The big picture

The unlikely success of “Outer Wilds”
The unlikely success of “Outer Wilds”

"Outer Wilds” is part of a broader trend of time-loop games.

Sep 27, 2021 - Technology
"Free Guy" gives new hope for video game movies

Good news is springing from gaming movies.

Aug 16, 2021 - Technology
Exclusive: Sony’s PlayStation boss moves past console wars

Ryan talks PS5 shortages, mobile, the Cyberpunk delisting and more.

Jun 11, 2021 - Technology
Meet the Black developers making your new favorite games

Its Black Voices in Gaming Freshman Class highlights developers with games coming out through 2022.

May 20, 2021 - Technology
Game developers break silence around salaries

The hashtag #GameDevPaidMe has reemerged as game developers fight for better working conditions.

May 10, 2021 - Technology
The inevitability of mobile gaming, like it or not

"Call of Duty Mobile," released in 2019, has reached 500 million downloads worldwide.

May 5, 2021 - Technology

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Activision worker strike ends pending union recognition

Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare video game. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Employees at Call of Duty developer Raven Software have ended their strike after nearly seven weeks.

The details: Workers announced the news over the weekend on Twitter, noting that the strike has ended "pending the recognition of our union."

Fan-made games can't escape Nintendo

Image courtesy of Dragon_GameDev of the game in question.

A fan-made first-person shooter version of Pokémon has met a predictable fate, with The Pokémon Company International getting videos and images of it removed due to copyright claims.

Why it matters: The Pokémon Company is tied to Nintendo to create its namesake series, a company with a quick trigger finger on sending any fan-made games or projects cease-and-desist notices.

Call of Duty workers say they plan to unionize

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Efforts to organize workers in the U.S. video game industry advanced Friday as quality assurance staffers at Call of Duty studio Raven Software say they intend to form a union.

Why it matters: Their group, the Game Workers Alliance, would be the first union at a major American video game maker, one that is set to become part of Microsoft should the tech giant’s planned $69 billion acquisition of Raven parent Activision go through.

  • QA workers at Raven have been on strike since December to protest Activision’s decision to drop a dozen QA contractors.
  • 34 members of the QA staff voted to form GWA in affiliation with the Communication Workers of America.
  • The union won’t be official unless Activision voluntarily recognizes it or the group is certified through an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

The big picture: The multi-billion-dollar global game industry, which employs tens of thousands of workers, is largely non-unionized, with some exceptions mainly in Europe.

  • For years, challenging work conditions, including workplace misconduct, crunched development cycles and limited project-to-project job security have sparked developers' interest in unionizing.
  • Scandals at Activision Blizzard last year led some workers there to begin unionization efforts, a process that is adjacent to the QA-focused GWA effort.
  • In December, North American indie studio Vodeo unionized with support from management.

Details: In a tweeted list of its principles, GWA said it will focus on solidarity, sustainability, equity and diversity.

  • “We strive to foster work environments where Quality Assurance Testers are respected and compensated for our essential role in the development process,“ the group writes.
  • GWA also signaled that it will push for “realistic” development timelines, saying abbreviated ones are unhealthy for workers and hurt game quality.

What they’re saying: “Activision Blizzard is carefully reviewing the request for voluntary recognition from the CWA, which seeks to organize around three dozen of the company’s nearly 10,000 employees,” a company spokesperson said.

Microsoft hints at Call of Duty 's future, as series stumbles

Screenshot: Twitter

Gamers and games media are scrutinizing a 46-word tweet from Microsoft gaming CEO Phil Spencer to see if it indicates that new releases of Activision flagship franchise Call of Duty will continue to come to PlayStation, should Microsoft successfully buy Activision.

Why it matters: If Call of Duty leaves Sony’s platforms, millions of players would have to seek the game on PC or Xbox, devices they may not own.

Game developers not interested in NFTs, survey finds

Image courtesy of GDC

NFTs remain a contentious topic for developers, according to the State of the Game Industry survey, with a majority claiming their companies aren't interested at all.

The details: The survey states that 72% of respondents related to cryptocurrency and 70% of respondents related to NFTs have no interest in either.

Most video game companies not addressing toxicity, survey finds

Photo: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Employees say most video game companies are not addressing misconduct and toxicity directly with their employees, according to a new survey.

Driving the news: Games Developers Conference (GDC) organizers released their 10th edition of the State of the Game Industry on Thursday, an annual survey that takes the temperature of developers across the industry.

Activision’s uncertain esports future

Overwatch League action. Screenshot: Activision Blizzard

Microsoft and Activision executives said plenty about the so-called metaverse as they promoted yesterday’s planned video game mega-deal, but little about another recent gaming buzzword: esports.

Why it matters: Esports may be big, but Activision’s portion of it hasn't dominated the way its Call of Duty games have in the traditional gaming marketplace.

Investors concerned about golden parachute if Activision boss leaves

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

An activist investor group that previously called on Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick to resign is now raising concerns about the executive’s golden parachute, should he exit the company.

Why it matters: Microsoft’s plans to buy Activision Blizzard for $70 billion may alter the consequences coming to Kotick, who has led the company for three decades.

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
Jan 18, 2022 - Economy & Business

$69 billion sale to Microsoft could boost Activision Blizzard's tattered image

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick in July 2019. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Microsoft’s $69 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard sets the stage for the gaming giant to remove its sexual misconduct scandal from the spotlight, business ethicists say.

Why it matters: Mergers and acquisitions come with cultural shake-ups — and that’s precisely what Activision needs.

A museum of virtual lockpicks

Museum of Mechanics: Lockpicking showcasing the lockpicking system from Thief 4. Screenshot: Dim Bulb Games

An unusual new PC game this week features more than two dozen recreations of other games’ approaches to virtual lockpicking.

Driving the news: Museum of Mechanics: Lockpicking, which can be completed in about 30 minutes, lets players move through a virtual museum where each exhibit is a playable lockpicking system.

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