Pokémon Go trainers who use Amazon Prime can snag some bonus items

Let’s say we have a venn diagram with two circles: Pokémon Go players and Amazon Prime members. If you fall in the middle, congrats! Here’s 30 pokéballs.

Niantic’s flagship Pokémon Go app has partnered with Prime Gaming and Prime Student to release bonus item bundles every two weeks. Starting today, Amazon Prime subscribers can visit Prime Gaming’s Pokémon Go page to claim this fortnight’s bonus. Once you log in to Prime, you’ll get a code, which you can redeem on Niantic’s rewards page. Soon, your items should appear in the game.

This is far from the first time that Pokémon Go has partnered with large businesses — they’ve run promotions with brands like Starbucks, T-Mobile, Sprint and more in the past.

If we make the middle of our venn diagram even smaller by adding a circle of “people who attend Seattle University or a few of the UCs,” then cool, you can also grab some swag on Saturday during the global, in-game May Community Day event, which features Alolan Geodude. If not, happy pokéballs!

P.S.: Speaking of things that you get for free via Prime Gaming, did you know that you get a free Twitch subscription once per month? So, if you want to rebel against the tyranny of ubiquitous, union-busting e-commerce by giving your favorite streamer a few bucks, jump on that.

TikTok is gearing up for games, including interactive minigames for TikTok LIVE

TikTok is already one of the world’s fastest-growing social media platforms, where it’s even overtaken YouTube on watch time in select markets and sports over 1 billion monthly active users. Now, the company is looking to expand the range of activities its users can do when they tire of flipping through short videos. A report from Reuters today indicates the company is further investing in HTML5 games, and has already begun tests. But we understand there may be more to TikTok’s gaming strategy than web-based gaming. It appears TikTok is also working on a LIVE mobile gaming feature that would allow creators to better engage fans while live streaming.

Reuters said TikTok planned to draw on parent company ByteDance’s suite of games, beginning with minigames that have simple mechanisms and a shorter playing time. It claimed tests had begun in Vietnam. But TikTok told TechCrunch that was inaccurate, saying that Vietnam gaming testing is not something it’s currently doing.

The social video app’s move into HTML5 gaming was already known, as TikTok had previously announced its plans alongside its Zynga partnership last year. The two companies had teamed up to launch the HTML5 game “Disco Loco 3D” exclusively on TikTok. And at the time, TikTok confirmed it was already in discussions with other game makers for similar deals, telegraphing a larger gaming expansion was still to come. TikTok says it doesn’t have any new partners to name on this front as of now.

Image Credits: Zynga

Ahead of the Zynga deal, TikTok had also already launched its own game, “Garden of Good,” built in partnership with nonprofit Feeding America and focused on charitable fundraising. This one felt more like an experiment to see if TikTok users would play an in-app game.

While still a smaller effort today, gaming could grow to become a significant monetization tool for TikTok, if the games end up being ad-supported or later add paid components, like in-app purchases.

In addition to its previously announced efforts to delve into HTML5 games, TechCrunch has also learned TikTok is looking to explore LIVE games in a separate effort.

According to an investigation by mobile product intelligence firm Watchful, based in Tel Aviv, TikTok is working to add minigames to LIVE videos in its app to enhance the live-streaming experience between creators and their fans.

One LIVE game Watchful uncovered is called “Draw & Guess,” which is designed specifically to encourage interaction between creators and viewers. In this Pictionary-like game, players are given words that they then draw on the screen, and viewers try to guess what they’re drawing. The correct guesses are shown on the screen.

Watchful also noted the mobile gaming feature may allow screen-sharing, so creators could share their screen with viewers in real-time, including their camera, audio, notifications, and other alerts. Their games could be shown in either landscape mode or portrait mode, the firm said.

While today, a handful of reverse engineers publicly share details of unannounced, still-in-development features they find in popular consumer apps, Watchful has productized this type of investigation and enhanced it with technology. The company uses a combination of computer vision and flow analysis to identify and emulate app changes. Its differential analysis engine compares application versions using real user data and proprietary computer vision algorithms, it says. The studies are also backed by the firm’s mobile device labs deployed around the world.

Reached for comment, TikTok did not have anything more to share about the LIVE gaming efforts, but told us it was a totally unrelated development from the HTML5 games Reuters had described.

Games aren’t the only way TikTok is looking to enhance the TikTok LIVE Platform.

Watchful also flagged another in-development feature that feels like a cross between a game and a virtual gifting experience. It allows users to add a “Treasure Box” to LIVE videos which doles out coins after a timer is up to a random set of users.

Image Credits: TikTok app image via Watchful

And it found TikTok was working on the in-app shopping experience, TikTok Shop, which is offered today in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Mainland China, Hong Kong, and the U.K. Here, TikTok appears to be looking at adding a shopping bag icon to LIVE shopping videos which, when clicked, opens up a window where viewers can browse through available products with the option to click to add them to a cart for immediate purchase.

Image Credits: TikTok app image via Watchful

TikTok declined to comment on these other LIVE platform plans.

Voicy wants to pwn gamers with audio memes

If meme stocks can be a thing, what’s to stop audio meme sharing from going viral!? Hoping to storm the ear-bending arena of social audio and win friends amid the gamer/creator crowd is Voicy — a Netherlands-based startup that’s building a platform for user-generated audio snippets (typically a few seconds long), offering tools to create emotive samples for reaction sharing to spice up your messaging/streams.

It’s not hard to predict where this idea goes: Straight to gross out fart sfx and pwning troll clips — which are indeed plentiful on this fledgling platform for user-generated (or, well, sampled) audio. Dank audio memes anyone?

Other viral noises are available. Borat clips, for example, or Squid Game sounds. Plus a cacophony of over-enthusiastic Internet memes in audio form. John Oliver screaming “GOOGLE IT!” repeatedly, or Epic Sax Guy’s epic saxing, and so on.

The typical Voicy user is, unsurprisingly, young and trigger happy, per the startup — which envisages gamer voice chat as a key target for a pipelines of social integrations it hopes to build out. So far it has one integration inked with messaging app, Viber — but it’s offering a “simple universal API” to encourage other platforms to sign up.

Zooming out, Voicy’s stated mission is to do for sound clips what Giphy has done for GIFs.

“We want to create a new way for people to express themselves creatively in how they communicate. In areas such as gaming, where communicating with images or text doesn’t work as well — there’s a huge gap for audio to really enhance the experience,” suggest co-founders Xander Kanon, Joey de Kruis and Milan Kokir via email.

“As we’ve seen with memes and GIFs, people love to create their own very creative content. Audio has the capacity to have the same, if not bigger impact on modern communications. We’ve seen from instant chat, to emoticons to GIFs that people all over the world want to experiment with and simply have fun with how they communicate — it’s one of the things we all have in common. In addition to this, the competition among apps and platforms is immense and all of them are working hard to make their offering more sticky, fun and engaging. This is where Voicy comes into play.”

“From the ground up, we have developed our platform to give users the express ability to create,” they add. “Our technology directly serves that purpose through an open-source approach to content, with safeguards layered in to moderate. With integrations, our approach has been to connect our platform with other platforms and give users wider accessibility to sharing content. With the addition of public API, further integrations and a strong foundation within the platform, we believe our impact can be exponential.”

The platform fully launched in October 2020, per the founders, and they’ve grown usage to 1.1 million monthly active users at this stage (although that’s including usage via Viber, not just ears they’re pulling into their own platform).

Other usage metrics they share include that users have created some 145,000 sound clips so far, with an average of 10k more being added per month. They also say a Voicy user plays, on average, 20 sound clips and shares one per visit.

While, following their recent partnership with Viber, users there have sent over 20 million audio messages — which have been played 100M times in just three months.

The startup is planning to build out a pipeline of third party integrations to drive for further growth, with the help of a €1.2 million pre-seed raise being announced today — eyeing potential love-ins across social messaging, streaming and gaming platforms. Or basically anywhere where noisy memes might find an appreciative audience.

“There are a lot of potential integrations within social messaging, for example WhatsApp, FB Messenger; social video — Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube; gaming — Roblox, Ubisoft, Xbox, Discord; and streaming — Twitch, Streamlabs and Corsair,” they suggest, reeling off the tier one consumer platform list.

Voicy’s pre-seed raise is led by Oliver Samwer’s Global Founders Capital, with a number of tech senior execs also participating from companies including Twitch, Spotify, Deezer, Snapchat, Booking, Uber, Reddit, Acast and Tesla.

Commenting in a statement, Global Founders Capital’s Soheil Mirpour said: “Voicy is a very exciting new startup. In short order, their strong team has grown a huge community of very active users who are creating hundreds of pieces of new audio content every day. There’s a massive amount of potential for short audio in social communication. A Discord user spends on average 285 minutes a day in a Discord voice chat, people share 7 billion voice messages per day on WhatsApp alone and billions of people use short audio in their TikTok or Instagram videos. Voicy brings a new concept to the table, which is ready to disrupt an enormous market — we knew we had to invest.”

But why do web users need audio memes when there are already, er, audio GIFs? Isn’t this a rather niche proposition — given existing overlap, plus the general (broad) competition from other reaction ‘shareables’ consumers can easily use to express themselves, from ye olde emoji, to customizable stickers to viral GIFs?

Soundless reaction formats (like GIFs) are also essentially an advantage to the sizeable ‘never turn up the volume’ mobile crew — whose silence-loving (voice-message hating) existence explains why even short video clips which are made to be shared on social typically come with captions to provide an baked in alternative to engaging any ear. (And, well, an audio meme with the sound off is just some sad-looking pixels, right? … Quite possibly, though, this is an older vs younger Internet user generation thang 😬)

Surprising no one, Voicy users so far are Gen Z or Gen Alpha, with a strong following amid the TikTok/Roblox generation, per the founders. (“Our users use us for gaming, creation, and messaging. Across our user base, most users are located in the USA (60%). The majority of users are aged below 35 years old (75%+),” they also confirm.)

“The advantage of a sound clip over a GIF/sound GIF is the wider applicability of it,” argue Voicy’s founders. “Practically, you can use a sound clip in your stream, during gaming, or to edit your video or your TikTok video/Youtube Short as well as use it in messaging. You simply cannot do this with an audio GIF due to user experience and practical constraints.”

“Audio memes are funny, iconic and unique shareable audio bites that can be used in any form of online communication to express thoughts or feelings in a specific context,” add the trio — who are self professed avid gamers themselves.

What about risks around copyright? How are they managing that issue? Voicy is not licensing any audio content currently but the founders suggest they may do in future. For now they’re relying on fair use to recirculate samples (plus their platform supports a DCMA reporting and takedowns procedure). They say they’re also using a third party service to stop protected samples from being piped onto any third party platforms they integrate with.

While it’s early for such a consumer-focused product to be focused on monetization, the team says they’re building Voicy as a marketplace — and ultimately intend to focus on the needs of the creator community.

“We believe that our long term opportunity lies at enabling creators to monetise their content,” they tell TechCrunch. “With the creator’s economy continuing to grow at a rapid speed, we provide them a platform to create, clipify, distribute, earn, and build a community around their sonic identity. With a large integration network and a platform as an end-destination for consuming and engaging with sounds and sound-creators, Voicy can monetise its library and integrations. Voicy can provide a ton of value both for the supply side and the demand side.”

“More specifically, our business model will be focused around the sub-licensing of clips, and by providing additional premium features for creators to do what they do best: creating content. Content will have the possibility to be sub-licensed to integration partners, fans, other creators, and premium consumers,” they add.

Andreessen Horowitz debuts $600 million fund for games investments

Andreessen Horowitz is launching a new vertical fund exclusively focused on opportunities in the games industry.

The new $600 million fund brings a pool of dedicated capital and a new internal structure dedicated to sourcing deals inside the games vertical. The new vehicle, called Games Fund One, joins other industry-specific arms at a16z including its crypto and bio divisions.

The fund is led by General Partners Andrew Chen, Jon Lai, and James Gwertzman.

“With [Games Fund One], we will continue to add more functions and develop deeper networks that are tailored to the games ecosystem so we can help our portfolio companies with everything from building digital communities, to managing their virtual economies, to IP licensing best practices, to helping build their development teams,” a blog post announcing the fund’s formation reads.

The fund’s backers include a number of executives in the games world, including co-founders at companies including King, Discord, Roblox, Zynga, Twitch, Blizzard and Riot Games.

Andreessen Horowitz has already placed a number of bets in the world of gaming and MMOs, including Zynga and Oculus. The formation of the games vertical comes as another one of its bets, Facebook (now Meta), postures loudly about the opportunities in gaming when it comes to the metaverse.

The new fund arrives at a moment of retraction for the broader tech industry as investors encourage startups to hunker down and preserve cash while public tech stocks continue to get hammered. Gaming infrastructure company Unity is trading more than 80% below its November 2021 highs while games platform Roblox is trading some 75% below highs reached during the same period.

Shadow announces premium plan for its cloud gaming service

It’s been a year since Octave Klaba, the founder of OVHcloud, acquired Shadow following a commercial court order. After a stabilizing period, the company is now ready to launch a new plan, a new service and a new B2B offering.

Shadow is a cloud computing service for gamers. People can pay a monthly subscription fee to access a full-fledged computer in a data center near them. It is a Windows instance, which means that you can install whatever you want — games, photo editing software, Microsoft Office, you name it.

But the service works particularly well for gamers as everything has been optimized for video games, from latency, 4:4:4 color support, gamepad compatibility to specifications. Currently, subscribers get the equivalent of an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for $29.99 per month, or €29.99 in Europe.

This is fine if you want to play Fortnite or Minecraft, but there are more recent GPUs that can improve your gaming experience. That’s why the company is announcing an upgrade for people who want better specifications.

Instead of a separate plan, the Shadow Power Upgrade is an add-on on top of your base subscription. For another $14.99 per month (or €14.99), you can access a server with an AMD EPYC 7543P CPU with 4 cores and 8 threads, 16GB of RAM and a recent GPU.

Depending on the data center, users will get an Nvidia Geforce RTX 3070 or the equivalent GPU in Nvidia’s professional GPU lineup. Users could also get a professional AMD Radeon GPU based on the RDNA 2 architecture (AMD Radeon Pro V620).

As you can see, Shadow is partnering extensively with AMD instead of relying exclusively on Intel for CPU models and Nvidia for GPU models. This could help when it comes to sourcing negotiations and supply chain constraints.

When it comes to availability, users will be able to pre-order the Power Upgrade this summer and it will be available this fall.

As for storage, if you think 256GB is not enough, you can purchase additional storage blocks in 256GB increments for $2.99 (or €2.99) per block per month. The maximum is 2TB.

The company is also launching new markets as people living in Canada and Austria will be able to subscribe this fall. As a reminder, Shadow is currently available in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S.

International expansions for a cloud computing service can be a bit difficult as you want your users to live as closely as possible from a data center where you operate due to latency concerns. There are currently eight data centers with Shadow servers — three in France, one in Germany and four in North America.

From hubiC to Shadow Drive

OVHcloud founder Octave Klaba also owns a cloud storage service called hubiC. For the past few years, that service has been on hold as it stopped accepting new customers and is going to shut down soon. hubiC never really managed to compete with Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive when it comes to features and reliability.

But it doesn’t mean that it was a bad idea. There’s still some room for competition in the online storage space. That’s why Shadow is going to launch a new service called Shadow Drive this fall.

Based on Nextcloud, a popular open-source online storage application, Shadow Drive will store and sync your files so that they can be accessible through a web browser, a desktop app or a mobile app. There will be a free plan with 20GB of storage and a premium plan with 2TB of storage for $8.99 per month (€8.99).

Expanding to business use cases

From the very beginning, Shadow has always been thinking about B2B use cases for its cloud computing service. Essentially, if the company can make the service work for gamers, it will be perfectly capable of running productivity apps and other professional software.

The company is now accepting customers for its new division called Shadow Business Solutions. Clients will be able to create, manage and share access to several virtual machines running on Shadow servers.

For instance, Bandai Namco worked with Shadow for the Elden Ring press campaign. The company shared a login and password with video game journalists so that they could play and review the game on a powerful computer and in a secure environment.

In many ways, Shadow hit the reset button last year with Octave Klaba’s acquisition of the company. While the company might not attract millions of users with such a premium positioning for its cloud computer, it sounds like Shadow now has a strong foundation for future iterations.

Image Credits: Shadow

Meta begins testing optional end-to-end encryption in Quest’s VR Messenger app

Meta is testing end-to-end encryption in Quest’s VR Messenger app, the company announced in a blog post. With the rollout of this test, the company is launching optional end-to-end encryption for Messenger’s one-on-one messages and calls in VR. The test is rolling out as part of the new v40 software update. It’s unclear how many people will get access to the test feature or how users can opt into it.

“Whether you’re telling mom about your wedding plans, talking Echo VR strategy with friends, or discussing confidential work projects, you can add an extra layer of privacy and security to your personal chats with our industry-leading technology,” the company said in the blog post.

It’s not surprising that Meta is bringing end-to-end encryption to VR, especially since it’s working to eventually bring it to all of its services. Although there isn’t an exact timeline on when this will happen, it was revealed last November that Meta is delaying the rollout of end-to-end encryption across all its services until “sometime in 2023.”

The test arrives alongside a few other features, including a new ‘Mono Audio’ feature that enables users to hear the same audio from both the left and right speakers in their headset versus the default spatial audio effect. Meta is also allowing users to adjust the balance of the left and right audio channels. For example, if you hear better in your right ear, you can adjust the balance towards the left to help balance the sound out. You can find the Mono Audio and Audio Balance options in the Accessibility tab in the Settings menu.

meta quest lock

Image Credits: Meta

There’s also a new App Unlock feature that allows users to put specific games and apps behind an unlock pattern. For example, once an app is locked, you’ll need to input your pattern every time you want to unlock and launch it. The new feature can be used to ensure that children can only access age-appropriate games. Prior to this feature, you could only lock an entire headset behind a pattern. Meta says this feature will be a starting point for parents, as it begins rolling out its parental supervision tools in the coming months.

With v40, users are also able to make payments with a 3DS-enabled credit card in VR, including the 3DS authorization step. Previously, 3DS authorization could only happen in the Oculus mobile app. The new software update also enables support for the Apple Magic Keyboard with numeric keypad, the Logitech K375s and the Logitech MX Keys.

Fall Guys is going free-to-play, coming to Switch and Xbox on June 21

Battle royale platformer Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is going free-to-play and is coming to Xbox, Nintendo Switch and the Epic Games Store on June 21st, developer Mediatonic announced on Monday. The game initially launched on PlayStation and PC in August 2020 and was set to be released on Switch and Xbox last summer. A dedicated PlayStation 5 version of the game will also launch on June 21st, bringing faster load times and other performance upgrades.

“Whether you’re on PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, the Epic Games Store or a mix of all of the above, you’ll be able to play Fall Guys for free —with cross-play, cross-platform parties and cross-progression fully supported with the use of your Epic Games Account,” the announcement reads.

PlayStation and Steam players who already have a copy of Fall Guys will continue to receive all the usual updates, including new seasons, patches and features. Mediatonic notes that new players will no longer be able to download Fall Guys on Steam. People who are new to Fall Guys and want to play on PC will have to visit the Epic Games Store.

Existing players who have purchased Fall Guys will get a “Legacy Pack” that will come with a nickname, nameplate, three costumes and access to a new premium season pass.

fall guys

Image Credits: Mediatonic

Fall Guys is getting a new season on June 21st that will bring new levels, costumes, gameplay and more. Mediatonic is also going to launch a new premium season pass that can be purchased with Show-Bucks, a new in-game currency. The season pass includes 100 levels and extra costumes. Users who don’t want a season pass will continue to have access to a free progression path with items to unlock.

It makes sense for Fall Guys to launch on the Epic Games Store, as Epic bought Mediatonic parent company Tonic Games Group last year. It’s worth noting that Epic made Rocket League free-to-play after acquiring developer Psyonix.

Fall Guys became an instant hit in 2020 but the hype around the game has since declined. The shift to free-to-play and launch on additional platforms should give Fall Guys a new audience.

Sony confirms its new PlayStation Plus tiers will launch on June 13, reveals list of games

Sony announced today that its revamped PlayStation Plus gaming subscription tires will launch in the United States on June 13th. The new PlayStation Plus tiers offer a similar to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, which gives users access to a library of rotating games for a monthly fee. Sony has also released a list of games that will be available during the launch time frame. It’s worth noting that Sony’s new subscription tiers won’t include new first-party games, such as “Horizon Zero Dawn and “Horizon Forbidden West,” at least not at launch.

The lowest tier of the subscription service is called “PlayStation Plus Essential” and comes with the same benefits that PlayStation Plus members have today and costs $9.99 per month. The middle tier, which is called “PlayStation Plus Extra,” comes with all the same perks as the Essential tier but includes a selection of up to 400 PS4 and PS5 games. Sony notes that games in the Extra tier can be downloaded for online play. The Extra tier costs $14.99 per month.

The top tier of the subscription service is called “PlayStation Plus Premium” and comes with access to everything in the Essential and Extra tiers along with 340 games, including PS3 titles you can stream via the cloud. The tier will also have classic games available in both streaming and download options, including original PlayStation, PS2 and PSP games. The tier, which costs $17.99 per month, also includes time-limited game trials, so customers will be able to try select games before buying them. Sony revealed that some of the titles that will be part of the trials include “Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection,” “Horizon Forbidden West,” “Cyberpunk 2077,” “Farming Simulator 2022,” “Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands” and “WWE 2K22.”

Sony also revealed that Ubisoft is bringing its subscription package to PlayStation as Ubisoft Plus Classics. Access to Ubisoft+ Classics games is a benefit for PlayStation Plus Extra and Premium members.

The company also notes that the games available in its PlayStation Plus games catalog will continue to refresh. PlayStation Plus Essential players will see a monthly refresh on the first Tuesday of the month, whereas Playstation Plus Extra and Premium players will see a monthly refresh in the middle of each month.

Here’s a list of the first-party PS5 and PS4 games that will be available at launch for PlayStation Plus Extra and Plus Premium players:

  • Alienation | Housemarque, PS4
  • Bloodborne | FromSoftware, PS4
  • Concrete Genie | Pixelopus, PS4
  • Days Gone | Bend Studio, PS4
  • Dead Nation Apocalypse Edition | Housemarque, PS4
  • Death Stranding and Death Stranding Director’s Cut | Kojima Productions, PS4/PS5
  • Demon’s Souls | Bluepoint Games,  PS5
  • Destruction AllStars | Lucid Games, PS5
  • Everybody’s Golf | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Ghost Of Tsushima Director’s Cut | Sucker Punch, PS4/ PS5
  • God of War | Santa Monica Studio, PS4
  • Gravity Rush 2 | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Gravity Rush Remastered | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Horizon Zero Dawn | Guerrilla, PS4
  • Infamous First Light | Sucker Punch, PS4
  • Infamous Second Son | Sucker Punch, PS4
  • Knack | Japan Studio, PS4
  • LittleBigPlanet 3 | Sumo Digital, PS4
  • LocoRoco Remastered | Japan Studio, PS4
  • LocoRoco 2 Remastered | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man | Insomniac Games, PS4
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales | Insomniac Games, PS4/PS5
  • Matterfall |Housemarque, PS4
  • MediEvil | Other Ocean, PS4
  • Patapon Remastered | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Patapon 2 Remastered | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Resogun | Housemarque, PS4
  • Returnal | Housemarque, PS5
  • Shadow of the Colossus | Japan Studio,  PS4
  • Tearaway Unfolded |Media Molecule, PS4
  • The Last Guardian | Japan Studio, PS4
  • The Last of Us Remastered | Naughty Dog, PS4
  • The Last of Us: Left Behind | Naughty Dog, PS4
  • Until Dawn | Supermassive Games, PS4
  • Uncharted The Nathan Drake Collection |Naughty Dog, PS4
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End | Naughty Dog, PS4
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy | Naughty Dog, PS4
  • WipEout Omega Collection | Clever Beans & Creative Vault Studios, PS4

Here’s a list of the third-party PS5 and PS4 games that will be available at launch for PlayStation Plus Extra and Plus Premium players:

  • Ashen | Annapurna Interactive, PS4
  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla | Ubisoft, PS4/PS5
  • Batman: Arkham Knight | WB Games, PS4
  • Celeste | Maddy Makes Games, PS4
  • Cities: Skylines | Paradox Interactive, PS4
  • Control: Ultimate Edition | 505 Games, PS4/PS5
  • Dead Cells| Motion Twin, PS4
  • Far Cry 3 Remaster | Ubisoft, PS4
  • Far Cry 4 | Ubisoft, PS4
  • Final Fantasy XV Royal Edition | Square Enix Co. LTD, PS4
  • For Honor | Ubisoft, PS4
  • Hollow Knight | Team Cherry, PS4
  • Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy | Square Enix Co. LTD., PS4/PS5
  • Mortal Kombat 11 | WB Games, PS4/PS5
  • Narutoshippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 | Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc., PS4
  • NBA 2K22 | 2K Games, PS4/PS5
  • Outer Wilds | Annapurna Interactive, PS4
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 | Rockstar Games, PS4 
  • Resident Evil | Capcom Co., Ltd, PS4
  • Soulcalibur VI | Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc., PS4
  • South Park: The Fractured but Whole | Ubisoft, PS4
  • The Artful Escape | Annapurna Interactive, PS4/PS5
  • The Crew 2 | Ubisoft, PS4
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division | Ubisoft, PS4

Here’s a list of the classic games that will be available to PlayStation Plus Premium members:

  • Ape Escape | Japan Studio, Original PlayStation 
  • Hot Shots Golf | Japan Studio, Original PlayStation
  • I.Q. Intelligent Qube | Japan Studio, Original PlayStation
  • Jumping Flash! | Japan Studio, Original PlayStation
  • Mr. Driller | Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc., Original PlayStation 
  • Syphon Filter | Bend Studio, Original PlayStation
  • Super Stardust Portable | Housemarque, PSP
  • Tekken 2 | Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc., Original PlayStation 
  • Worms World Party | Team 17, Original PlayStation 
  • Worms Armageddon | Team17, Original PlayStation 

PlayStation Plus Premium members will also get access to the following selection of remastered games:

  • Ape Escape 2 | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Arc The Lad: Twilight of the Spirits | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Bioshock Remastered | 2K Games, PS4
  • Borderlands The Handsome Collection | 2K Games, PS4
  • Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition | Gearbox Publishing, PS4
  • Dark Cloud | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Dark Cloud 2 | Japan Studio, PS4
  • FantaVision | SIE, PS4  
  • Hot Shots Tennis | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Jak II | Naughty Dog, PS4
  • Jak 3Naughty Dog, PS4
  • Jak X: Combat Racing | Naughty Dog, PS4
  • Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy | Naughty Dog, PS4  
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning | THQ Nordic, PS4
  • LEGO Harry Potter Collection | WB Games, PS4
  • Rogue Galaxy | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Siren | Japan Studio, PS4
  • Wild Arms 3 | SIE, PS4 

Lastly, here’s the list of the PS3 games that will be available to stream and play on PS4, PS5 and PC.

  • Asura’s Wrath | Capcom Co., Ltd., PS3
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 |  Konami, PS3
  • Crash Commando | Creative Vault Studios, PS3
  • Demon’s Souls | From Software, PS3
  • Devil May Cry HD Collection | Capcom Co., Ltd., PS3
  • echochrome | Japan Studio, PS3
  • Enslaved: Odyssey to the West | Bandai Namco Entertainment America Inc., PS3
  • F.E.A.R. | WB Games, PS3
  • Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds | Japan Studio, PS3
  • Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational | Japan Studio, PS3
  • Ico | Japan Studio, PS3
  • Infamous | Sucker Punch, PS3
  • Infamous 2 | Sucker Punch, PS3
  • Infamous: Festival of Blood | Sucker Punch, PS3
  • LocoRoco Cocoreccho! | Japan Studio, PS3
  • Lost Planet 2 | Capcom Co., Ltd., PS3
  • MotorStorm Apocalypse | Evolution Studios, PS3
  • MotorStorm RC | Evolution Studios, PS3
  • Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 | Koei Tecmo, PS3
  • Puppeteer | Japan Studio, PS3
  • rain | Japan Studio, PS3
  • Ratchet & Clank: Quest For Booty | Insomniac Games, PS3
  • Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time |Insomniac Games, PS3
  • Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus | Insomniac Games, PS3
  • Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare |Rockstar Games, PS3
  • Resistance 3 | Insomniac Games, PS3
  • Super Stardust HD | Housemarque, PS3
  • Tokyo Jungle | Japan Studio, PS3
  • When Vikings Attack | Clever Beans, PS3

Sony notes that title availability may vary by local market and that some games may not be available to stream until after launch, but they will be available to download and play. The new subscription offerings will launch in Asia on May 24th, in Japan on June 2nd, North and South America on June 13th, and in Europe, Australia and New Zealand on June 23rd.

Hulu partners with Xbox to bring PC Gamers free games in a bundle deal

Hulu and Xbox have announced a partnership deal that gives existing U.S. Hulu subscribers three free months of PC Game Pass as part of the Hulu “Friends with Benefits” initiative. The move to target gamers follows Netflix’s entry into the gaming market, where the streamer has made a number of ad-free mobile games a part of its subscription service.

Hulu and Xbox’s offer is a limited-time deal, however — not a new gaming initiative. The companies said this current offer is redeemable until July 23, 2022, and is only valid for PC Game Pass, not Game Pass Ultimate. It also may only be redeemed by Hulu subscribers in the U.S. who are to new Game Pass.

This appears to be the first time Hulu has done this type of deal with a gaming company. Xbox worked with Disney’s other streaming service, Disney+, in 2020, offering Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers one free month of Disney+.

Hulu wrote in a statement, “At Hulu, every decision we make starts with the viewer. We do this through the stories we bring to life, and by giving Hulu subscribers the opportunity to engage with their favorite shows, films and brands through select perks and activations, including the ‘Hulu Friends with Benefits’ initiative, Hulu’s way of thanking you for simply being a fan—because that’s what friends are for.”

Normally, PC Game Pass costs $9.99 a month, so this offer is a chance for PC gamers to try out over 100 different games, including titles such as “Minecraft,” “Microsoft Flight Simulator,” “Forza Horizon 5,” “Halo,” as well as access to EA Play games like “The Sims 4,” “It Takes Two,” and “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.” PC Game Pass also gives access to many new games the same day they release at retail. Xbox said in its announcement that more games would be coming out in the next three months.

While hardcore gamers love to play on consoles, there are a surprising amount of dedicated PC gamers. Statista shows there are 1.77 billion of them globally, and the number is expected to rise, potentially exceeding 1.9 billion in 2024.

On the other hand, Insider Intelligence believes the number of PC gamers will only decrease in 2022, and mobile games will dominate. This could explain why Netflix approached mobile games instead of PC. Mobile gaming is another impressive competitor in the gaming space, and Netflix has catered to this demographic of more casual, on-the-go gamers. According to Apptopia, Netflix’s mobile games have been installed more than 8 million times since it launched.

In March, Netflix announced its only first-person shooter title “Into the Dead 2: Unleashed,” which could broaden its appeal to more gaming enthusiasts. In addition, Business Insider pointed to an older Netflix job listing that may have hinted at the company planning to expand into console and PC gaming. The job listing was for a video game tech artist and said that the ideal candidate “has shipped three or more console or PC games as an engineer or equivalent.”

Its “League of Legends” animated series “Arcane” was a hit for the series, so it’s not a shock that its game “Hextech Mayhem,” licensed from developer Riot Games, has garnered some success with 58% of League of Legends fans in the U.S. more likely to subscribe to Netflix than other streaming services, per Interpret data. Fifty-five percent of all gamers choose to subscribe to the streamer whereas 27% and 16% of gamers pick Hulu’s ad-supported plan and ad-free tier, respectively.

Overall, Netflix has 221 million global subscribers and greatly disappointed shareholders with a loss of 200,000 subs in its recent quarterly earnings report. For Q2 2022, total combined subscriptions for Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ exceeded 205 million, with Hulu contributing 45.6 million subs.

While there’s no indication that Hulu will take the same route as Netflix, it is interesting that more streaming services have begun following each other down the gaming rabbit hole.

Reggie Fils-Aimé talks web3, AR and his gaming SPAC

In February 2019, Reggie Fils-Aimé announced that he would be leaving Nintendo after 16 years — 13 of which were spent as the president and COO of the company’s North American division. It was a fruitful run, filled with more ups (Wii, Switch) than downs (Wii U) during a time of tremendous growth for the gaming industry.

A lifelong serial executive, Fils-Aimé has retired from that aspect of the industry, while still maintaining a presence in gaming. He sat on GameStop’s board (later resigning in 2021), joined investment and consulting firm Brentwood Growth Partners, and even briefly hosted a gaming podcast (as one does during a global pandemic).

Earlier this month, he released the book “Disrupting the Game“, which charts his journey from the Bronx to the Nintendo boardrooms. We caught up with Fils-Aimé to discuss his time at Nintendo, plans for a $200 million SPAC and where he sees gaming headed.

I was going to ask how retirement is going, but “retirement” may be too strong a word.

My form of retirement is doing things that I like, with people I like doing them with. So whether it’s board service, whether it’s the SPAC that I’m involved in, whether it’s been writing and launching the book, it’s my form of retirement, and I’m having a lot of fun.

What are the plans for the SPAC?

The SPAC is in the broad digital entertainment space. We went public in December of last year. We were oversubscribed by about a billion dollars, so we went public. $230 million is our war chest. But with a billion dollars left on the table, it means we can go after a fairly large acquisition and take it public through the SPAC process. We’ve got until September of next year to identify our target and execute the transaction. We’re in the process of meeting with a lot of different companies and a lot of potential players.

Nintendo Switch Lite

Image Credits: Brian Heater

What trends in gaming are you specifically most excited about?

I do believe that web3 is going to create some opportunities. In particular, I think blockchain could lead to some unique types of digital entertainment. I also believe that the creator economy has unique opportunities. Everyone wants to be a creator. These tools and companies that are leveraging this have an opportunity to do quite well. Another thing I would highlight is that, while there have been a number of large acquisitions in the gaming space, I do believe that’s going to give rise to new, independent companies, led by creators who just don’t want to be part of these larger organizations.

Three companies have dominated the console space for so long. Do you see room for another player?

I do. There are a number of companies that are approaching the creation of that next platform in new and unique ways. Look at what Valve is doing on the PC side. You’ve got Steam and Steam Deck. What they’re trying to do is create a portable experience for largely PC-type games. That could grow to be a separate platform, potentially. I think what Epic is doing is very interesting. Obviously, you’ve got Unreal, that’s become a foundation for game developers. Unreal now is also being used by animators and people in the film industry. That can become a different type of platform. Unity is playing in the same space, though I think they’re a little bit further behind. I do think that there is room for other platforms, but they’ll be defined differently than, say, a Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo.

Are you bullish on AR and VR?

I’m very bullish on AR. I think that AR leads to more communal-type of experiences, and there are already proof points as to what AR gaming can be. I am not sold from a gaming perspective on VR. I think VR has some very interesting business applications, but I haven’t yet seen a great gaming experience in VR. One of the lessons from Virtual Boy is not letting the hardware fully dictate the content. Obviously that pre-dates you, but there were struggles with the Wii U, as well.

Absolutely. Nintendo has heeded that message, more times than not, and I think more times than any other older platform. Their mentality has always been, it’s got to be about the games, it’s got to be about the gameplay. Their developers always want to bring unique forms of gameplay. And that’s what drives the tech to bring it to life. It’s always got to be in the games.

Image Credits: HarperCollins Leadership

From the outside, there were frustrations covering the company, including the speed with which it embraced technologies like smartphones. Nintendo seemed to be dragging its heels. You arrived as an outsider. Did you experience similar frustrations inside the company?

Myself and my team embraced the role of educating the developers in Kyoto around what were key trends to be thoughtful about, to be aware of how the industry was shaping up. The fact is, you need to communicate these forward-looking pathways constantly. And you need to repeat yourself constantly, in order to get traction. But once the company would really believe in a direction and come up with a unique approach, then typically, they would break through with incredible successes.

Is Nintendo more nimble — or at least more open — than when you started?

I do believe that’s true. I think a lot of that started with Satoru Iwata. He very much embraced new and different ideas. And I think he certainly drove the company in that direction. The company has always had a history of innovation and a history of doing things quite uniquely. But under his leadership, there was an embrace of taking risks and moving forward aggressively. And I do believe that continues today.

One of the things I appreciate about the book is the discussion around relative failures. It’s safe to say the Wii U wasn’t the success you were hoping for. What lessons did you take away from the experience?

The game pad, as an innovation, did not deliver in the way we hoped. The company really believed it would allow different types of gameplay maybe best exemplified by Nintendo Land. In the end, the company was not able to deliver on that proposition. The second thing I would highlight was the pace of content was not sufficient in order to maintain momentum. For the launch, the games came out way too slow. The third piece I would highlight was that we still utilized predominantly internal development software that was not easy for external developers to utilize, and therefore to create content for the system, which further exacerbated the lack of content, because the first party wasn’t able to deliver the games on time.

Those were some very harsh lessons that we’ve positively applied to the Nintendo Switch. The core proposition of the Switch, that you could play on your big screen TV and then undock the platform, take it with you, is a core proposition that resonated for the player.

What are those conversations like behind the scenes, when it’s clear to you that it’s time to sort of cut your losses and move on to the next thing?

The conversations are incredibly tough. The fact of the matter is, there’s not always agreement. I pushed incredibly hard, as an example, to try and get the complete proposition down to $99. I was convinced if we could do that, we would have sold another 50 million units of hardware for the Wii and an associated level of software. But unfortunately, the economics of the system didn’t allow that to happen.

For the Wii U, it became clear after we’d already done a price decline — after we’d already used traditional tactics, skill bundles and color changes — the platform still was not performing to our expectations. It was an incredibly tough conversation with the key developers in the Kyoto headquarters to begin working on the next system and begin thinking about what that would be. But also, back at Nintendo of America, to keep focus on engaging with the retailers, keeping focus on launching some key pieces of software to maintain some semblance of momentum.

Image Credits: Nintendo

Looking back on your time at Nintendo in writing this book, are there any major regrets?

I look back at moments, key decisions, and acknowledge that the end decision didn’t go the way I wanted. The pricing decision for the Nintendo 3DS is a classic example from my Nintendo days. I was convinced that launching at $249 was not going to go well and argued to the best of my ability to launch at a $199 price point. In the end, Mr. Iwata had the ultimate decision, and he said “no.” Within months, we had to do a massive price decline down to $169. I believe if we had launched at a $199 price point, we would have been successful from the start. But what do you learn from that? How do you, in the future, be more effective in selling that type of controversial decision?

You seem to enjoy the flexibility this new life has afforded, but if the right opportunity came along, would you consider taking an executive role again?

You never say never. But I don’t believe so. Right after I retired, I was approached to lead a significant organization. Like any smart person, you evaluate it, but in the end, I decided that running a large business isn’t something that today excites me. What excites me is making a trip to the Bronx, and spending time with young people and sharing my story and encouraging them, to follow their passions and to live their dreams. What excites me is writing the book, and sharing my principles. What excites me is being in the boardroom and sharing my experiences with other senior leaders to help them grow and manage their business more effectively. Those are things that I can’t do at the scale I’m doing now as an executive.

We talked a bit about the SPAC. It could be that as we find a private company, and look to take them public, that I may need to play a role with that company, maybe be chair of the board or some other type of role. Certainly if that comes to pass, it’ll be something that I’ll consider and do. But my mindset right now is to share my experiences and to encourage and empower that next generation of business leaders.