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Let's all chill for a moment about Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard – MobileSyrup

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Earlier this week, Microsoft took the gaming world by storm with its announcement that it’s purchasing Activision Blizzard for a whopping $68.7 billion USD (about $86.3 billion CAD).

With that being the biggest-ever acquisition in the gaming space by far, there were, naturally, many discussions that came about surrounding the purchase.

But there have also been so many wild takes to various extremes that I can’t help but say: let’s not jump to conclusions.

For context, Microsoft itself says it doesn’t expect the deal to close until “fiscal year 2023,” which could be as much as 18 months from now. That’s also assuming the acquisition does get approved, but analysts so far expect it will. Until then, both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will continue to operate independently.

In any event, we have at least a year, if not more, for anything to even remotely begin to happen. Therefore, it’s too early to really speak definitively on anything. Here are some common topics I’ve seen come up and why we should maybe just have a little more of a measured response for the time being.

Note: I’m largely not going to link to specific comments I’ve seen as I don’t want to put individual people on blast.

Exclusives(?)

The biggest question, which has the most direct impact on consumers, is whether Activision Blizzard games will become Xbox and PC only. Some PlayStation fans think this means the end of Call of Duty and other franchises on Sony consoles.

So far, though, all we know is that Phil Spencer — the longtime Xbox boss and newly appointed “Microsoft Gaming CEO” — said the company will “honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation.” As I broke down in a news story, this is a carefully worded statement that could mean any number of things:

-Some Call of Duty titles (like Warzone) remain on PlayStation while others become exclusive
-“Existing agreements” (of which we, the public, don’t know the specifics) means we only get one or two (or however many) more CODs on PlayStation before the series shifts to Xbox/PC only
-The series becomes full Xbox/PC exclusive (a “desire” for something potentially 18-plus months, at least, isn’t a guarantee)

We also don’t know what this means for other Activision Blizzard franchises, like Crash BandicootSpyro the DragonOverwatch or Diablo (I’m not counting franchises that have historically only been on PC to begin with, like World of Warcraft or Starcraft). According to Bloomberg, Microsoft’s plan is to make some franchises exclusive while others remain multiplatform, but no further details were provided. We also haven’t even yet seen Microsoft’s full long-term plans for Bethesda — so far, only two new IPs, Redfall and Starfield, have been confirmed to be Xbox/PC exclusive.

Therefore, no matter which way you swing it, we don’t know for sure re: Activision Blizzard games. PlayStation gamers being wary of losing Call of Duty is totally understandable, but there’s no reason to be doom and gloom just yet. For now, this year’s inevitable new Call of Duty, which is rumoured to be a sequel to 2019’s Modern Warfare, will still come to PlayStation. All previous modern CoDs, including the ever-popular Warzone, also remain playable. Eighteen months (at minimum; likely even longer for anything to actually change) is a long time, so just enjoy your Call of Duty games for the time being, PlayStation fans.

Even if the titles do go full exclusive, as people some have argued, the definition of that term has changed over time. I’ve seen people take issue with Spencer previously saying “I find it completely counter to what gaming is about” to lock games to single platforms. They’ve argued he’s hypocritical considering he’s buying up all these studios and making games like Starfield “exclusive.” But that’s taking his comments out of context. He went on to say that “gaming is bigger than any one device,” and that’s consistent, so far, with Microsoft’s approach.

Traditionally, an “exclusive” has been a game that is only available on one console (and maybePC) but isn’t playable on other platforms. Look at what Xbox has done with games like Halo for years, or even, more recently, PlayStation with such titles as God of War. This means that you have to drop hundreds of dollars on a specific piece of hardware. But Xbox has been adopting a more platform-agnostic approach as of late, which de-emphasizes the need for a particular system.

“Some have argued this suddenly alleviates Xbox’s first-party output, which has struggled in recent years compared to PlayStation and Nintendo.”

In addition to Xbox and PC, all first-party Xbox titles are coming to mobile devices via the cloud, and Microsoft plans to expand that offering to TVs (via streaming sticks and smart TV apps) and other devices. This means that PlayStation (or even Nintendo) gamers wouldn’t need to buy an Xbox or PC. Sure, the best experience would still be to play a game on native hardware — no question. A fast-paced shooter like Call of Duty definitely wouldn’t be stellar on cloud services as we currently know them; the technology still needs to improve. But to act like such a scenario is “taking games away from PlayStation” isn’t entirely reasonable since a Game Pass subscription provides a lower-cost and multiplatform option. This isn’t the same as, say, Street Fighter V never coming to any console besides PlayStation. Game Pass is Microsoft’s platform, not one specific device.

In the end, we don’t know how it will go with Activision Blizzard games, but as you can see, there’s a bit of nuance to the notion of “exclusivity.”

Consolidations are good/bad

This is a particularly weird one.

I’ve seen some people, particularly Xbox fans, praise the acquisition. While memes of Phil Spencer wielding an Infinity Gauntlet à la Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War can be amusing, there are people saying this means Xbox has “won the console war” (never mind that the console wars are, as always, an incredibly dumb and pointless fanboy conflict).

Some have argued this suddenly alleviates Xbox’s first-party output, which has struggled in recent years compared to PlayStation and Nintendo.

Windows Central‘s Jez Corden even started a bit of Twitter “discourse” with the baffling take that “game journalists” who are critical of the acquisition have a “bias.” His rationale was that they get “huge” editor salaries on top of free games, so they’re out of touch with the value of Activision Blizzard titles coming to Game Pass for consumers. Beyond many game journalists pointing out that they’re not, in fact, anywhere near as highly paid as Corden erroneously stated, it’s just a bad-faith argument.

It’s completely rational to be apprehensive about any billion-dollar corporation, especially one making an acquisition this staggeringly big. Expressing such skepticism doesn’t mean you’re biased; if anything, the person writing for the Microsoft-focused site is more likely to be guilty of that. There definitely are valid concerns about monopolistic business practices. For reference, Disney bought Fox in 2019 for $71.3 billion USD (nearly the same sum that Activision Blizzard is being purchased for), following major acquisitions of Marvel and Lucasfilm. While the company isn’t a monopoly by legal definitions, its stranglehold on much of what dominates pop-culture is undeniably problematic.

“Regardless of whether you ultimately think Xbox will eventually be a positive or negative force of change for Activision Blizzard, the fact remains that there’s much to be done now.”

In a similar vein, it’s not unreasonable to look at Microsoft owning such juggernauts as Halo, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and The Elder Scrolls as being somewhat concerning. One indie developer even shared an interesting thread about how the increasing push for subscription services like Game Pass puts press on “everyone, devs, publishers, and platforms, toward putting games straight into those programs.” Could Game Pass, as bolstered by heavy hitters like Call of Duty, make it ultimately more difficult for devs to find success? Who’s to say now, but it’s possible.

Conversely, people in my own Twitter feed basically said this is a dark time for the gaming industry and that they lost all respect for the otherwise generally well-liked Phil Spencer. That, like Corden’s statement, feels drastic. The deal was just announced — we have no idea what this actually means for Activision Blizzard or Xbox as a whole. Again, we haven’t even fully seen what Xbox is going to do with Bethesda, let alone Activision Blizzard. We don’t know whether Microsoft will make any more acquisitions, either.

I don’t fault anyone for taking an inherently optimistic or pessimistic stance, but at least consider that there’s some nuance here.

Improving Activision Blizzard

And finally, the most important element with respect to the people who actually make Activision Blizzard games is how Microsoft ends up handling the company’s allegedly toxic workplace culture.

For the uninitiated, a quick recap is that the company is facing lawsuits related to allegations of widespread workplace misconduct. These include, but are not limited to, sexual harassment, discriminatory hiring practices and other forms of abuse. CEO Bobby Kotick also stands accused not only of being aware of these issues, but someone who actively tried to keep them quiet. He’s since faced numerous calls to resign. Many employees have spoken up about these issues and walked out from the company, while some at Warzone developer Raven have even begun to form a union amid sudden terminations of quality assurance workers.

Now, I’ve seen some people blast Spencer for last year condemning Activision Blizzard amid the allegations and later saying Microsoft was reevaluating its relationship with the publisher. And for sure, the optics aren’t ideal. Likewise, some have said this gives Kotick a “golden parachute” to leave the company — which he reportedly is expected to do post-acquisition — with a huge payout. That also isn’t ideal — he shouldn’t be rewarded after all of this.

One thing we should all agree on: Bobby Kotick needs to go. Image credit: Wikipedia

But it’s also impossible to say what would have happened had this deal not been reached. Would Kotick have remained in power longer? Who knows. Likewise, it’s difficult to speculate on how Microsoft might impact Activision Blizzard since, once again, it won’t have the full power to do so for many, many months. Talking about what Microsoft may start to do in 2023 or even 2024 doesn’t help ActiBlizz developers now, in 2022. For what it’s worth, Activision Blizzard developers have reportedly expressed mixed feelings — particularly optimism over Xbox’s generally well-regarded work culture but anger over how Kotick is likely to make off). That mostly seems like a conversation for another time.

In the interim, though, it seems more prudent to continue to stand with Activision Blizzard employees in their ongoing efforts.  Continue to hold Activision Blizzard accountable, especially when leadership puts out posts promising to “rebuild your trust.” Support ABetterABK, a group representing the employees at the company, either through donations or even just solidarity on social media. Hell, even just show some love to some of the devs who are no doubt feeling all kinds of emotions right now.

Regardless of whether you ultimately think Xbox will eventually be a positive or negative force of change for Activision Blizzard, the fact remains that there’s much to be done now.


In the end, we have no idea what to really expect once Xbox officially acquires Activision Blizzard. And that’s okay. For now, it’s good to have discussions about it.

However, I think the perfect note to close all of this on is a tweet from Bloomberg‘s Jason Schreier, which I couldn’t agree with more.

“One of the many awful things about Gamer tribalism is how it reduces news to wins or losses, good or bad.”

That’s very true — a lot of people have made this news out to be either The Best or The Worst Thing Ever.

But, as he points out, it’s usually not so black-and-white.

“This week’s industry-shaking acquisition will have both positive and negative effects that won’t be fully understood for years,” said Schreier. “It’s OK to have complicated feelings about it!”

That, ultimately, should be the current big takeaway out of all this.

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China's Restrictions Delay iPhone 14 Development | by slashdotted | May, 2022 – DataDrivenInvestor

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According to a source, iPhone 14 development is behind schedule owing to Chinese lockdowns

At least one iPhone 14 model is three weeks late

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

According to a fresh rumor today, the development of at least one iPhone 14 model is three weeks behind schedule owing to Chinese lockdowns, which might damage initial production levels in the worst-case scenario.

According to reports, Apple has instructed suppliers to accelerate product development efforts in order to make up for a lost time before the delay impacts the regular manufacturing schedule, which might impair the initial production numbers of the iPhone 14 series.

By the end of June, all new iPhone models should have completed the EVT and moved on to the verification step.

As speculation grows regarding the characteristics of the next iPhone 14 models, such as an always-on display, a fresh source claims that the development of the line has been slowed by China’s coronavirus regulations.

All iPhone 14 versions are presently undergoing engineering verification testing (EVT), which involves Apple working with suppliers to optimize production processes and calculate manufacturing costs.

The unexpected lockdown shutdown of major Apple suppliers in Shanghai, as well as the effect on regional transportation, have caused the delay.

Apple is apparently working with its suppliers to expedite the process and get back on track.

The story seems to imply that, unlike the iPhone 12, the iPhone 14 will not be delayed and would instead come in the same September launch window as its current best iPhone, the iPhone 13.

Is the iPhone 14 going to be delayed?

According to this claim, it is doubtful that the iPhone 14 would be delayed.

The story does, however, raise the likelihood that one of the iPhone 14 versions may be substantially more difficult to get when it is introduced later this year.

The delay is claimed to be due to the internal development of the iPhone 14 series production process

. According to Nikkei, suppliers must adopt new manufacturing processes and adjust current production lines as part of a process known as New Product Introduction (NPI).

Last month, supposed real-world iPhone 14 display panels leaked online, revealing the suspected pill-shape and circular display cuts that would replace the conventional notch on this year’s new iPhone models to house the front-facing camera and Face ID technology.

In March, claimed iPhone 14 Pro 3D CAD renderings leaked, revealing the device’s reported redesigned pill-shape and circular display cutouts, which are likely to contain the iPhone’s Face ID components and front-facing camera module, eliminating the rectangular notch from the device’s display.

China’s restrictions stymie iPhone 14 development — Mobile World Live

According to the news agency, Apple’s iPhone 14 is being created by contract manufacturers Foxconn and Pegatron, with full production expected to begin in late August.

Nikkei Asia reported that engineering verification tests must be finished by the end of June in order to fulfill the manufacturing timetable and that one of the four iPhone 14 variants is three weeks behind schedule.

Due to the limitations, Pegatron paused manufacturing in its Shanghai and Kunshan plants earlier this year, while Foxconn halted operations at its Shenzhen factory.

Apple officials warned last month that supply concerns in China might affect sales by much to $8 billion in the current fiscal quarter.

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Luxury carmaker Maserati introduces convertible sportscar MC20 Cielo – Economic Times

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MODENA: Maserati‘s turnaround plan aims to liberate the Stellantis luxury brand from being a “slave to volumes” which has weighed on quality, its CEO Davide Grasso said on Wednesday, unveiling a convertible version of its MC20 sportscar.

Maserati, which returned to operating profit last year, delivered 24,200 cars in 2021 – 7,300 units more than in 2020. That still leaves it far from 2017’s peak, when it sold 51,500 cars.

“That was a success in terms of numbers, not necessarily for customers,” Grasso said, adding defect rates at Maserati were at that time higher than the average in luxury and premium markets.

“You enter a vicious circle of unsold cars and bigger and bigger discounts,” he said. “We were not good enough with quality, new powertrains, infotainment”.

Grasso said Maserati’s performance would keep improving this year and in 2023 in terms of market share, products, revenues and margins.

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The brand has recently unveiled its new Grecale SUV, which will be available in a full-electric (BEV) version in 2023. Next year Maserati will also introduce new versions of its Gran Turismo and Gran Cabrio models, and plans to make all its range electrified by 2025.

Agencies

Chief Commercial Officer Bernard Loire said sales could potentially top 30,000 units this year though it was not a target.

“It’s a projection based on our current performance,” he said.

Loire said China, Maserati’s second largest market after the United States, was being hit by an ongoing lockdown, but feedback from initial orders for Grecale were very positive.

“We see a much better second half,” he added.

He said Grecale would allow Maserati to compete in a segment, worth around 40% of the luxury market, where the brand has not been present so far.

Image - 2022-05-26T141424.363Agencies

With deliveries expected to start in the first quarter of 2023, the new retractable hardtop MC20 Cielo – ‘Sky’ in Italian – will contribute to Maserati’s sales only in 2023.

Fitted with a six-cylinder, three litre, 630 horsepower engine, for a top speed of over 320 km per hour, it will cost 260,000 euros ($277,000), 30,000 euros more than its coupe sister MC20. That’s higher than entry level models of Ferrari and Aston Martin.

Combined capacity for MC20 and MC20 Cielo, both produced in Modena, northern Italy, amount to about 1,400 units a year, with flexibility to adapt output between the two models.

Their BEV versions are expected by 2025.

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iPhone 14 production is "weeks" behind schedule thanks to the resumption of lockdowns in China – Notebookcheck.net

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Nikkei Asia

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