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Epic Games Wins Support From Fortnite Gamers, Firms on Apple Standoff – Gadgets 360

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Fortnite creator Epic Games found support from its legions of gamers, Tinder-owner Match Group, and Spotify for suing Apple and Google after the tech giants dropped the popular video game from their app stores for violating payment guidelines.

Epic Games started a social media campaign against the iPhone maker by releasing a parody of Apple’s iconic “1984” commercial in its video game, and soon the hashtag “#FreeFortnite” was trending on Twitter.

Gamers with hundreds of thousands of YouTube followers took to the video-streaming platform and other social media platforms to share their thoughts on the situation and show their support.

“This is insane, we are watching actual history take place because we just don’t see this anymore,” a YouTuber with the handle “thatdenverguy”, who has more than a million subscribers, said.

“Tim Sweeney and everybody at Epic, we stand with you and thank you for standing up for something bigger than Fortnite here that helps us out.”

Google declined to comment, while Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

In a statement on Thursday, Apple said Fortnite was removed because Epic had launched the payment feature with the “express intent of violating the App Store guidelines” after having had apps in the store for a decade.

Developers have long criticised Apple’s commissions of between 15 percent and 30 percent on many App Store purchases, its prohibitions on courting customers for outside signs-ups, and what some developers see as an opaque and unpredictable app-vetting process.

Facebook, which has long been at odds with Apple over privacy issues, seized on the backlash to attack the commissions too. It said Apple had declined a request to waive the fees for the social network’s new online events product, framing the decision as a refusal to assist small businesses.

Analysts believe users of Apple devices spend the most on gaming through their purchases on the App Store, which is the largest component of the company’s services segment revenue of $46.3 billion per year (roughly Rs. 3.46 lakh crores).

“We are somewhat surprised that Epic is the one that has chosen to mount the challenge as Epic also operates a digital store where they take a cut of third-party sales,” Evercore analyst Amit Daryanani said.

Apple, Google, and Facebook are among major American technology companies that have come under fire for their alleged abuse of market power and just last month their chief executives were grilled by lawmakers in a five-hour long congressional hearing.

Companies, including music streaming service provider Spotify Technology SA and the owner of Hinge and other dating apps Match Group Inc, issued statements supporting Epic, with Match accusing Apple of using its “unfair policies to hurt consumers, app developers and entrepreneurs.”

Gene Muster, a managing partner at Loup Ventures, said developer benefits have enabled the App Store to be a trusted source of software and content for nearly 1.4 billion active Apple devices.

“Lowering or eliminating the fee would jeopardise the integrity of the App Store,” he added.

Launched in 2017, Fortnite has amassed a huge following among young gamers and its popularity has pushed the valuation of Epic Games to over $17 billion (roughly Rs. 1.27 lakh crores) in a funding round earlier this year. The free-to-play battle-royal videogame competes with Tencent Holdings’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

In both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, Fortnite had about 2 million downloads in July 2020, according to mobile analytics firm SensorTower. But Apple users spent about $34 million (roughly Rs. 254 crores), while Android users spent only $2 million (roughly Rs. 14.96 crores), according to its data.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Twitter apologizes after users notice image-cropping algorithm favours white faces over Black – Woodstock Sentinel Review

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PhD student Colin Madland was among the first to point out the issue after he attempted to post a two-up image of his face and that of his Black colleague’s

One user experimented with the feature by attempting to post a two-up image of Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell. Only McConnell’s image was displayed by the feature.

Screenshot

Twitter has apologized after users called its ‘image-cropping’ algorithm racist for automatically focusing on white faces over Black ones.

Users noticed that when two separate photos, one of a white face and the other of a Black face, were displayed in the post, the algorithm would crop the latter out and only show the former on its mobile version.

PhD student Colin Madland was among the first to point out the issue on Sept. 18, after a Black colleague asked him to help stop Zoom from removing his head while using a virtual background.

Madland attempted to post a two-up display of him and his colleague with the head erased and noticed that Twitter automatically cropped his colleague out and focused solely on his face.

“Geez .. any guesses why @Twitter defaulted to show only the right side of the picture on mobile?” he tweeted along with a screenshot.

Entrepreneur Tony Arcieri experimented with the algorithm using a two-up image of Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell. He discovered that the algorithm would consistently crop out Obama and instead show two images of McConnell.

Several other Twitter users also tested the feature out and noticed that the same thing happened with stock models, different characters from The Simpsons, and golden and black retrievers.

Dantley Davis, Twitter’s chief design officer, replied to Madland’s tweet and suggested his facial hair could be affecting the model “because of the contrast with his skin.” Davis, who said he experimented with the algorithm after seeing Madland’s tweet, added that once he removed Madland’s facial hair from the photo, the Black colleague’s image showed in the preview.

“Our team did test for racial bias before shipping this model,” he said, but noted that the issue is “100% (Twitter’s) fault.”

“Now the next step is fixing it,” he wrote in another tweet.

In a statement, a Twitter spokesperson conceded the company had some further testing to do.

“Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing. But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’ll continue to share what we learn, what actions we take, and will open source our analysis so others can review and replicate,” they said, as quoted by the Guardian.

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Sony apologizes for PlayStation 5 pre-order disaster – Polygon

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Pre-orders for Sony’s next-gen console, the PlayStation 5, opened shortly after the company announced its release date and price details. To put it nicely, it was a mess. Retailers went rogue and opened pre-orders early — a day ahead of the Sept. 17 date announced by Sony. Sites crashed and people panicked wondering whether they’d get their hands on a next-gen console or not.

As it turns out, Sony has recognized the error of its ways. “Let’s be honest: PS5 preorders could have been been a lot smoother,” Sony tweeted from the PlayStation Twitter account on Saturday. “We truly apologize for that. Over the next few days, we will release more PS5 consoles for preorder — retailers will share more details. And more PS5s will be available through the end of the year.”

Specific details on future pre-order windows are still unclear.

To add more chaos to the pre-order mess, Amazon reported on Friday that people who did secure pre-orders might still see delays in getting their consoles. The company emailed pre-order customers and warned them they “may not receive this item on the day it is released due to high demand.” It continued: “We’ll make every effort to get the item to you as soon as possible once released.”

Sony’s next-gen competitor, Microsoft, is opening pre-orders for the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S on Sept. 22. The company appears to be more confident in its pre-order processing, providing exact timing for the pre-order launch. Pre-orders open Tuesday at 11 a.m. EDT.

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Microsoft to Buy Bethesda for $7.5 Billion to Boost Xbox – Bloomberg

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Microsoft Corp. said Monday it plans to acquire ZeniMax Media Inc., owner of the storied video-game publisher Bethesda Softworks, for $7.5 billion in cash, marking its biggest video game purchase ever.

Bethesda is the publisher of games like The Elder Scrolls, Doom and Fallout and also has at least two titles slated for debut next year. ZeniMax, based in Rockville, Maryland, also owns several other studios across the globe, giving Microsoft’s Xbox business a much-needed infusion of titles and game developers. It’s one of the biggest privately-held game companies with 2,300 employees worldwide, Microsoft said.

Microsoft is launching a new generation of Xbox consoles in November at the same time as Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 5. The games lined up for the new Xbox have so far disappointed some players, especially after Microsoft delayed its biggest title, Halo Infinite, until next year. The software maker has been adding new game creators and content, including acquiring six studios in 2018 and one last year. It spent $2.5 billion to purchase the maker of Minecraft in 2014.

Microsoft is leaning on its game subscription service, Game Pass, to draw in users and boost revenue and needs compelling content to attract customers to that product. Microsoft said Game Pass now has 15 million subscribers, up from the 10 million it announced in April.

“Bethesda’s games have always had a special place on Xbox and in the hearts of millions of gamers around the world,” said Xbox chief Phil Spencer in a blog post. “Our teams have a close and storied history working together.”

Recently however, Bethesda has been working more tightly with Sony. Bethesda had previously agreed to debut two of its upcoming games, Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, on Sony’s new PlayStation rather than Xbox. Both games were announced as “timed console exclusives,” meaning that they would be restricted to the PlayStation 5 for a fixed period of time before coming to Xbox. It remains to be seen how this acquisition will affect that deal.

Microsoft expects the deal to close in the second half of its fiscal year 2021, which ends June 30, and to have “minimal” impact on its adjusted operating income for the current and next fiscal years. The shares were down 1.4% to $197.66 at 9:35 a.m. in New York.

Sony’s launch lineup for the PlayStation 5 is stronger than Microsoft’s and that machine is expected to outsell the new Xbox devices, the Series X and Series S, according to George Jijiashvili, an analyst at researcher Omdia.

Bethesda was a pioneer in the market for personal computer games and an early developer of new types of games. The company was founded by Christopher Weaver in 1986 and initially developed football and hockey simulation games, before releasing role-playing title The Elder Scrolls in 1994.

ZeniMax was founded in 1999 by Weaver and Robert Altman, the company’s chief executive officer, to serve as a parent company for Bethesda. Over the next decade, it acquired the Fallout franchise and Id Software, the maker of Doom and Quake. Bethesda’s structure and leadership will remain in place, Microsoft said.

(Updates with Microsoft comment in fifth paragraph.)

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