Korean video game firm Krafton applies for IPO, seen worth billions of dollars

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s Krafton Inc, the video game holding company that publishes the blockbuster game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), has applied for preliminary approval for an initial public offering (IPO), Korea Exchange said on Thursday.

The IPO is expected to be one of the biggest Korean listings this year, Seoul-based analysts said, with over-the-counter trades on Thursday valuing Krafton at around 20 trillion won ($17.92 billion).

Krafton founder Chang Byung-gyu is the largest shareholder with a 16.4% stake as of end-2020, followed by China’s Tencent holding a 15.5% stake through an investment company. Small shareholders with less than 1% stake individually held a combined 23.2% of Krafton, according to a company filing.

PUBG is one of the highest-grossing video games of all time, with up to 55 million daily users excluding China on weekends and 70 million copies of the game sold for PC and game consoles, Krafton said. Upcoming new mobile game “PUBG: New State” gained more than 5 million pre-registrations within a week, Krafton said in March.

Krafton reported revenue of 1.67 trillion won and operating profit of 774 billion won in 2020, Korea Exchange said in a statement.

The main adviser for the IPO is Mirae Asset Daewoo, while other advisers are Credit Suisse, Citigroup Global Markets, Korea Investment & Securities, JP Morgan and NH Investment & Securities.

Robust investor demand has fuelled a flurry of sizable listings in South Korea this year.

An IPO by vaccine developer SK Bioscience Co Ltd last month was the biggest in Seoul in nearly four years, while battery component developer SK IE Technology’s (SKIET) planned IPO is expected to be worth at least $1.5 billion.

($1 = 1,116.3800 won)

Twitch will ban users for ‘severe misconduct’ that occurs away from its site

(Reuters) – Live-streaming service Twitch will ban users for offenses such as hate-group membership or credible threats of mass violence that occur entirely away from the site, in a new approach to moderating the platform, the company said on Wednesday.

The Amazon Inc-owned platform, which is popular among video gamers, said under its new rules it would take enforcement actions against offline offenses that posed a “substantial safety risk” to its community.

It said examples of this “severe misconduct” include terrorist activities, child sexual exploitation, violent extremism, credible threats of mass violence, carrying out or deliberately acting as an accomplice to sexual assault and threatening Twitch or its staff.

“Taking action against misconduct that occurs entirely off our service is a novel approach for both Twitch and the industry at large, but it’s one we believe – and hear from you – is crucial to get right,” the company said in a blog post.

Major social media companies Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc largely focus their rules and enforcement actions on content and activity on the actual services, with exceptions for certain individuals or organizations they have designated as dangerous or violent.

Twitch previously took into account off-service behaviors related to incidents on the site, such as harassment on other social media platforms.

It said it had also historically taken action against serious misconduct away from its service, such as when it indefinitely suspended the account of former U.S. President Donald Trump after a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Twitch said it did not have a large-scale approach in the past.

The company said users will be able to report such behaviors but it may also investigate cases proactively, for instance if there is a verified news report that a user has been arrested.

Twitch said it would rely more heavily on law enforcement in “off-service” cases and is partnering with an investigative law firm to support its internal team. It declined to name the firm.

The new standards will apply even if the target of the offline behaviors is not a Twitch user or if the perpetrator was not a user when they committed the acts. Perpetrators would also be banned from registering a Twitch account, it said.

Twitch said it would take action only when there was evidence, such as screen shots, videos of off-Twitch behavior or police filings, verified by its internal team or third-party investigators. Users who submit a large amount of frivolous reports will face suspension.

The company said in cases where the behavior happened in the distant past, users had gone through rehabilitation such as time in a correctional facility, and they no longer presented a danger to the community, it might not take action or might reinstate users on appeal.

It said it would share updates with the involved parties but would not share public updates about actions under this policy.

E3 2021: Biggest conference in gaming is going online

It’s been confirmed that E3, the biggest video game event in the world, is set to go ahead this year.

Instead of its usual Los Angeles location it will be held digitally and free for everyone to attend due to the pandemic. 

Nintendo, Xbox, Konami and Ubisoft are some of the developers which have agreed to participate. 

Notably absent are EA, Activision and Sony, but this isn’t unusual and often happened before the pandemic too. 

The show, which connects developers and publishers with gamers was forced to cancel last year due to global lockdowns.

Entertainment Software Association, which runs the event, hasn’t yet given any clues about how it will take hold.

Fans will be expecting to see lots of trailers, game demonstrations and pre-filmed interviews with the biggest names in the industry.

The whole event will be free to take part in – with no VIP packages or paywall features.

“For more than two decades, E3 has been the premier venue to showcase the best that the video game industry has to offer, while uniting the world through games,” said Stanley Pierre-Louis, who runs ESA. 

“We are evolving this year’s E3 into a more inclusive event, but will still look to excite the fans with major reveals and insider opportunities that make this event the indispensable centre stage for video games.” 

The event will run 12-15 June.

Esports body calls for disability gaming tournaments

The British Esports Association (BEA) is calling for gaming tournaments to be held that cater exclusively to players with disabilities.

It comes after this year’s Association of Colleges’ FIFA Cup, which runs until May, included three disabled gamers.

It’s the first time gamers like Dan and Christopher (pictured above) have been able to take part.

Students play matches against opposing teams every week until May, and enter their results online.

After seeing students like Dan, from National Star college in Gloucestershire, taking part, BEA says it will push for wider accessibility for disabled gamers.

Dan
image captionDan didn’t win his match, but he enjoyed playing

It says it will call on some of the biggest names in the technology industry to make that happen.

Tom Dore, from BEA, says: “We’re hoping that we can take what they’re doing as a pilot. 

“We’re intending to speak to Microsoft about the opportunities to get a group of colleges like National Star involved in a pilot competition like this because the impact that they’ve seen is huge.”

Only a few years ago, it would have taken lots of money, specialist equipment and time to install an accessible controller if you have a disability.

Daniel has limited mobility in his hands and arms. He used adapted technology to take part, which was developed in 2018 by Microsoft.

It’s an Xbox Adaptive Controller, which has various switches he can control from the chair he uses everyday to take part in games.

Dan's control board
image captionDan uses the board to control the players on screen

The other players against him in the tournament weren’t aware of his disability. 

Although Dan says it “means a lot” to him to be able to take part in the main Association of Colleges FIFA tournament, but he would prefer playing against other disabled gamers.

He says: “Being able to play real opponents is really hard because I play the game in a different way to them.

“I would like to be able to play against people who use the same technology as me so that it is fairer.”

Tencent’s Timi gaming studio generated $10 billion in 2020 – Sources

(Reuters) – Chinese tech giant Tencent’s Timi Studios, maker of popular video games Honor of Kings and Call of Duty Mobile, generated revenue of $10 billion last year, two people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The $10 billion would make Timi the world’s largest developer, the sources say, which many industry watchers had suspected to be the case.

It also provides a hefty basis for its ambitions to move beyond mobile games and compete directly with global heavyweights developing expensive “AAA” titles on platforms such as desktop computers, Sony’s PlayStation, Nintendo’s Switch and Microsoft’s Xbox.

In a recruitment notice last month, a Timi engineer wrote that the company aims to create a new AAA game that resembles the virtual community from the movie Ready Player One, and will “compete head-to-head against big powers from Japan, Korea, Europe and U.S.”

Tencent is building studios overseas, including one for Timi and one for Lightspeed and Quantum, both in Los Angeles, with the goal of creating content with original intellectual property that has global appeal.

Tencent aims eventually to derive half its game revenue from overseas, from 23 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019, the most recently available figure.

Many major studios are turning to Tencent for support to convert their “hardcore” desktop or console games to mobile. Such games feature long sessions and in-depth storytelling or battles, with some including multiplayer online role-playing or online battle arenas.

Last week, Tencent reported 156.1 billion yuan ($23.79 billion) in overall online game revenues for 2020 but did not break down revenue for individual studios, which are run independently and compete with each other.

Timi’s proceeds accounted for 40% of the game revenue, said the two people.

Of Tencent’s remaining gaming revenue last year, its Lightspeed and Quantum studio, the developer of PUBG Mobile, another top-grossing game, contributed 29%, the people said, while 26% was proceeds from publishing for other developers. Aurora Studios Group, boosted by its Moonlight Blade Mobile title, contributed 3%, the people said.

The sources declined to be identified because the information is not public.

Tencent did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.

Tencent, which has benefited from a surge in paying gamers, said last week its online games revenue rose 29% to 39.1 billion yuan in the fourth quarter.

($1 = 6.5619 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Streamer xQc knocked offline over unpaid electricity bill

Famous Twitch streamer xQc was knocked offline during a live broadcast because he forgot to pay his electricity bill.

Felix Lengyel – to use the streamer’s real name – is a former pro esports player and one of the biggest game streaming stars on earth.

After his stream abruptly ended, he tweeted: “Forgot to pay the electricity bill.”

Lengyel is reported to be a millionaire thanks to his huge audiences on Twitch and YouTube.

But he told his followers his electricity being cut off was not a sign of any financial crisis.

“Power went down, stream did too. Will be back on later today or tomorrow,” he told fans.

“Autopay was on but my credit card limit is the same I had when I was 12 so sometimes it’s empty and payment can’t go through.

“Just Canadian bank stuff, move along.” View original tweet on Twitter

True to his word, he resumed streaming hours later – electricity apparently having been sorted. It also affected his room-mate and fellow streamer Adept.

xQc made headlines in 2018 when he was suspended from his professional sports team in the Overwatch League, for using a homophobic slur on his personal livestream – something which the League decided broke its professional code of conduct.

He was fined $2,000 and banned for four matches. 

Now aged 25, Lengyel is signed to esports group Luminosity, but streams on a daily basis as a full-time career.

His Twitch channel has more than eight million followers, and individual videos rack up hundreds of thousands of views. That success is supplemented by a strong YouTube presence, where he has one and a half million subscribers.

Poland’s CD Projekt to seek M&A targets in bid to become a top gamemaker

(Reuters) – Poland’s CD Projekt will actively look for merger and acquisition targets in its bid to become one of the top three video game makers in the world, it said on Tuesday.

Investors and players had expected the Polish studio behind Cyberpunk 2077 to present a plan to fix the game that was one of the most anticipated in 2020 but was bug-ridden when it was released in December.

The announcement of acquisition plans had not been expected in the strategy document published on Tuesday.

CD Projekt said shortly before publishing the strategy update that it had signed a letter of intent to take over Canadian development studio Digital Scapes.

The company, which did not reveal the deal’s value, said it had cooperated with the Vancouver-based game development studio since 2018. The Digital Scapes team employs “around a dozen experienced game creators”, CD Projekt said.

The Cyberpunk 2077 maker was due to hold a news conference later on Tuesday.

Poland’s CD Projekt releases patch for Cyberpunk 2077

(Reuters) – Poland’s CD Projekt has released a patch for its Cyberpunk 2077 game, the video games maker said on Monday, potentially paving a way for the game to return to the PlayStation store after its removal last year.

“Patch 1.2 for Cyberpunk 2077 is now live on PC and consoles!” CD Projekt said on Twitter.

The patch 1.2 includes over 500 fixes to gameplay, graphics, audio, animation and addresses issues related to police response to player actions, among others.

CD Projekt originally had planned to release the patch last month, but it was delayed by a cyber attack.

Sony Corp pulled Cyberpunk 2077 from its PlayStation Store only a week after the game’s debut amid complaints of glitches.

Analysts have said the patch could be one of the key steps towards bringing the game back to the PlayStation store.

The patch for Google’s Stadia will follow later this week, CD Projekt added.

Bafta Games Awards 2021: Hades takes Best Game

Hades has won Best Game at the 2021 Bafta Games Awards.

The Ancient Greek-themed action adventure was the big winner of the night, taking away five awards in total.

The title, made for PC and Nintendo Switch, has been commended by critics for its unique art style and distinctive gameplay.

Fans voted voted The Last of Us Part 2 as the EE Game of the Year.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure took the British Game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons won in the Multiplayer category and the Game Design award went to Hades.

It was the second time the awards ceremony was held online due to lockdown.

‘A platform for changing gaming’s image’

Analysis by Steffan Powell, Newsbeat gaming reporter

Bosses sitting in PlayStation HQ will have a big smile on their faces after watching this year’s ceremony.

Titles that are exclusive to Sony’s consoles walked away with almost half of the awards up for grabs on the night.

From Ghost of Tsushima to Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure, PlayStations’s knack of making exclusive games which resonate with players was clearly on show.

However, the big winner of the night was action roleplaying game Hades which walked away with five golden masks – some achievement for a team of only 20 developers at Supergiant Games.

Gameplay from Hades
image captionHades was the night’s big winners

Aside from the winners and losers, the ceremony also took the opportunity to celebrate the positive role that games have played in boosting people’s mental and social wellbeing in lockdown. 

From winners’ speeches, to presenter commentary and videos that were shown during the event – the industry used the shop window that Bafta provides to try and keep changing the perception of gaming as just a pastime. 

The message was clear: The industry wants those who’ve turned to games in recent months to become ambassadors and encourage more people to pick up a controller.

Fan-favourite Last of Us 2 wins three awards

A record-breaking 13 nominations this year meant Naughty Dog’s title The Last of Us Part 2 was always expected to do well.

In the end, it won three awards: Audience-voted Game of the Year, Animation and Performer in a Leading Role, for Laura Bailey.

Joel in The Last of Us 2
image captionLast of Us 2 was nominated for a number of awards including best game

It won big at the 2020 Game awards and was crowned BBC Sounds podcast Press X to Continue’s game of 2020

Despite controversies over its depiction of violence, divisive plot twists and character portrayals, the title had an overwhelmingly positive reaction from players and critics.

The lockdown effect

Right from host Elle Osili-Wood’s opening speech, the positives of gaming during lockdown kept coming up.

“Games, and the developers behind them, have proven themselves to be more essential than ever,” she said.

“In 2020, games connected us in a way that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.”

A still from Animal Crossing

So it wasn’t a surprise when Animal Crossing: New Horizons – one of “the” games of lockdown for many people – won two awards.

The Nintendo title won in the Multiplayer category, and also took the Game Beyond Entertainment award – which recognised “games that made us think and made us feel”.

Diversity recognised in Bafta’s highest honour

Siobhan Reddy was honoured with a Bafta Fellowship for her work as studio director of games company Media Molecule – the team behind games such as LittleBigPlanet and Dreams, the game creation software made for PlayStation.

The accolade comes in recognition of her “pioneering work on advocacy for diversity, inclusion and creative and collaborative working culture”. View original tweet on Twitter

“I have to be honest, I felt like vomiting,” laughs Siobhan as she recalls the moment she found out she’d won the prestigious award. 

“It’s incredibly humbling. I went through a lot of emotions, and I came out the other end of just feeling incredibly grateful, incredibly moved, and incredibly motivated. I’m totally delighted,” Siobhan tells Newsbeat.

The winners in full

Animation: The Last of Us Part 2

Artistic Achievement: Hades

Audio Achievement: Ghost of Tsushima

Best Game: Hades

British Game: Sackboy: A Big Adventure

Debut Game: Carrion

Evolving Game: Sea of Thieves

Family: Sackboy: A Big Adventure

Game Beyond Entertainment: Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Game Design: Hades

Multiplayer: Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Music: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Narrative: Hades

Original Property: Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition

Performer in a Leading Role: Laura Bailey (The Last of Us Part 2)

Performer in a Supporting Role: Logan Cunningham (Hades)

Technical Achievement: Dreams

EE Game of the Year: The Last of Us Part 2

By: Steffan Powell and Imran Rahman-Jones
Newsbeat reporters

Tencent’s quarterly profit jumps 175%, above forecast

(Reuters) – Chinese gaming and social media giant Tencent Holdings Ltd on Wednesday reported a forecast-beating 175% rise in quarterly profit.

The world’s largest gaming firm by revenue booked profit of 59.3 billion yuan ($9.09 billion) for the three months through December. That was ahead of an average analyst estimate of 30.65 billion yuan, based on data from Refinitiv.

($1 = 6.5232 Chinese yuan renminbi)