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Amazon’s latest PC game to be delisted from Steam after less than two months – Ars Technica

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Enlarge / Crucible is going back into a “closed beta” cell starting July 1.
Amazon / Getty Images / Sam Machkovech

Less than two months after the formal launch of Amazon Games’ first major PC game on Steam, Crucible, the company has chosen to yank it right out of Steam’s store. Its developers at Relentless Studios (a wholly owned Amazon subsidiary) have announced plans to delist the free-to-play action-MOBA game from Steam starting tomorrow, July 1, while continuing to operate the game as a “closed beta” for anyone who already downloaded the game (or paid for one of its “founders packs” of cosmetic DLC).

In an announcement on the game’s official site, its developers describe this change as a way to “help us focus on providing the best possible experience for our players.” As far as remaining players go, however, that assurance may ring a bit hollow, since its delisting will likely reduce the available player pool from its already minuscule population (as of press time, it’s only had more than 200 concurrent players once over the past week).

Although the game will continue to launch through Steam, starting at 12pm on July 1, new players will no longer be able to search for the game and freely download its client. Instead, they’ll have to sign up to play the game at the official site, where they will wait for a closed-beta invite. (If you think you’ll want to play the game eventually and want to save yourself some headaches, head to Crucible‘s Steam listing and add it to your library right now.)

Another action-MOBA bites the dust?

Arguably, this move is less about helping the game’s developers alter and upgrade the game’s contents and more about changing the way outsiders view its tiny player population. Relentless Studios, the wholly owned Amazon subsidiary responsible for the game, was already able to make drastic changes to the Crucible client in the past month, particularly by removing an entire game mode in order to better focus its remaining player population.

Amazon Games’ inexperience with the games-as-a-service sector was already a worrying issue when Crucible launched in mid-May. It’s still unclear why the company chose to launch the game to the public in a wide-open, “1.0” state in May as opposed to testing the waters of public perception with invite-only beta tests or a soft, “early access” launch. (The reasoning didn’t seem to be entirely about making money via microtransactions, as all players who signed up over the past month were given roughly $10 of free credits for joining the game’s launch period.) That kind of sudden rush to market was doubly weird in the case of this game’s “action-MOBA” genre, since other major forays into that gameplay model, particularly Epic’s Paragon and Gearbox’s Battleborn, had so loudly crashed-and-burned.

While Relentless has offered insight into its plans for updating and developing the game over time, the studio still hasn’t committed to adding built-in text chat—a serious oversight for a game that cannot be won without coordinated strategies—or systems to deal with rage-quitters, so that dedicated players don’t get punished for sticking to unwinnable 3v4 or 2v4 matches. (The only consolation as of press time is a mild boost for lopsided teams and a somewhat new “surrender” option.)

Also, since Relentless is taking this game back behind a curtain for tinkering, I’ll add one small request: change the name of the game before you relaunch. “Crucible” has long been established as the mode name for Destiny and Destiny 2‘s versus modes.

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Apple and ad industry clash over iOS 14 popup seeking permission for tracking – 9to5Mac

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Apple and the ad industry are once again in conflict, as ad associations object to the way iOS 14 seeks user permission for tracking.

It’s not the first time this has happened – Apple’s adoption of Intelligent Tracking Prevention led to criticism by the ad industry back in 2018

Background

Advertisers like to measure the effectiveness of their ads by working out how many people who purchase a product have seen an online ad for it. To do this, a cookie is dropped on the user’s device when they see an ad, and the website where the purchase is made can check for the presence of that cookie.

Conversely, if you visit a website about (eg) drones, the site can drop a cookie, and ad networks like those run by Google and Facebook can check for that cookie and then serve you ads for drones. This is why you often see ads relating to topics you’ve recently been researching.

This type of tailored advertising is more likely to be effective, so ad networks can charge more for displaying personalized ads.

Advertisers don’t know who you are – they don’t know the identity of the person who saw the ad or visited the website – they just know that the same person (actually, device) did both.

iOS 14 approach to seeking permission for tracking

In iOS 14, if an app wants to show tailored ads, it must display a popup asking permission from the user.

Reuters reports that the complaint stems from Apple not adopting a permission standard required by law in Europe. This means that apps with European users will need to seek the same permission twice, once with a GDPR-compliant request, and again with Apple’s request. Advertisers fear this will make it seem a bigger deal than it is, and lead to more users refusing permission.

Sixteen marketing associations, some of which are backed by Facebook Inc and Google, faulted Apple for not adhering to an ad-industry system for seeking user consent under European privacy rules. Apps will now need to ask for permission twice, increasing the risk users will refuse, the associations argued.

Facebook and Google are the largest among thousands of companies that track online consumers to pick up on their habits and interests and serve them relevant ads.

Apple rejects the criticism because it already offers a tool to help advertisers measure effectiveness.

Apple engineers also said last week the company will bolster a free Apple-made tool that uses anonymous, aggregated data to measure whether advertising campaigns are working and that will not trigger the pop-up.

“Because it’s engineered to not track users, there’s no need to request permission to track,” Brandon Van Ryswyk, an Apple privacy engineer, said in a video session explaining the measurement tool to developers.

Attitudes to personalized ads vary, some preferring relevant ads to generic ones, while others object to what they consider a privacy breach.

I’ve argued in the past that online advertising is a hot mess, and that we really need agreed standards laid down in law.

I’m personally of the view that I don’t mind anonymised tracking. I’m a decisive shopper, so generally it only results in me being shown ads for things I’ve recently bought, but I have nothing against the principle. Others disagree, and strongly object to the practice. But I don’t have strong views either way: let’s allow it or ban it – the important thing is to agree in law what is and isn’t allowed.

With ad standards legislation in place, we can finally get rid of the most obnoxious forms of advertising, and put an end to the war of escalation between ever-more aggressive brands and ever more fed-up consumers.

Part of this would involve giving websites greater control over the ads inserted by ad networks like Google. Currently, for example, you will occasionally see scam ads on sites like ours because they make it through Google’s checks. We can only block them reactively, when we spot them or a reader reports them. Legal controls would make them far less likely to make it into an ad network in the first place.

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After NBA 2K21, more publishers are considering raising game prices to $70 on PS5 and Xbox Series X – VG247

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NBA 2K21 may only be the first AAA game whose base price jumps to $70 on next-gen consoles.

This week, 2K Games revealed new details about the upcoming NBA 2K21. In the press release, the publisher confirmed that the game’s standard edition will be priced $70 on PS5 and Xbox Series X, making it the first AAA game to commit to higher pricing on next-gen consoles.

This doesn’t appear to be an isolated decision. According to research company IDG, other publishers are also considering raising the base price of their AAA games to $70, a $10 increase.

“The last time that next-gen launch software pricing went up was in 2005 and 2006, when it went from $49.99 to $59.99 at the start of the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation,” IDG CEO Yoshio Osaki told Gamesindustry. “During that time, the costs and prices in other affiliated verticals have gone up.”

Osaki explained that the price of admission across other competing industries has risen considerably over the years, but not in video games. The CEO cited cinema ticket prices, Netflix and cable subscriptions as examples, but neglected to mention that video games have a multitude of other ways to monetise users after the fact, such as DLC, microtransactions and several other forms of recurring revenue.

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“Even with the increase to $69.99 for next-gen, that price increase from 2005 to 2020 next-gen is only up 17%, far lower than the other comparisons,” Osaki went on.

“While the cost of development and publishing have gone up, and pricing in other entertainment verticals has also gone up substantially, next-gen software pricing has not reflected these increases. $59.99 to $69.99 does not even cover these other cost increases completely, but does move it more in the proper direction.”

Osaki, however, doesn’t think that $70 will become the new minimum price for every game, just the biggest and highest-profile. Indeed, the move is already being considered by other publishers, according to IDG’s research.

“IDG works with all major game publishers, and our channel checks indicate that other publishers are also exploring moving their next-gen pricing up on certain franchises, for the same reasons outlined above,” Osaki added.

“Not every game should garner the $69.99 price point on next-gen, but flagship AAAs such as NBA 2K merit this pricing more than others.”

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Google-backed groups criticise Apple's new warnings on user tracking – CNA

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SAN FRANCISCO: A group of European digital advertising associations on Friday (Jul 3) criticised Apple’s plans to require apps to seek additional permission from users before tracking them across other apps and websites.

Apple last week disclosed features in its forthcoming operating system for iPhones and iPads that will require apps to show a pop-up screen before they enable a form of tracking commonly needed to show personalized ads.

Sixteen marketing associations, some of which are backed by Facebook and Google, faulted Apple for not adhering to an ad-industry system for seeking user consent under European privacy rules. Apps will now need to ask for permission twice, increasing the risk users will refuse, the associations argued.

Facebook and Google are the largest among thousands of companies that track online consumers to pick up on their habits and interests and serve them relevant ads.

Apple said the new feature was aimed at giving users greater transparency over how their information is being used. In training sessions at a developer conference last week, Apple showed that developers can present any number of additional screens beforehand to explain why permission is needed before triggering its pop-up.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook is among thousands of companies that track online consumers to pick up on their habits and interests and serve them relevant ads. (Photo: AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

The pop-up says an app “would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies” and gives the app developer several lines below the main text to explain why the permission is sought. It is not required until an app seeks access to a numeric identifier that can be used for tracking, and apps only need to secure permission once.

The group of European marketing firms said the pop-up warning and the limited ability to customize it still carries “a high risk of user refusal.”

Apple engineers also said last week the company will bolster a free Apple-made tool that uses anonymous, aggregated data to measure whether advertising campaigns are working and that will not trigger the pop-up.

“Because it’s engineered to not track users, there’s no need to request permission to track,” Brandon Van Ryswyk, an Apple privacy engineer, said in a video session explaining the measurement tool to developers.

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