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Among Us: the video game that has shot 100 million players into outer space | Games

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If “sus” and “vent” mean nothing to you, then you’ve somehow missed out on the smash-hit multiplayer game Among Us. But with numbers playing the online game heading towards 100 million, maybe you’ll find out before Christmas how good you are at being an “impostor” .

For the uninitiated, Among Us is the sleeper game hit of 2020. The premise is simple: it’s Cluedo or Wink Murder on a spaceship with four to 10 players of crewmates and impostors. The crewmates perform simple tasks for take-off, while impostors sabotage operations and kill other players. Impostors are the only players who can travel through vents – hence the significance of vent in Among Us. Gamers hold meetings to pick a suspect – which is where the word sus comes in – to jettison. The aim is to catch the impostors.

The game, launched in 2018 by US software company InnerSloth, had been downloaded a respectable 1 million times by May 2019. But as lockdowns forced people around the world to stay at home and find new ways to link up with their friends, Among Us surged in popularity. By the end of September 2020, 60 million people were playing every day.

This phenomenal success started in July on video-streaming platform Twitch when high-profile gamers began streaming themselves playing Among Us. Many YouTubers and TikTok influencers immediately followed suit. Its popularity even spread to politicians – a fortnight before the US presidential election, Hasan Piker, a political commentator on Twitch with 4.5 million followers, streamed a game of Among Us with leftwing congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar as part of an initiative to encourage young people to vote.

This year has seen the rise of covideogamers – people who’ve taken up games to pass the long hours of lockdown. In the UK, the overall gaming population has increased by 63% in 2020. Among Us has undoubtedly benefited from a captive audience, but online multiplayer games have long been a great way to socialise.

Among Us



Online multiplayer games, such as Among Us, have been a great way to socialise during lockdown. Photograph: InnerSloth

“They provide much needed contact during lockdown,” says Dr Peter Etchells, professor of psychology and science communication at Bath Spa University. “They allow us to blow off a little steam, and catch up with friends from our own homes.”

Jack Weiner, an 11-year-old Londoner who originally saw Among Us on YouTube, uses the game to keep in touch with his social circle. “We played Among Us at my friend’s Zoom birthday party. It was way funnier listening to people trying to convince everyone who the impostor was than reading it on text in the game. My grandpa Alan has also learned how to play, and on Mondays I play with him and my cousins. He’s surprisingly good.”

Etchells says that as well as the social element, the game’s dark tone rings true for a lot of people this year. “It is set in an environment that is becoming increasingly catastrophic, while we all desperately try to keep everything running smoothly.”

Meg Wemyss, an 11-year-old from London who started playing Among Us with her friends two months ago after they saw it on TikTok, puts it another way: “It’s a lot of fun acting innocent and getting to kill people.”

InnerSloth was developing a sequel to Among Us but the success of the first game means it is now focused on improving the original. Updates are to be announced on 10 December at the Game Awards, an annual celebration of the industry. Likely additions include turning murdered crewmates into guardian angels and a new area map that would change how matches could be played.

Though Among Us is up for best multiplayer and best mobile game at the Game Awards, Etchells thinks it has just done what all good games have done, “which is to allow us to connect with the people we like and love. That’s the real power of video games; their ability to provide an unparalleled social experience.”


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Walmart partners with The Trade Desk for ads business

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A shopper who refused to wear a mask is seen leaving a Walmart store in Bradford, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 20, 2020.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Walmart is renaming its ads business “Walmart Connect,” and announcing a number of strategic moves, including a new offering through ad tech company The Trade Desk

The moves are meant to help Walmart in its attempts to grow the segment by more than ten times in the next five years, the company told CNBC, and could help Walmart take on competitor Amazon. Walmart Media Group boasts about its “massive scale” and “massive reach” to advertisers, saying 160 million customers visit its stores or its website every month.

But it’s still a small part of the company’s revenue base. In its 2020 annual report, the company said Walmart Media Group along with “fuel and financial services and related products” make up less than 1% of its annual net sales, which amounted to $524 billion.

By way of comparison, in the third quarter, Amazon’s “Other” business segment, which “primarily includes sales of advertising services,” accounted for $5.4 billion in revenue, nearly 6% of the company’s total. It’s consistently growing more than 40% on an annualized basis.

Though Walmart’s ads business is smaller than its tech competitors, the segment has gotten a supercharge during the pandemic with so many consumers buying groceries and other items online. 

What Walmart Connect will include

To broaden its reach, Walmart is partnering with The Trade Desk, which has technology that helps brands and agencies reach targeted audiences across media formats and devices.

The companies are building what’s known as a “demand-side platform” (DSP) that will use Walmart shopper data to place targeted ads across the web, not just on Walmart’s own sites. AdExchanger reported last year that Walmart Media Group was running a bake-off between Xandr and The Trade Desk to choose a partner for off-site advertising. 

“We’re pretty confident that we’re going to be able to grow this business to become one of the top 10 advertising platforms in the U.S. over the next few years,” Walmart Chief Customer Officer Janey Whiteside said in an interview. She said the physical footprint is a major differentiator. “If somebody sees an ad online and later buys that [item] in the store a day, a week, later, we can connect that together … which historically, advertisers haven’t been able to get.”

Until now, Walmart has operated a display advertising network, which lets advertisers reach Walmart customers on- and off-site, but those off-site offerings have only been available through its managed service. The DSP, other hand, will let advertisers buy directly. The company said when the DSP launches, advertisers will have access to all inventory that The Trade Desk offers, including connected TV, video, audio, mobile and display. 

Walmart is also growing its business on its own digital properties, including Walmart.com and its app. There, it uses techniques like search and display advertising to put advertiser messages “right next to where customers are making purchasing decisions.” The company says last fiscal year it saw this segment double in revenue and in the number of advertisers using it. 

Lastly, Walmart said it will allow advertisers to buy placement on in-store TV walls and self-checkout screens, covering more than 170,000 digital screens in more than 4,500 stores. The company said these can be delivered with date, time and geographic specificity. Whiteside said this could take the form of contextual ads that are appropriate for the weather or that would make sense for a particular hyperlocal region.

“We know enough about what cereals you’ve looked at, what cereals you’ve bought, whether you’ve ever been interested in oatmeal or not to be able to place an oatmeal ad at the checkout counter, or even at the checkout screen for you,” she said.

The company also wants sell advertisements in its events, like the drive-in movie events it hosted last year, or drive-thru Halloween trick-or-treating. 

“Think about the highly contextual, relevant opportunities for advertisers to be part of that, whether it’s through ads on-site, sampling, all the things that we can do,” Whiteside said. 

–CNBC’s Melissa Repko contributed reporting.

Nominations are open for the 2021 CNBC Disruptor 50, a list of private start-ups using breakthrough technology to become the next generation of great public companies. Submit by Friday, Feb. 12, at 3 pm EST.


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Tesla Semi production on hold until company can make its own batteries

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk shows off the Tesla Semi as he unveils the company’s new electric semi truck during a presentation in Hawthorne, California, U.S., November 16, 2017.

Alexandria Sage | Reuters

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during the company’s earnings call that volume production of its class 8 truck, the Tesla Semi, is on hold until Tesla can make a high volume of its own 4680 battery cells.

The cells, which Tesla designed and showed off to shareholders at a battery day presentation in September 2020, are large, tab-less lithium-ion cells that the company is making at its pilot battery factory in Fremont, California. The company said in a Q4 earnings update that it will deliver its first Semi by the end of 2021.

“Prototypes are easy, scaling production is very hard,” the CEO lamented.

When Tesla first unveiled its Semi trucks in 2017, Musk said they would be delivered to customers in 2019. In April last year, the company said it would delay Semi production until this year.

Tesla has taken scores of reservations from big name customers for the Semi. Anheuser-Busch, DHL Group, PepsiCo, Pride Group and Walmart put money down for the class 8, battery electric Tesla trucks.

Tesla has also used Semi prototypes in a marketing stunt to deliver cars to customers. It recently posted job listings for employees to work on Semi truck production lines at its battery plant outside of Reno, Nevada.

Musk said of the Semi, specifically:

“The main reason we’ve not accelerated new products is — like for example Tesla Semi — is that we simply don’t have enough cells for it. If we were to make the Semi like right now, which we could easily go into production with the Semi, but we would not have enough cells for it right now. We will have enough cells for Semi when we are producing the Tesla 4680 in volume.”

“Basically we do not see any issues with creating a compelling long-range truck with batteries apart from cell supply,” Musk said.

Tesla President of Automotive Jerome Guillen said on the call that Tesla’s Semi uses the same parts included in the company’s sedans and SUVs today to enable driver assistance features, which Tesla markets as its Autopilot and Full Self Driving options. “I’m looking forward to having some additional ones on the road very soon,” he said.

According to the CEO, the Semi would require five times the number of lithium ion battery cells that a car would use today, but the company could not sell it for five times what it can sell a car. That’s why, Musk said, “It kinda would not make sense for us to do the Semi, but it will absolutely make sense for us to do it as soon as we can address the cell production constraint. The same would go for a van.”

Vans and other light-duty trucks are expected to be in high demand in the U.S. in coming years. One reason is President Biden’s Buy America plan, through which he aims to replace the federal government’s fleet of internal combustion engine vehicles with cleaner, quieter electrics.

According to the most recently available data from the General Services Agency, the federal fleet includes more than 400,000 trucks, a category that encompasses light duty pickups and vans. Tesla competitors including GM, Daimler, Rivian and others are developing, and in some cases already selling, battery electric vans.

“I think Tesla’s definitely going to make an electric van at some point,” Musk said. “The thing to bear in mind is that there is fundamentally a constraint on battery cell output. If you’re not involved in manufacturing, it’s really hard to appreciate just how hard it is to scale production. It’s the hardest thing in the world!”


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Comcast (CMCSA) Q4 2020 earnings

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NBCUniversal kicks off it’s new Peacock streaming service.

Todd Williamson | Peacock | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

Comcast is set to report fiscal fourth-quarter earnings before-the-bell on Thursday.

Here are the key numbers Wall Street is expecting:

  • Earnings per share: 48 cents expected, according to Refinitiv survey of analysts.
  • Revenue: $26.78 billion expected, according to Refinitiv.
  • High-speed internet customers: 490,000 net adds expected, according to FactSet

Investors expect to learn more about the status of NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, Peacock. The service, which offers free and paid options, had nearly 22 million sign-ups when Comcast last reported earnings in October. Ahead of its launch, the company had a goal of reaching 30 million to 35 million active Peacock accounts by 2024.

Peacock is still fairly new to the streaming wars, but the company has managed to wrangle exclusive content to its platform. The company earlier this week announced it reached an exclusive agreement to stream wrestling matches from the WWE Network in the U.S., putting an end to WWE Network’s independent streaming platform in the States.

The latest streaming numbers come as the company’s filmed entertainment sector has suffered during the coronavirus pandemic, due to delays in production and theater closures following stay-at-home mandates.

Comcast’s theme park business, which is part of its NBCUniversal division, is also likely to take a continued hit due to closures and lowered capacity. California has kept its theme parks closed, while the company’s Florida, Japan and Singapore parks have been able to reopen with guidelines in place.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.

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