Monthly Archives: September 2018

Magic Leap One’s first big game is another Angry Birds; here’s what it’s like

Magic Leap promised us a world of dreams, we’re getting Angry Birds.

After about a month in the public spotlight, the Magic Leap One is starting to get its first titles. Rovio and Resolution Games announced publicly today that they will be releasing Angry Birds FPS: First Person Slingshot this fall for the Magic Leap One.

It’s an actual game, not just a little tech demo. I had a chance to play with the soon-to-be-released title and it’s actually pretty refreshing and fun making the futuristic hardware feel a little less alien.

It wasn’t my first bout with Magic Leap’s new hardware, but it was the first time that I truly appreciated what improvements it boasts over headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens.

You could probably beat the 20 levels of Angry Birds FPS in around an hour, but I started fumbling and having to seriously strategize after just a few of them, though like many others I can honestly say I haven’t played an Angry Birds title since I had an iPhone 3GS so it’s been a minute.

That said, the mechanics are pretty familiar in that you’re trying to knock over a little tower of blocks and the green pigs that inhabit their far reaches. What’s unique is that the tower is now stacked on your coffee table that you can approach from any angle and the Magic Leap controller is your slingshot that you can aim a lot more precisely as a result.

The Resolution Games team said that they had previously been experimenting with Microsoft’s headset but it was Magic Leap’s positionally tracked controller that really opened up the headset to develop something like a full gaming title.

It’s kind of interesting that Apple’s main ARKit 2 demo and Magic Leap’s first full title are slingshot games, but I guess you find what works and move from there.

The title isn’t ground-breaking by any means in terms of enabling some sort of futuristic AR use case, but perhaps the most unusual thing about it was how familiar it felt. Part of that is obviously the IP with Angry Birds but it’s also a game that doesn’t ask you to freestyle too much and doesn’t give you a world of options. It felt like a mobile game, if only one that allowed you to visualize the mobile content overlaid on the world in front of you.

You learn to deal with limitations like field-of-view and there does seem to be a lot developers can do to minimize that being the only thing you focus on. It’s kind of bizarre that Magic Leap didn’t actually ship the headset with more content like this because the short demos that came onboard the One Creator’s Edition really didn’t sell it too well. Fortunately, the device is definitely a developer’s edition and it seems that even by the company’s developer conference next month, more content seems to be on the way from partners like Resolution Games and Rovio who have been building this title since January as an early partner of Magic Leap.

Magic Leap One may not be the headset everyone wanted it to be — or what the company told us it would be — but judging by the first big title coming to it, it seems like it gets enough right that developers are going to have a fun time with it even if it is just a labor of love for them right now.

Sony announces the PlayStation Classic, its own mini retro console

If you’re the kind of person who has two beers and regularly launches into the same 20 minute-long ode to the original PlayStation for playing a seminal role in the maturation of gaming as an art form, well, do we have some news for you. Sony just announced its intentions to give the PlayStation the (winning) Nintendo Classic treatment with a tiny to-scale version of the PS1 called the PlayStation Classic. The teeniest new console is scheduled to hit shelves on December 3, retailing for $99.99.

Like Nintendo’s wildly popular SNES and NES Classics that paved the way, Sony’s PlayStation Classic will come pre-loaded with a cache of well-loved games. The PlayStation Classic’s lineup will feature 20 classic games, including Final Fantasy VII [editor’s note: hell yeah], Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms. 

“Almost 25 years ago, the original PlayStation was introduced to the world. Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment, it was the first home console in video game history to ship 100 million units worldwide, offering consumers a chance to play games with real-time 3D rendered graphics in their homes for the first time,” Sony said, waxing nostalgic in a blog post announcing the console. We’re here for it.

“Long-time fans will appreciate the nostalgia that comes with rediscovering the games they know and love, while gamers who might be new to the platform can enjoy the groundbreaking PlayStation console experience that started it all.”

According to Sony, the new mini PlayStation will be 45% smaller than a real PlayStation, complete with smaller controllers that also mimic their forebears. Each unit will ship with an HDMI and USB cable and two controllers for couch multiplayer. The consoles will be available to pre-order at some retailers in Canada and the U.S and more details (including the 15 other games) so keep an eye out — Sony will be sharing more details in the next month or two. All games “will be playable in their original format” so expect them to look and feel just like they did in the dark ages, when things were simple and good.

Most of us can agree that this particular nostalgia baiting tactic is awesome, take our money, but have you seen this thing? It’s extra cute. Maybe it’s because the PS1 had those iconic circular buttons that echoed its game discs and round things are cute like Kirby is cute (Toad, on the other hand, is over).

If you spent significant time marveling over the PS1 when it made waves in 1995, you too likely retain a proprioceptive kind of intimacy with its then cutting-edge form. Do you remember precisely how much give the buttons had when you depressed them, how the disc hood yawned open gracefully, almost suspensefully? Of course you do.

Sure we gave five years of our actual lives to this thing — what’s a few months more?

Nintendo is offering an exclusive Fortnite bundle with the Switch

Fortnite has taken the world by storm. In fact, the game is so popular that Epic has released versions for PC, Xbox, PS4, iOS, Android and the Nintendo Switch, making the game about as accessible as possible.

The popularity of the game stems from the general popularity of the Battle Royale genre and popular streamers like Ninja, who have made the game so much fun to watch. But it also comes from the fun, and often fleeting, skins, dances and pick axes the game offers in its Item Shop.

On October 5th, folks interested in the Switch can pick up some extra Fortnite swag.

Nintendo is releasing a bundle that will include an exclusive Fortnite skin, glider and pick-axe, as well as an extra 1,000 V-Bucks. To be clear, 1,000 V-bucks is the equivalent of $10 and won’t get you much from the Item Shop.

Plus, as pointed out by the Verge, Nintendo has offered several different bundles which would allow customers to pick up a Switch for $329 alongside one of a few games. In most cases, those games cost money, whereas Fortnite is a free to play game.

But the Nintendo Switch bundle is the only way to get your hands on the Switch gear that comes with it.

This isn’t the first time that Epic has given out exclusive gear to players using different hardware or services. There is an exclusive Twitch Prime skin, a Sony PS4 skin, and even a skin for Galaxy Note 9 owners.

The Bundle is available for $329 on October 5.

Old media giants turn to VC for their next act

The Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 eras weren’t kind to the world’s largest media conglomerates, throwing their business models into question, creating whole new categories of content consumption, and bringing online competition to subscription and ad pricing. Many of the media giants from the 1990s and early 2000s remain market leaders with multi-billion dollar valuations, however, and have become active investors in startups as a tactic to help themselves evolve.

Of the traditional media companies that have committed to corporate venturing, there are two distinct strategies: those whose investing seems to be about replacing the historic classifieds section of newspapers and diversifying into a range of consumer-facing marketplaces, and those whose investing is concentrated on capturing an early glimpse (and early equity stake) in startups reshaping media.

Replacing Classifieds, Investing in Marketplaces

Mathias Doepfner, CEO of Axel Springer. The company’s startup accelerator is one of the most active in Europe. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)

Given the first crisis newspaper groups faced from tech startups in the 1990s and early 2000s was the rise of online classifieds sites (like Craigslist) and transactional marketplaces (like eBay and Amazon), the disruption of their lucrative classified ads revenue stream drove their attention to e-commerce.

Aside from Hearst, the major US newspaper and magazine chains – like Gannett, News Corp, Meredith Corp / Time Inc, and Digital First Media – haven’t made many investments in startups. Perhaps the financial straits of most US newspaper companies have left little cash for VC investments that won’t pay off for years in the future.

But in Northern and Central Europe, where news readership and even print publishing remain healthy by comparison, the leading media groups have been aggressively investing in marketplace and e-commerce startups across the continent over the last decade.

Europe’s leading publisher, Axel Springer has made itself an established player in the European startup scene. Axel Springer’s Digital Ventures team has backed marketplaces from Caroobi (for cars) to Airbnb, and their Berlin-based accelerator (run in partnership with Plug & Play) has invested in over 100 young startups, like digital bank N26, boat rental marketplace Zizoo, and influencer-brand marketplace blogfoster. In a move more strategic to its business, the 15,000-employee group made a large investment in augmented reality unicorn Magic Leap this past February as well, forming a partnership to leverage its content IP in the process.

Meanwhile, Norway’s Schibsted, Sweden’s Bonnier, and Germany’s Hubert Burda Media (best know to many in tech for their annual DLD conference in Munich) and Holtzbrinck Publishing are each globally active, multi-billion dollar publishers who operate active early- or growth-stage VC portfolios composed mainly of e-commerce brands and marketplaces.

The most iconic corporate venture investment by a newspaper conglomerate (or any company for that matter) is without question the $32M check written into 3-year-old Chinese social web startup Tencent in 2001 by the South African publishing group Naspers (founded in 1915). Tencent, now valued around $400B, is Asia’s largest and most powerful digital media company and Naspers’ 31% stake was worth roughly $175B in March 2018 when it sold $10B in shares.

As a result, Naspers has transformed into a holding company that incubates, acquires, and invests in online marketplace businesses around the globe (though it still maintains a relatively small publishing unit).

The challenge for traditional media companies investing in startups beyond the realm of media is that even if wildly successful, those investments neither give them a distinct advantage in media itself nor make their business model like that of a tech company by way of osmosis. These investments can be flashy distractions to make management and shareholders call the company innovative while it fails to actually re-envision its core operations. Investing in Airbnb or BaubleBar doesn’t address the key challenges or opportunities a traditional publishing group faces.

Therefore the best case scenario in this strategy seems to be that these companies find enough financial success that they just transition out of the content game and become holding companies for other types of consumer-facing brands the way Naspers has. But even then the path seems uncertain: despite all its other activities, Naspers’ market cap is less than the value of its Tencent shares…it’s not clear that the best case scenario necessarily transforms the core organization.

Investing in the Next Generation of Media

Thomas Rabe, CEO of German media group Bertelsmann. Bertelsmann is unique in treating startup investments as a dedicated division of the conglomerate. (TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

The other track for “old media” giants has been to focus on venture capital as a means to uncover the future of the media business so the old guard can learn from the new generation of media entrepreneurs and react to market changes sooner than competitors. Intriguingly, it is consistent that the conglomerates who have taken this strategy are ones whose operations in television, radio, data, and telecom outweigh any involvement in newspapers.

Bertelsmann, Hearst, and 21st Century Fox have been the most aggressive corporate venture investors in startups working to shape the future of media, whether it be through streaming video services, crowdsourced storytelling platforms, or augmented reality.

With annual revenue over €17B, Bertelsmann is one of the largest media companies in the world, spanning television production and broadcasting (RTL Group), book publishing (Penguin Random House), newspapers, magazine publishing (Grüner + Jahr), and education. Unlike of media companies though, it treats venture investments in media startups as a key division of its company rather than as a side project.

The company’s core Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (BDMI) invests across the US and Europe in companies like Audible, Mic, The Athletic, and Wondery (and in funds like Greycroft and SV Angel) but there are also the 3 regionally-focused funds investing in China, India, and Brazil plus the education-focused University Ventures fund it anchors in NYC. Collectively, Bertelsmann teams made 40 new startup investments in 2017 and generated €141M in venture returns, according to their 2017 Annual Report.

The investment arm of Hearst, one of America’s largest publishers with $10.8B in 2017 revenue, has likewise been a major backer of BuzzFeed, Pandora, Hootesuite, and Roku not to mention Chinese language app LingoChamp, live entertainment brand Drone Racing League, VR capture startup 8i, and dozens of other media-related startups. Hearst’s ownership in these ventures makes strategic sense: they provide market insights relevant to the core businesses, offer immediate partnership opportunities, and would be strategic acquisition targets that evolve the company’s position in a changing market.

21st Century Fox and Sky Plc (in which 21st Century Fox owns a 39% stake and is trying to acquire outright) have both made a whole slate of startup investments across the media sector in the last few years. In addition to its $100M investment in live-streaming platform Caffeine (announced on September 5) and similarly massive investment in WndrCo’s NewTV venture led by Meg Whitman, Fox has invested repeatedly in sports-centric OTT service fuboTV, hit newsletter brand TheSkimm, VR studio WITHIN, and fantasy sports app Draftkings with Sky often co-investing or building meaningful stakes in international startups like iflix (a leading streaming video service in Southeast Asia and the Middle East).

Since traditional media giants own extensive intellectual property of hit shows, films, and often exclusive rights to popular live events – not to mention established distribution channels to tens or hundreds of millions of people – there are immediate partnerships that can be signed to benefit both a startup and the incumbent. The incumbents often re-invest repeatedly to build their ownership and deepen the alignment between the companies, which rarely happens when media companies invest in marketplace startups.

Tencent’s always-be-evolving model

The new crop of digital media giants that includes Netflix, Snap, VICE, and BuzzFeed aren’t doing much if any strategic investing. Instead they’re keeping focused on growth of their core product offering. The notable exception is China’s Tencent.

In addition to dominating China’s booming messaging app sector with WeChat and QQ, owning 75% market share of music streaming in China, and being the world’s leading games publisher through its own studios (Riot Games, Supercell, etc.) and its minority stakes in Activision Blizzard, Epic Games, and others, Tencent has taken a strategy of investing often and early in promising digital media startups…and it has its tentacles in everything.

Based on Crunchbase data, Tencent has done over 300 investments in startups. It is likely the most active venture investor in China, where most of its portfolio is concentrated, but also backs Western media startups like SoundHound, Wattpad, Spotify, Smule, and Wonder Workshop.

Tencent can give distribution to these upstarts through its vast portfolio of digital properties and it can keep tabs on what new content formats or business models are gaining traction. It operates from a mindset of perpetually evolving, and trying to snatch up startups whose products could be key assets in the future of content creation, distribution, or monetization. This approach is one both old media giants and the next gen of unicorn media startups should consider.

The pace of innovation is moving so fast, and so many new doors are opening up – from subscription streaming and esports to voice interfaces and augmented reality – that corporate venture as a core strategy can unlock opportunities for the organization to evolve early, before it ends up being categorized as “old media”.

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.

Behold Ubisoft’s gloriously ridiculous Assassin’s Creed Amazon Echo

The Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Echo Plus is a limited edition, which will no doubt make fans want the thing that much more. It’s a standard Amazon device that Ubisoft dressed up in a Spartan helmet, to be given away in small quantities through the company’s site.

The ridiculous thing is the game maker’s way of promoting a new Alexa skill, designed to provide useful tips for the upcoming action role-playing title. The download will be available for all Echo devices (Greek battle helmet or no) starting October 2 — three days before Assassin’s Creed Odyssey officially hits consoles.

There are 1,500 responses available through the skill, which describe points of interest, offer up contextual information and just generally help you through the game. There also are some fittingly goofy ones designed to parrot common Alexa questions like,

“What’s the temperature today?”

“It’s colder than the heart of Hades after a bad breakup.”

and

“What’s on my shopping list?”

“Blood-stain remover. That is all.”

and also

“Tell me a joke.”

“An Athenian declared war. HAH! Get it?”

They say comedy’s all in the timing, and that one’s about 2,500 years late.

Loot boxes face scrutiny from an international coalition of gambling authorities

The world of online gaming is changing so quickly that players, developers, publishers and regulators are all scrambling to keep up with each other. Case in point: loot boxes, randomized in-game rewards that may or may not have monetary value or be purchasable with real money, are after years of deployment only now being scrutinized globally for being what amounts to thinly veiled gambling.

A suggestive new study from British researchers and a just-announced coalition of governments are the latest indicators that the loot box phenomenon and its derivatives likely won’t continue to be the wild west they’ve been for the last few years.

Many factors have led games to resemble services or channels more than pieces of entertainment with a start and end. And that in turn has changed how these games are monetized. As an alternative to a $60 up-front cost or a $10/month subscription, a game may be released for free but supported with in-game purchases of various kinds, including loot boxes.

Loot boxes usually contain a random reward, such as a new item for your in-game character. They can be earned by playing the game (usually a lot), but often can also be bought. Not only this, but the items have a sort of black market value and are traded among players and indeed gambled in a highly unregulated economy that reports put on the order of billions of dollars.

Although gaming companies compare it to collecting baseball cards or getting a toy in a box of cereal, the reality is plainly more complex than that, and the idea has led to extreme versions where players are constantly urged to buy in-game currencies and rewards. There’s no doubt that companies like EA and Tencent have made enormous amounts of money by luring players into purchases in “free to play” games.

The report, instigated earlier this year by an Australian parliamentary committee, was conducted by David Zendle and Paul Cairns, of York St. John University. The study is a limited one, they are quick to point out, but there is essentially nothing else on the topic and even the most basic research is warranted. “Such work is urgently needed,” they write in the introduction.

For their study, they surveyed thousands of gamers recruited from Reddit about their habits and spending. What they found was that gamers tending toward “problem gambling” habits (i.e. spending or behavior that negatively affects everyday life and relationships) spent considerably more on loot boxes than normal gamers — yet that wasn’t the case for general microtransactions like outright buying an in-game item or currency.

In the summary issued today to Australia’s Committee on Environment and Communications, they write:

We found that the more severe an individual’s problem gambling, the more they spent on loot boxes. The relationship we observed was neither trivial, nor unimportant. Indeed, the amount that gamers spent on loot boxes was a better predictor of their problem gambling than high-profile factors in the literature such as depression and drug abuse.

As anyone with a critical eye for research will have noted by now, and as the researchers point out, this correlation could go either way. In either case, however, it doesn’t look good for the practice:

It may be the case that loot boxes in video games act as a gateway to other forms of gambling, leading to increases in problem gambling amongst gamers who buy loot boxes.

However, it is important to note that an alternative explanation for these results may also be true. The key similarities between loot boxes and gambling may lead to gamers who are already problem gamblers spending large amounts of money on loot boxes, just as they would spend similarly large amounts on other kinds of gambling. In this case, loot boxes would not be providing a breeding ground for the development of problem gambling so much as they would be allowing games companies to exploit addictive disorders amongst their customers for profit.

The researchers conclude that either way, the practice merits more research and possibly regulation. It’s not the same as ordinary gambling, they say, but it’s similar enough that it warrants controls like those exerted on, say, online poker, to prevent harm and abuse.

Governments around the world are split on how to characterize loot boxes, with Belgium taking a severe enough stance that Blizzard was forced to stop offering loot boxes for real money in its popular team shooter Overwatch. But French and German authorities disagreed and have to a certain extent accepted the argument that the practice is more like opening a Kinder Egg or collectible card game pack.

But this uncertainty is itself galvanizing, apparently. A coalition of 15 gambling authorities, including the U.K., France, Portugal, Norway and the U.S. (via tech-savvy Washington State’s gambling commission), issued a shared declaration that they intend to look into these shenanigans and they expect the companies involved to play ball:

We are increasingly concerned with the risks being posed by the blurring of lines between gambling and other forms of digital entertainment such as video gaming. Concerns in this area have manifested themselves in controversies relating to skin betting, loot boxes, social casino gaming and the use of gambling themed content within video games available to children.

We commit ourselves today to working together to thoroughly analyse the characteristics of video games and social gaming. This common action will enable an informed dialogue with the video games and social gaming industries to ensure the appropriate and efficient implementation of our national laws and regulations.

We anticipate that it will be in the interest of these companies whose platforms or games are prompting concern, to engage with [gambling] regulatory authorities to develop possible solutions.

Tying it to kids is a good way to stay on the moral high ground, but there aren’t a lot of problem gamblers in the under-18 bracket. The truth is that while kids are certainly at risk, the problems associated with loot boxes threaten all gamers and indeed the basic economic grounding of gaming itself.

A letter of intent is a start and may cause a change in the ecosystem as developers and publishers aim to make their loot box systems less exploitative (as some have already done) and (what is more likely) engage in a charm offensive to normalize the practice and distance it from more traditional gambling. At the very least it is good to know that there is action afoot in an area that has frustrated and certainly lightened the wallets of millions of gamers.

Twitch updates security for its TwitchCon event following the Jacksonville esports shooting

Twitch is today announcing changes to its security procedures for its TwitchCon event taking place in San Jose, California on October 26-28. The update follows news of the tragic shooting at an esports event in Jacksonville, Florida last month where three people died, including the shooter, and 11 were injured. Twitch said it would review its procedures as a result, and would soon have more information about what it’s doing to keep attendees safe.

Today, the company shared those plans.

According to Twitch, it’s working with San Jose’s local law enforcement, convention staff and additional security services on the event.

The conference will include bag searches and screenings at designated entrance points, and attendees will be limited to carrying just one bag.

The bag can be no larger than 12” x 15” x 6”, the company says.

Backpacks, luggage, large bags and bulky clothing will not be allowed. In addition, backpacks acquired at the show — even those that are Twitch-branded — will not be eligible for re-entry. There will be an on-site bag check available, but the company suggests that larger bags be left at home as space will be limited.

It says small fanny packs or clear bags will help attendees move through the security checkpoints faster.

Meanwhile, exhibitors will only be able to hand-carry their products and display materials in oversized bags and rollers before 8 AM on show days — that way there won’t be a way for people to bring in large bags when the event is underway.

Press will also have to wear their press badges, and crews that need to carry their large camera equipment will need to be approved.

Of course, the event has a no weapons policy as well, and anyone in violation will be removed without refund.

Badges must be worn at all times, and an ID or passport needs to be on hand, as well.

At first glance, the updated procedures don’t seem remarkably different from Twitch’s earlier policies.

The company’s security plan before Jacksonville had also included bag searches, walk-through or hand-held scanners, the use of uniformed guards, ID checks and the wearing of badges.

The biggest on-record change appears to be the backpack ban.

However, we understand the reference to Twitch’s closer work with law enforcement services and the “additional security services” is a reference to other changes that may not have been fully detailed. (We’d guess this is likely because Twitch doesn’t want to provide too much information to anyone trying to workaround its security procedures.)

The annual TwitchCon event brings together the Twitch community to play games, watch live esports, participate in hackathons and cosplay contests, attend sessions and hear from the company about what’s next for the live game-streaming service.

Last fall, for example, Twitch unveiled a new set of tools at TwitchCon that would allow creators to make money from their online channels.

However, the events in Jacksonville have had many of TwitchCon’s regular attendees concerned about event safety.

After all, the video game competition, taking place at the GLHF Game Bar in Jacksonville, Florida, had been live-streamed on Twitch when the shooting happened. Would a copycat try to get into Twitch’s conference?, some have wondered.

According to reports, the Florida shooter had been upset about losing two games of Madden earlier in the tournament, even refusing to shake hands with the winner after one game. Despite a history of mental illness, the shooter had been able to legally acquire his weapons. It wasn’t clear how he got them into the Jacksonville bar.

Sadly, mass shootings in the U.S. have now taken place at schools, movie theaters, churches, concerts, workplaces — even at YouTube —  and elsewhere. But they had not yet before occurred at an esports event.

The tragic event brought attention on the esports industry as a whole, which still sits somewhere outside of mainstream attention, despite Twitch having more than 2 million broadcasters and 15 million viewers who tune in daily to watch.

Shortly after the tragedy, Twitch said it would make changes.

“Security at TwitchCon is our top priority and is something we take very seriously at all our events,” the company told TechCrunch in August. “We regularly review and iterate on our policies and approach in order to provide a safe and positive experience for staff, attendees, and exhibitors. In the wake of yesterday’s tragedy we will be re-reviewing our plans and updating them accordingly,” a spokesperson had said at the time.

The updated plans for TwitchCon are detailed on Twitch’s blog and its FAQ.

Image credit: Twitch

Nintendo finally announces some new games for the Switch

Nintendo is at last (at last!) bringing some new content to the Switch! Yes!

In a Nintendo Direct, the company let fly a number of games and a couple of original titles. The biggest Nintendo-produced titles we had glimpses of are a new Animal Crossing in development for the Switch and Luigi’s Mansion 3.

We learned next to nothing about the new Animal Crossing, other than that it’s coming in 2019, but we did get to see some gameplay from the latest chapter of Luigi’s only titular adventure in the Nintendo world. Luigi’s Mansion 3 seems to follow in the ghost-vacuuming footsteps of its predecessors with the bizarre camera angles and all. It’s also heading to the Switch stage in 2019, setting up a couple of Nintendo titles for us to look forward to next year, possibly alongside Metroid Prime 4 (?).

Other familiar additions to the Switch include a port of the Wii U game New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe coming in January and Yoshi’s Crafted World coming in spring 2019.

Aside from the Nintendo-made titles, fans were served up a big surprise with the announcement that some recent and old-school Final Fantasy titles are coming to the Switch. Final Fantasy VII, IX, X, X-2 HD Remaster and XII are all arriving in 2019.

There are about a dozen other incoming titles (several of which are remasters), including EA SPORTS FIFA 19, Starlink: Battle for Atlas, Diablo III: Eternal Collection, Mega Man 11, Katamari Damacy REROLL and plenty of others that you can jump through in the Direct below.

The Nintendo Switch is a fantastic system, and while it has a lot going for it, I barely have any games to play for it anymore. It’s not all that out of character for Nintendo to delay the hell out of the instant gratification its customers want, but the Switch has had a particularly stuttered content rollout since its launch. Hopefully the company can pick up a little more consistent cadence as it gets more third-party studios onboard.

Nintendo’s NES Switch controllers activate the nostalgia centers (and wallets) of retro gamers

The news that Nintendo would be adding NES games to the Switch as part of its paid online service had a mixed reception, but the company has completely made up for this controversial decision by releasing wireless NES controllers with which to play those games. At $60 they’re a bit steep, but come on. You know you’re going to buy them eventually. Probably next week.

The controllers were revealed during the latest Nintendo Direct video news dump, alongside a host of other nostalgia bombs, like a new Animal Crossing and about a million Final Fantasy ports. But first the details of those sweet, sweet controllers.

They’re definitely NES-style down to the buttons, meaning they aren’t going to replace your existing Switch Joy-Cons. So why do they cost so much? Because Nintendo. At least they’re wireless and they charge up by slotting onto the Switch’s sides like Joy-Cons. And they do have shoulder buttons, though, for some reason.

You’ll be able to pre-order a two-pack starting on the 18th for $60, which also happens to be the launch date for Nintendo Switch Online. Yeah, it’s time to fork out for that online play Nintendo has generously given away for so long.

Fortunately, as you may remember from previous announcements, the cost is pretty low; $20 per year, and it gets you online game access and a growing library of NES classics. Ten of those games were confirmed before, but 10 more were added to the list today.

So at launch you’ll be able to play:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Dr Mario
  • Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Donkey Kong
  • Ice Climber
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Tennis
  • Soccer
  • Baseball
  • Double Dragon
  • Excitebike
  • Ghosts ‘n Goblins
  • Gradius
  • Ice Hockey
  • Pro Wrestling
  • River City Ransom
  • Tecmo Bowl
  • Yoshi

The service will also enable cloud backups of saves and possible special deals down the line. It sounds like it’s basically a must-have, although plenty of people are angry that their virtual console games have been essentially stolen back from them. At least we have the NES and SNES Classic Editions.