Archive for the ‘gaming’ tag
There are tablets, and then there’s a gaming tablet. The Wikipad, an Android handheld that promised to be the first mobile device with a gamepad built specifically for the device, is set to launch later this year. Venturebeat recently sat down to talk with CEO James Bower and President of Sales Fraser Townley in a local design office in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Here’s an edited version of our interview. For details on the Wikipad’s specifications, see our report from late last month.
Venturebeat: What is Wikipad, and what is the history of the company?
James Bower: Last year we (Bower, Matt Joynes, and one more founder) started thinking about what type of consumer device could make a difference. What’s something that we could do that would really get good market acceptance as well as being a game changer?
We all started getting smartphones and tablets and we’re playing games and whatnot, and it just doesn’t quite have that experience as when you’re playing with a controller. The touch experience is okay, but it doesn’t quite get you there. So we thought what can we do to take the concepts of tablets and create a much better gaming experience.
VB: When did the company get started?
JB: We officially formed the company in September. But as a team, we’ve been thinking through concepts, I would say, since back in the spring of 2011.
VB: What was the team doing back then if it wasn’t a company?
JB: Matt [Joynes], who is the chairman of the company, previously bought and sold companies. He and I partnered up on this, and he was twiddling with some of the business planning of creating a consumer device. I was involved with the restructuring of a company called Master Image, which was acquired and restructured and moved to California. That company created stereoscopic 3D for cinema and screens for tablets and smartphones.
The market dabbled in [3D in mobile devices] for a little bit. We saw LG come out with its 3D version (the LG Optimus 3D) of a phone, and the Nintendo 3DS, but there hasn’t been a tremendous market push to adopt this from a tablet and smartphone perspective. In some cases, from my standpoint frustratingly so, anyone who loves stereo sees this as a huge potential market that hasn’t really been opened yet. We see this in the television market; most TVs support stereoscopic in some form, and we see a lot of the market shifting to that.
The fact is, there’s a lot of 3D content that is still coming out. What’s different when it comes to a personal device, when you don’t have the challenges of putting glasses on that becomes a socially inhibiting event — you know, you’re not going to sit with friends and put glasses on in your house. It’s a little bit awkward. When you remove that barrier and enable stereoscopic 3D, it starts to change.
VB: So the original idea was to have the Wikipad be a stereoscopic tablet, and as time went on the 3D got pushed out?
JB: Yes, but it’s more than that. It’s the nature of how fast we can get to market with the price points that we need to get with the market research we’ve done, you know, for the first version [of the Wikipad]. [3D] is in our DNA, if you will, and in our future plans.
VB: Why the name “Wikipad? What exactly does that mean?
JB: ‘Wiki’ actually means fast [in Hawaiian], and so we were thinking about what are we going to create here? We’re going to create a tablet that’s really fast, that’s really edgy for the gaming community, and ‘wiki’ is such a representative name of what we want to be, which is a fast pad. And it’s catchy. Sometimes there’s an educational tone associated with it, and if we come out with a tablet that people may think has educational benefits as well, we start to hit a brand that’s accepted across a lot of mediums.
VB: If I’m not mistaken, you’re currently partnered with NVIDIA, as well as Gaikai. Does that mean Sony as well now, since they purchased Gaikai?
JB: Gaikai has been a great relationship for us, but we’re under NDA with Gaikai and Sony. That’s about all I can say right now, but we know what’s going on and we’re still close to the situation, and the transaction is just in the completion stage as we speak. Stay tuned.
VB: What about Sony Mobile Certification, where Playstation titles can play on some Android devices, mostly from Sony and now some select HTC smartphones?
JB: Sorry, I can’t comment.
VB: Fair enough. So you’re working with NVIDIA as well. Why go with Tegra?
JB: For a number of reasons — a few secret ones that I can’t talk about, and a few that I can. When it comes to a brand of processor that is close to the hearts of gamers, NVIDIA has been there a long time. They have a very good, integral brand; they have a very good relationship to content, and content is key for us, as it relates to our product. So there are a lot of advantages to Tegra as it relates to gameplay. They’ve been working on a lot of things behind the scenes that they haven’t talked about regarding gameplay. They also were one of the front-runners in the development of stereoscopic 3D support, integrating their 3D vision capabilities into the Tegra processor as well. So it became much more of a turnkey easy solution for our future as we look at stereoscopic 3D.
VB: So you’ll be working with them for 3D support?
Your keyboard is your most used peripheral, and the part of your computer your probably touch the most. Picking the best keyboard definitely depends on your personal tastes and preferences, but whether you prefer a media keyboard, an ergonomic keyboard, or a gaming keyboard with programmable keys, you probably have thoughts on which one is the best, and this week we want to know what it is. More »
Just about a month ago, Microsoft officially announced its Bing Fund angel fund and incubator program. Today, Bing Fund announced that it has enrolled its first two companies: app development service Buddy and Pinion, an advertising service with a focus on gaming communities. Both companies hail from Microsoft’s own home state of Washington and will, among other things, get subsidized use of Bing’s APIs, mentorship, funding and access to co-working space in Bellevue, WA where Microsoft’s Online Services Division is located.
When Microsoft announced the Bing Fund, it said that it was looking for startups that focus on mobile and web experiences and which provide “both inspirational vision” and the “ability to execute.” According to Bing Fund’s general manager Rahul Sood, his team heard “from a large number of startups” after the fund was announced. He believes both Buddy and Pinion “an amazing couple of companies” that “can really change the landscape in their respective areas.”
Buddy was founded by two former Microsoft employees, Dave McLauchlan and Jeff MacDuff, we worked at the company for 12 years before starting their own venture. The idea behind Buddy is to offer mobile developers a set of pre-built and pre-scaled web service, ranging from database systems to cloud storage and even Instagram-like image filters. Buddy, which directly competes with companies like StackMob and Parse, previously raised $1 million from Transmedia Capital. As Sood notes, the company’s tools support a wide variety of non-Microsoft platforms, including iOS, Android, SmartTV, Facebook and HTML5.
Pinion, says Sood, almost went broke three times before joining the Bing Fund. The company focuses on placing interactive ads on gaming servers and currently works with a number of major publishers, including Valve and their Steam platform.
The next batch of companies, says Sood, will be announced soon and will likely come from San Francisco and Boulder.
Today’s featured workspace is simply incredible—a personal museum of sorts dedicated to vintage computers and game systems. The “Byte Cellar” proudly displays Blake Patterson’s love of computing and gaming, with many of the 122 systems he’s owned over the years still in his collection. More »
Zynga just announced that chief operating officer John Schappert is leaving the social gaming giant and its board of directors.
“We can confirm that John Schappert has left Zynga and its Board of Directors effective immediately,” said CEO Mark Pincus in a statement. “John has made significant contributions to the games industry throughout his career and we appreciate all that he has done for Zynga. John leaves as a friend of the company and we wish him all the best.”
The news comes after a reorganization of the company that was revealed a week ago, in which Schappert lost his oversight of the company’s game development. The move reflects Zynga’s growing emphasis on mobile, with mobile now integrated into the existing web teams, and with David Ko, the company’s chief mobile officer, and Steve Chiang, executive vice president of games, both reporting directly to Pincus. And that news, of course, came after a dismal second quarter earnings report that even Zynga admitted was “challenging.”
Schappert joined Zynga as COO in April 2011. Before that, he was COO at Electronic Arts, and he held a number of positions at EA over a period of about a decade. During that time, he also spent two years as a vice president at Microsoft.
In case you want a head start on what analysts will say of the Schappert’s departure, well, we can guess preemptively based on their response to the reorg. Bloomberg quoted Richard Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG LLC, as saying that the company definitely needed a change, given that it’s in “absolute meltdown mode”, while Michael Pachter, the managing director of research for Wedbush Securities, said ”pulling a game guy out of the primary responsibility for managing the game effort” was “idiotic.”
StoryBundle is just one of a few new “pay-what-you-want” book deals blossoming from the ashes of traditional publishing like ferns after a forest fire. This service, run by former Gizmodo pop star Jason Chen, is one of the cooler offerings out there right now and they started out with the Big Bang package featuring up to seven sci-fi books for your perusal and purchase.
You can donate as much (or as little) as you want and a portion of your cash can go to a charity. You can also stiff StoryBundle itself, giving all the cash to the author. Your choice.
“My dream is two-fold,” wrote Chen in a blog post. “As an avid reader, I wanted to make a place where independent authors can get exposure and readers can get quality ebooks without having to sift through list after list of titles. With StoryBundle, voracious readers will always have great reads easily within their reach.”
Services like this closely mirror similar services in the gaming and media space including the Humble Bundle aimed at raising awareness of indie games and music. The Humble Gaming Bundle, for example, regularly hits over $5 million in sales. Arguably, books require “imagination” and “literacy” and are therefore lesser cultural artifacts than games, but good on Chen for trying.
We covered competitor Snug Nugget last week but I think StoryBundle is definitely a bit prettier on the surface and the book offerings seem a bit more polished. As a fan of books, however, I’d recommend checking out both over the next few bundle iterations because it’s of paramount importance to support these nascent services.
Netflix is making it even easier for kids to bypass channel surfing and search for their favorite shows and characters, with an updated app for the Xbox 360. The latest version of Netflix’s Xbox 360 app, which went live this morning, brings its increasingly popular ‘Just For Kids’ user interface to the gaming console.
Netflix’s Just For Kids UI debuted nearly a year ago, offering its younger users an easier way to find and watch their favorite shows. Unlike Netflix’s usual user interface, which highlights movie box art and descriptions, Just For Kids is character-centric, so that toddlers can navigate what they want to watch based on which popular characters most appeal to them, whether it be Dora The Explorer or Spongebob Squarepants. Since introducing the UI on the web, Netflix has been busy porting it to other devices, such as the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, Apple TV… and now the Xbox.
For the Xbox 360, the updated app is a clear win, as it will mean even more media consumption on the game console. Microsoft seems to be pushing the Xbox more as a media hub than a game console these days, so grabbing the attention of a home’s youngest users is one way to solidify its place in the living room.
That said, the emergence of the interface and increased Netflix viewing from younger viewers might be having an effect on traditional children’s programming channels. Viacom has seen a fall in ratings at its Nickelodeon channels, for instance, which seems to coincide with the broader release of Just For Kids.
Kiip — the San Francisco-based mobile marketing startup that has created a “rewards network” in which users see offers for free goods and services instead of mobile ads — is going international. The company has signed on the UK-based sushi chain, Yo! Sushi, to deliver offers for free food across apps used in the UK that have integrated Kiip’s service.
Although Kiip has had some of its U.S. customers serve ads outside of the U.S., this is the first time a non-U.S. company has signed on for the service, and the first time Kiip is sending out offers in the UK on a localized, London-only basis, to coincide with the fact that there are so many more people (and specifically Americans) in town for the Olympics. In a meeting this past weekend in a little coffee shop in London, CEO and co-founder Brian Wong told me this is just the beginning of many deals like this as Kiip ramps up its growth, on the back of a recent $11 million Series B round of funding.
The expansion comes at a time when Kiip is competing against a number of other companies that also deliver rewards instead of straight advertisements, like Foursquare and Groupon. The space remains wide open, says Wong, and “we have realized that we could become the trusted rewards provider out there.”
If there’s one thing that seems to annoy the otherwise mild-mannered Wong, it’s that Kiip often gets called a mobile advertising network. “We’re about rewards, not ads,” he told me, stretching out the r-word. He thinks ads, in their current state, have some major limits because of issues with usability and effectiveness. “When you see companies jamming ads into small formats, saying ‘let’s just shrink this billboard,’ it just doesn’t work,” he said.
Rather than trying to figure out how best to cram lots of information into a limited space, Kiip has moved the goalposts altogether and focused its use of small real estate directly on something that a customer can use immediately. While there are a number of apps on the market that push offers to users — Groupon and Foursquare being two examples — Kiip’s innovation of putting those rewards directly into apps by way of its network means that its offers go, in Wong’s words, “wherever you are.”
He says that up to now the engagement rates have been very encouraging. So far, Kiip has seen a 22% redemption reward rate, and 50% of its redeemers come back to Kiip for more. The majority of users, Wong says, are between the ages of 18 and 34, and Kiip sees a relatively equal mix between male and female users, with ads coming in from big names like Disney, Best Buy and Procter & Gamble.
The bigger picture will see Kiip trying to better match up rewards with increasingly relevant apps. Right now, the company is still in early-adopter phase with a lot of the activity focused around gaming — either in the form of actual mobile games or in areas like fitness apps, which have a natural gamification element to them. It is here that the Yo! Sushi brand fits in particularly well — the company has a kind of Japanese-manga-inspired branding that matches well with gaming design.
But down the road, there will be separate micro-networks around areas like female-focused apps and women’s consumer products; car apps and car-related rewards, and so on. And with the increasing push on location-based offers you can see how this, too, will also start to play a more prominent role with Kiip.
Looking ahead, Kiip is planning to announce more brand partnerships in the UK soon, and it is “on the verge” of rolling out its first campaigns in the middle east and Asia Pacific, with Kiip’s London office, led by Eamonn Carey, leading much of that growth.
Amazon changes its customer privacy policies after devastating hack, The Internet Archives is now seeding over 1 million torrents, XBMC is coming to the Ouya gaming console, and Spotify updates its iOS app and releases a Kindle Fire version. More »
There are dozens of companies that make dozens of different models and types of desktop mice, from fancy multi-button gaming mice to well-designed ergonomic mice for office users all the way to the bargain basement mouse that comes with every computer. Still, there are definitely some that stand above others, and last week we asked you which mice you thought were the best. We rounded up your nominations and highlighted the five best desktop mice a few days ago, and now we’re back to crown the overall winner. More »