Gaming: The Biggest Players in Tech
As Microsoft homes in on one of the most significant acquisitions in entertainment history and AI looks set to take video gaming, like everything else, by storm, we’ve decided it’s time for a run-down of the biggest news stories in the gaming industry.
Microsoft Buying Activision
Microsoft is on the verge of completing one of the most significant deals the gaming industry has ever seen, but it hasn’t been an easy ride.
In January 2022, Microsoft agreed to buy Activision Blizzard, the maker of the Call of Duty (CoD) series of games as well as Warcraft, Diablo and Candy Crush, for $68.7bn.
The complication is that, while Activision makes games for a wide range of platforms, Microsoft is the manufacturer of one of these platforms, the Xbox. Sony, maker of one of Xbox’s biggest rivals, the PlayStation, was quick to complain that, with Activision under its ownership, Microsoft could be in a position to limit future releases to just that platform.
CoD in particular came into the crosshairs as the third-highest grossing game franchise of all time; if gamers can only play it on Xbox, argued Sony, why would they buy a Playstation? The same argument applies across different titles. Sony’s complaints were made to various regulators, including the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK. Google and Nvidia were quick to pitch in with complaints to the US regulator, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
However, in May the European Commission, the regulatory body for the EU, approved the takeover, saying that while some aspects of the takeover could be considered anticompetitive, it was satisfied by concessions from Microsoft that the deal was in the interest of consumers. These concessions included a commitment from Microsoft to allow European gamers to play Activision titles on any device.
While the FTC sought to block the acquisition, an appeals court rejected its application in July, clearing the deal’s path in the US. However, the CMA still remained unconvinced. In a bid to convince the UK regulator to approve the deal, Microsoft proposed a restructure that would see Ubisoft control the streaming rights to Activision games outside of the EU, preventing Microsoft from restricting access to the Xbox.
Sarah Cardell said that the CMA will “carefully and objectively assess the details of the restructured deal” and added that “any future decision on this new deal will ensure that the growing cloud gaming market continues to benefit from open and effective competition driving innovation and choice.”
AI is opening up exciting new avenues for the gaming industry.
Suman Balakrishna, Forbes Councils Member and CEO of game developer Juego Studios, thinks that the intersection of AI and virtual reality (VR) paints a bright picture for gaming. As well as added personalisation, AI technology could add improved eye tracking and motion detection for VR games. For an even more immersive experience, he points towards games including Invaders Reloaded and Dogaz which use EEG headsets to tap directly into the human brain and “enhance the feeling of being present in the game environment”.
Dr Richard Wilson, head of TIGA, the union representing the UK’s gaming industry workers, has said that artificial intelligence (AI) will create more jobs in the industry in the UK. Using generative AI to write scripts and other time-intensive aspects of game development would free up developer time for more creative aspects of the games.
Additionally, said Wilson, “reducing the overall cost of development will mean more games studios which should, therefore, mean more jobs."
Unity Software is already on the record as saying that generative AI can reduce the costs for the gaming studios that build off its platform, and games developers are positioning themselves to make use of the technology to create more powerful games. Chinese tech platform NetEase released one of the first such titles, Justice Mobile, in July and it was an instant success. The iOS version of the game alone made $23.3m in its first five days.
50 years ago…
July 1973 saw the launch of Atari’s Space Race, the first racing arcade game ever. The game saw two players control a rocket each which they raced to the top of the screen, while avoiding asteroids along the way.
50 years on, the top-selling racing game of the year to date features another classic gaming throwback: everyone’s favourite Italian plumber leads the pack with Mario Kart 8.
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