MMO Business Roundup: NetEase’s Worlds Untold, Embracer, Ubisoft, unionization, and Epic v. Google

    
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Welcome back to another quick roundup of MMO and MMO-adjacent industry and business news. Numbers numbers numbers!

NetEase – The Chinese megacorp NetEase just can’t seem to stop rolling out new western game studios, and here comes another one in the form of Vancouver-based Worlds Untold, led by a key former boss of the Mass Effect franchise team. “[Mac] Walters and his team built Worlds Untold to create IPs with depth and possibility that can’t be contained in a single game, or even a single medium,” Netease says. “The team’s debut project is underway, a near future, action adventure game in a breathtaking world filled with mystery and exploration.” We don’t know it’s an MMO or MMORPG or even multiplayer yet, of course, but given NetEase’s modern interests, we wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Embracer – The trainwreck megacorp managed to turn around its Q3 2023 financials, according to its latest investor report, but at a steep cost. Readers will remember that a botched $2B deal with the Saudis led to the near-collapse of the company, which saw massive stock plunges, studio closures, game cancelations, mass layoffs, and the CEO whose agressive expansion brought the company to its knees still for some reason in charge. Said CEO told investors that his efforts to maximize shareholder value, he is focused on “compassion, respect, and integrity.” He has now laid off nearly a thousand people and jettisoned 15 unannounced titles.

Ubisoft – Companies are scrambling (again) to protect their brands in the wake of accusations that advertisements were showing up alongside white nationalist and antisemitic user posts, and now Ubisoft has apparently joined the growing list of said companies that have pulled their ads from Twitter aka X, at least temporarily. Of course, one might reasonably wonder why Twitter aka X would allow such user posts in the first place.

Unionization – While the games industry doesn’t always hide its blatant unionbusting tactics, some of them brazenly illegal – hi, Actiblizz – others are a bit more subtle. Aftermath reports that both Electronic Arts and SEGA have been called out by workers for their own unionbusting, which hasn’t always made headlines. SEGA, for example, has decided to conduct mass layoffs as of February 2024 that conveniently “stand to impact 40 percent of the [SEGA union’s] bargaining unit.” EA, of course, already done the same thing; when employees at one of its contract studios unionized, it killed the contract, then the contractor dumped the unionized employees. SEGA workers are now working with CWA to file an Unfair Labor Practice charge, while former EA workers have been picketing the EA-BioWare offices – after EA tried to block the picketing by “trying to convince the Alberta Labour Relations Board that workers should picket outside their own homes instead.” (This is… not how picketing works.)

Epic v. Google – Finally, the Epic v. Google antitrust trial continues to deliver meat, although not particularly fresh meat. Apparently, Epic’s Tim Sweeney took the stand this week, telling the court that he (not Tencent) controls Epic and saying that he would’ve waged legal war on Sony had it not given into crossplay demands back in 2018.

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