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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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Activision Blizzard execs respond internally to California lawsuit, calling allegations ‘troubling’

Activision Blizzard executives have sent internal emails to staff in response to the recent lawsuit.

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Activision Blizzard executives have sent out internal company wide emails in response to the lawsuit from the California state government over the work culture at Blizzard Entertainment.

J. Allen Brack, the President of Blizzard Entertainment, sent an email to all Blizzard staff Thursday evening stating that the allegations mentioned in the lawsuit were ‘troubling’ and invoked many ’emotions.’

The internal memo from Brack, leaked by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, calls the allegations “extremely troubling.”

I know many of you would like to receive more clarity. While I can’t comment on the specifics of the case as it’s an open investigation, what I can say is that the behavior detailed in the allegations is completely unavailable.”

The allegations in the lawsuit included describing Blizzard’s workplace culture similar to that of a ‘frat culture’ where male employees would drink alcohol and “crawl” around the office to harass female employees.

The lawsuit also alleged that female employees faced discrimination in terms of pay, benefits, and promotions.

The full internal email is below, as shared by Schreier:

In his email, Brack also says he and the leadership team will be “meeting with many” employees to understand how the company “can move forward.”

Another email was sent internally by Activision Blizzard’s Chief Compliance Officer, Fran Townsend. Ms. Townsend joined Activision Blizzard in March 2021.

She is former Bush administration official in Homeland Security. Her email was worded quite differently, which sparked some backlash from both community and from employees of the company.

In her email, she states that the lawsuit filed “presented a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories – some from more than a decade ago.”

Schreier reports that many employees are “fuming” over her email. Some spoke out publicly, including many Warcraft devs saying they wouldn’t be working on Friday in response to this email.

Since the lawsuit dropped on July 21, Activision Blizzard’s social media channels have all remained silent, even with several games, like Call of Duty, continuing to see in-game updates.

Activision Blizzard has not issued a new statement publicly about the situation since their initial one that was shared alongside the surfacing of the lawsuit.

We’ll continue to closely follow this story and provide updates on what happens.

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Activision Blizzard sued by California over work place sexual harassment incidents

A lawsuit has been filed by California’s government against Activision Blizzard over ‘frat boy’ work culture.

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The state of California has filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard over the company’s alleged toxic workplace culture that was described as a ‘frat boy’ work place.

The state of California filed the lawsuit on July 20, 2021 against Activision Blizzard for what they state is a work place environment that is sexist and discriminates against female employees on numerous occasions, further alleging sexual harassment incidents occurred at Blizzard.

The lawsuit, reported by Bloomberg Law, states Activision Blizzard offices had a “frat boy workplace culture” that included many shocking incidents. The lawsuit alleges that male employees would “drink copious amounts of alcohol as they crawl their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.”

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing further alleges that Activision Blizzard discriminated against female employees by providing lower salaries, benefits, and contracts that differed from male counter parts. The suit alleges that female employees experienced numerous sexual harassment incidents working at Blizzard offices.

Some female employees who worked on World of Warcraft at Blizzard had to work with male employees who would hit on them or flirt with them during workplace encounters, the suit alleges. Some of these males were supervisors for departments too.

Another section alleges a male employee at Blizzard giving his responsibilities to a female employee to give himself more time to play Call of Duty at work.

One of the more horrifying allegations in the lawsuit states a female employee took her own life while on a company trip with her male supervisor. The lawsuit alleges the female employee experienced extensive sexual harassment at the company.

The lawsuit further alleges that male employees shared sexual explicit content during work parties, including explicit pictures amongst each other.

Many of the incidents referenced occurred at the Blizzard Entertainment division of Activision Blizzard. Blizzard Entertainment is overseen by President J. Allen Barrack, who is referenced in the lawsuit.

The full lawsuit, filed in the state of California court jurisdiction, can be read in its entirety here.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing claims that they attempted to work with Activision Blizzard to address the issues over the last few years, even as recently as this year. But the Department was not pleased by Activision’s responses and believed the company failed to adequately address the situations and inequality at the work place.

Activision Blizzard issued a lengthy comment to multiple outlets about the lawsuit. The company denies serious allegations of the suit, and even goes after California state ‘bureaucrats,’ claiming company’s are leaving California over the state’s government.

Activision Blizzard statement also directly calls out California’s lawsuit for bringing up the suicide of the female employee in the suit, stating its “disgraceful,” but didn’t clarify the incident itself as alleged in the lawsuit.

The statement ends stating that Activision Blizzard “are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace for our people.

Activision Blizzard’s full statement is below:

We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.

The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.

The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today. Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams. We’ve updated our Code of Conduct to emphasize a strict non-retaliation focus, amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the “ASK List” with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many years.

We put tremendous effort in creating fair and rewarding compensation packages and policies that reflect our culture and business, and we strive to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially similar work. We take a variety of proactive steps to ensure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct extensive anti-discrimination trainings including for those who are part of the compensation process.

We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace for our people, and we are committed to continuing this effort in the years to come. It is a shame that the DFEH did not want to engage with us on what they thought they were seeing in their investigation.”

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Warzone console hack development ended after Activision sends notice

The developer of console hacks for Warzone has reportedly said that Activision has shut down the cheat development.

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players fighting at Verdansk stadium in Warzone

Following the news that Warzone console hacks were being developed, Activision has reportedly shut down the development, stopping it from ever releasing.

It was recently reported that Warzone console cheats were in development, allowing Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 players to install “the next generation of cheating.” Thanks to a voluntary anti-cheat group, players were warned that the hacks were on their way.

It appears that Activision took notice of this, too, with the videos advertising the cheat being taken down. Now, it appears Activision went one step further to nip it in the bud, shutting down development entirely.

Cheaters and hackers have been running rampant in Warzone since the game’s launch, with a developer saying that cheaters are “ruining some of the best work” of his life. Activision announced in April that they are “investing more” in anti-cheat, and have now clamped down in console cheats in development.

Twitter account ‘Anti-Cheat Police Department,’ who originally exposed the console cheats, shared an update from the cheat developer.

“At the request of Activision Publishing, Inc (“Activision”), I will no longer be developing or providing access to software that could be used to exploit their games,” announced the cheat developer. “My intent was never to do anything illegal. At the end of the video that brought attention to this project, it stated, ‘coming soon.’ The software was never published.”

After claiming that the software could also have “assistive benefits,” they said, “because of its potential negative impact, I will not be developing it further.”

Activision’s last major ban wave was back in May 2021, where they reported that over 500,000 Warzone accounts had been banned for cheating. The number of Warzone cheaters is reportedly on the rise again, so it’s possible that another ban wave will be announced soon.

Image Credit: Activision

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