“Microsoft Solitaire” was originally intended to teach new computer owners how to work a mouse. (Museum of Play Photo) “Microsoft Solitaire,” a computer game played by more than 500 million people over the past 29 years, has been inducted in the at in Rochester, N.Y. The digital version of the classic card game debuted on Windows 3.0 in 1990 and has been a featured program on every version of the software since. The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant shared the news on its Thursday. Microsoft said “Solitaire” has been distributed on over a billion computers around the world and successfully helped to teach computer owners how to use a mouse. In the process, it ended up becoming one of the most played video games in history, the company said. “Solitaire” joins “Colossal Cave Adventure,” “Mortal Kombat,” and “Super Mario Kart” in the 2019 class of inductees into the Hall of Fame. The Strong said in its own that the four games “span multiple decades, countries of origin, and gaming platforms, but all have significantly affected the video game industry, popular culture, and society in general.” They emerged from a field of 12 finalists which included “Candy Crush Saga,” “Centipede,” “Dance Dance Revolution,” “Half-Life,” “Myst,” “NBA 2K,” “Sid Meier’s Civilization,” and “Super Smash Bros. Melee.” “Microsoft Solitaire being inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame makes this a historic day!” Paul Jensen, studio manager for Microsoft Casual Games, said in the Xbox news posting. “We are humbly honored to have the opportunity to work on a game that has such broad appeal, is localized into 65 languages, and played in over 200 markets around the world, including Antarctica.” The World Video Game Hall of Fame was established in 2015 to recognize individual electronic games of all types — arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile. Inductees are on permanent view on the museum’s second floor.
(Bigstock Photo) The worldwide video game industry has hit a growth spurt in recent years, with revenues coming in higher and at a faster rate than predicted. Alongside this growth, significant changes are afoot, many of which will reshape how consumers interact with games in the coming years. FlowPlay CEO Derrick Morton. (FlowPlay/The Medium Photo) Financial investors are paying increasing attention to the space, and at the end of 2018, reported that the global gaming spend reached $134.9 billion. There are a variety of factors contributing to this growth, including emerging disruptive technology, fundamental changes in how developers are monetizing their games and how a new wave of consumers is engaging with them. Many experts also attribute the industry’s promising long-term outlook to the popularity of mobile games, the fact that video games can be less expensive to consume than movies and cable, and that consumers are increasingly open to spending money via small, frequent in-game purchases. Consumer behavior will continue to drive change and developer innovation. With 2020 just around the corner, industry insiders anticipate several key areas to evolve between now and then. Decreased dependence on app stores Fortnite is the prime example of how successful a game can be even without participation in the major marketplaces. The game’s ability to reach the mainstream without the app stores has saved it an . More and more game developers – tired of sharing a significant cut of their revenues with the tech giants – are looking to Fortnite as a case study for how to transition away from app store sales. Success in this endeavor in turn will free up more money for developers to invest in creating new experiences, and give gamers more options for how they access, purchase and play games. Google’s recent of its new streaming service, Stadia, demonstrates how even the industry leaders are looking for ways to shift away from app stores, and eventually apps in general. Streaming services will allow players to access the same content across devices, drastically decreasing the need to download individual apps to play games or own expensive consoles. This will free the world from constant app updates, while allowing developers to maintain an “always up-to-date” service, leading to a much simpler interface for playing games. Google announced its Stadia streaming service last month. (Google livestream screenshot) Blockchain technology offers another potential solution for enabling a more open game marketplace. Because blockchain is inherently transparent and accessible to all, a blockchain-based system could provide every developer a stake in the ground, which may ultimately democratize games and remedy today’s over-dependence on app stores. Achieving this at scale will be complicated, but for now, indie developers can actively explore how blockchain and partnership with other indie developers may help them break free of the traditional distribution model. More connectivity Beyond transforming the game marketplaces, streaming gives developers the tools they need to create a seamless cross-device experience. The infrastructure behind it gives developers the flexibility to provide the same experience across any device, so players can pick up where they left off in any game, from anywhere, at any time. Soon, swapping between devices or sharing game updates with other players in real-time will be the new normal in game connectivity. Blockchain also has the potential to impact in-game experiences and increase connectivity between digital worlds. For starters, players will increasingly be given the option to use cryptocurrency to make in-game purchases. This is already happening in many popular games today and will continue to evolve into models in which players can use, store and transfer their crypto-items across multiple games. The ability for a user to connect his/her digital worlds in this way will create countless opportunities for developers to increase engagement, draw larger audiences and reinforce player loyalty. Better delivery of personalized experiences The most successful, sticky games are the ones that give players a feeling that their experience is personal in some way. Nir Eyal’s book , explains in detail how developers can better understand user habits and behavior to build products that will resonate with target audiences over the long term. Eyal’s model is gaining momentum, alongside other schools of thought rooted in leveraging customer input and human behavioral psychology to drive superior customer experience. As game developers become more adept at understanding what players want and need, we’ll see increased personalization and variety in games. Already becoming key staples in personalized gaming are customizable in-game items and rich online communities, which have been major success factors across a number of games. Cross-platform capabilities are also improving, and we’ll see more of that in the coming year. Developers are innovating with to learn more about players, customize gameplay and create immersive worlds that provide a sense of realism and allow users to do wildly creative things. Augmented reality – which AngelList estimates to reach one billion users by 2020 – and new types of VR and other gaming hardware will further enhance the delivery of engaging, custom player experiences. The games industry has been at the forefront of innovation for decades, and will continue to be a heavyweight in the overall technology landscape. While today’s big tech disruptors – AI, blockchain, streaming – may not have started in the gaming industry, they are intersecting within it in exciting and unexpected ways. Before long, these innovations will be solidified as critical pillars of how games around the world are created, marketed, purchased and played.
Want your video game character to look just like you? Soon you’ll be able to scan an in-game code with Snapchat to play as your personalized Bitmoji avatar on PC, console, and mobile games. Today is new Bitmoji For Games SDK that will let hand-selected partners integrate 3D Bitmoji as a replacement for their character skins. With support for Unity, Unreal, and the Play Canvas engine behind Snap’s new Bitmoji Party game inside Snapchat, the SDK should make it easy for developers to pipe in life-like avatars that give people a stronger emotional connection to the game. “It’s kind of a no-brainer to bring Bitmoji into games. Games can be so much more engaging with you…in the game” Bitmoji co-founder Ba Blackstock tells me. “We’re adding an identity layer to gaming that has the potential to have a transformational effect on the industry.” Snapchat has a massive opportunity to colonize the web — and the games ecosystem — with its Bitmoji instead of waiting for developers to make half-assed clones. Bitmoji is perhaps Snapchat’s most popular and enduring feature now that Stories and ephemeral messaging have been widely copied, with 330 million estimated downloads according to . As I wrote in my feature piece on Snapchat’s new platform strategy, , every distributed instance of the company drives attention back to its original apps, and each partnership it establishes is one more ally in the fight against Facebook. Snap’s New CMO Snap’s new CMO Kenny Mitchell As Snapchat moves into this new era of marketing itself through Bitmoji, today it also announced it’s , Kenny Mitchell. He was formerly the VP of marketing at McDonald’s and the head of consumer engagement at Gatorade. Mitchell oversaw the sports drink’s Serena Wlliams tennis game that lived inside a Snapchat ad and saw an average of over 200 seconds of play time, and its viral Super Bowl augmented reality lens that let you dump a cooler of Gatorade on yourself. “Kenny’s consumer marketing expertise and his deep understanding of our products will be a great combination for Snap” writes Snap CEO Evan Spiegel. The company has seen many senior execs depart over the years due to clashes with Spiegel over leadership, so we’ll see if Mitchel sticks around. He’ll be spearheading Snap’s new marketing campaign to reactivate Android users frustrated by its buggy app and bring them back to its newly reengineered version. “I look forward to helping Evan and Snap continue to tell their story to people around the world, and working with my new colleagues as we define the future of the camera and self-expression” Mitchell writes. Bitmoji, The Visual Identity Layer in 2016 for just , propelling it to become a staple top 10 app. Snap launched its platform in June 2018, allowing developers to integrate Bitmoji into the keyboards of their apps like Tinder for use as chat stickers or 2D profile pics. And this month at Snap’s first Partner Summit, it launched , and more. But now it will let 3D Bitmoji replace your in-game character head-to-toe. For now, the SDK will be free to top developers chosen for the program from PC, Mac, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android and other platforms. Surprisingly, most game devs just build their own avatar customization feature from scratch, but they’re typically focused on clothes and crazy hairstyles than fine-tuning a face that looks like your own. And while customized avatars are common in shooter games, Bitmoji could bring them to platform, racing, dancing, puzzle, fighting, and role-playing games too. Bitmoji For games won’t be an open platform to ensure the brand isn’t misused. Blackstock explains that “You can look at what we’re doing with Bitmoji Kit where we have guidelines of best practices of how to use Bitmoji and not use Bitmoji. We’ll apply the same kinds of guidelines to gaming.” That might mean no extra graphically violent games, or anything in which players might revel in inflicting pain on a personalized avatar. But Fortnite, with its cartoony violence might be an ideal Bitmoji partner. Snap’s global head of gaming partnerships John Imah says he could imagine using his Bitmoji in titles from Star Wars, Lego, Mario Kart, or Warcraft. Depending on how their models for characters, landscapes, and items work, developers may have to do some work to make BItmoji work gracefully. But Imah says when it can “There will be some modification on our end to make sure this works within their engine so we can make this process as seamless as possible for these developers.” Users will design their avatar in the Bitmoji or Snapchat app, though there may be in-game customization options down the line. If users ask to import their Bitmoji, the game will show a QR Snapcode on screen that users can scan with the Snapchat camera. That authentication unlocks their Bitmoji to use as an avatar skin in the game. Suddenly, every quest, battle, and cutscene becomes about them, not some generic character. Given Fortnite is earning hundreds of millions of dollars selling cosmetic upgrades, the inevitable question is whether Snap will start selling bonus outfits, items, or face options for Bitmoji. “It’s really early days for Bitmoji For Games. It’s something we’ll explore later down the road” Imah tells me. Imagine if kids could buy Supreme sweatshirts or fresh Nikes for their Bitmoji? That could be a lucrative new business for Snap that’s strengthened by each Bitmoji partnership, and at a time when it’s eager to boost revenue and cut losses as it aims for profitability. Bitmoji For Games could cement Snapchat as the best way to visually represent yourself online without a photograph. As the darker sides of the Internet and human nature come into focus for the tech industry, we need more ways to both be ourselves while retaining privacy. Bitmoji could deliver the emotional connection of seeing yourself as the hero without the risks of exposing your true face.
YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, Calif. (Flickr Photo / jm3) Amazon and Google have that kept YouTube off Fire TV devices for more than a year. The two companies said “in the coming months,” they will re-launch YouTube on Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs. Amazon’s Prime Video app will also come to Chromecast devices and Android TVs. In addition to YouTube, the companies pledged to launch YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps on Fire TV devices later this year. “We are excited to work with Amazon to launch the official YouTube apps on Fire TV devices worldwide,” Heather Rivera, global head of product partnerships at YouTube, said in a statement. “Bringing our flagship YouTube experience to Amazon Fire TV gives our users even more ways to watch the videos and creators they love.” Google at the beginning of 2018, leaving a big hole in the company’s streaming lineup. Amazon tried to fill the gap with a using web browser apps on Fire TV devices. This warning started popping up in late 2017 as Google prepared to pull YouTube off Amazon Fire TV devices. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy) The seeds of the Fire TV-YouTube kerfuffle were planted close to four years ago. in 2015 because the devices didn’t work well with the Prime Video streaming service. In September 2017, from Amazon’s Echo Show, citing a terms of service violation. Soon after, multiple from Amazon’s e-commerce marketplace. in November 2017, but a couple weeks later. That’s when the search giant made the call to remove the streaming service from Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices due to what it called a “lack of reciprocity” from Amazon.
(Zoom Photo) Video conferencing company Zoom is set to go public this week, but its future could have been a lot different, according to a new report. that Microsoft has persistently tried to acquire Zoom over the years, with the latest attempt coming as recently as earlier this year. However, Zoom Founder Eric Yuan repeatedly rebuffed Microsoft, per Recode, saying he wasn’t interested in selling. Microsoft could have used Zoom to beef up one of its biggest-ever acquisitions in Skype, or kept it as a standalone product as part of its other enterprise offerings. Video conferencing is a huge part of today’s office environment, and important to the kinds of businesses Microsoft targets, so it makes sense that Microsoft would seek to strengthen its position in that area. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment, and we will update this story if we hear back. found that Skype for Business is the most popular workplace collaboration app, beating out competitors like Slack and Google Hangouts. Finishing second in that survey was Microsoft Teams, which has a major video conferencing component as well. Zoom is a lesser-known name than some of the other big tech companies going public such as Uber, Airbnb and Pinterest. However, unlike some of the other IPO-bound companies, while still maintaining a rapid growth pace.
(Zoom Photo) Video conferencing company Zoom is set to go public this week, but its future could have been a lot different, according to a new report. that Microsoft has persistently tried to acquire Zoom over the years, with the latest attempt coming as recently as earlier this year. However, Zoom Founder Eric Yuan repeatedly rebuffed Microsoft, per Recode, saying he wasn’t interested in selling. Microsoft could have used Zoom to beef up one of its biggest-ever acquisitions in Skype, or kept it as a standalone product as part of its other enterprise offerings. Video conferencing is a huge part of today’s office environment, and important to the kinds of businesses Microsoft targets, so it makes sense that Microsoft would seek to strengthen its position in that area. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment, and we will update this story if we hear back. found that Skype for Business is the most popular workplace collaboration app, beating out competitors like Slack and Google Hangouts. Finishing second in that survey was Microsoft Teams, which has a major video conferencing component as well. Zoom is a lesser known name than some of the other big tech companies going public like Uber, Airbnb and Pinterest. However, unlike some of the other IPO-bound companies, while still maintaining a rapid growth pace.
(GeekWire Photo / Clare McGrane) Fire TV users may soon be getting their news from Amazon. The company plans to debut a free app for streaming video news, according to that cited sources familiar with the plans. The free, ad-supported news app will launch in the next few months, according to the report. Amazon has reportedly approached Verizon, the parent company of Yahoo News and Finance, and the tech giant may include local news as part of the offering. The company plans to integrate the app with Alexa. GeekWire reached out to Amazon for comment, and we will update this story if we hear back. Fire TV competitor Roku already offers free streaming news through , which brings in news from ABC, Yahoo, TMZ and Cheddar, among others. The news platform would give Amazon a shiny new ad revenue stream. That model has and, increasingly, for Amazon, which from advertising and other services. Roku is the leader in streaming services with 37 percent of the market. But Amazon and claimed 28 percent in 2018, according to research firm Parks Associates. Amazon may be following Roku’s lead in streaming news, but that hasn’t always been the case. Roku recently for premium channels like Showtime and Starz that mimicked Amazon Prime’s offering. The dark horse in the streaming race is Apple, which revealed earlier this week. Apple’s latest foray into news is a $9.99/month subscription service called Apple News+ that includes access to more than 300 magazines.
Google unveiled a new gaming streaming service called Stadia on Tuesday morning, looking to shake up the video game world by leveraging its experience in cloud technology, and posing a new threat to fellow tech giants that operate the dominant gaming platforms. The search giant’s announcement promises to accelerate the industry’s evolution away from high-end hardware in the living room and toward streaming technology in the cloud. The move will be closely watched by existing game platform providers such as Nintendo, Microsoft, Valve, Sony and Apple, some of whom are or their own streaming services. Google is unveiling its plans this morning at GDC, the Game Developers Conference, starting at 10 a.m. Watch the live stream above and stay tuned for updates. The company also unveiled a Stadia controller with a dedicated button for sharing and saving gameplay on YouTube, and another button to get help from Google Assistant, using a built-in microphone. The connection to Google’s dominant video platform illustrates the potential threat to Amazon’s Twitch. Google gaming exec Phil Harrison shows the new Stadia controller. (Screenshot via YouTube.) The search giant previewed its gaming ambitions with Project Stream, a test that allowed gamers to play a streamed version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in Chrome web browsers, with the game streamed from a Google data center rather than running on the user’s hardware. “Internally, we were actually testing our ability to stream high fidelity graphics over a low latency network,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, in his opening remarks at the event this morning. “We learned that we could bring a Triple-A game to any device with a Chrome browser and an Internet connection, using the best of Google to create a powerful game platform.” Sundar Pichai unveils Google’s plans. (Image via live stream.) Phil Harrison, the former Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation executive who now leads Google’s gaming initiatives, said the company was able to stream games at 1080p and 60 frames per second in that test. “We will be handing that extraordinary power of the data center to you, the game developers.” Previewing the features of the Stadia service, Harrison showed the ability to jump directly into a game from a YouTube trailer, without any download required. “This new generation of gaming is not a box,” he said. “With Stadia, the data center is your platform. There is no console that limits the developer’s creative ideas, and no console that limits where gamers can play.” As the operator of a large-scale cloud platform, Google is in a unique position to launch a streaming service. , “It’s not a new technology, but past stabs at it have fizzled mostly because of latency issues, a problem that Google’s decision-makers think they can solve thanks to the data centers they’ve got all around the world.” Developing story, refresh for updates.
The eyes of the video game world are on Google this morning, amid widespread speculation that the tech giant is preparing to unveil a new gaming service. Google’s expected announcement promises to accelerate the industry’s evolution away from high-end hardware in the living room and toward streaming technology in the cloud. The move will be closely watched by existing game platform providers such as Nintendo, Microsoft, Valve, Sony and Apple, some of whom are or their own streaming services. The search giant previewed its gaming ambitions with Project Stream, a test that allowed gamers to play a streamed version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in Chrome web browsers, with the game streamed from a Google data center rather than running on the user’s hardware. Google will unveil its plans this morning at GDC, the Game Developers Conference. The company will deliver the keynote address starting at 10 a.m. this morning. As the operator of a large-scale cloud platform, Google is in a unique position to launch a streaming service. , “It’s not a new technology, but past stabs at it have fizzled mostly because of latency issues, a problem that Google’s decision-makers think they can solve thanks to the data centers they’ve got all around the world.” Watch the live stream above and stay tuned for updates.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos prepares to unleash the robo-dragonfly. (Jeff Bezos via Instagram) Find someone who looks at you the way Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos looks at the robotic dragonfly that’s buzzing around his head at this week’s MARS conference. MARS is Amazon’s annual invitation-only event focusing on Machine learning, Automation, Robotics and Space. This year’s attendees range from researchers and entrepreneurs in all those fields to celebrities like “Star Wars” legend Mark Hamill and veteran astronauts including Mike Massimino and Story Musgrave. (Astronauts attend for free.) This week marks the fourth annual MARS gathering, which has now The first re:MARS conference is planned for June 4-7 in Las Vegas, with a $1,999 admission charge. Lots of weighty subjects are addressed at MARS, but Bezos says the most important metric for judging success is to “have some fun.” He certainly seems to follow that precept in the clip from last night that he shared on and . Earlier in the day, we got a peek at — but during the onstage event, Bezos and the bug dominated the spotlight. The scene has the potential to rank right up there with other MARS moments, such as , or 2017’s . Thank you , but bigger please…. I want to get on! — Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) In the workaday world, BionicOpter is meant to be used to provide sensor data continuously from the air, via a wireless connection. But at The Parker Resort in Palm Springs, the purpose appears to be purely to have some fun. Bezos released the BionicOpter to take a few spins around his head, and then the dragonfly’s keeper gracefully grabbed the dragonfly from the air. “You’re good at catching it,” Bezos said. “You’ve done that before.” Afterward, the billionaire registered one request: “Thank you @FestoAG, but bigger please…. I want to get on!” Bezos did get on a bigger flying machine during a MARS outing to the Palm Springs Air Museum. He sat in the single seat on Lift Aircraft’s Hexa ultralight passenger drone, which could show up in Seattle one of these days.. The myriad highlights from Monday’s MARS session make for another story as well. , featuring visual dispatches from Arizona State University planetary scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton. And check back on this report later in the day in case there are updates from today’s session.