In this age of constant and varied media entertainment, branding is everything. Film audiences have trusted Marvel Studios (up to now) to handle a diverse set of genres, ranging from space operas to heist flicks to conspiracy thrillers, because they trust the Marvel brand. Branding strategy is essential when audiences have as many choices as they do today, and that logic has been expanding to the world of video games.

Several video game studios have announced the release dates of key upcoming titles from their biggest franchises—titles that expand on or completely depart from their respective franchise’s original genre. Telltale Games and Mojang have announced the impending release of Minecraft: Story Mode, and Konami dropped the launch date of Metal Gear OnlineMetal Gear V’s team tactics mode and the first multiplayer mode of the Metal Gear series—in a new trailer. Meanwhile, indie darlings Thekla Studios announced the release date of The Witness, the spiritual sequel to Braid, and From Software let us know when Dark Souls III will hit stores while detailing the unforgiving franchise’s new player-friendly customizable elements.

Minecraft : Story Mode Episode One Release Date

In Minecraft: Story Mode’s The Order of the Stone—the first episode of a five-episode season—gamers will play as a female or male character named Jesse (voiced by Catherine Taber and Patton Oswalt, respectively). In a narrative that will include crafting, mining, and all the other elements of Minecraft that fans know and love, gamers will travel across the OverWorld “through the Nether to the End and beyond,” seeking the Order of the Stone to prevent total oblivion.

The plot may sound like a sequel to What Dreams May Come, but we’re told this will be an adventure for gamers of all ages. And though The Order of the Stone may be a slight departure from the game’s original genre, as the trailer reveals, it is not a departure in tone. Even if it were, the fan base for Minecraft is huge, dedicated, and thirsty for content. Each of Story Mode’s five episodes should be a big hit among Minecraft fans. The first episode hits digital marketplaces on October 13, while a retail season pass of all five episodes will follow on October 27.

The Witness Trailer and Release Date

We now have a trailer and release date for The Witness, the highly anticipated puzzle-adventure from Thekla Studios, who brought us the landmark indie puzzler Braid. The new trailer depicts the player’s first person view traveling through a colorful open world and solving two-dimensional and three-dimensional puzzles alike.

In a post on the PlayStation blog, Thekla Studios’ head visionary Jonathan Blow showed off new screenshots and discussed how far the development process has come, revealing that the puzzler has ballooned from what was planned to be a 10 hour game to an experience that hardcore gamers can expand to 80 or more hours.

The Witness represents a full-on expansion of the puzzle genre for Thekla Studios. The game hearkens back to 3D puzzle adventure classics like Myst even as it looks to integrate the 2D puzzle style that Thekla perfected with Braid. 3D puzzlers are a successful genre right now, and Braid was a huge hit—it seems likely that puzzle fans will reward Thekla’s ambition when The Witness is released on January 26, 2016.

Dark Souls III Release Date

Players looking to submerge themselves in a gaming experience dark and punishing enough to be a tough government job have long known to look toward the Dark Souls series. From Software announced this week the release date of Dark Souls III, the third installment of the unforgiving fantasy action series, and gave some details about the game.

Players will journey though new environments to defeat the awakened Lords of Cinder and uncover the secret history of the apocalyptic landscape. The game will see a push toward a more role-playing oriented feel, where players can better customize their experience. Among the upcoming changes is the addition of Skills—attack modifiers to each weapon type that will enable players to better prepare for challenges.

If it sounds like Skills will make Dark Souls III less exacting and more forgiving than its predecessors, that might end up being true, but using Skills will be entirely up to the player. Those looking for the original Dark Souls experience should still be able to find it. The RPG-oriented changes look to be an attempt to expand the Dark Souls fan base to non-masochistic gamers, while still hanging onto the core following. Both types of player can look forward to torturing themselves in April of 2016.

 

Metal Gear Online Demo and Release Date 

Konami also released a video today: theirs was a play demo of Metal Gear Online, the tactical multiplayer add-on for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The twelve-minute video goes deep into the multiplayer game mode, letting players know just what they’ll be getting into when Metal Gear Online is released.

Among the features detailed in the demo are:

  • Character creation: Players will be able to use their character from Metal Gear V or create a new character, and “character creation is incredibly deep
  • Character classes: Players will be able to play as one of three classes. The classes are the Infiltrator (stealth), the Scout (a balanced class that can snipe, set visual markers for his teammates, and use the fulton to kidnap enemies), and the Enforcer (heavy weapons specialists; the tanks).
  • An example mission called “Bounty Hunter:” the goal of Bounty Hunter is to reduce the opposing team’s “tickets” to zero by killing opponents, while raising your own tickets by using the fulton to kidnap opponents
  • The “Buddy System:” Once a player establishes a buddy link with a teammate, information can be shared as you gain “camaraderie points.” Shared info includes what your buddy is aiming at—shown by a blue line going across the screen toward the target
  • The “Plush Snare:” a hilarious visual trap that renders opponents immobile
  • Unique Characters: Playable characters from the game’s story that include Onslaught and Snake himself

Konami is using a different strategy than any of the above game developers, and making Metal Gear Online available to any gamers who already own Metal Gear V on October 6. The publisher is betting that online shooter fans heretofore uninterested in Metal Gear’s single-player stealth gameplay will be intrigued by the new multiplayer mode. And there’s no question about it: Metal Gear Online is going to attract a whole new class of gamer. It looks like a complete online shooter.

On the other hand, even with all the features listed above, Metal Gear Online may come up short compared to the likes of  Star Wars Battlefront or Halo 5: Guardians.

Next: Naughty Dog Likely Making Last of Us 2; Interested In Half-Life?

Metal Gear Online is available to Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain owners on October 6, 2016.

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 1: ‘The Order of the Stone,’ premieres digitally worldwide on Tuesday, October 13th 2016 for PC, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, and Playstation 3. The episode will be available to iOs and Android devices Thursday, October 15th, 2015. The series will also be coming to Wii U and PlayStation Vita. The full season of five episodes hits retail stores October 27, 2015 in North America and October 30, 2015 in Europe.

The Witness will be available on the Playstation 4 on January 26, 2016.

Dark Souls III comes to Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC (via Steam) in April of 2016.

Sources: Telltale Games, Mojang, Playstation Blog, From Software, Konami