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Epic Games Store is seeing near-Steam-like engagement levels




The Epic Games Store is hitting its stride. Epic revealed today that its PC gaming portal hit 61 million monthly active players on PC. It also had an average peak-concurrent player count of 13 million on PC. This came as Epic gave away free games as part of “The Vault” promotional event. Free games included Grand Theft Auto V, Ark: Survival Evolved, Civilization VI, and Borderlands: The Handsome Collection.

The Vault was a major event for Epic and its store. It didn’t just spend money to acquire the rights to give away the games, it also had a huge marketing budget. You could find ads for the free games on websites, podcasts, and more. And it looks like that has paid off.

Bringing in massive numbers of active gaming fans is crucial to building up Epic Games Store as a competitor to Steam. Up until this point, Epic was trying to do that with timed exclusives. Or, in other words, Epic was paying developers to keep their games off of Steam for a certain period of time. Epic isn’t sharing exact numbers, but it seems like giving away free blockbuster games is more effective.

But all of Epic’s spending is done with the goal of turning its game store into a self-sustaining platform. And that is where active users come in.

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For comparison, Steam had 95 million monthly active players in 2019. It also vacillates between 14 million and 20 million peak concurrent players each day. Those gigantic numbers make Steam the default leader in PC gaming. If you have a new game and want it to reach the largest potential audience, Steam is your first (and often only) choice.

But now, at least through one month, Epic is within a 9-iron of Steam’s numbers.

If Epic Games Store can maintain this momentum, then it could continue to peel support away from Steam through head-to-head competition. That’s especially true because Epic takes just a 12% cut of store revenues, whereas Steam takes 30% until a certain threshold.

Is Epic winning?

Epic’s stated goal is to force Valve to reduce its cut. To put that into other words, Epic wants access to the Steam audience without having to pay Valve’s set price. If Epic Games Store continues to grow, maybe Valve will feel that pressure. But it’s hard to imagine that at this point.

Even as Epic was giving away games, Electronic Arts was returning to Valve after years of trying to build its own Steam competitor in Origin. You can now get games like FIFA, Titanfall 2, and Mass Effect 3 on Steam.

Titanfall 2 is even seeing a resurgence in engagement thanks to the Steam audience. And while players surged onto Epic Games Store to get GTA V for free, would the Epic Games Store audience surge into a $10 shooter from 2016 just because it suddenly appeared on Epic? That still seems unlikely.

In fairness to Epic, competing with Steam doesn’t seem as preposterous as it once was. It’s obviously serious about drawing this battle out over years. And if it continues to commit millions of dollars in resources to promotions like The Vault, maybe it can buy the audience that Steam built up over years. And Epic is looking to raise $750 million from investors.

But Epic’s real opponent here isn’t Valve — it’s time. The video game industry is volatile and ever-changing. Right now, services like Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now, and EA Access are looking to shift a significant portion of consumer spending to a subscription model. Few people buy music or movies anymore because of Spotify and Netflix, and the same could happen in gaming. And if that happens, Epic’s fight with Steam won’t matter.



Tim Draper Founder Draper Associates, DFJ & Draper Venture Network on Covid19 Crisis for Startups




The estimated reading time for this post is 13 seconds

PEMO (00:02):

So wonderful to talk to you again, I’m wondering how you’re weathering this crisis?


Well, it’s a great opportunity for people to think a reset and some of our entrepreneurs are doing incredibly well in this crisis and some are really suffering. The ones that are doing very well and really run most of their business remotely anyway. And some are creating products that were sort of curiosities for a while. But now they have the ability to go mainstream. So like people we’re starting to use VR, people were starting to use remote education because they, the schools were closed. They’re starting to use remote healthcare because the hospitals were closed. And then they’re starting to open up and try Bitcoin wallets and Bitcoin cash, wallets, paizos wallets and whatever because they’re because they’re saying, well, wait, you know first of all, what is all this about?

TIM (01:18):

They want to try it out. But the other part is that they’re saying, well, wait, if they’re going to print $9 trillion and shove that into the economy, then the dollars I have are going to be worth about 30% less. So I should move to another currency and one that’s more steady and, and will probably increase in value over time. And that’s where people are starting use some of those cryptocurrencies. And then it’s been very difficult for, for companies that are required to have large groups of people banding together. I’m sure that WeWork is having difficulty. I’m sure that I know Airbnb is having difficulty. And so that’s a, that’s a new thing that we’re all having to deal with. And then I’ve noticed people, you know, after two, for the first two weeks, this was kind of a vacation for everybody, but now, but now it’s, we’re six months in or something five months in and it’s it’s starting to really wear on people’s psyche.

TIM (02:33):

I’m noticing that you were late. People are starting to drift. I think the pizza and pajamas is starting to set in and it’s just time. I forced myself every morning to get dressed up and go to work. And then I closed the door. I kissed my wife, goodbye. I closed the door and I’m all dressed up right now. I gotta go on a regular day at work, but I know some of the people I work with are having real emotional difficulties. They live alone sort of trapped there. This is not healthy. I mean, it’s not healthy in an obvious way, but it’s also really not healthy to be trapped in place. So you know, I think we should take the hit, rip off the rip off the mask, go out there, live your life. And I’m sure that there are a million people going, how would he ever say that? But I think it’s, I think otherwise you’re going to watch the slow, steady degrading of humanity.

TIM (03:49):

Yeah. I have an attorney friend who told me that people have committed suicide and just because of the self isolation and he’s having to deal with some of the cases. So it’s just very sad and I agree, difficult time for everyone. How are you managing current investments and are you managing to invest in your investments? How are you doing that?

TIM (04:17):

So we, we were lucky, very few of our companies had had too much difficulty because most of them were remote the ones that are they’re building hardware or transportation or whatever. Those are having more difficulty because they’re not allowed to work together. And that is that’s a painful thing if you’re trying to put a very complex piece of hardware together, but, but I think we’ve been able to at Draper associates, we’ve been able to pull our heads out of it and write checks. We’ve been very active during this time. Yeah, we’re finding that the series a companies are coming to us at, at seed pricing because they they’re realizing that they’re not many people are out there writing checks right now. And then going into August where partners all take a vacation. I think it’s going to be even tougher for entrepreneurs to get their money. And so fortunately, you know, well, the rest of the venture business sleeps were as active as we’ve ever been.

PEMO (05:38):

Good work, Tim that’s fantastic news. What do you think of the takeaways from the current crisis? I know other VCs have told me their sort of insights because it’s almost like an enforced retreat. Do you have, you’ve managed to think of what you could get out of this, what learning?

TIM (05:59):

Yeah. Well, clearly are a company that we have in China. That’s a psychology company where they, I think they’re going to do very well. What did I take out of it? I I take out of it a combination of things. Yes. The virus is real, but the group think is the most dangerous thing we’ve ever had in humanity. It’s, it is dystopian group. Think, I, I think we have an opportunity right now to be either utopian or dystopian where the utopian view is, Hey, we’re global, we’re open. We’re all in this together. We’re transparent. We’re we’re the borders are meaning less and less. Let’s let’s have free trade around the world. Let’s have free markets around the world. Let’s let this thing go. And then there are these governments, some governments that are saying the dystopian word, which is, we’re telling you what to do, wear a mask, turn around three times, wash your hands, do your, you know, maybe it’s all good.

TIM (07:14):

Maybe it’s all healthy for us. It’s a good idea. Maybe it’s not, maybe it isn’t. And w what if they’re telling us do something that is going to wipe out humanity, because the next one’s going to be bigger and we won’t have built up our herd immunity. I it’s weird playing with mother nature here, and I’m not sure it’s going to be so healthy. And what’s worse is it allows these dictators to start feeling like they can tell everybody what to do. And they’re all of our freedoms have been taken away. And that’s the beginning of the end. That’s horrible. So this fix this reset that we’ve got, we can either go back, become global build, build on that globalism build on the decentralized world. Or we can retreat back into being tribal with leaders who tell us all what to do, and we just follow their orders. I I mean, boy, a lot of people have fought for freedom in this country, in the U S and I know they have in other parts of the world and many, many times, and I, I hate to be letting them down by, by forcing people in place and forcing this kind of activity where certain kinds of businesses have to be shut down and other other businesses get to live. It’s not healthy. So time to time to free up.

PEMO (08:52):

Yeah. Well, that’s a really interesting perspective, Tim and you’re always reliable in being able to think independently. Would you be able to give me your overview?

TIM (09:06):

Probably one of the big problems is that I am thinking independently and people look at it and go, Oh, no, he’s thinking independently, because they’re all thinking, whatever they saw in the news that day, it’s like shiny object. Let’s just follow it. And whatever they told me in the news, that’s the way I’m supposed to think that is not healthy. It’s not healthy. It’s not certainly not helping be politically because it forces people into a box politically. And we really need to be able to, to work on issues, not work on, you know, which box we fit into. This is, yeah, this is so, yeah, when people say, be safe to me, it drives me crazy. I say, be brave, go out there, be scape. That’s just nasty. You’re being mean to me. I want to live my life.

PEMO (10:07):

Good on you. It’s an inspiration. So I guess how do you think investment’s going to look in the next

TIM (10:14):

Year or two years because of what’s happened already? Well, you’re going to see, you’re going to see a lot of interesting information coming out, say July 20th ish, because that’s when earnings reports are going to come out and those are, these reports are gonna say, wow, it was a really great quarter for Amazon and zoom. But for a lot of these businesses, we were expecting a lot. We didn’t get anything. And that could be that could be tough on the public markets. And so if you’re thinking of boy, what do I do with my money? I think the public markets are as dangerous, a place to put it as you could possibly imagine right now with PE ratios at, at absolute all time highs. I’ve never even in boom, I have not seen PE ratios on companies like this ever this high.

TIM (11:15):

In fact, sometimes they’re not even in either, they’re not even making any money. So I’d say to put more money into the stock market is probably not a good idea, but money into private companies might work because you’ll get the next cycle to put money into bonds. You know, where do you get? You get a 0% bond rating, but money into real estate. I think residential real estate, nice residential real estate might start creeping up. Commercial real estate is going to have a very difficult time. Cause you know, people are saying, you know, half the people are saying, I like working from home. The other half of the people are saying, I gotta get outta here. And so, so that would mean that real estate commercial real estate is the supply is twice what it needs to be. That’s not good for the price of real estate.

TIM (12:15):

And then Bitcoin is a great place to put it. I mean, it’s like the new gold because you know, that, that as it spreads, it will increase in value. And I think we’re all gonna be benefiting from that anybody who owns any Bitcoin is going to benefit a lot from that. And also, you know, the reason Bitcoin was a big hit in Argentina and Nigeria. And some of those countries is their own currencies were unstable. They were their politicians were printing money. And so they, they, they had huge inflation. Well, we just printed $9 trillion in the U S and that is flooding the economy. That’s, I mean, there are only just to give you an idea of how big $9 trillion is. There are only $86 trillion worth of currency in the world. Floating around today. Trillion is like more than 10%.

TIM (13:25):

So it is a huge number. And so we’re, I’m guessing we’re going to probably experience some serious inflation and people will look at dollars as hot potatoes to try to get rid of them. And people start looking at Bitcoin is something to hold on to just the way, you know, during inflationary times before people tried to buy commodities, anything they could, that was a physical object. They tried to buy during those times because then the money, the next day would be worth less and the price is gonna go up and that’s what they do and Nigeria and Argentina. Wow.

PEMO (14:13):

Well, and that’s great news about Bitcoin and obviously cryptocurrencies and blockchain. I’ve been,

TIM (14:22):

Yeah. You know, there’s something, something interesting. That’s I think just about to happen. Only one in 14 Bitcoin while it’s owned by a woman and and women do about 80% of the shopping. And if you put those two things together, as soon as women realize that they can save two and a half to 4%, every time they swipe a credit card, they are going to move to Bitcoin so fast. And if they’re sitting there decide to him and it’s easy to do now, it was never easy before and tend to grow as for the community. They’re always looking out for the best of the community. Well, Bitcoin’s going to be much better for the community. And then some, some currency that’s tied to some government entity. So we’re gonna, we’re gonna see a big flow of women buying moving their money to Bitcoin and starting to shop with it. And Bitcoin cash is so easy to use now. It’s really crazy, but Bitcoin is easy to use too. If if you’re shopping with Bitcoin, you want to use open node.

PEMO (15:44):

That’s, what’s so exciting because I’ve been supporting that community for quite a few years. And it’s just great to hear that this could be really a great kickstart for it.

TIM (15:57):

Oh yeah. I think this has been a kickstart and anybody who thinks at all about the future is sending will get me out of dollars and get me into Bitcoin.

PEMO (16:09):

Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. Well, that’s a great note to finish on Tim. You’re always a delight to interview. Thank you so much for your time. Apologies again for being late. And I really appreciate your contribution and I’m sure the listeners will too. Thank you.

TIM (16:26):

Great. Well, please send me a link. I’ll read the word. Thank you so much.


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Founding partner Hjalmar Winbladh is leaving EQT Ventures




EQT Ventures, the Stockholm-headquartered venture capital firm that invests in Europe and the U.S., is losing founding partner Hjalmar Winbladh, TechCrunch has learned.

Rumours that he was leaving the “multistage, sector-agnostic” VC fund that he helped launch in 2016, begun circulating within the European startup ecosystem last week, with multiple sources telling TechCrunch that Winbladh has his heart set on starting something new.

A serial entrepreneur, in the real sense, Winbladh is a seven-time founder, having previously built and managed global technology companies such as Wrapp, Rebtel and Sendit. Described as the world’s first mobile internet company, Sendit was acquired by Microsoft in 1999.

He joined EQT a decade ago to help establish its venture arm, when Europe barely had a venture capital ecosystem and was dwarfed by the U.S. in terms of available capital. In late 2019, EQT Ventures raised its second fund, with commitments totaling €660 million, making it one of the largest VC funds in Europe.

One of the firm’s investments, Small Giant Games, was acquired by Zynga in 2018 in a deal valued at $700 million. Other portfolio companies include 3D Hubs, Varjo, Natural Cycles, Permutive, Codacy, Peakon and Tinyclues.

Confirming Winbladh’s departure, EQT’s Head of Communications, Nina Nornholm, provided the following statement:

Hjalmar has been with EQT for almost 10 years and has played an instrumental role on our digital transformation journey. Over the last five years, he has also built and led the Ventures team into a very successful business and with a strong portfolio and dedicated team. He is now longing to get back to his entrepreneurial roots and has decided to leave his role within EQT Ventures. He remains on the boards of EQT Ventures’ portfolio companies Banking Circle, Wolt and Peltarion so we are not separating ways entirely.

In a brief call with Winbladh — interrupting his vacation, no less — he said he was excited to take some time to figure out what’s next, although he stressed that it was too early to go into any detail and that he was leaving EQT Ventures in very good hands.

Painting broad brush strokes, Winbladh told me he wants to continue giving back to the European ecosystem but that the challenges it faces today are very different to 10 years ago. With the tech landscape more competitive than ever, he wants to create a way for seasoned entrepreneurs and investors like himself to better support the next generation of founders, hinting at something earlier stage than EQT Ventures’ Series A, B and C focus. However, he said he wasn’t currently raising a fund of his own.

As always, watch this space.


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The coronavirus pandemic is expanding California’s digital divide




If every California student without an adequate internet connection got together and formed a state, it would contain more residents than Idaho or Hawaii.

A total of 1,529,000 K-12 students in California don’t have the connectivity required for adequate distance learning.

Analysis from Common Sense Media also revealed that students lacking adequate connection commonly lack an adequate device as well. The homework gap that separates those with strong connections from those on the wrong side of the digital divide will become a homework chasm without drastic and immediate intervention.

To raise awareness of the enormity and immediacy of the digital divide, I started No One Left Offline (NOLO) in San Francisco. It’s an all-volunteer nonprofit that’s creating a coalition of Bay Area organizations focused on giving students, seniors and individuals with disabilities access to high-speed, affordable Internet.

During the week of July 27, the NOLO coalition will launch the Bridge the Divide campaign to raise $50,000 in funds that will be used to directly cover broadband bills for families on the edge of the digital divide.

At this point in our response to COVID-19, emergency measures have only stopped the homework gap from growing rather than actually shrinking it. That’s precisely why we need a new form of addressing students’ lack of adequate internet and devices. The digital “haves” should embrace directly covering the broadband bills and upgrades required by the “have nots.” This form of direct giving is both the most effective and efficient means of giving every student high-speed internet and a device to make the most of that connection.

But too few people are aware of just how dire life can be on the wrong side of the digital divide. That’s why I’m hoping you — as a fellow member of the digital “haves” — will join me in taking a day off(line) on July 17. I’m convinced that it will take a day (if not more) in the digital dark for more Americans to recognize just how difficult it is to thrive, let alone survive, without stable internet, a device and a sufficient level of digital literacy.

The increased attention to the digital divide generated by this day off(line) will spur a more collective and significant response to stopping the formation of a homework chasm.

Current efforts to close the homework gap have at once been laudable and limited. For example, internet service providers (ISPs) deserve praise for taking a voluntary pledge to limit fees, forgive fines and remove data caps. But that pledge expired at the end of June, months before school starts and in the middle of an expanding economic calamity.

It’s true that many ISPs are still going to extraordinary lengths to help those in need — look no further than Verizon donating phones to Miracle Messages to help individuals experiencing homelessness connect with loved ones. However, even these extraordinary measures will not fully make up for the fact that hundreds of thousands of Californians are experiencing greater financial insecurity than ever before. They want and require a long-term solution to their digital needs — not just voluntary pledges that end in the middle of a pandemic.

In the same way, many school districts in the Bay Area have rapidly loaned hotspots and devices to students and families in need. In fact, even before COVID-19, the Oakland Unified School District and the 1Million Project were providing hotspots to students in need. These sorts of interventions, though, do not afford students on the wrong side of the homework gap the same opportunity to fully develop their digital literacy as those that have devices to call their own and internet connections sufficient to do more than just homework.

Every student deserves a device to call their own and a connection that allows them to become experts in safely and smoothly navigating the internet.

Direct giving is the solution. Financially secure individuals across the Bay Area can and should “sponsor” internet plans and devices for families in need. By sponsoring a family’s high-speed internet plan for a year or more, donors will provide students and parents alike with the security they need to focus on all of the other challenges associated with life in a pandemic. What’s more, sponsored devices would come without strings attached or “used” labels.

Students would have a fully equipped laptop to call their own as well as one that didn’t lack key functionalities, which is common among donated devices.

Because access to the internet is a human right, the government should be solving the homework gap. So far, it hasn’t been up to the task. So, in the interim, we’ll need a private sector solution. The good news is that we collectively seem up for the task. According to Fidelity, most charitable donors plan to maintain or increase their giving this year.

Consider that even 46% of millennials plan to increase their philanthropy. Unfortunately, one inhibitor to giving is the fact that “many donors don’t feel that they have the information they need to effectively support efforts” to address the ramifications of COVID-19.

That’s where NOLO and other digital inclusion coalitions step in. We’re sounding the bell: The public sector isn’t closing the homework gap; it’s on us to make sure kids have the connections and devices they need to thrive. NOLO is also providing the means to act on this information — during its Bridge the Divide campaign, donors will have a chance to sponsor broadband bills for community members served by organizations across the Bay Area including the SF Tech Council, BMAGIC and the Mission Merchants Association.

Our collective assignment is making the homework gap a priority. Our due date is nearing. The first task is taking a day off(line) on July 17. The next is donating to the Bridge the Divide campaign during the week of the 27th.

Let’s get to work.


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