Hello and welcome to GYGO! I’m Kael, the ghost of news cycles past come back from the dead to marvel at the fact Activision Blizzard is literally never not up to some bull. Though maybe that is soon to be a thing of the past as Microsoft slowly devours them body and soul. Anyway, the news!

Activision Blizzard/Microsoft Merger Is Causing Lawsuits (Again)

Self described Video Gamers are suing Microsoft in response to the company’s proposed merger with Activision Blizzard. The plaintiffs allege that the merger may substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly, in violation of the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914. Microsoft is currently being sued by the FTC over many of the same concerns.

In the midst of the merger, Activision Blizzard’s President and Chief Organizational Officer, Daniel Alegre, is leaving the company. Alegre is set to take over as CEO of Yuga Labs, a web3 (blockchain)-based company that owns NFT labels like Bored Ape and CryptoPunks.

Meanwhile Blizzard Entertainment (owned by Activision Blizzard) president Mike Ybarra published an end-of-year update that outlined some of the company’s future priorities. According to Ybarra, Blizzard has doubled the team for its upcoming survival game IP. They’re also bringing back Blizzcon, which was put on hold amidst the pandemic and allegations of harassment within the Blizzard team.

Epic Games Gets Epically Fined for Children’s Privacy Violations

The US Federal Trade Commission is fining Epic games over violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and ordering refunds for tricking users into paying for services. This is a complicated ruling (including the largest ever fine for a FTC rule violation) but it can be broken down into 3 parts.

The first is Epic’s alleged COPPA violations. According to the FTC, Epic was aware that kids are a main demographic for Fortnite, but still collected their information without attempting to alert parents that they were doing so. The FTC’s statement points to customer surveys and children’s merchandise as proof that Fortnite is a “child-directed online service.” As part of the ruling they’re requiring Epic to delete all data for users under the age of 13, unless they are able to obtain parent permission. They also charged a $275 million fine, the largest in the FTC’s history, which will go to the United States Treasury.

Another historic court order by the FTC stated that moving forward, Fortnite will be required to disable voice and text chat by default and require parental consent to enable it for users under 13 years old. They claim that by enabling communication by default and randomly matching children with strangers led to harm and harassment for children. They will also require Epic to obtain regular independent audits of their privacy practices moving forward.

Unrelated to the privacy ruling, the FTC lodged a separate complaint alleging that Epic uses dark patterns to trick users into illegal charges. I was hoping a warlock was involved but it turns out dark patterns just refers to using misleading menu and button configurations that can lead to accidentally making purchases on the platform. For example, pressing the wrong button during a loading screen, or while waking the game from sleep mode could make a purchase with real money.

They also point out that until 2018 there were few restrictions in place to prevent children from making purchases, and some users have been banned for disputing dark pattern charges. The FTC fined Epic an additional $245 million, which will be used to provide refunds to customers.

Epic responded with a statement that they’ll be revamping their privacy settings, including more easily accessible parental controls and special accounts for children under 13.

In other news…

Wizards of the Coast released a statement clarifying plans for their Open Gaming License as they continue development on upcoming One D&D. They’re set to update the OGL in 2023, which they say will clarify what type of content can be made under the license (specifically printed media and static text formats like PDF). They’re also adding separate terms for commercial products, specifically requiring creators who make more than $50,000 a year to report their income to WotC, and to pay royalties on income over $750,000 a year.

Ukranian game developer Frogwares opened up on Twitter this week about what life is like during the Russian invasion. The studio is in the middle of remastering Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened and talked about difficulties developing in a warzone, and how constant shelling is galvanizing them to keep creating.

 

Fans of Half-Life 2 recently discovered they may have been exposed to a photo of a real dead body. In an unrelated reddit thread on /r/eyeblech a user posted a photo of a corpse they found in an forensics textbook. Other users soon found the images familiar and tracked it to the Corpse01.mdl used in Half-Life 2 and other Source engine games. It seems Valve lightly edited the face of the body, pasting the right eye over the left, before including it in their games.

The Pokémon Company International took to courts this week to take down an unlicensed mobile game using Pokémon properties. The game created by Pokémon Pty Ltd. (apparently unrelated to the Pokémon Company, despite claims to the contrary) involved winning Pokémon NFTs and Etherium linked $POKESHARD currency in battles. The Australian courts ruled in favor of The Pokémon Company’s intellectual property rights and blessedly ordered a takedown of all NFT Pikachu.