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Aug 24, 2021

Axios Gaming

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Megan and Stephen here with more gaming news.

⚡️Situational awareness: An IGN article about Palestinian relief that management deleted in May was just re-posted by the site with updated language and a link to a new takedown policy.

Editor’s note: The first item in yesterday's newsletter was updated to show the correct dates for this week's events.

Today's edition is 1,174 words, a 4.5-minute read.

1 big thing: EA's push for accessible games

A player uses the Ping System in "Apex Legends" to let the team know of the placement of a Jump Pad. Image: Courtesy of Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts will give other developers access to its accessibility patents and technology as part of a new initiative to make video games more inclusive for players with disabilities.

Why it matters: Attitudes toward accessibility in video games have shifted in a more positive direction over the last decade, but that work needs to be ongoing.

  • EA's Patent Pledge includes five patents that are "designed to help players with vision, speaking, hearing and cognitive disabilities."
  • This includes "Apex Legends"' Ping System, which lets players communicate using audio and visual commands instead of voice.
  • Other patents address issues around colorblindness by detecting and modifying colors in games like the "Madden NFL" and "FIFA" franchises, as well as help players with hearing difficulties adjust their audio preferences.

What they're saying:

  • "Our accessibility team has long been committed to breaking down barriers within our video games, but we realize that to drive meaningful change, we need to work together as an industry to do better for our players," EVP of positive play, commercial and marketing Chris Bruzzo said in a prepared statement.

The big picture: Through EA sharing its knowledge with competitors, more developers can plan features at a game's conception.

  • Accessibility is not limited to a single feature or game, but rather encompasses a variety of play styles and needs.
  • Xbox accessibility manager Tara Voelker previously told Axios that "the biggest barrier that developers face is sort of a general knowledge barrier, because the field of game accessibility is relatively young compared to accessibility in other tech.”
  • More developers are leading the charge, including studios like Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games.

What's next: Bruzzo says the company will continue to listen to players "so we can understand where there are unmet needs we need to deliver for."

  • "It’s important to us that everyone feels welcome in our games, and that level of inclusion has to be rooted in community feedback."
2. Breaking: California turns up the heat on Activision Blizzard

Photo Illustration: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

California has expanded its anti-discrimination lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, adding temporary workers to the female full-time employees it is suing on behalf of.

Why it matters: In the month since California sued, Activision Blizzard has made efforts to show it takes the issues involved seriously, but the state shows no sign of backing off.

The state also says the game company is interfering with its efforts to seek justice.

  • The suit claims that Activision Blizzard's plan to work with law firm WilmerHale to investigate misconduct "directly interferes" with DFEH's ability to "investigate, prosecute and remedy workplace discrimination and harassment violations on behalf of employees and contingent or temporary workers."
  • It also alleges, in part, that "documents related to investigations and complaints were shredded by human resource personnel" in violation of what it asserts is the game company's legal obligation to retain them pending the investigation.

Between the lines: The expansion of the suit follows recent news articles that revealed toxic conditions faced by Activision Blizzard contract workers.

3. Anti-cheat is now a selling point

"Destiny 2." Image: Bungie

“Destiny 2” is the second major game in a week to promise anti-cheat services as an upcoming feature.

Why it matters: Cheating is widespread in many major online games, driving players, including influential streamers, to quit in frustration.

  • No one likes getting shot by a player who is paying for a cheat to effectively snipe without aiming.
  • Anti-cheat software isn’t new. But in the ongoing arms race between cheaters and developers, the implementation of better anti-cheat tech is meant to tell players it's OK to play.

The details:

  • During today’s showcase of upcoming content for “Destiny 2,” a developer said that anti-cheat was ​​“one of the biggest asks from our community” and is being offered in advance of the highly competitive Trials of Osiris mode. (The studio teased the addition last week.)
  • Last week, Activision devoted a portion of its blog post announcing the next paid “Call of Duty” game to note that its very popular — and cheater-infested — free battle royale called “Warzone” would soon get “a new PC anti-cheat system across the entire experience when it launches with the new map.”
  • Activision has banned more than 500,000 “Warzone” accounts for cheating since the game’s 2020 launch, while Bungie has filed new lawsuits against sites that sell cheats.

What they’re saying: “This is not a silver bullet fix that will end all cheating in Destiny forever,” Bungie’s developers noted in a blog post today. “This is another step in our strategy to combat cheats and improve our detection and banning methods.”

  • The studio is also encouraging other developers and publishers to join their lawsuits.
4. The Xbox cloud expands

"Sea of Thieves." Screenshot: Microsoft.

Microsoft will let Xbox owners play some games on the console over the cloud this holiday season, freeing them from having to download them.

Why it matters: Microsoft is presenting cloud gaming on consoles as a player convenience feature, not just as a method for market expansion.

  • If it works as promised in an Xbox post today, players will be able to start playing games on their console via the cloud without waiting to download them.
  • And they’ll be able to delete a game from their hard drive to free space for others, while still being able to play the deleted game via the cloud. (If that sounds familiar, then you are a smart person who subscribes to Axios Gaming and read our item last week about Microsoft wanting to do this.)
  • One catch: Microsoft is promising support for “over 100 games” at launch, meaning not all of them.

What’s next: Microsoft also said its last-gen console, the Xbox One, will get cloud gaming support for games that only run on the newer Series consoles “in the future.”

5. Need to know

🎮 Facebook Gaming is once again taking applicants for its Black Gaming Creator Program, a two-year program that aims to boost Black creators by offering access to partnership status, funding, mentorship and more. Application submissions close Oct. 29.

☠️ "Battlefield 2042" cheats are already surfacing online ahead of the game's October release date, according to Charlie Intel.

🎤 Unity has acquired voice analytics company OTO to help combat "the rise of toxic behavior that leads to poor player experience" by assisting in safer voice and text chat.

⚔️Surging massively multiplayer game "Final Fantasy XIV" is so popular that publisher Square Enix is now classifying one of its three North American servers as "congested," blocking thousands of players from creating new characters there. The company blames the pandemic for its inability to keep server capacity in line with rising player interest.

6. Worthy of your attention
  • "A Twitch streamer let people control his life like The Sims, including when he peed" (Ana Diaz, Polygon)
"The streams were a full theater production, including a set that comprised two bedrooms and a front yard. In the stream, Elbertson behaved like a Sim character, constantly pacing and pointing at random objects. As Elbertson went through his imaginary day, manipulated by his audience, an on-site crew of roughly 35 people ran the lights, brought props, transitioned scenes, helped the audience customize the house, and sometimes stood in for other characters."
7. HBD HK

A more relatable sentiment than "although my body is failing me" has never been spoken.

Image via @HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN

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🐦 Find us on Twitter: @megan_nicolett / @stephentotilo.

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