When it comes to female characters in games, there are basically two options: the weak princess type who needs saving or the strong warrior type who isn’t afraid of anything. It’s rare to see an everyday girl in a modern setting, and even more rare to see a woman in her 30s. But those are exactly the characters in “The Window Box,” a new game from , led by Allie Ast. Allie Ast. (Photo courtesy of Allie Ast) “It was important for me to have this game be made by women for women,” Ast said. “One of the problems with games for women is that we get hit with the same old stuff and that same old stuff was written by men.” Those problems have led to a dichotomy for the female audience. “I feel like the female audience for games is either ‘gamer’ or someone who plays on a mobile device, and there’s not really in-between content to bridge that gap,” Ast said. “The Window Box,” which was developed in Seattle over the past two years, follows five women who meet up after not seeing each other for a long time and get trapped inside a house because of a massive rainstorm. The game is primarily a visual novel, allowing players to visit different parts of the house and explore interactions between the group as a whole and between specific characters. It contains puzzle elements throughout, some of which are quirky and unusual, like a meeting agenda for a conversation and a small talk slot machine “I think everyone at some point when they’re talking with someone they haven’t seen in a while would like to be given a topic to talk about,” Ast said. “The Window Box” is a narrative game in part because those are the games Ast enjoys herself. She listed “Night in the Woods” and “Kentucky Route Zero” as some of her favorites. She also has a background in creative writing and has done a fair share of theater. The idea for the game came from a commission by a theater for a new play inspired the Cuban playwright Maria Irene Fornes. Instead of writing a play to submit to the theater, Ast took the requirements for the commission and made them into a game. The characters in the game are dealing with issues that are common to modern women. One has a career but is expecting a baby and trying to work out how her life will change in the future. Another is a die-hard career woman who’s obsessed with climbing her way up the corporate ladder. They’re all dealing with negotiating personal relationships on top of these issues. “I basically took everything I’m scared about as a woman in this day and age and made a character for each of them,” Ast said. “None of the characters are perfect, but I think a lot of women can relate to them. I really want women to see themselves in this game.” “The Window Box” is available now on .
As the , startups are looking to take advantage of the opportunity and grab a slice of the pie, and indeed create new revenue models around it entirely. , a YC-backed startup, is one of them. Camelot allows viewers to place bounties on their favorite streamers, putting a monetary value on the things they want to see on stream. This could include in-game challenges like “win with no armor,” as well as stream bounties like “Play Apex” or “add a heartbeat monitor to the stream.” When a viewer posts a bounty, other viewers can join in and contribute to the overall value, and the streamer can then choose whether or not to go through with it from an admin dashboard. Because internet platforms can often be used for evil alongside good, cofounder and CEO Jesse Zhang has thought through ways to minimize inappropriate requests. There is an option for streamers to see and approve the bounty before it’s ever made public to ensure that they avoid inappropriate propositions. Bounties are also paid for up front by viewers, and either returned if the creator declines the bounty or pushed through when the streamer completes the task, raising the barrier to entry for nefarious users. Camelot generates revenue by taking a five percent stake in every bounty completed. The platform isn’t just for streamers — YouTubers can also get in on the mix using Camelot and making asynchronous videos around each bounty. Not only does it offer a new way to generate revenue, but it also offers content creators the chance to get new insights on what their viewers want to see and what they value. Cofounder and CEO Jesse Zhang believes there is opportunity to expand to streamers and content creators outside of the gaming sphere in the future. For now, however, Camelot is working to bring on more content creators. Thus far, streamers and viewers have already come up with some interesting use cases for the product. One streamer’s audience , and one viewer of paid $100 to play against the streamer himself. Camelot declined to share how much funding it has received thus far, but did say that lead investors include Y Combinator, the Philadelphia 76ers, Soma Capital, and Plaid cofounders William Hockey and Zach Perret.
All the new Nintendo Labo virtual reality gadgets. (Nintendo Photo) Nintendo is to its lineup of cardboard Labo accessories for the Switch, doubling down on the surprising initiative first announced last year. The foundation of the new kits is a set of VR goggles that have a slot to lock in the Nintendo Switch console. There are several attachments that can be combined with the goggles, including a blaster, camera, bird, elephant and wind pedal. The new VR kits launch April 12. Nintendo is offering a starter kit with the goggles and blaster for $40, and a full kit with all the accessories for $80. There are a pair of expansion sets priced at $20 each for those who want to upgrade from the starter pack. “This new kit builds on the core tenets of Nintendo Labo – Make, Play and Discover – to introduce virtual reality in a way that’s fun and approachable for both kids and kids at heart,” Nintendo of America Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Doug Bowser said in a statement. “We wanted to design an experience that encourages both virtual and real-world interactions among players through passing around Toy-Con creations.” (Nintendo Photo) Nintendo has been known to march to the beat of its own drummer among gaming companies, and Nintendo Labo is no exception. The Switch’s tablet-like screen and Joycon controllers are dropped into the cardboard contraptions, bringing the player closer to the game, without taking them out of the physical world. Nintendo offers a variety pack, as well as robot and vehicle Labo kits. Total lifetime sales of the popular Switch hybrid home/mobile console, which debuted in March 2017, hit 32.27 million units at the end of last year. Nintendo late last year that the Switch is the fastest-selling game console in the United States among the current generation of consoles. Nintendo sold 9.41 million Switch consoles during the holiday period, its best quarter yet. But the company brought its full-year Switch sales forecast down from 20 million units to 17 million for its fiscal year, which ends in March.
The Los Angeles-based video gaming clipping service has made its first acquisition as it rolls out new features to its user base. The company has acquired the -based donations and payments service to enable direct payments and other types of transactions directly on its site. Now, the company is rolling out a service to any Medal user with more than 100 followers, allowing them to accept donations, subscriptions and payments directly from their clips on mobile, web, desktop and through embedded clips, according to a blog post from company founder Pim De Witte. For now, and for at least the next year, the service will be free to Medal users — meaning the company won’t take a dime of any users’ revenue made through payments on the platform. For users who already have a storefront up with Shopify, Paypal.me, Streamlabs or ko-fi, Medal won’t wreck the channel — integrating with those and other payment processing systems. Through the Donate Bot service any user with a discord server can generate a donation link, which can be customized to become more of a customer acquisition funnel for teams or gamers that sell their own merchandise. A gives users a way to add donors to various list or subscription services or stream overlays, and the Donate Bot is directly linked with and , so you can accept donations without having to set up a website. In addition, the company updated its social features, so clips made on Medal can ultimately be shared on social media platforms like and Discord — and the company is also integrated with Discord, Twitter and in a way to encourage easier signups.
The people who volunteer their time modifying and updating old games are among the most generous of developers. So when drama erupts there’s not just irritation and testy emails but a sense of a community being betrayed or taken advantage of. A recent conflict over work on the perennially renewed classic Skyrim may seem small, but for those involved, it’s a huge upset. I don’t mean to make a bigger deal out of this niche issue than it is; I feel though that sometimes it’s important to elevate things not because they are highly important in and of themselves, but because they represent a class of small injustices or conflicts that are rife on the modern web. The example today comes from the Skyrim modding community, which creates all kinds of improvements for the classic fantasy adventure, from new items and better maps to complete overhauls. It’s one of the most active out there, as Bethesda not only is highly tolerant of modders but tends to ship games, if we’re honest, in pretty poor shape. Modders have taken to filling in the gaps left by Bethesda and making the original game far better than how it shipped. One of the more useful of these mods, for developers but indirectly for players, is the . It basically allows for more complex behaviors for objects, locations and NPCs. How do you have a character seek shelter from the rain if there’s no weather-based behaviors in their original AI? That sort of thing (though that’s an invented example). SKSE goes back a long way and the creators provide much of the code for others to use under a free license, while declining donations themselves. Another project is Skyrim Together (ST), a small team that since 2013 has (among others) been working on adding multiplayer functionality to the game — their Patreon account, in contrast, is pulling in more than $30,000 a month. The main dev there allegedly independently distributed a modified version of SKSE several years ago against the terms of the license, and was henceforth specifically banned from using SKSE code in the future. Guess what SKSE’s lead found ? Yes, unfortunately, it seems that SKSE code is in the ST app, not only in violation of the license as far as not giving credit, but in that the dev himself has been barred from using it, and furthermore that — although there is some debate here — the ST team is essentially charging for access to a “closed beta.” Some say that it’s just a donation they ask for, but requiring a donation is really indistinguishable from charging for something. A response from the devs ; they say it’s just a bit of old junk in the codebase: There might be some leftover code from them in there that was overlooked when we removed it, it isn’t as simple as just deleting a folder, mainly our fault because we rushed some parts of the code. Anyway we are going to make sure to remove what might have slipped through the cracks for the next patch. Instead of SKSE, , they had substituted other code, for instance from the project libSkyrim. But as others quickly pointed out, libSkyrim is based on SKSE and there’s no way they could be ignorant of that fact. So the assertion that they weren’t using the forbidden code doesn’t really hold water. Not only that, but ST doesn’t even credit libSkyrim at all, a standard practice when you reuse code. This wouldn’t really be as big of a problem if ST was not only making quite a bit of scratch off their project via donations, but required donations for access to the code. That arguably makes it a commercial project, putting it even further outside the bounds of code reuse. Now, taking the hard work of open and semi-open source developers and using it in other projects is encouraged — in fact, it’s kind of the point. But it’s meant to be a collaboration, and the rules are there to make sure credit goes where it’s due. I don’t think the ST people are villains; they’re working on something many players are interested in using — and paying for, if the Patreon is any indication. That’s great, and it’s what the mod community is all about. But as in any group of developers, respectful and mutual acknowledgement is expected and valued. Honesty is important here because it’s not always possible to audit someone else’s code. And honesty is also important because users want to be able to trust developers for a variety of reasons — not least of which that they are donating to a project working in good faith. That trust was shaken here. As I said at the beginning, I don’t mean to make this a huge deal. No one is getting rich (though even split 10 ways, $33,000 a month is nothing to sniff at), and no one is getting hurt. But I imagine there’s hardly an open-source project out there that hasn’t had to police others’ use of their code or live in fear of someone cashing in on something they’ve donated their time to for years. Here’s hoping this particular tempest in a teapot resolves happily; but don’t forget, there are a lot more teapots where this one came from.
Fortnite, the world’s most popular game right now with some 200 million players, has just that its much anticipated Season 8 is available. For those of you who don’t play Fortnite, the title takes on an episodic approach with new features, tools and maps released every few months. That keeps things fresh, gamers engaged and the money flowing since each new season offers a Battle Pass which costs around $10 and unlocks a load of goodies, including skins and emote dance moves. . The theme is pirates with new skins that include a gigantic banana suit, pirates and snakes, and pirate cannon is a new weapon that’s been added. Cannons can dish out 100 damage when there’s a direct hit, or administer 50 damage of those in the impact area — it can also be used to fire players to new locations. The map is also a major Fortnite focus, and Season 8 has added lava to the existing volcano. Stepping on lava gives players one damage point per touch while there are volcanic vents that can be used to send a player or vehicle into the air using a gust of hot air. There’s also a range of treasure to be found inside pirate ships, another new addition which is where the cannons can be found. On the gaming playing side, the major addition is ‘Party Assist’ mode which lets players bring their friends into Fortnite’s daily or weekly challenges. Those challenges are important to players since they unlock treasures, including skins, and, in fact, those who played Season 7 could earn a free Battle Pass for Season 8 by completing the right challenges. That might have saved a few million parents $10. (By the way, if you’re struggling to load the game, that’s because scheduled maintenance kicked off at 4am EST in preparation for the new season launch — you can find more info on the status page .) Those are the main additions, though game-maker has chucked in a few little touches — including extending the somewhat comical ‘infinite dab’ feature from 11 hours to 12, meaning that your character will keep dancing a little longer when left in the lobby. I can’t help but think Season 7 was a greater leap — — but we’ll have to see how the gaming public reacts. This time around, a lot of the focus is on skins and emotes, rather than features. suggested Fortnite’s revenue had dipped in January, but that was pretty unfair because its the month that followed a surge in spending around the December Battle Pass and also, more generally, a surge around the Christmas holidays. Sources told us recently , thanks in particular to Fortnite, and it needs to keep its season releases compelling if that streak is to continue. There’s a lot riding on Season 8, .
Fortnite Season 8 is almost here. There’s a lot we don’t know — most things, really — but the long wait will be over soon. If you can’t stand the anticipation or the requisite server downtime, we’re here to speculate so you’ll be mildly less bored. It worked for us. If felt like it was dragging on through winter, things look to be warming up and melting out. Epic’s hinting makes it pretty clear that Season 8 will be a maritime adventure of some kind, swapping abominable snowmen for… pirates. There have been other watery clues though in recent days those expanded on what we assumed to be a marine theme of some kind, suggesting the map may soon be crawling with sea-faring marauders. — Fortnite (@FortniteGame) If you combine the four pieces of an image teaser for the new season, you’ll clearly see a skull-looking situation with a hook hand on the right side and a… dragon-like creature (viper? scaly dude?) on the left. Below those images there’s a more clear dragon/monster creature and um, a freaked out looking banana. Because Fortnite. 'X' Marks The Spot Treasure aboundLoot that has been lostCan always be found. 4 days to Season 8. — Fortnite (@FortniteGame) Here's the complete image of all four Season 8 teasers! — Fortnite News – fnbr.news (@FortniteBR) Update: According to an Xbox leak, that right-side dragon creature actually could be a tiger mask that’s one of three featured Season 8 skins. Unfortunately, that tiger skin is so sweet I’ll probably have to play continuously until I get it, even though this game and I are on a break right now. Xbox with the screw up this time! — fortnite leaks and news [1.5K] (@fortniteleaks14) The red background and shape under the figures is distinctly lava-inspired, so we’re expecting a volcanic and or tectonic event to impact the map in some way that’s probably going to be centered around Wailing Woods, which has become brown, fissure-ridden and crispy in the last few days. Then again, dragons can also make things pretty brown and crispy… as could a volcano full of dragons. And of course there’s the mystery of the dragon eggs below the castle made of ice. Will they turn out to be related to Season 8’s map transformation? Maybe, maybe not! Sensing a theme… Beyond the thematic elements, Fortnite players should also expect some kind of new mass server-wide live event to whisk them into the fresh season. Some people think this will be a that everyone has to take down across servers, and given the scaled imagery and impending volcano situation, that’s as good a guess as any. Beyond pirates, dragons, volcanoes and assorted oceanic stuff, we don’t really know what else to expect yet, but knowing Epic’s penchant for maximalism, it’ll probably be, well, epic. One thing we do know: You should take one last joyride in the clouds because planes are set to be Maybe players will be flying dragons this time tomorrow — that’s fine! Fly whatever you want, fly it in your banana suit, just please, please lock the plane noise in the vault for good. Ahoy, mateys! Season 8 approaches and X marks the spot! Downtime begins tomorrow, February 28 at 4 AM ET (0900 UTC). — Fortnite (@FortniteGame)
Nintendo abruptly broke its silence today regarding the next core entries in its popular Pokemon franchise. The next original role-playing games in the series are now officially known as Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, and will release exclusively for the Nintendo Switch towards the end of 2019. “This year, a new Pokemon journey will begin for all of you,” said Tsunekazu Ishihara, president and CEO of The Pokemon Co., introducing the new games. This marks the first original Pokémon release on the Switch, as last year’s Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! were enhanced remakes of earlier titles for the Game Boy. Sword and Shield were initially announced for the Switch at E3 2017, but no further information had been released on the subject until today’s early-morning livestreamed conference. Sword and Shield, according to producer Junichi Masuda, are “new entries in the Pokémon series, that will get any player fired up and excited.” They’re set in the previously-unexplored Galar region of the , which is inhabited by Pokémon both new and old, who work together with the local humans to develop the region’s industry. You play as a young novice trainer, heading out into the world to explore, find new Pokemon, and battle other trainers. You’ll be initially aided in this by one of three brand-new starter Pokemon: Grookey the chimpanzee, Scorbunny the rabbit, or Sobble, a timid water lizard. As always, you can pursue and capture Pokémon in the wild to expand your team and widen your options, until you work your way up to a team that you can use to defeat your rivals and attain the title of Champion. Traditionally with paired Pokémongames like Sword and Shield, the primary difference between them has been that a certain number of Pokémon are only available in one game or the other. You still get a full game either way, but if you decide you want to get 100 percent completion and complete your , you’ll want to trade your collected Pokémon like baseball cards with friends who are playing the other version of the current entry. Sword and Shield are directed by long-time franchise veteran , who has worked on various Pokémongames as a producer, designer, and/or director since 2002’s Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire. The Pokémonseries has been a tentpole franchise for Nintendo since 1996’s Pokémon Red and Blue for the original Game Boy. Initially developed by Game Freak CEO Satoshi Tajiri, who based the original game off of his childhood hobby of collecting insects, the various games in the Pokémonseries have sold well over 300 million units worldwide, and led to a franchise that includes toys, a collectible card game, and multiple cartoons. Core entries in the Pokémon franchise are developed by the Japanese company Game Freak, and are published and marketed worldwide by The Pokémon Co., a joint venture between Nintendo, Game Freak, and the Creatures studio. Pokemon Co.’s U.S. operations are in Bellevue, Wash. While almost all Pokémon games are exclusively found on Nintendo hardware, Game Freak is an independent company, and has occasionally developed games for other platforms such as 2015’s Tenbo the Badass Elephant. Redmond-based Nintendo of America, which oversees the Japanese game maker’s North American operations, last week , Reggie Fils-Aimé, who will be succeeded by longtime Nintendo executive Doug Bowser.
For more than 15 years, has been the dominant digital distribution platform for PC video games. While its success has spawned several competitors, including some online stores from game publishers, none have made a significant dent in its vice-like grip on the market. Cracks though are seemingly starting to appear in Steam’s armor, and at least one notable challenger has stepped up, with potentially bigger ones on the horizon. They threaten to make Steam the digital equivalent of GameStop —a once unassailable retail giant whose future became questionable when it didn’t successfully change with the times. The epic launch of an Epic Store Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Ubisoft has, in a remarkably short period of time, positioned itself as the successor to Steam. In December, the creator of the billion dollar franchise . Less than two months later, it had landed limited exclusivity deals with two publishers who chose to bypass Steam as they launch upcoming titles. First up was Ubisoft, which announced the PC version of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, a highly anticipated action game (It will also be available on Ubisoft’s digital storefront). Ubisoft also said that “additional select titles” would be coming to Epic’s store in later months. “We’re giving game developers and publishers the store business model that we’ve always wanted as developers ourselves,” said Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games. “Ubisoft supports our model and trusts us to deliver a smooth journey for players, from pre-purchase to the game’s release.” Three weeks later, publisher Deep Silver abruptly discontinued pre-sales of its survival shooter Metro Exodus on Steam and (previous Steam orders will be honored). Steam’s past success is hitting new blocks To be clear, Steam is hardly struggling. Last October at Melbourne Games Week, Steam announced it had monthly active users, compared to 67 million in 2017. Daily active users, it said, had grown from 33 million to 47 million. Much of that growth came from China, where players are looking to circumvent . Domestic numbers, though, have been trending down, according to , a third-party tracking service. , which owns Steam, did not reply to requests for comment on this story. It did, however, post a statement on the Metro Exodus Steam page soon after Deep Silver announced its partnership with Epic, saying “We think the decision to remove the game is unfair to Steam customers, especially after a long pre-sale period. We apologize to Steam customers that were expecting it to be available for sale through the February 15th release date, but we were only recently informed of the decision and given limited time to let everyone know.” So what’s the draw for game makers to sell via Epic Games store? It is, of course, a combination of factors, but chief among those is financial. To convince publishers and developers to utilize their system, Epic only takes a 12% cut of game sale revenues. That’s significantly lower than the 30% taken by Valve on Steam (or the amounts taken by Apple or Google in their app stores). To woo developers who use its Unreal graphics engine, . (Developers who use Unreal in their games typically pay a 5% royalty on all sales.) The reason for those notably lower commissions, perhaps not surprisingly, ties back to Fortnite. “While running Fortnite we learned a lot about the cost of running a digital store on PC,” says Sweeney. “The math is simple: we pay around 2.5% for payment processing for major payment methods, less than 1.5% for CDN [content delivery network] costs (assuming all games are updated as often as Fortnite), and between 1% and 2% for variable operating and customer support costs. Because we operate Fortnite on the Epic Games launcher on such a large scale, it has enabled us to build the store, run it at a low cost, and pass those savings onto developers.” Owning the game customer Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images Higher commissions are just one of the issues developers and publishers have with Steam. While none were willing to go on the record, for fear of retribution from Valve or because they were not authorized to officially speak on their company’s behalf, the complaints generally echoed each other.
If you thought Fortnite was looking mortal, you might want to reconsider. New show that the Fortnite juggernaut lagged by one meaningful measure at the start of this year. Revenue from the game across platforms dropped by a hard-to-ignore 48 percent between December 2018 and January 2019. As the report notes, December was a peak month for the multiplayer third-person shooter, with Fortnite fever in full swing and holiday purchases driving revenue to record levels. While a 48 percent revenue drop might sound like a mortal wound, the game’s unique sales model and seasonal trends mean that we shouldn’t start prepping any Fortnite obituaries any time soon. With a free-to-play model, Fortnite relies on in-game purchases of digital goods like dance animations and elaborate character skins to drive revenue. With no recurring subscription fees apart from quarterly season passes, Fortnite’s revenues were never going to track a more traditional game’s numbers. Case in point: Fortnite maker Epic looks to have over the course of last year. By November, data from estimated that Fortnite players were spending $1.23 million a day just on iOS. Given Fortnite’s platform agnosticism, that’s just one stream of many, from mobile to console to PC. For Fortnite, a dip in revenue also doesn’t necessarily indicate declining user numbers or less play overall — it just means people were less likely to spend money on virtual goods. Those purchases are purely cosmetic and don’t confer a meaningful competitive advantage, so it’s kind of a strange metric to judge the game’s overall current health with though obviously an important one for the business of the game. A game like Fortnite is designed to be cyclical, with players rotating in as fresh content debuts. In December, Fortnite’s new Season 7 release converged with the holidays, making for a potent revenue-driving combination as players bought up new virtual goods, explored a reimagined map, had more time to play and new devices to try out. By January, players were itching for the next major update. “This is no doubt due to the fact that Season 7 began in December. We historically see a significant increase in Fortnite mobile revenue during the months when a new season debuts, as the player base purchases Battle Passes en masse,” Sensor Tower’s head of mobile insights Randy Nelson told TechCrunch. “Substantial decreases in the subsequent month after a new season are not new; Fortnite revenue on iOS declined 33% between October and November 2018 based on our estimates, from $56 million to $36.6 million… In short, these peaks and valleys are common when looking at games based around season pass monetization on a schedule such as Fortnite’s.” Overall, the January SuperData numbers show a 6% year-over-year decline in digital gaming across the board. If Epic was poised to see Fortnite hit stratospheric user and revenue growth last holiday season, the real test will be seeing if the game can keep its momentum all the way through 2019. With Season 8 due to infuse the game with a wave of fresh digital goods later this week, we should have a pretty good idea of Fortnite’s staying power by the time the new spring content is starting to go stale.