Snapchat’s new Camera desktop camera app brings AR masks to Twitch, Skype…

Snapchat is launching its first Mac and Windows software that takes over your webcam and brings its augmented reality effects to other video streaming and calling services. Snap Camera can be selected as a camera output in OBS Skype, YouTube, Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, and more plus browser-based apps like Facebook Live so you can browse through Snapchat’s Lens Explorer to try on AR face filters. And through its easily-equipped new Twitch extension. streamers can trigger different masks with hotkeys.

You can download the Mac and Windows versions of Snap Camera now. Users can us Lens Explorer to preview effects and see who made them, Star their favorites for easy access, and access a tab of your recently used Lenses. Despite Snap Inc’s troubles following yesterday’s Q3 earnings announcement that revealed it’d lost 2 million users causing its share price to hit a new low, Snapchat Camera isn’t about stoking growth.
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Twitch announces group streaming and a karaoke game for its 1M concurrent viewers

The teens were out in force today in San Jose for the annual TwitchCon game streaming conference. There, Twitch announced that at any given time, 1 million people are watching it (up from 746,000 last year), and it seemed like that many game lovers were at TwitchCon in person to meet some of the nearly half-million web celebs that broadcast each day on the service. Considering Twitch said just 2 million were broadcasting per month in December, the service’s growth is still explosive under Amazon’s ownership.

Amongst the major reveals at TwitchCon were a new Squad Streaming feature that lets up to four people broadcast at once in split-screen that will test with select streamers later this year. There’s also a new Twitch Sings game built in partnership with Rock Band-creator Harmonix. Broadcasters can play to perform karaoke (though only with fake versions of songs since Twitch lacks major label
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This is the Fortnite Nerf gun

Short of an actual apocalypse (which should be coming any day now), this Nerf-branded gun from Hasbro is (thankfully) probably the closest you’re going to come to any real life Fortnite action in the near future.

The dart-firing gun was announced recently, alongside a Fortnite version of Monopoly (which launched earlier this month), and now we’ve got some pictures and a June 1 release date. The AR-L Blaster was inspired by the firearm in the wildly popular sandbox survival game and has the giant Fortnite branding across its body to provide it.

The gun has a 10-dart clip, flip-up sight and runs on 4 AA batteries. It’s priced at $50 USD — V-Bucks not accepted, apparently. It’s set to be the first of a series of Nerf blasters inspired by the game, according to Hasbro.

YouTube is closing the gap with Twitch on live streaming, report finds

Twitch continues to dominate the live streaming market, with approximately 2.5 billion hours watched by viewers in the third quarter of 2018, according to a new industry report out this morning. While YouTube still trails, it’s begun to close the gap with Twitch, it appears. YouTube’s live streaming platform, YouTube Live, started the year with 15 percent of the overall live streaming market’s viewership, but by September 2018, it had grown to roughly 25 percent of all live streaming hours viewed.

These findings, and more, were the subject of a “state of the industry” report released today by StreamElements, which also dug into what’s making these live streaming sites tick. Of course, Twitch is still the market leader, with around 750 million monthly viewers, on average, who watched over 813 million hours in September. YouTube Live, by comparison, saw over 226 million hours that month, and Microsoft’s Mixer
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Red Dead Redemption 2 sets the bar high for the next generation of open world games

It’s been nearly a decade since Rockstar Games introduced Red Dead Redemption, a massive open world game with a story about as reflective of American culture as the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

Tomorrow, Red Dead Redemption II goes live after months of breathless speculation. And yes, it’s as good as you dreamed it. That’s not to say that the layers of interactivity, which are a huge step forward for the next generation of open world games, are not without their faults. But the level of attention to detail, the way that the various components of the game work in conjunction, and the intricacy of even the most mundane activities makes playing Red Dead Redemption 2 feel as authentic as being Arthur Morgan yourself. But before we dive into the review, it’s worth noting that Devin and I each spent less than a dozen hours playing this game before sitting down
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How to Cheat in Your Favorite Games

A lot of games require a big time investment—at least, if you want to have the best gear, the funniest emotes, the most locations unlocked, a shot at completing all the achievements, etc. And while you could play fair and square, you could also be that person and use hacks, exploits, or other creative techniques to… Read more...

TC Sessions: AR/VR surveys an industry in transition

Industry vets and students alike crammed into UCLA’s historic Royce Hall last week for TC Sessions: AR/VR, our one-day event on the fast-moving (and hype-plagued) industry and the people in it. Disney, Snap, Oculus and more stopped by to chat and show off their latest; if you didn’t happen to be in LA that day, read on and find out what we learned — and follow the links to watch the interviews and panels yourself.

To kick off the day we had Jon Snoddy from Walt Disney Imagineering. As you can imagine, this is a company deeply invested in “experiences.” But he warned that VR and AR storytelling isn’t ready for prime time: “I don’t feel like we’re there yet. We know it’s extraordinary, we know it’s really interesting, but it’s not yet speaking to us deeply the way it will.” Next came Snap’s Eitan Pilipski. Snapchat wants
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Nintendo is bringing Labo kits to elementary schools

Nintendo’s Labo Kits are surprisingly fun — and complex. I say this as someone who spent the better part of a workday piecing together a small piano. Now the gaming giant is looking to bring its cardboard building sets into the classroom, as part of a broader STEAM curriculum.

The company says it plans to bring the kits to ~2,000 students between eight and 11 within the next school year. It will be assisted in the task by Institute of Play, a New York City-based non-profit whose mission statement involves education through play.

The program will begin in Institute of Play’s backyard, targeted schools in the New York region. Along with the kits, the organization will be handing out the Nintendo Labo Teacher Guide, featuring sample lesson plans that integrate the product into various STEAM courses.

After the NYC-based pilot, the program is set to extend to 100 schools all

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How to watch the first major Black Ops 4: Blackout tournament

Gamers, worldwide! A new seasons is upon us. New games like Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2 have either arrived or are on the way, which means we’re wading into a holiday season of fresh gaming.

But with new games also come new esports to watch. The competitive season for Black Ops 4 Multiplayer (the CWL) doesn’t start until December. But TwitchCon still has some Black Ops 4 goodness coming our way on October 27. Four teams, made up of pro players/streamers, will compete in the first high-stakes Blackout tournament. Blackout is the new Battle Royale mode for Black Ops 4. Officially, the Doritos Blackout Bowl starts on October 27 at 3:30pm ET, and interested viewers can check out the stream here. Here’s how it will work: Four teams of four pro players/streamers will drop into the Blackout map alongside public players. As with any
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Super Mario Party is Nintendo Switch’s best game

When I bought the Nintendo Switch a few months ago, my friends told me to buy Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. That’s precisely what I did, but none of those games were enough to get me hooked, which is probably for the best.

But then came Super Mario Party, which Nintendo released earlier this month for the Switch. I grew up gaming, but somehow never played Super Mario Party. Well, it seems as if I’ve been missing out my whole life. Super Mario Party for Nintendo Switch is a quick, pick-up-and-play kind of game. You set the difficulty level, tell the game how much you want to party (ten, fifteen or twenty turns) and that’s how long you’ll party. But be careful playing with your friends or significant others — because it’s bound to stir up people’s competitive nature. For those
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Sidestepping App Stores, Facebook Lite and Groups get Instant Games

HTML5 almost ruined Facebook when baking in the mobile web standard to speed up development slowed down the performance of the social network’s main iOS and Android apps. For a brief moment in 2011, Facebook even tried to build an HTML5 gaming platform codenamed Sparta to escape the taxes of Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems. But at the time, HTML5 wasn’t powerful enough for great gaming. Facebook eventually ditched HTML5, rebuilt the apps natively, and Facebook became one of the most powerful players in mobile.

Now Facebook is giving HTML5 another shot as a way to expand its Instant Games like Pac-Man and Words With Friends to the developing world through Facebook Lite, and to interest communities via Facebook Groups. With improvements to smartphone processing power and the underlying mobile browser app technology, HTML5 can now support snappy, graphically-complex games like Everwing seen below. Instead of having to download
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Pokémon Go update bringing ‘mon from the Sinnoh region is live

If you’ve been laying off the Pokémon Go for a while due to a lack of new monsters, prepare to be glued to your phone again. Niantic is now adding pokémon from the rugged Sinnoh region that first appeared in 2007’s Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum games.

Of course, it’s not so simple as a dump of a hundred new ‘mon into your area. The new guys are arriving in waves, likely meaning the most common sorts will start appearing today, while cooler ones and sets of themed critters will arrive over the coming weeks. These are part of the Generation 4 set, but it’s not clear yet which will be appearing first or indeed at all. It’s entirely up to Niantic and you can be sure they’re going to mete these little guys out over several months, interspersed with other events — anything to keep you catching. Everyone will
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Facebook’s gaming hub Fb.gg launches into beta on Android

This summer, Facebook launched Fb.gg, its online gaming hub and Twitch competitor, designed to attract game streamers and their fans to watch videos on Facebook 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
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CoD: Black Ops 4 is available today

CoD: Black Ops 4 is available today, marking yet another chapter in the franchise’s history. The Black Ops series, developed by TreyArch, tends to be one of Call Of Duty’s most popular, and Black Ops 4 doesn’t show any signs of being any different.

Alongside multiplayer, Black Ops 4 also includes Zombies and Blackout, the new Battle Royale mode coming to CoD. Black Ops 4 is the first CoD installment to not launch with any campaign mode. Folks who pre-ordered the game had an opportunity to play it briefly over the past few months as part of the beta. But now the game is out there and available to all. One quick thing: Folks who buy a physical copy of the game will need to free up some space on their console, as the game requires a 50GB update to play Zombies, Multiplayer or go to the Specialist Headquarters. Luckily,
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Improbable brings its massive multiplayer platform to Unity game engine

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 Improbable, a well-funded startup aiming to enable these vast online worlds, is looking to bring these experiences to more game developers.

Improbable 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 a vast expanses of concurrent users. The company’s SpatialOS platform allows single instances of an online game to run across multiple servers, essentially stitching
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Fortnite for Android no longer requires an invite

Fortnite’s journey to Android has been an adventure unto itself. It first launched as a Samsung exclusive, alongside the Note 9, before circumventing the Play Store to arrive on Google’s Mobile operating system.

Until now, however, actually getting the game required going to the site, signing up and waiting for an invite. Epic announced today via Twitter that it’s finally cutting that red tape. While the company is still sidestepping Play in order to keep its earnings to itself, downloading the game is a simple as scanning a QR code from its site.

< p class="p2">Not that any of those extra steps were hurting the game. The wildly popular hit 15 million installs a mere three weeks after launching on the OS.

Roblox makes first acquisition with purchase of app performance startup PacketZoom

Fresh off a $150 million round of funding, kids’ gaming platform Roblox is making its first acquisition. The company says it’s acquiring the small startup PacketZoom, bringing its team and technology in-house to help it improve mobile application performance as its platform expands further into worldwide markets.

Founded in 2013, and based in San Mateo, California, PacketZoom had raised a $5 million Series A late last year. The company combines a content delivery network (CDN) to speed up performance with an application performance management tool to identify issues in a single package, TechCrunch had explained at the time. The company’s products allow developers access to analytics about the app and network-performance related issues, as well as optimize app delivery and content downloads – up to 2 to 3 times faster. The system in particular is designed to overcome the limitations of slow and unreliable networks, like those found
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Nintendo’s ‘souped-up’ NES Zelda loads you with gear for an easier adventure

Nintendo has set a strange new precedent with the release of Legend of Zelda SP on the Switch: it’s essentially the original NES game but Link starts loaded up with good gear and cash. In a way it’s no different from a cheat code, but the way it’s executed feels like a missed opportunity.

The game itself (SP stands for “special”) is described by Nintendo in the menu as a “souped up version” of the original: “Living the life of luxury!” It’s a separate entry in the menu with all the other NES games you get as part of the company’s subscription service. You’re given the white sword, big shield, blue ring, and power bracelet, plus 255 rupees to replace that shield when a Like-like eats it. Basically they’ve given you all the stuff you can find on the overworld (including max bombs and keys), but no items you’d
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Kahoot, the educational gaming startup, has raised another $15M, now at a $300M valuation

School’s back in session and a startup that’s building games to help students learn has moved to the top of the class. Kahoot — the educational gaming startup out of Norway that has been a quick hit with schools in the US and elsewhere — today announced that it has raised 126.5 million Norwegian krone (around $15.4 million), its second round this year, at a valuation of about 2.55 billion krone ($300 million), tripling its valuation in 7 months.

For some context, the company raised $17 million in March at a $100 million valuation. Kahoot has been around since 2006 — originally as a gamefied education app called Lecture Quiz — although its rise in popularity and usage has been a more recent shift, dovetailing with how teachers are increasingly using more learning aids that are in tune with two of the more popular pastimes among kids these
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