Weekly News Roundup (2 March 2014)

Welcome to another WNR. Been having trouble sleeping lately, and the heavy workload for the week eventually culminated in a mild bout of the migraines. All but recovered now, but there’s nothing worse than having a deadly headache just short of a deadline.

It’s been a good week news wise, so no need for me to make excuses this time.


Is six-strikes working? It’s been more than a year since the start of the voluntary industry-led six-strikes graduated response regime, and the people running says it’s been a success, despite the complete lack of any evidence to support the claim.

Other than revealing that “a large number of alerts” have been sent out, there has been very little information being released from the system which, in the past, has been accused of being lacking in transparency. The absence of good news, in terms of a piracy rate drop or an increase in sales as a direct result of the regime, most likely suggests that things are not going too well. Which is not all that surprising, considering the French version has already failed.

Indirectly, there are stats that indicate things are actually getting worse. U.S. traffic to sites like The Pirate Bay has actually increased since the introduction of six-strikes, and we all know that many people have signed up for proxies and VPNs to avoid detection (or to use another form of downloading that’s not monitored).

Roll of money

The MPAA has been throwing money in the direction of Republican groups recently

When we do see some stats, it will most likely paint a rosy picture that points to misleading conclusions. A ton of alerts will have been sent, BitTorrent traffic may drop, more likely due to Netflix than six-strikes, and the number of fifth or sixth strikes will be a lot less than the number of first and second strikes, which will be used as “evidence” that things are working as expected. But there will be no real drop in piracy, no real rise in revenue, and no real effect for a regime that was never really about real results, just imaginary safety.

And if industry-led action doesn’t work, there’s also government intervention. The MPAA has been busy spraying money around, and according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall) and The Hollywood Reporter, they’re spraying it in increasingly GOP directions. Both articles highlight the MPAA’s increasing lobbying payments to right wing political action groups including U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($100,000), Americans For Tax Reform ($200,000) and Let Freedom Ring, and also key appointments that have Republican ties. This is perhaps not surprising considering who controls Congress at the moment, so if that situation changes, expect the MPAA’s political leanings to change too. They’re far too smart to play politics, when spreading money to everyone seems to be the best strategy these days in the lobbying game.

High Definition

Netflix’s deal with Comcast has been discussed in the webosphere as the inevitable result of the death of net neutrality, but the actual deal has nothing to do with it. Whereas net neutrality is about ISPs messing around with last mile delivery of content, this deal is all about the interconnections between Netflix and ISPs, namely Comcast, which has been the real cause of performance issues in recent times.


The Netflix/Comcast deal’s only real effect is a better viewing experience for viewers .. for now

Despite rumors suggesting Comcast has been throttling Netflix traffic, something they are now allowed to do with the death of net neutrality, the congestion has actually been occurring higher up the chain. This deal will see Comcast connect directly to Netflix’s servers, as opposed to through a third party network – in exchange, Netflix will pay Comcast for traffic that flows from their servers to user’s homes, money they would otherwise have paid to third parties like Cogent and L3. In essence, this is a peering agreement and is nothing new, and has nothing really to do with the net neutrality debate.

With that said, the sheer size of the likes of Netflix and Comcast (thanks to their planned absorption of Time Warner Cable) means these peering agreements may be something to worry about in the future. It’s all easy and good for the big guys to make big deals, but this will end up hurting content providers that don’t have the clout of Netflix when it comes to making deals with a behemoth like Comcast. So some of the very same issues that people are concerned about over net neutrality may apply to these kinds of increasingly secretive deals (had Comcast not announced their Netflix deal publicly, none of us would have ever known – just as we don’t really know what kind of deals Netflix has with others ISPs).


The PS4’s Japanese launch was, as expected, a huge success. The PlayStation brand has always been well received in Japan, even when PS3 sales were disappointing elsewhere. But with the PS4 being an international hit already, the home islands weren’t going to offer up any surprises. Early data indicates that the PS4 is selling four times as many PS3s when comparing both console’s launch, so there we go.

PS4 with controller and PS Eye

The PS4 will remain stock limited until at least April, says Sony

The success of the PS4 in Japan isn’t good news for gamers still waiting for a console elsewhere though, as stock problems could continue well into April. It appears that Sony has severely underestimated the demand for the console, PlayStation UK managing director Fergal Gara even admitting that the company had a hard time believing the pre-order numbers were correct, even thinking they may have been faked for some reason, or that people were making pre-orders at multiple places in order to secure a launch day unit.

The PS4’s success is bad news for Microsoft though, and a price cut for their Xbox One has already been rolled out … in the UK. Gamers in the UK were already overpaying for the Xbox One, even compared to smaller markets like Australia, so this price cut is unsurprising, even if the timing is slightly surprising given how new the console is. But even with the price cut, the Xbox One (with Titanfall) is still $USD 80 more than the PS4 in the UK.

For all the differences between the consoles, and their different philosophies this generation round (almost a reverse of the last gen, where the PS3 concentrated on media capability, while the Xbox 360 focused on hardcore gaming), I think all things being equal (and the PS4 and Xbox One are equals, with the Wii U a step behind), pricing is probably the key factor. The Xbox 360 only surged ahead of the PS3 and the Wii in the U.S. after its price cut, for example.

So it’s time for Microsoft to rethink its strategy. Either go for broke (possibly literally) and drop the Xbox One’s price to equal that of the PS4, perhaps by repackaging the console to make Kinect an accessory again, or dramatically increase the value of the console bundle to entice buyers. Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done quickly to ensure the Xbox One remains competitive.

I think that’s it for the week. Hope you enjoy this March, my favorite month of the year and not just because it’s the month containing my birthday 🙂


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