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Astro Gaming is the latest sponsor to drop Activision-Blizzard

Astro Gaming, which manufactures gaming peripherals and is widely known for its headsets, has allegedly dropped the Call of Duty League as a sponsor. A report from Charlieintel shows that the Astro Gaming logo has been entirely removed from the Call of Duty League’s MVP event website. The move comes amid a crisis for Activision Blizzard as it faces a major lawsuit over its company culture.

The peripheral manufacturer isn’t alone in leaving the Call of Duty League’s latest event as a sponsor. T-Mobile recently dropped not only the Call of Duty League as a sponsor just a few weeks ago but also ceased its sponsorship of the Overwatch League. At the moment, it’s not clear if Astro Gaming is still sponsoring the Overwatch League.

Numerous other companies have also dropped their sponsorships for the Overwatch League, including State Farm, IBM, and Kellogg’s. Currently, the Overwatch League’s partners page only lists three companies: Xfinity, Coca-Cola, and Teamspeak.

The mass exodus of sponsors from both the Call of Duty League and the Overwatch League comes after a lawsuit was filed against the publisher of both franchises, Activision Blizzard. The lawsuit, filed by the State of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleges — after a two-year investigation — that the publishing giant fostered a “frat house” culture in which sexual harassment, discrimination, and pay inequality were commonplace.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Activision Blizzard has undergone a massive upheaval. On August 3, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack stepped down from his position, and late this past July, developers at companies owned by the massive publisher walked out in protest, demanding that changes be made to the company.

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Otto Kratky
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Otto Kratky is a freelance writer with many homes. You can find his work at Digital Trends, GameSpot, and Gamepur. If he's…
Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition is about to clear its final hurdle
microsoft activision blizzard acquisition uk preliminary approval mwiii reveal full 006

Microsoft has had a tough time getting its acquisition of Call of Duty-maker Activision Blizzard approved, but it just cleared a major hurdle. The U.K.'s CMA, which previously blocked the acquisition over concerns about its impact on the cloud gaming market, says that it has "provisionally concluded" that Microsoft has addressed its biggest issues with the acquisition.

Namely, it likes that Microsoft will give the cloud gaming rights for Activision Blizzard games to Ubisoft. "The prior sale of the cloud gaming rights will establish Ubisoft as a key supplier of content to cloud gaming services, replicating the role that Activision would have played in the market as an independent player," the CMA explained in a press release. "In contrast to the original deal, Microsoft will no longer control cloud gaming rights for Activision’s content, so would not be in a position to limit access to Activision’s key content to its own cloud gaming service or to withhold those games from rivals."
Its press release also reveals that Ubisoft will have the ability to make "Microsoft to port Activision games to operating systems other than Windows and support game emulators when requested." Essentially, it's pleased that Microsoft no longer has an iron grip on Activision Blizzard games outside of the Xbox ecosystem and is closer to supporting the deal because of it. Of course, both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard are pretty happy about this.
"We are encouraged by this positive development in the CMA’s review process," Microsoft president Brad Smith tweeted. "We presented solutions that we believe fully address the CMA’s remaining concerns related to cloud game streaming, and we will continue to work toward earning approval to close prior to the October 18 deadline."
Meanwhile, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson provided Digital Trends with the following statement: "The CMA’s preliminary approval is great news for our future with Microsoft. We’re pleased the CMA has responded positively to the solutions Microsoft has proposed, and we look forward to working with Microsoft toward completing the regulatory review process."
A final decision from the CMA is expected to be made by October 6. As Smith mentioned, Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition is expected to close by October 18.

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Microsoft gives Activision Blizzard cloud gaming rights to Ubisoft
Microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming Service Enters Beta This Week

Microsoft announced its intention to grant Ubisoft, the publisher behind series like Assassin's Creed and Far Cry, the cloud streaming rights for Activision Blizzard titles if Microsoft's acquisition of the Call of Duty publisher goes through.
This deal was made in order to appease the U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Microsoft has not had an easy time trying to acquire Activision Blizzard as it has run into heavy resistance from regulatory bodies like the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.K.'s CMA. The CMA's complaints centered around the potential monopoly Microsoft could have on cloud gaming if the deal were to go through. There was speculation that Microsoft would divest its U.K. cloud gaming efforts to appease the CMA, but it has now presented this new plan that would technically make it give up control of Activision Blizzard game-streaming rights worldwide for the next 15 years.
In a blog post, Microsoft President Brad Smith explainsed that if the Activision Blizzard acquisition happens, Microsoft will give "cloud streaming rights for all current and new Activision Blizzard PC and console games released over the next 15 years" in perpetuity following a one-off payment.
Essentially, Ubisoft will be the one deciding which cloud gaming platforms and services to put Activision Blizzard games on, not Microsoft. Smith claims that this means "Microsoft will not be in a position either to release Activision Blizzard games exclusively on its own cloud streaming service -- Xbox Cloud Gaming -- or to exclusively control the licensing terms of Activision Blizzard games for rival services," and that Ubisoft will allow them to honor existing agreements with companies like Nvidia. 

Ubisoft has been cloud gaming friendly over the past several years, eagerly putting its games on services like Google Stadia and Amazon Luna. With this deal, Ubisoft says it plans to bring Activision Blizzard games to its Ubisoft+ subscription service. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick also commented on the deal, saying that he approves of the deal, but that "nothing substantially changes with the addition of this divestiture" for Activision Blizzard and its investors.
The current deadline for Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition is October 18.

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Activision teases Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’s biggest improvements
The official logo for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III.

Activision has just teased lots of new details about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, which launches this November. That includes the fact that the game will contain a Zombies mode, more open-ended campaign missions, and introduce a new "Call of Duty HQ" that will serve as a hub for all future Call of Duty games.

These details were all revealed in a new blog post posted on the series' website ahead of the in-game event that will give us our first in-depth look at Modern Warfare II. In it, Activision clears up a lot of rumors about the game to try and show that Modern Warfare III is still an "incredible, premium annual game experience across Campaign, Multiplayer and Co-operative modes" despite reportedly starting development as a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II expansion.
Some of the features listed we already knew about, like the fact that this year's campaign features Makarov as a villain and that players can carry over their progression and inventory from Modern Warfare II. Others are new, though, like the fact that the campaign will feature new "Open Combat" missions. That seems to imply that Modern Warfare III's campaign levels will offer more freedom than is typical in a Call of Duty level. When it comes to multiplayer, the post states that players can expect new combat vest, perk, tac-stance movement, and after-market parts systems in addition to some Riochet Anti-Cheat Improvements.
More importantly, it's finally officially confirmed that this year's game will feature a Zombies mode. Titled Modern Warfare Zombies, Activision calls it the "largest Zombies offering to date." Finally, Activision made it clear that it plans on keeping all Call of Duty content closely bundled together going forward. After Modern Warfare III launches, Call of Duty HQ will be introduced and serve as "one access point for your future Call of Duty content."
While there aren't many specifics on all of these things, we at least now have a broader picture of what to expect from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III when it launches on November 10.

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