With the Game Developers Conference set to kick off Monday, there was no shortage of industry news this week as people looked to make a splash so they would be fresh in people's minds at the big show. Companies announced new games, new investments, acquisitions, all manner of news designed to fit into a marketing plan. But not all news is like that. Sometimes stuff just goes sideways, and that's what we're leading with for this week's This Week in the Business.
On Wednesday, word broke that Sony was on the verge of closing an acquisition of Take-Two Interactive that could have given Sony's already enviable first-party lineup a few more franchises to play with, like Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, and NBA 2K. That very quickly turned into a non-story, but not before the shock and alarm of it all had helped drive Take-Two's stock up to a new high for the month.
Among the other unexpected news stories this week were an EA scandal over one of its Game Changer community influencers, Valve cutting ties with the designer of its Artifact card game just a few months after launch, and a city in India banning PUBG Mobile, going so far as to arrest youths caught playing it.
Next week at GDC, Google is expected to unveil a big game streaming initiative of some sort, and I for one could use a couple news cycles dominated by design rather than dismay and/or disaster.
QUOTE | "This is purely unconfirmed market speculation that is making the rounds. I am not the source of this story in any regard." - Wedbush Securities head of technology and media trading Joel Kulina, who technically was the sole source for a MarketWatch report that Take-Two shares were up as a result of rumors that Sony was in advanced discussions to acquire the Grand Theft Auto maker.
QUOTE | "We'll be lucky to end up recouping more than a third of what we put into it." - Limited Run Games' Josh Fairhurst says the company is going to take a bath on the upcoming Wii U physical release of Axiom Verge thanks in large part to former partner BadLand Games taking $78,000 to manufacture the game and never delivering the goods.
QUOTE | "BadLand has literally stolen money from a disabled toddler." - Axiom Verge producer Dan Adelman, saying that BadLand also owes the game's developer Tom Happ money, and flaked on a promise to put money into a healthcare fund for his son, who suffers from a neurological condition called kernicterus. BadLand's CEO later confirmed Adelman's account of the situation.
QUOTE | "The actions taken at the time were clearly not sufficient, and not in line with our values as a company. An appropriate response would have been to immediately dismiss the Sims Game Changer and take additional steps to ensure our community was protected." - The Sims general manager Lyndsay Pearson apologized after it was revealed that one of the EA-approved community influencers for the game had been using his position to sexually harass underage members of the game's community. EA representatives had been informed of the accusations in December, confirmed them with the Game Changer himself, and took no further action on the matter until this week.
STAT | $1 million - The amount Electronic Arts reportedly paid to Tyler "Ninja" Blevins to have the streamer promote Apex Legends when it launched last month.
QUOTE | "We weren't surprised by the layoff considering how rocky the launch was, the team was enthusiastic about the game and were confident that they had a good product but it became clear it wasn't going to be easy to get the game to where we wanted it." - Artifact developer Richard Garfield understands why Valve laid off him and fellow Magic: The Gathering vet Skaff Elias after the trading card game failed to take off upon its late November launch.
QUOTE | "It sucks when you're working at a place and you're contributing so much to its existence but there are a few people at the top who are getting the profits and also making all of the decisions about your benefits, healthcare, your hours." - Bethany Hockenberry explains why she and fellow Night in the Woods developer Scott Benson joined with artist and musician Wren Farren to set up their new studio, The Glory Society, as a worker-owned co-op.
QUOTE | "My son didn't eat his dinner one night and I went upstairs and hid under my bed. I wanted to scream and shout and do something but I couldn't do anything. I just lay there, emotionless and without any purpose." - Splendy Games producer Simon Sparks talks about how the collapse of the studio precipitated the collapse of his mental state.
QUOTE | "If you don't want your first game to be your last, think first about writing a game that people will find and pay money for. " - Philip Oliver, who along with his twin brother Andrew founded Blitz Games Studios and Radiant Worlds, offers advice for aspiring indies.
QUOTE | "Gambling is state by state, but I think it will only take one state to say, 'This is gambling,' for everyone else to get on board." Riot Games' head of Riot Labs Leanne Loombe talks about ethical pricing and the need for the industry to be responsible about loot box mechanics or risk legislative restrictions.
QUOTE | "This game is highly addictive and the accused were so engrossed in playing that they could not even notice our team approaching them." - Police inspector Rohit Raval of the Rajkot Special Operations Group describes PUBG Mobile, which the city banned earlier this month along with the Momo Challenge for "leading to a violent attitude among youth."
QUOTE | "There is no hope of displacing a dominant storefront solely by adding marginally more store features or a marginally better install experience. These battles will be won on the basis of game supply, consumer prices, and developer revenue sharing." - Tim Sweeney lays out the Epic Games Store strategy for dethroning Steam.