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YGAM launch ‘Parent Hub’ as university research highlights loot box danger amongst children

George Miller

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YGAM launch ‘Parent Hub’ as university research highlights loot box danger amongst children
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National charity, YGAM has joined with research teams from Newcastle and Loughborough Universities to help parents and carers understand the danger of loot boxes, with one young respondent in the Economic and Social Research Council funded project confirming how he spent nearly £500 buying packs of random cards.

The expert insight and advice is being posted on YGAM’s new ‘Parent Hub’ website www.parents.ygam.org. The hub which has been developed thanks to funding received from Lottoland, GVC and Playtech, provides families with the resources, information and activities to help build digital resilience and safeguard children. ‘Parent Hub’ helps explain why children are drawn to purchase loot boxes, ranging from the surprise and suspense of opening a box and the desire to win something rare, to receiving specific items that deliver an in-game advantage or boost their social status.

The research covers the potential harm loot boxes can cause, such as young people’s exposure to and normalisation of gambling style systems, as well as the emotional and financial harm from repeat spending – with one young person telling researchers how he spent nearly £500 in a mobile card game by buying packs of random cards, playing for up to seven hours a day. The advice covers how parents can take important steps to safeguard children, including the use of parental controls and identifying potential signs of harm.

“For some children, the act of opening a loot box is as important as what it contains” explains Dr James Ash, Reader in Technology, Space and Society at Newcastle University, who is leading the research. “Feelings of surprise and suspense lead to the repeat purchase of loot boxes. But this is often short-lived.

“Children and young people have told us how they feel disappointment, frustration, anger, and regret at loot box purchases, yet they are still driven to purchase again. This is concerning, given the deliberate design of these mechanisms – the visual stimulus, the randomised contents, and the very unfavourable odds for unboxing rare items – which can lead to repeat loot box purchases.”

Amanda Atkinson, Head of Parental Engagement at YGAM said the research will help inform and develop the charity’s educational programmes so that all young and vulnerable people are safe from gaming and gambling related harms. She stated: “Certainly the enormous variety of games and in-app purchases that are available can make it confusing for parents to keep on top of safety controls. Through our educational resources, we are focused on providing crucial information to parents so they can identify changes in behaviours and understand the effects this may have on mental and financial wellbeing.”

In collaboration with GamCare, YGAM is delivering the UK’s ground-breaking National Gambling Education and Prevention Programme. Supported by members of the Betting and Gaming Council, the £10 million programme will reach over 3 million young people to raise awareness of the risks of potential gaming and gambling related harms.

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Iron Dog Studio Takes Players Back to the Dawn of Megaways™

George Miller

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Iron Dog Studio Takes Players Back to the Dawn of Megaways™
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Iron Dog Studio is taking players back in time and to the dawn of Megaways™ with its latest blockbuster release that becomes the first Megaways™ slot to offer more than one million ways to win.

1 Million Megaways™ BC takes players on a journey back to the Ice Age where the beasts, and the slots, run wild. But if they can survive this harsh and rugged environment, they are rewarded with up to 1,058,841 ways to win.

In the base game, every winning tumble increases the global multiplier up to a maximum of x8. Four tumbles in a row will trigger the Free Spins Bonus and given that there are 117,649 ways to win with every spin in the base game, players can enter the bonus with a x1,500 stake win.

Free Spins start with the ground trembling and the reels shaking, making way for the prehistoric “Mammoth Reel”. This is an additional reel which when caught expands to a terrifying height of nine symbols and adds an additional Multiplier, five extra Free Spins and a Sticky Wild.

While 1 Million Megaways™ BC uses Big Time Gaming’s iconic mechanic, it also features Iron Dog Studio’s “tumble trigger” synominous on Rainbow Wilds, Aztec Wilds, Pirate Kingdom Megaways™, Megaways Jack™ and Branded Megaways™.

During Free Spins another instantly recognisable feature that is activated is the Lock-it Reels system. When reels expand to their maximum height, they stay locked – either six reels with seven symbols or at nine when Mammoth Reels is active.

When Mammoth Reels and Lock-it Reels are both active, players are given a monster 1,058,841 ways to win with a maximum win of x45,000 their original stake.

1 Million Megaways™ BC will be available to operators in regulated markets around the world from 2 September, but has been pre released exclusively with the WHG.

This means players can access the game now via brands such as MrGreen and the UK-based WilliamHill.com, which will be featuring the 1 Million Megaways™ BC in a nationwide UK television advertising campaign later this month.

Kevin Reid, Chief Commercial Officer at Iron Dog Studio parent company, 1X2 Network, said: “1 Million Megaways™ BC is the first ever Megaways™ game to offer players more than one million ways to win. This, combined with or Lock-it Reels system, will deliver plenty of mammoth wins.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer 1 Million Megaways™ BC to our operator partners, and for William Hill to be featuring it in its upcoming UK television advertising campaign. The game really does have what it takes to top the charts and we can’t wait to see players landing some beastly wins.”

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Sohu.com Reports Second Quarter 2020 Unaudited Financial Results

George Miller

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Sohu.com Reports Second Quarter 2020 Unaudited Financial Results
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Sohu.com Limited, China’s leading online media, video, search and gaming business group, reported unaudited financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, 2020.

Second Quarter Highlights[1]

The privatization of Changyou was completed on April 17, 2020. After the effectiveness of the transaction, Changyou’s net income/loss was wholly attributable to Sohu.com Limited. For the second quarter of 2020, Changyou recognized an additional accrual of withholding income tax of US$88 million, as Changyou changed its policy for its PRC subsidiaries with respect to distribution of cash dividends after the completion of the privatization.

Total revenues were US$421 million[2], down 9% year-over-year and 3% quarter-over-quarter.
Brand advertising revenues were US$38 million, down 14% year-over-year and up 48% quarter-over-quarter.
Search and search related advertising revenues[3] were US$241 million, down 13% year-over-year and up 1% quarter-over-quarter.

Online game revenues were US$106 million, up 4% year-over-year and down 21% quarter-over-quarter.
GAAP net loss attributable to Sohu.com Limited was US$80 million. Excluding the impact of the additional accrual of withholding income tax described above, GAAP net income attributable to Sohu.com Limited was US$8 million, compared with a net loss of US$35 million in the second quarter of 2019 and a net loss of US$20 million in the first quarter of 2020.
Excluding the impact of the additional accrual of withholding income tax described above, non-GAAP net income attributable to Sohu.com Limited was US$11 million. Further excluding the loss generated by Sogou, non-GAAP net income attributable to Sohu.com Limited was US$12 million, compared with a net loss of US$41 million in the second quarter of 2019 and a net loss of US$8 million in the first quarter of 2020.

Dr. Charles Zhang, Chairman and CEO of Sohu.com Limited, commented, “In the second quarter of 2020, our brand advertising business performed well, the brand advertising revenue had a decent increase, up 48% quarter-over-quarter. Both the brand advertising revenue and bottom line exceeded our prior guidance. During the quarter, we integrated our Media Portal’s brand advantage and influence with Sohu Video’s advanced broadcast technologies. These initiatives allowed us to more effectively generate and distribute our high-quality original content, and further enhanced our credibility by reflecting the attitude and values of Sohu. For Changyou, the privatization was completed on April 17, 2020, and after that Changyou’s net income/loss was wholly attributable to Sohu.com Limited. During the second quarter of 2020, online game revenues met our prior guidance and declined quarter-over-quarter, mainly due to the resumption of work following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. For Sogou, it delivered in-line results in the second quarter with Search maintaining a steady share of traffic and Mobile Keyboard further expanding its DAU base.”

[1] As Changyou’s cinema advertising business ceased operations during the third quarter of 2019, its results of operations have been excluded from the Company’s results from continuing operations in the condensed consolidated statements of operations and are presented in separate line items as discontinued operations. Retrospective adjustments to the historical statements have been made in order to provide a consistent basis of comparison. Unless indicated otherwise, results presented in this release are related to continuing operations only, and exclude results from the cinema advertising business.

[2] On a constant currency (non-GAAP) basis, if the exchange rate in the second quarter of 2020 had been the same as it was in the second quarter of 2019, or RMB6.81=US$1.00, US$ total revenues in the second quarter of 2020 would have been US$438 million, or US$17 million more than GAAP total revenues, and down 5% year-over-year.

[3] Search and Search related advertising revenues exclude intra-Group transactions.

Second Quarter Financial Results

Revenues

Total revenues for the second quarter of 2020 were US$421 million, down 9% year-over-year and 3% quarter-over-quarter.

Total online advertising revenues, which include revenues from the brand advertising and search and search-related advertising businesses, for the second quarter of 2020 were US$279 million, down 13% year-over-year and up 6% quarter-over-quarter.

Brand advertising revenues for the second quarter of 2020 totaled US$38 million, down 14% year-over-year and up 48% quarter-over-quarter. The year-over-year decrease was mainly due to the continuous negative impact on the brand advertising industry from the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the first quarter of 2020. The quarter-over-quarter increase was mainly due to the increased revenues in our portal and video advertising businesses as a result of our continuing efforts to boost our revenues and the easing of the impact of COVID-19.

Search and search-related advertising revenues for the second quarter of 2020 were US$241 million, down 13% year-over-year and up 1% quarter-over-quarter.

Online game revenues for the second quarter of 2020 were US$106 million, up 4% year-over-year and down 21% quarter-over-quarter. The quarter-over-quarter decrease was mainly due to a decrease in player engagement as a result of work resumption during the quarter following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in China.

Gross Margin

Both GAAP and non-GAAP[4] gross margin was 41% for the second quarter of 2020, compared with 46% in the second quarter of 2019 and 37% in the first quarter of 2020.

Both GAAP and non-GAAP gross margin for the online advertising business for the second quarter of 2020 was 23%, compared with 33% in the second quarter of 2019 and 10% in the first quarter of 2020.

Both GAAP and non-GAAP gross margin for the brand advertising business in the second quarter of 2020 were 40%, compared with 28% in the second quarter of 2019 and nil in the first quarter of 2020. The year-over-year margin improvement was mainly due to decreased video content cost. The quarter-over-quarter margin improvement was mainly due to increased revenues in the portal and video advertising businesses.

Both GAAP and non-GAAP gross margin for the search and search-related advertising business in the second quarter of 2020 were 21%, compared with 34% in the second quarter of 2019 and 11% in the first quarter of 2020. The year-over-year decrease primarily resulted from an increase in traffic acquisition cost as a percentage of search and search related advertising revenues. The quarter-over-quarter increase was due to a decrease in traffic acquisition cost as a percentage of search and search related advertising revenues due to normalized user traffic following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in China.

GAAP gross margin for online games in the second quarter of 2020 was 77%, compared with 82% in the second quarter of 2019 and 79% in the first quarter of 2020. Non-GAAP gross margin for online games in the second quarter of 2020 was 78%, compared with 82% in the second quarter of 2019 and 79% in the first quarter of 2020. The year-over-year decrease in gross margin was mainly due to an increase in revenue-sharing payments related to TLBB Honor, which was launched during the third quarter of 2019.

[4] Non-GAAP results exclude share-based compensation expense; non-cash tax benefits from excess tax deductions related to share-based awards; changes in fair value recognized in the Company’s consolidated statements of operations with respect to equity investments with readily determinable fair values; a one-time impairment charge recognized for an investment unrelated to the Company’s core businesses; income/expense from the adjustment of contingent consideration previously recorded for acquisitions; dividends and deemed dividends to non-controlling preferred shareholders of Sogou; a one-time income tax expense recognized in the fourth quarter of 2017 as a result of the one-time transition tax (the “Toll Charge”) imposed by the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law on December 22, 2017 (the “TCJA”); the subsequent re-evaluation for the fourth quarter of 2018 and adjustment of the tax expense previously recognized for the Toll Charge; the resulting recognition of a previously unrecognized tax benefit and recording of an uncertain tax position related to the balance of the Toll Charge; and interest accrued in relation to the previously unrecognized tax benefit. Explanation of the Company’s non-GAAP financial measures and related reconciliations to GAAP financial measures are included in the accompanying “Non-GAAP Disclosure” and “Reconciliations of Non-GAAP Results of Operation Measures to the Nearest Comparable GAAP Measures.”

Operating Expenses

For the second quarter of 2020, GAAP operating expenses totaled US$194 million, down 13% year-over-year and up 4% quarter-over-quarter. Non-GAAP operating expenses were US$187 million, down 14% year-over-year and up 3% quarter-over-quarter. The year-over-year decrease in operating expenses was mainly due to decreased marketing expenses.

Operating Loss

GAAP operating loss for the second quarter of 2020 was US$23 million, compared with an operating loss of US$11 million in the second quarter of 2019 and an operating loss of US$24 million in the first quarter of 2020.

Non-GAAP operating loss for the second quarter of 2020 was US$16 million, compared with an operating loss of US$7 million in the second quarter of 2019 and an operating loss of US$20 million in the first quarter of 2020.

Income Tax Expense

GAAP income tax expense was US$85 million for the second quarter of 2020, compared with income tax expense of US$4 million in the second quarter of 2019 and income tax expense of US$14 million in the first quarter of 2020. Non-GAAP income tax expense was US$82 million for the second quarter of 2020, compared with income tax expense of US$2 million in the second quarter of 2019 and income tax expense of US$11 million in the first quarter of 2020. For the second quarter of 2020, Changyou recognized an additional accrual of withholding income tax of US$88 million, as Changyou changed its policy for its PRC subsidiaries with respect to distribution of cash dividends after the completion of the privatization of Changyou.

Net Income/(Loss)

GAAP net loss attributable to Sohu.com Limited for the second quarter of 2020 was US$80 million, or a net loss of US$2.04 per fully-diluted ADS. Non-GAAP net loss attributable to Sohu.com Limited for the second quarter of 2020 was US$77 million, or a net loss of US$1.96 per fully-diluted ADS.

Excluding the impact of the additional accrual of withholding income tax described above, GAAP net income attributable to Sohu.com Limited for the second quarter of 2020 was US$8 million, or a net income of US$0.20 per fully-diluted ADS; non-GAAP net income attributable to Sohu.com Limited for the second quarter of 2020 was US$11 million, or a net income of US$0.27 per fully-diluted ADS.

Liquidity

As of June 30, 2020, cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments held by the Sohu Group, minus short-term bank loans, were US$1.35 billion, compared with US$1.51 billion as of December 31, 2019.

Supplementary Information for Changyou Results

Second Quarter 2020 Operational Results

For PC games, total average monthly active accounts[5] were 1.9 million, a decrease of 5% year-over-year and 10% quarter-over-quarter. Total quarterly aggregate active paying accounts[6] were 0.9 million, flat year-over-year and a decrease of 10% quarter-over-quarter. The quarter-over-quarter decreases were mainly due to a decrease in player engagement as a result of the resumption of work during the quarter following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in China.

For mobile games, total average monthly active accounts were 3.1 million, an increase of 15% year-over-year and a decrease of 9% quarter-over-quarter. The year-over-year increase was mainly due to the contribution of TLBB Honor, which was launched during the third quarter of 2019. Total quarterly aggregate active paying accounts were 0.6 million, flat year-over-year and a decrease of 40% quarter-over-quarter. The quarter-over-quarter decreases were mainly due to a decrease in player engagement as a result of the resumption of work during the quarter following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in China.
[5] Monthly active accounts refers to the number of registered accounts that are logged in to these games at least once during the month.

[6] Quarterly aggregate active paying accounts refers to the number of accounts from which game points are utilized at least once during the quarter.

Second Quarter 2020 Unaudited Financial Results

Total revenues for the second quarter of 2020 were US$109 million, an increase of 3% year-over-year and a decrease of 20% quarter-over-quarter. Online game revenues were US$106 million, an increase of 4% year-over-year and a decrease of 21% quarter-over-quarter. Online advertising revenues were US$3 million, a decrease of 16% year-over-year and an increase of 23% quarter-over-quarter.

GAAP and non-GAAP gross profit for the second quarter of 2020 were both US$85 million, a decrease of 2% year-over-year and 21% quarter-over-quarter.

GAAP operating expenses for the second quarter were US$51 million, an increase of 10% year-over-year and a decrease of 6% quarter-over-quarter. The year-over-year increase in operating expenses was mainly due to an increase in share-based compensation expenses as new share-based awards took effect in the fourth quarter of 2019. The quarter-over-quarter decrease was mainly due to a decrease in marketing and promotional spending for TLBB Honor.

Non-GAAP operating expenses for the second quarter were US$48 million, a decrease of 1% year-over-year and 6% quarter-over-quarter.

GAAP operating profit for the second quarter of 2020 was US$33 million, compared with an operating profit of US$40 million in the second quarter of 2019 and US$52 million in the first quarter of 2020.

Non-GAAP operating profit for the second quarter of 2020 was US$37 million, compared with a non-GAAP operating profit of US$38 million in the second quarter of 2019 and US$56 million in the first quarter of 2020.

Recent Developments

On July 27, 2020, Sohu’s subsidiary Sogou announced that its board of directors (the “Sogou Board”) received a letter containing a preliminary non-binding proposal (the “Proposal”) from Tencent Holdings Limited (including its affiliates, “Tencent”) for Tencent to acquire all of the outstanding ordinary shares, including ordinary shares represented by ADSs, of Sogou that are not already owned by Tencent for US$9.00 in cash per ordinary share or ADS (as the same may be amended from time to time, a “Proposed Transaction”). The Proposed Transaction, if completed, would result in Sogou becoming a privately-held, indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Tencent, and Sogou’s ADSs would be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.

On July 31, 2020, the Sogou Board established a special committee of the Sogou Board, composed solely of independent directors, to consider the Proposal.

Sohu’s board of directors has not had an opportunity to review and evaluate the Proposal in detail, or to make a determination as to how to respond to the Proposal or as to whether or not the proposed acquisition of Sogou would be in the best interests of Sohu, in its capacity as Sogou’s controlling shareholder, and Sohu’s shareholders for Sohu to approve or reject the Proposal or a Proposed Transaction.

Business Outlook

For the third quarter of 2020, Sohu estimates:

Brand advertising revenues to be between US$37 million and US$42 million; this implies an annual decrease of 9% to 20% and a sequential decrease of 3% to a sequential increase of 11%.
Online game revenues to be between US$85 million and US$95 million; this implies an annual decrease of 12% to 21% and a sequential decrease of 10% to 20%.
Excluding the profit/loss generated by Sogou, non-GAAP net loss attributable to Sohu.com Limited to be between US$10 million and US$20 million; and GAAP net loss attributable to Sohu.com Limited to be between US$15 million and US$25 million.
For the third quarter 2020 guidance, the Company has adopted a presumed exchange rate of RMB7.00=US$1.00, as compared with the actual exchange rate of approximately RMB6.99=US$1.00 for the third quarter of 2019, and RMB7.08=US$1.00 for the second quarter of 2020.

This forecast reflects Sohu’s management’s current and preliminary view, which is subject to substantial uncertainty, particularly in view of the potential ongoing impact of the COVID-19 virus, which remains difficult to predict.

About Sohu.com

Sohu.com Limited (NASDAQ: SOHU) is China’s premier online brand and indispensable to the daily life of millions of Chinese, providing a network of web properties and community based/web 2.0 products which offer the vast Sohu user community a broad array of choices regarding information, entertainment and communication. Sohu has built one of the most comprehensive matrices of Chinese language web properties and proprietary search engines, consisting of the mass portal and leading online media destination www.sohu.com; interactive search engine www.sogou.com; developer and operator of online games www.changyou.com/en/ and online video website tv.sohu.com.

Sohu’s corporate services consist of online brand advertising on Sohu’s matrix of websites as well as bid listing and home page on its in-house developed search directory and engine. Sohu also provides multiple news and information services on mobile platforms, including Sohu News App and the mobile news portal m.sohu.com. Sohu’s online game subsidiary Changyou develops and operates a diverse portfolio of PC and mobile games, such as Tian Long Ba Bu (“TLBB”), one of the most popular PC games in China. Changyou also owns and operates the 17173.com Website, a game information portal in China. Sohu’s online search subsidiary Sogou (NYSE: SOGO) has grown to become the second largest search engine by mobile queries in China. It also owns and operates Sogou Input Method, the largest Chinese language input software. Sohu, established by Dr. Charles Zhang, one of China’s internet pioneers, is in its twenty-fourth year of operation.

SOURCE Sohu.com Ltd.

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Lotteritilsynet Offers €3m Aid to Voluntary Groups

Niji Narayan

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Lotteritilsynet Offers €3m Aid to Voluntary Groups
Reading Time: < 1 minute

 

Lotteritilsynet, the Norwegian lottery and gambling regulator, has distributed NOK30million (€3million) to various voluntary groups in view of the adverse financial impact of Covid-19.

The regulator initiated a crisis fund during the virus outbreak to help government relief programs and provide direct funding to voluntary organizations to help them continue their working during Covid-19 pandemic.

The fund intents to keep the voluntary services running in the face of a slump in operating income during the pandemic.

Lotteritilsynet Director-General, Gunn Merete Paulsen, said the regulator granted funds to 379 of the 400 applications it had received.

He said: “We are planning batch payments as the applications are received so that the organisations that apply receive the money as soon as possible.”

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