In this week’s gaming news breakdown, Niantic launched its newest mobile AR game, industry giants EA and Epic Games addressed the UK government over their use of loot boxes, and YouTube faced hot water after child privacy violation accusations.
Niantic launches Harry Potter: Wizards Unite to mixed reviews
Niantic’s next mobile AR game, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, launched for iOS and Android in the US and UK this week. Similar to Pokémon GO, Wizards Unite players follow an AR map that overlays real-world locations to collect items and engage in magical battles with foes. Sentiment from the press was mixed with many outlets expressing torn feelings. GameSpot, Vox, Kotaku, and more quickly pointed out similar gameplay and feature challenges of the game that were seen during Pokémon GO’s initial launch. Mashable summed up its thoughts by stating: “We’re rooting for you, Wizards Unite. We really, really are. But you’ve got some work to do.”
EA and Epic Games make a case for loot boxes and microtransactions to UK government
As part of a UK government investigation into loot boxes and microtransactions leading to gaming and gambling addiction, executives from EA and Epic Games this week defended their use of these increasingly controversial tactics in front of members of Parliament. During the testimony, EA claimed that loot boxes are “surprise mechanics” and they follow ethical guidelines, as the purchasing of a loot box is similar to the purchase of a surprise toy in stores – such as Kinder Eggs or Hatchimals. The press were neutral about the news, with Forbes stating, “You put money in and get something random on the other end. That’s the crux of all this. The question is how to make that work without it being horrifically anti-consumer.” GameSpot, IGN, Kotaku, and more weighed in on the news.
YouTube under federal investigation due to child privacy concerns
Popular streaming and video sharing website YouTube is under federal investigation after claims that the platform violates child privacy laws by collecting data about underage users and allowing harmful, graphic adult content to appear in children’s recommended searches. The investigation comes soon after the company implemented a new streaming policy for minors to better combat predatory behavior on the site. As The New York Times stated, “Dealing with children’s videos is particularly thorny for YouTube,” as the company must decide upon a solution that does not hurt the large number of child influencers, streamers, and channels on the platform. Outlets such as The Verge, Gizmodo, Fast Company, and more reported on the news.