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Take-Two Interactive and 2K Games announce Michael Condrey as President of New Studio

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Take Two Gaming and 2K Games, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Take Two Gaming, announced this morning that Michael Condrey has joined their company as the President of a New Game Development Studio located in Silicon Valley, CA.

Michael Condrey was the former Studio Head of Sledgehammer Games, a Activision studio which developed Call of Duty titles since 2010. Sledgehammer Games was founded by both Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield, both of whom joined Activision after leaving EA and Visceral Games.

Condrey and Schofield both left their positions as Studio Heads of Sledgehammer in early 2018 following the release of Call of Duty: WWII. Both were moved into certain “executive” roles within Activision for 2018, but then left Activision in late 2018.

The new studio will be developing an “unannounced project” under the 2K Games label. There’s no information yet if that title will be a first person shooter or a different type of game.

Here’s the announcement from Take Two:

Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ:TTWO) and its wholly-owned label, 2K, today announced that video game industry veteran Michael Condrey has joined the Company as President of the label’s new game development studio based in Silicon Valley. Best known for co-founding Sledgehammer Games and leading development for the renowned Call of Duty franchise, as well as his roles as Chief Operating Officer and Director at Visceral Games in establishing the popular Dead Space franchise, Condrey will build and lead a new development team to work on an unannounced project.

Condrey brings more than 20 years of creative, production and development leadership experience to 2K. His industry acumen played an integral role in bolstering one of interactive entertainment’s most distinguished franchises of all time – Call of Duty – including the development of the award-winning, first-person shooter titles Call of Duty: WWII (2017), Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014) and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011). Condrey also led creation of the third-person, survival-horror shooter Dead Space (2008), which earned Action Game of the Year honors at the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences’ Interactive Achievement Awards, as well as guided the James Bond 007 franchise to critical and commercial success.

“At 2K, we offer our collective audience a variety of engaging and captivating entertainment experiences. We continually seek opportunities to empower and invest in the right people and ideas,” said David Ismailer, President at 2K. “Michael’s unparalleled creative, production and leadership accolades are well-documented and deserved. We are greatly inspired not only by his passion but the potential for his new studio to complement our existing portfolio and development expertise. We welcome Michael to the 2K family and look forward to seeing our new Silicon Valley studio flourish in the months and years to come.”

“Great games come from the passion of a team driven by the pursuit of quality and the empowerment of an independent studio model. 2K’s studios have creative and technical autonomy, backed by a world-class infrastructure of support, and that offers the perfect recipe to build a new studio and craft experiences that will lead the next generation of gaming for fans everywhere,” said Condrey. “David and the dedicated people at 2K and Take-Two have an extensive history of rich and established brands, as well as a long tenure of executive leadership committed to supporting the ambitions of their independent studio teams.”

“Today’s announcement represents a rare and special opportunity for developers to help build and shape a new Silicon Valley studio from the ground up,” added Condrey. “I couldn’t be more excited, or thankful, to embark on this next step in my career.”

The website for the studio is live here.

Call of Duty: Warzone

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.

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Call of Duty Warzone gameplay

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.

Helicopters flying to Warzone's Verdansk Stadium

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

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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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