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Xbox-video-game-clips-share-mobile

Xbox downloads a social strategy

Xbox-video-game-clips-share-mobile
Shareable Xbox game clips // Illustration by Kate Walker

Xbox downloads a social strategy

The Future. Microsoft is introducing new social sharing and trending features that connect Xbox users to other social platforms. By leaning into the social aspects of gaming, Xbox may be hoping to turn the practice of saving replays or screenshots into engaging content everywhere off console.

Share the victories
Microsoft thinks that Xbox should be more of a social platform.

  • Xbox is rolling out a feature that will allow users to share clips from video games, such as replays and screenshots, via “unique public URLs” called “Link Sharing.”
  • The links are accessible on the Xbox mobile app and can then be shared to other social platforms.
  • The app will also include a “trending content” section so users can view the most popular clips being shared.

The feature is currently in beta but will be rolling out to all users soon.

New boss battle
Xbox’s new trending content section functions as a TikTok-like feed that allows users to do the requisite liking, sharing, and commenting that drives engagement. It’s available on both iOS and Android.

Does that mean that Xbox wants to open up a bonafide social platform like the aforementioned TikTok or Instagram? Maybe… but it could also be looking for a way to make streams on Twitch (which Microsoft also owns) more shareable.

bitcoin-ar-game-metaverse-niantic

Niantic gamifies Bitcoin

bitcoin-ar-game-metaverse-niantic
Courtesy of Niantic

Niantic gamifies Bitcoin

The Future. Software developer Niantic unveiled a new AR game that allows players to “literally” mine for Bitcoin. It’s another step in Niantic’s overarching plan to build a metaverse that sits on top of the real world… and it just may attract a wide swath of users who would otherwise hesitate before creating an identity inside a digital world.

Pickaxe player
Niantic, the creator of the super successful Pokémon Go, is rolling out a play-to-earn game in augmented reality.

  • Fold AR (created in partnership with financial company Fold) tasks users with finding cubes of binary code in an AR metaverse.
  • Users then have to repeatedly tap the cubes until they reveal a prize.
  • The game mimics the metaphor of “mining” for Bitcoin, even spawning a new cube at the same rate as real Bitcoin mining.
  • The Bitcoin prizes are rewarded in the denomination of Satoshis, which are currently worth about 1/20th of a penny.

Eventually, Niantic would like to roll out a feature that would allow users to leave cubes behind for other friends to find, as well as some sort of NFT system (because, of course).

“Real-world metaverse”
Niantic’s goal for the game is not for people to really make money (that’s a nice byproduct though), but instead to “make a virtual currency feel real.” It helps sell the idea that digital revolutions such as AR, crypto, NFTs, etc., are actual tangible concepts that the average person can engage with.

It’s all part of Niantic’s larger plan to create a “real-world metaverse,” which the company just raised $300 million to make happen (valuing it at $9 billion). It plans on using that funding to expand its Lightship AR Developer Kit (ARDK), which is already being used by companies like Coachella, Universal Pictures, SoftBank, and Warner Music Group.

Roblox Builds Metaverse with Educational Video Games in Schools_ The Future Party

Roblox builds an education curriculum

Roblox Builds Metaverse with Educational Video Games in Schools_ The Future Party
Roblox // Courtesy of Filament Games

Roblox builds an education curriculum

The Future. Roblox invested $10 million in three educational games — the company’s first foray into non-entertainment content for the platform. The move is meant to help set Roblox up as a metaverse where users can play, work, and do everything in between in a digital environment. Soon enough, virtual classes may take place on Roblox instead of video platforms like Zoom… and become a lot more interactive.

Game time is in session
Roblox wants to go where the majority of its users spend the majority of their day: school.

  • Roblox announced that it has invested $10 million to develop three educational games aimed at middle-school, high-school, and college students.
  • One of the games teaches robotics, a second is centered around space exploration, and a third explores concepts such as computer science, biomedical science, and engineering.
  • The games were developed in partnership with education nonprofits such as Boston’s Museum of Science and education-focused game studios.

Unlike the typical Roblox games, they won’t offer any virtual goods for sale.

The investment is the first time that Roblox — the largest U.S. video-game company — has invested directly in developing games for its own platform. And with Roblox bandied about as a precursor to the metaverse, the company probably wants to show that its platform can be used for more than just entertainment.

Unity to Acquire Weta Digital’s Tech Division for $1.6 Billion

Unity captures Weta’s tech division for $1.6 billion

Unity to Acquire Weta Digital’s Tech Division for $1.6 Billion
Peter Jackson // Illustration by Kate Walker

Unity captures Weta's tech division for $1.6 billion

The Future. Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital is selling its technology division and deep library of digital tools to 3D game-development platform Unity. The goal is to make all of Weta’s tools available to creators all over the world… a move that could bring not just Hollywood-level VFX to productions of any size but also the best in real-time 3D rendering to the in-construction metaverse.

The Jackson Faction
Creators will soon have access to the technology that brought such marvels as Gollum, King Kong, and Caesar the Ape to life.

  • Unity is acquiring the technology division of Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning Weta Digital for $1.6 billion.
  • The deal gives Unity control over all of Weta’s proprietary VFX and graphics tools, 3D art creation suite, and library of assets used on past projects.
  • Weta CTO Joe Marks will join Unity in the same role, and all of Weta’s 275 engineers will join the company as well.
  • The deal is expected to close sometime before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Weta’s creative arm, WetaFX, and its animation division will remain separate entities still under Jackson and Fran Walsh’s (Jackson’s wife) control. They started the New Zealand-based company — now the largest VFX studio in the world — in 1993 to create effects for Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures.

Worldmaker
With the deal, Unity plans on making Weta’s VFX tools available to all creators through its cloud-based Unite Create platform. This is a huge boon for the average creator, who will now not only have access to its tools but can also subscribe to a cloud-based platform with 50 million lines of code that typically need a thousand computers to operate.

In a well-deserved flex, Weta explained its desire to open its tools to the public: “We’re Jimi Hendrix, and now we’re selling guitars. We think this world has many, many more Jimi Hendrixes.” Can’t argue with that.

Weta actually toyed with the idea of releasing the tools themselves but came to the conclusion that partnering with Unity (with its scale, popularity, and cloud infrastructure) was a better play. Unity-backed apps were downloaded more than 5 billion times per month last year.

Esports brand FaZe Clan goes public via SPAC

FaZe Clan wins unicorn status in SPAC merger

Esports brand FaZe Clan goes public via SPAC
FaZe Clan goes public via SPAC // Illustration by Kate Walker

FaZe Clan wins unicorn status in SPAC merger

Esports-focused brand FaZe Clan is going public via SPAC, making it the first unicorn in the space. The listing is irrefutable proof that esports is one of the most dominant industries in the larger gaming/sports market. And with $275 million in funds available, FaZe Clan may become an umbrella corporation for its roster’s more entrepreneurial ambitions.

Stock points
Now you can be a part of FaZe Clan. Well, you probably can’t play for the esports team… but the company is going public via a SPAC deal with B. Riley Principal 150 Merger Corp.

  • The company will trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker “FAZE.”
  • The deal will raise an estimated $291 million from the IPO.
  • That values FaZe Clan at $1 billion — the first esports company to surpass that amount.

Current investors include Pitbull, Offset, Jimmy Iovine, and skateboarder Nyjah Huston who will own 68% of the company after its public debut. While the company has a yearly revenue of about $50 million, it’s still not profitable… but what startup is these days?

Brand plan
FaZe Clan was started by a group of popular Call of Duty players that eventually morphed into a formidable esports team. But esports revenue only accounts for about 20% of the company’s overall revenue. Instead, under the leadership of CEO Lee Trink, the company has shifted to:

  • Brand partnerships (McDonald’s, Microsoft)
  • Content creation (horror film Crimson)
  • Merchandising (PUMA, Champion)

And of course, many on FaZe Clan’s 88-person roster are social media stars in their own right, reaching a combined 350 million people per month.

Open world video games introduce players to metaverse

Video games may level up metaverse adoption

Open world video games introduce players to metaverse
Open world video games // Illustration by Kate Walker

Video games may level up metaverse adoption

The creation of the “metaverse” (an interconnected, digital world where people can play, shop, and create) is the Silicon Valley buzzword of the moment. But it may be video game companies the make the dream a reality. With gaming set to become the biggest form of entertainment on the planet, it may have all the right momentum to make one of its own.

Play the world
Open world gaming is about to get a much more expansive definition.

  • According to Michael Wolf, the founder, and CEO of consulting firm Activate Inc., video games will help the metaverse go mainstream.
  • Platforms like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox have already introduced players to large virtual worlds that focus on individual expression and communal creation.
  • They provide gaming, e-commerce, world-building, customizable avatars, and virtual community — all elements of an interconnected digital metaverse.
  • But it may be next-gen games like Axie Infinity and Star Atlas, which combine storytelling, commerce, and blockchain tech that could drive the metaverse conversation forward.

Game time
With the video game market expected to hit $221 billion by 2025, the metaverse may already have a huge built-in user base. All companies have to do is introduce gamers to an expanded set of capabilities within the game they’re already playing instead of convincing them to join an entirely new platform (take note, Facebook).

So, where does this leave traditional console-based brands like Microsoft (Xbox) and Sony (PlayStation)? Both companies have made a concerted effort to switch to cloud-based gaming with subscription offerings. With the requisite brand loyalty and the tech infrastructure to make big moves, maybe each will develop their own version of the metaverse to cross from game to game. 

NFT Games: Popular Games To Play in 2021

2021 is the year of the NFT video game. NFTs, including digital art, GIFs, and even music, have been popular in the marketplace for a little while now. However, NFT video games are slowly proving themselves to be the next evolutionary step in how we consume content. 

What Is an NFT?

An NFT is a digital good that cannot be copied, and ownership of it can be verified. On a coding and monetary level, these digital items are a unique addition to video games in that they give more control of game items to the user.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin was the beginning of what we know as cryptocurrency today. The point of cryptocurrency is that it’s decentralized and is not tied to any particular bank or country. So, what does this actually mean? 

Cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, is basically digital coins with serial numbers and can only be attained by either buying and trading or mining them. Crypto mining requires powerful computers that solve complex mathematical equations to get the coins. 

There are a limited number of Bitcoins available right now and in the future. A little over 83% of all Bitcoins have been mined so far. So, how does Bitcoin have any value? Regular currency is either backed by a government or by a precious material like gold. 

Cryptocurrency is a little more complicated. In short, it’s valuable because people believe it’s valuable. Its scarcity is entirely artificial, but it’s impossible to fake and is admittedly useful. This isn’t the first time something has been hyped up to be valuable in the future, though. 

Collectables, like Beanie Babies, have complicated histories with rises and falls in perceived value. The key difference is that silly consumer products don’t have the same type of utility as cryptocurrency. 

Blockchains

Cryptocurrency can’t really be messed with, thanks to something called a blockchain. A blockchain is a kind of digital ledger that cross-references information to ensure the right people have the right number of Bitcoins.

The ledgers are available to the public, so all transactions and accounts are public knowledge. The ledger cannot be altered or erased. This is why cryptocurrency works and why some people trust it. It’s an interesting concept that has gained a lot of steam over the last ten years. 

Non-Fungible Tokens

So, if Bitcoins and other types of cryptocurrency are essentially digital coins with artificial value and serial numbers that are constantly checked and confirmed by an internet-based ledger, what are NFTs?

NFT stands for “Non-Fungible Token.” Non-fungible means that there is only and cannot be replaced. NFTs come in all kinds of forms like pictures, GIFs, and even music. Some of the most popular NFTs right now are in the form of sports highlights and art, and NFT collections are becoming ever more popular. 

An NFT’s unique code is a fraction or piece of an individual denomination of cryptocurrency. The reason people are currently really excited and buying lots of NFTs for crazy amounts of money is that they believe these digital products will gain in value.

Artists are finding the NFT craze overall very beneficial to the industry. NFTs are a way for artists to create and sell digital “originals.” It’s a very new and strange concept because anyone can copy and paste these digital collectibles, but only one person actually “owns” them. The value of the NFT collection of an owner can become quite high. 

What Are NFT Games?

NFT games are video games that allow for NFTs to be integrated into the game design. How does this work? Video games are walled gardens where things like weapons, armor, and in-game collectibles are earned or traded for in those particular games and cannot transfer to other games. They’re usually based in either Ethereum or Binance Smart Chain (BSC). 

In-game items usually have depreciating values considering how player bases move onto other titles and can’t freely transfer that item like a real-world asset. NFT technology changes this rule. 

NFT items that are compatible with certain games can enable players to take their NFT items across games and developers, and it has to be built into the infrastructure. Say you played an MMO for months and earned a rare, magical sword. 

In a traditional videogame, you can’t take that sword and play with it in another game like your favorite FPS (aka First Person Shooter game). If that same MMO and FPS are both NFT compatible, you can take that sword to the FPS, and it will manifest itself in a way that is unique to each game it’s compatible with. 

The developers of the NFT compatible games choose how your magical sword is manifested. That FPS you play may interpret your sword NFT as an emblem you can apply to your character. A developer that makes a digital trading card game might interpret your sword as a really powerful card by the same image and name.

Another interesting byproduct of this concept is that your valuable, unique NFTs and items that you earn, trade, or buy don’t disappear if your account on any particular game is deleted or banned. Your NFTs remain in your wallet no matter what game you take them to, and they maintain their scarcity. 

NFT Games of 2021

Although NFT games have been around for a few years, they have really made a lasting impression and bolstered their user bases in just this past year. Most can be played by mobile users on both Android and iOS.

Gods Unchained

Have you ever played online card games like HearthStone that play similar to physical card games like Magic the Gathering? What if there was an online trading card game that allowed you more ownership of the cards you collect like real cards?

That game is Gods Unchained, lead by Chris Clay. Because the cards in the game are verifiably attached to your digital wallet, they aren’t trapped in that game’s ecosystem. The gaming experience is very smooth and polished compared to other NFT card game offerings. 

This game allows you to not only buy and sell cards but also earn them through gameplay and expansion packs. Fans of Yugioh and Pokemon will feel right at home with the game’s style and use of strategies. 

The goal of Gods Unchained is to make your digital cards feel just as real as physical trading cards by promoting true ownership of your cards and decks. Because each card is minted into a blockchain, game developers cannot alter the value or attributes of the card, unlike HearthStone. 

It seems like the company tried really hard to make sure that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make competitive decks. It’s technically free-to-play, but working your way up without buying powerful cards will be challenging. 

The game has a pay-to-earn model that allows players to win real NFT cards that they can sell for real-world money. There’s a lot of buzz going around that it could be the next big esport.  

The Sandbox

The game is based in the Ethereum blockchain, where players create a virtual world filled with real estate, characters, in-game assets, etc. The game is essentially user-generated. The assets players create are actually owned by them and not the developer. 

The Sandbox uses “sand” as a native cryptocurrency. It can be used for all kinds of things in-game. Lands are pieces of real estate that you can actually own and modify, and there is a limited amount of it. 

You can charge players to visit your land in “sand” and sell your property for a profit. Pieces of land are like tickets that allow you to make a world of your own. You can actually earn passive income by charging players rent on virtual land. 

This is for real. And if you think this stuff is super niche or underground, the game’s website is currently advertising a party at Snoop Dogg’s in-game mansion. This is not a joke. He has recently talked about his interest in the NFT world, and this is one of his projects. 

These seemingly simple and pixelated games like Minecraft, Roblox, and The Sandbox are so popular because of how accessible they are. Not everyone has the latest console or a souped-up gaming PC. Almost anyone with a phone or cheap laptop can participate in these worlds.

Axie Infinity

This game has a lot in common with Gods Unchained in that it’s a trading card battle game with a very healthy user base, particularly in the Philippines. Players can earn rewards, including Axie Infinity Shards (AXS). Breed NFT “Axies” using Smooth Love Potion (SLP) to make new ones and use NFT potions for power. Before you can play the game, you need at least three Axies. 

Many believe that this aspect is what is holding this game back from exploding with popularity as each Axie is fairly expensive. As of August this year, an Axie will cost you anywhere between $300 and $400. This is a very high bar for entry into the game and can have a legitimate effect on economics for players. 

At least it’s an in-game asset that can be liquidated for real money. Unlike Yugioh or Pokemon cards, you can actually breed these freaky little creatures and make entirely new Axies that are actual NFTs. 

There’s a lot of speculation on the longevity of this game, which was created by Sky Mavis. The developers of the game have spoken about simplifying the experience and making it more accessible to new players, but the details are unknown. 

Let the Financial Games Begin

The movie Ready Player One showed us a world where a video game was intrinsically woven into the economy and that in-game items were valued highly with real money. NFT games are showing us that reality is often stranger than fiction. 

 

 

Sources:

Snoop Dogg Enters the Metaverse | The Sandbox

Before you buy NFTs, here’s how to think about their price | Vox

How NFT Play-to-Earn crypto games are storming the gaming industry | Pragmatic Coders

Epic Games Fortnite Movie

‘Fortnite’ could come to a big screen near you

Epic Games Fortnite Movie
Fortnite/ Illustration by Kate Walker.

'Fortnite' could come to a big screen near you

Epic Games is reportedly working on an entertainment division that would bring the Fortnite world and characters to film and TV. It’s already staffing up with entertainment veterans and has an ongoing narrative that would make sense for adaptation. With several video game projects in the works all over Hollywood, game adaptations may be the genre trend to take over superhero obsession.

 

Game expansion
Epic Games wants to break Fortnite out of the phone.

  • The company is exploring opening a full-fledged entertainment division.
  • This could include a big-budget Fortnite feature film, which is already being talked about.
  • Its game engine, Unreal, is already a huge asset in Hollywood… especially in building the sets for virtual productions.

The idea is more than just a blue sky possibility: Epic recently hired Jason McGatlin — formerly VP of Physical Production at Lucasfilm — to run Epic’s Special Projects division. Gatlin has notably produced every Disney Star Wars movie to date. That bodes well.

Character control
Epic’s narrative ambitions come in the midst of a renaissance of video-game adaptations for film and TV (after decades of flops).\

  • Ubisoft’s Werewolves Within film adaptation was an indie hit.
  • HBO is in the middle of production on an expensive series adaptation of The Last of Us.
  • Sony is ramping up its video-game to film and TV pipeline.

But Epic Games is uniquely positioned to create an entire universe around Fortnite — one that spans both active entertainment (video games, physical experiences) and passive entertainment (movies and shows).

Discussing Epic’s goals, Chief Creative Officer Donald Mustard says he hopes to “create the entertainment experience of the future. I think some of that is feeling our way into what feels like it’s going to be a new medium, where it’s this blended entertainment experience that has interactive elements [and] has linear elements to it.”

Apple Makes More Money From Games Than Gaming Companies

Apple is actually winning gaming

Apple Makes More Money From Games Than Gaming Companies
Apple games // Illustration by Kate Walker

Apple is actually winning gaming

The Future. Turns out, Apple is the biggest player in the gaming industry. Thanks to fees that the company collects from the App Store, Apple’s services division is continuing to grow and becoming increasingly important to the tech giant. With so much gaming revenue stemming from relatively few players, the company may start to retrofit its hardware to cater to them.

No console, no problem
What if we told you that Apple makes more from games than Microsoft, Nintendo, Activision, and Sony combined? That’s what WSJ found when looking at Apple’s financials from 2019.

  • According to Sensor Tower, Apple’s operating profits related to games in 2019 was $8.5 billion — about 69% of overall App Store revenue.
  • The tech giant hit those numbers on an operating margin (money made after costs) of around 75%.
  • How does Apple make this money? It takes 30% of in-app sales on the App Store.
  • The biggest revenue-driver titles include Tencent’s Honor of Kings, Nvidia’s Pokémon Go, and King’s Candy Crush Saga.

Most surprisingly, Apple makes most of its gaming revenue off of a small percentage of players. In 2017, only 6% of gamers accounted for 88% of all in-app purchases — spending roughly $750 per year.

Culture competition
Apple’s gaming dominance has surely increased since 2019, but the company is starting to contend with several factors that could see its growth plateau.

  • Ongoing lawsuits and anti-Apple PR campaigns from developers like Epic Games.
  • Anti-trust action from the U.S., the EU, and South Korea.
  • The rise of VR-gaming in which Apple has yet to make inroads, falling behind Facebook, Microsoft, and Sony.
  • Gaming-time crackdown in China, where Honor of Kings is immensely popular and where a third of gaming-related App Store revenue comes from.

Nonetheless, the mobile gaming market is only trending upward. Technology consulting firm Activate Inc. predicts that mobile games will generate $103 billion in revenue in 2024. Apple wants as big of a piece of that pie as it can get.

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Athletic Brands Should Sponsor eSports

Athletic Brands Should Sponsor eSports

Over the last few years the eSports industry started to grow from a novelty into a space of its own. For the unfamiliar, eSports is simply the moniker for the competitive video game space. Fast forward a couple of decades and this hobbyist community spawned of dial-up message boards is chasing the $1B revenue mark in 2018. Yet, even as sponsors flood the industry’s coffers with sponsorship revenue poised to grow 48% in 2018, traditional sports brands like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour still shy away from the digital fields of battle.

On the surface, it seems surprising. After all, the sports world has been sensationalizing the next big star even if they’re in high school for decades. Also many companies are targeting and incubating athletes at younger ages like PlayVS. To that tune, eSports athletes reach professional age much more soon and are poised to have much longer careers than traditional athletes. eSports athletes are also much less likely to fall victim to injury. Adidas, in particular, has had a long and troubled road losing athletes to injury from Derrick Rose to Reggie Bush. They have however recently dipped their toes into the foray. So, what is it exactly that stops the traditional sports sponsorship powerhouses from making a foray into the digital side of their world?

Physical presence. A long-time key component of the sports sponsorship world is the benefit of being automatically attached to high traffic, tangible real-estate. Maybe the corporate folks in sports advertising are clinging to a need to see their money at work in an arena. That’s fine. Companies like Activision-Blizzard are already bringing eSports to the big arenas and broadcasting through Disney and ESPN. While the executives wait and observe the price tags, eSports sponsorships will continue to rise. League of Legends, one of the more popular eSports games, draws more than 60M viewers to its championship event. For context, the Indian Premier League cricket finals only draws 55M viewers.

Okay, so eSports is already bigger than the national sport of one of the world’s largest countries. Still not enough for you Nike? Well, it’s enough for Toyota, Intel, HP and more. While several leagues like the NBA and NFL are sponsoring teams, it has yet to remain that apparel and athletic brands are following suit. Where are Gatorade, Under Armour, Lululemon etc? Some companies are still hesitant because the bulk of eSports viewers reside outside the US. Yet, we’ve entered into an era of global economy. Any company trying to attach its global brand to the next generation of youth would be a fool not to engage early. If you want to really grab a market you have to see 10 years into the future the way Red Bull did with American soccer.

The titans of sports apparel need to stick their toes in the pool this summer. Much is changing very quickly and the eSports industry has a huge upside. Maybe it’s about one CMO at one company making the first leap. We’ve seen Netflix beat out Blockbuster, have watched Amazon change the world and witnessed football’s fall from grace as parents fear for their children’s health. The bottom line is, if the sports brands don’t start sponsoring the gamers, then in a decade, the gamers will be sponsoring the sports brands.

The Takeaway:
  • eSports sponsorship revenue is poised to grow 48% in 2018, but traditional sports brands like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour are slow to participate.
  • eSports athletes start young and mature their skills faster than traditional sports.
  • Companies like Activision-Blizzard are bringing eSports to big arenas and broadcasting through Disney and ESPN.
  • There’s a massive opportunity for athletic brands to affiliate with a unique “sport” that has high growth and resonates with their mission.