Topline: With school closures, mandatory work-from-home policies and lockdowns taking place in the U.S. as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, gaming has seen higher engagement, especially over this past weekend.
- Steam, the most popular digital PC gaming marketplace, reached new heights Sunday, drawing a record 20,313,451 concurrent users to the 16-year-old service, according to third-party database SteamDB.
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, released by Steam-owner Valve in 2012, seems to be the top beneficiary of the increased engagement, breaking it’s all-time peak on Sunday with 1,023,2290 concurrent players, topping its previous peak last month by a million, which itself beat the record set in April 2016.
- Like other esports, CS:GO has had to cancel events due to the virus, particularly the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice earlier this month, though its peak viewership reached over a million, making it one of the most watched tournaments in the esports’ history.
- Activision Blizzard’s new free-to-play battle royale spinoff Call of Duty: Warzone, launched March 10 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, is also likely benefiting, drawing in a staggering 15 million in three days, besting the record 10 million in three days by last year’s battle royale sensation Apex Legends.
- These new heights follows similar effects of the virus on China and Italy: Telecom Italia’s CEO told Bloomberg it saw a 70% increase in traffic over its landline network, with Fortnite playing a significant part, while Chinese live-streaming service Douyu experienced increased viewership of the country’s most popular games, according to market analyst Niko Partners.
- While gaming was considered “recession proof” during the 2008 market crash, stocks aren’t immune to the current historic drops: software developers like Activision Blizzard are facing a 9% decrease in price year-to-date, while hardware companies that rely on Chinese manufacturing like Nintendo are seeing bigger drops of 24%.
What To Watch For: If these records keep rising as the closings and lockdowns continue. Arriving this week is Nintendo’s long-awaited Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Switch console, a relaxing “life-simulator” that’s set to have a big day with many fans not-so-jokingly asking Nintendo to launch early.
Surprising Fact: Plague Inc., a game that tasks players in creating a virus that wipes out humanity, surged in popularity late January, becoming the top-paid game on the Chinese app store at one point, but the game has now been removed in China at the direction of the government.
Apple Is Donating 9 Million Masks To Combat The Coronavirus
Topline: Apple will donate 9 million N95 protective masks to combat the coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday, making Apple one of several California tech companies pitching in as hospitals across the country report a shortage of protective gear.
- Pence thanked Apple for agreeing to donate 9 million N95 respirator masks to healthcare facilities across the country during a press briefing on Tuesday.
- Pence’s remarks come after Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted over the weekend the company was “working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19” and “donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe,” but did not offer more specifics.
- N95 respirators are masks that form a protective seal around a wearer’s mouth, filtering out at least 95% of particles in the air, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which makes them necessary to protect healthcare workers from being exposed to the disease from patients.
- Facebook has also said it is donating its stockpile of 720,000 masks purchased during the California wildfires last year, which degraded the air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes asking if all of the donated masks were stockpiled because of the wildfires or if the company got them from somewhere else.
Chief critic: Teddy Schleifer, a reporter at Recode, wrote that health systems shouldn’t rely on the generosity of big tech companies to make up for the failures of the federal government.
“But there is a risk in relying on corporate philanthropy—rather than the government—in solving this problem. For starters, it depends on the voluntary generosity of these companies to deal with an unprecedented emergency, an altruism that could vanish at any time,” he wrote.
Crucial quote: “And I spoke today, and the president spoke last week, with Tim Cook of Apple. And at this moment in time Apple went to their store houses and is donating 9 million N95 masks to healthcare facilities all across the country and to the national stockpile,” Pence said.
Key background: Apple is one of several California tech companies to give away N95 masks. In addition to Facebook, Salesforce, Tesla and IBM have also announced mask donations.
News peg: Doctors and nurses are sounding the alarm that they don’t have enough masks to protect healthcare workers. Not only does inadequate protective gear put important frontline health workers at risk, public health experts say, any situation endangering medical personnel may only further depletes the U.S. health system which already doesn’t have enough capacity to handle a surge in cases. State officials in New York and Illinois have criticized President Donald Trump for not stepping in to force companies to manufacture masks or allocate masks from private companies to ensure that states don’t outbid each other for the same supplies.
–Rachel Sandler, Forbes Staff, Breaking News
Amazon Hoping To Hire 100,000 New Employees To Deal With Coronavirus Demand
Topline: Amazon announced Monday that it would be opening 100,000 new full-time and part-time positions to deal with increased buying demand as people practice social distancing during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
- The company will also increase pay by $2 in the U.S. from its current $15 an hour, £2 in the UK and €2 in Europe for those working in fulfillment centers, transportation services, stores or people making deliveries, amounting to a total of $350 million.
- Amazon last Friday shared that the increase in online commerce has unsurprisingly resulted in shortages for household essentials and delays in shipment times.
- Monday’s statement also noted that “We continue to consult with medical and health experts, and take all recommended precautions in our buildings and stores to keep people healthy. We’ve taken measures to promote social distancing in the workplace and taken on enhanced and frequent cleaning, to name just a few.”
- Last week, Amazon told all of its employees to consider working from home if they could, according to CNBC; for its fulfillment centers and delivery services, it also launched a $25 million relief fund that lets workers diagnosed with the coronavirus apply for grants equal to two weeks pay, as well as unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees until the end of March.
- Amazon currently employs 250,000 people at 110 fulfillment centers.
News Peg: According to Johns Hopkins, 181,200 people have been infected with the coronavirus, with 7,115 deaths reported. School closures, lockdowns and curfews have been put in place to promote social distancing, with the White House today recommending to avoid groups of more than 10 people.
Get This Free Cybersecurity Tech To Cope With Your Coronavirus Chaos
If you’re hunkered down at home because of the coronavirus pandemic and trying to go about your working day without any distractions, you’ll want to avoid being the victim of any attack on your computer or smartphone. Not only do you put your own personal data at risk by failing to take some extra precautions, but because of the sudden jump in folk working from home, you might be putting your business in danger too.
Some companies are sagely scoring brownie points with customers and the wider security community by making some of their services available for free. It’s responsible capitalism in action and a little ray of light in what’s been an otherwise bleak few weeks. “It’s difficult to predict what the next few weeks will look like, but we need to work together to protect our teams, loved ones, and local communities,” wrote John Shiner, CEO of 1Password. “Reduce unnecessary travel — including travel to and from the office — and be empathetic to the challenges that remote work can bring to your teams and their families.”
If you haven’t already got a password manager or two-factor authentication, you might be wise to avail yourself of some of these offers.
Free password managers and more for remote workers
Networking giant Cisco, for instance, is letting customers of its Duo Security tool go above their user limit as their employees increasingly work from home, whilst new customers can get a free license. Duo Security’s primary service is a two-factor authentication tool that can be added to web and mobile apps. When a user wants to login, they have to get another key from Duo. That can come in the form of a simple phone call, text or a code from the Duo app. Cisco’s offering the same deal for its web security tool Umbrella and its VPN product AnyConnect. It’s making those deals available until July 1.
Canadian company 1Password, meanwhile, has removed the 30-day trial period on 1Password Business, meaning the first six months are free. The usual cost is $7.99 per head. Its password manager keeps all your logins in one place so you don’t have to remember them. Like competitor products, like LastPass or Dashlane, it’ll suggest more secure passwords too. If you or your company doesn’t already have a password manager, it’s not a bad place to start.
And OneLogin has made its Trusted Experience Platform free for all K-12 schools, colleges and universities doing remote learning over the coming weeks and months. The product includes single sign-on (SSO), so students and teachers don’t have to keep signing into different apps. It remains secure as each app checks in with a trusted third-party who can verify they’re the right user. OneLogin’s tool also provides multi-factor authentication (a Duo competitor).
As Forbes reported earlier this week, Zoom has made its videoconferencing tools available free to K-12 schools too.
This page will continue to be updated as we learn about other COVID-19-coping security tech.
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