All posts in “games”

Roblox makes first acquisition with purchase of app performance startup PacketZoom

Fresh off a $150 million round of funding, kids’ gaming platform Roblox is making its first acquisition. The company says it’s acquiring the small startup PacketZoom, bringing its team and technology in-house to help it improve mobile application performance as its platform expands further into worldwide markets.

Founded in 2013, and based in San Mateo, California, PacketZoom had raised a $5 million Series A late last year. The company combines a content delivery network (CDN) to speed up performance with an application performance management tool to identify issues in a single package, TechCrunch had explained at the time.

The company’s products allow developers access to analytics about the app and network-performance related issues, as well as optimize app delivery and content downloads – up to 2 to 3 times faster.

The system in particular is designed to overcome the limitations of slow and unreliable networks, like those found in emerging markets. It also helps to ensure faster and lower latency data transfers worldwide.

It’s clear how this acquisition makes sense for Roblox, which offers a platform where kids create and play in 3D worlds and games and has global expansion in mind. With PacketZoom integrated into its gaming platform, users will be able to join games faster and have a better experience when playing on mobile devices.

Roblox had said earlier this year it was cash-flow positive and continues to be profitable. It raised funds in order to stock its war chest and have a buffer, while focused on its international expansion efforts. It also said it would use the funds to make acquisitions and open offices outside the U.S. in some regions, like China.

PacketZoom had raised $11.2 million to date from investors including Founder Collective, Tandem Capital, First Round Capital, Baseline Ventures, Arafura Ventures, and others.

According to PacketZoom’s website, it was working with customers like Glu Mobile, Sephora, Photofy, Inshorts, Upwork, News Republic, Wave, Belcorp, GOTA, Netmeds, Houzify, Wooplr, Fluik Entertainment, Wondermall, and others. These relationships will be wound down, as Roblox plans to only use the IP internally, not to support other customers.

Roblox declined to speak to the acquisition price, but notes it was an all-cash deal. It includes all of PacketZoom’s IP and code. PacketZoom’s founder and CTO, Chetan Ahuja, along with the PacketZoom’s four-person engineering team will join Roblox.

YouTube to shut down standalone Gaming app, as gaming gets a new home on YouTube

YouTube will no longer maintain a separate app targeting gaming and live game streaming, the company announced today. The YouTube Gaming app, which first arrived in 2015, will be sunset sometime next spring as its host of features make their way over to YouTube’s main site.

Over the years, the YouTube Gaming app has been a place where YouTube experimented with features catering to game creators and viewers who like to watch live and recorded esports. Here, it tested things like Game Pages to make games more discoverable, Super Chat, and Channel Memberships – features which the Amazon-owned game streaming site Twitch had also popularized among the game community.

Some of YouTube Gaming’s features became so well-received that the company brought them to YouTube. For example, this June YouTube introduced channel memberships to its main site. And before that, it had brought Super Chat – a way for creators to make money from live streams – to its broader community, as well.

But while gaming remains one of YouTube’s top verticals, no one was really using the standalone YouTube Gaming app, the company says.

“We have 200 million people that are logged in, watching gaming content every single day,” Ryan Wyatt, YouTube’s Director of Gaming Content and Partnerships, tells TechCrunch. “And the majority of them, quite frankly, are just not using the YouTube Gaming app for their gaming experiences,” he says.

However, data from Sensor Tower shows the app had over 11 million installs across iOS and Android, and those installs have remained consistent over time. That indicates a large number of people were at least willing to try the app. But the firm also found that its daily users were a “tiny fraction” of Twitch’s on iOS, which confirms Wyatt’s point about lack of usage.

Instead, gamers are logging into YouTube to watch gaming, Wyatt explains.

They watch a lot of gaming, too – over the last twelve months, fans streamed more than 50 billion hours of gaming content, and YouTube has over 500,000 quarterly active live gaming streamers.

In other words, YouTube’s decision to sunset the standalone app should not be seen as an admission that it’s ceding this space to Twitch – rather, that it’s now deciding to use the power of YouTube’s flagship app to better compete.

On that front, the company is today launching a new YouTube Gaming destination at youtube.com/gaming. The destination is first available in the U.S., and will roll out globally in the months ahead.

A link to the new vertical will appear in the left-side navigation bar, where you find other top-level sections like Trending and Subscriptions.

The Gaming destination will feature personalized content at the top of the page, based on what you like to watch, along with top live games, the latest gaming videos from your subscriptions, and dedicated shelves for live streams and trending videos.

Another feature, “gaming creator on the rise,” will highlight up-and-coming gaming creators who are still trying to build an audience. That’s something that many say is still an issue on Amazon-owned Twitch – often, their early days are spent streaming to no one. They soon find that they need the blessing of an existing influencer to bring more viewers to their channel.

Wyatt points out, too, that YouTube Gaming won’t be all about live streams.

“The other thing that we learned through this process was that the gaming app, and the narrative around it, was very heavily live-focused. Everybody always talked about all the live streaming and live gaming,” he says. “But what that did was underserve the vast gaming

business. So by moving it over to YouTube main, you have this beautiful combination of both the living gaming streams that are continuing to grow massively on YouTube, as well as all the other VOD content on the platform.”

There are several things that YouTube’s new Gaming destination still lacks, however. Most notably, the ability to live stream gameplay right from your phone.

That’s why the YouTube Gaming app won’t immediately disappear. Instead, it will stick around until March or maybe even April 2019, while YouTube works on porting the experience over to its main site and app.

“We’re still working through that,” Wyatt admits, when asked how the live streaming component will come to YouTube proper. “We haven’t made a decision on if [live game streaming] will be in there by March, but we do need to have a solution for easy mobile capture from the phone,” he says.

The YouTube Gaming app was never a global release, as it was only live in select markets, we should note. YouTube’s Gaming vertical will eventually be launched worldwide. That could make it more of a challenge to Twitch, as it taps into the eyeballs of YouTube’s 1.8 billion users, while also expanding to take advantage of other new YouTube features like Premieres or Merchandise.

“It’s a great opportunity to use those features,” Wyatt notes, regarding the shift from YouTube Gaming to YouTube proper. “And we’re going to keep creating more features that will that will really lend themselves to live, but ultimately we’ll be thinking about really unique ways to apply them to VOD as well,” he says.

HQ Trivia nabs Target to sponsor game with biggest ever single winner prize of $100K

HQ Trivia is aiming to attract more players following a slight decline in downloads with a new, large prize. The company announced today it has bagged Target to sponsor to sponsor a special Emmy-themed game featuring its biggest-ever single winner prize of $100,000. The game will air on Monday, September 17 at 9 PM ET, but will be played in a different fashion than usual.

Typically, HQ Trivia players compete to win or split a cash prize, which often doesn’t amount to much more than enough for a cup of coffee. But this time around, HQ Trivia will run in a “one winner takes all” format, meaning only one individual will earn the winnings from the game.

Instead of a normal 12-question round with 10 second to answer, the game will continue until only one winner remains. Players can still use their extra lives, but only until question number 15. After that, they won’t work.

The game’s content will be Emmy Awards-themed, featuring questions about shows, actors, the Emmy telecast, and other historical facts.

Target is stepping up as the game’s sponsor for this winner-takes-all milestone game. The game itself will also be branded, but the exact nature of the creative is something Target is keeping under wraps for the time being as it’s a first for the retailer.

HQ Trivia has worked with a number of other big-name brands in the past through its game, including Warner Bros, Nike, MillerCoors, National Geographic, Chase, Viacom, and NBCUniversal.

The news of the milestone game comes at a time when HQ Trivia’s downloads have been trending slightly downwards. As TechCrunch’s Josh Constine reported last month for the app’s Apple TV launch, the iOS version of HQ Trivia had fallen from being the No. 1 U.S. trivia game to No. 10, and the No. 44 game to No. 196.

Today, it’s the No. 135 game and No. 467 Overall app.

According to data from Sensor Tower, the app has 12.8 million downloads across platforms, the majority of which (11M) were this year.

HQ Trivia claims the app continues to have the “largest live audience on mobile daily.”

The company responded at the time that games are a “hits business” and “don’t grow exponentially forever.” Rus Yusupov, CEO of HQ Trivia parent company Intermedia Labs, also noted that HQ was working on new game formats as a result.

Despite the fickle nature of mobile gamers, HQ Trivia has spawned a number of clones and other live games, including Fox’s FN Genius, ProveIt, FameGame, Gravy, MajorityRules, Cash Show, and many others. Even Facebook caught onto the trend, launching its own gameshows platform to support interactive video.

However, it remains to be seen if live game-playing is a lasting interest for mobile gamers, or just a flash in the pan.

Why ‘Fortnite’ bypassing Google Play could be a security nightmare

Fortnite, the year’s hottest video game, is finally making its way to Android devices. However, owners of those devices may want to proceed with caution. 

The game, for now, is available exclusively on Samsung devices through the company’s app store. But when the game opens up to all Android devices in the coming days, gamers won’t find the app in the official Google Play Store. Fortnite developer Epic Games has made a calculated decision to release the app on its own.

Because Fortnite for Android will be hosted by Epic Games and not Google Play, Android users will need to disable default security settings that will allow them to download and install third-party applications. Leaving this security setting off (as inevitably many will) will leave many Fortnite players susceptible to malware that harm their device.

Security experts have warned of the possible repercussions. Of Fortnite’s 125 million and growing userbase, many of them young teens, how many of them will cautious and security conscious enough to turn the security settings back on? And not just after the initial download, but for every update as well?

Malicious developers have already been targeting Android users looking to download Fortnite. The game is available on PC and Mac, home consoles like Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch, and even launched on iOS earlier in March for iPhone and iPad users. While a version for Android was in the works, malware creators preyed on those Android users looking for a game that, unbeknownst to them, had yet to be released for their device.

Internet security experts usually urge mobile phone users to only download apps from official stores like Google Play and Apple’s App Store. That’s easy to do if you’re a Fortnite fan with an iOS device. Apple doesn’t allow app downloads from anywhere but the official App Store on its mobile devices. However, for Android users, that won’t be an option. Fortnite won’t even be available for download on the Play store.

The reason the company behind Fortnite has decided to release the game on Android without the Play store is simple: money

Epic Games’ free-to-play multiplatform game just crossed the billion-dollar threshold thanks to in-game purchases where players pay upgrades to customize their characters. Epic has to share 30 percent of those purchases made on iOS devices with Apple due to the terms of the App Store. That 30 percent revenue cut is the same for Google Play. With the option on Android to release its app without going through Google’s official channel, they also skip having to give Google a slice of the in-game purchase pie.

Malware could infect Android users looking to play Fortnite in a myriad of ways. It can continue to come in the form of a fake version of Fortnite, much like the way malware was attacking those looking for Fortnite for Android well before it was released. Malware can also come bundled with the actual official Android version of the game downloaded from an unofficial third-party.

Even more concerning than the malware threat with just Fortnite for Android, however, is what this could mean for other app developers going forward. If Epic Games finds that the economic benefits outweigh any issues that arise from being MIA in the Play store, perhaps other Android video game and app developers will seek to go around Google, regardless of the security risk to its own users.

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Facebook’s new “Playable Ads” let you try mobile game demos right in your newsfeed

You can now try that mobile game before you buy — and without even leaving Facebook.

Thursday, Facebook introduced a new ad solution with mobile game developers in mind. Dubbed “playable ads,” the feature lets video game marketers serve ads that give users the chance to try before buying. 

Facebook users will be able interact with these playable ads and try out mobile games without even having to leave their Facebook newsfeed. There’s no download required to play the games in ad. The benefit for game developers and advertisers? They can better connect with Facebook users who actually intend to download and play the game. (Facebook, of course, benefits by getting paid for the ads by the game makers.)

According to Facebook, companies like Angry Birds developer Rovio and social casino game developer Bagelcode have already seen results with the playable ads they’ve run.

Bagelcode saw a 3.2X improvement in return on ad spend on Android and a 1.4X improvement in return on ad spend on iOS. And Rovio saw a 40% lower cost per paying user and a 70% lift in day seven return on ad spend.

Along with playable ads, Facebook has also announced a new retention optimization feature for game developers to monetize via in-app ads. This will allow marketers to target users who are “most likely to re-engage,” or revisit the app to replay the game.

Last month, Facebook announced another new type of advertisement on the platform with its augmented reality ads. These allow users to interact with the product within the ad, for example, try on a virtual pair of glasses and see how they look, using AR technology.

Facebook clearly views interactivity as the future of its social media advertising. Playable ads is another step in that direction.

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