January 27, 2024
Issue No. 89
Welcome to this week's AtherXplorer, covering the latest in gaming, blockchain, and everything in between.
This week’s top picks include:
OpenAI Drops Prices and Fixes ‘Lazy’ GPT-4
OpenAI has introduced price reductions and new model versions across its lineup. Input prices for the popular GPT-3.5 Turbo API are dropping 50% to $0.0005 per thousand tokens, while output prices decrease 25% to $0.0015. As applications intensify text usage, lower costs aim to retain customers as open-source alternatives near OpenAI's performance. GPT-3.5 Turbo also gains a minor January 25th model update with unspecified improvements.
The previously "lazy" GPT-4 Turbo preview model for developers now fixes issues where it refused tasks. This suggests it manifested "quiet quitting" tendencies from analyzed data, learning the wrong work habits. While still experimental, GPT-4 with vision capabilities will reach general availability in coming months. Additionally, new embedding and text moderation models released include version 007 for the free moderation API to support content filtering.
Regular price cuts and model refreshes aim to maintain OpenAI's leadership amid growing competition. While details on performance enhancements remain vague, fixing an uncooperative GPT-4 model highlights the need for safely optimizing generative models' helpfulness. Overall, the adjustments lower access costs and expand the line for various application types.
Voice Cloning Startup ElevenLabs Raises $80M in Series B Round
Voice cloning startup ElevenLabs recently raised an $80 million Series B round led by prominent investors including Andreessen Horowitz. The round valued the company at over $1 billion, achieving unicorn status. Founded in 2022 by former Google and Palantir engineers, ElevenLabs develops AI tools for creating and editing synthetic voices. It is best known for a browser tool that can generate lifelike voices from text. While free users can test default voices, paid customers can upload samples to create custom styles.
ElevenLabs found customers in media companies and aims to expand into dubbing and audiobook generation. However, the platform has faced criticism for security issues and the unconsented use of voice actors' samples. While attempting improvements like voice detection and marketplace features, serious concerns remain.
Competitors like Replica Studios have negotiated voice talent union agreements, but actors criticize terms granting clients ownership. Additionally, platforms like ElevenLabs pose an existential threat as voice work may be replaced without compensation. Though an alpha marketplace allows creators to monetize shared voices, payment currently relies on service credits rather than cash.
Google Chrome Adds AI Features to Boost Productivity & Creativity
Google’s Chrome browser recently introduced three new experimental AI-powered features through the M121 release that aim to boost productivity and creativity.
- Tab Organizer allows users to right click on tabs and automatically group similar ones together under generated labels and emojis to reduce clutter.
- Create with AI permits customizing Chrome themes using a diffusion model to generate wallpapers based on prompts combining subjects, moods, styles and colors.
- Help Me Write, coming next month, offers suggestions through right clicks on assisting to polish, expand or alter the tone of drafted web text based on preferences.
These additions continue Google's efforts to incorporate the latest AI and machine learning innovations into the world's most widely used browser. Chrome has previously added functions like video captions, malicious site detection, permission management and key points extraction. However, the new generative features are currently limited to U.S. Mac and Windows users who opt into the "Experimental AI" page after signing in. While praised for convenience and imagination, experts have flagged privacy, security and accuracy issues, and in testing the Tab Organizer was occasionally unreliable in grouping tabs.
In Other AI News…
- Etsy launches ‘Gift Mode,’ a new AI-powered feature that generates 200+ gift guides
- Myriad Venture Partners launches with $100M fund backed by Xerox
- Nvidia’s RTX GPUs can now upgrade SDR content to HDR using AI
- Typeface revs up gen AI content race with multimodal announcements
- X gets flooded with graphic Taylor Swift AI fakes
Palworld’s Huge Success, New Roadmap, and Pokémon’s Response
Palworld released in early access on January 19th and immediately saw huge success, selling over 5 million copies in just three days across Steam and Xbox. While the game takes basic concepts from Pokémon and Minecraft like catching and battling monsters called "pals," it differentiated itself with a darker survivalist theme where pals are used for crafting tools and weapons. Though the gameplay loop focused on familiar elements such as resource gathering, crafting, and base-building, the provocative tone captured player interest.
However, controversy soon emerged regarding similarities between Palworld's pal models and Pokémon, with experts claiming the level of matching would require direct copying. The developer denied any IP infringement but faced harassment. By January 24th, sales reached over 7 million copies in five days. Around this time, The Pokémon Company issued a statement that they had not approved IP use in another January 2024 game and would investigate for infringement.
Meanwhile, the developer shared an early access roadmap targeting stability fixes and additions like PvP modes, raid bosses, and crossplay. Palworld's success continued to accelerate, hitting over 8 million Steam sales alone by January 25th. It maintained the number two spot on Steam's all-time concurrent user chart but still trails the record held by PUBG: Battlegrounds.
While facing allegations of copying Pokémon's content without permission, Palworld rapidly attracted huge attention for combining appealing genre styles with controversial themes, setting sales records for an early access title. However, its future remains uncertain pending the outcome of any infringement investigations.
Microsoft Blizzard & Riot Games Add More Layoffs to the Industry
Many gaming companies underwent significant restructurings and layoffs. Riot Games cut over 500 jobs and announced it was reducing the scope of Legends of Runeterra and shutting down its publishing label Riot Forge. These changes aimed to refocus Riot on its most successful games like League of Legends and VALORANT.
Meanwhile, Microsoft laid off over 1,900 employees across Activision Blizzard, Xbox, and ZeniMax studios. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said in a memo that the company was aligning on a more sustainable cost structure and focusing investments in growth areas. The cuts impacted roles outside of core development teams. Blizzard president Mike Ybarra and chief design officer Allen Adham also departed as part of the reorganization.
Following the layoffs, Blizzard canceled its previously announced survival game project. In a note to staff, Matt Booty explained that affected Blizzard teams included development, shared services, and corporate functions. Resources from the canceled survival game would be shifted to new projects still in early development. Both Riot and Microsoft emphasized their continued commitments to main franchises like League of Legends, VALORANT, Overwatch, Warcraft and Diablo while consolidating investments.
The layoffs represented a sector-wide reevaluation as gaming companies navigated economic uncertainty and shifting priorities following periods of growth. Riot, Microsoft, and others planned to concentrate on delivering quality experiences for players through major franchises while streamlining costs and operations after years of expansion. However, the staffing reductions also brought job losses and organizational changes to the affected companies.
Twitch Expands Partner Program, Opening Higher Revenue Shares to Streamers
Twitch recently announced changes to how they compensate streamers through various programs. They are rebranding their Partner Plus program as the Plus program and opening it up to affiliate members in addition to partners.
Streamers need only 100 paid subscribers for 3 consecutive months to qualify for a new 60/40 revenue share tier. Requirements to access the top 70/30 share were reduced from 350 subscribers to 300. Additionally, Twitch removed the $100,000 yearly cap that previously reduced the 70/30 share to 50/50 for any earnings over that amount. According to Twitch CEO Dan Clancy, these changes will allow around 3 times as many streamers to access higher premium revenue share rates.
Twitch is also transitioning how revenue from Prime Gaming subscriptions is paid out to streamers. It will move to a fixed rate model based on each subscriber's country. This may reduce payouts for some streamers but is meant to have minimal overall impact while providing more stability and transparency. The new programs aim to establish a more sustainable long-term framework for compensating creators.
In another change, revenue from Prime Gaming subscribers will no longer be calculated the same as paid Twitch subscriptions. Clancy noted this may lead to decreases for some streamers but should not have a major financial impact overall, especially when considering the removal of the yearly $100,000 cap on higher revenue shares. The changes together seek toBalancesimply and strengthen Twitch's partner compensation for the future.
In Other Gaming News…
- China removes proposed bans on monetization tactics from government website
- GTA Trilogy's Netflix release became streamer's most successful games launch
- Nintendo is scrapping 3DS and Wii U online support
- Ruiner dev Reikon Games reportedly lays off 80% of staff
- Switch 2 rumored to launch with 8-inch LCD screen
Web3, Metaverse, and NFTs
Bitcoin ETFs Accumulate 95,000 BTC in 6 Days, Nearly $4B AUM
The first week of trading for the new Bitcoin spot ETFs saw tremendous inflows, with the funds collectively amassing over 95,000 Bitcoin. Data from Bloomberg analyst Eric Balchunas showed Fidelity's FBTC and BlackRock's IBIT each attracting over $1.2 billion, with IBIT reaching total AUM of $1.4 billion. Invesco's ETF and VanEck's also saw steady growth, with Invesco reaching its highest inflows of $63 million on January 19th and VanEck surpassing $100 million in AUM.
On their fifth day of trading, the ETFs accumulated a combined $440 million worth of Bitcoin from investors. BlackRock's IBIT led by purchasing 8,700 BTC valued at around $358 million. In total over the first five days, excluding Grayscale, the nine ETFs acquired nearly 68,500 BTC worth approximately $2.8 billion. Daily trading volumes also increased 34% for the "Newborn Nine" ETFs by the fifth day, according to Balchunas.
In contrast, Balchunas' data showed Grayscale's Bitcoin Trust GBTC saw $2.8 billion in outflows over the same period. The superior performance of the new ETFs clearly came at the expense of GBTC, which had long been the sole major Bitcoin investment vehicle for traditional brokers prior to the ETF launches. The massive first-week inflows underscore significant investor demand for regulated Bitcoin investment products.
Magic Eden Introduces Cross-Chain NFT Rewards Program
Magic Eden has spent the past year designing a long-term cross-chain NFT rewards program. The program aims to give back to different types of community members, including collectors, creators, and early supporters. It will begin launching on the Solana blockchain by distributing a retroactive "diamond drop" to acknowledge activity on the marketplace as far back as 2021.
In the next few months, the rewards program will expand across other blockchains like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Polygon. It will recognize both past and future activity on Magic Eden marketplaces across all chains. To begin accumulating diamonds, users can ensure their loyalty level is set to 100% and relist any NFTs ahead of the integration with the upcoming Magic Eden wallet.
This wallet is currently under development and will integrate rewards directly once launched. The long term goal is for Magic Eden to transition to being fully open source and community-governed under the Non-Fungible DAO and $NFT token. This rewards program aims to significantly grow NFT adoption by closing the gap as most internet users have yet to own an NFT. It provides an comprehensive yet flexible approach to incentivizing sustained community participation over time across blockchains.
WEN Token Launched, Over a Million Wallets Eligible for Airdrop
Jupiter Exchange launched a new meme coin called WEN on their token launchpad. Known only as Meow, Jupiter's founder provided details on how over 1 trillion WEN tokens would be distributed equally across more than 1 million eligible Solana wallet addresses. 70% of the total supply will be airdropped in this way.
Wallets belonging to active Jupiter users from the past 6 months, Solana Saga smartphone owners, and holders of certain NFT collections would qualify for the airdrop. The launch was positioned as a test for Jupiter's launchpad ahead of their own JUP token airdrop scheduled for January 31st. WEN trades like normal Solana tokens despite being initially fractionalized from a poem about "Wen Bros" that was minted as an NFT.
The airdrop distribution is being orchestrated by the Ovols NFT community group called the "Wen Foundation." According to their website, the Foundation aims to give back to the Solana ecosystem by supporting public goods and spreading awareness of what's possible on the blockchain.
In Other Web3 & Metaverse News…
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