Hawaii Plans to Regulate Lootboxes

If there is one good thing to come from Star Wars Battlefront 2, it is that people around the world being more aware of loot boxes. In regards to a past article, EA (Electronic Arts) faces heavy scrutiny from gamers and government officials regarding the loot box system in Star Wars. Buying loot boxes gave unfair advantages to players in competitive multiplayer and were the best option to unlocking all of the content in the game. Hawaii was very critical against EA and video game companies pushing loot boxes in their games as they viewed it as a form of gambling towards children. Now Hawaii lawmakers are trying to push new bills to regulate loot box purchases.

Chris Lee of Oahu

One pair of bills, House Bill 2686 and Senate Bill 3024, would prohibit people under the age of 21 purchasing any games with randomized rewards using real money. House Bill 2727 and Senate Bill 3025, would require video game companies to label games with randomized purchases and the probability of loot box rewards. State Rep. Chris Lee of Oahu, who spearheaded the bills, stated “I’ve watched firsthand the evolution of the industry from one that seeks to create new things to one that’s begun to exploit people, especially children, to maximize profit.”

While games like Overwatch make earning loot boxes plausible and only offer cosmetics, some are providing advantages in game which encourages people to buy in order to win. Lee stated because the games are only rated T, the games promote gambling at a young age on virtual goods. Despite the backlash, Star Wars Battlefront 2 sold well but not as good as EA had hoped. EA was hoping to make more based on micro-transaction but based on the backlash, had to remove them.

Micro-transaction and in-app purchases are common among video games, including games for younger audience such as Minecraft and smart phone games. GDC (Games Developer Conferences) stated that 1/10 upcoming games would have loot boxes in some manner. One anonymous GameStop employee is wary that the law could lower the cost of sales based on the labels.

Image result for loot boxesMicro-transactions are a huge profit for video game companies. Activision Blizzard made over $4 billion on loot boxes alone in 2017. Often, companies use micro-transactions to earn higher profit margins rather than relying on sales alone. Gamers throughout the world have complained about the system and “games as a service” that has become more prevalent. Whether the law passes will force the industry to change a huge part of sales and potentially shake up the practices.

Sources:

Hawaii Tribute

Rolling Stones – GDC

PC Gamer – Blizzard makes $4 billion

More Crash Bandicoot games for 2018 and 2019

2017 saw the return of Crash Bandicoot and it become one of PlayStation‘s best selling games for the year. Crash Bandicoot: The N. Sane Trilogy became “No. 1 top selling remastered collection in PS4 history” and since its release in June, “has continued to remain among the top 10 selling PS4 titles in the US for the year, so far, in units” said Activision. Fans of the franchise proved the demand for Good Crash games exist and Activision is listening.

According to the spring edition of licensing trade publication Licensing Source Book Europe, Activision is to port The N. Sane Trilogy to the Nintendo Switch and Windows PC. GB Eye, a UK licensing company who sells licensed posters, drinkware and other merchandise, stated that Activision plans for a new Crash Bandicoot game for 2019. Whether it will be a new remaster or a new game remains to be determined. Hopefully it is a new entry for the series as the later games for Crash were received poorly than the original trilogy.

A new game shows the power that the audience can have on a game. While remakes or HD ports are becoming more common, they are to gauge customer interest into a new entry in the franchise. Fan petitions are one method of showing interest of a game to video game companies but money speakers louder than words. If you really believe your favorite game should receive a new franchise than it will take a lot more than a thousands of fans. Hopefully the port of The World Ends with You sells well.

Sources:

Licensing Source Book

ResetEra

GB Eye

 

Video Game Voice Actor Strike: What is it?

The 340-day strike for The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has reached an end. A tentative agreement has been made between the voice actors and 11 Video game companies: Activision, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and more. The strike began on October 21st, 2016. SAG-AFTRA was striking for four issues: Transparency on voice acting contracts, prevent stress on extensive vocal sessions, stunt coordinators available for on hand performance capture studios, and bonus pay depending on sales of the game.

  • Not every voice actor knows what game their voices will be in. Often, voice actors are contracted for a specific role, sent to a recording studio, and then given a script. This is more relevant on actors playing small characters or NPC’s.
  • Voice acting sessions can become quite straining on vocal cords depending on the role. Grunts, screams, and battle lines session can become strenuous and taxing. Some actors claimed they were forced to shout for hours which can cause permanent damage to vocal cords.
  • Some voice actors are requesting to perform certain stunts for performance captures in the game. To save money, most companies will not hire professional stunt actors for roles but rather have their on-hand voice actors perform the action.
  • The biggest issues were the request for bonus pay based on video game sales. The original request from SAG-AFTRA was a full day’s pay for each 500,000 units sold. Certain games sell extremely well but voice actors are not compensated for their “efforts in improving sales.”

Not everything was achieved but so far SAG-AFTRA is considering the negotiation to be a big step forward. An alternative form of payment was agreed upon but not based on sales of the game. Voice actors will receive a  bonus of $75 for their first session and end up with a total bonus of $21,000 for 10 sessions. 

“This is an important advance in this critical industry space. We secured a number of gains including for the first time, a secondary payment structure which was one of the members’ key concerns,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “The bonus payments we have now are significantly larger now than what we had 11 months ago. The existence of additional payments beyond your session fee is in the video game world for good, both in our high-budget and independent promulgated agreements” said Keythe Farley, chair of the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee”

Voice actors will also receive more transparency from Video game studios. They will know the project code names, the genre, whether it is a sequel or part of a previous IP or if it is a recurring role. 

“Members are also protected by the disclosure of whether they will be required to use unusual terminology, profanity or racial slurs, whether there will be content of a sexual or violent nature and whether stunts will be required,” said chief contracts officer Roy Rodriguez.

The contract also contains an “employer commitment” regarding issues of long video recording sessions. The agreement isn’t finished. SAG-AFTRA’s national board will review the contract at its next meeting in October.

Arguments against the Strike:

SAG-AFTRA doesn’t represent every video game voice actor. They make up 25% of the industries voice acting talent. 40% of the top-selling games don’t even use SAG-AFTRA voice actors.

Sources:

Eurogamer

Endgadget

Polygon

New Crash Bandicoot Level for Free!

The never been release level from the 1996 Crash Bandicoot, Stormy Ascent has been released. Originally a cut level from the classic game, it was too difficult to be released based on original creator: Taylor Kurosaki. Already a difficult game, the level was “roughly four times longer than any other level in the original game. Getting through it is a feat of both skill and endurance!” said Game Director: Dan Tanguay. It was too hard to release for the original game but if you own Crash Bandicoot N’ Sane Trilogy, you can get it for FREE…for the next 30 days. After that, it’ll be $2.99 in the United States. Announced at San Diego Comic-Con, the level is the hardest and was initially going to be released with the N’Sane Trilogy game but it was not finished on time.

If you wanna see the level in action, you can find the trailer below.

Sources: Playstation Blog

Eurogamer