SEC Is Investigating Workplace Conduct at Activision Blizzard

The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into Activision Blizzard examining how the gaming company handled information related to workplace discrimination and sexual misconduct. Senior executives including CEO Bobby Kotick have been subpoenaed along with former and current employees. The SEC asked for Kotick’s internal communications and minutes from Activision board meetings dating from 2019. The publisher of “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush” must also provide the agency with personnel files and 2021 separation agreements. Continue reading SEC Is Investigating Workplace Conduct at Activision Blizzard

Founders of eSports and Gaming Network Speed Up Launch

Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin, co-founders of VENN (Video Game Entertainment & News Network), plan to launch their eSports, gaming and pop culture network in July, three months ahead of schedule. To do so, they are raising $40 million, building a Los Angeles studio, hiring, and setting up creators to program from home. The 24/7 linear network is aimed at the streaming generation, including hardcore eSports fans and casual gamers. VENN already raised $17 million from Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, Riot Games co-chair Marc Merrill and Blizzard Entertainment co-founder Mike Morhaime. Continue reading Founders of eSports and Gaming Network Speed Up Launch

Blizzard Entertainment Reveals eSports Expansion Franchises

Blizzard Entertainment, which pioneered competitive eSports 20 years ago in South Korea, is busily turning eSports from a game into a genuine sport. This year, the company, which employs former NBA, NFL, ESPN and Fox Sports executives, launched the Overwatch League’s inaugural season with 12 teams. More than 20,000 spectators attended finals, held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, with the matches broadcast on ESPN. Blizzard also plans expansion franchises in cities in the U.S., Canada and China. Continue reading Blizzard Entertainment Reveals eSports Expansion Franchises

Google DeepMind Speeds AI Learning with Computer Dreams

Google’s DeepMind division has improved the speed and performance of its machine learning system with technology whose attributes are similar to how animals are thought to dream. Dubbed “Unreal” (Unsupervised Reinforcement and Auxiliary Learning), the system learned to complete Labyrinth, a 3D maze, ten times faster than the best existing artificial intelligence software and can now play up to 87 percent of expert human players’ performance. DeepMind researchers will now be able to try out new ideas much more quickly. Continue reading Google DeepMind Speeds AI Learning with Computer Dreams

Amazon Debuts Pilots on Twitch, Remaking It as Test Platform

Amazon, which paid $1 billion for Twitch Interactive two years ago, has identified an interesting way to use the platform beyond gaming. The company streamed two original TV pilots on Twitch, which ordinarily hosts game competitions to 10 million daily users. With that user base, Twitch is now an ideal venue for Amazon to test new original shows before committing to a full season. Audiences voted on one of the two comedy pilots: comic book superhero spoof “The Tick” or “Jean-Claude Van Johnson,” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Continue reading Amazon Debuts Pilots on Twitch, Remaking It as Test Platform

Streaming ‘Warcraft’ in China Could Lead to New Marketplace

Chinese online-video network PPTV paid about $24 million for the streaming rights to fantasy feature “Warcraft,” based on the popular videogame series by Blizzard Entertainment. The film has so far grossed more than $433 million worldwide and has been successful with Chinese audiences. It will begin streaming next month on PPTV as a result of the record high deal, in what could also mark a significant milestone in film distribution. “This could be one of the beginning steps in having China become a huge marketplace for streaming services,” said comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. Continue reading Streaming ‘Warcraft’ in China Could Lead to New Marketplace

E3 Loses Exhibitors as Publishers and Gamers Connect Online

When the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) opens its doors in Los Angeles next week, some familiar game publishers will be missing for the first time. Electronic Arts has opted to hold its own mini-expo, Activision did not take a booth this year, and Disney is exiting the video game publishing business. That’s big news for E3, the industry’s premiere trade show that draws 50,000 video game industry members and historically has been the site of major title unveilings and celebrity appearances. Some ask whether E3 might be losing its luster. Continue reading E3 Loses Exhibitors as Publishers and Gamers Connect Online

Yahoo Targets Growing eSports Audience with New Video Site

While the future of Yahoo’s media operations remains in flux, the company continues to invest in key vertical segments, the latest of which is an eSports gaming news and video site. Yahoo Esports initially plans to cover “League of Legends” (Riot Games), “Heroes of the Storm” (Blizzard Entertainment), “Street Fighter V” (Capcom), and “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” and “Dota 2” (Valve). With the growing success of eSports, media companies such as ESPN and Turner Broadcasting are also entering the market. Continue reading Yahoo Targets Growing eSports Audience with New Video Site