China’s Tencent is buying the video game developer behind Hitman 2, Team Sonic Racing, and LittleBigPlanet 3 for $1.3 billion

People walking past the Tencent headquarters in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
People walking past the Tencent headquarters in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, in Guangdong province.

  • Tencent said it’s buying video game developer Sumo for $1.27 billion.
  • The Chinese tech firm already has an 8.75% stake in Sumo.
  • Sumo’s titles include Team Sonic Racing and LittleBigPlanet 3.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

China’s Tencent is buying Sumo, the video game developer behind Team Sonic Racing and LittleBigPlanet 3, for nearly $1.3 billion.

Shares in Sumo, of Britain, jumped 42% on Monday to a record high.

Tencent, the world’s largest gaming company, is on the hunt to acquire foreign video game developers. It already has stakes in Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, Riot Games, and Ubisoft.

Sumo has accepted Tencent‘s offer of 513 pence (703 cents) cash per share, which values Sumo at £919 million ($1.26 million), the companies said Monday.

Sumo’s games include:

  • Team Sonic Racing
  • LittleBigPlanet 3
  • Hitman 2
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure
  • Crackdown 3
  • Snake Pass
  • Hood: Outlaws & Legends

Tencent already has an 8.75% stake in Sumo, making it the British developer’s second-biggest shareholder, Reuters reported.

If the deal goes through, Sumo will be the latest UK video games company to be purchased for more than $1 billion, following EA’s acquisition of Codemasters in February.

Sumo CEO Cavers said in a statement to Insider: “The three founders of Sumo, who work in the business, Paul Porter, Darren Mills and I are passionate about what we do and are fully committed to continuing in our roles. The opportunity to work with Tencent is one we just couldn’t miss.”

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Writers for Valorant fan website THESPIKE.GG allege their CEO spent thousands on ‘strippers and cocaine,’ and owes them $40,000 in back pay

thespike.gg valorant fan site gamingt
The logo of the THESPIKE.GG

  • Writers of THESPIKE.GG, a fan site for the video game Valorant, announced they are leaving the site.
  • Two writers and a developer said they’re owed over $40,000 by owner Artur Minacov.
  • Minacov has been accused of spending thousands on other expenses like “strippers and cocaine.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two former writers of the news site THESPIKE.GG, which is known for covering a video game called Valorant, have come forward on Twitter in the past week claiming they and others who worked on the site are owed over $40,000 in total back pay from owner Artur Minacov.

Valorant is a shooter video game developed by Riot Games, where players take control of agents with unique abilities, inspired heavily by Valve’s Counter Strike Global Offensive (CSGO), a game released in 2012.

Since the site launched in mid-2020, THESPIKE has become a central hub for fans who want to learn about the stats, matches, and breakdowns of Valorant esports. Though the scene is small, it is growing and the site has amassed nearly 15,000 Twitter followers and a devoted readership. Though the site is still running, it currently has no writers after they departed amid the payment controversy and an interim CEO says that he is still waiting to get paid.

Insider spoke to 3 current and former workers for the company who told their stories.

THESPIKE.GG started off as a promising Valorant fan website despite Minacov’s previous professional issues

Prior to THESPIKE.GG, Minacov had a history of supposed payment issues.

In 2014, Minacov founded OPSkins, a popular skin trading platform for “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” that closed dramatically in 2018. In 2017, Minacov left the company to found EnVision esports, a professional Overwatch team that lasted for one year. The following year, he admitted to Dot Esports to not paying the EnVision esports team thousands of dollars in late payments, though in April 2021, former EnVision player William Hernandez told Dot Esports that “he believes players were ‘eventually’ paid by Minacov.” Hernandez didn’t return Insider’s request for comment.

But any previous allegations didn’t stop the creation of THESPIKE.GG in April 2020 by Minacov and a group of developers and writers passionate about esports. The site, Minacov said on a May 14 Twitter Spaces, where users can host Clubhouse-like discussion rooms, was inspired by HLTV, a decades-old website cataloging the stats, games, and stories of the CSGO esports scene. CSGO esports has evolved into a massive industry, with worldwide competitions watched by hundreds of thousands of viewers and a collective prize pool of tournaments of nearly $22 million in 2019.

According to Minacov in Twitter Spaces, he thought Valorant had similar esports potential and there was a niche in the market. Minacov said he invested $400,000 of his own money on the site with no investors and spent $20,000 a month on servers. When asked for documentation of this, Minacov did not return a request for comment.

Josef Orland, who goes by hex4MT online and is the current interim CEO of THESPIKE.GG, told Insider that he had left his previous job as a “Dev Team Lead in an IT company” after Minacov had promised him a six-month contract to work on the site. He added that he started “coding the site from scratch” and took care of a lot of the day-to-day maintenance, like taking care of servers and checking to see when writers are posting stories.

Soon, others started to join the team. Esports writer Mostafa Hossam said he joined in June 2020 and Shawn “Germanicus” Heerema said he joined in May. Hossam told Insider he was tasked with writing roster moves, match recaps, and “anything to do with Valorant esports” and agreed to a rate of $500 a month without a contract. Heerema received a contract seen by Insider, promising him around $200 per month. Both have work still published on the site.

Things took a turn when Minacov was said to have paid to fly some of the site’s employees to Malta where he reportedly procured ‘cocaine and strippers’

In September of 2020, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Minacov paid to fly a select group of the site’s employees to Malta, according to an employee that asked to remain anonymous, whose identity Insider confirmed. They said that Minacov had procured “cocaine and strippers” and that their “phone and Snapchat were checked at the end of the trip.”

Esports website Upcomer reported that several staff members speaking under the condition of anonymity said that “two strippers were brought into the villa for the first two nights,” Minacov had “passed out half the time from too much drugs and alcohol,” and one former contributor said “cocaine was everywhere.”

Minacov wasn’t just spending money on lavish trips for his employees. He told Dot Esports that he had spent “‘over $400,000 of his own money, different than the money invested in the site, in subscriptions and donations to ‘small streamers in the community.'” He also tweeted in January that he had spent $12,000 on a PC that didn’t work with his games.

In the Upcomer article, sources reportedly raised issues with Minacov’s workplace behavior as well. Upcomer reported that Minacov said over Slack, in messages the publications says it reviewed, that “a contractor of Afghani and Indian descent looked ‘like a terrorist'” and he “called a former staff member a “b—- after he did not create a graphic to the CEO’s liking.”

As 2021 continued, Minacov’s funds for his website dwindled and payments weren’t going out, according to Orland, who said he was owed a low five-figure sum, telling Insider that two months into his six-month contract, Minacov said he was “broke” which he believes was “a big lie.”

Hossam told Insider that he hasn’t been paid for his work since November of 2020 and is owed $3,500. Heerema said he is owed a little over $2,000 since he was last paid on January 11, 2021, according to invoices seen by Insider.

Writers of THESPIKE.GG sent an ultimatum to Minacov asking for the money they say they’re owed

On May 12, 2021, Orland sent a group message on Slack, which was viewed by Insider, to Minacov and the rest of the writers.

“Artur M. pay the people what you promised them,” Orland wrote. “Some people are ready to go public with this if there is no action from your end about the matter (and by action I mean actual money transfers and not more promises).”

After no contact or response from Minacov, Hossam and Heerema posted long messages to Twitter on May 14 about the money they say they were owed.

Minacov responded on Twitter with expletives and vitriol, calling those that questioned him “ignorant” and “hypocrites.” He released a statement that night confirming that he did owe money to the workers and that he “will leave this community that I love.” In an edited version of the statement, he wrote that “dues will be taking care off as soon as I can” and that he was “no longer involved at THESPIKE.GG on any capacity.”

On the May 14 Twitter Spaces, Minacov said he hadn’t paid the writers because the company “ran out of f—ing money” and “financially wise I’ve always been s— at it.”

“I didn’t have my phone for a few weeks and when I got a new phone in a new city I didn’t put Slack on it,” he said.

“We ran out of money, did we do it on purpose not to pay them? No,” Minacov said in the Twitter Space. “But I’m trying to do everything in my power to give them what they are owed.”

It’s unclear where THESPIKE.GG goes from here

Orland announced on Twitter on May 15 that he is taking over as “interim” CEO of the website and that “the ultimate goal is to keep going with the project but the future is not defined yet.” Orland told Insider Minacov’s equity is in the process of being “bought off” and that “the deal will have in place that all the ex/current workers are paid.”

As of publication, Minacov has not paid THESPIKE.GG contributors, according to those interviewed awaiting payment.

Minacov did not return a request for comment.

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A new invite-only iPhone app lets people gamble real money on matches of ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Fortnite’

IMG_4983
Courtesy 1v1Me

  • New app 1v1Me will allow video gamers to place bets on “Call of Duty” and “Fortnite” in one-on-ones.
  • The players must link to their bank accounts and agree on a wager before starting the game.
  • The founders said the COVID-19 pandemic pushed them to create their idea for a betting app.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Players can now place wagers on one-on-one video games using a new app called 1v1Me that was inspired by at-home betting during the pandemic.

The app, first reported on by TechCrunch, will allow gamers to place wagers in one-on-one matches on “Call of Duty” and “Fortnite” while at home.

1v1Me launched with well-known content creators, such as NoisyButters, joining in. It is starting off small and supporting just two video games, so that it’s a “much more controlled environment,” said founder Anthony Geranio in an interview with Insider.

To participate, you have to get an invite to play from a content creator on the app. Geranio said the app now has nearly 12,000 people waiting to play.

IMG_4904
Inside the 1v1Me app. Courtesy of 1v1Me

Once invited, 1v1Me confirms a player’s identity. Then, players must add a bank account to the app and agree with an opponent on how much to wager. 1v1Me then places the money from their bets into escrow. The gamers use livestreaming service Twitch when they play the game. This allows others to watch the match and 1v1Me to monitor it to ensure it’s fair and determine who wins. Once concluded, 1v1Me transfers the money to the winner’s bank account.

To place a bet on a game, a player must be 18. Minors can still play with the app, but they can’t wager on the match, the founder said. He added that the app only operates in the 48 states where it’s legal to wager on skill-based games.

Read more: A video game tutor who makes up to $5,000 a month shares how he built a career teaching people how to win at ‘League of Legends’

Before launching, Geranio and co-founder Alex Emmanuel raised $2 million in financing. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed them to create the app, Geranio said, as they saw friends spending their time at home placing bets on online poker and playing video games.

Geranio said his mission for the company is “to help more gamers make a living from esports.” Geranio said he wants to generate the next wave of gaming content creators on popular platforms like YouTube and Twitch.

“Kids today are waking up and want to become YouTube stars, versus doctors and astronauts,” he said. “The No. 1 place to make YouTube content is in gaming.”

Gamer NoisyButters, who also invested in the app, tweeted a photo with the new app Monday, saying she used to put her one-on-one record in “Call of Duty” on her XBox biography, but “now there’s an app for it.”

Live esports tournaments faced struggles amid the pandemic, and the industry, which was set to hit $1 billion in 2020, missed the mark as leagues forfeited their arena events but kept the seasons alive. Since the US Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting in 2018, consulting agency Activate predicted people could bet as much as $150 billion per year by 2023.

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The EU has approved Microsoft’s $7.5 billion purchase of Bethesda

BEIJING, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 25: (CHINA OUT) CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella gives a lecture about dream, struggle and creation at Tsinghua University on September 25, 2014 in Beijing, China. CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella visited China for the first time on Thursday.
Satya Nadella announced the acquisition in September 2020.

  • The EU has approved Microsoft’s $7.5 billion purchase of Bethesda Softworks’ parent company.
  • Future releases will likely be Xbox exclusives and not on PlayStation, with a few exceptions.
  • The EU said there were no competition concerns for Microsoft’s largest-ever video game purchase.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Despite the pandemic, video game revenue reportedly exceeded sport and film combined in 2020.

According to data from the International Data Corporation reported by MarketWatch, the industry surged 20% to $179.7 billion.

The European Union has now approved Microsoft’s $7.5 billion purchase of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of game publisher Bethesda Softworks.

Microsoft’s acquisition is the company’s largest-ever purchase in the video game sector, Expansion reported.

When the tech giant first announced its plans in September, analysts said Microsoft was looking to diversify its business with more revenue from consumer products.

“As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a press release announcing the acquisition in September last year. “And together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide.”

Bethesda is well-known for games including “Fallout,” “The Elder Scrolls,” and “Doom.”

All of Bethesda’s games will now come under Microsoft’s Xbox Studios umbrella.

The company said in September that the release of all PS5 games already announced by Bethesda would continue, but that the remainder of the games would be looked at on a “case-by-case basis,” with some new releases moving exclusively to Xbox.

The tech giant will also be able to incorporate Zenimax’s Bethesda games into its Xbox Game Pass cloud-based video game catalog.

Microsoft first requested EU approval on January 29 and the European Commission has now ruled that it will not pose competition problems to other providers.

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How video games can actually make you a better fighter pilot, according to a fighter pilot

Air Force Mike Holmes Twitch video games
Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, flying a F-15, plays his son, 1st Lt. Wade Holmes, flying an F-16, in an air combat video game.

  • Much of the training fighter pilots do takes place in a flight simulator, which is much like a video game.
  • That means video games, in moderation, can help with processing the information and making the quick decisions pilots need to make, according to Justin Lee, an active-duty F-35A pilot.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Does playing video games and desktop simulators, such as Microsoft Flight Sim, prepare you to become a fighter pilot?

As a fighter pilot, much of our training takes place in a simulator, which is the ultimate video game. Stepping into these rooms, you’re dwarfed by a giant sphere that projects a 360-degree view of your surroundings.

After climbing into an exact replica of the cockpit, a motor then pushes you into the middle of the sphere and it’s fights on – you’re anywhere in the world with any weapons you want and adversaries that can be dialed-up in difficulty as needed. And it’s not just you in there, other pilots are in their own pods fighting alongside you on the same virtual battlefield.

Flying a modern fighter is difficult – these machines are designed to merge man and machine into a lethal combination that can have a strategic level of impact on the battlefield. The stick and throttle alone have dozens of buttons on them.

Most of these buttons can give five or more commands – forward, back, left, right, and down – as well as short pushes and long pushes and multiple master-modes that completely change the function of each button: It’s a PlayStation or X-box controller on steroids.

Air Force pilot T-38 flight simulator
A US Air Force student pilot in a T-38C Talon flight simulator at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, November 8, 2018.

Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, my generation was one of the first to have widespread access to video games. Nintendo, Xbox, PlayStation, N64-I played them all growing up. Using a controller was second nature by the time I got to pilot training.

Now trainers like the T-6 and T-38 don’t have a lot of buttons on the stick and throttle – they’re designed to teach students how to fly. However, the F-16 was a huge jump where we learned not just to fly the aircraft, but to employ it as a weapons system.

There we learned what, at the time, seemed like complex sequences to track targets, launch missiles, and drop bombs.

What I noticed was that my time playing video games allowed me to synthesize information while quickly and accurately passing decisions I made off to the jet. Many of my classmates also played video games growing up and collectively, the feedback we received was that we were a lot more advanced than our instructors were when they were in our position.

Now, a decade later, I can say the next generation, who grew up with smartphones and iPads, have an even greater capacity to process the multiple streams of information coming at them than older pilots like myself. The avionics in jets like the F-35 – which are essentially two large iPads glued together – are second nature to them.

So, to answer the question, do video games help prepare you to become a pilot? The answer is yes, to an extent.

For future fighter pilots out there, I would say a couple of hours a week can help with processing information, making quick decisions, and accurately passing it off to the controls. Anything more is likely a detriment in that it is taking time away from other things you could be working on.

As for the type of video game, it doesn’t matter. Realistic fighter simulators like DCS aren’t any better than Mario Kart: The procedures and tactics in civilian sims are off by enough that it won’t give you an advantage by the time you’re flying the real thing. If it helps stoke the passion, great, that’s the most important trait for success, but not playing them won’t put you at a disadvantage.

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