Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (18 January 2015)

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

Things are finally starting to come back to normal in terms of news, I guess people are just starting to get back into work (earlier only physically, but now mentally as well). I’m the same too, so it’s very likely that it wasn’t the lack of news, but my lack of interest in reading and writing the news, that was the cause for the shortened WNR from previous weeks.

Okay, enough waffle, let’s get on with this week’s roundup.

Copyright

Hotline Miami 2

Banned in Australia, so the game’s makers says it’s okay to pirate

When is piracy okay? When the content creators says it’s okay, apparently. The banning of the ultra-violent Hotline Miami 2 game (banned not for the violence, but for sexual content) in Australia has so angered one of the game’s designers, that he has urged Australians to pirate his game and play it that way (and don’t even bother sending donations or anything like that, just enjoy the game, says Hotline Miami designer Jonatan Söderström).

While at first this seems like quite a controversial move by someone who is directly harmed by piracy, if you actually think about it, it’s not that controversial at all. With the game banned in Australia, it will be very difficult for gamers here to buy the game legally (they can still use VPNs to access overseas online stores, like Steam). With no expected income to come from Australia, why not let fans and gamers pirate the game? It can only help to promote the franchise, and really, comes at very little financial cost for the publishers.

Just goes to show that the effects of piracy isn’t always black and white, and there are many instances where piracy is not harmful, or it can be even helpful in some situations.

The Pirate Bay

Not long to go before we find out if The Pirate Bay will be making a comeback

While Hotline Miami 2 has not been released yet, by the time it is, and if Australians still can’t buy the game, they might be able to download it from The Pirate Bay. “But wait a second DVDGuy,” I hear you asking, “isn’t TPB dead?”

It might be right now, but it looks like the world’s most popular piracy site will be making a comeback. The clue comes from an encrypted message left on the site, which was finally cracked last week, revealing a link to a YouTube video. The video was a super cut of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature “I’ll Be Back” line, thus providing a vital clue as to whether The Pirate Bay will be back or not. The key to cracking the code (is in the actual decryption key, wearetpb) was found in the HTML source code for the page (it’s still here, if you want to take a look), and Reddit user “dafky2000″ who was first to crack the code.

The countdown timer on the site, which counts down to zero around the 1st of February, might indicate the time and day when TPB will make its much anticipated comeback. Not too long to find out if this is the case …

High Definition

Netflix

Everyone loves Netflix, apparently

Netflix leads all competitors not only in market share, but also in user satisfaction, according to a new survey. Netflix users watch far more than other users, watching an average of 7.7 hours per week, compared to 4.1 hours for Hulu Plus users and 3.5 hours for Amazon Prime Instant. The same users also enjoyed their watching experience far more on Netflix, with the streaming platform receiving a 4.1 out of 5 score. Amazon Prime Instant Video and HBO Go scored 3.4 each, cable/satellite providers 3.2 and Hulu Plus was fairly far behind with only 2.9.

Netflix was so liked, that 62% said they would still continue subscribing after a price increase, with 21% saying they were willing to pay up to $3 more. What’s most interesting was that the same question when asked in July 2013 only yielded a 9% result, suggesting that Netflix has seriously improved their content offering (very likely via original programming) in this time to make it a much more attractive and, in the minds of viewers at least, a much more valuable service.

Gaming

The Wii U has just had its best month ever in terms of sales, but that’s only because it has been struggling badly in all the months after its original launch (and now, it’s doing less badly). It’s still far behind the PS4 and Xbox One in terms of sales, and almost can’t even be considered a current-gen console, given its hardware limitations and low sales numbers.

Which is probably why Nintendo may already be well into developing the successor to the Wii U, and it may be here next year. According to the analysis done by Digital Foundry, based on information they’ve gleaned from talking to various people, the console is much more likely to continue Nintendo’s philosophy of doing things differently than Microsoft and Sony. The new console is much more likely to continue the Wii U’s attempt to fuse mobile and home gaming, with the Japanese company linking up with the makers of the iPhone/iPad’s PowerVR chip for new console’s hardware.

Whether it can be the Microsoft/Sony killer that the Wii was, or the “too little, too late” feeling that you get with the Wii U, we’ll have to wait and see.

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There’s no more wait however for the end of this WNR, which is coming right now, right here. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (28 December 2014)

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Welcome to this special post-Christmas, pre-New Year edition of the WNR. As expected, it was a really really quiet week, with almost everyone either drunk on eggnog, or whatever delicious alcohol based Christmas/holidays based food product that’s popular in your region (or just plain old alcohol).

There’s still a sprinkling of news stories, so I’ll cover them in super quick fashion and let you get back to your drunken/overeating stupor.

Any news this week will almost certainly have something to do with the Sony hacking, in particular the decision to release/not release The Interview. In the end, Sony decided to compromise on their earlier (and rather cowardly) decision, by allowing independent cinemas (or any cinema that wanted to show the film) to show it, while also releasing the film on streaming and download platforms, like YouTube and Xbox Video (there’s also a rumor that Netflix may be interested in purchasing the rights to the film).

The Interview poster

The mishandling of The Interview’s release has been more damaging than the hack itself. Well, maybe not …

I’m still not 100% convinced North Korea was actually behind the hack (many others have similar doubts), and so any subsequent terror threats from the group will not be genuine (and there’s no evidence that the group, even if it is NK backed, has the capability to carry out their threat). So the decision by cinema chains to abandon the film, and for Sony to not use its power and influence to force cinema chains to reverse their decision, and especially in the light of all the free publicity the film has gotten, seems all very cowardly and unnecessary to me.

Instead of a win-win, Sony chose a lose-lose solution, and by limiting screenings of the film people really want to watch, even if it’s just to prove a point, the inevitable happens: piracy! Within hours of the film hitting the digital platforms, pirated versions sprang up at the usual places and people are downloading like crazy. This time, many feel morally justified to do so, first to stand up for freedom of speech and against threats and intimidation (from NK, or whomever); second to protest the weak decisions made by spineless corporations. “Why should Sony profit from their cowardly move”, some will say. I’m not so sure that’s a valid excuse though, and this comes from a guy who’s not a big fan of the company, even before these events. So don’t give Sony the opportunity to say “piracy is not an availability problem” because it’s still being pirated despite being on digital platforms without a release window, if you were going to pay for a ticket before or have the capability to pay for the movie, you can find out how to buy the film by visiting the film’s official website.

Hotfile

MPAA’s $80 million victory over Hotfile, was more like a $4 million minor one

So while The Interview stuff is still making all the headlines, some of the other more interesting stuff have been buried in the news cycle. This includes the interesting revelation that the MPAA/Hotfile settlement wasn’t the $80 million headline grabbing deal that the studios wanted it to look like, but a much smaller $4 million under the table settlement deal, with Hotfile agreeing to a $80 million settlement judgement being entered. The bigger bogus amount was needed by the MPAA to scare others into submission, although Hotfile did come up with the $4 million in three separate payments. Probably not enough to even cover the MPAA’s legal bills, but whatever.

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Lastly for the week, and maybe the for the year, Sony has admitted that Microsoft’s aggressive pricing strategy for the Xbox One is making things a lot harder for the PS4, but despite this, supply constraints are still a problem for the popular console. All I know is that both the PS4 and the Xbox One are a lot cheaper than their predecessors at the same stage in their release cycle, and that’s gotta be good for the consumer.

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Alright, that’s it for this abridged version of the WNR. Merry Belated Christmas, Happy Holidays, and see you in the New Year!

Weekly News Roundup (21 December 2014)

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Going for a really short one this week, since I’ve just come back from a full day out and for some reason, this WNR remains unwritten (probably because I’ve not written it).

Copyright

The Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay may have been sunk, but pirates have not be deterred

So The Pirate Bay remains down, perhaps forever. If it stays down, then it will something that rights holders have wanted for a very long time. Or is it? According to the latest piracy stats, piracy remains eerily steady following TPB closure, with a small drop, and then almost back to where it was immediately.

There may be many reasons why closing the world’s biggest piracy website seems to have had no effect on piracy. The fact that there are many other major torrent sites, like isoHunt and KickassTorrents, still operating normally may have something to do with it. The numerous TPB mirror sites that have been set up since its (temporary?) demise, including one opened by isoHunt (which itself is a re-launch of the shuttered original isoHunt), have also helped to keep torrent traffic high.

And even if the piracy rate drops, there’s no guarantee this will actually lead to any noticeable financial benefits for rights holders. I mean, that’s the point of anti-piracy, right?

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Keurig 2.0

Sticky tape defeats DRM (and not for the first time either)

A couple of quick story roundups. Remember the DRM protected coffee pod? The DRM has been broken, and anyone can do it with scissors and sticky tape. Apparently, the DRM only consists of a special ink placed on official pods, with the machine featuring an ink reader to authenticate the pods. Cut out the part with the ink from a used official pod, secure it over the ink reader with tape, and now all unofficial third-party pods will work. Doesn’t really get any easier than this, does it?

The next couple of stories are all related to the Sony Pictures hack (what isn’t, these days). We start with leaked information showing the MPAA’s plans to destroy the Internet’s naming back bone, the DNS (Domain Name System). DNS works because every other DNS mirror in the world shares and distributes the same set of data, essentially. The MPAA however wants certain ISPs to start messing around with DNS filtering, which could lead some DNS servers having vastly different data than others, thus breaking how the naming system syncs and refreshes itself all around the world.

This is all part of the MPAA’s plans to revive hugely controversial parts of SOPA, not by legislation, but through other means. These other means are explained by Google in a new blog post, where the search giant (who recently ended all cooperation with the MPAA, again due to information gleamed from the leaked data) accused the MPAA of heading a witch hunt, which included lobbying state attorneys general and building legal cases, against the company.

This particular feud could get nasty.

High Definition

Blu-ray Revenue Growth - January 2010 to December 2014

Blu-ray revenue has hardly grown over the last year, and may have actually declined

I finally took the time to summarise recent Blu-ray sales for my annual(ish) Blu-ray: The State of Play feature, and I was quite surprised at how poorly Blu-ray has done over the last year and a bit. While declining DVD sales are expected, for Blu-ray revenue to decline, that’s infinitely more worrying for the good old physical disc (2014 total sales so far, with a couple of more weeks left, are down 5.8%, or around $115 million. Now, the final couple of weeks for any year (stats for which will be available by the middle of January) are always the biggest, and it isn’t inconceivable that these few weeks will help Blu-ray sales prevent a year-on-year decline, but 2013’s final few weeks were also big (record breaking, in fact).

Even if Blu-ray sales can make a recovery in the last few weeks of 2014, there’s one stat that doesn’t lie. Of the 49 weeks that have been tabulated so far, only 17 of these had a Blu-ray revenue figure that was higher than the same week in 2013. This is the exact opposite situation to last year (for the first 49 weeks), where only 17 weeks recorded a lower revenue figure than the same week from the year before (and the year before had the exact same breakdown).

A poorer new release slate, fewer “first time on Blu-ray” catalog title releases and the rise of digital could all be responsible, but if this is a trend (and it’s a big ‘if’), then this could be the beginning of the end for physical media as we know it.

Gaming

White Xbox One

$50 price cut for the Xbox One has revitalised the console

While Blu-ray is down, the Xbox One is up, at least for November. It appears the stats collected by shopping insights firm Infoscout were right: the Xbox One won Black Friday, and November, not only in the US and also in the UK.

The win comes after aggressive pricing by Microsoft, with discounts starting at $50 and up to $150 for bundles. And this is all after Microsoft dropped the Xbox One bundle price by $100 earlier in the year to match the PS4’s price, when they removed Kinect and changed it to an “accessory” status (as opposed to a mandatory add-on).

It seems that if Microsoft want to get back into the game, keeping the Xbox One cheaper than the PS4 is the way to go. With that said, Sony hasn’t been sitting idle either, with the PS4 getting some fairly aggressive price cuts for the holidays too. All of this is great for gamers of course.

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That’s it for this slightly abridged version of the WNR. See you next week (maybe, assuming there are stories to cover, which isn’t always true given it’s Christmas and all), and Merry Christmas.

Weekly News Roundup (7 December 2014)

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

A nice and quick one (I always say this, and often don’t deliver), as I’m running a bit behind having just watched the new Hunger Games movie at the cinemas. No spoilers from me, but I thought the sex scene between Katniss and Haymitch was totally out of place, a real departure from the books (yes, I’ve read them!) and exploitative to say the least.

Now onto this week’s news, of which, just like everything I’ve written so far for this WNR, will be completely truthful.

Copyright

Sony Pictures Hacked

Staff at Sony Pictures had to resort to pen and paper after servers were hacked – image sources

The big story of the week involves Sony and hacking yet again. The PlayStation Network wasn’t the target of hacking this time round, but it was actually Sony’s film division that was victim to one of the most brazen hacking attempts yet. Not only were sensitive and personal data stolen, so were several digital copies of new and upcoming Sony films, some of which will eventually be leaked onto the usual places.

The newest update from the FBI seems to indicate some kind of undetectable malware was used to infiltrate Sony Pictures computers, and gain access to the data. There’s still no confirmation as to whether the North Koreans were involved, which is one of theories doing the rounds due to Sony’s imminent release of The Interview, which provides a the less than flattering look at North Korea. Would be funny if it was true, and would also provide a great premise for a sequel to yet unreleased comedy.

Something perhaps a little bit harder to crack than the security on Sony’s servers (but not that much harder) is the gaming DRM, Denuvo. As with every single other article talking about Denuvo, I must make it clear that Denuvo isn’t actually a DRM, but rather an anti-tampering system designed to protect existing DRM (such as the Steam or Origin DRM). It’s essentially a DRM for DRM. After months of it being unhacked, due to the use of a 64-bit encryption system, many have started calling it an “infallible” copy protection method. But those that have followed the various stories on DRM I’ve reported here will know that no DRM (or anti-tampering system) is infallible, and it appears Denuvo isn’t any different in this regard. While no working crack has been made available for games that deploy Denuvo, including ‘FIFA 15′ and ‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’, it seem it’s only going to be a matter of time.

While doing the research on this story (yes, I do do research … heh, “do do”), I did find some interesting information on FIFA 15, and how despite being completely protected by Denuvo, its sales compared to FIFA 14 wasn’t higher at all (and was something really low like 5,000 copies). Publishers need to take a good look at the hard data and decide if DRM (or DRM for DRM) is really worth it or not.

If publishers want another reason not to use DRM, just have a look at Apple’s ten-year legal battle over a DRM they no longer even use.

Gaming

Denuvo

Denuvo, close to being hacked?

Both the previous story about Denuvo and this subsequent one are ones that I’m not entirely convinced will hold true given the luxury of time. The Denuvo story because it’s based on information posted by a Chinese warez group, without any other confirmation as to its veracity. This story, about the Xbox One’s total pwnage during Black Friday, comes from a credible source, shopping data analysis firm Infoscout, but I’m not too sure about the methodology used to derive at this conclusion. Based on sales receipts received from its panelists, Infoscout’s data shows that Xbox One sales accounted for 53% of all console sales during the BF sales, that’s more than every other console combined, including the PS4 at only 31%.

It does seem quite high for the Xbox One, given the trend over the last year, but it’s important to remember that the Xbox One also won BF last year, and that the Xbox One had a very generous promotion going on during BF (and still on at the moment), making it cheaper (sometimes a lot cheaper, when bundled games are taking into account) than the PS4. But even if the reported 53% is true, the Xbox One still has a long way to go before it starts to catch the PS4, but this would be a good start.

But in Japan, it seems the Xbox One (just like the 360) is struggling, so much so that the boss of Xbox Japan has just resigned due to the poor sales. It’s a hard ask for any non Japanese console to break into the Japanese market, so I don’t know if a new Xbox Japan boss will be able to turn things around by much.

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Okay, I’ll try to keep to my word and not make this WNR go any longer, although at 800 words, it’s not exactly the shortest WNR in history (which is almost always the Christmas/New Years edition, coming soon to a screen near you). See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (30 November 2014)

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to those in North America, and Black Friday to those that took part. Remember when I used to do a lot of coverage of Black Friday Blu-ray sales here? Back when Blu-ray deals were still rare on the ground, and that paying $12 for a movie was considered a great bargain. Black Friday isn’t as special any more though, and we should have the sales stats in a few weeks to see if others feel the same way as well.

Here’s the news from the week.

Copyright

Google may be taking a hard line stance against DMCA requests that are not specific enough. In a recent example, Google decided not to take action against home and category pages on potential “piracy” sites, despite these pages often providing list of links to copyrighted titles.

Traditionally, Google prefers each DMCA takedown request to contain one specific copyrighted title, and a URL that corresponds to that title. For category and homepages, these not only feature more than one title, they also often don’t offer direct downloads, and only link to another page that has the download. Google is more than willing to remove a page with a direct download link, but it seems they’re not too sure about category or homepages.

You can sort of see why the likes of the MPAA and RIAA feel frustrated in their dealings with Google, because for them, it would be a lot easier if they could simply get homepages and category pages deleted, as these pages are far more important to the site and are harder for the site admins to change URLs for. But you can also see why Google has drawn a line here, since technically, these pages aren’t “directly” offering any pirated content on them.

BayFiles

Bayfiles has disappeared, no reasons have been given …

But just because Google doesn’t think that a page is worthy of a DMCA removal, it doesn’t mean that Google won’t punish the page in its own way. This could be through piracy demotions, activated when a site receives too many DMCA removal requests and all pages on the site are demoted. Or it could be something else entirely, and unrelated to piracy at all. This is what appears to have happened to Bayfiles back in June, when most pages on the site were removed from Google’s index. What is more mysterious is that that Bayfiles appears to have disappeared entirely, shortly after its co-founder and former Pirate Bay operator, Fredrik Neij, was arrested in Thailand (unrelated to Bayfiles, but related to the sentenced handed to Neij in the Pirate Bay trial.

No reason has been given for the closure of the site, and for now, the site simply redirects to the main Pirate Bay website (which still links to Bayfiles). Some files on the site (for example: http://bayfiles.net/img/logo.png) still appear to work, but almost everything else has been redirected. Something strange is happening here, and we may hear more about it in the future.

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LG Android Wear

Digital watch face piracy is a thing now, apparently

Here’s a new form of piracy that’s only been possible recently – pirated digital watch faces. With the hype over smart-watches, there’s now a demand for digital watch faces from the most famous watch brands from around the world, including Rolex, Tag Heuer, Omega, Armani and Swatch. Users can download these faces to their watch, often for free, and they would instantly have a digital replica.

These luxury watch brands that have had their designs digitized, however, aren’t so happy. And according to TorrentFreak, several have started taking legal action against sites that offer watch face downloads.For now, the sites hosting watch face downloads, many of which are original and very creative works, are complying and have implemented ways to prevent future uploads of “stolen” designs.

While everyone involved seems to be taking appropriate action, I do wonder if this is also another example of a lost opportunity. If these luxury watch companies offered a way to purchase official watch faces (especially at a more than reasonable price), then perhaps there wouldn’t be a need for pirated downloads.

It’s all about anticipating demand, if you can anticipate where pirates will be doing next, then perhaps you can also anticipate the next business opportunity too.

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An update on a story from a couple of weeks ago, regarding the MPAA’s WhereToWatch.com website – enterprising hackers have made a browser script that adds torrent links to WhereToWatch movie and TV listings, turning the useful legal content search engine into also a torrent search engine.

The team that released the script, PopcornCab, says they’re actually big fans of the MPAA’s new site (even if they’re not big fans of the MPAA, normally), but that adding a torrent options will help users (even if the MPAA won’t be fans of their work either).

High Definition

Apple TV Movies

How we watch TV in 2030 might be far closer to Netflix than NBC

Is broadcast TV doomed? That’s what Netflix’s boss thinks, and he thinks that 2030 is when broadcast TV (that is traditional “linear” network and cable TV) will finally come off the air. His prediction isn’t entirely groundless – a recent study found that broadcast TV viewership dropped by more than 50% in the ten years between 2002 and 2012.

While I’m certainly a big fan of “on-demand” TV, there is still something quite reassuring about “linear” TV. Someones makes the decision for you regarding what to watch, and that’s a comfort sometimes. After a hard day’s work, the last thing I want to do is to spending an eternity flicking through Netflix, unable to decide on what to watch (until it’s too late to watch anything and I have to go to bed). And finding something interesting to watch while channel surfing is its own kind of reward.

And there will always be live sports, which so far only really works on a linear fashion, although I think more interactive viewing options (multi-angle, commentary, player cams …) might be welcomed.

So I hope that while on demand and Internet TV will take over as the dominant form of television by 2030, part of me still hopes that linear TV, and other “quaint” things like physical media, will still be around by then.

Meanwhile, have a look at this article to find out just how much Netflix’s subscribers are loving their original programming, and this one which looks at the tricky situation with second screen usage during TV viewing, looking at what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to user interaction, lost eyeballs and advertising.

Gaming

October’s NPD results did not provide any real surprises. The PS4 was still the top selling console, and the other gaming companies are still choosing not to be specific when it comes to releasing sales data.

What is interesting though is that if you look at the top selling games data, you’ll usually find that for the top selling franchises, the PS4 version will usually outsell the Xbox One version. For October, this was true for ‘NBA 2K15′, ‘The Evil Within’, ‘FIFA 15′, ‘Madden NFL 15′ and ‘Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor’. The Xbox One was only ahead of the PS4 for ‘Destiny’ (and ‘Skylanders: Trap Team’).

This is a dangerous development for Microsoft, who had gotten used to the Xbox 360 beating the PS3 for multi-platformers. It’s dangerous because it means more and more developers will simply follow the money and make the PS4 their lead development platform for games – this could mean slightly better versions of the games on the PS4 than on the Xbox One, and it’s these “little” things that wins console wars.

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That’s the end of this week’s WNR. Hope you enjoyed this issue, see you next week.