MMO Business Roundup: Tencent facial recognition, Chinese gaming regulation, anti-cheat, and hackers

    
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It lurks.

Welcome back to another roundup of MMO and MMO-adjacent industry news bits that just didn’t fit in anywhere else.

First, Tencent has spent part of this week talking up more anti-gaming-addiction features in keeping with ongoing Chinese regulation. Apparently those measures will spread to more games and include a new facial recognition system to stop kids under 18 from using (for example) parents’ devices to skirt the existing curfews and rules. Can’t think how this could possibly go wrong.

But before you freak out too much about China, do note that the highest court the country is actually backing parents who allege game companies are helping kids circumvent blocks and spending inordinate sums (which is to say, more than the $57 US allowed by law per month for those under 18) on games (via Niko Partners’ Daniel Ahmad).

Did you hate Doom Eternal’s Denuvo Anti-Cheat? Yeah, so did just about everyone else who didn’t want a freakin’ rootkit on their machines just to play a video game. Bethsoft and id Software have now promised to roll back usage of the system by next week, though of course if you already nuked the game because of it, you might not be easy to coax back.

Finally, file this one under “this is why we can’t have nice things”: According to Ars Technica, hacking group Winnti has managed to invade a number of MMO development studios in South Korea and Taiwan. The exact games aren’t named, but apparently researchers have determined that the hackers are using stolen Windows certificates to backdoor their way onto studio machines, both compromising game servers and “allowing the attackers to trojanize game executables.” Yikes.

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Jack Pipsam

Sick of Tencent’s constant fingers in pies. Tencent bought a massive chunk of Afterpay and I’m annoyed, ugh, leave us alone Tencent you bastards!

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Leiloni

Maybe, just maybe, it would be a good idea for the Chinese to design better games instead of P2W gambling simulators. And maybe lessen the expectations for these kids so they’re less stressed and have more time to go out and do other fun things. But no, we the adults can’t possibly be responsible even a little bit for the behavior of those we look after. But I guess these kids better get used to the government controlling their lives because it’s only going to continue as they get older.

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Greaterdivinity

Tencent is also apparently dumping some money into System Shock 3 to get that back on track.

I swear, by 2030 Tencent is gonna own half the bloody global games industry. I was always hoping our friends at Sumpo Food Holdings would be the ones to come out on top, but alas it doesn’t seem like it will be the case.

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EmberStar

I will not be surprised when there is a news story that Tencent has eaten Sumpo Foods. :(

*Edit* Also, 2030 seems kind of pessimistic. At the rate they’re buying stuff up, it looks to me like Tencent plans to own literally all of the video game industry on the planet by 2023. :(

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Kayweg

We’re irresponsibly naive if we keep thinking that companies like Tencent operate as independent entities, unaccountable to chinese government doctrine.
You don’t have to be a tinfoiler, just keep your eyes open and see what’s going on.
Be it online activites or otherwise.
Most recently a chinese state controlled leasing company (BOC) acquired 13% of “Norwegian”, a major european carrier for hoilday makers.
10% here, 15% there and so on.
Look at that whole “new silk road” business too.
Sorry, getting carried away there, but yes, i agree with you…it certainly is something we should be vigilant about, and i don’t think enough people are.

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Greaterdivinity

My understanding is that’s a mixture of a few things.

Part is very much their “New Silk Road/Belt and Rail” initiatives to position themselves as a greater global economic powerhouse in the future, this pairs up with their heavy investments into Africa as well.

But if I’m recalling correctly, the government limits how much foreign currency that Chinese companies and citizens can exchange every year. Citizens get around this in a small way by skirting the rules, but companies are largely getting around this by simply buying chunks of other companies which would give them potential access to that currency should they liquidate. It also helps prepare them for when the Chinese government stops massively subsidizing many industries and manipulating the value of their currency.

I’m extremely skeptical that say, Tencent buying a huge minority stake in Epic, or bailing out System Shock 3, is a part of any grand economic plan for the CCP. Some of those moves may fit the overall strategy, but from everything I’ve been reading the general consensus is that these are more self-interested moves by these companies and less “acting on behalf of the CCP.”

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Mr.McSleaz

Except that Tencents Founder & Chief Executive is a member of the Chinese Parliament…..
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2019/03/28/commentary/world-commentary/worried-huawei-take-closer-look-tencent/

“the reality is that Tencent employees can be expected to censor, monitor and report private communications and personal data, in many cases leading to innocent people’s arrest and torture.”

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Alexus Yanova

Yea, smart Asian companies like Tencent are investing money into gaming industry. Meanwhile Western companies with plenty of money are releasing rushed generic games which did not have proper budget and enough time for development and clearly will not bring significant profit in a long run.

And then people say nonsense like “we must restrict Asian companies from buying stuff and we should not buy their products”. Why? It will not encourage dumb Western companies to invest in gaming world or produce their own quality games instead of mediocre clones of existing games, it will only hurt independent developers who would want an investment but would not receive any because “China bad, they should not invest into our companies or be allowed to sell their products”.

And no, I do not care if the game I like will be produced by developer who is owned by Chinese company which has links to Chinese government, all I care is that I can enjoy it and developers got enough money. The game might have a political censorship in it but I also do not care about that, there are many ways to make a fun game without any politics. I also do not care what information Chinese company may gather about me through games because the worst they can do is to stop me from playing the game or prevent me from going into their country.

This isn’t really addressing you in particular, just my personal opinion on the situation.

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Greaterdivinity

Meanwhile Western companies with plenty of money are releasing rushed generic games which did not have proper budget and enough time for development and clearly will not bring significant profit in a long run.

I mean, yeah games like Destiny/Division/ME:A/Anthem (the latter two being more the fault of the developer rather than the publisher, as both had tons of budget and time) and whatnot have been pretty bad but…have you fucking seen this generation?

Doom/Doom Eternal? Halo 5? Animal Crossing? God of War? Spiderman? Horizon? Zelda? Fire Emblem? Celeste? Red Dead 2? Witcher 3? Persona 5? Monster Hunter World? I mean, this has arguably been one of the, if not the, best generation for games ever. We’ve had a ton of incredible games that run the scope of indie to AAA and cover a surprising number of genres. I’ve always had a big backlog on PC, but my overall backlog including PC and now consoles (don’t even have a Switch yet) has absolutely exploded that list because of just how many incredible games have been coming out.

IMO your opinion is pretty off-base on this. You’re connecting recent racist backlash against China, more specifically, normal Chinese folks, which is very real, with your opinion that western studios have largely half-assed games this generation, which isn’t reflective of the reality of the past 8ish years at all.

I agree that most of the privacy concerns are pretty silly, “CHINA WILL SPY ON ME!” dude, if China really cares about YOU (the royal you, not specifically you) they don’t need you to log into League of Legends to do that. And they’re also not gonna learn much about you by your hero preference and average clicks per minute : P

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Alexus Yanova

You are misunderstanding what I said. My point was while rich and smart Chinese companies invest into talented gaming developers, the Western companies like Amazon are wasting their money on things like releasing their own games which are incomplete and are generic clones of existing games instead of investing into companies like Riot or Epic. And not only Amazon, you do not see any other large company in US investing into gaming, and preventing Chinese companies from investing in US companies like some politicians or some paranoid people want will not change the behavior of US companies. And I do not mind even if Tencent will invest into most US gaming developers, it is a better choice for me than seeing companies struggle without any investment.

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EmberStar

Not sure what the cutoff is for “recent,” but there’s been some really well received indie games in the last few years. “Dead Cells,” “Shovel Knight,” and “Freedom Planet” all seemed to be well liked. Not indie, but “Ori and the Blind Forest” and its sequel.

The issue seems to be more that “big publishers” are insanely risk-averse and profit motivated. Why take a risk on something new, when they can harvest billions by making a “live service” of an existing franchise and then double / triple dipping with an in-game cosmetics store and loot boxes?

It’s not just “new IP,” they aren’t willing to roll the dice on “old but apparently well regarded” IP like “System Shock” and “Beyond Good and Evil.” I mean, the teaser trailers for the last one were interesting enough to make me consider maybe getting it *despite* being tied to Ubisoft and U(can’t)Play. And it seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. :(

For myself, the privacy concerns are more that I don’t feel that *any* program should have that level of access. My own attempts at internet security and privacy are basically on the same amateur level as remembering to lock the doors of my car and apartment. It won’t make any difference at all if a *real* criminal wants in, there’s ways to break a door lock in like fifteen seconds. But it *does* reduce the chances I’ll get hit by a casual vandal who just rattles doorknobs looking for one that’s unlocked.