Esports tournament site Battlefy reveals what games excite its growing community

League of Legends draws massive in-person crowds in addition to the millions who watch online.


Game developers don’t make esports — the fans do.

The online community-tournament website Battlefy revealed today that its user base has grown by 750 percent year-over-year. It claims this makes it the largest and fastest-growing esports tournament service on the Internet — a space where it competes with Challonge and Toornament. But as Battlefy continues to strengthen, it also has a unique perspective on the kinds of games that regular people want to spend their time competing in.

“These community players are having a bigger impact on the success of these games,” reads a Battlefy announcement.

Here’s how the activity breaks down by genre:

  • MOBA (i.e. League of Legends, Dota 2): 64 percent
  • Collectible card games (i.e. Hearthstone): 11 percent
  • First-person shooter (i.e. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive): 8 percent
  • Strategy/simulation (i.e. Pokémon): 6 percent
  • Fighting (i.e. Street Fighter IV): 4 percent
  • Real-time strategy (i.e. StarCraft 2): 2 percent
  • Massively multiplayer online (i.e. Guild Wars 2): 2 percent

Unsurprisingly, games like Dota 2 and League of Legends make up more than two-thirds of all the tournaments on Battlefy. That makes sense — the audience for those games is enormous, and it’s getting bigger with the rise of publisher Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm. But the MOBA space is well saturated, which means that other genres are growing even faster.

Both first-person shooter and card battlers are bringing in bigger audiences at a faster rate than other genres. Games like Counter-Strike and Hearthstone are more popular than ever, and that has the shooter genre up 362 percent year-over-year and card game up 255 percent, according to Battlefy stats.

Finally, Battlefy noted that its gamers set up tournaments for more than 76 different releases last month. Here were the 15 most popular in alphabetical order:

  • Arena: Cyber Evolution
  • Call of Duty:Advanced Warfare
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Cross Fire
  • Dota 2
  • FIFA 15
  • Guild Wars 2
  • Hearthstone
  • Heroes of the Storm
  • League of Legends
  • Marvel vs. Capcom Ultimate 3
  • Pokémon
  • Rocket League
  • Smite
  • Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Funding Daily: Today’s tech funding news, in one place

An employee checks U.S. dollar bank-notes at a bank in Hanoi, Vietnam cash money


Here’s a list of today’s tech funding stories, updated as the day unfolds. Tip us here if you have a deal to share.

AppDirect raises 0M to grow its SaaS app store for enterprises globally

AppDirect, a cloud-based marketplace featuring hundreds of software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps, has closed a whopping 0 million series E round, led by J.P. Morgan Asset Management with participation from all existing investors, including Foundry Group, iNovia Capital, Mithril Capital Management, StarVest Partners, and Stingray Digital.

This takes the San Francisco-based company’s total funding to 5 million, including million raised earlier this year. The company said it will use the fresh cash influx to continue growing globally, while further investing in an infrastructure to make it easier for businesses to manage multiple applications on any device.

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Germany’s Nest competitor Tado raises .1M to grow its smart home climate-control products globally

European Nest competitor Tado has raised .1 million to help grow its home climate-control business and “accelerate product innovations” and global expansion.

Some notable names participated in the round, including Siemens’ venture capital unit and Statkraft Ventures, the investment arm of one of Europe’s biggest renewable energy companies. This effectively doubles Tado’s total funding to date, as it raised .5 million last year and a .6 million seed round before that.

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Australian startup Canva closes M investment, now valued at 5M

Australian design tool service Canva announced yesterday that it took in a million investment led by Felicis Ventures. The series A funding round will be used to improve Canva’s tech and expand globally, the company says.

Canva says that it already has more than 5 million designers, marketers and business in over 179 countries using in its online platform.

Blackbird Ventures, Matrix Partners, and the investment arm of Gary Vaynerchuk Vayner Capital also join the round. Canva says it is now valued at 5 million.

More: Canva

FilmTrack raises M to bring the film industry’s IP management tricks to product makers

Los Angeles-based FilmTrack, a company that makes software for storing and managing intellectual property, announced today that closed a million “growth round.” Half of the money came from Wellington Financial LP, and the other half from Silicon Valley Bank, both bets were debt financing capital.

The growth capital, CEO Jason Kassin says, will allow FilmTrack to expand to other international markets and improve its technology. However, the CEO told VB that the expansion plan includes a move into new verticals, such as the management of non-media products.

The Studio City has raised at least million to date and acquired Jaguar consulting in 2014 and Dashbox earlier this year. Kassin said the capital will also fuel acquisitions of “strategic technologies and services.”

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This list will be updated with breaking funding news all day. Check back for more.

Windows 10 grabs 6.63% market share, Linux finally passes Windows Vista

Windows 10


Unsurprisingly, Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade had a bigger impact in the first month than in the second. Windows 10 has now captured more than 6 percent market share, according to the latest figures from Net Applications.

After four weeks, Windows 10 was installed on over 75 million PCs. While we don’t have an update yet for the two-month mark, Microsoft is aiming to have 1 billion devices running Windows 10 “in two to three years,” though that includes not just PCs, but smartphones, consoles, and other devices, as well.

Windows 10 had 5.21 percent market share in August, and gained 1.42 percentage points to hit 6.63 percent in September. We weren’t expecting as big a jump as we saw in August, but growth has indeed slowed dramatically in Windows 10’s second month. It’s too early to say if this slowdown is permanent, but we doubt it — especially with Microsoft’s Baidu partnership to push Windows 10 in China.

os_market_share_september_2015

Unsurprisingly, Windows 10’s predecessors are worse off. Windows 8 gained 0.04 percentage points to 2.60 percent, while Windows 8.1 fell 0.67 points to 10.72 percent. Together, they owned 13.32 percent of the market at the end of September, down from 13.95 percent at the end of July. As we noted last month, the duo never even passed the 20 percent market share mark (they peaked at 16.45 percent in May), and with Windows 10 now available, they never will.

Before Windows 10’s debut, Windows 7 passed the 60 percent market share mark in June. It’s also unlikely to ever to see that figure again: Windows 7 saw the biggest drop of any operating system version in August, down 1.14 points to 56.53 percent.

Despite Windows 10’s inevitable rise, Windows 7 will likely keep its title as the most popular OS for at least this year. Windows 7 overtook Windows XP way back in September 2012, and has never looked back, steadily increasing its share even throughout 2015 (it’s still up overall from 55.92 percent in January).

Windows Vista, meanwhile, slipped 0.09 points to 1.73 percent. Windows XP somehow managed to gain 0.07 points to 12.21 percent. The free upgrade to Windows 10 doesn’t apply to Vista or XP, so it’s no surprise that we’re not seeing large drops there. That said, Microsoft is likely still hoping XP sees single market share digits this year, as businesses are still reacting to the operating system’s end of support in April 2014.

On the whole, Windows lost a bit of share in August, down 0.30 points to 90.54 percent. Mac OS X and Linux in turn capitalized, gaining 0.19 points to 7.72 percent and 0.11 points to 1.74 percent, respectively.

Amusingly enough, this means Linux has managed to pass Windows Vista again. This hasn’t been the case for years, believe it or not.

Net Applications uses data captured from 160 million unique visitors each month by monitoring some 40,000 websites for its clients. This means it measures user market share.

If you prefer usage market share, you’ll want to get your data from StatCounter, which looks at 15 billion page views every month. The operating system figures for August are available here.

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Jonathan Blow’s The Witness has a puzzle ‘almost nobody’ will ever solve

The Witness looks pretty stunning, and it'll be tough as well.


If you have a lot of free time on your hands, you might just ace The Witness, the upcoming PlayStation 4 and PC first-person puzzler from Braid creator Jonathan Blow — but you’ll be in a very small minority if you do.

Speaking to the PlayStation Blog, Blow explained that The Witness — the game he’s been working on since 2008 — has one particular puzzle that “almost nobody” will ever figure out. That sounds like a challenge to the gaming community — especially the many completionists out there — and it’ll be interesting to find out just how tough The Witness really is when it releases January 26.

Blow said that he didn’t cut any puzzles from the game to make it more accessible, but that didn’t stop him from removing a lot of content, mostly due to quality control.

“Usually, if I cut things, it’s just because I don’t think they’re very good,” he said. “I’ve cut hundreds of things from the game. Usually, I cut them early — I start experimenting with something and decide I don’t like it. But there’s at least one puzzle in the game right now that almost nobody — like 1 percent of players — will ever be able to figure out.”

Players can expect to spend around 100 hours in The Witness if they want to fully complete it, according to Blow. How many will make it that far remains to be seen.

Lenovo introduces two new products: the Yoga 900 Convertible and Yoga Home 900

Lenovo Yoga Home 900 ... the portable desktop?


When I was in art school ten years ago, I walked to school every day with my hulking generic Toshiba laptop and a separate USB Wacom Bamboo pen tablet, wishing a manufacturer would hurry up and marry the two devices. I needed something that allowed me to digitally sketch and paint my illustration assignments, while also allowing me to do the usual laptop-ish activities at the same time.

I obviously went to art school ten years too soon, because the market for hybrid tablets today is flooded with a ton of legit options.

This morning, Lenovo announced its newest offerings to the world, the Yoga 900 Convertible and the Yoga Home 900, with more details to be revealed during a press event this morning in downtown San Francisco.

Lenovo Yoga 900 Convertible sneak

Above: “You don’t spell ‘gluten’ with an ‘i’, Brad. Your food truck venture is doomed to fail at this rate.” “What the hell do you know, Yoga? Don’t you have something better to do than sneaking up on me and reading over my shoulder?!”

Image Credit: Lenovo

The Yoga 900 Convertible (available today for ,200) is an ultrabook, rocking a 13.3-inch display and attached to a keyboard body via a flexible watchband hinge that allows the unit to go into laptop, stand, tent, or tablet configurations. Consumers will be able to choose a package that includes an Intel 6th Gen Core i7 processor (no word on specific model numbers), and up to 16GB of memory. All versions will come with a solid-state drive, JBL stereo speakers, and Windows 10 Continuum preinstalled. Lenovo is claiming that the new battery in the Yoga 900 Convertible is capable of 50 percent more life compared to earlier Yoga products, clocking in at nine hours running local video.

Lenovo Yoga Home 900 pirate kids

Above: Large enough to do important work on. Small enough for two average-sized children to walk off with.

Image Credit: Lenovo

The Yoga Home 900 (available later this month for ,600) is a completely different beast, packing a hulking “portable desktop” package inside a 27-inch display. The Yoga Home 900 line will come with an Intel 5th Gen Core i7 processor (again, no word yet on specific model numbers) and the option of a NVIDIA GeForce 940A for the GPU. No word yet on memory or hard drive options, but the Yoga Home 900 will come with Windows 10 preinstalled and Lenovo’s Aura 3.0 touch interface.

Of the two products, it’s the Yoga Home 900 that has teased my curiosity. It’s not that the Yoga 900 Convertible doesn’t sound like a cool portable tablet option, which I am always game for, but the Yoga Home 900 seems to be trying to fit a niche I am not totally familiar with. It’s trying to be a portable desktop unit situated between a static hardcore work machine and a portable laptop solution. On paper, I see this concept going one of two ways: Either the Yoga Home 900 is a convenient middle ground that I never considered, or it is a mediocre substitution for both. I’ll have to wait until I can get my hands on one to see where this product lands.

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Facebook finally reveals what its ‘dislike button’ will really look like

Facebook's 'Dislike Button'


It’s probably one of Facebook’s most requested features — a “dislike” button that lets users express an emotion other than “like.” News emerged last month that the social network was finally working on something along those lines, though Zuckerberg declined to share exactly what it would look like — but today things get a whole lot clearer.

From tomorrow (October 9, 2015), some Facebook users in Ireland and Spain will start seeing “Reactions,” Facebook’s new emoji-based buttons that let users express a range of emotions in response to their friends’ posts. We predicted something like this would happen.

Facebook Reactions

Above: Facebook Reactions

To add a reaction, you simply press the “Like” button on the mobile app, or hover over the “Like” button on desktop to open the extra reaction buttons.

Facebook Reactions: Sad

Above: Facebook Reactions: Sad

This is in line with what Zuckerberg has said all along — a simple “Dislike” button is open to abuse and could create a poisonous atmosphere on the social network. The way Facebook is actually rolling this out, users can elect to not only “Like” something, but also “Love” it or show that they found it amusing, sad, amazing, or anger-inducing. There is still some scope for people to misuse these buttons, but this is probably the most effective way of introducing new emotions to the mix.

“People come to Facebook to share all kinds of things —  whether that’s updates that are happy, sad, funny or thought-provoking,” a Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat. “And we’ve heard you’d like more ways to celebrate, commiserate or laugh together. That’s why we are testing Reactions, an extension of the Like button, to give you more ways to share your reaction to a Facebook post in a quick and easy way.”

Facebook has been in need of more sentiment options for a while, and tomorrow it moves one step closer to making that happen. There is no official word yet on when Reactions will be launching more widely, but it’s typical of Facebook to slowly introduce new features such as this and then tweak them based on feedback it receives from a smaller, more localized group.

Microsoft announces the new Surface Pen stylus

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 8.09.26 AM


Seemingly in answer to Apple’s new Pencil, Microsoft has developed a new version of its pen stylus for its Surface tablets, the Surface Pen.

The device is designed to work well with Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 4 and the productivity and creative apps that run on it.

The tip of the pen is very sensitive, allowing it to detect 1024 levels of pressure. It has an eraser on the end. It magnetically attaches to the top of the Surface so that it can be stowed or grabbed easily.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.07.23 AM

A button on the Pen will launch Cortana in Windows 10, while double-clicking launches OneNote, as it does on the Surface Pro 3.

Users can get the pen in five colors — silver, gold, red, blue, and black — and 24 different pen tips.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.11.07 AM

New type pad cover

Microsoft also announced a new Type Cover, which it says is lighter, thinner, and sturdier. The trackpad is now 40 percent larger and is made of glass.

The integrated backlit keyboard includes a scissor design, which is quickly becoming the standard for new tablet keyboards. It also includes a fingerprint reader to the right of the trackpad.

The new Type Cover comes in green, dark blue, light blue, black, and red.

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Marketing people are generally bullish on Jack Dorsey as CEO of Twitter

Jack Dorsey


The appointment of Jack Dorsey as CEO of Twitter makes a difference to marketing people, as many believe he represents their best hope for a more brand-friendly platform.

Dorsey, a Twitter cofounder, was named CEO Monday. He previously held the role until 2008, before being replaced by Ev Williams, with Dorsey moving to chairman of the board. He had been acting as interim CEO since Dick Costolo stepped down on July 1.

Throughout the spring and summer, investors and advertisers watched as Twitter seemed directionless and unable to clearly communicate its usefulness to mainstream users.

“Twitter needs sustained user growth for growth in advertising revenue,” VB Insight analyst Jon Cifuentes said. “I think that’s what the excitement with Jack is — that he may  jump-start user acquisition with more features.”

Promising Moments

Most recently, we’ve heard reports that Twitter is considering extending the 140-character limit for tweets, an idea some people struggle with. But marketers see other Twitter initiatives as promising.

“Under his leadership, I think we’ll see a stickier product (one in which people spend more time) as well as user growth,” said Chris Tuff, VP and director of business development and partnerships at the ad agency 22squared. “This will start with ‘Moments,’ where Twitter will attract a new audience of people who want to get real-time/immersive experiences.”

Moments, originally referred to as Project Lightning, is a new Twitter feature that surfaces tweets and other content around a specific event, like a movie opening or a World Series run. The Moments are curated by Twitter’s internal media team and include contributions from media partners like BuzzFeed, Entertainment Weekly, Getty Images, NASA, and Major League Baseball (MLB).

That vision thing

“No doubt Dorsey will look to amplify that platform value in Twitter and really focus in on fueling user growth and user engagement,” said George Manas, chief strategy officer at Resolution Media, the search and social agency for Omnicom Media Group.

Manas believes the appointment will only increase Dorsey’s political power within the company. “I think he’s already showed some of his teeth with so-called “Project Lightning” and Twitter’s commerce play in the Buy Button.”

“What brands care about most, I think, is the Twitter vision, the long-term,” Manas said. And that’s been a problem for Twitter, at least where marketers are concerned.

Build for growth, and for marketers

“So far, other than a lot of testing opportunities, I don’t see the Twitter team incorporating advertising or marketing opportunities into the consumer value,” said marketing tech expert Stephanie Miller in a note to VentureBeat.

“‘Adding on ads after the product is designed is not going to compete,” she said. “It has to be an integrated and integral experience, and of course, that means that marketers have to innovate in the ways they connect with consumers, as well.”

Miller was actually more interested in Twitter’s promotion of Adam Bain to chief operating officer (COO). Bain had served as Twitter’s president for global revenue and partnerships since September 2010.

“Adam is the one who has been focused on the marketer audience, and advocating for marketers with the product team,” Miller said.

Of course we have no idea what’s going on deep inside Twitter today, one day after Dorsey was named CEO. Hopefully Dorsey is inside laying out clear vision for the company that the rest of the management and product teams can get behind.

And, hopefully, the needs of marketers will be in the mix too.

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Ahead of Rock Band 4 release, Harmonix raises $15M to innovate in music gaming

Rock Band 4


Harmonix Music Systems, the maker of the upcoming Rock Band 4 music video game, has raised million in equity funding. The funding is unusual since Harmonix was founded way back in 1995, and because investments in music games are going through a kind of revival.

Steve Janiak, CEO of Harmonix Music Systems

Above: Steve Janiak, CEO of Harmonix Music Systems

Image Credit: Harmonix

The money from the Foundry Group and Spark Capital will go toward innovating in music video games, said Steve Janiak, CEO of Boston-based Harmonix, in an interview with GamesBeat.

“VR is a big focus for the studio moving forward,” he said. “It’s incredibly expensive to make video games. Building for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is a lot more expensive than it was building for the original Xbox or PlayStation 2. Having funding on hand to invest in emerging platforms where we can be innovative is important. We don’t need the pressure of having it be an immediate hit. That’s why we do fundraising.”

Harmonix is making a game for the Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles, and it is making a music visualizer for Sony’s PlayStation VR (formerly called Project Morpheus).

“It’s unusual to have so much interest from venture capitalists for a company that is more than 20 years old,” Janiak said. “We’re basically reinventing the company. We feel like a startup. We have a bunch of small teams that come up with a bunch of projects that we decide to fund. Some are much bigger things like the VR work that will come out next year.”

Other participating investors include SOSV, CommonAngels Ventures, and Presence Capital.

Janiak pointed out that Harmonix was focused on making games for Microsoft’s Kinect in the past, and that turned out to be a narrow strategy. Now the company is looking wider. At Apple’s most recent press conference, Harmonix revealed Beat Sports, a collection of music-infused mini-games developed exclusively for the new Apple TV.

“Harmonix is about making music gaming accessible,” Janiak said. “Apple TV will bring a new kind of casual gamer that is not being served now.”

On October 6, the latest iteration of the studio’s award-winning Rock Band franchise—Rock Band 4—will be available for retail and digital download for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Harmonix will support Rock Band 4 with a lot of updates throughout the life cycle of the Xbox One and the PS4, Janiak said. In December, for instance, the first update will come with competitive and social features.

“There will be both free and paid updates,” he said. “We will continue to sell songs for people who want their own playlist.”

Meanwhile, Harmonix also raised money via Kickstarter to create Amplitude, another music game. Janiak said the company used crowdfunding to assess whether there was demand for the game, which will debut by the end of the year for Kickstarter backers and next year for everyone else.

“We’ll invest a lot more money in that game than we raised on Kickstarter, but Kickstarter helped,” he said.

“There is no other game developer that has succeeded with new interfaces and new platforms as many times as Harmonix. And this year is in many ways the rebirth of the company, from publishing Rock Band, to taking the pole position yet again on two brand new platforms, Apple TV and virtual reality. They are a unique company in the history of gaming, and we are very excited for what’s to come,” said Nabeel Hyatt, venture partner at Spark Capital, in a statement.

Hyatt will join the board of Harmonix.

“Harmonix has been able to keep a steady beat of innovation going throughout its incredible journey over the past two decades,” added Brad Feld of Foundry Group, in a statement. “I have no doubt that they’ll continue to push the boundaries of human-computer interaction in a way that impacts millions of people around the world.”

Harmonix has about 120 employees, down from nearly 300 when Viacom’s MTV owned it.

“We are smaller, more efficient, and nimble,” Janiak said. “We have people to make titles like Rock Band while simultaneously going after a few other things. It does feel like a startup company.”

Asked if he was going to crush the rival Guitar Hero Live coming from Activision, Janiak said, “It validates it’s a good time to bring this game back to market. The games are differentiated enough to find their own audiences. We are bringing innovation with freestyle guitar solos. The game looks great. We have a great soundtrack, and bands like U2 that no one has been able to get before for music games.”

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures: A major Google Play redesign is coming soon

google-play-redesign-2


The Google Play store is in for a big redesign, with new homes for Apps & Games and Entertainment. The two categories will now exist under their own respective tabs on the Play home screen.

Google software engineer Kirill Grouchnikov, who works on the team at Android, shared images of the upcoming redesign to his Google+ profile Thursday. The update looks substantial enough to warrant a full dot bump to Google Play 6.0. It will also introduce RTL support (support for languages written in right-to-left).

Kirill did not offer a date for the rollout, but it’s likely to be pretty soon. For now, check out all the images he shared below:

google-play-redesign

google-play-redesign-2

rtl-google-play

slide-google-play

elastico-google-play

Evolution of Google Play

Above: Evolution of Google Play

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