J.J. Abrams Teams With Tencent to Form Bad Robot Games

Director J.J. Abrams, who most recently helmed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” plans to add video games to the portfolio of his production company Bad Robot. Formed in partnership with Chinese company Tencent Holdings, and a minority stake from investor Warner Bros. Interactive, Bad Robot Games will be headed by Dave Baronoff and Tim Keenan. Baronoff worked on the Bad Robot game adaptation of “Cloverfield” and Keenan, who will serve as creative director, is the creator of “Duskers” and “A Virus Named Tom.” Continue reading J.J. Abrams Teams With Tencent to Form Bad Robot Games

Southern California’s Silicon Beach Expanding into Playa Vista

The recently developed Playa Vista neighborhood on Los Angeles’ Westside near Marina del Rey is now home to numerous technology companies including Electronic Arts, Facebook, IMAX, Microsoft, Yahoo and YouTube. In fall 2018, Alphabet’s Google will move into a 319,000-square foot office space, adjacent to 12 acres of land the company bought in 2014. Playa Vista is also adjacent to the 600-acre Ballona Wetlands, home to hundreds of bird species, and against the Westchester Bluffs. Currently 5,000 to 6,000 people work there. Continue reading Southern California’s Silicon Beach Expanding into Playa Vista

Social VR Platforms Proliferate in the Next Digital Land Grab

The typical VR experience is solitary, but an increasing number of companies are exploring the possibility of virtual realty in the context of a social platform. That trend was made clear by Microsoft’s acquisition of AltspaceVR. High Fidelity is an environment that lets users create their own avatars and social worlds, with a marketplace where they can buy avatars and other 3D elements. And vTime, a stationary platform, lets four people at a time engage in fully rendered environments. Continue reading Social VR Platforms Proliferate in the Next Digital Land Grab

Facebook Reveals the Philosophy of New Social VR Platform

As part of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s goal to get one billion people into virtual reality, the company has also targeted social interaction as a potential powerhouse, with avatars communicating in a shared virtual world. This vision is already a reality on the company’s software platform Facebook Spaces, headed by Rachel Franklin, who previously worked on “The Sims.” She recently described her team’s philosophy and how that motivates design choices. She also described Facebook’s most successful VR elements. Continue reading Facebook Reveals the Philosophy of New Social VR Platform

Electronic Arts, NFL Create Tournament for Casual Gamers

Electronic Arts and the National Football League now offer an eSports tournament aimed at the casual user in the living room. Dubbed the Madden NFL Club Championship, the competition is open to players of all skill levels aged 16 or older in North America, the U.K. and Germany, and is based on a pilot program held last spring. It’s also linked to the debut of “Madden NFL 18,” Electronic Art’s newest installment of the annual football game franchise, which has sold more than 100 million units around the world since its 1980s debut. Continue reading Electronic Arts, NFL Create Tournament for Casual Gamers

USC Taps Industry Vet Danny Bilson to Chair Games Division

USC just brought on Danny Bilson as the new chair of its School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media & Games Division (IMGD), reporting to the School of Cinematic Arts dean Elizabeth M. Daley. Bilson, who has held senior executive positions at THQ and Electronic Arts, is a writer, film director, producer and game developer. Since 2005, he has also been on the faculty of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, teaching screenwriting and narrative design, and, currently, leading the Advanced Games Project. Continue reading USC Taps Industry Vet Danny Bilson to Chair Games Division

EA Switches to Microtransactions for New ‘Star Wars’ Sequel

Electronic Arts, with the debut of “Star Wars Battlefront II” at E3 in Los Angeles this week, plans to abandon the sales of “expansion packs,” which are the maps, quests and other content sold separately for videogames. Instead, it will send customers smaller packs for free, as a way to keep them playing the game, and use microtransactions to sell less expensive virtual goods. The company is basing this switch of sales pipelines on the fact that microtransactions, even in free-to-play mobile games, have garnered billions of dollars. Continue reading EA Switches to Microtransactions for New ‘Star Wars’ Sequel

Electronic Arts Scores Record Year With Games-As-Services

Electronic Arts is apparently doing a better job at engaging players over a longer period of time. That’s the conclusion of the company’s chief executive Andrew Wilson, who said that its record-breaking fiscal year is due to live operations of games that run as services, rather than one-time purchases. The goal, he says, is to increase gamers’ engagement, thus growing an audience over time and preventing them from defecting to rival products. Proof that the strategy is working is in the numbers, he adds. Continue reading Electronic Arts Scores Record Year With Games-As-Services

Unity CEO Reframes XR Discussion, Re-Energizes the Flock

Unity Technologies CEO John Riccitiello drew a fresh picture of the XR industry in his keynote address at the Vision VR/AR Summit 2017 in Hollywood this week (extended reality — or XR — is an umbrella term that includes VR, AR and MR). Riccitiello admonished analysts for their overly exuberant prognostications and reactionary pessimism about the VR market. He projected that XR adoption and value calculations will exceed expectations in 2023 if three conditions are met: a price point below $1,000 for all the necessary hardware; truly mobile technology; and content that can be monetized across 100,000,000 devices, at minimum. Continue reading Unity CEO Reframes XR Discussion, Re-Energizes the Flock

Facebook Pursues App Ecosystem: AR Powered by Cameras

Bolstered by last summer’s breakout popularity of “Pokémon Go,” Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has shifted focus from VR to AR, which combines the real and digital worlds. At the annual F8 conference, he stated that Facebook will make its AR tools available to developers to create everything from custom masks to filters. Partners already include Nike, Electronic Arts and Warner Bros. The shift to AR puts Facebook in competition with its rival Snap’s Snapchat and Microsoft HoloLens. Continue reading Facebook Pursues App Ecosystem: AR Powered by Cameras

Twitch Moves to Digital Delivery, Microsoft Game Site to Debut

Amazon’s live streaming video platform Twitch plans to begin delivering computer games digitally. Starting this spring, the user will see a “buy” button on website broadcasts of computer games from 20 companies; players can download the game and other goods, such as expansion packs, directly from the site. According to comScore, in the U.S., Twitch is now No. 8 among the top 500 visited websites in terms of average time spent per visitor. Also this spring, Microsoft will debut subscription-based Xbox Game Pass. Continue reading Twitch Moves to Digital Delivery, Microsoft Game Site to Debut

Jam City Invests in Mobile Gaming Future with Two New Hires

Los Angeles-based mobile game company Jam City (formerly SGN Games) has hired AI expert Rami Safadi and experimental psychologist Lisa Spano to lead a new research and development team. Both hires will be focused on consumer insights and leveraging data to create new gaming experiences. Safadi believes artificial intelligence will play an integral role in gaming innovation. Jam City’s hires are part of a new phase of development after its initial success, including six of the highest-grossing games in the U.S. Continue reading Jam City Invests in Mobile Gaming Future with Two New Hires

Slack’s Workplace Messaging App Targets Large Companies

Slack Technologies, launched in 2014, just introduced a new version of its workplace-centric messaging app, with the goal of gaining large corporate contracts. The new Slack Enterprise Grid is built to handle the group messaging needs of very large companies, with thousands or more employees, and includes security tools and regulatory compliance required for such companies’ IT departments to sign off. The original group messaging app is already in play at a few big companies, including Electronic Arts and Samsung Electronics. Continue reading Slack’s Workplace Messaging App Targets Large Companies

Global Game Industry Earned $91 Billion in Revenues in 2016

According to SuperData Research, games were a $91 billion global market in 2016, with mobile games accounting for $41 billion (about 18 percent). In second and third place, retail games were valued at $26 billion, and free online games at $19 billion. SuperData also noted virtual reality, e-sports and gaming video content, all of which were characterized as small but growing fast, thus promising for 2017. “Monster Strike,” “Pokémon Go” and “Clash Royale” were among the blockbuster hits that made mobile games a winning category. Continue reading Global Game Industry Earned $91 Billion in Revenues in 2016

Activision Blizzard Plans E-Sports League Around ‘Overwatch’

Activision Blizzard, the biggest videogame company in the U.S. by market value, is taking steps to create an e-sports league that more closely resembles a traditional sports league. The company is in conversation with more than 100 e-sports and traditional sports teams to drum up interest in a league for its game “Overwatch” that would function like the National Football League. Competitive videogaming has gained in popularity and viewership, heading towards an estimated 10 percent of all U.S. sports viewing by 2020. Continue reading Activision Blizzard Plans E-Sports League Around ‘Overwatch’

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