership information and we executed our employment offer process with full-consideration of all legal requirements,” a spokesperson for Songtradr told Kotaku. They said final offers were sent out after a careful evaluation and examination of “several factors.”

Update 10/17/2023 12:12 p.m. ET: Bandcamp’s Union called the layoffs “heartbreaking” and said it would continue negotiating with Epic Games over better severance terms.

“Today, Epic Games’ sale of Bandcamp to Songtradr was closed and at least half of Bandcamp’s staff was alid off,” Bandcamp United wrote in a statement. “This is heartbreaking. We love our jobs, the platform we’ve built, and the Bandcamp community. We’re glad we have our union—coworkers who have each other’s backs. We’ll be moving together to decide what our next steps are. On Wenesday we return to the bargaining table with Epic Games, and we’ll keep you updated. Love and solidarity to the whole Bandcamp community. Thank you for your support.”

Songtradr, meanwhile, has still refused to recognize the union. “At this moment we don’t have an update on that, however, we will update you when new information becomes available,” a spokesperson told Kotaku.

Update 10/17/2023 5:46 p.m. ET: A new statement from the Bandcamp United confirms that union members were an overwhelming portion of the layoffs. “Of those laid off, 40 were in the union bargaining unit out of a total 67 members,” it wrote. “None of the eight (8) democratically elected bargaining team members received a job offer. We are heartbroken to see our community shattered so callously, and are very upset to see that no one in our collective bargaining committee was offered a position at Songtradr’s Bandcamp. There was no transparency on how these job offers were distributed.”

A former support team employee, Ed Blair, said, “We continue to fight for the future of Bandcamp but it is tremendously disappointing to see Epic and Songtradr discard that work, and our unit’s democratically elected leaders.”


Diablo IV Datamine May Detail The Game’s First Expansion

A recent datamine has revealed that Blizzard may be cooking up some delicious DLC for its action RPG Diablo 4, including a new class, region, and villain.

Read More: Diablo IV’s Secret Endings May Tease The Game’s Future

According to Russian YouTuber YbuBaKa (via VG247), someone uploaded a technical alpha build of Diablo 4 version 2.0 to a private test branch, a siloed server of sorts that allows Blizzard to test out new and upcoming features for the game. However, this 2.0 build was sumarily datamined and leaked by folks who had access to it, and the details that have been publicized are scrumptious.

The test build is seemingly connected to the first paid DLC, currently known as the Lord of Hatred. The Lord of Hatred is villain Lilith’s daddy Mephisto, one of the Prime Evils that appears in Diablo 4‘s four secret endings. The leaks suggest that this horned demon will be the main villain of the expansion.


If the leaks are to be believed, then there will also be a new class and region coming to the game.According to YbuBaKa, when the Lord of Hatred DLC drops it will bring a new class called the Spiritborn, a nature-based warrior that cleaves through enemies with a glaive. Based on the description, it seems like a hybrid Barbarian-Druid, which would be a strong combo. As far as the rumored new region goes, it seems Diablo 2‘s location of Kurast might return, and will be roughly the same size as Diablo 4‘s existing areas.

The Lord of Hatred DLC is also rumored to feature a Mercenary system that lets you hire and level up companion. Additionally, the game mightget its first raid, the Tomb of Akarat, which has five wings to fight through. MMO Champion has some other details about the datamine, including the supposed name of Diablo 4‘s third season (Dreamscape), an increase to the stash size, and more.

Kotaku reached out to Blizzard for comment.

Read More: Blizzard Plans To Drop New Diablo IV Expansions Every Year

Take this information with a grain of salt, as it’s merely leaks and rumors for now. YbuBaKa uploads videos in Russian, so it’s unclear if they’ve accurately leaked information before. And while we know Blizzard plans to release a new expansion for the game every year, none of these details have been confirmed by the company. BlizzCon kicks off on November 3, so maybe we’ll hear more about it all then.