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Netflix's plan to jump into video games puzzles Wall Street – BNN

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Netflix Inc.’s foray into gaming is raising more eyebrows than excitement among analysts.

Though there’s long been speculation that Netflix might move into video games, Wednesday’s news that it had hired an executive to lead the effort — and would start adding titles to its streaming platform in the next year — came as a surprise to many. The Los Gatos, California-based company doesn’t have the infrastructure or the expertise to create or support top-tier games, analysts said. And that capability won’t be easy to build.

“They don’t have a game catalog — they haven’t cultivated a base of gamers in their audience,” said Lewis Ward, research director for gaming at IDC. “And they don’t have an internal studio or infrastructure to handle a service.”

Netflix shares initially jumped on the news, which was first reported by Bloomberg. But by Thursday afternoon, they had sunk as much as 1.8 per cent in New York trading.

By experimenting with games, Netflix hopes to give customers one more reason to sign up for its service — and to hang on instead of leaving. It’s expected to start slow with the effort, helping minimize risk. The company has yet to settle on its game-development strategy and may begin with just a few titles, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Netflix doesn’t currently plan to charge for the games, according to a person familiar with the matter. The idea is to feature the option alongside its current fare: movies, TV shows and documentaries that are beamed to its roughly 204 million members in more than 190 countries.

Still, it’s a daunting task. Wedbush Securities Inc. analyst Michael Pachter, famously bearish on Netflix, was especially critical of the idea.

The executive tasked with leading the effort, Mike Verdu, has changed jobs four times in the past 10 years, before moving to Netflix, Pachter noted. And Netflix’s top management isn’t educated about the video-game business, he said.

“They are not going to succeed,” Pachter said in an interview. “They are going to spend a few hundred million dollars and quietly fold this with a tail between their legs.”

Of course, Pachter has been wrong about Netflix before. He’s recommended selling the stock for the past decade, even as Netflix has come to dominate the streaming industry — sending its shares soaring along the way.

But he has plenty of company in being skeptical about the gaming move.

One problem is Netflix lacks the infrastructure needed to support so-called AAA games — the industry’s term for top-tier titles with the best graphics. Such games require low latency, IDC’s Ward said. Netflix could partner with a cloud provider such as Amazon.com Inc. or Google, both of which have competing forays into games, but that would be hugely expensive, he said.

 

Mobile Games

Netflix may be able to more effectively compete in mobile games, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Kanterman. After all, many Netflix subscribers, particularly in Asia, are already using the service on their mobile phones. Netflix also can capitalize on its intellectual property — say, “Stranger Things” — to offer games that people recognize.

In that scenario, “Netflix could emerge as a force to contend with,” Kanterman said in a note.

But most people who want to play mobile games can already find a greater variety of them in the Apple App Store or Google Play, Pachter said.

Bernstein analysts Todd Juenger and Gini Zhang said in a note that they were “tepid” about Netflix getting into gaming, partly because it would mean a lesser focus on the core business. They worry about creating a distraction.

“It’s hard not to imagine that if Netflix were to launch its own video games, the majority of the company’s energy would be focused on the success of that new, different, exciting thing (even among employees who aren’t involved in it),” according to the note. It’s also unclear how the company can capitalize on the video-game content without raising prices — and potentially turning away some users unwilling to pay extra, they said.

Interactive Shows

What would make more sense is for Netflix to develop additional interactive TV shows, which fall somewhere in between traditional TV and video games, Ward said. In such shows — already available on Netflix and platforms like Facebook Inc. — people can vote for the direction they want the story to go.

“Movie companies that tried to make video games have generally failed, and video-game companies that tried to make movies have generally failed,” Ward said. Still, “there’s a new middle ground that could emerge in the next 10 years.”

That could change the equation, he said. “My gut feeling tells me these guys are on to something.”

Netflix, which has long talked about Fortnite as a competitor, perhaps thinks it can avoid the fate of other gaming efforts that failed — thanks to its legions of loyal users.

“To its credit, Netflix has always erred on the side of choosing the risk of moving too fast and bold, rather than the risk of moving too slow and safe,” according to the Bernstein analysts. It’s possible that “in hindsight, 10 years from now, this idea will look like a no-brainer.”

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Amazon Prime is giving away Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V – TechSpot

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In brief: Are you looking for some older but still fun games to play without putting a hand in your virtual wallet? Then here’s some good news: Amazon Prime subscribers can grab the standard edition of Battlefield 1 right now, with Battlefield V going gratis on August 2.

From now up until August 4, members of Prime Gaming, which is free to Prime subscribers, can grab the PC version of Battlefield 1 for nothing. It’s redeemable through Origin via the Origin Store or Origin Client.

Battlefield 1 (2016) takes the action to World War 1, where those who prefer doing things solo can enjoy six separate “War Stories,” excellent mini-campaigns shown through the eyes of separate allied soldiers from different nationalities. But the main attraction is that 64-person multiplayer mode.

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The game’s successor, Battlefield V, arrives on Prime Gaming on Monday, August 2. You may remember that Battlefield V was the first game to support real-time ray tracing when it arrived back in 2018, and its World War II setting still looks good today. It sold 7.3 million copies by the end of 2018, though it was still fewer than half of what Battlefield 1 managed during the same period.

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With Battlefield 2042 scheduled to release on October 22, this is a good opportunity to reconnect with the Battlefield series.

Want some more free games? Make sure to check out our roundup of everything being given away on the Epic Games Store, Steam, Amazon, and more.

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Ex-Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime on allegations: "I am ashamed" – Eurogamer.net

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Ex-Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime has issued a statement on recent allegations about the company, saying: “I am ashamed.”

This week, the State of California sued Activision Blizzard over what it alleges to be a “frat boy” culture that created “a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women”.

Ex-Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime.

The lawsuit alleges a culture of “constant sexual harassment”, mainly at Blizzard Entertainment, the maker of World of Warcraft, Diablo and Overwatch.

Activision Blizzard has strongly denied the accusations, calling many of the claims distorted or false.

Morhaime co-founded Blizzard in 1991, when the studio was known as Silicon & Synapse, eventually becoming president in 1998, then president and CEO in 2007.

During Morhaime’s time at the company Blizzard released gargantuan hits such as World of Warcraft, Overwatch and Hearthstone, and contributed billions of dollars to Activision Blizzard’s bottom line. Morhaime left Blizzard in 2018 – a move that was widely seen as a significant blow for the company – and was replaced by current president J. Allen Brack.

Morhaime’s statement is published in full, below:

“I have read the full complaint against Activision Blizzard and many of the other stories. It is all very disturbing and difficult to read. I am ashamed. It feels like everything I thought I stood for has been washed away. What’s worse but even more important, real people have been harmed, and some women had terrible experiences.

“I was at Blizzard for 28 years. During that time, I tried very hard to create an environment that was safe and welcoming for people of all genders and backgrounds. I knew that it was not perfect, but clearly we were far from that goal. The fact that so many women were mistreated and were not supported means we let them down. In addition, we did not succeed in making it feel safe for people to tell their truth. It is no consolation that other companies have faced similar challenges. I wanted us to be different, better.

“Harassment and discrimination exist. They are prevalent in our industry. It is the responsibility of leadership to keep all employees feeling safe, supported, and treated equitably, regardless of gender and background. It is the responsibility of leadership to stamp out toxicity and harassment in any form, across all levels of the company. To the Blizzard women who experienced any of these things, I am extremely sorry that I failed you.

“I realise that these are just words, but I wanted to acknowledge the women who had awful experiences. I hear you, I believe you, and I am so sorry to have let you down. I want to hear your stories, if you are willing to share them. As a leader in our industry, I can and will use my influence to help drive positive change and to combat misogyny, discrimination, and harassment wherever I can. I believe we can do better, and I believe the gaming industry can be a place where women and minorities are welcomed, included, supported, recognised, rewarded, and ultimately unimpeded from the opportunity to make the types of contributions that all of us join this industry to make. I want the mark I leave on this industry to be something that we can all be proud of.”

Morhaime left Blizzard to form a new game company called Dreamhaven. Dreamhaven is made up of two separate studio teams – Moonshot and Secret Door – each led by former Blizzard talent.

On its website, Dreamhaven says it wants to “provide a safe place where developers, creators, and players can connect in meaningful ways”.

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iOS and iPad users can now access Facebook's cloud gaming services indirectly – MobileSyrup

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After continuous back and forth between Facebook and Apple regarding an iOS app for Facebook’s gaming service, the social networking platform has followed Microsoft and Amazon’s route and has published a web app for iPhone and iPad users which will be found on Facebook Gaming’s website, instead of the App Store.

Facebook has released a PWA (Progressive Web App) that will act as a shortcut to its gaming service. To access the app, simply visit www.facebook.com/gaming/play from your iPhone and iPad, and you’ll get a prompt to add a shortcut to the web app to your homepage (see the first screenshot below for reference).

“We’ve come to the same conclusion as others: web apps are the only option for streaming cloud games on iOS at the moment,” Facebook’s vice president of gaming, Vivek Sharma, told The Verge in a statement.

“As many have pointed out, Apple’s policy to ‘allow’ cloud games on the App Store doesn’t allow for much at all. Apple’s requirement for each cloud game to have its own page, go through review, and appear in search listings defeats the purpose of cloud gaming. These roadblocks mean players are prevented from discovering new games, playing cross-device, and accessing high-quality games instantly in native iOS apps — even for those who aren’t using the latest and most expensive devices.”

Via: The Verge

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