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Game

Interactive musical series ‘We are OFK’ hits PlayStation, Switch and PC on August 18th

Back at the 2020 edition of The Game Awards, we learned about We Are OFK, a new project from Hyper Light Drifter co-designer Teddy Dief and their collaborators at Team OFK. It was supposed to debut in spring 2021 but, as has been the way of things for the last few years, it was delayed. Now, We Are OFK finally has a release date. Or, more accurately, release dates, since it’s an episodic series. The first two episodes will hit Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PS5, Steam and Epic Games Store on August 18th. The remaining three episodes will arrive on a weekly basis.

We Are OFK follows a virtual four-piece indie band called, strangely enough, OFK. It’s billed as an interactive musical biopic that OFK is making about its own origins. As Dief wrote on the PlayStation Blog, “What would it look like to create virtual musicians who watch performances of [pop stars] on their laptops in bed, and know they’re probably never going to play a stadium concert? We wanted to tell that story — how hard it is to make music, to write even one song, to record another video to post online and hope someone leaves a nice comment.”

The game costs $20. Along with each episode, OFK and Sony Music Masterworks will release a new single. A vinyl package of the singles will be available from iam8bit for $32. A limited-edition physical version of We Are OFK is available to pre-order for PS5 and Switch too. You can also pre-save the group’s first EP.

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Game

Sega’s Genesis Mini 2 hits North America on October 27th

Sega has announced it’s bringing the Genesis Mini 2 to North America on October 27th. The company previously said its latest retro console will go on sale in Japan on the same day (though it’s called the Mega Drive Mini 2 there). 

The system follows the Genesis Mini, which Sega released in 2019. The latest edition has a fresh library of more than 50 games, including Sega CD titles. The lineup features the likes of Sonic CD, Virtua Racing, OutRun, Shining Force CD and Fantasy Zone (a Master System and arcade game that was never released on Genesis). Sega is promising a previously unreleased game as well. More than half of the games have yet to be revealed.

One of our few complaints with the Genesis Mini in our review was that it came with a three-button controller. If the packaging is anything to go by, it seems you’ll get a six-button controller this time around.

Pre-orders are open now. The Genesis Mini 2 is only available from Amazon, and it costs $103.80 plus a $22 delivery fee in the US. The console will be shipped over from Japan. 

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Game

‘Layers of Fears’ from Bloober Team hits PC and consoles in 2023

Bloober Team is returning to its roots with Layers of Fears, a “psychological horror chronicle” heading to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and S, and PC in early 2023. The game is a new story chapter in the Layers of Fear universe, building on the spooky psychedelic foundation laid out in the previous installments.

“We are bringing back a franchise that is really special for us, in a new form that will give players a truly fresh gaming experience and that will shed new light on the overall story,” Bloober Team CEO Piotr Babieno said in a press release. “Our plan was to recreate the games, but we didn’t want to make it a simple collection of two remastered games. We’ve worked out a new approach, something that is maybe not yet obvious. But I can tell you there’s a reason why we called it Layers of Fears.”

Bloober Team launched its original horror franchise in 2016 with Layers of Fear and an expansion subtitled Inheritance. A full sequel came out in 2019, and throughout the years Bloober Team has partnered with major studios to create spooky games including Blair Witch and The Medium.

Last year, Bloober Team entered into a partnership with Konami, the publisher of the Silent Hill franchise, fueling rumors that the studio was working on a remake of Silent Hill 2. These rumors came to a head just before the Summer Game Fest kickoff show this year — but turns out, it was Layers of Fears all along. The studio is reportedly working on multiple games simultaneously, so there’s still a chance for Bloober Team to get in on the Silent Hill franchise.

Bloober Team is co-developing Layers of Fears with Anshar Studios, which also helped out with Observer: System Redux.

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AI

Report: AI startup funding hits record high of $17.9B in Q3

Even as economies struggle with the chaos of the pandemic, the AI startup space continues to grow stronger with increased investments and M&A deals.

According to the latest State of AI report from CB Insights, the global funding in the segment has seen a significant surge, growing from $16.6 billion across 588 deals in Q2 2021 (figures show $20B due to the inclusion of two public subsidiary fundings) to $17.9 billion across 841 deals in the third quarter. Throughout the year (which is yet to end), AI startups around the world raised $50 billion across 2000+ deals with 138 mega-rounds of 100+ million. As much as $8.5 billion of the total investment went into healthcare AI, $3.1 billion went into fintech AI, while $2.6 billion went into retail AI.

The findings show how AI has become a driving force across nearly every industry and is drawing significant attention from VCs, CVCs, and other investors. In Q3 alone, there were 13 new AI unicorns globally, bringing the total number of billion-dollar AI startups to 119. Three startups also reached $2 billion in valuation — Algolia and XtaPi from the U.S. and Black Sesame Technologies from China.

Meanwhile, in terms of M&A exits, the quarter saw over 100 acquisitions like the previous one, putting the total exits for the year at 253. The biggest AI acquisition of the quarter was PayPal snapping up Paidly — a company determining creditworthiness using AI/ML — for $2.7 billion, followed by Zoominfo’s acquisition of Chorus.ai — a startup using AI to analyze sales calls — for $575 million.

U.S. AI startups continue to dominate

State of AI startup funding

Out of the $17.9 billion raised by AI startups worldwide in Q3, a significant $10.4 billion went to companies based in the U.S. and $4.8 billion into those in Asia. However, Asian firms raised this amount in nearly just as many deals (321) as in the U.S. (324), which signals that the average deal size was smaller there compared to U.S. Mega-round deals in the U.S. stood at 24 in Q3, while Asia saw 13 such deals.

Databricks, Dataiku, Olive, XtalPi, Datarobot, and Cybereason were the companies with the biggest rounds in the U.S. in the third quarter.

As compared to Asia and the U.S., funding in Canada, Latin America, and Europe regions was the lowest at $0.4 billion, $0.5 billion, and $1.6 billion, respectively. These regions cumulatively saw just eight mega-rounds.

Read the full report here.

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Game

‘Uncharted’ movie trailer plays Nathan Drake’s greatest hits

Sony is finally releasing an Uncharted movie after trying to make one for over a decade. If you need more evidence that the film actually exists beyond a snap of Tom Holland in Nathan Drake’s classic attire, here’s the first trailer.

Even though Holland plays a much younger version of the character (which Mark Wahlberg’s Sully jokes about in the opening moments) than in the games, the enjoyable-enough trailer incudes some of the most memorable moments from Drake’s globe-trotting adventures. There isn’t a bit where he clambers up a train carriage that’s dangling over a cliff, but there’s the cargo plane set piece from Uncharted 3 and a ship trapped inside a cave, just like in Uncharted 4. The clip includes some underground exploration too.

The film’s set to arrive in theaters on February 18th, following several delays. Attempts to make an Uncharted movie stopped and started over the years, with directors including David O. Russell, Seth Gordon and Shawn Levy being attached at certain points before Zombieland and Venom helmer Ruben Fleischer saw the film through. The project had been in development for so long that, for a while, Wahlberg looked set to play Drake, rather than the character’s mentor.

Some viewers might be coming to the franchise with fresh eyes (maybe because they need more Tom Holland in their lives), and they might want to play the games to see what all the fuss is about. Sony Pictures included a handy reminder at the end of the trailer about a remastered bundle of Uncharted 4 and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy that’s coming to PlayStation 5 and PC in early 2022.

In case the trailer doesn’t quite match up to what you might have expected, or Holland doesn’t seem like the right person for the gig in your opinion, it’s worth checking out this short fan film from a few years back in which Nathan Fillion plays the rogueish treasure hunter. It’s a blast.

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Game

‘NBA 2K22 Arcade Edition’ hits Apple Arcade on October 19th

NBA 2K22 Arcade Edition is one of several games that’s bound for in the coming weeks. The follow-up to NBA 2K21, which is also available on Apple’s game subscription service, includes a new mode called The Association. You can become the general manager or head coach of an NBA franchise and put together your own team by scouting rookies, making trades and scooping up free agents while managing the budget.

The game features current NBA rosters and modes including quick match, online multiplayer and Blacktop, a 3v3 street basketball option. In MyCAREER mode, you can create your own player with a custom look, position, jersey number and play style. You can run drills on a custom court to practice and level up your player in the MyCOURT mode. NBA 2K22 Arcade Edition will debut on the same date as the NBA’s 75th season tips off: October 19th.

Elsewhere, a classic iPhone title is coming to Apple Arcade this Friday.  first made waves back in 2011 as a one-button game in which you control a bird that slides down hills and launches into the air. It’s one of those simple-in-concept, great-in-execution games that works so well on a mobile device. It’ll be a solid addition to Apple Arcade.

Looking further ahead, Apple has announced the sequel to tower defense game Kingdom Rush is on the way to the service too. You’ll protect your domain from dragons, human-snaffling plants and other deadly enemies in Kingdom Rush Frontiers TD, which . It’s coming to Apple Arcade soon.

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AI

Streamlit, which helps data scientists build apps, hits version 1.0

Streamlit, a popular app framework for data science and machine learning, has reached its version 1.0 milestone. The open source project is curated by a company of the same name that offers a commercial service built on the platform. So far, the project has had more than 4.5 million GitHub downloads and is used by more than 10,000 organizations.

The framework fills a vital void between data scientists who want to develop a new analytics widget or app and the data engineering typically required to deploy these at scale. Data scientists can build web apps to access and explore machine-learning models, advanced algorithms, and complex data types without having to master back-end data engineering tasks.

Streamlit cofounder and CEO Adrien Treuille told VentureBeat that “the combination of the elegant simplicity of the Streamlit library and the fact that it is all in Python means developers can do things in hours that normally took weeks.”

Examples of this increased productivity boost include reducing data app development time from three and a half weeks to six hours or reducing 5,000 lines of JavaScript to 254 lines of Python in Streamlit, Treuille said.

The crowded landscape of data science apps

The San Francisco-based company joins a crowded landscape filled with dozens of DataOps tools that hope to streamline various aspects of AI, analytics, and machine-learning development. Treuille attributes the company’s quick growth to being able to fill the gap between data scientists’ tools for rapid exploration (Jupyter notebooks, for one example) and the complex technologies companies use to build robust internal tools (React and GraphQL), front-end interface (React and JavaScript), and data engineering tools (dbt and Spark). “This gap has been a huge pain point for companies and often means that rich data insights and models are siloed in the data team,” Treuille said.

The tools are used by everyone from data science students to large companies. The company is seeing the fastest growth in tech-focused enterprises with a large base of Python users and a need to rapidly experiment with new apps and analytics.

“Every company has the same problems with lots of data, lots of questions, and too little time to answer all of them,” Treuille said.

Improvements in v1.0 include faster app speed and responsiveness, improved customization, and support for statefulness. The company plans to enhance its widget library, improve the developer experience, and make it easier for data scientists to share code, components, apps, and answers next year in 2022.

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Game

Fortnite KAWS Skeleton tarot card hits Halloween in the face

KAWS isn’t letting a good opportunity to cross-brand go to waste with the latest Fortnite fashion crossover. Technically KAWS isn’t just a fashion element, the artist behind the skulls being a man whose art has more of a basis in graffiti, but still, this fits the bill. Fortnite’s latest collaboration is just in time for Halloween in the spookiest month of the year, October of 2021.

The Tarot Card teaser released this week by Fortnite – and Kaws on social media outlets aplenty – shows a Kaws character busting through a rip in a Kaws cartoon gloves pattern. You’ll find a lit border with pink and green Kaws “X” marks, too. Given what’s been revealed with similar cards over the last week, the small set of clues we see here should be enough to estimate what we’ll get.

The most important indicator of the actual end-content comes in the character ripping through – that’s not exactly what you might expect. It isn’t the standard “Companion” character that’s been made into a set of toys over the past couple of decades. Instead, it’s the full human body Kaws skeleton character.

You might refer to this character as the Kaws Paper Skeleton. This skeleton appeared first in the year 2007 as a Kaws x Arktip collaboration, made with printed paper and circular metal joints. It was made in several colors and sold by the Kaws official store OriginalFake, as well.

There’s a DECENT chance we’ll see a full Kaws Skeleton character available for play in Fortnite later this week. Don’t be shocked if that’s the extent of this collaboration – through we’d be happy to see some Kaws x Fortnite clothing released in limited edition fashion, too. Why not?

Take a peek at the timeline of links below for more recent Fortnite updates, leaks, and information about the near-present future.

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Game

Xbox Cloud Gaming hits the Windows 10 Xbox app, but only for a select few

Earlier this year, Microsoft rolled out the Xbox Cloud Gaming beta on Windows 10 PCs and iOS. At first, Xbox Cloud Gaming was available to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers through browser-based streaming, but today, we’re seeing Microsoft bring cloud gaming to the Xbox app on Windows 10 PCs. Unfortunately, this functionality is only available for a select number of users.

If you’ve been around for a while, you already know who those select users are. They’re Xbox Insiders, who receive beta features for testing before they roll out to all users. On Xbox Wire today, Microsoft announced that it’s launching Xbox Cloud Gaming to the Xbox app on PC to Insiders in 22 different countries.

So, for an Insider launch, this is a pretty big one. If you’re an Insider who is getting this functionality today, all you need to do to tap into it is connect a controller to your PC – either wired or Bluetooth – open up the Xbox app, click the newly-added “cloud games” button, and then select the game you want to play.

Microsoft makes no indication of when support for cloud streaming through the Xbox app will launch for all PC players. Still, it probably isn’t too far off considering how many countries Microsoft is launching this Insider preview in. For now, though, Ultimate subscribers who aren’t Insiders are limited to playing their cloud games through their browsers.

Xbox Cloud Gaming has seen a rather large expansion in recent months, and the fact that it’s now available on iOS is quite impressive when you consider that an iOS launch for Xbox Game Pass looked pretty grim at one point. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for more on Cloud Gaming through the Xbox app, and we’ll update you when Microsoft reveals more.

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Game

Facebook’s cloud gaming service hits iOS devices as a web app

Facebook has become the latest company to offer a cloud gaming service on iOS, only once again you won’t access it through the App Store. Starting today, you can visit the Facebook Gaming website to add a Progressive Web App (PWA) that acts as a shortcut to the service on your iPhone or iPad. To do so, visit the platform’s website and tap the “Add to Home Screen” option from the Safari share sheet.

It’s not an elegant solution, but it’s the same one employed by Amazon and Microsoft. When Apple tweaked its guidelines last September to allow for cloud gaming clients on iOS, it said games offered in a streaming service had to be individually downloaded from the App Store. That’s a requirement both Microsoft and Facebook said was not congruent with how every other platform treats cloud gaming services.

“We’ve come to the same conclusion as others: web apps are the only option for streaming cloud games on iOS at the moment,” Vivek Sharma, Facebook’s vice-president of gaming, told The Verge of today’s launch. “As many have pointed out, Apple’s policy to ‘allow’ cloud games on the App Store doesn’t allow for much at all. Apple’s requirement for each cloud game to have its own page, go through review and appear in search listings defeats the purpose of cloud gaming.”

The process of adding the web app is complicated enough that Facebook includes a short how-to when you first visit its Gaming website on Safari. You also have to know to navigate to the company’s website in the first place. The reason for that is the App Store guidelines prohibit developers from using their applications to direct individuals to websites that feature alternative payment systems to those offered by Apple, and you pay for the in-game purchases offered in Facebook Gaming titles through Facebook’s Pay platform.

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