Weekly News Roundup (16 February 2014)
Welcome to the WNR. Hope Valentine’s Day was a nice one for you couples out there, and for you singles out there, I hope at the very least it was a decent Friday.
Let’s get started.
Despite RapidShare’s appeasement policy towards rights holders, the file hosting site has been re-added back to the “notorious pirates” list by the USTR (United States Trade Representative). The new updated list also includes software firms Aiseesoft and SlySoft, two companies that both sell DVD and Blu-ray ripping software.
It appears sucking up the rights holders did not work as well as RapidShare had hoped. Neither the implementation of quite draconian anti-piracy methods, nor its infamous manifesto helped to prevent rights holders from dobbing in the file hosting website to the USTR for inclusion in this year’s list. You can’t win, really. So you probably shouldn’t try to.
The other new inclusions are interesting too. Despite their products being around for what seemed like a decade already, and with many other companies producing similar software, both Aiseesoft and SlySoft gets special treatment this time around by the USTR. Now I don’t have much personal love for Aiseesoft, having seen either their representatives, their marketing agency or just really really fanatical customers spamming my forum for ages (forcing me to implement a filter to automatically change all references in forum posts from ‘Aiseesoft’ to ‘Aispamforums’). But it’s just one of many, possibly hundreds of companies that are churning out software with the same functionalities, so why pick them out, I have no idea. The SlySoft listing is perhaps a little bit easier to understand, given the company’s higher profile.
Nobody likes being blacklisted, but it probably doesn’t mean much for these companies in the long run.
Well that didn’t take long. A week ago, in this news article on yet more viewing restrictions for Game of Thrones in Australia, I wrote “Given these new restrictions, it’s very likely that the piracy rate for the new season (of Game of Thrones) will be even higher, which may prompt the new conservative government of Australia to take action.”
And just a few days later, Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis has issued the clearest call yet for three-strikes and website censorship to be part of new copyright reforms aimed to modernising existing copyright laws.
This is despite mountains of evidence that graduated response does nothing to curb infringement activities, as well as a recent Dutch court ruling that found website censorship is disproportionate and ineffective – all of which conveniently ignored by the copyright lobby or dismissed as bias.
And none of it addresses the real cause of piracy, which is a problem with access. If users are not getting the choices they want, at the prices they want, then rightly or wrongly, they will seek alternatives. This may be grey imports or circumventing geo-blocking to access the likes of Netflix or Hulu Plus. Or it may be mean piracy. And until these problems are addressed, no technical or legal measure will do a damn thing to curb the piracy problem.
A major development in US video games sales with the release of the January NPD results showing the PS4 having a big lead over the Xbox One, despite the former’s stock constraints.
While none of the consoles really sold in great number, not compared to December anyway, the PS4’s 271,000 (based on a pretty solid estimation) put the Xbox One’s 141,000 in the shade. Had PS4s been more widely available in stores, the gap would have been even greater.
To illustrate how poor the Xbox One numbers were for January, the first January since launch, we can compare it to previously generation consoles. For the PS3 and Xbox 360, their first Januarys meant between 240K and 250K in sales. The Wii U only managed 57K during its first January.
Multiplatform games also sold better on the PS4 than on the Xbox One, with the exception of CoD: Ghosts.
With the PS4 beating the Xbox One comfortably in other markets, and with the Japanese market expected to be dominated by the PS4, North America remains the only major marketplace where the Xbox One has a realistic chance of beating the PS4. On these figures, these chances seem less and less realistic.
Worryingly for Microsoft, it appears the PS3 outsold the Xbox 360 in January as well. In fact, even the Wii U may have done better (although still most likely below 50K).
While it’s far too early to eulogize the Xbox One, there are some pretty clear reasons as to why the Xbox One is not doing as well as it should. The extra $100 Microsoft expects gamers to pay for the largely useless included Kinect 2.0 is the main factor, as is the console’s perceived hardware disadvantages (which are not really showing up dramatically in games, but nevertheless is a factor for buyers).
It’s almost the same mistake Sony made with the PS3, having been released at a higher price with a feature (Blu-ray) not many people needed at the time. This time, Sony listened to gamers and gave them a console that did all the important things right, and it appears the company is reaping the rewards. Microsoft, on the other hand, tried to force excessive DRM onto users, then backtracked, but still ends up with a console that doesn’t do anything particularly better than the cheaper PS4. Only a price cut, and one that has to occur this year before the PS4’s lead grows by too much, can turn things around, in my opinion.
That’s it for the week. See you again in seven.