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Image: Playco

Users of the popular video-conferencing platform Zoom will now be able to play social multiplayer games as they chat, as part of a new expansion of apps for the service.

Why it matters: The popularity of Zoom and gaming soared during the pandemic. As people isolate less, Zoom needs to give users more reasons to use video chat.

Between the lines: Zoom's first games include a poker game, a new riff on the popular social mystery game Werewolf, and a pair of releases from Playco, a company that specializes in so-called "instant gaming" that allows users to play without the need for extra downloads.

  • One of Playco's games, "Heads Up!," involves a player having to guess a word that's on the screen based on clues from teammates on Zoom. It originated as a game played on Ellen DeGeneres' talk show and has been popular on mobile.
  • "Ask Away" is a question-and-answer game meant to dig up people's personal fun facts. "It’s designed to play quickly while waiting for others to join a work meeting, as an icebreaker with fresh faces, and even to deepen relationships with lifelong best friends," Playco co-founder Justin Waldron told Axios.
  • Any user in a Zoom meeting can start the games and invite other users to play, and there's no maximum player count, Waldron said.

The bottom line: An open question is whether people will initiate Zoom calls for the purpose of playing the games themselves, or if they'll primarily use them to improve the dynamics of the kinds of Zoom calls — company meetings, occasionally awkward video-based family meetups — that millions of people have experienced over the past year.

Go deeper

Updated Aug 2, 2021 - Sports

U.S. women's soccer team fails to reach gold medal game for 2nd straight Olympics

Players of the U.S. team react during the penalty shoot out during the quarterfinal game agsint the Netherlands. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The U.S. women's national soccer team boasts back-to-back World Cup champion status, has ranked first or second in the world every year since 2003 and until its Olympic opener against Sweden, had not lost a game in 44 matches.

The big picture: But after a disappointing performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the women failed to reach the gold medal game for the first time in history, the team was looking for redemption on the Olympic stage in Tokyo. Their hopes were dashed on Monday, however, when they lost to Canada in the semifinals.

Manhattan, Westchester prosecutors request evidence from Cuomo investigation

Gov. Cuomo during a press conference in New York City on Aug. 2. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The district attorneys for Manhattan and Westchester County on Wednesday requested evidence related to New York Attorney General Letitia James' investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), according to a letter obtained by NBC News.

Why it matters: The district attorneys are investigating if alleged conduct highlighted in an independent report published by James' office that occurred in their jurisdictions was criminal in nature.

Scoop: Buzzy media startup Puck launches in beta

Puck.news

Puck, a splashy new digital media company, is coming out of stealth mode, Axios has learned. The company debuted its landing page, puck.news, on Wednesday, and will officially launch its website in September.

Why it matters: The company has been quietly building a roster of top talent, but hadn't confirmed its branding or exact business plans up until now.