Tag Archives: development

Behind freemium mobile game Crossy Road, which earned $10M and hit 50M downloads in 3 months (Dave Tach/Polygon)

TOGETHER LIKE VOLTRON Indie games often aspire to be different, and Crossy Road did, too. Hall and Sum wanted to create a free-to-play game that would sell well at first and then drift away. To do that, Hall figured, it needed two things. First, Crossy Road needed "retention," which just means the game gave players several reasons to enjoy and play the game as long as possible. Free-to-play games tend to be good at that, offering incentives that reward players to come back. In lieu of a traditional narrative ending, for example, free-to-play games have a solid gameplay loop. Done well, the incentives and gameplay would create what Hall calls "virality," to which the developers add elements that make payers want to share and talk about the game. If they were successful, Hall believed, everything would "come together like Voltron." A template exists for games like these with hooks like these, but Hipster Whale didn't want to copy anything. They wanted to emulate the good — even Crossy Road 's name is a tribute to another recent, easy-to-play, addictive mobile phenomenon, Flappy Bird — and exorcise the bad. And, the thinking went, if they made a popular game, they might also make some money, even if they didn't stress the money-making part. The point is, Crossy Road 's oddities were deliberate and focused

Read More »

Microsoft sues Kyocera in new Android patent infringement dispute (Todd Bishop/GeekWire)

Microsoft filed suit against Kyocera this afternoon, alleging that the Japanese electronics company’s Android-based smartphones infringe on the Redmond company’s patents. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, seeks financial damages and an injunction against Kyocera to prevent the company from selling devices that Microsoft alleges to infringe its patents. The suit singles out Kyocera’s Duraforce, Hydro and Brigadier lines of mobile phones. Although Microsoft has struggled to keep pace with the likes of Google and Apple in the smartphone market, the company’s compliant uses strong language to call out the work of its research team in developing new technologies. “Although research and development comes at great cost and risk, Microsoft was founded on innovation, and the company continues to choose the path of the innovator,” the complaint says. “But others have a different approach, waiting for innovators like Microsoft to bear the expense of developing new technologies and then incorporating the most successful inventions into their own products – without permission and without paying for the privilege.” The complaint cites seven Microsoft patents covering specific approaches to power-saving, battery life, accelerometers, location, motion sensing and other technologies. The seven patents cited in the suit haven’t previously been used in any of Microsoft’s U.S. patent cases. “We respect Kyocera but we believe they need to license the patented technology they are using. We’re hopeful this case can be resolved amicably,” said David Howard, a Microsoft corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, in a statement issued by the company. We’ve contacted Kyocera seeking comment on the Microsoft lawsuit. It’s the latest effort by Microsoft to collect royalties from makers of Android devices, based on its claims that Google’s operating system infringes on its patents. The company has existing licenses with smartphone makers including Samsung, LG and HTC. Microsoft has said previously that its licensing agreements cover 80 percent of Android smartphones sold in the U.S.

Read More »

Search startup Swiftype raises $13M Series B led by NEA, which also led Series A (Anthony Ha/TechCrunch)

Y Combinator-incubated search startup Swiftype has raised $13 million in Series B funding. When I first covered the company back in 2012 , the pitch was pretty straightforward — it provided customizable search tools that didn’t suck to sites like TechCrunch. On the other hand, online publishers might not be the most lucrative customer base, so while co-founders Matt Riley and Quin Hoxie told me they still support publishers (and we still use Swiftype at TechCrunch), they’ve also expanded into other areas, particularly knowledge bases (basically, FAQs and customer support sites) and e-commerce. As examples of how the company’s technology can deliver a better experience in both areas, Riley pointed to Swiftype’s semantic understanding of searches — in e-commerce, it can be important to understand the difference between a “blue dress” and “dress shoes,” and with a knowledge base, it’s important not to get confused when someone enters a long, complicated question as their query. (The company also added live analytics last year .) Swiftype says it’s now used by hundreds of thousands of websites and apps, with customers ranging from Qualcomm and Dr. Pepper to Twitch and CloudFlare. The Series B was led by New Enterprise Associates, which also led the Series A . NEA’s Chetan Puttagunta, who was recently promoted to partner , will join the firm’s John Sakoda — as well as Hoxie and Riley — on the Swiftype board. Asked why they seem to be doubling down on their relationship with NEA rather than bringing on new investors, Riley said, “We feel like they’re going to be long-term partners. … Chetan works really hard and he’s been incredibly helpful to both Quin and me, helping to guide us through what we’re learning about running a business.” Swiftype has now raised more than $20 million in funding. Its investors include CrunchFund (which is backed by TechCrunch-owner AOL and, like TechCrunch, was founded by Michael Arrington). You can read more in Swiftype’s blog post about the funding

Read More »

Two former and four current Twitter execs, all women, announce new investment group #Angels (Medium)

Introducing #Angels Over the better part of the last decade we have poured our energy, passion, and time into building Twitter—the product, the business, the platform, the culture and the company. Collectively we’ve seen the company grow from a start-up of a few dozen employees and pre-revenue to a publicly-traded global organization. Some of us ( Jana Messerschmidt , Jessica Verrilli , Katie Stanton , and Vijaya Gadde ) are still focused on Twitter and will continue to be. Others ( April Underwood and Chloe Sladden ) are beginning the next chapter of their own entrepreneurial endeavors. But all of us love working with start-ups. And we love working together. We’re excited to join together in an investment group, #Angels , to leverage this experience to help start-ups as angel investors*. Technology is no longer an industry category. As has been well-chronicled, it has become a foundation to every business, ranging from healthcare to transportation to finance to education and beyond. Every company will be a technology company. And the lessons learned from building a company like Twitter are relevant to an increasingly wide range of products, businesses, and industries. Together, we bring a unique breadth of operating experience across product development, partnerships, fundraising, acquisitions, internationalization, platforms, media, legal, corporate governance and policy in a hyper-growth company

Read More »

Update to Unity 5 game engine brings enhanced graphics, full-featured free version, and more (Christian Nutt/Gamasutra)

This morning, Unity releases Unity 5 , the latest version of its incredibly popular multiplatform engine. It comes in two flavors: Unity 5 Professional , which adds a number of features new to the latest iteration of the engine (notably, its Cloud Build service package) and its analytics packages, as well as its Team License tools for larger studios.    Unity 5 Personal , which is completely free to developers with revenue or funding less than $100,000 a year, and which includes the full engine (but no advanced services package.) The only platform (of the 21 which Unity supports) that Personal can't build to out of the box is the Xbox 360. (Developers will also, of course, need valid licenses to publish to the consoles the engine supports.) This graphic, provided by Unity, will help make things clear: In light of the news out of Epic Games yesterday -- that Unreal Engine will be going free-to-download , but charge a 5 percent royalty on games that gross over $3,000 a quarter -- Unity's decision to stick with a more traditional pricing structure will raise eyebrows. It's $75 a month, or $1,500 up-front -- but no royalty will ever be charged. Where the company hopes to differentiate more significantly from its competition is in its services offering: Cloud Build is chief among them, but the analytics and reporting packages are also significant (if not final, as of today) and those aren't the only ones the company is cooking up. And this time around, its free version is much more robust than with Unity 4, the company says. It's the same engine, minus the service-based frills (an increasing focus of the tech , it should be noted.) Gamasutra had a chance to speak to Unity's recently installed CEO , John Riccitiello, about the news, the engine, and the competition. First up: What about Epic? What's Unity's reaction to the news? "Technically, absolutely nothing, because we're not changing anything. We sort of expected it. Their pricing model apparently wasn't working, so they changed." Shots fired by Riccitiello! But they ring somewhat hollow; Epic's Tim Sweeney told Gamasutra about the tenfold explosion in Unreal signups since the engine went subscription a year ago, and it's obvious that our audience is paying increased attention to the tool. Still, Unity is entrenched, beloved, and will be hard to shake free of its perch at the top of the mobile game space. This point has more salience: "It's really just something that's not quite like what we do, so we don't necessarily view them as direct competition." Certainly, the development community does; but if you're in the flip-a-coin, choose-an-engine scenario, the fact that Unity does not take that five percent royalty off your gross revenue does help justify its cost. That's not changing for Unity 5 , and it pits the two engines against each other in a unique way: Which business model makes the most sense for your project

Read More »

Parker Harris: The little-known nice guy who helped turn Salesforce into San Francisco’s most powerful tech company (Eugene Kim/Business Insider)

Salesforce Salesforce cofounders Marc Benioff and Parker Harris Parker Harris was sitting by the windows of Kinkaid’s, a steakhouse in Burlingame, California, gazing at the lake of Anza Lagoon, when Marc Benioff walked in. The lunch was set up at the request of Benioff, then a star Oracle executive, who had just returned from his sabbatical in India with a new startup idea. He was looking for an engineer who he could partner with, and Harris had come highly recommended. It was hard, though, to imagine anyone further removed from the Silicon Valley engineering standard. Harris was raised in North Carolina, went to a small liberal arts college in Vermont, and majored in English literature. He was relatively unknown in Silicon Valley, especially compared to Benioff. After the formalities, Benioff cut straight to the point. “Look,” he told Harris. “I want to start a company. A new software service.” Benioff’s idea was simple: building an affordable customer relationship management (CRM) software and delivering it entirely online as a service. He wanted to make CRM, which helps salespeople to track leads and manage clients, as easy as buying a book on Amazon. This was when most CRM solutions were hosted on a company's own servers. They took months, or even years, to install, were extremely hard to use, and cost millions of dollars.

Read More »

FTC clears Zillow’s $1.8 billion acquisition of Trulia, deal could close next week (Taylor Soper/GeekWire)

Seattle-based online real estate company Zillow announced Friday afternoon that it plans to close its $1.8 billion acquisition of San Francisco-based Trulia as early as next Tuesday. Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff. Zillow noted today that the Federal Trade Commission has completed its investigation after the agency submitted a second request in November to  review any potential anti-trust violations . The deal was originally announced  this past July and shareholders approved the deal one month later . But Zillow delayed the merger multiple times after the FTC asked to further investigate the deal. The deal was reported to be worth $3.5 billion in July. But based on the current share values of each company, the deal is now worth about $1.8 billion. The acquisition will bring together two long-time rivals and create a powerhouse in the online real estate industry. Zillow has  argued  that the blockbuster deal will benefit the industry, and in a letter to real estate partners, Zillow vice president Curt Beardsley wrote  that the deal would lead to more innovation, improve listing infrastructure and empower consumers with more information. “We believe this is a tremendous opportunity to combine resources for innovation,” he wrote. Trulia CEO Pete Flint In response to anti-trust concerns about the merger, CEO Spencer Rascoff told CNN in July that a combined Zillow and Trulia company would control just 4 percent of the overall real estate marketing spend in the U.S. “Most advertising still occurs offline; it hasn’t migrated to the Internet yet,” he said. Pete Flint will remain as CEO of Trulia, which will continue to operate as a standalone brand in the Zillow family. He will join the board, along with another representative from Trulia

Read More »

French government can now block sites that advocate terrorism or contain images of child abuse without a court order; ISPs must comply within 24 hours…

French government activates anti-terror and anti-child abuse website blocking law. Photograph: Alamy France has introduced a new law that allows government agencies to order the blocking of websites that advocate acts of terrorism or contain images of child abuse. The legislation was brought in by revisions to 2011’s Loppsi Act, and an anti-terror bill passed by the French senate in October, but can now be used by the general directorate of the police’s cybercrime unit to force French internet service providers to block sites within 24 hours, without a court order. Sites that are blocked will redirect to a page from the interior ministry describing why the action was taken. The sites will be checked quarterly to make sure they continue to display the proscribed content and that the block is still appropriate. Related: France boosts anti-terror measures in wake of Paris attacks Costs incurred by the ISPs as part of the block can be recovered from the French government, while sites can appeal if they have sufficient grounds to do so. The bill was criticised by Felix Tréguer, founding member of La Quadrature du Net free-speech group : “With this decree establishing the administrative censorship for internet content, France once again circumvents the judicial power, betraying the separation of powers in limiting what is the first freedom of all in a democracy – freedom of speech.” Tréguer said: “Website blocking is ineffective since it is easily circumvented. It is also disproportionate because of the risk of over-blocking perfectly lawful content.” Related: Internet filters block websites of sex abuse charities The UK also blocks sites for similar reasons, under an agreement between ISPs and government based upon the system used to keep child abuse material off the web. Media companies can also force the closure of sites that infringe on their copyright via ISPs in the UK, but only through the use of court orders. Similar moves in the Netherlands, including that of the notorious torrent site the Pirate Bay, were ruled as ineffective by a Dutch court.

Read More »

A first look at Photos for OS X, Apple’s iPhoto replacement, now available as a developer seed (Christopher Breen/Macworld)

Last June, Apple announced that it would stop development of its Aperture and iPhoto apps and offer a single photo app in their place—Photos for OS X. Today, developers are getting their first glimpse of Photos, as it’s bundled with the beta version of OS X 10.10.3. Providing many of the features found in its mobile sibling, the Yosemite-only Photos for OS X offers an interface less cluttered than iPhoto, improved navigation, simpler yet more powerful editing tools, the ability to sync all your images to iCloud (though it doesn’t require you to), and new options for creating books, cards, slideshows, calendars, and prints. I’ve had the opportunity to take an early look at Photos, and this is what I’ve found. The look Photos has inherited some design elements from Apple’s latest operating system as well as from iOS’s Photos app. For example, there’s a measure of transparency near the top of the window, reflecting the images behind it rather than the desktop. Toolbar items bear Yosemite’s thinner design, and, like iTunes 12 , you’ll find buttons that provide you with different avenues for viewing your content—Photos, Shared, Albums, and Projects. (An Import button also appears when you’ve connected a compatible camera, mobile device, or media card.) They shake out this way. Photos interface follows Yosemite's path of clean, minimal design, Photos: As with Photos for iOS, you can see your images and movies organized in Years, Collections, and Moments views. In the highest level Years view you find very tiny images all created within a particular year. Click and hold on a thumbnail and you see a larger thumbnail. Click and drag and you can scrub through these thumbnails to locate the image you’re after. Click within one of the years and you’re taken down a layer to Collections view, which comprises images captured during a particular time and in a specific place. This is akin to iPhoto’s Events view, where you might find all the images from your camping trip. Click again and you’re taken to the Moments view—all the images you captured during your afternoon atop Half Dome, for instance

Read More »