Report: 2022 Online Sales Sets Another Record, Says Adobe

Digital Black Friday shopping was brisk, with a record $9.12 billion spent, according to Adobe. Online sales were up 2.3 percent year-over-year for Friday, November 25, the day after Thanksgiving. Also a hit, Buy Now Pay Later payments increased by a whopping 78 percent over the prior week, beginning November 19, with inflationary pressures seeming to drive that pattern. Adobe tracks transactions on retail websites. Total seasonal revenue is estimated to top-out at $209 billion, Adobe says, noting that Cyber Monday alone accounted for $11.3 billion. U.S. consumers also spent more time and money shopping in stores on Black Friday than they did the same day last year. Continue reading Report: 2022 Online Sales Sets Another Record, Says Adobe

MGA Acquires Pixel Zoo Animation for MGA Studios Initiative

Chatsworth, California-based toy company MGA Entertainment has launched MGA Studios to produce video games, online universes and other ancillary content. The privately held MGA is backing the new division with $500 million to drive production and acquisitions. MGA’s catalog of successful toys includes the L.O.L. Surprise!, Bratz, Little Tike and Rainbow High brands, some of which have spawned TV series and games. MGA Entertainment founder and CEO Isaac Larian’s son Jason Larian is president of the new unit, which has acquired Australia’s Pixel Zoo Animation and named Pixel Zoo founder and CEO Paul Gillett an MGA Studios partner. Continue reading MGA Acquires Pixel Zoo Animation for MGA Studios Initiative

Walmart Begins Metaverse Build-Out on the Roblox Platform

Walmart has planted its flag in the metaverse, launching Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play on Roblox, a virtual worlds game platform that emphasizes user-generated content. Roblox community members can check out the Walmart “isles” to collect “verch,” or virtual merchandise, “catch top music artists and unlock exclusive interactive content,” the company says. “Roblox is one of the fastest growing and largest platforms in the metaverse, and we know our customers are spending loads of time there,” Walmart CMO William White said, citing the platform’s 52 million daily active users. Continue reading Walmart Begins Metaverse Build-Out on the Roblox Platform

Roblox Targets Advertisers, Diverse Users with New Features

As it seeks to build-out a metaverse, online game platform and game creation system Roblox is courting brands as well as older users (54 percent of the platform’s daily active users are said to be age 12 and below). The popular gaming platform is adding facial capture for users and offering advertisers digital billboards and links to branded destinations. Roblox has been trying to divide its users by age, and added authentication for those 13 and above last September for access to more adult content. As part of the content diversification critical to both initiatives, Roblox is increasing its Game Fund to $35 million. Continue reading Roblox Targets Advertisers, Diverse Users with New Features

Tencent Holdings Sinks $297M into Ubisoft Owner Guillemot

Tencent has invested $297 million in Guillemot Brothers Limited, the company that owns Ubisoft, maker of “Assassin’s Creed.” The Chinese game giant already had a 4.5 percent stake in Ubisoft that it can now increase to 9.99 percent. Tencent gains a 49.9 percent stake with 5 percent voting rights in the parent company. Shares of Ubisoft fell 17 percent last week when it became apparent there was no takeover in the offing. The deal is part of a strategy “to develop immersive game experiences, and to bring some of Ubisoft’s most well-known AAA franchises to mobile,” said Tencent president and CEO Martin Lau. Continue reading Tencent Holdings Sinks $297M into Ubisoft Owner Guillemot

‘Fortnite’ Metaverse Build-Out Gets iHeartLand Music Venue

Epic Games is getting another major venue in its “Fortnite” metaverse with an iHeartMedia digital headquarters. The complex, iHeartLand, includes a main stage, recording studio and game park. An interesting example of how virtual reality is mapping IRL commercially, the concert venue struck a naming rights deal with insurance company State Farm. In addition to avatar concerts, State Farm Park features a large screen that can display 2D performances, the format chosen by inaugural guest Charlie Puth for his September 9 show. Continue reading ‘Fortnite’ Metaverse Build-Out Gets iHeartLand Music Venue

Thirdweb Attracts Investors for Its Web3 Development Toolkit

Thirdweb — licensor of a development toolkit that simplifies creation of Web3 products including games, smart contracts, NFTs, marketplaces and more — has raised $24 million in a Series A funding round with buy-in from Shopify, Coinbase, Polygon and Haun Ventures. The new investment translates to a valuation of $160 million for the startup, which provides cost-effective turnkey solutions for non-coders (or coders that want to save time) to try Web3 while waiting for it to hit critical mass. The company currently has operations in London, San Francisco and Brooklyn. Continue reading Thirdweb Attracts Investors for Its Web3 Development Toolkit

Tencent Revenue Drops 3 Percent in First Decline Since 2004

Tencent’s nearly two-decade growth trajectory came to a halt Wednesday with a 3 percent revenue drop over the same period in 2021. The contraction marked the Chinese video game and social media giant’s first quarterly revenue decline since going public in 2004. Tencent’s April-June revenue fell by about $20 billion, the result of China’s slowing economy and sagging digital advertising revenue, as well as tighter government video game regulations and diminished consumer user spending. Prior to Q4 2021, Tencent had consistently posted double-digit — and sometimes triple-digit — growth since its IPO. Continue reading Tencent Revenue Drops 3 Percent in First Decline Since 2004

Spotify Island a Destination for Music and Quests on Roblox

Spotify says it’s the first music-streaming brand to have a presence on Roblox with the introduction of “Spotify Island,” described as “a paradise of sound” where fans and artists around the world can hang out together, explore music, go on adventures and access exclusive merchandise. Virtual beat-maker stations powered by Spotify’s Soundtrap service will enable users to “enjoy an immersive audio experience by creating music and exploring sounds.” “Spotify Island” will feature “musical Easter eggs at every turn” and allow users to “climb to the top of ‘The Charts’ by collecting points,” the company says. Continue reading Spotify Island a Destination for Music and Quests on Roblox

Roblox: User-Generated Content Competes with Pro Games

Online game world Roblox draws about 50 million daily active users worldwide. Launched in 2006, the company lets users create their own games and play games created by others. As such, a generation has grown up using the Roblox Studio game engine, and now some of those Millennials are competing with professionally trained coders for jobs designing for the platform, which runs on the beginner programming language Lua. Designed for use in embedded applications, Lua is cross platform, and the Roblox API allows it to be played on anything from an Xbox to a PC, laptop or Android or iOS phone. Continue reading Roblox: User-Generated Content Competes with Pro Games

Female-Driven No-Code Game App Dorian Raises $14 Million

Fiction writers are invited to bring their art to life as mobile games with no-code app Dorian. Founded in 2018, Dorian offers choose-your-own-adventure play for free, but lets users spend in-app currency to choose narrative paths, promising authors a first-dollar cut of the payments. The company, which builds for iOS and Android, claims a library of roughly 3,500 games, created by a “nearly all-female creator community” of about 250 monetizing storytellers, a number it says is growing quickly compared to other platforms, where it can take years to start earning. Dorian recently raised $14 million in Series A funding led by The Raine Group. Continue reading Female-Driven No-Code Game App Dorian Raises $14 Million

JPMorgan Pegs Metaverse at $1 Trillion, Opens Virtual Bank

Investment banking firm JPMorgan Chase is betting on the metaverse, which it predicts “will likely infiltrate every sector in some way in the coming years, with the market opportunity estimated at over $1 trillion in yearly revenues.” The company has opened a virtual branch in Decentraland, a browser-based 3D world to coincide with publication of the 18-page “Opportunities in the Metaverse” report by Onyx, the blockchain division the bank launched in 2020. Although it’s the first bank known to open a branch in the metaverse, JPMorgan is just the latest of numerous businesses to plant its flag. Continue reading JPMorgan Pegs Metaverse at $1 Trillion, Opens Virtual Bank

Microsoft CEO Nadella Details His Vision of Metaverse-for-All

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella thinks the metaverse will be transformative. “Just like the first wave of the Internet allowed everybody to build a website, I think the next wave of the Internet will be a more open world where people can build their own metaverse worlds, whether they’re organizations or game developers or anyone else,” Nadella told analysts on an earnings call last week. The remarks follow Nadella’s January 18 statement that Microsoft’s $69 billion bid for Activision Blizzard “will provide building blocks for the metaverse.” Microsoft expects the deal to close in fiscal 2023, which begins July 1. Continue reading Microsoft CEO Nadella Details His Vision of Metaverse-for-All

Policing the Metaverse Looms as a Challenge for Tech Firms

The metaverse is in its early days, but many are already concerned as they anticipate the content moderation problems that have bedeviled traditional social media increasing exponentially in virtual worlds. The confluence of realistic immersive environments, the anonymity of avatars and potential for deepfakes is enough to give anyone pause. Throw in machine learning that will make today’s ad targeting seem primitive and it’s an even more volatile mix. Experts agree, the very qualities that make the metaverse appealing — false facades and hyperreality — make it potentially more dangerous than the digital platforms of today. Continue reading Policing the Metaverse Looms as a Challenge for Tech Firms

Meta Is Joined by Apple, Various Brands in Metaverse Pursuit

Brands have begun dabbling in the metaverse. Chipotle, Vans and Nike are among those experimenting on Roblox, a platform where users play games, while Verizon staged a stadium game in Fortnite Creative, an affiliate service of the popular Epic game. Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook is said to be encouraging brands to use Instagram’s AR filters to get acclimated to the metaverse. There are reports that Apple is preparing its own meta debut, with Taiwan-based analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicting, presumably based on his supply-chain sources, that Apple plans to unveil an AR wearable late next year. Continue reading Meta Is Joined by Apple, Various Brands in Metaverse Pursuit