Tag Archives: Games
Facebook knew children were spending money in games without getting parental consent and the company did nothing about it, according to newly unsealed court documents from a 2012 lawsuit.
More than 100 pages of private Facebook documents were released following a request by the Center for Investigative Reporting and shed light on Facebook’s tactics. For years, the company was aware that children were playing games on accounts tied to a credit card and were, in some cases, unknowingly racking up thousands of dollars in bills by simply clicking within a game to get new abilities or upgrades.
The company ignored a plan developed by an employee in 2011 that would curb children from spending money without a parent’s permission.
The more games children played, the more Facebook’s revenue grew. When angry parents saw their credit card bills and in some cases reported not even receiving a receipt, they found it difficult to get their money back from Facebook, so they turned to credit card companies, the Better Business Bureau and finally, a lawsuit.
While the documents are old, they shed light on Facebook’s past business practices as the company continues to be under immense scrutiny for its numerous privacy breaches. Facebook changed its refund policy around games in 2016 and now has a detailed site about how to handle payment disputes with developers. Additionally, a Parents Portal offers tips for parents about how their kids can stay safe online.
“Facebook works with parents and experts to offer tools for families navigating Facebook and the web. As part of that work, we routinely examine our own practices, and in 2016 agreed to update our terms and provide dedicated resources for refund requests related to purchases made by minors on Facebook,” the company said in a statement.
HELSINKI (Reuters) – Hatch Entertainment, a spin-off from the game maker behind the Angry Birds franchise, is testing streaming access to mobile games the way Netflix does for movies or Spotify for music.
The Finnish company that grew out of Rovio believes the gaming industry is ready for flat-fee monthly offers to give players a greater choice of titles and replace the irritating free-at-first, pay-later model that has dominated this decade.
“This is a new way to play mobile games, and at the moment we don’t see any direct competition,” Hatch Chief Executive and Rovio veteran Juhani Honkala told Reuters.
The streaming model faces scepticism from an industry that currently makes its money per game, charging fees for props or upgrades within games.
“High-quality content is more likely to attract new players than positioning around innovative streaming technology,” said Jack Kent, an analyst at IHS Technology.
Spotify makes its debut on the New York stock market next week in a listing that could value the business at $ 20 billion, but it took the company years to persuade music publishers of the attraction of streaming services over single music purchases.
More than 100 game developers and publishers are ready to give the new business model a try, including SEGA, Square Enix and Bandai Namco, Honkala said, though the beta version has only 10,000 user downloads so far in the Google Play store.
Hatch’s platform, which runs on Android phones and is being tested in 18 European countries, has also racked up support from U.S. wireless chip giant Qualcomm and China’s Huawei, the world’s third-largest smartphone maker.
“We have very strong industry backing,” Honkala said.
Rovio is stepping up its investment in Hatch, looking to secure a new revenue stream after a dramatic profit warning sent its share price tumbling by 50 percent last month.
Rovio owns 80 percent of Hatch, which operates as an independent subsidiary.
Smartphone-based games are currently dominated by a free-to-play model that makes money through in-app purchases that help players to progress.
The model rewards games that have become mass-market success stories but makes life challenging for lower-ranked titles and smaller publishers who have trouble getting discovered as players stick to games they know and have invested in.
Rovio itself has struggled in recent years to repeat the success of Angry Birds and has had trouble forecasting future revenue because of heavy marketing costs and increased competition.
Hatch now offers 100 games on its platform and it has signed up about 200 more, including SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog games, Crazy Taxi and Virtua Tennis. Honkala said the service will pay 70 percent of its revenues to the publishers of its games.
The model would also allow more room for educational or strategy games that have longer narratives, he said, adding that running the service from the cloud rather than locally on the phone should also improve the experience for multiplayer games.
The company does not have a target schedule for formal launch but Honkala said it could happen this year. He declined to say how much the subscription price would be.
Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Eric Auchard and David Goodman
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Pyeongchang Winter Olympics organizers confirmed on Sunday that the Games had fallen victim to a cyber attack during Friday’s opening ceremony, but they refused to reveal the source.
The Games’ systems, including the internet and television services, were affected by the hack two days ago but organizers said it had not compromised any critical part of their operations.
“Maintaining secure operations is our purpose,” said International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams.
“We are not going to comment on the issue. It is one we are dealing with. We are making sure our systems are secure and they are secure.”
Asked if organizers knew who was behind the attack, Adams said: “I certainly don’t know. But best international practice says that you don’t talk about an attack.”
The Winter Games are being staged only 80km (50 miles) from the border with North Korea, which is technically still at war with the South since their 1950-1953 war ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.
The two teams marched together at an Olympics opening ceremony for the first time since 2006.
South Korea has been using the Pyeongchang Games to break the ice with the reclusive North, which has been trading nuclear threats with the United States recently.
“All issues were resolved and recovered yesterday morning,” Pyeongchang organizing committee spokesman Sung Baik-you told reporters.
“We know the cause of the problem but that kind of issues occurs frequently during the Games. We decided with the IOC we are not going to reveal the source (of the attack),” he told reporters.
Russia, which has been banned from the Games for doping, said days before the opening ceremony that any allegations linking Russian hackers to attacks on the infrastructure connected to the Pyeongchang Olympic Games were unfounded.
“We know that Western media are planning pseudo-investigations on the theme of ‘Russian fingerprints’ in hacking attacks on information resources related to the hosting of the Winter Olympic Games in the Republic of Korea,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.
“Of course, no evidence will be presented to the world.”
Cyber security researchers said in January they had found early indications that Russia-based hackers may be planning attacks against anti-doping and Olympic organizations in retaliation for Russia’s exclusion from the Pyeongchang Games.
Stakeholders of the Olympics have been wary of the threat from hacking and some sponsors have taken out insurance to protect themselves from a cyber attack. [nL4N1PX1HV]
Editing by Peter Rutherford
PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) – Pyeongchang Olympics organizers were looking into a disruption of non-critical systems on the day of the opening ceremony but could not yet confirm if it was a cyberattack, Games spokesman Sung Baik-you said on Saturday.
The Winter Olympics opened with a spectacular ceremony on Friday, attended by several heads of state who witnessed the joint march of North and South Korean athletes, as Games systems played up.
The ceremony was also attended by North Korean ceremonial leader Kim Yong Nam and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, as well as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
Some local media reported system problems, including the Games website and some television sets, were due to a cyberattack but Sung said it was still too early to determine whether hackers had attempted to damage them.
“There were some issues that affected some of our non-critical systems last night for a few hours,” Sung told reporters, without detailing what the issues specifically were.
“We apologize for the inconvenience caused. It has not disrupted any event or had any effect on safety and security for athletes or spectators.”
Sung said security experts were currently investigating the incident.
“Experts are watching to ensure and maintain any systems at expected service levels. We are currently investigating the cause of the issue. At this time we cannot confirm (a cyberattack),” he added.
“We are investigating the cause and we will share more information. All competitions are running as planned.”
It was also not clear whether failure to deploy drones as part of the programme during the two-hour opening ceremony was in any way related to the system problems.
The International Olympic Committee said pre-recorded footage of the drones was used instead.
“Due to impromptu logistical changes it (drone deployment) did not proceed,” the IOC spokesman said with elaborating further.
The Winter Games, staged only 80km (50 miles) from the North Korean border, saw the two Koreas, who are technically still at war since a 1953 armistice, march together at the opening ceremony for the first time since 2006.
South Korea has been using the Pyeongchang Games to break the ice with the reclusive North, which has been trading nuclear threats with the United States recently.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Sudipto Ganguly
Chris Lee, a member of Hawaii’s state House of Representatives, is drafting legislation that would prohibit the sale of games with randomized in-app purchases, known as “lootboxes,” to gamers under 21 years old. Lootbox systems have been increasingly compared to gambling, as well as drawing the ire of gamers themselves, who derisively refer to the mechanic as “pay to win.”
Lee describes lootboxes as “predatory,” and their randomized nature seems to be built around the same reward structures that make gambling addictive. Lee’s push was highlighted today by Kotaku, and Lee told the gaming outlet that since announcing his proposal, he’s heard stories of children spending thousands of dollars on gaming microtransactions. In one case relayed to Lee, a child reportedly stole a parents’ credit card to pay for game purchases.
Lee’s initative could pave the way to national legislation, and is being documented in videos posted online by his office.
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In taped discussions with aides, Lee has made clear he has no desire to prohibit or restrict in-game purchases as such, as long as rewards are not random.
The marketplace seems to be making some headway in fighting back against lootboxes. Player disgust with the systems reached a fever pitch surrounding Electronic Arts’ Star Wars Battlefront II, leading the publisher to remove lootbox elements from the game at launch. The controversy nonetheless seems to have badly tarnished the game, which as of this week has fallen dramatically short of sales projections. Lee — himself an avowed gamer — has previously referred to Battlefront II as a “Star Wars-themed online casino.”
Lootbox sales still drive big revenue for publishers including EA. Lee, a Democrat, told Kotaku that he’s seen interest in and support for his and similar legislation across party lines, but warns that game industry lobbying groups are gearing up to defend the practice.
The world’s top competitive video gamers are facing off in China over the next few weeks for the League of Legends 2017 World Championship, one of the premier tournaments in the fast-growing world of esports.
Hosted by Riot Games, the company that makes the popular League of Legends (LoL) online game, the tournament’s early rounds turned in a fair amount of excitement and upsets, though last year’s champion is still standing. The Korean professional esports team SK Telecom T1 remains a favorite in a field that also features teams like Samsung Galaxy (sponsored by the South Korean electronics giant) and the North American team Cloud 9.
If none of those names ring a bell, then the rapid ascension of esports has likely passed you by. Competitive gaming’s popularity around the world has exploded in recent years, and the esports industry is now expected to generate more than $ 1.5 billion in annual revenue by 2020, according to one estimate.
Meanwhile, major professional sports teams like the New York Yankees and Cleveland Cavaliers are throwing money at esports, while tech giants like Amazon and Google compete to lure gaming fans to stream live gameplay and competitions on their digital video platforms, Twitch and YouTube, respectively. Last year, Riot Games (which is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent) signed a reported $ 300 million streaming rights deal with Walt Disney’s BAMTech, and this year’s LoL world championship tournament is available for streaming around the world on Twitch and YouTube.
The influx of media rights deals has also opened the door for a range of high-profile corporate sponsors, with Riot Games landing sponsorships in recent years from the likes of Acer Gaming, Coca-Cola, T-Mobile, and Mercedes-Benz.
This week Fortune caught up with Jarred Kennedy, the co-head of esports at Riot Games, to discuss the world championship (the finals will take place Nov. 4 at the Bird’s Nest National Stadium in Beijing) as well as the overall growth of the esports industry and Riot’s plans, much like rival Activision Blizzard, to remodel its own esports league after major professional sports leagues like the NFL and NBA.
The following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Fortune: What are some of the big storylines fans will be following heading into the quarterfinals of the LoL World Championships this weekend?
Kennedy: Where to begin? We’ve got some great teams that have made it through. Lots of regions are still alive. You’ve got your defending champions, SK Telecom T1, where they always are, which is contending. But, you’ve got teams that are potentially going to give them a run for their money. I think if [Chinese team] Royal Never Give Up and SK Telecom T1 wind up meeting in the semifinals in Shanghai that could be incredible. Honestly, any of the match-ups with the teams we have right now are going to be really fun to watch, because they’ve all proven themselves to get to this stage. And, the competition just keeps getting better and better the deeper we get into the tournament. That’s one of the reasons that worlds is so compelling.
How has the media rights aspect of the esports business expanded in recent years for Riot?
I think what you’re seeing is the maturation of our sport. With esports, I wouldn’t say it’s entered the mainstream, but it is increasingly an option that marketers look to. And, that’s great for us, because what we’re trying to do is build up the overall ecosystem, and having those increases in revenue coming in on that side allows us to invest in the professional players, the teams, and it allows these players to make a career out of this in a really meaningful way.
That leads into the bigger question of the esports industry’s overall growth trajectory. What are the areas of business that you think are most ripe for increasing revenue in the industry?
There are lots of different pools of revenue. Big ones would include media rights, which not unlike the NFL, NBA, or the Premier League, media rights are a large driver. For some games, including ours, there’s in-game content, and that’s something that’s unique to esports, as opposed to stick-and-ball or traditional sports, where there’s an opportunity for teams to participate in some of the in-game revenue streams. I think those are probably the biggest ones, but we’re always on the lookout for new ways to engage with fans of our sport.
You used to work at Sony Pictures Television. Would it benefit esports to make that leap to being more of a presence on traditional TV networks?
We don’t feel the need to go to TV as a point of validation. We’ve found that a lot of our fans of this sport are online, they tend to consume digitally, and thus the BAMTech deal and some other things we’ve done—negotiations with Twitch, YouTube, etc.—is just to serve them where they are. But, we’re not looking to be on NBC at 8 p.m. on a Saturday broadcasting to all of America, because we don’t think that’s where our fans want to watch, and we think it would probably be casting too wide of a net.
Why model Riot Games’ North American League of Legends Championship Series league after major professional sports leagues with revenue-sharing and a players association?
We’ve always looked at professional sports, not because we want to model exactly what other sports do, but even when you’re attempting to innovate, sometimes there are things that already exist in the world that work really well and work for a reason, and we shouldn’t be afraid to use some of that. Our goal is to have sophisticated owners of teams that can operate at a high level, know how to build businesses, know how to build sports, and who aren’t going to be working against each other, but are going to be collaborating in the best interests of fans around the world.
Going back to your point about esports not yet being in the mainstream, what needs to happen to put esports on the same level as one of the major professional sports leagues?
It takes time to get to the scale of where major sports are today, and I don’t think we have any illusions that we’re going to be able to do that overnight. We do have the advantage of being a digital property that tends to grow faster and can grow more virally. Friends tend to bring their friends into the sport, we found. We’re looking to build the best ecosystem for our fans that we can and we hope that by doing that it will thrive and grow, and over time we’ll have a chance to be as big as some of the major sports that exist today. But our primary goal is delivering value to fans day in and day out. And, if we can do that, then the rest will take care of itself.
First-person shooting is about to get a lot more realistic.
Developer Epic Games revealed Bullet Train today, an FPS for the Oculus Rift virtual reality device, during the Oculus Connect 2 conference in Los Angeles. Made with Unreal Engine 4, this game supports the Oculus Touch controllers, which can map the movements of your hands in VR. Virtual reality can become a big deal in gaming, but it will need great software to attract consumers. Epic has a track record of making hits with series like Unreal and Gears of War.
“Master the art of teleportation, time manipulation, and close-quarters combat to blast through resistance forces,” Epic notes in a press release sent to GamesBeat. “Thanks to Unreal Engine technology and the Oculus Touch motion controllers, you can physically interact with an array of weapons, from guns to grenades to missiles, and even feel them through haptic feedback.”
You can watch the trailer for Bullet train below.
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Next month’s free video games on Xbox One and Xbox 360 have been announced.