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In a challenge to Twitch and YouTube, Facebook adds ‘Gaming’ to its main navigation

Posted by | Facebook, Fb.gg, games, Gaming, Hub, Mobile, Social, streaming, Twitch | No Comments

Facebook’s gaming efforts and challenge to Twitch are taking another big leap today, as the social network begins the initial rollout of a dedicated Facebook Gaming tab in the main navigation of Facebook’s app. The goal with the new addition is to help people more easily find games, streamers and gaming groups they follow, as well as discover new content, based on their interests.

After clicking the new Gaming tab, there will be a feed of content that points to instant games you can play with friends; videos to watch from top streamers, esports organizations and game publishers; and updates from your various gaming groups, the company says.

The new Facebook Gaming tab builds on the gaming video destination the site launched last year as Fb.gg. That hub had offered a collection of all the video games streaming on Facebook, and a way for gamers and fans to interact. As a top-level navigation item, Facebook’s new Gaming tab will now further extend the gaming hub’s reach.

While Twitch and YouTube are today dominating the gaming space, Facebook’s advantage — beyond its scale — is its promise of a reduced cut of transactions. On Fb.gg, gamers were able to attract new fans with the aid of Facebook’s personalized recommendations based on users’ activity, and then monetize those viewers through a virtual tipping mechanism.

Facebook’s cut of those tips ranges from 5 to 30 percent, with the cut getting smaller when users buy larger packs of the virtual currency. Meanwhile, Facebook’s fan subscriptions payments for streamers also see it taking a cut of up to 30 percent, the same as YouTube but smaller than Twitch’s roughly 50 percent.

That could potentially attract streamers who want to maximize their earnings and believe they can port their audience over to a new destination. Of course, some streamers may not trust Facebook to maintain those same percentages over time, nor believe it will ever offer the sorts of features and innovations that a more focused gaming destination like Twitch can.

Facebook also last year experimented with making its gaming hub mobile with the launch of Fb.gg as a standalone mobile app.

The app, like the web-based gaming hub, offered a way for gamers and fans to discover content, join communities and even play instant games like Everwing, Words with Friends, Basketball FRVR and others.

However, the strategy of keeping Facebook’s Gaming efforts more separated from Facebook’s main site may not have paid off — the Fb.gg Android app, for example, only has some 100,000+ installs according to Google Play.

Instead, much like YouTube recently decided, Facebook will now leverage the power of its platform to boost interest in its gaming content.

YouTube in September said it was giving its Gaming hub a new home right on the YouTube homepage, and would shut down its standalone Gaming app. (The latter doesn’t seem to have occurred, however). As YouTube noted, gaming was a popular category, but the majority of viewers weren’t looking for a separate app or experience — they were just visiting YouTube directly.

Similarly, Facebook today says that more than 700 million people play games, watch gaming videos or engage in gaming groups on Facebook. That’s a far larger number than those who downloaded the Fb.gg app, and surely a much larger number than those who have been visiting the Fb.gg destination directly.

That said, Facebook is continuing its tests on mobile with a standalone (rebranded) Facebook Gaming app on Android, which will have more features that the Gaming tab.

Facebook says it will roll out the Gaming tab to a subset of the more than 700 million Facebook game fans, and will expand it over time to more gaming enthusiasts across the network. If you don’t see the new tab in your main navigation bar, you can still find it by going to the Bookmarks menu on Facebook.

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Camelot lets Twitch and YouTube audiences pay for what they want to see

Posted by | Entertainment, Gaming, Startups, TC, Twitch, Y Combinator, YouTube | No Comments

As the streaming world continues to grow, startups are looking to take advantage of the opportunity and grab a slice of the pie, and indeed create new revenue models around it entirely. 

Camelot, a YC-backed startup, is one of them.

Camelot allows viewers to place bounties on their favorite streamers, putting a monetary value on the things they want to see on stream. This could include in-game challenges like “win with no armor,” as well as stream bounties like “Play Apex” or “add a heartbeat monitor to the stream.”

When a viewer posts a bounty, other viewers can join in and contribute to the overall value, and the streamer can then choose whether or not to go through with it from an admin dashboard.

Because internet platforms can often be used for evil alongside good, cofounder and CEO Jesse Zhang has thought through ways to minimize inappropriate requests.

There is an option for streamers to see and approve the bounty before it’s ever made public to ensure that they avoid inappropriate propositions. Bounties are also paid for up front by viewers, and either returned if the creator declines the bounty or pushed through when the streamer completes the task, raising the barrier to entry for nefarious users.

Camelot generates revenue by taking a five percent stake in every bounty completed.

The platform isn’t just for Twitch streamers — YouTubers can also get in on the mix using Camelot and making asynchronous videos around each bounty. Not only does it offer a new way to generate revenue, but it also offers content creators the chance to get new insights on what their viewers want to see and what they value.

Cofounder and CEO Jesse Zhang believes there is opportunity to expand to streamers and YouTube content creators outside of the gaming sphere in the future.

For now, however, Camelot is working to bring on more content creators. Thus far, streamers and viewers have already come up with some interesting use cases for the product. One streamer’s audience bought his dog some treats, and one viewer of Sa1na paid $100 to play against the streamer himself.

Camelot declined to share how much funding it has received thus far, but did say that lead investors include Y Combinator, the Philadelphia 76ers, Soma Capital, and Plaid cofounders William Hockey and Zach Perret.

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Fortnite goes big on esports for 2019 with $100 million prize pool

Posted by | esports, fortnite, Gaming, Startups, TC, Twitch | No Comments

Epic Games, maker of the ultra popular Battle Royale game Fortnite, is putting up another $100 million in prize cash for competitive tournaments in 2019.

The company made waves in the esports world last year, announcing a $100 million prize pool for the 2018 competitive year, dwarfing every other competitive title in one fell swoop.

This year, a significant portion of the $100 million will be awarded to participants of the first-ever Fortnite World Cup. Each of the 200 players who qualify and compete will walk away with at least $50,000, with the winner taking home $3 million.

The Fortnite World Cup will take place July 26 – 28 in New York City, offering $30 million total in prizes. One hundred of the top solo players will be invited, along with the top 50 duos teams.

So how do you get in on this?

Fortnite is holding weekly open online qualifiers, each worth $1 million, from April 13 to June 16. Eligible players who consistently place well will have a shot at being one of those top 200 players.

This announcement comes at an interesting time for Fortnite. While the game still reigns supreme in terms of popularity, other Battle Royale games are picking up traction. Apex Legends (an EA and Respawn title), in particular, is growing in popularity. Several of the top Twitch streamers, including Ninja, Shroud, Timthetatman, High Distortion and Annemunition have started playing more Apex and participated in the first Apex Legends Twitch Rivals tournament.

Keeping the attention of these streamers is surely a priority for Fortnite, and for a game that pulls in some $300 million a month in in-game purchases, spending $100 million a year is a small price to pay.

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Medal.tv’s clipping service allows gamers to share the moments of their digital lives

Posted by | api, Casual Game, computing, fortnite, gamer, Gaming, Initial Capital, instagram, makers fund, medal.tv, Netherlands, online gaming, Recent Funding, Ridge Ventures, Roblox, satellite imagery, serial entrepreneur, Startups, TC, Twitch, WhatsApp | No Comments

As online gaming becomes the new social forum for living out virtual lives, a new startup called Medal.tv has raised $3.5 million for its in-game clipping service to capture and share the Kodak moments and digital memories that are increasingly happening in places like Fortnite or Apex Legends.

Digital worlds like Fortnite are now far more than just a massively multiplayer gaming space. They’re places where communities form, where social conversations happen and where, increasingly, people are spending the bulk of their time online. They even host concerts — like the one from EDM artist Marshmello, which drew (according to the DJ himself) roughly 10 million players onto the platform.

While several services exist to provide clips of live streams from gamers who broadcast on platforms like Twitch, Medal.tv bills itself as the first to offer clipping services for the private games that more casual gamers play among friends and far-flung strangers around the world.

“Essentially the next generation is spending the same time inside games that we used to playing sports outside and things like that,” says Medal.tv’s co-founder and chief executive, Pim DeWitte. “It’s not possible to tell how far it will go. People will capture as many if not more moments for the reason that it’s simpler.”

The company marks a return to the world of gaming for DeWitte, a serial entrepreneur who first started coding when he was 13 years old.

Hailing from a small town in the Netherlands called Nijmegen, DeWitte first reaped the rewards of startup success with a gaming company called SoulSplit. Built on the back of his popular YouTube channel, the SoulSplit game was launched with DeWitte’s childhood friend, Iggy Harmsen, and a fellow online gamer, Josh Lipson, who came on board as SoulSplit’s chief technology officer.

At its height, SoulSplit was bringing in $1 million in revenue and employed roughly 30 people, according to interviews with DeWitte.

The company shut down in 2015 and the co-founders split up to pursue other projects. For DeWitte that meant a stint working with Doctors Without Borders on an app called MapSwipe that would use satellite imagery to better locate people in the event of a humanitarian crisis. He also helped the nonprofit develop a tablet that could be used by doctors deployed to treat Ebola outbreaks.

Then in 2017, as social gaming was becoming more popular on games like Fortnite, DeWitte and his co-founders returned to the industry to launch Medal.tv.

It initially started as a marketing tool to get people interested in playing the games that DeWitte and his co-founders were hoping to develop. But as the clipping service took off, DeWitte and co. realized they potentially had a more interesting social service on their hands.

“We were going to build a mobile app and were going to load a bunch of videos of people playing games and then we we’re going to load videos of our games,” DeWitte says. 

The service allows users to capture the last 15 seconds of gameplay using different recording mechanisms based on game type. Medal.tv captures gameplay on a device and users can opt-in to record sound as well.

It is programmed so that it only records the game,” DeWitte says. “There is no inbound connection. It only calls for the API [and] all of the things that would be somewhat dangerous from a privacy perspective are all opt-in.”

There are roughly 30,000 users on the platform every week and around 15,000 daily active users, according to DeWitte. Launched last May, the company has been growing between 5 percent and 10 percent weekly, according to DeWitte. Typically, users are sharing clips through Discord, WhatsApp and Instagram direct messages, DeWitte said.

In addition to the consumer-facing clipping service, Medal also offers a data collection service that aggregates information about the clips that are shared by Medal’s users so game developers and streamers can get a sense of how clips are being shared across which platform.

“We look at clips as a form of communication and in most activity that we see, that’s how it’s being used,” says DeWitte.

But that information is also valuable to esports organizations to determine where they need to allocate new resources.

“Medal.tv Metrics is spectacular,” said Peter Levin, chairman of the Immortals esports organization, in a statement. “With it, any gaming organization gains clear, actionable insights into the organic reach of their content, and can build a roadmap to increase it in a measurable way.”

The activity that Medal was seeing was impressive enough to attract the attention of investors led by Backed VC and Initial Capital. Ridge Ventures, Makers Fund and Social Starts participated in the company’s $3.5 million round as well, with Alex Brunicki, a founding partner at Backed, and Matteo Vallone, principal at Initial, joining the company’s board.

“Emerging generations are experiencing moments inside games the same way we used to with sports and festivals growing up. Digital and physical identity are merging and the technology for gamers hasn’t evolved to support that,” said Brunicki in a statement.

Medal’s platform works with games like Apex Legends, Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft and Oldschool Runescape (where DeWitte first cut his teeth in gaming).

“Friends are the main driver of game discovery, and game developers benefit from shareable games as a result. Medal.tv is trying to enable that without the complexity of streaming,” said Vallone, who previously headed up games for Google Play Europe, and now sits on the Medal board. 

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Study says US Twitch streamers raked in roughly $87 million in 2017

Posted by | Entertainment, Gaming, Ninja, TC, Twitch | No Comments

A new study estimates that revenue-earning American Twitch streamers grew to nearly 9,800 in 2017 (a 59 percent increase from 2016) and made an estimated $87.1 million (representing a 30 percent YOY increase).

Twitch is one of the fastest-growing platforms for American content creators. In terms of year over year growth in number of creators themselves, Twitch falls just behind Instagram and YouTube, and ranks second behind Instagram in YOY revenue growth for those creators. (Fun Fact: Instagram’s creator-based revenue growth grew nearly 50 percent from 2016 to 2017 to $460 million, according to the study.)

Recreate Coalition says these numbers are very conservative based on the methodology of the study and the fact that it’s limited to the U.S.

The growth of Twitch is predicated on a few obvious trends, as well as a very nuanced relationship between a streamer and his or her respective audience.

In the case of the former, “live” digital experiences continue to be a fascination for startups and consumers alike. While Twitch and YouTube have offered live broadcasts for a while, social media companies have followed along with their own live-streaming products. In fact, Betaworks dedicated a season of its accelerator program to “live” startups, calling the program LiveCamp.

With regards to the latter, things get more interesting. The relationship between a viewer and a streamer is similar to our relationships with other famous celebrities, artists and athletes, but puts the viewer far closer to the action.

Streamers don’t just pop up briefly in articles, TV interviews or on Twitter or Instagram. They spend hours and hours each day just sitting there, doing whatever it is they do on stream and chatting with their viewers. You can get to know their personality, talk to them and they talk back to you!

It’s a bizarre combination that has proven financially fruitful for these streamers, especially at a time when the gaming industry itself is growing by double-digit percentages YOY for the past two years.

A tier of elite, hyper-popular streamers such as Shroud, DrDisrespect, Dakotaz and of course Ninja are leading the way for others as they continue to gain followers. In fact, Ninja just partnered with Wicked Cool Toys to introduce to the market a line of actual toys. Ninja himself made nearly $10 million in 2018.

But as the gaming world explores new genres and esports grow, there seems to be plenty of room for streamers to make a name (and a pretty penny) for themselves.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post included a few too many zeroes, stating that U.S. Twitch streamers made $87 billion instead of $87 million. It has been corrected for accuracy with my apologies.

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State Farm sponsors popular Fortnite streamer DrLupo

Posted by | fortnite, Gaming, Ninja, State Farm, TC, Twitch | No Comments

DrLupo, one of the biggest names and most recognizable voices in Fortnite streaming, has closed a sponsorship deal with State Farm.

Bejanmin “DrLupo” Lupo has nearly 3 million Twitch followers and often plays with the world’s most popular streamer, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. Beloved for his talent and his personality alike, Lupo has also worked as a caster for various Fortnite tournaments and events. Last year, DrLupo held a charity stream for St. Jude’s Research Hospital and raised $1.3 million.

State Farm Marketing Director Ed Gold had this to say:

DrLupo is one of the world’s most followed Fortnite streamers. His philanthropic efforts and massive fanbase make him an ideal partner as we continue to amplify our esports programming and efforts with the gaming community.

This marks State Farm’s first sponsorship of an esports athlete. The sponsorship will include support of the stream through branded replays, live in-stream stunts and product integration (here’s me trying to imagine integrating insurance products into a video game stream), event-based remote streams, sponsored giveaways, and social content.

DrLupo announced the partnership on his stream, saying that he and his family have worked with State Farm for a long time and that he’s very thankful for the opportunity.

#ad I’m so excited to share that I’ll be working with @Statefarm. They’re a company that my family has counted on for many years to keep our minds at ease if something goes wrong. pic.twitter.com/9U0Zwvm9wv

— DrLupo (@DrLupo) January 29, 2019

Sponsorships are certainly not new in the esports world — Newzoo reported that some $359 million would be spent in 2018 on esports sponsorships. That said, this does mark a grown-up shift in an industry whose sponsors have traditionally included energy drink brands, Taco Bell and Totinos Pizza Rolls.

Part of that has to do with the fact that both the viewership and the popular content creators, particularly in Fortnite, have grown up. DrLupo is married with a child, and his family frequently appears on his stream. If his viewers aren’t already age appropriate for insurance products, they soon will be.

But more importantly, the relationship DrLupo (or any other popular streamer) has with his audience is very different from the one Sofia Vergara has with Modern Family fans/Head & Shoulders customers. Streamers spend anywhere from six to twelve hours a day with their audience, often simply shooting the shit. Moreover, viewers can interact through the chat, having actual conversations with the creator.

The potential for brands to harness and translate that influence through esports sponsorships could be quite powerful, but streamers will have to remain diligent to stay authentic considering their audience is a generation that has become entirely numb to and/or incredulous toward advertising.

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FanAI buys Waypoint Media to better track fan engagement for streaming monetization

Posted by | api, esports, FanAI, Gaming, Internet, M&A, New York, online platforms, TC, Twitch, twitch tv, video hosting, Waypoint, world wide web | No Comments

FanAI, an audience analysis platform for esports and streaming, is buying New York-based Waypoint Media to improve its analytics tools for esports players and streamers.

The deal means that Waypoint’s Twitch Middleware API and the “Raven” tracking and URL shortener will be added to FanAI’s product portfolio. The middleware tech has the ability to track every unique registered Twitch viewer so streamers can monitor average watch time, median watch time and channel engagement.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but a person with knowledge of the deal called the acquisition a significant all-cash transaction. That likely means a nice outcome for Waypoint’s backers, the New York-based investment firm Grand Central Tech.

FanAI founder and CEO Johannes Waldstein said of the acquisition, “The way they are able to turn billions of data points into workable information is like nothing else available on the market. We will be able to provide a deeper look at audiences with the new tools and having someone like Kevin join us will cement the FanAI services at the top of the industry.”

Using the Raven URL shortener, FanAI customers can follow the ways in which users browse on online platforms, the company said in a statement.

As part of the acquisition, Waypoint’s chief product officer Kevin Hsu joins FanAI as head of Engineering, the company said.

“Combining forces with FanAI is a perfect fit; we work with the same client base and have complementary solutions to the same problem. Traditionally, FanAI has focused on more static information including social and purchasing data, while Waypoint worked to gather digital movements of the audience. Combined, we can provide the best service by giving access to even more detailed and actionable data for clients,” said Hsu, in a statement.

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Ninja raked in nearly $10 million in 2018

Posted by | Entertainment, epic games, fortnite, Gaming, Ninja, TC, Twitch, YouTube | No Comments

Twitch superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins has finally settled the debate over just how much he earned in 2018. CNN reports that the gaming phenom pulled in close to $10 million last year, a little tidbit that he revealed to CNN during his press campaign on New Year’s Eve in New York City. (He also tried to get the good people of Times Square to “floss.” They weren’t having it.)

Ninja has more than 20 million subscribers on YouTube, and 12.5 million followers on Twitch, 40,000 of whom are paid subscribers. Ninja told CNN that he thinks of himself as an entrepreneur, comparing his stream to a coffee shop. “They’re gonna find another coffee shop if you’re not there … you have to be there all the time,” he said to CNN.

And when he says “all the time,” he means it. The streamer said he goes live for roughly 12 hours a day, which adds up to about 4,000 hours of gaming over the year.

Part of the money earned from each ad viewed on his YouTube channel, plus part of the profits from bits, donations and monthly subscriptions (ranging from $5, $10 or $25) on Twitch, all head into Ninja’s bank account. And that doesn’t include earnings made from tournament wins and endorsement deals with brands like Uber Eats, Samsung and Red Bull.

It shows just what is possible as esports and Twitch streaming continue to grow. And one of the most influential factors in that growth over 2018 was Fortnite, where streamers and pros not only put on a show for their viewers, but also set a different, far less toxic tone than other gaming communities.

Ninja, for example, decided to stop swearing and using other toxic language as his stream grew in popularity among young people. Other Fortnite streamers, such as NickMercs and Courage, have also fostered more inclusive, supportive communities around their streams.

Epic Games is also doing its part to give streamers like Ninja the format and opportunity to create even more engaging content on their streams through high-stakes tournament and competitive play events, including the Summer and Fall Skirmishes, the Winter Royale and the less-incentivized pop-up cups.

Though $10 million is less than the earnings of top traditional athletes (LeBron James at $36 million and Aaron Rodgers with $67 million, not including endorsements), it’s clear that Ninja and other Fortnite streamers are still very much on the rise.

As long as Epic Games keeps the attention of the gaming community at large, 2019 should see even more financial growth for Ninja and other Fortnite streamers.

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Polite Fortnite Society

Posted by | courage, epic games, fortnite, Gaming, Ninja, Social, TC, Twitch | No Comments

My parents are approaching 60. When they were young, they hung out at diners, or drove around in their cars. My generation hung out in the parking lot after school, or at the mall. My colleague John Biggs often talks of hanging out with his nerd buddies in his basement, playing games and making crank calls.

Today, young people are hanging out on a virtual island plagued by an ever-closing fatal storm. It’s called Fortnite .

They hang out in Fortnite the way we used to hang out in basements or back yards. We played games or kicked a ball around, but it was all a pretense for the social aspect.

— Anoop Ranganath (@anoopr) December 10, 2018

The thread above describes exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, people most certainly log on and play the game. Some play it very seriously. But many, especially young folks, hop on to Fortnite to socialize.

The phenomenon of “hanging out” on a game is not new.

I was in a 50 person clan in World of Warcraft in 2004 and we all hung out on a Ventrilo for hours every day for years and years. I saw real romantic relationships begin, grow and die on there. So “x is a place” is a fine observation, but it’s not a new phenomenon.

— Matthew Panzarino (@panzer) December 24, 2018

Almost any popular game results in a community of players who connect not only through the common interest of the game itself, but as real friends who discuss their lives, thoughts, dreams, etc. But something else is afoot on Fortnite that may be far more effectual.

Gaming culture has long had a reputation for being highly toxic. To be clear, there is a difference between talking about someone’s skills in the game and making a personal attack:

“You are bad at this game.” = Fine by me
“You should kill yourself.” = Not fine at all

But many streamers and pro gamers make offensive jokes, talk shit about each other and rage when they lose. It’s not shocking, then, that the broader gaming community that tries to emulate them, especially the young men growing up in a world where e-sports are real, tend to do many of the same things.

A new type of community

But Fortnite doesn’t have the same type of community. Sure, as with any game, there are bad apples. But on the whole, there isn’t the same toxicity permeating every single part of the game.

For what it’s worth, I’ve played hundreds of hours of both Fortnite and Call of Duty over the past few years. The difference between the way I’m treated on Fortnite and Call of Duty, particularly once my game-matched teammates discover I’m a woman, is truly staggering. I’ve actually been legitimately scared by my interactions with people on Call of Duty. I’ve met some of my closest friends on Fortnite.

One such relationship is with a young man named Luke, who is set to graduate from college this spring.

During the course of our now year-long friendship, Luke revealed to me that he is gay and was having trouble coming out to his parents and peers at school. As an older gay, I tried to provide him with as much guidance and advice as possible. Being there for him, answering his phone calls when he was struggling and reminding him that he’s a unique, strong individual, has perhaps been one of the most rewarding parts of my life this past year.

I’ve also made friends with young men who, once they realize that I’m older and a woman and have a perspective that they might not, casually ask me for advice. They’ve asked me why the girl they like doesn’t seem to like them back — “don’t try to make her jealous, just treat her with kindness,” I advised, and then added “OK, make her a little jealous” — or vented to me about how their parents “are idiots” — “they don’t understand you, and you don’t understand them, but they’re doing their best for you and no one loves you like they do” — or expressed insecurity about who they are — “you’re great at Fortnite, why wouldn’t you be great at a bunch of other things?” and “have more confidence in yourself.”

(Though paraphrased, these are real conversations I’ve had with random players on Fortnite.)

There is perhaps no other setting where I might meet these young people, nor one where they might meet me. And even if we did meet, out in the real world, would we open up and discuss our lives? No. But we have this place in common, and as we multitask playing the game and having a conversation, suddenly our little hearts open up to one another in the safety of the island.

But that’s just me. I see this mentorship all the time in Fortnite, in both small and big ways.

Gaming culture is often seen as a vile thing, and there are a wide array of examples to support that conclusion. Though this perception is slowly changing, and not always fair, gamers are usually either perceived as lonely people bathed in the blue glow of the monitor light, or toxic brats who cuss, and throw out slurs, and degrade women.

So why is Fortnite any different from other games? Why does it seem to foster a community that, at the very least, doesn’t actively hate on one another?

One map, a million colors

First, it’s the game itself. Even though Fortnite includes weapons, it’s not a “violent” game. There is no blood or gore. When someone is eliminated, their character simply evaporates into a pile of brightly colored loot. The game feels whimsical and cartoonish and fun, full of dances and fun outfits. This musical, colorful world most certainly affects the mood of its players.

Logging on to Fortnite feels good, like hearing the opening music to the Harry Potter movies. Logging on to a game like, say, Call of Duty: WWII feels sad and scary, like watching the opening sequence to Saving Private Ryan.

Moreover, Fortnite Battle Royale takes place on a single large map. That map may change and evolve from time to time, but it’s even more “common ground” between players. Veterans of the game show noobs new spots to find loot or ways to get around. As my colleague Greg Kumparak said to me, “Every time you go in, you’re going to the same place. Maybe it’s skinned a little different or there’s suddenly a viking ship, but it’s home.”

Of course, there are other colorful, bubbly games that still have a huge toxicity problem. Overwatch is a great example. So what’s the difference?

Managing expectations

Battle Royale has introduced a brand new dynamic to the world of gaming. Instead of facing off in a one-versus-one or a five-versus-five scenario as with Starcraft or Overwatch respectively, Battle Royale is either 1 versus 99, 2 versus 98 or 4 versus 96.

“It isn’t as binary as winning or losing,” said Rod “Slasher” Breslau, longtime gaming and e-sports journalist formerly of ESPN and CBS Interactive’s GameSpot. “You could place fifth and still feel satisfied about how you played.”

Breslau played Overwatch at the highest levels for a few seasons and said that it was the most frustrating game he’s ever played in 20 years of gaming. It may be colorful and bubbly, but it is built in a way that gives an individual player a very limited ability to sway the outcome of the game.

“You have all the normal problems of playing in a team, relying on your teammates to play their best and communicate and to simply have the skill to compete, but multiply that because of the way the game works,” said Breslau. “It’s very reliant on heroes, the meta is pretty stale because it’s a relatively new game, and the meta has been figured out.”

All that, combined with the fact that success in Overwatch is based on teamwork, make it easy to get frustrated and unleash on teammates.

With Fortnite, a number of factors relieve that stress. In an ideal scenario, you match up with three other players in a Squads match and they are all cooperative. Everyone lands together, they share shield potions and weapons, communicate about nearby enemies and literally pick each other up when one gets knocked down. This type of teamwork, even among randos, fosters kindness.

In a worst-case scenario, you are matched up with players who aren’t cooperative, who use toxic language, who steal your loot or simply run off and die, leaving you alone to fight off teams of four. Even in the latter scenario, there are ways to play more cautiously — play passive and hide, or third-party fights that are underway and pick players off, or lure teams intro trapped up houses.

Sure, it’s helpful to have skilled, communicative teammates, but being matched with not-so-great teammates doesn’t send most people into a blind rage.

And because the odds are against you — 1 versus 99 in Solos or 4 versus 96 in Squads — the high of winning is nearly euphoric.

“The lows are the problem,” says Breslau. “Winning a close game of Overwatch, when the team is working together and communicating, feels great. But when you’re depending on your team to win, the lows are so low. The lows aren’t like that in Fortnite.”

The more the merrier

The popularity of Fortnite as a cultural phenomenon, not just a game, means that plenty of non-gamers have found their way onto the island. Young people, a brand new generation of gamers, are obsessed with the game. But folks who might have fallen away from gaming as they got older are still downloading it on their phone, or installing it on the Nintendo Switch, and giving Battle Royale a try. Outsiders, who haven’t been steeped in the all-too-common hatred found in the usual gaming community, are bringing a sense of perspective to Fortnite. There is simply more diversity that comes with a larger pool of players, and diversity fosters understanding.

Plus, Fortnite has solid age distribution among players. The majority (63 percent) of players on Fortnite are between the ages of 18 and 24, according to Verto Analytics. Twenty-three percent of players are ages 24 to 35, and thirteen percent are 35 to 44 years old. However, this data doesn’t take into account players under the age of 18, which represent 28 percent of overall gamers, according to Verto. One way Fortnite is like other games is that 70 percent of players are male.

There aren’t many scenarios where four people, from different backgrounds and age groups, join up under a common goal in the type of mood-lifting setting that Fortnite provides. More often than not, the youngest little guy tries to make some sort of offensive joke to find his social place in the group. But surprisingly, for a shoot and loot game played by a lot of people, that’s rarely tolerated by the older members of a Fortnite squad.

All eyes on Fortnite

The popularity of the game also means that more eyes are on Fortnite than any other game. Super-popular streamer Ninja’s live stream with Drake had more than 600,000 concurrent viewers, setting a record. The more people watching, the more streamers are forced to watch their behavior.

Fortnite streamers are setting a new example for gamers everywhere.

One such streamer is Nick “NickMercs” Kolcheff. Nick has been streaming Fortnite since it first came out and has a huge community of mostly male viewers. I consider myself a part of, albeit a minority in, that community — I’ve subscribed to his channel and cheered for him with bits and participated in the chat. In short, I’ve spent plenty of time watching Nick and have seen him offer a place of support and friendship for his viewers.

I’ve seen Nick’s audience ask him, in so many words, how to lose weight (Nick’s a big fitness guy), or share that they’re dealing with an illness in the family, or share that they’re heartbroken because their girlfriend cheated on them.

In large part, Nick says he learned how to be a mentor from his own dad.

“I remember being in those kinds of positions, but I have a great father that always sat me down and let me vent and then shared his opinion, and reminded me that it isn’t supposed to be easy,” said Kolcheff. “It feels good to bounce things off other people and hard things always feel much easier when you know you’re not alone, and I can relate to my chat the way my dad relates to me.”

Nick always has something positive to say. He reminds his audience that even if they feel alone IRL, they have a community right there in his Twitch channel to talk to. He sets an example in the way he talks about his girlfriend Emu, and the way he treats her on screen. When Nick loses a game and his chat explodes with anger, he reminds them to be cool and to not talk shit about other players.

And it’s easy to see his example followed in the chat, where young people are treating each other with respect and answering each other’s questions.

Nick wasn’t always like this. In fact, the first time that NickMercs and Ninja played together on stream, they brought up the time that Nick challenged Ninja to a fight at a LAN tournament years ago. But both Nick and Ninja have matured into something that you rarely find in online gaming: a role model — and it’s had an effect.

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, far and away the most successful Twitch streamer ever, decided to stop swearing and using degrading language as his influence in the community and his viewership grew. When his audience said they missed the old Ninja, he had this to say:

I’m the same person, you guys. 2018 can’t handle old Ninja and… guess what, I can’t handle old Ninja because the words that I used to say and the gaming terms I used to say… they weren’t ok, alright? I’ve matured.

Jack “Courage” Dunlop is another Fortnite streamer who uses his influence in the community to mentor young people. He has befriended a young fellow named Connor. Courage helped Connor get his first win and has since continued playing with him and talking to him.

Not only is he being kind to Connor, but he’s setting an example for his viewers.

“In comparison to games like Call of Duty and Gears of War and Halo, the top content creators like Ninja, Sypher PK, Timthetatman, are a little older now,” said Kolcheff. “They’ve come from other games where they already had a following. If you look at me five or six years ago, or any of us, we’ve all chilled out. We were more combative and crazy and had a lot more words to say, but I think we just grew up, and it bleeds through to the community.”

These guys are the exception in the wider world of gaming and streaming. But they represent the future of gaming in general. As e-sports explode with growth, pro players will undoubtedly be held to the same behavioral standards as pro players in traditional sports. That’s not to say that pro athletes are angels, and that’s not to say that bad actors won’t have a following. Just look at PewDiePie.

A matter of time

The e-sports world is realizing that they can’t let their professionals run their mouth without consequences. As the industry grows, highly dependent on advertisers and brand endorsements, with a young audience hanging on every word, it will become increasingly important for leagues, e-sports organizations and game makers to start paying closer attention to the behavior of their top players.

We’re already seeing this type of policing happening on Overwatch, both for pro players and amateurs alike.

There is plenty more work to do. But the problem of removing toxicity from any platform is incredibly difficult. Just ask Facebook and Twitter. Still, it’s only a matter of time before e-sports decision-makers raise the stakes on what they’ll allow from their representatives, which are pro players and streamers.

Toxic behavior is being rejected in most polite society anywhere (except Twitter, because Twitter), and it surely can’t be tolerated much longer in the gaming world. But Fortnite maker Epic Games hasn’t had to put too much effort forth to steer clear of toxic behavior. The community seems to be doing a pretty good job holding itself accountable.

Winning where it counts

Believe you me, Fortnite is not some magical place filled with unicorns and rainbows. There are still players on the game who behave badly, cheat, use toxic language and are downright mean. But compared to other shooters, Fortnite is a breath of fresh air.

No one thing makes Fortnite less toxic. A beautiful, mood-lifting game can’t make much of a difference on its own. A huge, relatively diverse player base certainly makes a dent. And yes, the game limits frustration by simply managing expectations. But with leaders that have prioritized their position as role models, and all the other factors above working in harmony, Fortnite is not only the most popular game in the world, but perhaps one of the most polite.

We reached out to Epic Games, Courage and Ninja for this story, but didn’t hear back at the time of publication.

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Snapchat’s new Camera desktop camera app brings AR masks to Twitch, Skype…

Posted by | Apps, Gaming, Media, Snap, Social, TC, Twitch, Video | No Comments

Snapchat is launching its first Mac and Windows software that takes over your webcam and brings its augmented reality effects to other video streaming and calling services. Snap Camera can be selected as a camera output in OBS Skype, YouTube, Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom and more, plus browser-based apps like Facebook Live so you can browse through Snapchat’s Lens Explorer to try on AR face filters. And through its easily equipped new Twitch extension, streamers can trigger different masks with hotkeys.

You can download the Mac and Windows versions of Snap Camera now. Users can use Lens Explorer to preview effects and see who made them, Star their favorites for easy access and access a tab of your recently used Lenses.

Despite Snap Inc.’s troubles following yesterday’s Q3 earnings announcement that revealed it’d lost 2 million users, causing its share price to hit a new low, Snapchat Camera isn’t about stoking growth. You won’t even have to log in to Snapchat to use it. Instead the goal is to drive more attention to its community AR Lens platform so more developers and creators will make their own effects. “We’re going down the path of providing more distribution channels [for Community Lens creators] and surfacing their work,” Snap’s head of AR Eitan Pilipski tells me. The desktop camera could win Lens creators more attention, and Snapchat connects to the most talented ones to brands for sponsorship deals.

Snapchat first came to the desktop in January with its first embeddable content, designed for newsrooms that wanted to show off citizen journalism on their sites. But now Snapchat content creation is escaping the mobile medium.

Strangely, Snap Camera has no interface of its own. Really, it should have a Photo Booth-style app so you can record photos and videos of yourself with your webcam and share them wherever. “We don’t want to compete in that space. We just want to bring Community Lenses to whatever apps people are using,” Pilipski explains. One major app that won’t support Snap Camera is Apple’s FaceTime. Why? “I don’t know. Apple didn’t comment on that. Believe me we tried,” says Pilipski.

Because there’s “not even a facility to collect the impressions” and users don’t have to log in, Snap won’t be able to add Camera users to its daily active user count. With that number falling from 191 million in Q1 to 188 million in Q2 to 186 million in Q3 as it announced yesterday, Snap really does need more ways to keep people from straying to Instagram Stories. It will have to hope that when video chat users see their friends or family using Snap Camera’s lenses, it will remind them to fire up Snapchat more often. And Lenses could go viral if they show in a Twitch celebrity’s stream.

The Twitch extension comes amidst more announcements at today’s TwitchCon event, including the reveal of Squad Streaming and a karaoke Twitch Sings game for the service’s average of 1 million concurrent viewers and half-million daily streamers.

The Snap camera equips Twitch broadcasters with extra features. They’ll have access to game-themed lenses for League of Legends, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, World of Warcraft and Overwatch. Viewers will see the QR Snapcode for the Lens on the screen, which they can scan with Snapchat to try the mask on themselves for virality. Streamers get a button that lets viewers subscribe to them, and can set up a “bonus” lens that shows up as a thank you when someone follows them. And with hotkeys, streamers can trigger different lenses, like an angry one for when they lose a game or victory lenses for if they manage to beat all the other Fortnite addicts.

More than 250,000 Community Lenses have been submitted through Snapchat’s Lens Studio since it launched in December, and they’ve been viewed over 1 billion times. Snapchat realized it couldn’t dream up every crazy way people could use AR. Out-Lensing Instagram is critical to Snapchat’s business strategy. The more people that use Snapchat’s AR features, the more the company can charge businesses to promote Sponsored Lenses. With the user count shrinking, Snap needs to show its business is growing to salvage its share price and pull in the outside investment or acquisition it will likely need to make it to profitability. A desktop presence could not only make Snapchat more ubiquitous, but get it in front of older users and advertisers who might be a little scared of its mobile app.

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