MMO Business Roundup: Improbable’s defense contracting, Amazon Games’ internal support

Plus: Steam China, Ubisoft, Valve lawsuit, PS5 sales, Warzone bans, Among Us psych, and Kakao

    
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Welcome back to another roundup of MMO and MMO-adjacent industry news!

Improbable: Back in January, CNBC did a big story on Improbable, the massive Herman Narula-led company backed by companies from SoftBank to NetEase that’s working on SpatialOS with a goal of rescuing the MMO genre from “nuclear winter.” Apparently, the company saw another year of losses and is “pivoting” to defense contracts. According to the piece, it’s developing “wargaming software” for military simulations for NATO countries, with “several multi-million dollar contracts” with the UK and US militaries. The piece devotes only three sentences to how employees feel about said pivot, referencing one unnamed former employee who said he/she felt “a little bit uncomfortable when the first party game studios started getting pulled into the defense stuff.”

Amazon: With Jeff Bezos stepping down from his role as big boss at Amazon, Andy Jassy is ascending – and he’s expressed support for Amazon Game Studios, which has been weathering some scathing reports about its internal culture this week. Jassy is apparently standing behind AGS head Mike Frazzini. “Some businesses take off in the first year, and others take many years,” Jassy told staff. “Though we haven’t consistently succeeded yet in AGS, I believe we will if we hang in there.”

Steam: The Chinese version of the platform, run by Perfect World, has now been fully localized and approved and is set to launch in the region next week. As VG247 notes, we’re still not sure what’ll happen to the “international” version of Steam in China once this one is rolled out.

Ubisoft: Heads keep rollin’ over at Ubisoft. Ubisoft Toronto managing director and co-founder Alexandre Parizeau has left that role to “focus on personal priorities. Istvan Tajnay will take his place.

Valve: Remember that lawsuit where peripherals-maker SCUF Gaming had claimed Valve infringed its patents with Valve’s now-defunct Steam controller? The jury in the suit agreed and awarded the plaintiff $4M in damages, though the judge may increase that further.

Sony: Following the release of Sony’s investor report this week, the company told investors that while the PS5 is seeing “unprecedented” demand from consumers, it’s selling the platform at a loss – in other words, it costs more to make it than the retail pricetag. That said, the losses have been more than counterbalanced by game revenues and PS4 profits.

Call of Duty: Activision proved it remember where it left its banhammer! It recently cracked down on 60,000 cheaters and hackers in Call of Duty: Warzone, making the total number of permabans from the title up to 300,000 since last March. Bye, jerks!

Among Us: Wired has a fun piece up today discussing the social psychology behind why the game (and others like it) works so well. “This old adage in psychology is that when we’re unsure about something, we look to other people who are similar to us and look at what they’re doing to help determine what we do,” psychologist Dr Jamie Madigan explains in the article. “Confirmatory information bias is another kind of well-trod, well-understood phenomenon in human psychology, where we pay more attention to things that support our beliefs and pay less attention to things that don’t.”

Kakao Games: Don’t feel too bad about Kakao losing the Black Desert contract; it’s apparently replaced that contract with a new one with Crusaders Quest studio LoadComplete.

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“Though we haven’t consistently succeeded yet in AGS, I believe we will if we hang in there.”

Presumably among the books Amazon sells there’s a thesaurus which lists ‘consistently’ as a synonym for ‘ever’.