Weekly News Roundup (17 November 2013)

A slightly longer one for you this week. Last week’s short one was kind of my fault, but this week’s longer one has little to do with me, and more to do with, um, things actually happening.

Let’s get started.


You’ve got to get them young! The RIAA and MPAA obviously agree, because they’re backing a plan to start teaching their pro-copyright propaganda to kids still trying to master the tricky art of finger painting.

A new curriculum that teaches kids the awesomeness of copyright, and the evilness of piracy, has been proposed by the Center for Copyright Information (which is backed by Big Content, as well as America’s top ISPs). The lesson plans, which start at the kindergarten level and all the way through elementary school, teaches the importance of “protecting copyright”, and covers such fun topics as “Copyright Matters” and “It’s Great to Create”.

Immediately after the plans were made public, everyone with a bit of common sense came out and suggested that this probably wasn’t the best idea. Or even a very good one. The EFF worries about some of the bias that may be present in the lesson plans, such as equating downloading TV shows to copying off someone else’s homework. Teachers, via the California Teachers Association, worry about fitting in corporate sponsored messages into a curriculum that barely has enough room for the basics, like English (so you can read the lawsuit that the RIAA may file against you) and maths (so you can work out how many millions you owe the MPAA for downloading Spongebob episodes).

My biggest concern is that the MPAA/RIAA’s curriculum may be just too confusing for elementary school kids. I mean how do you explain to kids why artists, the “creators” that the curriculum so lauds, get such a small percentage of earnings compared to the middlemen that make up the members of the MPAA/RIAA. Especially in such a technologically advanced age where creators can sell directly to consumers? It just doesn’t make any sense!


Netflix and YouTube dominate US prime time downloading

It seems every time the MPAA comes up with some new ridiculous way to fight piracy, we also have, at the same time, a story that shows you how to beat piracy by simply providing people with a better product. For this week, and for a while now, that better product is Netflix. Nearly 32% of downloads during peak usage times in North America now belongs single-handedly to Netflix, and when combined with YouTube, they account for more than half of all download traffic.

Now I know people have their gripes with the service. And I do too. Not enough new content; too many missing classics; streaming quality/speed issues – to name a few. Yes, we have original content now (and some really good stuff too), and there’s the occasional blockbuster that makes its way on there after a lengthy delay (Skyfall, just last week, for example), but having almost destroyed the brick & mortar video renting business with its disc-by-mail service, Netflix streaming has managed to destroy whatever was left of that business. Instead of going to a video store and renting some old crap, you can watch the same old crap, and more older and crapper stuff, in the comfort of your own home without having to spend any extra money.

It’s great for me, the procrastinator, because instead of spending an hour at the local Blockbuster and being unable to decide what to rent, I can now spend an even longer time clicking through Netflix’s library, still unable to decide. But I can do it all now while sitting down and and stuffing my face full of trans fat, so it’s a lot better than going to Blockbuster (the only exception being their excellent caramel popcorn).

Hoping that it goes the way of Blockbuster, but unfortunately not happening quickly enough, is gaming DRM. And the CEO of anti-DRM developer CD Projekt Red, the people behind the DRM free game store GOG.com and The Witcher series, explains why this is the case.

Apparently, the gaming industry knows full well that DRM does work, but still persists with it because it is seen as doing something. Anything. And they need to be seen doing something in front of bosses, investors and shareholders, most of whom don’t have a clue (or chooses not to have one). But that’s okay, the only loser in the whole thing are gamers and paying customers. You know, the unimportant people. It’s this kind of deluded, and lazy thinking that has mired the industry in an unending war against pirates, one that they’re losing pretty badly and where the collateral damage extends to anyone who tries to play the game.

Just to reiterate, DRM doesn’t do what it is supposed to do (stop piracy), but instead, it actually hurts paying customers and make them want to buy your games less. And “well, what else are we supposed to do” is not an acceptable answer when faced with the question of piracy. And there are plenty of things you can do to make the legal experience much better than the illegal one – just look at GOG.com or Steam, for example.

High Definition

New Netflix UI

The new Netflix UI for TV connected devices looks good and works well

Just a quick follow-up to last week’s story about the Xbox One not supporting Blu-ray 3D at launch – the PS4 won’t play 3D films either, as it turns out. Both Microsoft and Sony are coming out with the “not at launch” caveat, which probably means that support will be added at a later time. Perhaps free, but perhaps at a small cost. Not too many tears will be shed from me for the loss of 3D, even if it’s kind of crappy to lose features when going from the current gen to the next gen.

Another quick digital video related update, this time for Netflix, who has rolled out a major UI change for all of its TV connected devices. I’ve been using it for the last couple of days, and it’s very usable, and I like the more detailed descriptions about why certain streams have been recommended for me or why I should watch them. With that said, I would still like the option of being able to select language/subtitles before the film starts (right now, you have to do it when the film is playing). And showing a screenshot of the current scene for resuming titles would be helpful. I’ve also noticed there are some issues with saving the last played spot, especially if I turn off my PS3 too quickly.


The Wii U is still stuck in the sales doldrums, but instead of being pleased with the contrasting fortunes of their PS3 and PS4 consoles, Sony says it’s actually in their interest for the Wii U to start selling well. Sony Worldwide Studios Prez Shuhei Yoshida expressed these sentiments in a recent interview with IGN, in which he also suggested part of the problem with the Wii U was the inconsistent messaging that Nintendo was trying to send out.

In particular, Yoshida found Nintendo’s “core gamers” strategy a bit odd, as in his opinion, the Wii U should have been marketed like the original Wii, as a “safe” family friendly console. But you can see why Nintendo had to change strategies with the Wii U. While the Wii can be considered a success, its later years were marked by a steady decline in sales, thanks to the ever competitive “casual gamers” market, and the lack of A-list third party releases on the platform. You can’t blame Nintendo for wanting to get a piece of the Call of Duty pie, and this cannot be possible if they stayed true to their family-only strategy.

Wii U Boxes

Sony wants the Wii U to sell well, and says Nintendo should concentrate on their family-friendly strength instead of going after “core gamers”

What they failed to do, in my opinion, was to understand how “core gamers” think. “Slightly better than last-gen” is not good enough to sate the appetites of core gamers hungry for next-gen graphics. It was also hard for Nintendo to shake their “video gaming for kids” image to appeal to core gamers. In the end, Nintendo wanted a console that combined mobile/tablet gaming with their core gaming strength (their first party titles, and the family friend reputation), and marry that with zombies and grenades. Perhaps it was just asking too much from a single console, and you end up with a machine that’s neither this nor that. And it didn’t help that Nintendo failed to demonstrate the full potential of their touchscreen GamePad, either for casual gaming or for the hardcore audience.

And all of this brings us to October’s NPD results, for US video game sales. The Wii U, unsurprisingly, was the poorest selling home based console out of the current crop, with the Xbox 360 regaining top spot after the PS3 ended its 32-month winning streak last week (thanks to GTA V). The Xbox 360 sold 166,000 units, but we don’t have figures for the PS3 and Wii U (other than the PS3 outselling the Wii U). The Wii U has only managed to sell 300,000 units in the last quarter, worldwide, and that’s actually a much better result than the previous quarter, in which only 160,000 units were sold.

With the PS4 now released, and the Xbox One coming next week, we’ll start seeing those number (or something vague about them) this time next month, which is kind of exciting. A new console generation and all that.

And on that note, we come to the end of this WNR. See you in a week’s time.


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