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Mythical Games buys Polystream for real-time 3D streaming for the metaverse

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Mythical Games, the maker of the Blankos Block Party game, has acquired Polystream for real-time 3D streaming for the metaverse.

The purchase price wasn’t disclosed. It was the first acquisition for Mythical, which has raised $270 million in funding to date thanks to its pioneering role in creating games with nonfungible tokens (NFTs).

Mythical Games has made its Blankos Block Party open-world multiplayer game, and it has had more than a million player accounts created to date. That helped it get marquee Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz as a backer.

Now it is putting some of its war chest to use with the acquisition of the metaverse streaming platform Polystream, which is based Guildford in the United Kingdom and has about 20 employees. They have built a tech that makes it easier to hop from one part of the metaverse — the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One and the latest Matrix Resurrections movie — to another.

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Above: Mythical Games’ Blankos Block Party could download and play faster with Polystream.

Image Credit: Mythical Games

“Not everybody’s willing to download 100 gigabytes to play Warzone on a high-end gaming PC rig,” said John Linden, CEO of Mythical Games, in an interview with GamesBeat. “A lot of people want to be part of these immersive 3D worlds and be able to jump in quickly and interact and socialize and then leave. We were able to run Blankos on their tech and suddenly — now what happens is you can run it in the cloud. But you only have a five-megabyte client now. So it’s a very thin client.”

Polystream is using its interactive streaming platform to try to transform how real-time 3D content is streamed at scale. Polystream’s technology delivers what is required for interactive 3D consumer entertainment, enabling gamers and non-gamers alike to instantly engage with the content they love. That means it enables people to play without massive game client downloads.

Above: John Linden is CEO of Mythical Games.

Image Credit: Mythical Games

That helps with the metaverse vision, which people see as enabling them to hop from one world to the next and so on. Right now, if you try to do that, you’ll get stuck downloading 10 gigabytes of data or more first, and have to do that each time you hop to a new world. That’s a nonstarter for people on mobile.

Through Polystream’s “extended reality” technology, games and content become more accessible to all players across more devices and platforms. In early tests with Mythical’s Blankos Block Party game, a full 4GB game client was reduced to a 5MB PC client and downloaded in a matter of seconds.

“As we see more of these kind of metaverse worlds, whether it’s going to be fashion or a concert, I don’t think their customers will ever have the appetite to download an 18GB Unreal game,” Linden said. “They just want to be able to click a button and in less than 30 seconds be in the 3D world.”

This technology not only enables more players on more devices to nearly instantly enjoy the game, it also ensures the game is always current without needing any additional updates when content changes.

Leveraging the Polystream cloud-native infrastructure as well as its own proprietary economic engine, Mythical aims to decentralize how game publishing works and more fully bridge the gap between blockchain and mainstream gaming.

Linden said that Mythical now has not only the economic engine but a proprietary, patented streaming tech stack to deliver 3D worlds in a matter of seconds across nearly any platform. In addition, Polystream’s technology delivers this experience on central processing unit (CPU) cloud hardware, allowing the company to scale faster, and at a fraction of the cost of cloud streaming platforms that use graphics processing unit (GPU) hardware.

“You don’t have to have GPU servers in the cloud and so it’s more economical,” Linden said. “It’s less environmentally wasteful than having another set of GPUs out there. It uses normal CPU servers, just like any other cloud machine, and we can do this on almost any platform.”

Above: Mythical Games’ Blankos Block Party uses NFTs.

Image Credit: Mythical Games

Polystream’s headquarters in Guildford UK will provide Mythical with a European hub that will become the center for cloud-native, blockchain-based technology and games. Polystream cofounders Bruce Grove and Adam Billyard — who spoke at our metaverse event last year — will become part of the senior leadership team.

“Our mission, from day one, was to disrupt everything we know about cloud native gaming. I can’t express how excited I am today that now, as part of Mythical Games, our platform will bridge the gap between blockchain-based technology and millions of consumers, bringing the benefits of NFT gaming to an even larger stage via accessible mass-market games,” said Grove, CEO of Polystream, in a statement. “We’ve been following Mythical for a long time, and they share our vision of a metaverse that not only hands ownership of IP back to the creators and the users, but importantly, makes it fun. I’m so proud of all my team for never giving up on building the impossible, and we can’t wait to start working with our new friends and colleagues at Mythical.”

The acquisition of Polystream brings the total number of Mythical employees to over 200, and the company continues to hire for roles globally.

Linden acknowledged hardcore gamers have some hate for blockchain games. He noted Mythical’s foundations are environmentally sound, based on proof-of-stake tech. His company’s team has roots in hardcore games and so it is focusing on creating fun games first, rather than scammy business models first. But he does believe gamers can benefit from playing fun games and earning at the same time, and using those earnings to economically benefit over time.

Mythical’s overall goal is to bring blockchain to the masses via games like Blankos Block Party or those from third parties that use Mythical’s platform. The Mythical platform is built on an Ethereum virtual machine (EVM)-compatible sidechain using a proof of authority consensus model that is more environmentally friendly and sustainable than the proof of work model used by Bitcoin and Ethereum. Minting NFTs and integrating the marketplace via the Mythical platform do not require any mining or cryptocurrency to operate, or for players to participate.

Mythical’s platform is built on the idea of inviting players to become stakeholders in a game’s economy by giving them ownership of their digital collections. Rather than making a “blockchain game,” the Mythical platform leverages blockchain technology to open new doors of revenue to players and allow them to tap into the value of the time and money they are already putting into games.

Linden, Jamie Jackson and Rudy Koch started the company in 2018.

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The FTC files suit to block Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition

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The Federal Trade Commission is suing to block the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft. It contends that the acquisition, if completed, would give Microsoft an unfair advantage over its competitors.

This morning, the four-person commission voted to issue the lawsuit. The three Democrat members (chair Lina Khan, Rebecca Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya) voted in favor and the Republican (Christine Wilson) voted against. The commission allegedly met with Microsoft the day prior to discuss concessions, according to a report from The Washington Post.

If its news release is anything to go by, the commissioners weren’t convinced that Microsoft wouldn’t withhold Activision Blizzard’s popular games from competing services. The FTC cited Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax, and how games such as Starfield and Redfall became exclusive following its close.

Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement, “Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals. Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.”

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The FTC is not the only government body to express concern about the implications of the acquisition. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is currently investigating. It recently closed Phase One of the investigation, and expressed concerns in its issues statement.

The history of the planned acquisition

Microsoft announced its intention to acquire the publisher in January. Through this acquisition, it would become the regent of popular gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, Candy Crush, World of Warcraft and many others. Reportedly, it offered around $69 billion for Activision Blizzard.

The concerns about the scale of the acquisition emerged almost as soon as it was announced. The FTC reportedly moved to investigate the deal almost immediately. Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad said at the time that Microsoft would have to pay Activision $3 billion if the deal was blocked.

The current focal point of the antitrust concerns is the Call of Duty franchise. Sony has repeatedly contended, in public statements primarily aimed at the CMA’s investigation, that Microsoft could undermine its competition via these popular and lucrative games. It could, according to Sony, either outright stop publishing them on Sony’s platforms, or it could offer them on its Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Sony claims Call of Duty on Game Pass would diminish demand for Sony consoles even if Call of Duty is still published on them.

Microsoft has, in turn, responded that its competitors have plenty of exclusive titles of their own. It’s also offered to sign 10-year deals with Sony, Nintendo and Valve (the company behind PC games store Steam) to offer Call of Duty titles on their platforms. It announced earlier this week that it has inked such a deal with Nintendo.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s vice chair and president, said in a statement to The Verge, “We continue to believe that this deal will expand competition and create more opportunities for gamers and game developers. We have been committed since Day One to addressing competition concerns, including by offering earlier this week proposed concessions to the FTC. While we believed in giving peace a chance, we have complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present our case in court.”



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Airtable chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are out • TechCrunch

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As part of Airtable’s decision to cut 20% of staff, or 254 employees, three executives are “parting ways” with the company as well, a spokesperson confirmed over email. The chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are no longer with the company.

Airtable’s chief revenue officer, Seth Shaw, joined in November 2020 just one month before Airtable’s chief producer officer Peter Deng came on board. Airtable’s chief people officer, Johanna Jackman, joined Airtable in May 2021 with an ambitious goal to double the company’s headcount to 1,000 in 12 months. The three executives are departing today as a mutual decision with Airtable, but will advise the company through the next phase of transition, the company says. All three executives were reached out to for further comment and this story will be updated with their responses if given.

An Airtable spokesperson declined to comment on if the executives were offered severance pay. The positions will be succeeded by internal employees, introduced at an all-hands meeting to be held this Friday.

Executive departures at this scale are rare, even if the overall company is going through a heavy round of cuts. But CEO and founder Howie Liu emphasized, in an email sent to staff but seen by TechCrunch, that the decision – Airtable’s first-ever lay off in its decade-long history – was made following Airtable’s choice to pivot to a more “narrowly focused mode of execution.”

In the email, Liu described Airtable’s goal – first unveiled in October – to capture enterprise clients with connected apps. Now, instead of the bottom-up adoption that first fueled Airtable’s rise, the company wants to be more focused in this new direction. Liu’s e-mail indicates that the startup will devote a majority of its resources toward “landing and expanding large enterprise companies with at least 1k FTEs – where our connected apps vision will deliver the most differentiated value.”

The lean mindset comes after Airtable reduced spend in marketing media, real estate, business technology and infrastructure, the e-mail indicates. “In trying to do too many things at once, we have grown our organization at a breakneck pace over the past few years. We will continue to emphasize growth, but do so by investing heavily in the levers that yield the highest growth relative to their cost,” Liu wrote.

Airtable seems to be emphasizing that its reduced spend doesn’t come with less ambition, or ability to execute. A spokesperson added over e-mail that all of Airtable’s funds from its $735 million Series F are “still intact.” They also said that the startup’s enterprise side, which makes up the majority of Airtable’s revenue, is growing more than 100% year over year; the product move today just doubles down on that exact cohort.

Current and former Airtable employees can reach out to Natasha Mascarenhas on Signal, a secure encrypted messaging app, at 925 271 0912. You can also DM her on Twitter, @nmasc_. 



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Airlines Finally Get Serious About Contrails. What Are They?

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What are those puffy white plumes trailing jets high up in the sky? They’re called contrails, and scientists have long said they contribute to climate change.

Now some major airline companies are getting on board. Carries such as American, Southwest, United, Alaska, and Virgin Atlantic, and tech companies like Google, are working with the Rocky Mountain Institute to figure out which of these contrails are bad for the environment and what they can do about it.

“Air travel has almost a double-sized impact on global warming than what we thought it was before,” said Andrew Chen, an aviation specialist with the Rocky Mountain Institute, told The Dallas Morning News. “The most interesting dynamic is that the airlines are not shying away from contrails.”

Related: ‘The Fumes Are Unbelievably Bad:’ Residents Complain About Kyle Jenner’s Private Jet

What are airplane contrails?

Conspiracies abound about how the lines of clouds following jets are “chemtrails” released by the government in a secret program to add toxic chemicals to the atmosphere.

But scientists say that these clouds are, in fact, water vapor trails or condensation trails (contrails, for short) created by airplane engines. The hot, humid exhaust mixes with the colder atmosphere, causing a cloud similar to what you see when you breathe on a cold day.

Climate scientists believe contrails can trap heat in the atmosphere contributing to global warming.

Carbon emissions from jets have long been the target of environmentalists, leading many airlines to retool their planes to use alternative energy. But the industry is now getting serious about contrail pollution, as well.

“The science around contrails has become more clear in just the last few years,” said Jill Blickstein, vice president of sustainability at American Airlines told the DMN. “For example, we’ve known for some time that some contrails formed in the morning can have a cooling effect and that contrails formed at night were more likely to be warming. But we didn’t have a good sense of the net impact of all contrails. That warming impact has become clearer recently.”

Not all contrails have the same impact. The worst seems to happen at night when the earth is cooler, but the contrails block heat from escaping.

The good news is that airlines can avoid making contrails, but doing so may require changing flight patterns and burning more fuel, thus creating more carbon dioxide.

To read more about this, head on over The Dallas Morning News.

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