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Fortnite Maker Epic Games Settles Loot Box Lawsuit With In-Game Currency

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 23 February 2021

Epic Games put out word it is paying the equivalent of about $8 (roughly Rs. 580) worth of its virtual money to some players to settle a lawsuit over loot boxes.

The Fortnite maker said it would automatically drop 1,000 V-Bucks into accounts of players who bought Loot Llama pinata-style figures containing in-game items, without knowing what was inside until they had already purchased them.

“While some of you enjoyed purchasing random item Loot Llamas and being surprised by the content unlocked, others were disappointed,” Epic said in a blog post.

“So we decided a better experience for players was to be upfront and outline the details of in-game purchases.”

Mystery loot boxes requiring players to take chances on contents have been controversial, equated by some to gambling, and have prompted legal woes for video game makers.

“We’re dropping 1000 V-Bucks into the accounts of all players globally who bought a random item Loot Llama in STW before we stopped offering them,” Epic said in a tweet.

“If you purchased this item you should see the V-Bucks in your account over the next few days.”

The settlement came in a class action case representing people in the United States who has played with a Fortnite or Rocket League account since July of 2015.

Rocket League players who qualify will get 1,000 credits to accounts used to acquire random-item “crate” loot boxes, according to Epic.

“The proposed settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing by Epic Games, and it denies that it violated the law,” the website maintained.

The settlement also provides $26.5 million ((roughly Rs. 190 crores) to resolve claims by US players arising from in-game purchases.

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Miniature Moon Rover From Hungary to Join Search for Water on Lunar Surface

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By Reuters | Updated: 17 February 2021

Fortnite creator Epic Games has taken its fight against Apple to EU antitrust regulators after failing to make headway in a US court in a dispute over the iPhone maker’s payment system on its App Store and control over apps downloads.

The two companies have been locked in a legal dispute since August last year when the game maker tried to get around Apple’s 30 percent fee on some in-app purchases on the App Store by launching its own in-app payment system.

That prompted Apple to kick Epic’s Fortnite game off the App Store and threaten to terminate an affiliated account that would have effectively blocked distribution of Unreal Engine, a software tool used by hundreds of app makers to create games.

Epic Games founder and CEO Tim 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 told reporters.

“Epic is not asking any court or regulator to change this 30 percent to some other number, only to restore competition on iOS,” he said, referring to Apple’s mobile operating system.

The company also accused Apple of barring rivals from launching their own gaming subscription service on its platform by preventing them from bundling several games together – when its own service, called Apple Arcade, does that.

Apple said its rules apply equally to all developers and that Epic had violated them.

“In ways a judge has described as deceptive and clandestine, Epic enabled a feature in its app, which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines that apply equally to every developer and protect customers,” the company said in a statement.

“Their reckless behaviour made pawns of customers, and we look forward to making this clear to the European Commission,” it said.

The Commission, which is investigating Apple’s mobile payment system Apple Pay and the App Store, declined to comment on the complaint, saying it was aware of the concerns regarding Apple’s App Store rules.

Epic Games has also complained to the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal and to the Australian watchdog, at the same time seeking damages. It has not asked the EU enforcers for damages.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Zynga Rides FarmVille 3 and Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells Boosts to Forecast Strong Bookings for 2021

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By Reuters | Updated: 11 February 2021

Zynga on Wednesday forecast annual net bookings above Wall Street estimates, betting on the launch of its upcoming FarmVille game and strong in-game spending in its existing titles such as Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells.

The company’s shares rose nearly 3 percent in extended trading.

Zynga said it expects full-year net bookings – an indicator of future revenue – to be $2.8 billion (roughly Rs. 20,370 crores), more than the $2.75 billion (roughly Rs. 20,000 crores) analysts were anticipating, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Its outlook includes a full-year contribution from Rollic’s titles Toon Blast and Toy Blast, initial sales of Puzzle Combat and FarmVille 3 set to launch in the first half of 2021, and the potential release of its first Star Wars game by the end of the year.

Zynga’s NaturalMotion studio is also developing four new games focused on the action-adventure category that consumers would be able to play across platforms, Chief Executive Officer Frank Gibeau told Reuters.

The games are expected to be published starting in late 2021, he added.

Zynga depends on licensing deals with franchise owners, such as the one with Warner Bros. Games for Harry Potter and Walt Disney for Star Wars, to publish themed games and has bolstered its position in the fast-growing mobile-gaming market through a slew of acquisitions.

The company said it expects international expansion of its franchises to drive growth in 2021, with Europe and Asia likely to be the primary growth markets.

Net bookings were $699 million (roughly Rs. 5,100 crores) for the fourth quarter, beating estimates of $677.2 million (roughly Rs. 4,900 crores). Zynga mainly generates revenue from the sale of virtual goods, such as currency and lives, within its free-to-play games.

The Words With Friends publisher’s average monthly active users more than doubled from a year earlier to 134 million as people spent more time online due to pandemic-induced restrictions.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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CD Projekt Focusing on Improving Cyberpunk 2077, CEO Says After Global Backlash

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 February 2021

Polish video game maker CD Projekt is focusing on improving Cyberpunk 2077 and restoring the trust of players and partners disappointed with its flagship game, Puls Biznesu daily reported the group’s CEO as saying.

Shares in the company, one of Polish biggest, slumped at the end of last year amid complaints of glitches in the role-play game featuring Hollywood star Keanu Reeves. CD Projekt is now valued at PLN 29 billion (roughly Rs. 56,700 crores) compared to around PLN 40 billion (roughly Rs. 78,200 crores) before the game’s December debut.

Sony pulled Cyberpunk 2077 from its PlayStation Store after just a week. Since then the firm has been working on improvements.

“The long-term goal for us is regaining the trust of players and our business partners,” Adam Kicinski told Puls Biznesu in an interview published on Monday, adding that the group was aiming for the game to be back in Sony’s store as soon as possible.

Kicinski also said that CD Projekt was sticking with plans to publish its strategy in the first quarter.

“We have been…discussing the direction for the coming years, taking into account the experience from the past weeks, he was quoted as saying.

Kicinski said CD Projekt would “actively defend” against any legal claims related to problems with the game and had appointed a law firm to represent the company. The company has said in statements that it is facing class action lawsuits in the United States.

Many of the issues with the game were reported on Sony’s older PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One.

Commenting on the reasons for the shortcomings, Kicinski said that adapting Cyberpunk 2077 to the older-generation consoles was a bigger challenge than had been predicted.

“The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in most of the team working remotely, which did not make things easier either,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Sony Raises Outlook Amid Home Entertainment Boom, but Struggles to Build More PlayStation 5 Consoles

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By Reuters | Updated: 3 February 2021

Japan’s Sony raised its full-year profit outlook by one-third, helped by pandemic-fuelled demand for games, movies, and other content, but said it was struggling to build enough PlayStation 5 consoles amid a global shortage of semiconductors.

The electronics and entertainment conglomerate said on Wednesday some customers may have to wait longer for their consoles as it competes for chips with other businesses ranging from smartphone makers to car companies.

“It is difficult for us to increase production of the PS5 amid the shortage of semiconductors and other components,” Chief Financial Officer Hiroki Totoki said at a press briefing.

Sony expects to sell more than 7.6 million PS5 consoles by end-March, he added.

PS5, which sells for as much as $500 (roughly Rs 36,500), quickly sold out after its launch on online retail sites in the United States and Japan in November, thanks to demand for videogames from people stuck at home due to coronavirus lockdowns.

The shift to the new games console is also expected to encourage gamers to move to online downloads or subscription services, helping Sony boost the profitability of its gaming unit.

Sony now expects JPY 940 billion (roughly Rs. 65,280 crores) in operating profit in the 12 months through March compared with the JPY 700 billion (roughly Rs. 48,600 crores) it previously forecast.

Totoki also said Sony had resumed some shipments of image sensors to customers in China from late November.

Sony had worried about the potential impact on its sensor business following US restrictions on sales of chips using US technology to Chinese smartphone maker Huawei.

In November, Huawei revealed plans to sell its budget-brand smartphone maker Honor. After the spin-off, Honor last month said it had signed deals with chip suppliers and component makers, including Sony.

Huawei was Sony’s second-largest image sensor customer after Apple, accounting for about fifth of its $10 billion (roughly Rs. 73,000 crores) in sensor revenue, according to analysts.

Sony’s operating profit for the October-December quarter jumped 20 percent to JPY 359.2 billion (roughly Rs. 24,950 crores) from a year ago, well past a consensus JPY 179 billion (roughly Rs. 12,430 crores) estimate from six analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

Historically better known for hardware like the Walkman music player and TVs, Sony has invested heavily in recent years in beefing up its entertainment offerings while streamlining its consumer electronics business.

This year it plans to close a factory in Malaysia which manufactures home audio equipment, headphones and other products.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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GeForce Now Beta Now Available for M1-Powered Mac Machines and Chrome Web Browsers

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By ANI | Updated: 30 January 2021

Bringing resource-intensive games to laptops and other devices that might not have the capability to run them on their own, Nvidia has now launched its cloud gaming service GeForce Now’s beta version for Chrome Web browsers and M1 Macs.

According to The Verge, GeForce Now already had applications for Android and Windows 10 devices. But, it expanded to an even wider audience with a beta launch for Chromebooks in August of 2020, and later followed it up by beating Google’s Stadia to iOS devices with a Web app workaround that lets user’s stream games through the Safari Web browser.

Theoretically, now anyone with a Chrome browser can stream games by heading to GeForce Now’s site and creating an account, even on a weak laptop. For the new M1 Mac users, according to release notes there is a new dedicated application. Nvidia’s changelog also lists a few other changes to make the service more useful in a browser, like the ability to create dedicated shortcuts for your games and a new way to share links that can send your friend directly to a game.

Similar to Google Stadia and Amazon Luna, GeForce Now is also essentially a PC in the cloud that users rent to stream their games. Games can be played using a mouse and keyboard, a gamepad, even a wireless headset, all of these work seamlessly in Chrome. It is worth noting that even though Microsoft Edge is a Chromium browser now, it isn’t currently supported.

As per The Verge, GeForce Now’s expansion hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. The service has Steam integration, which can unlock PC games that a user might already own to stream via the service, but not all games work because developers have to opt-in.

Many of these developers are not too happy with Nvidia because GeForce Now lets players stream their games without permission (letting Nvidia profit off a monthly membership). Though its rival Google Stadia has a smaller library of even more tightly curated games, it can often offer a clearer picture and higher resolution than Nvidia does right now.

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Elon Musk’s Cyberpunk 2077-Approving Tweets Helps Boost Developer CD Projekt

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By Reuters | Updated: 29 January 2021

Video games fan Elon Musk gave shares in Polish games producer CD Projekt a further boost on Thursday after the company’s update of its flagship game prompted short sellers to close positions earlier in the week.

Shares in CD Projekt which is valued at almost PLN 37 billion (roughly Rs. 71,960 crores), jumped as much as 19 percent on Thursday, bringing the total gain so far this week to more than 50 percent.

CD Projekt’s shares were hit at the end of 2020 following gamers’ disappointment with the company’s Cyberpunk 2077. Since then the firm has been working on improvements.

Musk tweeted: “The esthetics of Cyberpunk are incredible btw…,” to his 43 million followers on Thursday.

Earlier this week Melvin Capital was said to be driving the gains in CD Projekt by closing out its short positions following losses betting against GameStop and others.

“This is about squeezing out funds from their short positions. Musk’s tweet has added to that,” said Kacper Kopron, analyst at Trigon DM.

Some analysts and sources said the rising share price had also led to rumours that the company could be a takeover target.

CD Projekt declined to comment.

Separately, US-listed shares of Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify rose as much as 3.5 percent in after-hours trading on Thursday shortly after Musk tweeted that the company “is great”.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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