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Snapchat’s new Camera desktop camera app brings AR masks to Twitch, Skype… – TechCrunch



Snapchat is launching its first Mac and Windows software that takes over your webcam and brings its augmented reality effects to other video streaming and calling services. Snap Camera can be selected as a camera output in OBS Skype, YouTube, Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom and more, plus browser-based apps like Facebook Live so you can browse through Snapchat’s Lens Explorer to try on AR face filters. And through its easily equipped new Twitch extension, streamers can trigger different masks with hotkeys.

You can download the Mac and Windows versions of Snap Camera now. Users can use Lens Explorer to preview effects and see who made them, Star their favorites for easy access and access a tab of your recently used Lenses.

Despite Snap Inc.’s troubles following yesterday’s Q3 earnings announcement that revealed it’d lost 2 million users, causing its share price to hit a new low, Snapchat Camera isn’t about stoking growth. You won’t even have to log in to Snapchat to use it. Instead the goal is to drive more attention to its community AR Lens platform so more developers and creators will make their own effects. “We’re going down the path of providing more distribution channels [for Community Lens creators] and surfacing their work,” Snap’s head of AR Eitan Pilipski tells me. The desktop camera could win Lens creators more attention, and Snapchat connects to the most talented ones to brands for sponsorship deals.

Snapchat first came to the desktop in January with its first embeddable content, designed for newsrooms that wanted to show off citizen journalism on their sites. But now Snapchat content creation is escaping the mobile medium.

Strangely, Snap Camera has no interface of its own. Really, it should have a Photo Booth-style app so you can record photos and videos of yourself with your webcam and share them wherever. “We don’t want to compete in that space. We just want to bring Community Lenses to whatever apps people are using,” Pilipski explains. One major app that won’t support Snap Camera is Apple’s FaceTime. Why? “I don’t know. Apple didn’t comment on that. Believe me we tried,” says Pilipski.

Because there’s “not even a facility to collect the impressions” and users don’t have to log in, Snap won’t be able to add Camera users to its daily active user count. With that number falling from 191 million in Q1 to 188 million in Q2 to 186 million in Q3 as it announced yesterday, Snap really does need more ways to keep people from straying to Instagram Stories. It will have to hope that when video chat users see their friends or family using Snap Camera’s lenses, it will remind them to fire up Snapchat more often. And Lenses could go viral if they show in a Twitch celebrity’s stream.

The Twitch extension comes amidst more announcements at today’s TwitchCon event, including the reveal of Squad Streaming and a karaoke Twitch Sings game for the service’s average of 1 million concurrent viewers and half-million daily streamers.

The Snap camera equips Twitch broadcasters with extra features. They’ll have access to game-themed lenses for League of Legends, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, World of Warcraft and Overwatch. Viewers will see the QR Snapcode for the Lens on the screen, which they can scan with Snapchat to try the mask on themselves for virality. Streamers get a button that lets viewers subscribe to them, and can set up a “bonus” lens that shows up as a thank you when someone follows them. And with hotkeys, streamers can trigger different lenses, like an angry one for when they lose a game or victory lenses for if they manage to beat all the other Fortnite addicts.

More than 250,000 Community Lenses have been submitted through Snapchat’s Lens Studio since it launched in December, and they’ve been viewed over 1 billion times. Snapchat realized it couldn’t dream up every crazy way people could use AR. Out-Lensing Instagram is critical to Snapchat’s business strategy. The more people that use Snapchat’s AR features, the more the company can charge businesses to promote Sponsored Lenses. With the user count shrinking, Snap needs to show its business is growing to salvage its share price and pull in the outside investment or acquisition it will likely need to make it to profitability. A desktop presence could not only make Snapchat more ubiquitous, but get it in front of older users and advertisers who might be a little scared of its mobile app.

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Why EA Sports and Nike think gaming NFTs can really work this time



Enlarge / You could soon be able to wear this kind of NFT sneaker in future EA Sports titles.


After a lot of hype from game makers in 2021, big publishers have been relatively quiet on the idea of integrating non-fungible tokens into their games since the collapse of Ubisoft’s “Quartz Digits” platform last year. But EA Sports this week is proving the game industry hasn’t completely abandoned the blockchain-based collectible technology, announcing a partnership with Nike’s “.Swoosh” NFT platform to let players “express their personal style through play.”

Details are still scarce, and Nike says that more information will be available “in the coming months.” But the company said in a statement that “select .Swoosh virtual creations” will “unlock brand new levels of customization within the EA SPORTS ecosystem” and provide players with “unique new opportunities for self-expression and creativity through sport and style.”

In other words, it sounds like you’ll soon be able to put your NFT Nike sneakers on your Madden team.

Why this time could be different

As skeptical as we’ve been about previous efforts to integrate NFTs into games, this partnership could avoid some of the field’s most common pitfalls. For one, Nike is already an established brand with legions of sneakerheads that follow its every move. And those fans have already shown at least some willingness to invest in digital swag bearing Nike’s iconic swoosh. The company’s first “Virtual Sneaker Drop”—featuring “digital renditions” of the company’s iconic Air Force 1 line—reached over $1 million in sales to early beta users in less than a week, according to CoinDesk.

Those NFTs might become even more valuable to Nike fans if and when they can be used to unlock digital drip in EA Sports titles. And these kinds of “real-world clothing” cosmetics also seem like items that could be relatively easy for other developers and publishers to integrate into their own games (unlike Ubisoft’s awkward, serial-numbered virtual items). That means other publishers could theoretically follow EA’s lead here, integrating support for Nike’s virtual fashions as a marketing tool targeting fashion-conscious gamers.

That could plausibly create a kind of cycle where support from more games leads to more interest in Nike’s NFTs, which in turn leads more game makers to sign on, and so on. If enough game makers start featuring those Nike collectibles, we could plausibly reach NFT bulls’ dream scenario of digital items that you buy once and use across multiple properties around the Internet.

Of course, for any of that to happen, Nike and EA will first have to get over the deep and longstanding animosity gamers have shown for any game developer that even hints at making NFTs part of its gaming plans (not to mention the wider collapse in NFT interest across multiple markets). And if the prospect of showing off Nike swag in online games can’t break through that inherent hostility, there’s a good chance nothing will.

Regardless, by leaning on Nike’s established brand—and letting it serve as a third party that markets and sells the NFTs themselves—EA Sports could avoid some of the problems other companies have faced in trying to build and sell NFT collections from scratch.

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Players replace Tears of the Kingdom’s patched-out item-dupe glitches



A guide for watching “memories” to perfectly time a new item-duplication glitch.

It has been only a week since Nintendo removed a number of popular The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom item-duplication glitches with the release of the game’s 1.1.2 update patch. But intrepid players have already found alternate methods for creating infinite items to build and fight to their heart’s content.

The most straightforward (if slow) new method for item duplication, as described by Kibbles Gaming, involves fusing an item to a weapon, preparing to throw that weapon, and then watching previously viewed cutscenes via the “memories” section of the Adventure Log. Each memory you view apparently advances the game’s logic by a single frame, letting you easily pinpoint the four-frame timing window where you can throw a weapon while also retaining a copy in your inventory. While this method is consistent and simple to perform (even early in the game), it can take quite a while to fill up your inventory this way.

A more efficient item duplication method requires you to purchase Link’s House near Tarry Town in the east, then place a shock emitter item near the weapon display. With good timing, you can place a weapon on that display during the same frame that the shock emitter knocks it out of your hands, thus creating two copies of the weapon (and any fused item) instantly.

This duplication glitch requires a bit of setup but allows for very quick item creation.

While this method lets you create functionally infinite item copies quickly, it requires a lot more in-game set-up and some relatively precise timing. Other players have found that quickly removing pieces of rubber armor can help with the “shock” timing, at least.

We expect Nintendo will patch out these newly discovered item-dupe methods relatively quickly, but we don’t imagine that will stop intrepid players from finding further exploits. After all, while Nintendo released a few Breath of the Wild patches in the months after its 2017 release, players have since found plenty of exploitable glitches in that game, including one that’s strikingly similar to the latest Tears of the Kingdom item duplication exploit. One of those Breath of the Wild glitches—which even lets players duplicate rare korok seeds—was discovered as recently as early 2022, showing that there isn’t really a time limit on how long Zelda players will spend figuring out how to break these games.

Rather than engaging in this cat-and-mouse glitch-fixing fight, we still think that Nintendo should lean in and make item duplication an official part of the game. A fully supported item duplication code or separate “creative mode” would give many players the infinite, grind-free Zelda sandbox they so obviously want and deserve without ruining the carefully constructed challenges Nintendo worked so hard on.

Listing image by BLAINES / YouTube

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Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is coming to PC—and it will be a technical showstopper



Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will be the next PlayStation Studios game to make its way to PC, Sony announced in a blog post on Tuesday. The game, which debuted in 2021, will launch on the new platform on July 26.

Although Sony has been in the habit of releasing its big PlayStation exclusives on PC long after their console debuts for a bit now, there are a couple of things that make this announcement particularly interesting.

First, this is the first Ratchet & Clank game to be released on PC—that’s after 16 home and handheld console releases since the first game was released on PlayStation 2 more than 20 years ago.

Fortunately, despite its position as the latest game in the Ratchet & Clank timeline, Rift Apart works fairly well as a standalone story. PC players who have not played the previous 15 games might miss a little inside joke, but they won’t be lost in following the story or characters. That said, it’s still wild that the 16th game in a series will be the first PC port.

More interesting to many is the technology angle. Rift Apart was made by Insomniac Games—developers of the recent Spider-Man games, the Resistance first-person shooter franchise for PlayStation 3, and the early Spyro the Dragon games in the PlayStation 1 era. After Sony’s relatively recent acquisition of Insomniac, Rift Apart was meant to be a technical showcase for the PS5.

Specifically, the game is built around the premise of moving through different dimensions and planets with completely different assets through portals without loading times, something that was only possible with the PS5’s ultra-fast SSD and related hardware. The PS5’s internal drive has a read/write speed of 5,500MB/s, far faster than most PC drives at the time of the console’s launch. Sony requires any add-on storage for the PS5 to meet that minimum speed requirement, too.

There have been PC SSDs faster than that for a bit, but they’re extremely expensive, and most people (even core gamers) even now don’t have drives that fast, so it will be interesting to see how Sony handles PCs with slower drives. Instant travel through those portals isn’t a nice bonus; it’s integral to the game’s presentation and experience, and it’s one of the reasons there was no PlayStation 4 version of Rift Apart.

Curiously, Sony didn’t touch on that subject in its blog post, even though it talked about other technical features of the game. Like the PS5 version, the PC version of Rift Apart will support ray-traced reflections, though Sony notes that there will be “a variety of quality levels to choose from.” The PC version will also get some things the PS5 didn’t: ray-traced shadows and ultra-wide monitor support. The PC version will also support Nvidia DLSS 3, AMD FSR 2, and Intel XeSS, as well as Nvidia Reflex and Nvidia DLAA. There will be full keyboard and mouse support, too, of course.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart PC trailer

There’s a third reason we’re focusing on this game: It’s a personal favorite for a couple of Ars staffers, myself included. I’ve played every Ratchet & Clank game over the years, and the promise of a new one for PS5 was one of the main reasons for that console purchase. The same went for a coworker; I managed to nab two PS5s the first week of launch and gave the second to my coworker, who also wanted one specifically for Ratchet & Clank. It quickly became one of my favorite games in years. On the other hand, Ars gaming editor Kyle Orland called it a good game in his review but had some reservations—so your mileage may vary, of course.

They’re great games, with a good combination of action and story, and absolutely none of the games-as-a-service stuff you see in triple-A games all too often these days. After all these years, it will be fascinating to see how these games do on PC, given their deep console lineage.

Rift Apart ended up being a good entry in the series, but maybe not the best; we’re still holding out for a PC release of the Future titles that were originally released on PS3, which were arguably the franchise’s halcyon days. Even if it’s not the absolute apex of franchise entries, Rift Apart has one extra thing going for it: It is a graphically gorgeous game. The only other game I’ve played recently that rivaled it was Cyberpunk 2077 on an ultra-high-end PC, so Rift Apart is worth playing on that basis alone. Sony says it will be available on Steam and the Epic Games Store.

Listing image by Sony

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