Numlock News: January 27, 2020 • Video Games, Alberta, Crabs

By Walt Hickey


Bad Boys for Life, the story of two men who team up for a high-stakes, risk-filled, must-succeed and over-the-top mission that could very well be their last, won the box office this past weekend, pulling in $34 million and pushing it to $120 million over two weeks. In second place was 1917, the story of two men who team up for a high-stakes, risk-filled, must-succeed and over-the-top mission that could very well be their last, which made $15.8 million and has made $103.9 million domestically.

Associated Press


Activision Blizzard launched a professional esports league on Friday for Call of Duty, the latest attempt from the video game manufacturer to grab a slice of the promising esports market. The company — which will soon enter its third year of the Overwatch League, a city-based league centered around the team-based six-vs-six Overwatch game — made about $6.4 billion in revenue last year, of which the Overwatch League was responsible for about $100 million, and it’s forecasted to make $390 million by 2022. Call of Duty is a bigger prize, as the league’s team owners are believed to have paid in the tens of millions each for the rights to the franchises, which could score Activision something like $300 million. Total industry-wide esports revenue is projected to increase 18 percent between 2019 and 2022, which is considerably faster than the 8.4 percent growth projected for selling games.

Olga Kharif, Bloomberg

Orphaned Wells

Canadian province Alberta is beginning to reckon with the long-lasting impacts of being home to extractive industries, one of which is orphan wells. These are oil and gas wells whose owners have gone bankrupt, and thus abandoned responsibility for ensuring they stay safe. An audit found 3,406 orphan wells in Alberta, typically on the land of rural landowners, still just a fraction of the 94,000 inactive wells that pockmark the province. These will be the responsibility of taxpayers if nobody else is responsible, and as a result they’re working on ways to prevent more wells from becoming orphaned in the first place. The total estimated cleanup cost for every oil and gas well in Alberta is $30 billion. By comparison, the Alberta Energy Regulator has $227 million in financial security.

Inayat Singh, CBC News


In late December, speaker manufacturer Sonos began to take heat for their “recycling mode,” which rendered a speaker useless. A bad look, the situation got worse when Sonos then announced it was cutting support for some of its earliest products, adding to the ire. This has led to a swift tanking in its products’ reviews, per an analysis. As of December 16, before the crisis, the average review of Sonos’ products on their own website was 86.9 percent across 16,400 reviews. By December 30, two days after the news broke, the review count popped to 17,000 and the average score fell to 76.5 percent. As of last week, the average score had crashed to 60.2 percent.

Joshua Fruhlinger, ThinkNum

Multiplayer Mode

A survey of 4,000 video game developers found that 54 percent said that they thought game industry employees should unionize, which is up 7 percentage points from last year. Another 21 percent said that maybe they should. Still, despite the broader support, just 23 percent think that industry workers will in fact unionize, though 43 percent thought maybe they would.

Trilby Beresford, The Hollywood Reporter


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intercepted approximately 15,000 live Chinese mitten crabs ahead of Chinese New Year as part of an operation codenamed Hidden Mitten. The invasive species poses a serious threat to ecosystems, out-competing native species for food and damaging infrastructure, though they are considered pretty tasty hence the smuggling. As a counterpoint, they also sometimes carry a parasitic lung fluke and female mitten crabs can produce 100,000 to 1,000,000 eggs per brood. Thanks to the hardworking people at the Fish and Wildlife Service the unbidden and hidden fluke-ridden mitten didn’t get in, as it was forbidden.

Laury Marshall, U.S. Fish and Wildlife


At-home DNA testing company 23andMe announced layoffs amid a slump in its direct-to-consumer sales. As of 2018, the total number of people who’d bought tests for 23andMe, Ancestry and others had hit 26 million, and after considering the implications of mailing DNA to strangers perhaps people are less willing to spend $99 to get on some list. One estimate puts sales of 23andMe’s kits at 4 million to 6 million DNA kits in 2019, which would have grown the databases by 20 percent, the slowest growth for the industry ever.

Antonio Regalado, MIT Technology Review

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