Category Archives: Gaming

Unity Temporarily Closes Offices Amid Death Threats Over Pricing Changes

Unity has temporarily closed its offices in San Francisco and Austin, Texas and cancelled a town hall meeting after receiving death threats, according to Bloomberg, as reported by Engadget. Earlier this week, the company announced a contentious change to its business model.

“Today, we have been made aware of a potential threat to some of our offices. We have taken immediate and proactive measures to ensure the safety of our employees, which is our top priority,” a Unity spokesperson told Engadget. “We are closing our offices today and tomorrow that could be potential targets for this threat, and we are fully cooperating with law enforcement on the investigation.”

Kotaku noted that, as reported by Bloomberg’s Jason Schrier, Unity CEO John Riccitiello said that a scheduled September 14 company town hall meeting has been canceled, while both the Austin Texas and San Francisco, California offices will remain closed for the day. This is due to a “credible death threat” that was made against the tech company, though the nature of this potential violence hasn’t yet been detailed.

The Hill reported that Unity, a game engine that serves as the foundation to tens of thousands of video game projects, announced Wednesday that it will charge a developer 20 cents every time a game with their engine is downloaded starting Jan. 1. The change garnered massive criticism from developers and gamers who fear the fees could bankrupt small developers and make free-to-play titles unprofitable.

According to The Hill, Unity originally planned a town hall to discuss the pricing decision with employee Thursday morning. The two offices under threat – in Austin, Texas and San Francisco – were closed Thursday and will remain closed, the company said, according to Bloomberg.

The Hill also reported that rival game software company Epic Games, developer of the Unreal Engine, only charges similar fees for projects that make more than $1 million in total revenue – exempting the smallest hobbyists and games entrepreneurs. Both software programs are free to use and feature assets and tools that can be purchased.

Some developers have already announced that they may avoid using the Unity engine in the future and opt for the company’s rivals, even if their games are not levied with fees.

The Verge reported that Unity CEO John Riccitiello himself became a central figure of the controversy over the pay-per-install pricing scheme, as some see him as the driving force behind the new model. He was the CEO of Electronic Arts when the controversial loot box monetization was added to FIFA 09.

According to The Verge, Unity has tweeted some clarifications about the new pricing structure and walked back several unpopular tenets. Developers will no longer be charged for demos or game re-installs but will be charged for installs on multiple devices. There will also be programs in place to protect against fraud or malicious activity, and games included in charity bundles will not be subject to fees.

I can understand why someone would be upset about newly-created pricing charges. That said, sending a death threat to someone is always going to be the wrong choice to make.

Unity Introduces New Fees – Developers React

Unity posted information on its blog that appears to have made game developers angry. The blog was titled: “Unity plan pricing and packaging updates”. Here is a piece of that blog:

Effective January 1, 2024, we will introduce a new Unity Runtime Fee that’s based on game installs. We will also add cloud-based asset storage, Unity DevOps tools, and AI at runtime at no extra cost to Unity subscription plans this November.

As many of you know, the Unity Engine is in fact two substantial software components – the Unity Editor and the Unity Runtime. The Unity Runtime is code that executes on player devices and makes Made with Unity games work at scale, with billions of monthly downloads.

We are introducing a Unity Runtime Fee that is based upon each time a qualifying game is downloaded by an end user. We chose this because each time a game is downloaded, the Unity Runtime is also installed. Also we believe that an initial install-based fee allows creators to keep the ongoing financial gains form player engagement, unlike a revenue share…

…Only games that meet the following thresholds qualify for the Unity Runtime Fee:

Unity Personal and Unity Plus: Those that have made $200,000 USD or more in the last 12 months AND have at least 200,000 lifetime game installs.

Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise: Those that have made $1,000,000 USD or more in the last 12 months AND have at least 1,000,000 lifetime game installs.

Game Developer reported:  As for why Unity has chosen to introduce these new fees, Unity Create president Marc Whitten told Game Developer the company is seeking to “better balance the value exchange” between Unity and developers.

After discussing the ins and outs of the fee, Whitten chose to speak more plainly about why Unity is charging developers an additional fee.  As he put it, “we want to make more money so that we can continue to invest in the engine.”

Axios reported that Unity, the tech company behind one of the most popular engines for creating video games, is scrambling to clarify how a price increase for its services will work, after its announcement Tuesday morning broadly infuriated the game development community.

The fees, which Unity said are essential for funding development of its tech, left many game makers wondering if having a hit game through Unity would cost them more than they could make, Axios reported.

Developers spoke throughout the day of delaying their games to switch to rival Epic Games’ Unreal Engine or other series on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

After initially telling Axios earlier Tuesday that a player installing a game, deleting it, and installing it again would result in multiple fees, Unity’s Whitten told Axios that the company would actually only charge for an install installation. 

Whitten also told Axios that runtime fees will also not charged for installations of game demos, unless the demo is part of a download that includes the full game (early access games would be charged for an installation, he noted). 

Games offered for charity or included in charity bundles will be exempt from the fees. Unity will provide a way for developers to inform Unity that their games are being offered that way, Whitten said.

As for Game Pass and other subscriptions,  Whitten said that developers like Aggro Crab would not be on the hook, as the fees are charged to distributors, which in the Game Pass example would be Microsoft.

Personally, I think that Unity is likely going to lose a lot of game developers who will move to a different system to build games with. Unity made a big mistake, one that game developers will remember.


Roblox Allows Game Developers To Sell 3D Virtual Content

Roblox, the popular kids gaming platform, is looking to bolster revenue by giving wider swath of users the ability to create and sell more types of digital goods, CNBC reported.

The company said on Friday that subscribers to the Roblox app’s upper-tier premium plans, which gives users a monthly allowance of the Roblox digital currency, will be able to hawk their 3D goods to other users. Previously, Roblox gamers could only create and sell 2D goods like virtual clothing and were required to apply and win approval to be part of the company’s user-generated content (UGC) program in order to do the same with 3D assets.

“Now you have the marketplace open to everybody, and you will have the opportunity to have a lot of creation on the platform,” Manuel Bronstein, Roblox’s chief product officer, said in an interview with CNBC. “We know that with increased creation comes more engagement and more users.”

According to CNBC, by allowing Roblox users to create and sell 3D goods, the company could gain more paid subscribers who are willing to spend money for that feature. Although users, who must provide photo identification, will have to pay a fee of 750 Robux to upload 3D accessories and clothing to the marketplace, they will be able to submit their custom 3D bodies and heads for digital avatars for free. Users pay $105 for 30,000 Robux.

Roblox posted “RDC 2023: Where Roblox is going next” on its blog. There is a lot of stuff to sort through, but the most interesting part is about Economic Opportunities For Creators. From the blog post:

“At RDC, we shared with creators key enhancements that will improve their ability to earn on Roblox. First, we shared that we’ll soon launch a way for creators to offer subscriptions within their experiences and the freedom to choose which features or offerings to make available as a subscription model. For instance, a creator could offer a subscription for a digital “trunk club” where subscribers regularly receive curated outfits, or a members-only fan club.

As a step toward making it possible for anyone on Roblox to participate in our economy, later this month, we are inviting anyone that is ID-verified and has Premium to create 3D items for our Marketplace. We care about creating a Marketplace with content people love and where creativity is protected.

That’s why as we open up our Marketplace this year, we are implementing safeguards in addition to ID verification that bring more accountability to creators. We are also developing easier ways for creators to detect duplicates of their items and more easily report, manage, and track IP claims. These tools are in development now and we’ll share details as they become available.

We are also evolving our Marketplace so that by next year, there will be two predominant types of items: those that are fixed in quantity (Limiteds) and those that have a flexible quantity, both with costs per unit to publish. Grounded in real-world economics, these systems are intended help creators sustainably earn income. We launched Limiteds in April and through June 2023, we’ve seen strong traction, with 77 percent of Limiteds selling out and 80 percent of items reselling for more than the original price…”

Mashable reported that in a huge win for Roblox’s creator community, the platform will be opening up its Marketplace to all users. Until now, only select users and brands who had been approved as part of Roblox’s UGC Program could list and sell items. With this update, anyone anywhere can share their work and get paid for it.

Personally, I find it interesting that Roblox is actively seeking out creators by making it possible for them to sell their 3D content and earn some money. This sounds like a really good way to entice game developers to come to Roblox and make interesting things!

Xbox Introduces Enforcement Strike System

Xbox provided information about their Enforcement Strike System. The purpose appears to be a means of giving players, who are doing things Xbox doesn’t like, to have a penalty.

From the blog post:

We are constantly improving our safety measures and bringing more systems and tools in place that empower players to respectfully interact with one another – because everyone deserves a place to comfortably be themselves online, free from harassment and bullying.

One of the most common questions we get from players though feedback, posts, and appeals is how repeated enforcements impact their gameplay, how they escalate, what they escalate to, and how they know when their account is back in good standing. To help address this, we are introducing a new enforcement strike system.

The new system attaches strikes to every enforcement, ranging in severity based on inappropriate activity. Each player will now have a view of their enforcement history including strikes and the overall impact these have on their player record.

This revised system gives players a better understanding of enforcement severity and the cumulative effect of multiple enforcements, Enforcement transparency is about giving players clarity into how their behavior impacts their new enforcement strike system.

…With the new system, enforcements will also include strikes based on the severity of their actions. The system is similar to demerit strikes used in driver’s license systems in many countries. For example, a player who has received two strikes will be suspended for seven days. Players have a total of eight strikes and, once reached, will be suspended from Xbox’s social features like messaging, parties and party chat, multiplayer and others for one year from the enforcement date. All strikes received stay on a player’s record for six months.

Today, players will all begin with a black slate, or zero strikes. Any previous enforcements such as suspensions, must still be completed; new enforcement as of today will result in strikes…

Gizmodo reported: Sorry gamers, Xbox says you will need to behave. Starting today (Tuesday) Xbox will be cracking down on its Community Standards by rolling out eight-strike policy that should help curb abusive behavior while educating players about their own rap sheet.

According to Gizmodo, the new system also lets users take a peek at their own disciplinary record. The enforcement history interface will show a play how many strikes they have as well as why they received those strikes. The menu will also have a handy link to the platform’s Community Standards so users can brush up to prevent repeat offenses.

Gizmodo also reported that different offenses carry different numbers of strikes – Dave McCarthy, CVP Xbox Player Services, likened this to driver’s license point programs. A graphic in the blog illustrates some examples: profanity is one strike, sexually inappropriate behavior is two strikes, and hate speech is three strikes. Players will also be able to appeal strikes.

Personally, I think it is a good idea for Xbox to not only create a new Enforcement Strike System, but also to enforce it. Nobody wants to jump into a game on Xbox and be harassed by some random angry player. What happens when those players reach eight strikes? My best guess is that they will move to PlayStation or other consoles, and harass players over there instead.

PlayStation Announces Controller For PS5 Launches Globally December 6

Vice President, Brand, Hardware and Peripherals, SIE, Isabelle Tomatis, posted information about PlayStation’s highly customizable accessibility controller kit available to preorder starting on July 21. From the PlayStation blog:

For the past five years, we’ve been on a journey with accessibility organizations and experts to create a versatile controller kit that enables games with disabilities to play more comfortably and for longer periods, empowering more players to share in the joy of gaming. Today, I’m thrilled to announce that Access controller for PS5 will be available globally on December 6, with preorders kicking off on Friday, July 21.

Available for a suggested retail price of $89.99 USD / $119.99 CAD / ¥12,980 JPY/€89.99/£79.99 (MSRP), the Access controller lets you customize your layout with different button and stick caps in various shapes and designs, operate the controller from any 360° orientation, and connect third-party accessibility accessories using its four industry-standard 3.5mm expansion ports.

On your PS5 console, there are many settings for the Access controller that you can configure to meet your needs. You can map buttons to create up to 30 control profiles, adjust stick settings, toggle commands on/off, or disable buttons altogether to stop accidentally pressing. You can even pair up to two Access controllers and one DualSense wireless controller together and use them collaboratively.

Preorders kick off on July 21

Starting Friday, July 21 at 10am local time, players in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Portugal will be able to preorder the Access controller directly from PlayStation through as well as from select retailers. Preorders will also be available through select retailers in other global markets on the same day. The Access controller will launch globally on December 6.

Gizmodo reported that the fully customizable “Access” controller will cost $90, is AMPS mount compatible, and can include additional pluggable buttons and joysticks.

According to Gizmodo, Sony’s gaming arm has long been fascinated by shapes. The face that everybody else labeled their buttons with “A” or “B” meant nothing to the legacy tech brand, as the first PlayStation controller included “X” or “O” buttons instead. Now, the gaming company finally has a release date and price for one of the most intriguing designs out there for a controller – a large, flat circle with swappable keys engineered to be one of the most accessible interfaces on the console market.

Gizmodo also reported that the Access controller is meant to be an accessibility-first option for gamers who have long struggled with your average twin-stick control design. This new device is meant to be truly customizable, with eight slots that can fit 19 different key caps that come in the box.
Many of the caps are designed for specific accessible use, such as the wide flat button caps and the other overhanging button caps. One cap that comes with the controller, for example, can cover up two button sockets. You can mix and match different tags to mark the inputs based on your in-game controller mapping.

Personally, as a gamer who has a neurological issue that can cause my hands to hurt while playing a video game on console, I think PlayStation’s Access controller is a good idea. The customizable controller could give other gamers like me the ability to play longer.

Google Hit With Lawsuit Over Alleged Stolen Data To Train AI Tools

Google was hit with a wide-ranging lawsuit on Tuesday alleging the tech giant scraped data from millions of users without their consent and violated copyright laws in order to train and develop its artificial intelligence products, CNN reported.

The proposed class action suit against Google, its parent company Alphabet, and Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind was filed in federal court in California on Tuesday, and was brought by Clarkson Law Firm, CNN reported. The firm previously filed a similar smaller suit against ChatGPT-maker OpenAI last month.

The complaint alleges that Google “has been secretly stealing everything ever created and shared on the internet by hundreds of millions of Americans” and using this data to train its AI products, such as its chatbot Bard. The complaint also claims Google has taken “virtually the entirely of our digital footprint,” including “creative and copywrite works” to build its AI products.

According to CNN, the complaint points to a recent update to Google’s privacy policy that explicitly states the company may use publicly accessible information to train its AI models and tools such as Bard.

The lawsuit comes as a new crop of AI tools have gained tremendous attention in recent months for their ability to generate work and images in response to user prompts. The large language models underpinning this new technology are able to do this by training on vast troves of online data.

The suit is seeking injunctive relief in the form of a temporary freeze on commercial access to and commercial development of Google’s generative AI tools like Bard. It is also seeking unspecified damages and payments as financial compensation to people whose data was allegedly misappropriated by Google. The firm says it has lined up eight plaintiffs, including a minor.

SlashGear reported that the news regarding Google comes only days after OpenAI was slapped with (another) lawsuit involving its models – in that case, the GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 upon which the ChatGPT name is based. Authors including comedian Sarah Silverman accused OpenAI – via the lawsuit – of violating their book copyrights by including them in training data without permission. Even more, that lawsuit suggested that OpenAI may have used illegal shadow libraries to source the books.

When big companies fight with lawsuits, there are many people indirectly swept up in the matter who don’t have the resources to individually challenge tech giants, SlashGear reported. It’s no surprise, then, that Google is facing a proposed class action suit that wants among other things, for the company to hit pause on providing commercial access to its AI models.

In my opinion, Google (and other big companies) have absolutely no right to steal content from creators, especially because the company does not ask for permission to use work that doesn’t belong to them, nor does it financially compensate the creators. This is why I have stopped posting my artwork publicly online.

Sega of America Workers Win Union Vote

Sega of America workers voted “yes” to officially form a union. The National Labor Relations Board counted the group’s mailed-in votes on Monday, with the Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega, or AEGIS, winning the vote, Polygon reported.

According to Polygon, one hundred and seventeen votes were counted, 91 votes for the union and 26 votes against. (Several votes were challenged and not counted.) The unit will include more than 200 roles at Sega of America’s Irvine, California office, Communication Workers of America said in a news release.

The union spans several different departments: marketing, games as a service, localization, product development, and quality assurance. The Irvine office, which opened in 2022, houses up to 235 workers. With this win, AGEIS-CWA is the first video game industry union at a major company that spans multiple departments. Boston-based Activision Blizzard studio Proletariat attempted this earlier in 2023, but ultimately pulled its union petition. Next, NLRB will have to certify the union before moving into bargaining.

IGN reported (in April of 2023) that a supermajority of workers at Sega of America have announced that they have formed a union under the Communications Workers of America, and are asking for voluntary recognition from company management.

According to IGN, AEGIS stated the following goals in its mission statement:

* Higher base pay for all, following industry standards, with raises tied to the cost of living and inflation.

* Improved, stable benefits for all, including healthcare, retirement, remote work opportunities, and more.

* Increased, clearly outlined opportunities for advancement.

* Balanced workloads and schedules, and defined responsibilities for all positions.

* Adequate staffing of departments to end patterns of overwork.

IGN also reported (in an article posted today) that a press release claims that the win makes the AEGIS-CWA the largest multi-department union of organized workers in the game industry.

AEGIS-CWA tweeted: “WE WON! We just won our union election 91-26. Our 200+ member union is now the LARGEST multi-department union of organized workers in the ENTIRE gaming industry. So excited to celebrate this win & head to the bargaining table w/@SEGA to continue building this company we love!”

Kotaku reported that the AGEIS-CWA group will now prepare to bargain on first contact with Sega on issues like pay, overtime, and promotion opportunities.

According to Kotaku, Sega President of America and COO Ian Curran finally acknowledged the union drive in an email to staff on Wednesday. Axios’ Stephen Totilo reported “Union matters are new to me,” he wrote, but said no employee would be treated any differently if they supported organizing. He did not say the company would voluntarily recognize the union, however, meaning a secret ballot with the NLRB will likely be forced instead.

Personally, I think that unionization makes every workplace better for employees. Being in a union means that the company must give the employees the majority of the things they have asked for after winning the vote for unionization. Failure to do so could potentially lead to litigation from the NLRB, or cause good workers to jump ship to other companies.