GameStop store closings 2019: Retailer closing up to 200 stores:

On the same day Apple unveiled the launch date of its subscription service Arcade, brick-and-mortar video game hub GameStop announced store closures.

During Tuesday's quarterly earnings call with analysts, GameStop chief financial officer Jim Bell said the company was "on track to close between 180 and 200 underperforming stores globally by the end of this fiscal year."

Bell also said there have been 195 store closures since last year.

How many stores could close in the U.S. was not disclosed. GameStop did not immediately respond to USA TODAY's request for comment Tuesday.

GameStop CEO George Sherman spoke of right-sizing the company and said there were “recent efforts” across the corporate infrastructure and U.S. store leadership organization.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, in August, the company laid off 120 employees.

“Over the last couple of months, we implemented changes that require us to make tough, but necessary decisions for the benefit of our organization moving forward,” Sherman said.

GameStop isn't alone in closing stores.

More than 8,200 stores are slated to shutter this year with thousands of locations already gone, based on figures from global marketing research firm Coresight Research, retailers' earnings reports, bankruptcy filings and other records.

According to Coresight Research's Sept. 6 weekly closing report, the announced closures are "40% higher than total closures in 2018."

Coresight, which has offices in Manhattan, London and Hong Kong, tracked the 5,864 closings in 2018, which included all Toys R Us stores and hundreds of Kmart and Sears locations.

9/05/2019: Russ Lyman Interviews Connecticut's VR Truck:

Please visit the VR Game Truck website.
8/21/2019: Missouri Game Store Trade-N-Games Has Over $100,000 of Rare Games Stolen:

It might be the first time in history that a game store was the subject of a large-scale heist. Trade-N-Games, located in Fenton Missouri and founded in 2002, was the unfortunate target of a robbery earlier this month, that would see an estimated $100,000 worth in video games stolen from the store.

“This was a straight up heist in and out stole my safe with over 150 of the most valuable games.” stated store owner Jason Brassard. “That’s all they took! If you have been to the store, seen my videos like the big unboxing of graded games that’s what was taken plus many more.”

The unboxing videos refer to the stores Youtube channel, where Brassard is shown unboxing the collection of games – all officially graded for quality from WATA Games with certification- to the public a few months ago.

Almost all 150 games stolen were complete in-box versions of some of the rarest games on the market, spanning eight different systems from the Atari 2600 to the Sega CD. Brassard posted a list of the games found in the safe, with the biggest loss likely to be the rare NES game Stadium Events, complete with both the cart and manual now stolen.  Considered one of the rares NES titles ever made due to an extremely limited print run (200 copies), the last copy to come up for auction sold for $35,000 in 2015. Other rare games included a complete copy of Little Sampson, estimated to be worth over $4,000, and Cheetahmen 2, which is has sold in the past anywhere between $10-$20,000. Some rare Nintendo test cartridges were also stolen from the safe, including a NES Joystick test cart and a NES Power Pad test cart.

Other well-known games lost from the heist include the Sega CD game Snatcher, Captain Novolin and Super Noah’s Ark 3D on the Super Nintendo, and Tank Command on the Atari 7800. Brassard noted that the safe itself was a 5 foot tall, 3-foot wide slab that was around 500 pounds empty. He believes that the safe was specifically targeted, as no other items in his inventory were taken.

Beyond several being seen in videos or Instagram after he had sent them to be graded with Wata Games, many of Jason’s games were previously pictured in the book he wrote about identifying and valuing 80s video games. The games for Atari systems made up about 60 of the titles, while there were a couple of Colecovision ones as well that were in the book.

“I have insurance but this is next level folks.” Brassard stated on his Facebook post. “I had [an] alarm and response was 5 min from police. No one [was] caught. I’m not doing too good right now, but I’m able to get the store open as normal.”

Many fans of Trade-N-Games in the local Missouri area, along with fans online, have expressed support to Brassard over the theft. The Missouri Game Con, MO Game Con, is also offering a $2,500 reward on any information in regards to the heist, according to their twitter feed. This is from a $1000 offering they put in, along with other donations from local collectors.

Currently, there are no leads into the robbery, but the investigation is currently ongoing at this time.

Pokemon Cards Fetch $107,010 At Auction ... 1st Edition Charizard!!!:

Somebody caught 'em all ... and paid some serious coin for it!!!

TMZ Sports has learned a complete set of Pokemon cards just fetched $107,010 at auction ... and it's the most cash someone has EVER plopped down for the famous card game!!!

The 103 pieces are ridiculously rare ... they're all in perfect, Gem Mint 10 condition -- and, yes, the most coveted Pokemon card in the world, the 1st edition Charizard, is included.

The holographic Alakazam, Blastoise and Chansey cards are also in the set -- which was sold at Goldin Auctions over the weekend -- and they're all in unbelievable shape considering they were made in 1999.

In fact, we're told for some of these cards ... there are less than 50 (!!!) in these conditions in the world!!

Teen Fortnite World Champion ‘swatted’ during a livestream:

Just two weeks ago, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf won the $3 million championship in the Fortnite World Cup’s solo competition.

But on Saturday, the 16-year-old became a victim of an increasingly popular form of attack. Kyle was in the middle of livestreaming a round of “Fortnite” on the video platform Twitch when he suddenly left the screen. Fellow gamers were concerned and confused until Kyle’s voice came from off-camera.

“I’ve been swatted,” he said.

Swatting is a potentially deadly prank in which someone calls the police and tells them that an urgent and violent crime has occurred at their target’s location. The idea is to lure a SWAT team or other response team to the person’s house.

Authorities have come down hard on this type of activity because it can have very real consequences. One man was fatally shot by police at his home in 2017 after such an incident. The man who made the hoax call was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison.

When Kyle came back to the livestream, he explained the situation, saying the SWAT team came in with guns.

One of the responding officers lived in his neighborhood and recognized Kyle, so the situation was defused, he said in the stream.

The Upper Pottsgrove Township, Pennsylvania, Police Department is investigating the incident but gave no other details.

How does ‘swatting’ get so out of hand?

SWAT teams have no way of knowing whether a call is a hoax, which is why these situations can be so dangerous.

The calls are typically done by the computer-savvy, people like hackers and, of course, gamers. It’s even happened to celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber.

No federal anti-swatting laws exist, but charges like wire fraud or obstruction of justice can typically be applied. In April, a 17-year-old was charged with 40 felony and 33 misdemeanor delinquency charges in Ohio after making a number of prank swatting calls.

Donald J Trump Blames Video Games for School Shootings. Here's What Science Says:

Less than a month after America’s deadliest school shooting in five years, President Donald Trump on Thursday met with members of Congress, video game executives, conservative media watchdog Brent Bozell and a mother from the Parents Television Council to “discuss violent video-game exposure and the correlation to aggression and desensitization in children,” according to a statement from White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters.

The meeting was closed to the press, and the White House has not released any statement, but Trump has blamed video games in recent weeks for making kids more violent, as have some of the guests he invited to the meeting.

“I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts,” he told Florida’s attorney general after the Parkland school shooting — a view he expressed even more strongly in a 2012 tweet.

Similar rhetoric has been part of the conversation about mass violence for years. In 2007, for example, an Oregon psychiatrist published a study saying the perpetrators of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting may have been compelled to kill after they were abruptly forbidden from playing the computer games to which they had become addicted. Since then, video games have consistently been blamed for, or at least implicated in, school shootings and other acts of mass violence.

But blaming violence on video games over-simplifies a deeply complicated issue.

“The short answer is there is virtually no research” on whether or not video games cause violent acts like school shootings, says Mark Appelbaum, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California San Diego and the chair of a 2015 American Psychological Association Task Force on Violent Media. “There is no scientific evidence that confirms or disconfirms that speculation.”

That’s because ethical standards prevent researchers from carrying out the kind of experiments that could, in theory, show cause-and-effect relationships between video games and violence, explains Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at the Ohio State University and one of the authors of a 2017 Pediatrics paper that analyzed 60 years’ worth of research around screen violence and aggressive behavior.

“You can’t randomly assign people to play a violent or non-violent game in the lab, give them a gun and see what they do with the gun,” Bushman says. As a result, “you can’t say it’s the cause, or the most important cause,” of criminal actions.

What researchers have done is look for links between violent media, like video games, and traits connected to violent behavior. Here, they’ve found plenty. Decades of research has found that playing violent video games can cause an increase in aggressive thoughts and actions, a decrease in empathy and desensitization to violence. Some research, like that from a widely cited 2010 meta-analysis published in Psychological Bulletin, has also suggested there may be a link between violent video games and heightened physiological arousal, which may also be a precursor to aggressive behavior.

Part of the explanation for those links, Bushman says, may be the visceral experience of playing modern video games, especially those in which the user takes on the perspective of the shooter.

“Think about if you wanted to fly an airplane. What would be the best thing to do: read a book about it, watch a TV program about it or play a flight simulator video game?” Bushman says. “We know that when people are actively involved, they learn much better than when they’re just passive. The best way to learn something is to actually do it. And in the video game, what you learn how to do is kill others.” Video games also often reward the player for doing so, through points, game advancement or verbal affirmations.

“There are fairly consistent effects that show an increase in aggressive thoughts and ideations, as a function of having played these first-person shooter games,” Appelbaum says. “There is also a decrease in empathy.” But what we don’t know is whether those changes are permanent, cumulative or different for people who play more or less frequently, he says.

There’s also a big leap between having aggressive thoughts and committing criminally violent acts. Many things can qualify as aggressive thoughts for the purposes of psychological studies, Appelbaum says, including something as simple as writing an “I” instead of an “A” when presented with a blank between the letters “H” and “T” — thus forming the word “hit” instead of “hat.”

Researchers also don’t know much about how video game exposure affects young children, specifically. Appelbaum says most research on the topic has been conducted among college-age people, in part because it’s practical — researchers are often professors with easy access to undergraduates — and in part because it’s ethically dubious to expose small kids to something potentially damaging.

With so many ethical hurdles in the way, researchers may never be able to say for sure whether video games cause violent acts, even as evidence supporting associations between violent media and violent behavior piles up. But that likely won’t stop lawmakers and armchair psychologists from making that claim.

“People would be really happy if we knew the cause of these actions,” Appelbaum says. The problem, of course, is there is no simple explanation for something like a mass shooting. Many factors — societal, individual and environmental — are at play in each incident.

“If I could create a parallel world, and in that parallel world no one had thought up the idea of a first-person shooter game…would I expect there to be any major difference in the number of these kind of shooting incidents?” Appelbaum asks. The answer, he says, is “no.”

But even without definitively proving cause and effect, Bushman says the amount and quality of research on the impact of violent video games is too vast to ignore.

“I can think of no theory that would say it’s harmful for children to be exposed to violence in their home, in their neighborhood or in their school,” Bushman says, “but that it doesn’t really matter if they’re exposed to violence in the media.”

Also Trump is putting the blame on video games, to take the heat off of him, when Donlad J Trump is just as GUILTY has these mass shooters, since Donald J Trump promotes HATE CRIME, All these mass shootings are Pro Trump followers. Just as the Nazi's were Pro Hitler Followers.


Miller Lite has built a working video game controller in a beer can:

In the annals of modern engineering, mankind has achieved one stunning feat after the next. We’ve put humans on the moon, and more than the once. Self-driving motor vehicles are bound to become part of everyday life before too long. The average human lifespan continues to increase. But every so often an innovation comes along that pushes its entire medium forward, one which distinguishes itself as a pioneer of the form. Today, Miller Lite has turned a beer can into a video game controller.

It’s also not just a factory prototype, even if the odds of getting your hands on one are pretty slim. The Cantroller is part of a Miller tie-in campaign for the ongoing 2019 E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles; as an epicenter of the gaming industry’s year, brands often look to get in on the fun. But with the Cantroller, which is indeed filled with a regular-ounce portion of Miller Lite, the macro-brew distinguishes itself from the pack. It’s a functioning digital controller, complete with micro-USB ports and a rechargeable battery, albeit one reportedly optimal for older games with less demanding control schemes.


Dr Disrespect Streams Inside An E3 Bathroom, Gets Banned From Twitch:

Today, popular Twitch streamer Guy “Dr Disrespect” Beahm got suspended from Twitch after streaming from inside a bathroom at the Los Angeles Convention Center during E3.

Dr Disrespect is attending E3 and, purportedly for the first time ever, doing a series of IRL streams onsite. On Tuesday afternoon, the first day of the show, he and his camera person walked into a public bathroom with a camera rolling, something that almost certainly violates Twitch’s community guidelines and terms of service, though bathrooms are not specifically mentioned. If nothing else, Twitch forbids people from streaming illegal acts, and filming people in a public bathroom is likely a violation of California’s “invasion of privacy” law.

Dr Disrespect proceeded to stroll into the men’s room with tens of thousands of people watching his stream, then shouted the word “Bodyguard!” while E3 attendees—including one that looked to be a child—used urinals in the background. He then went into a stall. Other clips taken later depict him re-entering the bathroom two more times and using a urinal. Kotaku viewed the clips, but we’ve chosen not to link them to protect the privacy of those in the footage. Images posted to Twitter have also depicted Dr Disrespect urinating at a urinal, with a camera person standing behind him, and with many other attendees of the show using the urinals next to him.

Not long after, Dr Disrespect’s account vanished from Twitch. It is currently inaccessible.


Micron makes the worlds First 1TB micro SD Card:

Do you need to give your Nintendo Switch a storage boost? Your existing microSD card feeling a little cramped? Then Micron's new world's highest-capacity microSD card is the storage card for you.
The Micron C200 1TB microSDXC UHS-I card is the world's first microSD card on the market that leverages Micron's advanced 96-layer 3D quad-level cell (QLC) NAND technology.
And the C200 has more to offer than just high capacity. The microSD card conforms to A2 App Performance Class, and is capable of leveraging Android Adoptable storage by enabling applications and games installed on the card to load faster.

    Capacities: 128GB to 1TB capacities, capable of storing up to 40 hours of 4K HDR video and thousands of 40MP photos, along with hundreds of mobile apps.
    High speed: Reads up to 100 MB/s, writes up to 95 MB/s, with  write acceleration via Dynamic SLC cache, and intelligent maintenance during idle time for sustained peak performance.
    4K support: Ready for 4K HDR capture/playback with UHS-1 Speed Class 3 and Video Speed Class 30 support.
    Speed: Meets Application Performance Class 2 (A2), enables built-in memory expansion with compatible Android mobile devices.
    Latest tech: Micron 96-layer 3D QLC NAND provides cost-effective storage for consumer electronic devices.
Micron is currently sampling c200 1TB microSD cards, with availability slated for Q2 2019.

'Pokémon Sleep' is a gaming app where you earn rewards for sleeping:

Remember how Pokémon Go encouraged us all to walk more? The latest endeavor from the company behind the popular brand might push players to go to bed early.

The Pokémon Company unveiled several upcoming projects for its Pokémon brand during a press conference Thursday, including a gaming app called Pokémon Sleep.

Although the company didn't detail exactly how the app will work, Pokémon Sleep's gameplay will rely on how much time players spend sleeping and when they wake up.

The app is part of a plan "to turn sleeping into entertainment," said The Pokémon Company in a statement.

The game includes a device, Pokémon GO Plus +, that uses an accelerometer to track the player's sleep, sending the data to their smartphones using a Bluetooth connection. The device will also work with the hit mobile game Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Sleep is expected to launch in 2020.

The app is among several Pokémon experiences arriving as early as this summer. A new mobile game called Pokémon Masters is slated to release in June, while a cloud-based app called Pokémon Home, which will let players manage their Pokémon characters collected across multiple games, will make its debut next year.  


Nintendo's Game Boy turns 30:

Nintendo's Game Boy came out 30 years ago. It marked a beginning and an end. The end of me as a productive child, teenager and adult — let's face it. The device was janky by today's standards, but it was revolutionary in 1989. It was also affordable enough that a kid could buy one after a single summer of delivering the West Toledo Herald newspaper in his neighborhood. Because my parents would never buy me one.

What the Game Boy began was serious mobile gaming, which is a big part of how we play today. Some project mobile gaming will bring in more than $100 billion in revenue in 2021. Ian Bogost, a game designer and professor of gaming at the Georgia Institute of Technology, says I'm not the only one who spent hours staring at that little screen. Full story HERE.


Movie Theaters Find New Life as E-Sports Arenas:

A 'League of Legends' Super League match held at a Cinemark in Dallas.


U.S. Senator Josh Hawley introduces bill to ban loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions :

Junior United States Senator (R-MO) Josh Hawley has introduced a bill to ban loot boxes and other pay-to-win practices in games. The "Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act" would ban pay-to-win initiatives in 'games played by minors'. The aforementioned label, Hawley states, includes games designed for children, but also games Hawley says, 'whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions.'

The Federal Trade Commission began investigating lootboxes and other microtransactions last fall following outcry over increasingly frequent utilization of pay-to-win practices. While some games have pulled back on their pay-to-win initiatives, popular games such as Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive continue to utilize lootboxes. The two aforementioned games, while not exclusively for children, are popular with both adults and minors alike.

Hawley, who has been critical of tech giants like Facebook and Google, seems to have had enough. 
"Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits," Hawley explained. "No matter this business model’s advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices."

The Entertainment Software Association responded in a statement after the introduction of Hawley's bill:

The Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry lobbyist group, sent over a statement shortly after this bill was introduced: “Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling. We look forward to sharing with the senator the tools and information the industry already provides that keeps the control of in-game spending in parents’ hands. Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls. 


Riot Games Employees Walkout Amidst Controversy at ‘League of Legends’ Developer:

After several difficult and controversial months at Riot Games, employees banded togetherMonday morning and walked out in protest. More than 100 current employees of the studio behind League of Legends are expected to walk away from their desks to make their voices heard, according to an organizer who spoke to Kotaku. Riot has said that it will not fire employees who take part in the walkout, according to the same Kotaku story.

After an August 2018 report from Kotaku exposed a culture of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, many current and former Riot employees started to speak up. Five former and current employees filed lawsuits against the company. Two were blocked with a motion from Riot Games, who claimed that these employees had forced arbitration clauses in their contract. These parts of the signed agreement meant that they could not put their case in front of a jury at a trial.

Some at Riot Games objected to move and planned a walkout. In response, a blog was posted on the Riot website which spoke about the “ongoing public conversations around Riot’s arbitration agreements.” Riot will soon give all new employees a chance to “opt-out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims,” the post said. Current employees at the company will still have a clause in their contract, but Riot will look to extending that to current employees.

Current employees at the company went to Twitter to share that they will be taking part in the walkout using #riotwalkout. Developers from other companies, gamers and those opposing Riot’s treatment of their employees have been cheering them on from the Twitter sidelines.

(Update: 5/6 3:20 p.m. EST.) Here is Riot's statement about the walkout to Newsweek.

"We support Rioters making their voices heard today. We have asked all managers to make every accommodation to allow Rioters to participate during the 2-4pm window, including freeing up meeting times. We respect Rioters who choose to walkout today and will not tolerate retaliation of any kind as a result of participating (or not).

While we will not make a change to our policies while in active litigation, last Thursday we announced that we’ve made the call to pivot our approach. As soon as active litigation is resolved, we will give all new Rioters the choice to opt-out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. At that time, we will also commit to have a firm answer on potentially expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters. We are working diligently to resolve all active litigation so that we can quickly take steps toward a solution."


First PlayStation 5 Details: PS4 Backwards Compatible, PSVR For PS5, SSDs, And More

Sony has revealed the first tidbits of information for its next-generation console--most likely named PlayStation 5, but that hasn't been confirmed. In an interview with Wired, Mark Cerny, lead system architect for PlayStation 4, talked about his work on the PS4's successor.

In the interview, Cerny confirmed the next-gen PlayStation is partially based on PS4 architecture, which means that it is backwards compatible. Cerny also revealed that it is not an all-digital device, and will accept physical discs. Wired's article describes the transition from PS4 to PS5, as indicated by Cerny, as a "gentle one," adding that numerous games will be released for both PS4 and the next-gen console. The description of a gentle transition indicates that the PS5 will be an iteration on the PS4, instead of being drastically different the way the PS3 was from its predecessor.

Housed in the console will be an AMD chip that has a CPU based on the third-generation Ryzen. It'll have eight cores of the seven-nanometer Zen 2 microchip. Although the console will support 8K, displaying at this resolution will be dependant on TVs catching up.

The graphics, meanwhile, will be driven by a custom version of Radeon's Navi line. This graphics chip will support ray tracing, something which is starting to become popular in movies and video games. Although it is traditionally thought of as a lighting technique, Cerny says that there are implications beyond creating realistic environments.

"If you wanted to run tests to see if the player can hear certain audio sources or if the enemies can hear the players' footsteps, ray tracing is useful for that," he explained. "It's all the same thing as taking a ray through the environment."

In fact, audio is one the main improvements Cerny is keen to talk about. The AMD chip will enable 3D audio, and this, according to Cerny, is key to immersing players deeper. This naturally led to discussions of PlayStation VR, and while Cerny didn't confirm whether a new version of Sony's headset will be released, the existing one will be supported.

"I won't go into the details of our VR strategy ... beyond saying that VR is very important to us and that the current PSVR headset is compatible with the new console," he confirmed.

Another key leap the next PlayStation will make comes through its hard drive. According to Cerny, developers let Sony know that what they want solid-state drives in the new hardware, as opposed to the slower equivalents used in current consoles. These SSDs are relatively prevalent now in laptops, and what Sony is bringing to the next PlayStation is described as being specialized for the hardware.

Cerny demonstrated the change an SSD introduces to gaming by comparing a load sequence from Insomniac's Spider-Man on a standard PS4 Pro and a dev kit of the next-gen PlayStation. On the former, it was around 15 seconds, while on the latter it was 0.8 seconds. This, Cerny added, has implications on how the world can be rendered too, which in turn impacts how quickly Spidey can move through the world. On the new hardware, the camera moves through the city much quicker, as the hardware is capable of keeping up with rendering requirements.

Discussing the SSD, Cerny said "the raw read speed is important, but so are the details of the I/O [input-output] mechanisms and the software stack that we put on top of them. I got a PlayStation 4 Pro and then I put in a SSD that cost as much as the PlayStation 4 Pro—it might be one-third faster."

Cerny didn't provide any details on any of the services or a broader overview of PlayStation's vision for the next-generation of gaming, instead focusing on the nitty-gritty of its hardware. It is currently unclear when the console will be fully unveiled. Traditionally, Sony would has debuted its new PlayStations at E3, but the company will not have its usual press conference this year. This leaves PlayStation Experience, one of its new Nintendo Direct-like State of Play streams, or a standalone PS5 announcement event as possibilities--that is assuming it plans to reveal the PlayStation 5 this year.

It is also unclear when Sony plans to launch the PS5. In May 2018, Sony's head of PlayStation, John Kodera, said the new PlayStation was three years off. "We will use the next three years to prepare the next step," he said, "to crouch down so that we can jump higher in the future."

While Sony's plans are still largely unclear, Microsoft's are starting to come into focus. The company is set to have an E3 press conference this year, and head of Xbox Phil Spencer said it is going to go "as big at E3 as we've ever been." In 2018, Microsoft confirmed that a new Xbox was in development, and it is expected that we'll see this next-generation console at E3 2019. More immediately, it has been suggested that an all-digital Xbox One S will be announced soon. As the name indicates, this new console would not accept physical discs and designed around downloading and streaming.


Activision-Blizzard, the major video game company behind 'Call of Duty' and 'Overwatch,' is laying off about 800 employees:

Blizzard President J Allen Brack. Blizzard Entertainment.

Blizzard Entertainment, one of the biggest names in the video game business, has begun a significant round of layoffs. The move confirms earlier reports from Bloomberg.

On its quarterly earnings call on Tuesday afternoon, parent company Activision-Blizzard announced that it would lay off 8% of of its workforce, representing some 800 out of about 9,600 total jobs. The layoffs were first reported by Kotaku, and appear to primarily affect Blizzard itself.

The layoffs will ultimately affect every part of Activision-Blizzard, including "Call of Duty" publisher Activision, "Candy Crush Saga" maker King, and Blizzard itself, which is responsible for flagship gaming franchises including "World of Warcraft," "Overwatch," "Hearthstone," and "Diablo."

The news comes after Activision-Blizzard reported mixed results for its holiday quarter, and gave guidance that fell short of Wall Street expectations. While earnings were ahead of expectations, revenue fell short. Shares of Activision-Blizzard have just about halved since October 2018.

"In-game execution was inadequate in some of our franchises, and we saw weaker-than-anticipated retail demand," Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick told investors on the earnings call, according to CNBC.

Despite owning a catalog of fan-favorite titles including "World of Warcraft," "Diablo 3," and "Destiny 2," Blizzard has seen some of its thunder stolen by free-to-play newcomers like "Fortnite" and "Apex Legends." Meanwhile, "Overwatch," Blizzard's newest franchise, was a smash hit when it landed in 2016, but has slowly lost ground to rival titles with more frequent updates, including "Call of Duty" and "Rainbow Six: Siege."

A memo to employees

In a memo to staff obtained by Business Insider sent before the earnings call, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack promised an "comprehensive severance package" to affected employees. The memo says that managers have begun notifying affected employees if they're affected by the layoffs.

In a separate blog post released to the public, J. Allen Brack reassured fans that Blizzard isn't slowing down on game development.

"With that in mind, we have plans to add to game development," he wrote. "We are dedicated to bringing you more content across existing game franchises and bringing our unannounced projects to life.

A person close to the company previously told Kotaku's Jason Schrier that the layoffs are expected to hit Blizzard's esports and publishing divisions especially hard. Blizzard has spent the last several years supporting professional competition for its most popular games, including "Overwatch," "Hearthstone," and "Starcraft."

Notably, it seems that Blizzard esports head Amy Morhaime left the company in December, according to her LinkedIn. That came just months after Blizzard cofounder Mike Morhaime, her husband, announced that he would step down as president of the company. Morhaime is staying on as a strategic advisor to Blizzard through April.

Beyond Amy Morhaime and Mike Morhaime, Activision Blizzard has lost other key executives, including CFO Spencer Neumann. More recently, Activision Blizzard sold the commercial rights to flagship online shooter "Destiny 2," in a mutual agreement after the game's developer, Bungie, opted to split from the company.

Activision Blizzard cited underwhelming sales for the "Destiny 2: Forsaken" expansion as one of the reasons the company underperformed during the third quarter of 2018. In that quarter, the video game publisher reported a 5% decline in earnings over the same period of 2017, and revenue over the same quarter declined by 6.6% to $1.151 billion.

Blizzard has reportedly been working to cut costs since early last year. Employees at Blizzard told Kotaku that they were repeatedly told to reduce spending by former CFO Amrita Ahuja, who left in January 2019. In December, Eurogamer reported that Blizzard negotiated buyouts for more than 100 customer service employees based in Ireland.

Read the full memo from Blizzard president J. Allen Brack to employees:

Hello Blizzard....

Today is a difficult day, and I have some hard decisions to communicate.

The Blizzard leadership team and I have been talking a lot about how we want to build on Blizzard's legacy and what the priorities are for the company going forward. Our top priority is to continue making great games, and entertainment experiences. It's critical that we prioritize product development and grow the capacity of the teams doing this work to best serve our player community. We also need to evolve operationally to provide the best support for new and existing products. As a result, we've made the decision to change parts of the organization, which I'll share more about in a separate email later today.

Unfortunately, these changes come with a harder reality. Over the last few years, many of our non-development teams expanded to support various needs. Currently, staffing levels on some teams are out of proportion with our current release slate. This means we need to scale down some areas of our organization. I'm sorry to share that we will be parting ways with some of our colleagues in the U.S. today. In our regional offices, we anticipate similar evaluations, subject to local requirements.

There's no way to make this transition easy for impacted employees, but we are doing what we can to support our colleagues. In the U.S. we are offering a comprehensive severance package, extended health and benefits continuation, profit sharing for 2018, career coaching, and job search/placement assistance. These people are members of the Blizzard Family—they care deeply and contributed greatly to the work we are all committed to. We are extremely grateful for their contributions here at Blizzard.

Managers in the U.S. will meet with impacted employees this afternoon, and we will be following up with team meetings later today and tomorrow. The managing director in each regional office will provide an update to explain in detail what this means for employees in their respective locations.

I will also post a message to the community about the changes this afternoon, so our players understand that these measures do not affect our game development efforts, and are not related to any individual franchise. If anyone from the press or a fansite contacts you, please refer them to Rob Hilburger on the communications team.

This is a lot to take in, and it is not going to be easy. Let's do our best to support each other through this process. I know many of you will have questions. In addition to my follow-up note later today, I'll be hosting a fireside chat this Thursday to provide more details about the organizational changes. As always, in the meantime, reach out to me or any member of the exec team if you have questions.


Official comment from Activision-Blizzard:

Activision Blizzard achieved record GAAP revenue and EPS for both the fourth quarter and the year, and we also achieved record segment financial results across Activision and King in 2018. While we performed well in these areas of our business last year, and continued to make progress in mobile, advertising, and esports, we ultimately did not meet our own, nor our communities', expectations for content delivery and growth.

As a result, we're taking important steps to reinforce our foundation for future growth. We're increasing our investment in game development across our biggest franchises, mobile and geographic expansion, as well as in adjacent opportunities with demonstrated potential, like esports and advertising.

Over the course of 2019, we plan to increase the number of developers working on our key franchises by approximately 20%, ultimately allowing us to put even more content into the hands of existing and new fans around the world.

To fund this investment, we are de-prioritizing initiatives that are not meeting our expectations and reducing certain non-development administrative expenses across the company. We are also bringing together our regional sales, partnerships, and sponsorships capabilities enabling us to better leverage our talent, expertise and scale.

We're confident in our plan and the leadership teams in place who will navigate us through this time of change. These actions will allow us to return to the franchise focus that has fueled our long-term success so that we can bring the most epic entertainment to our players around the world.


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Germany will take Nintendo and its no-cancel eShop pre-order policy to court:

This is the crusade begun in Norway at the beginning of 2018. It was taken to Germany because Nintendo of Europe resides there.

After months of work the VZBV, off the back of the work the Norwegian Consumer Council has done, will go ahead with formal proceedings, according to Norwegian site PressFire. It's all expected to begin in three-to-four weeks, but could take more than a year to reach any kind of verdict.

The outcome, though, could have consequences right across the European Union. Imagine being a part of that, wistful sigh.

The eShop policy in question is Nintendo's refusal to allow cancellations and refunds of eShop games, even pre-ordered way before release. The Norwegian Consumer Council said this breaks European law, but Nintendo said the pre-loading process - whereby the game can be downloaded ahead of release - means it doesn't.

Nintendo cited article 16 of European Consumer Law Directive 2011/83 in defence, which says it doesn't have to allow cancellation if "the performance has begun with the consumer's prior express consent, and with the acknowledgement that he will lose his right of withdrawal once the contract has been fully performed by the trader".

But as the Norwegian Consumer Council originally argued: "The company plainly states that all purchases are final. According to the right of withdrawal laid down in the Consumer Rights Directive, such terms are illegal. Until the game can be downloaded and launched, the seller cannot prohibit the consumer from cancelling their pre-order."

Whether Nintendo's interpretation will withstand scrutiny in court we'll have to wait and see.


Nintendo Sues Over Sales Of Pirated NES Classic Editions:

Alongside ZeniMax, Nintendo is probably the next biggest litigious gaming company within the industry. The company is known for getting serious when it comes to protecting its brands and ensuring that copyright infringers are punished to the fullest extent of the law. As you can imagine, those selling NES Classic Editions with pirated software were basically trapped in a proverbial alley like a mugger facing off against Batman.

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Nintendo has sued a man named Mikel Euskaldunak in Orange County, California. Nintendo claims that he was taking Nintendo Switch consoles and modifying them using the hacking tools that were released at the start of the year. Not only was he modifying the Switch to run homebrew software, he was also filling them up with games and selling them, which his a huge no-no in the realm of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

But his troubles didn't end there. Euskaldunak was also swept under the legal hammer of Nintendo for modifying the NES Classic Editions and selling them. It wasn't just that Euskaldunak was reselling the NES Classic Editions -- plenty of scalpers have been reselling NES Classic Editions all over eBay, and Nintendo wouldn't have a leg to stand on while challenging the First Sale Doctrine. However, Euskaldunak allegedly filled up the NES Classic Editions with more than 800 NES ROMs.

Now modifying and selling the console is one thing, but selling them with ROMS packed on them that were not part of the original package is what Nintendo has a problem with. According to the article, the systems were sold with 800 pirated games.

This is interesting because rapper Soulja Boy recently released the SouljaGame Handheld and SouljaGame Console. Both come with hundreds of games from a variety of game consoles, mostly retro systems from the 16-bit era, including the Neo Geo, the Sega Genesis, and the SNES. Both systems sell for over $100, and one must wonder if Nintendo has caught wind of this operation yet?

For now, the company seems to be focused on Euskaldunak and a few other unnamed defendants who have been gathering, modifying, and selling the Nintendo Switch and NES Classic Editions for some extra cash.

Nintendo is also arguing that the operation dilutes its trademarks and wants to have the court bar Euskaldunak from making or distributing modified systems.

It's an interesting case because one has to wonder -- if Euskaldunak sold the systems without any games on them, would Nintendo have still come after him? Also, was it the mixture of selling hacked Switch hardware and the NES ROMs that brought the hammer down? What if it were a modified Switch and a modified NES Classic Edition but no ROMS? Or if it were just a standard Switch and a modified NES Classic Edition?

Either way, this kind of lawsuit is unsurprising given that Nintendo also put some legal muscle on a go-kart company for mimicking Mario Kart, and the company also recently had a pair of emulation sites shut down as well with a $12 million settlement. Given Nintendo's track record for lawsuits, it's unlikely that Mikel Euskaldunak will walk away unscathed.


Federal Trade Commission Chairman Pledges to Investigate Video Game Loot Boxes:

Federal Trade Commission chairman Joseph Simons on Tuesday said he would investigate video game loot boxes to ensure that children are being protected and parents are educated on the matter.

Simons testified Tuesday before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security about the commission’s work. Following his testimony, a number of senators asked Simons questions on an array of topics.

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), who brought up the issue of loot boxes in video games earlier this year, asked the FTC to launch the investigation and Simons confirmed he would.

The request comes about nine months after Hassan sent a letter to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board asking for the group to review the ratings process as it relates to loot boxes, examine the marketing of loot boxes to children, and put together best practices for developers around the toxic form of microtransactions. The senator also asked the board to conduct a study that further delves into the reach and impact of loot boxes in games. At the time, she said if they didn’t take sufficient action she would ask the FTC to get involved.

During Tuesday’s exchange, Hassan noted that she believes the problem of loot boxes, which are sold for real cash in some games and packed with in-game mystery items, continues to grow.

“Earlier this year, the confirmation hearing for most of you, I discussed the possibility of the FTC examining the issue of children in the video game space,” she said. “Specifically we discussed loot boxes, which allow end-game purchases with real currency for surprise winnings, and most of you agreed this is an area that could use additional oversight by the FTC.

“Loot boxes are now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smartphone games to the newest, high-budget video game releases. Loot boxes will represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022, according to the latest research estimates. Children may be particularly susceptible to engaging with these in-game purchases, which are often considered integral components of video games. Just this month Great Britain’s gambling commission released a report finding that 30% of children have used loot boxes in video games. The report further found that this exposure may correlate with a rise of young problem gamblers in the United Kingdom. Belgium, Netherlands, and Japan have moved to regulate the use of loot boxes in video games given this close link to gambling.

“Given the seriousness of this issue, I think it is in fact time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected and to educate parents about potential addiction or other negative impacts of these games. Would you commit to undertaking this project and keeping this committee informed about it?”

Simons replied with a simple, “Yes.”

Earlier this year, the ESRB said it would continue to make enhancements to ensure parents continue to be well-informed as the industry evolves. The group did not directly address what it might do in terms of loot boxes, microtransactions, and ratings.

Despite news of the investigation, the Entertainment Software Association continued to defend the use of loot boxes.

“Loot boxes are one way that players can enhance the experience that video games offer,” the association said to Variety. “Contrary to assertions, loot boxes are not gambling. They have no real-world value, players always receive something that enhances their experience, and they are entirely optional to purchase. They can enhance the experience for those who choose to use them, but have no impact on those who do not.”

Reached for comment Tuesday evening, Hassan told Variety that the issue requires FTC intervention.

“While I have appreciated working with the ESRB on this issue, I have also said that the Federal Trade Commission has a responsibility to look at this issue,” she said. “The need for FTC action becomes more apparent given the recent report from the Gambling Commission of Great Britain and the steps other countries have taken to regulate loot boxes. I hope the FTC will move quickly to begin their investigation and look forward to working with all parties on this issue.”


Soulja Boy Is Selling Some Kind of Game Consoles, But People Are Suspicious:

8-year-old rapper DeAndre Cortez Way, aka Soulja Boy, has begun selling SouljaGame branded consoles and handhelds, though it turns out, they’re really just off-brand emulators that can be found elsewhere.

Soulja Boy, best known for his 2007 #1 hit Crank That (Soulja Boy), tweeted about the console and handheld early this morning, bringing followers to his personal storefront, SouljaWatch, which also sells bluetooth headphones, smartwatches and more. However, fans immediately noted that these are not original systems, and can be found elsewhere for much cheaper than what Soulja Boy is offering.

The SouljaGame Console allegedly includes over 800 preinstalled games (though no concrete list is given), AV and HDMI outports, two DualShock-esque controllers, is visually similar to an Xbox One S, and runs on Linux 3.0 OS. It also claims to output at a 4K resolution, though the included games come from the PlayStation 1, Arcade, Nintendo Entertainment System, GameBoy Advance and more.

Tekken and Tomb Raider key art is used in the site’s promotional materials, though it’s unlikely permission was given to use these IP - IGN has reached out to Bandai Namco and Square Enix for comment.

The SouljaGame Handheld allegedly has over 3,000 pre-installed games with the ability to download more and sports a 3-inch screen. Unlike the SouljaGame Console, the website claims the device can run Switch, 3DS, Vita titles and more, though games in the key art mostly appear to be GameBoy Advance titles, and there’s no claim on the image that any of those devices are supported.

However, these exact same emulated devices can be found on manufacturer ANBERNIC’s preferred online storefront, both for much less than what SouljaBoy is offering. They are both listed at a base price of $200 on SouljaWatch (though are currently discounted) while on ANBERNIC’s website the base price for the handheld is $73 and the console is running for $106. They can both be found on Amazon for cheaper prices as well.

Soulja Boy has publicly been a fan of video games for quite some time. He’s also been a bit of an entrepreneur, announcing a web-based animated series after the release of his second album, and has continued making music since.


‘Wreck It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet’ Tops Thanksgiving Box Office,

Disney’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet” dominated the Thanksgiving box office, generating a massive $84.6 million at 4,017 locations over the five-day holiday period and $56 million for the weekend.

Propelled by solid word of mouth, the Disney animated sequel now ranks as the second-best Thanksgiving debut ever, behind another Disney title, “Frozen,” which earned $93.6 million during its first five days. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” carries a hefty $175 million production budget, so it will need to keep up momentum worldwide to turn a profit. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” sees John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman reprise their roles from “Wreck It Ralph” as the video game villain and his best friend navigate the internet. The original film picked up $49 million over its first three days of release.

“Whenever we look at sequels, they have to be additive,” Cathleen Taff, Disney’s president of global distribution, said of “Ralph Breaks the Internet’s” impressive opening. “The filmmakers built this world out with such attention to detail that people were ready to come back and enjoy these characters. We’re really excited about the momentum as we head into the holidays.”

“Ralph” wasn’t the only sequel to thrive this weekend. MGM and New Line’s “Creed II” was a knockout as the boxing drama earned $55 million from 3,350 venues over the five days and $34 million for the weekend. That marks the best debut for a live-action film during the holiday frame. Those numbers also top the start of “Creed,” which launched with $29 million over the three-day frame. “Creed II”.


Nintendo Wins Lawsuit Against The Owners Of LoveROMS And LoveRetro:

A few months back, Nintendo was hellbent on stopping just about anyone who hosted a website that allowed users to download pirated ROMs of their games. Before you knew it, DMCA’s were sent out and multiple ROM sharing websites disappeared overnight. However, for two of the larger sites, LoveROMS and LoveRetro, Nintendo ended up filing a lawsuit against them. Both of which were run by Jacob Mathias and his wife. Both sites are believed to be operated by Jacob Mathias and his Arizona company Mathias Designs LLC. They offer access to a wide variety of ROMs, including many Nintendo games According to the lawsuit, both sites were notorious online hubs, and they weren’t looking to preserve gaming. Since the suit was filed, both sites have been taken offline.  Attempting to go to either of the domains will now show an apology.

Read more at The Outerhaven: Nintendo Wins Lawsuit Against The Owners Of LoveROMS And LoveRetro.

Today we found out, thanks to TorrentFreak,  that Nintendo ended up winning that lawsuit, with the defendants agreeing to a $12.23 million dollar judgment in favor of Nintendo. In addition, they will have to turn over all ROMs they have that infringe on Nintendo’s properties, as well as their domain names. Though, I’m sure that due to some behind the scenes negotiating, that original judgment will be reduced. Needless to say, that this sets a precedence when it comes to ROM sharing. In a nutshell, don’t mess with Nintendo or they will essentially sue you out of existence. So here we are again, questioning the legitimacy of ROMs as a whole. Sure, it’s understood that as long as you own a copy of a game, you are legally allowed to make a backup of it. Of course, that also means that backup shouldn’t be distributed to the entire internet. However, even with that practice being legal, there are companies, such as Nintendo, that regardless if you own the game or not say it’s totally illegal. Fair use laws or not. By now you’d think there would be a clearcut answer regarding ROMs. But there isn’t. On one hand, you could argue that as long as I own the original game, I can download a ROM and use it as I wish. Sure, that makes sense and you cite reasoning for downloading to not being able to do it on your own. However, that download has to come from someone else, who may or may not own that game. Which could also be argued that since that can’t be proven, you’re now downloading an illegal copy. 

‘Detective Pikachu’ First Trailer: Ryan Reynolds Is Now the Voice of the World’s Most Beloved Pokémon:

Ryan Reynolds is taking a break from the mega-successful “Deadpool” movies to bring the hugely popular “Pokémon” franchise to big screen for the first time in the live-action format. The actor is the voice of Pikachu in the upcoming “Detective Pikachu,” and Warner Bros. has debuted the first footage from the film via a ridiculously cute official trailer.

“Detective Pikachu” stars “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” star Justice Smith as 21-year-old Tim Goodman, the son of a missing detective. Tim discovers he can communicate with Pikachu, and the two team up to investigate the mystery of Tim’s father’s disappearance.

Read More:Jake Gyllenhaal Pens an Emotional Tribute to Ryan Reynolds: ‘He’s a Gentleman in an Era of Foppish Putzes’

Per the official synopsis, “Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City—a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world—they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.”

While Pikachu is front and center, the trailer below confirms other famous Pokémon like Mr. Mime, Charmander, Bulbasaur, Jigglypuff, and Psyduck will be making appearances in the movie. “Detective Pikachu” is directed by Rob Letterman, best known for helming “Goosebumps” and the animated film “Monsters vs. Aliens.” The supporting cast includes Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Suki Waterhouse, and Chris Geere.

Warner Bros. will open “Detective Pikachu” in theaters nationwide May 10, 2019.


Can Video Games Train Sailors?
America’s Navy Aims to Find OutNavy researchers are developing a game that will improve their Sailors’ cognitive and motor skills. (Sponsored by America's Navy)

Blasting virtual zombies, aliens and gangsters, while cathartic, might not seem intellectually stimulating, but studies cited by the National Academy of Sciences and other peer organizations show the time you spend vaporizing said creatures actually sharpens a range of cognitive skills—including better multitasking, increased attention span, faster reaction time and greater visual acuity.

One unanswered question, however, is what specific components of first-person shooters and other action video games like Call of Duty, Halo, or Grand Theft Auto contribute to this cognitive improvement.

America’s Navy is keenly interested in determining the answer to that question. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has thrown its support behind the work of Dr. Shawn Green, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who is partnering with a video game developer to build a customized game that incorporates design elements used widely throughout the industry.

The goal: Isolate and identify those elements most conducive to human learning.

This knowledge will enable the Navy to better leverage the emerging technology for job training—specifically jobs that require substantial practice time on computer simulators and virtual reality displays. These jobs include Sonar Technicians (hunting for enemy submarines), Operations Specialists (tracking ships and planes on radar), Naval Aviators, and surgeons—all of whom are critically needed by the fleet.

"We know people will spend hours playing a video game," said Dr. Ray Perez, a program manager in ONR's Warfighter Performance Department. "Is there a way to use some of those entertainment elements to design training that will keep Navy warfighters engaged, help them learn faster, and perform their jobs better? What is the secret sauce?"

To identify those ingredients, Green and his laboratory team worked with a game developer to create a first-person shooter fantasy product called “Elemental,” which can be played on a laptop or desktop computer. More Harry Potter than Halo, players of this game launch magical spells at otherworldly creatures rather than bullets or lasers. It was intentionally kept non-violent because designers may produce a kids' version in the future.

Green and his team stuffed “Elemental” with gameplay features thought to boost human learning and cognition: changing background colors, rapidly appearing and disappearing objects, missions of varying complexity and intensity, and enemy characters that attack at unpredictable speeds.

Green completed work on the game last year and is now concluding experiments with student volunteers, who get their brains scanned before and after gaming sessions. Green checks the scans for changes in regions of the brain associated with vision, attention, perception, and motor skills—and what effects these could have on learning and cognition.

When the experiments are finished, Green will finalize a new, more refined version of the game for America’s Navy to help future Sailors become expert Navy warfighters.



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