"Game On" is The Fly's weekly recap of the stories powering up or beating down video game stocks.
NEW RELEASES: This week's major game release is Sega's (SGAMY) "Lost Judgment," an action-adventure game that is a spin-off of the "Yakuza" franchise. The game launches September 24 for PlayStation 4 (SONY), PS5, Xbox One (MSFT), and Xbox Series X/S. Also out this week is Ember Lab's "Kena: Bridge of Spirits," an action-adventure title launching September 21 for PS4, PS5, and PC through the Epic Games Store. Investors in Epic include Tencent (TCEHY), KKR (KKR), Disney (DIS), and Sony.
ACTIVISION: The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission launched a wide-ranging probe into Activision Blizzard (ATVI), including how the company handled workers' claims of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination. A spokeswoman for the company confirmed that there was an SEC probe surrounding "the company's disclosures regarding employment matters and related issues," adding that the company is cooperating with the SEC. The Journal later reported that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also been reviewing claims of gender-based harassment at Activision Blizzard since at least May 2020, and the game maker is in settlement discussions with the agency and could pay millions of dollars to settle the matter. These developments come some weeks after the game publisher behind "Call of Duty" and "World of Warcraft" was sued in California over such workplace discrimination and misconduct claims.
In a statement following the Journal's report, Activision Blizzard said it continues to work with regulators on addressing and resolving workplace complaints and that it is "deeply committed" to new initiatives to help achieve its goal of "ensuring a workplace that is inspiring, equitable, and respectful to all." In the statement, CEO Bobby Kotick also confirmed that the company is in talks with the EEOC and is cooperating with the agency's investigation. Meanwhile, the company also said that it has "refreshed" its human resources organization and will welcome new chief people officer Julie Hodges this week, who joins the company from Disney.
Additionally, Activision Blizzard chief legal officer Claire Hart announced in a LinkedIn post that she will leave the company after more than three years.
'BATTLEFIELD' DELAY: Electronic Arts (EA) confirmed last Wednesday that it changed the launch date of upcoming war shooter "Battlefield 2042" to November 19, 2021 from October 22, 2021. "Building the next generation of Battlefield during a global pandemic has created unforeseen challenges for our development teams," DICE Studio GM Oskar Gabrielson said. "Given the scale and scope of the game, we had hoped our teams would be back in our studios together as we move towards launch. With the ongoing conditions not allowing that to happen safely, and with all the hard work the teams are doing from home, we feel it is important to take the extra time to deliver on the vision of 'Battlefield 2042' for our players." Other high-profile video game delays in recent weeks include Sony's "Horizon Forbidden West," Ubisoft's (UBSFY) "Rocksmith+," and the next-generation port of Take-Two's (TTWO) "Grand Theft Auto V."
Following the "Battlefield" delay, KeyBanc analyst Tyler Parker said the announcement represents an incremental positive for Activision Blizzard and "slight" negative or EA. Parker said that Activision's "Call of Duty: Vanguard" is now competing against two delayed competitors and will be the first to release, which is far more of a favorable release window than he had assumed just a few months ago.
OTHER STORIES TO WATCH:
Nintendo's (NTDOY) latest Switch update included the ability to pair Bluetooth devices for audio output [more]
Amazon Games (AMZN) named former Ubisoft (UBSFY) Toronto managing director Alexandre Parizeau as head of the tech giant's new game studio in Montreal [more]
Nvidia (NVDA) launched a new display driver that adds Deep Learning Super Sampling support to 28 video games, and is now certified for both Windows 10 and Windows 11, The Verge's Tom Warren reported yesterday [more]
Roblox (RBLX) reported August daily active users rose 32% year-over-year [more]