Virtual storm chasers and the ups and downs of the game industry

Virtual storm chasers are using Microsoft Flight Simulator to observe Hurricane Laura. “Flight Simulator,” a video game released recently for PC, streams the entire planet Earth in real-time, feeding in weather data from Swiss-based meteorological service Meteoblue, Azure AI cloud system and geographical details from Bing Maps. Even though it lacks perfect accuracy, the simulator brought not only players’ attention but scientists as well.

Video game makers and publishers will probably consider 2020 the best year in history as the sector is booming during the coronavirus pandemic. The number of players rose by millions, and spending grew over 30 percent, a change seen also in the price of stocks as companies from the industry gained on average 40 percent. The biggest publishers: Nintendo, Activision Blizzard and Sony, dominated the market.

Profit margins ignited the conflict between Apple, Google and Epic Games. The latter is known for Fortnite, a game played by 350 million people worldwide as well as Unreal Engine, the tool that helps independent game developers to create high-quality products with low costs. Recently, Epic Games implemented a feature to let users make in-app purchases directly, rather than using Google and Apple’s in-app purchase system, which charges commissions of 30%. In response both companies withdrew Fortnite from sales and on Friday Apple terminated Epic Games’ account, effectively banning creators of one of the most popular games in history from its store. Epic Games is now suing Apple and Google over this. The growing market for games comes with a reminder of problems among those who create them. Many feel exploited and discriminated against in their work environment. Among the issues are frat-mentality, hostility towards women, and so-called ‘permatemps’ – employees who work the same hours as their full-time colleagues but lack benefits and job security. Another issue is “crunch time”: when a game is delayed teams are working extra hours, sometimes for months, without compensation.

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