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Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard: with the video game industry under new management, what's going to change? – The Conversation AU

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In 1979, a group of disgruntled Atari employees decided to quit and create their own company. Activision was the world’s first “third-party” game development company, producing and publishing titles for other companies’ platforms.

Fast-forward 43 years and the company that is now Activision Blizzard has been bought by one of the major platform owners in the industry, Microsoft, for a blistering US$68.7 billion dollars (around A$95.6 billion) – the largest sale in the history of the video game industry.

This sale is also massive in terms of the game franchises Microsoft now has control over; it now owns blockbuster franchises such as Call of Duty, Diablo, Starcraft, Candy Crush and World of Warcraft. And tens of millions of fans of these titles will now be wondering: what does this change in ownership mean for them?

Why now?

Big dollar acquisitions aren’t new in the video game industry. Activision Blizzard itself became one of the largest video game companies in 2008, when Activision merged with Blizzard in a US$18.9 billion dollar deal. Microsoft and Sony regularly buy successful pre-existing development studios to take over their intellectual properties (IP) and make them available exclusively on their platforms.

But Microsoft has become particularly aggressive in its approach. In the last decade alone it has made a number of high-profile purchases, including Minecraft developer Mojang in 2014 for US$2.5 billion, and Elder Scrolls and Doom publisher ZeniMax in 2020 for US$7.5 billion. With the Activision Blizzard acquisition, Microsoft is now the third-largest company in the industry, behind TenCent and Sony.

This is all part of Microsoft’s current video game business strategy, which is less about selling game products and more about increasing subscriptions to its Game Pass service. Similar to services like Netflix and Spotify, Game Pass gives subscribers access to a massive digital catalogue of games in exchange for a monthly fee.

In its announcement of the Activision Blizzard purchase, Microsoft also boasted Game Pass has surpassed 25 million users. With each user paying US$16 a month, that’s about US$400 million (or A$556 million) in monthly revenue.

With Activision Blizzard, Microsoft now owns a huge new range of franchises it can make available through Game Pass, attracting even more users.

While Microsoft owns Activision Blizzard, players can still play the company’s games on other consoles and platforms such as Sony’s PlayStation or Valve’s Steam, but it remains to be seen if this will continue.
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Gaming landlords

If it wanted, Microsoft might even make these franchises only available through Game Pass, forcing customers away from other consoles like PlayStation and distribution platforms like Steam. In other words, it could pull consumers into its own exclusive sphere.

This is now a common strategy. Now, through subscription-based digital platforms, we have all stopped being owners of product and instead have become renters.

This is also true of individual video games. Call of Duty, Hearthstone, Fortnite (and many others) are no longer games that players purchase once, but are instead their own ecosystems in which players are encouraged to continuously spend money on battle passes, cosmetics and access to new content.

Meanwhile, the companies that own these titles can constantly farm new data from their millions of players, further increasing their company value.

With the purchase of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft has effectively purchased a city of existing renters in the player ecosystems of Call of Duty, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft and many other titles.

That’s tens of millions of players already committed to closed ecosystems, including many in the difficult-to-penetrate Chinese market playing Blizzard titles Hearthstone and World of Warcraft. All of these players can be farmed for more personal data and more rent.




Read more:
The war between Xbox and Playstation is no longer about consoles. It’s about winning your loyalty


So what does it mean for players and developers?

In the short term, probably not a whole lot.

Over the coming years, however, Microsoft might decide to keep more of these newly acquired franchises for its own platforms. For a PC player, this might simply mean having to transition away from Steam to the Microsoft Game Store if they want to access the franchises: an inconvenience, but hardly a radical change.

For PlayStation and Mac players, the situation could be more dire, and they might find themselves having to purchase a PC or an Xbox if they want to play new entries to these franchises in the future.

Some are also worried ongoing giant mergers will stifle creativity and innovation across the video game industry. But this is unlikely since the bulk of the revenue generated by the industry has always been concentrated in a relatively small number of risk-adverse companies.

In her book Global Games, researcher Aphra Kerr estimated that in 2015, the top ten video game companies accounted for 49% of the entire industry’s revenue. In spite of this concentration of capital, the creativity and innovation that produces new genres almost always emerges at the periphery, in much smaller, independent groups working with far fewer resources.

The explosion of new and diverse genres we’ve seen over the past decade occurred, in large part, because independent creators are now able to access far more powerful tools, such as game engines Unity and Unreal, and greater audiences through digital marketplaces, such as Steam or Xbox Game Pass.

The situation is far from ideal, but the companies that control most of the capital in the video game industry – and the companies that are the most innovative – have rarely been the same. So this latest acquisition is unlikely to stifle creativity.

But there’s more at stake in this historic sale. Activision Blizzard is facing accusations and lawsuits of harassment, abuse and sexism across its offices, and CEO Bobby Kotick has been under intense pressure to resign for months. Kotick is now set to walk away from the company with US$400 million; the allegations of a toxic workplace are now Microsoft’s responsibility to clean up.

Perhaps this is the important question coming out of the recent sale: not which piece of hardware will have access to which games, but whether Microsoft will take responsibility for improving the work culture and working conditions for game developers? We’ll have to wait and see.




Read more:
Activision Blizzard’s sexual harassment scandal is not a one-off for the gaming industry


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The Apple Watch 7 on sale for a record-low price is today's best Memorial Day deal – TechRadar

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It’s officially the weekend which means Memorial Day sales are up and running, and we’ve just spotted a can’t-be-missed deal on the best-selling Apple Watch 7. Amazon has Apple’s latest and greatest smartwatch on sale for $329 (was $399.99) (opens in new tab). That’s the lowest price we’ve seen for the Apple Watch 7 and one of the best Memorial Day deals we’ve spotted so far.

The Apple Watch 7 was released in October of last year and features a 70% brighter Always-On display, faster charging, and 20% more screen area, making it easier to use and read. The design also got a refresh with softer and more rounded edges and new sizes of 41mm and 45mm. The Apple Watch 7 still includes all the nifty features of the Series 6 smartwatch, such as blood oxygen monitoring, an ECG app, and activity tracking.

While we’ve seen this record-low price on the Apple Watch 7 on Amazon before, the smartwatch has been sitting at a much higher $389 price tag for the past two weeks. We don’t know how long this Memorial Day deal will stick around, so you should grab this bargain now before it’s gone.

Memorial Day deal: Apple Watch 7

More Memorial Day deals

See more bargains with our Memorial Day TV sales roundup and our Best Buy Memorial Day sales guide.

Shop more offers with our roundup of the best cheap Apple Watch deals and you can see the best Apple Watch 7 deals that are happening right now.

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Google Drive adds support for multi-text selection and file copy/paste shortcut – Android Authority

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Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

TL;DR

  • Google Drive adds multi-text selection.
  • Google Drive gains a shortcut to copy and paste files.

Google Drive has finally added support for two basic features, features it arguably should have had from the beginning.

The first major addition is multi-text selection, much like Microsoft Word. Unfortunately, unlike Word, Google Drive requires a total of four keyboard shortcuts to select multiple sections of text. Those shortcuts are:

– Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Left/Right arrow on Windows
– Ctrl + Cmd+ Shift + Left/Right arrow on Mac

Read more: How to use Google Drive

The second upgrade Google Drive received was a shortcut to copy and paste files. Fortunately, Google stuck with a much simpler, more familiar combination:

– Ctrl + C, Ctrl + X, and Ctrl + V on Windows
– Cmd + C, Cmd + X, and Cmd + V on Mac

These new upgrades are relatively minor, but go a long way toward closing the gap with Word, and provide a solid quality-of-life upgrade.

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iQoo 10 series launch date, specs leaked online: What to expect – Times of India

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iQoo is set to expand its smartphone lineup in the country with the iQoo Neo 6 smartphone that will be unleashed on May 31, 2022. The iQoo Neo 6 is expected to feature Snapdragon 870 5G chipset and 80W FlashCharge support. According to a report by GizmoChina, Vivo’s sub-brand is now working on its next flagship series — the iQoo 10 series. The report claims that some preliminary details about the iQoo 10 lineup have been leaked online. iQoo’s parent company Vivo is also working on a new camera flagship suggests the report. The report also mentions that the iQoo 10 series will include two models — the iQOO 10 (model number V2217A) and the iQOO 10 Pro (model number V2218A). Both smartphones are tipped to feature the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1+ chipset and are rumoured to be unveiled in Q3 2022 (between July and September). No more information is available regarding both the handsets.
Vivo working on a ‘mysterious’ camera flagship
The report also suggests that Vivo is working on a ‘mysterious’ camera-focused flagship phone device. This upcoming camera-focused flagship smartphone from the Chinese smartphone maker is expected to feature a primary camera that will be more powerful than the Vivo X80 Pro’s Samsung GNV camera. However, the company is yet to decide on the processor on which the smartphone will run. The upcoming camera-focused flagship may come powered by either the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1+ chipset or the upcoming Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile processor. Vivo has still not decided on the final name of the device that will be used to market the phone. The handset might either come as a part of the X80 series or can be released with the X90 lineup, the report suggests.
Vivo to launch the Vivo T2 series soon in China
Vivo is set to introduce the Vivo T2 series in China on June 6. Rumours suggest that the Vivo T2 is expected to be powered by the Snapdragon 870 chipset and the company is also likely to introduce the Vivo T2x at the same event. The Vivo T2x might feature a 6.58-inch LCD FHD+ screen, Dimensity 1300 chipset, a 50MP dual rear camera setup, a 16MP selfie camera and a 6,000mAh battery with 44W fast charging support.
In other news, Realme has launched a Naruto Limited Edition of the Realme GT Neo 3 in China. Click here for more details.

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