E3 2022, Russian Piracy, Cost of Workplace Toxicity: The Week in Games
Activision Blizzard continues to make news, and not in a good way, with lawsuits, a DOJ/SEC investigation, and CEO Bobby Kotick stepping down from another board.
Many in the game industry continue to back sanctions against Russia (despite what might be a big cost), and one particularly amazing game studio put together a massive gaming bundle that has already raised more than $4 million to help Ukraine “survive this ordeal and thrive after the war ends. (Really, go pick it up.)
Russia, meanwhile, has decided that the best way to respond to near-universal condemnation is to swipe Western businesses based in the country, default on loans, and legalize piracy.
Oh, and it looks like E3 isn't dead yet.
E3 Limps On
The Entertainment Software Association does a lot of things — lobbying, game ratings through the ESRB, public outreach — but its most public-facing creation is the annual E3 expo, a week-long celebration of all things video games meant to garner worldwide attention for an industry that once fought for such limelight.
After last year’s online-only event, rumors started circulating that this year’s event might be canceled altogether. But it's being reported that invitations for an online-only E3 2022 have started going out to publishers. One clear question remains: Why?
Online developer and publisher events and in-person gaming expos around the world, coupled with the pure ubiquity of video games, continue to make E3 feel unnecessary. But Ethe show has long been the biggest moneymaker for the ESA and its success closely tied to the survival of the association. Things do seem to be slowly changing, though. The ESA’s most recent 990 filings with the IRS (from 2019) show that 41.75 percent of its revenue came from E3, down from 48 percent in 2016. While the days of E3 as the big video game event of the year are likely over (Gamescom seems to have that title locked down these days), that doesn’t mean the ESA can’t still serve a function. The association, under new leadership since 2019, just needs to make room at the table for more than just the big publishers, and speak out on issues globally that impact the makers of video games.
Sources: ESRB, ESA, ESA 990, Variety, Gamescom, The Gamer
Russia continues to be (rightfully) ostracized by the world for its invasion of Ukraine and the war crimes it's committed since. Banks and retailers are fleeing the country in droves. Yachts are being seized. Online retailers such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo, and PlayStation have ceased operations there.
Among the many outlandish things Russia is doing to try and combat all of this (seizing Western businesses, arresting protestors, ginning up fake news), the country is also weighing the idea of making software piracy legal in the country. The Priority Action Plan for Ensuring the Development of the Russian Economy in the Conditions of External Sanctions Pressure spells out the idea that pirating software that has no Russian alternative would be legal.
While Russia has a long history with video game piracy, it’s more recently become a viable market for game sales, accounting for as much as $3.4 billion last year in games revenue. In fact, Russia is considered by some to be one of the top 15 biggest gaming markets in the world. Doing the right thing — in this case helping to exert pressure on a tyrannical leader through sanctions — often has a cost. It’s good to see so much of the video game industry willing to foot that particular bill.
Sources: CNBC, GamesIndustry.biz, TorrentFreak, Kotaku
Activision Blizzard Suicide Lawsuit
Activision Blizzard is one of the biggest video game companies in the world, the creators of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Candy Crush — to name a few. They’re also in the midst of more issues than can be relayed in a couple of paragraphs, from apparent attempted union-busting and fostering a toxic workplace to investigations into insider trading and having a leader that is — to put it nicely — despised by the gaming industry.
News that Microsoft was in the midst of purchasing Activision Blizzard was the only thing that seemed able to drown out the cacophony of irredeemable issues surrounding the company that kept seeming to pop up. That was until another, even more upsetting example of the sort of behavior that launched government investigations popped up.
The company is now being sued for wrongful death by the family of an employee who killed herself. The details of the case, spelled out by the Washington Post, are upsetting enough to not repeat here, but it all comes down to allegations of extreme sexual harassment and bullying and an apparent attempt at a cover-up by the company.
The story is one more reminder of the very real impact a toxic workplace and malignant co-workers can have on people and underscores the heavy lifting and hard work that Microsoft will have to undertake to try and get this particular house in order if the sale goes through.
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States.
Sources: Washington Post, GamesIndutry.biz, All Top Everything, Polygon, Kotaku, Ars Technica
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