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Are Rising Game Development Cost Hurting Some Studios

October 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Making games is expensive. Let me rephrase that: making games is really, really expensive.

Obviously, that’s no secret, but the numbers involved are even surprising to those of us who follow the industry every day. Last month, Kotaku reported many studios budget around $10,000 per person per month to cover salaries plus overhead. Considering that many of the more polished games on the market can take years to create, budgets can spiral out of control very easily and this has a impact on the entire ecosystem.

Moreover, that $10,000 figure is actually lower than many studios spend, industry veterans Brian Fargo (inXile Entertainment) and Jeff Pobst (Hidden Path Entertainment) tell me.

“I used $10,000 per man-month [for budgets] when I was a producer for Sierra online in 2000,” Pobst notes.

Fargo concurs: “I would say [$10,000 is] on the low side. I think Tim Schafer pointed out a couple of years ago that this is why these things cost so much to make. There’s a big difference between small developers cutting their teeth that have no overhead versus a team of people who’ve been in the business for two decades. They have families and expect medical insurance, and so it’s not going to be something that costs less than $10,000 on average for my people.

“That’s on the low end by maybe 20% or 30%. I don’t think we’re seeing double that, but certainly it’s the trajectory we’re all going towards. I think that’s a fair number. It’s always been a funny disparity. We talk about making a game with a budget of, say, $10 million and the smaller developers tend to look at it and go, ‘How do they waste so much money?’ And then the triple-A guys say, ‘How do they do it for so cheap?’

“That seems to be the perpetual argument on these budgets when you want to do something that is ambitious, and that’s ultimately what we get rewarded for. Any title that comes out that is ambitious in some way is more likely to be rewarded than one that isn’t.”

Ambition is a wonderful thing, and most developers have ambitious visions for their games, but then they meet the reality of what ambition costs. The double-A space is now having to invest more than is reasonable for small or mid-sized studios.

“The industry continues to get more binary between the haves and have nots,” Fargo continues. “When I see something like salaries going to as high as $20,000 per man-month in San Francisco, that really only affects the smaller to mid-size companies. The big companies – take Blizzard, for example – they can drop $70 million on a project, kill it and then start all over again. Rockstar can spend five years on a game.

“The extra salaries really don’t affect them, in my opinion, as much as it does the smaller to the mid-size companies. So yeah, it definitely puts pressure on us.

“Also, what I’m seeing recently is that there was the single-A and double-A indie space that was sort of ripe for opportunity for a while – us included, and we’ve been doing well – but that’s getting more competitive. And the budgets of the double-A products are starting to approach triple-A budgets of 10 years ago.”

Citing Ninja Theory’s Hellblade and Larian’s Divinity: Original Sin 2 as recent examples, Fargo laments that expectations for games coming out of the double-A space are rising too rapidly.

“All of a sudden double-A developers are spending in excess of $10 million,” he says. “And it’s only a matter of time before this rises to $20 million. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some at those values already. So now what you’ve got is the triple-A people who are unaffected by the salaries and they’re going to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars between production and marketing, and then you’ve got the double-A companies now starting to spend significant money. What that’s going to do is to create an expectation from a user’s perspective of what the visuals should look like.

“It creates a harder dynamic for even the smaller companies, because some product is at $39 or $44.95 that doesn’t have a multi-million dollar marketing budget. It’s still going to have production values that are incredible, and so what will people expect out of a smaller developer? That’s the cascading effect of all these different things, and of course you layer on top of that the discoverability issue we’ve all got with an un-curated platform and it makes it very tricky.”

While the major publishers like Activision or EA still manage to reap massive profits, other studios are certainly not getting wealthy by making games. California, where so much of the industry is based, makes the cost equation even more difficult.

“Consumers don’t fully understand how truly expensive it is to put out a AAA game now,” says Turtle Rock GM Steve Goldstein. “If you start looking at what it costs for someone to be employed in southern California, working in the knowledge industry, it’s a lot. And the most frustrating thing actually, and it’s something I complain about at the studio all the time, is that we got people here that are working their butts off, who do well, but still can’t afford to buy a house in southern California. It’s ridiculous. The cost of doing business in tech is so high, especially in California, [that] unless you are the biggest of the biggest, there’s a real risk of being able to continue in this medium.

“For us to make a new IP that’s AAA and that’s a boxed product just doesn’t make sense. Because the publisher’s going to have to spend $50 to $100 million, which, as your math just points out, isn’t making anybody rich over in development. They’re going to make that investment… They’ll release [that IP] during the holiday season so they can get that additional sales push, but it’s going to be coming out amidst a ton of other titles and established franchises, so you have to try to get above the noise level just to get the IP known – it just doesn’t pencil out.”

When you combine the continued escalation of costs with the challenge of getting above the noise upon release, it can feel like a Sisyphean task for a small or mid-sized games studio.

Fargo offers, “It feels like the budgets for the double-A products have doubled to tripled just in the last five years. Back in 2012 when Broken Age and Pillars [of Eternity] came out, I know what our budgets were then [for Wasteland 2] and I know what the budgets are going to now. I have a sense of what Larian and Obsidian are spending, and I know these numbers have gone up significantly.

“Curation has always been a hot topic. One might argue there’s a greater risk of a game being lost in a sea of products, than that of a great game not making it through the quality bar to be in the store. The stats of more and more and more games hitting Steam have not been favorable for any of us… You’ve got kind of a one, two, three-punch against the smaller publishers/developers.”

The shift to digital storefronts and the rise in the sheer number of titles flooding those digital shelves is not ideal, Pobst agrees, and it’s making life hard for the really small indies out there.

“For a period of time… we could sell games that were not $60 top price games, and we could make good money… and we could get the opportunity to make more games,” he says. “That opportunity is being challenged because there is such a large number of games at low prices in the marketplace. That takes the market, which gives lots of people choice and is really good for gamers in the one sense, and it splits the amount of money against a large number of people.

“I know a large number of individual indies who are closing up shop because they aren’t now even making enough money to pay for their own well-being. And that used to be a pretty sure thing. If you had a three-person shop or a four-person shop, you could sell enough to actually make a living. Now that’s becoming challenging with so many games available for purchase.”

One way to alleviate the sting of rising costs has been to use crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, and while that has been a boon for the mid-size studios like Double Fine or inXile, in some ways the crowdfunding phenomenon has been a double-edged sword when it comes to setting expectations on budgets, says Pobst.

“If there’s a financial pressure, it’s really hard for people to get together and actually make great entertainment. So this is hard; this is really hard. And the only reason I think that there is a surprise is in part because of the Kickstarter phenomenon, where people were looking to raise the last $500,000 of a $2 million game, and people thought the game was made for $500,000… Games are really expensive to make, especially the kind that the consumer really desires.

“What we saw with the crowdfunding experience, that we went through ourselves as well as many others, is that the average experience where you get a certain amount of money or you just make your minimum, becomes an expectation of what it takes to actually create product, and that’s pretty much not true. You’re typically investing some of your own money or another investor’s money into the product and, often, people are using crowdfunding to complement that so that they can have enough to make the whole thing.”

The $10,000 man-month figure, while scary, is not necessarily universally applicable. Location of your studio and cost of living certainly is a factor in how much employees get paid, and smaller indies aren’t going to have the same overhead as double-A teams filled with veterans. Beyond that, there are different approaches to what kind of team to build.

Pobst explains: “If you visit a development studio there are going to be several different models. The model we [use] at Hidden Path, and I’ve heard places like Crystal Dynamics, is to try and favor a smaller staff with more highly compensated people… The philosophy is that, if you have people who know each other really well and work together really well, their output is going to exceed what the other model [yields].

“The other model is a few highly experienced people that you compensate very highly because they’re your leadership, and then [you hire] a larger number of younger and more inexpensive people. You tend to have more of those people to do the same amount of work, and there’s a lot more management overhead. That can work, and there are many companies that use that model. In fact, if you start looking at successful titles, you’re going to find examples of both. There is no one right model.”

While the cost per head may not compare perfectly on a project-to-project or company-to-company basis, the budgets for games continue to go up no matter what. What can the mid-size studios do to compensate for this worrying fact?

“It depends on the genre you’re in, but the scope and scale of the thing is what you really need to keep an eye on,” Fargo advises. “The visual and audio expectations are rising as the budgets for the double-A games has risen… I would tell developers to keep a really close eye on the scope of the product; better to have something that’s very small and tight and polished than something that’s overly large… and hits a lot of different things but don’t quite visually hold up to the others.”

The other issue to contend with is how games are transforming to games-as-a-service, which could be a positive in terms of generating more revenue or a negative because of the need to support staff year-round.

“As I look out towards the future, we are most definitely looking to incorporate aspects of that business model,” Fargo notes. “The plus sides of it, of course, is that there’s no piracy, and you’re able to do better business in some territories where piracy is extremely high. But also it allows you to build a community and have a live-ops team and do [fewer] products, but keep people on it everyday and make it better – doing tournaments and all of those things… It’s a very compelling thing to have [but] it does put pressure on a single-player experience game.”

Turtle Rock’s Goldstein sees the games-as-a-service model going one step further, effectively becoming Netflix-like subscriptions to access content; something big publishers like Ubisoft and EA have predicted is on the horizon. Subscription revenue could be a way to help mitigate rising costs.

“I can absolutely see something like that happening down the line,” he says. “Netflix is now playing with budgets that are approaching blockbuster films, so I could see those numbers working for each of the publishers, where they have their users paying a subscription and they release a certain number of really high-end titles as well as a bunch of indie titles… I could see that in five years.”

Rising costs have been putting the squeeze on mid-sized studios, but that’s not to say triple-A developers and publishers are immune. As Pobst points out, “There used to be a lot more publishers than there are now.” As the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and smaller companies have a chance to succeed by being more nimble.

“Adapting is part of the game industry,” Pobst continues. “You try and find the areas to adapt to that match your skill set. If you’re a great narrative designer and your team makes great narrative games, you probably don’t go into mobile and focus on free-to-play monetization. It’s not really playing to your strengths.”

Being nimble allows a studio to try new things. VR is the perfect example of that. Both Hidden Path and Turtle Rock are taking a chance on the emerging medium in the hope that it does become a growth market, and their respective experience should set them up well for the future if VR truly goes mainstream.

And if a studio manages to create a hit, suddenly you have a built-in audience that’s more likely to purchase your next title, based on studio reputation alone.

“You’ve got to give Bungie credit for creating Halo after several other games before that, and then creating Destiny after Halo – that’s a big challenge to do,” Pobst says. “And then the folks as Blizzard, they’ve created multiple different hits, which is fairly rare in our industry. If you can build trust with an audience and they can really buy into the anticipation of whatever you’re going to do, your ability to spend more to get it right is there.

“Once you do cross over that threshold, Bungie or Blizzard, their budgets are going to be much, much larger than anything you or I have talked about. Their per head rate or the amount of money they’ll put into a game is much, much higher for two reasons: one, they know that if they deliver something quality, people will buy it because of the reputation they have. And two, by spending more money, they are putting a greater distance between them and the next competitor. And that greater distance will pay off in the long run.”

If a studio does manage to cross that threshold, a huge advantage is unlocked. Suddenly, you’re not worried as much about the money to achieve your creative vision, Pobst says.

“If I’m really focused on the dollars…then I’m not actually focused on the best entertainment I can possibly create. If you know that the audience is going to come in a disproportionate way to what you spend, spending stops becoming the problem. A lot of these [bigger] studios are really focused on: ‘How do I execute the best? How do I have my team work well? How do I know exactly which features to invest in and which features not to invest in?’ You get to a whole set of problems that are far beyond the money problems.”

Some have made comparisons to Hollywood and the drastic divide between indie film labels and behemoth studios like Universal, but for all the talk of haves and have nots, Fargo concedes that game creators have a chance at success for lower investments – for now, at least.

“You look at PUBG, that would be considered a smaller Hollywood film and it sells 15 million copies, but that’s more profitable than most of the Hollywood blockbusters,” he says. “I don’t know that there’s a parallel in the film business where people on a semi-regular basis are spending under $10 million on a movie yet it’s producing blockbuster Hollywood profits. The games business does continue to do that – Rocket League, for example.

“There’s enough cases where these smaller titles have just nailed it, but the effect of that is their next ones are going to see a huge difference in budget.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Twitter To Get ‘More Aggressive’ Policing Tweets

October 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

In response to a high-profile protest against Twitter, CEO Jack Dorsey said the social network will do better when it comes to monitoring content and policing hateful and harassing tweets.

Dorsey took to Twitter to post a string of tweets about “critical” policy decisions he said the company had made earlier Friday.

Twitter will take a “more aggressive stance” regarding its rules involving “unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups and tweets that glorify violence,” Dorsey tweeted. He said the changes would start going into effect in the next few weeks and that the company would provide more details next week.

Dorsey’s tweets came the same day as the #WomenBoycottTwitter protest. The event urged people to forgo tweeting for a day to pressure Twitter into improving how it vets content.

The boycott was also designed to show solidarity with Rose McGowan, one of several people who’ve called out film producer Harvey Weinstein for alleged sexual harassment and assaults against women. Twitter temporarily froze McGowan’s account Thursday after she’d posted tweets about Weinstein. The company later said one of the tweets contained a personal phone number, violating Twitter’s terms of service, and that it hadn’t meant to censor McGowan.

“Twitter is proud to empower and support the voices on our platform, especially those that speak truth to power,” the company said in a tweet after it had restored McGowan’s account. “We stand with the brave women and men who use Twitter to share their stories, and will work hard every day to improve our processes to protect those voices.”

In his string of tweets Friday night, Dorsey continued that theme.

“We see voices being silenced on Twitter every day. We’ve been working to counteract this for the past two years,” Dorsey tweeted. “Today we saw voices silencing themselves and voices speaking out because we’re *still* not doing enough.”

Bullying behavior has been a blight on the social network for years. Some particularly ugly episodes occurred last year, including a hate mob attacking Leslie Jones, a star of last summer’s “Ghostbusters” movie.

Robin Williams’ death in 2015 led some Twitter users to send vicious messages to his daughter, prompting her to delete the app from her phone. That same month, Anita Sarkeesian, an academic highlighting how women are portrayed in video games, was so disturbed by the tweets she received that she fled her home, fearing for her safety.

Twitter had no additional comment Saturday on Dorsey’s string of tweets.

Windows Phone Appears To Meet Its End

October 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Bill Gates ditched his Windows phone. HP is halting production of its flagship Windows handset. Now Microsoft has finally seen the writing on the wall — there aren’t enough people using Windows 10 Mobile or enough apps to make it viable.

Corporate vice president of Windows 10 and head of Microsoft’s “PC-Tablet-Phone” division, Joe Belfiore, said on Twitter Sunday that Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 Mobile with bug fixes and security updates, but new features and hardware are no longer front and center.

Microsoft is no upstart in the mobile space. It produced versions of its software for mobile devices for more than 20 years — starting with Windows CE for personal digital assistants in 1996, and later with Windows Mobile in 2000.

But the ecosystem has struggled since the launch of Apple’s iOs in 2007 and Google’s Android operating system (launched in 2008). According to the most recent sales figures from Kantar Worldpanel, Windows phones account for just 1.3 percent of the market in the US, bested only by BlackBerry at 0.3 percent. Compare that with Android’s 64 percent share of new phone sales and 34 percent for iOS (figures that are closely matched in the UK and Australia).

Microsoft has attempted to leverage its legacy in the PC space to push further into mobile — Windows 10 Mobile was billed as the “everywhere OS” that would let users shift seamlessly between desktop, tablet and mobile.

But users have long complained that the lack of apps on Windows Mobile devices is a deal breaker.

While Belfiore said Microsoft has tried “very hard” to provide incentives for app developers to get apps onto Windows Mobile, the “volume of users is too low for most companies to invest” in the ecosystem.

Tesla Delays Big Rig Debut, Focuses On Model 3 Production

October 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk has delayed the unveiling of the company’s big rig truck until mid-November, tweeting that the electric vehicle maker was diverting resources to fix production bottlenecks of its new Model 3 sedan and to help Puerto Rico.

Musk said Tesla’s Model 3 was “deep in production hell” echoing his own comments in July when he showed off some of the first cars of that model.

The Model 3 could help Tesla approach its goal of becoming more of a mass-market producer. Recent comments have tempered expectations about the speed of the increase in production, though.

The Palo Alto, California-based company delivered just 220 Model 3 sedans and produced 260 in the third quarter. It had planned to produce more than 1,500.

Musk also tweeted the company was diverting resources to increasing battery production to help hurricane-hit Puerto Rico, where most residents remain without electricity.

Earlier this week Tesla reported that “production bottlenecks” had left it behind the planned ramp-up for the Model 3.

In response to a Tesla customer asking if he would get his car delivered this year, Musk tweeted, “December will be a big month, so probably, but it is impossible to be certain right now.”

A Wall Street Journal report said parts of Model 3 were being made by hand as recently as early September, adding to production delays.

Musk also said Tesla would reschedule the unveiling of its semi-truck to Nov. 16 as it focuses on fixing production issues tied to Model 3 and increases battery production for Puerto Rico.

The unveiling of the truck, called Tesla Semi, has been delayed for the second time this year. Musk had initially said the truck would be unveiled in September, but he later rescheduled it to late October.

Reuters in August reported that the truck would have a working range of 200-300 miles.

Earlier in the day, Musk said the company will send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out power on the island over two weeks ago.

Google Has Unique Way To Provide Cell Service To Puerto Rico

October 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission announced that it has approved Alphabet Inc’s application to provide emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico through balloons.

 In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to regain communications services. The FCC said on Friday that 83 percent of cell sites remain out of service, while wireless communications company are deploying temporary sites.

Alphabet, which announced its Project Loon in 2013 to use solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to provide internet service in remote regions, said in an FCC filing it was working to “support licensed mobile carriers’ restoration of limited communications capability” in Puerto Rico.

 Earlier on Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he was forming a Hurricane Recovery Task Force with an emphasis on addressing challenges facing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure and restoration of communications services,” Pai said in statement.

Separately, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said in a Twitter posting late on Friday that he had a “great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities. Next steps soon to follow.”

Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Inc, said on Friday the company would send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago.

Musk said he was diverting resources from a semi-truck project to fix Model 3 bottlenecks and “increase battery production for Puerto Rico & other affected areas.”

In late September, Tesla said it was sending hundreds of batteries that can store power generated by solar panels to Puerto Rico to provide emergency help in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Amazon’s Streaming Of NFL Game Logged Nearly 2M Viewers

October 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Nearly 2 million people logged onto Amazon.com  for the online retailer’s first livestream of Thursday Night Football, the U.S. National Football League said on Friday.

Some 1.9 million people tuned in to Amazon’s kickoff show and game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, according to the NFL. That compares to 2.3 million for the first digitally streamed game last year on Twitter Inc,  which had the online rights at the time.

But viewers watched the broadcast for longer on average on Amazon. Its average worldwide audience for at least 30 seconds was 372,000 people, compared with 243,000 on Twitter for the first game last year, the NFL said.

Streaming live sports is a new, integral part of Amazon’s strategy to encourage more people to sign up to its Prime shopping club and spend more on retail goods.

U.S. Senate Seeks Answers From Social Media Execs Regarding Russian Accounts

September 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Executives from Facebook, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter have been asked to testify before the U.S. Congress while lawmakers probe Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election, according to committee sources.

A Senate aide said executives from the three firms had been asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee to appear at a public hearing on Nov. 1.

The leaders of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee said the panel would hold an open hearing next month with representatives from unnamed technology companies in an effort to “better understand how Russia used online tools and platforms to sow discord in and influence our election.”

Representatives for Facebook and Google confirmed they had received invitations from the Senate committee but did not say whether the companies would attend. Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The House panel did not immediately identify any companies, but a committee source said lawmakers expected to hear from the same three firms the Senate had asked to testify.

The requests are the latest move by congressional investigators to gain information from internet companies as they probe the extent of Moscow’s alleged efforts to disrupt last year’s U.S. election. Lawmakers in both parties have grown increasingly concerned that social networks may have played a key role in Russia’s influence operation.

Facebook revealed this month that suspected Russian trolls purchased more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on its platform during the 2016 election cycle, a revelation that has prompted calls from some Democrats for new disclosure rules for online political ads.

On Wednesday, Trump attacked Facebook in a tweet and suggested the world’s largest social network had colluded with other media outlets that opposed him. The president has been skeptical of the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election and has denied his campaign colluded with Moscow.

Is Amazon About To Release Smart Glasses With Alexa On Board

September 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The dark satanic rumor mill has manufactured a hell on earth yarn that Amazon is about to release a set of smart glasses.

The device, designed like a regular pair of spectacles, will allow Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa to be summoned anytime at all places.

There would be a bone-conduction audio system in the device to allow the wearer to hear Alexa without inserting headphones into his or her ears, according to the report.

Earlier this year, Alphabet Inc re-introduced its own wearable glass headset, Google Glass, after discontinuing its production last year. However, we are yet to see anything appear on the marketplace outside the Google glass developer product.

Courtesy-Fud

Snap Chat Blocks Al Jazeera

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap has stopped allowing news network Al Jazeera to post to Snapchat in Saudi Arabia at the request of the Saudi government, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Snap pulled the Qatari-run news outlet’s Discover Publisher Channel from its app as it violated the country’s law of printed material and publication and anti-cyber crime law.

“We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate,” said a Snap spokeswoman in a statement.

Regional censorship of content has affected almost every global social network and internet company, including Google and Facebook, due to local laws that they may be subject to. Media watchdog Freedom House consistently rates Saudi Arabia as “not free” in its annual Freedom on the Net investigation.

“Popular social media and communication apps are not blocked in the country, although authorities have imposed restrictions on their use,” it said in its 2016 report.

Qatar is currently in an ongoing dispute with Saudi Arabia, Eqypt, Bahrain and the UAE, which have accused the country of supporting terrorism. The Al Jazeera ban only affects Saudi Arabia and the publisher’s Snapchat Story continues to be live in the other countries.

Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Social Media Is The News Source For Two Thirds Of Adults

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Nearly two-thirds of American adults are getting “at least some of their news on social media” with two-in-ten doing so often, according to a Pew Research Center survey this week.

About 67 percent of American adults somewhat rely on social media platforms such as Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Snapchat for news, the survey showed, compared with 62 percent in 2016.

For the first time in the Center’s surveys, the research also found that 55 percent of Americans adults over 50 were consuming news on social media sites, up from 45 percent in 2016.

 “While a small increase overall, this growth is driven by more substantial increases among Americans who are older, less educated, and non-white,” the research said.

Those under 50 years of age remained more likely than their elders to get news from these sites – 78 percent said they consume news on social media platforms, unchanged from 2016.

Facebook remained as the dominant platform for news with 45 percent of American adults saying they get news from the social media site. Alphabet Inc’s YouTube was next with 18 percent while only about 11 percent of U.S. adults said they get their news on Twitter.

The research also showed about three-quarters of non-whites or 74 percent, get news on social media sites, up from 64 percent in 2016.

Social media news use also increased among those with less than a bachelor’s degree, up 9 percentage points to 69 percent in 2017 from the previous year. Alternatively, among those with at least a college degree, social media news use declined slightly this year.

While Twitter lags far behind Facebook and YouTube in total news consumers, the site still seems to be benefiting from U.S. President Donald Trump who is one of the most active politicians on the social media platform.

Pew found that 74 percent of U.S. adults who use Twitter say they get news there, up from 59 percent of the site’s users in 2016.

YouTube Live Updated, Streaming Simplified

September 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube is aiming to make your livestreaming more about the moment and less about the technicalities.

New launched updates to YouTube Live will bring more streaming power to your iPhone or iPad, help you moderate comments, and stream with less of a delay, Kurt Wilms, product lead for YouTube Live, said in a blog post.

“Whether it’s solar eclipses, NBA superstars, the hottest music artists, pro gamers, creators donating to charity, or the world’s most famous giraffe, creators use live to connect with fans during the moments that matter,” Wilms said.

The additions come as more celebrities, YouTubers and regular folks experiment with broadcasting video via their phones. It helps that there are myriad options, including Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope. The tech giants behind livestreaming all hope that when you feel the need to broadcast in real time, you’ll pick them.

YouTube’s updates include making it simpler to stream from your Apple iPhone and iPad. Although you can already livestream from certain apps via the YouTube Gaming app, the feature will now come to the main YouTube app so you can use your phone’s microphone and front-facing camera to add audio and video commentary to your stream.

No matter what you’re streaming, you’ll be doing it with lower latency, or less of a delay between when you broadcast the video and when people actually see the feed. The new feature is called ultra-low latency and cuts down on lag so you can answer questions or get viewer response faster. It’s a step toward real-time interaction with folks watching your live video.

Finally, there are also several new tools aimed at chat moderation. One lets you pause the chat to moderate by pressing and holding “alt/option.” Another lets you check for inappropriate messages and hold them for approval. The system, if you opt in to it, learns over time what you want to hold for review. Another tool is shared hidden user lists, which let moderators use the same hidden user lists for comments and live chat. A hidden user list consists of people a creator does not allow to comment.

PlayUnknown’s Battleground Headed The Top

September 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

It was a big weekend for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, as Bluehole’s breakout hit saw the conclusion of the ESL Gamescom PUBG Invitational tournament and reached a new milestone to boot.

On Saturday morning, the game’s creative director Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene tweeted that the game had surpassed 800,000 concurrent players on Valve’s Steam storefront, sandwiched between a pair of Valve-developed evergreen hits on the service, Dota 2 (839,000 players at the time) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (538,000 players). By Sunday morning, Greene’s game had climbed ahead of Dota 2, 878,000 concurrent players to 843,000 concurrent players.

Battlegrounds has been in uncharted territory for non-Valve games on Steam for some time already. Last month, Greene tweeted a game-by-game list of highest record player counts on Steam. Battlegrounds’ record at the time of 481,000 players was already the third-best ever, and the highest for a non-Valve game with Fallout 4 the next best at 472,000. This weekend may have moved Battlegrounds into second place all-time ahead of Counter-Strike, which as of last month had a record of 850,000 peak concurrent users.

Battlegrounds still has a ways to go before it can claim the all-time record (held by Dota 2, which drew 1.29 million players in March of 2016), but if it somehow kept growing as it has during the summer, it would surpass that mark next month.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Codemasters Loves The Xbox One X

September 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Adding virtual reality to Formula One would require “fairly significant” changes, so Codemasters is in no hurry to support the technology with its racing series.

F1 2017 releases for Xbox One, PS4 and PC today, but the publisher has no concrete plans for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or Playstation VR. Given that, like most racing games, F1 lends itself to a seated VR experience it seems like a natural extension for the franchise, but it’s not a simple case of porting the game.

“We’ve certainly given a lot of consideration to VR,” creative director Lee Mather tells GamesIndustry.biz. “As you know, Codemasters did VR for Dirt Rally and we’re certainly interested in doing it for Formula One.

“It’s a little trickier for us because we’re pushing the boundaries when it comes to our physics. We have a lot of elements on screen with the OSD, so that’s a lot of information the player would have to process in VR. The changes to move the game onto VR would be fairly significant, and we wouldn’t want to do it if it meant compromising any area of the game. That’s why we’re holding back on that at the moment, but it’s something we’re considering.”

Mather is much more excited in the potential higher-end consoles lend to his games. F1 2017 will support PS4 Pro and has also been built with the upcoming Xbox One X in mind too. In fact, Codemasters was able to show an early build of the Xbox One X version at E3 earlier this year.

More importantly, improvements for the premium consoles will benefit the standard versions for earlier models.

“Obviously we’ve done a lot of work [this year] on the render tech for those two consoles, but that sort of filters down for the whole range,” Mather explains. “This year, we’ve upped the resolution on Xbox One – last year, it wasn’t quite 1080p and now it’s full 1080p, 60 frames per second. PS4, PS4 Pro and Xbox One S will have HDR support as well.

He continues: “Any work we do to make gains on the new platforms filters down to the older ones as well,” he says. “So, as I said, Xbox One gained a higher resolution because the checkerboard rendering is more efficient in that respect.

“Any work we do to make gains on the new platforms filter down to the older ones as well”

“In terms of the assets we create, it’s actually not a case that we have to do better assets; instead, now we don’t have to knock them down as much, because they’re already authored at a very high quality and then you bring them down to suit the platform you’re running on. In a lot of ways, it’s giving us more opportunities to showcase the quality of the stuff we’re already producing at an even higher level.”

Xbox One X isn’t the only new hardware launch to grab attention in 2017. Nintendo Switch continues to perform well and is currently gearing up for its all-important first Christmas. Codemasters saw moderate success from the Wii versions of its earlier Formula One titles, so could the series make a return to Nintendo platforms?

“Obviously we’ve been watching how the Switch is performing and it’s selling really well,” says Mather. “It probably wouldn’t be suitable to have exactly the same game we have running on Xbox One and PS4, but there’s certainly the possibility we’ll look at doing something on Switch. We’ll see what happens in future. It’s certainly getting the market share to make it a valid place to be.”

F1 2017 is the first in a long line of racing games due for release before the end of the year, pitting it against Forza Motorsport 7, Gran Turismo Sport, Project Cars 2 and the return of Need for Speed. Mather is quick to stress that, while Codemasters aims to be “the No.1 racing studio in the world”, it makes no illusions about directly competing this year given that Formula One is something of a niche.

“We’re a niche within a niche to a degree,” he says. “Racing games are a niche in themselves, and we are unique within that and that’s our big selling point. We aren’t just a racing game; we’re a representation of a full sport. So whereas other racing games may appeal to racing game players, we appeal to Formula One fans as well. We’re pulling in people who love the sport as much as we’re pulling in people who love games and racing. That’s where our place is and that’s why we’ve got such a dedicated fanbase every year.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Apple’s iOS 11 Has ‘Cop Button’ Feature

August 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has added a brand new feature to easily disable Touch ID in iOS 11.

The feature, which is designed to aid calls for emergencies, allows users to quickly tap the power button five times to call 911 on an iPhone 7.

While this won’t automatically dial emergency services, it brings up the option to call 911 or temporarily disable Touch ID until the iPhone’s owner enters their passcode.

The new setting was first discovered by Twitter users in the iOS 11 public beta. They’ve since nicknamed the feature a “cop button,” notably after the FBI’s attempt to force Apple to unlock an iPhone used by Syed Farook, who killed 14 people in a 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.

The incident led to a highly publicized war of words last year between the tech giant and the US government over security and privacy. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

Verizon, Others Push For Greater Cell Phone Records Privacy

August 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

More than a dozen high technology giants and the biggest wireless carrier in the United States, Verizon Communications Inc, have called on the U.S. Supreme Court to make it harder for government officials to access individuals’ sensitive cell phone data.

The companies filed a 44-page brief with the court on Monday night in a high-profile dispute over whether police should have to get a warrant before obtaining data that could reveal a cell phone user’s whereabouts.

Signed by some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, including Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Snap and Alphabet’s Google, the brief said that as individuals’ data is increasingly collected through digital devices, greater privacy protections are needed under the law.

“That users rely on technology companies to process their data for limited purposes does not mean that they expect their intimate data to be monitored by the government without a warrant,” the brief said.

The justices agreed last June to hear the appeal by Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted in 2013 in a series of armed robberies of Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Ohio and Michigan.

Federal prosecutors helped place him near several of the robberies using “cell site location information” obtained from his wireless carrier.

Carpenter claims that without a warrant from a court, such data amounts to an unreasonable search and seizure under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. But last year a federal appeals court upheld his convictions, finding that no warrant was required.

Carpenter’s case will be argued before the court some time after its new term begins in October.

The case comes amid growing scrutiny of the surveillance practices of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies and concern among lawmakers across the political spectrum about civil liberties and police evading warrant requirements.

Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing Carpenter, said the companies’ brief represented a “robust defense of their customers’ privacy rights in the digital age.”

The companies said in their brief the Supreme Court should clarify that when it comes to digital data that can reveal personal information, people should not lose protections against government intrusion “simply by choosing to use those technologies.”

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