Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (June 16, 2019)

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

And we’re back, and this time, it hasn’t taken more than a month since the last WNR.

And that’s largely thanks to the fact that we have news, and that was at least partially thanks to the gaming expo, E3.

Copyright

But before we get to that, we have a piracy blunder to talk about, this time committed by the Swiss arm of broadcaster Sky.

In releasing the final episode of the hit show Chernobyl, Sky Switzerland used not the official subtitles provided by HBO, but the fan-made version released by a subtitle download site often used by pirates. This error was revealed because whoever decided to use the inappropriate subtitle file forgot to reveal the credits that were added to the subtitles by its creator, which also referenced subtitle download site Addic7ed.

Screenshot of Sky Switzerland's incorrect use of subtitles
Good of Sky Switzerland to keep the credits for the fan-made subtitles

The closing credits were removed, and the subtitle was re-synced with the official Sky stream, suggesting the person or persons responsible for this blunder had intended to use the downloaded subtitles, and it wasn’t just a simple case of uploading the wrong file to the server.

As expected, the folks at Addic7ed were a bit bemused by the whole situation, giving Sky a thumbs up for keeping the credits intact. Sky themselves weren’t laughing though, having described this whole affair as “totally unacceptable”.

Just out of interest, the Addic7ed site is blocked here in Australia by several ISPs due to its association with piracy.

Gaming

There were lots of things being unveiled at E3, but the piece of news that probably has the greatest impact on the next few years of gaming would be Microsoft’s reveal of their next game console, currently only known as Project Scarlett.

I once read an article that suggested Sony and Microsoft should join forces and just release a single game console. The reasoning was that as consoles advance, the so-called “competing” hardware will become more and more similar, that there really isn’t much of a point to having separate consoles.

That prediction seems to have come true. No, not the part about a joint Sony/Microsoft console (the “Xbox Station 720”?), but the part about the two consoles become more and more similar is spot on.

Sony’s PS5 announcement pointed to an AMD powered console with GDDR6 RAM, backed by an SSD drive with support for advanced graphical features like ray tracing, 120 FPS gaming and 8K output (most likely for video only).

And Project Scarlett will be an AMD powered console with GDDR6 RAM, backed by an SSD drive with support for advanced graphical features like ray tracing, 120 FPS gaming and 8K output (most likely for video only).

Screenshot from Microsoft's Project Scarlett launch video
Project Scarlett and Sony’s PS5 – virtually identical in announced specs

Oh, and both console launches stressed the inclusion of backwards compatibility. Microsoft does have an advantage here due to its head start in this department – it has run a backwards compatibility program for the Xbox One since 2015, and so it has promised backwards compatibility with all Xbox generations for Project Scarlett, not just for Xbox One games.

And if I have to guess, the pricing for both consoles will be similar, if not the same. Microsoft does have a solid-ish launch date of holidays 2020, as Sony has not yet confirmed a release date (but probably holidays 2020).

As for the prediction about a joint console – I don’t think that will ever happen. As similar as the next consoles will be from both companies, and as unprofitable the hardware will be (at least initially), there is still a “need” for separate consoles in order for both companies to have a chance to earn that lucrative licensing money. Puff Daddy was right.

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So we come to the end of this roundup. Have a great one until the next one!

Weekly News Roundup (April 21, 2019)

Sunday, April 21st, 2019

An exciting week we’ve just had, not only did we get a first glimpse at the final chapter of Game of Thrones (which was expected), we also got news on Sony’s upcoming PS5 console (somewhat unexpected).

So let’s not waste any time, and get to the news that was ….

Perhaps a little bit more time wasting – if you’re still in the mood to waste GBs downloading a trailer, we’ve just uploaded a new one for you for the awkwardly named upcoming film ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ (download as HD H.264 or 4K HEVC). As usual, for those that want 4K but don’t want to go through the whole downloading process, you can watch the same trailer on our YouTube channel right here.

Copyright

So you’ve probably finished watching the first episode of the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’. If you haven’t seen it, then you either don’t care about the show or you’re stuck on an oil rig or in the middle of a rainforest. Either way, no spoilers here.

Game of Thrones piracy surge – not unexpected at all!

The only thing I’m going to spoil is the fact that the season premiere was downloaded and streamed, illegally, a whole heap of times. 54 million times actually in the first 24 hours alone, which is not surprising considering how eagerly anticipated the premiere was and how HBO dicked us around for 2 years just because they didn’t want the show to finish before they had some other hit just around the corner.

Despite this, no torrenting records were broken. In fact, only half as many people may have been downloading a torrent of the first episode compared to the previous record, also set by ‘Game of Thrones’ for the season 5 finale. This is because torrenting is no longer the preferred way of getting pirated movie and TV content for most people – 76% now choose streaming. Streaming is cool because there’s no need to wait for a download to finish, and it also receives less scrutiny from authorities who have been clamping down on torrenting and torrent sites hard in the last few years.

The increasing availability and value of legal options, on the other hand, may also have contributed to the decline.

The series finale airs on May 19, and I would expect even more people to be watching the show – legally and illegally.

Gaming

Has it really been 5 and a half years? That’s how long the PS4 has been around, and so I guess it wasn’t a surprise that Sony will be well into the development of the next console, which will probably be imaginatively named the PS5.

And we normally don’t get a lot of details about the new console at this point, but miracles do happen and one of the lead architects of the new console gave us quite a lot of information in a recent interview. According to Mark Cerny, the PS5 will feature the latest generation AMD ‘Ryzen’ CPU and a ‘Navi’ GPU and a solid state drive to really boost the performance. The latter, in particular, reduced the loading time of the PS4 game
Spider-Man from 15 seconds to just 0.8.

A photo of two PS4 controllers
Details about the PS5 so early are somewhat unexpected

The power boost will also enable 8K output for the console, although this is most likely limited to video output, with gaming output still likely to be limited to 4K (but a very nice looking 4K, to be fair).

And in a surprise announcement, the PS5 will be backwards compatible with the PS4. Veterans of the console wars will remember how Microsoft tried to one-up the PS4 by including (limited) backwards compatibility with the Xbox One, which Sony refused to do citing lack of interest. So it’s a welcomed move by Sony to finally add backwards compatibility back (if you can remember that far back, the first models of the PS3 featured a PS2 chip that allowed for backwards compatibility – all the subsequent variations did not include the chip).

So there you have it – quite a lot of information that normally would only come out at an official launch event. Now it’s up to Microsoft to “show me what you got” (a nice and random Rick and Morty reference there for you).

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So some pretty interesting stuff happening. Hope this coming week is just as exciting! Until next time …

Weekly News Roundup (December 9, 2018)

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

So I watched two action movies this week. The action genre is not one of my favourites, although I really don’t mind it too much. But the differences in experience in watching the two action films, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (I know, I shouldn’t have waited so long) and ‘Geostorm’, couldn’t be bigger. Well one movie has quotes like “You will ride eternal, shiny and chrome”, and the other has lines like “It’s GENOCIDE, LEONARD!” – so let’s just say one movie was “Mediocre, Devlin! Mediocre!”

Between the adrenaline rush that was Fury Road, the snooze-fest that was “Gravity” for idiots aka “Geostorm”, I also watched Netflix’s ‘Dogs’ dogumentary. “Sniff-Sniff”. What an intense week!

Oh yes, I had some time to write a few news stories too.

Copyright

Another week, another disappointment for Denuvo. They should be used to it by now. Only weeks after citing how important it was for games to be protected by Denuvo, if only to cover the first two week’s of the game’s release (when most of the piracy occurs), Denuvo’s owners, Irdeto, has had to deal with an embarrassing setback.

Not only did Denuvo fail to protect ‘Just Cause 4’ for two weeks, it couldn’t even protect the game for two days.

Just Cause 4 Screenshot
Just Cause 4 cracked in less than a day – #DenuvoDoesntWork

With the game currently being slammed by users for having too many issues, it seems to me that the publishers of the game, Square Enix, maybe should have invested the money they spent on licensing Denuvo on actually making the game work properly before release. The poor reviews plus the availability of a pirated copy should hurt ‘Just Cause 4’ sales, which is bad news for the fantastically talented people that worked on the game, but probably what was deserved for the people at Square Enix that made the decision to use Denuvo.

High Definition

So Black Friday has come and gone. I hope you didn’t spend too much, or if you did, you spent it well. And apparently, a lot of people spent good money on Blu-ray for this Black Friday, in particular, on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Deadpool 2 Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Deadpool 2 UHD edition was discounted to $9 during Amazon’s Black Friday sales, down from the normal $25

Blu-ray sales, including UHD disc sales, were up almost 9% compared to last year’s Black Friday, and a lot of the growth was driven by UHD sales. The stats seem to imply this (unit sales up 3.4%, but revenue up a higher 8.9% – seems to suggest people were buying more expensive Blu-ray discs than last year, which could mean box sets or, more likely, UHD discs). The fact that Amazon, one of the main drivers for Blu-ray sales during Black Friday, discounted a lot of UHD discs to as low as $8, also seems to point to an UHD inspired buying frenzy.

Blu-ray sales, including UHD disc sales, were up almost 9% compared to last year’s Black Friday, and a lot of the growth was driven by UHD sales. The stats seem to imply this (unit sales up 3.4%, but revenue up a higher 8.9% – seems to suggest people were buying more expensive Blu-ray discs than last year, which could mean box sets or, more likely, UHD discs). The fact that Amazon, one of the main drivers for Blu-ray sales during Black Friday, discounted a lot of UHD discs to as low as $8, also seems to point to an UHD inspired buying frenzy.

There is also the fact that the top 10 Blu-ray sellers for Black Friday week were all titles that had UHD editions (and were either recently released UHD titles, or had UHD editions that were heavily discount). 

In other words, cheap UHD equals big Blu-ray sales!

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So that’s the end of another WNR, as we count down to the end of the year. I’m also writing this on the new WordPress editor, and I must say with such a nice and clean writing environment, I feel more productive already!

Weekly News Roundup (December 2, 2018)

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Welcome to the final month of 2018. Where has it all gone? Or is it a case of “why did it take so long”? Regardless of which side you’re on, I think it’s safe to say that the fact that I’m talking about the calendar means I really don’t have anything more interesting to write in this intro, so I guess it’s best I just move on to the news, right?

Copyright

Google Auto-Suggest

Google’s piracy demotions system being exploited by scammers?

In case you need another reason as to why copyright take-down regimes are a bad idea because they’re too prone to abuse, well, I have another one for you this week. It appears that scammers have found a way to game Google’s anti-piracy demotion system in order to get malicious websites to rank higher for popular piracy related keywords.

The ingenious scheme involves sending bogus copyright take-down notices to Google, pretending to be well known entities such as Steam or Ubisoft, to remove game piracy related links from the rankings. To be fair, the links they’re asking to be removed do contain pirated content, and so any legitimate take-down notices containing the same links would have been removed. But the intentions behind these take-downs are not quite right, it seems, as with the real piracy links removed from the search results, the fake ones, the ones with malware, are now occupying higher positions on the search results and allowing the scammers to profit.

The scammers have obviously done their homework too, as they’ve submitted “DRM” take-downs, as opposed to the normal DMCA ones. DRM take-downs on Google do not allow the website owner to file a counter-claim, to defend their position (or to inform Google that the take-down notice was a fake one to begin with), and so the scammers have found a great way to get what they want without anyone being able to do anything about it. Many of the removed URLs do contain DRM breaking tools (cracks for games), but many do not.

But since this news story has been making the rounds, it seems Google have wised up to this little trick, and they’ve started flagging some of the take-down notices as potentially fake, although the removed URLs remain removed for the present.

Abuse of copyright take-down regimes isn’t really anything new, but it usually involves companies trying to destroy competitors.

High Definition

LG UP970

Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray players have doubled in numbers in 2018

This Christmas may be all about 4K, according to a new report by consulting firm Futuresource. The report shows that, with the average price of 4K UHD TVs now down to about the same level as a standard HDTV, adoption of these ultra high definition sets are speeding up. Global shipment of UHD TVs are expected to exceed 100 million units globally, with China being the biggest market. Even the pricier HDR enabled sets are selling well, roughly half of UHD TVs sold are now HDR capable.

Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray players are also increasingly popular, with this year doubling the number of units sold previously, and along with that, $360 million in UHD Blu-ray disc sales.

Streaming still remains the most popular way for people to obtain 4K content though, and by streaming, it mostly means Netflix at the moment. 4K broadcasts, on the other hand, remains rare. There are still some issues to be resolved in regards to broadcasts standards, and this may mean a lot of 4K UHD TVs are already obsolete (or require a very “last decade” solution, like a set top box, for future compatibility). For now, OTT (ie. streaming) still easily beats OTA (over-the-air), when concerning 4K.

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And on that note, we end the first WNR of December, and one of the last of 2018. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (November 11, 2018)

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

Hello again, and welcome back after the brief hiatus. No, it wasn’t to do with the US election, although it was again extremely fascinating to observe US politics. Here in Australia, our election campaign season is very limited, to only a couple of weeks, intentionally done so to prevent the non stop campaigning, fundraising and news cycles that seems to dominate everything in the US. We also only use paper ballots, using the advanced technology known as a pencil to make our mark (literally, and figuratively on our democracy), and none of our votes goes wasted, even if you vote for minor parties (there’s a thing called preferences that allows you to direct votes to eventually the major parties if your minor party candidate fails to be one of the two frontrunners). It all seems to make a lot more sense than what happens in the US, what now with yet another recount in Florida.

Anyway, with the election somewhat out of the news cycle, we have some news to cover here at the WNR.

Copyright

Denuvo

Denuvo says use us for your games or lose millions

The company behind Denuvo is trying to convince more game publishers to sign up to the anti-tampering system by claiming that AAA games not protected by Denuvo could be losing $21 million in revenue due to piracy. The company behind Denuvo, which used to be also called Denuvo but has since been acquired by Irdeto, came to this figure by calculating the number of pirated downloads of an unnamed AAA sports game, that managed to rack up more than 300,000 pirated downloads in the first 2 weeks after release. Irdeto then took this number and multiplied it by the retail cost of the game and came up with the $21 million figure.

While I can’t blame Irdeto for trying to push their product on game publishers, the fact of the matter is that there is no way that unnamed AAA sports game managed to lose $21 million to piracy. For that to happen, every single downloaded pirated copy would have to translate to a paid for copy, and that just does not reflect reality in any way. I wouldn’t be surprised if the conversion rate, the rate that pirated downloads translate to paid copies if the pirated copy did not exist, would be something low like 2% to 5%, which means at most, this would translate into $1 million in lost sales. And that would also be income, not revenue. I’m not sure how much it costs game companies to license Denuvo, but it may not be a straight forward thing, especially given how gamers hate Denuvo and there’s probably a few percent of paying gamers who avoid games that have it. But of course, there’s really no way to find out either way, so publishers, out of fear, rely on Denuvo and Denuvo can sell them the appearance of security, if not actual security. And everyone sleeps better at night. Except for gamers.

High Definition

We now know a little bit more about Disney’s upcoming streaming platform, which will now be officially known as Disney+ (read: Disney Plus). Another thing we now know – there will be a second Star Wars live action TV series, set as a prequel to Rogue One and starring Rogue One’s dashing hero Andor, again played by Diego Luna.

Disney+ Website

Disney+ will allow Disney to fully capitalize its extensive list of IPs

Disney boss Bob Iger also let known how Disney+ will be differentiated to Hulu (now majority owned by Disney), in that Disney+ will be more family oriented compared to Hulu, which has a younger user base. So shows like FX’s American Horror Story won’t appear on Disney+, but will on Hulu, for example.

And you just know Disney+ will heavily rely on Disney’s biggest IPs, Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar, because even in the promo graphics provided by Disney, the logos for Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar were quite prominently shown.

Iger also expanded a little on the idea of releasing movies on home video a little bit earlier. Not on Disney+, in which Iger was adamant that the existing restrictions would stay, but for Blu-ray, DVD and Digital sell-through. Iger was keen to stress this does not mean changing the theatrical window (which would get all the cinema chains all riled up), but there is a gap between the theatrical window and the home video window that Disney wants to exploit. Bringing the home video window forward would also allow the streaming window to open up a bit earlier too, maybe.

So 2019 looks like an exciting year for streaming, lots of changes appear to be coming.

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That’s all we have for this week. See you in seven!