Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has announced that he is introducing a bill to the Senate floor that will ban loot boxes and pay to win microtransaction in video games that are “played by minors.” This bill targets games that are played by those under 18.
The bill is called “The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act.”
“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction,” Hawley said. “And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences.”
The main goals of this bill are as follows, per Senator Hawley’s release:
- Games targeted at those under the age of 18.
- This would be determined by subject matter, visual content, and other indicators similar to those used to determine applicability of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
- Games with wider audiences whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions
Call of Duty is rated Mature game meant for players 17 years or older in US, but this bill is broad to target against games that have “pay to win” style microtransactions. Activision’s Call of Duty could be affected, but there’s no indication for that as of now.
This ban would affect other games across the industry like Blizzard’s Overwatch, EA titles like FIFA, Apex, and even some ways Fortnite’s Save the World mode.
In a press release, Senator Hawley gave an example of Candy Crush’s microtransactions, a game owned by Activision Blizzard.
“Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits,” Hawley said. “No matter this business model’s advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices.”
Loot boxes and microtransactions has been a big issue in the video game industry the last several years as more developers have implemented such systems in their games. The major shift in public opinion on loot boxes started after EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II controversy with the title having immense pay to win features across the board.
The Entertainment Software Association sent us the following statement in regards to the US Senator’s new bill:
“Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling. We look forward to sharing with the senator the tools and information the industry already provides that keeps the control of in-game spending in parents’ hands. Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls.” – Stanley Pierre-Louis, Acting President and CEO, Entertainment Software Association
The ESA has been siding with publishers on this since the start of the controversy stating that parents should have additional information to make the decisions for what games their kids play versus changing the industry itself to have the US government intervene. Many people are hesitant to allow the government to regulate it, as it could lead to drastic changes for the industry.
The FTC even opened an investigation into loot boxes and plans to host a hearing in August with community members, developers, and more to discuss the loot box issues and ways to move forward.
Activision has not issued a statement regarding this bill at this time.
CoD publisher Activision Blizzard announce all US QA Testers will become full-time employees
Following backlash and developers walkouts, Activision Blizzard have announced that all US QA staff will become full-time employees.
Activision Blizzard were set to lay off members of Warzone developer Raven Software’s Quality Assurance team, and developers walked out in protest. Now, Activision Blizzard have confirmed that all US QA Testers across the whole company will become full-time employees with better pay and full benefits.
Back in December 2021, Warzone developers Raven Software received news from Activision Blizzard that there would be significant layoffs, particularly in the Quality Assurance department. This surprise announcement received severe backlash, and the QA Testers staged a walkout in protest, days before Warzone’s major Pacific update.
After months of protests and unionizing, Activision Blizzard informed its staff on April 7, 2022, that all of its 1,100 QA testers will receive a full-time contract, an hourly wage increase, and access to full benefits.
An Activision Blizzard spokesperson announced that they will convert “all US-based temporary and contingent QA team members at Activision Publishing (AP) and Blizzard – nearly 1,100 people in total – to permanent full-time employees starting July 1.”
“Additionally, we are increasing the minimum hourly rate for these team members to $20/hr or more effective April 17,” they continued. “These employees also will be eligible to participate in the company’s bonus plan and will have access to full company benefits.”
They explained that this decision follows the process of “converting temporary and contingent employees, including 500 at AP’s studios, to permanent full-time employees,” which began last year.
In an internal email, Activision Chief Operating Officer Josh Taub explained how their business model has changed to an “always on,” approach, which means they are “further refining how our development teams work together.”
“QA is, and continues to be, critical to our development success. We have amazing QA teams in place that work hard to ensure our players have the best possible gaming experiences – thank you!” he said.
Mike Ybarra, Head of Blizzard, relayed the same message to all of Blizzard’s staff, explaining the remaining US-based QA Testers will be made full-time employees, receive the pay rise, and gain access to increased benefits.
Image Credit: Activision Blizzard
Activision’s Beenox studio expands to Montreal as Warzone Mobile development ramps up
Activision’s Beenox studio is opening a new location in Montreal as they continue to support the development of Call of Duty titles.
Beenox studio have aided in the development of Call of Duty mobile projects as well as Warzone content. On March 29, the company announced plans to open a new location in Montreal.
Beenox studio have supported the content releases for several seasons of Call of Duty Warzone in addition to developing new CoD Mobile experiences. It seems they will also be working on Warzone Mobile and as this significant project continues to move forward, Beenox will be supporting from their new office in Montreal, Canada.
Beenox currently operates out of Quebec City, but this expansion to Montreal is the next step in the studio’s continued growth. At this time, Beenox employs over 400 game development professionals and will likely look to add more as their expansion proceeds.
Beenox was established in 2000 and has since been operating out of Quebec City. The company is owned by Activision and as such the two forces collaborate on exciting new Call of Duty projects.
The addition of a Montreal office will be a smooth one for Beenox as they already employ around 50 team members from the city. However, if you have hopes of joining their impressive team of game developers, Beenox have confirmed that they are looking to hire new members as well:
“The team is currently hiring for roles in programming, design and art departments, as well as for the mobile team.” Luckily, candidates aren’t restricted to Montreal inhabitants, “We want our location to attract local and international talent and contribute to the vibrant video game industry in Montreal” said Nour Polloni, Studio Head at Beenox.
Montreal seems like a perfect fit for the studio as the city is known for housing renowned gaming industry giants like Ubisoft, Square Enix, and Bethesda Montreal. Beenox will fit right in with the vibrant game development community in Montreal.
Although the blog post announcing the expansion, does not specifically mention Warzone Mobile, it’s likely that a major focus will shift toward the development of the upcoming game.
Despite being announced on March 10, Warzone Mobile is still very much shrouded in mystery but fans of the franchise are certainly hoping for a late 2022 release date.
For more Call of Duty news, check out how Warzone Mobile leaks hint at a Verdansk return with a twist.
Image Credit: Activision / Beenox
Will Call of Duty stay on PlayStation after Microsoft’s Activision buyout?
PlayStation fans may have some questions regarding the new Xbox acquisition, including whether Call of Duty will be on the platform.
After the huge news about Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision, PlayStation players are wondering what will happen with future Call of Duty releases.
Since the news broke about Microsoft’s purchase of Activision, the gaming community has gone crazy worldwide. The deal is arguably the biggest acquisition in gaming history and was even worth more than Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise (Lucasfilm).
The deal has a lot of question marks surrounding it at the moment, but for those PlayStation users who are confused as to what it means for Call of Duty on the platform, here’s all the information you need.
The deal involves games under Activision and Activision Blizzard, which subsequently means Xbox will own Call of Duty.
This took the community by surprise when it was announced and naturally, a lot of people had questions.
For example, Call of Duty have had a close relationship with PlayStation for some years now, giving them exclusive/early access to content, so what will happen after the deal goes through?
Will Call of Duty still be on PlayStation?
Xbox’s Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft gaming, confirmed in a statement over on Twitter that Call of Duty will remain on PlayStation following the acquisition. Further, the Xbox CEO also confirmed that they would honor all existing agreements that Sony has with Call of Duty.
On February 9 a Microsoft blog post reaffirmed their commitment to providing PlayStation owners with new Call of Duty titles in the years to come. Microsoft confirmed that they have no intention to undermine opportunities for PlayStation users with Xbox exclusive CoD titles.
Microsoft stated that they will continue to develop Call of Duty games for all platforms beyond the existing agreements in place, “we have committed to Sony that we will also make them available on PlayStation beyond the existing agreement and into the future so that Sony fans can continue to enjoy the games they love.”
For now, the companies will remain independent from each other until 2023.
This means that Call of Duty 2022 will likely retain a lot of the PlayStation exclusivity deals that have been around and PS players won’t have to worry about losing content to Xbox, at least not until these commitments and deals expire.
Once the deal closes and the commitment to existing contracts and agreements like PlayStation’s exclusive Call of Duty content expires, it’s unclear what will happen in terms of exclusive content. However, it is clear that Call of Duty will still be released on PlayStation.
According to Tom Warren, Xbox’s dealings with Bethesda when they purchased the company could be telling of what they will do with Activision. We will likely know much more about exclusivity for other games once the deal has closed, but we could be seeing a lot of Activision games going exclusive.
It wouldn’t have been wise for Microsoft to pull Call of Duty games from PlayStation, as the franchise remains the best-selling game on PlayStation platforms in the U.S. and has been for years, with Vanguard recently topping the charts for 2021.
What can be said, however, is that exclusivity deals may shift from PlayStation to Xbox after the deal is closed. Call of Duty games may even be seen on the Xbox Game Pass on release, but this is all still just speculation.
So, there you have it, Call of Duty will remain on PlayStation platforms but the exclusive content may shift over to Xbox and PC. For more, check out every Warzone weapon ranked.
Image Credits: PlayStation / Xbox / Microsoft / Activision / Retail Tracking Service / The NDP Group
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