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US Senator introduces bill to ban loot boxes and pay to win microtransaction in video games

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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.

SOURCE: Verge / Senator Hawley

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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