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Analyst predicts Activision to make Blackout free to play by end of this year

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Analyst Michael Patcher has shared his latest predictions for the 2019 gaming year in a new article on GamesIndustry.Biz and shared an interesting prediction about what may happen with Activision Blizzard in 2019.

In his latest round of predictions, he states that Activision will make both Overwatch and Blackout free to play at some point in 2019.

With Overwatch League’s continued success in terms of team sales, Activision Blizzard may be forced to move to a free to play model to bring more players into Overwatch to sustain the esports league for that title long term.

In terms of Blackout, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has been a mediocre success thus far for Activision. It has slowly surpassed Call of Duty: WWII in sales, but initially lagged behind Black Ops 3’s sales. Blackout going free to play would bring many news players into the title as Blackout is one of the few polished-AAA first person shooter battle royale modes available on the market. Fortnite remains one of the only Battle Royale mode to be free to play across a variety of platforms and continues to be the most popular game in the world.

Activision will make Overwatch and Blackout free-to-play. I think that the 18 Overwatch League owners have been assured by Blizzard that it will expand the audience for Overwatch. The most expedient way to do this is to make the core game free-to-play in order to attract tens of millions of new users, who ostensibly will convert to OWL viewers. I expect this by mid-June (the third anniversary of the launch of the original game. Disgruntled players who bought the core game will likely be compensated by being given free stuff (skins or other cosmetic items). Blackout will go FTP at least a month prior to the launch of next year’s Call of Duty, in order to promote the new game.

None of this is officially confirmed as of now. Activision has not made any indications if they would move to a free to play model for their titles, but the industry seems to be changing and having to adapt to the success of Fortnite. Back during an investor call in May 2018, Activision’s President stated that they still believe there’s room for $60 games to be available on the market, and that Call of Duty continues to deliver value to customers.

SOURCE: GI.Biz

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Report: Activision Blizzard HQ & Treyarch offices set to relocate

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A new report states Activision Blizzard will no longer lease its office space in Santa Monica and are actively searching for a new HQ location.

DoTEsports reports that Activision Blizzard and Treyarch have ended their lease at their Santa Monica HQ offices. The company has had the office under their lease for more than a decade.

Per the new report, the teams that work in those spaces will work from home until further notice.

The company is reportedly in search of a new space. An internal memo, which was sent to staff and obtained by DoTEsports, states the company is actively looking for a new office space in the Santa Monica area.

We have narrowed down the search for our next office location to several properties in the Santa Monica area and we hope to finalize our plans in the coming weeks,” the internal company communication said.

Activision employees have been working from home since March 2020. As of now, the company says they’re on track to return to office by September 1, 2021. The timeline remains unchanged.

Activision’s main headquarters was located in the Santa Monica office on Ocean Blvd in California. Treyarch’s studio space was located right next door to Activision Blizzard HQ in Santa Monica on the first floor of an office building. The two used those buildings for over 10 years now, and are now up for rental and purchase.

Activision has not commented on this information as of now.

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Investment group calls out Activision for CEO payout

Activision Blizzard’s CEO continues to rake in bonus after bonus, and now investment firms are questioning the decisions.

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An investment firm, CtW, issued a statement report directed at Activision for upcoming bonus pay for their CEO, Bobby Kotick, which is valued at a remarkable $200 million.

The report states that an SEC filing and agreement between Activision Blizzard CEO and the board of directors of the company will allow the CEO to receive a bonus pay of $200 million at the end of this year.

Per the investment group, as released to GameSpot, a loophole created within Bobby Kotick’s employee agreement allows him to claim full bonus payout for previous years regardless of the company’s performance. This loophole is described in the “Shareholder Value Creation Incentive” provision in Kotick’s employment agreement. He can receive a full performance equity payout from previous years – 2017 and on. That is valued at almost $200 million, which is set to be paid out in cash upon the end date of the incentive provision.

Investment group CtW issued a scathing statement over this, as the company just this week laid off less than 2% of its workforce, which is less than 190 people for “restructuring” purposes. The lay offs impacted Activision Blizzard esports department, alongside the company’s King division.

While the increase in Activision’s stock price is somewhat commendable, as we stated last year and continue to assert, this achievement alone does not justify such a substantial pay outcome for the CEO,” director of executive compensation research, Michael Varner, said. “There are many factors that may contribute to a rise in this particular company’s stock price that may not be directly attributable to Robert Kotick’s leadership. The use of video games as one of the few entertainment options available amid the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has been a boon to many companies in the gaming industry irrespective of executive talent or strategic decisions.

Bobby Kotick already makes $30 million a year from Activision thanks to his base salary and bonus yearly pay. He’s one of gaming’s highest paid executives. Activision continues to report record profits with 2020 being the company’s biggest year yet.

Activision has not commented on the latest developments on this payout.

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Activision Blizzard sued over Modern Warfare & Warzone Operator Mara

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Activision Blizzard has been sued by a writer and photographer over using his model photography design for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare & Warzone Operator Mara.

The new lawsuit, as noted by Polygon, was filed in a California court against Activision Blizzard on Tuesday, Feb 2.

Clayton Haugen filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Activision alleging the company used and modeled Mara’s look after one his own characters, Cade Janus. The character is played by the same model used for Mara, Alex Zedra. He posted an image of the character on his Instagram.

Haugen first debuted Cade Janus character is his novel, November Renaissance. “The central character in November Renaissance is Cade Janus, a female vigilante and pariah figure. Haugen created this distinct and multidimensional female protagonist for his story because he believed that November Renaissance could be a successful film and the unique female lead would distinguish it from an over saturated market of action and science fiction movies.

The lawsuit argues that Activision and Infinity Ward used the same model and photographer to create the Mara character in game, without ever asking for his permission. The complaint also states that Janus’ photography was shown in the studio’s walls during the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare photo-op.

“In addition to hiring the same talent, they also hired the same makeup professional who had prepared the talent for Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs,” the complaint reads. “They instructed the makeup professional to prepare the talent exactly as she had done for Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs. They instructed her to style the talent’s hair exactly as she had done for Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs, even using the same hair piece extension.”

The Operator Mara was introduced into Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in December 2019 as part of the Season One Battle Pass. The lawsuit alleges that Activision, without permission, used this character in all of their marketing material for Season One, including the Season One roadmap.

In the extensive filing of the copyright infringement, Haugen showcases the similarities between his character and the Operator Mara’s look and feel, as seen below:

Activision Blizzard has not commented on the lawsuit at this time. It’s not clear when this will go to trial.

You can read the full lawsuit here.

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