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PS5 September System Software Update launches globally tomorrow – PlayStation.Blog

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Includes new UX features and customization options, 3D Audio for built-in TV speakers, and M.2 SSD storage expansion
Tomorrow, we’re pleased to launch our second major PS5 system software update to all PS5 owners globally. The update includes a variety of enhancements to the PS5 console experience as well as 3D audio support for built-in TV speakers. It also features M.2 SSD storage expansion, which enables PS5 players to store and play PS5 games, PS4 games, and media apps directly from the expanded high-speed storage. 
We’re also expanding mobile features with support for PS Remote Play over mobile networks starting tomorrow, and the ability to view Share Screen broadcasts on PS App beginning next Thursday, Sept. 23.
Thanks to everyone in the community who participated in our system update beta — your support and feedback was valuable. Here are some of the key new features coming to PS5, PS4 and our mobile apps:
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PS5 September System Software Update launches globally tomorrow

The PS5 September Update features new UX enhancements that make it easier than ever for players to view, personalize and manage their game content and console experience:
While viewing Game Base in full screen, players can also see how many of their friends are online, busy, or offline, as well as accept, decline or cancel multiple friend requests at once.

The PS5 September Update adds support for players to experience 3D audio through their built-in TV speakers. Once enabled in the Sound menu, this feature transforms standard two-channel TV speaker audio into three-dimensional sound, heightening the sense of gameplay immersion.* Players can measure the acoustics of their room using the microphone on their DualSense wireless controller to apply the 3D audio setting that’s optimized for their room.**
3D audio via compatible headsets on PS5 has been a popular feature among fans and developers. We’re thrilled to bring this feature to life for players directly through their built-in TV speakers, in addition to the headset support that’s been available since launch.
In addition, players with a Pulse 3D Wireless Headset now have access to equalizer settings within Sound Controls, allowing them to customize the sound profile according to their preference.
Starting tomorrow, PS5 players around the globe can expand their storage capacity with an M.2 SSD, a type of high-speed solid state drive that can be installed in the PS5 console or PS5 Digital Edition console.
Once installed in the PS5 or PS5 Digital Edition console, M.2 SSD storage can be used to download, copy, and launch PS5 and PS4 games, as well as media apps. You can play PS5 and PS4 games directly from M.2 SSD storage and freely move games between storage options.
Important: M.2 SSDs must meet the minimum performance and size requirements outlined on this page. Using an M.2 SSD also requires effective heat dissipation with a cooling structure (such as a heatsink) that meets the dimensional requirements. Please read the page linked above carefully before purchasing any M.2 SSD or cooling structure for use with PS5.
Here’s a look at how to install an M.2 SSD in your PS5 console:

We’re also introducing some new features for PS4, including the ability for players to view their PS5 trophies on their PS4 profile and Trophy list. Players can also view other players’ PS5 trophies on PS4. On both PS4 and PS5 consoles, Party owners now also have the ability to disband a Party without having to remove players individually.
Which feature are you most excited for? Let us know in the comments.
*3D audio for built-in TV speakers needs to be enabled manually through the Sound menu in the PS5 console’s system settings (it’s off by default).
**A DualSense wireless controller update releasing alongside the PS5 September update is required to activate this feature.
***For supported devices and compatibility requirements, please visit: https://www.playstation.com/en-us/remote-play/.

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423 Comments
Sony,
What about VRR support?
This. And this alone. Vrr not untill 2022 is a huge joke at this point.
let’s keep reminding them of the promise
That and 1440p, it’s been almost a year…
VRR hasn’t been implemented due to upcoming new HDMI protocols, which schedule to release in December 2021…And Sony has been waiting for that before enabling it on PS5 and on their TVs
and folders, and the ability to have more than 9 games on the dashboard at once
After having folders on the PS3, I think it took 3-4 years to get folders on the PS4. Expect folders on the PS5 some time in 2024, I guess.
I got a Sony TV with VRR…eventually. Still waiting, and hopeful. Annoyed, but hopeful.
But 1440 was never promised. I don’t see why they can’t offer it, but I wouldn’t hold my breath – and honestly, a lot of us just don’t care. We’re either on a 1080p screen or a 4k screen – 1440 offers me almost nothing at all.
@Techni THIS
barely anyone but moba players use 1440 and vr is not a high seller even for pc.
VRR and niche market springs to mind, should be near the bottom of the list with the low amount of users that will benefit from it. Imagine having say 20 people work on a firmware for which only 5 people can use and benefit from it…..that’s VRR in a nutshell
@Beware-The-Yeti That’s very backwards thinking – new standards today become the common standard of tomorrow. Hardly anybody had a Blu-Ray player when PS3 came out, right? Didn’t the PS1 help drive CD sales, back in the day?
More and more TVs are coming with VRR, and that’s probably about to explode as the HDMI 2.1 format and standards get properly formalized. I expect in three or four years, most any 4k TV will include VRR standard.
Note this is VRR – not VR. Variable Refresh Rate, not Virtual Reality.
Thank you team for everything you do for us. I am excited for all these upgraded features and mostly about the SSD expansion. I have been wishing for the Mobile data capability for the PS Remote Play App and its finally here.
I was wondering if PS5 controller on Android PS Remote Play app would be possible, it is not highly important but i am running out of microusb cables to charge the PS4 controller for when i play remotely.
Again thank you Playstation team for your continuous update/upgrades.
Something was being hinted for the next huge System Software Update in Decemeber !!
@clutch_sam007
Can you elaborate on the upcoming new hdmi protocols ?
@ FeistFan How is it backwards thinking to point out how VRR should be back of the list with the amount of users that have a display capable of it? that’s not backwards thinking otherwise it would’ve been done already.
Ok Sherlock, How will VRR (not virtual reality🙄) help the end user with games that already run at a solid and constant frame rate?
Yep, only want VRR support.
The NVME SSD support is great I already got an SN850 in my PC will eventully get one for PS5 too, but right now, just need VRR support.
I like the update and that you’re not forgetting about the lastgen. From my side I’m really happy about the trophy update.
But I already asked, never got an answer, will we be able to finally check our play times (PS4|5 games) on the PS App too? Like we can now on the system (PS5). It would be much easier us to check the total hours of gameplay in the Mobile App than to boot up the PS5 just to check the numbers.
media server???
Where can we see play time on the PS5?
Your 9.00 update is killing PS4s… including mine. Update error and now cannot access ANY online services, making it useless.
You should be able to access play hours on the website.
YESSSS!
Dang, only 2-channel speaker support for 3D audio. Still have to wait for surround sound support.
Surround sound is already 3d
Could you please look into adding support on the Android Remote Play app for non-Dualshock/Dualsense controllers like exists on iOS? I’d love to be able to use the official Remote Play app with my Razer Kishi.
what? not even dualsense works with android remote play
There’s a third-party app for that. Costs a little, but worth it. Hope it still works with the new upgrades to Remote Play.
Finally we will be able to install more than 5/6 ~100GBs games.
Already have my 2 TB SSD at the ready. As soon as this sucker goes live, I’m installing it and moving games off the HDD that I keep having to cycle like CoD. This has been so annoying.
@KazeEternal
What one did you purchase?
I’ll be grabbing the 4TB FireCuda with heatsink once they are available again.
I heard they might make one that goes all the up to 10TB…that’s what I’m talking about.
Will this be the update that brings back the vertical trophy lists?
No
Maybe, I heard it was in the beta. Possible sony omitted it from this preview or it was found too buggy for final. If the latter we’ll likely see it by this winter, it was more important to get the storage update out the door.
I’ve been using that in the beta, I don’t see any reason for them to remove the feature, it’s probably just not mentioned
It’s horizontal on PS5?! But why, just to be different?
Hell yes. It’s in the beta what ‘Im using now.
I’ve only just noticed that this is the case. The trophies are FAR BETTER in vertical format now. Funny how they failed to mention this in the post.
I am mostly excited for the control center customization and I think for the quick massage should change to custom massages
That thing can even give you a massage now after a hard day at work, that’s cool.
Please bring 1440p resolution 🙁
No VRR and 1440p. Well done Sony. 2022 is almost here and HDMI 2.1 seems non existent to you. People with high end TVs wasting money on your console and I’m one of them. Disappointed doesn’t cut it.
@speckle1493 If you need 1440p support, you don’t have a high end TV…
literally the only thing I’ve been waiting for
@speckel..don’t talk bs what you don’t know about, do some proper research before running ur mouh 🤡 VRR hasn’t been implemented due to upcoming new HDMI protocols, which schedule to release in December 2021…And Sony has been waiting for that before enabling it on PS5 and on their TVs
clutch_sam007 What are you talking about? Which new HDMI protocol? HDMI 2.1 has been finalized since 2017. Xbox has VRR. LG TVs have VRR. Are you Sony’s spokesperson?
@clutch_sam007, You should do some proper research yourself. As you can see from HDMI 2.1 spec:
https://www.hdmi.org/spec21sub/variablerefreshrate
From sony themselves:
https://blog.playstation.com/2020/11/09/ps5-the-ultimate-faq/
“PS5 hardware supports Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) through HDMI 2.1. After a future system software update, PS5 owners will be able to use the VRR feature of compatible TVs when playing games that support VRR.”
They need to add software support which they haven’t for almost a year after release of the console
With 32:9 ultra wide support pls
Agreed
we need the vertical trophy list back
It’s a pain to navigate this one
I believe that is included in this update. Not sure why it wasn’t highlighted in the video, but it was mentioned for the beta.
The beta has a vertical trophy list.
Yeah, I only just saw this myself now. So….. I guess the update was totally worth it for this one thing lol. Shame they never hyped it up like they were embarrassed how terrible it was with that horizontal crap and didn’t want to bring attention to it.
all are amazing features coming with this update but i still want VRR support with HDMI 2.0 features so i can play games which are 1440p@120fps
VRR hasn’t been implemented due to upcoming new HDMI protocols, which schedule to release in December 2021…And Sony has been waiting for that before enabling it on PS5 and on their TVs
Clutch stop it. My lg oled has vrr and xbox1 supports it. Stop your misinformation
Was hoping for native 1440p support and VRR 🙁
Come on Sony, do it!
Check the menu’s when the update goes live. Sony has a bad habbit of omitting features in these listings, especially if it can’t be easily demonstrated or conveyed. VRR is certainly not easy. I wouldn’t hold my breath for 1440p support. Though with the number of the games releasing at that resolution, sony might want to walk that position back a bit.
VRR hasn’t been implemented due to upcoming new HDMI protocols, which schedule to release in December 2021…And Sony has been waiting for that before enabling it on PS5 and on their TVs
is the option to hide the HD cam while streaming finally there?
these updates are nice, but you guys need to really add 1440p support sooner rather than later.
It’s my dream to see 1440p, a not 78% stretched pixels
Why? Later, everyone will be using 2160p displays asking themselves “can you believe we ever asked for that?”
1440p is the 720p of the UHD era. Just let it go.
can this kazeeternal guy shut up, he’s under every 1440p comment, we get it you don’t care but a lot of us do
KazeEternal
You mean the biggest growing monitor resolution is stupid to support?
A lot and really A LOT of people play on a monitor. Xbox introduced it and Sony should as well. It’s embarrassing to support 1080p but not 1440p
This Kaze guy doesnt know crap about resolutions lol what a fanboy
Ever going to fix the rest mode crash bug?
You’re still having problems with that? Been about 8 months since that last happened to me. Might be game specific?
it happened just last night after an hour of Deathloop. I’ve seen it happen with most games.
This is the top priority to me! It’s so annoying to not be able to use rest mode.
For me I’ve noticed it only happens with PS5 games – never PS4 games running backwards compatible. It happens maybe half the time with PS5 games and, crucially, it doesn’t send an error report.
I love my PS5 but it’s hard to recommend when it constantly crashes when using rest mode.
I still get the green screen. Other updates have improved some of the rest mode crashes, but they are definitely still there for many people. Seems to only happen when suspending PS5 games at this point. We will be tracking the progress of the rest mode bug with this thread on reddit. Just google the phrase “Let’s figure out this PS5 Rest Mode bug! I have some initial data.” and you’ll see the first result with the thread we’ve been using to solve the rest mode bugs.
Same problem still 🙁 what the hell sony… If it’s fixed for others, should the rest of us be sending our consoles back?
it hit me again last night after the update
Had one or two crashes the first month. Nothing since. You might want to get your system checked out
I still encounter the rest mode bug. It’s only with PS5 games and it happens to all of them. Demon’s Souls, Sackboy, Ratchet, Spider-Man. No word from Sony on that. This is unacceptable!
So 3 yrs ago you removed mobile data from the remote play app which caused me to go from using it to make it unusable for me. Nice to see mobile data use back.
How about friends activity feed and folders?! I’m tired of feeling lonely without knowing what my friends are playing and sharing when they, in theirs PS4, can see what I’m doing. How hard can it be?!
+1. After making it such a central element of the PS4, it’s a real step back. I don’t understand why this wasn’t included from go.
agree 100% with you
I complain about this all the time. Also being able to post and comment things as well.
A proper media player, please, with all the codexes that the PS3 had; the PS4 was a big step backwards with this. Also, please resolve the PS5 media streaming issue; watching BT Sport in the U.K. is fuzzy and not smooth. Thanks.
Yes! The PS3 was perfect for media!
@KippDynamite it was after i jailbroke it and installed movian
All I want is 1440p and VRR support 🙁
VRR hasn’t been implemented due to upcoming new HDMI protocols, which schedule to release in December 2021…And Sony has been waiting for that before enabling it on PS5 and on their TVs
And no TVs support 1440p resolution
The PS5 UI is a mess to navigate. Sony basically needs to bring over almost all of the PS4 UI
They should just let us fully customize the UI, or at least give us a few different options on how we want it to look. At the very least, just let us increase the size of game icons.
Exactly
Neat. Any word on when we can play PS1-3 games on our 500 dollar systems? Like, the ones we already purchased on PSN?
What happened to the vertical trophy list?
Is there a internet browser coming to ths PS5 and if so when?
Probably an Ultra low priority. Quite honestly I haven’t used a browser on a console since the Sega Dreamcast. Everyone has phones, pcs, tablets, etc. Even other game consoles. So the answer is probably no or not for a couple of years. The browsers tend to be an exploit point for a lot of console hacks. Including playstation products. Might be the only reason you’re even asking for it for all sony knows. As I said there isn’t much point, I doubt most people even concern themselves with browsing the internet on a console anymore.
I believe a browser is a great asset especially when you try to stream contents that doesn’t have an app on the PS store. Also currently there is no DLNA support like the PS4 which mean you can even project videos or photos to your PS5. I understand PS5 is all about gaming but at least We had multimedia option on the PS4. This shouldn’t be an after thought of a feature.
@KazeEternal
The PS4 browser is a godsend when looking up collectible items in a game while playing. It’s great for streaming videos that don’t have a program on the PS Store. I would be reluctant to use the term ‘everyone’ when speaking for yourself. The PS4 browser is a commonly used asset for legitimate use.
Hola señores de @PlayStation queremos soporte para 1440p por favor gracias
When is 1440p support added??
Not anytime soon, Sony doesn’t see 1440p resolution (only monitors have) a necessity
Soporte para 2k urgente señores de PlayStation
DTS audio is not in sync, linear is the only one in sync.
Would really help if you could fix it for a much much better experience.
Thanks.
I second this. Dolby audio delay is a serious issue on the PS5. And since Sony decided to omit my optical audio out… now you need to fix the problem.
The expansion slot can hold larger heatsinks models like the XPG 2tb model. you just wont have the cover on it. It does fit in the slot it is just a little taller. Make sure you buy a heatsink or else it will overheat the drive. The only complaint is that the ps5 doesn’t combine the drive so if you have larger games (i.e. Warzone) you can’t max out the main drive because it will need empty space for update. If Sony would combine the drive and make it seamless. Then you will not have that problem.
What about support for Dual Sense on Android Remote play?
Or other third-party controllers like the Razr Kishi.
Guess I better close out my game tonight. Thanks for the heads up.
I’m very excited about VRR support and backwards compatibility for PS3, PS2 and PS1. Thank you so m…wait, not?
…..
🙁
VRR hasn’t been implemented due to upcoming new HDMI protocols, which schedule to release in December 2021…And Sony has been waiting for that before enabling it on PS5 and on their TVs
When will I be able to use my PS4 themes, that I bought and worked hard to obtain, on PS5?
Here, here 👍
I hope the separation of ps4 and ps5 appson the homescreen is an option because I’m not 5 and can easily keep track of which game I’m starting. I can’t customize the games on the homescreen and don’t want to be inconvenienced more by having even more apps push things into the library.
thank you for the SSD support also please add ability to copy ps5 saved to external as well.
since i don’t want to count on cloud for my saves
“View Share Screen broadcasts on PS App” is a very welcomed surprise! Shame that we’ll have to wait another week to have it working…
I’m missing “game folders” a lot. It’s not fun having over 400 games on my external hdd.
FINALLY.
I absolutely will not buy another playstation in the future thanks to Jim Ryan.
Right there with you.
why not?
I would really like if they added themes/wallpapers back to the home screen
One of the most relevant updates. They seem to have done a “one step forward, two steps back” approach.
I hope you guys will add the ability to store PS5 saves onto a USB someday.
1440p support is all I’m after these days. I can’t fit a screen bit enough to make the most of 4K. 1440p is such a happy medium I can’t believe it’s still not officially supported like a certain other company has done for such a long time.
1440p resolution (only monitors support) isn’t a necessity in sony’s eyes, they see home console as a companion of TVs and living room
@clutch_sam007 just because you dont wont it,please just shut up you dont have to comment on every bodies post. judging by how many different people have commented they want 1440p support your posts are pretty much irrelevant at this point
add 1440p support this is becoming annoying
No VRR and 1440p. Well done Sony. 2022 is almost here and HDMI 2.1 seems non existent to you. People with high end TVs wasting money on your console and I’m one of them. Disappointed doesn’t cut it.
VRR hasn’t been implemented due to upcoming new HDMI protocols, which schedule to release in December 2021…And Sony has been waiting for that before enabling it on PS5 and on their TVs
How about changing DualSense battery charge info to show exact % stat? The 3-bar info is not very helpful.
Glad to see these improvements. Keep going Sony. Would like to see the following simply improvements in the next update please…
1. Folders! (how they were left out is mind boggling)
2. When I browse my storage list of games looking to delete or move it sure would be nice to be able to LAUNCH a game right from there. I always come across an old game and want to play it but I have to back all the way out and go find it in the library! And really anywhere I am looking at something related to a game would be nice to simply have a quick launch button from there. Viewing trophies and come across one that I want to get? Have a launch game function right there…
3. Optional vertical trophy lists please!
4. Multi game resume would be real nice to have. Even if limited to a few games (which is more realistic)
Thanks for the much needed software update! I don’t see anyone here asking for this but could you please bring back the option to have more than 15 game icons in the main menu like we had on PS4 ? I hate going in the library to find games I have not played in a while because they only get sorted by most recently played in the main menu. Also, like everyone is asking, VRR would make me very happy as I am purchasing a new TV with this feature specifically for my PS5 so I am impatiently waiting for this feature.
Maybe these are included in the update and not listed, that would be awesome 😉
Themes and patch notes for PS5 games still missing
Facts
Really happy about the use of mobile networks for PSNow.
I’ve been waiting years for it, as I’ve got unlimited data with my plan so it’s going to make long journeys so much better now!
I’m don’t know why you added accolades. I never get one. I give them but only have like one. People don’t know they are a thing.
I tried to give accolades to someone but couldn’t figure it out. Maybe the game didn’t support it? In any case it seems it needs more prominence to be worthwhile.
Will the 3D Pulse support an amplifier with 5.1 channels in the future?
Also, I would like for both PS5 and PS4 to have a native option to select which language I want the game to be played with, as it is I have to change the console language to reflect the language I want.
An example, GTA V > console language Portuguese from Portugal > output GTA V language Portuguese from Brazil (I don’t like this, it’s horrible! It’s like the diference in scotish english, british english and american english.)
By player choice, GTA V > console language portuguese from Portugal > “system option” game preferable language: English > output GTA V in English (while the console is still in Portuguese from Portugal)
Thanks!
This is very much needed! Please, Sony! Let us choose the preferred game language regardless of the system language.
Yes! Totally! There needs to be this support for multi-lingual people.
PS4 user interface needs an makeover as well & one of the features that is missing on the PS4 system is that when your friends go offline notification isn’t there only online notification & also what about an welcome to PlayStation 4 start up sound effect when powering up the PS4 system from rest mode or powered off mode also the PS4 voice chat needs more improvements such as better notifications to let everyone know when it’s acting up
I have another thing that PS4 is still missing is that video voice chat with camera on PS4 system isn’t there like the PS3 game system had where we can video chat with friends that have cameras connected
Glad to see PS App allowing remote play over mobile data, now can you let us use controllers like the Razr Kishi or The Backbone with it?
Dave Hulegaard Community Lead, Versus Evil
Ray McCaffrey Executive Producer, Steel Wool Studios
Yasuyuki Oda Chief Producer, SNK Corporation
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Heat vs. Grizzlies: How to watch NBA online, TV channel, live stream info, game time – CBS Sports

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Icarus tree sap guide: How to craft this sticky stuff – PC Gamer

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By Christopher Livingston published 6 December 21
Tree sap is used to create epoxy for high-tier crafting in Icarus. Here’s how to make it.
Need to craft some Icarus tree sap but don’t know how? There’s quite a lot of stuff on the Icarus tech tree, and it can be difficult to tell exactly what every item does. So when you see a recipe that includes tree sap, it’s not entirely clear how to find or make the sticky stuff. Tree sap is an ingredient for crafting epoxy, which is important for upper-tier crafting recipes like a machining bench—the item you use to make guns, armor, and steel tools. Yep, you need tree blood in order to make military equipment. But where do you find it?
Trees are a sensible guess, and there’s no shortage of trees in Icarus. But it’s not quite the answer. Below we’ll explain exactly where to find tree sap, and what you’ll need to craft a whole bunch of it.
First you’re going to need a crafting bench, which means being at least level 10 and having a spare blueprint point to unlock it. You’ll find the crafting bench at the start of the Tier 2 tech tree. To build it you’ll need 12 fiber, 20 sticks, 50 wood, and 12 stone.
With the crafting bench built and placed, you’ll need to unlock the mortar and pestle, which you’ll also find on the Tier 2 tech tree. This is the item you need to make tree sap, and you’ll see on the top half of the list, just past the potbelly stove and cooking station. Unlock the mortar and pestle with a blueprint point, and build it at the crafting bench with 4 silica ore and 12 stone. Take it from the device inventory and put it in your inventory or hotbar slot.

Next, place the mortar and pestle somewhere—nicely, it can be placed on a lot of stuff you may already have set up, like the top of your storage crate. You can even place it right on top of the crafting bench if you want.
Interact with the mortar and pestle and you’ll see tree sap in the recipe list. It requires 4 sticks, which you probably already have in your inventory. Craft tree sap and it’ll appear in the mortar and pestle device inventory so you can use it in any recipes that require it, like epoxy.

At some point you may need to mass produce tree sap, and you probably don’t want to spend all your time running around picking up sticks off the ground or hoping you get enough while chopping down trees. No worries, you won’t need to. Spend a blueprint point to unlock the carpentry bench and craft it with 80 wood, 12 rope, and 120 copper nails. At the carpentry bench you can take wood you’ve harvested and turn it into sticks. Then turn those sticks into tree sap.
Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he’d stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He’s also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.
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EA's efforts to catch up to its responsibility – GamesIndustry.biz

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James Batchelor
Editor-in-Chief
Thursday 26th August 2021
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Electronic Arts
It’s been one year since Electronic Arts published its Positive Play Charter, refreshed community guidelines designed to encourage better behaviour between players and stamp out toxicity.
Abusive behaviour in gaming communities, particularly around multiplayer games, is no secret and the FIFA publisher has tried to be a little more public in how it handles this, especially since the charter. Most recently, the company issued a permanent ban to a FIFA player who sent racial abuse to former footballer Ian Wright, even though that occurred outside EA’s platforms.
Chris Bruzzo, executive vice president for Positive Play, marketing and commercial, says that such an initiative is necessitated in part due to the “massive explosion” in online interaction through video games over the last decade – especially since the start of the pandemic.
“The video game industry is catching up to, ‘Wow, we have massive communities, and with that means we get all of the good and the bad associated with that,'” he tells GamesIndustry.biz. “And so that’s why I think you’re still seeing tools just catching up to things like, how easy can we make it to report inappropriate behaviour? How clear can we make our code of conduct so that it’s so much more obvious when you’re breaking one of the rules?
Chris Bruzzo, EA
“This is going to be an ongoing area that will be dynamic and moving fast, and the industry has a lot of work to do to catch up to its responsibility in terms of the size of the communities that we now host inside our games.”
EA has been trying to publicly demonstrate its efforts in this space. Earlier this year,EA released new tools specifically to help tackle racism and toxicity in FIFA 21, and this month it launched the Play Together/Play Smart campaign with Internet Matters to educate parents about family settings and other systems that can help protect younger players from the inappropriate aspects of playing games. And, of course, there’s the Positive Play Charter – the key to which, Bruzzo says, was being very clear about expectations.
“The Positive Play Charter in very clear human language communicates how important it is to only share clean content, to only play in a way that’s fair,” Bruzzo says. “And we’re very, very clear. Nobody wants to play with a cheater. Treat others as you would like to be treated. We’ve been super clear about that, and what that’s allowed us to do is hold players accountable to it.”
These expectations extend not just to player interactions in multiplayer games, but how they can interact. Speaking about EA’s Accessibility First Patent Pledge earlier this week — whereby the publisher made the patents to technology like Apex Legends’ Ping System freely available — Bruzzo told us the company was in no way obliged to enable free speech in a title like its popular battle royale game.
“We don’t believe that we have a responsibility to create features and tools that allow you to say or do anything, including hate speech,” he says. “The Apex Ping System is highly constrained, but extremely effective. The same is true for our ability to use technologies to identify hateful language, user and account names that include racial slurs or hate speech.
“The industry has a lot of work to do to catch up to its responsibility in terms of the size of the communities that we now host inside our games”
“I think that we’re doing a good job of using software to root out as much of this as we can through automation, and then we’re going to have to continue to apply lots of human intelligence to screening and taking action and so on. EA has definitely stepped forward, and we’re being more aggressive about standing behind our commitment that play should be fair and safe and fun for everybody.”
Quantifying that commitment is slightly tougher. Bruzzo is able to tell us that EA has a team of 25 people working around the clock dedicated to monitoring and acting on issues around players breaking the code of conduct, and this will grow over time. We’re also told that last August, EA took action against over 9,000 accounts using offensive player and club names in NHL 20.
The company continues to review its games and the actions taken, and we’re told the vast majority of disruptive content and behaviour is actually minor in nature, and that most players who receive anything from a warning to a suspension do not repeat this behaviour. There’s also a strong focus on promoting positive behaviour, including reporting toxicity, which leads Bruzzo to expect an increase rather than a decrease in the number of incidents EA has to deal with – at least, at first.
“We’re encouraging people to raise their hands,” he says. “We’re trying to make it easier for them. So I think we’re going to have a ballooning of incidents, so that we can actually identify more of the things that are disruptive and take action on them.”
Toxicity between players is just one aspect of the industry’s issues with discrimination, harassment and hate. AAA publishers are under particular scrutiny for toxic work environments, especially in light of the Activision Blizzard lawsuit and ongoing reports emerging from Ubisoft. EA, so far, has largely escaped the level of exposés its rivals have been subject to, but Bruzzo isn’t about to paint the publisher as a utopia for its staff.
“We’re a community of over 10,000 employees. Are we going to have issues? Are there going to be places where some bad actors or toxic environments exist inside the Electronic Arts employment culture? Of course,” he says. “Once you get to that level, that size of a population, you almost can’t avoid it.
“[But] just like on the player toxicity side, you have to have a team that investigates complaints and takes action. So, yes, we have had to take some significant actions and dismiss employees, etc., over the last several years.”
(Most recently, the publisher fired the lead game designer behind Apex Legends over sexist and racist comments made in 2007.)
Bruzzo points to Apex Legends’ Ping System as a way to tackle toxicity in multiplayer games, asserting that free speech is not essential to multiplayer games
Bruzzo reports employees are given regular surveys and training in order to ensure everyone is aware of the company’s code of conduct. We’re also told that, in addition to employees being able to report to their managers, there is an internal ‘raise a concern’ platform, which is followed up by the company’s People Experience team, and there’s an external hotline for those who wish to seek support elsewhere.
The exec recognises that the issues these systems are designed to resolve stem in part from the industry being “historically super overrepresented by men… with a lack of diversity in general” – something he believes is true of most general technology companies.
“We’re a community of over 10,000 employees. Are there going to be some bad actors or toxic environments? Of course. Once you get to that size, you almost can’t avoid it”
“It’s going to take a lot of work to change that over time,” he says. “If we just talk about women, we have to hire women at every level of the company, in technical roles, in management roles, etc., and that takes a multi-year commitment to turning the shape of an employee population that has more than 10,000 people in it to something that is actually more diverse and representative. But we’re making really great progress.”
Bruzzo claims that 50% of the leaders who oversee EA’s studio organisation are women, and that the Hispanic and Latinx population in the company’s total workforce has grown by more than 35% in two years. Leadership has also been given unconscious bias training and receives annual sexual harassment training – but, again, he recognises the publisher is not immune to the type of accusations we’ve seen in recent years.
“Is it possible that, two weeks from now, we’re going to hear that there was somebody who was behaving badly at EA for some period of time? I’m sure that’s going to come up again, just by virtue of the large numbers of the people that we employ,” he says. “And our job will be to deal with it, to take action, and to keep making things better.”
Another area of scrutiny EA faces is executive compensation. Alongside Activision Blizzard, the company has been singled out by the Change to Win Investment Group over its “excessive equity granting problem.” The group’s campaign helped convince shareholders to reject last year’s proposed compensation plans, prompting EA to make several changes to how it rewards its top execs earlier this year.
Bruzzo reflects on his experience serving on the board of directors at various other companies, alongside his duties at EA, and notes that executive compensation has been “a hot topic for a decade now.”
“The biggest companies in every industry are getting scrutiny, not just video games,” he says. “They’re getting scrutiny. ‘Executives are paid too much.’ That’s the first level — if you want a headline, that’s the headline. But that’s not really getting at the issue.
“The issue is are you creating programmes that incentivise your executives to do things that are in the best interests of shareholders? And where companies got it wrong was when executives could be compensated or rewarded for things that didn’t deliver shareholder value. And so, that’s where a lot of the scrutiny is coming from, and as a result, companies have to respond to that and they have to change. They have to adjust their practices.
“I think there’s a desire to call it a crisis and make it seem like it’s some kind of an indictment on leadership or an industry, when actually it just represents the next area of attention and focus. And companies like us, we have to come to the table, and say, ‘Alright, here are some adjustments we can make that would address the concerns we’re hearing about, and that’ll better align executive rewards with shareholder interests.’
“I’m sorry if I’m making that seem so much less interesting, but in truth, it’s just another one of those areas where public companies need to engage and find common solutions that address the concern. And unfortunately, it is quite boring, in that it is mostly about aligning rewards with shareholder interests.”
FIFA Ultimate Team continues to draw criticism for its business model, which many argue is akin to gambling
Perhaps the area EA has faced the most heat in over the past few years has been its monetisation practices – specifically the use of loot boxes in its premium games like FIFA. While things have been somewhat quieter on this front in the past year, the UK government is soon expected to reveal the results of its call for evidence, which will help decide whether loot boxes are included in the nation’s amended gambling laws.
Bruzzo claims that, as with executive compensation, the headlines are not the full story. He says that 78% of FIFA 21 players never spend money in-game, and that nine out of ten FIFA Ultimate Team packs are earned rather than purchased.
“The premise that Electronic Arts is succeeding because players don’t understand how much money they’re spending is false”
“Nobody wants to talk about that,” he says, adding; “We’re waiting for the UK call for evidence report to come back. We’re actively engaged with the UK government in that work. We’re going to be sitting right at the table, shoulder to shoulder with the government regulators, with our industry partners, and just like we do when we hear reports of toxic behaviour, or players being upset about cheating, when we hear the evidence that comes back from the call for evidence, we’re going to roll up our sleeves and work on it together.”
He points to the fact that EA last year launched FIFA Playtime, a new tool to help players monitor their spending (among other things), and are now testing preview packs that let players see which Ultimate Team cards are included before they buy.
Bruzzo also adds that, while Belgium and The Netherlands have taken a tougher stance against loot boxes, other countries such as Australia, France, Sweden and Denmark have seen regulators decide not to class this model as gambling.
“Now, that’s not to say that there won’t be some desire to regulate in this space in some way, but it’s more likely that we’re going to have to have conversations about parental controls, spending amongst young people, toxicity amongst online communities,” says Bruzzo. “Those are likely to be the really meaningful things we can do together, because at the end of the day, FIFA Ultimate Team is a beloved mode that players all over the world love to play. It creates ongoing engagement for the full year of football.
“Do we really want to eliminate a mode that allows people to collect real-world players into a team and play with them in a video game? Is that really our intent, to reduce player fun and choice? We want to take that away? Why? So, I think we just have to have more constructive conversations about this, as opposed to just hyperbole.”
Ultimate Team modes alone make up a significant portion of EA’s revenues – more than 27% in the company’s previous financial year – so their importance to the company’s bottom line is hard to understate. So it’s interesting to see EA actively campaigning through Play Together/Play Smart to get more parents limiting children’s spending. Does Bruzzo see this as a conflict between public image and overall company interest?
“I don’t see any conflict there, no,” he says. “What makes our games successful is when they’re fun and there’s enough content and competition and community in them that people want to play them for a really long time. If the premise is, ‘Electronic Arts is succeeding because players don’t understand how much time and money they’re spending in games,’ that is false. We’re not succeeding because we’re hiding information from players, which is why we’re just being utterly transparent now.
“You want to know more about what you’ve spent, and how much time you’ve spent, and how many matches you’ve played? Here you go. And parents of minors, people under eighteen, same thing. We want them to have a positive experience with gaming. When we hear stories about young people where parental controls weren’t used, where they had unlimited access to a credit card attached to their Xbox account, and as a result, they spent way too much, that pains us. We don’t want that to happen.”
F1 2019 was the first Codemasters game to be released after the acquisition and benefitted from EA’s marketing reach
With the publisher waiting to see the impact of the UK government’s decision on loot boxes, it’s worth also looking at EA’s operations on these shores. In the last year, it has tripled its footprint, thanks to the hefty acquisitions of Codemasters ($1.2 billion) and Golf Clash developer Playdemic ($1.4 billion). Now with 1,179 employees, the UK has become the third largest country in terms of EA’s workforce, following USA and Canada.
While the acquisitions came as big news — especially the shock takeover of Codemasters, beating out previous bidder Take-Two Interactive — Bruzzo says we shouldn’t expect to see any similar purchases in the near future and the company focuses on integrating the two studios. But he points out the fruits of this labour can already be seen with the “outsized success” of F1 2021, the first Codemasters title to be released after the acquisition.
“FIFA Ultimate Team is a beloved mode… Do we really want to eliminate that, to reduce player fun and choice? We need more constructive conversations, not just hyperbole”
“They did a phenomenal job with the delivery of that game. And then we did a really nice job of bringing it to market and getting it a level of attention that it hadn’t had before, and the results, in terms of players playing F1, are going to be better than anybody expected,” he says.
The pressure is on to maintain these high standards, especially as CEO Frank Sagnier and CFO Rashia Varachia chose to leave Codemasters just a few months after the takeover. Bruzzo is all too aware of the bar these two have set.
“Frank created a great culture, and the innovative spirit that has led to the kind of creativity of excellence that Codemasters has produced,” he says. “And that will be his ongoing legacy. He’s created that, and it will follow on. Same thing with Rashid.
“It’s important for us to realise, those are some of the top roles in the organisation. They were driving that as an independent company. It’s now part of Electronic Arts. What happens next? The two companies work as fast as possible to integrate, in order to get the value for players, for shareholders, for employees, and we’ve been very successful.
“That enables leaders who were going to transition out over a longer period of time to go ahead and transition out earlier, because it’s going so well. And I think that’s the case for both Codemasters, and the recent departures from Glu Mobile’s leadership as well.”
The acquisitions of both Glu and Playdemic also speak to another major strategy at Electronic Arts: a renewed push into mobile. The company has already confirmed it will be bringing new Apex Legends, Battlefield and FIFA offerings to smart devices and Bruzzo emphasises that EA does very well in this sector, holding six of the twenty most downloaded games since 2012.
“You can’t argue with the expansion of mobile,” he says. “It’s the biggest gaming platform in the world. It continues to grow faster than anything else, for all kinds of obvious reasons that are endemic to mobile, and continues to be a key growth area for EA. These acquisitions came up as an opportunity for us to continue our investment and focus in mobile.”
He concludes: “We expect the impact [of Apex Legends and Battlefield on mobile] will be a rising tide that lifts all boats in the franchise. That all of Apex Legends will benefit from having the mobile game. That all of the various PC and console versions of Battlefield are going to benefit from having an excellent Battlefield mobile game. We’re an interesting publisher in that we’re not as dependent as a lot of publishers are on having one hit game. We have a portfolio of games, and that puts us in a position to be one of the top publishers in mobile.”
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