Industry News [Week of September 14]

This is the regular weekly post where I share updates about things happening in gaming, machine learning, audio, or frankly anything that catches my eye and seems relevant to share or discuss here. Let’s hop right in!

NVIDIA is all set to acquire Arm for $40B, creating a consolidated powerhouse in the field of computing. NVIDIA’s initial statements about the acquisition suggest that they’ll be taking heavy advantage of Arm’s existing network as well as looking into opportunities to apply their AI expertise to add additional value on top of Arm’s technology.

Another major deal – Oracle is trying to take over TikTok’s US operation in an attempt to appease US government concerns around digital security. Of course, the US isn’t the only country to have concerns about software ending up in the wrong place – in response to the Oracle discussion, China has made it clear that TikTok’s core algorithm will not be disclosed to any US buyer. In response, President Trump is now issuing a ban against both TikTok and WeChat starting tomorrow. Wherever this battle lands, it’s emblematic of the kinds of challenges we’re going to face increasingly often in a world run by algorithms and databases at least as much as it’s run by material things or people.

And TikTok and WeChat aren’t the only Chinese platforms seeing increased attention. Tencent, which owns stakes in top game developers like Riot, Epic, Activision Blizzard, and Roblox (as well as being the actual owners of WeChat), is facing additional scrutiny around how much access it has to US player data in these video games. The exact nature of the inquiry isn’t yet entirely clear, but the common theme here seems to be questions around behavioral data, both in these games and the other apps, which could conceivably be used to build models of, or influence the perceptions of, US citizens on a broad scale.

Recognizing the trend of growing viewership of Just Chatting channels, Twitch is continuing to expand into a more casual and less gaming-centric platform that’s just about connecting people around some kind of entertainment content. The latest step here is their release of Watch Parties, which allow streamers to watch TV or movies (from Amazon Prime Video, of course, since Twitch is part of Amazon) together with their audience in a more seamless way.

On that topic, I don’t have much to say about this (long) blog post about the evolution of influencers – the post says enough on its own! But anyone interested in how the space is evolving will likely find some new and interesting perspectives here.

GamesBeat asks “Will Facebook Horizon be the first step towards the metaverse“? I would answer, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “no” – but only because we’re already far along the path to the metaverse regardless. In terms of the next big step, Facebook does have a major advantage in the strength and scope of its social graph, but I’m still a bit bearish on them here. The metaverse will require huge amounts of user-generated content, which means both open-access tools and a stable underlying API to build off of – neither are exactly Facebook’s forte, especially when compared to companies more fundamentally in the gaming space.

Finally, Unity has officially IPO’ed, raising over a billion dollars at a valuation of $13.6B. As an interesting departure from the standard IPO procedure, Unity’s management team actually ran the selection of the initial investors who purchased these stakes. Otherwise not too much to say about the IPO itself – though of course, that Unity has raised so much is definitely evidence of how much potential the wider market sees in creating richer digital experiences.

That’s all for this week! As always, any thoughts or feedback are welcome. Stay safe, healthy, and sane, all!

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