Tag Archives: australia

Someone Spent Over $150,000 In Microtransactions On A Transformers Game

You thought $62,000 in microtransactions was bad? Then you should see what one person spent on a mobile Transformers game.

This story originally appeared on Kotaku Australia.

A large part of the Game Connect Asia-Pacific conference, held days before PAX Australia as part of Melbourne International Games Week, is developers sharing their wisdom with other developers. Some of that wisdom comes in the form of monetisation strategies, because most Aussie developers are small studios working on mobile platforms or free-to-play titles, and at the end of the day, everyone needs to pay rent.

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So there’s often quite a few talks about making money, what strategies work for what games, and at what parts that should factor in the design process. Henry Fong, the CEO from mobile publisher and developer Yodo1, and Featherweight Games co-founder Dylan Bevis, spoke about how free-to-play games needed to consider the monetisation process from the design stage, instead of factoring it in afterwards.

But a key part of the process is understanding the audience of a game — and what they are likely to pay. In the case of Rodeo Stampede, an endless runner which has gotten over 100 million downloads, Fong told the crowd that the highest spending users (or ‘whales’, as they were referred to in the talk) might spend a few hundred. But in the case of Transformers: Earth Wars, another game published by Yodo1, one whale spent around USD$150,000.

I asked Fong to clarify that figure after the GCAP talk, or whether that was just a projection for the mobile game’s highest spenders, and he confirmed that one player “has spent over USD$150,000″.

Given the concern and outrage over microtransactions already, like the player who spent $62,000 on Runescape purchases, it’s hard not to imagine this capturing the attention of regulators. The authors of the recent Entertaiment and Media Outlook told the Australian games industry only last week that regulator attention on loot boxes and microtransactions was likely to intensify.

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That’s especially the case once more AI tools become incorporated into the mobile market. Another element of the panel concentrated on the possibilities of automated tools and finding ways to locate the most likely spenders in a game. One tool allowed developers to automate the moderation of communities within mobile games, while the Yodo1 developers created a machine learning neural network that analysed player behaviour and session times to predict what players would become high spenders.

The bot could spot “potential whales” with about 87 percent accuracy, but “we think we can get it up to about 95 percent,” Fong said. The model was trained with around two and a half years of player monetisation data, and Fong explained that it was even technically possible to build in logic that would target different players with different monetisation packages.

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But such a model would ultimately backfire. When asked to clarify the capabilities of the tech that, Fong explained it would be a net loss for the studio, since the backlash from players would be disastrous. “We don’t want to create a situation whereby different people pay different prices for the same thing,” he said.

The fact that studios can incorporate that kind of behaviour, however, is usually a good argument for more industry regulation. Fong expected more regulation as video games continues to grow in status, but it was important for developers to work with government along the way. “As gaming becomes a mainstream industry that impacts billions of people, regulation is inevitable and its part of our industry growing up and hitting ‘prime time’,” he said.

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“We need to work with the regulators to make sure that they have the full context of the industry and that any regulations work as intended and don’t break a bunch of other things by accident.”

Source: Kotaku.com

Police Investigating More Match Fixing, Organized Crime Links To Australian Overwatch Team

The crackdown on Australian esports has already begun, but a report from the ABC this morning has raised the stakes several notches after questioning the ownership of a local Overwatch Contenders team.

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The report from ABC’s 7.30, which went online early Tuesday morning, touches on the ongoing investigation from Victoria Police that resulted in the arrest of multiple Australian Counter-Strike players. The report includes previously unannounced details, however, including the figure that Victoria Police believe that as much as $30,000 could have been won on the rigged Counter-Strike matches that triggered the first major esports integrity investigation in Australia.

That’s not the only juicy detail, though. Neil Paterson, the assistant commissioner of Victoria Police, told the ABC that he believed more esports corruption cases to emerge. And that was immediately followed by a paragraph suggesting that concerns have been raised around the ownership of an Overwatch contenders team:

[Victoria Police’s] Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit has received reports of match fixing in other Counter-Strike: Global Offensive games, and about organised crime links to the ownership of an Australian-based team that plays the Overwatch Contenders game.

The team isn’t named, although most of the teams in the Australian Overwatch Contenders league also have teams in other games. “We are seeing people encroach on that area that have reputations that [mean they] probably … shouldn’t be involved in this part of esports,” the assistant police commissioner is quoted as saying.

I’ve contacted Blizzard Australia for comment, asking whether they were aware of the investigation, the assistant commissioner’s remarks and what steps they take to ensure the integrity of tournaments in Australia. I’ve also contacted the Esports Integrity Commission, which helped Victoria Police with the original Counter-Strike investigation, for further clarification on the commissioner’s remarks.

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This story originally appeared on Kotaku Australia.

Source: Kotaku.com

Six Counter-Strike Players Arrested Over Match-Fixing Allegations

Victoria Police announced on Friday afternoon that six Australians have been arrested in connection with an investigation into rigging Counter-Strike: Global Offensive matches, the first major case of its kind in Australia.

An investigation began in March this year after a betting agency tipped off police about suspicious activity around a CS:GO tournament. “It’s alleged that players were arranging to throw matches and subsequently placing bets on those matches,” Victoria Police said in a release.

At least five matches were affected by the activity, with warrants served and four men arrested on Wednesday. Another warrant was executed by Western Australian police in Perth, but no arrests were made there. Two more warrants were executed today in Mount Eliza, resulting in two more arrests.

Neil Paterson, assistant commissioner of Victoria Police, said the investigation was the first of its kind by the state. “Esports is really an emerging sporting industry and with that will come the demand for betting availability on the outcomes of tournaments and matches,” he said.

“These warrants also highlight that police will take any reports of suspicious or criminal activity within esports seriously, and we encourage anyone with information to come forward.”

All men arrested have been “released pending further inquiries.” Authorities added that detectives from the Organised Crime Intelligence Unit, who assisted the Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit, are continuing the investigation and working with Sportsbet and other betting outlets.


This story originally appeared on Kotaku Australia.

Source: Kotaku.com

DayZ Is Somehow Banned, But Also Not Banned In Australia

Despite recent attempts at fixing things, Australia’s video game classification system remains something of a joke. It’s very much a joke today, though, with news emerging that the upcoming physical copy of DayZ has been “refused classification” (effectively banning it), while the digital copy remains legally available.

As Kotaku Australia reports, the disc-based version, which was going to be distributed locally by Five Star Games, was submitted to the Australian Classification Board and knocked back, presumably on the grounds (like so many other games in Australia) that it features morphine.

Precisely, the refusal is because it was found (or at least feared) the game would “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety”.

The digital version of the game, however, which has been available on Steam for six years, remains up and available for purchase because as a previously unfinished game it was submitted and cleared under an international classification arrangement that’s nowhere near as conservative as the Classification Board.

In addition to Steam, the game is also still available as part of the Bohemia Interactive Humble Bundle, on the PlayStation Store and also Xbox Live.

Absurd. 

Source: Kotaku.com

EA’s Australian Studio Hit By Massive Layoffs

Following the hundreds of job losses at Activision Blizzard and redundancies at Guild Wars developer ArenaNet, EA has begun a massive round of layoffs at its development studio in Melbourne.

FireMonkeys, which was created in 2012 after EA merged IronMonkey Studios and FireMint, is one of the largest development houses in Australia. Focused exclusively on mobile development, the company is responsible for making Real Racing 3, as well as The Sims: Freeplay and Need for Speed: No Limits.

In 2016, the company moved to a new office in Docklands and was hailed as the largest mobile game developer in the country, with Victorian Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley praising the studio’s history as “one of innovation, creativity and global success”.

The studio was also developing Real Racing 4, although it’s understood that the project was officially cancelled earlier this week. Following that decision, executives from EA have flown in from overseas to affect wholesale changes across the studio. Those decisions included the cancellation of Real Racing 4 and a reorganisation of staff across the titles currently under their management, which includes The Sims Mobile.

Developers were notified of the layoffs earlier this week. Those impacted were told via individual meetings, while employees that remained were informed via a group meeting, Kotaku Australia understands.

One employee, who spoke under anonymity, said the current atmosphere is so grim that remaining staff are operating under the assumption the whole studio will eventually be shut down. “No idea how certain tasks will be done at all if I look at who got let go,” they said.

Unofficial figures on the size of the Australian games industry placed the number of staffers at Firemonkeys at close to 200. A statement this morning from Game Workers Unite Australia originally estimated that 80 to 100 staffers were impacted, but that has since been amended to “some 40 to 50 people”.

A representative from EA stressed that despite concerns, the Firemonkeys office will continue operating. “This is a group with great pedigree in live services, and they continue to work on some of our most popular mobile games.”

The company did reply with a statement, however, confirming that the studio “entered a consultation period” to shift focus towards “more on our live services”.

The FireMonkeys studio is working on some of our most popular mobile games. We recently made a decision to shift teams to focus more on our live services, and have entered into a consultation period that may impact some roles in the studio. We’re working to match skills with opportunities as we go through this period, identifying other opportunities at EA, and providing as much help to our employees as we possibly can.

EA declined to officially confirm that Real Racing 4 was cancelled, but said Firemonkeys would continue to “deliver new content” for the mobile racer.

Real Racing 3 has a thriving community, and the studio continues to deliver new content to the game. Firemonkeys also works on Need for Speed: No Limits and The Sims FreePlay, one of EA’s most successful mobile titles. We’re not going to get into our future product plans, but the Firemonkeys team is continuing to take on new challenges for us and our mobile players.

The Australian chapter of Game Workers Unite said the suspected job losses was equivalent to nearly 10% of the entire Australian game development industry.

“This is a devastating blow to local development – an extraordinarily disappointing decision which will affect the already crowded local freelancer and indie market, as well as the undergraduate student body,” GWU Australia said.

GWU Australia reiterated that affected employees can gauge their expected redundancy payouts through the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Source: Kotaku.com