August 2022 – Page 874 – Michmutters

Microsoft Says There Is “Nothing Unique” About Activision Blizzard Games

Microsoft has told New Zealand regulators that there is “nothing unique” about Activision Blizzard titles, in its latest bid to get its pricey merger approved. In a document presented to the Business Acquisitions and Authorizations Commerce Commission, Microsoft says that the gaming giant doesn’t produce any “must have” titles, and should therefore be permitted to go ahead with the acquisition.

This claim is part of Microsoft’s efforts to alleviate fears that its Activision Blizzard merger threatens the gaming industry, creating issues surrounding competition in the market. In doing this, Microsoft has said that its rivals would get by just fine without Activision Blizzard titles, and would still be able to compete in a “vibrant” gaming market.


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“The vast majority of games are developed and published by parties other than [Activision Blizzard] such as Sony, Nintendo, EA and Take-Two”, reads the document, addressing concerns over monopolization of the industry (thanks, Twisted Voxel).

“Specifically, with respect to Activision Blizzard video games, there is nothing unique about the video games developed and published by Activision Blizzard”, the statement continues. “[There are no] ‘must have[s]’ for rival PC and console video game distributors that could give rise to a foreclosure concern.”

This might sound like surprisingly harsh language coming from the tech giant that wants to buy the studio, but it’s unlikely that it is referring to the quality of Activision Blizzard games. Rather, it seems to be a statement intended for regulators who may not understand the gaming market, and therefore need to be made aware that Activision Blizzard doesn’t have a monopoly on a particular genre. But hey, it’s a pretty funny read regardless.

This isn’t the only point the company raises to ease concerns that the merger would give them an unfair advantage in the industry. Microsoft also claims that the gaming industry has “low barriers to entry”, meaning that “content will remain available for distribution to rival PC, console and mobile distributors”.

It’s looking increasingly likely that Microsoft will soon have the regulatory approval it needs to go ahead with the merger. As we recently reported, the deal could get permission from US regulators as soon as August – potentially just weeks away. It depends on whether or not the companies are requested to present further evidence to the regulators. If not, the deal can go ahead.

Next: Bobby Kotick Should Have Been Forced Out Of The Gaming Industry Years Ago


Nathan Buckley’s five takeaways from Round 20

The Buck Stops Here.

Nathan Buckley has gone through his five biggest takeaways from the weekend of footy.

Buckley has touched on Sydney, Patrick Dangerfield, the Tigers-Lions thriller, Joel Selwood and Carlton.

Swans have reinforced their DNA

“We’re going to start with the Swans.

“They have had what I would suggest is the most under-the-radar month, but potentially have set themselves up for the finals and a real crack at the flag in 2022.

“I think they’ve had a relatively easier draw, but the fact is they’re a good young team that have now reinforced exactly what their DNA is – and their DNA is pressure.

“They’re the number one pressure team in the competition across the season, they’re the number one team in the pressure differential across the last month, and three of their best five performances for the year have come in their last four games.

“They’ve ramped up. They’ve narrowed their focus on, ‘We’re going to put absolute heat on the opposition and that’s going to kickstart our game’.”

Dangerfield looms as finals X-factor

“Patrick Dangerfield becomes such a massive X-factor.

“He’s a champion of the game, he’s obviously been a consistent contributor to his teams both in Adelaide and Geelong, but his performance on the weekend highlights what he could be over the next six or seven weeks.

“Finals are about contested ball and winning key contests and that’s what Patrick Dangerfield can provide.

“He’s a clearance beast. We haven’t seen the need for him to go forward yet in amongst Cameron, Hawkins, Stengle, Close, who have got a really established forward line that are scoring heavily. He can still go forward and do that.

“He only played 63 per cent game time across those four quarters.”

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Storylines out of Tigers-Lions thriller

“How good is footy? I just loved to see this game and there were so many storylines that came out of it.

“Since they (Brisbane) have been a top four side, they haven’t played that much footy there (MCG).

“Their first half looked like it had answered that – Daniher and Hipwood stand up, Cameron kicks straight, Rayner looks up and about, their midfield are giving them supply. That’s a story out of it.

Bailey’s injury concern is one. Dylan Grimes’ injury, what does that mean for Richmond?

“But Richmond stands up…they raise the fight. They out pressure one of the top four sides in the competition and they’re able to turn around a 42-point deficit to get it done.

“Noah Cumberland kicks five goals, Lynch stands up, Riewoldt stands up, Shai Bolton… what’s he going to be? And as ‘Fages’ (Chris Fagan) said, celebrating the 300th game of Shane Edwards.

“There was so much to like about that game.”

Selwood’s 350th game

“The fourth one is about Geelong and Joel Selwood and how they handled that.

“I look at it from afar and look at the Geelong footy club, not just about their on-field performances but their admin, how they set themselves up off-field, how they handle different situations, I think they do it with class and I thought what we saw with Joel Selwood after the game on Saturday night was amazing.

“The jury is out around final performances, but that’s still there for them to chase.

“Geelong handle crisis as well as anyone. They’re a tight-knit organization on and off the field and they get things done.”

Where Blues must improve

“I think they’re a very interesting study.

“12 wins have put themselves in a position where they have a crack at playing finals, they’ve been touted as top four, will they miss the eight? There are a few question marks for the next three weeks against them as they take on Brisbane next week, then Melbourne, then Collingwood. Three blockbusters to finish the season off.

“I think we’ll see that game in Round 23 (against the Magpies) and I reckon we’ll see it repeated in the first ending.

“Carlton is the second-best contested ball side in the comp, they’re the second-best clearance side in the comp, they’re the ninth-worst offence, the 11th-worst defense in terms of defending transition.

“In contest they’re great, in stoppage they’re great, in transition it’s always been a watch to see whether they can build an effective and efficient unit to play the transition game, which is where sides like Geelong and Richmond and Collingwood lately and Melbourne have been elite.

“The jury is out on that. They still need to develop that, and they need to improve if they’re going to challenge the best sides when they get to September.”



Retired couple on Australia’s longest pub crawl say old country hotels are best

A couple from Queensland are on Australia’s longest pub crawl, aiming to have at least one drink in every pub in the country.

Andrew and Ursula Keese set themselves the adventurous task for their retirement and they believe nobody has attempted it before.

“We both like to travel and we both like drinks and we both like to see Australia,” Mr Keese said.

They have ticked off every Queensland hotel and are just about to finish South Australia, where they have pulled up a seat at more than 380 pubs, bringing their total to more than 1,500.

Couple standing in front of modern large white campervan
Andrew and Ursula Keese plan to spend six months each year traveling to pubs across Australia.(Supplied: Ursula and Andrew Keese)

“I’ve been going to pubs since I was literally a baby with my mum and dad, and Ursula’s dream was to buy a motor home and travel around Australia so we thought we’d combine the two,” he said.

They expect it will take eight years to visit every pub in the country which they research online.

“We print out all the towns and suburbs and each state, and as we go we’ll cross off the town or the suburb,” Mr Keese said.

Man and woman in front of William Creek hotel building
Andrew and Ursula Keese at William Creek Hotel.(Supplied: Ursula and Andrew Keese)

“There’s only one website … that lists all the pubs, which is 6,033, but unfortunately it’s about 15 years out of date so we’re finding since that time about 10 per cent of pubs have closed.

“Some stunning old pubs [have closed] which is tragic so we’re hopefully doing our little bit just to promote pubs, especially country pubs and get people traveling out and going to their local once again.”

Reputation precedes them

The couple post photographs on social media and quite often the next pub on their list is expecting them.

“We always get our photo out the front of the pub so we’ve got proof that we’ve been there,” Mr Keese said.

“Some of them have seen us on other pubs they follow and they are happy to see us in their pub.

Woman in pink top leaning over bar to pat dog behind hotel par, post looking on
Ursula Keese enjoys meeting the locals at the Poochera Hotel in rural South Australia.(Supplied: Ursula and Andrew Keese)

“So many of them show you around the pub and take you on a tour which is really nice.

“They say ‘We’ve been wondering when you’d come into our pub’.”

They photograph the bars and features of the pub.

“If there’s stunning facades we get that and then all of the inside of the pub … just so people can see what does the pub look like and what does it offer.”

A drink at each watering hole

The couple have at least a drink at the pub, and try the local drops whenever they are available.

“We’ll order local, certainly anything different on tap or if they’ve got a local gin or a local wine,” Mr Keese said.

“We try and change it up so we’re always ordering something local because we went through outback Queensland for about three months and you could only get XXXX and Great Northern and I’ll drink them, but it was certainly a stretch,” he said.

Man behind a bar filled with memorabilia on shelves and ceiling
The couple enjoy exploring Australia’s most remote and quirky pubs and take a photo of the bar person who serves them.(Supplied: Andrew and Ursula Keese)

Most of their favorite pubs were older pubs that had character on the outside and characters on the bar stools inside.

“The beautiful old country pubs, they’ve just got a different feel and the locals they’ll always welcome you especially in the old pubs.

“It’s rare that you walk in and people don’t go ‘g’day, how ya going?'”



Lies for Profit: Can Sandy Hook Parents Shut Alex Jones Down?

AUSTIN, Texas — When viral lies harm private people, are the courts their best refuge? A trial to decide how much the conspiracy broadcaster Alex Jones must pay a Sandy Hook family for defaming them attempts to answer that question.

Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of Jesse Lewis, 6, who died at Sandy Hook, are requesting $150 million in compensatory damages for years of torment and threats they endured in the aftermath of Mr. Jones’s lies about them on Infowars, his Austin -based website and broadcast. They are suing him in the first of three trials in which juries will decide how much he must pay relatives of 10 people killed in the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., for spreading lies that they were actors in a “false flag” operation, planned by the government as a pretext for gun control.

Last year Mr. Jones lost a series of Sandy Hook defamation cases by default, setting the stage for the damage trials.

Mr. Heslin, Ms. Lewis and JT Lewis, Jesse’s brother, will testify this week.

More important than money, the parents said, is society’s verdict on a culture in which viral misinformation damages lives and destroys reputations, yet those who spread it are seldom held accountable. “Speech is free, but lies you have to pay for,” Mark Bankston, the parents’ lawyer, told the jury in his opening statement last week. “This is a case about creating change.”

But the trial demonstrates how difficult it is to counter the views of die-hard conspiracy theorists. Over nearly three days of testimony last week, Daria Karpova, Infowars’ corporate representative, advanced bogus claims, refusing even to rule out the possibility that the trial itself was a staged event. She cast Mr. Jones as the victim, worrying over his health and saying the Sandy Hook lawsuits have cost him “millions.”

That claim allowed the families’ lawyers to share records with the jury showing that Infowars reaped revenues of more than $50 million annually in recent years.

At the heart of the trial is a June 2017 episode of NBC’s “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly,” in which Ms. Kelly profiled Mr. Jones. In the broadcast Mr. Heslin protested Mr. Jones’s denial of the shooting. He recalled his last moments of him with Jesse, saying, “I held my son with a bullet hole through his head of him.”

Afterward, Mr. Jones and Owen Shroyer, a lieutenant of Mr. Jones at Infowars, aired shows implying that Mr. Heslin had lied. “Will there be a clarification from Heslin or Megyn Kelly?” Mr. Shroyer said on Infowars. “I wouldn’t hold your breath.”

Lawyers say the three trials hold lessons for other cases against conspiracy-minded defendants, from the Jan. 6 insurrectionists to Trump allies sued for falsely claiming that voting machine manufacturers helped “steal” the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Jones is also under scrutiny for his role in events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

“These Sandy Hook parents have spent years of their lives and sacrificed whatever is left of their privacy to shine a light on peddlers of disinformation, not only to seek justice for their children, but to make folks who profit from tragedy consider the consequences of their actions,” said Karen Burgess, a trial lawyer at Burgess Law in Austin who represented Dominion Voting Systems when it was sued by Texas conspiracy theorists who said the company helped rig the 2020 vote. Facing sanctions from the court, the conspiracy theorists dropped their suit against the company.

Lawyers for the Sandy Hook families say a verdict, expected this week in the first trial, could send a signal to other conspiracy purveyors about the cost of online lies and set into motion a chain of events that could shut Infowars down.

Still, the path forward is not clear. On Friday Mr. Jones put Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which usually automatically halts all pending litigation. Free Speech Systems, however, requested that the bankruptcy court lift that automatic stay, so the trial in progress can continue to a verdict. That motion is set for a hearing Monday morning in a bankruptcy court in Victoria, Texas. Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of the Travis County District Court indicated that the trial would proceed.

Lawyers for the families say a big jury award this week along with the bankruptcy could threaten Infowars’ operations, but many details about Mr. Jones’s current finances are murky.

For now the filing puts on hold the remaining two Sandy Hook damages trials, both scheduled for September.

In court last week, Mr. Jones’s lawyers launched a defense advanced by other defendants in politically charged defamation cases: Our national discourse has become so polluted by disinformation, they said, that who really knows what is true or false?

Federico Andino Reynal, Mr. Jones’s lawyer, blamed errors in mainstream media reports about Sandy Hook for the bogus theories spread by Mr. Jones.

“He had seen what he perceived as so many lies and so many cover-ups and so much hand-washing of the facts that he had become biased,” Mr. Reynal said. “He was looking at the world through dirty glasses. And if you look at the world through dirty glasses, everything you see is dirty.”

But Infowars staffers testified that they did not check easily available facts about Sandy Hook — or much else — before broadcasting their incendiary assertions. Lawyers for Mr. Heslin and Ms. Lewis, using internal emails and testimony from Infowars staffers, showed how Mr. Jones and his top lieutenants ignored multiple warnings that continuing to broadcast Sandy Hook lies would harm the survivors and land Infowars in legal trouble.

In a videotaped deposition, a former employee, Rob Jacobson, said he repeatedly delivered these warnings to Infowars staffers, “only to be received with laughter and jokes.”

The NBC episode, which was shown in court, was particularly striking. In it Mr. Jones made a variety of damaging false claims, including dismissing a 2017 suicide bombing that killed 22 adults and children at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, as an attack on “a bunch of liberal trends,” who support “ Islamist” immigration.

Mr. Shroyer also testified that he failed to fact-check a false report on the episode defaming Mr. Heslin because he did not have the time.

At the trial last week, Mr. Jones’s seat at the defense table often remained empty. His lawyer for him, Mr. Reynal, has declined to say whether he will testify, adding that Mr. Jones is in charge of his defense for him. Mr. Reynal told the judge that Mr. Jones’s absences were because of a “medical condition” that Mr. Jones, speaking outside the courthouse, described as an untreated hernia.

But he continues to broadcast his show, where he and Mr. Shroyer derived the trial last week, violating the judge’s order not to comment on it. When Mr. Jones did come to court, he drove up in a motorcade and sat in the courtroom surrounded by bodyguards. Last week Mr. Reynal thrust a raised middle finger into the face of the families’ lawyer in a dispute over exhibits that nearly ended in a fistfight.

The trial proceedings have taken a toll on Mr. Heslin and Ms. Lewis. They hired security after they spotted people waiting for them outside their hotel, and they have heard Infowars loyalists describe them as pawns in Mr. Jones’s pursuit of online clout.

During his testimony in court on Thursday, Mr. Shroyer suggested that it was the lawsuits, not his and Mr. Jones’ lies, that exacerbated the families’ suffering. “I’m very upset that this continues,” he said, citing its “tremendous negative effects on my career and livelihood.”


Is Pokemon UNITE free-to-play? -Dot Esports

Pokemon UNITE released in July 2021 for Nintendo Switch and Sept. 2021 on mobile devices, with both versions being completely free-to-play and featuring crossplay and full cross-progression.

It follows the trend most MOBA titles tend to use, being F2P but moonlighting more as a “free-to-start” experience that has content such as playable Pokémon and other content that needs to be unlocked before becoming usable.

Even developer TiMi Studio consistently uses the free-to-start to market the game, as UNITE offers numerous optional in-game purchases. These involve players purchasing Aeos Gems to unlock Gem-only cosmetic items for playable Pokémon called Holowear, avatar cosmetics, and the game’s premium battle pass, which is the only ay to unlock items included in the battle pass like Holowear.

Aeos Gems can also be used to easily unlock many other items in the game, like other cosmetics and Unite Licenses for Pokémon that you can use in battle. Normal items can typically be obtained using Aeos Coins or Aeos Tickets, the game’s free currency you earn by playing the game, though the grind can sometimes be real for frequent players who really want to unlock more than just the occasional piece of content.

It is also important to note, just like most multi-platform games that offer microtransactions, if you purchase Aeos Gems you can’t use them on both systems—so any premium currency purchased on Switch can’t be used on mobile.

However, players can use the same account on different devices, using either a Pokémon Trainer Club account or a Nintendo account, and content purchased with gems will carry over.


Cyclist Matt Wlls out of hospital after crowd crash

Two riders were hospitalized and multiple spectators required medical treatment after a crash catapulted an Olympic gold medalist into the crowd during a Commonwealth Games qualifying race on the high-banked, Lee Valley velodrome.

England’s Matt Walls was treated in the stands for almost 40 minutes after both he and his bike were flung off the track.

The 24-year-old, who won the omnium at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, and Isle of Man rider Matt Bostock were taken to hospital after the incident in which several riders collided on a turn.

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Walls was later released from the hospital.

“Following medical treatment in hospital, Matt Walls has been discharged with stitches in his forehead, scrapes and bruises but thankfully no major injuries,” Team England said in a statement.

“We send our best wishes to all other riders and spectators involved in the crash and thank the medical teams for their expert care.”

Bostock had a CT scan from which the initial prognosis was positive, his Isle of Man team said.

The morning session of cycling was abandoned and spectators were asked to leave the stadium as Walls received treatment behind a temporary screen after the crash.

Witnesses said that because of the gradient of the banking on the track, spectators in the front row could not see the crash unfolding, nor Walls coming towards them.

One man received treatment for cuts to his arm and a young girl also required medical assistance.

Officials from several teams sprinted towards the stricken riders after the crash on the final lap of the second qualifying heat.

“I think the crashes are getting worse and it’s because the speeds are getting higher, the positions (on the bike) are getting more extreme,” five-time British Olympic champion Laura Kenny said.

“Some of the pursuit positions people are getting in, you see people crashing into the back of people.

“At some point, the UCI is going to have to put a cap on these positions. Maybe there should be screens because Matt should not have been able to go over the top and into the crowd, that’s pretty damn dangerous.”

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protect profits, hit workers and consumers

There’s a longstanding but unacknowledged – and often unnoticed – bias in mainstream commentary on the state of the economy. We dwell on problems created by governments or greedy workers and their interfering unions, but never entertain the thought that the behavior of business could be part of the problem.

This ubiquitous pro-business bias – reinforced daily by the national press – is easily seen in the debate on how worried we should be about inflation, and in the instant attraction to the notion that continuing to cut real wages is central to getting inflation back under control. This is being pushed by the econocrats, and last week’s economic statement from Treasurer Jim Chalmers reveals it’s been swallowed by the new Labor government.

Last week's economic statement from Treasurer Jim Chalmers shows the concept of real wage cuts to get inflation under control has been swallowed by the Labor government.

Last week’s economic statement from Treasurer Jim Chalmers shows the concept of real wage cuts to get inflation under control has been swallowed by the Labor government.Credit:alex ellinghausen

I’ve been arguing strongly that the primary source of the huge price rises we’ve seen is quite different to what we’re used to. It’s blockages in the supply of goods, caused by a perfect storm of global problems: the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and even climate change’s effect on meat and vegetable prices.

Since monetary policy can do nothing to fix supply problems, we should be patient and wait for these once-off, temporary issues to resolve themselves. The econocrats’ reply is that, though most price rises come from deficient supply, some come from strong demand – and they’re right.

Although more than half the 1.8 per cent rise in consumer prices in the June quarter came from just three categories – food, petrol and home-building costs – it’s also true there were increases in a high proportion of categories.

The glaring example of price rises caused by strong demand is the cost of building new homes. Although there have been shortages of imported building materials, it’s clear that hugely excessive stimulus – from interest rates and the budget – has led to an industry that hasn’t had a hope of keeping up with the government-caused surge in demand for new homes. It’s done what it always does: used the opportunity to jack up prices.

But as for a more general effect of strong demand on prices, what you don’t see in the figures is any sign it’s high wages that are prompting businesses to raise their prices. Almost 80 per cent of the rise in prices over the year to June came from the price of goods rather than services. That’s despite goods’ share of total production and employment being about 20 per cent.

This – along with direct measures of wage growth – says it’s not soaring labor costs that have caused so many businesses to raise their prices. Rather, strong demand for their product has allowed them to pass on, rather than absorb, the higher cost of imported inputs – and, probably, fatten their profit margins while they’re at it.

Take the amazing 7 per cent increase in furniture prices during the quarter. We’re told this is explained by higher freight costs. really? I can’t believe it.