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We're still spending record amounts on gaming, a year into the pandemic

Engadget

Video game sales are still smashing records roughly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic led many people to stay indoors. The NPD Group has determined that video game spending in the US surged 18 percent in March 2021 compared to a year earlier, hitting a new record of $5.6 billion. Hardware sales in particular jumped 47 percent to $680 million, breaking a March record that hasn't been touched since 2008 -- yes, the heyday of the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360. It won't surprise you to hear that new consoles helped fuel the hardware surge, but it wasn't all up to the new models. The PlayStation 5 is the fastest-selling console in US history both in dollars and units, NPD said. However, it wasn't the strongest seller in March -- that honor went to the four-year-old Nintendo Switch, which outperformed the PS5 in sheer volume.


Ground zero for gaming memes: 10 excellent video game TikTok accounts

The Guardian

ShelbyRenae – @shelbyrenaeyt A Fortnite Twitch streamer and YouTuber, ShelbyRenae makes hilarious (and often very telling) TikToks focusing on her conversations with the strangers she plays with, mostly teenage boys who chuck out endless bizarre insults and gigantically inappropriate comments. Alisha – @alishakins_ Mainly a Twitch streamer, Alisha makes brilliant little TikToks of her experiences playing Call of Duty: Warzone, providing a turbo-charged voiceover, complete with her own sound effects – mostly, "Pew, pew, pew! The latest video shows the amazing full-size cabinet for Sega's Let's Go Jungle, designed to resemble an offroad truck. DKOldies – @dkoldies Similar to the above, DKOldies is an online retro gaming store and its TikTok shows off interesting items from its vast stock including rare games, ancient consoles and weird controllers. Komazawa Isolation – @kmzwisolation A Japanese YouTuber who makes astonishingly accurate real-life reenactments of games such as Grand Theft Auto and Yakuza.


AI Synthetic Media: What to expect and what it will mean

#artificialintelligence

AI learns from seen data to make predictions about unseen data. What is utterly remarkable is that prediction can underpin extraordinary creativity and mimicry. These developments have the potential to unleash an explosion of scale creativity -- delivering content design and production tools into the hands of the mass market that have hitherto only been available to large corporations with hefty budgets. Even now -- when we are still in the infancy of AI media generation -- there are demos, apps and subscription-based services to faceswap individuals into movies (see Zao), turn rough sketches into photorealistic images (try the GauGAN demo here), convert one voice into another (see Respeecher), personalise marketing videos (try the Synthesia demo here), age- and emotion-alter images (see Photoshop's new Neural Filters), generate face-synched videos of new or translated scripts (see Canny AI), play a video game with characters speaking any of 10 face-synched languages (see Cyberpunk 2077), and play a text-based adventure game with endless dialogue generated by AI (try out the free version of AI Dungeon here). Moreover, the same AI techniques will spawn new applications in a wide range of fields: advertising, architecture, interior design, gaming, song-writing, web design, education, even software development and pure mathematics -- in fact anywhere where structured or constrained creativity is key.


A year into the pandemic, game developers reflect on burnout, mental health and avoiding crunch

Washington Post - Technology News

Like Grenier, other developers speaking to The Washington Post shared that working in the pandemic was challenging from a mental health, personal workload and collaboration standpoint. As offices closed worldwide, developers shifted to working from their living rooms and kitchen tables. Meanwhile, gaming took off as people stayed home, increasing the demand for content and the appetite for multiplayer games and hardware. In 2020, 79% of United States consumers, or about 261 million people, played a video game, up from 73% of consumers, or 241 million, in 2019, according to market research firm NPD Group.


Respawn's Apex Legends Is Just Getting Started

WIRED

The minds at Respawn Entertainment are wizards when it comes to the action-adventure genre. Twenty-fourteen's Titanfall and its criminally underrated followup, 2016's Titanfall 2, challenged traditional boots-on-the-ground shooters with a heightened sense of scale and verticality, while the more recent Jedi: Fallen Order etched itself as one of the greatest Star Wars narratives told in any medium. The Los Angeles studio's fixation with exoskeletons, Blade Runner, and visuals that bleed Wachowski and Masamune Shirow's Ghost In The Shell is nothing new, but they are intertwined with world-building to create headier pockets of science fiction bliss. The free-to-play shooter set in the Titanfall universe first launched in February 2019. No extended gameplay reveals that cringe out with comms from Chad and the rest of the QA team.


Ubisoft delays Assassin's Creed Valhalla's first major expansion to May 13th

Engadget

Assassin's Creed Valhalla's first major expansion, Wrath of the Druids, will come out a couple of weeks later than expected. It was supposed to be available on April 29th, but now Ubisoft has announced on Twitter that it will be released on May 13th instead. The video game developer said it pushed back the release date "to deliver a more refined experience" and promised to publish an article that provides transparency and insights into its dev process. To deliver a more refined experience, we're sharing that: Wrath of the Druids will now release on May 13 We're working on an article to provide transparency and share insights on our dev process Thanks for your patience. Keep an eye on our social channels for future news!


Microsoft To Buy Artificial Intelligence Firm Nuance For $19.7 Bn

#artificialintelligence

The deal comes on the heels of Microsoft's 2016 purchase of LinkedIn for $27 billion and represents "the latest step in Microsoft's industry-specific cloud strategy," Microsoft said. Like other technology heavyweights, Microsoft has been a big beneficiary of the economic dislocations during Covid-19. The company's earnings jumped by 33 percent in the latest quarter to $15.5 billion and included a boost from cloud computing and personal computing, including its Xbox video games. Nuance's technology is currently used by more than 55 percent physicians and 75 percent of radiologists in the United States. Microsoft said the deal would double its potential healthcare market to nearly $500 billion.


'Oxenfree II: Lost Signals' headlines a new crop of Switch indie games

Engadget

The "one more thing" Nintendo had to show off at the end of its latest Indie World Showcase was a sequel to the supernatural hit Oxenfree. Set five years after the original game, Oxenfree II: Lost Signals sees a character named Riley returning to her hometown to investigate strange radio signals that are causing mysterious disturbances. It seems that, as in Oxenfree, you'll need to find the right frequencies on a handheld radio to solve puzzles. Night School Studio's sequel is coming to Switch and Steam later this year. OXENFREE II: Lost Signals from @nightschoolers and @mwminteractive is coming to #NintendoSwitch in 2021! Set 5 years after OXENFREE, guide Riley through a supernatural coming of age story, as you communicate with other-worldly entities.


Unity will add native NVIDIA DLSS support to its game engine

Engadget

Unity, one of the biggest game engines around, will soon offer support for NVIDIA's Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) tech. It should be available to Unity developers by the end of this year, allowing them to switch on DLSS in their games in just a few clicks. Unreal Engine also has DLSS support via a plugin that Epic Games rolled out this year. DLSS is a type of upscaling that both boosts performance and improves how games look. It uses AI-powered antialiasing to display images that are similar to native resolution quality (and sometimes even better than that), even though systems only actually render a fraction of the pixels.


Watch Nintendo's latest Indie World Showcase here at noon ET

Engadget

A blue Switch Lite wasn't the only news Nintendo had up its sleeve this week. The company will host its latest Indie World Showcase at noon ET today. The stream will run for around 20 minutes and highlight some new indie games that are coming to Switch. You shouldn't expect updates on the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 or any other big first-party games, of course. Still, there could be some big surprises in store.