Consumer

Rocket League dev laments Sony’s ‘political barrier’ keeping crossplay off PS4

Nintendo, a company perennially behind when it comes to consumer expectations for online functionality, revealed at the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show that Psyonix’s car soccer hit Rocket League will enable crossplay between Switch, Xbox One, and PC. Sony reiterated at E3, however, that it isn’t interested in permitting PS4 owners to play with consumers on other consoles.

For Psyonix, this is frustrating. Studio publishing boss Jeremy Dunham said as much during a quick sit down I had with him at E3. After talking about the Switch port and the upcoming two-year anniversary for Rocket League, I asked how the team feels about PlayStation marketing boss Jim Ryan’s most recent statements about why Sony Interactive Entertainment won’t enable crossplay. On Tuesday, Ryan gave Eurogamer a number of excuses that fans and even developers aren’t buying.

“Unfortunately, it’s a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders, and I’m not going to get into the detail of that on this particular instance,” Ryan said before noting that he can see the interviewer rolling their eyes. “We’ve got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base. [The demographic playing Minecraft], you know as well as I do, it’s all ages but it’s also very young. We have a contract with the people who go online with us, that we look after them and they are within the PlayStation curated universe. Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it’s something we have to think about very carefully.”

For Dunham, that answer didn’t make any sense — especially when it comes to protecting players from “external influences.”

“I understand that stance,” said Dunham. “We want to take care of our players. But from our perspective, if PlayStation already allows cross-network with PC, which is the least regulated of any of the partners, then in theory, having Xbox and Switch in there should be fine. They’re a lot more regulated. From our perspective that concern is already handled. That’s taken care of.”

Soon after Rocket League launched in 2015 for PC and PlayStation 4, Psyonix turned on crossplay between those platforms. Sony clearly did not have the same concerns at that time.

I’ve reached out to Sony repeatedly for a comment, and I’ll update this story with any new information.

But Dunham points out that if Sony is concerned about some specific threat from an Xbox or Nintendo audience, Psyonix has already handled those concerns. PC players can’t text or voice chat with people on PS4, for example. That’s what the company would do with Switch or Xbox crossplay on Sony’s system as well.

“We think we’ve got it all covered,” said Dunham. “Some of the concerns are — that was the main one. The other one is security. We’ve worked on all the platforms and had our…

The factions of the mobile AR war

Mark Zuckerberg’s “We’re making the camera the first augmented reality platform” was the most important step so far toward mass market AR. Where Pokémon Go gave many consumers their first taste of mobile AR, and Google Tango ushered in the race towards high end mobile AR phones, Facebook’s AR Platform now democratizes mobile AR regardless of hardware. Apple launching an AR enabled iPhone this year or next year could combine with Facebook to kick-start the mobile AR market at scale, and also be the final step towards the next great platform war. Consumers will win as usual, but there will be blood (as we detailed in Digi-Capital’s new Mobile Augmented Reality Report).

The platform question

Hardware and software platforms are so intertwined that it can be hard to tell the difference, and this has played in Apple’s favor for the last decade. But Apple, Samsung and other phone makers have done such a great job with existing hardware, that this may backfire for mobile AR. Facebook’s AR Platform, for example, has shown exactly how the major social and messaging platforms can play the game using nothing more than a standard smartphone camera. So while device manufacturers roll out new hardware to build an installed base for AR phones, established and startup social/messaging platforms could build a mobile AR ecosystem and user base in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost. They’ll also be able to leverage this advantage as dedicated AR phones come to market.

What is mobile AR anyway?

At one end Pokémon Go is what some industry insiders call “the best worst example of AR”, because its ambient mobile AR is pretty basic. Lovely graphics positioned approximately against the real world on your phone screen, using basic computer vision and positional tracking. Nonetheless it’s introduced mass consumers to mobile AR, and they’ve loved playing with it.

At the other end of the spectrum is Google Tango, with hardware based immersive mobile AR driven by integrated hardware and software. Without diving into the technical weeds, Tango phones enable accurate motion tracking, area learning and depth perception in a device that looks much like any other smartphone. The difference comes from a motion tracking camera, a depth sensing camera, an infrared projector, computer vision and Simultaneous Localization And Mapping software. So virtual objects superimposed on the real world appear as you would expect them to if they were really there. But Tango’s time is yet to come in terms of consumer awareness and app ecosystem (though Google, Lenovo and Asus are trying).

Facebook and Snap’s software-based immersive mobile AR is a serious contender, as it combines the ubiquity of ambient mobile AR with some of the computer vision and SLAM that previously required dedicated hardware. While Google Tango’s sensors enable heavier duty mobile AR apps, that’s not the problem Facebook and Snap are solving. By plugging immersive software based mobile AR into the largest consumer platforms on the planet, they’re democratizing mobile AR for everyone for free. And free is a good price point. This hasn’t escaped the notice of Tencent in China either. Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel and Pony Ma didn’t get to where they are by being dummies, and so it is with software based mobile AR.

The cool kids

There’s another factor in the democratization of mobile AR that Pokémon Go highlighted – demographics. Sixty-eight percent of Pokémon Go users are between 13 and 29 years old. Even though that came from a very specific set of circumstances, it is the largest sample set of mobile AR mass adoption to date.

For comparison in terms of major consumer platforms: Eighty-eight percent of Americans from 18 to 29 use Facebook (two-thirds of them use Messenger), 76 percent of U.S. teens own an iPhone (81 percent want their next phone to be one), 75 percent of WeChat users are between 20 and 30, and 60 percent of Snapchat users are between 13 and 24. Spot the pattern?

Mobile AR will be adopted by the young. Platforms that can scale…

LendingHome Sets Stage to Accelerate Next Phase of Business Growth

Gains Fannie Mae Seller, Servicer Approval to Expand Consumer Home Loans;

Hires Mortgage Industry Veteran Robert Stiles as Chief Financial Officer

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–May 17, 2017–

LendingHome, the largest, fastest-growing mortgage marketplace lender, today announced two new business developments that will enable the company to take its business to the next level. LendingHome has gained Fannie Mae seller and servicer approval, which will allow LendingHome to expand its consumer home financing business and better serve its customers. Additionally, LendingHome named Robert Stiles, former CFO of Nationstar Mortgage, as its new Chief Financial Officer.

This Smart News Release features multimedia. View the full release here: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170517005427/en/

Robert Stiles, CFO of LendingHome (Photo: Business Wire)
Robert Stiles, CFO of LendingHome (Photo: Business Wire)

Fannie Mae Seller & Servicer

As one of the largest buyers of conforming home loans, Fannie Mae’s approval of LendingHome as a seller and servicer will enable the expansion of its home financing business and the delivery of better outcomes to its customers. By working directly with Fannie Mae, LendingHome can streamline its operations and offer better loan pricing to its customers. At the same time, LendingHome can retain the servicing of its customers in-house so that they can rely on LendingHome as their one trusted advisor throughout the life of their loan, benefitting from a true end-to-end mortgage experience.

“Passing Fannie Mae’s stringent approval guidelines is no small feat, especially for a young company that started lending only three years ago,” said Matt Humphrey, co-founder and CEO of LendingHome. “This is a testament to LendingHome’s financial strength, leading ground-up technology platform, and the quality of our processes from end-to-end.”

“LendingHome focuses on using technology innovation to create efficiencies and deliver…

Opera optimizes its browser and launches a news engine for African consumers

Opera optimizes its browser and launches a news engine for African consumers

The Norway-based tech icon Opera is huge in Africa, with almost 100 million people using its mobile and desktop products across the continent.

Recognizing this, Opera is investing $100 million (30 billion Nigerian naira) in Africa over the next two years, aiming to speed up Internet adoption and strengthen the local Internet ecosystem.

The company is also overhauling its browser product with African consumers in mind, and has partnered with several major African publishers on a news curation system.

On the browser front, Opera plans to add value-added services to its product, including data bundling and mobile payments.

The latter is pretty exciting. Africa is a pioneer when it comes to mobile payments, with companies like M-Pesa having widespread appeal. It’d be interesting how integrating that – or a rival service – into a browser would work.

Opera…