Archive for the ‘Nintendo Wii, Wii U’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (22 June 2014)

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

How are you then? Been keeping up with the World Cup? I must say as an avid football (or “soccer”) fan, I found it hard to give a crap at the start, but I’m starting to get the fever. Still not enough to get me to stay up at 2 a.m., or to get up in the early morning to catch a live game here in Australia, not even on the weekends.

A quick glance at this WNR and you might wonder where the “news that wasn’t” section has gone, where I cover the stories that weren’t really important enough, but are still worth a mention. They’re still here, but are now integrated into the main WNR below, which works best with the stories we have this week.

Time for kick-off …

Copyright

I’m not even sure if you can still call it news if it happens with such regularity and frequency, but in case you haven’t guessed, Game of Thrones broke yet another piracy record with the season 4 finale ‘The Children’. I’ll leave it to you to check the actual stats (hint: a lot of people downloaded it), but the reaction to this latest non-news was what interested me the most. Especially the reaction here in down-under-land.

Game of Thrones: Season 4

Does anyone still give a crap about how many times GoT is pirated?

So Australians were once again top when it came to downloading GoT, and our consistency in outperforming all other countries by once again lifting the World Cup trophy for piracy is, from a neutral point of view, quite impressive really. Unfortunately, it’s attracted the wrong kind of attention, from the kind of people our newly elected, right wing, pro big business government likes to take advice/orders from. So plans involving of thousand dollar fines and Internet suspensions have all been floated, to the opposition of Internet users, ISPs, consumer groups and pretty much everyone who is not in the entertainment industry or in government (so definitely will become law, then).

Our situation, compared to the rest of world, is also unique in that we have a virtual monopoly controlling exactly how Game of Thrones can be watched legally here. We only have one cable TV provider, Foxtel, and they’ve snapped up the exclusive broadcasting as well as online rights to the show. So no iTunes, no equivalent of HBO or HBO Go (where you can minimize your subscription to just basic cable and HBO – here, the cheapest pack that includes the HD version of the show will run you well into the $80+ per month territory) - just the overpriced bundles being advertised as part of a so called “freedom of choice” (the choice Foxtel or Foxtel). It’s as if we’re the world’s experiment in seeing if piracy is influenced by lack of choice, high prices and competition, and you have to say that results are pretty conclusive. An experiment and set of results that are completely ignored by those that have the power to reduce piracy by affecting positive changes (as opposed to changes that have already been tried in other countries with no success).

Oh well.

No DRM

Are game publishers starting to speak out against DRM?

It’s one thing to try and criminalize those that pirate stuff, but it’s quite another to treat everyone as criminals. Which, according to game publisher GOG, is exactly what DRM does. DRM assumes that the user is trying to do something untoward and then makes that user jump through hoops to prove that they’re actually trying to behave. Sometimes the hoops are so tricky that the user ends up not being able to use the product at all. So something that is only intended to prevent a very tiny minority of users that actually attempt to break DRM ends up affecting all paying customers. The proverbial trying to swat fly with a sledgehammer (if such a proverb actually does exist).

While GOG’s hatred of DRM is well documented, Ubisoft’s statement that DRM simply doesn’t work was, in my opinion, far more interesting. It’s the first time I think a major game publishers has so clearly outlined just how useless DRM is. Ubisoft’s VP of digital publishing Chris Early basically admitted that, given time, any DRM will be cracked (and after that happens, it becomes trivial for the layman to remove the DRM). What is more difficult to pirate, Ubisoft says, are the services that surround the game, mostly online services that enhance the gaming experience.

While it’s nice to see companies like Ubisoft give a red card to DRM, but as the recent Watch Dogs fiasco showed, these enhanced services must be well supported and resourced in order for them to become enhancements, and not just a fancy way of doing authentication and DRM.

But what if you want to deter pirates using something just as useless as DRM, but much easier to implement? How about a symbol for “no piracy” that you can display proudly on your products, whether it be a web page or on the box of the game? Now you can! The Unicode Consortium (had no idea that it actually existed) has released the latest version of Unicode, 7.0 (also had no idea that unicode had versions, and/or could be updated), which now features a “no piracy” symbol. There is no “yes piracy” symbol, but the classic skull and crossbones is in there, as is a extended middle finger that one can also use to thwart off the likes of the MPAA and RIAA. You can view the complete list of symbols here.

Gaming

The NPD stats for May have been released and the PS4 again was the best selling console in the US. No longer surprising really, but what was interesting was that Wii U sales were up 85% compared to last May, largely on the back of Mario Kart 8. The latest Mario Kart game was also the second best seller for the month, behind Watch Dogs, which is impressive given that it was only available one the one platform.

Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8 lifts Wii U sales

Microsoft were surprisingly quiet about the performance of either of their consoles, so it must not have been great news on these fronts. With the $399 Xbox Ones now available, to atone for the own goal of forcing Kinect 2.0 on everyone, Microsoft will hope for a better June than May. The advertising blitz, starring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, should also be hitting screens in the US right now to let everyone know about the new price, although for existing owners, the ad itself seems to have a few side effects.

These latest PS4 results seems to suggest that it is the console to beat in this generation, and Sony say they know why. Sony says that according to Nielsen stats, 31% of PS4 owners didn’t own a PS3, but did in fact own a Xbox 360 or Wii. Hmm, interesting. 17% didn’t own any last-gen consoles (PS2 holdouts?).

These results probably surprised Sony as much as anyone. Which explains why demand still outstrips supply in many parts of the world, including Europe - so sales might be even higher if Sony could keep up with demand for the console.

There’s no doubt that Sony is winning over gamers that were far from convinced about the PS3, both from a value proposition and other important factors such as online capabilities and quality of multiplatform games (better framerate, resolution and things like that). Whereas the PS3 was a (relative) pain to develop for, with online features that were sub-optimal, the PS4 seems to have addressed all of these issues. With Microsoft busy shooting themselves in their feet and other appendages, even some of the PS4′s flaws (such as scaled back media capabilities, compared to the PS3) are easily overlooked. And that price, as they say, is right!

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Alright, enough trying to cram football related terms into this week’s WNR. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (15 June 2014)

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Hello again. Hope you’ve had a pleasant week. I suppose I should mention the World Cup, but as I’m not a big fan of nationalistic, poorer-quality, FIFA mismanaged, money-spinning international football competitions (as opposed to club football), I don’t think I need to say too much about it. I’m sure you’ve been inundated with World Cup stuff from every media and online outlet, so you don’t need me to bang on about it as well.

As per usual (for the last few weeks, at least), let’s get through the stuff that wasn’t quite “newsy” enough. We start with MPAA suspending their lawsuit against Kim DotCom. While it sounds like good news for Mr DotCom et al, the MPAA are only suspending things pending the verdict in the criminal case against Megaupload and its operators, possibly awaiting a precedent to be set to make their jobs easier.

Netflix Verizon Error Message

Netflix shifts blame onto Verizon for poor streaming performance

In Netflix news, the streaming firm has ended their war of words (or error messages) against ISP Verizon over poor streaming speeds. Netflix blamed Verizon for poor connection speeds via error messages shown to subscribers, while Verizon blames Netflix and the way they’ve chosen to route traffic for the speed problems. Lawyers got involved, and Netflix backed down. But the little spat has caught the attention of the FCC, which is launching its own investigation into the matter.

In Gaming news, Microsoft’s Xbox One missteps could cost the company up to $1 billion in losses, according to analysts. Just goes to show that messing with DRM and forcing things on consumers can be very dangerous and costly. Microsoft and Nintendo’s woes of course benefits Sony, which has helped the company sell more consoles than Nintendo for the first time in 8 years. 8 years ago was when the original Wii was released, which then went on to become a big hit. The PS4 may not reach the same highs as the Wii (being not as much of a “casual gaming” console as the Wii), but it certainly looks to be the dominant force in this current generation of consoles (which includes the Xbox One and Wii U).

With these out of the way, let’s get started with the “real” news.

Copyright

Is Apple about to launch a copyright smack-down on apps that allow you to download music from streaming sites like YouTube and SoundCloud? That’s the theory according to MacRumors, and it may all be part of a big clean up of the App Store in time for the launch of iOS 8, later this year.

Apple App Store Icon

Apple cleaning up the App Store for iOS 8?

Other apps targeted are those that produce excessive notifications or annoyingly posts to social media, in order for self promotion. In other words, it’s about crushing Candy Crush. Another type of app in the firing line are those that provide in-game rewards for looking at ads and other slightly dishonest practices.

Those more cynical will point to the fact that Apple now actively promotes their own music listening apps, like iTunes Radio, when users search for “music download” on the App Store. Isn’t this the kind of thing that got Google in trouble? I’m not so sure these latest changes is evidence of this kind of slightly anti-competitive behavior, but it always struck me as a huge conflict of interest when a company is competing with its own customers in the same marketplace (that this company owns and operates). Whether it’s Google competing with other websites in the search results, or Apple’s stuff competing with other apps on the App Store.

Speaking of competition, Steam may be getting a new PC competitor in the form of GOG Galaxy. From GOG, the game publisher known for proudly carrying the DRM-free banner, GOG Galaxy will keep to the company’s DRM-free philosophies by producing a Steam-like platform, minus the DRM restrictions.

This means that the platform itself is entirely optional, unlike Steam, and that no online activation of authentication is required. Offline play, is of course, supported without restrictions. In exchange for opting for GOG Galaxy, gamers will have access to Steam like features, including automatic game updates, achievements, and online social features.

Gaming

Ubisoft Logo

Ubisoft looking out for numero uno by not releasing completed Wii U game

You know it’s bad for the Wii U when Ubisoft, one of the biggest backers of Nintendo’s console, is withholding releasing a fully completed game for the console because there’s just not enough people that own it.

While it seems a bit counter intuitive to spend all that money making a game and then not release it, Ubisoft says the cost of marketing a new game is an additional cost that cannot be justified right now due to the Wii U’s small install base.

But if things don’t improve, the unnamed game and several other titles in development may never see the light of day on the Wii U, and instead, may be ported to other platforms.

The problem is that without games, the Wii U will find it very difficult to take off. But without the Wii U being in enough people’s homes, third party developers like Ubisoft will find it very hard to justify the economics of it all. It’s the classic chicken or the egg situation (egg is the answer, by the way).

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I think that’s it. See you again next week.

Weekly News Roundup (18 May 2014)

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

A rather shortened WNR since I was up pretty late last night/pretty early today watching, cringing, suffering and celebrating Arsenal winning the FA Cup for the 11th time in the club’s glorious history. Bloody Arsenal, they never do things the easy way!

Let’s get started before I fall asleep.

Copyright

New Netflix UI

All this original programming does not come cheap – Netflix raises prices by $1 for new subscribers

Having just binged watched through all six seasons of Lost, currently in the middle of an epic It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia marathon, while also re-watching the first season of Orange is the New Black in preparation for season 2, I can totally see how it is possible to use 212 GB of data every month for Netflix. That’s how much is being used, on average, by the top 15% of streamers according to a new report which also says Netflix usage during peak times now accounts for 34% of all Internet traffic.

The same report also found the file sharing traffic during the same peak hours has dropped to 8.3%, down from the high of 31% in 2008. Looks like Netflix is single-handedly winning the war against piracy, by giving people what they want.

Let’s just hope people will still want it after the price rise. Netflix has decided to raise prices from the ubiquitous and industry defining $7.99 per month, to $8.99. But only for new subscribers – existing subscribers will be able to keep their current rates for another 2 years. Netflix says the higher price is to account for new content, but their recent peering agreements with top ISPs must have also played a role in determine the new price.

So is Netflix worth $8.99? I think so, and Netflix will hope others do too.

Gaming

It looks like Microsoft has heeded the same advice I handed out right here a couple of weeks ago – Kinect has been separated from the Xbox One, which means the price of Microsoft’s beleaguered (not really, but I just wanted to use the word ‘beleaguered’) console has now achieved parity with the PS4 thanks to a a new $399 package that will not come with Kinect.

Xbox One Forza 5

Kinect (the boxy thing below the TV on the photo above) is no longer an “essential” part of the Xbox One

This is the second major u-turn by the Redmond based firm for the Xbox One – the first, if you can remember (of course you can!) related to the removal of ‘always-on’ DRM. This latest reversal removes the one last bit of strategic difference between the two major consoles.

It’s a shame really, because I can see what Microsoft were trying to achieve. Being different in a crowded and competitive marketplace is always risky, and you have to commend Microsoft for trying to do things differently, even if what they were trying to do was not what gamers wanted. The whole DRM things came from overestimating the tolerance of gamers to this kind of stuff, and while I still maintain that being able to play games without using discs is a great idea, Microsoft’s implementation left a lot to be desires.

The same with Kinect. It’s an innovative solution, that was kind of staggering around looking for a problem. You didn’t really need it, and to force gamers to buy it at a $100 premium was a bad idea. If the Xbox One launch titles had at least one great title that made the Kinect an essential accessory, things might have been different, but the reality is that it falls into the “nice to have, but not essential” category at the moment.

So what will Microsoft’s price drop do for the console? Even at the same price as the PS4, the Xbox One will still be playing catch up. This is due to the general perception is that the PS4 is a more powerful and future-proof console. It doesn’t even matter if this perception is true or not, but it will play on the minds of potential buyers. So for me, the Xbox One has to be cheaper than the PS4 in order to compete, and without Kinect being bundled with every console, Microsoft may have room to do exactly this. There are still a lot of people playing Xbox 360s that have yet to decide which next-gen console they want, and so it’s still not too late for Microsoft to regain dominance in the key U.S. market.

And this brings us nicely to the April NPD results, in which the PS4 was again the top selling console in the U.S. The Xbox One managed to ship 115,000 units in second place, which would make it the a slower April than any April for the Xbox 360, except for the current one (the Xbox 360 only managed to sell 71,000 units).

No word on Wii U numbers yet at the time of going to press (by press, I don’t mean the printing press, but just the press of the big “Publish” button in WordPress), so I will post an update if/when more numbers come in.

This is all I can muster for now, as I have to go and rest my eyes, before very likely re-watch parts of the FA Cup final relive (this time without nearly having a heart attack). See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (11 May 2014)

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

It’s my fault. I totally forgot to mention the International Day against DRM, which took place last Tuesday, in last week’s WNR. I don’t know about these types of protests though. Most people are aware of DRM, most people are against it, so it’s not really an issue that’s crying out for more public attention. It’s like having a protest day against murder – ultimately it doesn’t really change anything. What will change things is if we modify our buying habits to reflect our disdain of DRM, but that can only be possible if there are legitimate choices. And with the film and gaming industries having a firm control on every step of the distribution process, it’s hard to see it happen unless a company like Apple or Amazon takes the brave step to go DRM free, like what Apple did in respect to iTunes music.

Oh, and Happy Mother’s Day to my mum and all other mothers out there!

Let’s get started on the news roundup.

Copyright

Those naughty Finns. You don’t really hear a lot about Finland in the news (well, not until Putin launches his Finland invasion anyway … I kid, I kid), but it is clear now they’ve all been busy, staying under the radar, and downloading tons of music (and some movies). $67 million worth on average for each person that lives there, apparently.

Spotify Logo

Finns need to download less pirated music, and use more Spotify, perhaps

A study of 6,000 random Finns, aged from seven to 84, found that on average, each of the 6,000 downloaded more than 2,900 pirated songs, and 90 movies. The $67M figure comes from multiplying the 2,990 “works” with the $22,500 per work fine that infamous perennial college student Joel Tenenbaum was slapped with. And yes, I know that’s not how it works, that lawsuits tend to take only a small sample of all possible acts of infringement and slap huge damages on these as a way of avoiding having to prove each of the 2,990 or whatever acts of infringement (which is what exactly statutory damages are used for). But you do have to argue that if Tenenbaum was guilty of $675,000 worth of piracy, then that’s at least what each Finn (on average) owes, based on the result of this study.

The study also found that heavy (as in the number of movies they download, not as in weight) movie pirates were more likely to pay for stuff than the more committed music pirates. Could be a statistical anomaly though, as they found movie pirates were also more likely to be wealthy. I would conclude that wealthier people are always more likely to pay for stuff, any stuff, than people who have no money to spend at all. But I’m not an economist or statistician.

The study also found that “monetary savings and quality perceptions” played a bit part in influencing piracy habits, but you have to pay to read the full study, and I’m definitely one of those that have no money to spend at all (but I’m not a big music pirate, I swear). It would be ironic is someone pirated the full text of the study though!

Three Strikes

Three strikes comes to the UK (becomes four strikes, and the strikes don’t really do anything)

So with so many pirates not just in Finland, but all the other ‘lands’ as well, such as England, Scotland and Walesland, something effective must be done about these dirty miscreants! Or we could just send them letters.

The UK’s version of three-strikes (well, four-strikes technically) does not have much bite compared to other similar regimes around the world. It doesn’t have the French’s Internet bannings, nor the varied punitive options under the U.S. system (which precludes bannings). It only has letters, four of them, after which no more letters will be sent, which I guess means the piracy problem is solved at that point.

The letter’s tone will increase in harshness apparently. Not sure what this means from a British perspective, but I hope at least one of the letters will feature the phrases “careful now” and “down with this sort of thing”.

The total waste of time will at the very least require financial input by the rights holders themselves, up to 75% of the set up costs, and tens of thousands of pounds per year to ISPs. As part of the agreement, the rights holders have the right to kick up a fuss and ask for harsher penalties (a fifth letter?) if this thing doesn’t bring down the piracy rate. Which it won’t.

Gaming

I really hate to bang on about the Wii U, but I had to cover the news that Nintendo has just posted a $457 million loss on the back of poor Wii U sales, the third year in a row that the company has failed to delivery a profit. The company had already revised down its Wii U sales forecasts for the Japanese fiscal year that ended on March 31, from the originally very optimistic 9 million to only 2.8 million – an estimate that still ended up being higher than the actual sales figures of 2.72 million.

Wii U

Wii U sales for the last Japanese fiscal year are only a quarter of what Nintendo had hoped it would be

For those keeping count, and I suspect you’ll have to be firmly in the Sony or Microsoft camp to actually want to keep count, this brings the Wii U’s lifetime numbers to 6.17 million. In comparison, the PS4 has already sold 7 million units after the first 6 months, and the Xbox One will eventually get there by the end of the year at the latest. More disappointing for Nintendo was that game sales, which has “high profit margins”, failed to materialise.

If it wasn’t for the 3DS, Nintendo’s fortunes would have been even worse. Nintendo forecasts 3DS sales to slow this year, with the Wii U selling a bit better at 3.6 million units. Somehow this will bring in an operating profit of $394 million for this current fiscal year. I think perhaps Nintendo is being a bit too optimistic again!

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That’s all folks. Just let me check if there are any other days of protest going on next week that I should inform you of. Hmm … nothing comes to mind. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (27 April 2014)

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Welcome to another WNR. I usually write this intro after I finish writing the rest of the article, and I’ve just realised all of this week’s stories are about giving people what they want (or not giving them what they want). Unsated demand creates services like Popcorn Time, and this week, Zona. It also forces people to use VPNs to access US online services like Hulu Plus. And Nintendo failed to take into account what people wanted when they designed the Wii U. Give people what they want. It’s not that hard!

Copyright

Zona

Zona: Combining the best of Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Spotify and many others into a killer piracy tool

Last month we had Popcorn Time. This month, it’s all about the Zona. If Popcorn Time as the Netflix of piracy, then think of Zona as Netflix combined with Hulu Plus, with a dash of HBO Go, stir in Spotify and you’re about half way there to what the new pirated streaming and download tool Zona is all about. There’s also live TV and sports streaming, millions of music tracks and streaming radio. And even porn! There’s also Android support, and DLNA streaming to enabled TVs.

With a super slick interface, and features that you can’t even get on Netflix, tools like Zona might just give Hollywood and the music industry something new to keep them awake at night. The greatest barrier to mass adoption of piracy has always been the technical hurdles, but if tools like Zona can make streaming and downloading easier than using iTunes, then it’s likely to reach a whole new group of users. It’s the MPAA and RIAA’s worst nightmare, and what was always going to happen due to the arms race they’ve been building against the pirates. Actually I take the last statement back, because the MPAA/RIAA’s worst nightmare would be a tool like Zona, but totally decentralized and anonymous. No one to sue? Scary!

No doubt the likes of the MPAA, RIAA and the law enforcement friends are ready to dial up the pressure. But the Russian based Zona might just find itself in a fortunate position, what with Russia unlikely to be very receptive of US demands at the moment, whether it’s the situation in the Ukraine, or copyright stuff.

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Oh crap! How else am I gonna get my fix of the excellent Review show now that Hulu has started banning VPN access. They’ve not yet made a move against DNS geo-unblockers like the one I’m using, but it may simply be a matter of time.

Obviously Hulu are under pressure from rights holders (well, I mean they’re owned by rights holders too) to stop overseas viewers from accessing the delicious new release goodness, but it appears the network ban has also blocked US subscribers using VPNs for piracy purposes. Collateral damage, I guess.

I’m sure an eventual workaround will be invented to allow people like me a taste of what those lucky enough to be in the US take for granted, or even better, if they don’t ban DNS geo-unblockers at all.

It’s all about greed though. Greedy studios looking to extract as much money as possible (but unable to do so in their most competitive markets) overcharge people overseas or deny them speedy access to content. Then when people go out of their way to try and pay for more affordable content, studios aren’t happy about that either (because in their mind, if 100,000 people in Australia are paying Hulu $7.99 per month instead of $79.99 per month for overpriced local services, then that’s $7.2 million they’re “losing” every month). Except by denying them the cheaper services, people won’t just fork over the cash for the overpriced ones – they’re just flock to piracy (see Game of Thrones and Australia). It’s a lose lose for everyone, but it’s the direction that content holders are always taking.

So. Hulu VPN banning: I give it half a star (because I cannot give it zero stars).

Gaming

Last week I asked if the Xbox One was in trouble. Not “Wii U” trouble I said, but trouble as in losing their dominance on the U.S. video games market. This week, I shall expand upon what exactly I meant by “Wii U trouble”, and it does not make good reading for Nintendo and fans of their consoles.

Just how much trouble is the Wii U in? To say that it’s not selling as well as the Wii is probably the understatement of the decade, but that was to be expected – the Wii was a freak of nature, a one off perfect storm of the motion and casual gaming crazes, taking advantage the then current situation where you had the overpriced PS3 (at that time), and the noisy and unreliable (at that time, too) Xbox 360. So if I told you that the Wii sold ten (10!) times as many units as the Wii U during the second March for both consoles (having both being released in November a year and a half prior), that’s probably not too surprising.

Wii U Boxes

Wii U sales trail the GameCube at the same stage of their sales cycles

But if I were to tell you that the much maligned GameCube was more than twice as popular as the Wii U, again during its second March (and again, after a November release from the year before the last), it does provide some perspective as to just how much trouble the Wii U is in.

In their second Marches, the Wii sold 721,000 units and the GameCube managed 165,000. The Wii U has just managed 70,000.

It’s interesting to note that the Sega Dreamcast was cancelled at the end of its second March, having sold more units during its limited lifetime than the Wii U during a similar time frame. The Dreamcast’s cancellation had more to do with Sega’s financial woes, not something Nintendo has to worry about, so there’s no suggestion that Nintendo will cancel the Wii U. What might happen is that a new console will be brought out to try and get Nintendo out of this hole, and much sooner than expected. A console that could compete on price and performance with the Xbox One and PS4, perhaps, with Nintendo’s own special touches. Or Nintendo could keep on digging and hope for the best.

I know which I’d choose.

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That’s it for this week. Hope you’ve enjoyed this WNR, see you in seven days!