What in the World—Week of September 26

Ted Lasso gets the FIFA video game treatment
“They’re here, they’re there, they’re every-f***ing-where.” We’re talking about AFC Richmond, the fictional soccer (or football, if you’re a purist) team from Apple TV+’s hugely popular show Ted Lasso. Last week, EA Sports announced that a playable version of the team—as well as Lasso and his coaching colleague Coach Beard—will be included in the upcoming version of its mega-popular video game, FIFA 23 (has anyone checked to see if the team’s shy kit man turned villainous rival coach Nate the Great has joined West Ham?). EA Sports revealed the team’s inclusion with a video featuring real footballers like Jack Grealish and Wayne Rooney, as well as show characters like Trent Crimm (The Independent) and the formidable Roy Kent. A tweet from the official Ted Lasso account read: “Look out, Mario! You’re not the only pixelated man with a moustache who never knows where the tube is taking him.”

Lawsuit claims viral TikTok videos led to Kia/Hyundai thefts
Kia and its parent company Hyundai are facing a national class action lawsuit over a manufacturing defect that allows their cars to be easily stolen, and which recently become a popular topic on TikTok. The lawsuit alleges that Kia vehicles with traditional key engines built between 2011 and 2021 (and Hyundai vehicles built between 2015 and 2021) were deliberately built without engine immobilizers designed to prevent cars from being hot-wired and stolen. According to Techcrunch, the “Kia Challenge”—hot wiring cars using a USB cable, similar to that used to charge a phone—has led to a dramatic rise in thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles by so-called “Kia boys” since it started gaining popularity in July. Chicago police said this summer that it led to a 767% increase in thefts. The lawsuit claims that Kia and Hyundai had looked into building cars with engine immobilizers and decided against it, “blatantly valuing profits over the safety and security of their customers.”

AI is now providing Darth Vader’s voice
“I might sound an awful lot like him—but Luke, I am technically NOT your father.” A Ukrainian start-up called Respeecher is combining archival recordings of longtime Darth Vader voice actor James Earl Jones with an AI algorithm to recreate the iconic movie villain’s voice for a new generation of Star Wars shows. According to Vanity Fair, Respeecher was tasked with creating a facsimile of Darth Vader’s voice for the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi. Now 91, Jones has been Darth Vader’s voice since 1977, but his voice has changed as he’s grown older. The actor recently signed off on using his archival voice recordings to keep the character alive in future iterations of the Star Wars universe.

Would you buy your wedding dress from Walmart?
Walmart is saying “I do” to the wedding dress business, just as the number of people getting hitched reaches a four-decade high. Walmart’s plus-sized women’s apparel brand Eloquii—which the retailer acquired for a reported US$100 million in 2018—last week unveiled a 50-piece bridal collection that it says takes a “high-end approach” to bridalwear without the usual steep price tag. Dresses in the collection start at $80, with formal gowns starting at $299, and are available in “dreamy shades of white and romantic pastels.” In a release, Eloquii said hundreds of customers have opted to wear its clothing for bridal celebrations, and that focus group testing indicated many people have had difficulty finding “modern and statement-making” plus-sized bridal options. Eloquii saw a rise in wedding-related searches on its website last year, with “white dress” among the top searches.

Amazon celebrates NFL win, without one beer
Amazon winning the national broadcast rights to stream the NFL’s Thursday night game on Prime appear to be paying off quickly. The first game of the year to be shown nationally on Prime on Sept. 15 averaged 15.3 million viewers and, according to reports, led to a record number of Prime signups in a three-hour period—exceeding Prime Day, Black Friday and other key shopping events. But Amazon will not be tapping into one lucrative revenue stream generally associated with big football audiences: Beer. The broadcasts will include no beer ads because Amazon has a policy against it: “Ad content must not encourage, glamorize or depict excessive consumption of alcohol,” says the policy. That’s good news for the other NFL broadcast partners, because beer marketers want to reach football fans. Citing iSpot.TV data, Bloomberg reports beer marketers spent $60 million on TV ads in the last two weeks, with 70% of that going to NFL programming.

PETA calls on Starbucks to stop upcharging on milk alternatives
Animal rights group PETA is calling on Starbucks to stop charging customers extra for plant-based milk alternatives such as soy or almond. A Starbucks shareholder since 2019, PETA recently issued a shareholder resolution calling on Starbucks to examine any costs to its reputation and impact on projected sales resulting from its ongoing upcharge on plant-based milk. “It’s awesome that Starbucks offers so many delicious vegan milk options—such as coconut, soy, oat and almond milk—but customers shouldn’t have to pay extra to have dairy-free milk in their drinks,” says the petition, which has garnered more than 141,000 signatories. It claims that other chains such as Wawa, Panera Bread, Pret A Manger and Stumptown Coffee Roasters offer dairy-free milk at no extra charge to customers. Starbucks in the UK stopped upcharging for non-dairy milk in its 1,020 stores this year.

Chris Powell