Tag Archives: Activision

600 Activision QA Workers Form A Union With Help From CWA

Around 600 workers in Activision Publishing’s quality assurance department have formed a union. Assisted by the Communications Workers of America, the employees completed their vote with the results certified on Friday, March 8th. With that, Activision Quality Assurance United – CWA becomes the latest union to arise out of Microsoft’s gaming division and the largest video game union in the United States, The Verge reported.

According to The Verge, in 2022, Microsoft affirmed a labor neutrality agreement with the CWA which eases the organization process at the company and its subsidiaries including Activision Blizzard.

In an interview with The Verge, Tom Shelly, a technical requirements specialist and one of Activision Quality Assurance United’s organizers, said the labor neutrality agreement and Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard last year made their goals of unionizing easier to accomplish. 

In quality assurance, workers test game looking for bugs and other issues, flagging them for other developers to fix. Since the majority of QA jobs are typically entry level, the industry has a reputation for devaluing these roles, emphasizing the need for labor protections.

Polygon reported hundreds of Activision quality assurance workers are unionizing with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The union covers approximately 600 Activision central QA workers across three locations: Austin, Texas; Eden Prairie, Minn.; and El Segundo, Calif. This makes the union, called Activision Quality Assurance Unite – CWA, the largest group of unionized video game workers in the U.S.

The final vote is tallied at 390 votes “yes” and eight votes “no,” a CWA representative told Polygon.

Activision Quality Assurance United – CWA members work on games published by Activision Publishing, including franchises like Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater. The group joined unionized Microsoft and Activision Blizzard employees at Blizzard Albany, Raven Software, and ZeniMax.

According to Polygon, the other positive is that neither Activision’s QA workers nor Microsoft management have to go through the union election process with the National Labor Relations Board, which can sometimes take a while. Instead, Activision QA workers have been voting since Feb. 22, with either a union authorization card (a document, physical or digital, indicating approval of the union) or a confidential vote through an online portal.

IGN provided a quote from CWA: “The CWA Labor Neutrality Agreement is a historic agreement and unprecedented at a tech company of Microsoft’s size. By recognizing our union, Microsoft is making good on its promise to respect our ability to decide for ourselves about union representation. We encountered no union-busting at a time when most US companies – especially tech companies – regularly spend millions on anti-union consultants to prevent workers from speaking up for themselves. We hope this will inspire other workers to form unions and raise industry-wide expectations for pay, benefits, and respect for workers’ rights.”

In my opinion, those who work for huge tech companies should be allowed to form a union. It is wonderful that Microsoft chose not to interfere with the unionization efforts of Activision’s QA workers.

Microsoft And Activision Agree To Extend $69 Billion Deal Deadline

Microsoft and Activision Blizzard on Wednesday agreed to extend the deadline for their merger agreement until Oct. 18, Activision said in a statement Wednesday, CNBC reported. The two companies had originally agreed to complete the transaction by July 18, but regulatory pushback from the U.S. and U.K. delayed the takeover.

According to CNBC, if Microsoft had not extended the deal deadline, the company could have been on the hook for a $3 billion breakup fee to Activision Blizzard. By extending the period for the companies to close their transaction, Microsoft and Activision are giving themselves more time to satisfy regulators’ concerns and to get it over the line.

A new agreement between Microsoft and Activision, struck on July 18, included a provision to bump up the termination fee by increments at certain periods, if the merger is not cleared by the new deadline.

CNBC also reported that by August 29, the breakup fee will be increased to $3.5 billion of the transaction is terminated by the parties, while by September 15, the potential breakup fee will rise to $4.5 billion.

Activision Blizzard posted the following press release on BusinessWire. From the press release:

“This quarter, our talented teams delivered strong performance for our players and shareholders. We delivered a 50% year-over-year increase in net bookings, operating income growth over 70%, earning per share growth over 80%, and a record quarter for Blizzard with over $1 billion in net bookings for the first time,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. “Most importantly, we continue to set new standards of excellence for workplace culture and provide joy and connection to hundreds of millions of players around the world. While we continue to have concerns about the economy and growing industry competition, we remain focused on the long-term opportunities ahead and completing our merger with Microsoft.”

Polygon reported that the CMA blocked Microsoft’s buyout of Activision Blizzard in April, arguing that the merger would lead to “reduced innovation and less choice for UK gamers over the years to come” in the burgeoning cloud gaming market.

According to Polygon, on Monday, the Xbox maker and the CMA asked a judge to stay that process – the parties are reported to have held “productive” talks on remedies that Microsoft could agree to in order to help the deal pass.

“The recent decision in the U.S. and approvals in 40 countries all validate that the deal is good for competition, players, and the future of gaming,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement to Polygon. “Given global regulatory approvals and the companies’ confidence that the CMP now recognizes there are remedies available to meet their concerns in the U.K., the Activision Blizzard and Microsoft boards of directors have authorized the companies not to terminate the deal until after October 18. We’re confident in our next steps and that our deal will quickly close.”

Polygon also reported that Microsoft and Activision will be hoping to close the deal well before the Oct. 18 deadline. The U.K.’s Competition Appeal Tribunal has given Microsoft and the CMA until late September to reach an agreement, while the CMA says it expects to have finalized its conclusions well in advance of its own deadline on Aug. 29.

It seems to me that the date of the acquisition has been moved up a bit, in part to allow Microsoft to appease the CMA’s concerns. Considering the huge financial penalties that Microsoft and/or Activision Blizzard would face if the merger doesn’t close by then, I expect things will work out.

Sony And Microsoft Sign A Binding 10-Year Deal To Keep Call of Duty on PlayStation

Sony has agreed to a 10-year deal for Call of Duty with Microsoft to keep the franchise on PlayStation after the proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer says Sony and Microsoft have agreed to a “binding agreement” to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation, The Verge reported.

This ends a bitter battle between the companies that has been waged both privately and publicly over the past year after Microsoft announced its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard in January.

According to The Verge, while Microsoft’s initial announcement doesn’t mention 10 years for Call of Duty on PlayStation, Keri Perez, head of global communications at Xbox, confirmed the 10-year commitment to The Verge. Perez later confirmed to The Verge that the deal is only for Call of Duty, though. That makes the deal similar to a 10-year agreement between Microsoft and Nintendo, but not the various deals Microsoft has struck with Nvidia and other cloud gaming platforms to bring Call of Duty and other Xbox / Activision games to rival services.

CNBC reported Sony has signed a binding, 10-year agreement with Microsoft to keep Call of Duty on its PlayStation gaming consoles after closing the Activision Blizzard acquisition, Microsoft said on Sunday.

Activision is the maker of the best-selling Call of Duty lineup. Regulators around the world had expressed significant concern about Microsoft’s power over the gaming market if an Activision acquisition was approved, CNBC reported.

Microsoft is the manufacturer of the Xbox, which competes directly with Sony’s PlayStation, prompting fears that Microsoft would be able to make games “exclusive” to its own consoles and displace Sony from competition.

According to CNBC, the deal does something to ameliorate those concerns, although Microsoft and Sony aren’t disclosing the duration of the agreement. A Microsoft spokesperson noted the deal was in place for the long term. The company has signed similar deals in the past.

Regulators in the EU signed off on the deal in May. The U.K.’s Competition and Market Authority, which has forced divestitures and blocked prior tech deals, said in Wednesday that it was prepared to negotiate with Microsoft over the terms of the deal.

Kotaku reported that Microsoft and Sony have finally reached a deal for keeping Call of Duty on PlayStation once the Activision Blizzard merger goes through. The surprise agreement comes after months of fighting between the two companies and is a sign the acquisition is all but inevitable.

According to Kotaku, it’s not immediately clear what the terms of that agreement are, and whether they are similar to proposals Microsoft recently signed with Nintendo and other cloud gaming providers. In the past, Sony has paid Activision for special benefits relating to Call of Duty, including timed-exclusive content and special marketing rights. It was also revealed during the recent court battle over the deal that Activision had leveraged its partnership with Sony to negotiate better commission rates for the franchise Xbox.

Personally, I’m hoping that this means we won’t have to hear much more about the Microsoft-Activision acquisition. It certainly seems like (nearly) everything has been resolved.

FTC Files To Block Microsoft-Activision Acquisition As Deadline Approaches

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday applied for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction seeking to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard before the deal’s July 18 deadline, CNBC reported.

According to CNBC, the FTC said it fears that should Microsoft be allowed to buy Activision, Microsoft would have the power to “withhold or degrade” Activision’s gaming products, through price, game quality, experience on competitors’ offerings, or “withholding content from competitors entirely.”

In other words, the FTC is worried that Microsoft could withhold popular games from Activision Blizzard’s library from launching on other game consoles, like those sold by Sony. Or it could charge more for the games that launch on other consoles.

Call of Duty is one title that has come up and, while it’s currently available across platforms and Microsoft has promised to continue to sell that series of games broadly, regulators fear that Microsoft could have the power to hold those or similarly popular future titles for Xbox, taking buyer away from Sony and other console makers, CNBC reported.

The Verge reported that the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint on Monday seeking to get the restraining order and a preliminary injunction. If the courts grant the injunction as well, the FTC would have a chance to make its legal case before any deal can be done.

As a result of today’s order, Microsoft and Activision cannot complete the acquisition until “after 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on the fifth business day after the Court rules on the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction” or a date se by the court (whichever is later), The Verge reported.

The court has also set an evidentiary hearing on the preliminary injunction for June 22nd and 23rd, so its extremely unlikely these companies will close the transaction this month.

The Verge posted the preliminary injunction on its website.

The Wall Street Journal posted a quote. “We welcome the opportunity to present our case in federal court,” said Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith in a statement following earlier reports of the FTC’s plans. “We believe accelerating the legal process in the U.S. will ultimately bring more choice and competition to the market.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, if a judge denies the injunction, it would be a blow to the FTC’s assertion that the Microsoft-Activision deal is illegal. The commission could continue its separate, in-house lawsuit, but the FTC more often drops its opposition to a deal if a judge denies an injunction.

Personally, I think it’s best to just wait and see what the court decides. We will hear the outcome eventually. I feel like this whole issue keeps going around and around with the FTC and also the UK’s CMA. Something has to give.

EU Approves Microsoft’s $75 Billion Activision Blizzard Deal

The European Union’s antitrust watchdog approved Microsoft’s planned $75 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, giving the two companies a win after the deal hit a regulatory roadblock the U.K., The Wall Street Journal reported.

The European Commission, the bloc’s competition enforcer, said it cleared the deal based on commitments by Microsoft to make Activision’s games, including those from its popular Call of Duty franchise, available on rival cloud-streaming platforms.

The companies still need approval from other major competition authorities to close the transaction, legal experts say.

The commission’s decision comes weeks after the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority rejected the merger, saying it would crimp competition in the country’s games market. Microsoft has said it would appeal that decision, Monday’s approval in Brussels won’t have any direct legal bearing on that process, and antitrust lawyers say Microsoft faces long odds in overturning the British decision.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has sued Microsoft to block the deal and scheduled a hearing for the case in its administrative court for August. Still, the EU’s decision means Microsoft has cleared at least one of the three biggest regulatory hurdles that it had faced in pursuing the deal, The Wall Street Journal reported.

TechCrunch reported that Microsoft’s proposed remedies, which include the promise to allow all consumers in the European Economic Area (EEA) to stream all current and future Activision games via any cloud-based game streaming service for the next 10 year.

According to TechCrunch, the EC’s decision follows a couple of months after Japan approved the deal, though Europe has made it clear that it intends to implement checks on how Microsoft’s actions impact rival gaming companies in the future. It said that an “independent trustee” will be in charge of monitoring Microsoft’s implementation of its commitments.

TechCrunch also reported that the U.K.’s competition regulars was always going to be in the spotlight if the EC’s decision differed to greatly from its own. Shortly after the outcome was revealed, the CMA took to Twitter to confirm that it would be standing by its own decision, stating that the EC had effectively allowed Microsoft to call all the shots in the cloud gaming market for the next decade.

CNBC reported that the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said that Microsoft offered remedies in the nascent area of cloud gaming that have staved off antitrust concerns. These remedies centered on allowing users to stream Activision games they purchase on any cloud streaming platform.

According to CNBC, regulators globally have been probing whether Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision could distort competition in the console and cloud gaming market. One area regulators questioned is whether Microsoft might take Activision games and keep them excessively on the U.S.giant’s own platforms.

Despite the EU approval, CNBC reported, Microsoft faces a tough task of convincing rivals such as Sony and other regulators, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, that the Activision takeover will not harm competition.

Personally, I want the Microsoft acquisition of Activision to go through. Based on everything I’ve read, the acquisition would be good for gamers because it will enable them to play Activision Blizzard games though their PCs and consoles. The more access to games, the better for the gaming community!

Activision is Terminating the GHTV Service

Activision announced that it is in the process of terminating the GHTV mode within Guitar Hero Live. As of December 1, 2018, GHTV will no longer be available to play. On that date, Activision will terminate the service for GHTV and servers will be shut down.

Console versions of the GH Live mode will continue to operate as usual.

Some changes have already been made. As of June 1, 2018, iOS versions of the Guitar Hero Live game for mobile is no longer available for download via the app store. Players who currently own the app and have it installed on their device can continue to play the GH Live mode on their installed device (through November 30, 2018). Activision points out that if you update your iOS software, the app may no longer be supported.

Also as of June 1, 2018, all GHTV in-game purchases will be turned off. Activision says players can continue to use their Hero Cash and items on hand until the GHTV sunset date of December 1, 2018.

Activision states that players can still enjoy GHTV and all content in the game mode, including Premium Shows, through November 30, 2018.

Activision Launched a Call of Duty: WWII Alexa Skill

Activision has launched the Call of Duty: WWII Alexa Skill. It is currently available in Beta, and will function as an additional ally for Call of Duty: WWII players.

The Call of Duty: WWII Alexa Skill features an array of support options, including personalized player recommendations, updates on in-game achievements and the ability to stay connected with and compare your play with friends.

Did you just play a match of Call of Duty: WWII and want to know how you did as well as how to improve your chances next time? Ask Alexa how to improve your skills, and you’ll get a personalized recommendation ready for your next match. Want to know if your friends are online and playing Call of Duty: WWII? Just ask Alexa. The skill supports Call of Duty: WWII and is available free of charge, through the Alexa companion app.

The Call of Duty: WWII Alexa Skill employs AI and machine learning to create personalized recommendations, including specific loadouts, play styles, maps, modes, perks and divisions for each player. Using cluster analysis, the machine learnng model analyzes more than 20 factors, including accuracy, movement, engagement distance, K/D, shots, score per minute, time played, and relationships to other players to make personalized recommendations for each player.

The Skill then employs natural language generation to create personalized responses to 2,500 questions about the game and an individual’s performance. Using a soldier-like voice, the Skill can deliver 250,000 distinct responses that incorporate real-time statistics, status and recommendations from the game.

There are 15 categories of features in the Call of Duty Alexa Skill for Call of Duty: WWII, including:

  • Personalized recommendations to improve your skills
  • Match summaries, and highlights of your recent gameplay
  • Social features, including whether friends are currently playing, and comparing your stats and achievements to theirs.
  • Contract and order status, both during and after a match, so that you see how close you are to completing the contract and earning a reward
  • Latest in-game news, including events and game updates
  • Game and feature descriptions