Category Archives: Gaming

Xbox Tests Xbox Game Pass In Ireland and Columbia



Xbox Insider announced today that in Columbia and Ireland, Xbox Insiders can begin to preview a plan that allows multiple people to share Game Pass Ultimate benefits. The post was written by Sr. Technical Program Manager, Tyler Mittleider.

According to Xbox Insider, this makes it even easier to play the best Game Pass games with friends and family across console, PC, and cloud by enabling you to add up to four people to your subscription, all with their own unique access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate games, content, and benefits.

Those who want to participate in the preview need to purchase the “Xbox Game Pass – Insider Preview Game Pass plan in the Microsoft Store. Check out release notes here.

Things to know about this preview:

The people you share your membership do not have to be Insiders but must reside in the same country as you. Enrollment is limited and will remain open while the offer is available.

Joining the Game Pass – Insider Preview will convert the time remaining on your membership to time in the new plan, based upon the monetary value of the old membership. For example, a full month of Ultimate will be converted to18 days of membership for this plan. This way you won’t lose any of the remaining value on your existing subscription upon conversion. Conversion is final, and users must wait for their new membership to expire before returning to a remaining membership.

Conversion is not available for invited group members. Before joining a group, a group member can cancel their existing subscription or wait for it to expire. If they do not have a Microsoft account, invited friends and family will have to create a new Microsoft account and sign in with it to participate.

Members with Xbox All Access won’t be able to participate in this preview.

In Columbia, parts of the copy for the preview have not been localized and might be displayed in English.

GameSport reported that rumors of an Xbox Game Pass family plan surfaced earlier this year, and this test will determine how the service can be applied to a wider range of users.

The announcement by Xbox of its test of the Xbox Game Pass in Ireland and Columbia appears to be conformation of the rumor. Personally, I think it is a good idea for Xbox to test out a Game Pass that allows people to add others to their group (who live in the same country as the Games Pass holder does).

I also think this could be good for accessibility. As a person who has several disabilities, I tend to find that using a controller hurts less than gaming on a keyboard. Xbox requires a controller. If the test works out well, it might be incentive for gaming companies to put their games on Xbox.


Diablo Immortal’s China Release Has Been Delayed



Diablo Immortal is the newest game in Activision Blizzard’s Diablo franchise. It was officially released on June 2 for not only mobile devices but also PCs. CNBC reported that shares of the game fell nearly 7% in Hong Kong on Monday after it announced plans to delay the release of Diablo Immortal in China. According to CNBC, the game did not announce a new launch date.

NetEase and Activision Blizzard worked together on Diablo Immortal. The game was set to release in China on June 23, but that has been delayed. The reason for the delay requires some explanation.

Financial Times reported that shares in NetEase dropped on Monday morning after the Chinese company fell foul of China’s censors over a social media post that was suspected of alluding to Winnie the Pooh, a popular way to derisively refer to President Xi Jinping.

According to The Financial Times, the delay came as a screenshot circulated online of a post published by the game’s official account on Weibo, the popular Chinese microblogging site, dated May 22, that read: “Why hasn’t the bear stepped down.”

The remark was interpreted as a reference to China’s President Xi Jinping, who is often illustrated as Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. The cartoon bear has been blacklisted by censors in China for years.

This isn’t the first time that China has cracked down on gaming. In August of 2021, South China Morning Post reported that gamers in China who are under the age of 18 would have their playing time limited to one hour on regular days and two hours on public holidays. That same month, the BBC reported that Tencent announced it was rolling out facial recognition to stop children from playing video games between 10pm and 8am.

Kotaku reported that the postponement of Diablo Immortal in China comes three days before the game’s intended Chinese release and just a few days after the game’s official Weibo account was suspended from being allowed to post.

According to Kotaku, a contact translated what was written on Weibo as “What do you think about the bear?”, but says it was written to be idiomatic. Kotaku notes that either way, if real, it seems an extraordinary thing to have posted on an official account in China.

Kotaku also pointed out that there is a press release that was posted on Blizzard’s Chinese website, stating that the reason for this very last-minute delay is a need to make “a number of optimization adjustments to the game”. (Kotaku appears to have translated this via Google.) The press release also said that the adjustments included improving model rendering, support for a wider range of devices, and “network and performance optimizations”.


Play Fortnite For Free With Xbox Cloud Gaming



Catherine Gluckstein, Vice President and Head of Product, Xbox Cloud Gaming posted a blog titled: “Play Fortnite on iOS, iPadOs, Android Phones and Tablets, and Windows PC with Xbox Cloud Gaming for Free”. To me, this sounds like a great way to make Fortnite accessible to players who have disabilities by allowing them to play Fortnite on the platform of their choice.

“As part of our mission to bring the joy and community of gaming to players wherever they are and to make gaming more accessible to people around the world, I’m excited to announce that we’ve partnered with Epic Games to make Fortnite available on supported browser-enabled devices for free with Xbox Cloud Gaming (beta) in 26 countries”, Catherine Gluckstein wrote.

If you love Fortnite you only need two things to play in cloud-supported markets:

  • A Microsoft account
  • An iOS, iPadOS, Android phone or tablet, or Windows PC with internet access.

With no installation or memberships required, all you need to do is go to Xbox.com/play on your web browser and sign-in with your Microsoft Account to party-up with friends or earn your next Victory Royale in Fortnite. Players have the option of playing Fortnite with native touch controls or a supported controller, and it is easy to jump into Fortnite with Xbox Cloud Gaming.

This is the first free-to-play title that has been added to the cloud gaming catalog. Microsoft looks forward to bringing more free-to-play games people love in the future. This means there will be more games in the cloud gaming catalog – and we just have to wait and see which ones get added.

CNET reported that Microsoft struck a deal with Epic Games to offer Epic’s hit title Fortnite for free through Xbox Cloud Gaming. The move will effectively let people play Fortnite in a way similar to how they stream videos from companies like Netflix, regardless of how beefy their gaming device is.

CNET posted a statement from Microsoft. “This is just the beginning for us — we’re going to learn, implement feedback, and in time look to bring even more free-to-play titles to players through the cloud”. According to CNET, Microsoft’s Xbox team said it believes streaming will be a key way for people to play but has also tempered expectations for how quickly it will catch on.

For me, there is a lot to like about Microsoft’s decisions. First, it offers accessibility in gaming, where people with disabilities can play Fortnite (and, eventually, other games) on the system of their choice. Some will prefer Windows PC, while others may feel more physically comfortable to play on a phone or tablet. And secondly, the free-to-play games make it much easier for people on a tight budget to play Fortnite with their friends.


Fortnite Raised $144 Million for Ukraine Relief



There were several gaming companies who chose to prevent people in Russia from playing their games. Two gaming companies went the other direction, and created fundraisers to help people who are in Ukraine. Personally, I think raising money as a form of support is a good way to provide help to those in need.

The Verge reported that Fortnite raised a total of $144 million for Ukraine relief efforts in two weeks. The game raised $36 million on its first day alone.

The Fortnite Twitter account @FortniteGame tweeted: “Our deepest thanks to everyone who joined us in supporting humanitarian relief efforts for people affectedly the war in Ukraine. Together with the Fortnite community and @Xbox, we raised $144 million USD for @DirectRelief, @UNICEF, @WFP, @Refugees and @WCKitchen.”

Direct Relief has a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay. The UNICEF Twitter account’s bio reads: “As war escalates in #Ukraine, UNICEF is on the ground reaching children with water, health and education services. Here’s how you can help.” @WFP is The United Nations’ World Food Programme. @Refugees is the United Nations’ refugee agency. @WCKitchen is the World Central Kitchen. It was founded by Chef Jose Anders, who goes to the frontlines in times of crisis to provide meals to people.

Engadget reported that the Fortnite campaign aligned with the start of Fortnite’s latest season, meaning that many players were buying V-Bucks to unlock the latest Battle Pass and scoop up new in-game items. Epic and Xbox donated their cuts of gifted Battle Passes, Fortnite Crew subscriptions and gift cards redeemed during that time to relief efforts as well.

Riot Games (maker of League of Legends) also held a fundraiser to help people in Ukraine. @RiotGames tweeted: Thanks to the efforts of our amazing players, we’ve raised $5.4 million total in funds to support humanitarian efforts in Eastern Europe”.

The tweet was the start of a thread which provided further explanation. Riot Games tweeted that $1.8 million will be going to the International Medical Corps. Another $1.8 million will be going to Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders. And another $1.8 million will be going to the International Committee of the Red Cross.


Activision Blizzard Employees Walk Out Over Lifting Of Vaccine Mandate



We are, once again, at the point where some companies start pushing for people who were working from home to go back to the office. In some cases, companies will require workers to be vaccinated before coming into the workplace. Unfortunately, Activision Blizzard, a company that has several lawsuits issued against it, decided now is the time to drop their coronavirus vaccine mandate. Some employees are strongly against that decision.

Kotaku posted the full letter from Activision Blizzard Chief Administrative Officer Brian Bulatao to workers. The key paragraph is:

Everyone, As conditions improve and we prepare to welcome more of you back to our offices, I’d like to share an update regarding our vaccine policy. Effective immediately, we are lifting our vaccine mandate for all U.S. employees. This means that employees no longer need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to return to the office…

The Washington Post reported that in response to the company’s decision to drop their coronavirus vaccine mandate workers staged a virtual walkout in protest. This is Activision Blizzard’s fourth walkout since July of 2021.

According to The Washington Post, ahead of Monday’s walkout, the ABK Workers Alliance – which organized the company’s previous walkouts – posted a statement to Twitter calling for the company to “make working from home an equal and equitable option for all employees” and to reinstate the vaccine mandate at Activision Blizzard-owned studios that have not already done so.

The @ABetterABK Twitter account posted a short thread about the walkout: “Due to new RTO policy around no longer mandating vaccination requirements in regards to the ongoing pandemic, a group of ABK employees will be conducting a walkout on Monday April 4 at 10am PDT. We have 3 demands:”

Their demands were: An immediate reversal to lifting the vaccine requirement. Remote work should be offered as a permanent solution. The decision to work remote or in office should be made by each individual employee.

TechCrunch reported: Employees voiced concern about the plan, which would make returning to work especially unsafe for immunocompromised staff. Blizzard has almost 10,000 employees, though they are spread across a variety of global offices. But eliminating vaccine mandates and other tactics to reduce the spread of COVID-19 struck some workers as short sighted and brazen.

According to TechCrunch, Brian Bulatao walked back his message soon after the announcement of a walkout. He declared that individual studios could choose whether or not to enforce a vaccine mandate, but members of ABK Workers Alliance felt this response was unsatisfactory.


Epic and Activision Blizzard Halt Their Games in Russia



Epic Games and Activision Blizzard have joined several other gaming companies by suspending sales of their games in Russia. These decisions are in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

On March 4, 2022, on the Activision Blizzard website, President and COO Daniel Alegre posted a message in an employee letter, and then shared that letter publicly. It included the following:

…Today we are announcing that Activision Blizzard will be suspending new sales of and in our games in Russia while this conflict continues. We will continue to look at ways to support the Ukrainian people. I want to reassure you that the safety of our employees is our leadership team’s top priority. We are doing everything possible to assist employees, and their families, who are being directly affected by this tragedy. If you or a colleague needs support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your manager or local HR leaders. I’d also like to remind you that our Employee Assistance Program is available to those who need emotional support during this difficult time…

On March 5, 2022, the Epic Games Newsroom (@EpicNewsroom) tweeted: “Epic is stopping commerce with Russia in our games in response to its invasion of Ukraine. We’re not blocking access for the same reason other communication tools remain online: the free world should keep all lines of dialogue open.”

On March 1, 2022, Ubisoft posted news about how they are supporting their teams who are in Ukraine. From the news:

…Our top priority is to take care of the safety and wellbeing of our teams and their families. Over the past months, Ubisoft has been closely monitoring the situation, and our primary focus has been the security of our teams. As events escalated in February, Ubisoft recommended all teams to take shelter in a place they considered safe. To support them as they made these difficult decisions, each team member was provided additional funds to help cover costs and paid their salary in advance to account for any potential disruptions to banking system…

Ubisoft did not mention anything about halting their games in Russia or anywhere else.


Game Companies are Halting Sales in Russia and Belarus



Several gaming companies have halted sales of their games in Russia and Belarus. Those decisions could be in response to tweets posted by Ukranian Vice Prime Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Federov, who requested that gaming companies to leave the Russian market, and to block the participation of Russian and Belorussian teams and games in esports.

Microsoft posted information titled “Microsoft suspends new sales in Russia” on the Microsoft On the Issues blog. President & Vice Chair, Brad Smith, wrote (in part): “We are announcing today that we will suspend all new sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia. In addition, we are coordinating closely and working in lockstep with the governments of the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, and we are stopping many aspects of our business in Russia in compliance with governmental sanctions decisions.”

Electronic Arts (EA) posted (in part) “We have made the decision to stop sales of our games and content, including virtual currency bundles, in Russia and Belarus while this conflict continues. As a result, our games and content will no longer be available for purchase in our Russian region storefront on Origin or the EA app, including through in-game stores. We are also working with platform partners to remove our titles from their stores and stop the sale of new in-game content in the region.”

Electronic Sports FIFA tweeted (in part) “…In line with our partners at FIFA and UEFA, EA Sports has initiated processes to remove the Russian National Team and all Russian clubs from EA Sports FIFA products including: FIFA 22, FIFA Mobile, and FIFA Online. We’re also actively evaluating related changes to other areas of our games…”

The Verge reported that, according to a Google-translated version of the message, Nintendo stated: “Due to the fact that the payment service used in Nintendo eShop has suspended the processing pf payments in rubles, Nintendo eShop in Russia is temporally placed into maintenance mode.”

CD PROJEKT Red tweeted: (in part) “In light of the Russian military invasion of our neighboring country of Ukraine, until further notice, the CD PROJEKT Group has made the decision to halt all sales of our games to Russia and Belarus. Today, we begin working with our partners to suspend digital sales and cease physical stock deliveries of CD PROJEKT Group products, as well as all games distributed on the GOG platform, to the territories of Russia and Belarus”…

Eurogamer reported that Sony “quietly pulls PlayStation’s new blockbuster game Gran Turismo 7 from sale in Russia.” According to Eurogamer, Sony has not formally announced that game’s removal. GT7’s Russia store page now displays the text “Release date pending confirmation”.