Archive for the ‘Industry’ Category

by Jonathan Lee, In The Know

Cyberpunk 2077 is the most highly anticipated game of the year, but according to a former developer, it’s coming at a high human cost.

An anonymous Reddit poster who identified themselves as a former CD Projekt Red developer described a brutal working schedule and leadership who had a disturbing disregard for the wellness of its workers. Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier confirmed the poster was indeed an employee of CD Projekt Red.

I think this Reddit comment from someone who worked at CD Projekt Red is worth sharing, especially since folks out there still think their overtime is limited to 48 hours a week. I can confirm they used to work at CDPR (just got off the phone with them): https://t.co/kWdSzlTUCI pic.twitter.com/XCDjqo2KsH

— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) October 14, 2020

The former CD Projekt Red developer said that some Cyberpunk 2077 teams have been crunching (the game industry term for excessive mandatory overtime) since July 2019. If what the poster is claiming is true, it means that the company has been forcing its employees to work 16-hour workdays for more than a year now.

“The people that want the product out ASAP are the board and the marketing directors,” the former CD Projekt Red employee wrote on Reddit. “And they don’t give a flying f*** about the work balance.”

When Bloomberg released its report on CD Projekt Red mandating six-day workweeks in the two-month lead-up to Cyberpunk 2077’s release, it sent shockwaves through the industry. CD Projekt Red had backed out on its promise in June 2019 when the company’s leadership vowed that it wouldn’t force its employees to crunch.

Fans were divided by the news. Many rightfully condemned CD Projekt Red for labor abuse and reneging on its commitment to work-life balance. However, some defended the company and dismissed the Bloomberg piece as a smear campaign, despite the fact that crunch has a long-documented history of harming workers and has even led to class-action lawsuits.

CD Projekt Red’s defenders claimed that the six-day workweek wasn’t a mandate but rather a collective decision made by the employees. Schreier spoke with several current CD Projekt Red developers who told him this was false — there was never a discussion, only an order.

To clear up another point, I asked a couple of CDPR devs if it’s true that the majority of them wanted six-day weeks over a delay. They said that conversation never took place. One: “We got the email and then a meeting with our team leaders. It was never an option or question”

— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) October 9, 2020

Crunch is a sadly common aspect of video game development, an industry that has a long history of abusing the average worker with the justification that they should be grateful that they even have a job in games in the first place. Though there is no evidence that crunch increases productivity, it continues to remain a toxic cultural precedent.

“And this my friends is why I left the game dev industry,” Another Redditor wrote in the same thread. “I’ve sat through many crunches to the point I didn’t even feel like I was alive anymore.”

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Alex Wong/Getty Images

by Ben Gilbert, Business Insider

Did you know that Amazon, the biggest company in the world, launched a big-budget video game this year?

The game is called “Crucible,” and you could be forgiven if this is the first you’re hearing about it. Despite being free to play and available on the world’s largest gaming platform, Steam, “Crucible” quickly came and went from the top-100 chart.

One week after it launched in late May, the online multiplayer game had fewer than 5,000 players on average — a major issue, given that it was intended to compete with the likes of “Fortnite” and “Valorant.”

In late June, Amazon pulled the game from digital stores and put it back in “closed beta,” a game-development term that means a game isn’t complete. And in a blog post published Friday night, it killed “Crucible.”

“Ultimately we didn’t see a healthy, sustainable future ahead,” the post said, adding, “That evaluation led us to a difficult decision: We’ll be discontinuing development on ‘Crucible.'”

Any purchases that players made within the game can be refunded, and the ability to buy in-game currency has already been suspended. The game’s matchmaking functionality, which enables multiplayer, will be disabled “in the coming weeks,” with a final sunset date for custom games on November 9, the post said.

“Crucible” is a team-based online multiplayer shooter that takes inspiration from online multiplayer battle-arena games like “League of Legends” and “DOTA 2” rather than competitive shooters like “Fortnite.”

It’s also a free-to-play game with a PC focus, putting it in direct competition with games like “Valorant” and “Fortnite.” Amazon’s goal for “Crucible,” which it had been working on since at least 2014, was to attract tens of millions of players and, with any luck, make it a major esport game.

Amazon’s “Crucible.” Amazon

The contrast between how “Crucible” launched and how “Valorant” launched helps illustrate why the former failed while the latter has succeeded.

When “Valorant” launched this year, it was available in a closed beta that you could access only by watching Twitch streamers play the game live; through a “drop” system tied to Twitch accounts, viewers would gain free access to the beta. This way, new “Valorant” players already had some idea of how to play the game, because they’d watched someone play it live.

In the weeks leading up to and following the launch of “Crucible,” Amazon, which owns Twitch, didn’t use its own streaming service to promote the game. There were no major streamers playing the game and hyping it up, no trailers for it running as ads, and no drop system to gain early access. Similarly, on YouTube, ads for “Crucible” were nowhere to be seen.

“Crucible” had about 25,000 concurrent players at its peak, on May 21. By May 22, two days after launch, it had already disappeared from Steam’s list of the 100 most-played games, which bottoms out at about 5,000 concurrent players.

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GameStop and Microsoft announce a new, multi-year strategic partnership just one month ahead of the Xbox Series X console launch.

by Dalton Cooper, Game Rant

Just one month prior to the launch of the Xbox Series X console, GameStop has announced a new multi-year partnership with Microsoft. The new partnership between GameStop and Microsoft is seen as a strategic move for both companies, as they will combine their resources for mutual benefit.

The GameStop/Microsoft partnership will see GameStop stores integrate Microsoft technology. GameStop stores will begin utilizing Microsoft’s cloud-based data storage and business applications. This will assist store associates when it comes to learning customer preferences and will give them “real time information on product availability.” GameStop associates will soon receive new Microsoft Surface tablets that will allow them to “move freely” within stores, allowing them to assist customers without necessarily having to be at the cash register. Additionally, GameStop associates will also begin using Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams as well, with the goal of improving customer experience.

It was also noted that GameStop is now offering Xbox All Access, which allows customers to get their hands on next-generation consoles like the Xbox Series X and S, as well as an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, for a relatively low monthly cost without having to pay for everything upfront.

As part of the announcement, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer released a statement praising GameStop, stating that the Xbox team is excited about continuing its partnership with the retail chain for the Xbox Series X launch. “GameStop’s extensive store base, focus on digital transformation in an omni-channel environment and expert gamer associates remain an important part of our gaming ecosystem, and we’re pleased to elevate our partnership.”

It’s unclear from the announcement if Microsoft is providing some kind of financial incentive as part of the GameStop partnership. It’s no secret that GameStop has struggled financially in recent years, with the company posting huge losses, laying off staff, and closing down numerous stores. Many have predicted that GameStop is on its last legs, but this new partnership with Microsoft may very well be the shot in the arm in the company needs to stay relevant for years to come.

The length of the Microsoft/GameStop partnership is also unclear, beyond that it is a “multi-year” deal. In any case, it will be interesting to see how this partnership pays off. Microsoft has been making big moves going into the Xbox Series X launch, and while this may not be quite as monumental as its purchase of ZeniMax Media and Bethesda, it is still sure to make an impact of some kind on the industry.

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By Bill Gilbert, Business Insider

This November, Microsoft’s new Xbox and Sony’s new PlayStation are scheduled to go head-to-head in a competition for control over the next generation of video game consoles.

With that new generation comes the next major leap in graphics technology: Both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X are boasting 4K-resolution games at a stunningly high refresh rate of 120 hertz. What that means in English is crisp image quality paired with smooth motion. Games on both new consoles are promised to look better than ever.

Websites for the Xbox Series X, left, and the PlayStation 5 highlight the visual capability of their respective consoles.
Microsoft/Sony

Whether your television is actually capable of producing those visuals, however, is another question.

For a television to display 4K-resolution games running at such high frame rates, it needs to support those specs — and the vast majority of TVs do not, including many new sets that support both 4K resolution and HDR visuals. That’s because TVs with support for such high frame rates with 4K resolutions are still brand new, and most are still prohibitively expensive.

You’re looking at $950 on the low end — and much higher if you want something larger than 55 inches — for TVs that support those specs. Beyond producing 4K-resolution visuals at 120 Hz, TVs that fully support the next-gen consoles also need a new type of HDMI port to handle all that data: HDMI 2.1.

The latest version of HDMI is available on only the newest modern TVs — many existing 4K and HDR TVs don’t have it, and there’s no way to upgrade an existing port.

In so many words: If you want to take full advantage of the power of the coming PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles, you’ll almost certainly need a new television.

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By Tyler Fischer, ComicBook.com

PS5 pre-orders are being canceled as a result of retailers taking more pre-orders than their supply. This month, PlayStation makers Sony announced the PS5 price and the PS5 release date. The moment it did this, retailers — such as GameStop, Amazon, Walmart, GAME, EB Games, and Best Buy — immediately began to take pre-orders, and it looks like most of them took more pre-orders than they should. In addition to Amazon sending out emails warnings pre-orderers they may not get a console at launch, GameStop Ireland has warned some of its pre-order customers they won’t get their console until 2021. It doesn’t end there though.

VGC reports that UK retailer ShopTo will not be able to fulfill all of its pre-orders unless some customers begin to cancel their pre-orders. In other words, like other retailers, they don’t seem very confident they will have enough stock to meet demand, which begs the question: why are they taking pre-orders before they know how much stock they will have and what their shipping resources will be?

It’s only September 29. The PS5 isn’t releasing until November 12, which is to say these are the early birds getting out early as early birds do. More and more retailers are going to run into this issue. Whether it leads to canceling pre-orders or delaying delivery, the result is essentially the same thing. PlayStation players are getting pre-orders to ensure they have the console at launch. If it arrives weeks later, that hardly counts as fulfilling a pre-order.

If Amazon is anticipating stock and shipping issues, then it’s safe to assume every retailer is about to have the same issue, as Amazon likely has more stock than any other retailer, and it certainly has the greatest shipping resources.

Unfortunately, none of this is very surprising, as it happened with the PS4. And it’s going to happen with the Xbox Series X, because it happens with most modern console releases. And everyone knows this, yet retailers continue to ignore this reality to get that pre-order bump on their books.

The PS5 is set to release worldwide on November 12, priced at $400 or $500, depending on what version of the console you purchase.

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by BBC

Xbox-owner Microsoft has acquired the games company behind blockbuster titles including Doom, Fallout, Skyrim and Wolfenstein.

It is paying $7.5bn (£5.85bn) for Bethesda’s parent ZeniMax Media.

Xbox has said that the publisher’s franchises would be added to its Game Pass subscription package for consoles and PCs.

This could help make the forthcoming Xbox Series X more attractive than the PlayStation 5 to some players.

Both machines are due to launch in November.

Game Pass already gives players access to more than 200 games. Microsoft includes first-party titles at point of launch to those signed up to its “ultimate” package without further cost.

By contrast, Sony has opted to charge players up to £70 for its own major releases and does not intend to include new titles in its PlayStation Plus Collection service.

It is not yet clear how the takeover affects Bethesda’s plans to create The Elder Scrolls 6, Starfield and other unfinished games as cross-platform titles.

In a statement, Xbox chief Phil Spencer said the two firms “shared similar visions for the opportunities for creators and their games to reach more players in more ways”.

Pete Hynes, senior vice president at Bethesda Softworks, said the deal offered “access to resources that will make us a better publisher and developer”.

“We’re still working on the same games we were yesterday, made by the same studios we’ve worked with for years, and those games will be published by us,” he wrote in a blog.

Piers Harding-Rolls, research director from Ampere Analysis, described the deal as “a major coup”.

“Microsoft has often been criticised for its lack of heavy-hitting first-party games franchises when compared to Sony and Nintendo. This deal catapults Microsoft’s games portfolio into a much stronger position,” he told the BBC.

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A filing has shown Sony’s PS5 in live photos for the first time, and it’s particularly large — you’ll need to make room for the game console.

by Jon Fingas, Engadget

Sony’s PlayStation 5 hasn’t really appeared in live photos, making it difficult to gauge the size of the console. However, the game console has finally made a real-world appearance in a filing at Taiwan’s NCC (via The Verge) — and it’s clear the PS5 isn’t meant for small cabinets. While Sony hasn’t been shy about mentioning the PS5’s 15.4-inch length (or height), 10.2-inch depth and 4.1-inch thickness, the NCC’s photos put those dimensions into context. You’ll have to make room for this beast, whether you’re buying the Digital Edition or the disc-based model.

As we pointed out in our specs comparison, this should be the largest console to date. It’s much larger overall than the Xbox Series X (if not as thick), and still bigger than legendary behemoths like the original PlayStation 3, the first Xbox, and the Xbox One. Sony also hasn’t included the stand or the “largest projection” of the PS5’s body into its figures.

You’re probably not buying a console based mainly on size. Game libraries, ecosystems, and price likely matter more. All the same, this is something to consider if you want a next-gen system but don’t have much free space.

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Lucas Manfredi, Fox Business

Sony took to Twitter on Saturday to apologize for the fiasco that ensued over the weekend after PS5 preorders were launched prematurely by retailers.

“Let’s be honest: PS5 preorders could have been a lot smoother,” the gamemaker said. “We truly apologize for that.”

The company noted that it will release more PS5 consoles for preorders over the next few days, with retailers expected to share more details soon. PlayStation added that more PS5s will be made available through the end of the year.

Sony revealed on Wednesday that the PS5 will cost $499.99 when it launches alongside the game maker’s $399.99 Digital Edition.

The PS5 will launch on Nov. 12 in the U.S., Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea before being unveiled to the rest of the world on Nov. 19.

“We’re pleased to provide choice to gamers with two PS5 console options at launch, depending on if you want a digital-only experience or prefer disc-based gaming,” Sony said in a press release Wednesday. “Whichever PS5 you choose, you’ll enjoy the same breathtaking, next-gen gaming experiences.”

The PS5 comes with a custom processor that supports 4K graphics and ray-tracing support and an SSD hard drive that provides “lightning-fast” loading speeds.

In July, Sony said it would offer plenty of advance notice as to when preorders for the highly anticipated console would go live.

However, the actual announcement came as a total shock to gamers, with Sony announcing that PS5 preorders would start as early as Thursday.

To make matters worse, retailers including Walmart, Target, Best Buy and GameStop all jumped the gun on the announcement by beginning to offer preorders just a few hours after the initial announcement was made. The move resulted in PS5 consoles running out within minutes and retailers’ websites crashing, leaving many gamers frustrated.

Microsoft took to social media following the trouble to mock its competitor, saying it would let gamers know “the exact time pre-orders start” for their upcoming next-generation consoles, the Xbox Series X and Series S.

Two days later, video game journalist Geoff Keighley shared the preorder times by country for the Xbox Series X and Seris S, noting that he’s “heard Xbox will be penalizing retailers by lowering allocations if they break these embargoes.”

The Xbox Series X and Series S will begin preorders on Sept 22, with the consoles officially set to launch on Nov. 10 for $499 and $299 respectively.

In addition to details about the PS5, Sony released pricing for the console’s accessories, including the DualSense Wireless Controller for $69.99, PULSE 3D wireless headset for $99.99, an HD Camera with dual 1080p lenses for broadcasting for $59.99, a media remote for movies and streaming services for $29.99 and a DualSense charging station for $29.99.

The company also gave gamers sneak peeks at some of the console’s upcoming titles and announced the PS Plus Collection, which offers PlayStation Plus members the ability to download and play from a “curated library of PS4 games that defined the generation,” including Batman Arkham Knight; Bloodborne; Fallout 4; God of War; Monster Hunter: World; Persona 5; and many more.

The PS Plus Collection benefit will be included along with existing PS4 benefits that PS Plus members receive for a single subscription price.

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by Jonathan Lee; In The Know

The post-event high of the PlayStation 5 Showcase has had fans buzzing, but new information from Sony has turned that buzz into mild disappointment.

PlayStation 5 will not be backwards compatible with the PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3, as Famitsu confirmed (via Ars Technica). However, Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan told Famitsu that “99 percent” of PlayStation 4 games will be playable on the PlayStation 5.

As Ars Technica also noted, this is an unusual change of heart for Ryan. In 2017, he questioned if PlayStation fans would ever take advantage of backwards compatibility in the first place, despite the fact that gamers have requested the feature for years.

“When we’ve dabbled with backward compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much,” Ryan told Time. “That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”

Some gamers on Reddit bristled at this quote and described Ryan as a corporate suit who is out of touch with his own consumers.

“Is this guy serious?” one Redditor asked. “This is the head of Playstation?”

“Don’t care how good Gran Turismo Sport looks,” said another Redditor. “GT4 has nearly [three] times the cars, better tracks, glorious OST and an actual proper campaign. I’ll always play it … and many other PS2-era games that their modern-day counterparts have yet to rival.”

For Sony, backwards compatibility is most likely not a technical issue. Indeed, people with jailbroken PlayStation 4s have discovered that the console is capable of running PS1 and PS2 games. (In The Know does not endorse jailbreaking a PlayStation — or any device, for that matter.)

The issue more likely has to do with licensing. For many games, the rights to use assets such as music are limited, so a digital version of an older driving game might be pulled from platforms because its sample of Lil Jon’s “Get Low” (skeet skeet skeet) has expired and the publisher doesn’t see the value in renewing it.

Noclip’s documentary on video game distributor GOG.com, which specializes in retrofitting classic titles for modern PCs, showed the enormous amount of work and legal red tape involved in preparing these games for rerelease.

It’s not clear how much console companies stand to gain or lose by limiting backwards compatibility, but there are still a lot of gamers out there who can’t (and won’t) let the past die. And for good reason! Bushido Blade still goes hard.

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Shayene “shAy” Victorio has been convicted of fraud, but is fighting the charges, and likely won’t spend life in prison.

by  James O’Connor via GameSpot

A former Counter-Strike professional player has been hit with a huge sentence after a conviction of fraud. Universo Online is reporting (via translations from Business Insider) that Shayene “shAy” Victorio has been sentenced to 116 years in prison, after allegations of fraud were made towards an online store that she helped operate between 2013 and 2017.

Victorio, who parlayed her success at professional Counter-Strike (Global Offensive and 1.6) into a large online following, is accused of operating a storefront that did not deliver on its sales to customers, with more than 100 customers left without items paid for or a refund.

Despite the sentencing, Brazil puts a 30 year limit on prison time for its citizens. Victorio is also appealing the case, stating that her former business partners on the site are to blame, including her ex-husband.

In a statement on her Instagram page (in Portuguese, below), Victorio clarifies that, as she is currently in an appeals process, she has not been arrested yet. She will only be taken into custody if the appeal fails, but her lawyer told Universo Online that they consider the sentence “inhumane,” and that they seek a new decision from the court “under the guise of the principle of innocence.”

As of last year, Victorio had left the world of professional Counter-Strike to focus on her work as a social media influencer. The details of the store she is said to have operated are not provided, and it’s not known how long the appeals process will take.

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