COVID-19 roundup: GameStop, unions call foul, Square-Enix, race cars, Blizzard, Skyforge, and Ultima Online housing

    
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COVID-19 roundup: GameStop, unions call foul, Square-Enix, race cars, Blizzard, Skyforge, and Ultima Online housing

Welcome back to another quick roundup of news bits all about how COVID-19 has impacted even our MMO corner of the gaming world. Also our attempt not to make every single post about this because it drags us down as much as it drags you down.

So it turns out GameStop does know how to do the right thing when it has no other choice. After a couple of weeks being wrecked in the press for claiming “essential” status to stay open and forcing employees to work without sanitization equipment, GameStop finally announced this weekend that it would close its physical stores during the epidemic, switching over to fully online and curbside pickup offerings. The company is also reportedly doling out two weeks of pay and reimbursing some benefits.

How much overlap is there between people who live for auto racing and video games? We’re ’bout to find out. Formula 1 has decided to replace all its canceled Grand Prix races with… races inside Codemaster’s F1 2019 PC video game.

While some games-related companies are reporting huge upswings in traffic and income – for example, Steam broke another peak concurrency record this past weekend – but not every company and employee involved in the gaming industry is profiting. As Game Workers Unite argued, “Even if most game devs and artists are safe, the people that are making the games’ production and release happen are going through hell right now – QA testers, event organisers, hard copy packaging and retail staff, workers maintaining servers or shipping of the games, let alone the incredible carers of our office spaces – cleaners, caterers etc. We are hearing stories of layoffs and forced unpaid leave in these sectors[.]” Another union group named names, pointing to QA layoffs and awful conditions at Keywords in Montreal.

Square Enix officially instituted remote work across the globe – including for Final Fantasy XIV‘s staff. “We have now implemented work-from-home policies across all locations and in cases where remote working isn’t possible, we have reduced office density and introduced staggered work times, especially to avoid peak consumer rush hours,” the company’s western CEO wrote.

Blizzard has continued rolling out perks across its online titles; most recently, it’s made every Heroes of the Storm character freely playable through April 2nd. We’ve previously covered Blizzard’s noteworthy policies for its US staff, and most recently GIbiz reported on care packages being sent home with Blizzard staffers in California.

Skyforge is also running a promotional event urging gamers to stay home and partake of its daily login events, prizes, and gifts across all of its platforms.

DDOCentral linked us over to DDO Audit and The DDO Oracle, which both show huge increases in server play for Dungeons and Dragons Online this past weekend, presumably due to Standing Stone Games’ decision to make all content free-to-play for the time being.

Finally, an update from the granddaddy of the genre, Ultima Online: Broadsword is on track to release Update 108 tomorrow, but it’s said it won’t be turning off housing decay during the pandemic, a bit of an odd choice given that the company has done so for other disasters. “We know many of you are asking us to turn off Housing Decay,” the studio told players. “We will not be doing that at this time due to the fact there is a 90 day grace period after closing an account for the houses to fall. After 2 months we will review the status of where everyone is at due to the virus and make our decision at that time. Please understand when we turn off housing decay this makes it so no one can place a house, resize a house or customize a house in any ways. So please understand we have to be very careful when we make this decision.”

Please be safe out there and have a virtual hug from us whether you’re on the front lines or just helping by staying home.

More on the impact of the virus on gaming:

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Techno Wizard
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Techno Wizard

I wonder which MMO company will go bankrupt first if the economy collapses?

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Bruno Brito

Only the small ones. Big gaming companies are poised for sure, to make a shitload of profit from this because they’ll see a huge boost in players.

Blizzard will see the end of this year, sadly.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

I hope we’ll learn from this as a people and be better prepared for when something much worse sweeps through us in the future. In many ways, we failed this time. But we can see our shortcomings and try to shore them up.

While we may not always get along here, we are a type of family. Family fights sometimes, but I hope everybody is doing okay. There isn’t a single person here I want to be sick or lose family or loved ones over this.

It’s hard not to think of Covid-19 all the time, but we still have our gaming communities and at least our games give us a brief distraction from it all. Video gaming is currently an actual safe and even responsible activity. How often can we say that? It’s usually “Stop playing video games, go do some outside activities, get out of the house!” Right now it’s “By all means stay inside and play video games!”

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Jack Pipsam

My friend mentioned he wanted to get back into HoTS again, seemed like a good time to try.

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McGuffn

GameStop finally announced this weekend that it would close its physical stores during the epidemic, switching over to fully online and curbside pickup offerings.

More stores need to be doing this particularly smaller ones like convenience stores like CVS or Walgreens. There’s no reason to let the public into the store. Rope the aisles off and have the employees take orders and collect the merchandise.

The customers can even wait in their cars ffs.

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Malcolm Swoboda

Best of fortune and health to all of you in the next month and more. Eventually most of us will be in similar enough places.

rafael12104
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rafael12104

Well, here is another Gamestop post. Heh.

Look, they were open long enough to deliver Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing. That’s it. They needed the money in order to survive. But more importantly, I’m pretty sure there are contractual obligations to Bethesda and Nintendo that made them do it.

I don’t fault them for it. Now, they could treat their employees better. But there were other stores open because of increased sales as everyone is hunkering down.

As for the demise of Gamestop? Meh, I like the store but I don’t feel bad for them. They had a chance to adapt. They could have diversified or jumped into online retail much earlier. Hell they still aren’t fully invested into the online market. So… let the chips fall where they may.

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Fisty

I definitely think they wanted to get those major releases out before shutting down. This month shutdown probably hurts them pretty badly.

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Armsbend

They could have made their store into a fun hangout instead of a high pressure pawn shop.

I swear – if Gamestop wouldn’t have been so obsessed with margins – instead offering a decent amount for your used game and then in turn actually given the end customer a good deal on a used game, rather than the $5 off new releases, they would still be successful.

Once digital was embraced people couldn’t abandon them fast enough. The seeds of hatred were sown. Now they are mature trees.

Long term vision over near term greed is hard to find. That is exactly what is happening with game developers right now. They believe they are indispensable so they are squeezing customers dry – it won’t go well for them when something better comes along.

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McGuffn

I mean, I’ve been into a gamestop maybe twice in my life. I don’t know how much computer supplies and repair they actually do, but they actually had a sensible argument there why they should remain open.

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kgptzac

but they actually had a sensible argument there why they should remain open.

Claiming selling physical copies of video games as “essential” is probably the least sensible thing GameStop manage to come up lately.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

I don’t think it’s that they were staying open that was the big issue. I think it’s the part where they were “forcing employees to work without sanitization equipment”. They needed to provide sanitization equipment and procedures.

There are ways to stay open and do things in a much safer way. Staying open and not even introducing any safety and cleaning protocols is pretty bad.

I get that the company is barely hanging on and felt the need to stay open because of that and to push some promised products through, but they could have at least put some safety and cleaning protocols in place.

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Utakata

Aside from GameStop mishandling this…

….here’s the important question that is raised: Where they providing an essential service? Versus everyone being forced to stay home and stare up at the stucco on the ceiling for 5 months plus, hoping they don’t lose their sanity in the process. I believe there’s been quite a bit of research done in this field of isolation and chronic lack of stimulus. Because if you want to keep folks home and together mentally, there has to be more incentive than brow beating, warnings and threats. They’ve got to be entertained. Video games for good or bad, do fill that niche. Making them to a degree essential, IMO.

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Fisty

Maybe, if we didn’t already have a decade of digital downloads. No way is it essential. We can play the backlog of games we have (looks at the 200 mostly unplayed games in my Steam list) or if you need a physical copy, then Walmart is open.

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Utakata

To be clear, I’m not advocating the stores should remain open when they don’t need to be. If all operations can be done from remote then that needs to be done instead.

Rather, I am looking at the idea of entertainment being essential when viewed and/or interacted isolated from safe social distance from others. I guess I failed to emphasize that aspect of my point. Sorry. :(

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Armsbend

No one needs the newest Modern Warfare to survive though…oh it’s free now anyway.

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Bryan Correll

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Mewmew
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Mewmew

I think it was something they thought was essential for the company in order to still exist more than essential for the public. Not having any sanitization equipment or protocols for the workers they had still coming in wasn’t great though, to say the least.

If they are unable to provide the correct cleaning products and protocols for the workers and the public, they shouldn’t be staying open.

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Utakata

…as I stated, GameStop flubbed this badly. But that wasn’t the point of my OP…rather discussion of games being essential that should of moved beyond disingenuous game store chains.

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Blake

Kind of makes sense for UO to not disable house decay right now, seeing how it’ll make placing new homes or altering existing homes impossible. Revisiting it at sixty days should mitigate any issues regarding people having to close their accounts due to financial concerns.

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TomTurtle

Regarding Gamestop, yeah not before getting to sell some copies of Doom and Animal Crossing of course.

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Armsbend

I’ve read more than one article about sadness at Gamestop basically failing in slow motion.

Do we all not remember a scant five years ago when Gamestop was our devil of the moment? Gamestop shutting down permanently is something to celebrate. It is going to happen – probably during this crises. Godspeed on the former workers finding jobs in retail soon.

Essential business. I found that as ridiculous as you all.

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IronSalamander8 .

I remember before Gamestop bought out the other stores like Babbage’s; a store that I used to visit often for PC games back in the 90s, and had a much better experience than I ever had at Gamestop. They’ve been crappy for a long time now, the last thing I bought from them was City of Villains when it released.

And yeah, calling a game store ‘essential’ is ludicrous. My mom’s work place is considered essential since they sell and repair construction equipment, we may well be here as we make parts for trains and construction equipment but we shall see. Still no shelter in place in Wisconsin yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was soon.

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Armsbend

The president indicated last night he may call this whole thing off at the end of next week. I’m getting close to being in that camp now.

We are going from 3.5% unemployment to 25% unemployment overnight? It isn’t worth it.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Step into a hospital and your opinion will change, I know mine has.

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Malcolm Swoboda

Opinion has changed compared to your sentiments in our month ago exchange? Not looking for anything about told you sos, just elaboration.

EDIT: Well something has changed. You said it only has ‘potential’ to be worldwide pandemic (with emphasis on the ”s), and now we’re here.

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Armsbend

A lot has changed this past month for sure.

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Armsbend

While my opinion is still forming – I do not think it would change. I’m not of the opinion people are not suffering – I am of the opinion that nature be allowed to run it’s course in order to preserve the Union.