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Apple, Epic Games CEOs on List of Witnesses in Fortnite Case

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By Reuters | Updated: 22 March 2021

Apple and Epic Games have listed their chief executive officers as potential witnesses in a case between the iPhone maker and the video game developer over the App Store payment system, court documents showed.

Apple and Epic Games, creator of the popular game Fortnite, have been in a legal battle since last year, when Epic Games tried to avoid a 30 percent App Store fee by launching its own in-app payment system. The move prompted Apple to ban Fortnite from its store.

In addition to CEO Tim Cook, Apple also named software chief Craig Federighi and App Store Vice President Matt Fischer on a tentative list of witnesses submitted to the US District Court Northern District of California Oakland Division, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

Epic Games listed its founder and CEO Tim Sweeney, its game store manager Steve Allison, and Thomas Ko, head of online business strategy, among its own witnesses for the trial.

“The chorus of developers speaking out against Apple and their anticompetitive practices has become louder,” Epic Games said in a statement.

Apple did not respond to a Reuters request for comment, but told Bloomberg in a statement that it felt “confident the case will prove that Epic purposefully breached its agreement solely to increase its revenues.”

Epic Games also recently took its fight against Apple to EU antitrust regulators after failing to make headway in US. CEO Sweeney said Apple’s control of its platform has tilted the level playing field.

“The 30 percent they charge as their app tax, they can make it 50 percent or 90 percent or 100 percent. Under their theory of how these markets are structured, they have every right to do that,” he said last month.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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FIFA and EA Sports End 30-Year-Old Partnership, EA Sports FC Confirmed as New Name

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By Agencies | Updated: 11 May 2022

FIFA 23 will be the last FIFA video game from EA Sports, with the developer switching over to EA Sports FC next year, Electronic Arts has announced, in line with what trademark applications had revealed last October.

EA is parting ways with world football governing body FIFA after a near three-decade partnership and pulling the plug on one of the world’s most successful video-game franchises that has raked in billions of dollars in sales. It marks a split in one of football’s most successful and lucrative partnerships, after the sides failed to strike a new licensing deal.

Licensing rights for the game earn FIFA about $150 million (roughly Rs. 1,158 crore) annually — the single biggest commercial earner in its expected $7 billion (roughly Rs.54,066 crore) total revenue from 2019-2022 — though FIFA struck a defiant tone in a statement published hours after the announcement of losing that income.

FIFA was seeking at least double the $150 million it received annually from EA Sports, the New York Times reported last October, adding that there were different expectations of what should be included in a new agreement.

EA made a “significant offer” to FIFA for an eight-year exclusivity period across all of FIFA’s gaming and esports rights, but the global footballing body was unwilling to lock up all of its gaming and esports rights with just one publisher, Reuters reported back in October.

However, both entities have reportedly adjusted to maintain the partnership till the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup next summer, with FIFA granting a new short-term extension to EA Sports to launch a new FIFA 23 title later this year.

But even before the EA Sports partnership wraps, FIFA has promised a “number of new non-simulation games” that will launch ahead of the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup that kicks off in Qatar in November. These new football video games are developed by third-party studios and publishers, FIFA said.

“I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in the statement.

That said, EA has been producing a FIFA game for nearly 30 years and for generations of young people, FIFA has meant a video game rather than a sports institution.

Though EA Sports FC will be unable to include FIFA content including the World Cup, it retains 300 licensing partners, including prime football competitions such as the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga, and the UEFA-organised Champions League.

The licensing deals will help EA retain most of the world’s famous clubs and stars with their teams and leagues, be it Lionel Messi of Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina, or Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United and Portugal.

The EA announcement showed the strength of those partnerships with warm comments from executives from the Premier League, UEFA, and La Liga while a coordinated release of tweets posted by dozens of football clubs used the slogan “We’re In The Club” to align with the EA Sports FC brand.

“We’re thankful for our many years of great partnership with FIFA,” EA CEO Andrew Wilson said. “The future of global football is very bright, and fandom around the world has never been stronger.”

Wilson promised “even more innovative and authentic experiences to the growing football audience” while its soon-to-be rival FIFA spoke of creating ”new, interactive experiences to fans across the globe.”

“The interactive gaming and e-sports sector is on a path of unrivalled growth and diversification,” Infantino said. “FIFA’s strategy is to ensure we can make the most of all future options and ensure a wide range of products and opportunities for gamers, fans, member associations and partners.

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Nintendo Says It Sold 23.06 Million Switch Consoles Last Year, Expects Sales to Fall in FY 2022

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By Reuters | Updated: 10 May 2022

Japan’s Nintendo on Tuesday made a play for the hearts of retail investors, announcing a 10-1 stock split effective October 1, a long-called-for move that aims to improve the liquidity of the videogame maker’s shares.

The surprise announcement came as Nintendo said it expects sell 21 million Switch games consoles in the financial year that started on April 1, down 9 percent year on year and the second annual fall, as the company grapples with component shortages.

Component shortages have continued into this year and it is not possible to say when they will end, Nintendo President Shuntaro Fukurawa told a news conference.

Demand for the Switch in its sixth year on the market has been boosted by the November launch of a model with an OLED screen, which sold 5.8 million units through March, but the upgraded device remains in short supply.

The Kyoto-based company’s stock split comes as a string of tech firms, including Amazon and Google parent Alphabet, have made similar moves in recent months.

Such splits are often seen as positive for the share price of companies as the lower cost makes them more accessible to some investors. Nintendo’s shares are up 5 percent year to date and closed flat ahead of its earnings announcement.

Nintendo sold 23.06 million Switch consoles in the year ended March. That compared with a forecast of 23 million it made in February.

Nintendo, which depends on in-house titles to drive games sales, expects to sell 210 million units of software this year, down from 235 million last year.

The company has a strong pipeline despite the delay of the sequel to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to spring 2023, with upcoming titles this year including Splatoon 3.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Wordle Changes Daily Word to Avoid Controversy Amid Debate Over Abortion Rights, Says New York Times

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By Associated Press | Updated: 10 May 2022

The New York Times moved swiftly to change Monday’s answer to its daily Wordle puzzle out of fear that it would be seen as some sort of commentary on the debate over abortion rights.

The game, which became a sensation late last year and was bought by The Times in January, gives users six tries to guess a different five-letter word each day.

Yet The Times scrambled when it discovered that Monday’s word, which had been entered into Wordle’s computer programme last year, was “fetus.”

The timing was particularly fraught given last week’s leaked report of a draft US Supreme Court decision that would strike down a 50-year-old ruling governing the ability of women to receive abortions.

The appearance of “fetus” was “entirely unintentional and a coincidence,” the newspaper said in a message to readers on Monday.

“At New York Times Games, we take our role seriously as a place to entertain and escape, and we want Wordle to remain distinct from the news,” the message said.

The Times changed Monday’s answer to a different word, and a spokesman said that a “vast majority” of users saw that. But some people who had not refreshed their browsers saw “fetus” instead, spokesman Jordan Cohen said.

He would not say whether The Times had received any complaints about “fetus.”

Wordle was invented by Josh Wardle, a Brooklyn software engineer, as a gift for his partner and took off when he began posting it online. Players guess words and hone in on the correct answer as the game tells them if their guesses contain letters in the word of the day.

The Times bought his invention for more than $1 million (roughly Rs. 7 crore) and is revamping the technology to make sure every user is seeing the same word every day, the newspaper said. Cohen said millions of people play Wordle each day.

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Fortnite Now Free on iPhone With Xbox Cloud Gaming

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By Reuters | Updated: 6 May 2022

Fortnite is back on iPhone — thanks to Microsoft. Xbox Cloud Gaming users will now be able to play Fortnite for free on Android, iOS, and Windows devices thanks to a partnership between Microsoft and Epic Games, the companies said on Thursday.

The hit battle royale video game has been out of the reach of iPhone users since Apple (and Google) removed it from their app stores in 2020 over a tussle about in-app payment guidelines.

On iOS, Fortnite has previously been available through GeForce Now (albeit part of a closed beta). Android users could simply download the game from the Epic Games website.

The Microsoft partnership would allow users, including PC gamers, to stream Fortnite on internet browsers on their devices just like Netflix, irrespective of the hardware specifications.

The move is likely to help Microsoft attract more casual gamers as the software giant doubles down on efforts to bolster its presence in the video gaming market and take on rival Sony. The company earlier this year unveiled a $68.7 billion (roughly Rs. 5,26,873 crore) takeover of Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard.

Fortnite is the first free-to-play title to join the Xbox Cloud Gaming service. “It’s an important step to add a free-to-play title to the cloud gaming catalogue as we continue our cloud journey,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

Since launching in 2020, more than 10 million people around the world have streamed games through Xbox Cloud Gaming. The service is available in 26 markets, including the US. Xbox Cloud Gaming is not available in India.

Microsoft, as well as Epic Games and scores of other firms, have criticised Apple’s store practices, which require developers to pay commissions of up to 30 percent for purchases made in the store.

The Fortnite creator has also been involved in a legal battle with Apple, but it largely lost a trial last year over whether Apple’s payment rules for apps were anticompetitive.

That decision found Apple had suitable reasons to force some app makers to use its payment system and take commissions of 15 to 30 percent on their sales.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Square Enix Sells Off Development Studios and IPs for Tomb Raider, Deus Ex to Embracer

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By Associated Press | Updated: 2 May 2022

Swedish video game publisher Embracer said Monday it had acquired three development studios responsible for hit games such as Tomb Raider and Deus Ex from Japanese publisher Square Enix.

The acquisition of the three North American studios Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montreal and Square Enix Montreal, totalled $300 million (roughly Rs. 2,295 crore) and affects around 1,100 employees, Embracer said in a statement.

It also included the intellectual properties (IPs) for several best-selling franchises, such as Tomb Raider, starring British adventuring archaeologist Lara Croft, who has been a video game character icon since her debut in 1996.

“We are thrilled to welcome these studios into the Embracer Group. We recognise the fantastic IP, world class creative talent, and track record of excellence that have been demonstrated time and again over the past decades,” Lars Wingefors, co-founder and CEO of Embracer, said in a statement.

Other well-known IPs included in the deal were science fiction role-playing game Deus Ex and Thief, where players need to focus on stealth as they don the robes of a master thief.

The purchase is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close between July and September, the group said.

Following the close of the transaction, Embracer, which has been on an acquisition spree for several years, will have more than 14,000 employees and 124 internal game development studios.

Embracer also mentioned that it “sees an opportunity to invest in franchises like Tom Raider, Deus Ex, as well as the additional acquired IPs such as Legacy of Kain, Thief, and other original franchises. The acquisition also includes the continued sales and operations of the studios’ more than 50 back-catalogue games.”

Embracer, formerly known as THQ Nordic, is based in the town of Karlstad in western Sweden.

In a separate statement, Square Enix said “the move is based on the policy of business structure optimization,” which it had outlined in its “medium-term business strategy,” announced in May of 2021.

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Activision Blizzard Q1 Earnings Take Hit From Weak ‘Call of Duty’ Demand

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By Reuters | Updated: 25 April 2022

Videogame publisher Activision Blizzard missed estimates for first-quarter adjusted sales on Monday, hurt by low demand for its latest title Call of Duty: Vanguard.

Activision’s performance has taken a hit from lower premium sales for Call of Duty: Vanguard and weaker engagement in Call of Duty: Warzone, with a return to pre-pandemic habits pressing gamers to spend less time on their consoles.

The company, which is being taken over by Microsoft, has also been facing backlash over its response to allegations of internal sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees.

The Santa Monica, California-based company’s quarterly adjusted sales stood at $1.48 billion (roughly Rs. 11345.33 crore), compared with analysts’ estimates of $1.80 billion (roughly Rs. 13798.378 crore), according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Net income for the quarter ended March 31 fell to $395 million (roughly Rs. 3027.977 crore), or 50 cents per share, from $619 million (roughly Rs. 4744.480 crore), or 79 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Activision earned 64 cents per share.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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