Archive for the ‘Nintendo Wii, Wii U, Switch’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (January 15, 2017)

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Another pretty slow week, which wasn’t what I was expecting after CES, but I guess most of the stuff happened last week, not this week. So it’s pretty much a gaming only edition of the WNR this week, thanks largely to our first and main story …

Gaming

Which is all the stuff we learned about the Nintendo Switch from the special press event that was kind of the official launch event for Nintendo’s new console.

We learned that the Switch’s retail price will be $299.99, which took some by surprise as being on the high side. Add to that the high cost of accessories (thankfully, most of them being completely optional to the full enjoyment of the Switch), for example $79.99 for a spare Joy-Con controller (some games will need 2 more of these in addition to the 2 included with the console for multiplayer), it left others wondering if the Switch can compete with the PS4 and Xbox One, both of which have the same entry price point.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch may be $299.99, but it does come with a lot of innovation

But then others argued that with what you’re getting – a console that’s also a tablet, that can do local multiplayer without any other additional purchases, plus a dock for the TV – it’s actually not bad value. The high price of the simple looking Joy-Con controller (which plugs into the side of the console/tablet to become the Switch’s main controllers in single player mode) is also due to the fact that it includes a object sensing camera, as well as the oblig motion sensing capabilities, that enables some innovative game play with the announced ‘1-2 Switch’ and ‘Arms’ games.

Other things we learned include the expected battery life of 2.5 to 6.5 hours depending on the game, and how the console charges via USB-C (and can be played when charging).

Controversially, Nintendo is going down the paid route with regards to online services. The Switch will be launching with a free online service, but it will become a paid one later in 2017.

As for games, Super Mario Odyssey will launch later in 2017 and is set to feature levels based on the real world for the first time. Over 80 other games are in development by Nintendo and third party studios, the company announced.

Overall, the response to the Switch was both positive and negative. In regards to the console itself and all the innovation that comes with it, it was received very positively. The pricing and the announcement of a paid for online service didn’t go down to well, but only time will tell if gamers, and not critics, feel the same way about the Switch.

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

The PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro helped Sony win December’s US NPD results, but the Xbox One won the second half of 2016

Before the Switch comes on on March 3, we still have a couple of months where the Xbox One and PS4 have a free go in the marketplace. For the important month of December, it was the PS4 that beat the Xbox One in sales (in the US) according to the a statement from Sony. Microsoft still managed to find positives by announcing that the Xbox One had its best ever month in December 2016, and that it was the only console that managed to grow year-on-year, meaning the PS4 did less well in December 2016 than in December 2015.

Xbox One sales in the US managed to beat PS4 sales for the second half of 2016, which suggests that the launch of the Xbox One S really did help Microsoft, well not quite turn things around, but at least made it more competitive to the PS4.

The full NPD report comes out next week.

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That’s that for this slow week. Hope you enjoyed reading. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (November 20, 2016)

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Welcome to another week here on the Weekly News Roundup. Hope everything’s been well? Having Trump-tastically good week or a Trump-sasterously bad one? Having a nice Trump-eekend, on a nice Trump-day (every day is a Trump-day)? Sorry, but we’ve been forced to make some changes here at WNR HQ by President-Elect Trump, so this is how things are now.

It was a good week in terms of news though, in that there were some interesting ones and ones that are away from the usual copyright related bore-fest that fills the WNR all far too often.

Copyright

HDMI Connector

Sony’s buggy firmware, or did HDMI’s nasty DRM HDCP strike again?

I know it’s kind of weird to continue on from the last sentence by bringing you a copyright related story, but this one actually has a little bit of everything in relation to what we usually cover here in the WNR. The new super duper 4K PS4 Pro (gaming – check!) has hit a snatch thanks to a potentially buggy firmware update, that, possibly due to annoying DRM (copyright – check!), causes the console to output nothing but a blank screen (digital video – check!).

Those with selected TVs (especially the older, but 4K variety) and who intend to upgrade to 4.05 may need to hold off (4.06 is out, but it doesn’t fix this issue), or follow the workaround I linked to in the news story, as a potential bug in the HDMI copy protection scheme HDCP may be causing a blank display for some. The workaround involves going into the PS4’s Safe Mode and changing the output to HDMI 1.4, or turning off HDCP entirely.

A proper fix in the form of another firmware update is expected to hit the PS4 eventually, so it’s a good thing that the PS4 allows you to turn off HDCP (primarily used to capture gaming footage), even though this means you’ll not be able to play most videos (Blu-ray, Netflix, etc…) due to the fact that Hollywood is extremely paranoid.

High Definition

You still won’t be able to play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies on the PS4 Pro though, because Sony missed a really big opportunity to market the PS4 Pro as the ultimate 4K machine, not just for gaming, but also for video (that is, until the Xbox One Scorpio arrives). I can understand if Sony wanted to remain more profitable (or less lossy) by not including a new UHD drive in the PS4 Slim, but it just doesn’t make much sense to skip it for the PS4 Pro, especially considering Sony the studio is actually quite active in releasing movies on Ultra HD Blu-ray, and that Sony the consumer electronics firm is bit lacking in the Ultra HD Blu-ray standalone department.

Ultra HD Blu-ray Logo

Ultra HD Blu-ray is a hit with consumers …

And it’s a shame, because UHD Blu-ray actually appears to be doing quite well, better than Blu-ray was at the same time in its release cycle. Over 1 million UHD discs have already been sold in the U.S., and that’s before the format has had its first Holiday sales season even.

For those that follows my weekly Blu-ray/DVD sales analysis, it’s easy to see that studios have (for the most part – Disney, I’m looking at you!) embraced Ultra HD Blu-ray – most new releases, even some you might consider as minor ones, are getting the UHD treatment, many also getting HDR too. Prices are higher, but not astronomical for a new format. Consumer electronics firms have also contributed by ensuring the premium for 4K TVs is mainly due to the increased screen size (and decreased depth) – smaller 4KTVs are actually quite affordable given how new the format is. So with plenty of new content, and affordable hardware, it’s easy to see why the format is doing well.

Gaming

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

… so why didn’t the two new PS4s include playback when the Xbox One S did?

Which brings me back to my earlier point about the PS4 Pro’s lack of UHD Blu-ray support being such a missed opportunity. Sony’s wrong turn could benefit Microsoft, as the Xbox One had just beat the PS4 for the fourth straight month in the U.S. largely on the backs of the UHD Blu-ray capable Xbox One S. This is despite Sony releasing the PS4 Slim, which many analysts see as a totally unnecessary addition to the PS4 line-up. I can see why Sony needs a cheaper PS4 Slim to sit alongside the “premium” PS4 Pro, but while the Slim and just like its fatter older sibling is a better console than the original Xbox One, it looks decidedly average in value compared to the S. Even without looking at the lack of UHD Blu-ray playback, the Slim is not as powerful as the S, it’s not capable of 4K (at the moment) for things like Netflix, and the S can also do 4K upscaling for games. Microsoft is on to a winner with the Xbox One S – the PS4 Slim just simply isn’t

With that said, PlayStation VR may tip the battle in favour of Sony again though. But the game may change again when the Xbox One ‘Scorpio’ is unleashed.

Whatever happens, gamers will be the ultimate winner as competition between Sony, Microsoft, and come next year, Nintendo heats up.

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And that’s all we have for you this week. See you next week, but until then (and as we’re now legally obligated to end all articles this way), May the Trump be with You!

Weekly News Roundup (November 6, 2016)

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

A new week brings more new stories, and usually something interesting to write in the intro. I’m really struggling today, so I’m going to cheat and skip trying to think of something to say here and get straight to the news.

Copyright

Facebook may be the place you get your funny cat pictures from, but it’s also the place where some get their illegally downloaded music from. And where there’s piracy, there’s an anti-piracy agency sniffing around to see if it can get in on the action. And that’s exactly what prolific Dutch anti-piracy agency BREIN did last week when it targeted nine Facebook groups that have been accused of sharing copyrighted music. Facebook obliged without much resistance and closed down those groups immediately.

Copyright groups and their masters are notoriously slow when it comes to keeping up with the latest trends, and with most of their focus having been on websites, forums and torrent trackers, pirates have been quietly moving into social media for some time now. Now that copyright groups such as BREIN have finally caught up, it may signal the next round of copyright whack-a-mole, now involving social sites.

If the whack-a-mole game becomes too tedious, also expect copyright groups to try and hold sites like Facebook and Twitter responsible for all their woes, anything to actually not have to innovate and cater to their audience’s needs.

So while some copyright groups are busy trying take down half the Internet in order to protect their outdated business model, others are trying hard to strengthen laws in order to protect their outdated business model. Thus the DMCA was born in the late 90’s, when the Internet thing just started to scare the bejesus out of the movie studios and record labels. Since then, it’s various flaws have been exposed and none more so than the controversial anti-circumvention provision.

Botnet

The DMCA has hindered security research and allowed malicious actors to hack devices unhindered

Companies have been abusing the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision to stifle innovation, reduce competition and even cover up negative coverage about the security flaws in their own products. It’s gotten so bad that security researchers, whose job is to find flaws before those with malicious intent find and utilize them for their own nefarious means, have been unable to do their job for fear of being prosecuted under the DMCA. Of course, black hat hackers don’t care about the law, and so they’ve been able to do their “job” unhindered in many cases. As I write in the news story, “this chilling effect may have contributed to an epidemic of hacking and malware attacks on devices ranging from smart light bulbs to security cameras, especially now with more and more devices now having public facing Internet connectability”.

The good news is that the government has finally wised up to the problem, and the FTC among others have lobbied the US Copyright Office to grant a new exemption to allow researchers to finally do their job, without the fear of being sued.

And it only took 20 years for this sensible change to occur!

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Remember Iceland’s Pirate Party and how they had become a political force to be reckoned with in the country, well Iceland held their election last week and while the Pirate Party did extremely well with 15% of the vote (compared to 29% received by the country’s largest political party), it wasn’t enough for them to form government, which would have truly been an extraordinary turn of events had it occurred.

Still, it was a very good effort and perhaps something to build on while in opposition.

Gaming

Wii U

This is the first picture we’ve ever uploaded for the Wii U, which ended productions this past week

Sad news for Wii U fans as reports suggests Nintendo has officially ended production for the console. There’s been a lot of talk about how the Switch is what the Wii U should have been, and there has just been as many people defending the Wii U for what it is – a console that was never going to be as popular as the Wii, but was a stepping stone in Nintendo’s eventual vision for the Switch.

But the bottom line is clear – the Wii U was not a commercial success for Nintendo, having only sold a bit more than 13.4 million units, and it’s been retired fairly early in relation to the typical console lifecycle (it’s only a year older than the PS4 and Xbox One, both of which have easily outsold the Wii U in the 3 years they’ve been on the market).

So it’s bye-bye to the Wii U (and the Wii brand, in fact), and hello to the Switch. Can’t wait!

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And it’s a bye-bye to all of you as we come to the end of another WNR. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading, see you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (October 23, 2016)

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Welcome to this almost all gaming edition of the WNR. I didn’t plan for it to happen, but sometimes that’s just what happens. Just like how moments after I had uploaded the Star Wars Rogue One trailer last week, the second trailer dropped, which I have since uploaded too (H.264 and HEVC versions as per usual).

Anyway, here are all the (gaming related) news stories for this week, two with a copyright flavour, and one kinda big one from a gaming point of view.

Copyright

Denuvo

Denuvo is engaged in a game of “cat and mouse” with crackers

Denuvo, the gaming DRM that isn’t a DRM (it’s an anti-tampering solution, you see, to stop pirates from tampering with the game’s existing copy protection – kind of like a DRM for DRM), has been tough to break, even the most ardent pirate has to admit. But cracks (if you’ll pardon the pun) have started to appear in Denuvo’s reputation as being unbreakable, with some recent high profile cracks for games like ‘Inside’, ‘Doom’ and ‘Mirror’s Edge Catalyst’.

But according to Denuvo, the recent setbacks will only make the anti-tampering solution stronger in the future. While acknowledging the recent cracks, Denuvo says their crack team (pun again unintended) of  engineers are standing by to analyse how the crack occurred, and to patch and improve the protection solution. The company admits it will be a game of cat and mouse, but they’re confident they’ll win out in the end.

For game publishers, as long as Denuvo remain uncracked for the first months or so, then that’s usually long enough for most of the pirates to give up and buy the game, or to move on to another pirated game. For gamers though, DRM is DRM, even if you call it an anti-tampering solution, and it has all the usual problems that come with it (mandatory Internet connection even for single player games with no online content, beholden to the status of Denuvo’s DRM servers to ensure game can be played, performance issues due to extra resources used by Denuvo, etc…).

Not all game publishers feel that what Denuvo has to offer is in their own best interest and in the best interest of their customers though. Take game studio Flying Wild Hog, makers of ‘Shadow Warrior 2’. The game, which has received a “very positive” rating on Steam, has been released without any other DRM included (Steam kind of counts as a DRM). A user on Steam specifically asked why Denuvo wasn’t used, and the answer was pretty straight forward: DRM simply doesn’t work. Other developers from the studio chimed in as well, and all of them agreed that there’s just no point making a game worse by adding DRM. For them, it’s makes much more sense to not waste resources on DRM, and instead, focus on making the game better.

I know some of this is just a bit of good PR, but really, with so many good games on offer these days, it pays (literally) to befriend gamers, and many gamers simply don’t want DRM.

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Bad PR is what Samsung tried to do this week, which was to remove a parody video about its exploding Samsung Note7 phones. The videos shows a GTA V mod that turns the Note7 into a deadly weapon within the game, where the player can use it in lieu of grenades. Samsung tried to use a YouTube copyright take-down to get the video removed for some reason. The video is now back up after YouTube intervened in the matter. If it was a genuine mistake, and these happen all the time with copyright take-downs, then that’s fine. If it was Samsung PR’s attempt at damage control, then as expected, it backfired in the typical Streisand effect.

Moral of the story is, don’t use copyright take-downs to take down content that has nothing to do with copyright infringement.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch can be placed inside the dock to play games on your TV

Now onto this week’s big news: the Nintendo Switch. Previously known as the Nintendo NX, Nintendo finally provided the first bits of official information about their new console (including finally giving it a name), and things look very interesting. You’ll want to watch the video that I’ve included with my write-up on the new console, but suffice to say, it’s a pretty neat concept. It’s hard to describe in words (which is why you should watch the video), but basically, it’s a tablet first and foremost. There is also a modular controller called the Joy-Con, and that be disassembled into two separate pieces – these two pieces go on either side of the tablet to make it into a proper gaming table, or can be used by two different players for multiplayer on the go.

And I guess that last part is how Nintendo wants the Switch to stand apart from the other consoles, and to be fair, it may be something they have to get right in order to have any success. If they were just going to come out with another PS4/Xbox One look-a-like (but perhaps with slightly better graphics), it’s not going to win them any market share, not when the other two are already so dominant. But if they can get the novelty/fun/freshness factor right, and judging by the responses so far to the Switch, things are looking good, then the Switch may very well carve out its own market share (as a device that sits somewhere between your iPad and the PS4/XB1).

Nintendo Switch

Or it can be played on the go by attaching the Joy-Con controllers

But it’s not just portable gaming that the Nintendo Switch will be offering – there’s dock like device that you can plug the tablet into, and the dock connects to your TV. With both Joy-Con controllers connected to the Joy-Con grip, it will act as the main controller for when you play on your TV. There’s also a separate available Pro controller that looks a lot more ergonomic than the Joy-Con-Grip thingy. No real information on how powerful the Switch will be, and whether the dock will give the Switch some extra graphical power to make the graphics prettier on your big screen TV (a Nintendo rep has already suggested the dock may be just a dock, providing power and TV output and nothing else), but Nintendo has never been about having the best graphics (well, not since the SNES vs Genesis days, and even that is debatable, even to this day).

There’s still a lot of information that Nintendo has chosen not to release about the Switch (including the very basic “does it have a touchscreen”), so keep a lookout for more information as we get closer to the March 2017 launch.

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That’s all we have for this week. Have a pleasant week ahead, and see you back here next Sunday!

Weekly News Roundup (October 16, 2016)

Sunday, October 16th, 2016
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Poster

Download the H.264, HEVC trailer converted from a high bitrate ProRes source

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. Hope you’ve been well, but I’ve been suffering. Some of you that are reading this will be well aware of an affliction innocuously known as “hay fever”. A more descriptive name for the condition may not be appropriate for publishing here due to the number of four letter swear words present, but suffice to say, it sucks balls. When you actually get dehydrated from a runny nose, and when your eyes are so itchy that rubbing them for 5 minutes straight does nothing to alleviate the suffering, then you know why it sucks balls.

Before we get to the news, I’ve been busy this week uploading a few trailers. First up was the ‘Rogue One’ trailer, available in both H.264 and H.265/HEVC. The next trailers, for ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ are a bit unique, in that these were sourced from a ProRes trailer (3.1GB!), and so their quality is very nice. Again, these are available in H.264 and HEVC, at much smaller file sizes for your convenience.

Anyway, on to the news for the week …

Copyright

RIAA Logo

The RIAA probably won’t apologise for seizing the wrong domain name

This week I learned that it’s not a good idea use a domain name that’s way too similar to that of another popular piracy site. Case in point, MP3Skull.onl, who have nothing to do with the more well known MP3Skull site, just had their domain name seized by the RIAA, quite illegally I might add, just because of its familiar domain name. The RIAA may have won a court case against MP3Skull, but I don’t think it gave them the right to just grab any old domain name just because it looks similar.

To be fair to the RIAA, the people that ran the MP3Skull website did contribute to this case of mistaken identity by redirecting their previous domain name to the, completely unrelated, MP3Skull.onl site – this might have given the RIAA the impression that both sites are the same, even though they’re not.

Now, I’m not saying that MP3Skull.onl was whiter than white and did not engage in activities that the RIAA might have found objectionable too, but there’s a reason why things like injunctions and court orders have to be granted before one is able to take action. The owners of MP3Skull.onl have never had any dealings with the RIAA in the courts, and so the RIAA had no right to use an unrelated court ruling to do what they did.

But don’t expect the RIAA to apologise and return the domain name any time soon – history has shown that these kind of “errors” are usually never rectified, or by the time they are, there’s usually no point in getting the domain name back.

Gaming

It can’t be long now before Nintendo officially launches the Nintendo NX, considering that it’s set to launch early next year. And as expected, the rumour mills have been working overtime and there’s more information than ever about what the NX will be like. Past experiences tell me that rumours so close to the official unveil tend to be closer to the truth than what you might expect, and the cynical side of me is convinced that some of the so called leaks are completely intentional, and used to build up hype leading up to the launch.

Wii U

The NX may take the Wii U’s “portable hybrid” concept a step further

The latest round of rumours says the NX will be 3-4 times more powerful than the Wii U, making it about as powerful as the Xbox One. More on that later. The same source also says building games on the NX will be a lot easier than before, which might be a good thing from a third party game point of view. Another source, and this one seems to be more legit, suggests that the NX will have a launch price of $299.99, and comes with the promotional slogan “Interact with your game on the go”. This would definitely line up with earlier rumours about the console being a “hybrid”, that bridges the gap between portable and home based gaming. Four (I assume, first party Nintendo) games are set to be available at launch, with at least one Mario title, another is probably ‘The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild’. The console is also set to support 4K video streaming, but not 4K gaming as the console is probably only powerful enough for 1080p gaming (and 900p for the “hybrid part of the device”).

Which brings us back to the expected processing power of the console. If the NX could be as powerful as the Xbox One, and add on top of that Nintendo’s advantages in terms of their first party franchises and their knack for bringing the fun into game, then this could be a very good combo. Or at least this was the case before both Sony and Microsoft decided to up the ante and release a mid-generation upgrade to their flagship consoles. This could make Nintendo’s console the least powerful console again, when before these moves, it could have been on par at the very least with the other two. That’s life for ya, I guess.

Xbox One S

Xbox One S helping Microsoft beat Sony in the US at least, thanks to Ultra HD Blu-ray drive?

Speaking of the updated Xbox One, it may very well be a game-changer for Microsoft, with Xbox One sales beating that of the PS4 for three months in a row now. It still has a long way to go before it can even think about catching up to the PS4, but it’s been a well made update that addresses some of the problems with the original Xbox One, and alsop gave buyers something new to think about. Even better is the fact that Sony released the PS4 Slim in September, and yet the Xbox One still managed to come out on top. This may change next month when the PS4 Slim has a whole month to sell, or if it doesn’t, then the November release of the PS4 Pro could also change things again, but I’m sure it feels nice for Microsoft to be on top, even if only temporarily.

If the Xbox One S does continue to sell well, then the inclusion of Ultra HD Blu-ray playback may be a decisive factor. The Xbox One S is great value for those already on the market for a UHD Blu-ray player, and it makes the console stand out against the competition.

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And with that, we come to the end of another WNR. Hope you’ve enjoyed this one, see you next week.