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E3 2022 Won’t Be Held in Person Due to Rising Omicron Cases

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By Reuters | Updated: 7 January 2022

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), a globally renowned event for video games, technology, and computers, will not be held in person this year amid fears around COVID-19, its operator said on Thursday.

The development adds to a list of many showpiece events being wrapped up early or getting canceled or postponed for in-person gatherings amid a surge in US cases, with the latest ones being technology and gadget show CES, the Grammy Awards, and the Sundance Film Festival.

“Due to the ongoing health risks surrounding COVID-19 and its potential impact on the safety of exhibitors and attendees, E3 will not be held in person in 2022,” the E3 operator Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said in a statement.

The rolling seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the US hit 540,000 earlier this week along with a surge in hospitalisations, days after the country reported a record one million infections in 24 hours.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Wordle Knockoffs Pulled From Apple’s App Store

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By Reuters | Updated: 13 January 2022 12:25 IST

Apple said on Wednesday it has removed from its App Store several knockoffs of Wordle, a website-only word game that has seen a recent surge in popularity thanks to celebrities like Jimmy Fallon.

The once-a-day online word game, originally created in October by former Reddit software engineer Josh Wardle, can only be played on his website and does not have a mobile app.

However, several developers have created identical app versions to cash in on surging demand for the game, with unsuspecting users driving up downloads of the clone apps.

As of Wednesday, the only remaining product on the App Store with that title was Wordle!, a time-based game created by Steven Cravotta more than four years ago.

Josh Wardle’s game has flooded Twitter and Facebook timelines in recent weeks as players posted their scores. It gives a player six chances to guess the day’s secret word, which has five letters, and the aim is to figure out the secret word with the fewest guesses.

The game is a free-to-use, ad-less experience on a simple website that does not have to be downloaded from Apple’s App Store or Google’s PlayStore.

Bloomberg News first reported the news on Wednesday.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Nintendo Console Creator Masayuki Uemura Dies at 78

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By ANI | Updated: 11 December 2021

Masayuki Uemura, the lead architect for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Super NES, has died, local media reported.

He was 78, a Japanese newspaper Nikkei Asia reported. Uemura, a native of Tokyo, was a visiting professor at Ritsumeikan University in Japan.

In 197Os, Uemura was in charge of developing the NES and its successor, the SNES. These consoles became huge hits with combined sales of 100 million units worldwide.

Uemura is known as one of the main architects of popular systems in video games died on Monday, according to the Japanese newspaper. This propelled Nintendo to become one of the world’s leading video game companies.

Uemura, an electronic engineering graduate of Japan’s Chiba Institute of Technology, started teaching at Kyoto University in 2004.

In 1983, Disk System hit the Japanese market as Nintendo’s first cartridge-based console. This enabled users to play an expanding range of video games.

The Super Famicom was later released in 1990.

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Activision CEO Bobby Kotick Would Consider Leaving if He Can’t Quickly Fix Culture Problems: Report

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By Reuters | Updated: 22 November 2021

The Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard Bobby Kotick has told senior managers at the company that he would consider stepping down if he fails to quickly fix the culture problems at the company, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, quoting people familiar with his comments.

In a meeting on Friday with executives of the video game publisher’s Blizzard Entertainment unit, Kotick stopped short of saying he would step down, but left it open if misconduct issues at the company weren’t fixed quickly, the people quoted told WSJ.

Activision Blizzard did not respond to a Reuters request for comment outside business hours.

The move comes after some employees at the company staged a walkout last Tuesday after a Wall Street Journal report stated that Kotick knew about allegations of sexual harassment and assault earlier than previously reported.

The comments on Friday by Kotick were part of a series of internal meetings across Activision last week, in which he and other members of the leadership team met with employees to reaffirm their commitment to a healthy workplace, the Journal reported quoting people familiar with the meetings.

Kotick held meetings last week with senior leaders from two of Activision’s units, Activision Publishing and Blizzard Entertainment, WSJ reported, adding top executives of Activision Publishing relayed to Kotick in an online meeting that some employees would not be satisfied unless he stepped down.

Activision has been facing mounting pressure in recent months of allegations from employees of equal pay violations, sexual discrimination and sexual misconduct. The company said it had fired more than 20 employees following allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination last month.

The allegations at the company have also led to delays in launch of products and exit of top executives.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Xbox Chief Says Evaluating Relationship With Activision After Reports of Sexual Harassment, Gender Inequality

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By Reuters | Updated: 19 November 2021

Xbox Chief Phil Spencer is evaluating its relationship with Activision Blizzard, the Microsoft-owned gaming console maker confirmed on Thursday amid allegations of sexual misconduct and equal pay violations against the video-game publisher.

Bloomberg first reported the news on Thursday, citing an email sent to employees.

Spencer told the staff the Xbox gaming leadership team was “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions” at Activision, the report noted.

“The leadership at Xbox and Microsoft stand by our teams and support them in building a safer environment for all,” Spencer said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Activision said the company was engaging with its partners.

Allegations against the company, known for video-game titles including Call of Duty and Diablo, have led to launch delays and exit of top executives.

Earlier this week, employees staged a walkout following a report that the company’s chief executive officer knew about allegations of sexual harassment and assault earlier than previously known.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Activision Loses Blizzard Co-Leader; Delays Launch of Overwatch, Diablo

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By Reuters | Updated: 3 November 2021

Activision Blizzard co-leader Jen Oneal on Tuesday decided to step down from her role, giving full control to Mike Ybarra and the videogame publisher put off the launch of two much-awaited titles, sending its shares down 10 percent.

Ybarra said the delay in the rollout of Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV was due to the leadership change, but did not give a new timeline for their launch, while the company forecast an underwhelming adjusted sales in the holiday quarter.

Oneal and Ybarra took the helm three months ago after Allen Brack stepped down as president, a week after the company was sued for workplace harassment and pay discrimination.

Following this, the company last month fired more than 20 employees, with 20 more facing other forms of disciplinary action.

The owner of Call of Duty and Candy Crush franchises also created an $18 million (roughly Rs. 135 crore) fund to compensate and make amends to eligible claimants, while Chief Executive Bobby Kotick said he would take a large paycut.

In a letter to the company’s gaming community, Oneal said she will leave at the end of the year to focus more on diversity in the gaming industry, which will “hopefully make a broader industry impact that will benefit Blizzard” and other studios.

With her exit, the company now has three female executives in the 13-member leadership team.

Meanwhile, as pandemic-related curbs eased, Activision’s total monthly active users in the third quarter remained unchanged at 390 million from a year earlier, indicating signs of slowing demand for games.

The company, which faces competition from rivals Electronic Arts and Take-Two, said in-game net bookings were same as the third quarter of 2020.

Its adjusted sales for the third quarter was $1.88 billion (roughly Rs. 14,020 crore), in line with Wall Street expectations.

The company said it expects fourth-quarter adjusted sales to be $2.78 billion (roughly Rs. 20,735 crore). Analysts were expecting it to be $2.93 billion (roughly Rs. 21,855 crore), according to Refinitiv data.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Fortnite Pulled by Epic Games From China Over Sweeping Crackdown on Tech Sector

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 2 November 2021

US tech giant Epic Games said it will shut down its popular survival game Fortnite in China, months after authorities imposed a series of strict curbs on the world’s biggest gaming market as part of a sweeping crackdown on the technology sector.

Beijing has embarked on a wide-ranging regulatory clampdown on a number of industries in a drive to tighten its control of the economy, with tech firms taking the brunt of the pain.

In September, officials said they wanted to curb addiction in the gaming-mad nation by announcing drastic cuts to the amount of time children can spend playing online and ordering players to use ID cards when registering.

The moves dealt a severe blow to companies’ ability to make profits and sent the share prices of gaming firms tumbling.

Now, Epic has pulled the plug on Fortnite, saying it will shut down the massively popular game on November 15.

“Fortnite China’s Beta test has reached an end, and the servers will be closed soon,” it said in a statement.

“On November 15 at 11am, we will turn off game servers, and players will no longer be able to log in.”

Hong Kong-listed shares of Tencent, which has a large stake in Epic, were down Tuesday.

The move brings an end to a long-running test of Epic’s version of Fortnite specifically created for the Chinese market, where content is policed for excessive violence.

The Chinese test version was released in 2018, but Fortnite never received the government’s green light for a formal launch as approvals for new games slowed.

The action-packed shooter and world-building game is one of the most popular in the world, boasting more than 350 million users – more than the population of the United States.

Industry crackdown

Epic is the second US-based company to pull a popular product from China in recent weeks, after Microsoft announced in October that it will close its career-oriented social network LinkedIn.

In September, hundreds of Chinese video game makers including Tencent vowed to better police their products for “politically harmful” content and enforce curbs on underage players, as they looked to fall in line with government demands.

The 213 gaming firms promised in a joint statement to ban content that was “politically harmful, historically nihilistic, dirty and pornographic, bloody and terrifying”.

Chinese gaming firms have also been ordered by regulators to stop focusing on profit and gaining fans, with enterprises that are seen as flouting rules threatened with punishment.

Fortnite’s announcement was met with sadness from fans in China, who took to social media to mourn the loss of the game.

“I’m genuinely crying so hard – I was just playing with my boyfriend and was really looking forward to what was coming next,” one Weibo user wrote. “This is just so sudden.”

Many said they had poured hundreds of hours into building up their characters and social networks on the game.

Multiple Fortnite fan accounts on Weibo shared a link to a petition where players urged Epic to transfer players’ data to servers outside China, writing they would lose the gaming data with “our heart and mind” stored in it.

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