Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (August 12, 2018)

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Hello again! Welcome to another edition of the WNR, where we look back at the week’s most important news stories. Or at the very least, the week’s most interesting stories. Or perhaps more succinctly, the most interesting stories that I managed to find in the week. Even more accurate, the most interesting stories that I managed to find and had to time write up this week.

So as you can guess, not a huge number of news stories to go through this week, but quality/quantity etc…

Copyright

Piracy Love

Those who pirate the most also buy the most, according to a new study

When you’ve covered copyright stories as long as I have, you start to see the same sort of news stories over and over again. So it was no surprise that this week, we had a story of yet another study that proves legal measures haven’t been at all effective, certainly not as effective as providing consumers with better legal options. The researchers found clear links between “piracy and the availability and affordability of content”, but failed to find similarly clear links between the use of legal measures and a reduction in piracy, or additional revenue for rights-holders.

The researchers surveyed more than 35,000 people and found even more striking links. Most notably, they found that pirates, far from being no good freeloaders, are actually the people that spend the most money on buying legal content. On the other hand, people that don’t pirate at all tend to spend far less on buying legally. Which is why the much touted plan to kick pirates off the Internet, via three-strikes or other means, will end up leaving the best customers unable to buy anything.

The study also found an interesting outlier in German, where piracy did not decrease as much as compared to the other studied countries, despite an increase in better legal options. The researchers theorize that this may be because German already had a low piracy rate that that there was some kind of floor to any potential decrease. In other words, there will always be a portion of the population that will resort to piracy, no matter what measures are taken to prevent it.

But some measures do seem to work, in that it works to put the fear into those not toeing the official line. Nintendo’s recent lawsuits against ROM download sites appears to have had the desired effect, and one of the biggest ROM sites, EmuParadise, has decided to take pre-emptive action by removing all ROM downloads from the site.

Crisis Force

Criminally underrated games are still being played via emulators and ROMs, but Nintendo has other plans

While it’s hard to argue against the dubious legal nature of ROMs in general, it’s sometimes hard to see where the harm is when you’re talking about obscure games that hardly anyone plays any more (and some games, weren’t even played that much when it came out). It’s true the likes of Nintendo and Sega are constantly republishing old games for release on their newer console platforms, but these are often remastered and reworked, and so it’s not quite the same as playing the original game on an emulator.

I guess it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for sites like EmuParadise to separate ROMs into these two categories, the ones that still have value commercially, and the ones that belong to the abandonware category, and only offer ROMs for the latter. But while possible, this might not be practical, as there are an awfully large number of ROMs to sort through.

I don’t know if other ROM sites will follow EmuParadise’s example and either close up shop or try and become a community about ROMs and legacy games, but not offer them for download. But I suspect more will follow, either that, or Nintendo will start suing more sites.

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And on that note, we come to the end of another WNR. I’ve asked my magic eight ball and it has told me that the next week will be filled with wonderful surprises, not just for me, but hopefully for all of you. Back this time next week see if I’m right.

Weekly News Roundup (July 15, 2018)

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

Welcome to another edition of the Weekly News Roundup. The World Cup is near an end, tears and cheers aplenty, but one can’t help but be disappointed at how things are run these days. Not to say that the World Cup isn’t an exciting event, it is, but it just all seems so sterilized and commercialized. The news about the English team being fined for wearing the wrong socks, from a sponsorship point of view, just proves something isn’t quite right with the game these days.

And what does that have to do with copyright, digital video and gaming news? Nothing really, but every WNR has to have an intro and, to be honest, I’m really struggling to write a “related” one this week.

And oh yes, there’s news to cover. There are a few stories to cover, but none are what you would call the most ground breaking news stories, so this WNR will still be rather short.

Copyright

Denuvo

Denuvo cracked again

Game crackers have won the latest bout with Denuvo, with well known game cracker Voksi cracking the latest version of the controversial anti-tampering system. Describing it as the “most bloated” version of Denuvo yet (with a 128MB game executable consisting of only 5-6MB of game code, the rest being Denuvo code), Voksi cracked the game ‘Puyo Puyo Tetris’ protected by v4.9++ of Denuvo, which then helped him to crack the bigger profile ‘Injustice 2’, which uses the same version of Denuvo.

This follows a recent trend of Denuvo failing to protect major titles after it had a great run, to be fair, over the last few years. It appears that a weakness has been exposed in Denuvo’s system and that Denuvo has not been able to effect a more permanent fix. Introducing more VM, encryption and obfuscation layers on top of Denuvo appears to only work in slowing down crackers, not stop them. And all of this is happening at the expense of resources.

Voksi’s grudge against Denuvo is well known and he (or she) has vowed to never stop cracking Denuvo (which he refers to as a “cancer”) until the protection is no longer feasible. With such bloat, and with the speed in which games are being cracked, it appears that particular moment may not be very far away.

High Definition

You know it’s a slow news week, for both us and Netflix, that they and us both report on this “new” download feature. The new “Smart Downloads” feature will automatically download new episodes for already downloaded shows, while deleting ones that have been watched to make room. It will only work via Wi-Fi and it will probably save you about 30 seconds of work if you had to do this manually, and some will probably turn it off because they don’t want Netflix to be downloading in the background without their knowledge.

Gaming

Dolby Vision

Dolby Vision comes to the Xbox One

Now here’s something slightly more interesting (emphasis on the word “slightly”), Dolby Vision support is coming to the Xbox One S/X. It’s already available for those that are part of the Xbox Insider program, as a preview, but if it works well, there’s no reason why it won’t be coming to a main update soon. Unfortunately, it only works with Netflix at the moment, and not with Ultra HD Blu-ray as you might expect it to, which is a bit strange.

For those interested, Dolby Vision is a proprietary, closed HDR format that offers several improvements over the more popular and open HDR standard, HDR10. There’s also a HDR10+, which aims to take on Dolby Vision, but in a “we don’t like to pay licensing fees” manner.

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So not too long, and not particularly important news stories, to be honest. But that’s all we have this week, so what can you do? See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (July 8, 2018)

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

So Digital Digest celebrated its 19th birthday last week, on July 4, which seems like a familiar date for some reason here in Australia. Who am I kidding? I deliberately launched Digital Digest 19 years and a few days ago on America’s birthday mainly because I know how bad my memory is and the only way I would remember the anniversary would be to piggy back it to another, more easily remembered one.

As for the reasons behind launching Digital Digest (then known as DVDigest)? It was mainly because I had become bored of answering the same questions on several message boards that I had been visiting and decided to put all the available information in one place so I can just link to it in my responses. Plus I could also host a few downloads for people to use on the GeoCities hosted site (sites, actually, since one account usually wasn’t enough to handle all the bandwidth required).

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the site, and so I suppose I should celebrate it somehow being that it’s such a nice and rounded number and all. The arbitrariness of it all …

High Definition

Netflix

Netflix is testing new pricing tiers that could mean price rises for many

The arbitrariness of Netflix’s subscription tiers comes to the fore this week as it was revealed the streaming giant was testing a new, top subscription tier that sounds a lot like the current, top tier, except at a higher price. Netflix’s proposed “Ultra” tier would cost $3.50 more than the current “Premium” tier and would offer exactly the same 4 simultaneous screen plan with 4K and HDR support. What would be different is that the “Premium” plan would drop support for HDR streaming (while still maintaining 4K streaming support), and may even drop the number of simultaneous screens to 2, while the “Standard” plan may end up only supporting 1 screen. In other words, it’s a $3.50 price rise for those that want to watch shows in HDR, and price rises for everyone who needs simultaneous streaming.

This somewhat cynical move might not happen, as I doubt Netflix can get away with something like this if they don’t call it a price rise. But Netflix does need to raise prices because licensing and producing content is expensive business and may get more expensive now that Disney is all about to acquire Fox and will definitely launch their own streaming product – without Disney and Fox’s content, Netflix will have to pay more for other studio’s content or pay even more to produce their own.

There is possibly the argument that content costs too much to license these days because Hollywood is making for losses in DVD and Blu-ray sales with profits from streaming despite not every title making it to a streaming platform. Most of the other streaming platforms, like Amazon, are not even anywhere near profitable due largely to excessive licensing costs, and I’m just not sure this is a wise long term strategy for Hollywood. What is happening is that the high cost of licensing, and particularly the headaches involved with global licensing, means that it’s often more economical for the likes of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon to make their own original content – this, eventually, could put Hollywood in a weaker position both in terms of direct revenue (more competition for eyeballs) as well as when it comes to negotiating future deals, much like how music labels are now at the whim of the likes of Apple and Spotify. In other words, short term greed may end up equaling long term pain.

Still, the idea of subscribing to one or maybe just two platforms that offers pretty much all the content I will ever want to watch, seems like a distant and impossible dream right now.

Gaming

Android Game TV Controller

Google may be getting into gaming in a big way

Google may be dreaming of something too: their own gaming platform. And as with the direction of all things these days, the new platform, codenamed ‘Yeti’, will be streaming, cloud based.

Game streaming, or cloud gaming if you prefer that term instead, isn’t something that’s widely used yet, but all the major players want a piece of it, as it definitely has some major advantages over how games are traditionally distributed. For one, there’s no need to go to a store to buy a retail disc package (which, for a popular game, may be sold out), install it and then install updates to play. Digitally purchased games removes the need to go outside, but it still means a lengthy download, followed by more updates. Both methods also require local storage space, which if you have a lot of games, will always be a problem.

And that’s all assuming you can afford the hardware to play it on – a latest generation console or a souped up gaming PC – both of which will be outdated by the time most of the good games that can take advantage of the hardware actually comes out.

So streaming removes these hurdles, as you can start playing a game in just a few minutes time, with no need to pre-download GBs of data. Plus, with the rendering done on the server level, your local piece of hardware won’t need constant upgrading or to be powerful at all in the first place. Google’s plan is that eventually, you should be able to start a new Chrome tab on any device you own and it will be able to stream-play any game at the highest quality level.

Of course, the major hurdle for this would be bandwidth, because even games these days are 4K and unlike movies and TV which can be pre-compressed to have low bitrate requirements, games are live and have to be encoded live, and so won’t be as efficient when it comes to compression (and games tend to have more motion than movies of TV shows, which further affects their ability to get compressed well). So when everyone has 100 Mbps connections, game streaming might become as normal as Netflix, but until then, it’s still not for everyone. But the major players all want to be in a position to be able to take advantage of this when the bandwidth does eventually catch up, and so this is why Google has Yeti, Nvidia has GeForce Now, Sony has PlayStation Now, Microsoft has that so far unnamed one that they just announced, and also the dozens of other lesser known platforms. Watch this space.

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Well, that’s it for the week. I just realised that it’s nearly 11 years since I started doing this weekly news roundup. The very first roundup started with these words: “This might become a regular feature on the blog (hopefully) if, unlike most of my other projects, I actually manage to keep it up for more than a few weeks”. Looks like I did manage to keep it going for “more than a few weeks”. Here’s to a few weeks more …

Weekly News Roundup (July 1, 2018)

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

Welcome to the second half of 2018. My oh my, didn’t it go by fast? Actually, I completely understand that for some, maybe even many, it hasn’t seemed that quick, or even not quickly enough. Which just goes to show that time really is relative, and that we are heavily influenced by our perceptions, even when our perceptions are wrong at times.

What isn’t wrong is that we do have a few stories to cover, and so there’s definitely no time to waste (regardless of how quickly or slowly it passes for you).

Copyright

Roku FBI Warning

Roku’s anti-piracy measures have worked according to the company

We have a trio of copyright related stories in regards, to apps, streaming and gaming, three of the largest arenas when it comes to the digital world. Starting in no particular order, Roku has announced that they’ve succeeded in taming the beast that is piracy on their platform.

Roku has had a piracy problem so bad that it got banned in Mexico, of all places, and they’ve removed more than 400 organisations that have links to piracy on their platform, and who knows how many channels that were run by these organisations. Of course, some of these actions have led to unfortunately collateral damage (like when the Netflix and YouTube channels were removed accidentally), but there is no doubt that Roku is now a much more legal platform than when it started (although my feeling is that people who are using their Roku for piracy are using it wrong, or rather, there are better ways to get pirated content than from a Roku!).

The positive PR message is much needed from Roku, what with the streaming device industry now firmly in Hollywood’s sights. These days, preemptive action is the perfect prophylaxis when it comes to avoiding the unwanted attentions of the copyright industry.

Nintendo Switch

Piracy on the Switch is possible, but dangerous

Nintendo is also taking preemptive action against what the company thinks might be a flood of piracy occurring on their Switch console, following the jailbreaking of the console earlier this year. The Switch now apparently has code that could ban an entire console from being able to connect to online services, if it detects that pirated games are being run on it.

It’s not the only thing that Switch pirates have to worry about, as apparently the custom firmware they’re using the run pirate games has its own copy protection mechanism that could brick their consoles. Apparently, even pirates are worried about piracy, in this case of their custom firmware that they’re selling (as opposed to being given away, like most of these types of things). As with most things piracy related, use at your own risk!

There’s also a risk that when you look at everything through the prism of copyright, that sometimes, you see more than what’s actually happening. This may have been the case with the story involving Google’s addition of metadata on Android apps that, some say, could be used as a form of anti-piracy DRM.

Never mind the fact that Android apps can already use a Google provided server based authentication DRM for paid apps, and that Google was pretty clear what the metadata is for. Of course, the cynic would say that Google would never say that their DRM was a DRM, because that would be met with a huge public backlash. But what Google says is also true and also an important point, is that by adding metadata support, it will allow offline distribution of Google Play store compatible apps. Previously, offline distributed apps would count as a separate entity to Play store downloaded apps, in terms of updates, licensing and tying into Google accounts.

So there’s definitely the possibility that metadata can be used by app publishers as a form of DRM, to restrict the sharing of “unauthorised” apps, but there are already means to do this, so perhaps the Google Play store aspect is the more important story here (as it would open the way for third party app stores to exist, that would be able to sell apps for developers and have those apps work in exactly the same way as an app downloaded from the Play store).

Perception matters.

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So that’s all we have for the week. All related, but all different as well. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (March 25, 2018)

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

Sorry again for the lack of an update last week – in my defence, it was my birthday week and it was also a quiet week. It was also a quiet week this week though, there’s barely anything worth talking about, barely, but still something, so here we are.

Copyright

Serious Sam's Bogus Detour

Pirates and developers working together – weird but true!

It’s often said that piracy can help game sales, via the discovery and promotional effects of piracy. But to see game developers actively work together, side by side, with pirates to promote a game, is another thing. This other thing happened recently when the game developers behind the game ‘Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour’ decided to accept help from an unlikely place – from game cracker Voksi!

If that name sounds familiar it’s because just a few weeks ago, I mentioned Voksi right here, when he released a YouTube tutorial on how to crack Denuvo of all things. Voksi is also a big fan of the ‘Serious Sam’ series (and most game pirates are also game fans, it has to be said), and when he saw that ‘Bogus Detour’ was struggling, despite getting great reviews on Steam, he decided to reach out to the game’s developers.

Apart from not targeting the game of cracking, Voksi also suggested that the developers release an “official” pirated version of the game that includes a message at the bottom of the screen to ask gamers to buy the game if they like it. Voksi also put up his own money to provide a giveaway related to the release of the “pirated version”. What is perhaps most surprising was that the developers, ‘Crackershell’ (no pun intended), took Voksi’s suggestion and formed one of the rarest relationships in the game industry.

If there ever was proof that piracy can be a promotional tool, this is it. It’s also worth noting that this kind of story leads to people like me writing news articles, which can also help to promote the game further. At the very least, something like this won’t have done the developers any harm, since the game was struggling sales wise in any case. Let’s hope more fruitful partnership of this sort will exist in the future.

High Definition

Star Wars: The Last Jedi 4K Ultra HD Cover

The Last Jedi will be the first Star Wars film available in 4K

I know that ‘The Last Jedi’ was a divisive film among Star Wars fans, but I personally loved it because it at least tried to tell a different and unexpected story. What wasn’t divisive was the soundtrack, which has been critically acclaimed and was nominated for an Oscar (which, unfortunately, it did not win). Now, for those in the US at least, you can buy the digital “music only” version of the film. It’s what is commonly referred to as an “isolated soundtrack”, where you can hear the soundtrack matched to picture in all its glory. Isolated soundtracks used to be quite common once upon a time, but they’re quite rare now, so it’s good to see something like this, even if it is only via a digital purchase and not included with the Blu-ray edition.

It’a also worth noting that ‘The Last Jedi’ will be the first Star Wars film to be released in 4K format. It will be interesting to see just how well it does on 4K as a benchmark of how the format is doing, since Star Wars film generally sell fantastically on disc and it might even be the best selling disc for 2018, just like the last movie.

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I know it’s short, but it’s also sweet, no? Well, it’s all I could do this week, see you again soon!