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DGB 04.2022 SOURCES

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From BLOOMBERG.COM


Activision Blizzard Inc. said it will convert about 1,100 U.S.-based temporary or contract quality assurance workers to full-time staffers. The move comes after years of criticism over the video game publisher’s reliance on part-time employees and their tenuous working conditions.


The change will increase headcount at Activision’s publishing arm by 25% and boost the minimum salary for those workers to $20 an hour, according to a statement from the company. The workers will also be eligible for full company benefits.


In December, Activision converted 500 temporary roles to full-time positions while also ending 20 contracts. Outrage ensued over the job cuts, spurring a union push from a contingent of quality assurance testers at Raven Software, the Activision-owned studio that works on Call of Duty games. After Activision refused to recognize a union at Raven, the National Labor Relations Board in February heard arguments from both sides but hasn’t issued a ruling yet.


An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said Raven workers won’t receive the new pay initiatives “due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act.” The spokesperson added that “Whether Raven workers choose to unionize has nothing to do with the salary increases elsewhere for Activision’s QA workers.”


Sara Steffens, secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers of America, which is representing Raven in its union push, called Activision’s exclusion of Raven workers “especially galling,” considering those quality assurance professionals have been “at the forefront of this effort.” She said Activision is trying to “divide workers and undermine their effort to form a union.” Activision’s “disingenuous announcement is further evidence of the need for workers to have a protected voice on the job,” she said.


In an email to staff on Thursday, Activision Chief Operating Officer Josh Taub acknowledged that Call of Duty’s format has changed from an annual release schedule to an “always on” model. Along with that change, the company has “grown our workforce and support across our studios,” he said. The move to better integrate quality assurance workers will buoy Activision Blizzard’s service-game model, where a title is supported indefinitely with regular updates rather than a one-time purchase.


Activision Blizzard will bring on additional quality assurance support from “external partners,” the memo said, as part of a “long-standing studio and industry practice.”



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FROM ENGADGET.COM


Crystal Dynamics has “just started development” on a new Tomb Raider game, the studio announced today on Twitter. It didn’t share what the game will be called nor when fans can expect to play it, but it did note that it will run on Epic’s new Unreal Engine 5.



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From VARIETY.COM


E3, which has historically been the game industry’s biggest conference, is not happening at all this year.


The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the trade group that produces E3, confirmed the 2022 event’s cancellation and said that it was focusing on making sure “the revitalized showcase sets a new standard for hybrid industry events and fan engagement.” The group on Thursday had previously notified partners that E3 will not be held this year as a virtual event, after dropping plans to return the show in-person to L.A. because of the ongoing pandemic.


“E3 will return in 2023 with a reinvigorated showcase that celebrates new and exciting video games and industry innovations,” an ESA rep said in a statement to Variety. “We previously announced that E3 would not be held in person in 2022 due to the ongoing health risks surrounding COVID-19. Today, we announce that there will also be no digital E3 showcase in 2022.”


The ESA statement continued, “Instead, we will devote all our energy and resources to delivering a revitalized physical and digital E3 experience next summer. Whether enjoyed from the show floor or your favorite devices, the 2023 showcase will bring the community, media, and industry back together in an all-new format and interactive experience. We look forward to presenting E3 to fans around the world live from Los Angeles in 2023.”



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FROM KOTAKU.COM


As part of the series’ 20th anniversary celebrations, Square Enix just used a Sunday evening presentation in Japan to unveil two new Kingdom Hearts games, one of them being Kingdom Hearts IV.


The show, held in Tokyo, had live music, artwork presentations, and “on-stage appearances from Series Director, Tetsuya Nomura, series’ composer, Yoko Shimomura, and other development members.” The big news, though, was the Kingdom Hearts IV announcement, alongside the reveal of another new Kingdom Hearts game, this one for mobile.


In the announcement trailer, Sora makes a triumphant return with an updated look at the beginning of an epic new storyline titled the “Lost Master Arc.” Beginning with Sora facing off in a boss battle against a giant enemy, players are introduced to the Quadratum, a large, expansive city set in a gorgeous, realistic world unlike anything ever seen before in the KINGDOM HEARTS series. Fans will be excited to see the return of Sora’s well-known companions Donald and Goofy, in addition to the first appearance of Strelitzia, a mysterious new character who appears before Sora in this strange new setting.


There’s no word on platforms or release date for Kingdom Hearts IV.



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FROM KOTAKU.COM


Film noir sad sack Max Payne is getting his due with a full remake of the first two games, developer Remedy Entertainment announced today. The new compilation will include both Max Payne and Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max and be exclusive to PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.


Remakes of the PS2-era games are part of a new publishing agreement with Grand Theft Auto maker Rockstar Games. Remedy will develop the games using its proprietary Northlight game engine, which made 2019's excellent paranormal thriller, Control, while Rockstar will fund the production.


The Max Payne games mixed together traditional crime noir tropes and comic book storytelling to weave together a grim tale of a detective whose life spirals out of control after his drug and mob connections lead to his family’s murder. The games were also famous for their then-unusual bullet time mechanic.


The studio says development will be “in line with a typical Remedy AAA-game production” and that it’s still in the concept stage. It’s years away, in other words, which is probably why it’s not coming to PS4 and Xbox One.



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FROM GAMERANT.COM

In recent years, developer Vicarious Visions has carved out a spot for itself as a premiere studio for remastering some of gaming's most iconic classics from the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Activision subsidiary has put out several high-profile remasters between the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2, and most recently assisting Blizzard with the development of Diablo 2: Resurrected. Now, Vicarious Visions has announced the next stage of the developer's ongoing partnership with the World of Warcraft developer.


Vicarious Visions confirmed they will be merging with Activision-Blizzard through the studio's official Twitter. The N. Sane Trilogy developer will be fully merging with Blizzard Entertainment and shifting its focus to directly working on Blizzard's games while Vicarious Visions' development team will remain at its current offices in Albany, NY. While the future of the Vicarious Visions brand remains unclear based on the tweet, the announcement directed fans to follow Blizzard's official Twitter account.



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From KOTAKU.COM


Yesterday, after much speculation and a lot of rumors, Infinity Ward and Activision formally announced that the next entry in the long-running Call of Duty franchise would be titled Modern Warfare II. We even got a new logo for the upcoming shooter. It uh…it’s fine. It’s a fine logo. Moving on.



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From BLOG.PLAYSTATION.COM


Today, we’re excited to announce that Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) support will start rolling out globally to PS5 players this week. On HDMI 2.1 VRR-compatible TVs and PC monitors, VRR dynamically syncs the refresh rate of the display to the PS5 console’s graphical output. This enhances visual performance for PS5 games by minimizing or eliminating visual artifacts, such as frame pacing issues and screen tearing. Gameplay in many PS5 titles feels smoother as scenes render seamlessly, graphics look crisper, and input lag is reduced. Previously released PS5 games can be fully optimized for VRR through a game patch and future games may include VRR support at launch.


In the coming weeks, the PS5 versions of these titles will receive game patches enabling VRR support:


Astro’s Playroom

Call of Duty: Vanguard

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Deathloop

Destiny 2

Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition

DIRT 5

Godfall

Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Resident Evil Village

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

Tribes of Midgard



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