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 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.
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.”
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.
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
Activision’s new ‘Activision Mobile’ studio developing new CoD mobile game
A new Activision internal studio has been created focusing on Mobile development.
Activision has established a new internal mobile development studio to create a brand new Call of Duty Mobile title. The new studio is called “Activision Mobile.”
A new job listings on Activision site has revealed that the company has established a new “Activision Mobile” internal development studio that will focus on continuing the company’s push to expand their mobile presence following Call of Duty: Mobile’s success (first spotted by VGC News).
The description of the new internal studio states that Activision Mobile will focus on the publishing operations and live services of Call fo Duty: Mobile, but also expand to partner with development studios on creating a “new AAA Call of Duty mobile game”.
Activision Mobile is an emerging team within Activision Publishing focusing on both publishing and live-operations for Call of Duty Mobile along with our new in-house studio dedicated to the development of AAA mobile titles. Designed around the singular focus of creating the best games in our space, ours is a mobile studio like no other.
The new details in the job listing also states that Activision Mobile is now working on an AAA mobile title in the Call of Duty franchise.
Developing in collaboration with Activision studios around the world, work on a new AAA mobile game in the Call of Duty franchise has begun.
The team has job listings up for a “Producer, Mobile” that says the team’s “first project” is a AAA Call of Duty franchise game.
Activision has not announced what the new “AAA” mobile game will be or how it will connect with the currently existing Call of Duty: Mobile title.
There’s a bunch of rumors about the potential of Call of Duty: Warzone coming to Mobile devices at some point, with job listings and even Activision LinkedIn confirming mentions.
Activision has not officially announced a “Activision Mobile” studio at this time. We’ve reached out for a comment.
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