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Is AMD’s Ryzen 1950X Ready To Hit The Market

June 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s Ryzen ThreadRipper 1950X CPU engineering sample, a 16-core/32-thread SKU, has been spotted on Geekbench running at 3.4GHz base clock.

This should be the flagship SKU and it appears it won’t have the 1998X model number, as previously rumored. The engineering sample works at 3.4GHz base clock and was running on an ASRock X399 Professional Gaming motherboard with 16GB of DDR4-2133 memory.

The ThreadRipper 1950X, as it is currently called, packs a massive 32MB of L3 cache and 8MB of L2 cache. Since this is an engineering sample, bear in mind that the performance figures are far from final as AMD will probably further optimize the performance and the sample was not running with lower clocked memory, with no details on the quad- or dual-channel setting.

According to the results posted on Geekbench and spotted by Wccftech.com, the ThreadRipper 1950X managed to get a 4,167 score in the single-thread benchmark and 24,539 points in multi-thread benchmark.

The CPU was compared to Intel’s Xeon E5-2697A 4 CPU, which is also a 16-core/32-thread CPU based on Broadwell architecture and which scores 3,651 in single-thread and 30,450 points in multi-thread performance.

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

Is the FinFET Market Ripe for Growth?

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The global FinFET-technology market to grow by 41.89 per cent during 2017-2021, according a new report.

Beancounters at Research and Markets have added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked dashed out a report with the racey title “Global FinFET Technology Market 2017-2021.”

The report considers the sales of FinFET technology process node in different sizes across applications. It covers the market landscape and its growth prospects over the coming years. The report also includes a discussion of the key vendors operating in this market.

For those who came in late, FinFET is a 3D transistor and is integral for the design and development of processors. FinFET technology is a nonplanar, double gate transistor, built on a silicon on insulator substrate. FinFET is a 3D structure that has subdivided resistance and capacitance when compared to a planar structure. FinFETs have better device optimisation in comparison with planar technology.

One trend in the market is innovation in channel materials for development of 10nm and beyond FinFET chips. The 14nm FinFET-based chips use silicon channels that are not stable beyond this scale. With the 10nm technology, SiGe-based FinFET technology demonstrated enhanced performance, providing elegant solutions for CMOS technology.

According to the report, one driver in the market is strategic collaborations and M&A.

The strategic collaborations between the top players in the market are driving the global FinFET technology market. Strategic collaborations and M&A allow vendors to gain access to new technologies. This enables vendors to develop the ecosystem and design novel products with innovative technologies.

The report states that one challenge in the market is fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rate. Fluctuations in the foreign currency exchange rate have a huge impact on the revenue realized by companies.

Vendors in the global FinFET technology market have their presence in several countries. Therefore, the fluctuations in the exchange rate do affect not only the selling price of the product but also the costs and expenses of the company and its foreign subsidiaries.

Courtesy-Fud

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

Could AMD’s Threadripper Undercut Intel’s 7900X

June 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

According to a fresh report, AMD’s entry-level 16-core Threadripper CPU could cost as low as US $849.

According to the report coming from eTeknix.com, the reported that the entry-level 16-core/32-threads Threadripper SKU, also known as the Threadripper 1998, which works at 3.2GHz base and 3.6GHz Turbo clock, lacks eXtended Frequency Range (XFR) feature and has a 155W TDP, could launch with a US $849 price.

If this rumor turns out to be true, AMD will significantly hurt Intel as this Threadripper will end up cheaper than Intel’s 10-core 7900X, which has a US $999 price tag (tray 1KU).

Although it could end up being slower than Intel’s 10-core chip in some scenarios, like gaming, the sheer number of cores and threads it offers would make it a great CPU for some CPU intensive tasks.

Hopefully, AMD will manage to bring more competition to the CPU market as it would both drive the prices down as well as most likely bring better CPUs in the future.

Courtesy-Fud

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

Layoffs Loom Large At AOL And Yahoo

June 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Citing anonymous sources, Recode is reporting that AOL and Yahoo are gearing up to issue over 1,000 pink slips as they get set to merge under a new media division at Verizon. This, the report notes, is still less than 20 percent of the total workforce.

The two companies are set to be merged under a new media division at Verizon called Oath, and layoffs are expected to deal with positions that are doubled up under the new brand. According to The Street, an AOL spokesperson did not comment on layoffs, but did acknowledge changes. “Consistent with what we have said since the deal was announced, we will be aligning our global organization to the strategy,” the spokesperson said.

Yahoo shareholders are set to vote on a proposal to authorize the sale of Yahoo to Verizon at a special meeting today.

Neither Yahoo nor AOL immediately responded to a request for comment.

Can Free-To-Play Dominate Virtual Reality Gaming

June 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Premium games will always be consumers’ first choice when it comes to virtual reality titles, says Oskar Burman.

Speaking at last week’s Nordic Game Conference, the former general manager of Rovio and CEO of Fast Travel Games said he does not believe free-to-play will take over the VR market the way it has on mobile – although it will have a significant presence.

“Free-to-play is going to become more common as the userbase grows,” he explained. “However, I don’t think free-to-play is going to be as dominant as it is on mobile. I think there will be more of a balanced mix. Even if free-to-play is eventually the majority, I still think there’s going to be a market for premium games – a little bit like it is on the PC today.”

With that in mind, he urged VR developers to build premium games, titles with a set price tag. He said that there is plenty of room to experiment with microtransactions and selling more substantial DLC, but studios certainly shouldn’t be afraid to charge for their work – particularly in the higher end of the VR space.

“It just makes sense,” he insisted. “If you spent $1000 or more on equipment, on a PC and a VR headset, then you wouldn’t mind spending a little bit more to actually buy a couple of good games.”

While there’s a lot of attention for virtual reality centred around the PC and console experiences, Burman reminded attendees that the target audience on mobile is “definitely higher”, estimating it to be close to 10m based on his studio’s own research. However, these potential customers cannot be targeted in the same way.

“The audience there, we call them semi-traditional gamers,” said Burman. “There are definitely gamers in there but there are also users who are not that familiar with gaming, who just want to try out this new VR thing. They might be trying some games, but also trying a lot of other stuff.”

His advice to any studio looking to raise awareness for their VR game was to approach influencers rather than traditional media – “because that’s just the way the market is” – and consider promoting them in much the same way they do PC and console titles.

Burman believes premium games with rapid start-up times and even microtransactions will thrive in the VR market

Burman took time to ponder about the changing genres we might see in virtual reality. He attributed the current wave of shorter action, shooter and puzzle games to a combination of the smaller teams and limited budgets behind most releases but expects this to expand as the audience grows. He suggested sports games might become more common, a relatively unexplored genre when it comes to VR, but says sandboxes could provide the real killer app.

“I’m really curious to see what’s happening with the creation genre and VR. What’s going to be the next Minecraft VR?”

“I’m really curious to see what’s happening with the creation genre and VR,” he said. “What’s going to be the next Minecraft VR? I’m pretty sure we’re going to see something spectacular happen in that space.”

The talk primarily dealt with learnings VR developers could take from other platforms, with Burman’s own experiences in mobile proving to be particularly fruitful. In some ways, VR titles need to be as accessible and instantly gratifying as games for smartphones.

“One thing we have learned is that start-up times really do matter in VR, both on mobile VR and wired,” said Burman. “Because if you have a VR game where it’s loading and you wait and wait and wait, it really breaks the immersion and takes you out of that experience. There are quite a few games in VR today that do have that problem. Learn from mobile: you have to get the game up and running as soon as possible. Try to avoid long loading times – that’s something mobile excels at.

“Another learning from mobile is those short bursts – the player logs in, does some farming and then goes out – that’s probably not going to work as well in VR, because it’s much more difficult to set up so it doesn’t make sense to do a very, very quick burst of gaming.”

On the subject of session lengths, Burman shared the results of a study Fast Travel Games carried out into how long players spend with their various platforms. Traditional PC and console games engaged players for between 90 and 150 minutes per session a couple of times per week. Meanwhile, mobile predictably has much shorter bursts of around two to four minutes, with users playing multiple times a day. Virtual reality falls somewhere in between.

“When we looked at VR games with the user studies that we’ve done, we see that players ideally spend 20 to 30 minutes per session,” said Burman. “And they do this with roughly the same frequency as console players.

“Some learnings from this is that gameplay depth is something we can bring over from PC and console. People do want to immerse themselves in the same kind of worlds that they find in traditional games, and the creation of these universes is going to be even more important for VR.”

A member of the audience pressed this further at the end of the session, asking if Burman expects VR to cut into the time already spent on traditional PC and console games.

“Yeah, it might eat into that time,” he answered. “People have a limited amount of time, and I think we’ll see some of those players moving over to VR.

“Mobile VR is a different beast. Mobile gaming is something you do when you’re on the toilet. You might do VR on the toilet – I haven’t tried it.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

 

Will Ryzen’s High Yields Pay Off For AMD

June 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The dark satanic rumor mill has manufactured a hell on earth yarn which claims that AMD’s 14nm manufacturing process has a yield of 80 percent.

AMD is knocking out Ryzen CPUs so effectively that a decrease in ASPs is likely to follow

The information comes from an Italian website Bitsandchips which has not named its source. However he/she told them that 80 percent of CPUs are produced with all eight cores fully functional.

The high yield of the Ryzen CPUs means that AMD can sell its EPYC (formerly known as Naples) datacentre processors (based on Ryzen) at a low cost.

Bitsandchips says that Dropbox is interested, quoting VP of infrastructure Akhil Gupta: “The combination of core performance, memory bandwidth, and I/O support make EPYC a unique offering. We look forward to continuing to evaluate EPYC as an option for our infrastructure.”

This also means that coupled with AMD’s extensive Wafer Supply Agreement which was amended to act as an insurance against foundry disaster, the company is doing well as far as fabrication is concerned.

The magazine also said that Dropbox was rather interested in Naples and was evaluating AMD EPYC CPUs in-house.Akhil Gupta, vice president of infrastructure at Dropbox said that he was impressed with the initial performance we see across workloads in a single-socket configurations.

“The combination of core performance, memory bandwidth, and I / O support EPYC make a unique offering. We look forward to continuing to evaluate EPYC as an option for our infrastructure.”

Courtesy-Fud

China Defends Controversial New Cyber Security Law

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

China’s top cyber authority is pushing back on claims that it is targeting foreign firms with a controversial national cyber law set to come into effect today.

More than 50 overseas companies and business groups have lobbied against the law, which includes stringent data storage and surveillance requirements.

“The purpose is to safeguard [China’s] national cyberspace sovereignty and national security… rather than to restrict foreign enterprises,” the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a statement on its website.

The law, which was passed by China’s rubber-stamp parliament in November, requires local and overseas firms to submit to security checks and store user data within the country. Business groups argue the regulations are vague, and leave foreign firms vulnerable to abstract interpretations of the law.

Earlier this month Reuters reported that the CAC met foreign business groups in a closed-door meeting to try to allay fears over the law and discuss an 18-month phase-in of the regulations, according to attendees.

The notice on Wednesday made no mention of a phase-in period. It added that the law is not designed to hinder international trade or the flow of data across the Chinese border.

Mandatory reviews of outbound data have been a particular point of contention for foreign groups, which say the rules are more restrictive than regulations in other markets.

China maintains a strict censorship regime, banning access to foreign news outlets, search engines and social media including Google and Facebook.

China To Adopt Controversial Cyber Security Law

May 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

China, fighting growing threats from cyber-terrorism and hacking, will adopt a controversial law that mandates strict data surveillance and storage for firms working in the country, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The law, passed in November by the country’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, bans online service providers from collecting and selling users’ personal information, and gives users the right to have their information deleted, in cases of abuse.

“Those who violate the provisions and infringe on personal information will face hefty fines,” the news agency said, without elaborating.

Reuters reported this month that overseas business groups were pushing Chinese regulators to delay implementation of the law, saying the rules would severely hurt activities.

Until now, China’s data industry has had no overarching data protection framework, being governed instead by loosely defined laws.

However, overseas critics say the new law threatens to shut foreign technology companies out of sectors the country deems “critical”, and includes contentious requirements for security reviews and data stored on servers in China.

Is AMD Going To Rome

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD has presented a long-term 7nm roadmap and the new codenames for the server products have an Italian theme.

The Zen-based server core, the product that will give a birth to the  Epyc line of data center / server products should debut next month with Naples. Naples is the first 32 core with 64 threads to launch, and this is a 14nm FinFET product. It is named after a city of very rude Italians who are sitting on a super volcano which will eventually explode and take most of southern Europe out with it.

Now Forrest Norrod, a SVP and General Manager of AMD’s enterprise, embedded and semi custom business group, has shared what will come after Zen and it appears the product names are keepting to the Italian theme.

The next in line is based on 7nm and is what the company internally calls Zen 2. Making the transistors smaller will let it put more transistors per square meter and give it a much better efficiency. In servers, it is all about the efficiency per square millimeter, or performance per watt metric.

The Zen 2 data center is codenamed Rome which is named after a city which worshipped a fire goddess and nicked most of its technology from the rest of Europe. Rome also invented exploding public toilets and Catholicism. 

GlobalFoundries said that 7nm risk production can start early next year, so we can expect to see the Zen 2 core at the end of 2018 at the earliest.

The Zen 3 based core is likely based on a 7nm+  process, whatever that might become. AMD’s client and data center group is in sync with its roadmap, at least partially. Both groups are planning to have Zen 2 and Zen 3 based products after they finally manage to ship Zen this year. AMD is using “Milan” as the codename for its Zen 3 product. It is named after a city which thinks it rules the whole of Italy. People from Milan also believe in putting blue cheese on pizzas, which makes them seen as barbarians by the rest of the country.

According to a Powerpoint deck, Milan is coming in its Blue Vein glory sometime before 2020. These time frames are not set in stone.

Forrest said that  a Zen based Epyc processor should be expected in 30+ 1S and 2S servers during 2017. 5000 Epyc CPUs are seeded with OEMs, end customers and partners and AMD is hoping that they will get to see the beauty of its Epyc platform and make some more designs.

Multiple Hypersacele providers have programs and evaluation for the Epyc processor,  hoping to score a good deal in the latter part of the year and beyond. AMD has confirmed that its Risorgimento should be on schedule to launch in June 2017. 

Courtesy-Fud

Social Media Companies May Face New Fines, Regulations In Britain

May 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

British Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to create new powers giving her authority to punish social media and communications companies that fail to look after users’ data, and to demand cash from firms to pay for policing the internet.

The election pledge comes after firms like Facebook and Twitter have been criticized the government for not doing enough to stop the spread of extremist content online or help victims of abuse.

May, who is expected to win a majority at the June 8 election, pledged to pass laws giving users new rights to access data held about them, and granting the government the power to enforce them with sanctions.

“The internet has brought a wealth of opportunity but also significant new risks which have evolved faster than society’s response to them,” May said in a statement.

“We want social media companies to do more to help redress the balance and will take action to make sure they do.”

Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries across England were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments on Friday after a nationwide ‘ransomware’ cyber attack crippled some computer systems in the state-run health service.

The Conservative Party said it wanted to be able to tax the industry if it chooses to, citing similar plans already in force for the gambling industry.

“The Conservatives will also create a power in law for government to introduce an industry-wide levy from social media companies and communication service providers to support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms,” the party said in a statement.

Can Big Game Developers Keep Innovation Alive

May 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The games industry has gone through a series of major transitions and changes over the past couple of decades – changes to the platforms people play on, the way they pay for and interact with games and even to the audiences that are actually playing. Each of those has brought along a series of challenges which the industry has had to surmount or circumvent; none of them, arguably, is a perfectly solved problem. Meanwhile, though, there have also been a handful of challenges running in the background – consistent issues that are even more fundamental to the nature of the games business, less exciting and sexy than the latest great transition but no less in need of clever solutions. Education and skills is one example; tax regimes and the industry’s relationship with governments is another.

Perhaps chief among those issues, though, is one which ties in to a common problem across a wide variety of industries, creative and otherwise. It’s the problem of innovation; specifically, the question of how to make innovation work in the context of a large corporation. The conventional wisdom of modern capitalism is that innovation bubbles up from small start-ups; unencumbered by the institutional, structural and cultural constraints that large, established companies operate within, they’re free to create new things and execute original ideas. As firms grow bigger, they lose that nimbleness and flexibility. Projects become wrapped up in internal politics, in the stifling requirements of handling shareholder relationships, and all too often, in the innovator’s dilemma – the unwillingness to pursue fresh innovation for fear that it’ll disrupt one of your proven cash cows.

As a result, we see a structure in which innovation happens at small start-ups, which large companies tap into through acquisitions. We see this in the games industry too, in the form of big publishers acquiring innovative and successful developers. Such acquisitions usually come with golden handcuffs for the key talent, requiring them to work for their firm’s new owners for a certain amount of time – after which they’re free to go off and create something new, small and innovative again (with a few million quid in their back pocket, to boot). This creates a cycle, and a class of serial innovators who repeatedly build up new, successful small companies to sell to larger, innovation-starved firms.

For many large companies, this isn’t an entirely satisfactory situation. Surely, they reason, there must be some way for a company to scale up without losing the capacity to innovate? Yet for the most part, the situation holds; big companies can create great products, but they are generally iterative and derivative, only very rarely being major, disruptive breaks from what was offered before. There are just too many barriers a game or a product needs to get through; too much politics to navigate, too many layers of management stumped by new ideas or worried about how something hard to explain will play to investors who only want to hear descriptions like “it’s like GTA, but with elements of Call of Duty”, or “it’s like an iPhone, but with a better camera”.

The desire to find some way to bottle the start-up lightning and deploy it within existing corporations runs deep, though, and it’s resulted in a number of popular initiatives over the years. Perhaps the most famous of recent years is the buzz around Eric Ries’ book The Lean Start-Up, a guide to effective business practices for start-up companies which extolled a launch-early, iterate-fast approach. Though it had some impact in the start-up world, The Lean Start-Up seemed to find its most receptive audience among executives at large corporations keen to find some way to create “internal start-ups” – silos within their companies which would function like incubators, replicating the conditions which allowed start-ups in the wild to innovate and iterate rapidly.

For the most part, those efforts didn’t work. The reality is that a start-up inside a company isn’t the same as a start-up in the wild. It doesn’t have the same constraints or the same possibilities available to it; its staff remain employees of a large corporation and thus cannot expect the same rewards, or be exposed to the same decision-making environment, as staff at a start-up. Even something as basic as success or failure can’t be measured in the same way, and in place of experienced venture capitalists (often the final-stage Pokémon evolution of the serial innovators described above) as investors and advisors, an internal start-up finds itself being steered and judged by executives who have often spent a lifetime working within precisely the corporate structure they now claim to wish to subvert. It’s hardly surprising that this doesn’t work very often, either within games or in any other sector.

We haven’t talked about Hearthstone yet, even though it’s right up there in the opening lines. Let’s talk about Hearthstone.

Hearthstone is Blizzard’s card battling game, available across a variety of platforms. It’s a spin-off from the Warcraft franchise, and last year it made somewhere in the region of $350 million (according to estimates from SuperData). This week it topped 70 million unique users, and though the company doesn’t release concurrent user figures, it claims to have set a new record for those following the release of its latest expansion pack in April. It also remains one of the most popular games in the world for streaming. It’s a hell of a success story, and it’s also, in essence, a counterpoint to the notion that big companies can’t do small, innovative things. Hearthstone was prototyped and built by a small team within Blizzard, and ever since its launch it has embraced a distinctly start-up approach – iterating quickly and doing its experimentation in public through features like the “Barroom Brawl”, a sandbox that allows developers to test new mechanics and ideas that might make their way into the main game if they work well.

Given Hearthstone’s commercial success and the relatively small team and infrastructure behind it (relative, that is, to a behemoth like World of Warcraft), it’s probably Blizzard’s most profitable game. The question is, can other publishers and developers learn from what Blizzard did here? There’s a tendency with Blizzard success stories to simply attribute them to some intangible, indefinable “Blizzard Magic”, some sparkling pixie dust which is sprinkled liberally on all of their games but which can only be mined from the secret goblin tunnels under the company’s Irvine campus. In reality, though, Blizzard is simply a very creative and phenomenally well-managed company – one which has, in many respects, placed the solving of the whole question of how to innovate within a large company environment at the very heart of how it structures and defines itself.

One of the most famous things that people in the industry know about Blizzard is that the company is ruthless in its willingness to take an axe to projects that don’t live up to its standards. StarCraft: Ghost never saw the light of day after years in development; Titan, the planned MMO follow-up to World of Warcraft, was similarly ditched (with a core part of its team going on to rapidly develop the enormously successful Overwatch as their “rebound project”). What that means is that Blizzard has developed something within its internal culture that a lot of other firms in the industry lack; a capacity to coolly, rationally judge its own work on a purely creative and qualitative level, and to make very tough decisions without being overly swayed by internal politics, sunk-cost fallacies or other such calculations.

It’s instructive to listen to comments from people who worked on cancelled projects at Blizzard, even at a high level; while it was no doubt an emotional and difficult experience for them, their comments in hindsight usually express genuine agreement with the decision. There appears to be a culture that allows the company to judge projects without extending that judgment to the individuals who worked on them; I don’t doubt that this is an imperfect system and that there’s still plenty of friction around these decisions, but by and large, it seems to work.

There is no magic pixie dust involved in the success of games like Hearthstone (or Overwatch, for that matter). This is a model that can be replicated elsewhere… it’s not dissimilar to the structure of a company like Supercell”

That creates an environment in which a start-up style approach can actually thrive. Small, creative teams can work on innovative games, rapidly prototyping and being effectively judged for their quality along the way. After only a couple of cycles of internal culling and restarting, surviving projects can be pushed out to the market as a kind of “minimum viable product”; not a thinly disguised prototype, but the minimum required to be a viable Blizzard game. Polished, fun and interesting, but designed as a springboard from which the team can go on to iterate and innovate in a way that’s informed by feedback from a real audience, rather than as an expensively developed, monolithic product.

Not every company can accomplish this; it’s not just Blizzard’s exacting standards of quality that permit it, there are also important factors like the company’s opaqueness to investors (which allows it to make products for the market rather than making products for shareholders) and its ability to bootstrap new games with IP from existing franchises (the Nintendo model, in essence) to consider. There is, however, no magic pixie dust involved in the success of games like Hearthstone (or Overwatch, for that matter). This is a model that can be replicated elsewhere, given the right approach and the right people in decision-making roles. In fact, it’s a model that does exist elsewhere; it’s not dissimilar to the structure of a company like Supercell, for example, which helps to explain why Supercell is one of the only mobile developers that’s been able to “bottle its lightning” and consistently develop hit titles. It’s also close, though slightly different in structure, to the way Nintendo has shifted towards working in recent years, which has resulted in titles like Splatoon.

Big companies can be creative; they can be innovative, daring, clever and even disruptive. Hearthstone shows this at work within Blizzard, and it’s also present in a select but distinguished line-up of other game companies that have made it a priority to nurture innovation and to create a culture where good taste and creative excellence are celebrated above all else. For many companies, this would be a radical shift – requiring a change in priorities, in structure and even in staffing – but in the long run, such a shift might end up a lot cheaper than having to pull out your wallet every couple of years to buy the next innovative start-up that came up with an idea your own firm couldn’t conceive of.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Facebook Preps Users Spotting Fake News Ahead Of U.K. Election

May 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook unveiled a UK newspaper campaign on Monday warning British citizens to be wary of fake news in the lead up to the General Election on June 8.

The social network took out ads in major papers including The Times, The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, which list ten things its users should look out for when deciding whether to trust information they read online. The tips include checking headlines, URLs, photos and dates.

The spread of fake news has been a problem online for years, but blew up during the US presidential election last year. Facebook resorting to physical media to warn people about fake news is an indication of how widespread the problem has become and the perceived potential for it to impact the outcome of elections.

“People want to see accurate information on Facebook and so do we,” Simon Milner, Facebook’s director of policy for the UK in a statement. “That is why we are doing everything we can to tackle the problem of false news.”

The social network put new measures in place in April for identifying and removing fake accounts responsible for spreading fake news, added Milner. The company claims to have removed tens of thousands of fake accounts as a result of this. It is also working with others including Google through partnerships like Full Fact and First Draft to tackle the problem.

‘We can’t solve this problem alone,” said Milner. “We are supporting third party fact checkers during the election in their work with news organisations, so they can independently assess facts and stories.”

A BBC Panorama investigation will be broadcast in the UK on Monday evening revealing the extent to which fake news played a role in both the 2016 US presidential election and the EU referendum that took place in the UK last June.

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