What You Missed This Week in Video Games

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“Game On” is The Fly’s weekly recap of the stories powering up or beating down video game stocks.

NEW RELEASES: 

This week’s major new release is Ubisoft’s (UBSFY) rhythm game “Just Dance 2023,” which launches on November 22 for Nintendo Switch (NTDOY), PlayStation 5 (SONY), and Xbox Series X/S (MSFT).

BLIZZARD/CHINA: 

Blizzard Entertainment, a division of Activision Blizzard (ATVI), announced last week that it will be suspending most Blizzard game services in mainland China due to the expiration of the current licensing agreements with NetEase (NTES) on January 23, 2023. This includes “World of Warcraft,” “Hearthstone,” “Warcraft III: Reforged,” “Overwatch,” the “StarCraft” series, “Diablo III,” and “Heroes of the Storm.” “Diablo Immortal” co-development and publishing is covered under a separate agreement between the two companies. Blizzard Entertainment has had licensing agreements with NetEase since 2008, covering the publication of these Blizzard titles in China. The two parties have not reached a deal to renew the agreements that is consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees, and the agreements are set to expire in January 2023.

UBISOFT/RIOT: 

Last Wednesday, Ubisoft and Tencent’s (TCEHY) Riot Games, which oversees development of “League of Legends,” announced they are partnering over a new research project in the pursuit of making online video game spaces safer. Removing ‘harm’ – a complex word with many tendrils of meaning – in video game chats is crucial and ongoing work, and their project, Zero Harm in Comms, aims to ultimately develop a more nuanced and robust framework than anything else available to do just that, the companies said. Gathered from various chat logs in Ubisoft’s and Riot’s portfolio of games, the data – strings of text – are scrubbed clean of Personally Identifiable Information and personal information. They are then labeled by behavior and used to train automated systems to better recognize and parse such harmful behavior from the jump. With more data, these systems can theoretically gain an understanding of nuance and context beyond key words, they said. The Fly notes that both companies have been subject to allegations of fostering a toxic work environment, including claims of sexual harassment and discrimination.

GOOGLE/COMPETITION: 

Late last week, Reuters reported that Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google reached agreements with at least 24 major app developers to stop them from competing with its Play Store, including a deal to pay Activision Blizzard roughly $360M. The details came about in a newly unredacted copy of a lawsuit Epic Games, the creator of “Fortnite,” first filed against the search giant in 2020 over allegedly anticompetitive practices. Investors in Epic Games include Tencent, KKR (KKR), Disney (DIS), and Sony.

  • Nintendo’s “Pokemon Scarlet/Violet” is the second biggest “Pokemon” launch of all time in the U.K., Gamesindustry.biz reports [more]
  • Sony’s “God of War Ragnarok” is the second biggest U.K. boxed game launch of 2022, Gamesindustry.biz says [more]
  • Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer told The Verge that “Call of Duty” will remain on PlayStation [more]
  • Electronic Arts (EA) will release “EA Sports College Football” in 2024, ESPN reports [more]
  • Nintendo’s “Splatoon 3” has sold over 3M physical units in Japan, Gamesindustry.biz reports [more]
  • Sony is expanding a program to identify and incubate Chinese-made games, Reuters reports [more]
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