MMO Business Roundup: Riot’s diversity ‘progress’, NetEase’s esports arena, DayZ down under, and Twitch threats


Welcome back to another roundup of what’s going on in the business of making online games! Let’s start with the most controversial of the subjects on today’s agenda: Riot Games. Last year, Kotaku published a brutal exposé of Riot Games’ culture, replete with sexual harassment and sexual discrimination problems. In response, Riot promised a “cultural revolution” but followed up with weak action and poor redress for those affected, which resulted in an employee protest and walkout and the filing of an enforcement suit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which accused Riot of not fully cooperating with its investigation.

This week, now a year on from the exposé, Riot’s newly installed Chief Diversity Officer penned a blog post outlining the company’s purported achievements since then, from new hires and increased representation to community outreach and pay equity analysis. The blog even includes a handy chart of the goals executives set for themselves and now claim they’ve met, but once again, we must point out that this is a company that also thought the appropriate punishment for a VP who repeatedly grabbed staff members’ balls was unpaid leave over Christmas. Moreover, as PC Gamer astutely notes, employees who walked out during the protest earlier this summer were quite vocal that they hadn’t seen any improvement on the ground level, and no employees other than the CDO are quoted in the blog.

Further reading on the Riot mess:

What else is happening in the MMO-ish business world?

NetEase is reportedly building a $725M esports, game development, and training facility in Shanghai, presumably positioning itself opposite Tencent. The company has been all over western video game news the past year, in part because of its work on games like the upcoming Diablo Immortal and EVE Echoes.

Australia’s games rating board is apparently snubbing DayZ. Though the long-running zombie shooter had been approved by the country’s previous games governing body, the relatively newly formed International Age Rating Coalition denied it a classification on the grounds that it’s among games that “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.” GIbiz speculates that it may be the game’s drug content specifically, as Australia denied ratings to State of Decay on those grounds years back.

Finally, early this week, Twitch apparently told employees to work from home after multiple credible threats were made against the company. “We were made aware of a threat against our San Francisco HQ on Tuesday, and have been working directly with law enforcement as they investigate. The safety and security of our employees is our top priority, and we are focused on ensuring this is resolved quickly and safely.” San Francisco police told Kotaku that Twitch had received multiple shooting threats yesterday and today, presumed to be from the same person. Investigation is apparently ongoing.

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