Sony Appoints Hermen Hulst as Head of Worldwide Studios; Activision Blizzard Revenue Falls 15%

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TheGamingEconomy Daily Digest brings you the trending business stories in gaming. In today’s edition: Sony appoints Hermen Hulst as head of Worldwide Studios; Activision Blizzard revenue falls 15%; and Valve seemingly working on cloud gaming service.

Sony appoints Hermen Hulst as head of Worldwide Studios

Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) has appointed Hermen Hulst as head of Worldwide Studios (WWS), effective immediately. Hulst, who co-founded the successful Guerrilla studio that sold to Sony in 2005, will now oversee the 14 studios which comprise the WWS stable, with the most recent developer, Insomniac Games, having been acquired in August this year. The appointment comes amidst a series of staff transitions for SIE, with Jim Ryan taking over from John Kodera as president and CEO in April, chairman Shawn Layden departing as chairman in September, and the laying off of ‘dozens’ of staff members last month.

Outgoing president of WWS, Shuhei Yoshida, will remain with Sony to head up a “newly formed initiative that will focus on nurturing external independent creators”. While the scope of support this initiative will offer independent developers is as yet unclear, the community has thus far reacted positively to the appointment of Yoshida.

“Hermen is one of the most effective and well-respected leaders in the video game industry. He is a passionate advocate for the teams he leads and understands how to empower creative talent to build great experiences,” said Ryan, in a statement announcing Hulst’s appointment. Then, speaking on Yoshida’s transition, he added, “Everybody knows just how passionate Shu is about independent games – they are lifeblood of the industry, making our content portfolio so special for our gamers. These wildly creative experiences deserve focus and a champion like Shu at PlayStation who will ensure the entire SIE organisation works together to better engage with independent developers through a culture of supporting and celebrating their contributions to PlayStation platforms.”

Activision Blizzard revenue falls 15%

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Activision Blizzard revenue for the third quarter of 2019 has fallen by 15% year-on-year to USD$1.282bn (£999m), according to published financial results. Net income also fell from USD$260m to USD$204m, a decline of 21.5%. Despite the shortfall, overall revenue still exceeding company expectations, with a predicted revenue figure of USD$1.105bn (£861m) set during the earnings release for Q2 2019. Call of Duty Mobile, which became the fastest-selling mobile game at launch, and World of Warcraft Classic, which saw the largest quarterly increase in subscribers, were highlighted as success stories for the firm.

“Our third quarter results exceeded our prior outlook for both revenue and earnings per share,” said Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard. “Recent launches have enabled significant growth in the size of our audiences for our Call of Duty® and World of Warcraft® franchises. As we introduce mobile and free-to-play games based on our franchises we believe we can increase audience size, engagement and monetisation across our wholly owned franchises. With a strong content pipeline and momentum in mobile, esports and advertising, we are confident we will remain a leader in connecting and engaging the world through epic entertainment.”

Valve seemingly working on cloud gaming service

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Valve appears to be working on a “Steam Cloud Gaming” service, according to an amendment to the JavaScript code managing the online form for the Steam Distribution Agreement on the SteamWorks Partner site. The update requires that new partners agree to terms in the “Steam Cloud Gaming Addendum” before they can continue with the application process.

While Valve have yet to publicly confirm that the company is developing a cloud gaming service, the move would make sense given the company’s existing server capabilities and the extensive game library available on Steam, however it is unclear what funding model the firm would adopt for players streaming titles on the service which have previously purchased. The potential commercial success (or indeed failure) of cloud gaming services is set to be a key trend in the next 18 months, with the proliferation of upcoming and recently-launched services including Google Stadia, Microsoft Project xCloud, Nvidia Shield and Blade Shadow.