Alien vs. Predator is coming to Facebook thanks to Plarium and Fox

Plarium's Soldiers, Inc. will have an Alien vs. Predator campaign.

Plarium is announcing today that it plans to bring the Alien vs. Predator franchise to Facebook by creating a new campaign within its massively multiplayer online strategy game Soldiers, Inc.

This partnership is the first of its kind for Plarium, which plans to grow its presence of branded content and incorporate it within future games and franchises. And it shows that games on Facebook still have potential.

In a partnership with Twentieth Century Fox, Tel Aviv, Israel-based Plarium will create a new campaign based on the creatures from the sci-fi Alien (1979) and Predator (1987) films.

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Plarium has more than 85 million registered players for its Soldiers, Inc. title. Launched in August 2013, Soldiers, Inc. was labeled one of the best new games of the year by Facebook. The MMO is set in 2019 in the fictional realm of Zandia where foreign powers, multinational companies, and underground criminal organizations fight to locate rare minerals.

“Soldiers, Inc. has the perfect mixture of thrilling and engaging gameplay that is perfectly in step with the Alien vs. Predator franchise,” said Mike Doyle, vice president of interactive games at Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products, in a statement. “We look forward to bringing fans the ability to immerse themselves in a game experience that incorporates the franchise’s high-octane excitement and takes it to another level.”

All told, Plarium has more than 150 million registered users for its games. And it has 1,000 employees, making it one of Israel’s largest game companies. It was founded in 2009. Many other Facebook-desktop-game companies have shifted their focus to mobile, but Plarium has a big base on Facebook Canvas.

Its titles are also available on all major social networks, including Facebook, VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, and Mail.Ru, as well as Web browsers, iOS, and Android.

“Plarium is thrilled to work with Twentieth Century Fox to bring such an iconic franchise to social gaming,” said Leonard Frankel, head of business development for Plarium, in a statement. “This exciting partnership aligns with Plarium’s overall vision to bring the most engaging experience to our audience by enhancing every minute that players spend with us.”

The Alien vs. Predator film franchise exists across two films, Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007).

The AVP campaign within Soldiers, Inc. will be fully voiced and is an entirely separate experience from the original game where players must investigate a temple of unknown origin and extract assets before a thermonuclear detonation.

Features will include a multi-mission story arc, a series of global missions, side missions, special reward units, collectible in-game items, and boosts centered on the Alien vs. Predator experience.

GoPro starts limited access program for $15,000 Odyssey 16-camera rig for 360-degree 3D videos

The GoPro Odyssey rig.

GoPro today announced a limited access program for Odyssey, the 16-camera rig that the company showed off at the Google I/O developer conference in May. Now people interested in making 360-degree 3D videos with the system can sign up to make a purchase.

The full set includes 16 Hero4 Black cameras with special firmware, syncing cables, a case, a microphone, warranty, and support. The price: ,000.

GoPro will start shipping these packages in November, initially in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Brazil, according to a statement. Those interested in participating in the limited access program can sign up here.

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Here’s a new video from GoPro showing off the type of video you can create with Odyssey:

The rig relies on Jump, a technology that Google has developed to seamlessly knit together the footage from each of the 16 cameras. Odyssey is the first hardware product to use Jump, whose videos people will be able to play back on YouTube, Googler Clay Bavor said onstage at Google I/O.

So it’s a fairly significant rollout, not only for publicly traded GoPro but also for Google, which is keen to see great virtual reality content arrive for viewing in its Google Cardboard headset.

This type of equipment could become more and more common for companies in the business of making immersive video. In July, just two months after GoPro debuted Odyssey, Nokia introduced its own virtual reality camera, Ozo, which features eight shutter sensors.

The GoPro Odyssey rig at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco on May 28.

Above: The GoPro Odyssey rig at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco on May 28.

Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat

The price tag for the Odyssey might seem a bit high considering that 16 GoPro Hero4 Black cameras cost around ,000. One reason the price is so high, GoPro said, is that you never have to worry about the cameras running out of battery power. “Odyssey can be plugged into the wall,” the company said in the statement.

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Microsoft confirms it has acquired cloud security platform Adallom

Microsoft Gareth Rushgrove Flickr

Microsoft has announced its latest acquisition — Adallom — having snapped up the cloud security platform for an undisclosed sum.

Confirmation comes two months after rumors first emerged of a potential 0 million deal between the two companies.

Adallom’s software is used for monitoring cloud-based services such as Dropbox, Google Apps, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Box, and Salesforce. When it establishes a typical usage pattern, it tells admins of any anomalies that could indicate security issues.

To the cloud

Microsoft has been pushing its cloud credentials of late, with chief executive Satya Nadella announcing back in June that creating “the intelligent cloud platform” would be one of three key investment areas moving forward.

And acquisitions are proving pivotal for the computing giant — last November it snapped up enterprise security startup Aorato, while back in June it bought the company behind productivity app Wunderlist, as part of its ambition to “reinvent productivity for a mobile-first, cloud-first world,” the company said at the time.

Microsoft said Adallom’s technology will complement some of its own existing tools, including Advanced Threat Analytics, which recently launched as a direct result of the Aorato acquisition.

Other notable acquisitions in recent months include FantasySalesTeam, a gamification platform to incentivize sales teams; VoloMetrics, an organizational analytics technology startup; and FieldOne, a software firm that specializes in managing field workers.

Adallom was founded in 2012, and has offices in Palo Alto, California, and Tel Aviv. It has raised just shy of million in funding to date.

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LotusFlare gets $6M from Social+Capital, others to make mobile Internet more accessible

Young people use the internet via the free wifi at the studio of Cuban artist Alexis Leyva "Kcho" in Havana March 24, 2015.  The studio is where former Cuban president Fidel Castro has his last public appearance and the password of the wifi connection is "Nobody surrenders here".    REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa - RTR4UQ0D

Getting people in developing countries connected with the rest of the world involves more than just providing infrastructure — it’s about making sure that those users understand what they can do with the data. It’s estimated that there are nearly 4.9 billion people in the world today living without mobile Internet connectivity. LotusFlare is hoping its solution will help empower users to control their data usage and create a better overall mobile experience.

To help accelerate its mission, LotusFlare has taken on million in new funding in a round led by the Social+Capital Partnership. Google Ventures, Metamophic Ventures, and others previously signed on to fund its seed round..

Started by three former Facebook employees, LotusFlare leverages existing infrastructure and technologies to generate data signals for carriers to help bring more people online. Company chief executive Sam Gadodia told VentureBeat that there are two classes of people who aren’t online: those who have access to cell signal and coverage, but can’t get on the Internet because of the user experience, and those who just can’t afford it.

If it seems that LotusFlare is solving multiple problems, you’re slightly correct. The underlying issue being addressed is how to create a better mobile user experience, both for the carrier and also the user. However, this entails other problems the company is tackling, namely how to help carriers reach these users and how to educate users on making the most out of their data plans without paying for overages.

LotusFlare_Funding_Article_GraphicGadodia said that people have a hard time quantifying what they’re buying with a data plan — just what limitations are there with 100MB? They may not know how much data is being consumed in the background or what’s being spent to go on Facebook, Twitter, or simply to download an email.

LotusFlare has provided an app for users that enables them to select specific apps they want to use and to ensure only data is used for those programs. Users can buy the apps for a specific period of time.

In the future, Gadodia said that his company hopes to make it possible for people to share their data packs with their families — something that seems very difficult in developing countries.

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Traditionally, customers have had to wait on carriers to add infrastructure, which takes time and can be very costly.

Of course there’s also Facebook’s initiative (and its drone) and Google’s efforts with Project Loon making efforts to provide new infrastructure to these areas.

LotusFlare says it wants to work with all of these companies by providing the software layer that rests on top of those technologies to help bring more people online.

“I don’t think a single company or individual can solve the problem,” said Gadodia. “We believe that we are complementing what other initiatives are doing. For us, we are always open to partnering with anyone to help achieve our mission.”

LotusFlare is already doing trials in places like the Philippines, Belgium, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Latin America. It has teamed with carriers to work on new applications to reach underserved areas.

The company makes no money off users buying data through their app — that money gets sent to the carriers directly. Instead, LotusFlare makes money by licensing its technology to the carriers. Gadodia said this is an appealing option for his company because carriers can deploy a network at a much faster and cheaper rate. The specific licensing fee varies by country.

With the additional million in funding, LotusFlare is adding Social+Capital Partnership’s founding partner Chamath Palihapitiya to its board as chairman. To date, it has raised million in funding. “Internet access is quickly becoming a basic human right,” said Palihapitiya. “The question isn’t why but how. LotusFlare represents the next generation of wireless products and services who can bring this to massive populations around the world at increased capability and lower cost.”

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How Thad David went from being a video game-worthy badass to a video game developer

Thad David, during his years as a Marine sniper.

Henry “Thad” David has packed his resume with so much action, he could make a first-person shooter autobiography.

The marine-turned-security-agent recently added independent game developer to his CV with the release of Zombie Company Crusade. The free-to-play real-time strategy campaign – launched on September 1 and currently exclusive to all iOS devices – drops players into a sustained military assault against endless throngs of undead and has them expanding and defending their forward operating bases while simultaneously repelling zombie attacks. We corresponded with Thad David at length over email because we were curious to see how the man started making an action game instead of starring in one.

A real-life call of duty


Above: Thad David’s time in the military sounds like the first few levels in every first-person shooter ever.

We aren’t kidding about David’s background. After joining the Marines in 2001, he was one of two applicants — out of his applicant pool of 300 — that got into Recon Marines Awareness Training, where just he and five others (from across all applicant pools) successfully completed the course. David’s time in Amphibious Reconnaissance School (a program focused on underwater scouting) was a bit more lenient; almost half of the sixty participants managed to pass. After that was Scout Sniper School — with a similar dropout rate to Amphibious Reconnaissance — then the very Metal Gear Solid-sounding Survival Evasion Resistance Escape.

“This school focused on what to do if captured by the enemy,” said David. “[B]asically how to stay alive in [that] situation.”

By the time David got to college (he didn’t specify, but judging by his past studies we assume it was the Tiger Wrestling program at Epic University), the offers of overseas contracts started pouring in. But David was reticent to take the trip until the loss of his mother.

“…I passed them all up until my mom passed away,” David said. “Her death was a huge blow to me, and I wanted to get away. I picked up the phone, and two weeks later, I found myself on a ship off the coast of West Africa.”

A gamer overseas

Zombie Company Crusade grew out of David's desire to bring the games that kept him entertained on PC to mobile devices.

Above: Zombie Company Crusade grew out of David’s desire to bring the games that kept him entertained on PC to mobile devices.

In Africa, David focused on anti-piracy security and developed a fondness for video games in his off-hours. In particular, David spent most of his spare time absorbed in real-time strategy games.

“Time on ship in Africa was pretty basic,” said David. “[A]s long as I did my 8-hour security shift every day, I had the other 16 hours to do whatever I wanted. I spent this time to myself doing [two] things, reading and playing Warcraft 3 or Command and Conquer … the old school games. [B]ack home, I was really into Clash of Clans, but I had very limited service in Africa. [S]o I decided to boot up my old laptop and load it with my old favorites so that I could continue to play while without Internet on ships.”

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While PC games satisfied those off-hour itches, David discovered that his preferred genre suffered a few particular problems when transitioned to mobile platforms. It was his attempt to find solutions to these issues — combined with the ease of entry into mobile development — that lead to a career change.

“This time spent bouncing between the old Warcraft and [Command and Conquer] games and the newer Clash of Clans really gave me some perspective of what I felt current mobile RTS games were lacking,” David said. “Troop controls, constant play, and troops fighting other troops. Then it hit me, why not create a new mobile RTS game that brought in the features I wanted?”

Zombie Company Crusade is the result of his efforts. Described by David as a “save the world game for serious players,” ZCC is a decidedly more hardcore-targeted venture than most first-time mobile game projects. And given that platform of release, “serious” players are one of the more difficult demographics to court.

“[A] lot of serious gamers don’t enjoy playing mobile games,” said David. “In fact I have had several gamers stop me after finding out the game I am creating is a mobile game and say, ‘I play real games bro.’ To which I always respond with ‘Good for you, I play all games.’ The gap that separates hardcore non-mobile gamers and casual mobile gamers is much larger than I feel it should be.”

To close that gap, David created Zombie Company Crusade as an retort to what the developer calls the “money-focused platform” of mobile games. While David’s game does feature micro-transactions, the goal with Crusade was to make as direct a transition of David’s beloved PC RTS games as possible to mobile devices, or as he describes it, “a small stepping-stone to where we hope the genre will go long term.”

Drawing authenticity from experience

David's background not only granted expertise in military procedure, but a preference of zombie types as well.

Above: David’s background not only granted expertise in military procedure, but a preference of zombie types as well.

Image Credit: Thad David

In making a military-themed game, David was able to rely on his experience and knowledge for design authenticity. But ultimately, he needed to fudge the endurance limits of soldier units and transports a little in order to make the game enjoyable.

“I had to draw the line with the numbers in the game, the damage a unit could or couldn’t take,” David said. “For instance, a grunt will last roughly 5 seconds attacking a machine gun nest in the game. He gets mowed down with bullets and stands there and takes it. In real life there is an F-35 Jet that can hover around, then take off and fly. In the game, I made our F-35 hover around and shoot items. In real life, this jet would run out of gas very quickly sitting in a hover like that.”

David’s background also made deciding which type of zombies players encountered rather simple. In choosing between the shambling hordes of the classic George Romero films like Night of the Living Dead versus the blitzed-out speedy zombies of 28 Days Later, David opted for the latter.

“[A]s someone from a tactical background, I am not afraid of the slower zombies at all,” said David. “No part of them scares me. I usually joke because people in movies freak out with the slow zombies that are a few blocks away, and I feel like saying ‘Hold up guys, [let’s] finish our coffee before you panic. They aren’t going to be here for a long time.’ Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the older movies and video games with slow zombies but … I wanted ZCC zombies to be something I feared or would fear.”

Until we can play a game of Thad David’s life, we can settle for the ones he makes. Zombie Company Crusade represents the latest effort to translate the “hardcore” aesthetics of PC real-time strategy to the mobile platform, but one where the designer knows a bit more of what he’s talking about when it comes to military jargon.

If the zombie apocalypse comes, David will definitely be the first game developer we recruit to our survival camp.

343 Industries describes the requisitions system for Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer

Halo 5: Guardians Req Cards.

Microsoft’s 343 Industries studio unveiled a new rewards system for its upcoming Halo 5: Guardians.

The Req System — short for requisition system — is important because it will provide players with the incentive to continue playing the game. The rewards will keep players engaged, encourage more friends to join, and get more players to join the game, helping with the overall success of the all-important exclusive title for the Xbox One video game console.

This system won’t make or break Halo 5, but it is something new that may intrigue fans who have put down their assault rifles and retired. 343 Industries created a video (below) describing how the system works. The more you play and the more enemies you shoot, the more points you earn. You can spend those points requisitioning new armor, weapons, vehicles, and power-ups such as overshields during multiplayer matches. All told, there are more than 1,000 Req items in Halo 5, which launches on Oct. 27.

Halo 5 will feature more than 20 multiplayer maps at launch, with more than 15 free maps added from launch through June of 2016. All of that represents a huge investment in multiplayer, and that tells you how critical it is for the overall success of the game.

The developers at 343 are fans of collectible card games, in both physical and digital forms. The Req system mirrors card packs. In the game, you can earn booster packs (or possibly buy them) to get a bunch of cards. You can cash them in or sell them off to get more Req points. As you play, you can use the Req cards to get get items such as Scorpion Tanks. That can turn the tide of a multiplayer battle, so long as you know how to use it. All of the Req packs in the Req store can be acquired by earning Req Points during gameplay.

Only cosmetic Req cards can be used in Arena multiplayer battles, which are more competitive and are likely to be the basis for esports tournaments. But in the larger Warzone battles, you can use any kinds of cards.

GameStop announces support for Android Pay

Android Pay now works at GameStop.

You don’t need to carry cash or credit cards to make payments at GameStop — all you need is your Android or Apple smartphone.

The world’s largest gaming-specific retailer revealed today that it will support Google’s newly released Android Pay app, which enables consumers to tap their phone on a point-of-sale kiosk to enact a transaction. This is similar to the iPhone’s Apple Pay, and it’s also an evolution of the Google Wallet app that Android has had for years.

What this means is that anyone who has their credit or debit card tied to their Android Pay account can walk into a GameStop, pick up the latest Call of Duty, and pay for it with their phone. This also means that GameStop is continuing to position itself as a savvy retailer.

While many people point to the rise of digital games as the trend that will eventually put GameStop’s disc-based gaming business into the ground, the company has embraced digital and turned itself into one of the biggest sellers of downloadable content, season passes, and expansions. The company has previously said that it uses its generally well-informed in-store associates to help teach people about upcoming digital content, which people can then purchase a code for at GameStop.

Accepting Android Pay and Apple Pay seems like it is an attempt to keep the GameStop shopping experience feeling modern and flexible. These kinds of stores are also more likely to have employees who understand how to accept a phone-based payment method than something like Walgreens or Starbucks.

No data explicitly states how big this kinds of shopping is for game retailers, but one study does point out that only 13 percent of iPhone 6 owners have used Apple Pay. So this likely won’t have a huge effect on GameStop’s bottom line.

This could help jump start the adoption of Android Pay, but that’s not a guarantee. After all, GameStop previously accepted the Google Wallet precursor to Android Pay, and that never caught on. That’s likely because, as recent reports suggest, consumers haven’t really taken to this new card-less method of making purchases. But the option exists and GameStop obviously wants early adopters to know that it’s ready to accept their Android Pay transactions.

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Demandbase buys data provider WhoToo for better B2B targeting


Demandbase, which provides B2B targeted marketing, is today announcing it has bought data provider WhoToo.

Terms of the deal were not made public. CEO Chris Golec told me the acquisition will allow Demandbase to add a “finer layer and more sophisticated targeting” as it ingests WhoToo’s hundreds of millions of behavioral, functional, and persona profiles about consumers and business users.

This will allow B2B marketing down to the level of employees’ interests and functional areas, he said, such as targeting technology support personnel in medical offices.

His company specializes in account-based marketing, where the focus is on developing relationships with a selected list of businesses and then selling to them across product lines and updates, instead of mass marketing a few products. Key competitors include Marketo’s Insightera and LinkedIn’s Bizo, but Golec said the WhoToo acquisition helps extend DemandBase’s advantage in targeting data.

A screen from Demandbase

Above: A screen from Demandbase

Image Credit: Demandbase

Demandbase’s core focus has been to identify business people who visit websites by their corporate IP address, and then retarget them with appropriate ads or personalized content when they return. In contrast to Bizo, Demandbase uses networked IP addresses instead of cookies to guide its targeting.

A person from a major airline, for instance, might return a few times to the site of a software vendor, and they would receive personalized ads or content on their returns even if they haven’t provided any info about themselves. Demandbase also targets ads and content to that user when they are on other web sites that participate in its network.

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In addition to the data, the acquisition also gives Demandbase access to WhoToo’s existing relationships with DMPs (data management platforms) like BlueKai, which aggregate targeting data for advertisers and marketers.

Golec said Demandbase had not previously worked with DMPs, in part because it likes to keep its data for its own customer companies and not make it available on an open market.

Now, he said, it will be easier for Demandbase to “roll in first-party data [from a client company] with our own,” although he indicated it would likely be on a private basis for specific client companies.

Founded in 2012, WhoToo will retain its office in Seattle, and its management and employees will remain in place. WhoToo founder and CEO Matt Rowlen will lead Demandbase’s expanded data team.

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Telegram delivers 12B messages a day, CEO Pavel Durov says WhatsApp sucks

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov at TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on September 21, 2015.

SAN FRANCISCO — Telegram is now delivering 12 billion messages a day through its chat service, according to its founder Pavel Durov. This announcement of a 2 billion increase from August comes with a shot against the market leader WhatsApp, which Durov said “sucks.”

At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, Durov derided the Facebook-owned chat service, saying that its walled garden doesn’t let users keep their messages across whatever device they’re using. “If you have WhatsApp and your phone goes down, you don’t have access to your messages,” he said. “You can’t send documents and it’s not private. I’m not sure if I’m a big fan of WhatsApp three years ago, and not so sure now.”

WhatsApp has over 900 million monthly active users so it’s the industry’s top dog, but Durov isn’t hung up on the whole “releasing numbers” issue. The company last reported in May that it has over 62 million MAUs.

Durov also disclosed that one of the things that could be coming soon is a payments API, which would certainly help put the messaging service on par with the likes of Facebook Messenger. He said that Telegram probably won’t build the payments product itself, but would instead partner with third-party providers.

On the issue of privacy, which seems to be a major selling point for Telegram, Durov was asked about if there’s exceptions to the rule. Specifically, he acknowledged that ISIS is using the service, so does it keep him up at night knowing that terrorists use it? “That’s a good question,” he started. “Privacy is ultimately more important than our fear of bad things happening, like terrorism. If you look at ISIS, yes, there’s a war going on in the Middle East. Ultimately, ISIS will find a way to communicate with its cells, and if any means doesn’t feel secure to them, they’ll [find something else]. We shouldn’t feel guilty about it. We’re still doing the right thing, protecting our users’ privacy.”

A two-year-old company, Telegram hasn’t taken any money from outside investors. The company appears to be bootstrapped through money derived from Durov’s sale of his shares in the Russian social network Vkontakte. He declined to tell how much money he garnered from the sale, although it’s reported that his stake was worth 0 million.

Would he ever take outside investment for Telegram? Doubtful, as Durov said the company likes being independent and has enough money to go on for a while.

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Samsung and Barnes & Noble launch the Galaxy Tab S2 Nook, a $400 8-inch tablet for readers

Galaxy Nook

Barnes & Noble and Samsung have launched the latest iteration from their joint mission to combine tablets and e-readers.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Nook follows the 0 Galaxy Tab 4 Nook tablet that launched last August, and the 0 10-inch alternative that arrived two months later. The new tablet / e-reader is available in Barnes & Noble stores across the U.S., and online at

Galaxy Tab S2 Nook

Above: Galaxy Tab S2 Nook

At first glance, the most obvious difference between the latest co-branded device and the previous duo is the price — at 0, it’s 60 percent more expensive than the 10-inch incarnation. But digging down into the specs, it’s obvious why that is.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Nook sports a 2048 x 1536 resolution screen, up from 1280 x 800; 32GB of built-in memory, up from 16GB; and a 1.9GHz + Quad 1.3GHz octacore processor, up from 1.2GHz. It also only weighs 9.4 ounces (268 grams), which is even lighter than the 7-inch version, which clocked in at 9.74 ounces (276 grams).

While the tablets are like most other Android tablets in many ways, the tie-up with Barnes & Noble means the devices come heavily layered with reader-focused tools and icons — for example, the Nook Shop and Search functions are front and center. And there’s a shortcut taking readers directly to their current book of choice.

While Barnes & Noble once made its own tablets, the company revealed back in 2013 that it would shift to reliance on hardware partnerships instead — and Samsung was the first of those to bring a product to market. The American book giant continues to build its own dedicated e-readers in-house.