Playtech taps Real Boxing 2 studio’s Hollywood know-how for its casual games biz

Movie-licensed games are a big business in the casual space.


Getting a movie license is one of the major ways to succeed in the mobile gaming business, and publisher Playtech has brought in some talent that knows exactly how to make that happen.

Playtech announced today that it is aiming its resources at gaining market share in the casual gaming market. The publisher recently acquired mobile developer Funtactix, which has produced iOS and Android games based on properties like The Hunger GamesCreed, and Mission: Impossible. Playtech plans to use Funtactix’s expertise and existing relationships with Hollywood and gamers to help it produce similar apps featuring big-name intellectual properties. This should help the company get a chunk of the $36.8 billion mobile-gaming industry without having to spend as much on player acquisition.

Mobile gaming, while lucrative, is a competitive market. It is tough to crack into because companies like King and Supercell dominate such a huge portion of the audience and drive up marketing costs. But smaller publishers and studios have found success through the use of properties like blockbuster films, comic book characters, and more. With Funtactix as a subsidiary, Playtech is turning to that model.

“The Playtech casual games division has a clear strategy and direction, and we’re very confident it will continue to go from strength-to-strength,” Playtech chief operating officer Shimon Akad said. “The acquisition of Funtactix, in addition to Plamee and YoYo Games, enables us to offer a complete suite of content and software to players, designers, and third parties including some of the largest studios and brands in the world.”

Funtactix started in 2006, and it comprises gaming talent from Microsoft, Sony, and LucasArts as well as Hollywood talent from MGM and William Morris Endeavor. It has most recently produced games like Real Boxing 2: Rocky and the card game Saban’s Power Rangers Unite. Funtactix joins a stable of developers under Playtech that includes YoYo Games and Plamee. The strategy for Playtech moving forward will see Funtactix continuing its work with Hollywood while also publishing games from Plamee and other internal studio.

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Leaked photos: MacBook Pro will have 4 USB-C ports

The Apple logo on the side of the company's new retail store in downtown San Francisco, Calif. on May 21, 2016.


That new MacBook Pro reportedly slated for Q4? It may have not one, not two, but four USB Type-C ports.

At least leaked photos published today by Cult of Mac indicate as much. Four USB-C ports and one headphone jack are the only things you can see on the sides of the chassis.

Leaked photos of the MacBook Pro keyboard chassis show four USB-C ports.

Above: Leaked photos of the MacBook Pro keyboard chassis show four USB-C ports.

Image Credit: Cult of Mac

The other thing missing from the chassis is the row of F1-F12 keys. In its place is a flat section — which could presumably be taken up by the “OLED display touch bar” that analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is expecting on the refreshed MacBook Pro.

Leaked photo reportedly shows the top of the next MacBook Pro keyboard chassis

Above: Leaked photo reportedly shows the top of the next MacBook Pro keyboard chassis

Image Credit: Cult of Mac

The speaker grilles on either side of the keyboard have also been redesigned.

But the switch from USB-A to USB-C (times four!) is remarkable and will be jarring for those who haven’t begun the journey with the MacBook or mobile devices that use the USB-C spec. This will solve the problem of not being able to simultaneously charge the laptop and charge a phone using the laptop, but this will also mean people will need more dongles in order to use peripherals such as external monitors and SD card readers.

Then again, it should be welcome to those who believe in industry standards. If the leaked photos are legitimate, it means Apple will be dispensing with its proprietary MagSafe charging mechanism. Also, unlike USB-A, USB-C is reversible, so you don’t have to flip it if you find out the hard way that you stuck it in wrong.

See Cult of Mac’s article for more leaked photos of what could be the next MacBook Pro.

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Listen: Gary Vaynerchuk stars in VentureBeat’s new podcast, VB Engage

VB Engage Stewart Rogers Travis Wright podcast


Welcome to the inaugural VB Engage podcast! With VB Engage, we are interviewing the best and brightest minds across the technology world. And for our first episode, we bring you one of our favorite digital hustlers, Gary Vaynerchuk.

Whether it be mobile, social, or digital, our mission is to bring you the best knowledge from the world’s wisest people. Oh, and to bring you brutally honest marketing feedback. And jokes. Mix that all together, and you get what we like to call “snarketing.”

Each episode begins with Stewart Rogers and Travis Wright bantering about the latest VB Engage-worthy news. It’s where our skinny British guy and his fat American cohost dissect all things tech.

This week we discuss Microsoft Windows Phones, mixed reality, and Nokia (“knock-ya” vs. “no-key-ah”) getting its brand name back and building handsets again.

After the news, we bring you our own version of the #AskGaryVee show. Gary is the CEO of VaynerMedia — an author, thought leader, early investor in SnapChat and Uber, and also the future owner of the New York Jets. We had the opportunity to pick Gary’s brain and ask him several questions.

Gary explains his epiphany around building a show based on the Q&A portions of his keynotes — the substance of Gary is his knowledge in the space. And we ask him about the unique ways that millennials are using social media, including how they use Twitter in a totally different, highly public way.

According to Gary, Snapchat and Instagram are not great for younger users when it comes to sharing their public thoughts: They use Twitter as the place they share their context of what’s going on in the world.

With real-time events, we go to Twitter. It is still the watercooler of the world. The public two cents on any topic. Gary thinks Twitter will dip but come back. It fills a void that no other social channel does.

We also find out just how much time each day Gary spends engaging with people on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram versus creating content, taking meetings, and doing client work.

We discover that whenever Gary travels, he spends at least 2 hours engaging with other people. Nine hours a day are taken up by being the CEO of a 650-person company. We dig into where speaking, content creation, and social networking fits into his schedule.

And yes, this is the first episode, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have fans already. One of our soon-to-be-regular listeners asks about knowing when to fail fast and hang up a venture. We also discuss a very important question around emotional intelligence and self-awareness.

And make sure to tune in to what Gary Vee called maybe the “greatest comedy recall from any interview that he’s ever experienced,” instigated by our own Stewart Rogers! Here’s that moment in GIF form.

GaryVee-micdrop

Tune in tomorrow for Amy Vernon, editor at The Daily Dot, whom we talk with about engagement and community management.

Thanks to our launch sponsor Braintree for helping to make VB Engage possible. 

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Fallout 4’s first console mods now live on Xbox One

You can now get add-ons that let you see through scopes.


Mods are now on consoles.

Bethesda revealed that it has flipped the switch and made mods live for Fallout 4 on Xbox One. This is the first time that the console version of a game has had full support for add-on modules from the community. Gamers can start installing this game-altering content immediately by loading up the “Mods” option inside of Fallout 4. Bethesda is bringing mods to console in an effort to extend the life of its games.

The publisher has seen the benefit of mods for years. Games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 3 were still among the most-played releases on the Steam PC distribution platform for years after their debuts thanks to community add-on support. Now, Fallout 4 is getting that on console. This should keep more people playing, and that should enable Bethesda to sell more downloadable content to those gamers.

Unlike traditional mod support, Fallout 4 — on both console and PC — has an official channel on Bethesda’s website. You can find all of the supported Xbox One mods on mods.bethesda.net and filtering by platform. Here you’ll find content like an ownable RV home inside of Diamond City, rainy-only weather, and campsites.

Since these mods are going through an official Bethesda submission process, you will not see the kinds of community creations that bring in copyrighted or other protected materials. For example, here’s an unofficial mod for Fallout 4 on PC that turns one of the most frightening enemies into the wrestler Macho Man Randy Savage:

Macho Man in Fallout 4 is not something you're likely to get on Xbox One.

Above: Macho Man in Fallout 4 is not something you’re likely to get on Xbox One.

Image Credit: Nexus Mod

So console gamers — Fallout 4 mods come to PlayStation 4 as well next month — are still going to miss out on some of the silliest, most entertaining mods. But some support is better than nothing.

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EU warns governments against banning Uber and Airbnb

Office sign at Uber's San Francisco headquarters.


(Reuters) – European Union governments should not ban services like home-rental site Airbnb or ride-hailing app Uber except as a last resort, the EU says in new guidelines, seeking to rein in a crackdown on the “sharing economy”.

In guidelines seen by Reuters, the European Commission said any restrictions by EU member states on these new online services should be justified and proportionate to the public interest at stake.

“Total bans of an activity constitute a measure of last resort that should be applied only if and where no less restrictive requirements to attain a public interest can be used,” the draft document says.

In the case of room-renting sites like Airbnb, the Commission said banning short-term lets of apartments “appears difficult to justify” when limits on the maximum number of days apartments can be rented out would be more appropriate.

The guidelines will come as good news for the likes of Uber and Airbnb, which have faced outright bans or restrictions in some cities as established industry players complain of unfair competition.

Airbnb, founded in 2008, and Uber, launched a year later, both grew up in the hot-house San Francisco Internet scene and almost from the start have faced regulatory battles across the United States, and, more recently, around the world.

Both have become favorite targets of local officials and rival trade groups in Europe, with its tradition of strong social oversight.

In the “sharing economy”, customers use the Internet to contract services such as ride-sharing, where amateur drivers displace professional taxis, or home-sharing, which reduces hotel demand.

“These services can fall within several sectors, falling under the regulatory burden of all of them,” the Commission said.

A case in point is Uber, which considers itself merely a digital service connecting drivers and passengers as opposed to a transport service, which would make it subject to more onerous rules on driver qualifications, road rules and insurance.

The EU’s highest court is set to rule later this year or next on whether Uber is a transport company or a digital service.

LOCAL SKIRMISHES

Associations of taxi drivers have staged high-profile protests against Uber in France, Britain, Portugal, Spain and many other European countries since 2014.

Last year, French prosecutors staged a high-profile raid of Uber’s Paris offices in a showdown over whether the company was violating a law to curtail online taxi services.

Uber suspended its UberPOP service, which relies on non-professional drivers, in Brussels last October after a court ordered it shut down.

The company reintroduced its service in Madrid in March after beating a hasty retreat from the market in 2014 following a court ruling against it.

Airbnb has faced loud criticism from city officials in Barcelona and Paris over its impact on local housing markets.

On May 1, Berlin officials implemented one of the world’s toughest clampdowns on Airbnb. City officials have promised to reject 95 percent of requests by landlords to rent out places on a short-term basis.

City officials have received more than 500 legal complaints over the murky provisions of the new law. A Berlin court on June 8 is handling the case of German Airbnb competitor Wimdu, which filed suit over the new regulation.

German hotel association IHA said in response to the EU guidelines: “The current legal vacuum…comes at the expense of consumers, residents and taxpayers and distorts the competition to the (disadvantage) of the heavily regulated hotel industry.”

(By Julia Fioretti and Eric Auchard. Additional reporting by Tina Bellon in Frankfurt, Michel Rose in Paris, Paul Day in Madrid, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Axel Bugge in Lisbon; editing by Adrian Croft)

AI. Messaging. Bots. Arm yourself for the next paradigm shift at MobileBeat 2016. July 12-13 at The Village in San Francisco. Reserve your place here.

Inside the construction of Paris’ Halle Freyssinet: The landmark campus for 1,000 startups

Halle Freyssinet in Paris will be home to 1,000 startups starting in 2017.


Disclosure: VentureBeat’s airfare and hotel in Paris were paid for by Business France, a government agency that supports and promotes French companies. The trip was part of a weeklong startup tour of the French Tech ecosystem. 

Even as France is experiencing a groundswell of entrepreneurship and new startups, not everyone is convinced that “La French Tech” signals a new era for a culture and economy that have been slow to change.

So to make a statement, a French telecom executive is spending $220 million to build an audacious startup campus designed to accelerate and showcase the country’s startup scene.

The executive is France’s mercurial Xavier Niel, billionaire founder of the telecom company Iliad, which operates Free, an upstart wireless, Internet, and cable provider. His latest pet project is renovating a former train station called Halle Freyssinet to create an ultra modern center designed to house 1,000 startups.

La-Halle-Freyssinet-2017_Wilmotte-et-Associes-SA

Above: An architectural rendering of Halle Freyssinet.

The size and scope of this little startup shack is audacious. When construction is done at the end of 2016, it will be 34,000 square meters stretched across three floors to accommodate about 2,600 people.

Last year, Niel hired Roxanne Varza, formerly of Microsoft Ventures and a TechCrunch writer, as director. While on a trip to Paris last week, I meet Varza and her new communications director, Rachel Vanier, for a tour of the Halle Freyssinet construction site.

Roxanne Varga, director of Halle Freyssinet.

Above: Roxanne Varza, director of Halle Freyssinet.

Image Credit: VentureBeat/Chris O’Brien

Varza said she first met Niel several years ago while working for TechCrunch.

“Xavier was just someone who in person is so unassuming,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting him to be so cool.”

The two remained in touch over the years, so she wasn’t surprised when she got an email from Niel saying he wanted to talk about a new project he had undertaken. Niel can be famously informal. And in discussing his ideas about Halle Freyssinet, it took her a while to understand that he was offering her a job running it.

The choice wasn’t hard.

“This is the project,” she said. “You don’t think twice. ”

Having accepted, Varza finds herself overseeing a massive construction project, perhaps one of the largest Paris has seen in years. But at the same time, she and her small team are trying to figure out exactly how this massive space will function.

Basically, Niel has launched a rocket ship that is still being built in mid-flight.

Vue-espace-des-Start-Ups-La-Nef-Centrale_Wilmotte-et-Associes-SA

Above: Architectural rendering of the main hall.

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Above: Construction on the main hall of Halle Freyssinet. Photo: VentureBeat/Chris O’Brien

Overall, Halle Freyssinet will have one long open space running through the middle, allowing people to see straight through. The idea is to make it feel more integrated with the surrounding neighborhood, which is also receiving a makeover that includes two large dorms Niel is building separately for people working in Halle Freyssinet.

Inside, the space will be divided into three sections. The first will be focused on technical skill development and include a large Fab Lab, a 370-seat auditorium, and meeting rooms.

The middle section will be exclusively a workspace for startups based there. This area is subdivided into 24 smaller “villages” and has separate, sound proof meeting rooms. Each space is still open and modular, designed to let entrepreneurs move things around as their project develops.

Vue-espace-des-Start-Ups-Les-villages_Wilmotte-et-Associes-SA

Above: An architectural rendering of the Halle Freyssinet middle section.

2016-05-27 17.05.06

Above: Roxanne Varza (left) and Rachel Vanier (right) show construction progress on the middle section. Photo: VentureBeat/Chris O’Brien

Vue-espace-co-travail_Wilmotte-et-Associes-SA

Above: Architectural rendering of the Halle Freyssinet middle section.

2016-05-27 17.02.48

Above: Current construction on Halle Freyssinet middle section.

2016-05-27 16.58.48

Above: A view down the main corridor of the middle section of Halle Freyssinet. Photo: VentureBeat/Chris O’Brien

The third area will retain a couple of train cars and will include a restaurant and retail area designed to cater to the space’s employees but also to draw the public in.

2016-05-27 16.59.32

Above: The third, public section of Halle Freyssinet will include some shops and restaurants.

At the moment, Varza is doing everything from helping select the type of carpet for different rooms to nailing down the big picture details of how the space will operate.

While people have often called Halle Freyssinet an “incubator,” Varza said it’s more like a startup campus. She and her team are talking to potential partners who may manage various startup programs with Halle Freyssinet.

Niel isn’t building the space because he plans to select and invest in 1,000 startups, Varza said. Instead, the point of the project really is to create something that acts as a physical hub for the French Tech ecosystem, while showing the world just how far the country’s startup economy has come.

“For Xavier, the idea really came from wanting to make an emblematic project,” Varza said. “It was to push the envelope and think big.”

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The AI revolution: How artificial intelligence can boost your bottom line (VB Live)

AI.shutterstock_225928441


AI now plays a pivotal role in so many industries, it simply cannot be ignored — those who do will simply become charmingly anachronistic. Join this essential VB Live event to understand the current AI landscape and how those who are winning at it, are winning big.

Register here for free.


Ever since iPhones came equipped with the soothing tones of Siri, artificial intelligence entered the mainstream. Whether answering basic questions or finding information on local architecture, artificial intelligence (AI) simulates human intelligence such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making and even language translation. From the insurance industry’s anti-fraud efforts to the latest automobile technology (self-driving mini-vans anyone?) AI is revolutionizing products and services throughout the business world.

It seemed so long ago that artificial intelligence was something you only hear in a cheesy sci-fi movie, but these days it’s almost taken for granted, due to how much AI is embedded in our daily lives. The idea of a machine learning guiding you through your daily routines used to feel so futuristic and unobtainable, yet, we do it everyday with Siri on our iPhones — or Cortana, for those Microsoft users out there. AI is part of the mainstream and will only get bigger, as technology continues to improve in mimicking human behaviour, and the big players in the tech industry are certainly taking notice.

Google took great pride that it’s advancements in deep learning – a type of AI for key processes – resulted in 8 percent word error rate in speech recognition; a significant improvement from the 23 percent it had in 2013. Moving to social media, Facebook’s latest AI experiment had generating captions and face recognition in videos. Considering the fierce competition between the Google-owned YouTube and Facebook, advancements like these could lead to one side dominating the other in the videos department. The exciting results don’t only affect social media users, but ad makers as well.

We’re also seeing strong investment in AI-focused startups, such as Sony investing undisclosed sum in California-based Cogitai, believing it will lead to huge revenue in the future. For something more open, AI startup Osaro raised $3.3 million from high-profile investors like Peter Thiel, Scott Banister, Sean Parker, and more. Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have also acquired AI startups in recent years. With historical moments like Google’s AI beating a professional Go player three out of five time, interest in AI advancements will only increase. Of course, incidents like Microsoft’s AI chatbot posting offensive tweets is a reminder that current AI tech isn’t perfect, but we’re definitely getting close.The AI revolution: How artificial intelligence can boost your bottom line (Webinar)

The AI movement is only getting stronger each day, and by attending this webinar, you’ll be able to catch up before being left in the dust of the competition. We’ll go over the AI landscape and how the top players in the industry are using AI to better their bottom line. Want to know the most effective and cost-efficient way for implementing AI to your business plan? Join the discussion to find out how.


Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.


In this VB Live event, you’ll learn to:

  • Understand the AI outlook
  • Recognize the key players (what they know that you should too)
  • Anticipate changes in the AI landscape and plan accordingly
  • Find ways to integrate AI into your business plan

Speakers include:

  • Jon Cifuentes, Analyst, VentureBeat
  • Wendy Schuchart, Moderator, VentureBeat

 

Airbnb’s new site lets neighbors complain about noisy guests

Screenshot of Airbnb's new portal site that allows neighbors to submit complaints about Airbnb listings near them that are noisy or have other issues.


Airbnb is making moves to show it can be a good corporate citizen. Instead of just showing how it can build up market share in cities around the world, today it launched a site dedicated to hearing complaints from neighbors.

Those who suspect badly behaved tenants near them are renting an Airbnb property will now have a dedicated place to inform the company. The submissions can be done anonymously, or you can have your information passed along to the host. Issues that you can complain about include noise, personal safety, common spaces, or other general concerns.

What Airbnb is providing is an easier way for neighbors to file complaints about listings in their neighborhood and gain some transparency into whatever investigation transpires. Now there’s a central place to get your voice heard instead of having to tweet madly at the company or even emailing with the hopes that your beef will be seen and catalogued.

While Airbnb has no fantasies its hosts and guests will always behave perfectly, it says it wants to “help our community members be good neighbors in the places our hosts call home.” The company claimed that “complaints and issues are incredibly rare.”

The launch of this portal comes as the company moves forward with its new marketing campaign that encourages you to “live there”: Guests shouldn’t just stop in a city for a split second and leave, but should actually take it all in like a local. And that means being a good community member. To defuse local governments and its citizens putting forth potential regulations, such as what Airbnb faced in San Francisco with Proposition F, it has to show that it’s taking the needs of non-guests and non-hosts very seriously.

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