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Sony Posts Strong Second-Quarter Profit on Gaming Business, Booming PlayStation 5 Pre-Orders

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By Reuters | Updated: 28 October 2020

Sony on Wednesday raised its annual profit outlook after reporting a surprise second-quarter profit increase, as its gaming business continued to capture “nesting” demand driven by COVID-19 lockdown measures.

July-September profit reached JPY 317.76 billion (roughly Rs. 22,500 crores), up 13.9 percent from JPY 278.96 billion (roughly Rs. 19,700 crores) in the same period a year prior, the entertainment and electronics firm said in a statement.

The result compared with the JPY 197.55 billion (roughly Rs. 14,000 crores) average of 11 analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv. Sony raised its annual profit forecast to JPY 700 billion (roughly Rs. 49,600 crores) from an earlier estimate of JPY 620 billion (roughly Rs. 43,900 crores). That compared with the JPY 672.33 billion (roughly Rs. 47,600 crores) consensus of 24 analysts.

The firm now forecasts its gaming division to post annual profit of JPY 300 billion (roughly Rs. 21,200 crores), from the previously estimated JPY 240 billion (roughly Rs. 17,000 crores).

Consumers’ shift to gaming software downloads and online subscription services during lockdown boosted profit despite the PlayStation 4 console coming to the end of its lifecycle.

Such high-margin online revenue is likely to help Sony’s gaming business stay profitable this year, outweighing massive marketing and production costs associated with the launch of the PlayStation 5 (PS5) console next month.

Sony pre-sold as many PS5 consoles in the first 12 hours in the United States as in the first 12 weeks for its predecessor PlayStation 4 device, Jim Ryan, CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, said in an interview.

“The demand as expressed by the level of pre-order has been very, very considerable,” Ryan told Reuters.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Cyberpunk 2077 Maker CD Projekt Has No Plans to ‘Shelve’ Game, Committed to Fixing So It Can Sell ‘For Years’

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By Reuters | Updated: 12 April 2021

Video games maker CD Projekt has no plans to shelve Cyberpunk 2077 and is committed to fixing glitches to make its flagship game a long-term success after a troubled rollout, joint chief executive Adam Kicinski told Reuters.

Kicinski said CD Projekt was in touch with Sony, which pulled Cyberpunk 2077 from its PlayStation Store only a week after its debut in December amid complaints of glitches in the video game.

The role-playing game, billed as an “open-world, action-adventure story set in … a megalopolis obsessed with power, glamour and body modification” and featuring Hollywood star Keanu Reeves, was delayed three times before its debut.

“I don’t see an option to shelve Cyberpunk 2077. We are convinced that we can bring the game to such a state that we can be proud of it and therefore successfully sell it for years to come,” Kicinski said.

CD Projekt released a patch for Cyberpunk 2077 last month, and Kicinski said the new 1.2 patch was a step towards the game’s return to the PlayStation store and that the Polish games maker had “friendly relations” with Sony.

Cyberpunk 2077 had been CD Projekt’s most-anticipated game since 2015’s The Witcher: Wild Hunt.

Last month the company also unexpectedly cancelled plans to develop a standalone multi-player version of Cyberpunk 2077.

Kicinski said that the format is more risky for the company, which has to date focused on single-player games.

In another setback, CD Projekt was hit by a cyber attack in February. Kicinski said the company did not lose any data in the attack, which was caused by a hole in an external software, and it led to only a 2-3 week delay to its development work.

Kicinski, who has worked at CD Projekt since it was founded nearly three decades ago, said the company is looking for acquisition opportunities as it embarks on a “fundamental” change to be able to develop two high-budget games in parallel from next year. Acquisitions would not be aimed at boosting financial results and would not be restricted to any geographical locations, he said.

He also said that since hostile takeovers cannot be fully ruled out in the gaming industry, the company took steps a few years ago to reduce the risk of becoming a takeover target, including capping a shareholder’s voting rights to 20 percent.

CD Projekt faces class action lawsuits in the United States following the troubled Cyberpunk debut, and Kicinski said the company is represented by Cooley LLP law firm.

In one of those cases, CD Projekt said on Friday that legal claims against the company in the United States regarding the terms of distribution deals with Valve Corp. had now been withdrawn. Video games maker CD Projekt has no plans to shelve Cyberpunk 2077 and is committed to fixing glitches to make its flagship game a long-term success after a troubled rollout, joint chief executive Adam Kicinski told Reuters.

Kicinski said CD Projekt was in touch with Sony, which pulled Cyberpunk 2077 from its PlayStation Store only a week after its debut in December amid complaints of glitches in the video game.

The role-playing game, billed as an “open-world, action-adventure story set in … a megalopolis obsessed with power, glamour and body modification” and featuring Hollywood star Keanu Reeves, was delayed three times before its debut.

“I don’t see an option to shelve Cyberpunk 2077. We are convinced that we can bring the game to such a state that we can be proud of it and therefore successfully sell it for years to come,” Kicinski said.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Fortnite Maker Epic Games and Apple Duel in Filings as App Store Trial Nears

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 9 April 2021

Epic Games and Apple dueled on Thursday in legal filings ahead of a trial over whether to break the iPhone maker’s tight grip on the App Store.

Epic, the maker of the massively popular Fortnite game, accused Apple of trapping people in its mobile device world and collecting “outsized commission” at the App Store that serves as the only source of digital content.

Apple countered that it has no monopoly when it comes to digital games and that the suit is part of an effort by Epic to portray “Apple as the ‘bad guy’ so that it can revive flagging interest in Fortnite.”

Apple pulled Fortnite from its App Store in August of last year after Epic released an update that dodges revenue sharing with the iPhone maker, and the companies are now locked in a legal battle.

A trial in the case is set to begin May 3 in US federal court near San Francisco.

Apple chief Tim Cook as well as Epic founder and top executive Tim Sweeney are among those expected to testify.

“Apple constructed the iOS ecosystem, using a combination of technical and contractual means, to restrict distribution of iOS apps, foreclosing competition, harming the competitive process, and harming consumers,” Epic contended in a filing.

The iOS software runs Apple mobile devices.

The App Store is home to more than 1.8 million apps worldwide, generating billions of dollars in revenue for developers since it was launched in 2008.

People spent $70.3 billion (roughly Rs. 5,25,545 crores) at the App Store last year alone, according to market tracker Statista.

Apple’s commission on App Store transactions ranges from 15 percent to 30 percent, and the online shop has been part of the Silicon Valley titan’s effort to ramp up revenue from digital content and services.

Epic has called the App Store bite of transactions an “Apple Tax” and contended that the vetting of apps there is “cursory.”

Apple maintains that the commission is standard for the market, and is warranted given the company’s investments in security, privacy and innovation.

It has argued that Epic “would like to reap the benefits of the App Store without paying anything for them.”

Apple said Epic has benefitted from the iOS ecosystem with some 130 million downloads in 174 countries, which earned Epic more than half a billion dollars, before changing its tune and seeking “special treatment.”

The dispute comes with Apple and other tech giants facing increased scrutiny for their dominance in various economic sectors, allowing them to grow even as much of the economy contracts from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Twitch Will Ban Users for ‘Severe Misconduct’ That Occurs Away From Its Site

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 April 2021

Live-streaming service Twitch will ban users for offenses such as hate-group membership or credible threats of mass violence that occur entirely away from the site, in a new approach to moderating the platform, the company said on Wednesday.

The Amazon-owned platform, which is popular among video gamers, said under its new rules it would take enforcement actions against offline offenses that posed a “substantial safety risk” to its community.

It said examples of this “severe misconduct” include terrorist activities, child sexual exploitation, violent extremism, credible threats of mass violence, carrying out or deliberately acting as an accomplice to sexual assault and threatening Twitch or its staff.

“Taking action against misconduct that occurs entirely off our service is a novel approach for both Twitch and the industry at large, but it’s one we believe – and hear from you – is crucial to get right,” the company said in a blog post.

Major social media companies Facebook and Twitter largely focus their rules and enforcement actions on content and activity on the actual services, with exceptions for certain individuals or organisations they have designated as dangerous or violent.

Twitch previously took into account off-service behaviours related to incidents on the site, such as harassment on other social media platforms. It said it had also historically taken action against serious misconduct away from its service, such as when it indefinitely suspended the account of former US President Donald Trump after a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6. Twitch said it did not have a large-scale approach in the past.

The company said users will be able to report such behaviours but it may also investigate cases proactively, for instance if there is a verified news report that a user has been arrested.

Twitch said it would rely more heavily on law enforcement in “off-service” cases and is partnering with an investigative law firm to support its internal team. It declined to name the firm.

The new standards will apply even if the target of the offline behaviours is not a Twitch user or if the perpetrator was not a user when they committed the acts. Perpetrators would also be banned from registering a Twitch account, it said.

Twitch said it would take action only when there was evidence, such as screen shots, videos of off-Twitch behavior or police filings, verified by its internal team or third-party investigators. Users who submit a large amount of frivolous reports will face suspension.

The company said in cases where the behavior happened in the distant past, users had gone through rehabilitation such as time in a correctional facility, and they no longer presented a danger to the community, it might not take action or might reinstate users on appeal.

It said it would share updates with the involved parties but would not share public updates about actions under this policy.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Super Mario Bros. Nintendo Game From 1986 Auctions for $660,000

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By Associated Press | Updated: 3 April 2021

An unopened copy of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. that was bought in 1986 and then forgotten about in a desk drawer for over three decades has been sold at an auction for $660,000 (roughly Rs. 4.8 crores). Heritage Auctions in Dallas said the video game sold Friday.

The auction house said the video game was bought as a Christmas gift but ended up being placed in a desk drawer, where it remained sealed in plastic and with its hang tab intact until it was found earlier this year.

“Since the production window for this copy and others like it was so short, finding another copy from this same production run in similar condition would be akin to looking for a single drop of water in an ocean,” said Valarie McLeckie, Heritage’s video game specialist.

Heritage said it is the finest copy known to have been professionally graded for auction. Its selling price far exceeded the $114,000 (roughly Rs. 83 lakhs) that another unopened copy that was produced in 1987 fetched in a Heritage auction last summer.

“As soon as this copy of Super Mario Bros. arrived at Heritage, we knew the market would find it just as sensational as we did,” said McLeckie. “Even so, the degree to which this game was embraced outside the market has been nothing short of exceptional, and that aspect of this sale has certainly exceeded our expectations. Though, I suppose we can’t be too shocked; who doesn’t love Mario?”

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Cyberpunk 2077 Developer CD Projekt Expected to Offer Recovery Plan Over Game’s Buggy Release

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By Reuters | Updated: 30 March 2021

CD Projekt, the Polish studio behind one of the most anticipated and derided games of 2020, will have a lot of explaining to do when it updates investors on its strategy on Tuesday. Cyberpunk 2077, a futuristic role-playing game featuring Keanu Reeves, launched in December to scathing reviews amid reports of bugs. Analysts say it must present a credible plan to fix those problems and to start regaining the trust of gamers and investors.

“(We expect) a sensible post-mortem of what went wrong in the CY77 development process and how the studio would prevent this from happening again with other games,” Jefferies analyst Lyra Li said.

The company, which has lost 50 percent of its market value since December, was unlikely to flag any new games in development and would instead focus on repairing the damage caused by Cyberpunk 2077’s botched launch, analysts said.

“The company needs to prove that it can learn from its mistakes and is able to turn a short-term crisis into long-term success,” said Piotr Cieslak, managing director at Poland’s Retail Investors Association.

CD Projekt’s shares jumped 9 percent on Monday amid speculation about plans for free and paid downloadable content (DLC) for Cyberpunk on the social media platform Reddit.

CD Projekt said it would not comment on market speculation.

Maciej Kietlinski, analyst at Noble Securities, said if the release of three paid DLCs is true, it would mean that the company has an idea for the repair and development of the Cyberpunk universe.

“It would take a couple big DLCs to fan the flames of interest in Cyberpunk 2077. Add substantial content, add storylines, add playability and re-playability. Fix the remaining glitches,” said Claudio Lenato, a 26-year-old gamer from Italy.

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Google Stadia May Add Touchscreen Controls on Android: Report

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By ANI | Updated: 26 March 2021

Tech giant Google’s cloud gaming service Stadia is testing touchscreen controls on Android, and might roll out a ”direct touch” feature in it soon.

9to5Google has analysed the latest Stadia release on Android and found multiple references to a “direct touch” feature. Once enabled, direct touch will allow Stadia users to tap, swipe, and pinch elements in games, or continue to use a Bluetooth or USB controller.

However, it is not yet clear which games will support direct touch, though Stadia currently has very limited support for touchscreen controls in games like Monopoly that allow users to toggle a touch mode on. This new direct touch feature has only been discovered in the Android version of Stadia, and will later be rolled over to the Web version for iOS, too.

Google has not officially detailed direct touch for Stadia.

Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming service has implemented a variety of touch controls across more than 20 games, allowing Xbox players to enjoy games without a controller.

Google also appears to be readying Android TV support for Stadia. 9to5Google noted that there are explicit references to Android TV in this latest Stadia app update. Stadia launched on Chromecast Ultra devices, but support for Android TV has been missing since Stadia’s debut more than a year ago.

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