The Nintendo Switch's Joy-Con controllers are super expensive. Each pair will run you $80 real breezy. It's definitely an expensive replacement device but apparently some people are plopping down big bucks for the left and right pair of Joy-Cons because Super Mario Party may be causing a...
The Fortnite garage is about to receive a new occupant as Epic announces the impending arrival of the Quadcrasher, an ATV specifically designed to turn in-game structures into piles of rubble.
A “Plants vs. Zombies” figure is seen in the new offices of Electronic Arts and PopCap in downtown Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) When Ken Moss started at the video game company a little more than four years ago, he was the only EA employee working out of PopCap Games in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. The gaming giant had , known for hit games “Plants vs. Zombies,” “Peggle,” and “Bejeweled,” for up to $1.3 billion in 2011. He recalls having a “random” office at the time, surrounded by the hub of “creativity and awesomeness” that is . Moss, EA’s chief technology officer, showed off the company’s new Seattle offices on Friday, on the fifth floor of 800 Fifth Ave. at the southern edge of downtown. Not only are EA and PopCap sharing a space in what’s billed as a “central technology” hub, but perhaps as a subconscious nod to the man in charge of it all, there is literally moss on the walls in one common area. Ken Moss, chief technology officer at EA, laughs at the company’s Seattle office where moss — or something that looks like moss — has been used to decorate one of the walls. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) With about 100 EA employees and another 100 who are specific to PopCap, the office is looking to grow, and executives expect to reach a headcount of about 300 in the next year or so. Aside from the creative minds working on the next “Plants vs. Zombies” — or something, they wouldn’t say what — the office is home to teams dealing with cybersecurity, tech ops, the cloud, and developer/player experience. EA has more than 10,0000 employees worldwide, with headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif., and offices in cities such as Vancouver, B.C., Austin, Texas, and elsewhere globally. EA’s Seattle presence is focused on attracting top tech talent against the likes of Microsoft, Amazon and others. Moss, a Microsoft veteran and former eBay executive, thinks EA has an advantage in that quest. “There are 2.6 billion gamers in the world. It’s a third of the planet,” Moss said. “Being able to to think about how we make hundreds of millions or billions of people on this planet a little bit happier is what we get to do every day. You’ll see this throughout the office. Certainly you’ll see it in me. It’s a very unique proposition that I don’t know that [other companies are] thinking about. And at the same time, I get to think about the most cutting-edge tech that is anywhere in the industry and it’s truly amazing tech.” The main lobby at EA’s Seattle office at 800 Fifth Ave. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) An artist space at PopCap inside the EA office in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Rattling off such tech disciplines as cybersecurity, the cloud, artificial intelligence, physics, streaming and more, Moss can’t help but smile knowing that at EA and in Seattle they’re all being utilized in the service of gaming and happiness. “That’s just something I think is incredibly fun,” he said. The fun is sprinkled throughout the office. There are plants and plush zombies everywhere. Screens on walls flash through popular EA titles, such as “FIFA 19,” and desktops are covered with the toys of the trade. And there are games of all kinds, from billiards and foosball to console games, board games and full-size whack-a-mole-style PopCap arcade games. The personality of PopCap is definitely being utilized to give the space — which could otherwise house any random tech operation — some charm. A game room at EA in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) A board game is left unattended not far from where EA is solving its technical gaming problems. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Moss has assembled a team in Seattle that is dealing with leading technical challenges as the world of gaming evolves. Among them is Matt Tomlinson, who is EA’s chief information security officer. Tomlinson spent 22 years at Microsoft, including a role as head of security for the tech giant’s Azure cloud business. Tomlinson’s global team deals with enterprise security, online security, and the games and products that are part of platform security. “Security is a pretty hot space right now … so it’s a really difficult place to recruit into,” Tomlinson said. “I’d say we’ve done rather well. We compete against Microsoft, Google, Amazon, just here in Seattle. I’ve got folks on the team that I’ve pulled from the FBI for doing things like investigations. We even have somebody, not based here, whose last job was protecting the International Space Station.” “We’ve got a great mission here,” Tomlinson added. “Protecting hundreds of millions of players globally is kind of cool.” (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) For all it is doing in tech, one of the most important things EA has to deal with as a company, Moss said, is the interaction between tech and studios. “And it’s not easy,” he said. “It requires a lot of work and a lot of communication.” The hope is that it will get easier with all personnel on one floor of the new space, rather than the three or four floors they were split between at the old PopCap building. Matt Nutt, head of PopCap and general manager for EA’s casual gaming business, said of three PopCap teams in the offices, one is working on new content and features for “Plants vs. Zombies 2,” one is working on forward-looking far-out concepts, and a third is working on the studio’s next game — which no one was ready to talk about. Matt Nutt, head of PopCap studios. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) PopCap was founded in Seattle in 2000 by Brian Fiete, John Vechey and Jason Kapalka, all of whom have since left the company to work on new projects and ventures. The way games are developed and played has changed dramatically since the company was founded. “It’s nice to be able to focus on the art and then partner with Ken’s organization so that we don’t have to worry about being masters of things like back-end services and digital platform and all the technology that we want to make games more social to give people a reason for playing games together,” Nutt said. Nutt said PopCap has weathered a lot of change as a studio. In May 2017, it by an unspecified number, and Nutt said in a memo to staff at the time the studio was “returning to our roots — smaller, leaner, pushing hard to build new things.” With about 100 employees at PopCap now, Nutt said Friday that numbers are back to where they were and the studio is again hiring. He credited the studio’s survival in part to its acquisition by EA. Key to its continued viability will be its ability to find success in free-to-play mobile gaming, he said. PopCap Games and its parent Electronic Arts have come a ways from Belltown, with new offices further south in downtown Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) “There’s 3 billion smart devices worldwide. It’s a massive market for us,” Nutt said. “Our business used to look like putting games in boxes. In fact, the place that we just moved from, the first floor, we used to pack and ship ourselves. But, you know, success used to look like several hundred thousand boxes mostly to a Western audience. We now make games that reach hundreds of millions of players worldwide.”
A screengrab from Leaftail Labs’ game, which is still in prototype. (Leaftail Labs Photo) Top venture capital firms are making an early bet on a new Seattle startup that is pushing the envelope with immersive games. Leaftail Labs CEO Jessie Quinn. (Leaftail Labs Photo) recently reeled in $1.25 million from investors including Shasta Ventures, Maveron, Vulcan Capital, micro-funds, and angels. The year-old startup is led by and . The co-founders met at HBO’s Seattle engineering office, where Quinn was a senior interactive producer and Tayrien led engineering efforts. Leaftail isn’t revealing details about its games yet, but Quinn told GeekWire that her company combines gaming technology with the real world. She said the experience is somewhat similar to Pokémon Go, but noted that “we are doing things very distinctly different.” Bay Area-based Shasta, which has made other recent Seattle-area investments in startups such as Suplari, Skilljar, FlyHomes and Highspot, invested in Leaftail via its that supports startups developing AR/VR and computer vision applications. Michael Feller, technical artist (front), and Eli Tayrien, CTO, appear in a prototype of Leaftail Labs’ game. “The team’s native camera-first approach to augmented reality and depth of creative product vision is incredibly compelling,” Jacob Mullins, partner at Shasta, told GeekWire. “I have no doubt that they will be driving to redefine the immersive gaming landscape with their work.” Leaftail plans to grow its 5-person team with the fresh cash. Last month it hired , the original artist for the hit Plants vs. Zombies franchise, to be its art director. We caught up with Quinn to learn more about Leaftail for this edition of GeekWire’s Startup Spotlight. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: We’re building a new generation of immersive augmented reality video games that hinge on player routine, key places, and social experiences in the real world. Inspiration hit us when: In our previous job Eli and I both had the opportunity to work with really exciting storytellers and some of the most cutting-edge immersive technology and hardware available. Spending those years being hands on with new tools and innovative content really pushed us into thinking about our industry differently. We started to see new opportunities everywhere and became fixated on being able to bring something new to life. VC, Angel or Bootstrap: We ended up working with a mix of VCs, micro-funds and angels for our seed round. When we were considering the right path for fundraising, the most important thing was being able to find partners who were excited about the specific future that we see over the horizon, regardless of their investment size or structure. Our ‘secret sauce’ is: I think there are two critical ingredients. The first is on the product side: we think deeply about the player and the real world they live in as a razor for decision making. The second ingredient is internal to the team and our culture. We’re building individual accountability and an obsession with learning into the foundation of the company. We believe it encourages the non-traditional thinking that is required in order to innovate. The smartest move we’ve made so far: Talking to other founders, a lot. Each founder that you happen to know (or don’t know yet) is a wealth of super useful experiences that could mean the difference between making a great decision or stumbling through a difficult situation. We’ve been extremely lucky that our personal networks included a handful of awesome friend-founders who helped us tremendously at various stages of our development. Taking advantage of knowing these folks has been definitely a smart move for us. Even if you don’t happen to have any friend-founders in your network, joining an organization like the Female Founders Alliance (which I also did) or a similar group could give you that experienced sounding board you needed at the exact right moment. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Not starting our hiring process sooner. We were really focused on making improvements to our prototype, finding our new office space and closing out the fundraising round before starting the hiring process. If we could roll back time I think we would try to parallelize this process since it just takes so long to spin up and find awesome candidates. We’re extremely happy with the talent we have found now, but if I could snap my fingers and have them onboarded a couple months sooner I would 100 percent take that opportunity. Which leading entrepreneur or executive would you most want working in your corner? I’d love to have Arlan Hamilton from Backstage Capital in our corner. I saw Arlan speak at last year’s Women @ Forbes event in Boston and her professional story was extremely inspirational to me. I had come to the larger event looking to connect with other founders and to start learning about the VC world, but I didn’t expect to see too many people like me in the crowds. Seeing her on stage and hearing about how she came to the venture side of the business and was able to do something new, different and totally on her own terms was really impactful. I felt much less afraid of jumping into our fundraising while still being my authentic self, which happens to be young, female and queer. I think in any capacity she’d be an amazing asset. Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner? I’d choose Bill Gates. I think he and Melinda would have an interesting perspective to bring to the table about social responsibility, impact and a global world view. I think he’s had a long, mature and diverse career that has changed over time and I’m sure we’d have a ton to learn from him across a host of different topics. Our favorite team-building activity is: Talking about things we’re really excited about as individuals and sharing that with the team. We intentionally ask teammates to tell us about the things they love doing outside of work and share their excitement with us. Topics range wildly, from in-depth gardening conversations, Magic the Gathering chats, Halloween décor tips, the best Drag shows in town, awesome books people are reading, newest board games to hilarious stories about people’s kiddos. We think people being different and excited about something is a big part of what makes being around each other energizing, so we actively try to cultivate that feeling in the office. The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Self-awareness. Beyond the baseline skills someone needs to succeed in their role, self-awareness is the most important personal attribute. Work can be difficult, filled with hard decisions and conflicting opinions. Sometimes, a startup environment creates even more of these challenges. We’ve found that the more self-awareness a person has, the better equipped they are to learn, adapt and grow in the face of those moments. They’re more likely to lift the team up, or think about a problem from a different perspective, which we think is truly invaluable. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: I’d love to give two, one about process and one about self-care. Regarding process: build a prototype as soon as you can and don’t be too precious about showing it to people. We could have done this sooner, but the second we did, people understood our vision more quickly and had a deeper belief in our skills. If you had to choose, I’d take a prototype into a pitch over a fancy deck any day. And, regarding self-care: make sure you have someone in the wings who understands your business – or at least what you’re trying to do – and will help you celebrate your small incremental wins. Ideally, this person is not your significant other. They’re great, of course, but you’ll overload them if you’re constantly leaning on them for detailed feedback and cheerleading. Finding another founder or someone who you’ve worked with in the past who can take on this support role will help tremendously. To be clear, this isn’t just a typical mentor: it’s someone whose goal is to actively help you recognize positive moments and draw your attention to them. It will mean a lot more if this comes from someone who knows your business or has also walked the path you’re on.
If you've ever wanted to put your assassination skills to the test against other players, you'll want to check out the new competitive "Ghost Mode" recently announced for Hit Man 2.
This summer, , its online gaming hub and Twitch competitor, designed to attract game streamers and their fans to watch videos on instead of on rival sites. The destination shows videos based on which games and streaming celebrities users follow, plus Liked Pages and Groups, and other featured suggestions of what to watch. Now, Fb.gg is expanding to mobile with its launch on Android. The new app, first spotted by Sensor Tower, arrived just a few days ago and is currently in beta testing. According to its description on Google Play, the app allows gamers and fans to discover a “universe of gaming content,” connect with creators and join communities, and play instant games like Everwing, Words with Friends, Basketball FRVR, and others. From the screenshots, you can see how the Fb.gg app lets users tap navigation buttons at the top to find streamers to watch, or to view those streamers they’re already following, among other things. They can also participate in live conversations during gameplay with other viewers. Here, they can react to the stream using Facebook’s standard emoticon set of likes, hearts, haha’s and others. Another section lets gamers jump into simple and popular mobile games. These titles are among those who were early participants in Facebook’s other gaming efforts in the past, like Facebook has been trying to woo the gaming community for some time, to better compete against Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube. There’s a large and growing market for game streaming and viewing, with young viewers tuning in a week to watch, as TechCrunch noted. Facebook’s efforts to directly challenge Twitch and others kicked off in earnest this year, with the launch of its own version of Twitch’s Partner Program. Facebook’s , as it’s called, allows viewers to tip their favorite gamers. And with the arrival of Fb.gg in June, the virtual currency involved in those tips was being referred to as Facebook Stars, with each star equating to $0.01. Facebook said it takes a cut of fans’ purchases of stars, ranging from 5%-30%, depending on what size pack is bought. Facebook also recently began testing a monthly subscription option with game streamers, similar to what’s offered by YouTube and Twitch. Of course, to truly compete with Twitch and YouTube, Facebook needs to go mobile as well – especially since the upcoming Messenger redesign will hide away extraneous features, like mobile gaming. That’s where Fb.gg’s app comes in. The version of the Fb.gg beta app launched on October 9, and already has over 10,000 installs, according to Google Play. We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment on the launch.
Throughout the year, Microsoft has been working hard to update and overhaul the Xbox Avatars. The all new creation suite has finally rolled out as part of the Xbox October update, but the Avatars didn't arrive alone, they also came packed in with brand new Alexa control features.
Today’s featured stories [Editor’s Note: TLDR is GeekWire’s tech news rundown show, hosted by . Watch today’s update above, , and check back weekday afternoons for more.]
With Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 releasing it's scheduled to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, game of the year, possibly second only to Rockstar Games' Red Dead Redemption 2. But unlike Rockstar's open-world Western game, you'll be able to get your hands on some free...
As battle royale games like Fortnite pit more players against each other, studios are starting to realize the potential of bringing a massive online audience together at one time. This ambition has always existed, but , a well-funded startup aiming to enable these vast online worlds, is looking to bring these experiences to more game developers. has announced that it is bringing a game development kit for its SpatialOS multiplayer platform to Unity, a popular game development platform used to create about half of new video games. Improbable has some pretty grand ambitions for multi-player gaming and they’ve raised some grand venture capital to make that happen. The London startup has raised just over $600 million for their vision to enable digital worlds with vast expanses of concurrent users. The company’s SpatialOS platform allows single instances of an online game to run across multiple servers, essentially stitching a world together with each server keeping an eye on the other, allowing for hundreds of users to see each other and their in-game actions translated in a persistent way on systems across the globe. The company’s tech opens the door for a lot of game developers to become more ambitious. There are several developers who have released titles on the platform. Today’s news is a major step for the company, leveraging the popularity of Unity with a lot of younger studios to enable easier MMO development on an engine that is very popular with a wide range of developers. SpatialOS was previously available in a more limited, experimental scope on Unity. It also supports some development on Unreal Engine and CryEngine. With today’s release, developers building with SpatialOS can craft games that allow for up to 200 players. The game development kit gives developers multiplayer networking and some other related features to expand the playing field, or at least further populate it. Improbable’s involvement goes far beyond just facilitating a download; a game built for SpatialOS will be hosted on Improbable’s servers, where it can be maintained via its host of web tools.