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After showing an early move to the downside, stocks remain mostly lower in mid-day trading on Wednesday. With the drop on the day, the major averages are adding to the modest losses posted in the previous session.
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Chris Collins suspends re-election campaign following insider trading charges

New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins suspended his reelection campaign on Saturday following charges earlier this week related to insider trading.


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Loot Boxes Aren’t the Same as Trading Cards

We all know what loot boxes are, yet we can’t define them. Are they gambling? Are they unethical? Eager to protect this unfathomably lucrative box o’ loot, industry bodies have compared the system to trading cards. But Babe Ruth and Black Lotus are deceptively different from that Butterfly Knife.

The similarity starts and ends with the consumer perspective of not knowing what they’re getting. It’s a big similarity.

But there are some important differences, both functional and psychological. Problems arise when industry bodies (such as the ESRB or IGEA) claim the two are so alike they should be treated the same in a legal context.

The fact is, loot boxes are a new phenomenon. There’s no way around it. New definitions will need to be created. Consumers will need to be educated. Legislation will need to catch up. It’s human nature to liken it to a previously known thing, by way of explanation. But it’s also disingenuous to dodge regulation by comparing loot boxes to something more benign, such as trading cards or worse, an in-game purchase.


Hawaii Representative Chris Lee denounces loot boxes as gambling
Hawaii Representative Chris Lee denounces loot boxes as gambling.

Value and Ownership

The virtual items you’re hoping to obtain do have value. That’s demonstrated by people paying money for them in scenarios when you can outright purchase them. But that value never leaves that ecosystem, and that item is never truly owned by the player.

Rather, the player has the rights to use that virtual item. Rights which can be revoked when the developer sees fit.

Some systems allow players to trade items, and the developer takes a cut of those transactions. Many don’t allow trading at all. There’s never a way to “cash out” of the ecosystem. Third-party websites attempt to facilitate this by proxy, but these exist outside the allowed terms of service and are regularly clamped down upon.


Shadow of War loot box legendary orc
Real money, digital goods.

That’s in stark contrast to any physical collectible card game, in which you own the cards. There are no restrictions on resale. There are no restrictions on how you use it, or even play the specific game with it. House rules? That’s fine.

The difference in agency is night and day. Got banned? Servers went down? Developer went bankrupt? All of a sudden that virtual item you thought you owned is no longer accessible.

Clutching at any straw of a technicality, some would argue the lack of a “cash out” means loot boxes aren’t gambling. With all the pain and no gain, we contend it actually makes loot boxes worse than gambling.

Optimised Psychological Systems

As we’ve pointed out, loot boxes and gambling have more in common than the practice of offering value for randomised return. Psychologically, the way that exercise is carried out is more important than the actual value exchange.

It’s about the feelings a player has when pushing forward their chips in the hopes of finally getting that Widowmaker skin. Loot boxes, like slot machines (or “pokies” as we call them in Australia…aren’t we funny?) optimise their return rates (and where possible, reward schedules) to manipulate that feeling. Their job is to keep players playing, and keep players paying.


Karazhan cards

It’s about the perpetual “almost.” The denial of closure. It’s about feeling “due.” About the sunk cost fallacy. It’s about losing track of time and spending. It’s about the rush of a win, and the human brain being horribly incompetent at understanding chance.

At a deeper level, it’s about the chemicals that get released during all of these feelings. Something that can be manipulated through external audio/visual stimuli.

The similarities to slot machines aren’t coincidental. The techniques, and thus the feelings they cause, are brought over from the gambling industry. This is what often gets lost in the discussion about loot boxes. There might be a feeling of excitement about opening a box of trading cards, but that’s where it ends — there’s nowhere near the level of scientific optimisation.

Trading Cards Aren’t Random

Sure, they are for the consumer. From our point of view, trading cards are as good as random because at the point of sale, we don’t know what we’re getting.

But for the manufacturer, what’s in every pack has already been calculated before being sent out. Everything is known. It’s very different to a random number generator at the point of sale, in which the manufacturer doesn’t know if it will be serving a high-value or low-value product.

As for what’s better or worse, we aren’t sure yet. But the random number generator at point of sale is more like the definition of “gambling.” Akin to rolling a die or spinning a roulette wheel, the randomness is decided, for both sides, on the spot.

Trading cards, collectible sports cards, mystery boxes found on eBay, all appear random for one half of the equation. The other half already knows it’s “won.”

Winnings Change After Winning

Of course, after hundreds of thousands of online transactions, a random number generator with the right variables will product the desired result for the loot box provider anyway. That might make the point academic, but for the developer’s ability to make changes after the fact.

Winning odds, item attributes, ownership, or whether a virtual item even exists are all things that can be changed after it has been won. Perhaps the item itself doesn’t change, but the environment does, rendering it useless. Perhaps the odds are adjusted or the item is involved in a marketing promotion, drastically altering the item’s rarity.


Star Wars Battlefront II loot box multiplayer

The closest possibility with trading cards is the manufacturer flooding the market with a certain card once deemed rare. Never a good thing for owners of that card, but nothing removes the “original” status of the card. Ignoring the new wave of blockchain collectible card games, virtual items don’t discern between “first” and “recent.”

There’s one potential benefit to videogames in that regard. Now that games are a service, constantly upgraded, the cards stay relevant. Official competitive Magic: The Gathering play phases out expansions that are a couple of years old or more.

But that’s a benefit of online games — not a benefit of loot boxes.

‘World of Tanks’ and ‘Crossy Road’ Developers Get Behind Loot Box Regulation

You Always Get ‘Something’

One of the main arguments about loot boxes being gambling is that you always get “something” back. It was used by the ESA and ESRB in their statement on the matter.

This is also true of trading cards. You always get something back. But with trading cards, you always get something back of value. There will always be a sportsperson on that sports card, and you can always include one of those Magic cards in a deck.

You might not always want to, of course. And in that case, the solution is in the name. Trading cards can be traded. Or even sold.


Pokemon_CrashCourse_v2_327

By contrast, the “something” you get back from a loot box could be literally useless. A skin for a gun or character you have no interest in. An item that needs to be combined with another item, requiring more spins. Or perhaps an item that clearly labelled as a dud, please try again. Often you’ll get a duplicate item, sometimes in a game that doesn’t even allow duplicate items.

A “something” as good as “nothing.”

We also object to the logic involved here. If slot machines were to offer a five cent minimum return on every spin, do they cease to be gambling? That’s being generous — much of the time, loot box winnings are closer to a fraction of a cent in value.

There are more than a few practical and psychological differences between these systems. If you’re explaining loot boxes to someone as a shorthand – “It’s like trading cards, but…” – that’s innocent enough. But for industry spokespeople to claim to politicians and TV cameras alike that these are the same thing – and thus should be treated the same legally – is disingenuous, incorrect, and at worst a cynical attempt at evading necessary regulation.

The Blurred Lines Between Loot Boxes and Gambling

The post Loot Boxes Aren’t the Same as Trading Cards appeared first on FANDOM.

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NY jury convicts two men for trading on hacked press releases

A federal jury in Brooklyn, New
York on Friday convicted two men for their roles in an
international scheme to make millions of dollars by illegally
trading on corporate press releases that were stolen by computer
hackers before they became public.


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‘Sea of Thieves’: Everything You Need to Know About Trading Companies

Sea of Thieves isn’t like other shared world adventure games. In Destiny or The Division, if you get left behind by a group of your friends, it’s hard to catch up. Levelling is tied to gear, and gear is tied to in-game rewards from events, end-game activities and (a lot of the time) straight up luck. Unless you can sink a lot of time into the game, you’ll get left behind.

Rare prides itself on the fact that Sea of Thieves’ progression system is something a little different – relying on something the development studio likes to call ‘horizontal progression’. There is no overall level to speak of, and all customisation options are purely cosmetic. If you see a pirate decked-out in gold with a fancy rifle and rare parrot on their shoulder, that means nothing: they have all the same tools and weapons as you. They’ll likely just have a better reputation with one of Sea of Thieves’ Trading Companies.

“We wanted to build a game where the value of sharing a rich and diverse world with other players is much more meaningful than ever-increasing stats,” design director Mike Chapman tells us on a studio visit to Rare. “We wanted to create an experience where there are no barriers for players, nothing keeping them from playing with each other. Doing that would really be against the vision of our game.”


Sea Of Thieves party
RARE wants players of all skill levels to be able to enjoy quests with their friends.

The in-game result of this design philosophy is that Sea of Thieves players can purchase voyages (read: quests) in the game from one of the three Trading Companies, and then all crew members get to cast a vote on which of their voyages they want to tackle together.

In honour of fairness, majority wins in Sea of Thieves’ voting system, so don’t ever worry about being forced to undertake a random quest. The flat way that any player can offer up a quest with any other player able to vote on it means even the most weathered pirate can opt to join in on hunts for booty with greenhorns, or will even allow a fledgeling pirate to tackle the most dangerous end-game quests too.

Completing these voyages will award gold, titles, ranks, and cosmetic items – if you can return the booty to the hub outposts. These rewards will be evenly split across the crew, something Rare is intentionally doing to combat toxicity in the title, are a part of Sea of Thieves‘ progression system.


Sea of Thieves cannon combat
Taking part in treacherous sea battles is one way to gain favour with your chosen Trading Company.

The more voyages you complete, the more you’ll rank up the Trading Company that offered it to you. The higher the rank of the Company, the more challenging (but rewarding) the voyages will be. Complete enough of these challenges and you can hit end-game status and start chiselling away at the Pirate Legend content – and of course you can share that with your lower level friends, too.

Each Trading Company has come to the Sea of Thieves with their own motivation, their own goal in this aquatic frontier. Each style roughly reflects a different playstyle, too, so if you want to sample everything Sea of Thieves has to offer, you’re going to want to dip in and out of each Company’s quest lines.

GOLD HOARDERS


Sea Of Thieves promo art
Looking to become the most pimpin’ pirate on the seven seas? The Gold Hoarders have you covered.

The Gold Hoarders outlook is simple: having been founded by legendary treasure hunters, they want to amass as much wealth as possible. To this end, the Trading Company will send you out on treasure hunts, offering you riddles to complete to find the rarest treasure in the game. These riddles will usually require teamwork and tenacity (as well as a pretty good knowledge of the in-game world) to unpick and will reward you with bigger hoards of lost treasure.

You level up this Company by bringing back chests and selling them to the greedy vendors – in return, you can acquire cosmetics that usually have a pretty bombastic feel to them… think Pirate Bling, if nothing else.

THE MERCHANT ALLIANCE


Sea Of Thieves The Merchant Alliance
The Merchant Alliance is where you’ll find the game’s more er, ‘out there’ quests.

The Merchant Alliance wants to control trade in the game. They’re preoccupied with the idea of controlling the world’s economy, paying pirates to scout out supplies and ferry resources such as animals and gunpowder across the sea. Fulfilling contracts, delivering on time and making sure all your cargo makes it to the required location earns you handsome rewards… but if you’re willing to take on more ‘complicated’ stock, those rewards could be even better.

Sea of Thieves has live animal wildlife in-game, and knowing where different breeds of animals live, and how best to get them from one place to another, is a fundamental part of Merchant Alliance gameplay. Want to deliver snakes? You better have one member of your crew dedicated to playing music to calm them.

Want to deliver pigs? Make sure it stays fed. Want to deliver chickens? Good luck, because they like to pop overboard…

THE ORDER OF SOULS


Sea Of Thieves The Order Of Souls
While most of RARE’s pirate epic is fairly light-hearted and colourful, The Order Of Souls represent the game’s darker side.

Finally, the Order of Souls is set on mastering the ancient and mysterious magic of the game’s lore, and is willing to use you as a vessel to achieve that. The conjurers and seers of this mysterious sect have learned how to recapture magic from the skulls of former pirates, and will reward anyone bringing them back to the Order.

This is the most combat-focused of the Companies: quests on behalf of this odd bunch will see you charged with taking down infamous skeleton pirate crews, using a variety of combat tactics to come out on top. As you progress higher into the ranks of this Company, you’ll be asked to take on Skeleton Forts – massively challenging outposts home to some very important loot.

These forts will contain more loot than any one ship can carry – so will you split the rewards with other crews, or will you make a round trip, determined to hoard the treasure for yourself?

Though the voyages guide you towards completing a certain task in order to get specific rewards, Sea of Thieves is also keen for you to explore: you can find artefacts, treasure, mysterious skulls and more out in the world, or in the possession of other players. Nabbing these more emergent style rewards can still push you along the path of your chosen Company, and can do so without impacting your freedom.


Sea Of Thieves Treasure
Rare hints at much more to come in ‘Sea Of Thieves’.

But that’s not all. Whilst Rare plans to launch with three companies, our conversations with the developers at the studio would suggest there’s still far more to come. “The Golden Age of Piracy is still yet to come” smiles Mike Chapman, when asked about what Rare has in store for us in the future.

Rare suggests there will be seasonal content coming to the game too, with specific new Trading Companies perhaps linked to certain times of year or  in-game events that will offer new quest opportunities and cosmetic items.

It’s clear Rare plans on keeping this game alive for the foreseeable future, and that’s great news – because the studio has made it abundantly clear that this is only the beginning, and these Trading Companies are merely the foundation of something much, much bigger.

The post ‘Sea of Thieves’: Everything You Need to Know About Trading Companies appeared first on FANDOM.

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Stocks May Regain Ground In Early Trading – U.S. Commentary

Following the sell-off seen in the previous session, stocks may regain some ground in early trading on Friday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a modestly higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 21 points.
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Stocks Seeing Modest Strength In Mid-Day Trading – U.S. Commentary

Stocks are seeing modest strength in mid-day trading on Monday, adding to the slim gains posted in the previous session. Earlier in the day, the Dow climbed to another new record intraday high.
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Stocks Continue To See Modest Strength In Mid-Day Trading – U.S. Commentary

After an early move to the upside, stocks remain mostly positive in mid-day trading on Friday. While buying interest has remained somewhat subdued, the Dow managed to reach a new record intraday high in early trading.
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Stocks Remain Mostly Positive In Mid-Day Trading – U.S. Commentary

After moving to the upside early in the session, stocks remain mostly positive in mid-day trading on Tuesday. With the upward move on the day, the Dow has reached another new record intraday high.
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Major Averages Remain Mixed In Mid-Day Trading – U.S. Commentary

Stocks continue to turn in a mixed performance in mid-day trading on Monday following an initial move to the upside. Despite the choppy trading, the Dow has risen to a new record intraday high.
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