epic games

Fortnite for Android no longer requires an invite

Posted by | Android, Apps, epic games, fortnite, Gaming | No Comments

Fortnite’s journey to Android has been an adventure unto itself. It first launched as a Samsung exclusive, alongside the Note 9, before circumventing the Play Store to arrive on Google’s Mobile operating system.

Until now, however, actually getting the game required going to the site, signing up and waiting for an invite. Epic announced today via Twitter that it’s finally cutting that red tape. While the company is still sidestepping Play in order to keep its earnings to itself, downloading the game is a simple as scanning a QR code from its site.

No invite needed – download the Fortnite Beta now on any compatible Android device 📱

Time to squad up: https://t.co/lH95t8qkwd pic.twitter.com/9UZNG7oFXd

— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) October 11, 2018

Not that any of those extra steps were hurting the game. The wildly popular hit 15 million installs a mere three weeks after launching on the OS.

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Fortnite maker buys anti-cheat software company

Posted by | epic games, fortnite, Gaming | No Comments

Epic’s gotta do something with the money it’s printing through Fortnite purchases. Acquisitions appear to be at the top of that list, starting with Kamu, the Finnish startup behind Easy Anti-Cheat.

Epic has already deployed the anti-cheat software for its wildly popular sandbox survival game — it’s been a central piece of the gaming company’s strong anti-cheating stance. It is, as CEO Tim Sweeney puts it in the press release announcing the acquisition, “key to building a vibrant Fortnite multiplayer experience that’s fair for all players.”

Fortnite isn’t the only title currently leveraging Kamu’s best-known offering. The startup says Easy Anti-Cheat is currently used by north of 80 games, installed on 100 million PCs globally. Chances are pretty decent that if you’ve played a big name title in the past year, it’s already on your computer.

Kamu will continue to provide its service to non-Epic titles for the time being. Here’s Kamu CEO Simon Allaeys from the same release, “Joining the Epic family is not only a childhood dream come true, but a huge boost for our mission to help developers create beautiful gaming experiences. Battling cheating in games was just the start; today our products also help developers stay competitive by identifying player needs as quickly as they emerge.”

The acquisition also affords Epic the opportunity to set up shop in Kamu’s native Helsinki. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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YouTuber creates concept video showing Fortnite in first-person mode

Posted by | battle royale, epic games, fortnite, Gaming, TC, YouTube | No Comments

Fortnite Battle Royale was undoubtedly the big game of 2017, and 2018 is shaping up to be very similar. And with such popularity inevitably comes a swath of critics.

Take, for example, YouTuber Max Box. Using Fortnite’s replay mode, Max Box created a YouTube video that shows what Fortnite would look like in first-person mode.

The video is slightly buggy, but it’s about as close as we may ever get to seeing what Fortnite would look like in first person.

As it stands now, Fortnite uses third-person view, showing the player a view of themselves and the rest of the world from the perspective of their character’s right shoulder. Because of these mechanics, players are able to peek over cover or around walls without exposing themselves to incoming fire.

Because third-person view allows gamers to see their character in full, it also makes Epic’s main Fortnite revenue generator, premium skins and emotes, all the more valuable.

For those reasons, it seems unlikely that Epic would introduce a first-person mode.

That said, Epic will face new competition in the Battle Royale space with the introduction of CoD: Black Ops 4 Blackout mode on October 12. The game jumps in the ring with Fortnite, PUBG and H1Z1 as a first-person Battle Royale shooter.

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Sony is finally opening Fortnite cross-play on the PS4

Posted by | epic games, fortnite, Gaming, PlayStation 4, Sony | No Comments

Cross-play has been one of the biggest selling points for Fortnite, allowing players to engage in the battle royale, regardless of platform. There has, however, been one major holdout — until now. While PS4 players have been able to play one another, Sony has been dragging its heels at the seemingly inevitable update.

Today, however, the company is taking key steps toward letting users battle it out, regardless of platform. Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO John Kodera announced via blog post that the company is opening up cross-play beta, beginning with the crazy-popular sandbox survival game.

“Following a comprehensive evaluation process,” the exec writes, “SIE has identified a path toward supporting cross-platform features for select third party content. We recognize that PS4 players have been eagerly awaiting an update, and we appreciate the community’s continued patience as we have navigated through this issue to find a solution.”

That “path forward” will feature the major platforms that support the title, including, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows and macOS. As Kodera notes, the update is a pretty sizable policy shift, so the company, “will update the community once we have more details to share, including more specifics regarding the beta timeframe, and what this means for other titles going forward.”

Until now, Sony has suggested that such a move could pose a security risk to users. Observers, on the other hand, have suggested it was holding out purely out of monetary concern for the company.

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Old media giants turn to VC for their next act

Posted by | 21st century fox, Activision Blizzard, Axel Springer, bertelsmann, Entertainment, epic games, Gaming, Hearst, Media, Naspers, Netflix, Sky, Tencent, Venture Capital, WndrCo | No Comments

The Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 eras weren’t kind to the world’s largest media conglomerates, throwing their business models into question, creating whole new categories of content consumption, and bringing online competition to subscription and ad pricing. Many of the media giants from the 1990s and early 2000s remain market leaders with multi-billion dollar valuations, however, and have become active investors in startups as a tactic to help themselves evolve.

Of the traditional media companies that have committed to corporate venturing, there are two distinct strategies: those whose investing seems to be about replacing the historic classifieds section of newspapers and diversifying into a range of consumer-facing marketplaces, and those whose investing is concentrated on capturing an early glimpse (and early equity stake) in startups reshaping media.

Replacing Classifieds, Investing in Marketplaces

Mathias Doepfner, CEO of Axel Springer. The company’s startup accelerator is one of the most active in Europe. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)

Given the first crisis newspaper groups faced from tech startups in the 1990s and early 2000s was the rise of online classifieds sites (like Craigslist) and transactional marketplaces (like eBay and Amazon), the disruption of their lucrative classified ads revenue stream drove their attention to e-commerce.

Aside from Hearst, the major US newspaper and magazine chains – like Gannett, News Corp, Meredith Corp / Time Inc, and Digital First Media – haven’t made many investments in startups. Perhaps the financial straits of most US newspaper companies have left little cash for VC investments that won’t pay off for years in the future.

But in Northern and Central Europe, where news readership and even print publishing remain healthy by comparison, the leading media groups have been aggressively investing in marketplace and e-commerce startups across the continent over the last decade.

Europe’s leading publisher, Axel Springer has made itself an established player in the European startup scene. Axel Springer’s Digital Ventures team has backed marketplaces from Caroobi (for cars) to Airbnb, and their Berlin-based accelerator (run in partnership with Plug & Play) has invested in over 100 young startups, like digital bank N26, boat rental marketplace Zizoo, and influencer-brand marketplace blogfoster. In a move more strategic to its business, the 15,000-employee group made a large investment in augmented reality unicorn Magic Leap this past February as well, forming a partnership to leverage its content IP in the process.

Meanwhile, Norway’s Schibsted, Sweden’s Bonnier, and Germany’s Hubert Burda Media (best know to many in tech for their annual DLD conference in Munich) and Holtzbrinck Publishing are each globally active, multi-billion dollar publishers who operate active early- or growth-stage VC portfolios composed mainly of e-commerce brands and marketplaces.

The most iconic corporate venture investment by a newspaper conglomerate (or any company for that matter) is without question the $32M check written into 3-year-old Chinese social web startup Tencent in 2001 by the South African publishing group Naspers (founded in 1915). Tencent, now valued around $400B, is Asia’s largest and most powerful digital media company and Naspers’ 31% stake was worth roughly $175B in March 2018 when it sold $10B in shares.

As a result, Naspers has transformed into a holding company that incubates, acquires, and invests in online marketplace businesses around the globe (though it still maintains a relatively small publishing unit).

The challenge for traditional media companies investing in startups beyond the realm of media is that even if wildly successful, those investments neither give them a distinct advantage in media itself nor make their business model like that of a tech company by way of osmosis. These investments can be flashy distractions to make management and shareholders call the company innovative while it fails to actually re-envision its core operations. Investing in Airbnb or BaubleBar doesn’t address the key challenges or opportunities a traditional publishing group faces.

Therefore the best case scenario in this strategy seems to be that these companies find enough financial success that they just transition out of the content game and become holding companies for other types of consumer-facing brands the way Naspers has. But even then the path seems uncertain: despite all its other activities, Naspers’ market cap is less than the value of its Tencent shares…it’s not clear that the best case scenario necessarily transforms the core organization.

Investing in the Next Generation of Media

Thomas Rabe, CEO of German media group Bertelsmann. Bertelsmann is unique in treating startup investments as a dedicated division of the conglomerate. (TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

The other track for “old media” giants has been to focus on venture capital as a means to uncover the future of the media business so the old guard can learn from the new generation of media entrepreneurs and react to market changes sooner than competitors. Intriguingly, it is consistent that the conglomerates who have taken this strategy are ones whose operations in television, radio, data, and telecom outweigh any involvement in newspapers.

Bertelsmann, Hearst, and 21st Century Fox have been the most aggressive corporate venture investors in startups working to shape the future of media, whether it be through streaming video services, crowdsourced storytelling platforms, or augmented reality.

With annual revenue over €17B, Bertelsmann is one of the largest media companies in the world, spanning television production and broadcasting (RTL Group), book publishing (Penguin Random House), newspapers, magazine publishing (Grüner + Jahr), and education. Unlike of media companies though, it treats venture investments in media startups as a key division of its company rather than as a side project.

The company’s core Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (BDMI) invests across the US and Europe in companies like Audible, Mic, The Athletic, and Wondery (and in funds like Greycroft and SV Angel) but there are also the 3 regionally-focused funds investing in China, India, and Brazil plus the education-focused University Ventures fund it anchors in NYC. Collectively, Bertelsmann teams made 40 new startup investments in 2017 and generated €141M in venture returns, according to their 2017 Annual Report.

The investment arm of Hearst, one of America’s largest publishers with $10.8B in 2017 revenue, has likewise been a major backer of BuzzFeed, Pandora, Hootesuite, and Roku not to mention Chinese language app LingoChamp, live entertainment brand Drone Racing League, VR capture startup 8i, and dozens of other media-related startups. Hearst’s ownership in these ventures makes strategic sense: they provide market insights relevant to the core businesses, offer immediate partnership opportunities, and would be strategic acquisition targets that evolve the company’s position in a changing market.

21st Century Fox and Sky Plc (in which 21st Century Fox owns a 39% stake and is trying to acquire outright) have both made a whole slate of startup investments across the media sector in the last few years. In addition to its $100M investment in live-streaming platform Caffeine (announced on September 5) and similarly massive investment in WndrCo’s NewTV venture led by Meg Whitman, Fox has invested repeatedly in sports-centric OTT service fuboTV, hit newsletter brand TheSkimm, VR studio WITHIN, and fantasy sports app Draftkings with Sky often co-investing or building meaningful stakes in international startups like iflix (a leading streaming video service in Southeast Asia and the Middle East).

Since traditional media giants own extensive intellectual property of hit shows, films, and often exclusive rights to popular live events – not to mention established distribution channels to tens or hundreds of millions of people – there are immediate partnerships that can be signed to benefit both a startup and the incumbent. The incumbents often re-invest repeatedly to build their ownership and deepen the alignment between the companies, which rarely happens when media companies invest in marketplace startups.

Tencent’s always-be-evolving model

The new crop of digital media giants that includes Netflix, Snap, VICE, and BuzzFeed aren’t doing much if any strategic investing. Instead they’re keeping focused on growth of their core product offering. The notable exception is China’s Tencent.

In addition to dominating China’s booming messaging app sector with WeChat and QQ, owning 75% market share of music streaming in China, and being the world’s leading games publisher through its own studios (Riot Games, Supercell, etc.) and its minority stakes in Activision Blizzard, Epic Games, and others, Tencent has taken a strategy of investing often and early in promising digital media startups…and it has its tentacles in everything.

Based on Crunchbase data, Tencent has done over 300 investments in startups. It is likely the most active venture investor in China, where most of its portfolio is concentrated, but also backs Western media startups like SoundHound, Wattpad, Spotify, Smule, and Wonder Workshop.

Tencent can give distribution to these upstarts through its vast portfolio of digital properties and it can keep tabs on what new content formats or business models are gaining traction. It operates from a mindset of perpetually evolving, and trying to snatch up startups whose products could be key assets in the future of content creation, distribution, or monetization. This approach is one both old media giants and the next gen of unicorn media startups should consider.

The pace of innovation is moving so fast, and so many new doors are opening up – from subscription streaming and esports to voice interfaces and augmented reality – that corporate venture as a core strategy can unlock opportunities for the organization to evolve early, before it ends up being categorized as “old media”.

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Fortnite Monopoly and Nerf Blasters are coming soon

Posted by | epic, epic games, fortnite, Gaming, Hasbro inc | No Comments

You can’t really blame Epic for captilizing on Fortnite’s massive and largely unexpected success. And really, you’ve got to strike while the iron’s still hot on this one. The gaming company announced a partnership with toy giant Hasbro this week that while give the world a Fortnite-branded Monopoly game and Nerf Blasters.

Monopoly: Fortnite Edition launches October 1 — just in time to be a little too early for the holiday season. That one is arriving in both the U.S. and U.K. this fall, with more markets coming in 2019. It promises to “bring a a battle building twist to the iconic Fast Dealing Property Trading game,” because nothing says real estate mogul like a survival game.

The Nerf partnership is a bit more of a natural from a licensed content perspective. No specifics to speak of at the moment, but given that there are, you know, guns in Fornite, you can really just use your imagination. Hasbro says they’ll “emulate the amazing onscreen battles Fortnite is known for,” which could imply a laser tag element here.

Those are due out some time next year.

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Fortnite’s Android installer shipped with an Epic security flaw

Posted by | Android, Apps, epic games, fortnite, Gaming, Google, Mobile, Security | No Comments

Google has clapped back in tremendous fashion at Epic Games, which earlier this month decided to make the phenomenally popular Fortnite available for Android via its own website instead of Google’s Play Store. Unfortunately, the installer had a phenomenally dangerous security flaw in it that would allow a malicious actor to essentially install any software they wanted. Google wasted exactly zero time pointing out this egregious mistake.

By way of a short explanation why this was even happening, Epic explained when it announced its plan that it would be good to have “competition among software sources on Android,” and that the best would “succeed based on merit.” Everyone of course understood that what he meant was that Epic didn’t want to share the revenue from its cash cow with Google, which takes 30 percent of in-app purchases.

Many warned that this was a security risk for several reasons, for example that users would have to enable app installations from unknown sources — something most users have no reason to do. And the Play Store has other protections and features, visible and otherwise, that are useful for users.

Google, understandably, was not amused with Epic’s play, which no doubt played a part in the decision to scrutinize the download and installation process — though I’m sure the safety of its users was also a motivating factor. And wouldn’t you know it, they found a whopper right off the bat.

In a thread posted a week after the Fortnite downloader went live, a Google engineer by the name of Edward explained that the installer basically would allow an attacker to install anything they want using it.

The Fortnite installer basically downloads an APK (the package for Android apps), stores it locally, then launches it. But because it was stored on shared external storage, a bad guy could swap in a new file for it to launch, in what’s called a “man in the disk” attack.

And because the installer only checked that the name of the APK is right, as long as the attacker’s file is called “com.epicgames.fortnite,” it would be installed! Silently, and with lots of extra permissions too, if they want, because of how the unknown sources installation policies work. Not good!

Edward pointed out this could be fixed easily and in a magnificently low-key bit of shade-throwing helpfully linked to a page on the Android developer site outlining the basic feature Epic should have used.

To Epic’s credit, its engineers jumped on the problem immediately and had a fix in the works by that very afternoon and deployed by the next one. Epic InfoSec then requested Google to wait 90 days before publishing the information.

As you can see, Google was not feeling generous. One week later (that’s today) and the flaw has been published on the Google Issue Tracker site in all its… well, not glory exactly. Really, the opposite of glory. This seems to have been Google’s way of warning any would-be Play Store mutineers that they would not be given gentle handling.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney was likewise unamused. In a comment provided to Android Central — which, by the way, predicted that this exact thing would happen — he took the company to task for its “irresponsible” decision to “endanger users.”

Epic genuinely appreciated Google’s effort to perform an in-depth security audit of Fortnite immediately following our release on Android, and share the results with Epic so we could speedily issue an update to fix the flaw they discovered.

However, it was irresponsible of Google to publicly disclose the technical details of the flaw so quickly, while many installations had not yet been updated and were still vulnerable.

An Epic security engineer, at my urging, requested Google delay public disclosure for the typical 90 days to allow time for the update to be more widely installed. Google refused. You can read it all at https://issuetracker.google.com/issues/112630336

Google’s security analysis efforts are appreciated and benefit the Android platform, however a company as powerful as Google should practice more responsible disclosure timing than this, and not endanger users in the course of its counter-PR efforts against Epic’s distribution of Fortnite outside of Google Play.

Indeed, companies really should try not to endanger their users for selfish reasons.

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Epic Games just gave a perk for folks to turn on 2FA; every other big company should, too

Posted by | Alphabet, Apple, epic games, Gaming, Microsoft, multi-factor authentication, Security, SMS, TC | No Comments

Let’s talk a bit about security.

Most internet users around the world are pretty crap at it, but there are basic tools that companies have, and users can enable, to make their accounts, and lives, a little bit more hacker-proof.

One of these — two-factor authentication — just got a big boost from Epic Games, the maker of what is currently The Most Popular Game In The World: Fortnite.

Epic is already getting a ton of great press for what amounts to very little effort.

Son: Do you know what two-factor authentication is?
Me: Uh, yeah?
Son: I get a free dance on @Fortnitegame if I enable two factor. Can we do that?

Incentives matter.

— Dennis (@DennisF) August 23, 2018

The company is giving users a new emote (the victory dance you’ve seen emulated in airports, playgrounds and parks by kids and tweens around the world) to anyone who turns on two-factor authentication. It’s one small (dance) step for Epic, but one giant leap for securing their users’ accounts.

The thing is any big company could do this (looking at you Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet and any other company with a huge user base).

Apparently the perk of not getting hacked isn’t enough for most users, but if you give anyone the equivalent of a free dance, they’ll likely flock to turn on the feature.

It’s not that two-factor authentication is a panacea for all security woes, but it does make life harder for hackers. Two-factor authentication works on codes, basically tokens, that are either sent via text or through an over-the-air authenticator (OTA). Text messaging is a pretty crap way to secure things, because the codes can be intercepted, but OTAs — like Google Authenticator or Authy — are sent via https (pretty much bulletproof, but requiring an app to use).

So using SMS-based two-factor authentication is better than nothing, but it’s not Fort Knox (however, these days, even Fort Knox probably isn’t Fort Knox when it comes to security).

Still, anything that makes things harder for crimes of opportunity can help ease the security burden for companies large and small, and the consumers and customers that love them (or at least are forced to pay and use them).

I’m not sure what form the perk could or should take. Maybe it’s the promise of a free e-book or a free download or an opportunity to have a live chat with the celebrity, influencer or athlete of a user’s choice. Whatever it is, there’re clearly something that businesses could do to encourage greater adoption.

Self-preservation isn’t cutting it. Maybe an emote will do the trick.

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Fortnite players can unlock a new emote if they enable two-factor authentication

Posted by | epic games, fortnite, fortnite battle royale, Gaming, TC | No Comments

Historically, we haven’t been great about digital security. In 2016 (not long enough ago to feel OK about it), the top passwords were “123456” and “password.”

Awareness has certainly grown, but some folks could still use a nudge in the right direction. Luckily, Fortnite Battle Royale maker Epic Games has a solution.

The company has introduced a new emote to the game — emotes are just one type of cosmetic upgrade that helped Epic rake in $1 billion in revenue. However, this new Boogie Down emote is only available to folks who enable two-factor authentication on their Epic Games account.

As you can expect, hackers and other malicious actors are well aware of both the popularity of Fortnite and users’ willingness to spend money on the game. Obviously, these accounts are attractive targets for “the bad guys.”

Two-factor authentication — which asks for two separate verifications that you are you (usually a password and then an SMS confirmation) — has its shortcomings, but it’s most certainly an upgrade to a single password.

Incentivizing better security practices is an interesting take, and may very well be the first time a game maker has used the technique.

The Boogie Down emote (above) is the prize for enabling 2FA, and it was introduced as part of a competition by Epic Games. In March, the company asked its community to submit dance moves, with the winner making it into the game.

For what it’s worth, the actual dance seems way cooler than the emote in the game.

[via Kotaku]

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Here’s where to sign up to get Fortnite for Android

Posted by | Android, epic games, fortnite, Gaming | No Comments

Fortnite’s journey to Android has been a complicated one. A few months back, Epic Games promised to bring the wildly popular survival sandbox title to the mobile OS, but only after sidestepping the traditional process for doing so. Fittingly, while it now appears to be live for Android, the process of actually getting the game is, well, complicated.

If you want to get started, you’ll need to sign up for a beta of the game. That’s right, while the title has been up and running on any number of other platforms (including its three-day head start on Samsung devices), it’s still in beta on Android. Give Epic your email address, and they’ll send you an invite…”as soon as you can play.”

How soon is that? Well, there appears to be a waiting list at the moment. How long all of this will take is anyone’s guess, though the company says it can take “a few days” for all of it to go through. Since the whole thing is bypassing the Google Play store (much to Google’s chagrin), you’ll need to install the Fortnite Installer APK to install Fortnite the game.

I went through a similar process to get the game on the Note 9. It’s weird and kind of annoying, but when it’s done, it’s done.

Oh, and you’ll want to make sure your phone is compatible. Epic’s got the full list here, which seems to include a pretty broad range, including Pixel devices and handsets from Huawei, LG, Nokia, OnePlus, Xiaomi, ZTE and Razer.

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