#218: Get the papers

Some stuff that isn't Activision! And, obviously, some Activision.

#218: Get the papers

Good day to you, Hit Points crew! Today we’re continuing our ‘summer hours’ experiment, forsaking yet another 800 words of blether about Activision for a meaty round-up of the week’s events. (Last week’s was a bit leggy, I think; we’ll try and keep this one a little tighter.) If you find yourself pining for the traditional Hit Points experience, you’ll have to join us on the other, better-smelling side of the subscription wall. You can do so for the modest sum of £4 a month — which now, thanks to a long-overdue Substack platform update, will be automatically converted to your local currency. About bloody time, quite frankly. Onwards!


  • Yes, yes, more Activision nonsense. I’ll try to rattle through it. Overnight the FTC has elected to drop its administrative challenge to the deal, which it had intended to kick off in August. It follows a formal request from Microsoft and Activision for the case to be dropped, and a letter to FTC chairperson Lina Khan, signed by 22 Republican members of Congress, urging her “to drop this matter and refocus the FTC’s resources on work that supports the interests of American consumers.” Just the CMA to go, then, and this will all be over — but don’t hold your breath. Microsoft and Activision have extended the deal’s closure deadline, which was originally set to expire earlier this week, by three months. Gah.
  • Meanwhile, Sony has signed a ten-year deal to keep Call Of Duty (but no other Activision titles) on PlayStation. A shame, that — as Hit Points observed in last week’s subscriber edition, it would have been properly spicy if Sony had refused to sign it.
  • Xbox Live Gold is being retired, and replaced with a new tier of Game Pass, named Core, that replaces the dour Games With Gold freebies with a largely uninspiring selection of 25-ish games. Despite bearing the Game Pass name, it does not grant access to the full catalogue, which rather stuffs up the branding; Hit Points wrote slightly too much about all this for paid subs the other day. In a sort-of-related development, Xbox Live-era mouthpiece Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb is leaving Microsoft’s employ after 22 years. “As I take a moment and think about all we have done together,” he blubbed, “I want to thank the millions of gamers around the world who have included me as part of their lives.” Strange choice of words, that, but never mind.
  • Some of Blizzard’s games are headed to Steam, beginning with Overwatch 2 on August 10. This feels very much like Blizzard is rolling the wicket for its new life under Microsoft. Gotta help the new overlords claw back that $70bn somehow, eh.
  • Not heading to Steam, however, is the popular GameCube and Wii emulator Dolphin. A planned launch has been abandoned after Nintendo asked Valve to block the release, and the Steam owner told the emulator’s developers they would have to come to an agreement with Nintendo which, obviously, was never going to happen. There’s a good explainer of what all this means on the Dolphin website.


  • Bungie co-founder Alex Seropian, whose studio Industrial Toys was shut down by EA after the cancellation of Battlefield Mobile back in January, has got straight back on the horse. North World, which Seropian has co-founded with other veterans of EA and Kongregate, has already announced its first game: a wild west shooter called Outlaw Corral that’s being built for Fortnite using the recently launched Unreal Editor. “Developing in UEFN opens a whole new world of opportunities, and we are in uncharted territory,” Seropian parped. “Through experimentation, we will see what the players like and involve them in decisions.” This is super interesting, I think. I will admit that when Epic unveiled UEFN I assumed it was aimed at hobbyists, but in hindsight its appeal to professional teams is understandable. Familiar development tools, easy distribution, a massive oven-ready audience, a slice of Fortnite’s enormous revenue… yeah, makes a lot of sense.


  • UK trade body UKIE has published a set of guidelines for the use of lootboxes in games. This is very much a case of history repeating: way back in 2012, Japan’s social-game companies made a similar self-regulatory move in the (successful) hope of staving off the threat of much harsher government legislation around gacha mechanics. Clearly this is the UK’s attempt to do the same. The full list is available on UKIE’s website although, at the time of writing, it appears to have fallen over. GI.biz has a write-up.
  • Oh bottoms, it’s results season. Ubisoft saw net sales dip 9% year on year, though CEO Yves Guillemot frames that as “better-than-expected performance”. Mmm. “We continued to progress on our two-pillar strategy of reaching a significantly larger audience and growing our recurring revenues." Righto.
  • Activision Blizzard, meanwhile, reported a 34% jump in revenue thanks to a big Diablo IV-shaped bounce, which gave Blizzard its first ever billion-dollar quarter. Things are less rosy in the publisher’s esports division: some 50 employees lost their jobs this week amid an uncertain future for the Overwatch League, which Activision says accounts for less than 1% of the company’s revenue at the moment.
  • In a remarkable turn of events — one so remarkable it deserves bold type — Square Enix says a new release has actually met its expectations. Fuck about. The publisher has moved to counter the perception that Final Fantasy XVI’s launch sales — 3m units in week one, compared to 3.5m for FFVII Remake — have not been good enough. Remake was, of course, a PS4 game, and launched to a far larger addressable market than was available to the PS5-exclusive FFXVI. “The attach rate of Final Fantasy XVI is considerably high,” the firm said. “Square Enix considers the initial sales results of Final Fantasy XVI to be extremely strong.” The take of the day comes from heaterhands in the HP Discord: “What's this? Square Enix... evolved?! Square Enix learned the skill of Realistic Expectations!” Lovely stuff.
  • Tinybuild CEO Alex Nichiporchik insists his company does not use AI to spy on its employees, after the internet got into a modest lather at his implication — or rather, a website’s inference — that his company does, in fact, use AI to spy on its employees during a talk at Develop: Brighton last week. “The HR part of my presentation was a hypothetical,” he said, presumably while shutting the door of an empty stable. “We do not monitor employees or use AI to identify problematic ones. The presentation explored how AI tools can be used, and some get into creepy territory. I wanted to explore how they can be used for good.” Poor sod. Must have had a miserable week.


  • Hats off to the World Of Warcraft subreddit, whose members noticed that some no-mark SEO-scumming website was scraping their posts and parping out terrible AI-generated articles about them. Members began excitedly posting about ‘Glorbo’, an entirely fictional new feature heading to the game, and the robots fell for it hook, line and sinker. You love to see it, albeit with a creeping sense of dread about the imminent destruction of the internet.
  • This isn’t about videogames, but it’s far and away the best thing I’ve read recently, and look, the title of this section permits me the odd flight of fancy. Defector co-founder Giri Nathan’s writeup of his trip to Wimbledon is an absolute delight, equal parts sports report, travelogue, food diary and cultural comment piece. “I glommed onto a friend’s reservation at the city’s top Indian restaurant, where we dip naan into saag that had the hue not of a swamp but of grass. What a boon these subcontinental foodways are to this undersalted island.” Magic. (If the ungaminess of this offends you, Giri also wrote this exquisite lockdown-era paean to Slay The Spire.)

There we go! Free pals, I’ll see you again next Friday for more of the same. If you’d like to join the rest of us for an extra midweek post, here’s that subscribe button again. Have a lovely weekend!