Gaming

Fortnite had a $296 million April

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

Just how big is Fortnite? Very big. Very, very big. $296 million in April, big. That’s according to SuperData Research (via The Verge), a service that tracks digital game sales. The number, which includes sales from the console, mobile and PC versions of the game, is up $73 million from just last month.

The sandbox’s survival game’s April numbers are also more than double the $126 million it earned back in February. The title is currently atop Superdata’s console chart, and is number five on the PC, several slots ahead of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. According to the survey it “once again it broke the record for most additional content revenue in a single month by a console game.”

As for mobile, the title didn’t crack the top 10, but the smartphone has clearly been a driving force in recent growth. Fortnite arrive on iOS in the middle of March, and its upcoming jump to Android is likely to push the title’s success even further. And then, of course, there’s the prize pools.

Earlier this month, Epic added a competition that let players compete for large sums of its in-game currency, V-Bucks. And just this week, the company announced plans to spend $100 million real world dollars on Fornite eSports competitions for the next two years.

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Gravy’s new mobile game show is ‘Price is Right’ mixed with QVC

Posted by | Ads, advertising, Apps, Fundings & Exits, Gaming, iOS apps, Mobile, shopping, Startups | No Comments

Following the success of the live mobile game show HQ Trivia, a team of serial entrepreneurs have begun testing the market to see if another game show concept can work, too. Their new game show-inspired app, Gravy, is meant to be a riff on the “Price is Right” combined with a QVC-style shopping experience. That is, the “contestants” compete for discounts of 30 to 70 percent off the products advertised, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. In addition, through a side game, users can guess when the product – whose quantities are unknown – will sell out and at what price. Those who guess closest win a cash prize.

The startup was created by Mark McGuire, Brian Wiegand, and Craig Andler – the founding team behind Jellyfish.com, an older social shopping network that was acquired by Microsoft back in 2007, to help create Bing Shopping. They’ve also paired up on other projects, including NameProtect (before Jellyfish), printable coupons resource Hopster, social network Nextt, and e-commerce subscription retail site, Alice.com. These have either exited or shut down or both.

The team’s efforts imply a clear passion for working with brands, but getting consumers to connect with brands in new ways is far more difficult, as their track record shows.

That’s why they’re now trying Gravy.

The hope is that the excitement around seeing the product unveiled nightly – and knowing you’ll get a big discount if you buy – will become an entirely new ad unit of sorts, while keeping players engaged in a game-show like experience.

“One of the challenges with millennials is their short attention spans, and they don’t respond well to interruptive advertising,” explains Wiegand, of why the team wanted to build this startup. “I don’t think anyone’s really mastered how to monetize live video. So we came up with this opportunity to create this new ad unit where brands could tell their story, and – for seven or eight or nine minutes – create a live shopping event where millennials can tune in and hear that story but in a fun, gamified kind of manner,” he says.

Here’s how Gravy works. Every night, at 8:30 PM ET in the Gravy iOS app, a live host will unveil the product users can buy. Currently, there’s a rotating selection of hosts who work on a per-show contract basis, usually local comedians – not brand reps.

Players are not told how many items are available, but it’s typically anywhere from two to twenty.

Then the price starts to drop. If you buy early, you’ll have a chance to snag it at a slight discount. But the longer you wait, the higher the percentage off will become. However, you don’t know who else could snatch it up first and when. If you wait too long, the product will sell out.

Meanwhile, if you’re not interested in the product itself, you can guess when you expect it to sell out (meaning, at which price.) Those ten or so closest will receive a small cash prize – a split of maybe $200 or $300, with first place receiving the largest chunk.

At least 20 percent of sales are given away to charity – a nod, I suppose, to millennials’ interest in do-gooder style companies. But ultimately, that decision that has more to do with the fact that Gravy doesn’t aim to be a retailer – it’s not another deal-of-the-day destination like Woot!, despite the similarities around generating product excitement.

Instead, it expects brands to donate products and pay a fee for the “advertising opportunity” Gravy offers.

Brands will like Gravy because they get millennials’ attention for seven minutes or more, Wiegand says. “They love the engagement. It’s a highly engaged audience…I have a chance to buy the products, so I’m heavily engaged in thinking about that product. The recall, memorability, and all of the subsequent buzz – tweeting and all the social media that gets created because of that – is great,” he adds.

However, none of this is proven out yet – Gravy is just a couple of weeks old.

So far, around 50 percent of the products it has featured have actually been donated by brands, including 23andMe, 3D Doodler, Tapplock, and others. The rest have been subsidized by Gravy, including the bigger draws – like a DJI drone, for example.

It’s not yet charging for the ad opportunity, either, as it’s hoping to grow the audience first.

The company says that’s already underway. After alerting friends and family to the app’s launch, the games are seeing 600+ players nightly, Wiegand claims, and is growing its audience 15 percent week-over-week. Around half of those who signed up to play are returning to watch around three shows per week, he says.

While the early numbers are promising if true, and it’s clear the team likes to work in the general space of connecting brands with consumers, Gravy still feels – like much of what the founders have created before – designed primarily with the needs of brands in mind, before that of consumers.

A “Price is Right”-style app would be a lot of fun, but this isn’t it – it’s, at the end of the day, an invitation to watch an ad and shop at a discount. That’s not something consumers may want to do every day, long-term – even if you try to woo them with a small cash prize won through a guessing game.

And like Trivia HQ , which has dropped from a top 20 app to the 140’s (by App Store overall rank, the shine may eventually wear off for Gravy, too. Especially because it’s not primarily a game – and millennials, as fickle and short attention-spanned as they may be (really? the generation that binges entire TV seasons in a few days?), will know it.

Wiegand isn’t concerned, though.

He says he gets bored with trivia apps in a few weeks, but Gravy is different.

“I always shop and I always like a deal. The deal industry and the shopping industry are so much larger than the trivia space,” Wiegand insists. “And the thrill of seeing a product that you like going down into the sixties and seventies percent off is unbelievably thrilling,” he enthuses. “We are able to feature things that have the best price on the planet of first-run products…it creates this heart-pounding, exhilarating and experience like, ‘Should I buy? Oh my God, look at this price. I can’t turn it down,’” he says.

The company raised $2.1 million in seed funding from a range of investors, including the founders at the turn of the year. Around eighty percent was outside capital, led by New Capital. The under-20 person team is based in both Madison and Minneapolis.

Gravy is on the App Store here.

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Microsoft’s Twitch rival Mixer gets a revamp, including new developer tools for interactive gameplay

Posted by | game streaming, Gaming, Microsoft, mixer | No Comments

Microsoft is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its game streaming service and Twitch competitor, Mixer, with a host of new features, including a refresh of the user experience and the launch of an expanded developer toolkit called MixPlay. The new streamer tools will roll out along with the revamped version of Mixer .com across desktop and mobile web, and will initially be available to Mixer Pro subscribers.

The company claims the service saw more than 10 million monthly active users in December 2017 – a figure, we should point out, may be higher because of holiday sales and the accompanying bump in game downloads and playtime seen across platforms.

However, Microsoft also says that the Mixer viewing audience has grown over four times since its launch, and the number of watched streams has grown more than five times. These are still not hard numbers, but third-party reports have put Mixer well behind Twitch’s sizable and still-growing lead in terms of both concurrent streamers and viewers. (Those reports aren’t 100% accurate either, though, because they can’t track Xbox viewership.)

Microsoft says the updated Mixer.com rolls out beginning today, with a focus on making it easier for viewers to find the games and streamers they want to watch, as well as those broadcasting in creative communities.

While Pro subscribers will gain access first, they’ll have to opt-in by visiting their Account Settings and turning the new look on manually. (To do so, select the “Site Version” dialog, then the “Feature/UI Refresh” option, Microsoft says.)

The full refresh will arrive to all Mixer users later this summer.

As part of the new experience, the company is also rolling out more tools for developers with the launch of MixPlay.

As Microsoft explains, instead of just adding buttons below a stream, MixPlay lets developers build experiences on top of streams, in panels on the sides of the video, as widgets around the video, or as free-floating overlays – all of which can be designed to mimic the look-and-feel of the streamed content. Basically, this means the entire window is now a canvas, not just a portion of the stream itself.

One example of what MixPlay can enable can be seen in April’s launch of Mixer’s “Share Controller” feature, which created a virtual Xbox controller that could be shared by anyone broadcasting from their Xbox One.

This allowed gamers and viewers to play along in real-time from the web.

 

In addition, MixPlay will enable other games that are only playable on Mixer where controls blend into the stream –  like Mini Golf, which launched this month and now has 300,000 views, or Truck Stars, for example.

Three new MixPlay-enabled games are launching today, as well, including Earthfall, which lets viewers interact with streamers or even change the game; Next Up Hero, where viewers can help a streamer by taking control or freeze the streamer at the worst possible moment, depending on their mood; and Late Shift, a choose-your-own-adventure crime thriller you control.

These sorts of MixPlay experiences shift the idea of Mixer being just another game streaming service to one where viewers can actively participate by playing themselves, or at least guiding the action. That could also serve as a differentiator for Mixer as it tries to carve out a niche for itself in the battle with Twitch and YouTube Gaming.

 

But MixPlay isn’t just for interactive experiences, Microsoft notes. It can also help developers build experiences that simply enhance streams with additional content, too, like a stats dashboard.

Another update involves the Mixer Create app, which offers mobile support to streamers. Now, streamers can kick of a co-stream by clicking the co-stream button on their Mixer Create profile, then send out invites, among other things.

This is live on Android in beta today, and will launch soon on iOS beta, with a full rollout in early June.

In terms of perks, Microsoft is running an “anniversary” promotion offering $5 of Microsoft Store credit along with any Direct Purchase of $9.99 or more. A second promotion is giving away a free, 1-month channel subscription and up to 90 days of Mixer Pro to anyone who reaches Level 10 on their account between May 24th, 2018 at 12:00AM UST and May 28th, 2018 at 11:59PM PDT.

The company additionally announced a new partnership with ESL on esports, which will bring over 15,000 hours of programming from top competitive games to Mixer, including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, and Dota 2. These tournaments will take advantage of Mixer’s FTL technology for “sub-second latency,” the company says.

Other announcements around games and esports are mentioned in the Mixer blog post, too.

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Gaming monitors, headsets and peripherals for a winning desktop setup

Posted by | amd, asus, Bluetooth, Column, Gaming, hardware, nvidia, Razer, Wirecutter | No Comments
Makula Dunbar
Contributor

Makula Dunbar is a writer with Wirecutter.

Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch earn affiliate commissions.

New and serious gamers know that it takes a significant amount of time to sharpen skills, and to strategize ways to capture high scores. Staying ahead of player 2 is easier when you have the right gaming peripherals.

A monitor with a crisp display, a responsive gaming mouse, a comfortable headset—or all of these items combined—are what you need to take your PC gaming experience to the next level. We can’t promise that new equipment will keep you at the top of the board, but the best gear with accommodating features is essential to a great setup, and to helping you try.

G-Sync Monitor: Asus ROG Swift PG279Q

For the best option to pair with a Nvidia graphics card, we recommend the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q (Amazon) G-Sync gaming monitor. At 27 inches it’s big enough to give off an immersive feeling, but not so big that visuals seem overwhelming. It only works over displayport and has two connection options (HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2a). You’ll still be able to plug in peripherals like a keyboard or phone via its built-in USB 3.0 port. We tested it with a variety of games and it performed well with them all. This monitor’s luminance range is also pretty wide so it’ll display images nicely if placed in dim or bright areas.

Photo: Rozette Rago

FreeSync monitor: Asus MG279Q

The Asus MG279Q (Amazon), our top FreeSync monitor pick, is best for those who use an AMD graphics card. A gaming console and computer work well with this 27-inch monitor as it’s packed with connection options (one Mini DisplayPort 1.2 connection, two HDMI 1.4 connections and one DisplayPort 1.2).

We like its adjustability and that you can detach it completely from its stand. It can be mounted on a monitor arm to better accommodate different setups. Though it supports FreeSync between 35 Hz and 90 Hz, it has 1440p resolution and a standard refresh rate of 144 Hz for clear, high-quality visuals.

Photo: Rozette Rago

Headset: Kingston HyperX Cloud

The excitement that comes along with gaming is largely attached to being able to clearly hear the action. A gaming headset that can offer all-day comfort, a high-quality microphone and full sound is a headset you want to go with.

Our top pick, the Kingston HyperX Cloud (Amazon), offers all of these features and after about 30 months of testing, it’s held up well. It’ll still look as good as new after being tossed around, but more importantly, its headband and ear cups don’t feel heavy or constricting. You’ll be able to play online with teammates without hearing an overlap between headset and microphone audio. It’s also a decent headset for watching movies and listening to music.

Photo: Michael Hession

Mouse: Razer DeathAdder Elite

The Razer DeathAdder Elite, our top gaming mouse pick, has a design that’s ideal for hands of all sizes. We like that it has textured grip, and that you’re able to get comfortable with preferred settings using its customizable buttons and scroll wheel. It isn’t clunky and you won’t press the wrong buttons, as they’re intuitive and well-placed.

Aside from its RGB lights that change color, it doesn’t look much different from a mouse you’d find at a work desk. It comes with Razer’s Synapse software (which works on Mac and Windows), and it has an accurate, exclusive Pixart PMW3389 sensor that tracks without issue.

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Keyboard: Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma V2

Though we like the multicolored backlighting on the Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma V2 (Amazon), there’s more than a few reasons why this compact mechanical keyboard is our top recommendation. Its removable palm rest makes getting comfortable in different positions easier and it comes with a durable protective case.

Its learning curve isn’t as steep as competitors, so if the Chroma V2 is your first gaming keyboard it won’t be long before you get into the swing of things. You can set macros to specific keys and applications and use a variety of switch options. Like the Razer DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse, it uses Synapse software.                                                                                                   

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

PC gaming controller: DualShock 4 Wireless Controller

Gamers who prefer playing on consoles will enjoy using a PC gaming controller with a computer. The DualShock 4 Wireless Controller (which comes with the PlayStation 4) is our top pick, because it’s the most capable PC controller, as well as a few extra features: The touchpad can be used like a mouse cursor and it has an internal rechargeable battery. It connects over Bluetooth or USB and is best used with a separate gaming headset, as its audio jack doesn’t function properly with PCs.

The controller works great with Steam, though in order to get it working with MacOS or non-Steam Windows games, you’ll have to adjust some settings. We think it’s worth the effort for a responsive controller that’s comfortable to hold for long periods of time.

Photo: Andrew Cunningham

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

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Meet the speakers at The Europas, and get your ticket free (July 3, London)

Posted by | accelerator, Advertising Tech, Apps, artificial intelligence, Asia, augmented reality, automotive, Banking, biotech, blockchain, Book Review, brazil, Built In, cannabis, Cloud, Collaborative Consumption, Community, Crowdfunding, cryptocurrency, Developer, Distributed Ledger, Diversity, Earnings, eCommerce, Education, Enterprise, Entertainment, Europe, events, Finance, food, funding, Fundings & Exits, Gadgets, Gaming, Government, GreenTech, Hack, hardware, Health, Hiring, Mobile, Social, Startups, TC | No Comments

Excited to announce that this year’s The Europas Unconference & Awards is shaping up! Our half day Unconference kicks off on 3 July, 2018 at The Brewery in the heart of London’s “Tech City” area, followed by our startup awards dinner and fantastic party and celebration of European startups!

The event is run in partnership with TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.

What exactly is an Unconference? We’re dispensing with the lectures and going straight to the deep-dives, where you’ll get a front row seat with Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders to discuss and debate the most urgent issues, challenges and opportunities. Up close and personal! And, crucially, a few feet away from handing over a business card. The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.

We’ve confirmed 10 new speakers including:


Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital


Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp


Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures


Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures


Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel


George McDonaugh, KR1


Candice Lo, Blossom Capital


Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners


Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel


Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker

How To Get Your Ticket For FREE

We’d love for you to ask your friends to join us at The Europas – and we’ve got a special way to thank you for sharing.

Your friend will enjoy a 15% discount off the price of their ticket with your code, and you’ll get 15% off the price of YOUR ticket.

That’s right, we will refund you 15% off the cost of your ticket automatically when your friend purchases a Europas ticket.

So you can grab tickets here.

Vote for your Favourite Startups

Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!

Awards by category:

Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup

Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup

Hottest Education Startup

Hottest Startup Accelerator

Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup

Hottest Games Startup

Hottest Mobile Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup

Hottest Hardware Startup

Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace

Hottest Health Startup

Hottest Cyber Security Startup

Hottest Travel Startup

Hottest Internet of Things Startup

Hottest Technology Innovation

Hottest FashionTech Startup

Hottest Tech For Good

Hottest A.I. Startup

Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year

Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year

Hottest Startup Founders

Hottest CEO of the Year

Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year

Hottest VC Investor of the Year

Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)

Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project

Hottest Blockchain DApp

Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project

Hottest Blockchain Investor

Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)

Hottest Financial Crypto Project

Hottest Blockchain for Good Project

Hottest Blockchain Identity Project

Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe

The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)

The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.

Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.

What is The Europas?

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers

• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s PROBABLY sunny!

europas8

That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

europas13

Interested in sponsoring the Europas or hosting a table at the awards? Or purchasing a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests? Get in touch with:
Petra Johansson
Petra@theeuropas.com
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3239 9325

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Razer’s new external graphics enclosure is compatible with Macs

Posted by | Gaming, hardware, Razer | No Comments

A couple of gaming hardware announcements just dropped from team Razer. What makes the Core X graphics enclosure arguably the most notable of the bunch is the inclusion of a standard Thunderbolt 3 connection on the rear of the device.

In addition to Razer’s own systems and Windows 10 PCs, the new enclosure is compatible with Apple products running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4. That’s part of a whole new focus on gaming for Apple’s devices, unveiled back at WWDC roughly this time last year, along with the promise of VR development support.

In late March, external GPU support officially arrived for High Sierra 10.13.4, and now Razer’s ready to get on-board. The Core X is designed to hold up to three desktop graphics cards and can charge a connected laptop through the aforementioned Thunrderbolt 3 connection.

The enclosure is available now for $299. Along with the X, Razer’s Core V2 is now also compatible with Macs via Thunderbolt 3. That one will run you $499. Good new all around for Mac users ready to get serious about gaming.

Also new today is the Razer Blade 15.6-inch, an ultra thin gaming notebook the company has taken to calling “the world’s smallest…in its class.” The 15.6-inch display comes 1920 x 1080, standard, which users can upgrade to 4k. All of that is surrounded by some skinny 4.9mm bezels.

Inside is an 8th gen Core i7 processor, coupled with either a either GeForce GTX 1060 or GeForce GTX 1070  graphics. There’s also up to 16GB of memory and up to 512GB of storage inside, loaded with what Razer says is $420 of games and software. The system features a 16.8 million color keyboard and output for up to three external displays.

The new system starts at $1,899.

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Fortnite is finally coming to Android this summer

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

Fortnite is finally coming to Android…in a matter of months. After dominating the iOS gaming charts since March, the wildly popular sandbox survival game will be hitting the world’s top mobile operating system at some point this summer.

Creator Epic Games buried the news in the middle of a larger blog post titled, “The State of Mobile,” noting, vaguely, “We know many of you are excited for this release, and we promise that when we have more information to share, you’ll hear it from us first.”

That news comes amid a flurry of other Fortnite-related announcements this week. Earlier this morning, Epic unveiled a Battle Royale competition with a large in-game cash prize. This morning, the company also laid out plans to bring voice chat and improved gameplay and controls to the mobile side of things. Stats are coming to mobile, as well, along with a reduced install size.

Not that any of those issues have hampered the game’s success, of course. Earlier this year, the game was reportedly bringing in $126 million in monthly revenue — even before it arrived on iOS. With its imminent release on Android, that number’s likely to get a whole lot larger. 

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Fortnite Battle Royale’s Solo Showdown lets players compete for up to 50,000 V-Bucks

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

For the first time ever, Fortnite Battle Royale players have the chance to compete with one another for a huge amount of V-Bucks, the game’s virtual currency.

Fortnite Battle Royale often adds new wacky game modes, like 50 vs 50 or the much-memed Thanos game type made in conjunction with Marvel for Avengers: Infinity War.

Unlike those other game modes, however, Solo Showdown will not change the underlying game in any way — there is no extra shield, the storm doesn’t move any faster, and there are no extra weapon sizes or different team sizes.

Instead, Solo Showdown is a way to compete with other Battle Royale players in solo mode to discover who is the true GOAT.

Players must compete in 50 matches to join the leaderboard, and placement in each of those first 50 matches will determine overall ranking.

Prize pools are as follows:

  • First Place: 50,000 V-Bucks
  • Second Place to Fourth Place: 25,000 V-Bucks
  • Fifth Place to Fiftieth Place: 13,500 V-Bucks
  • Remaining Players in Top 100: 7,500 V-Bucks

Up until this point, V-Bucks could only be earned in increments of 100 after purchasing the Battle Pass, which lets players complete challenges and rank up to earn various cosmetic rewards and V-Bucks. Earning V-Bucks, rather than purchasing them with real money, has never netted much of a return. You can only earn enough V-Bucks to purchase maybe one mid-range item per season, or you can save them over the course of multiple seasons to purchase a high-end item.

For perspective, the most expensive items on Fortnite Battle Royale often cost around 2,000 V-Bucks, so a player with 50,000 V-Bucks is a rich player indeed.

Fortnite Battle Royale has been free to play since its launch, and its virtual currency represents a major revenue stream for Epic Games . While items purchased in the store offer no competitive advantage, they make the game fun and fresh.

However, the ability to earn these V-Bucks (in this large of a sum) is a welcome change to the current meta.

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Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is an inspiring example of inclusive design

Posted by | accessibility, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, Health, Microsoft, xbox, Xbox One | No Comments

Every gamer with a disability faces a unique challenge for many reasons, one of which is the relative dearth of accessibility-focused peripherals for consoles. Microsoft is taking a big step toward fixing this with its Xbox Adaptive Controller, a device created to address the needs of gamers for whom ordinary gamepads aren’t an option.

The XAC, revealed officially at a recent event but also leaked a few days ago, is essentially a pair of gigantic programmable buttons and an oversized directional pad; 3.5mm ports on the back let a huge variety of assistive devices like blow tubes, pedals and Microsoft-made accessories plug in.

It’s not meant to be an all-in-one solution by any means, more like a hub that allows gamers with disabilities to easily make and adjust their own setups with a minimum of hassle. Whatever you’re capable of, whatever’s comfortable, whatever gear you already have, the XAC is meant to enable it.

I’d go into detail, but it would be impossible to do better than Microsoft’s extremely interesting and in-depth post introducing the XAC, which goes into the origins of the hardware, the personal stories of the testers and creators and much more. Absolutely worth taking the time to read.

I look forward to hearing more about the system and how its users put it to use, and I’m glad to see inclusivity and accessibility being pursued in such a practical and carefully researched manner.

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Call of Duty Black Ops IIII adds battle royale mode while taking the game back to boots on the ground

Posted by | Activision, call of duty black ops, Gaming, TC | No Comments

In recent releases, Activision has taken its Call of Duty franchise into space (with its Infinite Warfare) and back in time (with the World War II release); now it’s looking to its past to bring it back to glory, while adding the massive multi-player Battle Royale mode.

The new Black Ops game is set within a narrative universe between Black Ops II and Black Ops III and stresses multi-player gaming like the battle royale, improved league play and collaborative features for gamers.

Critical to that is the franchise’s introduction of Battle Royale mode, bringing favorite characters, favorite weapons and the most iconic parts of players’ favorite maps along with the ever-popular zombies into a winner-take-all competitive landscape.

It’s a nod to the new ways gamers are playing and a pitch to rejuvenate Call of Duty — one of the world’s most popular game titles, with Black Ops as perhaps the most compelling title in the company’s arsenal. Previous releases have failed to capture the imagination in the same way as its early releases. Black Ops IIII is returning to the complete boots on the ground game play, and stressing the multi-player functionality that made the first games such a hit.

The game will launch in October and will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.

Black Ops IIII doesn’t have a traditional campaign, but weaves narrative into each of the game’s modes. “This is a game that’s built to last for years to come,” said Treyarch chairman Mark Lamia.

The game developers stressed more nuanced game play, with improved sound and graphics capabilities like more refined muzzle flashes and better audio for improved orientation. Weapons mods are getting an upgrade; each weapon will get its own set of attachments. There are operator mods and better, more realistic recoil.

For players familiar with the game, Treyarch developers stressed changes to make the game more tactical, including a new healing mechanic and better situational awareness for more measured, strategic play.

“Tactical players can choose when to disengage and look for a better opportunity to survive,” said one of the Treyarch developers presenting onstage in a cavernous hangar at the Jet Center Los Angeles for the Call of Duty IIII community reveal. As part of the tactical emphasis, the company reintroduced characters like FireBreak to deal with aerial threats and two new specialists, a reconnaissance expert and a defensive player who can create tactical positions for teams.

Zombie mode 

Black Ops IIII also adds new features and first-time experiences for fans of its Zombie mode. “As with the rest of the Black Ops IIII we’ve gone back to the drawing board on Zombies,” says Jason Blundell. “The zombies community has always been our most loyal…. So 10 years after it all began we’re about to begin a brand new chapter with the Zombie story right here.”

There are three zombie game-play scenarios. Two new scenarios include one set in a past, mythical Romanesque era while the other is set in the luxurious venue of the Titanic as the maiden voyage turns deadly and zombifying. 

For both experiences there are going to be customizable tools and social experiences so that the new Zombie world can exist in an evergreen mode. On offer will be customizable zombie modes for ways fans can customize and trade their own zombies. There’s also a Black Ops stamp system to validate the work that’s been done.

Activision and Treyarch also introduced limited-time creative challenges for modding zombies, and promised new ways to play the game and updated seasonal themes based, in part, on player modifications. For Zombies, Black Ops IIII will include bot support to play with an artificial intelligence. Zombie Rush is a new mode designed to introduce players to the zombie universe and adding in-game tutorials. Difficulty settings are also customizable to encourage repeat game play.

PC focus

Black Ops IIII is the first title to be released on the multi-player Battle.net PC platform. The company is focused on PC as “its own unique platform, integrated with all the social features on Battle.net.” Players can talk across Black Ops IIII and Overwatch, and the company is emphasizing the customizable elements for PC gamers.

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