Disruptor Beam, the mobile gaming startup behind Star Trek Timelines, has a new name and a new business. It’s now calling itself Beamable, and it’s selling a set of tools to help game developers add commerce and social functionality to their titles.
The company’s direction became clear earlier this year when it sold Timelines to Tilting Point so that it could focus on its developer tools. Now Beamable is officially launching its Early Access program for games that are live, or that are scheduled to go live in the next 12 months.
CEO Jon Radoff told me that Disruptor Beam first built this technology for its own games — not just Timelines, but also Game of Thrones Ascent and Walking Dead: March to War.
Radoff suggested that there’s a real need for this as gaming continues shifting towards a “games as a service” model, where developers don’t just release a title and move on, but rather continue adding new features and content, while additional ways to make money from players.
The largest developers with the most popular games can support this approach, but he said, “For the next 5,000 games on the app stores, any of the things they’ve built are pretty primitive and they really need help.”
He added, “For these developers, 30% or 40% of their effort goes into making a cool game, and all the other money and time goes into things the player doesn’t really see — the store and the commerce … It’s kind of like a tax on their ongoing operation.”
With Beamable, on the other hand, developers can add take advantage of the infrastructure that the company has already built for in-game storefronts, merchandising, content management and social interactions. The platform also ties together the company’s backend infrastructure with the Unity 3D editor and the live gameplay experience.
“Other products we’ve investigated are just middleware,” said Tap Slots CEO Markus Weichselbaum in a statement. “Beamable is fully-integrated with Unity, including user interfaces that work in both the Unity 3D editor and game clients. This saves us massive amounts of time we’d otherwise spend in the guts of the technology and rediscovering best practices, instead of doing what we need to do: designing great games.”
In addition to selling Timelines, Disruptor Beam also shifted its business by shutting down Ascent and March to War, and it’s sold an unnamed, still-in-development title to East Side Games.
Radoff suggested that when Disruptor Beam started, the market for licensed games tied to major entertainment franchises was still “the Wild, Wild West” providing “a tremendous opportunity” for startups to innovate. Now, however, it’s a “mature market” that’s dominated by larger developers.
Radoff also acknowledged that he spent much of 2019 “trying to figure out how to have my cake and eat it too” — in other words, how the company could turn the game platform into a business while continuing to develop games of its own.
“Ultimately, I concluded that game development is an obsession,” he said. “When you have a company in which any amount of game development is happening, no matter what you do, you’re always going to be obsessed with game development, and that obsession tends to push out your ability to create great technology or a great product for developers.”
Instead, Radoff decided to sell off the company’s games and try to build an organization (now operating remotely via Zoom, like everyone else) that’s equally obsessed with building a development platform — primarily for mobile games, but also for PC and console.
Nufa lets you live up to unrealistic beauty standards at the tap of an app • TechCrunch
It isn’t like Instagram is a beacon of truth as it is, but things are about to get a lot worse, as Nufa takes any image and sculpts you into the “after” picture dream that every gym owner wants to project into our souls as they continue on their mission to make us all look like body-building beasts with cleavage out the wazoo and abs for days.
The new mobile app “seamlessly transforms the human body into a picture in one click,” as it considers muscle structure, body type, skin color, body position and even tattoos to provide a “digital experience that hardly differs from real body transformation pics.”
“For women, we have an additional feature of transforming the breast from the 1st to the 5th size that works even with neckline clothes,” Nufa’s head of Analytics, Artem Petrikeev, said in an email to TechCrunch. “We are changing body pics similar to how Faceapp changes selfies.”
Can we be done making ourselves feel less than already?
But hey, if this is your jam, I guess you, too, can see what you’d look like if you conformed to completely unrealistic beauty standards. You do you, boo, but if you install this app, perhaps think about what it is you’re buying into. You’re perfect as you are, and if you don’t believe that, think about where that belief came from.
TechCrunch’s parent company links up with Taboola • TechCrunch
Folks often ask if Crunchbase and TechCrunch are still the same company (nope). Many express surprise that AOL was once this publication’s sole parent (yep). The saga of Who Owns TechCrunch is actually somewhat interesting. Various corporate developments over the last decade saw TechCrunch trade hands several times, including our most recent ejection from Verizon (long story) into the arms of private equity (shorter story).
Today we’re part of a reconstituted Yahoo, an entity that combines its historical assets — sans Alibaba — with AOL and other properties including this publication. I bring all that up because our parent company is in the news today. So much so that we’re pushing the value of a public company sharply higher by dint of our partnering with it, and taking a sizable stake in its equity at the same time.
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Because my employer is about to own just under a fourth of Taboola, I want to rewind the clock a bit today and recall how we wound up in a world where both Taboola and Outbrain — online advertising companies that you are familiar with, and have at times collected criticism — are public companies.
This should be lightweight and fun. Frankly, before today, I had never read a Taboola or Outbrain earnings report. We will explore together! Into the numbers!
A merger that didn’t
Yahoo gets 25% stake in Taboola as part of long-term advertising deal • TechCrunch
Yahoo is taking a nearly 25% stake in advertising network Taboola. In exchange for this move, Taboola is becoming Yahoo’s native advertising partner through a 30-year commercial agreement.
If you’re not familiar with Taboola, you may have seen its content recommendation widgets on popular news websites, such as USA Today, Insider and The Weather Channel. They mostly feature sponsored links that lead to third-party websites. Those links appear in recommendation widgets at the end of news articles or in the middle of a content newsfeed.
Yahoo is a name that you may already know quite well. It is now a private company owned by investment firm Apollo Global Management. It owns many popular media properties, such as Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo News, AOL and Engadget. Yahoo’s homepage and Yahoo Mail are also important products for the company as they attract large audiences. Yahoo is TechCrunch’s parent company as well.
This isn’t the first time Taboola is signing a strategic partnership that covers some of these properties. In 2015, Verizon acquired AOL. The next year, Taboola and AOL signed a strategic partnership that led to integrations of Taboola’s ads on AOL properties. Shortly after, Verizon also acquired Yahoo and merged AOL with Yahoo.
And now, the second incarnation of Yahoo, which includes AOL’s activities and operates separately from Verizon, is doubling down on digital advertising. With this new deal, Taboola becomes the exclusive partner for native advertising across all of Yahoo’s digital properties.
It means that you’ll soon scroll through news articles on Yahoo Finance and see an item that looks just like a normal article. But it will be a Taboola-powered advertising unit instead. Or at least, that’s the idea. Advertisers will be able to buy Taboola through the Yahoo DSP.
“Partnering with Taboola enables Yahoo to further enhance the contextual and native offerings within our unified advertising stack. The partnership also allows Yahoo and Taboola to continue to differentiate in market, improving user, advertiser and publisher experiences across properties, while benefiting from the long-term tailwinds in digital native advertising,” Yahoo CEO Jim Lanzone said in a statement.
As Yahoo currently reaches nearly 900 million monthly active users, it represents a significant deal for Taboola. Right now, Taboola partners with 9,000 publishers and reaches 500 million users every day.
This deal isn’t just a way to display Taboola ads in front of more eyeballs. As technology companies and regulators are cracking down on privacy-invasive targeting methods, adtech companies like Taboola need to find new ways to target audiences in an effective way.
“Our collaboration with Yahoo will give advertisers access to what I believe is the most sophisticated contextual dataset online. Together, we’re going to build a ‘Contextual Powerhouse’, enabling advertisers to target relevant audiences without relying on third-party cookies and while maintaining complete user privacy,” Taboola founder and CEO Adam Singolda writes in a blog post.
Taboola went public last year by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, also known as a SPAC. Taboola shares (NASDAQ:TBLA) are currently up 70% in pre-market trading compared to yesterday’s closing price — but Taboola shares have been steadily going down over the past twelve months. Shares should open at around $3.14.
As part of the deal, Yahoo is becoming Taboola’s largest shareholder with a 24.99% stake in the advertising network company. Yahoo will also get a seat on Taboola’s board of directors. Both companies expect to generate $1 billion in annual revenue from this newly formed partnership if integrations go well.
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