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Deloitte: Consumers load up on subscriptions but are frustrated with fragmentation

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Minecraft gets a chance to bring in even more players.

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Consumers are loading up on digital media subscriptions, with the average subscriber having four paid video streaming services per household, two paid music services, and three paid gaming services on average. This is according to a report by accounting and consulting firm Deloitte. And Generation Z members consider video games to be their favorite entertainment choice.

A crowded field of streaming video providers is competing for audiences, and the same is true with other forms of entertainment including music, gaming, and social media. Media and entertainment companies need to address audience frustration with a fragmenting market and strike a balance between content, cost, and ad-tolerance in order to keep customers from switching platforms, said Kevin Westcott, U.S. tech, media, and telecom leader at Deloitte in an email to VentureBeat.

Video games rule Generation Z

Above: Xbox Game Pass is Microsoft’s most important gaming product.

Image Credit: Minecraft

Eighty-seven percent of Generation Z are playing video games daily or weekly on devices such as smartphones, gaming consoles and computers. A strong majority of Generation Z, Millennials and Generation X agree that during the pandemic video games have helped them stay connected to other people and get through difficult times.

Close to half (46%) say that video games have taken away from other entertainment time. For all generations, listening to music is a top-three favorite entertainment activity. Around 60% of respondents have a paid streaming music service, and the same amount have used a free, ad-supported music service.

But consumers are frustrated with this market fragmentation, as 52% percent find it difficult to access content across so many services, and 53% percent of those surveyed are frustrated by needing multiple service subscriptions to access the content they want, Westcott said.

Consumers are price sensitive. Cost (46%) matters more than content (35%) for consumers deciding to subscribe to a brand new paid streaming video service. An increase in price was the biggest reason for consumers deciding to cancel a paid video, music or gaming service, Westcott said

One of the most interesting findings in the 15th edition of the report is that Generation Z (those born after 1997) members prefer music and gaming over traditional video and they are using social media as a gateway to consume all types of entertainment — behavior shifts that media companies will need to contend with as this audience gains more buying and decision-making power.

Playing video games is Generation Z’s favorite entertainment choice (26%), followed by listening to music (14%). Only 10% of Generation Z said that watching TV and movies was their favorite form of entertainment. Fifty percent of Gen Z ranked social media as the No. 1 way they prefer to get news, and only 12% selected news from network or cable TV.

“We are also seeing a high tolerance for ad-supported content,” Westcott said. “As advertising further expands into digital entertainment services, advertisers and providers need to understand changing preferences and expectations around personalization and privacy.”

Forty percent of U.S. consumers note that they would prefer to pay $12 a month for a streaming video service with no ads, versus 60% of consumers who would accept some ads for a reduction in monthly subscription costs.

And 62% of Generation Z and 72% of millennials would rather see ads personalized to their likes and activity than generic ones. However, only 40% of consumers overall said they would be willing to provide more personal information to receive advertising targeted to their interests.

Why this matters

deloitte 2

Above: Deloitte’s entertainment trends.

Image Credit: Deloitte

Deloitte found a world reshaped by pandemic-driven trends, and it noted that streaming video and subscription services have revolutionized the traditional U.S. media and entertainment industry.

The online survey of 2,009 U.S. consumers, conducted in February, also revealed there is growing competition for audiences among a crowded field of streaming video providers, but also with other forms of entertainment, including music, video gaming and social media services. In this world of limitless choice, consumers can easily jump to competitors or other forms of entertainment as they weigh cost, content and ad-tolerance, making it challenging for media companies to earn consumer loyalty and cultivate enduring customer relationships.

U.S. consumers have access to multiple free and paid entertainment options that are all competing for their attention and loyalty. However, all these different options are dividing and fragmenting the market and challenging providers to understand the nuances among segments, generations, and differing kinds of media.

Overall, 82% of U.S. consumers subscribe to at least one paid streaming video service; the average subscriber has four paid video streaming services.

And 55% percent of respondents now watch a free ad-supported video service. Fifty-two percent find it difficult to access content across so many services, and 49% are frustrated when a service doesn’t make good recommendations for them. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed are frustrated by needing multiple service subscriptions to access the content they want.

Sixty-six percent get frustrated when content they want to watch is removed from a service. Half of Generation Z rank social media as the No. 1 way they prefer to get news, whereas only 12% prefer to get news from network or cable TV. Conversely, 58% of Boomers say they prefer news on network or cable TV, and only 8% look to social media first for news stories.

While more people, across generations, go to social media for news, 67% don’t trust the news they see on these services. For Generation Z, the top two activities on social media are listening to music, followed by playing video games.

Consumers are divided around the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election; 43% of respondents felt that social media companies did a good job managing misinformation, while conversely 44% of respondents felt that they could have done more.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents believe that the government must do more to regulate data collection and use. Forty-five percent said they are willing to pay for social media if it didn’t collect their data.

Sixty-two percent of Generation Z and 72% of millennials would rather see ads personalized to their likes and activity than generic ones. However, only 40% of consumers overall said they would be willing to provide more personal information to receive advertising targeted to their interests.

Forty-three percent of consumers (39% of Generation Z and 54% of Millennials) say they would associate content that included hate speech with ads that are displayed nearby.

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Warhammer III hands-on — A journey into the Realm of Chaos

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Warhammer III hands-on -- A journey into the Realm of Chaos

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Sega Europe’s The Creative Assembly studio showed off a demo of Total War: Warhammer III at a press event, and I got to go hands-on with the game in a battle set in the Realm of Chaos.

Being launched later on this year in partnership with franchise owner Games Workshop, Warhammer III the latest in the Total War series. The franchise has sold more than 34.3 million copies to date. The Total War: Warhammer spinoff is a cataclysmic conflict between demonic powers and the sentinels of the mortal world. I played the first two games, and many others, in the Total War series. This game brings the Warhammer trilogy to its conclusion.

The Creative Assembly has been making Total War strategy games for more than two decades. Most of these have focused on historical wars; until recently, when they’ve expanded into myths such as Total War: Three Kingdoms and fantasy with the Warhammer titles. In a Total War strategy game, you move armies around on a strategic map and fight in a 3D real-time battle when they meet on the battlefield.

In Total War: Warhammer III, each choice the player makes will shape the conflict to come. You’ll explore the mysterious Lands of the East to the demon-infested Realms of Chaos.

“Warhammer III is of course the concluding chapter in the series and we’re planning on going out with a bang,” said Al Bickham, the development communications manager for The Creative Assembly, at a press event. “We’ve crafted a huge arching narrative which ties the trilogy together. There are going to be more playable races out of the box than the previous two games. And it’s all set across a hyper-detailed campaign map which begins at the very fringes of Warhammer lands and takes you deep into the mind-bending horrors of the four Realms of Chaos.”

The game will have iconic races from the World of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, including the video game debut of Kislev and Cathay alongside the factions of Chaos — Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh, and Tzeentch. This means players will wage war with the most diverse array of legendary heroes, gargantuan monsters, flying creatures, and magical powers.

Embarking on a new grand campaign, you will be tasked with saving or exploiting the power of a dying god. Each race offers a unique journey through the nightmarish Chaos Realm. The endgame will determine the fate of the world.

The Survival Battle

Above: Everything looks so orderly at the beginning of the Survival Battle in Warhammer III.

Image Credit: Sega/Creative Assembly

The Creative Assembly used the Parsec to let me play a sample Survival Battle, where your goal is to attack into the Realm of Chaos and take objectives and fend off the demon hordes. It’s a new kind of narrated battle that is fresh to the franchise. They’re like boss battles in Warhammer III, and they trigger after you reach key points in the game’s narrative.

“We want the [Survival Battle] to feel epic, really memorable, and full of decisive moments in the course of your campaign,” Bickham said.

My faction was the Kislev, an Eastern human faction that resembles the Russian Cossacks. And I had to take a number of victory locations within the a bloody fortress called the Brass Citadel.

The faction leader, Tzarina Katarin (the Ice Queen of Kislev) has taken her loyal forces into the Realm of Chaos. Khorne, the Chaos God of rage and war, sends a legion of demons to destroy the trespassers. The Kislev forces have been detailed for the first time in the series. Katarin is an Ice Witch with magical powers to both rally her troops and strike fear in the hearts of demons.

I wasn’t exactly impressed with the forces I got in the battle. There were some excellent sword troops, but I only have five companies of them in a place where I had to defend against attacks coming from all directions. I had twice as many archers and a few archer cavalry units.

The Realm of Chaos, of course, is a bad place. It has plenty of blood-red backdrops and one of its decorations is an actual fountain of blood. The four Ruinous Powers rule over this place, ever seeking to slip their bonds and engulf the world in a tide of daemonic corruption. Nurgle, the plague god; Slaanesh, the lord of excess; Tzeentch, the changer of ways; and Khorne, the god of blood and slaughter.

My troops had to fight uphill and sweep some light demon units from the top of a ridge. That was easy enough, and I claimed a victory point in doing so. That allowed me to draw reinforcements from another realm to strengthen my army. But then I was attacked from four directions. At least I was defending a hill, but I had a hard time figuring out where to place my five sword troops, as they were the best units to stave off attacks.

chaos 5

Above: My soldiers are devolving into chaos in Warhammer III.

Image Credit: Sega/Creative Assembly

The cavalry was useful in taking down wolf-borne demons from the enemy, but it wasn’t useful in charging headlong into enemy lines. Rather, it was better to use them to harass the enemy with missile fire from a distance. But I didn’t have nearly enough units to form a full line of defense in all directions. The result was, you guessed it, chaos.

But I tried to survive. One of the goals was to earn a battle currency called “supplies,” which allowed me to build towers and barricades. It also let me recruit new warriors, upgrade my existing units, and bring on reinforcements. Being new to the game, I couldn’t figure out how much to spend on each kind of task. I found I could build barricades and get reinforcements, but I didn’t have enough supplies to build towers, and that meant the hordes of Chaos were going to charge me without being harassed. You generate more supplies by capturing victory points or killing enemies.

Had I looked more, I would have seen that I could have used The Lore of Ice, or ice-themed spells that would slow down the enemy and help my soldiers thin their ranks as they tried to attack. There were six different spells altogether. I also could have used the Elemental Bear, a huge monster on my side, and some of the bear cavalry for the faction. Sadly they were nowhere to be found in my playthrough.

Still, after a few battle restarts, I was able to survive the first wave of attacks and open up a new part of the Brass Citadel, which was circular with a big pit in the middle. Once again, I was forced to divide my forces and try to hold off larger numbers of enemies coming from all sides. It wasn’t pretty.

I didn’t get near the goal of the battle, to fight Khorne’s champion, an Exalted Greater Demon, in a final struggle. It was a very difficult battle, but I enjoyed the idea of being assaulted by endless hordes and figuring out how to stay alive when you’re vastly outnumbered. This is a difficult mode when it comes to figuring out where to throw your troops and when. But it adds some excitement to the pressure that you feel when you have to make decisions quickly to head off disaster.

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LinkedIn open-sources Greykite, a library for time series forecasting

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Greykite Silverkite

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LinkedIn today open-sourced Greykite, a Python library for long- and short-term predictive analytics. Greykite’s main algorithm, Silverkite, delivers automated forecasting, which LinkedIn says it uses for resource planning, performance management, optimization, and ecosystem insight generation.

For enterprises using predictive models to forecast consumer behavior, data drift was a major challenge in 2020 due to never-before-seen circumstances related to the pandemic. This being the case, accurate knowledge about the future remains helpful to any business. Automation, which enables reproducibility, may improve accuracy and can be consumed by algorithms downstream to make decisions.

For example, LinkedIn says that Silverkite improved revenue forecasts for 1-day ahead and 7-day ahead, as well as Weekly Active User forecasts for 2-week ahead. Median absolute percent error for revenue and Weekly Active User forecasts grew by more than 50% and 30%, respectively.

Greykite library

Greykite provides time series tools for trends, seasonality, holidays, and more so that users can fit the AI models of their choice. The library provides exploratory plots and templates for tuning, which define regressors based on data characteristics and forecast requirements like hourly short-term forecast and daily long-term forecast. Tuning knobs provided by the templates reduce the search to find a satisfactory forecast. And the Greykite library has flexibility to customize a model template for algorithms, letting users label (and specify whether to ignore or adjust) known anomalies.

Greykite, which provides outlier detection, can also select the optimal model from multiple candidates using past performance data. Instead of tuning each forecast separately, users can define a set of candidate forecast configurations that capture different types of patterns. Lastly, the library provides a summary that can be used to assess the effect of individual data points. For example, Greykite can check the magnitude of a holiday, see how much a changepoint affected the trend, or show how a certain feature might be beneficial to a model.

With Greykite, a “next 7-day” forecast trained on over 8 years of daily data takes only a few seconds to produce forecasts. LinkedIn says that its whole pipeline, including automatic changepoint detection, cross-validation, backtest, and evaluation, completes in under 45 seconds.

“The Greykite library provides a fast, accurate, and highly customizable algorithm — Silverkite — for forecasting. Greykite also provides intuitive tuning options and diagnostics for model interpretation. It is extensible to multiple algorithms, and facilitates benchmarking them through a single interface,” the LinkedIn research team wrote in a blog post. “We have successfully applied Greykite at LinkedIn for multiple business and infrastructure metrics use cases.”

The Greykite library is available on GitHub and PyPI, and it joins the many other tools LinkedIn has open-sourced to date. They include Iris, for managing website outages; PalDB, a low-key value store for handling side data; Ambry, an object store for media files; GDMix, a framework for training AI personalization models; LiFT, a toolkit to measure AI model fairness; and Dagli, a machine learning library for Java.

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Legionfarm raises $5.9M to connect pro gamers with wannabees

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Legionfarm raises $5.9M to connect pro gamers with wannabees

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Legionfarm has raised $5.9 million for its service to connect ordinary gamers pro gamers around the world. The idea is to help spread the skills to the wannabees who would love to get tips on how to get better. So rather than filling that last squad spot with a random player with no mic, you could get someone who may actually contribute to a win.

The money came from SVB, Y Combinator, Scrum VC, Altair Capital, Kevin Lin (Twitch), Ankur Nagpal (Teachable), and others.

The San Francisco company employs almost a thousand pro gamers, who make real money as mercenaries in games like Call of Duty: Warzone, Apex Legends, Destiny 2, World of Warcraft, and The Division. I could definitely use some help getting more wins by teaming up with the pros in Warzone.

Above: Legionfarm has 80 employees.

Image Credit: Legionfarm

In an interview, founder Alex Beliankin said the onboarding process for pros is highly automated, so skilled players are able to quickly and easily monetize their talents. Experienced players command up to $17 per hour, and may operate as little or as much as desired.

“We let gamers pay to play together with the pro players, helping them have more fun in games and to find a good teammates,” Beliankin said. “We mainly operate in battle royale games as well as massively multiplayer online games. It’s really a more entertaining way to play a game.”

Founded in 2016, Legionfarm previously raised $1.5 million in 2019 from TMT Investments and Denis Smetnev (Vimbox). Altogether, the company has 80 full-time employees, not counting the active pro players. The development team is in Russia.

“The pro gamer is working full time as if that was their job. And their job is to be a good teammate,” Beliankin said. “It’s very important to match players’ personalities.”

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GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
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