Category Archives: Gaming

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”.


Ukrainian Government Asks Game Companies to Cut Off Russia



The Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, tweeted: from his verified account calling on Xbox and PlayStation to leave the Russian market. The tweet includes a screenshot of an official looking longer statement.

Mykhalio Federov tweeted: “You are definitely aware of what is happening in Ukraine right now. Russia declare war not for Ukraine but for all civilized world. If you support human values, you should live the Russian market.”

Here is a piece of the statement, which was directed to all gaming companies and esports platforms:

…I am sure that you will not only hear, but also do everything possible to protect Ukraine, Europe, and finally, the entire democratic world from bloody authoritarian aggression – and I appeal to temporarily block all Russian and Belorussian accounts, temporarily stop the participation of Russian and Belorussian teams and gamers in all international esports events and cancel all international events holding on the territory of Russia and Belarius.

We are sure that such actions will motivate the citizens of Russia to proactively stop the disgraceful military aggression…

In another tweet, Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted: “@riotgames @EA @Ubisoft Gameloft @wargaming_net Right now russian troops are bombing Ukranian cities and killing Ukrainians. Please help us stop this. Close your offices in russia! There’s no place for aggressor on the global technological map!”

I find this interesting for several reasons. First of all, it isn’t common for government officials to call on gaming companies to close their offices in Russia via a couple of tweets. That said, I suppose that a person with the title “Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Digital Transformation in Ukraine” would be quite adept at using Twitter in this way.

Secondly, there is something to be said about the wrath of angry gamers! Unfortunately, some gamers, who decide they do not like something that was added to – or removed from – a video game, take to Twitter to complain about it to the game developers. Sometimes, they tweet rage directly at the company that makes that particular game.

One vivid example of this happened in-person at BlizzCon in 2018, after a group of Diablo players learned that Diablo Immortal would only be on phones or tablets, not on PC. They booed the people on the stage who announced it, mostly because that group of gamers only played on PC and were expecting the announcement of a highly anticipated Diablo game on PC.

If all of the gaming companies chose to follow through on Mykhalio Federov’s request, by closing their offices in Russia, preventing Russian and Belorussian teams and gamers from esports, and cancel their conferences, – there will definitely be some immediate pushback.


PlayStation Reveals a First Look at the PlayStation VR2



PlayStation revealed a look at the inspiration behind their latest VR hardware design. The post was written on the PlayStation Blog by Senior Vice President, Platform Experience, Hideaki Nishino. Here is some information from the blog:

The PS VR2 headset has a similar shape as the PS VR2 Sense controller, taking on a matching “orb” look. The circular orb shape represents the 360-degree view that players feel when they enter the virtual reality world.

The design of the PS VR2 headset was inspired by the look of the PS5 family of products. According to Hideaki Nishino, when the design team created the PS5 console, they also had the next generation VR headset in mind, so there are similarities in the look and feel. The PS5 console has flat edges as it is meant to be displayed on a flat surface, while there was more emphasis on adding roundness to the design of PS VR2 headset since it is meant to have constant human contact.

PlayStation’s goal is to create a headset that will not only become an attractive part of your living room decor, but will also keep you immersed in your game world, to the point where you almost forgot you are using a headset controller. This is why the team paid very close attention to the ergonomics of the headset and conducted extensive testing to ensure a comfortable feel for a variety of head sizes.

Senior Art Director at SIE, Yujin Morisawa, led the headset design for PS VR2. One area he focused on was the idea of creating a vent in the headset to let air our, similar to vents on the PS5 console that allows airflow. Their engineers came up with this idea as a good way to allow ventilation and avoid having the lens fog up while players are immersed in their VR games.

The PlayStation blog does not mention when the PS VR2 will launch. However, it points out that the PS VR2 development kits are already in the hands of game creators. There is absolutely no mention of what the PS VR2 will cost.

The Verge reported that those who want to use the PS VR2 with the PS5 can do that, but it requires a special adapter and “the experience is decidedly last-gen”. According to The Verge, Sony now has to compete with headsets like the computer-free Oculus Quest 2, the finger-tracking Valve Index, and the high-resolution HP Reverb G2.

Personally, VR headsets are not for me because I tend to feel sick after watching movies or games that include what I call “shakey-cam”. My concern is that VR headsets will also make me feel ill.

That said, the PlayStation Blog got several comments from people who desperately want to purchase the PS VR2, and also comments from people who want it to be backwards compatible. If Sony can make the price of the PS VR2 seem reasonable to consumers, it might have a fighting chance against other VR devices.


Nintendo Announces Wii U & 3DS eShop Discontinuation



Nintendo announced that as of late March 2023, it will no longer be possible to make purchases in Nintendo eShop for the Wii U system and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems. It will also not be possible to download the content, including game demos. This is important information for people who are still playing games on their Wii U and/or Nintendo 3DS.

  • As of May 23, 2022, it will no longer be possible to use a credit card to add funds to an account in Nintendo eShop on Wii U or the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.
  • As of August 29, 2022, it will no longer be possible to use a Nintendo eShop Card to add funds to an account in Nintendo eShop on Wii U or the Nintendo 3DS family of systems. However, it will still be possible to redeem download codes until late March of 2023.

Users who link their Nintendo Network ID wallet (used with Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems) with their Nintendo Account wallet (used with the Nintendo Switch family of systems) can use the shared balance to purchase content on any of these systems until late March 2023. After that, the balance can only be used to purchase content for the Nintendo Switch family of systems.

Nintendo states that no changes are planned for Nintendo eShop on the Nintendo Switch family of games.

According to NintendoLife, Nintendo’s Wii U was launched on November 18, 2012, in the United States. Which means it is now (nearly) a ten year old system. NintendoLife described this way:

“With its blocky GamePad controller and HD visuals – a first for Nintendo at the time – the Wii U soon appeared in Europe on 30th November and in Japan on 8th December the very same year. Customers could opt for either a ‘Basic’ white set with 8GB of memory, or a ‘Premium’ black set with 32GB of memory and a copy of either Nintendo Land or ZombiU.”

A quick look at Wikipedia shows that the basic Wii U was discontinued in Japan in June of 2015. Anticipating the release of the console’s successor, the Nintendo Switch, a hybrid video game console, Nintendo had planned to diminish production of the Wii U. Nintendo formally announced the end of its production on January 31, 2017.

The Nintendo Wiki says that the Nintendo 3DS was released on February 26, 2011 in Japan, on March 25, 2011 In Europe and UK, on March 27, 2011 in North America and Canada, and on March 31, 2011 in Australia.

Nintendo is making it possible for people who have a Wii U and/or a Nintendo 3DS to redownload content they own, and to download existing software updates after March of 2023. However, users will not be able to purchase any new content on those devices or download demos.


Twitch Updated its Username Policy



Twitch has updated its Username Policy. According to Twitch, the goal of this change is to set a higher bar for what’s acceptable in a username and to better serve their global community.

In short, usernames really matter on Twitch. They’re your textual avatar in chat and a crucial piece of channel branding for Creators. Usernames are searchable and have site-wide visibility. Given their usage across Twitch channels, we believe they must be held to a universal and higher standard than other places people express themselves – like chat, for instance.

Here are examples of Usernames that Twitch doesn’t want:

  • Usernames that violate Twitch’s Community Guidelines: hate speech, threats of violence, personally identifiable information.
  • Usernames that refer to sexual acts, arousal, fluids, or genitalia
  • Usernames that refer to hard drugs. (This excludes alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana)

Does your current username on Twitch clearly violate their new policy? There’s a chance that Twitch has already flagged your name. If so, then your Twitch account will be placed under an indefinite suspension until you change your username to something that doesn’t violate the new standards.

If your existing username violates the new policy, but is not a clear violation of Twitch’s community guidelines, your account will be flagged for reset and locked until the username is changed. Twitch has tools that allow you to change your username without losing your account history, subs, follows, and bits. Once you change your username, you can resume using your Twitch account with no strikes applied.

Twitch is aware that some people are going to try and create a username that violates the new policy. If so, their machine learning tool will flag the username, and the person will have to create a different one.

Recently, somewhere on Twitter, I watched a short video done by a Twitch streamer who had a person with a very sexual username appear in her chat. The words in the name, by themselves, might have been harmless. If she had read that name out loud – it would have sounded very sexual. In short, the streamer did not say that username out loud. She required the person to change the username or get banned.

The new username policy should mean that Twitch is going to actively search for usernames that violate its new policy, and put those accounts in a “time out” until they change their name. Ideally, this will make Twitch a better, healthier, place for streamers and their audience.


Microsoft Released Open App Store Principles



Microsoft posted information titled: “Adapting ahead of regulation: a principled approach to app stores”. It includes four commitments in four important areas. This could be seen as an attempt to appease regulators.

The four Open App Store Principles are:

Quality, Safety, Security & Privacy

  • We will enable all developers to access our app store as long as they meet reasonable and transparent standards for quality and safety.
  • We will continue to protect the consumers and gamers who use our app store, ensuring that developers meet our standards for security.
  • We will continue to respect the privacy of consumers in our app stores, giving them controls to manage their data and how it is used.

Accountability

  • We will hold our own apps to the same standards we hold competing apps.
  • We will not use any non-public information or data from our app store to compete with developer’s apps.

Fairness and Transparency

  • We will treat apps equally in our app store without unreasonable referencing or ranking of our apps or our business partners’ apps over others.
  • We will be transparent about rules for promotion and marketing in our app store and apply these consistently and objectively.

Developer Choice

  • We will not require developers in our app store to use our payment system to process in-app payments.
  • We will not require developers in our app store to provide more favorable terms in our app store than in other app stores
  • We will not disadvantage developers if they chose to use a payment processing system other than ours or if they offer different terms and conditions in other app stores.
  • We will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their customers through their apps for legitimate business purposes, such as pricing terms and product or service offerings.

The New York Times described Microsoft’s efforts as a “charm offensive” in order to gain government approval for its $70 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard. The New York Times also noted that Microsoft pledges to continue to allow Activision’s major franchises, like Call of Duty, to be available on Sony PlayStation.

I find it interesting that Microsoft is not going to force game developers to use its payment systems for in-app payments. That is a big difference from Apple, who appears to strongly prefer that game developers use its payment system. Hopefully, Microsoft’s Open App Store Principles will prevent it from having to fight against a developer in court.