Archive for the ‘Nintendo Wii, Wii U’ 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 …

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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 (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).

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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.

Weekly News Roundup (23 November 2014)

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

A bit sleep deprived today, so please let me apologize in advance for the “quality” and brevity of this week’s WNR.

Copyright

BitTorrent Logo

BitTorrent users are also big spenders

With BitTorrent Inc having just made a major move in monetizing the techology for content creators via its BitTorrent Bundle network, where artists can distribute their content via BitTorrent technology and still get paid, the company responsible for inventing the file transfer protocol (and not responsible for how people use it) has released the results of a survey that shows BitTorrent users are also big spenders.

In keeping with the theme of this WNR, I’ll leave you to read the details of the survey in the actual news report (link above), but suffice to say, it reinforces what we already know about big downloaders – that they are big content consumers, sometimes illegally downloaded content, but also a lot of the legal variety.

People who really love music, movies or games, will find ways to consume them even when they’ve run out of financial resources to pay for it legally. People who don’t download pirated stuff, on the other hand, probably also don’t buy a lot of stuff in the first place. And yet, the creative industries love the second group, and want to kick the first group off the Internet. Piracy is not a black and white issue, and it’s not in anyone’s best interest to simply label pirates as criminals.

And just as pointless and a potentially dangerous course of action would be the censorship option. An option that has been tried elsewhere with little success (considering how easy it is for anyone serious about pirating to circumvent the block), but still an option that Australia’s government may put into action soon. The only pirates that censorship stops are those that that technically inept, and I would assume that these users are the definition of the casual, infrequent downloader.

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So while censorship may stop a few downloaders in Australia, it will not stop the frequent downloaders, which may very well be the same type of users that are also accessing legal services like Netflix. A recent Sandvine report found that, in the case of one fixed network in Australia, 2.5% of users were already accessing Netflix, despite the service not being officially available yet. This situation will change soon though, with Netflix officially landing downunder (and in New Zealand) in March 2015.

The introduction of Netflix (officially) in Australia could very well be the catalyst for a major reduction in piracy here though, but if the government can get their censorship regime in place before then, you just know they will spin any reductions on their useless actions, rather than proper consumer-led solutions like Netflix.

New Netflix UI

Netflix: All your bandwidth are belong to us

Going back to the Sandvine report on bandwidth usage, Netflix’s share of peak download traffic in North America grew, slightly, compared to the last report six months ago. It now accounts for nearly 35% of peak downloads, up from 34%. Amazon Instant Video, the second most popular SVOD provider, only accounted for 2.6% of traffic – and even this was up dramatically from 18 months ago. HBO Go continues to lag behind all the other services, with it being only 1% of traffic – HBO’s standalone streaming product can’t come sooner for HBO if it wants to catch up.

Sandvine also found that filesharing’s share of the bandwidth pie continues to fall in most regions around the world, with the losses become gains for services like Netflix. Nothing to do with website blocking, three strikes, or people being sued.

Netflix’s growing dominance is becoming a big worry for TV networks. So much so that Nielsen, the ratings people, will start tracking Netflix and other streaming usage so they can provide networks with a clearer view of how Netflix may be hurting their viewing figures. Considering that a lot of Netflix’s content comes from networks, this could mean higher licensing fees being charged to Netflix, which could also lead to less content (or more delays to releases). The fight between the old and the new continues.

Gaming

Walmart "cheap" PS4

Walmart selling $90 PS4s?

I don’t want to do too much on the NPD while being sleep deprived, so I’ll leave most of it for next week, but I just wanted to mention that, according to the NPD, Wii U sales have risen 47% since last year. While this may sound impressive, considering how poorly the Wii U was doing this time last year, it may not be so impressive after all. But with a release of a few more first-party must-have titles, like Mario Kart, and with prices dropping enough to make it a good choice for the budget conscious, it’s only natural that the Wii U’s popularity will grow. Will it be enough to keep Nintendo out of trouble financially, hard to say really.

The real problem for the Wii U is that the PS4 and the Xbox One are also getting better in the value stakes, with aggressive competition forcing down prices. Of course, there are also other factors that are allowing people to pay less for these two top consoles: fraud! Apparently, people are setting up fake Amazon Marketplace listings for impossibly cheap PS4s (like $89.99 cheap), and getting Walmart to price match based on their online price matching policy.

Walmart unfortunately did not clue up fast enough, and a few people did manage to grab a few cheap PS4s before Walmart bought down the ban hammer on Amazon Marketplace price matching. For what you’re getting, $400 is not that much, so I’d definitely recommend paying the normal sales price before contemplating this or other similar methods (which could land you in big trouble).

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Actually, the WNR wasn’t as short as I thought it would be, ramblings of a sleep deprived mad man as it may very well be. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (9 November 2014)

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

Am I the only one who got pretty excited about the GTA V first person experience video? GTA V has always been a third person game, but adding a first person mode might elevate the game to a whole new level. I’m not sure the driving elements would be improved by a first person mode, but it would definitely make the shooting parts a whole new experience, and could make it rival other more well known FPS games. One more piece of evidence that the PS4/XB1/PC version of the game is going to be awesome.

Let’s get started with this week’s WNR.

Copyright

Google Auto-complete BitTorrent

Will Hollywood take on Google by making their own “piracy-free” search engine?

If you can’t change them, erm, beat them? Could movie studios, tired of demanding Google “do the right thing” and start censoring its own search results for other’s commercial interests, start their own search engine instead? Disney’s latest patent seems to suggest so, although patents being what they are, it could all be fairly meaningless. Still, even if the studios had plans to launch their own search engine, who would actually use it? Especially when, based on the patent filings, the search engine will demote not only piracy sites, but also sites that aren’t owned by the studios themselves (including the IMDb and Wikipedia). It all seems a bit silly to me, but again a patent application could just be one of those things that you throw out there in the small chance that one day you might get something back from it, not a sign of any real intent to take on the likes of Google and, erm, Bing, I guess. Okay, I admit, they may have a shot at beating Bing, but you know, still kinda pointless.

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It’s that time of the year again and the EFF has filed submissions for DMCA exemption, specifically exemptions for certain cases where removing DRM would, under current laws, be illegal. Yet all these cases would still fall under fair use. This conundrum comes via the fact that the DMCA has a specific clause that outlaws all DRM circumvention, regardless of whether it falls under fair use or not. This means the EFF and other groups like it have to apply for exemptions every year (since these exemptions expire), or otherwise the DMCA could be used to strip away consumer fair use rights by corporations intent on controlling everything.

New this year is in-car software and the DRM that comes along with that. If used maliciously, in-car DRM could prevent non authorised repair and modification, thus locking car owners to service centers owned by the car manufacturer or dealer.

Public Knowledge - "Legal DVD Ripping" alternative

Can the EFF succeed in making DVD and Blu-ray ripping legal?

The EFF also wants gamers to be able to hack old and abandoned games to make them playable, even if it means removing copyright protection. Games that require online interaction, for example, might need to be hacked to point to new unofficial servers to keep the game going, when the publisher has given up on it already.

While these two exemptions might be granted, there are a few submissions that are more pie-in-the-sky. Like the attempt to make DVD and Blu-ray ripping legal, or allowing the DRM of streaming service like Netflix to be circumvented. Don’t think this is going to happen, not if the MPAA has anything to say about it (and they do, via their own submissions).

But you never know, and I wish the EFF luck in their pursuit of (consumer) freedom.

While the EFF’s (and the MPAA’s) actions on changes to the DMCA are mostly public, what’s not so public are the MPAA’s lobbying efforts on lawmakers in Washington. While the law calls on the MPAA and other groups to disclose the general topics of their lobbying efforts, the exact nature and detail of their lobbying efforts do not have to be disclosed. But from the MPAA’s latest lobbying disclosure forms, we can see that they’ve been particularly busy trying talking to politicians on the issues of Net Neutrality and an Internet tax.

While we can’t actually confirm for sure the MPAA’s position on these issues, one can make quite an intelligent guess at just how the MPAA could benefit from these two issues. First for an Internet tax, the benefits are obvious, especially when you consider that the Internet tax is also sometimes known as a piracy tax. Imagine a tax of a dollar on every GB of data you download (regardless of whether the download was legal or not), with most of that money going to rights holders like the MPAA, could be a very easy way to get your claws into the new Net economy without actually having to innovate. All in the name of fighting piracy, of course.

As for Net Neutrality, imagine if ISPs were allowed to throttle down your BitTorrent traffic (or even Netflix), in favour of MPAA approved distribution methods like UltraViolet. Wouldn’t that be nice? And again, all in the name of fighting piracy, of course.

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Windows 10

Windows 10 will play MKV files and those encoded with HEVC natively

Windows 10 is set to be a lot more HD video friendly thanks to the announcement that it will have native MKV and HEVC support. Windows Media Player in Windows 10 will be able to handle these formats without the need to install third party codecs, which is a win for users, but perhaps more importantly, for the HEVC format (which seems to already have secured its status as the industry standard codec, despite HEVC downloads being relatively rare at the moment).

Those of us who want a little bit more control over just how we play our videos might still rely on codec packs, VLC, MPC-HC and other similar tools, but for many, being able to play a video without having to install anything will be very attractive.

Gaming

Nintendo’s upcoming new 3DS console, schedule to be released in 2015, will still be region-locked. But to be fair, Nintendo did offer a pretty good explanation as to why region-locking is still needed today. In short, it’s more to do with marketing, licensing and localisation. Now, you may not believe this excuse, but Nintendo did offer a glimpse of hope by acknowledging that region-free is good for the consumer, and also be a benefit to themselves. But until the aforementioned problems gets solved, the new 3DS remain region-locked.

The Xbox One is already getting a temporary $50 discount for the holidays, but a permanent discount may also be on the way once Microsoft moves from its APU from a 28nm process to a 20nm one. In other words, once Microsoft can reduce the sizes of its processor, it could also reduce power requirements, which also means reductions to heat management – all of this will eventually lead to a “Xbox One Slim”, which will probably be cheaper to manufacture and be more efficient at the same time.

With that said, Sony will be working on something similar as well. So it bodes well for gamers. Both the PS4 and Xbox One are terrific value already, so cheaper versions will be even better!

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I think that’s it for this week. See you again soon.

Weekly News Roundup (21 September 2014)

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

If you’re sick of the iPhone 6 overload this week, then you’ve come to the right place. There’s only one paragraph in this WNR about Apple’s new phone, and it has to do with perhaps the most boring aspect of the phone. There’s also a rant in there about print media. Fun times!

Copyright

Downloading Communism

Time to bring out this classic poster again …

Piracy losses are translating to higher prices for consumers and is having a negative effect on the economy. This has been one of the major argument for a crackdown on piracy, but according to leading economists in Australia, the reverse might be true. This week we again turn our focus to Australia and the heated debate there over what to do about the piracy problem. A submission this week to the government from leading economist Henry Ergas and the former head of Australia’s peak consumer body Allan Fels argues that the government’s plan to make ISPs monitor user downloads is actually bad for the economy, and bad for consumers.

Their argument is that the high cost of running such a program, nearly $150 million a year, will not translate to anything close to this in terms of increased revenue and benefits to the economy, based on current evidence. And any increased revenue to rights holders are unlikely to be passed on to consumers. In the most optimistic scenario under the government’s proposals, where piracy is substantially reduced, the removal of the need for rights holders to “compete” with pirated downloads may actually bring about higher prices for consumers, and actually end up “incentivizing” piracy, the submission also warns.

If this “incentivizing” happens, then piracy rates will back up again and the only options left for rights holders would be to improve the value of their offerings, greatly improve the availability of legal content on services that consumers want to use, and also ensure things like release window delays are as short as possible. Basically all of the things that they should be doing right now to fight piracy instead of asking the government to intervene, argues the economists.

The most worrying thing about the Australian debate right now is that all of these same arguments have been heard before, and the practical actions suggested have already been tried, tested and shown to be largely ineffective. And yet, we still have rights holders asking for legislative action. It’s interesting that rights holders in the US have stopped asking for the same, at least not publicly, all because they fear the same kind of consumer backlash that occurred when SOPA/PIPA was being debated. Which is why the MPAA this week again re-iterated their lack of desire for legislative action. The MPAA’s Chris Dodd was saying all the right things too, about not “finger pointing at everyone” and “arresting 14 year-olds”, but instead to focus on “accessibility” and releasing content at “price points [consumers] can afford”. At the very least, it seems rights holders there have lost their appetite for new laws (publicly at least), just like how rights holders here in Australia have lost their appetite for legal action (having lost a major case a couple of years back). Well, at least they’re learning (in terms of what they say publicly, at least).

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I was going to write a full length news article on this story based on the attention grabbing headline of “NewsCorp: Google is a ‘platform for piracy'”. Ohh, I though, Murdoch is on one of his piracy rants against Google again, oh goodie. But then I read the article and it wasn’t really focusing on the piracy problem, or the kind of piracy that I usually talk about here. Rather, it was mainly about the dispute between NewsCorp and Google, and goes much deeper than who is downloading what via the search engine. In case you don’t know, newspapers have a love/hate relationship with search engines like Google. Mostly hate these days. They don’t like the fact that Google “aggressively aggregates” content (some of us webmasters don’t like it either), in which Google takes content from sites and sticks it in the search results (with credit and links, but done in a way that makes visiting the site unnecessary – do a search for “aggregation definition” on Google, and you’ll know what I mean). Which is why drastic measures such as blocking Google crawling have been employed in the past to try and stop Google’s content “stealing”, which unfortunately has the side effect of greatly reducing your visibility to users. Pay walls were then introduced to try and make news profitable again, but in my opinion, it only made aggregated content more valuable (as sometimes a headline and summary is enough, especially compared to the cost of paying for the full thing). Google’s argument is that it’s good for the end users, which it is, but it’s also easy to see why some content creators are not happy with what Google (and to be fair, the other search engine too) is doing.

Google News

Google’s news aggregation – good for users, bad for content creators?

While there are legitimate arguments to be made about the content aggregation issue; the lack of genuine competition in the search sector; and issues of anti-competitive behaviour with Google’s perceived favourable treatment of its own products over those from other companies (Google is both a partner, and a competitor, to content creators, in my opinion); on the flip side of the coin you could argue this is just another case of old media not being able to adapt quickly enough. In NewsCorp’s accusations against Google, this interesting passage caught my eye: “For example access to 75% of the Wall Street Journal demographic at 25% of the price, thus undermining the business model of the content creator”. Undermining, or just doing business in a more efficient way? Google could label the same accusation against more successful social media platform, which are offering even better targeting at even lower prices (with Google+ having failed to be as successful in doing the same). But isn’t this just progress and innovation?

As for the woes of the newspaper industry, I don’t know if it’s fair to blame Google, or even the Internet in general for their troubles. To me, if a product is worth paying for, people will pay for it. If people’s expectations of what something is worth has changed, and you can’t re-engage with people again to convince them that paying for news is worthwhile, then perhaps it’s time to re-think the whole business of news. Maybe it shouldn’t be a business at all, but a publicly funded, truly independent institution who’s goal is not profit, but the actual betterment of society and democracy. Then maybe we’ll get back true journalism that protects, not undermines, democracy (via the dumbification of news and the serving of vile populist garbage in the name of profit – the click-baiters of their time – tactics that NewsCorp should be very familar with).

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iPhone 6 Comparison

Obligatory iPhone 6 pic

I suppose I should mention the iPhone 6. Not that it has much to do with what I cover in the WNR, except for this slightly related story about the choice of codec being used for FaceTime over cellular 3G/4G. The use of HEVC/H.265 makes a lot of sense when combined with the iPhone 6’s more powerful processor (which is needed for realtime HEVC encoding/decoding) and the need to reduce bandwidth requirements, while increasing the quality of video calls. Would this be the first mass consumer product to feature built-in HEVC/H.265 support? Possibly, and it won’t hurt the format’s chances to become the next de facto standard for web video.

Which is why things are not looking great for Google’s VPx, their open source, royalty free alternative to HEVC/H.265. I’m sure Google’s Android will be pushing VP10 if/when it is released sometime next year, but apart from the lack of industry support for the format, technically, it just doesn’t seem to be quite there compared to the more polished and efficient HEVC. As one industry analyst said recently, “The industry has already selected HEVC,” and that, I’m afraid, is that for Google’s VPx.

Tests have shown that VP9, while perhaps better than H.264, cannot really compete at the moment with HEVC. Surprisingly, VP9 is in practical use to a much larger degree than HEVC at the moment, thanks to Google pushing the use of the codec for YouTube, and also superior native browser support due to the codec’s open-sourcedness. But with Netflix 4K choosing HEVC, Blu-ray 4K also choosing HEVC, and now Apple also going down the HEVC route, there’s not much room for VP9/VP10 to grow into. Nobody wants another format war, especially one as tame as this one, so the industry will choose one format and just go ahead with it – and right now, the choice is definitely HEVC.

Gaming

As promised last week, more on August’s NPD results right here. The PS4 was again the most popular console, 8 month in a row, but it appears that its lead has shrunk somewhat. Unconfirmed information suggests that the PS4’s 175,000 units sold was just ahead of Xbox One’s 150,000. Nothing official from either Microsoft or Nintendo though, so the difference could actually be much greater than that (especially for the Wii, as Mario Kart fell out of the top 10 games chart in August).

White Xbox One

Xbox One needs to be cheaper than the PS4

More worrying for Microsoft is that traditional Xbox 360 favourites like the Madden series are being won by Sony, with the PS4 version of Madden NFL 15 outselling the Xbox One and Xbox 360 version. In fact, the same trend is true for all of the top selling multiplatform games right now except for Call of Duty: Ghosts. The next Call of Duty game will be interesting, not only is it one of the biggest franchises around, this time, we may actually see the PlayStation become the top performing platform for the series’ next chapter. If this were to happen, it could have serious implications, in that developers will most likely make the PS4 their lead platform (if they haven’t done so already) and the Xbox One version of the same game will suffer, thus causing the sales/quality/value gap to grow even larger.

I bet Microsoft wishes now more than ever that they can have a do-over, so that they would have never bothered with all that DRM crap, and released the Xbox One without Kinect for cheaper than the PS4. It would have made the Xbox One a sure winner, but I guess they grew overconfident and felt they had room to experiment. The same kind of “arrogance” maybe that was responsible for the PS3’s relative failure. The good news for Microsoft is that their backflips have been fast and decisive, and so there’s still time to pull one out of the hat. But the Xbox One needs to be cheaper than the PS4 to have a real chance, and I’m not sure if Microsoft can afford to do it at the moment.

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A longer than expected WNR this week, and sorry for the incoherent ranting. See you in a week (for more incoherent ranting, no doubt)!