MMO Business Roundup: Fortnite’s lockbox lawsuit, Riot’s diversity boss, Take-Two’s stock, Acti-Blizz’s investor warning

    
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Business business business! What’s on the weekend agenda? Oh heck, let’s just throw Fortnite, lockboxes, and a lawsuit in one sentence. It’s like catnip.

Fortnite’s lockbox lawsuit

As GI.biz reports, a California family has filed lodged a lawsuit against Epic Games over Fortnite’s lockboxes. The plaintiff alleges that the lockboxes are essentially preying on minors like his son with gambling mechanics as well as with predatory marketing of those lockboxes. The suit was apparently written before Epic Games began disclosing odds on lootboxes, so the complaint blasts that deception too. According to GI.biz, the suit seeks class-action status and “accuses Epic of violating California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act (protecting consumers from unfair business practices), False Advertising Law, and Unfair Competition Law, as well as accusing them of unjust enrichment.”

Riot’s new diversity boss

Riot Games has made more moves to shore up its its diversity efforts in the wake of a massive sexism scandal that dominated headlines last summer. This week, the League of Legends company announced the hiring of Angela Roseboro as its Chief Diversity Officer and the “leader of [its] diversity, inclusion, & Riot culture initiative.” Prior to Riot, she worked in a similar role at Dropbox. The company has also posted a new update on its diversity progress. (Thanks, Scott!)

Acti-Blizz issues warning to investors

Those of you who don’t read the fine print in 306-page investor reports will probably have missed the notice from Activision-Blizzard that essentially reminds investors that its massive restructuring – involving the layoff of 800 people – doesn’t necessarily mean that the business will be improved. “Further, there can be no assurance that our business will be more efficient or effective than prior to implementation of the plan, or that additional restructuring plans will not be required or implemented in the future,” the document reads. “The implementation of this restructuring plan may also be costly and disruptive to our business or have other negative consequences, such as attrition beyond our planned reduction in workforce or negative impacts on employee morale and productivity, or on our ability to attract and retain highly skilled employees. Any of these consequences could negatively impact our business.” Yikes.

PUBG Corp.’s machine learning initiative

PUBC Corp. is joining the ranks of companies looking toward machine learning to help fight cheaters, in this case in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. “On top of these protective anti-cheat solutions, we have also applied a machine learning technique that analyzes our players’ usage patterns and have built a system that can detect abnormal game patterns or actions that interrupt the normal operations of the game coming from hack users,” the company wrote in a recent Steam update. “In the process of building these systems, we collaborated with numerous experienced anti-cheat solution companies and top-tier engineers, which has helped us strengthen our game’s security.”

Roblox is stupidly popular with kids

Laugh it up, but Roblox is still tremendously popular. PocketGamer reports (via Gamasutra) that the game has now passed over a billion hours’ worth of engagement – that’s per month, and 20 times what it was six years ago.

World of Tanks’ CE

World of Tanks is getting… a collector’s edition? Yes, the 2010 tank MMO that started the tank craze is launching exactly 5130 individually numbered collector editions to the North American market this April. There’s no price given, but we assume it’ll be priced similarly to the console and EU CEs that rolled out last year for around $180 US. Expect a special gaming mouse, lithographs, blueprints, model, hardcover art book, and a ton of redeemable content bits, including a million credits.

Why Take-Two’s stock is struggling in spite of its Red Deads

Finally, GIbiz has up an excellent analysis of Take-Two’s stock value, which has been tanking since October in spite of continuing excellence in GTAO and the apparently highly successful (and of course critically acclaimed) Red Dead Redemption 2. “If you’re an employee of Take-Two (or an investor holding their shares) you might reasonably find yourself shaking your fists in the general direction of Wall Street and asking what on earth it is that these people actually want,” Rob Fahey writes, ultimately concluding that investors might have overly high expectations for the online component of the game that Rockstar is seemingly only reluctantly meeting – that there’s a disconnect between the cowboy-flavored-GTAO investors want to make dough on and the single-player-first art piece Rockstar actually delivered.

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Feyd Darkholme

If you really want to get rid of toxic people and behaviors, don’t hire “diversity officers”, that is pointless pandering. Fire and blacklist the offenders and make it clear by those actions that it won’t be tolerated in your industry. You don’t need a totalitarian HR department for that, you just need industry and business leaders with the courage of their supposed convictions to take proper action. It’s not happening because those people are still there. You don’t need to “retrain” people to not be a-holes. They either are or they aren’t, and they can either hide that fact, or they can’t/won’t. Call me pessimistic… but they aren’t going to change as people.

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Bruno Brito

Hiring diversity officers is a good idea, and spending resources in training people is too, since a huge part of bad exchanges are for the lack of understanding and knowledge.

The problem here, specifically is that Riot hired this woman, which i’m sure is competent, as a afterthought while sending signals that they cannot touch the upper echelons of management. They clearly won’t fire the people who actively feel like they own the company and it’s workers, so her job will be impossible.

She being there is good. The problem is that Riot is still a shitty place, and they clearly don’t want to change that.

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Mewmew

Currently the lockboxes in Fortnite PvE aren’t that bad. Not only are most of the very best weapons earned during events, but you basically can change everything about a weapon with stuff you earn in game so you really only need to draw one of them from a lockbox.

In the old system, you’d need to draw weapon after weapon trying to get the stats you liked on it because the stats on them were fixed and some were *far* better than others. You’d need to try to draw the same weapon over and over trying to get good stats on it – so that rare weapon that only came up once and a while you had to keep trying to get multiple copies of it to get a better version of it. Now you only need to draw one, and don’t really even need to do that since the best stuff is given away in events anyway.

They started out really bad but they aren’t bad at all now. Still his lawsuit was from the past when they were pretty bad, and so I guess at that point it would have still had merit.

Though they weren’t doing anything different than 90% of mobile games still are doing now.

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socontrariwise

The Blizzard-Activision blurb sounds like a regular legal write-up to avoid SEC involvement/penalty if someone wants to claim they made overly positive statements or were creating unrealistic expectations. Nothing besides that really, you don’t want to meet the SEC on the wrong foot.

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Arktouros

The lockbox case is a good sign that people are done wasting everyone’s time with meaningless surveys posing as scientific studies and useless politicians pontificating on the topic looking to score political points.

It should be very interesting because it might even establish a precedent that a company can be held accountable for past business tactics rather than just adapting to stay ahead of the curve. If found liable it means companies will have to consider their current business practices rather than simply just wait for the inevitable lawsuit and then quickly change practices to sidestep legislation/regulation/legal findings.

K38FishTacos
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K38FishTacos

That’s just standard CYA from the legal team. That’s what in-house lawyers do. Their job is to protect the company from all of the legal consequences of their actions as if it were possible to do so.

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Bývörðæįr mòr Vas´Ðrakken

the activision blizzard, stuff basically boils down to our star ip is popular enough right now for ten thousand employees but if we have another warlords expac, to get people working on new content means not working on which ever call of duty or world or warcraft is not generating enough money to pay ten thousand people. it is what is called admitting they have no idea if wow and call of duty can generate enough money but to take people off the ip they no decreases the tempo of releases of new content which results in people lapsing subs to go play other new games.

What they need ideally is ten teams working in the same engine being updated by an engine team so that if any IP fails to bring in enough money it can be made up by the other teams, yet most of their games tend to draw money from each other so that the star craft numbers are not even in there. ten years ago that was one third of the income. people who invest need to know that activision blizzard is not blindly expecting people to hand them money. looking at an investment report and trying to make short term less than two year decisions is a waste of time. Two years is as far as they can predict hard ware changes at the largest consumer base that buys video games, yet where blizzard needs to plan to focus has to be where they have been planning for or are starting the ground work in that stock call. Which means telling people they are worried and trying to figure out what to do about it, is a healthy perspective instead of putting their head in the ground to be kicked when the gold stops failing from the sky.

Talk to some one who understand why banks not making money is good for macro and micro econ, but bad for accounting and fiance and you begin to understand the report is an ethical investment report. That is a good thing.

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Siphaed

“The implementation of this restructuring plan may also be costly and disruptive to our business or have other negative consequences, such as attrition beyond our planned reduction in workforce or negative impacts on employee morale and productivity, or on our ability to attract and retain highly skilled employees. Any of these consequences could negatively impact our business.”

No duh?!

They’ve cut 800 jobs just a few months after Christmas while boasting huge earnings and the CEO patting himself on his back. What kind of skilled developer wants to go work for that company? To work their butt off -especially during “crunch” times- launching a successful game that would sell millions of copies only to hear that “investors are not impressed with X #’s, they should have been Y #’s”.

That even after having a great product, employees still might be laid off their job so that the CEO can retain a 200-300x pay rate over their own. With some sort of magical “signing on bonus with getting put into a position (like, yes, instead of just getting an accepted application/resume, they get a sign on bonus like the military does for soldiers…but in the millions, with extra stock shares too).

Tell me again, why after the last 3 months would someone with an ounce of sanity apply for Activision in a low peg position? Is the stress even worth it?

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Sally Bowls

What kind of skilled developer wants to go work for that company?

IMO, the news clearly would make a skilled developer more likely to work at Blizzard. When judging how seriously a company takes R&D, one can look at how it is handled in lean times. Is R&D something they spend on in good times but seen as a discretionary expense to be cut when cuts are needed? Here is Blizzard, during a time of retrenchment, announcing that it was increasing the number of developers by 20%. If the developer was skilled, then that would seem like an appealing attribute of a corporation.

Ofc, customer service people would need to be wary about joining Blizzard – or any other gaming or non-gaming company.

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Roger Melly

I think he’s right and you are wrong . Skilled developers would not want to work in such an environment .

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Bruno Brito

If the writing on the wall was just that, Sally would be correct.

But when you consider the context ( Activision past ventures, Blizzard’s detachment and lack of quality content for it’s games ), it’s clear that they don’t want skilled developers nor designers.

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Armsbend

Lol at the Take Two analysis. One of the oldest phrases in trading applies to TTWO: “Buy the rumor, sell the news.”

That’s it.

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Tamanous

How does selling out feel now Blizzard?

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Roger Melly

Been a long time coming but finally they are reaping what they have sown .

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Random MMO fan

Lol, Riot and their fake “we’re doing diversity thing!”… They pretend to care about it so much that they allowed one of the Russian LoL teams, VaeVictis, who had guaranteed spot in major tournament, to replace all of the players with female players of low skill level who never played together before, about a week before major LoL tournament, LCL Spring 2019, which resulted in VaeVictis losing all games in a humiliating way (one game went 52-2) against all other teams (all of which had established professional players). All of which made a mockery of female LoL players everywhere (now many people will take them even less seriously) and the LCL event in general.

Good way of showing “people complained about us being sexist, so we’ll show them how we actually care about equality and diversity” /s

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Bruno Brito

Yeah, i saw that crap. It was pretty underhanded.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Yea. What’s even worse is that management of VaeVictis expected their own female players to lose and made fun out of it before their first game was played.

Here is the mocking video posted by VaeVictis management on their official channel. It’s a music clip in Russian but you don’t need to understand the words – the end of clip shows the result VaeVictis expected (losing against all other teams). This video was posted before the tournament began.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Also, since I can’t edit my post – here’s a video of Russian LoL player describing whole situation and why it is bad for everyone. She does speak English well enough for anyone to understand:

Again, whole situation would never happen if Riot would’ve prevented this circus by disallowing VaeVictis to play in LCL using such inexperienced players.

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Paragon Lost

You can edit your posts, just only for a short period of time. Five minutes if I recall. Personally I prefer it that way. It cuts down on creative re-writing of history and other trollish behavior and makes the moderator’s job much easier.

If you have more to add/say to a post you’ve done and the five minute time period has expired, simply reply to your previous post as an additional thought. As you did with the video add on post. :) Simplicity.

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Nathan Aldana

Honestly, if anything the lesson to be learned is the sort of people who would style themselves as running an esport team tend to be a combination of the worst parts of toxic gamers and self-styled “businessmen”, creating utterly awful human beings

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Bruno Brito

To be fair, there are some good team owners. I don’t think the generalization is fair, but you DO have a point: Most of the scene is a uphill climb with the most toxic people you could imagine.

And doesn’t change much when you’re inside. I give props to any woman who spent more than 3k hours getting flamed and harassed to become a pro, they’re clearly better than me, and deserve every kudos.

But by god, it’s fucking awful.