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Chinese police in the city of Kushnan, working with video game developer Tencent, have arrested several members connected to a videogame cheats developer.
According to both Tencent and the Kushnan Police, the hacking ring was taking in more than $70 million a year in subscriptions for their gaming hacks. Tencent had posted on popular Chinese social media platform Weibo, that the ring was “the world’s largest videogame cheating ring.”
The operation was dubbed ‘Chicken Drumstick’ and has been described as one of the largest ever undertaken by any Chinese Police department. The ring had allegedly made hacks that mostly targeted games made by Tencent, but according to reporters from the BBC, had also developed and sold hacks for titles such as Valorant and Overwatch.
The group had been charging cheaters anywhere from $10 to $200 a month in subscription fees that gave a keyed access to the hacks. Reports indicate that Chinese police had been tipped off to the hacking ring over a year ago, and have since closed down multiple websites with 10 resellers having been arrested. In the bust, police seized around $46 million in assets, including multiple luxury cars, bikes, and even boats.
E-sports have gained in popularity in recent years, with competitive gamers being able to win tens of millions of dollars in competition, and so it has become inevitable that large scale crackdowns on cheating would begin.
While cheating in gaming has existed since the very beginning, the rise of online competitive games and player-versus-player titles, cheating no longer is about giving yourself an advantage over the computer, but rather about giving yourself an advantage over unsuspecting fellow players.
Operation Drumstick shows how seriously both Chinese companies but also the Chinese government are taking the scourge that is cheating in gaming. The bust comes just as players are receiving massive backlash online over alleged cheating in popular titles like Warzone and Apex Legends.
In addition to showing how seriously companies and governments are beginning to take cheating in games, the bust also reveals how insanely lucrative these cheating rings have become. What initially started out as a DIY community of cheaters and modders on forums, has now turned into a multi-million-dollar criminal industry. Hack developers have long acted with total impunity, and many companies offering hacks appear totally professional now, with easy to use and intuitive websites that look like any other e-commerce website.
As e-sports look to reach a half a billion viewers this year and revenues on track to top $1 billion, ending the scourge that is online cheating will remain front and center for companies releasing competitive games along with countries whose governments have made some investment in E-Sports.
E3 2021 Details Announced
E3 is only a month away, and in the leadup to its all-virtual event, the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) has announced details about the E3 app and online portal.
According to the ESA, the app and portal will serve as “a key hub for the duration of the show”. The entire “interactive experience” is free to the public upon registration.
The app will air the livestream of the E3 broadcast, with interactive overlays including live tweets and viewer polls.
The app and portal will also house virtual exhibitor booths. These booths will be the place for brand-specific news, video content, and articles from your favorite designers and developers.
Forums within the app will provide platforms for discussion and further interaction. (“Interaction” seems to be a key theme in ESA’s language, as the association is likely working to clear the hurdle of virtual events tending to feel impersonal.)
The event will also include leaderboards and user profiles, complete with customizable avatars. How E3 plans to “gamify” the event experience is unknown at this point, but it looks like fun.
A more nebulous feature of this virtual E3 will be “lounges” within the portal. The ESA describes them as “gathering spots for all E3 attendees”. While many are a bit confused as to what that means, it’s likely a forum. Hopefully with some kind of creative twist.
Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez, Jacki Jing and Greg Miller will host the event this year, which is very likely to include big announcements, celebrity guests, panel discussions, trailers, and more.
“From the moment we decided to host E3 virtually, we’ve been focused on providing an interactive experience for fans around the globe that goes beyond the typical livestream,” according to ESA CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis. “The result is a bespoke online portal and app that will allow fans, media and industry professionals to have an E3 experience designed to run parallel to the four-day broadcast, laying the foundation for interactive E3 elements to continue beyond this year’s all-virtual show.
Exhibitors include Nintendo, Xbox, Capcom, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Games and Koch Media. It’s a strong lineup, though EA and Sony ditched, the former hosting its own event.
E3 is June 12-15. Let the countdown commence…
25 New Games are Coming to PlayStation 5 and Over Half are New Titles
The PlayStation 5 has had a rather rocky launch with stock issues. It’s hard to get a PS5 right now and things probably won’t be getting better before next year, but if you did manage to grab one there’s a lot in store for you! Sony is looking to release 25 games or more for their brand new platform and at least half of them aren’t going to be sequels or spinoffs.
For the most part, we don’t know what will be coming out. Most of the predictions are speculations based on some new developer studios that are partnering with Sony like Haven Studios, a brand new team coming off of Google’s failed in-house Stadia developer. There’s also a confirmed PlayStation 5 exclusive coming from Firewalk Studios, a group of developers that originally came from Bungie.
There are a handful of games that we know are coming to PS5 for sure though.
- Horizon Forbidden West, a sequel to the smash-hit Horizon Zero Dawn. Forbidden West is slated to release at some point in 2021. There’s no precise launch date at the moment.
- Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart will be coming out in June of this year. Ratchet and Clank is a beloved platformer that’s been on PlayStation for years (first in 2002 for the PlayStation 2)
- God of War: Ragnarok, a sequel to the highly acclaimed God of War (2018) which was supposed to come out in 2021, but may be pushed back to 2022
- Gran Turismo 7, a realistic racing game with a long legacy as a PlayStation exclusive slated for release in 2022
Of course, these titles have been on fans’ radars for quite some time now. The rest are still somewhat of a mystery, but another possible title would be The Last of Us remake which could come out in tandem with the new HBO series. This title would likely be coming out a couple of years from now with the filming of the series to conclude in June of 2022. We’ll probably be seeing some indie games as part of this new list too since Sony has taken a rather positive approach to indie developers during the PS4’s lifecycle.
Whatever these games turn out to be, fans are just excited to finally get some new games that really make the most out of the PlayStation 5’s technical capabilities.
Sony is Being Sued Over PlayStation’s Digital Store “Monopoly”
Sony has had a busy week defending itself from claims of unfair business practices and unwillingness to work with other companies like Epic. The newest of Sony’s problems is a class-action lawsuit against them for having an illegal monopoly with its digital store. This lawsuit came on Wednesday in a California court. The claim was that PlayStation blocking users from buying third-party download codes is in violation of antitrust laws and competition laws.
Players were initially allowed to purchase these third-party codes from various companies like GameStop and Amazon. In 2019 a memo was leaked that confirmed PlayStation users would only be able to purchase PlayStation games from their own digital storefront. This is the basis of the claim that Sony has created a monopoly.
This exacerbates an existing issue with digital purchases being considerably more expensive than physical copies of games. We’ve seen a similar scenario with Call of Duty games remaining at the same $60 it was at launch on Steam when physical copies can be purchased for less than half the price. Sony’s “monopoly” allows them to retain absolute control over the price of digital games, essentially eliminate any digital competition, and take a larger cut of revenue by way of overcharging for games. Sony made $17 billion from digital content on PlayStation Network alone, so it’s pretty obvious why they want to corner the market like this. What do Sony’s actions mean for players? It means that games are going to maintain high prices (except during sales) and will almost certainly be charged more than a game is supposed to be. This isn’t too surprising based on Sony’s past behavior especially with things like cross-platform gameplay. They’ve been extraordinarily opposed to crossplay, citing that it would interfere with revenue streams for PlayStation.
This lawsuit comes hot on the heels of another high-profile gaming-related case involving Apple, Google, Epic Games, and violation of antitrust laws. Epic had implemented its own payment system for Fortnite on mobile. They claimed that Apple and Google were also creating illegal monopolies since they were using their payments were required to go through their respective services instead of purchasing directly from Epic. This is identical to the lawsuit currently happening with Sony. The Epic vs Apple case hasn’t concluded yet and neither has the class-action lawsuit against Sony so the potential results still seem unclear, but history tells us that this will be an uphill battle for both Epics Games and Sony. Antitrust cases have been notoriously difficult and typically sway in favor of large corporations. We can ask for a favorable outcome but don’t get your hopes up just yet.