Consumers Want More From Virtual Reality Than Games

If last week’s E3 is any indication, virtual reality is relying heavily on video game developers to create compelling content to help accelerate adoption of the technology. However, it’s capable of so much more, and consumers are aware of that.

A new report from Greenlight VR, titled “2016 Virtual Reality Consumer Adoption Report,” takes a closer look at these expectations, explaining how consumers want to explore other uses for VR, including travel, (non-gaming) entertainment, education and home design.

The first factor that the report discusses is price, as consumers aren’t so interested in paying a lot of money for virtual reality gear, compared to back in October. The most affordable choice for those polled is the Samsung Gear VR (retailing for $99), followed by the PlayStation VR (currently priced at $399).

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While gaming is still a popular option among those getting VR (61 percent of those polled showed interest), it didn’t quite rank as high as other categories. Travel topped the list with a 73.5 percent interest, followed by movies/videos (67.3 percent), live events (67 percent), home design (65.9 percent) and education (63.9 percent).

As far as which headsets people want the most, the Samsung Gear VR ranked the highest at 38.7 percent, followed by PlayStation VR (30.5 percent) and Oculus Rift (24.9 percent). However, 34.8 percent noted that they aren’t sure which headset they want to go with yet, stating that most companies haven’t done a solid job in terms of explaining just what their headsets can do. This will likely change as devices like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive get more widespread distribution and support.

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“Virtual reality has always been more than a medium for gaming experiences and consumers understand that,” said Clifton Dawson, CEO of Greenlight VR, regarding the report. “Our findings from multiple studies suggest that some players in the VR ecosystem may be overly focused on gaming. The reality is that consumers have a wide variety of interests for using virtual reality. Platform and content providers would be wise to consider these bigger, richer findings as they develop their content portfolio and marketing strategies.”

The report also made note of the positive reception of virtual reality, with 86 percent noting they had a positive experience. “Overall, we were struck by the strongly positive and broad interest in VR in general, and in specific uses in particular,” said Steve Marshall, senior vice president of research and consulting for Greenlight VR. “Given all the attention in the press, we expected to find gaming as the primary consumer interest in VR. The reality is that consumers have a wide variety of interests for using VR—starting with travel and adventure.”

Tencent Acquires Supercell, Increases Mobile Dominance

Even those with only general knowledge of mobile gaming recognize the company Supercell, or at least one of its multi-million-dollar generating games, such as Clash of Clans and Clash Royale. So it’s little wonder why the Chinese tech giant Tencent, which took full ownership of League of Legends developer Riot Games last year, decided to add Supercell to its holdings.

Tencent announced today that it is acquiring Supercell in an agreement to buy 84 percent majority ownership from Japanese telecom outfit Softbank, which was confirmed by Supercell. As a result, Supercell’s total valuation will reach a whopping $10.2 billion, and will give Tencent incredible dominance over the mobile gaming market worldwide. The deal is worth an estimated $8.6 billion.

Many factors went into the deal, including how the studio will continue to operate independently, just as Riot Games does. For Tencent, expanding reach to more gamers is the main goal.

“China is home to more gamers than any other country,” explained CEO Ilkka Paananen. “Tencent’s platforms reach around a billion users (yes, a billion!). And, they have around 300 million unique users playing games on their platforms. What this means for us is that together with Tencent, we can bring our games to so many more players. Also, their social platforms offer many new possibilities for our games, particularly for social play. All of this is very exciting!”

Newzoo explains how Tencent now has 13 percent of the global $99 billion dollar gaming business. Its acquisition of Supercell boosts its annual revenues significantly, with a 24 percent year-over-year increase. Meanwhile, its main rival, Activision Blizzard (combined with its purchase of Candy Crush developer King) has a smaller portion, followed by Microsoft, Sony and Apple.

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“This is certainly a good deal for Tencent,” said Peter Warman, CEO of Newzoo, about the report. “It solves a huge strategic problem and provides immediate additional revenue potential. This year, Supercell is on track to make over $2 billion outside of Asia. This is significantly more than the $1.3 billion Tencent made outside of Asia last year, the majority of which came from League of Legends. Tencent will now finally make serious mobile revenues outside of its home turf.”

This means doubling (or perhaps even tripling) the $1.3 billion it managed to generate outside of Asian markets the previous year. “The immediate opportunity comes from the Android ecosystem in China, representing around two-thirds of the Chinese mobile market,” said Warman. “Clash Royale is one of the best performing games on iOS in China and has just recently launched on Android in the third-biggest store in China: 360 Mobile Assistant. Tencent’s MyApp store is the biggest. Though it is not written in stone yet that Kunlun will no longer publish Supercell games, it seems obvious that Tencent will take over. Using Tencent’s store and QQ community represents an immediate $1 billion+ opportunity for Supercell’s portfolio in China, particularly Clash Royale.”

This acquisition will no doubt shake up the mobile industry in the months ahead, and maybe that means seeing more awesome Liam Neeson commercials in the future.

Starbreeze Exec Discusses Opportunities With Location-Based VR

Just ahead of E3 2016, Starbreeze AB announced a pair of big hardware technology deals with Acer and IMAX to secure its place in the burgeoning location-based virtual reality entertainment market. These will include specialized theaters and arcades where audiences may experience premium VR at a low cost.

The Swedish company is entering a joint venture for the StarVR Virtual Reality (VR) Head-Mounted Display (HMD) with Acer. The two companies aim to cooperate on the design, manufacturing, promotion, marketing, and sales of the StarVR HMD to the professional and location-based entertainment market.

Separately, IMAX will create a premium VR experience that will leverage Starbreeze’s StarVR headset technology, which provides a 210-degree full peripheral field of view—double that of any other VR headset currently available. Starbreeze’s existing library of VR entertainment content and games will be made available to consumers, as well as the premium content resulting from the recent IMAX Google VR camera business. IMAX will also look to establish new VR content partnerships through its existing Hollywood filmmaker and studio relationships.

Starbreeze will bring new interactive content through its publishing and partnerships in the gaming industry, which includes its relationship with leading Hollywood studio Lionsgate, with whom Starbreeze is developing its John Wick: The Impossible Task VR game as well as others.

Emmanuel Marquez, chief technology officer at Starbreeze, talks to [a]listdaily about the ramifications of these new deals in this exclusive interview.

What does partnering with Acer bring to the table for the StarVR virtual reality headset?

There are so many things. We’re a gaming company that came up with this slightly crazy idea: that we should own the full vertical of VR. We saw some great potential for the medium early on and knew we wanted to develop for it, but considering the early stage of development on the hardware side, we quickly realized that we needed more juice—better specs, if you will—to fully realize our vision for it. Acquiring InfinitEye was our first step, and we believe we’ve done great so far, but each version of the headset you’ve seen so far has been assembled by hand. To fully launch the StarVR headset on the market, and especially with our new collaboration with IMAX, we really needed a partner that knows manufacturing, and Acer was the perfect fit.

We’re seeing a more crowded marketplace for VR hardware. How do you see your technology standing out from the pack?

There are so many applications for virtual reality where the pro market is more demanding on specs and not as price sensitive. We do deliver a premium experience with generally higher specs, and the 210-degree field-of-view makes a difference for sure. We feel that we can differentiate ourselves very well from other segments, and we’re very comfortable catering to the pro market as a focus; especially with the IMAX collaboration putting the StarVR headset in IMAX VR centers all across the world.

How does Acer’s brand and marketing muscle help your VR hardware endeavors?

We’re still in the letter of intent phase with our contract with the details being worked out. But of course, we feel that a well-established hardware partner will be able to bring a lot to the table.

Starbreeze has said previously that its VR games will be cross-platform. How will you entice gamers to invest in your hardware over Vive, Oculus, or PlayStation VR?

There’s plenty of room in the market still, and we believe we can find our niche that fits the profile of the StarVR. So we’re looking to focus on the pro markets, meaning business-to-business applications and location-based entertainment, like our collaboration with IMAX, and we will approach the market somewhat differently. That said, it doesn’t mean we’ll never sell to consumers, but our main focus will definitely be the pro markets.

How are the marketing dollars from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants raising the awareness of VR and helping a company like Starbreeze?

We love people spreading the gospel of VR, in any shape or form. It’s a new medium truly, and nothing like 3D glasses. VR needs to be experienced first-hand—and we mean real VR, not just a 360 video.

What have you learned about developing games for VR through working on The Walking Dead and John Wick games?

There are so many things in game mechanics that you have to re-think and re-imagine. And so many things that people react to differently that you only learn by doing, testing and then re-iterating. It’s a fun and very gratifying process where you basically have to start off by acknowledging that you need to think differently.

What challenges remain in creating long-form interactive content for home VR?

We’re still learning and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and we’re seeing longer and longer usage times in the headsets on the market. There are multiple challenges ranging from hardware limitations, comfort, and how to present the experiences, but we imagine that the time people stay in the experiences will increase as we learn and develop. Maybe not this year or next, but definitely in the future. This is also why we feel that the location-based market is a good place for us to see how people react to different experiences in a controlled setting.

With location-based VR, how do you see your partnership with IMAX helping to keep a distance between what’s available at the mall verses what’s available at home?

The price of the initial investment of a head-mounted display and PC that powers the headset aside—it’s not so much about keeping a distance but that we can offer experiences that really blow your mind, which wouldn’t be as accessible for the homes. You already have challenges with finding that spot in the house where you can move around in VR without getting your knees bruised from bumping into furniture. There are so many great accessories and set-ups today that enhance your experience that just wouldn’t be viable to put in a home. We can cater to that.

How are you working with IMAX?

We’re setting up a joint venture where we’ll collaborate on location-based premium VR experiences. We’re providing the StarVR and our knowledge from the tech side. Having had the Overkill’s The Walking Dead experience on the road gave us so much insight on people management, getting people comfortably in and out of the experiences, running the tech on the road, and in different locations and weather conditions.

IMAX’s obvious know-how about location-based entertainment is a huge asset, as well as their retail and movie industry knowledge. While we bring our gaming expertise, IMAX complements us really well on the cinematic side.

The Void is bringing Ghostbusters to its platform and opening stand-alone entertainment centers. Do you see VR as the next gen arcades?

Absolutely, and in the interim, as we continuously update the hardware and learn more about how to craft the most engaging and immersive experiences, location-based is a perfect way to introduce VR to the masses.

Based on how quickly gaming technology develops, how do you prevent a repeat of the arcade crash of the ’90s after home consoles caught up?

I would rather compare VR tech to the shift in TV and display manufacturing evolution. My bet is that we’ll make leaps in development quite frequently over the next few years.

You’ve worked on several movie licenses for VR gaming. What role do you see both the home and location-based markets playing in allowing filmmakers to connect with fans of their franchises?

The VR experiences can definitely serve as a second screen (or should we call it third?), to amplify any experience shown in the theaters. Imagine going to watch Star Wars on the big screen, then go into the VR center next door and jump into your favorite pod racer and take it for a spin.

When do you foresee your location-based experiences becoming a reality in the U.S.?

We started the StarCade project because we wanted to learn more about VR experiences, and it fit our vision of being location-based, cost-effective and accessible. While we planned the project, our two recently announced collaborations were taking shape. Fast forward to today, and we now have a fantastic production partner in Acer, and a superb collaboration with IMAX.

IMAX definitely shares our vision for location-based entertainment and we’re very proud to have them as a partner for the re-imagined version of our StarCade project. We’ve now consolidated all the StarCade work into the IMAX VR collaboration and we’re excited to bring both gaming and cinematic experiences into the venues. The first pilot venue will still open in LA, but we’ve selected a new location and it’ll be opening later this year. We’ll then start rolling the concept out to more locations.

VR is huge in China right now. What type of global market do you see for this technology?

Asia really has location-based figured out, China included. There’s a great culture of going to a specific location, meeting with your friends and hanging out with karaoke bars, sports bars, internet cafes, etc. We definitely see the potential for VR centers in the region.

Samsung Is Enhancing Mobile Gaming With Vulkan Technology

Super Evil Megacorp is using smartphone-and-tablet exclusive games like Vainglory to seize a piece of the mobile eSports pie.

Realizing the mobile market needs a legitimate wave of support, Samsung chose Vainglory as one of its featured games to showcase its Vulkan technology for their Galaxy S7 devices. The new Vulkan graphics API is designed to make Vainglory perform better for players. The next generation Vulkan graphics provides 30 percent faster performance, graphic fidelity to render more images on-screen and improved battery life.

Super Evil Megacorp’s chief operating officer Kristian Segerstrale and chief technology officer Tommy Krul joined [a]listdaily to talk about Vainglory, the future of eSports and Super Evil’s partnership with Samsung.

What Twitter’s Latest Acquisition Means For Its Video Features

Given how high Facebook Video’s daily views have ballooned, and how successful the Periscope livestreaming service has become, it looks like Twitter has plenty of reasons to put more emphasis on its video content.

The company announced today on its blog page that it has acquired Magic Pony Technology, a company that specializes in making novel machine learning techniques for visual processing. Taken to together with previous purchases, including Madbits (in July 2014) and Whetlab (in June 2015), this latest acquisition could build toward a bigger picture for Twitter’s future with video.

The companies will join with the Twitter Cortex group, “dedicated to building a product in which people can easily find new experiences to share and participate in,” according to CEO Jack Dorsey, who wrote the blog entry. The technology from the acquired company “will be used to enhance our strength in live and video and opens up a whole lot of exciting creative possibilities for Twitter,” according to the blog. “Magic Pony’s machine-learning technology will help us build strength into our deep learning teams with world-class talent, so Twitter can continue to be the best place to see what’s happening and why it matters, first.”

However, we probably won’t see these initiatives come into play anytime soon. Twitter will no doubt take its time to establish its video system the right way, rather than trying a “me too” approach in an effort to hop on Facebook’s coattails. When it does debut, Twitter could take the same route as its social media rival and bring in celebrities and superstars to endorse its video features. Or the new features could be tied to the Periscope livestreaming app.

Whatever the case, with all these acquisitions, Twitter is set to make a big move with video. It would be a logical step for the social platform so that it can remain competitive in the growing world of video content.

Rick Fox Wants To Bring Kobe Bryant Into ESports

[a]listdaily caught up with former Los Angeles Lakers star Rick Fox to discuss why the three time NBA champion is investing serious time and money into eSports through Echo Fox.

Among a wide variety of topics, Fox also discussed how former teammates Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant are trying to seize the opportunity in an industry that’s slated to reach nearly $2 billion by 2018.

Bryant, the NBA 2K17 cover man who earlier this month said he’d “consider” a business opportunity in eSports, is a key free agent Fox is trying to court.

“Kobe has an interest [in eSports.] He and I have scheduled a sit down and talk about it. I’d love to get him involved. I’d love to pull him into Echo Fox. That’d be quite the coup because I know the value of his competitive fire, his expertise in terms of just leadership, and understanding how to tackle business. He’s got the time now, so he has an open door with us, for sure.”

For the full interview, which also features Echo Fox CEO Jace Hall, click on the video above.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Facebook Video Focusing On ESports With New Hire

Facebook has begun a brave new initiative with its video features over the past few weeks, particularly with a partnership with Activision Blizzard to introduce the company’s Live video API into all its games, including the immensely popular Overwatch. Now the company’s video division could be making even bigger moves into the world of eSports.

TechCrunch recently reported that Facebook hired former pro League of Legends player and eSports superstar, Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis, as the company’s new eSports strategic partnerships manager. His main role will be bringing in game developers and players to stream their content through Facebook to competing with established channels such as YouTube and Twitch.

Video streaming is a pretty big deal to gamers, as an estimated 459,000 years worth of content have been streamed on Twitch alone over the past year. It’s also been noted that users watch approximately 421 minutes of eSports-related content on a monthly basis through the service.

Facebook PR explained that Ellis will be “joining a collaborative effort between the sports and games partnership teams to support the eSports and gaming communities using our platform.”

Obviously, Facebook has a long way to go before catching up with Twitch and YouTube’s gaming initiatives, but a plan could very well be forming to introduce its own gaming initiative. Considering Ellis’ connections with the eSports world (with fans, sponsors and fellow players) he could be an immense help in making it happen. Fan bases could become more attracted to the network, bringing in more streaming personalities, and better possibilities for partnerships like Activision Blizzard’s game integration.

Facebook has an extremely high video count—eight billion and rising as of November 2015—and gaming could play a huge part in continuing its growth. It’s just a matter of when, not if, Facebook Gaming becomes official.

Kanye West Guides His Mother To Heaven In ‘Only One’

Wherever you find Kanye West, the influence of his mother is not far behind. From the themes of his music to naming his design and content house DONDA, West has taken considerable steps to honor his late mother, who passed away in 2007. Now, the 22-time Grammy winner and larger-than-life personality has turned to the video game industry to create an interactive memorial.

The trailer for Only One debuted at Sony’s E3 press conference last Tuesday in Los Angeles featuring an animated version of Donda West riding on the back of Pegasus as they surge through the clouds toward Heaven, where Donda receives her wings against an epic, ethereal landscape. Players of Only One, which does not yet have a release date, will assume the role of Donda as she enters through the gates of Heaven.

Only One, a 2014 song of West’s of the same name featuring Paul McCartney, is a collaboration with animation studio Encyclopedia Pictura (EP) with directors Isaiah Saxon and Sean Hellfritsch. EP has created videos for artists such as Panda Bear, Grizzly Bear and Björk.

During his Yeezy Season 3 fashion show in February, West shared a snippet of Only One for the audience, saying, “I worked on a video game and I wanted to show y’all. The idea of the game is, my mom traveling through the gates of Heaven.”

Despite his fame, West told the audience he had a difficult time finding a game studio to work with, but finally partnered with EP to realize his creative vision. Aside from the premise and art style, no other details about the game have been revealed.

The Only One game trailer was unveiled the same day that West announced his Saint Pablo tour. West will be returning to North American arenas for the first time in three years to perform The Life of Pablo—a raw collection using a gospel theme to explore the concept of redemption and made to sound unfinished. The link between gospel and his mother’s ascension into Heaven are unlikely a coincidence and could even be an indicator as to the aesthetic of West’s upcoming tour.

7 Mobile Games Heating Up Summer 2016

Mobile games are expected to generate $99.6 billion in global revenue this year, with no sign of slowing down. In fact, 2016 has already seen some fantastically successful mobile games, including Miitomo, Nintendo’s first entry into the mobile market, along with EA’s Bejeweled Stars and SimCity BuildIt. So it’s little wonder why publishers were showcasing their big mobile titles at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) last week. According to the ESA, over 90 exhibitors presented mobile games (70 more than the previous year), shown at the show’s Online and Mobile Game Pavilion.

Here are the mobile games that were announced at E3 2016 that will get audiences hooked this summer.

The Elder Scrolls: Legends

Bethesda surprised fans last year with the announcement and sudden launch of Fallout Shelter last year, the publisher’s first mobile game. Fallout Shelter has gone on to enjoy tremendous success on both iOS and Android, spurred on by the release of Fallout 4 last year, and will be releasing on PC in July with additional features. Now Bethesda is looking to repeat that success with The Elder Scrolls: Legends, a strategy collectible card game coming to mobile devices and PC, based on the longstanding The Elder Scrolls series. The game is currently in beta with no official release date, but the timing might coincide with the release of Skyrim Special Edition—a fully remastered version of the 2011 game, launching later this year for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC—which was announced last week at the Bethesda pre-E3 press conference. Alternatively, the game could also include a tie-in with The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, which recently boasted a huge surge in player numbers.

Deus Ex GO

Releasing this summer, Deus Ex GO takes some of the gameplay from the main series (stealth, cybernetic augmentation, and combat) and presents it as a living board game. Longtime fans of the Deus Ex series may be very pleased with the straightforward yet challenging gameplay that was showcased during E3 last week, and the game will help stir up excitement as we draw closer to the August 23 launch of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The team at Square Enix Montreal also won the Apple Design Award for Lara Croft GO last week, so if that game is any indication, we can expect great things from this Deus Ex-inspired mobile entry.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius

Although Square Enix put most of its promotional attention toward Final Fantasy XV at E3 last week, Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is the first game in the longstanding series to be built from the ground up for mobile devices for a worldwide audience. The free-to-play game gives fans what they’ve come to expect from a Final Fantasy game, including a deep story and a compelling combat system. Topping it all off is a pixel art style mixed with 3D graphics, which resembles some of the classic games in the franchise. Brave Exvius has already had over six million downloads in Japan and is looking for even greater success when it releases for Western audiences this summer.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained X

Similar to Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, Kingdom Hearts Unchained X [pronounced Unchained Key] is the first game in the series to release for mobile devices and lets players enter a magical world where Final Fantasy and Disney characters team up to protect different worlds from a dark force called the Heartless. The free-to-play game released last year in Japan, the US in April, and in most parts of Europe last week. Best of all, Unchained X‘s story has a tie-in with the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III.

Batman: The Telltale Series

Telltale Games has a strong reputation for developing deep and mature adventure games based on popular franchises such as The Walking Dead, which is entering its third season this fall. However, fans won’t need to wait long for a new Telltale game, since this summer will see the debut of The Dark Knight in Batman: The Telltale Series. In it, players take the role of the masked superhero, who is still early in his crime-fighting career, and must balance his life as Batman with being Bruce Wayne. About 30 minutes of the game was shown to attendees at E3 last week, and it promises to keep the experience fresh for longtime fans of both the comics and movies by taking familiar stories and turning them on their head. As expected, the game will feature Telltale’s signature decision system so that players can craft unique adventures.

Pokémon GO

Nintendo’s legendary game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, surprised audiences last week when he revealed that the much-anticipated augmented reality mobile game, Pokémon GO, is expected to release at the end of July. Although the release will not coincide with the launch of the Pokémon GO Plus accessory, it will give thousands of excited players a chance to explore the real world in an effort to capture Pokémon on their smartphones.

Developed by Niantic (Ingress), the game is currently undergoing extensive field testing in the US, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. Tens of thousands of participants are averaging about “30 pokéball throws per second,” according to Tatsuo Nomura, Niantic’s senior product manager. One can only imagine what that number will grow to once the game officially releases.


If you’re looking for something a little dark and different, Severed could be the game for you. Developed by DrinkBox Studios (Guacamelee), the game launched for the PlayStation Vita in April, and will come to iOS, the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS this summer. In it, players take the role of a one-armed girl who wields a living sword and must knit together her story from disconnected memory fragments as she progresses.

Marvel Taking Its Video Games In New Direction

For the past several years, the Marvel-based video games were usually tied with movie licenses such as The Avengers, Iron Man and Thor. However, few were as well received as the films they were based on.

That might change, with Marvel working towards producing more original games based on its properties. This past week, Sony officially announced a new Spider-Man video game for the PlayStation 4, developed by Insomniac Games (Ratchet & Clank). According to Marvel Games head Jay Ong, this is just the beginning of the company’s latest shift.

Speaking with GamesIndustry International, Ong explained, “When I joined, I knew that with a treasure trove of some of the greatest superhero stories and characters ever, it should be our mission to devote ourselves to making these great, epic games our fans will love. So along with the senior execs at Marvel and my team within the games business, we devised a brand new strategy to be very selective and only partner with the best game companies on earth. We wanted to work very selectively with companies that shared our vision, our ambition, and really usher in a brand new era for the Marvel games business.”

That means fewer licensed games and a focus on AAA games with an original take. “For the most part, yes. Although I think it’s part of our strategy to have a relatively diversified portfolio that meets different kinds of audience and gamers’ tastes,” said Ong.

That’s not to say that previous partnerships were a failure, as Marvel-inspired mobile and console games have been huge successes, including Activision’s line of Spider-Man games. “We’ve had a long history of success with Activision, and we still have a great relationship with them,” Ong said. “But the future of the Spider-Man console games is with Sony and Insomniac. We’re delighted about this partnership, and that’s something that’s going to continue forward. With [regard to] other console partners, stay tuned. There are many more interesting additional things to come. But Activision is in the past, with regards to Spider-Man.”

As for whether the games will feature crossovers with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “the world’s full of surprises,” Ong said. “You never know.”

The new Spider-Man game doesn’t have a release date, but even though it won’t be tied to a film, it’s very likely to come out sometime next summer, when the web-slinger’s next film, Homecoming, hits theaters.