Category Archives: Gaming

Xbox and PlayStation are Evaluating Relationship with Activision Blizzard



Bloomberg reported that Microsoft’s head of Xbox said he’s “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments,” in light of the recent revelations at the video game publishing company.

This is in reference to an article posted by the Wall Street Journal alleging that CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick, knew for years about sexual-misconduct allegations at the company he leads. The same article stated that Bobby Kotick also did not inform the board of directors about everything he knew.

IGN reported that Microsoft has confirmed the statement from Phil Spencer. That statement said “I personally have strong values for a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our employees at Xbox. This is not a destination but a journey that we will always be on. The leadership at Xbox and Microsoft stand by our teams and support them in building a safer environment for all.”

The Verge reported that PlayStation leadership has asked Activision Blizzard how it will address the allegations that were in the Wall Street Journal article. PlayStation boss Jim Ryan reportedly informed employees of the action in an email.

According to The Verge, this is the statement that PlayStation boss Jim Ryan gave to Bloomberg: “We outreached to Activision immediately after the article was published to express our deep concern and to ask how they plan to address the claims made in the article. We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation.”

If both PlayStation and Xbox decide to remove Activision Blizzard’s games from their platforms, this could potentially be a big problem for the company. For example, Blizzard released Diablo II: Resurrected not only on its Battle:Net platform, but also on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, PS5 and PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

If Xbox and PlayStation decide to remove games from Activision Blizzard – it means that players who access the game through those platforms will no longer be able to play it on those platforms. If they don’t have a PC, then they won’t be able to play at all.


CEO of Activision Blizzard Ignored Sexual Misconduct for Years



The Wall Street Journal reported that CEO of Activision Blizzard Inc., Bobby Kotick, knew for years about sexual-misconduct allegations at the “videogame giant” he leads. This allegation is not news to fans of the games made by the company, or to former and current employees, some of whom took to social media to share their terrible experiences at the company.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Activision has been thrown into turmoil in recent months by multiple regulatory investigations into alleged sexual assaults and mistreatment of female employees dating back years. Mr. Kotick has told directors and other executives he wasn’t aware of many of the allegations of misconduct, and he has played down others. This information came from people familiar with the matter and internal documents.

Here is a significant paragraph from The Wall Street Journal:

Those documents, which include memos, emails and regulatory requests, and interviews with former employees and others familiar with the company, however, cast Mr. Kotick’s response in a different light. They show that he knew about allegations of employee misconduct in many parts of the company. He didn’t inform the board of directors about everything he knew, the interviews and documents show, even after regulators began investigating the incidents in 2018. Some departing employees who were accused of misconduct were praised on the way out, while their co-workers were asked to remain silent about the matters.

Today, employees at Activision Blizzard engaged in a second walkout, specifically asking for CEO Bobby Kotick to be replaced. The @ABetterABK Twitter welcomed people to join the walkout. It also called for CEO Bobby Kotick to be replaced. It also will continue to hold their original demand for third-party review by an employee-chosen source.

The Wall Street Journal article includes examples of alleged misconduct by Activision employees that have not previously been reported. I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not it is healthy for you to read those descriptions.

As someone who has spent a lot of time playing some of Blizzard’s games, I find it extremely troubling that the company continues to have a huge problem with sexual harassment and sexual assaults. Based on The Wall Street Journal article, it appears that CEO Bobby Kotick knew what was happening and intentionally allowed this type of behavior to continue. He should be removed from the company.


OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Goes On Sale



Announced last week, the OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN has now gone on sale so we have some tasty pictures of the new phone in all its dot-powered glory, and there’s a few surprises too. OnePlus has gone to town on the cross-over.

The packaging has received the full PAC-MAN treatment with a custom box and inside, there’s the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN phone plus a case featuring the famous ghosts from the game: Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde. The back of the phone has been given a light PAC-MAN design and I’m hoping that the back of the phone and the case itself all line up to give a special 3D effect.

OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN package

During the day, the Nord 2 x PAC-MAN has a subtle back with a few dots and a yellow muncher but at night the rear comes alive with a glow-in-the dark maze with nods to both PAC-MAN and other 80s video games. In a further mod, the alert slider of the phone is now the same dark blue colour as the ghosts when they try to run away from the PAC-MAN after he eats a power pellet. The slider is just about visible in the night shot on the right.

And if ordering direct from OnePlus, there’s a further PAC-MAN bonus – a construction brick-based phone holder that mimics Penrose stairs as seen in designs by Escher. Build it yourself, hold it just right and you’ll have a never-ending staircase complete with ghosts and PAC-MAN. Hours of fun by itself.

In addition to the exterior changes, OxygenOS (that’s OnePlus’ version of Android) has been given a retro makeover. Icons have pixelated for an 80s vibe, wallpapers show off the PAC-MAN game, the camera app has a custom filter and there are a series of challenges to unlock a selection of new content, from wallpapers to ringtones and photo stickers.

And of course, PAC-MAN 256 comes pre-installed for instant gaming action. What did you expect?

The OnePlus Nord 2 × PAC-MAN Edition goes on sale on Tuesday, 16 November, at 1100 GMT for £499 in the UK. A single variant of the device will be sold with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage on oneplus.com and amazon.co.uk.

Yes, it’s £30 more expensive than the standard Nord 2 for the same hardware, but it’s so much cooler.


GameSir Releases VX2 AimBox for Keyboard Warriors



Today’s consoles are almost exclusively based round gamepad controllers. Think of the Switch, PlayStation or Xbox and you’ll probably think of the matching gamepad, particularly the Switch’s iconic Joy-Cons. None of them really promote the use of keyboards or mice though Microsoft’s Xbox does a good job in some circumstances.

PC gaming is the other way round, with the keyboard and mouse being the de facto controller and the gamepad falling to second place. And it can be frustrating if you prefer the keyboard over the gamepad when it comes to playing on a console.

Fear not, for this is where the GameSir VX2 AimBox comes into play. Simply, it’s an advanced programmable USB hub that can configure keyboards and mice for use with game consoles like the Switch. Plugging in to a free USB socket on the console, the VX2 offers three USB A ports and will work with wireless devices as long as they don’t require device drivers. Most units from Microsoft, Logitech, etc will be fine. In addition, there’s a 3.5 mm audio jack, though that doesn’t work with the PS5 (I think the PS5 does its own thing audiowise). Extra power can be supplied if needed via a USB C port.

Where the VX2 AimBox comes into its own is through the complementary app which allows remapping of gamepad controls to the keyboard and mouse.
Available for both Android and iOS, the app communicates with the AimBox over the smartphone’s Bluetooth connection.

One word of caution. It’s generally accepted that the mouse and keyboard provide superior gaming control. Don’t abuse it in multiplayer games where everyone else is using a gamepad.

The GameSir VX2 AimBox is compatible with the Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch. It’s priced at available US$59.99 / UK£45 from GameSir with Amazon availability expected in December.


Waka-Waka-Waka – OnePlus Announces Nord 2 x PAC-MAN



OnePlus have announced a new smartphone special edition and it’s a Nord 2 x PAC-MAN. Waka-waka-waka….Partnering with Bandai Namco, the upcoming Nord 2 will be heavily customised with PAC-MAN themed goodness to celebrate over 40 years of the yellow dot gobbler which first appeared in Japanese arcades way back in 1980.

The Nord 2 x PAC-MAN special edition is customised both inside and out. Round the back, there’s a dual-layer rear cover with the classic PAC-MAN maze on top and a glow-in-the-dark background on the bottom. Yes, this Nord 2 glows in the dark (but regrettably, there doesn’t seem to be a picture of the phone yet). Inside the phone, the OxgenOS UI has been tweaked with PAC-MAN references, and extra features such as games and challenges have been added too. There’s exclusive and hidden PAC-MAN content which will need to be unlocked to see it all.

The OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition will be sold in a single variant with 12 GB RAM and 256 GB storage for 529 €, UK£499 and IN₹37,999, so there’s a small price bump there over the standard price – £30 in the case of the UK.

And if that’s whetted your interest, there’s a chance to win a OnePlus Nord 2 x PAC-MAN Edition of your own with some arcade action. Head to https://pac-man.oneplus.com and play PAC-MAN. It’s got the tunes and the waka-waka-waka but Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde aren’t quite the ghosts they once were.

Still, get a high enough score and you’ll be in with a chance of winning the new phone. OnePlus are giving away three phones along with a free pair of OnePlus Buds Z. Get gobbling – the contest for the phones runs from Monday 8 November to Wednesday 10 November. There are more details on the contest here and it’s only open to residents of Europe or India.


Millennials are Logging Back into Neopets



There is something about trying to live through a pandemic that appears to be encouraging people to give in to nostalgia. Some millennial have decided to log back into their Neopets accounts. If I were to make a guess, there must be something about Neopets that brings this group of people comfort.

The New York Times has an article in which they talked to people who returned to their long abandoned Neopets accounts during the pandemic. Some of the people who did this are in their 20s or 30s.

The New York Times describes the renewed interest in Neopets this way:

…Many former users returned to their dormant accounts in the last year of so, driven by boredom, nostalgia or a desire for escape – the site’s team reports a 30 to 40 percent spike in usership in the months following March 2020. For the uninitiated, Neopets is like Animal Crossing meets Pokémon meets early MySpace: The platform allows users to explore a charming, click-based universe and rear magical pets while building their own webpages and socializing on glittery chat boards.

According to The New York Times, there are a group of people who have been taking care of Neopets – even before the pandemic. The majority of these players are women, who got their first tastes of coding, web design, and animation on the Neopets site.

The discontinuation of Adobe Flash has had an effect on Neopets. It appears to have been critical software for the platform. The Neopets website says that Neopets is going mobile, and appears to be in beta at the moment and does not include the use of Adobe Flash.

Neopets was originally made for children. As such, users of the platform are not allowed to share identifiable information with each other. They cannot share real names or social media handles. Certain topics are banned from Neopets chat rooms (including Covid-19 and politics). Last year, adult players pushed to allow discussions of LGBTQ topics (which were previously blocked by “child-friendly” keyword filters).

I’m older than the millennials who have returned to Neopets, and have never played that game. However, since the pandemic started, I find myself spending a lot of time playing Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. There is something comforting about visiting a cheerful, safe, virtual world for a while.


Google Enables Alternative Billing System in South Korea



Google plans to continue charging South Korean app developers a service fee for in-app purchases, even as users for the first time globally can choose to use third-party payment platforms rather than Google’s, The Wall Street Journal reported. In an announcement, Google outlined how it plans to comply with a South Korean law that took effect in September.

According to The Wall Street Journal, it was the first bill challenging Google’s and Apple’s dominance over how apps on their platforms sell their digital goods – and offered, in theory, a way for developers to lower commissions and cut prices for consumers.

The Google Developers blog posted “Enabling alternative billing systems for users in South Korea”. It was written by Senior Director of Public Policy, Wilson White.

Here are some key points from the Google Developers blog:

  •  In response to the recent legislation, developers will now be able to add an alternative in-app billing system, alongside Google Play’s billing system, for their mobile and tablet users in South Korea. At checkout, users will be able to choose which billing system to use.
  •  We work hard to keep users safe and maintain the experience they have come to expect from apps and games downloaded from Google Play. Alternative billing systems may not offer the same protections or payment options and features of Google Play’s billing system – such as parental controls, family payment methods, subscription management, Google Play gift cards, and Play Points.
  •  In this year alone, more than 1.5 million users in South Korea have used Play Points, collectively accruing over 20 billion points in their accounts, which they are unable to use on alternative billing systems. South Korean consumers value these features of Google Play’s billing ecosystem, and we believe it’s critical to continue to offer them the choice to use Google Play billing if they desire.
  •  97% of developers don’t sell digital content and are not subject to any service fee for having their apps displayed in the Play Store…. For the remaining 3% of developers who do sell digital content, we’ve tailored our fee structure with different programs to meet different businesses’ needs, so that 99% of developers qualify for a service fee of 15% or less.

My understanding of this is that Google acknowledges the new South Korean law and intends to comply with it by giving developers and game players the ability to use an alternate payment system instead of Google Play. However, Google’s explanation appears to be an effort to dissuade people from using anything other than Google Play’s payment system.