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Epic Games asks court to stop Apple's 'retaliation' after App Store ban – CNBC

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This illustration picture shows a person waiting for an update of Epic Games’ Fortnite on their smartphone in Los Angeles on August 14, 2020.
Chris Delmas | AFP | Getty Images

Epic Games said late on Friday that it has asked a court to stop what it saw as Apple Inc’s retaliation against the “Fortnite” creator after the iPhone maker terminated Epic Games’ account on its App Store.

Epic Games filed for a preliminary injunction that would put its game back in the App Store and restore its developer account. The filing was made in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

It argued that Epic Games is “likely to suffer irreparable harm” in the absence of a preliminary injunction and that “the balance of harms tips sharply in Epic’s favor”.

The filing described the iPhone maker as a “monopolist” that maintains its monopolies by “explicitly prohibiting any competitive entry”.

Late last week, Apple terminated Epic Games’ account on its App Store amid a legal battle over the iPhone maker’s in-app payment guidelines and accusations they constitute a monopoly.

Apple said last week its move will not affect Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, a software tool relied on by hundreds of other app makers.

But the move meant iPhone users will not be able to download “Fortnite” or other Epic titles through the Apple App Store.

“This was a clear warning to any other developer that would dare challenge Apple’s monopolies: follow our rules or we will cut you off from a billion iOS consumers – challenge us and we will destroy your business,” Epic Games said in Friday’s filing.

Apple pulled Epic Games after the popular games creator implemented a feature to let iPhone users make in-app purchases directly, rather than using Apple’s in-app purchase system, which charges commissions of 30%.

Apple had said it would allow “Fortnite” back into the store if Epic removed the direct payment feature. But Epic refused to do so, saying complying with Apple’s request would be “to collude with Apple to maintain their monopoly over in-app payments on iOS.”

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A Pokémon Sword And Shield DLC Bundle Hits Stores This November – Nintendo Life

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If you’re yet to pick up a copy of Pokémon Sword and Shield on Nintendo Switch, you might want to consider holding off for this special bundle.

Set to launch on 6th November are these Pokémon Sword + Expansion Pass and Pokémon Shield + Expansion Pass physical bundles. As you might expect, these all-in-one bundles include the base game and the corresponding DLC on a single cart.

The content you’ll receive is exactly the same regardless of whether you buy the DLC digitally with a standard copy of the game or this fancy bundle, but it probably makes sense to buy it all together if you can wait that long. Pricing for this bundle is yet to be confirmed.

It was revealed today that the second piece of DLC in the Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass, The Crown Tundra, will go live on 22nd October.

Do you think you might pick up one of these bundles? Do you already own the game and its DLC? Tell us below.

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Microsoft says disruption to Teams, Outlook resolved – Yahoo Finance

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TipRanks

3 Stocks Flashing Signs of Strong Insider Buying

If you really want to know which stocks the experts – and those in the know – are buying, pay attention to what they’re doing. Stock reports, company reviews, and press statements are helpful, but you’ll get significant information from watching what the insiders are up to.The insiders – the corporate officers and board members – have to disclose when they snap up shares to prevent any unfair advantages. Tracking their stock purchases can be a useful strategy because if an insider spends their own money on a stock, it could signal that they believe big gains are in store.So, investors looking for stocks that may be flying ‘under the radar,’ but with potential to climb fast, watching for insider purchases identify some sweet market plays. To make that search easier, the TipRanks Insiders’ Hot Stocks tool gets the footwork started – identifying stocks that have seen informative moves by insiders, highlighting several common strategies used by the insiders, and collecting the data all in one place.Fresh from that database, here are the details on three stocks showing ‘informative buys’ in recent days.TravelCenters of America (TA)We’ll start with a company that you probably don’t think about often, but that does provide an essential service. TravelCenters of America is the largest publicly traded owner, operator, and franchisor of full-service highway rest stops in the US. TA started out operating truck stops for rest, repair, and maintenance, and has since expanded to full-service fueling stations offering both gasoline and diesel, fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, and other rest stop amenities. Their network of rest stops is part of the infrastructure that makes long-distance motor transport, both private and commercial, possible in the USA.As can be imagined, the social lockdowns and travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic were not good for TA. The good news is, the worst of the pandemic hit during Q1, and the first quarter is normally TA’s slowest of the year. This year, the first quarter showed a net loss of $1.81 per share. In the second quarter, when warmer weather normally leads to increased driving, the pandemic restrictions were also – at least partially – lifted, and TA reported a sudden turnaround, with a 59 cent EPS profit. Even so, that missed the forecast by almost a dime. The outlook for Q3, normally TA’s strongest of the year, is for EPS of 73 cents.Turning to the insider trades, Adam Portnoy of the Board of Directors has the most recent informative buys. Earlier this month, he purchased over 323,000 shares, laying out more than $5.32 million for the stock. Analyst James Sullivan, of BTIG makes two observations about TravelCenters. First, he points out, “The long-haul trucking industry has an approximate 71% share of total primary tonnage in the U.S. freight industry, making it the primary mode of freight transportation.” Sullivan then adds that this opens up opportunity for TA going forward: “The increasing demands of the nation’s large trucking fleets for consolidated service providers that can provide fuel and truck service on a national basis appear likely to drive additional consolidation in the industry.”Sullivan rates TA shares a Buy, and his $34 price target suggests the stock has an impressive 82% upside potential for the coming year. (To watch Sullivan’s track record, click here)Overall, shares in TA are rated a Strong Buy from the analyst consensus, based on 5 recent reviews including 4 Buys and 1 Hold. The shares are selling for $19.24, and the $22.70 average price target implies room for 18% upside growth. (See TA stock analysis on TipRanks)Highwoods Properties (HIW)The next stock is a real estate investment trust. Highwood operates mostly in the Southeast US, but also in Pittsburgh, where it acquires, develops, leases, and manages a portfolio of suburban office and light industrial properties.Where most companies reported heavy losses during the corona crisis, HIW saw revenues in 1H20 remain stable. EPS has grown sequentially into Q1 and remained flat in Q2 at 93 cents. Both quarter beat EPS expectations.Despite the solid financial results, HIW shares have still not recovered from the market collapse of midwinter. The stock is down 27% year-to-date.Through all of this, Highwoods has maintained its dividend, as is common among REITs. The company has a 17-year history of dividend growth and reliability, and the current payment of 48 cents per common share has been stable for the past 7 quarters. At this level, it annualizes to $1.92 and gives a yield of 5.8%.Highwoods’ insider trading has come from Board member Carlos Evans, who purchased 10,000 shares for $337,000 dollars last week. His move was the first informative buy on HIW in the last 6 months.Truist analyst Michael Lewis is impressed by the quality of HIW’s portfolio. He writes, “We continue to believe that HIW’s portfolio is one of the best-positioned among traditional office REITs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rent collections have been excellent and there are no large near-term lease expirations. More broadly, the portfolio should benefit from being focused in drivable, close-in Sunbelt suburbs.”In line with these comments, Lewis rates the stock a Buy. His price target, $45, indicates a 31% potential upside from current levels. (To watch Lewis’ track record, click here)Overall, HIW has a cautiously optimistic Moderate Buy consensus rating from the Street. This breaks down into 2 Buy ratings and 1 Hold. We can also see from TipRanks that the average analyst price target is $43, which implies a ~25% upside from the current share price. (See HIW stock analysis on TipRanks)VEREIT (VER)The last stock on our insider trading list is another REIT. VEREIT is major owner and manager of retail, restaurant, and commercial real estate, with a portfolio that includes over 3,800 properties worth a collective $14.7 billion. The company’s assets are 45% retail and 20% restaurants; the rest is mainly office and light industrial sites. The total leasable square footage is 88.9 million square feet.So VEREIT is a giant in the REIT sector – but size didn’t protect it from the general downturn this year. Share performance has been lackluster, and revenues have been falling off gradually since Q4 of last year. The second quarter results showed $279 million on the top line, the lowest in a year – but the quarter also saw earnings turn back upwards, reaching 17 cents per share.VER cut back on its dividend earlier this year, reducing the payment to 8 cents per share to keep it in line with earnings. That dividend has been maintained, and the next payment is set for mid-October. The current dividend yield is 4.5%, well over double the average found among S&P stocks.The big insider trade on VER comes from Board member and CEO Glenn Rufrano. He spent over $252K on a block of 40,000 shares, pushing the insider sentiment on this stock into positive territory.Covering the stock for JPMorgan, 5-star analyst Anthony Paolone sees an important strength in VER, noting that the company has been successful in collecting rents during the crisis period. “[Its] collections showed good improvement going into July, with 85% collections in 2Q and 91% in July; when considering all the abatements and deferrals, it appears that at this point about 94% of pre-COVID contractual rental revenue has been addressed, and it seems to us that a normalized run rate for this vast majority of the portfolio should take hold in early 2021; the company is making progress in working through the remaining 5-6% of non-collections,” Paolone noted.Paolone gives VER an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, and his $8 price target implies a 22% upside for the next 12 months. (To watch Paolone’s track record, click here)All in all, VER has drawn optimism mixed with caution when it comes to consensus opinion among sell-side analysts. Out of 5 analysts polled in the last 3 months, 3 are bullish on the stock, while 2 remain sidelined. With an 11% upside potential, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $7.25. (See VEREIT’s stock analysis at TipRanks)To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.

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Video games are about to get more expensive as the console wars return – CNBC

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Game enthusiasts and industry personnel walk between the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation exhibits at the E3 trade show on June 16, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Christian Petersen | Getty Images

LONDON — Gaming can be an expensive hobby. Blockbuster video games typically cost around $60 at launch. Now, as gamers race to get their hands on a shiny new console this year, the industry is betting they’ll be willing to pay even higher prices for their games.

Microsoft and Sony are set to ship their respective next-generation machines next month. Consumers are already rushing to preorder them, with units quickly selling out within hours of listing. As a refresher, both Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Sony’s PlayStation 5 cost around $500, while they’re also releasing cheaper versions without disc drives. Sony’s digital-only PS5 retails at $400 while Microsoft’s more affordable Xbox Series S costs $300.

Both consoles’ manufacturers are promising much more powerful performance and better quality graphics than their predecessors. For example, each comes with storage devices called solid state drives to enable faster load times, as well as a feature known as ray tracing which offers ultra-realistic graphics by simulating how rays of light bounce off of objects.

But with those premium specs, game publishers are expected to bump up their prices due to additional development and marketing costs. Take-Two Interactive, which owns the well-known Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead series, was early to the party, announcing in July that it would price its upcoming NBA 2K21 title at $70 on Xbox Series X and PS5. Then, earlier this month, Sony confirmed a price ceiling of $70 following the announcement of its PS5 release date and price.

“Our own Worldwide Studios titles will be priced from US$49.99 to US$69.99 (RRP) on PS5,” Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan said in a blog post earlier this month. Such a price increase would end the standard $60 that has been the industry norm for 15 years.

Microsoft hasn’t comment on what Xbox’s first-party games will cost yet, but Xbox chief Phil Spencer said in an interview with the Washington Post he thinks “the customer will decide what the right price is for them,” adding: “I’m not negative on people setting a new price point for games.” Microsoft wasn’t immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Could higher prices put gamers off?

Bartosz Skwarczek, CEO and co-founder of video game reselling marketplace G2A, said increasing the price of AAA games “risks jeopardizing gaming for a new generation of young gamers.” He warned that higher prices, coupled with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, may put cash-strapped consumers off buying new titles.

“I think this is not a good idea to increase prices when people are suffering and the economy is suffering because of coronavirus and the economic crisis that we have,” Skwarczek told CNBC. “I think that could be played with a little bit more empathy towards gamers.”

Nine in 10 gamers believe a new video game should cost less than $60, according to a survey undertaken for G2A by research firm Censuswide. The study, which surveyed 1,031 Americans in August, found all respondents think a price of more than $60 is too much for a single game, while 59% say gaming has become too expensive.

Those figures make grim reading for the industry’s gamble that consumers will be willing to pay an extra $10 for their games. But some experts highlight there are now many more ways to access video games, sometimes without paying a penny.

Free-to-play games are a common sight now thanks to Fortnite, and there are plenty of subscription services on offer that allow gamers access to a library of content for a monthly fee. Microsoft for example has been heavily marketing Xbox Game Pass, which offers access to a catalog of over 100 games and is being bundled in with monthly financing plans for the new Xbox consoles. Sony, meanwhile, has its PlayStation Plus service that gives players access to two free games each month.

Microsoft’s subscription offering also includes cloud gaming, meaning users might not even need a console to play their favorite titles. Companies from Amazon to Google are launching their own game-streaming services, however the space is still emerging. And some industry leaders are skeptical, with Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick recently saying cloud gaming won’t be “nirvana” for the industry.

Is now the right time to raise game prices?

Many in the video game industry argue a price increase is well overdue. Call of Duty 2, credited with setting the current $60 standard when it launched in 2005, would cost almost $80 today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator.

“There’s no good time for a price increase,” Steve Bailey, principal games analyst at research firm Omdia, told CNBC. “But saying that, there may be times where it’s more suitable for there to be a price increase, and I think this is quite a suitable time.”

“If you have to bite the bullet with a change like this, it’s best to do it in sync with major transitions,” he added.

Bailey said the gaming market has changed significantly over the years, with free-to-play games, digital discounting and subscription services now widespread on console. There are also “special edition” versions of games that cost an extra few bucks for additional content. According to Bailey, major game publishers already “have the data” on gamers’ reception to charging extra for different tiers.

Plus, given the demand the sector has seen during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear why big publishers are making such a gamble. Gaming companies have reported rising earnings this year as a result of government-enforced lockdowns, while video game research firm Newzoo forecasts the global games market will generate revenues of $159.3 billion this year.

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