According to a new statement from Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens, Belgium is now defining video game loot boxes a form of criminal gambling and developers of games that have systems that violate their laws can face fines and prison sentences if the loot box systems are not removed from the game.
So far, the Belgium government’s investigation has only spanned four games: Star Wars Battlefront II, Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and FIFA 18. The new legislation indicates that Overwatch, CSGO, and FIFA 18 are in violation of the law, while EA has made enough changes to Star Wars Battlefront II’s loot system to no longer consider it in violation of the law.
“Paying loot boxes are not an innocent part of video games that present themselves as games of skill,” Gaming Commission Director Peter Naessens added in a statement. “Players are tempted and misled, and none of the protective measures for gambling are applied.”
The criteria that the Belgian government used to evaluate the games were:
- Emotional profit forecast: uncertainty loot box is linked to profit forecast;
- A player may think that the purchase of a loot box has an advantage, which is not always the case
- Confusion of fiction and reality: well-known real persons promote the most expensive loot boxes;
- Use your own coin system: for a real amount, players can buy in-game coins;
- Apparently infinite methods to deposit money on player accounts;
- Hide from the random generator or at least its opacity.
According to the new statement, “the games with paid loot boxes, as currently offered in our country, are therefore in violation of the gaming legislation and can be dealt with under criminal law. The loot boxes must therefore also be removed. If that does not happen, the operators risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800,000 euros.”
Call of Duty was not investigated, as of now, in the Belgium government’s initial study of loot boxes influence in video games. Some aspects of Call of Duty’s loot box systems do seem to violate some of the conditions that the new Belgium legislation sets forth, but no indication as of now from Belgium government if they are expanding their review to other games. For example, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’s loot box system is the most ‘pay to win’ system in the Call of Duty franchise, locking all weapons behind the drops, without revealing the chances of getting items to players. Players can earn access to drops via playing the game or by purchasing in-game currency.
Following Star Wars Battlefront II’s debacle in November, many countries — including the US — has been evaluating new laws and requirements to set forth to avoid gambling addiction for kids playing these video games.
Activision issuing “hardware bans” to thwart Warzone cheaters
Activision have confirmed that they are handing out “hardware bans” to banned cheaters who keep making fresh accounts.
Cheaters and hackers have plagued Call of Duty: Warzone since its launch, but on top of account bans, Activision has confirmed that they are issuing hardware bans to thwart repeat offenders.
Cheaters have been a thorn in both players’ and developers’ sides since Warzone launched in 2020. It has been common to run into players blatantly wall-hacking and aim-botting, ruining the game for casual players and pros alike.
Raven Software has been providing regular updates on how many cheaters have been banned, and Activision recently confirmed that 475,000 permabans have been issued since Warzone’s launch. The likely reason why this number is so high is that Warzone is free-to-play. It’s widely believed that even if a cheater’s account gets banned, they can simply create a new one and carry on as if nothing happened.
Activision is aware of this issue and player’s concerns and released an in-depth update on their anti-cheat progress on April 12.
Because so many players have been concerned that account bans are ineffective, Call of Duty staff responded to this, saying that “Removing cheaters and taking away their ability to move to alternate accounts is a key focus for the security teams.”
They confirmed that if you’re cheating, not only could you be unknowingly downloading malware to your system, you could also receive a hardware ban.
To make sure players don’t keep creating fresh accounts to cheat with, Activision said, “We do issue hardware bans against repeat, or serial, cheaters. This is an important part of our effort to combat repeat offenders.”
This means that players who receive a hardware ban will be permanently locked out and won’t be able to simply create a new, free account and go back to their cheating ways.
Activision also confirmed that not only are they targeting individual accounts with cheats installed, but also “the commercial market of cheat providers and resellers.” They revealed that they have recently banned “45,000 fraudulent, black market accounts used by repeat offenders.”
Cheaters will likely still make their way into your Warzone sessions, but Activision is making sure it’s continuously more risky and difficult to do.
In the meantime, you can check out our guide on how to spot cheaters in Warzone so you can assist Activision by reporting these players.
Image Credit: Activision
Report: Activision Blizzard HQ & Treyarch offices set to relocate
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.
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.
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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