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Is e3 Leaving Los Angeles

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The organizers behind the Electronic Entertainment Expo are considering taking the show away from its traditional home at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

During a roundtable interview, ESA CEO Mike Gallagher said his organisation might explore other possible locations if the center fails to upgrade and modernise its facilities, GameSpot reports.

The exec specifically hopes to see increased floor space and a smoother route between the West and South halls, currently separated by a length corridor. If these expectations are not met, E3 may be hosted in another venue – and, by extension, away from Los Angeles.

E3 2018 is already booked in for June 12th to 14th next year, once again at the convention center. The venue will also host E3 2019, but no decision has been made for 2020.

The ESA has previously attempted to hold E3 at an alternative location. In 2007, the show became the E3 Media and Business Summit and was around Santa Monica. This was part of an attempt to make it more industry focused, capping the attendance to shut out bloggers and non-industry professionals, as well as bringing the costs down for exhibitors.

However, the experiment proved to be unpopular and E3 has been held in the LA Convention Center ever since 2008.

In stark contrast to its 2007 decision, E3 officially opened its doors to the public for the first time this year, selling 15,000 tickets to consumers who wanted to attend the show.

GameSpot reports the ESA has now revealed attendance for this year’s event came in at 68,400 – boosted in part by those public tickets. The 30% increase over last year’s 50,300 brings attendance figures close to the 70,000 peak seen in 1998 and 2005, according to IGN.

The ESA has yet to confirm whether it will sell public tickets for E3 2018. Gallagher said his team is gathering feedback from attendees – both industry and consumer – before confirming how the show will be structured next year.

Courtesy-GI.bz

Pokemon Go New Features Aims To Thwart Cheaters

June 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Niantic, the developer behind the wildly popular Pokemon Go game, has announced new features to help curb cheating in the game.

“Pokemon caught using third-party services that circumvent normal gameplay will appear marked with a slash in the inventory and may not behave as expected,” the company explained on the Silph Road subreddit.

While Niantic was not specific in the post about which third-party services are being targeted, tools such as GPS fakers that artificially place you in “busy” Pokemon areas or bots to catch Pokemon for you have already been identified as “cheats” in the game.

The company also was not clear about how ‘slashed’ Pokemon caught by cheating will behave, although various theories have been put forward by players in the subreddit, including “your moves will permanently become splash/struggle” or “it eats the pokemon around it in your inventory”.

The announcement comes shortly after Niantic’s unveiling of the largest update to the game so far, which brings multiplayer “raid battles” to Pokemon’s Gyms.

Is The Memory Market Poised For Growth

June 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The divination division of analyst firm Research and Markets has shuffled its tarot cards and consulted the liver of a particularly fine RAM and decided that the global semiconductor memory IP market to grow at a CAGR of 11.27 per cent during the period 2017-2021. 

Publishing its oracles in a tome with the catchy title “Global Semiconductor Memory IP Market 2017-2021” report to their offering.Research and Markets thinks that the sales of semiconductor memory IP licenses to fabless companies as well as IDMs and foundries for designing and manufacturing semiconductor devices. These semiconductor devices are used in applications, such as automotive, consumer electronic devices, and industrial automation. 

The latest trend gaining momentum in the market is emergence of IoT. IoT involves M2M communication, enabling devices to exchange and act upon information by eliminating human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. According to networking equivalent, Metcalfe’s Law, formulated by Robert Metcalfe, the value of a telecommunication network is proportional to the square of the number of devices connected to it.

According to the report, one of the major drivers for this market is growing demand for mobile devices. Consumer electronic devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets have witnessed significant growth in the last decade. The growth in the semiconductor industry is proportional to the growth in the consumer electronics industry. Mobile computing devices include smartphones, tablets, and wearables.

Courtesy-Fud

Will Doom VR Be A Successful Game

June 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Doom is getting a virtual reality (VR) mode that will up the frights and will probably have you clawing at your face.

You know Doom, everyone knows Doom and people are always trying to play it on things that it was never meant to go on, like cash machines and cars, for example.

Doom was born for VR. The facefirst run and shoot game will lend itself very well to the format, and we can admit to wanting a go on it.

There is a reveal trailer, and Doom VFR certainly looks, smells and bleeds like the Doom we have come to know and love. The trailer is marked as unsuitable for some viewers which if you ask us, makes it sound like a perfect trailer for Doom. It is quite a bloody thing, it is certainly exciting, action-packed and violent.

“If you flinched the first time you saw a meaty Mancubus charging at you in last year’s critically acclaimed Doom, wait till you get up close and even more personal with rampaging demons in Doom VFR,” says Bethesda Softworks. “Doom VFR is a new virtual reality game from legendary developer id Software, coming to PlayStation VR and Vive platforms.”

Bethesda and ID Software, the companies behind Doom, said that VR has opened up fresh opportunities for both them and the games that they are aiming it at.

“Developing a Doom game specifically for virtual reality has provided an exciting opportunity to not only surround players with the world of Doom like never before, but also let them experience and explore the UAC and Hell in new ways, playing as new characters with totally unique tools and abilities,” said Robert Duffy, CTO at id Software.

The game’s director, Marty Stratton, explained that Doom VFR gives the fans what they want. “Since the hallmark of any Doom game is combat, we’ve made it our top priority to ensure moving, shooting and killing demons with overwhelming force in virtual reality is as brutal and rewarding as it is in the Doom experience that fans have been enjoying for the past year.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Will Samsung’s Bixby Compete With Apple’s HomePod

June 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The as-yet-unnamed speaker will be powered by the Samsung’s Bixby AI assistant, according to the Korea Herald, which the firm has already confirmed will be coming to IoT gadgets as well as smartphones and tablets.

However, this is likely a sign that the speaker won’t be arriving any time soon, as Samsung last week announced plans to delay the rollout of Bixby to Galaxy S8 handsets in the US, because it’s, er, struggling to understand English. 

We don’t yet know much else about Samsung’s smart speaker, although the report notes that the firm has been granted patents for the mooted device in South Korea. 

News of Samsung building its own AI-powered speaker comes, unsurprisingly, just days after Apple took the wraps off its first stab at the Amazon and Google-dominated market. The speaker, called the Apple HomePod for some God-forsaken reason, is a 7in tall bin-like device

The speaker, called the HomePod for some godforsaken reason, is a 7in tall bin-like device, which can be controlled using Apple’s Siri AI assistant. 

Inside you’ll find Apple’s A8 processor, which the company claims is “the biggest brain inside of a speaker”. This sits alongside a 4in Apple-built subwoofer and a seven tweeter array with precision acoustic horns and directional control. We don’t really know what that means, either, but Apple claims it will “rock the house”. Er. 

The speaker also features “spatial awareness,” which allows it to automatically tune the sound to the space that the speaker is in.

“Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

“HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a beautiful speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion-free music and be a helpful assistant around your home.”

The Apple HomePod will be available from December, priced at $349. UK pricing has not yet been announced.

Courtesy-TheInq

Will The US Video Game Industry Grow To A 28 Billion Dollar Market

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

According to the 18th PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2017-2021, which covers a number of major industries (not just games), the total video games revenue in the US is expected to grow at a 6.3% CAGR rate to reach more than $28.5 billion by 2021. The research firm notes that the PC games sector looks a bit rosier than consoles in the next few years in terms of growth. While total PC games revenue in the US is set to grow from $3.7bn in 2016 to $5.0bn in 2021, at a 6.6% CAGR, consoles will only grow at a 2.8% CAGR, hitting $9.4bn in 2021.

Consoles’ slowed growth “can be attributed to the increase in digital full game downloads which is mostly offset by a decline of physical console game sell-through revenue, which is set to drop by a 4.3% CAGR during the forecast period,” PwC noted. At the same time, the PC sector is seeing “healthy growth” in the online/microtransactions department – online PC revenue is expected to climb at a 7.0% CAGR to $4.2bn by 2021. PwC said that much of this can be attributed to the ongoing success of F2P, more subscription services and the rise of eSports. Digital sales on consoles are getting stronger and stronger as well, expected to grow at a 9.8% CAGR to hit $3.7bn by 2021 – but as noted above, the decline in physical is still offsetting much of this growth.

Virtual reality continues to draw lots of attention across the industry, and according to PwC, the segment should grow at an impressive 64% CAGR to reach $5bn by 2021, or roughly 17% of the entire US games business revenue total. The firm estimates that dedicated high-end VR (Rift, Vive, PSVR) should climb to an installed base of 13 million by 2021, while the overall VR headset installed base will reach 68 million. Additionally, “Portable dedicated headsets – a new category of self-contained headset that will emerge from 2017 designed exclusively to render VR experiences – will have an installed base of 5.3mn by 2021 (CAGR of 87.5%) because of their superior capabilities compared to smartphone-based devices, and ease of use,” the firm said.

While games as a technology have been the driver of VR, PwC expects VR content revenues to be driven by non-gaming experiences like VR video, which will “grow at a CAGR of 87.8% to represent 58.3% of overall content spending in 2021. It will surpass interactive experiences and games revenue…in 2019.” PwC remarked that established media like Netflix, HBO and ESPN, would play a big part in driving VR content along with major game publishers; that said, “expect smaller developers like Jaunt to get an increasing share of this content revenue as they act as the technical partners for both the big studios and non-specialist start-ups.”

The other smaller, but quickly growing segment that should boost total industry revenues in the US is, of course, eSports. PwC expects the sector to grow at a 22% CAGR to reach almost $300 million in 2021. Streaming advertising is the lion’s share of that total at $149 million, but sponsorships, voluntary consumer contributions and ticket sales all add to the pie as well.

“The US is the largest market in revenue terms, having overtaken South Korea in 2015, although the latter will stay far ahead in terms of per-capita revenue,” PwC explained. “The development of eSports has grown at a breakneck pace in the US over recent years, receiving perhaps its biggest boost into the mainstream when ESPN began covering major events on both its streaming and regular channels – most notably the August 2015 final of The International, a tournament for Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2). In September 2015 the company even advertised for an eSports general editor, in recognition of the specialist knowledge required to cover the discipline comprehensively.”

Streaming sites are still the dominant medium for eSports viewing, however. Amazon-owned Twitch is said to rank behind Netflix, Google (YouTube) and Apple in terms of peak internet traffic, PwC noted. There’s no doubt that eSports is capturing the attention of major corporations and advertisers. “Companies are moving in swiftly to sponsor both teams and events, with fast-moving consumer goods companies like Coca-Cola, Doritos and Snickers all forging a niche…

“Notably, in September 2016 the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers bought the long-time franchise Dignitas and Apex, which offers a guaranteed spot in the League of Legends circuit. For the 76ers, the purchase offers an opportunity to diversify into a market that is particularly popular with the protean 18-24-year-old market and get a named presence at eSsports tournaments, while their newly signed-up players can also live-stream and create content under their parent owner’s banner. If the space continues to grow exponentially, sports teams such as the 76ers that become early movers will have the upper hand – as well as a usefully sized stadium for hosting tournaments. Certainly signs are positive here, with the NBA in February 2017 announcing plans to create a new league based around the game NBA 2K.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is South Korea Becoming The Semiconductor King

June 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Taiwan is now longer the world’s top manufacturer of computer chips and lost its crown to South Korea.

 Beancounters at SEMI have added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and decided that Taiwan has to hand over the crown to South Korea, at least in the first quarter.

Equipment billings in Korea came to $3.53 billion in the first quarter of 2017, up 110 per cent from a year earlier, while equipment billings in Taiwan increased 84 per cent on year to $3.48 billion.

China saw the largest sequential growth among all regions in the first quarter of 2017 with equipment billings surging 74 per cent on quarter to $2.01 billion, SEMI said. China was the third largest semiconductor equipment market during the quarter.

Equipment billings in North America grew three per cent while Japan grew 19 oer cent Europe slipped 1 per cent to a fairly miserable $920 million, according to SEMI.

Worldwide semiconductor manufacturing equipment billings reached a record $13.1 billion in the first quarter of 2017, according to SEMI. The billings figure was 14 per cent higher than the prior quarter, and 58 per cent than last year. 

 Courtesy-Fud

Is China The Hot Spot For Mobile Gaming

June 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

To Western mobile developers, the Chinese market may seem as daunting as it is distant.

Every aspect of the landscape is different to anything seen in regions closer to home: the publishers, the distribution channels, player tastes, player behaviours, spending habits and, of course, the language. Even simple things like use of colour will be unfamiliar; red, traditionally used to depict danger or damage in games, is actually associated with good fortune and joy in China.

However, a report this week from investment firm Atomico notes the market value for games in China is $24.4bn, accounting for 25% of the global market. It also observers there are 600m gamers in China – twice the population of the US – and with the well-documented dominance of smartphones in the region, it appears to be a prime opportunity for mobile developers.

A mere ‘opportunity’?  No, says Joost van Dreunen, co-founder and CEO of SuperData Research – it’s much more than that.

“The Chinese mobile games market is the largest market in the world,” he tells GamesIndustry.biz. “Releasing your game in China is not just an advantage, it is an absolute necessity.”

Of course, it’s no easy task. The market is incredibly challenging for outside companies to enter – in no small part to new regulations introduced last summer designed to root out certain kinds of content, not just in games but in any kind of foreign media. Story-based games are under particular scrutiny as they are more likely to contain political and military topics, or other material the Chinese government disapproves of.

Even the world-conquering Pokémon Go was denied a Chinese launch, when the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television deemed to investigate the game and whether it endangered people’s lives and property, or even national security. Fortunately, Superdata reported back in December that this approval process sped up significantly towards the end of the year.

A new law also came into effect last month that demands developers reveal the percentage rates for items yielded by any random system. Given how many free-to-play titles – a business model that dominates the Chinese market – rely on such mechanics to monetise their players, this requires careful consideration when moving for a release in the region.

Another challenge is the number of different platforms available. Fortunately, Android and iOS both have a healthy presence in China, although back in December 2016, Superdata revealed Android players in China were worth eight times more (in terms of revenue generated) than those on iOS. That said, this week’s Atomico report notes that $5.5bn was still spent on iOS games in 2016, showing significant growth over the past four years.

“There are certainly several obvious challenges to releasing your game in China,” van Dreunen observes. “Getting approval, the relatively high risk of being cloned, and the fact that this is now a deep red ocean.

“But the biggest challenge in releasing your game in China is being unable to meet demand. I’ve seen medium-sized developers struggle to keep up and churn out enough content at regular intervals to keep players engaged. You have to understand that Chinese gamers are ravenous and demand a lot of content to satisfy their appetite. So while it may initially seem like a great decision to release in China, studios run the risk of getting crushed under the necessary workload. Many developers are not set up to release content at that scale.”

To that end, he urges developers to find a publisher in the region. There are plenty available, and in recent weeks we’ve seen several Western studios choose exactly this strategy to tap into China’s lucrative market. Zynga partnered with Chinese publisher NetEase to bring its real-time strategy title Dawn of War to the region, as did Peter Molyneux and the 22cans team for their survival adventure The Trail.

Even the mighty Ubisoft secured a deal with Tencent, who will publish a new Might & Magic Heroes game for mobile, developed by local studio Playcrab. With so many partnerships already established with Western games firms, any studios looking East would be ill-advised to attempt to enter the market themselves.

“From a practical standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to go it alone,” he warns. “Partnering helps to lower the barriers to entry significantly and in some cases is mandatory. It’s a bit of an upside-down universe where you have one of the top publishers like Activision forced to work with a direct competitor like Tencent.”

The revenues available and the larger audience, as van Dreunen says, makes it a “necessity” for developers to be investigating routes into China – although the SuperData CEO is quick to remind that efforts should be spread across other territories as well.

“Don’t get stuck on only China,” he warns. “If you’re a mobile game company you should also consider the Nordics, for example, which has a more affluent consumer base.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is Grand Theft Auto V The Best Selling Video Game Ever

June 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Grand Theft Auto V has sold more copies in the US than any other release over the past 22 years.

That’s according to NPD Group analyst Mat Piscatella, who tweeted that Rockstar’s masterpiece is the region’s best-selling game since the market research firm first began tracking.

“Not surprising, but still amazing,” he wrote.

That’s not to say GTA V has overtaken some previous champion, GamesBeat reports – just an interesting factoid Piscatella was keen to share.

As the analyst says, it comes as no surprise. The latest Grand Theft Auto has sold more than 80m units around the worldwide to date – despite originally launching way back in 2013 on the Xbox 360 and PS3.

Subsequent PC, Xbox One and PS4 releases have driven sales further, as have the regular updates for the game’s Grand Theft Auto Online multiplayer mode.

The latter was a significant contributor to the financial performance of Rockstar parent Take-Two, which reported revenues of $1.78bn for the year ended March 31st. Earlier this week, CEO Strauss Zelnick noted this success has come despite his belief the company has been restrained with in-game purchases and is currently “undermonetising” its users.

All eyes are on Rockstar’s next release Red Dead Redemption 2, which was recently delayed to 2018. The original was a huge worldwide hit, although it is perhaps unlikely the sequel can match the success of Grand Theft Auto V.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Will The PC Market Really Show Growth Starting In 2019

June 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Divination experts from IDC have been shuffling their Tarot cards and consulting the entrails of a particularly annoying toddler and reached the conclusion that the PC market will start growing again in 2019.

According to an Oracle from IDC’s latest Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, the firm believes the PC market is set for a growth period a few years from now.

Detachable tablets such as Microsoft’s Surface line and Apple’s iPad Pro will lead the growth as consumers have turned away from laptops in favour of these more versatile computing devices.

Last year, 21.5 million of these devices were shipped and the number of units sold could reach as high as 45.9 million in 2021.

Notebook computers and mobile workstations are another category that will see continued growth with shipments rising from 156.8 million units in 2016 to 163.7 million by the year 2021.

Desktop computers are still decreasing in popularity and that trend is likely to continue with their sales predicted to decrease by 15 million a year leading up to 2021.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Says Developers Have Earned $70B Since App Store Created

June 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple is no stranger to impressive statistics, such as the news that developers on its platforms have earned over $70 billion since the App Store launched in 2008.

We know other mobile platforms are growing too, but surely Apple’s fading iOS empire has reached its zenith? Not so, Apple states, confirming that App Store downloads have “grown over 70 percent”.

The range of apps driving good business for Apple’s developer community continues to expand. Games and entertainment remain the top-grossing apps categories, but education, training, and a range of other apps are growing in importance. The company revealed a few interesting stats to reflect this:

Lifestyle apps, as well as Health and Fitness, have experienced over 70 percent growth in the past year.

The Photo and Video category is also among the fastest growing at nearly 90 percent growth.

“People everywhere love apps and our customers are downloading them in record numbers,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Seventy billion dollars earned by developers is simply mind-blowing.”

Only last week we learned its platforms are creating developer millionaires.

Apple is working to expand the opportunity it provides developers.

In 2016, the company introduced APIs that let developers introduce payments via Apple Pay (as seen in Starbucks gift cards), and its Messages apps platform continues to drive a range of other opportunities.

Developers in 25 app categories can also provide apps sold on a subscription basis. This appears to be shaping up as quite a good way for developers to make money, as well as making a good recurring income for Apple. “App Store’s active paid subscriptions are up 58 percent year over year,” the company said.

Apps offering subscription sales come in a slew of forms, from conventional media apps such as Netflix and Hulu all the way through to cooking network, Tastemade and a range of image editors, including Over and Enlight.

In future, the company plans to extend virtual and augmented reality tools developers can use to create next-generation VR/AR experiences.

These engaging experiences will make a lot of money in the games space, but have big implications in training, healthcare, and enterprise productivity.

Apple’s plans will also put it among peers like Unity and Steam in offering tools to develop these experiences. And that’s money for developers and opportunity for enterprise investors.

HTC Says Vivo Virtual Reality Headset Will Work With Apple’s New OS

June 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Taiwanese consumer electronics giant HTC Corp has confirmed that its virtual reality (VR) headset will be compatible with Apple Inc’s High Sierra operating system (OS), which is scheduled for release later this year.

HTC’s Vive headset works in conjunction with Valve’s SteamVR virtual reality system, and Apple is working with Valve to make SteamVR compatible with its new OS, the U.S. tech firm said in a separate statement on Monday.

Compatibility with Apple’s Macintosh computers would greatly expand HTC’s VR reach, having so far focused on personal computers such as ones powered by Microsoft Corp’s Windows 10.

HTC has also worked in VR with Intel Corp and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

“With this, Apple brings support for HTC Vive and SteamVR to the 100 million active Mac users,” said David Dai, a senior analyst of Asian Emerging Technologies at researcher Sanford C. Bernstein. “That’s certainly good for the company.”

Apple used the Vive headset in a demonstration at the Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, the first day of a five-day event, a HTC spokesperson told Reuters.

 

Can Microsoft’s Live Streaming Service Mixer Compete With Twitch

June 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has changed the name of its live-streaming platform from Beam to Mixer.

The firm says it has made the changes to push the live-streaming platform in territories where it cannot use the Beam name. Mixer, the firm says, reflects the fact the service brings people together.

Mixer’s big selling point is its faster-than-light low latency, which allows viewers to interact directly with the streamer and the game in real-time. TellTale is incorporating this into some of its games, such as The Walking Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy and Batman, where the audience can crowd-decide what choices are made.

As part of the re-brand, Microsoft is also launching a series of new options for Mixer as it attempts to take on Twitch in the lucrative but competitive live-streaming market.

These include extending Mixer to mobile phones (it is currently available on Xbox One and PC), launching a co-streaming option where gamers can now stream next to one another in the same channel, and a dedicated in-house channel called Channel One, which will showcase a variety of content. The firm will also now promote Mixer via the Xbox One dashboard, and will be streaming Microsoft’s E3 press conference.

In addition, the firm has launched a dedicated ‘Mixer Studio’ in New York for streamers and partners to use.

Mixer enters closed Beta on iOS and open beta on Android today. The company is also eyeing other platforms as it tries to catch up with some of its more established competitors.

“We’re not announcing any new platforms today, but there’s no platform that we wouldn’t want to be on,” Chad Gibson, partner group program manager, tells GamesIndustry.biz.

“We don’t want to put any barriers behind people wanting to watch it or use it. We will be rolling out to more platforms over time, for sure.”

“The idea came from just observing what a lot of streamers do,” Gibson says. “A lot of streamers that we’ve seen will be playing games together and having their different channels. There are a couple of partners on our platform that will be playing Minecraft and building a world together and they will both have independent channels, and viewers will often switch back and forth between the channels. So the way it just naturally works is that their community is split between those two channels… Co-streaming is just a way to allow that to come together where the community isn’t separate.

“In the case of co-streaming, those two people would join their channels together, the chat gets merged, and their two viewing perspectives will be in the same channel page. So the community that’s watching those two guys or girls now has a single place to watch. That streaming will be referenced on both of their individual channels, so they’re not losing any opportunity for community growth, but we are now allowing within a single channel a chance to tell a bigger story.

“As we went down that path, there was just so many scenarios that this was great for. For example, take the popular game of the moment, Playunknown Battlegrounds, and its four-person squad play. As I have been testing the feature, I am playing with a four-person squad and we all stream together. We join a co-stream and it is the story of our squad in one channel, and that is a really, really powerful thing that we think is going to unlock new types of storytelling and community building.”

Co-streaming could work well at events such as E3, Gibson says, where multiple users can stream things from their phones.

The majority of content on Mixer is game-related, which is unsurprising considering its integration with Xbox. But Gibson observes that this is changing.

“The diversity of non-gaming content actually happened faster than I thought,” Gibson says. “It is not that I personally had a goal of percentage of game to non-game content, but… a good example of one of our partners is Remi. She reads books, tells stories and occasionally she will play League of Legends. There are a bunch of folks who create art, and we actually have a couple of musicians – BrilliantBuffoons is one, Duke is another. Duke plays the piano and BrilliantBuffoons plays drums, and they take song requests from the audience. Stuff like that is great, and I find that so incredibly engaging, and the low-latency applies so well, because you are having a direct conversation.”

“I think the market is large enough for everyone to be successful. But we’ll focus on the things that are unique about our platform”

The big challenge for Mixer is that it currently lags behind its competitors in terms of pure viewer numbers. The relationship with developers and the tab on the Xbox One dashboard (which will be used to show everything from a Gears of War eSports event to a new streamer) will certainly help, but until it gets a strong number of users, it can’t command the same monetisation opportunities for streamers as the likes of Twitch can. Gibson says Mixer is getting there.

“The growth has been more than we had anticipated since the Creator’s Update [the Windows 10 update that introduced Beam to PC],” Gibson insists. “It has provided us with a whole bunch of new challenges to overcome, but it’s been really great. We have surpassed all of our initial goals for that launch.”

He continues: “We will do everything we can to share this with the world. This is one of the reasons we’re doing this, to take it to a larger level. We think the whole market for game video and streaming in general is growing so fast, that I don’t think we need to necessarily look at ourselves relative to others to see our own growth success. I think the market is large enough for everyone to be successful. But we’ll focus on the things that are unique about our platform, which is great because it allows us to tell our own story and showcase what we are really excited about – which is low-latency, interactivity, co-streaming… all of those capabilities.”

The involvement of TellTale is certainly a positive move for Mixer as the service looks to integrate into more video games. Mojang is also looking at utilising it in Minecraft – and there are already community-made Minecraft mods that make use of Mixer.

TellTale is using Mixer with Guardians of the Galaxy where the audience decides

Gibson says that the development community is excited by what Mixer can do, but acknowledges the firm needs to make it easier for them to utilise. And it’s something the team is committed to, he says.

“It has excited and challenged people in terms of how to create a game and make it so the viewing audience can participate,” He says. “For some games that is challenging. For a game that has shipped, it’s a case of trying to see if there’s a content update they can do to add that interactivity, and for some games that is harder. Most of the creative directors we talk to think that the really mind-blowing experiences will only exist when the game is built with this in mind. There are a lot of games where there are very natural ways for us to expand with interactivity. Minecraft is probably my favourite example where there is a bunch of ways, even for modders, to bring interactivity into that game.

“Most of the creative directors we talk to think that the really mind-blowing experiences will only exist when the game is built with this in mind”

“But honestly, in terms of feedback, what we’re hearing is: “We really think this can make our game more engaging, but we need to be able to trial a lot of things.” I am summarising a bunch of feedback, but developers ultimately want us to make it easier for them to try a bunch of things. That made us, with [our last update] Interactivity 2, change our priorities on some things. We prioritised having Unreal and Unity add-ons, because that makes it easier for creative directors and tech directors to prototype.

“The excitement has been pretty universal. It has challenged people to figure out how they can apply this to a game that’s on the market right now, and motivated people who have games coming in the summer, fall or next year. So throughout all of this, the tactical thing for us is to help make it easier and quicker for them to iterate, prototype and explore what they can do.”

In terms of technology and potential, Beam – now Mixer – always seemed interesting. The popularity of ‘Twitch Plays’ showcases a desire for communities to get involved with the things that they’re viewing. But Mixer enters into a market that’s dominated by Twitch, with growing competitors such as Facebook Live and YouTube – plus other independent outlets like DingIt and Smashcast.

So what is Beam’s ultimate aim? Is it to augment Microsoft’s existing services and offer something that’s unique to the Xbox platform, or is it to become a true competitor to Twitch?

“A big thing that we obsess about in Xbox Live is how do we make it easier for friends to invite others to play games,” Gibson concludes. “We want to make it easy to share things. To us, this service allows us to expand that to the act of watching. Now my friends can watch me play with zero latency and it is just like they are in party chat with me.

In the future, when Sea of Thieves, or a new Minecraft or Forza comes out, my viewing audience can actually participate in my game adventure. Be that by giving me challenges, cheering me on, helping me overcome an obstacle… to us it is a great way of extending the game to more people in a conceptually similar way when we moved Xbox Live onto Windows. With that we wanted to expand the Xbox world to more people, and this allows us to expand that even further and offer a whole bunch of great new experiences.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Nvidia Debuts Project Holodeck VR

May 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Taking a short pause from GPU spec talk, Nvidia on Tuesday unveiled a live demo of its new Project Holodeck VR tech at Computex in Taiwan, Taipei.

It’s a virtual world, created through HTC’s Vive headset, that allows users to experience the perks of the physical world — manipulate physical objects! obey the laws of physics! — but in a completely digital space.

During the demo, Nvidia set up three of its engineers backstage (kitted out with Vive headsets), speaking to them in real time. Onstage, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang brought up local Taiwanese e-scooter company Gogoro to talk through a 3D fly-through of one of its vehicles.

But the future of VR doesn’t stop at shiny scooters and floating torsos. Nvidia wants to use the Holodeck to create virtual worlds to train artificial intelligence — spaces where digital robots can repeat tasks endlessly and develop machine learning.

According to Huang, the Holodeck could be used to not only render designs for things like scooters, it could also fill out the whole production cycle.

“[The Holodeck can be used to] design the product, design the factory that’s going to make the product and design the robots that are going to create the factory that are going to make the products,” said Huang.

Does The Nintendo Switch Represent The Future Of Consoles?

May 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

It’s a fact often stated, but no less true for the repetition, that videogames as a whole owe a great deal to Nintendo.

Time and again over the past 30-odd years, Nintendo has defined and redefined core parts of what a game, or a games console, is meant to be. It hasn’t always been the first to invent an idea, but so often it has been the first company to take a rough idea and turn it into something so accessible, so useful and so necessary that, in hindsight, it ends up feeling obvious.

The D-pad, the analogue stick, the handheld console, the 3D platformer, the often copied but never equalled Mario Kart formula… Even when Nintendo’s innovations haven’t been immediately well-received, as was the case with the Wii’s motion controls, they’ve still had the power to shift the course of the industry. Thus, when Nintendo launches something that appears to have inertia behind it, it’s best to pay attention.

It’s fairly certain that some of the touches that made Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild so magical will start showing up in other open-world games over the coming years, for example. Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the debt that BOTW itself owes to many other open world titles; Nintendo is a very productive part of an ongoing discourse within games, both receiving and creating ideas, not some wizened sage on a hilltop passing down gems of insight to the unwashed masses. Often its greatest innovations have been built upon foundations laid down by others; it’s just that Nintendo turns out to be a pretty damned fine architect, given such foundations upon which to work.

Few would deny that Breath of the Wild has been a landmark software release; quite a number of you, though, will likely consider it a bit too early to consider Switch to have earned a place in Nintendo’s grand hall of hugely influential products. The console is off to a roaring start, with its second month sales (and ongoing stock shortages) demonstrating very high demand. While next month’s big title, ARMS, is an unknown quantity – it could be an amazing driver of console sales or a damp squib – July’s Splatoon 2, a sequel to the company’s biggest new IP in years, is absolutely certain to drive demand for Switch further into the stratosphere.

That’s all well and good; but yes, it is still early days. The console is yet to complete its first quarter, let alone its first Christmas; projections are good and anticipation is high, but talking about the influence of Switch at this point feels a bit like counting chickens and planning an extensive chicken dinner menu based on eggs still far from hatching. There is, however, one further factor to take into account – the word of mouth around Switch, which is almost uniformly positive and which has a characteristic I’m not sure I’ve ever seen with a console launch before.

The unique thing about the way in which people discuss Switch is this; people who have played games on the console are frequently and vocally adamant that this is now their preferred way to play games. There’s a bizarre level of clamour for games from other systems to be ported to Switch, because the console offers a preferable way to play for so many people. Nobody is actively dumping on PS4 or Xbox One in these comments; rather they tend to be wistful “oh, how I wish Persona 5 (or whatever) was on Switch, I’d much rather play it on that.”

There is, no doubt, some degree – however small – of simple excitement with a new shiny thing reflected in these comments. However, combined with the strong market demand for the console, it does make one wonder: is Nintendo on to something quite revolutionary here?

It’s clearly struck a chord with a pretty wide audience, and the appeal of the Switch form factor is playing a major role in its early success. It’s absolutely true that, as a general rule, games sell consoles, with the hardware itself being of (distant) secondary importance, but with Switch representing such a major overhaul of the whole console paradigm, there’s certainly some extent to which the hardware is selling itself.

A couple of months before Switch launched, I argued that one of the reasons for the console’s design – and for the much less successful attempt at executing a similar concept with the Wii U – is that the number of young people who have a large TV in their home is declining, most notably in Japan, as people turn to smart devices and laptops for a large portion of their media consumption. This limits the market for consoles, especially for those which are concerned largely with ultra high fidelity graphics on very large, up-to-date TV screens. This trend is less advanced in other territories, but it does exist, and may catch up with Japan.

That may explain part of the appeal of Switch, but I don’t think that market is the one getting excited about the console right now; early adopters are largely going to be people who own a high-end console (or consoles) and a high-end TV, with those who don’t own a TV being a market Nintendo may tap later as its success grows. What I think we’re seeing instead is a slightly different, albeit related trend; people are used to their media being mobile, and that makes the existing console paradigm a little frustrating.

Many of us rolled our eyes slightly at Nintendo’s painfully lifestyle-marketing-agency videos of people turning up to parties with Switch consoles, but in truth we have all become accustomed to bringing our media experiences with us, sharing them easily (often by simply handing over a phone or tablet to someone) and never feeling tethered by them. That applies within the home as much as outside; watching an episode of something on Netflix on your TV until you feel a bit tired and decide to finish out the episode on your smartphone, curled up in bed, is pretty much how a whole generation finishes its weeknights right now.

In tapping into that, Nintendo may have created something that’s going to change our expectations about how we interact with games. That capacity to treat games as being just as untethered and portable as other media is a bigger change than many give it credit for, as is the capacity to link the undocked consoles together easily for local multiplayer – an absolutely enormous part of the appeal and success of the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable consoles in Japan, where school and college kids getting together to play Pokemon or Monster Hunter in public social spaces was a pretty huge thing for many years.

The question is, if Nintendo is really on to something massive here – and if it is, then those slightly eyebrow-raising projections showing the Switch selling in volumes comparable to the Wii might not actually be so crazy after all – what is the impact on the wider market going to be? How do Microsoft and Sony react to this?

If Switch is as big a success as many people seem to expect, it’s quite likely that it’ll precipitate a major internal change of direction in its competitors’ plans for the future – just as previous successful innovations by Nintendo have done. There are various models a future Xbox or PlayStation could pursue in order to give a comparable experience to Switch without sacrificing their cutting edge performance; a tablet-style console with a dock housing a much more powerful GPU is perhaps the most obvious example.

The crucial thing is to deliver a console that has a portable experience on a par with its tethered-to-the-TV experience; a lower pixel count and perhaps some toned down graphic effects, but essentially the same game, just as playable and fully featured, available to pick up and play anywhere you want, whenever you want to be away from the TV.

It’s a model that’s likely to make sense to more and more consumers as behaviours shift away from the monolithic television-centric media experiences of previous decades, and if Switch is a breakout hit (and perhaps even if it’s only a moderate success), it’s a model to which both Sony and Microsoft will need to think very carefully about their response.

Courtesy-GI.biz

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