Concerning the 2019 Gaming Industry

Continuing from the article listing the most embarrassing moments of 2019, the entire gaming industry took the top prize in representing the worst of entertainment in just one year. How did they do it? With many actions including employee lay offs, dodging taxes, enforcing microtransactions (I mean surprise mechanics), and of course crunch time. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll go over every studio and list their crimes against humanity in their neverending struggle to stay relevant and rake in billions of dollars no matter the cost. Starting with….

Chapter One: The China Hong Kong Blizzard

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The elephant in the room that’s both acknowledged and ignored by many corporations. It’s no secret that China’s been a growing market for movies, television, video games, and other forms of entertainment over the last decade. A product can fail in the U.S., but if enough customers in China buy it, the company can still turn a profit. Some examples include Transformers: The Last Knight, Venom and Kung Fu Panda 3. All three movies had meandering numbers in their own country compared to their predecessors, but made a big splash in China. While antonym examples include 2016’s Ghostbusters and surprisingly Avatar. The country doesn’t allow movies that promote the supernatural or political undertones, although a 3D edition of the latter was given a limited release. Possibly because 3D tickets are worth more to movie studios compared to 2D showings. This was satirized in South Park’s 23rd season episode Band in China, where Randy Marsh went to great lengths to make money for his marijuana business, even if it meant killing Winnie the Pooh. As everyone knows Winnie the Pooh is banned in China because people have jokingly compared Xi Jinping, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, to the bear with very little brains. Not even 2018’s Christopher Robin got a release in said country.

Mickey Mouse in South Park’s 23rd season episode Band in China
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Later that day….

In response, China banned both the episode and South Park for poking fun at a very powerful man. But that didn’t stop creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone from issuing a mock apology, further degrading the NBA’s response to people holding free Hong Kong signs and t-shirts during basketball games.

What does all of this have to do with Blizzard? Well it gives everyone an idea of what both the company and its customers were up against following one particular event. During a live Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament on October 6th, 2019, professional player Blitzchung, seen on the right of the video, ended the session by donning a mask and chanting, “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our time!” The two hosts from Taipei, seen on the left, tried to hide their faces before abruptly cutting off the event.

Blizzard responded by banning Blitzchung from participating in Hearthstone tournaments for a year, removed him from the grandmasters circle, and confiscated his already earned prize money. Meanwhile the broadcasters, who tried to distance themselves from the player, were also blacklisted so as to prevent them from any future job opportunities. Upon questioning by the public, Blizzard had this statement to make:

“Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public dispute, offends a portion or a group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard’s image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms. While we stand by one’s rights to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules.

The backlash following the statements spread like wildfire amongst the media. YouTube saw a rise of boycott Blizzard videos and even a group of college Hearthstone players held a sign during a stream saying Free Hong Kong. Boycott Blizz. The three players Casey Chambers, Corwin Dark and Tjammer were aware of the repercussions and yet were more than willing to quit in protest.

“When we met for practice that day before the tournament, we were all thinking the same thing: That we wanted to do something. Because, obviously, we were the first thing on Blizzard’s stream after they made the decision. If we did nothing, we were missing a pretty big opportunity.” – Corwin Dark

And what an opportunity it was as Blizzard suspended all three players for six months on October 16th, 2019. They weren’t the only players to take a stand as popular broadcaster, Brian Kibler, also quit in protest and refused to commentate on future tournaments. While executives remained silent on the matter, further retaliation followed with people animating Blizzard’s characters in outfits that resembled the Free Hong Kong movement. Even its own employees staged a walk out in protest. #BoycottBlizzard went viral on twitter and an Overwatch tournament on the Switch at Nintendo’s New York store was cancelled, which would have had guest appearances by the game’s voice actors. Over in Taiwan and Hong Kong, a World of Warcraft tournament was postponed on October 17th, 2019, which completely missed the game’s 15th anniversary celebration.

Though China has banned both Twitter and YouTube as a means to censor the criticism, it didn’t stop them from receiving a letter from the U.S. Congress itself on October 18th, 2019 addressing the controversy. That’s right. The same U.S. congress that scapegoated violent video games as the motivation behind the El Paso massacre sent a letter to Blizzard about reversing the actions taken against a gamer. The irony writes itself.

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Hearthstone commentator, Brian Kibler, who quit in protest of Blizzard’s actions.
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Letter from U.S. congress sent to Blizzard.

After all the drama, Blizzard finally made a statement on October 12, 2019 regarding a change in the situation. They would effectively reverse its decision to confiscate Blitzchung’s prize money and reduce his suspension from a year to six months. The same resolution also applied to the Taipei broadcasters. The president of Blizzard himself, J. Allan Brack, also made a statement on the matter:

“The specific views expressed by Blitzchung were not a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear. Our relationships in China had no influence on our decision. If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would’ve felt and acted the same.”

Then came Blizzcon in November: A giant convention held by Blizzard to showcase their upcoming titles. Only this time, there was a lot of attention directed at their behavior over the past couple of weeks. Between the protesters outside the building and the cosplayers waiting in lines, there was a lot of anticipation over how the company would handle the situation. To everyone’s surprise, J. Allen Brack didn’t hesitate to bring up the matter with the following quote:

While many saw it as a humble apology, others noticed that the words Blitzchung, China, and Hong Kong were never brought up. Something that every corporation with China as a benefactor keeps in mind. And in one final blow to Blizzard for being an incredibly loyal customer, China has placed a curfew on how much kids can play video games. Was it worth it Blizzard? Keep in mind, this is only the first company in this coverage.

Meanwhile in 2020……

Chapter Two: Bobby Kotick and the Reign of Activision

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Activision CEO, Bobby Kotick.

Next up is the corporation that owns Blizzard and is mostly responsible for their decline in popularity over the years ever since the 2008 merger: Activision. Headed by CEO Bobby Kotick, Activision has been the center of unwanted attention more than once in 2019; And for a number of reasons. Their first crime against humanity is having unrealistic financial expectations. When companies grow, they expect the sales of their games to increase along with everything else. While that’s understandable to a certain point, how much can sales grow until surpassing them becomes impossible? Any company would be more than grateful to reach half the numbers that are currently disappointing Activision and Blizzard. But each year, titles are expected to outdo their past performance till it gets nearly impossible to reach. But doesn’t higher profits mean that Activision will be able to create more jobs? you might ask. In theory it would, but we’re talking about the game industry: A system that prides itself on using passion as an excuse to overwork its employees before discarding them once a project is finished. For after news broke that Activision made record revenue in 2018, they celebrated the new year by laying off 800 workers. That’s right. Activision made more money in 2018, and yet they laid off 800 workers. And Bobby Kotick had this to say about his decision:

“While our financial results for 2018 were the best in our history, we didn’t realize our full potential. To help us reach our full potential, we have made a number of important leadership changes. These changes should enable us to achieve the many opportunities our industry affords us, especially with our powerful owned franchises, our strong commercial capabilities, our direct digital connections to hundreds of millions of players, and our extraordinarily talented employees.”

It all goes back to the Below Expectations excuse that’s plaguing more high profile companies as the years pass. Call of Duty Black Ops 4 made 500 million dollars in sales three days after releasing on October 12th, which was right behind Red Dead Redemption 2 by the end of 2018. And yet Activision still considered the end result below expectations. Why? If an indie studio made that much money on their game, it would be considered a success. So why is 500 million dollars still considered a failure in the eyes of Activision?

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500 million dollars is considered a failure?

Is it because Kotick has been ranked among the highest overpaid bosses and needs even more money than he already has? Is it because he gave 15 million dollars to his new CFO, Dennis Durkin, for only accepting a job? Plus a stock worth of 11.3 million dollars, plus 3.75 million dollars in funds, plus a salary of 900,000 dollars, plus a target bonus of 1.35 million dollars. That kind of money could feed a whole village, let alone an entire working team to support their families. But for some reason Activision looks after it’s CEO’s and executives more than its workers and should be the prime example whenever anyone argues in favor of implementing microtransactions in video games. That and the industry itself not having unions for their abused employees, which will be a running gag throughout this coverage. Because in the end it’s the workers who pay the price for the failures, not the CEOs. The extra money isn’t going into jobs, it’s going into rewarding those who have more than their fair share to live a comfortable life. The only exception in the industry was with Nintendo and the late Satoru Iwata. Following the low sales of the Wii U and the 3DS, Iwata took it upon himself to cut his salary in half rather than cut jobs. All in an effort to keep employee morale from decreasing within the company. And in the process he insulted every CEO that rewards itself with millions of dollars whether a game is successful or not.

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The late Satoru Iwata who defied the gaming industry by taking a pay cut on his salary when the Wii U and 3DS sold less than expected.
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Activision gave it’s new CFO, Dennis Durkin, 15 Million dollars just for accepting the job. Meanwhile, 800 employees are still trying to feed their families.

Then in a reverse snowball effect, Activision started hiring new mangers on their Hearthstone game at Blizzard in July 2019. Why wasn’t this embarrassment covered in Blizzard’s chapter? Because Activision is responsible for the previously covered layoffs. That and they own Blizzard, so they get the blame for being the boss. And you bet your VR set that some of the 800 laid off employees too notice. Former Hearthstone Global Content Manager, Christina Mikkonen, took to twitter when she realized what Activision/Blizzard was doing:

“Really Blizzard? You laid off your entire HS community team and left it in shambles. Other CMs you laid off are still looking for work (not me) and you post this? SHAMEFUL. SHAME ON YOU. REHIRE THE PEOPLE YOU LAID OFF THAT ARE STILL LOOKING FOR JOBS. HOW HARD IS THIS?

Soon after she was followed up by another former employee, Bethany Lashes:

“Just a reminder that there are STILL hundreds of us that are without jobs, myself included. Last night I had a dream that I got my badge back and was happily working on my projects. It’s clear that no matter how hard I try to feel better, the pain still lingers. Hugs to the 800.”

Then Melissa Livingston:

“This is happening all over Blizzard. My hubby was interviewing people the day he was let go. Now they are hiring for his old job. It’s messed up!!!!! So nice to do to someone with special needs children. (4 kids at the same time and a prego wife)”

Based on these stories, one has to wonder why Activision went so far to celebrate its record income with job layoffs, only to refill those positions months later without rehiring those who were out of work and had families to support. In 2017, thanks to microtransactions, Activision made four billion dollars. It’s not like money’s drying up, but more of a company that will never know when enough is enough. Why should the workers have to suffer for bad management that accumulates more than enough money in bonuses and salaries? Let’s not forget that Activision is also one of the many companies that gets away with dodging taxes in the U.S. As covered by YouTube gaming journalist, Jim Sterling:

If any normal citizen committed these actions, the IRS would track them down with the entire army behind them. But when Activision does it, they’re allowed to get away with it while everyone else, including the 800 laid off employees, pay more taxes than their former employer.

Now the company did have a few bright spots in 2019, like following up the much beloved Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy with Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. It garnered much praise for ramping up an already great racing game. But once the positive reviews were in and the press coverage died down, things started to get very shady. Slowly but surely, Activision started introducing microtransactions to the game, which pissed off a lot of people. Both those who grew up with the original and didn’t want a classic succumbing to these nickel and dime tactics, and newcomers who just wanted a break from all the penny pinching that’s beginning to plague a new franchise with each passing year. And Activision was quick on the draw to respond like any other studio would concerning the practice:

As always, the pit stop will be stocked with new and returning characters and cosmetic items, which players can unlock using Wumpa Coins. With all this content available, there will also now be a way for players to fast-track their Wumpa Coin collection if they like. Starting in early August, players will have the option to purchase Wumpa Coin bundles from their game console store to supplement the coins they earn by playing. This option won’t change the game’s core mechanics – players will still earn Wumpa Coins by playing the game in any mode, just as before. They will just be able to purchase additional coins if they choose.

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This type of response is typical from any studio that gets flack for microtransactions. And to those who agree with the statement that it’s optional, getting enough coins to afford cosmetics and new characters has been made intentionally harder to acquire so as to coerce the masses to buy wumpa coins. The cosmetic prices have experienced a giant inflation since launch rendering the argument as a pathetic excuse. And lately more and more companies are waiting for the positive coverage to disguise their games before unleashing a casino upon the unsuspecting public. After all why have you’re game score lower like Star Wars: Battlefront 2 when you can have all the positive word of mouth before adding microtransactions? That and sneak around the ESRB rating system, who in 2018 announced that in-game purchases would be included in their list of rating content alongside Blood and Gore, Sexual Content, and Profanity. But with this tactic, Activision could sell the game physically without telling anyone about the new updates. Whether or not this affect’s anyone who is still reading, certain repercussions will be brought up down the line as a result of this poisonous practice. It’s certainly enough to get under the skin of popular video game Youtuber, Caddicarus.

Caddicarus’ reaction to Activision’s sneaky tactics.
Follow-Up.

Chapter Three: The Grinding Gearbox

What would’ve been a fantastic year for one company turned into every Public Relations nightmare thanks to its very own CEO, Randy Pitchford. Unlike all the other entries on this list, Gearbox Software could’ve avoided all of its negative press during the pre-release season of Borderlands 3 had the X factor been removed from the equation. Over the years, Randy Pitchford has been at the center of Gearbox’s many negative allegations starting with Sega’s lawsuit concerning Aliens: Colonial Marines. But 2019 was the straw that broke the camel’s back with how far he took his personality. And it all started with an iconic robot.

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Gearbox was sued by Sega for collecting full payments on Aliens: Colonial Marines while moving staff over to Borderlands and Duke Nukem Forever.

With Borderlands 3 set to release, things were looking up for the developer as another highly anticipated sequel was on the horizon. Until former Gearbox employee and Claptrap voice actor, David Eddings, took to Twitter accusing Randy Pitchford of assaulting him. Eddings had been the voice of the robot since the premiere of the series, but was confirmed to not return for the threequel. According to Eddings, employees were expected to voice a few characters without additional payment. This led to him leaving the company in 2017, taking the original voice with him.

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Claptrap voice actor, David Eddings.

Meanwhile veteran voice actor, Troy Baker of The Last of Us commented on not reprising his roles in the game:

“So they came to me, and they were like, ‘Do you want to do this?’ Which I said, ‘Absolutely.’ And then they made it impossible for me to do the role. It had nothing to do with money, it had nothing to do with money. They just simply would not go about doing it the way that we needed it to be done. So then it was like, I never said no. No, it was simply a matter of [Gearbox] wouldn’t go union. And I can’t do a non-union gig. And without getting too deep into the weeds of that, we had long conversations about this. We always knew going into it, that this was going to be the thing. They were going to take these characters, and put them from the Tales from the Borderlands series from Telltale, into Borderlands proper. I’ve been waiting for this call. They were like, ‘Do you want to do this?’ And I said, ‘Yes’. They never, because they would never move from that position. I’m not mad. It’s invariably a completely different character, but it still stings.”

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Veteran voice actor, Troy Baker.

One of Edding’s tweets refers to a document claiming that Pitchford siphoned 12 million dollars from his company as an executive bonus.

As marketing for the game pressed on, Pitchford uploaded a video of a crab going claws to claws with a cat, leading to many accusations of animal cruelty. Pitchford seemed to often play the victim rather than take responsibility as a CEO for his actions when it came to his response to the general public. Something that can’t be described as well as shown in the following video:

And the cherry on top of this was a USB drive that Pitchford lost at a medieval times restaurant. Which upon inspection by an employee contained both sensitive company information and pornographic videos. In defending himself, Pitchford cleared the allegations claiming that the porn contained under-aged women, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he kept both company information and porn on the same USB drive. If he did earn 12 million dollars in an executive bonus, why not keep separate USB drives for each content? It’s that simple for such a high paying job.

In fact the comparatively smaller lawsuit in the whole year was filed by Duke Nukem 3D composer, Bobby Prince. Taking on Gearbox, Randy Pitchford, and Valve, Prince alleged that Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour used his music without permission. At the end of Duke Nukem 3D’s production in 1996, Prince had made an agreement with then developer Apogee that allowed them to use his 16 tracks with permission, but not own the music rights. In exchange, Prince requested royalties of one dollar per unit sold, which judging by the millions of copies bought in its lifetime is a lot of money. Gearbox currently owns the rights to the character after helping finish the long in development Duke Nukem Forever. And has even gone so far as to sue original IP owners 3D Realms and Apogee for creating a new game around the protagonist without permission. However Prince still owns the copyright to his music and alleges that neither Gearbox nor Pitchford contacted him about the remastered re-release. After directly addressing Pitchford, the CEO stated that He would be taken care of. However Prince claims that he never received his royalties and the music still remains in the game. Valve was contacted in a similar manner asking to take the game down from Steam, but they responded by ignoring the take-down notice and thus waiving any immunity under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In short Valve knew he had the rights, but continued to sell the game unpatched. From a loophole perspective, the deal was made with Apogee and not Gearbox. That is except for one important detail. Before releasing the 20th Anniversary edition of the game, Pitchford received a copy of the 1996 license agreement with Apogee and Bobby Prince, which revokes any claims to not knowing about the license. Pitchford apparently directed Gearbox’s head of publishing, Steve Gibson, to settle the claim, which resulted in ignoring his royalty agreement. As of this article, the dispute has yet to be settled with both parties.

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Duke Nukem 3D composer, Bobby Prince.
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The 20th anniversary re-release of Duke Nukem 3D.

By 2020, Borderlands 3 sold almost 8 million copies when the fires were put out, but its CEO is nowhere near a tight leash. Clearly there’s no solution to this problem since Pitchford is the head of the company and is least likely to be demoted from his position. Unless he’s barred from all social media and/or contact with animals, it would take a miracle to solve this problem.

Chapter Four: NetherRealm’s Mortal Crunch Hours

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Developer NetherRealm Studios has been highly praised by gamers ever since bringing Mortal Kombat back from the dead and introducing the Injustice series as a new staple in the fighting genre. But this year the company came under fire when several former employees accused it of severe crunch hours ranging from 80 to 100 hour work weeks. Usually most sources remain anonymous in order to protect their career, as companies force workers to sign non-disclosure agreements barring anyone from spreading negative word about a studio. In this case, several employees decided to put their names to the allegations in order to verify their claims. One of them is James Longstreet who worked as a software engineer for two years at NetherRealm and took to twitter with his response:

“On [Mortal Kombat 9] crunch officially began after New Year’s day 2011. Of course, we did a bit of pre-crunch before that, just to make sure we were in a good spot for crunch. This was on schedule documents. This was not a wink-wink-nudge-nudge ‘passionate hardworking’ thing, this was mandate. I took one day off between Jan 1 [2011] and the day the day 1 patch was approved. It was my birthday, and it was on a Sunday, so it was ok if i was just on call. I was allowed to go to a friends’ wedding (on call of course) on a Saturday night, after working an 8 hour shift first. Those were the only two days i didn’t work from at least 10 am to at least midnight. We were all doing this. I mean, except the bosses, of course, who would leave after dinner.”

Following his accusations, more former employees came out with their own claims. Former QA tester, Isaac Torres, quoted the following about NetherRealm:

“I crunched for about 4 months straight… I was regularly doing 90-100 hour weeks and worked every single day. I was tired all the time. It took me about 30-45 mins to get home since I had to take a bus. But I know someone who stayed on the couch in the office to not risk falling asleep while driving. I literally had no life for several months. There just wasn’t time. I would get to work at 9 or 10 am. I would leave at 2-3 am. And then that process would mostly repeat itself. Honestly, I have no clue how I did it. I’m pretty sure I aged 20 years in the span of three months. I can’t speak to how it is now but even crunch itself was totally mismanaged in QA. The amount of times people sat around waiting several hours for a new build was insane. Tasks were rarely given out so unless you were self motivated you likely had no clue what you should be doing. I don’t know how anyone thought crunch was even remotely useful.”

In addition to implementing this tactic on the first Mortal Kombat reboot, the more recent games like Injustice 2 suffered the same production problems. Beck Hallstedt, who contributed to Injustice 2 as a concept artist, also had very little positivity to describe her time at the company:

“NetherRealm Studios needs to be exposed for predatory and abusive behaviors in the same ways that Riot, Epic, and Telltale have. The studio relies heavily on temporary workers on a 9 month on, 3 month off cycle with zero benefits near minimum wage, strung along with lukewarm messaging that maybe you’ll be hired ‘after the next contract’. Some folks have been doing this for 4+ years. Some folks have gone into huge credit card debt b/c of it. Because of this NRS’s contractors NEED overtime to survive. They NEED the time-and-a-half pay to make rent.”

Rebecca Rothschild, who also worked as a QA analyst backed Hallstedt on Twitter. She had worked on both Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2 from 2014-2016:

“I worked as a contractor at NRS and can confirm everything @beckhallstedt has laid out here. Lots of amazing people work at NRS, but there are serious, systemic issues that need to be addressed. For each one it felt like we were coming in hotter and hotter. I was working 90-100 hour weeks for both titles. I can personally say from my recollection that nothing improved from MKX to Injustice 2. Everything was down to the wire. Everything was worse. We were second class citizens, and that was made clear in many little ways. A supervisor tried to make QA feel lucky for the extra pay that resulted from crunch overtime work. This money’s great but if I have no life and am working myself to death, what good does this money really do me? I didn’t appreciate that from a supervisor who wasn’t there as often as his underlings. There are so many good and talented people there that care so much. I am always forever grateful for the opportunities I was given by specific people at NRS. I know many of them wish things were different and they have tried to make things better. That said, my experience was a mixed bag. The people you work with help keep you sane but it took me years to get over the crunch mentality. I feel much more comfortable talking about it now only because I’ve been away from it for so long. The developers at NetherRealm are some of the best in the world. They deserve to work on a game that has a schedule that actually fits within a reasonable amount of time instead of crunching a year’s worth of work into 6 months… I know many of my friends still working there will be mad at my comments but I hope they realize that it’s not an attack on them personally.”

NetherRealm did respond to the accusations a few days later:

“We greatly appreciate and respect all of our employees and prioritize creating a positive work experience. As an equal opportunity employer, we encourage diversity and constantly take steps to reduce crunch time for our employees. We are actively looking into all allegations, as we take these matters very seriously and are always working to improve our company environment. There are confidential ways for employees to raise any concerns or issues.”

Whatever anyone thinks, this is one of the main reasons why the video game industry needs to unionize. Because this is only one of the many stories in which developers use the gun to the head tactic to keep people working long hours while management gets to go out for dinner. The management claims that they’re not forcing people to work hard, but they control the livelihoods of the team. They’re the ones who get to have dinner while the workers are forced into long work hours with no breaks. Half the time, they’re not even with the team. So why is unionization for the game industry being frowned upon when stuff like this keeps happening? Voice actors have had the luxury of a union since March 2012 with the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Trade and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). They too had to fight for union rights in the game industry until September 2017. Even Troy Baker in the previous chapter went into great detail on why he didn’t return for Borderlands 3. Plus the reality that people had to go to college to acquire expensive degrees in design and animation for this kind of work, only to make near minimum wage to pay off student loans is very sickening. Why is it so hard to ask for unions to look after these abused employees? Why are benefits and job security asking too much for people who need to put food on the table?

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SAG-AFTRA looks after the rights of voice actors. Where’s that equivalent for game developers?

Chapter Five: Epic Games Epic Problems

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As if the list wasn’t long enough, one of the quotes of the former NetherRealm employees pointed fingers at Epic Games. The studio that created the first Gears of War trilogy has moved on to bigger and better things since humble beginnings. Like creating the global phenomenon that is Fortnite and launching the only digital PC store to compete with the monopolistic Steam. But that hasn’t stopped them from utilizing unethical tactics to achieve success. Epic Games’ cash cow Fortnite requires constant updates for re-balancing the massive multiplayer battle royale.

Unlike other studios that see crunch periods implemented at the end of a game’s production, Fortnite has been on the market for nearly two years. Which leads to a never ending loop of abusive management working people to the bone with no end in site to properly keep the game patched. This has led to work weeks lasting nearly 70 hours. Employees are given time off, but there’s always guilt over giving the heavy work load to someone else and a more cynical work environment compared to NetherRealm. And animation, no matter what the latest technology is, takes a lot of time to complete. But in this industry, a project that could take a year to finished is crunched into just a few months. So it’s a lose-lose situation between everybody. While all these claims are anonymous out of fear of job security, enough quotes have been cited to shed some concern on the company’s ethics. Without unionization, corporations continue to use this destructive technique while desperately trying to reason that it’s a necessary evil to make a profit. Workers are hired on to a project, are forced/coerced into working long hours, are promised bonuses for the game, and at the end of the day are let go to make way for more workers so the cycle can repeat itself in an infinite loop. Does anyone STILL want to argue that the game industry doesn’t need unionization after reading this?

Epic Games also sought to improve their website through any necessary means. If anyone’s seen how broken their site menus are, they’d assume Epic would invest money into basic tools like a wish-list, a shopping cart, shopping filters, a friend list, community chatrooms, achievements, mod support, and discounts that actively encourage customers to choose their platform: Something that the lesser known site Good Old Games (GOG.com) already has. After all, competition leads to companies evaluating how to one up another by offering something unique. Just look at DC and how far its come since competing with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Since Justice League, DC has allowed more solo adventures in their universe that have been received more positively.

Instead Epic Games took their money and threw it at a select number of developers for PC exclusivity, gobbling up big name titles as timed exclusives in order to draw more people to their service. These titles included Metro Exodus, Outer Wilds, The Outer Worlds, The Division 2, Phoenix Point, Shenmue III, and most notoriously Borderlands 3. Consoles have battled each other over exclusives for over three decades, but PC gaming is new to the words having been accustomed to multi-platform releases. Even worse was that some of these games were crowdfunded with the promise of steam keys upon release, only to be retracted once Epic shelled out their money at the last minute. They even stated that they would refund any customers who financed Shenmue III if they weren’t satisfied with the turn of events. Usually when a game/content is exclusive, the announcement is made months before launch. Marvel’s Spider-Man and 2018’s God of War were announced as PlayStation 4 exclusives. Halo has always been a Microsoft exclusive, with multi-platform releases on Steam down the line. And Nintendo has their own line up of exclusive characters that have gone on to be some of the best selling games of the year. They’re not snatched up before the release date to spread any word of mouth across social media. By the end of the year, Epic Games announced that more exclusives would be coming to their platform as they saw the strategy as a success despite customer backlash.

Steam is no stranger when it comes to sales. They usually have one at the beginning of the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. During those sales, games that would normally cost 30 dollars could be brought down to five dollars. Epic Games on the other hand couldn’t even handle their first sale without repercussions. In May 2019, they held the Epic Mega Sale which sounds great on paper: Games discounted at 75 percent off with an additional 10 dollars off for spending 15 dollars or more. In an announcement, Epic claimed that the developers and publishers wouldn’t suffer any financial loss during the sale, but companies were quick to contradict this quote. Several studios pulled their titles from Epic’s website while others increased the price of their games. Turns out no one outside of Epic Games was informed of this event as the company Paradox Interactive explained the situation at the time:

We are in a discussion with Epic regarding the temporary removal of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 from the Epic Games store. The game will return to the store soon! Any purchases made while the game was discounted during the Epic Mega Sale will be honored and no Masquerade violations will be assessed.”

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Vampires: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 has yet to be released after being delayed. And putting it on sale during pre-order season would’ve definitely impacted Paradox’s financial returns. Ironically it was also the only title to not be an Epic Games exclusive. The likes of Steam have the developers and publishers meet with one another to discuss the terms of an upcoming sale, but Epic Games completely bypassed this rule with no regard for the consequences. Which explains why certain companies upped the price on their games since Epic was as communicative about it in the first place (sarcasm).

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But if that wasn’t enough trouble, here’s the real kick to the hornet’s nest. Turns out that buying too many games at once on the site can get your account blocked. One AngriestPat took to twitter with evidence that his account was blocked for buying too many games at once during the sale:

“So I can confirm that me buying a whopping 5 games (ranging from 5 bucks to 50) on the Epic Store flagged my account for possibly fraudulent. Maybe if you guys had a fucking shopping cart! Jesus Christ!

All of this unwanted negative experience could’ve been avoided if Epic stopped investing in PC exclusives and actually put their money towards improving their site. A little shopping cart would go a long way compared to the next big game they have their eyes and money on. But unless there’s a government intervention, there’s no way they will listen to people who don’t want this potential competitor to lose site of what’s important.

As an added bonus to everyone who put up with their BS in 2019, Epic also bought Rocket League developer Psyonix, which could well mean that the Steam edition of the very popular sports car game could be pulled from the store. Psyonix director, Dave Hagewood, had this to say about the studio purchase:

“We’ve been working closely with Epic since the early days of Unreal Tournament, and we’ve survived changing tides as partners, so combining forces makes sense in many ways. The potential of what we can learn from each other and accomplish together makes us truly excited for the future”

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Epic Games has the potential to be a competent competitor in the digital PC market. But they keep screwing up all opportunities with animalistic management, a controversial brute force maneuver and negligence on their site’s necessities. A shopping doesn’t belong in a long term plan, it needs to be implemented now for the customer’s benefit. Clear communication with developers would present a more peaceful environment when it comes to negotiating sales. Employees should not be worked to the bone if they are being described as disposable when it comes to updating Fortnite. Again, this is why the gaming industry needs unions, so history can stop repeating itself every single month. And taking a page from its competitors on how to run an online store would soften the now infamous reputation of their platform. For if none of these steps are taken, Epic Games will become the mirror image of another infamous company that’ll be brought up down the line.

Chapter Six: The Derailed Steam Train

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Ever since Valve stopped making video games to focus on their digital PC store, things have never been the same. Before Netflix became the punchline for green-lighting anything, Steam Direct was already doing that provided anyone pay a hundred dollars to distribute their product. But one game that got shafted from the unchecked quality control oddly enough simulates events going on in Hong Kong. Submitted in October 2019, Liberate Hong Kong just so happened to be the one game Steam refused to allow on their platform. A game that acts as a simulator of the protests happening in Hong Kong. This comes in the wake of many companies that have tried to break into the Chinese market and the news of Blitzchung being banned from Blizzard.

Over the years, Valve has made it incredibly easy to publish many broken games on their platform with political messages, hate speech and/or controversial topics. One of them was released in June 2018 that let players assume the role of a school shooter during a time when mass shootings were becoming and are still an epidemic:

It wasn’t until the initial backlash that Steam decided to pull the title from the store after approving it in the first place. But for some reason Free Hong Kong was deemed to controversial and illegal. Was it because of China’s need to censor anything related to Hong Kong? As of late Valve has not commented on the matter, but given how many corporations are trying to appease China with censorship for profit, the truth is hiding in plain site. This wasn’t the only game related to Hong Kong that was disapproved by Valve. Karma: A Visual Novel About a Dystopia landed itself in hot water when Developer Herstory Indie Game Development said that the first six months of the media’s revenue would be donated to the Spark Alliance HK: An organization dedicated to helping many of the Hong Kong protesters. After submiting the game twice in 2019, Steam responded by saying the approval process was taking longer than expected. As of 2020, the title is still under investigation, but after looking at the big picture its seems as if Valve is cherry picking titles so as not to damage their chances of losing China’s money, while simultaneously allowing broken games to be put up for sale on their platform. If nothing about these games were connected to Hong Kong, they wouldn’t have a problem getting a spot in the store. But since they are related to Hong Kong, there’s too many coincidences that point towards a notion the Valve, like many other corporations, are taking any necessary steps to ensure financial gain in a rich and totalitarian market. So much for quality control.

Chapter Seven: 2K Too Far

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Sports games in the mid 2000’s were becoming a dime a dozen because nothing about their annual releases changed apart from a few new famous players under the watch of Electronic Arts. Nowadays 2K Games is the main proprietor of most sports games. And boy have the years not been kind, starting out with WWE 2K20, also known as one of the glitchiest games of 2019, covered by Matt McMuscles and his YouTube series Wha Happun?:

PS some audio might be muted and certain clips have been edited out due to YouTube’s BS copyright system.

But who knows? Perhaps the actual 2020 year will see all the patches implemented, right?

But that’s not the worst 2K had to offer its consumers. There’s the other sports game that put more emphasis on the gambling than the actual sport, also known as NBA 2K20. Now microtransactions have been pushed by companies over the years with no sign of slowing down. Companies are sticking to both their guns and statements on the matter like It’s optional, It’ll lessen the grind, We would never seek to nickel and dime our customers, It’s a necessity in modern gaming. But as long as actual gambling isn’t connected to video games, things shouldn’t get too out of contro-

Okay….Well…surely this won’t be a problem because the ESRB stated that it would add in game purchases to their list of ratings content. Thereby enforcing the notion that E rated games should never have microtransactions-

Lets have a proper reality check, shall we? If companies want to include gambling in their video games, certain rules need to be implemented, and it’s all because of 2K Games. Mobile games should be legal because they’re free to play and only make money on in-game currency, so long as they’re meant to only be played by adults. Mature games should be legal because they’re automatically targeting an adult audience. But any game that’s E rated, regardless of which platform they’re on, should never have gambling, let alone any form of microtransactions. Because targeting children to spend their parents money on gambling should be considered violating COPPA regulations. It’s very hypocritical when the protect our children phrase is used against mature games that are violent and/or explicitly sexual, but titles like NBA 2K20 are given a pass for including a more dangerous money syphoning system. People already have to pay 60 dollars for new games, sometimes 120 for collector editions. And sports games are becoming more disposable with every yearly release. Parents shouldn’t have to supervise their kids playing a basketball game in the same way they need to give them permission to play Halo. Right now, 2K Games has shot itself in the foot with what it sees as a satire on the accusations of gambling in video games. They have officially linked said media with gambling in the NBA 2K20 trailer and the internet’s not falling for anymore excuses. In fact it makes violent games like Doom, Resident Evil 2, God of War, Dark Souls, Skyrim, and The Binding of Isaac a much safer alternative because they don’t prey on your wallet once you’ve bought the game: At least not to a predatory degree. If anyone ranging from a parent to a government ever tries to sue 2K Games for encouraging children to gamble, look for no further evidence than this trailer. At least until NBA 2K21 forces everyone to drop the last title at gunpoint.

Chapter Eight: BioWare Magic

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BioWare was once a dominant force churning out quality titles like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age and Mass Effect. They were leading the charge on some of the best role playing games in the last generation. But in 2019, they released Anthem which became their most polarizing game since the final installment in the original Mass Effect Trilogy. Many were wondering how a studio held in such high regard ended up making a stale, carbon copy of the live service multiplayer genre popularized by the likes of Destiny 2. The answers were found in a Kotaku article written by Jason Schreier and published more than a month after Anthem’s launch. It’s a story about a literal development hell that lasted for seven years, with an alternate video edition in the Wha Happun? series produced by Matt McMuscles:

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Jason Schreier, writer of the Kotaku article “How BioWare’s Anthem Went Wrong“.

During Anthem’s development, the running gag of crunch periods was always prevalent as management struggled to agree on the game’s cohesive vision and deal with an unfamiliar graphics tool. All the while labeling the controversial practice as BioWare Magic: A belief that no matter how rough a game’s production might be, things will always come together in the final months. The same kind of magic that resulted in the equally despised Mass Effect: Andromeda and several employees finding a quiet room to break down and cry in. It also led to many BioWare veterans leaving the company and taking a number of staff with them to form their own studio. It’s not just the constant mismanagement of Anthem that made crunch frowned upon, but also the revelation that it had been a studio tactic since the days of Mass Effect and Dragon Age. BioWare’s response to Kotaku’s article was also seen as very unprofessional given that the terrible reviews were practically the same complaints the staff brought to management, only to have it brushed off and telling them to believe in the blind faith that was known as BioWare Magic. But one lesson taken away from Anthem’s development was that BioWare Magic needs to be put out of its misery so that it will never cause misery to others again. Crunch in the gaming industry has been increasingly blasted with every new report. Especially when the industry constantly pushes back on the idea of unions to protect workers. But let’s just add this example to the growing number of reasons why unions need to be implemented in the gaming industry, not microtransactions.

And it turns out those seven years were barely worth the literal blood, sweat and tears. Because by May 2019, Anthem’s player base began to experience an extreme decline, screwing up the matchmaking that paired players with those on an equal competitive field.

People nowadays are fearing they’ll wake up to the news that EA will liquidate BioWare after this disaster. Adding to the list of other great developers that were bought up and spit out in a short period of time: Origin Systems, Westwood Studios, Bullfrog, Maxis, NuFX, Headgate Studios, Dreamworks Interactive, Mythic Entertainment, Phenomic, Black Box Games, Pandemic, Playfish, and most notoriously Visceral Games. As of 2020, EA and BioWare have announced that they will revamp Anthem. Whether or not everyone has to pay for it again has yet to be stated, but given that the parent company is equal to the spawn of the devil’s loins, things don’t look too promising.

Chapter Nine: Reckless Rockstar

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Every generation has that one genre that experiences a golden age. In the 90’s it was platformers, in the mid 2000’s it was first person shooters, today it’s both massive multiplayer battle royales and open-world adventures. Easily one of the pioneers of the latter is Rockstar Games, infamously known as the studio behind Grand Theft Auto, Bully, Max Payne, and Red Dead Redemption. Grand Theft Auto V solidified both genres in one title by becoming the third best selling game of all time, with it’s online component raking in millions of dollars to this day. They’ve also had quite the uphill battle against politicians like Jack Thompson who accused them as the cause behind many mass shootings in America, back when video games weren’t seen as a high art form. Now it seems like they have another battle on their hands right when Thompson faded from the spotlight. It all started back in 2018 when Red Dead Redemption 2 came under fire for the boasted 100-hour work week:

Things seemed to die down following clarification on the matter until the company faced another accusation by former employees, claiming the studio to be a toxic work environment thanks to a now former manager, Jeronimo Barrera:

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Former Rockstar Vice President, Jeronimo Barrera.

Grand Theft Auto Online has been labeled as the most profitable live service of this generation. However it also joined the ranks of 2K Games in directly linking gambling with video games:

This is on top of the news that Rockstar uses Activision’s loopholes to dodge paying taxes in the United States:

As of February 2020, Rockstar’s parent company Take Two Interactive has announced that Co-Founder Dan Houser will depart the company on March 11th, though his role as president will remain unchanged. But like many other controversies in 2019, the lack of unions in the game industry has made way for immoral management practices covered here and in all the previous chapters. Workers are abused with crunch periods and in this case sexual assault has come into question right when the #MeToo movement was spreading across the entertainment industry. Anyone who wanted to get promoted in Rockstar had to put up with a dangerous man child. And from the description, Rockstar waited until the last minute to intervene with Barrera’s abusive personality. Even then it was more out of protecting their own reputation than a good conscience to improve workplace morale. With all the money they there still raking in with the online service, the lingering threat of layoffs at any point during development. Just look at Activision. Meanwhile those who argue in favor of implementing microtransactions in video games to help cover the cost of development are now facing the revelation that many gaming studios get away with not paying taxes while still receiving a refund from the government. Grand Theft Auto Online has become the most profitable service in the industry, and if any layoffs occur this year, just remember all the video and article evidence contradicting the claims in defense of these decisions.

Chapter Ten: EA and the Surprise Mechanics

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Of course what would a year of video game controversies be without Electornic Arts? Naked to say the least, but here we are again. For years Electronic Arts has been at the forefront in normalizing microtransactions for big budget video games. And it’s affected some of the biggest franchises that, in the eyes of gamers, should’ve been easy to do justice on a silver platter: Dungeon Keeper, Plants vs Zombies, Dead Space, and most notoriously the rebooted Star Wars: Battlefront series. While that’s not the longest list of games with microtransactions attached, they have been the most vocal about implementing them in the future over the past few years, embracing all manner of synonyms ranging from recurrent user spending to loot boxes:

Mobile games are understandable because they’re mostly free to play and the money spent on currency directly helps the developer. But in Triple A titles that already cost 60 dollars (sometimes 120 for collector’s editions), it turns an expensive hobby into a predatory walk on eggshells. For a long time, Electronic Arts made it known to the public that microtransactions are here and they aren’t going away in triple A video games…until June 2019 when Electronic Arts found itself in front of a court of law, surrounded by lawyers from different countries like the United Kingdom and Belgium, who they had been in a heated battle with for a number of months when the countries outlawed lootboxes claiming them to be a gambling mechanic.

It was then that Electronic Arts pushed VP of Legal and Government Affairs, Kerry Hopkins, into the spotlight where she was questioned on whether or not loot boxes were an ethical feature. Her response set the internet on fire when she re-branded the controversial items as “Surprise Mechanics”:

Years of boasting to the public were suddenly disintegrated in one question as Electronic Arts had its tail between its legs at the foot of a court of law. Like the Lorax to the Once-Ler, they were warned about this for so long and yet brushed it off claiming nothing would ever stop them from taking micro-transactions out of their games. Their judgement day came upon them when both the United Kingdom and Belgium closed in around them and they coward in the corner with the most pathetic excuses that every gamer could see through. If loot-boxes are akin to kinder eggs, how come said candy doesn’t cost 60 dollars per shell? Or even 120 dollars? If they’re so ethical, why are companies begging their fans to voice “their” support for loot-boxes? And most importantly, why are they only now choosing to re-brand them as “Surprise Mechanics” after spending years defending them as loot-boxes and micro-transactions?

In the same year that Electronic Arts relabeled loot-boxes as “Surprise Mechanics”, it also failed to enforce the notion that we should protect children from these predatory practices. Games that were rated E for Everyone had micro-transactions implemented which led to stories about children unintentionally spending their parent’s money to unlock cosmetics. Some of them even emptied out their savings account in the process. EA responded to several of these incidents by providing a guideline to controlling in game purchases. A very poor decision given how Nintendo refunded a family in the same situation. And to anyone who says the parents should’ve been supervising their kids on this, why do parents need to supervise their kids playing a sports game? A sports game that’s, again, rated E for Everyone. Even small children. If the game is rated E for Everyone, why do they still need guidelines when it comes to micro-transactions? Something that should, at the very least, be restricted to adults, away from children:

Then there’s, of course, the layoffs. In February 2019 Electronic Arts gave the pink slip to 50 staff members at its Australian company, FireMonkeys: the popular mobile game developer was purchased by EA in 2012 after merging both Iron Monkey Studios and Firemint under one roof, and have produced mobile games under the Real Racing and Flight Control series. As of 2020 now they are the new helmer of The Sims Mobile after EA made a statement on the decision:

“The FireMonkeys studio is working on some of our most popular mobile games. We recently made a decision to shift teams to focus more on our live services, and have entered into a consultation period that will impact some roles in the studio. We’re working to match skills with opportunities as we go through this period, identifying other opportunities at EA, and providing as much help to our employees as we possibly can.”

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The shocking news caught the attention of the Game Workers Unite Australia branch:

“A layoff of this magnitude would represent a loss of almost 5% of the entire Australian game development industry nationwide. This is a devastating blow to local development – an extraordinarily disappointing decision which will affect the already crowded local freelancer and indie market, as well as the undergraduate student body.”

But it seems that one round of layoffs wasn’t enough. In March 2019, Electronic Arts laid-off 250 more employees from a number of branches, and Kotaku intercepted an email sent to employees by CEO Andrew Wilson:

“We have a vision to be the world’s greatest games company. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re not there right now. We have work to do with our games, our player relationship, and our business. Across the company, teams are already taking action to ensure we are creating higher-quality games and live services, reaching more platforms with our content and subscriptions, improving our frostbite tools, focusing our network and cloud gaming priorities, and closing the gap between us and our player communities.”

All this from the company that’s labeled the worst in the industry to work for with one of the most overpaid CEOs of all time, who could easily slash his own salary and still have enough money to live comfortably. Again, this is why we need unions in the game industry: To make sure companies can’t get away with abusing employees, making profit exclusively for the CEOs, and then celebrate by firing people just to save a penny. Especially for a company that makes a living on broken promises. To the point where a worker’s spouse must provide an intervention for EA and those who side with it. If it helps the overly wealthy businesses, we don’t have to call them unions. We can call them ethical regulations.

Chapter Eleven: The Walking Dead Telltale

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With everything going on in the gaming industry, the last thing anyone expected to see was a dead company coming back from the grave. That is, the brand came back, but everything else about Telltale Games remains a shell of its former glory. For those who aren’t in the loop, Telltale Games were once synonymous with quality point and click adventure games, both with thought provoking puzzles and dramatic stories. And for a moment in time, they found success with the first season of The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Back to the Future. But as time went on, the founders would leave and the company was subjected to toxic management and sadistic crunch periods on multiple projects. Their games meanwhile saw a decline in sales as management failed to improve their narrative driven game-play and outdated graphics engine. It was on November 16th, 2018 that Telltale announced its immediate shut down once the final investors pulled their funding. This left the company completely bankrupt while 250 employees had just thirty minutes to pack their belongings and vacate the premises. All of which are still searching for work to this day. This can all be seen in the YouTube documentary Telltale: The Human Stories Behind the Games.

But things didn’t stop there as the employees filed a class action lawsuit against the company for failing to notify its staff about their termination 60 days in advance. That and for not paying what money they were owed for their work and not receiving a severance package as compensation for being laid off. According to a February 2019 report in the Marin Independent Journal, the lawsuit was dismissed due to contractual agreements the employees had with the company. But that hasn’t stop them from filing an arbitration case, which could hopefully lead to some sort of compensation. It was just another unfortunate casualty in an industry where people always say it comes with the territory.

Until the end of August 2019 when it was announced that TellTale Games was being resurrected. Naturally this got so many people excited for a number of cancelled games coming back, but one important detail was left out of the coverage: None of the 275 laid off employees would be re-hired (The additional 25 was a skeleton crew that finished work on a Minecraft project for Netflix). The new owners, Jamie Ottilie and Brian Waddle, have stated that a few former employees would be offered freelance work with the possibility of full-time employment in the future.

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LCG Entertainment CEO James Ottillie
LCG Entertainment Chief Revenue Officer Brian Waddle.

Now let’s go over the major problem with this “resurrection”: The 275 employees that were laid off at the last minute. A good chunk of those still looking for work are veterans who had been with the company for a long time. And they already deserve full time employment when living in California, a state that already has a high cost of living for the average person. While it’s nice that euthanized games get a chance to come back from the dead, it doesn’t make up for the reality of unfinished problems. People need to pay bills and put food on the table. And unless those employees get some compensation in the pending lawsuit, this is a shallow resurrection. One that counts on everyone to forget the controversy surrounding the closure of the first studio. This isn’t a stab at Ottillie and Waddle, but would it really kill the people who were rich enough to buy the brand to offer some sort of financial comfort to those that have already proven their talents? Perhaps even as a middle finger to the industry that gets a way with worker abuse all the time. Offering freelance work to professionals is incredibly petty for a very well known brand. And resurrecting cancelled games is becoming a new trend. People are already sold on the idea that a title they were once looking forward to can get a second chance at life. Just look at Nintendo when they brought back Star Fox 2 for both the SNES classic and the SNES collection for the Switch Online Service. With all the experienced humans back on the projects, things could’ve been, at the very least, water under the bridge. But no, they just bought the license and left 90 percent of the employees without a single dime they were owed let alone one day of actual employment. Raise of hands to those still against unions in the gaming industry?

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The once cancelled Star Fox 2 was brought back from the dead to fairly positive reception.

Chapter Twelve: Unwanted Casualties

Finally there are a few minor (in the long run) offenses that just happened to be related to gaming. They didn’t make as big a splash as everything else, but they’re worth mentioning for the sake of learning a lesson for the future. Starting with…

Nintendo Verses Joy-Con Drift

The Nintendo Switch has been the company’s most financially successful console, revolutionizing the way people can play games on the go whether at work or with friends. But that doesn’t mean it’s been a smooth ride to the end of the tunnel. Case in point, Joy-Con drift. Brand new consoles of both the original Switch and its second edition, the Switch Lite, detected movement in the expensive controllers even when the analog stick was perfectly idle. Over 5,500 customers voiced complaints about the Joy-Con drift seeing as everything about the console from its games to its charging cable was already an expensive endeavor. Eventually Nintendo suffered a class action lawsuit for their negligence on an important aspect of their comeback. Thankfully the company offered to repair any Joy-Cons sent to their numerous headquarters. But not since Mario Party on the Nintendo 64 has the company lost so much money when it came to a controller related fiasco.

PlayStation Plus Downsizing

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A long time ago, PlayStation Plus gave its subscribers an excellent deal. For nine dollars a month or 60 dollars a year, players would be granted two free games at the beginning of each month on the PS3. And this deal carried over when the next generation arrived with a bountiful harvest of two games per console across the PS3, PS4 and PS Vita. But Sony announced that the PlayStation 3 and the PS Vita would no longer be part of the deal starting in February 2019. Given how everyone’s moved on from the previous two consoles, it makes a little bit of sense to sever ties. And it’s only fitting that Metal Gear Solid 4 would end the PS3’s run of free games. But there’s nothing to compensate cutting four of the six games as a reward for subscribing. In fact, certain regions increased the price of the service essentially having customers pay more for less. Not even a free subscription to PlayStation Now is included to compete with Xbox’s Ultimate Game Pass. What started out as a bang for your buck on three different consoles turned into a shell of its former self. And with streaming services taking over, it’s going to take more than two titles a month to convince the masses to commit.

Pokémon Puzzlement

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Despite selling 16 million copies, Pokémon Sword and Shield left fans disappointed with the amount of cut content in the final release. There are now over 800 species in the franchise, but only 400 are available in both titles. And even then axing the starters like Squirtle and Bulbasaur while leaving in Charizard takes part of the fun out of the journey. That of training your Pokémon to level up and seeing evolve into different species. The graphic capabilities were also compared to a remastered port of the 3DS titles: Simple attack animations and barely detailed skin textures. But that’s nothing compared to nixing one of the most traditional features of the series: The national Pokedex, which allowed players to import their Pokémon from previous games saving a bunch of time in leveling up certain species. Now that option is completely omitted once and for all. And right when the series was paired with advanced portable technology.

Gamefreak recently announced that Pokémon Sword and Shield would receive Season Passes to access more of the 800 roster. This comes after months of debunking fan questions about why only half the number of Pokémon were made available at launch. It’s by no means as bad as microtransactions, but lord knows that Pokemon could be going down that dark path sooner than expected. Gotta Catch Em’ All? Maybe for another 30 dollars per pack.

Google Stadia Garbage

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Advertised as a console free PC free subscription service, Google Stadia turned into a bunch of broken promises on launch day. Features that were said to be implemented were delayed till 2020: Stream Connect, State Share, Crowd Play, and several launch titles. Even the controller suffered input lag with every press of a button. With the prospect to play games on any device be it tv, tablet, phone, or computer, not even modern technology could keep up with this ambitious vision. The idea of clearing up space for a digital library is becoming more favored by the gaming public. But with the streaming market saturated with many subscription services on top of an already expensive subscription service, everything that Google Stadia stood for fell apart before it got off the ground. If anything it justified the existence of physical media when it’s presence among the numerous digital sales makes it a very competitive battlefield.

XSeed Verses Proper Credit

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Everything about a certain gaming company not giving its workers credit is explored in great detail by Jim Sterling. Add it to the list of reasons why the gaming industry needs unions less it never comes up again like the nameless people who worked on so many projects over the years:

Alpha Dream’s Financial Nightmare

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One of the studio casualties of 2019 was the bankruptcy of Alpha Dream. Starting out as a Japan exclusive developer in May 1991, they eventually made a name for themselves as the company behind the beloved Mario and Luigi RPG series. With its colorful graphics, inventive gameplay, and sharp comedic writing, the series gained a huge following among the casual crown and RPG enthusiasts. Several titles like Superstar Saga and Bowser’s Inside Story received a 3DS remake. Alas, said remakes didn’t sell as well as their originals, and coupled with the rising development costs the company was left with a 3.7 million dollar debt. It filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors forever. Your brilliant comedy will be missed Alpha Dream.

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RIP

This is TheCinematicBandicoot and if the gaming industry is going to evolve in the next decade, it needs to change for the greater good. Microtransactions need to be regulated, free speech shouldn’t be censored when it comes to China and above all, the gaming industry NEEDS unions. There’ve been too many reports of abusive crunch periods in 2019 that the joke wore out its welcome the first time it was covered. And there’ll be no stopping it unless a large group of both gamers and employees come together and demand change so these past relics can be forever put to rest. There’ll be a link in the sources to the website Game Workers Unite to those who wish to support the cause. Especially after these workers went through so many hardships just to finish some of the best games in the last decade. Epic Games cofounder, Tim Sweeney recently condemned lootboxes while questioning what the gaming industry wants to be when it grows up. But I think the bigger question after all of this is, “Will the gaming industry ever want to grow up?”

Sources

CAAApitalism – The Successful Failure Of Videogames (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmW0GhdDOvw

TellTale The Human Stories Behind the Games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-2nNksMBpg

South Park Creators Mock Apology Tweet: https://twitter.com/SouthPark/status/1181273539799736320?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1181273539799736320&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.vulture.com%2F2019%2F10%2Fsouth-park-censored-in-china-creators-tweet-fake-apology.html

Screen Rant – These Hollywood Movies Were Saved By The Chinese Box Office: https://screenrant.com/hollywood-movies-made-more-money-in-china-than-us/

Mental Floss – 10 Movies That Were Banned in China: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/83136/10-movies-were-banned-china

FieryJoker – Top 10 Blizzard Fails: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8wBd7nll2M

Polygon – Blizzard cancels Overwatch launch event at Nintendo’s New York store: https://www.polygon.com/2019/10/15/20915358/overwatch-launch-event-cancelled-nintendo-nyc-store

Nintendo NY’s Tweet on the Overwatch Tournament Cancellation: https://twitter.com/NintendoNYC/status/1183940424467173378?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1183940424467173378&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fthegamehaus.com%2Foverwatch%2Fblizzard-cancels-nintendo-new-york-overwatch-launch-event%2F2019%2F10%2F15%2F

PC Magazine – China Will Limit Online Game Access to Save Children’s Eyes: https://www.pcmag.com/news/china-will-limit-online-game-access-to-save-childrens-eyes

FieryJoker Rant – A Post Mortem of Telltale Games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFs_x1R0NnY

Slash Gear – Activision Blizzard lays off 800 employees after record revenue in 2018: https://www.slashgear.com/activision-blizzard-lays-off-800-employees-after-record-revenue-in-2018-12565445/

The Hollywood Reporter – Nintendo President Takes 67 Percent Pay Cut After Company’s First Loss: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/nintendo-president-takes-pay-cut-343521

Christina Mikkonen Tweet: https://twitter.com/ZerinaX/status/1145888080169074689?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fd-3401687872285014513.ampproject.net%2F2001071857360%2Fframe.html

GameRant – Blizzard Criticized for Job Post Tied to Recent Layoffs: https://gamerant.com/blizzard-job-post-layoff/

Jim Sterling – Corporate Parasites – Activision Pays Zero Income Tax, Gets A Refund Anyway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRWCr90Lhxw

Polygon – Activision’s Bobby Kotick among highest paid CEOs in U.S.: https://www.polygon.com/2013/4/26/4272696/activision-bobby-kotick-highest-paid-ceos-65-million-salary

TheMysteriousMrEnter – Animated Atrociites #165 – Extra Credits – Designing Ethical Web Series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OZP4pXfd-g

Jim Sterling – Activision Shoveling Microtransactions Into Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qollvzS6_8

The Sinister Reasons For Adding Microtransactions After Launch (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LeZ89_u2Gc

FireyJoker – Top Ten Activision FAILS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClPjb0RC2aU&t=74s

Angry Joe – Top 15 Gaming Controversies of 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViaPgbtR9fY

Matt McMuscles – What Happened? Aliens Colonial Marines: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KKfxdMFKJ4

Matt McMuscles – What Happened? Duke Nukem Forever: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EL7HETVAiXY&list=PLJdyZRNyk92o4AxWF2Yu_0t3NWib1v8yX&index=11&t=0s

Jim Sterling – Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford Blasted For Sharing Animal Cruelty Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eO3UFsjv-g

Randy Pitchford Is Poison (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ4ZHUboz70

Jim Sterling – Duke Nukem 3D Composer Sues Randy Pitchford, Gearbox & Valve For Infringement : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We0NnwqMLbk

Below Expectations (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9F96FOn3R7w

ESRB Descriptors: https://www.gamestop.com/ratings.html

David Eddings Tweet: https://twitter.com/davideddings/status/1126944567994011649

Jim Sterling – Former Borderlands Actor Accuses Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford Of Dishonesty, Greed, Assault: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhXXpGFU2-s

Forbes – Troy Baker Says He Didn’t Voice Borderlands 3 Character Because Gearbox ‘Wouldn’t Go Union’(Updated): https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizlanier/2019/09/30/troy-baker-didnt-voice-borderlands-3-character-because-gearbox-wouldnt-go-union/#6ff139d63908

Liberate Hong Kong Game Download: https://lhk.itch.io/lhk

PC Gamer – Former devs speak out about ‘severe crunch’ at Mortal Kombat studio: https://www.pcgamer.com/former-devs-speak-out-about-severe-crunch-at-mortal-kombat-studio/

EuroGamer – Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm responds to accusations of workplace toxicity and crunch culture: https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-05-07-mortal-kombat-developer-netherrealm-responds-to-accusations-of-workplace-toxicity-and-crunch-culture

Polygon – How Fortnite’s success led to months of intense crunch at Epic Games: https://www.polygon.com/2019/4/23/18507750/fortnite-work-crunch-epic-games

An Epic Problem (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8awcLPXRo9c&t=201s

Jim Sterling – Report – Epic Abusing Workers With Obscene Crunch Periods To Maintain Fortnite’s Success: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT14-lyqofA

Jim Sterling – Epic Founder Says Store Exclusives Are The Only Way To Improve Steam & The PC Market: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97R5kSNZlck

The Problems With The Epic Store (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foeYsvbOxJ0&t=84s

Angry Joe – The Outer Worlds now Epic Games Exclusive – Angry Rant!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7e1Lc-PhGKI

Jim Sterling – Metro Exodus, Epic Exclusivity, And Threats Of PC Ransom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcWVWbfLqno

Jim Sterling – Shenmue 3 Is The Latest Crowdfunded Game To Go Epic Store Exclusive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7jsOx-e73Q

Jim Sterling – Epic Will Refund Shenmue 3 Backers Who Reject Epic Store Exclusivity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWzfk9N6OD8

The Addictive Cost Of Predatory Videogame Monetization (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7S-DGTBZU14&t=636s

Matt McMuscles – What Happened? Anthem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBjDhSdsjBk

Kotaku – How Bioware’s Anthem Went Wrong: https://kotaku.com/how-biowares-anthem-went-wrong-1833731964

Ploygon – Joy-Con drift leads to class-action lawsuit against Nintendo: https://www.polygon.com/2019/7/22/20704203/joy-con-drift-class-action-lawsuit-nintendo-switch

VentureBeat – Borderlands 3 Sales Near 8 Million: https://venturebeat.com/2020/02/06/borderlands-3-sales-near-8-million-copies/

DenofGeek – PlayStation Plus Ending Free PS3 and Vita Games in 2019: https://www.denofgeek.com/us/games/playstation/271327/playstation-plus-ending-free-ps3-and-vita-games-in-2019

FireyJoker – Top Ten Worst EA FAILS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zylMgw9_RXc

A Video About BioWare Working Staff To Tears And Calling Its Mental Abuse “Magic” (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GN1uV57hE_w&t=432s

Game Workers Unite Website: https://www.gameworkersunite.org/

Angry Joe – AJS News – Video Games BLAMED, E3 Data Breach, Ninja LEAVES Twitch, Ooblets Oopsie, Activision Lies!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmLCB9BCwCE

Angry Joe – AJS News – Randy RAGES, Claptrap VO, EPIC buys Rocket League, RIOT Walkout, SONIC Fallout!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeWz9MlVTVc

Angry Joe – AJ News – Borderlands 3 Epic Exclusive, EA Layoffs, Gamestop Dying, CD Projekt Red & Google Stadia!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWgXzof3BEU

Jim Sterling – Scumbag EA Initiates Mass Layoffs, Axing 350 Jobs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7Vo29RQ0uQ

Look After Your Workers Or Get Out Of Games (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXFKnkTr4Rk

SAG-AFTRA Reaches Tentative Agreement to End Video Game Strike: https://www.sagaftra.org/sag-aftra-reaches-tentative-agreement-end-video-game-strike-0

GameRant – PlayStation Plus Prices Increase Next Month: https://gamerant.com/playstation-plus-price-increase/

SpuerGiant Games – Hades pricing and the Epic Mega Sale: https://www.supergiantgames.com/blog/hades-pricing-and-the-epic-mega-sale/

Gizmodo UK – Why Won’t Steam Approve These Games Supporting Hong Kong Protestors?: https://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2019/12/why-wont-steam-approve-these-games-supporting-hong-kong-protestors/

Angry Joe – NBA2k20 is a Gambling Casino! – Angry Rant!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-BuUqsd71w

Angry Joe – The ESRB has Failed Us! their NBA2k20 Response – Angry Rant!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbjWzxY5Dws

Jim Sterling – 2K Pairs Loot Boxes With Slot Machines In Gambling-Flavored NBA 2K20 Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcGZQDOOU6Y

Agriestpat Tweet: https://twitter.com/PatStaresAt/status/1129141438313312256

Credit Where Credit’s Due (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iw6dMKGK2Kk

Mat McMuscles – What Happened? WWE 2K20: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5-LN_LHU2I

Jim Sterling – WWE 2K20 Is The Cheap Broken Crap That WWE Deserves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ScQuKXFPs0

Polygon – Epic Games to acquire Rocket League studio Psyonix: https://www.polygon.com/2019/5/1/18525843/epic-games-buys-rocket-league-psyonix

Jim Sterling – As Anthem’s Playerbase Bleeds Out, The Problems With Live Services Become Obvious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evlZuMxSsoM

Jim Sterling – Let’s Talk About Randy Pitchford’s Tantrum Over Borderlands 3’s Microtransactions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C26U4IRlP0A

Engadget – ‘Anthem’ is proof that crunch can’t save AAA games: https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/04/anthem-crunch-bioware-ea-game-development/?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuYmluZy5jb20vc2VhcmNoP3E9Ymlvd2FyZSttYWdpYyZmb3JtPUVER0VBUiZxcz1QRiZjdmlkPWMyOTg3MGU4Mzg4ODRjMGQ5MDM4ZTg5Y2IzMTFhMzU2JmNjPVVTJnNldGxhbmc9ZW4tVVMmZWx2PUFZMyUyMXVBWTd0Yk5OWkdaMnlpR05qZlAydkRpcHBTSlFneW5NamFwT09wd2RxTTNQWU1iaTA0NGg1OWpTTm10dXFNb0xFVlpjVTVsaVQ0azg0NEpiRmZTQzZLZmhTVW8zWlpQZ2M1cHM3ajdVJnBsdmFyPTA&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAHDQ4xiMnkAc1ePgdZWw5DVKF7AzGuoYvRFFq5AtcaENukpBB9sAUHXTjm8E1WbO7EN-TphBjmF45c4ye5PQsYjd69e5CenEp5Eqzkr5ewaMkpmU5SldDyosmxemvLFx6MQoSg6yUj8JdzIvF9-4PFtc74udz_RZCvmtSHbePyjz

Angry Joe – Bioware CONFIRMS Anthem 2.0 Overhaul Coming!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwIE16xg8IA&t=157s

Back To The Crunch (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkyJiAyNvDg

Jim Sterling – That Crappy Anthem Game Is Getting An Overhaul Focusing On Actual Gameplay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjfDmoeT0e4

Jim Sterling – Anthem Players Organize Protest Over Stingy, Disheartening Loot Drops: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DabAg-feQfc

Jim Sterling – Let’s Mock Anthem For Crashing Players’ PS4s!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw2tKHtAy2M

Jim Sterling – Anthem Abandons Its Roadmap Because Of Course It Does:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9ttPf8ExwQ

RabbidLuigi – Top 10 Games Ruined By Microtransactions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A9gTOLhgaA

Gamespot – EA – We Believe In Microtransactions: https://www.gamespot.com/articles/ea-we-believe-in-microtransactions/1100-6456456/

EA Spouse Article: https://ea-spouse.livejournal.com/274.html

Kotaku – Former Rockstar Designer Says Former Top Executive Groped Him: https://kotaku.com/former-rockstar-designer-says-former-top-executive-grop-1835067943

The Washington Post – Dan Houser, co-founder of Rockstar Games, is leaving the studio behind Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption: https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/02/04/dan-houser-co-founder-rockstar-games-is-leaving-studio-behind-grand-theft-auto-red-dead-redemption/

Variety – EA Australia Studio Firemonkeys Suffers Layoffs, Takes Over ‘Sims Mobile’: https://variety.com/2019/gaming/news/ea-australia-firemonkeys-layoffs-1203146661/

Kotaku – EA Lays Off 350 People In Marketing, Publishing, And More:https://kotaku.com/ea-lays-off-350-people-in-marketing-publishing-analyt-1833575289

Marin Independent Journal – San Rafael-based Telltale Games class-action suit over layoffs dismissed: https://www.marinij.com/2019/02/07/telltale-games-class-action-dismissed-but-may-move-to-new-forum/

Game Workers Unite Australia: https://www.gameworkers.com.au/

IGN – Mario & Luigi RPG Series Creator, AlphaDream, Files For Bankruptcy: https://www.ign.com/articles/2019/10/02/mario-luigi-rpg-series-creator-alphadream-files-for-bankruptcy

Jim Sterling – Missing Tons Of Features, Google Stadia Looks To Launch As Unfinished Trash: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQeMk1DTaiM

Jim Sterling – Google Stadia’s Launch Lineup Is Pretty Garbage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oi_yvDevaro

BrentalFloss – Game Launch Rock!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rIJmGj4g-s

Stadia, Subscriptions, And The Death Of Game Ownership (The Jimquisition): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecpkOvx4FVY

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