Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

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!

Weekly News Roundup (October 28, 2018)

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Hello again. I don’t really talk much about politics in this blog, or at least nothing outside of our usual niche of copyright and piracy, but with all that’s going on in the U.S, and around the world, it just felt wrong to ignore what’s been happening. It’s clear now that there are people who’s sole aim is to divide us, to spread hate or to further their selfish agendas at the expense of everyone else, and they have chosen to attack anyone who stands in their way, people and organisations that attempt to hold them in check. These attack range from political dog whistles, to statements designed to seem mainstream (but have their roots deeply embedded from a place of hate), and actual physical attacks, which unfortunately, are becoming more common. This is not a debate about political correctness, or freedom of speech, but rather incitement, fear-mongering and irresponsible populist pandering. Words have power, especially used by those already in power, and they can be used to to incite hatred, just like they can also be used to inspire greatness – and when you hear these words being spoken on TV, or hastily posted to Twitter, it’s not hard to tell whether they’re being used to incite or to inspire. History will be the judge.

Stay safe.

On to the rest of this (short) news roundup.

Copyright

Star Wars Galaxies

New copyright exemptions could bring back dead MMOs like Star Wars Galaxies

There are rarely positive news when it comes to copyright law, especially in the U.S, and that’s why when there is something positive, it should be highlighted. The U.S. Copyright Office has followed a recent trend of making common sense decisions when it comes to making exemptions to existing copyright law (well, to a degree that’s possible given the political and lobbying pressure in Washington) and they’ve just made more exemptions that are, well, common sense. They have just given consumers back their “right to repair”, even if it means breaking DRM to do so, given filmmakers the right to rip DVDs and Blu-rays for use in their own film projects, and most important of all, granted a copyright exemption for the archiving of abandoned online games.

What this means that it’s now possible for game preservationists to recreate the servers for long abandoned MMOs, bypass any DRM or security measures in the process, assuming they are able to convince rights-holders to give up the source code for the servers. It may already be too late for older games, even non online ones, in which lack of foresight means the permanent loss of digital code, but it’s better late than never. So in fifty year’s time, it might be possible to visit the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, for example, and play World of Warcraft or Star Trek Online long after the official servers have been retired.

To be fair, I still expect a lot, if not most, of the digital content that are being created to today to be lost forever at some point in the future. Even with Digital Digest, I’m sure I’ve already lost a lot of older content that I had backed up on obsolete media formats (damn you, Zip drive). Proprietary formats, copy protection and other barriers means preservation is a hard task at the simplest of times, and that’s not even taking account the sheer amount of data that is being created at all times, even as I type.

But also to be fair, a lot of that content is just sheer nonsense.

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Speaking of nonsense, that’s the end of this rather short WNR. Yeah I know, a roundup should really consists more than just one news story. But what can you do (actually lots, but I was busy!). See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (October 21, 2018)

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

And we’re back, this time on a new server. Sorry for the lack of a WNR last week, it was just too hectic to do one what with the new servers downloading all the GBs of stuff from the old servers. The migration is going better than expected, it’s been a while since I’ve done such a large scale move and things have actually gotten a lot easier over the years, thanks to a lot of automation. It’s still panic and confusion half of the time though, but hopefully most of that is behind us now, and it’s just the matter of making sure everything still works.

Let’s take a look at the news stories this week …

Copyright

GTA Online

Creating cheat tools in GTA Online, and other games, might get you in big legal trouble

Wow, I didn’t know cheating was so dangerous. Or rather, making cheat tools can apparently get your house searched, computers seized and assets frozen. I guess it is a big deal when it involves a $6 billion gaming franchise in the form of GTA V and in particular, GTA Online, and cheats that allow gamers to generate unlimited virtual currency and bypass Rockstar’s virtual economy could mean real damage to Rockstar’s real currency intake.

The lawsuit is being fought via copyright law, which at first seems a bit strange, but all the publishers are doing it this way, these days. Blizzard, for example, argued that cheat tools break the game’s EULA and the regular copying of code and files by the game is therefore considered illegal copying. Or something convoluted like that.

Still, not too many people will be upset by this because nobody likes cheaters and those that profit from cheating tools, but it still does seem a bit excessive to go after cheat makers so hard like this. I’m sure a strongly worded letter would have had the same effect, but this feels like a show of force to scare away other cheat developers. Shame for the 5 Aussies at the end of it though.

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Remember when torrent news website TorrentFreak was blocked as a piracy/hacking resource? It’s now been banned by Steam, of all places, for being potentially malicious. Just how news stories can harm Steam users, I don’t really know, but Steam is no stranger to blocking anything it deems slightly related to piracy, and I guess news sites (like this one, and this one) are fair game now.

High Definition

New Netflix Interface

Netflix spending heaps on content, but it’s working to drive subscriber growth

Netflix posted some great Q3 results, following the lackluster revenue report from the previous quarter and doubts in the market about the streaming firm’s long term profitability. This initially caused Netflix stock to surge in price, but it has now fallen back to below where it was due to weakness across the whole NASDAQ.

Leaving aside market wobbles, Netflix looks like it’s in a good position, both in the US and in overseas markets. It’s still spending a sh*tload of money on content, some $3 billion negative free cash flow for the year, which is why off of nearly $4 billion in revenue, net income was at a much lower $403 million (which is actually higher than normal).

But the investment in content is worth it as long as it drives new subscribers to the platform. Of course, Netflix would prefer to spend money creating original content than to license existing content, because it has been the originals that have been driving subscriber growth, and in the long run, originals actually cost less money.

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And so that was the week that was. Now back to server stuff.