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U.S. Legislators Including AOC Come Down Hard on Activision-Blizzard on Blitzchung Ban

Three Congresspersons and two Senators, in a letter to Activision-Blizzard CEO Robert Kotick, came down hard on the company's decision to ban and withdraw prize winnings of Hong Kong gamer Ng Wai Chung aka "Blitzchung." In the letter, the legislators unleashed scathing criticism of the company's decision to place its market-access to China above its expectations as an American business to spread the core American values of freedom and liberty around the world. Among these legislators are Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congressmen Mike Gallagher and Tom Malinowski; and Senators Marco Rubio and Ron Wyden.

"Your company benefits from China's growing market for e-sports, along with an investment from Tencent, one of China's largest technology firms. As you and your company are no doubt aware, the Chinese government uses the size and strength of its economy to suppress opinion with which it disagrees. Last week alone, the Chinese government targeted Apple for hosting an app to help peaceful demonstrators evade repression and the NBA because one team's general manager tweeted in support of Hong Kong protests," the letter reads.

Blizzard's Account Deletion Mechanism Conveniently Breaks Down

In the wake of the Blitzchung ban controversy, clamors for "#BoycottBlizzard" are growing in gaming boards and social networks, with some angry gamers even deleting their Blizzard Battle.net accounts. Under GDPR, any EU consumer is entitled to delete their accounts with an online service, and have their data scrubbed. On Wednesday evening, however, users found themselves being unable to do so. The user authentication system (which authenticates that a request to delete the account is legitimate), has conveniently broken down, preventing people from deleting their accounts. Some see this as a deliberate attempt by Blizzard to cauterize its userbase while the controversy dies down. Blizzard's customer support for the Americas tweeted that this is "an issue" with the account deletion mechanism and that Blizzard's engineers are "looking into it," with no ETA mentioned.

Blizzard Employees Protest Company's Blitzchung Ban

Blizzard employees protested the company's decision to ban Hearthstone player "Blitzchung" from an event for his opinions on the ongoing situation in Hong Kong SAR. Some employees covered up a portion of a floor decal in the company's office that read "Think Globally," and "Every Voice Matters," in protest. Blizzard's MMORPGs are "massively" popular in China, with Chinese Internet giant Tencent holding an equity stake. Some see the move to ban "Blitzchung" as the company "bending the knee" to China by taking a position on the situation in Hong Kong, instead of remaining neutral. The picture of a ruled piece of paper covering up the company floor decal with duct tape was tweeted by former Blizzard employee and eSports industry observer Kevin Hovdestad.

Overwatch Legendary Edition Arrives on Nintendo Switch on October 15th

The world could always use more heroes-and starting October 15, Nintendo Switch players will be able to join more than 40 million players from around the globe in the fight for the future with the arrival of Overwatch Legendary Edition.

Overwatch Legendary Edition puts the definitive version of Blizzard Entertainment's acclaimed team shooter in Nintendo Switch owners' hands, complete with the latest content and gameplay updates. Players will select from a roster of 31 vibrant heroes as they face off in a variety of casual and competitive multiplayer modes and battle over map objectives in 28 different locations around the earth (and on the moon).

Console Makers, Publishers Agree to Disclose Loot Box Odds for "Ethical Surprise Mechanics"

We've been covering the loot box controversy for a while on TechPowerUp now. Independently of which side of the fence you're on - that loot boxes are akin to gambling and thus unethical in some of their implementations, or just cold to the entire issue - it's likely good news for everyone that these so-called "surprise mechanics", as they've been called, will now see their odds being disclosed by console makers and publishers.

HP to Introduce Omen X 25, Omen X 25f 240 Hz, 1080p TN panel Monitors

HP is on the verge of introducing their new gaming grade, Omen-branded gaming monitors. The main design option for these was pure refresh rate speed, with both monitors sacrificing on resolution - a 1080p density is all there is) for blazing fast, 240 Hz refresh rates. The panel type is, of course, the most capable of high refresh rates: TN. The Omen X 25 manages this feat with help of NVIDIA's G-Sync proprietary module, while the X 25f only features support for adaptive sync (this means it's likely G-Sync compatible, at the least, as well as being well paired with AMD's FreeSync).

HP have partnered with Blizzard, meaning these Omen monitors will be the official monitors of the Overwatch League. There's ambient lighting on the base of the panel, which features HP's "micro-edge display" with 1 mm bezels on three sides and a 100 mm, adjustable height stand. The HP Omen X 25 covers ports through 1x DisplayPort 1.2, 1x HDMI 1.4, and 2x USB 3.0 ports, while the X 25f offers 1x DisplayPort 1.2, 2x HDMI 2.0, and 2x USB 3.0 ports. The Omen X25 will be making an appearance in Europe in June for 630€ ($550), and will be released in the US by September of this year. The Omen X 25f will be available in early June in the US and late June in Europe, for $450 (€460).

DirectX 12 Makes Windows 7 Debut With Latest World of Warcraft Patch

In what is likely to create a good deal of controversy along with a few cheers, Blizzard will be adding DirectX 12 support to World of Warcraft on Windows 7 thanks to a bit of effort from Microsoft. You might be wondering how that is possible? Well after seeing massive performance gains in WoW when Blizzard released their DirectX 12 update for Windows 10 in late 2018, resulted in the company wanting to bring those performance improvements to gamers still holding out on Windows 7. To facilitate this, they began talking with Microsoft who after getting a great deal of feedback from Blizzard decided to act on it. To achieve this Microsoft decided to port the user mode D3D12 runtime to Windows 7, which will unblock developers, thereby allows them to take advantage of the latest improvements that the DirectX 12 API offers while still giving full support to customers on older operating systems.

For now, World of Warcraft is the first game to run in DirectX 12 on Windows 7 with the latest 8.1.5 patch. However, they will not be the last as more developers are working on porting DirectX 12 games to Windows 7 with more announcements to follow. Microsoft, of course, has taken it upon themselves to remind everyone that the best possible performance with DirectX 12 will still be had on Windows 10 due to numerous OS optimizations. How true this is remains to be seen, but for many curmudgeons still holding out on Windows 7, this will likely be seen as a form of vindication for sticking with the now venerable OS.

Blizzard and NZXT Introduce the H500 Overwatch Special Edition

NZXT and Blizzard Entertainment have joined forces to deliver a PC chassis made for gamers who are passionate about building and showing off their own rigs-and also throwing in some flavor from their favorite games. The new, special edition H500 Overwatch Edition mid-tower showcases NZXT's signature design with a sleek look that any hero would be proud to have in their arsenal. Featuring an all-steel construction in black, a cable management system for streamlined building, and a luminous Overwatch logo on the front panel, this special H500 chassis is perfect for the Overwatch player looking to outfit their rig for battle.

"As a company of passionate gamers, we admire the enthusiasm and dedication shown by the Overwatch community, and we know Blizzard aims to deliver legendary products and experiences to its players," says Johnny Hou, founder and CEO of NZXT. "That's why we teamed up with Blizzard on this epic H500 PC chassis. Whether you are a Mercy, D.Va, or Genji main, the H500 Overwatch is made for any hero who wants to answer the call."

Activision Blizzard Doubling Down on Diablo, Warcraft IPs Amidst Changing Market

The times have been rough for the Activision Blizzard juggernaut, as changing market conditions and lack of differentiated IP launches have led the company into a sort of stagnant position in the market - in both launches and revenue sources. The recent split from Destiny developer Bungie took out a bite from one of the company's additional streams of revenue amidst dwindling World of Warcraft subscriptions (after the usual spike post launch for Battle of Azeroth) and the lack of any new sources of income in the close future. This saw the company's stock valuation coming down, and was bookended by the recent layoff of some 8% total of the company's workforce (around 800 out of its 9,600 employees). Reports peg these as being mostly outside of the game development workforce, though, which could give traction to the report that the company is doubling down on IP-related development, instead of shying away from it - a sensible move, if you'll ask me.

Activision Blizzard COO Coddy Johnson reiterated Blizzard's fantastic IP reserves, and wants the company to achieve a higher cadence in content releases that follow the type of high-quality launches they achieve in their World of Warcraft expansions - but on other, more differentiated revenue sources. Johnson also reiterated more resources being put to work on the Diablo franchise, saying that "Diablo's development headcount will grow substantially", with "The teams are working on several projects for the franchise as well as the global launch of Diablo Immortal."

CD Projekt Red Narrative Director Joins Blizzard Entertainment After Work on Cyberpunk 2077

This story has been going around the online media for a few hours now, with some arguably baseless speculation on the future of the hotly-anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 game added. Indeed, the facts are only that Sebastian Stępień, who has been with CD Projekt Red for over 12 years, has listed also a new job position as Creative Director for Blizzard Entertainment as of this month. He has been the Narrative and Setting Director for everyone's favorite Polish game outfit, and there is no word yet on whether he has actually quit this position, or whether there is a transition period in place wherein he will continue to be involved as necessary for Cyberpunk 2077 to go gold.

It is unlikely that such a transition period will exist, however, if only because such roles in the corporate ladder involve a physical move- especially when the companies are over an ocean apart. There is no reason to speculate that this will affect the finished product as far as the game goes, if only because the role of narration is essentially over with when this late in the development cycle. There is also speculation galore on how future DLC might get affected, which is valid, but sources in the game industry suggest that storyboards are already in place, and overall plans will not be affected much. We should be more interested in what he brings to Blizzard Entertainment, which has been sorely lacking in new IP in the past decade.

Activision-Blizzard Stock Valuation Falls 10% in Wake of Bungie Split

Whether Activision-Blizzard's split from Destiny and Destiny 2 developer Bungie was caused by an overzealous grip on Bungie's creative vision or not is something that will likely never be clarified. But one thing is for certain: in the stock market, it doesn't really matter how something happened, but really what the effects are of it happening. And Bungie splitting from Activision-Blizzard means that the industry behemoth now finds itself with one less IP under its belt, thus constraining its revenue sources to a couple of high-profile IPs. Less sources of income = less versatility and resilience to market fluctuations, and that is something Activision-Blizzard was immediately hit back for from investors.

The company's stock decreased by as much as 11% in the wake of the Bungie split, from a high of $51.35 down to a low of $45.19, as investors reduced their trust in the company's profit volume and momentum. It has since recovered, but is still some 9% down. Whether Activision actually expected this much of a fall or not only the company knows. It'll be interesting to see the company's next financial report, though.

Blizzard Remasters Warcraft III, Releases 2019 as Warcraft III: Reforged

It's not Warcraft 4, but this news is still better than nothing to fans of the beloved RTS series. At Blizzcon 2018, Blizzard was met with backlash at the announcement of Diablo for mobile platforms, but news of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos getting a full remaster on the PC is helping fan down some of those flames. Titled Warcraft III: Reforged, the remaster is due to be released some time in 2019.

Blizzard at Gamescom 2018: An Ode to Past and Present Successes

We visited Blizzard's floor space at Gamescom 2018, and what a space it was. Easily one of the more expansive areas, Blizzard outdid themselves with their multiple staging areas for the multitude of their developed - or in permanent development - games. Naturally, the crown jewel of Blizzard's space was World of Warcraft, but Overwatch stood just beside it, as if a wayward child trying to look over its ancestors' shoulder.

Activision Blizzard Announces Second-Quarter 2018 Financials - PC Business up by 28%

Activision Blizzard, Inc. today announced second-quarter 2018 results.

"This was another strong quarter for Activision Blizzard. Our portfolio of global franchises enabled us to deliver record first half revenues and earnings per share," said Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard. "This past weekend we held the Overwatch League TM Grand Finals. We had a very successful first season as we enhanced our leadership position in esports. And, today we announced two additional Overwatch League franchise sales at record prices, adding Atlanta, Georgia and Guangzhou, China to our league. We plan to announce additional franchises over the next few months."

World of Warcraft Engine Updated to Support DX12, Adds 21:9 Cinematic Rendering

The folks at Blizzard have taken it into their hands to update the eons-old, but still running strong, World of Warcraft. Some back-end improvements have been made, and were essentially lost within the latest patch notes - as in, not even mentioned - that included this update to the latest API. The game now supports DX11 and DX12, but there's a caveat - only AMD users should use the DX12 implementation. Players using an NVIDIA graphics card will see an immediate performance hit from going to the more modern renderer. For now, the change is virtual - there doesn't seem to have been any particular work for performance improvements.

Other changes include ditching Exclusive Fullscreen (now only windowed and borderless windowed modes are available), improving the cinematic renderer for 21:9 ratio support, and changing graphical options. The performance presets of low, medium and high have been swapped with 1-10 sliders (a change prior to this patch), which allow for more granular control of graphics options - and improved performance, since more rendering variables are now affected. The game really does run extremely well nowadays, however; it seems a little counter intuitive to devote the resources to add DX12 support for barely any real improvement, so this could be the herald of future changes.

Alphacool Announces Its Eissturm Watercooling Sets

With the new Eissturm sets you get all the components you need to start into the world of water cooling. The sets are not only for beginners but also for professionals and enthusiasts alike. All the components that are used are matched for optimal compatibility and performance and come from Alphacools high-end series. Alphacool makes no compromises when it comes to materials and relies on pure copper or brass for all metals ensuring fantastic cooling performance. With the Eissturm sets, you can easily cool your CPU and thanks to the enclosed quick-release fastener you can also integrate any graphics card cooler into the loop also.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Release Date Announced

It's time to soldier up because Black Ops is back! The series which has become the most played in Call of Duty history as well as a cultural phenomenon around the globe returns October 12th with the release of Call of Duty : Black Ops 4, a gritty, grounded, all-out combat experience. Black Ops 4 raises the bar for Multiplayer mode that increases tactical gameplay and player choice, along with the biggest Zombies offering ever with three full experiences at launch, and Blackout, where the Black Ops universe comes to life in a massive battle royale experience featuring iconic characters and locations from all four Black Ops games in a one-of-a-kind offering that is uniquely Black Ops. Published by Activision and developed by award-winning studio Treyarch, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 transforms the established universe played by hundreds of millions of fans with the largest gameplay experience ever created in the series.

"Black Ops 4 gives our community more ways to have fun with their friends than anything Treyarch has ever created and introduces meaningful innovations to every element of the game, including next level tactical team-based multiplayer, the biggest zombies offering yet and Blackout, where the largest map in Call of Duty history brings together the rich universe of Black Ops," said Rob Kostich, EVP and GM, Call of Duty. "More than 200 million players have called Black Ops home, and they've played for more than 15 billion hours. This is an incredible community that has inspired the development team to take their innovative gameplay design to new heights."

Activision Announces Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Black Ops is back! In what represents a game-changing experience, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will revolutionize the top-selling series in Call of Duty history when it launches worldwide on Friday, October 12 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Call of Duty fans can tune in Thursday, May 17, when publisher Activision, a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI), and award-winning developer Treyarch host the community reveal to a worldwide audience.

Activision Blizzard's Best Source of Income Comes from Microtransactions

Activision Blizzard held their earnings call a couple of days ago where the company recorded a record-breaking year with $7.16 billion in revenue. According to the video game publisher's breakdown of their sources of income, player investment contributed to more than half of their annual revenue. Activision specifically used the term "in-game net bookings", which is nothing more than fancy jargon for microtransactions. The financial report revealed that Activision raked in $4 billion from microtransactions alone. Popular titles like Call of Duty: WWII, Overwatch, Destiny 2, Hearthstone, and World of Warcraft contain microtransactions where players can spend money on different cosmetic and other in-game items. However, Candy Crush maker King Digital Entertainment, acquired by Activision in 2015, was the strongest performer of 2017 contributing with a little over $2 billion through microtransactions.

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Goes Up for Pre-Purchase

A new great war between the Alliance and the Horde will erupt this summer and starting today, World of Warcraft players around the globe can seek out new champions to fight for their faction's cause. Blizzard Entertainment today announced that Battle for Azeroth, the next expansion to the world's most popular subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game, is now available for pre-purchase at www.worldofwarcraft.com.

Players who pre-purchase Battle for Azeroth today can begin their journey to recruit four of the expansion's new Allied Races, each representing comrades they've fought alongside on the Broken Isles and Argus in the game's most recent expansion, Legion. Upon winning the respect of an Allied Race by completing quests and earning reputation, players will unlock the ability to create characters of that race and set out on a new adventure across Azeroth.† Alliance players can add the shadow-touched Void elves and valiant Lightforged draenei to their ranks, while members of the Horde will be able to bring the ancient Nightborne and noble Highmountain tauren into their faction's fold-with additional Allied Races to come in the future.

Blizzard Developing New First-Person Game with Drivable Vehicles

The title could be better, it's true, but it serves to point out this particular fact: Blizzard is seemingly developing a new, first-person game. The video-game experiences that come from the studio are usually top-notch in their respective areas - be it MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, competitive FPS titles such as Overwatch, or RTS games such as Starcraft, just to name a few. The studios' quality is pervasive in any IP it touches, and the idea of a new video-game form the company should be enough to appease the soul of gamers everywhere.

Through a job listing on its site, Blizzard has made public that it's looking for "a talented gameplay engineer to help create vehicles and build vehicle handling features in a robust first-person engine for an unannounced project." whether or not this unannounced project will be placed on one of Blizzard's existing IP or not is still up for grabs, but whether it's an adaptation of one of Blizzard's IPs, or the start of something new, Blizzard knows gamers' eyes are eagerly on them. Follow the source links if you think this unannounced project is something you'd like (and have the skills) to work on.

Activision Blizzard Announces Sale of Special Call of Duty: WWII Bravery Pack

Activision Blizzard today announced the newest iteration in its award-winning in-game program to support the Call of Duty Endowment's efforts to help unemployed veterans find high-quality careers in the United States and United Kingdom. The Call of Duty: WWII - Call of Duty Endowment (C.O.D.E.) Bravery Pack (PS4/XboxOne/PC), developed by Sledgehammer Games, includes a special Call of Duty Endowment in-game helmet, calling card, and emblem.

The pack will be available for a suggested retail price of $4.99 in the in-game store and the Sony and Microsoft online stores. For the first time, a personalization pack benefitting the Call of Duty Endowment will also be available at all GameStop stores across the U.S. as well as online through BestBuy.com and Amazon.com. One hundred percent of the proceeds received by Activision through the Bravery Pack will directly fund the Endowment's mission to help veterans secure quality careers when they leave military service. More than 4,800 veterans have been placed in high quality jobs through Call of Duty personalization packs to-date, which is a brigade-sized group of vets.

Activision and Bungie Bring Amazon Alexa Skill to Destiny 2

Bungie and Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI), announced the introduction of the Destiny 2 Ghost Skill for Alexa, giving players of one of the best-selling video games of 2017 to date the first-ever Alexa voice integration in a live game experience. Revealed on stage by Tom Taylor, senior vice president, Amazon Alexa and Byron Beede, Activision's senior vice president of Product Management for Destiny at the AWS re:Invent 2017 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Destiny 2 Ghost Skill, voiced by the in-game Ghost's voice actor Nolan North, is available now for Alexa customers to enable, free of charge, through the Alexa app.

The Destiny 2 Ghost Skill serves as a premier companion for Destiny 2 players, creating brand-new ways to interact with the game, players can say, "Alexa, ask Ghost to…" with a variety of utterances - from "…tell me which friends are online," to asking "…what should I do next?" giving recommendations for what to play next based on players' real-time current progress, to "…call for back up," which offers an easy way to interact with friends in their clan to enhance the social experience of Destiny 2, to "… equip my Raid loadout," equipping players' favorite weapons and armor for a number of different gameplay activities, to learning more about the world and characters of Destiny 2 with a request like, "…tell me who are the Red Legion?"

Blizzard Black Friday Sale: Overwatch at Half Price & 35% off Destiny 2

The holiday season is almost here-get ready to spread some epic cheer! From now through November 27, 2017, we're offering some big savings around Black Friday on the following digital purchases for World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, and Destiny 2-plus some Blizzard Gear Store goodies. Snag a little something for yourself, or send a gift to a friend.

Overwatch
Whether you're a soldier, scientist, adventurer, or oddity, you can jump into the fight for the future with savings of 50% on the digital versions of Overwatch and Overwatch: Game of the Year Edition for Windows PC.
  • Overwatch includes 26 heroes, 21 different maps, and endless fun for just $19.99 (reg. $39.99).
  • Overwatch: Game of the Year Edition includes all the excitement of Overwatch along with 10 Loot Boxes, five special hero skins, plus in-game goodies for Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and StarCraft II for $29.99 (reg. $59.99).
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