Industry News [May 2021]

This is the regular 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!

Tencent is currently involved in negotiations with the U.S. government around its stakes in Epic and Riot, and the privacy concerns which emerge from them. Little seems to have emerged one way or another yet, but both Riot and Epic have reported that they do not currently share user data with Tencent anyways.

Supercell has been ordered to pay over $90m in damages to Gree for having violated six of the latter’s patents regarding free-to-play gameplay mechanics. These patents surround fairly large mechanics such as the purchase of items for faster progression through the games, and Supercell’s argument has been that it believes the patents are therefore invalid or unenforceable. Supercell has stated that it plans to appeal, so this case may not yet be over, and decisions here could have relatively profound impacts on the mobile freemium game market moving forward.

A few weeks ago, I said that Clubhouse’s most important vector to defeat all the copycats cropping up will be around discoverability. That has become harder as Discord announced their new Stage Discovery feature to help solve exactly that. Between Discord’s access to consumers in other contexts and its historical learnings around discoverability of communities, they seem well-positioned to be a substantial threat here to Clubhouse’s longevity.

Veritone has launched a new “speech as a service” platform meant to help developers and content creators generate audio in the voice of recognizable celebrities, politicians, and other public figures. They’re certainly not the first platform to do so but are among the larger platforms to focus so directly on creating custom voices – they are also one of only a few offering speech-to-speech content creation services, though they don’t offer any demos of this latter piece of their technology. While none of Veritone’s work touches on real-time use cases (meaning they are pretty distanced from Modulate), we’ve had a number of voice actors and public figures speak to us in the past about concerns around this technology, and especially the threat it poses to the livelihood of many individuals (and the integrity of others.) Veritone has an ethics policy posted on its website, but it’s extremely minimal at the moment, and it remains to be seen whether they’ll be able to motivate voice actors to contribute their voices to this project in the way they’ll require to truly expand the platform to the next level.

Finally, the Epic and Apple lawsuit has begun wrapping up – here’s a strong Gamesbeat summary of the situation overall. Much of the discussion has themed around ideas of fairness and questions around Apple’s current policies (looking for inconsistency.) One hilarious outcome of this emerged when it was noted that Roblox currently enjoys the right to pay lesser fees for purchases made in-app. When questioned about this, Apple responded (at least, initially) that this was because Roblox’s store didn’t sell games, but rather sold “experiences.” Clearly disinterested in getting caught in the middle of this debate – and certainly uninterested in having their fees increased! – Roblox decided to simply go with the flow – and the next day, the word “game” had been replaced with “experience” throughout their website.

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

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