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The Almighty Buck

Game Livestreaming Explodes, But Women Are Less Likely To Be Paid Than Men (venturebeat.com) 268

A new study by game research firm SuperData Research and payment company PayPal found that eSports and game videos are driving explosive growth in livestreams. But PayPal also found a gender imbalance in pay. Women are less likely to be paid for their streams than men. VentureBeat reports: PayPal said that 34 percent of livestream viewers in the U.S. have spent more than $50 on livestream content in the past few months. But despite the growth in spending, almost half of women content creators (43 percent globally, 47 percent in the U.S.) don't get paid for what they create. The U.S. had the largest gender pay gap of the countries surveyed: Almost half as many men (24 percent) do not get paid for content they create. Globally, active paying gamers polled shop across 14 different gaming platforms and nearly 30 different storefronts over the last three months, an incredible variety.

In the U.S., respondents surveyed purchased from 26 different gaming storefronts -- the third most in the world, behind Russia (27), and Australia and Canada (28 each). While Steam is highly popular among millennials globally (31 percent buy from Steam), GameStop was resoundingly popular, with 45 percent of U.S. millennial respondents reporting shopping there for gaming content. In most countries, in-game spending is within a few dollars of average spend on full games. Surprisingly, in-game spending is skewing higher among older U.S. players: those aged 35-and-over have spent $50 on average, compared to $40 for those aged 18 to 34. Meanwhile, younger gamers are spending more in full-game downloads: $63, versus $48 for gamers 35-and-over.

Games

Intellivision Lives: Tommy Tallarico Will Relaunch 1980s Console (venturebeat.com) 115

craters writes: A wave of nostalgia has hit gamers, with Nintendo and Atari taking advantage with launches, both recent and pending, of older game consoles. Now they'll have a new competitor with Intellivision Entertainment. Originally released in 1980, the Intellivision console and its successors sold millions of units over three decades. The new Intellivision system (name TBA) will carry on the company tradition of "firsts" with its new concept, design and approach to gaming. The original Intellivision system generated many "firsts" in the video game industry including the first 16-bit gaming machine, the first gaming console to offer digital distribution, the first to bring speech/voice to games, the first to license professional sports leagues and organizations and the first to be a dedicated game console and home computer.
Businesses

Star Citizen Video Game Launches $27,000 Players' Pack (bbc.com) 193

An anonymous reader shares a report: Crowdfunded space simulation game Star Citizen has launched its $27,000 Legatus Pack, which includes nearly all its spacecraft plus extras. Only players who have already spent $1,000 in the game can access the pack. Cloud Imperium, the creators of Star Citizen, has received more than $200m in crowdfunding since launching a Kickstarter campaign for it in 2012. According to its website it has more than two million players, although the game itself is still in development. Star Citizen aims to create a vast science fiction universe that can be explored in dozens of spaceships, with first-person space combat, all online and multi-player.
The Courts

PUBG and Epic Games, Makers of Two of the World's Most Popular Video Games, Set To Battle in Court (bloomberg.com) 174

PUBG, an affiliate of South Korean studio Bluehole, is suing the Korean unit of North Carolina-based Epic Games, arguing that its smash hit Fortnite copies many of the characteristics of its own PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The suit, alleging copyright infringement, was filed in South Korea. From a report: PUBG introduced its game last year and it became a huge hit as players embraced the Hunger Games-style concept in which 100 players race to kill each other until there's a sole survivor. But the game's features have been embraced by rivals, prompting earlier legal action. Fortnite has a similar concept of 100 people competing with each other, but differs by letting players build fortifications similar to Minecraft and using more cartoon-like graphics aimed at younger players "This is a measure to protect our copyrights," PUBG said, declining to provide further details. Epic Games didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. The two companies have a complicated relationship. Epic Games provides PUBG with its Unreal Engine technology, which was used to create PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The software is instrumental in building games and is the industry-standard for professional games developers. Both companies are also partly owned by Tencent Holdings, China's internet giant.
Classic Games (Games)

Atari Co-Founder Ted Dabney Dies at Age 81 (eurogamer.net) 43

An anonymous reader quotes Eurogamer: Atari co-founder Ted Dabney has died, according to a close friend. Historian Leonard Herman, who told Dabney's story in an article for Edge magazine published in 2009, announced Dabney's death in a post on Facebook... Dabney, who was born in San Francisco in 1937, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in late 2017, and, according to friends, decided against treatment after being told he had eight months to live.

In 1971 Dabney co-founded Atari predecessor Syzygy with Nolan Bushnell and developed Computer Space, the world's first commercially available arcade video game. In 1972 the pair co-founded Atari, and Computer Space was used for the basis of Pong, the video game that made the company its early-days millions. Dabney later left the company after a falling out with Bushnell.

"Nolan was not being the kind of person that I enjoyed being around any more..." Dabney remembered in a 2012 interview with the Computer History Museum. He added with a laugh that "Nolan had told me that if I didn't sell out he would transfer all the assets to another corporation and leave me with nothing anyway. So, you know, might as well sell out."

After the falling out Dabney still helped Bushnell launch Pizza Time Theater (the predecessor of Chuck E. Cheese's), later working at major tech companies like Raytheon, Fujitsu, and Teledyne, before finally buying a grocery store in California's Sierra mountains (where "my wife did all the work"). He eventually retired to northern Washington at the age of 69.

"Ted Dabney was an integral part of the early video game industry, and he literally assembled some of the hardware from which this industry was built with his own two hands," remembers Kotaku, adding "Not many people can lay claim to that kind of legacy."

Share your own favorite memories of Atari and Ted Dabney in the comments.
Games

Valve Slammed Over 'Horrendous' Steam School-Shooting Game (eurogamer.net) 351

Several readers have shared an EuroGamer report: Just a week after the Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas that saw 10 people fatally shot and 13 others were wounded, Valve has come under fire for a Steam school-shooting game that encourages you to "hunt and destroy" children. Active Shooter, which at the time of publication is live on Steam and due for release on 6th June, is described by its developer as "a dynamic S.W.A.T. simulator." The idea is you're sent in to deal with a shooter at a school, but you can also play as the actual shooter, gunning down school children.

Now, an anti-gun violence charity has called on Valve to pull the game from Steam. The developer of Active Shooter is called Revived Games, the publisher Acid. Revived Games' credits include White Power: Pure Voltage and Dab, Dance & Twerk. "Acid", who plans to add a survival mode in which you play as a civilian and have to "escape or perform a heroic action such as fight against the shooter itself," took to Active Shooter's Steam page to defend the game. "First of all, this game does not promote any sort of violence, especially any soft [sic] of a mass shooting," Acid said.

Businesses

Apple Blocks Steam's Plan To Extend Its Video Games To iPhones (reuters.com) 202

Citing "business conflicts," Apple has blocked Steam's plans to distribute PC-based video games to iPhones. It's "a sign that Apple is serious about protecting its ability to take a cut of digital purchases made inside games on its mobile devices," reports Reuters. From the report: Steam, the dominant online store for downloaded games played on Windows PCs, had planned to release a free mobile phone app called Steam Link so that gamers could continue playing on their mobile phones while away from their desktop machines. But Apple has rejected the app, blocking its release, according to a statement from Steam's parent company, the Bellevue, Washington-based Valve. Steam did not give a precise reason for the App Store denials, saying only that Apple cited "business conflicts with app guidelines." But the conflict likely centers on what are known as in-app purchases or micro-transactions, in which gamers can spend small sums of money inside games to buy tokens, extra lives or others so-called digital goods. Lombardi said Steam disabled purchasing its iOS app but did not elaborate on how the change was made. Many analysts believe Apple could lose revenue if they allow Steam's app, which is essentially a store-within-a-store. "Apple takes a 30 percent cut of such purchases made within apps distributed through its App Store," Reuters notes. "[T]hose purchases are among the primary drivers of revenue in Apple's services business."
Crime

Gamers Involved In Fatal Wichita 'Swatting' Indicted On Federal Charges (kansas.com) 432

bricko shares a report from Kansas: A federal grand jury has indicted the man accused in Wichita's fatal swatting as well as the two gamers involved in the video game dispute that prompted the false emergency call. The 29-page indictment was unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. It charges 25-year-old Tyler Barriss, who is facing state court charges including involuntary manslaughter, with false information and hoaxes, cyberstalking, threatening to kill another or damage property by fire, interstate threats, conspiracy and several counts of wire fraud, according to federal court records. One of the gamers -- 18-year-old Casey S. Viner of North College Hill, Ohio -- is charged with several counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The other gamer -- 19-year-old Shane M. Gaskill of Wichita -- is charged with several counts of obstruction of justice, wire fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
UPDATE (5/26/18): Both Barriss and Viner are now facing life in prison.
PlayStation (Games)

Next PlayStation Is Three Years Off, Sony Says (wsj.com) 90

Don't hold your breath for the fifth-generation PlayStation. From a report: Sony wants to spend three more years readying its next videogame move [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], the head of the PlayStation business said Wednesday. That would mark a slight slowdown in the six-to-seven-year update cycle for the console since the first one in 1994. The PlayStation 4 went on sale in 2013 and has sold more than 79 million units. [...] Speaking to a small group of reporters, Tsuyoshi "John" Kodera, who took over last October. said the network-services side of PlayStation is changing the way Sony thinks about product introductions. "We need to depart from the traditional way of looking at the console life cycle," he said. "We're no longer in a time when you can think just about the console or just about the network like they're two different things."
Android

With Steam Link App, Your Smartphone Can Be An Imperfect Gaming Monitor (arstechnica.com) 47

Ars Technica's Kyle Orland shares his experience with Valve's recently announced Steam Link app, which lets users play games running on a PC via a tablet, mobile phone, or Apple TV on the same network. The app launches today for Android 5.0+ devices; iOS support is "pending further review from Apple." From the report: Valve isn't kidding when it says a Wi-Fi router in the 5Ghz band is required for wireless streaming. I first tested iPad streaming on the low-end 2.4Ghz router provided with my Verizon FiOS subscription (an Actiontec MI424WR), with a wired Ethernet connection to my Windows gaming rig on the other end. The Steam Link network test warned me that "your network may not work well with Steam Link," thanks to 1- to 2-percent frame loss and about 15ms of "network variance," depending on when I tested. Even graphically simple games like The Binding of Isaac ran at an unplayably slowed-down rate on this connection, with frequent dropped inputs to boot.

Switching over to a 5GHz tri-band router (The Netgear Nighthawk X6, to be precise), the same network test reported a "fantastic" connection that "look[s] like it will work well with Steam." On this router, remotely played games ran incredibly smoothly at the iPad's full 1080p resolution, with total round-trip display latency ranging anywhere from 50 to 150ms, according to Steam Link's reports (and one-way "input lag" of less than 1ms). At that level of delay, playing felt practically indistinguishable from playing directly on the computer, with no noticeable gameplay impact even on quick-response titles like Cuphead.

XBox (Games)

Microsoft Announces Xbox Adaptive Controller For Players With Disabilities (theverge.com) 19

A new Xbox controller designed for people with disabilities has been announced by Microsoft today. The Xbox Adaptive Controller features two large programmable buttons and 19 jacks that can be connected to a range of joysticks, buttons, and switches to make it easier for a wider range of people to play games on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. The Verge reports: "I can customize how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want," says Solomon Romney, a Microsoft Store learning specialist who was born without fingers on his left hand. "If I want to play a game entirely with my feet, I can. I can make the controls fit my body, my desires, and I can change them anytime I want. You plug in whatever you want and go. It takes virtually no time to set it up and use it. It could not be simpler."

The focus is on connectivity and customizability, with players able to build a setup that works for their capabilities and needs. It won't be an all-in-one solution for many games, but through the use of peripherals and the Xbox's system-level button remapping, the possibilities could be endless. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will cost $99.99 and goes on sale later this year.

Sony

Sony Ends Production Of Physical Vita Games (kotaku.com) 35

Sony is ending physical production of Vita games, news outlet Kotaku reports. Although the hardware manufacturer says digital distribution will continue, this move will mark the end of physical cards for the maligned portable game system, Kotaku added. From a report: Sony's American and European branches "plan to end all Vita GameCard production by close of fiscal year 2018," the company told developers today in a message obtained by Kotaku. The message asks that all Vita product code requests be submitted by June 28, 2018, and that final purchase orders be entered by February 15, 2019. Sony's 2018 fiscal year will end on March 31, 2019.
Chrome

In Blocking Autoplay Videos, Chrome Is Breaking Many Web-Based Games (arstechnica.com) 77

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: An update Google rolled out for its popular Chrome browser this weekend helps prevent those annoying auto-playing video ads on many websites from disturbing your day with unwanted sound as well. But that update is causing consternation for many Web-based game developers who are finding that the change completely breaks the audio in their online work. The technical details behind the problem involve the way Chrome handles WebAudio objects, which are now automatically paused when a webpage starts up, stymying auto-playing ads. To get around this, Web-based games now have to actively restart that pre-loaded audio object when the player makes an action to start the game, even if that audio wasn't autoplaying beforehand. "The standard doesn't require you to do this, so no one would have thought to do this before today," developer Andi McClure told Ars Technica. "With Chrome's new autoplay policies, developers shouldn't assume that audio can be played before a user gesture," Google told The Daily Dot in a statement. "With gaming in Chrome, this may affect Web Audio. We have shared details on what developers can do to address this, and the design for the policy was published last year."
Businesses

EA Still Believes in Loot Boxes, Will 'Push Forward' With Their Use (variety.com) 145

Electronic Arts will "push forward" with loot boxes in its future video games, despite admitting that all loot boxes are gambling. From a report: "As you might imagine, we're working with all the industry associations globally and with regulators in various jurisdictions and territories, many of whom we've been working with for some time and have evaluated and established that programs like 'FIFA Ultimate Team' are not gambling," Wilson said. "And we don't believe that 'FIFA Ultimate Team' -- all loot boxes are gambling."

The issue of loot boxes, a form of microtransaction that has players spending real money to purchase a virtual box and then open it to discover what's inside it, came to a head late last year with the release of EA's "Star Wars Battlefront II" which featured a form of the box that players felt was costly and unfair. EA later pulled the form of microtransaction and completely retooled it before reintroducing a more accepted form of loot box to the game.

While the debate continues over loot boxes and whether they are a form of illegal gambling, Wilson explained Tuesday why EA believes they're not. "Firstly, players always receive a specified number of items in each ['FIFA Ultimate Team'] box. And secondly, we don't provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items in virtual currency for real-world money. And there's no way we can make value assign to FUT items in game currency. And while we forbid the transfer of items of in-the-game currency outside, we also actively seek to eliminate that where it's going on in an illegal environment, and we work with regulators in various jurisdictions to achieve that."

Cloud

Nintendo Switch Online Service Will Launch With 20 NES Games, Cloud Saves, More (polygon.com) 51

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Polygon: Nintendo's online service for the Switch will include access to a selection of classic video games from the NES era as part of the subscription service. Today, Nintendo announced some of the games that will be included as part of the Nintendo Switch Online classic games selection. The 10 NES titles confirmed for the service, which Nintendo refers to as "Nintendo Entertainment System -- Nintendo Switch Online" in a press release, are: Soccer, Tennis, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros., Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, Dr. Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Bros. 3. Nintendo promises 20 NES games will be available when Nintendo Switch Online goes live in September, meaning 10 classic NES games are still to be announced. New games for the service will be added regularly, Nintendo says.

Those NES games will include some sort of online play as part of Nintendo Switch Online. That includes online competitive or cooperative multiplayer, or simply taking turns controlling the game. "Friends can even watch each other play single-player games online, and 'pass the controller' at any time," Nintendo said in a release. "Every classic NES game will support voice chat via the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app. It will also be possible to play these games offline."
Some other details of the service, as reported by Nintendo Life, include the option for cloud save data backups and a four tiered pricing plan. In the U.S., the pricing is as follows: one month is $3.99; three months is $7.99; twelve months is $19.99; twelve month family membership is $34.99 (with up to eight Nintendo accounts on different systems that will be able to use the service).
The Internet

If Fortnite Were a Website, It Would Rival Reddit and Amazon (tomsguide.com) 112

Tom's Guide gives us some perspective on just how big of a cultural phenomenon the game Fortnite is: "if Fortnite were a website, it would be one of the top five in the United States." From the report: Take a quick look at Alexa's list of top U.S. websites, and you'll see Google, YouTube, Facebook, Reddit and Amazon in the top five. No surprises there. But as a quick Google Trends search reveals, Fortnite has become a hotter search term than Reddit. What some might see as a flash-in-the-pan gaming fad is actually outpacing one of the web's hottest destinations.

"More people in the U.S. are searching for 'Fortnite' on Google than they are for 'Reddit' and these searches have risen sharply over the last two months," said John DeFeo, VP of Internet Marketing at Purch, Tom's Guide's parent company. "When you consider that Fortnite had more than 3 million concurrent players in February, I believe that if Fortnite were a website, it would be among the top five in the U.S., duking it out with Reddit and Amazon."

Graphics

Nvidia Shuts Down Its GeForce Partner Program, Citing Misinformation (theregister.co.uk) 82

In a blog post on Friday, Nvidia announced it is "pulling the plug" on the GeForce Partner Program (GPP) due to the company's unwillingness to combat "rumors" and "mistruths" about the platform. The GPP has only been active for a couple of months. It was launched as a way for gamers to know exactly what they're buying when shopping for a new gaming PC. "With this program, partners would provide full transparency regarding the installed hardware and software in their products," reports Digital Trends. From the report: Shortly after the launch, unnamed sources from add-in card and desktop/laptop manufacturers came forward to reveal that the program will likely hurt consumer choice. Even more, they worried that some of the agreement language may actually be illegal while the program itself could disrupt the current business they have with AMD and Intel. They also revealed one major requirement: The resulting product sports the label "[gaming brand] Aligned Exclusively with GeForce." As an example, if Asus wanted to add its Republic of Gamers (RoG) line to Nvidia's program, it wouldn't be allowed to sell RoG products with AMD-based graphics. Of course, manufacturers can choose whether or not to join Nvidia's program, but membership supposedly had its "perks" including access to early technology, sales rebate programs, game bundling, and more.

According to Nvidia, all it asked of its partners was to "brand their products in a way that would be crystal clear." The company says it didn't want "substitute GPUs hidden behind a pile of techno-jargon." Specifications for desktops and laptops tend to list their graphics components and PC gamers are generally intelligent shoppers that don't need any clarification. Regardless, Nvidia is pulling the controversial program because the "rumors, conjecture, and mistruths go far beyond" the program's intent.

Games

Free To Play, Expensive To Love: 'Fortnite' Changes Video Game Business (reuters.com) 191

An anonymous reader shares a report: To see the storm that online video game "Fortnite" has unleashed on the world, just visit Jett Sacher in Brooklyn. The 13-year-old spends an hour or two every day on the game with his friends and is not afraid to spend his pocket money on it - bit by bit. "So I bought one dance, two skins and the battle pass," Sacher told Reuters TV about recent gaming sessions. "So that's, I spent $20 on both skins so $40 ... and the dance was another $10 so $50, 60 bucks, something like that."

Sacher's pay-as-you-go expenditure on dressing up his online avatar in the 'free-to-play' game helped "Fortnite" take in an estimated $223 million from in-game purchases in March, according to Joost Van Dreunen at research firm SuperData. "Fortnite," a sort of hybrid of "The Hunger Games" and "Minecraft," drops 100 people onto an island to fight each other for survival. It is a game-changer in the industry, analysts have said, because of the huge revenue it is making from "tween" and teenage boys purchasing outfits and other add-ons. Its publisher, Epic Games, is now worth $4.5 billion, according to an estimate.
Further reading: Gamers are the new stars. Esports arenas are the new movie theaters (The New York Times).
Games

Final Fantasy 7, Tomb Raider Headline Inductees To World Video Game Hall of Fame (polygon.com) 43

Dave Knott writes: The 2018 World Video Game Hall of Fame inductees have been announced. The Hall Of Fame "recognizes individual electronic games of all types — arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile -- that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general." The 2018 inductees are: Final Fantasy 7, John Madden Football, Spacewar!, and the first Tomb Raider.
Open Source

Facebook's Open-Source Go Bot Can Now Beat Professional Players (techcrunch.com) 44

Google's DeepMind isn't the only team working to defeat professional Go players with artificial intelligence. At Facebook's F8 developer conference today, the company announced a Go bot of its own that has now achieved professional status after winning all 14 games it played against a group of top 30 human Go players. TechCrunch reports: "We salute our friends at DeepMind for doing awesome work," Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer said in today's keynote. "But we wondered: Are there some unanswered questions? What else can you apply these tools to." As Facebook notes in a blog post today, the DeepMind model itself also remains under wraps. In contrast, Facebook has open-sourced its bot. "To make this work both reproducible and available to AI researchers around the world, we created an open source Go bot, called ELF OpenGo, that performs well enough to answer some of the key questions unanswered by AlphaGo," the team writes today. Facebook's AI Research group is also developing a StarCraft bot that it too plans to open source.

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