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Activision Blizzard Workers Walked Out. Did the Company Hear Them?

This week: a game about a defense attorney in Victorian England, a new Final Fantasy release and a preview of next week’s game industry earnings. But first: an update on the ongoing crisis at Activision Blizzard.

Employees walk out

The video game industry is still reeling from California’s explosive lawsuit against activision Blizzard Inc., which accused the publisher of allowing sexual discrimination and harassment. In the days that followed, current and former employees, mostly at subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment, shared on social media their own harrowing stories.

This week, workers took action. On Wednesday, Activision Blizzard employees held a workout, taking the day off to protest the company’s defensive response and to call for more equitable treatment. The list of demands included an end to forced arbitration and the installment of a diversity task force. Hundreds of people turned up to show their support at Blizzard’s campus in Irvine, California.

But will the company listen? Blizzard said it would give participating employees paid time off, which raised some eyebrows — after all, is it really a walkout if it’s endorsed by the company? When asked if Activision Blizzard would heed worker’s demands, a spokesman sent over a generic response. (“We know there are a variety of topics that need to be considered…”)

A spokesman for the employee group that organized the walkout says the company has been holding sessions to make people “feel heard” but that management hasn’t acknowledged their demands.

Collective labor action remains rare in the North American gaming industry because there are no unions. If Activision won’t come to the table, Blizzard workers may need to take more drastic moves. Could we finally begin to see video game labor making traction on organizing?

Final Fantasy flails

Final Fantasy is the crown jewel of Square Enix Holdings Co.’s empire, with more than 161 million total sales across the series. Many of the classic games were released on old platforms like the Super Nintendo that are hard to access now. So it’s no surprise to see the publisher rereleasing those titles on modern platforms such as iOS and Steam.

But for some reason, Square Enix just can’t seem to do that without including glitches and graphical problems. Reporter Alex Donaldson wrote two years ago for the website VG247: “As Final Fantasy 9 releases on Switch and Xbox with three year old bugs, what will it take for Square to stop releasing bad HD do-overs?” New versions of the beloved games Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI were also slammed for their ugly art direction.

This week, Square released yet another new set of re-releases called Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster. (The first three games in the series came out this week; the next three will follow later.) It may not come as a surprise that these versions also have a major problem: their fonts, which are tiny and unpleasant to look at. They’re so bad that gaming sites are posting guides to fixing them. Not great!

My favorite game of the year so far is Capcom Co.’s The Great Ace Attorney Chronicle, which came out this week. It’s a story-focused game about a Japanese lawyer in 19th century Britain who must defend a series of people wrongfully accused of murder by collecting evidence and poking holes in witness testimonies. There’s no fighting or jumping — just reading, debating and solving logic puzzles. The characters are charming, the dialogue is witty, and the plot’s got more twists than a Carvel ice-cream cone. Highly recommended.

On the money by Olga Kharif

Gaming companies will begin reporting their quarterly results next week, starting with Take-Two and Activision Blizzard. Wall Street analysts are going to be looking for clues on how the recent resurgence in COVID-19 cases, coupled with the expected return to school and office, is shaping the companies’ outlook. The easing of Covid-related restrictions earlier this year prompted many publishers to predict a slowing in game sales as people got back out and about. But with infections surging in triple digits in the U.S. and elsewhere, some restrictions may be put in place again, sending gamers back to their screens and providing an additional boost for the companies.

The week in gaming news

Ubisoft employees chimed in to voice their support of Activision Blizzard and criticize the actions taken by their own company in the wake oflas year console, Axios reports. “We have stood by and watched as you fired only the most public offenders,” the letter says.

The PlayStation 5 has sold 10 million units, making it the company fastest selling console ever. The most common response: How did anyone actually buy them, given the massive chip shortage that led to a supply crunch? Of course, the scarcity likely only encouraged more demand for the hot new gaming machine.

Japanese video game music took front and center at the Tokyo Olympics, which featured tracks from games like dragon Quest and Nier.

Netflix is making a live-action Pokémon series, adapting yet another video game franchise as the streaming giant embarks on its own quest to catch them all.

Facebook sees its future in the virtual metaverse. The social media giant wants you to live, work and play inside its digital work.

Source: Bloomberg