U.S. Advances Cybersecurity Steps as Ransomware Doubles

Payments flagged by U.S. banks as suspected ransomware in 2021 are on pace to nearly double those of 2020, according to reports filed with the Treasury Department. Almost $600 million in potential ransomware payments have been filed with the federal government from January through June, which is more than 40 percent more than the tally for full-year 2020. Reflecting the fact that governments worldwide describe cybercrime as a critical national security threat, the first International Cybersecurity Challenge is scheduled for Greece in June 2022, where 25 Americans aged 18 to 26 are set to compete. Continue reading U.S. Advances Cybersecurity Steps as Ransomware Doubles

ETC Launches First of Two Metaverse Experience Challenges

University of Southern California students were invited to participate in the first of two scheduled Metaverse Experience Challenges, hosted by ETC@USC. Making use of current and emerging tools, students were tasked with developing original ideas for compelling metaverse experiences. Six teams of randomly-grouped students started work at 1:00 pm on Friday, October 1 and presented their ideas to judges from Epic Games, Universal Pictures and Disney Research at 3:00 pm on Saturday, October 2. Each member of the winning teams — Meetaverse and Virtual Vinyl — received a Nintendo Switch “Fortnite” Edition, courtesy of Epic Games. Continue reading ETC Launches First of Two Metaverse Experience Challenges

Twitch Hack Leaks App Code, Revenue from Streaming Stars

Video game streaming platform Twitch has suffered a data breach resulting in information about the revenue earned by the biggest game streamers leaked to online chat forum 4chan. “Find out how much your favorite streamer is really making!” the hacker wrote in a 4chan data dump labeled “part one.” The perpetrator claimed to have additional information about Twitch’s creator payouts, source code and internal security tools and creator payouts. Without confirming what data was taken, Twitch confirmed the breach, writing on Twitter, “Our teams are working with urgency to understand the extent of this.” Continue reading Twitch Hack Leaks App Code, Revenue from Streaming Stars

Amazon Achieves Success in Gaming with MMO ‘New World’

After some false starts, Amazon has released its first hit original video game production, “New World,” and company CEO Andy Jassy is predicting games could become the biggest category in entertainment programming. The new MMORPG, fraught with archers and axe wielders colonizing a fantastical land, scored one of Steam’s biggest launches with more than one million players logging on for launch day last week. The momentum hasn’t slowed down, with more than 277,000 gameplay viewers on Amazon’s live streaming service Twitch and over 700,000 concurrent players on Steam. Continue reading Amazon Achieves Success in Gaming with MMO ‘New World’

Netflix Continues Games Push with Purchase of Night School

Netflix continues its push into video games with the acquisition of Night School Studio, best known for developing narrative titles like “Oxenfree.” The move is part of a plan to expand the Netflix membership library to include “exclusive games designed for every kind of gamer and any level of play,” said vice president of game development Mike Verdu in a statement announcing the purchase. Within the past month the streaming service released two “Stranger Things” games globally and issued three Android mobile games in Poland, Italy and Spain. Netflix games have no ads or in-app purchases. Continue reading Netflix Continues Games Push with Purchase of Night School

Microsoft Brings Updated Edge Browser to Its Xbox Consoles

Microsoft continues to merge the desktop PC and game console experience by making its updated Chromium-based Edge browser available for Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S platforms. The update lets Xbox owners stream Google Stadia games and access Steam PC or web games like “Krunker” or “QuakeJS” from the comfort of a browser housed within your console dashboard — no third-party hardware or software hacks required. Users can also access subreddits, social media and Discord on the web to join voice calls and text channel chats with mouse and keyboard support on current and last-gen Xbox consoles. Continue reading Microsoft Brings Updated Edge Browser to Its Xbox Consoles

Gaming Industry Reacts to New Entertainment Rules in China

Chinese online game companies are falling in line with Xi Jinping’s government mandate to curb negative influences on the country’s youth, vowing to self-police the workarounds kids have found to circumvent regulatory limits on play-time. In August, China banned persons under 18 from playing video games more than three hours each week. More than 200 game firms including Tencent and NetEase say they will comply with regulations announced by China’s National Press and Publication Administration and take steps to ensure the rules are enforced. The NPPA suggested use of facial recognition to accomplish that goal. Continue reading Gaming Industry Reacts to New Entertainment Rules in China

SEC Is Investigating Workplace Conduct at Activision Blizzard

The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into Activision Blizzard examining how the gaming company handled information related to workplace discrimination and sexual misconduct. Senior executives including CEO Bobby Kotick have been subpoenaed along with former and current employees. The SEC asked for Kotick’s internal communications and minutes from Activision board meetings dating from 2019. The publisher of “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush” must also provide the agency with personnel files and 2021 separation agreements. Continue reading SEC Is Investigating Workplace Conduct at Activision Blizzard

HiDef and Unity Pursue Social Impact and Diversity in Games

Game studio HiDef has teamed up with San Francisco-based software developer Unity Technologies to work on a games-as-a-service project that focuses on games that “connect and entertain people through creative expression, competition, shared experiences, and cultural discovery.” The San Diego-based HiDef, founded by Anthony Castoro, Jace Hall, Rick Fox and David Washington in 2019, recently raised $9 million. HiDef said the first title is a metaverse mobile game using the Unity game engine, created in concert with Unity’s gaming services team. Continue reading HiDef and Unity Pursue Social Impact and Diversity in Games

China Says No Video Games for Kids During the School Week

China’s General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) announced a regulation that bans young people under the age of 18 from playing online video games between Monday and Thursday and, on the other days of the week and holidays, limits game play between 8:00 PM and 9:00 PM. Authorities blame “video game addiction” for distracting younger people from school and family responsibilities. The rule states that all video games must connect to an anti-addiction system operated by the GAPP. Continue reading China Says No Video Games for Kids During the School Week

Apple Just Earned Its Biggest Profit in the Company’s History

The COVID-19 pandemic has reaped rewards for Big Tech companies that benefitted from the shift to remote working and learning. Apple earned $21.7 billion in profit for the quarter that ended in June, the most successful quarter in the company’s 45-year history, while Alphabet and Microsoft also enjoyed strong quarterly earnings. Apple’s revenue rose 36 percent from the same period a year earlier to $81.4 billion, exceeding Wall Street expectations. Apple is on track to earn $86 billion for the fiscal year, according to FactSet analysts. Continue reading Apple Just Earned Its Biggest Profit in the Company’s History

HTC Vive Pro 2: 5K 120Hz VR for Enterprise, Serious Gamers

The recently launched HTC Vive Pro 2 VR headset offers a sharp 5K 120Hz desktop virtual reality experience. Priced at $1,399 for the entire package — and $799 for the headset alone (for those who invested previously in the Vive Pro or Valve Index) — the Vive Pro 2 retains the same design as the 2018 model and relies on older controllers but offers a wide range of attractive features for gamers. The 2,448 x 2,448 pixels per eye is a dramatic improvement over the previous Pro’s 1,440 x 1,600 pixels, which also offered a slower 90Hz refresh rate. Its LCDs also have RGB sub-pixels for increased sharpness. Continue reading HTC Vive Pro 2: 5K 120Hz VR for Enterprise, Serious Gamers

New Netflix Hire Signals the Service’s Push into Video Games

As part of its plan to expand into gaming, video streamer Netflix has hired former Electronic Arts and Facebook executive Mike Verdu as its vice president of game development. At Facebook, Verdu worked with developers to bring virtual reality games and other content to Oculus headsets. At Netflix, Verdu will report to chief operating officer Greg Peters and is mandated with bringing video games to the Netflix platform within the next year. Sources said that Netflix does not plan on charging subscribers extra for gaming content. Continue reading New Netflix Hire Signals the Service’s Push into Video Games

Nintendo’s New Switch Features OLED Display, More Storage

On October 8, Nintendo will debut a new $350 Switch, the first major hardware upgrade to the console originally introduced in 2017 for $299. Available in time for holiday season sales, the new Switch will feature a larger 7-inch OLED screen and 64GB of onboard storage, double the original, as well as improved audio and an adjustable stand and dock. What consumers will not find, however, is an upgrade to a 4K display, a highly anticipated feature that would match the console offerings from Microsoft and Sony. Continue reading Nintendo’s New Switch Features OLED Display, More Storage

Nielsen Unveils The Gauge, a Metric for Streaming Platforms

Global research firm Nielsen has unveiled The Gauge, a new metric for measuring monthly total TV and streaming audiences. The company revealed that, in May 2021, 64 percent of the time U.S. viewers watched content via network and cable TV and 26 percent of the time watched via streaming services. Another 9 percent of the time, they used their TV screens for content recorded on DVRs or playing video games. Nielsen added that streaming was at 20 percent last year and 14 percent in 2019 and that its share could go up to 33 percent by the end of 2021. Continue reading Nielsen Unveils The Gauge, a Metric for Streaming Platforms