Amazon Rebrands Twitch Prime in Shift to Gaming Strategy

Amazon debuted Prime Gaming this week, a rebranding of its first foray into the video game industry, Twitch Prime, which offers exclusive game content and free subscriptions to Twitch, the live-streaming site. There, users could enjoy free games from small studios, discounts for bigger titles like “Grand Theft Auto” and in-game gear. Prime Gaming will include those features and offer more titles and exclusive content, accessible without a Twitch account. Meanwhile, a group of artists has demanded that Amazon pay to license music streaming on Twitch. Continue reading Amazon Rebrands Twitch Prime in Shift to Gaming Strategy

Apple Stands Firm in Its App Store Rules for Cloud Gaming

After Apple repeatedly rejected the Facebook Gaming app for iOS devices, it finally approved it for the App Store — with the proviso that Facebook strip out all the playable games. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg slammed the decision, saying that “iOS users [will] have an inferior experience to those using Android.” Apple’s App Store also won’t permit Microsoft’s xCloud gaming service as, in the past, it also gave the cold shoulder to Google’s Stadia. Late last week, Facebook announced a new version of its Gaming app for iPhone and iPad users. Continue reading Apple Stands Firm in Its App Store Rules for Cloud Gaming

Microsoft Cloud Service Revenues Skyrocket Past $50 Billion

Microsoft reported that sales rose 13 percent to $38 billion in its fiscal Q4, for a net profit of $11.2 billion. Largely due to continued demand for its Azure cloud-computing services, both figures exceeded Wall Street expectations. Microsoft’s revenue from the commercial cloud division “surpassed $50 billion for the first time ever in the latest fiscal year.” The company is also the target of a complaint Slack filed with the European Commission, accusing it of using its market power to crush rivals. Continue reading Microsoft Cloud Service Revenues Skyrocket Past $50 Billion

Niantic and Punchdrunk Partner to Develop New AR Projects

Punchdrunk, the British theater company that produced “Sleep No More,” and Niantic, developer of popular mobile games “Pokémon Go” and “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” are teaming up to collaborate on several projects. In “Sleep No More” — an immersive but not interactive show — audience members walked through rooms at their own pace, with actors performing hour-long loops. Punchdrunk already produced a virtual reality project for Samsung Gear VR and a mobile game with Silverpoint. The two companies haven’t released details on their first project. Continue reading Niantic and Punchdrunk Partner to Develop New AR Projects

Pricey Infrastructure Necessary for Success in Cloud Gaming

In the past two years, nearly every major gaming and technology company has debuted a cloud gaming service, from Microsoft’s xCloud and Sony’s PlayStation Now to Google’s Stadia, Nvidia’s GeForce Now and Tencent’s Start. Even Amazon and Facebook are reported to be considering launching cloud gaming units. Behind the scenes, many experts said that, as cloud gaming grows in popularity, the result could be a so-called infrastructure arms race. Worldwide, there are approximately 2 billion gamers. Continue reading Pricey Infrastructure Necessary for Success in Cloud Gaming

Microsoft Closes Mixer and Partners With Facebook Gaming

Less than a year ago, Microsoft’s Xbox unit signed two very popular streamers to its Mixer video game streaming platform: Ninja (Tyler Blevins) and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek. But their presence didn’t build the huge global fan base for Mixer that Microsoft hoped for. It’s therefore no surprise that Microsoft is shuttering Mixer, but more surprising, perhaps, that it will partner with Facebook on its xCloud mobile game service. From July 22, visitors to Mixer will be diverted to Facebook Gaming. Continue reading Microsoft Closes Mixer and Partners With Facebook Gaming

Apple Rejects Facebook App, Calls for Antitrust Probe Grow

Apple rejected Facebook Gaming’s submission to the App Store for at least the fifth time since February. Sources said that, with each rejection, Apple referred to its rules that don’t allow apps with the “main purpose” of distributing casual games. Apple’s App Store is the only officially approved venue for iPhone and iPad owners to find new games (and other programs), which generated about $15 billion in revenue last year. Microsoft president Brad Smith said antitrust regulators need to look at the practices of app stores. Continue reading Apple Rejects Facebook App, Calls for Antitrust Probe Grow

Apple is Next Target of European Commission Investigations

European Commission executive vice president in charge of competition Margrethe Vestager is ramping up her scrutiny of U.S. tech giants, including Apple and Amazon. She’s currently targeting Apple’s “gatekeeper” position with third-party apps and Apple Pay. She is also looking more closely at Amazon’s position in online retail. Bloomberg Intelligence antitrust analyst Aitor Ortiz, however, noted that the $9 billion fine she levied against Google didn’t stop the tech giant from continuing to dominate search. The fines “don’t really have a deterrent effect,” he concluded. Continue reading Apple is Next Target of European Commission Investigations

Snapchat Aims to Compete With AR-Centric Digital Platform

Snap is planning to compete directly with Apple, Facebook and Google by creating a complete digital platform, with an app store, expanded games service and ability for third-party developers to build augmented reality experiences with its machine-learning models. Further, Snap is permitting other apps to integrate its camera software and include businesses and users’ friends into its maps. Snapchat has grown to 229 million daily users, versus Twitter’s 166 million, but is still smaller than Instagram and Facebook. Continue reading Snapchat Aims to Compete With AR-Centric Digital Platform

Niantic Creates Virtual Format for Two-Day Pokémon GO Fest

Rather than bringing people together in a park, Niantic‘s Pokémon GO Fest 2020 will enable gamers from around the world to join virtually from July 25 to July 26. Niantic chief executive John Hanke referenced COVID-19 when he explained his company wants to support players during the lockdown. “We want to bring the fun, and we want to make a safe adventure for people, as we have in the past year after year,” he said. He added that Niantic supports Black Lives Matter and wants to be a force for good for users and their communities. Continue reading Niantic Creates Virtual Format for Two-Day Pokémon GO Fest

OpenAI Tests Commercial Version of Its AI Language System

Artificial intelligence research institute OpenAI, after collecting trillions of words, debuted its first commercial product, the API. Its goal is to create the “most flexible general-purpose AI language system” in existence. Currently, the API’s skills include translating between languages, writing news stories, and answering everyday questions. The API is engaged in limited testing and, said chief executive Sam Altman, will be released broadly for use in a range of tasks, such as customer support, education and games. Continue reading OpenAI Tests Commercial Version of Its AI Language System

Sony Reveals Details on PlayStation 5 Consoles, New Games

Sony debuted two versions of its PlayStation 5 game console as well as new games, in advance of the holiday season. The PS5 Digital Edition, the second version, omits the Blu-ray Disc drive, and its download-only feature could eventually impact Amazon, GameStop, Walmart and other retailers. The Digital Edition also sports a sleeker design and, potentially, a lower price. New games include the latest “Spider-Man” and “Gran Turismo” titles and an enhanced version of Take-Two Interactive Software’s “Grand Theft Auto V.” Continue reading Sony Reveals Details on PlayStation 5 Consoles, New Games

Niantic to Build 3D World Map via Data Collected From Users

Niantic, the developer of “Pokémon Go,” raised $470 million to evolve the mobile game into a full-featured augmented reality platform. The company, valued at $4 billion, will rely on “Pokémon Go” players to build its 3D data collection by sharing videos of real-world PokéStop and Gym locations. By crowdsourcing such assets, Niantic plans to build 3D maps with “a better understanding of the depth and the complexities of the real world.” The 3D data collection will debut in June to “Pokémon Go” players ranked above Level 40. Continue reading Niantic to Build 3D World Map via Data Collected From Users

Executive Spotlight: A Talk With Tony Driscoll of Warner Bros.

For the third week of ETC’s Executive Spotlight series, in which we interview leaders from our member companies about how they are adapting business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, we had an opportunity to speak with Tony Driscoll, SVP of emerging technology strategy & data services at Warner Bros. Technology. Previously with AT&T, Driscoll is currently responsible for his studio’s strategies involving emerging trends and tech-driven innovation opportunities. He also works in close coordination with the WarnerMedia Innovation Lab. Warner Bros. has been using various technologies for remote collaboration since the offices began closing due to the pandemic in early 2020. We caught up with Tony at his home office. Continue reading Executive Spotlight: A Talk With Tony Driscoll of Warner Bros.

Epic Games Intros Unreal Engine 5 With Dynamic Rendering

Epic Games showcased Unreal Engine 5, with its heightened ability to generate realistic graphics in real time on next-generation game platforms from PlayStation 5 to smartphones. Epic Games chief executive Tim Sweeney stated that Unreal Engine 5, which will roll out in 2021, will offer “a real generational leap in new features … [and] will be a straightforward upgrade for anyone working with Unreal Engine 4.” Epic Games also worked closely with Sony so its games can “take full advantage” of the new engine. Continue reading Epic Games Intros Unreal Engine 5 With Dynamic Rendering

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