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    Call of Duty removes “NickMercs” skin following FaZe Clan star’s LGBTQ tweet / ArsTechnica · Friday, 9 June - 16:30

The Spartan-themed "NickMercs" skin that was recently removed from <em>Call of Duty</em>.

Enlarge / The Spartan-themed "NickMercs" skin that was recently removed from Call of Duty . (credit: Activision)

Call of Duty has removed a skin based on popular Warzone streamer and FaZe Clan co-owner Nicholas "NickMercs" Kolcheff after controversy over a tweet surrounding an LGBTQ protest.

"Due to recent events, we have removed the 'NickMercs Operator' bundle from the Modern Warfare II and Warzone store," publisher Activision wrote in a tweet after Call of Duty news site Charlie Intel noticed the unannounced removal . "We are focused on celebrating PRIDE with our employees and our community."

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    Activision shuts down popular fan servers for legacy Call of Duty games / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 23 May - 16:48

Prerelease video of Modern Warfare 2 's SM2 mod, which has ceased development following an Activision cease-and-desist request.

Activision has sent cease-and-desist letters to two makers of popular fan clients for legacy Call of Duty titles in recent weeks. The move cuts off access to the many gameplay and quality-of-life improvements brought by these clients and stops what fans say is the only safe way to play these older games without the threat of damaging hacking by opponents.

The first victim of Activision's recent efforts was SM2, a major Modern Warfare 2 modding project whose development started over two years ago . Since then, the modding group has been working on updating that seminal 2009 release with new weapons, in-game perks, a redesigned UI, new streak and progression systems, and even a recent move to a more modern game engine .

Those efforts stopped last week, though, before the mod could even release its first version. The SM2 Twitter account reported that "a team member received a Cease & Desist letter on behalf of Activision Publishing in relation to the SM2 project. We are complying with this order and shutting down all operations permanently."

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    Judge refuses gamers’ attempts to immediately halt Microsoft/Activision merger / ArsTechnica · Monday, 22 May - 18:37 · 1 minute

A group of PlayStation owners worries that an image like this is coming in their near future...

Enlarge / A group of PlayStation owners worries that an image like this is coming in their near future...

A federal judge has refused to grant a requested preliminary injunction that would have stopped Microsoft's continuing effort to buy Activision Blizzard . But as the private case moves forward, the judge in the case writes that the plaintiffs have "plausibly" argued that they might be adversely affected by the deal's anti-competitive effects.

The so-called "gamers' lawsuit" against the Microsoft/Activision deal was initially filed by a group of 10 PlayStation Call of Duty players in December, alleging that the deal could lead to increased prices and/or decreased quality or availability for the franchise on their console of choice. While the case was dismissed in March , the plaintiffs offered an amended complaint last month , laying out more precisely the harm they believe they could suffer after a merger.

Regarding those amended claims, District Court Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley said in a Friday ruling that, while it was too early to fully rule on the merits of the case, the plaintiffs "plausibly attest to their loyalty to the Call of Duty franchise and thus that each will purchase a different console or subscription service, or pay an inflated price, if needed to continue to play Call of Duty, especially if needed to play with their friends." That's a turnaround from the initial March dismissal, where Corley wrote that the plaintiffs didn't "plausibly allege" that the merger "creates a reasonable probability of anticompetitive effects in any relevant market."

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    Sony worries Microsoft will only give it a “degraded” Call of Duty / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 6 April - 19:49 · 1 minute

Artist's conception of what Sony thinks the next Call of Duty might look like on the PS5 (and definitely not a screenshot from Call of Duty 2 on Xbox 360. Nope. No way).

Enlarge / Artist's conception of what Sony thinks the next Call of Duty might look like on the PS5 (and definitely not a screenshot from Call of Duty 2 on Xbox 360. Nope. No way). (credit: Activision)

Late last month, UK regulators said they no longer believed a proposed Microsoft-owned Activision would bar Call of Duty games from PlayStation platforms, a reversal of earlier preliminary findings . Even if you grant that premise, though, Sony says that it's still worried Microsoft could give PlayStation owners a "degraded" version of new Call of Duty games in an effort to make the Xbox versions look better.

“Simply... making it as good as it could be”

In a newly published response to the UK's Competition and Markets Authority, Sony says the regulators' recent turnaround is "surprising, unprecedented, and irrational." The company takes specific issue with the regulators' "lifetime value" modeling, which Sony says heavily undervalues what an Xbox-exclusive Call of Duty would be worth to Microsoft.

Beyond those technical concerns, though, Sony says it worries that Microsoft might subtly undermine PlayStation "simply by not making it as good as it could be." That could include small changes to the game's "performance [or] quality of play," but also secondary moves to "raise [Call of Duty's] price [on PlayStation], release the game at a later date, or make it available only on Game Pass." Microsoft would also "have no incentive to make use of the advanced features in PlayStation not found in Xbox," Sony says, an apparent reference to the PS5 controller's advanced haptics and built-in audio capabilities.

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    Microsoft wins battle with Sony as UK reverses finding on Activision merger / ArsTechnica · Friday, 24 March, 2023 - 19:37

Promotional image of a PlayStation 5 game console and controller.

Enlarge / Sony's PlayStation 5. (credit: Sony)

UK regulators reviewing Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard reversed their stance on a key question today, saying they no longer believe Microsoft would remove the Call of Duty franchise from Sony's PlayStation consoles.

Last month, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) tentatively concluded that a combined Microsoft/Activision Blizzard would harm competition in console gaming. At the time, the CMA said evidence showed that "Microsoft would find it commercially beneficial to make Activision's games exclusive to its own consoles (or only available on PlayStation under materially worse conditions)." The agency also raised concerns about the merger affecting rivals in cloud gaming.

The preliminary finding was a victory for Sony, which has consistently expressed doubts about Microsoft's promise to keep putting Call of Duty games on PlayStation. But Microsoft argued that the CMA's financial model was flawed and was able to convince the agency to reverse its conclusion. In an announcement today , the CMA said it "received a significant amount of new evidence."

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    Microsoft signs another Call of Duty deal in bid to impress regulators / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 14 March, 2023 - 20:13

Artist's conception of Microsoft marching on regulators with fresh evidence of its cross-platform intentions for Call of Duty.

Enlarge / Artist's conception of Microsoft marching on regulators with fresh evidence of its cross-platform intentions for Call of Duty. (credit: Activision)

Microsoft announced Tuesday that it has signed a 10-year deal to bring its Xbox PC games to little-known Ukraine-based streaming platform Boosteroid . The move is being positioned in part to "mak[e] even more clear to regulators that our acquisition of Activision Blizzard will make Call of Duty available on far more devices than before," as Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith said in a statement .

Started in 2017, Boosteroid boasts 4 million streaming customers using servers based in nine European countries and six US states. Those customers pay 7.50 euro per month to stream games from those servers to any smartphone, Windows/Mac/Linux-based PC, or Android TV device.

Boosteroid currently links to users' accounts on other PC-based platforms—including Steam, the Epic Games Store, Blizzard's, EA's Origin, the Rockstar Game Launcher, and Wargaming—and lets them play games from those services without having to install them on a local gaming PC. With this new deal, that access will expand to include games available through Microsoft's Xbox app on the PC.

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    Why Sony says it can’t trust Microsoft’s Call of Duty offer? One word: Bethesda / ArsTechnica · Monday, 13 March, 2023 - 15:42

No one really expects any of these Microsoft-owned Bethesda characters to have much of a presence on PlayStation going forward...

Enlarge / No one really expects any of these Microsoft-owned Bethesda characters to have much of a presence on PlayStation going forward...

For months now, Microsoft has sworn up and down that it doesn't want to take the Call of Duty franchise away from PlayStation if and when it finalizes its proposed acquisition of Activision . But Sony is citing the history of Microsoft's acquisition of Bethesda Softworks parent company ZeniMax as a primary reason why it doesn't exactly trust Microsoft on this matter.

In a filing with the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published last week, Sony pointed to the European Commission's decision to allow Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax in 2021. In that decision, the EC cited Microsoft's planned business strategy in concluding that "the combined entity would not have the incentive to foreclose rival console video game distributors by engaging in a total or partial input foreclosure strategy [emphasis added]."

In other words, the European Commission said it felt Microsoft would have no reason to withhold future Bethesda games from rival platforms like PlayStation. Shortly after the deal was approved, though, Microsoft seems to have found that "incentive" quite easily.

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    Activision Hit With Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Over Call of Duty Character / TorrentFreak · Wednesday, 3 February, 2021 - 10:25 · 3 minutes

Mara Since 2003, publisher Activision has teamed up with various developers to release Call of Duty games on various platforms. Its longest standing partner is California-based Infinity Ward, whose team was responsible for the 2019 release Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Available for Windows, PS4 and Xbox One, Modern Warfare received plenty of praise but not everyone is happy with the end result.

According to a lawsuit filed in a Texas court yesterday, Activision, Infinity Ward (IW), and Major League Gaming Corp (MLG) committed copyright infringement after copying and then passing off a character design as their own.

“Deliberate, Intentional and Comprehensive Copying”

Plaintiff Clayton Haugen describes himself as a writer, photographer and videographer from North Carolina. He is also the copyright owner of two literary works and 22 photographs of a character he named ‘Cade Janus’, the central figure in his story ‘November Renaissance’, which he hoped could be made into a film.

In 2017, Haugen says he hired ‘talent’ (actress, cosplayer, twitch streamer Alex Zedra) to portray ‘Cade Janus’ and took a series of photographs, which together with his story were presented to film studios. In a further promotional effort, the photographs were also published on Instagram and in a series of calendars. It appears that the defendants also became of Haugen’s work.

As part of their hunt for a “strong, skilled female fighter”, the defendant videogame companies (through contractors) allegedly hired the same ‘talent’ (Zedra) and asked her to obtain the same clothing and gear used in the original ‘Cade Janus’ photoshoot from Haugen himself.

The companies also hired the same makeup artist, who was instructed to copy the makeup and hair as depicted in the original photographs, “even using the same hair extension piece.” Haugen further alleges that his original photographs were posted to “the wall of the studio” and used as a framing guide before the model was 3D-scanned.

“To conceal their planned infringement of Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs and his Cade Janus character, Defendants required the talent and the makeup professional to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements,” the complaint notes.

Cade Janus Comparison

“The resulting photographs were intended to be, and were, copies of Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs,” the lawsuit reads.

Infringing Photographs Used to Market Modern Warfare

According to Haugen, the resulting photographs and three-dimensional images were not only used to develop the in-game character ‘Mara’ but also deployed as key assets in Modern Warfare’s marketing campaign.

“With this infringing female character as the centerpiece of an advertising campaign for the first time in the Call of Duty series, [defendants] shattered all previous sales and games-played records. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has generated more than a billion dollars in revenues,” the lawsuit reads.

Copyright Infringement Claims

As the copyright owner of the works in question, Haugen explains that he has the exclusive right to make copies and derivatives, and the exclusive right of distribution. The lawsuit reveals that while Haugen had copyrights registered for his story back in 2012 and 2013, the Copyright Office only registered his photographs on December 21, 2020, presumably so he could file this complaint.

Haugen says that the character ‘Mara’ is “substantially similar” to his creation ‘Cade Janus’ and provides samples to show that his original photographs were copied during a Modern Warfare photoshoot in 2019.

Cade Janus Copy

As a result, Haugen claims that Activision, Infinity Ward and Major League Gaming have infringed and continue to infringe his rights. In the alternative, Activision Blizzard has or has had a financial interest in the infringement of Haugen’s copyrights so can be held vicariously liable for the infringements of the trio.

In a further alternative, the defendants knew that the other defendants and their contractors were infringing and induced and/or encouraged that behavior, making them liable for contributory infringement of Haugen’s rights.

“Haugen is entitled to recover all monetary remedies from Defendants’ infringement, including all of their profits attributable to their infringements, to the full extent permitted by 17 U.S.C. § 504 ,” the complaint concludes, demanding a trial by jury.

The complaint can be found here (pdf)

From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.