MMO Business Roundup: Amazon, gaming toxicity research, Blizzard’s court victory, and why people love Mike Morhaime

    
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Business business business! We’re back for another speedy Friday afternoon roundup of some MMO and games industry business news.

Amazon’s next big thing

We’re not sure why why anyone would look at the way the Stadia has rolled out to the world and think, “Yeah, I gotta get me some o’ that action!” but that’s what Amazon is apparently up to. Cnet (via Gamasutra) notes that Amazon is planning a Stadia clone itself.

“Amazon is planning to announce its service next year, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans. It’s begun recruiting people from large game companies like Microsoft to help with the launch, as well as hiring for jobs in a “new initiative” within its Amazon Web Services team, which sources said is involved in Amazon’s future gaming service.”

Sexual harassment and games

A new paper examining toxicity in online video games, specifically sexual harassment, pinpoints some ugly realities in our field. Investigating sexual harassment in online video games: How personality and context factors are related to toxic sexual behaviors against fellow players, penned by researchers Wai Yen Tang, Felix Reer, and Thorsten Quandt, determines that “gamer identification” is a “predictor of sexual harassment perpetration.”

“The present study replicates and expands previous research, using a sample of 856 online gamers. The study supports earlier findings that found hostile sexism and social dominance orientation as predictors of sexual harassment perpetration in online video games. In addition, we expanded the previous research with additional predictors: machiavellianism, psychopathy, and gamer identification predicted higher sexual harassment perpetration. Our results have implications for the gaming community’s role in curtailing sexual harassment and making itself a more inclusive community.”

But don’t despair; the researchers also suggest ways to alleviate the problem: “As gamers identify with other gamers, this means that influential individuals, such as game developers, gaming journalists, gaming youtubers (e.g., Pewdiepie), or professional gamers among others, would have significant persuasive influence, where they communicate to their audience that they do not tolerate sexual harassment behaviors.”

Blizzard wins another lawsuit

According to Shine (via Gamasutra), Blizzard and its Chinese partner NetEase have emerged victorious in yet another copyright-related lawsuit overseas. A Chinese court ruled that Chinese studio 4399 Network had ripped off Overwatch’s character design, maps, and gameplay in a pair of its games, Clash of Fighters and Gunplay Battlefront. Blizzard and NetEase were award over half a million US dollars in damages and fees.

Mike Morhaime

Finally, esports guru Rod Breslau tweeted a chunk of a stream from HomeStory Cup, a super long-running StarCraft esports event at the Tropical Islands resort (yes it’s called that) in Berlin, Germany; it includes a brief chat with former Blizzard president Mike Morhaime. Morhaime announced his departure from Blizzard a year ago and actually left earlier in 2019. So it might seem a little odd that he, along with former VP of Esports Amy Morhaime (his wife) and former Global Esports Director Kim Phan, would turn up at a TaKe-sponsored esports events as fans, but there they are, and as you can imagine, the thread quickly turned into adoration for Morhaime and other times he’s proven himself a gamer first – and how much Blizzard lost in nudging him out.

As always, we welcome tips on all MMO stories, businessy or otherwise!

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Mewmew
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Mewmew

“Blizzard wins another lawsuit”

Huh, I thought Copywrite infringement was par for the course in China. I honestly didn’t know that someone from the West could sue over there and win that kind of thing. We see so many games in China that are blatant rip-offs, they even rip assets right out of other games to use.

Of course, it is Blizzard, China’s good little boy :D I’d like to poke fun at how that is why they are suing and winning but they have a Chinese partner for their game that is actually published there which probably makes a big difference too.

And it probably is that most companies just don’t bother trying when their stuff gets ripped and published in some Chinese games as long as they don’t make their way out of China. A lot of them probably have no clue it’s even happening.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

The study supports earlier findings that found hostile sexism and social dominance orientation as predictors of sexual harassment perpetration in online video games. In addition, we expanded the previous research with additional predictors: machiavellianism, psychopathy, and gamer identification predicted higher sexual harassment perpetration.

Isn’t that just stating the obvious? People who are hostile sexists are also… sexist on online games? Seriously? It took a professional research team to figure that out?

That’s like saying that violent evil people are more likely to kill.

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Arktouros

It’s kinda a weird one if you read through it to be honest.

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Toy Clown

It’s the way the system works. The govt grants you money to do a “survey”, then you present that to the govt and they make decisions based on those… as a whole. We know most govt officials don’t sit in front of computers playing games.

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Arktouros

But don’t despair; the researchers also suggest ways to alleviate the problem: “As gamers identify with other gamers, this means that influential individuals, such as game developers, gaming journalists, gaming youtubers (e.g., Pewdiepie), or professional gamers among others, would have significant persuasive influence, where they communicate to their audience that they do not tolerate sexual harassment behaviors.”

Yes. I’m sure the “influencers” will alleviate the issue.

I see this all coming together.

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McGuffn

Especially since the influencers are essentially Machiavellian by definition.

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Utakata

I think giving the perps the blitzchung treatment every time they open their peepers would be far more effective. And anytime the raging apologists come bloating up the commentary in their defense, we just remind them of The Rulez…

…or something like that.

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Arktouros

What the paper is actually discussing is the tribalism of people who identify as gamers. Specifically that there is an social group identity of what a “gamer” is and those who don’t conform to it are depersonalized and stereotyped. For example a real gamer is “hardcore” and those console/facebook/mobile/etc gamers are just “casuals.” So what they’re suggesting is that by changing the dynamic of the social group identity to include more types of people they become part of the “tribe” as it were.

As always, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

For one the kinds of people who would need to change those kinds of behaviors largely rely upon both the positive and negative aspects to form the basis for their communities. As McGuffn pointed out many influencers are rather Machiavellian by design in the way they craft their persona, promote ideas and choose enemies within their communities in ways that grow and benefit themselves. Sleaze sells as it were.

For two a policing action rarely has any meaningful change or impact upon such people and groups. That isn’t to say they are immune, and there’s numerous examples of people who push the boundaries or go too far and, as you say, “get the Blitzchung treatment.” However such things don’t make a group more inclusive, but instead galvanizes a group against a common enemy who is “attacking” them. In my experience this just ends up further entrenching groups into their “tribe” rather than drive them to be more open to others.

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Utakata

…if they break the rulez though. They get their visit from “HR”, as you put it once.

Hey, I am all for intersectional diversity of game culture or whatever you are going on about. But if they break the terms of agreement/terms of service they signed onto (which often includes how players conduct themselves), then they should do the time. As you have stated outright for Mr. blitzchung. And I agree, it’s the only way to really deal with these hooligans.

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Arktouros

Again it’s not what I am “going on about”, it’s literally what is in the research paper and what the research paper is talking about. You can read it at length yourself, the link is right there to read.

To put this in MMO terms think of it like the different types of guilds out there. You have guilds who are “family friendly” dad and mom guilds full of people who log in casually and play on their own time and are all very friendly with one another. You also have the “hardcore” guilds full of no lifers where if you aren’t on 16+ hours a day and maximum skill/efficiency you’re garbage.

Now if anyone in either group of guilds be it “family friendly” or “hardcore” break the TOS or any other rules they will “do the time” as you say. Yes there will be scenarios where things get missed or don’t get actioned but for the most part most games tend to do a pretty OK job enforcing their own rules in most cases.

However what the paper is trying to address is the fundamental differences in what makes a “family friendly” guild and a “hardcore” guild as it were. It’s suggesting that the “hardcore” group which maintains it’s exclusivity by disparaging those who don’t conform to their group ideals (IE: play time, play goals, social mannerisms, etc etc etc) can be changed by having those in charge of the groups discourage such behavior.

What my argument is that “guilds” in this scenario have no incentive to change. They’re not breaking the TOS so games won’t action them. People in these groups are in those groups because they are all like minded and share similar views and unlikely will respond to change. Even if a game company could outright buy someone (IE: Lets say they gave $100m to buy out some streamer to change their behavior) their community would just move on to someone else instead.

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Utakata

Yeah…sure, I guess…

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Ashfyn Ninegold

For some people, it’s very, very important to have other people to look down upon, belittle and disparage. It quite literally makes them feel better about themselves.

If they don’t identify something outside their tribe, such as a god or a streamer, to believe in so that everyone who believes in the same god or streamer that they do is part of the tribe, at least provisionally, the tribe will reject others and their message.

So, yea, not happening.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Perhaps Mike nudged him self out, personally I’d like to see a meeting of the minds with some of these older CEOs from the MMO heyday to come up with some great last hurrah for the genre before we drift off into the eternal night of mobile gaming.

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McGuffn

He got out while the getting was good.