Welcome back to another quick roundup of news bits all about how COVID-19 has impacted even our MMO corner of the gaming world. Also our attempt not to make every single post about this because it drags us down as much as it drags you down.
So it turns out GameStop does know how to do the right thing when it has no other choice. After a couple of weeks being wrecked in the press for claiming “essential” status to stay open and forcing employees to work without sanitization equipment, GameStop finally announced this weekend that it would close its physical stores during the epidemic, switching over to fully online and curbside pickup offerings. The company is also reportedly doling out two weeks of pay and reimbursing some benefits.
How much overlap is there between people who live for auto racing and video games? We’re ’bout to find out. Formula 1 has decided to replaced all its canceled Grand Prix races with… races inside Codemaster’s F1 2019 PC video game.
While some games-related companies are reporting huge upswings in traffic and income – for example, Steam broke another peak concurrency record this past weekend – but not every company and employee involved in the gaming industry is profiting. As Game Workers Unite argued, “Even if most game devs and artists are safe, the people that are making the games’ production and release happen are going through hell right now – QA testers, event organisers, hard copy packaging and retail staff, workers maintaining servers or shipping of the games, let alone the incredible carers of our office spaces – cleaners, caterers etc. We are hearing stories of layoffs and forced unpaid leave in these sectors[.]” Another union group named names, pointing to QA layoffs and awful conditions at Keywords in Montreal.
Game Workers Unite International statement on the COVID-19 crisis pic.twitter.com/oiht6zqfYD
— Game Workers Unite ✊🏿✊🏽✊🏾 (@GameWorkers) March 22, 2020
Square Enix officially instituted remote work across the globe – including for Final Fantasy XIV‘s staff. “We have now implemented work-from-home policies across all locations and in cases where remote working isn’t possible, we have reduced office density and introduced staggered work times, especially to avoid peak consumer rush hours,” the company’s western CEO wrote.
Blizzard has continued rolling out perks across its online titles; most recently, it’s made every Heroes of the Storm character freely playable through April 2nd. We’ve previously covered Blizzard’s noteworthy policies for its US staff, and most recently GIbiz reported on care packages being sent home with Blizzard staffers in California.
Skyforge is also running a promotional event urging gamers to stay home and partake of its daily login events, prizes, and gifts across all of its platforms.
DDOCentral linked us over to DDO Audit and The DDO Oracle, which both show huge increases in server play for Dungeons and Dragons Online this past weekend, presumably due to Standing Stone Games’ decision to make all content free-to-play for the time being.
Finally, an update from the granddaddy of the genre, Ultima Online: Broadsword is on track to release Update 108 tomorrow, but it’s said it won’t be turning off housing decay during the pandemic, a bit of an odd choice given that the company has done so for other disasters. “We know many of you are asking us to turn off Housing Decay,” the studio told players. “We will not be doing that at this time due to the fact there is a 90 day grace period after closing an account for the houses to fall. After 2 months we will review the status of where everyone is at due to the virus and make our decision at that time. Please understand when we turn off housing decay this makes it so no one can place a house, resize a house or customize a house in any ways. So please understand we have to be very careful when we make this decision.”
Please be safe out there and have a virtual hug from us whether you’re on the front lines or just helping by staying home.
More on the impact of the virus on gaming: