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DGB 01.2022 SOURCES

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From KOTAKU.COM


Several Call of Duty developers have revealed to Kotaku that Activision Blizzard’s internal unwillingness to directly respond to the recently announced Raven Software layoffs was what ultimately sparked the just-revealed, broader labor organizing effort at the troubled publisher.


On Friday, Activision Blizzard informed a total of 20 Raven Software game testers that they’d no longer have jobs after January 28, despite their “good standing” status. The company painted the layoffs as part of a larger move to convert 500 contractors to full-time employees, which did little to quell employee discontent. This culminated on Monday, when 60 employees at Raven Software walked off their jobs to demand the reinstatement of their laid-off colleagues. QA workers and staff from other Activision studios had joined in solidarity.


Multiple sources told Kotaku that attempts to contact Activision management directly had been met with silence.


One Raven Software tester told Kotaku: “The layoffs at Raven were the tipping point. A lot of energy has been building for this movement for a while now, and what happened to us and our response to it was a catalyst that really got things moving.”


Today, World of Warcraft UI developer Valentine Powell revealed that unionization efforts with CODE-CWA had been planned for months. Indeed, an anonymous Raven source told Kotaku that they believed unionization was inevitable.


It’s clear that the organizers recognized the precariousness of their own positions in what had happened to the testers. As one developer from Activision Austin told Kotaku, “The reason there is solidarity with Raven is because it’s a reminder that unless we stick together, we are all disposable.”


According to the Austin-based developer Kotaku spoke with, around 60 Activision Austin employees had been moved from Call of Duty: Vanguard to work on Call of Duty: Warzone due to a supposed lack of personnel. They were then horrified to learn, last Friday, that Vanguard’s testers were being laid off.


“It just made me feel like a tool used to hurt others,” the developer told Kotaku. “If I didn’t like it, then I felt I should do something.”


While the push to reinstate the laid-off workers is the primary concern for Raven’s striking testers, they’re also participating in the union drive alongside their Activision-Blizzard-King colleagues.


According to one tester at Raven Software: “This show of love and solidarity has meant the world to us, and we can’t thank people enough.”



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FROM KOTAKU.COM


In an extraordinary turn of events, Microsoft is getting near to a deal to buy Activision Blizzard, the Wall Street Journal reported today. This would not only be one of the most major shake-ups in the gaming industry in years but could also finally signal the end for its CEO, Bobby Kotick.


Microsoft said purchasing Activision Blizzard Inc. would make the Xbox maker the third-largest gaming company “by revenue,” only behind Tencent and Sony.


The WSJ says the sale is valuing Activision Blizzard at $95 a share, for a total of $68.7B “including net cash.”


An addendum by Spencer.


Once the deal closes the number of first-party Xbox studios will grow from 23 to 32.


The list of subsidiaries and divisions under Acti-Blizz-Kinh include Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment, Beenox, Demonware, Digital Legends, High Moon Studios, Infinity Ward, King, Major League Gaming, Radical Entertainment, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, Toys for Bob, and Treyarch.


The most well known IPs that are owned by Acti-Blizz-King include Call of Duty, Warcraft, Candy Crush, Tony Hawk, Diablo, Overwatch, Spyro, Hearthstone, Guitar Hero, Crash Bandicoot, and StarCraft.



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FROM KOTAKU.COM


Microsoft revealed a bombshell today: it’s buying embattled Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard in the largest gaming industry acquisition ever. That means a lot of things, including that the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, will soon be veteran CEO Bobby Kotick’s new boss. But what that means for the man currently accused of letting sexual harassment, discrimination, and misconduct run rampant at his company for years remains unclear.


“Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the company’s culture and accelerate business growth,” a spokesperson for Microsoft wrote in a press release today. “Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.” A follow-up statement meant to clarify Kotick’s future was similarly vague.


Update: 1/18/22, 11:27 a.m. ET: Kotick told The New York Times he will be “available as needed” after the deal closes.

Update: 1/18/22, 2:46 p.m. ET: And sources The Wall Street Journal spoke with claim the companies have “have agreed that [Kotick] will depart once the deal closes.”


“As a company, Microsoft is committed to our journey for inclusion in every aspect of gaming, among both employees and players,” Spencer wrote in a blog post today. “We deeply value individual studio cultures. We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect. We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment. We’re looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard.”


Time will tell if that culture at Microsoft will have room for Kotick.



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FROM KOTAKU.COM


Quality assurance testers at Call of Duty: Warzone studio Raven Software gave management until today, January 25, to voluntarily recognize their newly formed union, Game Workers Alliance. Instead, embattled publisher Activision Blizzard announced tonight it would be forcing a vote with the National Labor Review Board, and called on that vote to include everyone at the studio, a move that would greatly diminish the unionization effort’s chances of success.


Thirty-four staff from Raven’s QA department revealed last week that they were organizing with the Communications Workers of America to unionize, an unprecedented step for developers at a major gaming company. They called on Activision Blizzard–in the midst of similarly unprecedented upheaval following allegations of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination last year, as well as the announcement earlier this month of a $68.7 billion sale to Microsoft–to voluntarily recognize the union, which had supermajority support within the QA department.


“We carefully reviewed and considered the CWA initial request last week and tried to find a mutually acceptable solution with the CWA that would have led to an expedited election process,” Activision Blizzard said in a statement tonight upon rejecting the offer. “Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement.”


When a company refuses to voluntarily recognize a union, the organizers behind it must win a majority in an election ratified by the NLRB, a hurdle that would have been easy for Game Workers Alliance to overcome within just the QA department. By requiring “all employees at Raven '' to “have a say,” Activision Blizzard is effectively arguing that either the entire studio unionizes or no one does.


“We would hope that in this case it would take place quickly but companies can choose to delay the process to file objections and concerns along the way and to drag things out, and when they do that it’s generally to give themselves more time to wage an anti-union campaign,” a spokesperson for the CWA told Kotaku in an interview earlier this week.


That anti-union campaign appears to already be in motion. The Washington Post and Polygon report that Raven studio boss Brian Raffel has been having meetings with staff about plans to break up QA and embed testers among individual teams. It’s a widespread practice in game development, but a suspiciously timed move that Game Workers Alliance called an attempt to “hinder our right to organize” in a statement today.


“So long as we are testing, we are a unit that is linked by our function within the studio,” Raven QA tester Onah Rongstad told The Washington Post today. “Our solidarity won’t be broken by something like reorganization.”



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From SCREENRANT.COM


In 2020, it was heavily rumored that the PS5 would have full backward compatibility for PS1 to PS4 games. Of course, this panned out to be false, but that didn't stop fans from wanting to see it come to fruition. Xbox managed to get a good chunk of the biggest Xbox 360 games and a respectable number of original Xbox games playable on both Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, which proved to be a game-changer for Xbox as it allowed fans to revisit old games, pushing titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 near the top of the sales charts almost a decade after their original release.


A new USPTO Report patent filed by Sony's Mark Cerny (via Shaun McIlroy) suggests that the company has figured out how to get older PlayStation titles to run on PS5. This would align nicely with the rumor that Sony is planning to include PS2 titles in an Xbox Game Pass competitor. Many believed these games would just be streamable through PS Now, but it seems like Sony figured out how to make it work natively. Whether this will allow players to pop in their old discs like Xbox fans can is unclear.

The last wave of backward compatible Xbox games was released in November, and Microsoft noted it wouldn't be adding any more titles due to things like licensing issues, one of many obstacles Sony would have to overcome for backward compatible games on PS5. Hopefully an official announcement is imminent.



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From THEVERGE.COM


Microsoft has stopped manufacturing all Xbox One consoles. The software giant originally discontinued the Xbox One X and digital Xbox One S ahead of the Xbox Series X launch, then quietly stopped manufacturing the Xbox One S at the end of 2020, leaving retailers to sell out their remaining stock.


“To focus on production of Xbox Series X / S, we stopped production for all Xbox One consoles by the end of 2020,” says Cindy Walker, senior director of Xbox console product marketing, in a statement to The Verge.



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FROM GAMERANT.COM


Ed Boon, co-creator of the Mortal Kombat series, will be inducted into the AIAS Hall of Fame at the 25th Annual D.I.C.E Awards. Boon, CEO of NetherRealm Studios, has been involved in the gaming industry for many years, being responsible for such franchises as the aforementioned tournament fighter, which just saw the release of its eleventh installment in 2019, as well as contributing to the Injustice series for DC Comics.


The Hall of Fame award is given out to members of the industry whose influential footprint can be felt across many titles, whether it be on one genre of game, or across an entire generation of gaming. Past recipients of the award include highly recognized creatives such as Gabe Newell, Sam and Dan Houser, Tim Sweeney, Todd Howard, and Hideo Kojima.


And now, in a press statement released by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, Ed Boon will be the next recipient of the award at the 25th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards on February 24th in Las Vegas. Xbox Games Studios’ Matt Booty will present Boon with the award.


In the same statement, the president of the A.I.A.S. Meggan Scavio, stated that Boon’s “dedication and perseverance” to gaming, in both his early work on pinball machines and his contributions to Mortal Kombat, have left an incredible legacy for fans and developers to look back on with admiration. Booty, who got his start at Mortal Kombat’s original developer Midway Games, adds to the statement that Boon encompasses all the great traits of a game designer, also noting Boon’s support for other people in the industry.



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Exclusive From DEADLINE.COM


New Line is getting back into a fighting stance on a sequel to Mortal Kombat, the action-adventure film based on the blockbuster video game franchise. The studio has hired Jeremy Slater to write Mortal Kombat 2.


Slater was head writer on the Marvel/Disney+ series Moon Knight. His other recent scripting credits include the Netflix/21 Laps film Uprising with Travis Knight directing and adapting Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers for Universal and James Wan. He also developed The Umbrella Academy for Netflix/UCP/Dark Horse and was creator and co-showrunner of The Exorcist on Fox.



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From TECHRADAR.COM


Mortal Kombat 12 has seemingly been 'leaked' by a producer at series developer NetherRealm Studios.


Jonathan Andersen, a senior production manager at NetherRealm, recently posted a (now deleted) image of his desk covered in Mortal Kombat memorabilia on Twitter (check out the image at VGC). But eagle-eyed fans spotted that the monitor screen in the corner of the image shows a file titled "MK12_Mast…", while snippets of an email on the screen say "our fans eagerly scrape the internet" and " take extra care with this material" - suggesting Mortal Kombat 12 is in the works.


However, fans suspect the image may not have been an "accidental" leak at all, but instead a tease for the next entry in NetherRealm Studios' fighting game series.



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From PCGAMER.COM


Blizzard Entertainment is doing something new: The studio revealed today that it's working on a brand-new survival game set in "a whole new universe," and it's looking for help to make it happen.


"We are going on a journey to a whole new universe, home to a brand-new survival game for PC and console," the studio said. "A place full of heroes we have yet to meet, stories yet to be told, and adventures yet to be lived. A vast realm of possibility, waiting to be explored."


The job listings cover art, engineering, and design roles, and the individual job listings reveal a little more about what's in store. It's a "new AAA survival game," and not a spinoff of an existing Blizzard game but a "new IP for PC/console," set in "a world different from any other Blizzard has created."



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From PCGAMER.COM


Crytek has announced that Crysis 4 is coming a few hours after its existence was leaked on Chinese social media. A short teaser trailer dropped showing the classic Crysis nanotechnology in all its shiny greyscale glory, before ending with the number four and the message "Join the journey. Become the hero."


While it's all very hype, it's perhaps a little bittersweet considering the whole thing was spoiled mere hours before the official announcement. As spotted by Eurogamer, an image appeared on Chinese social media site BiliBili which appeared to be a reveal for Crysis 4. The post from Crytek China read: "The 'Crysis 4' project is confirmed, opening a new nano battlefield!"


It appears that for now, Crysis 4 is just a working title. The YouTube thumbnail calls it the "4th installment in the Crysis franchise," which sort of tracks when the former Crytek CEO said all the way back in 2012 that the next Crysis game wouldn't be called Crysis 4.


There hasn't been a mainline Crysis game since Crysis 3 in 2012, though the trilogy has seen remasters over the last couple of years. It had given fans hope that a new game was on the horizon, and the new announcement trailer is sure to ramp up the hype. It seems like Crytek is holding its cards close to its chest for now, though hopefully they'll trickle some new info about the next installment soon enough.



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From EA.COM


Electronic Arts Inc. and Lucasfilm Games  are joining forces to continue delivering all-new, world-class gaming experiences set within the beloved Star Wars galaxy.


Respawn Entertainment, best known for their work on Apex Legends™, Titanfall™ and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order™, is leading the development and production of these new projects.  Vince Zampella, Group GM and Founder of Respawn, will oversee this new phase of EA’s relationship with Lucasfilm, building on Respawn’s award-winning history in game development and expertise in telling compelling Star Wars stories.


Game Director Stig Asmussen and his team at the studio are already working on the next game in the action adventure Star Wars Jedi series, and are joined by two new teams working to deliver additional unique Star Wars gameplay experiences across multiple genres. Leading the development of Respawn’s all-new Star Wars first-person shooter game is Peter Hirschmann, Game Director at Respawn, who has a long and accomplished history with the Star Wars franchise. The third title is a Star Wars strategy game developed through a production collaboration with the newly formed studio Bit Reactor, helmed by games industry veteran Greg Foerstch. Respawn will produce the new Star Wars strategy game while Bit Reactor leads on the development of the title.


“We are excited to continue working with the superbly talented developers at Respawn,” said Douglas Reilly, VP, Lucasfilm Games. “They have demonstrated excellence in telling epic Star Wars stories along with best-in-class gameplay across different genres and we are looking forward to bringing more amazing experiences to the galaxy far, far away.”


“Building on the previous successes of our EA relationship, this new collaboration highlights the trust and mutual respect shared between the world-class teams at EA, Respawn and Lucasfilm Games,” said Sean Shoptaw, SVP, Walt Disney Games. “Fostered by the expertise and passion within each team, we will create thrilling original games for diverse audiences across the Star Wars galaxy.”


“Working with Lucasfilm Games on a new FPS in the Star Wars galaxy is a dream come true for me, as this is a story I have always wanted to tell,” said Peter Hirschmann, game director at Respawn. Peter previously worked as VP of development at LucasArts, and was executive producer on the original Star Wars Battlefront games. Hirschmann and the team at Respawn have just begun work on the title.



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FROM USATODAY.COM


It’s looking like there will not be another Star Wars: Battlefront anytime soon.


On Tuesday, the news came out that three Star Wars projects are in development at Respawn Entertainment. One of them is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order 2, which may appear before E3 this year, while the other two are an untitled first-person shooter and some kind of Strategy game. Besides those, however, it seems that EA isn’t making any other Star Wars video games.


A report by Gamesbeat claims that according to sources close to Respawn Entertainment, there will not be a Star Wars: Battlefront 3, at least not one by DICE — the same studio that made 2017’s Star Wars: Battlefront 2.


It’s anyone’s guess why EA would pass on another Star Wars: Battlefront, though things at DICE aren’t going swimmingly as of late. Recently, reports came in that the publisher was very unhappy with Battlefield 2042, DICE’s last game. In comparison, Respawn Entertainment’s Apex Legends continues to be a huge hit.



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FROM UBISOFT.COM


Ubisoft and Lucasfilm Games have announced a collaboration on a new Star Wars game. Development on the project will be led by Massive Entertainment whose expertise and talent will be used to create a story-driven, open-world experience within the Star Wars galaxy that will also utilize the studio’s cutting-edge technology and advancements, including the Snowdrop engine.


“The vast Star Wars lore is an incredible source of inspiration for our teams,” said Yves Guillemot, co-founder and CEO of Ubisoft. “This is the beginning of a long-term collaboration with Disney and Lucasfilm Games, and we are pleased to be working hand-in-hand to build upon the incredible legacy of Lucasfilm to create a game that we know Star Wars fans will love.”



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FROM BLOG.PLAYSTATION.COM


Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection launches January 28 for the PlayStation 5 console — and we could not be more excited to begin the adventures anew! It’s been an incredible journey remastering Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, and we hope you have an awesome experience in your own adventures at home.


We’ve come a long way since we first unleashed Drake, Chloe, and their cohorts into the world, and we’re thrilled that our foray into harnessing what the PS5 has to offer are these two single player adventures in one titular collection. The Remaster sees not one standalone adventure, but two – and as detailed in our previous PS Blog post, both leverage PS5 and DualSense wireless controller features and include graphical updates to make Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection feel truly cinematic, and blockbuster in scope.


Putting together this trailer at Naughty Dog was an exercise in revisiting favorite moments and sharing what we loved about the franchise and ensuring that those moments came through in the cut so players new and returning would be reeled into the world of Uncharted. Whether this trailer evokes nostalgia to jump back into the games, or intrigue in playing for the first time, we hope you enjoy.



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FROM BLOG.PLAYSTATION.COM


We have some exciting news for you all: we are thrilled to announce that Horizon Forbidden West has gone Gold! This means we are all set to start printing and distributing the game, ready for you to experience Aloy’s journey into the Forbidden West for yourselves in less than a month. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone on the team for what we have achieved together and the community for their continued support and excitement as we’re preparing for launch.


In the past few months, we’ve shown you a selection of our brand new machines in action, as well as some of the locations and settlements of the vibrant tribes inhabiting the world of Horizon, all captured on the PS5 console. Today you get a first exclusive look at gameplay that we captured on the PS4 Pro console.



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FROM ENGAGET.COM


Two years after the game was initially supposed to debut, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will finally arrive on April 5th. The long-awaited title from TT Games adapts all nine movies in the Skywalker Saga, and you'll be able to choose which trilogy to start with (so you might want to get the prequels out of the way first).


Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is coming to PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch and PC. It's said to be the biggest Lego game to date, and publisher Warner Bros. Games provided an in-depth look at what's in store with a gameplay trailer.


There are new combat mechanics, including ways to string attacks together and defend yourself with counter moves "in styles tailored to your favorite characters." Expect fresh blaster mechanics, with an over-the-shoulder perspective and third-person aiming reticle, and a cover system. Of course, there'll be a ton of lightsaber action, space dogfighting battles and many opportunities to use Force powers as well.


Many levels will have multiple paths to explore and you'll be able to take on side missions. Class-based abilities are upgradable and there are more than 300 playable characters to unlock. There's also a Mumble Mode, which will replace intelligible voice lines with mumbling, à la previous games in the series.



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