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

Yearly News Roundup – 2019

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

And just like that, 2019 is nearly over. Or maybe already over by the time I post this because, a) this thing took longer than I expected to finish, and/or b) you live on one of the Line Islands and you’ve reached 2020 earlier than everyone else on the planet.

So I guess this is as good a time as any to review 2019 and summarise everything that has happened over the last year. Or at least the things that I can remember right now.

And don’t forget to enter our 20th anniversary competition, where you can win some cool prizes simply by finding a codeword that we’ve hidden in a news article, or maybe even in this very article ūüėČ

As with our usual “weekly” roundups, let’s start with the copyright stuff.

Copyright

Torrenting is down as expected, but that’s not because of the effectiveness of all the anti-torrenting laws and measures, but because people have moved onto other ways to get their piracy fix. Piracy streaming is now the go-to for people because streaming technology and people’s broadband speeds have improved to the point where HD streaming is possible and easy. Direct downloads are also making a comeback via private forums and chat groups, encrypted and password-protected download links, coupled with decent download speeds even for free hosting services. The downloader benefits from these two methods because they’re largely free from monitoring, and there’s little chance of a nasty email from your IPS informing you that you’ve been caught.

Streaming piracy has become even more popular in 2019

The response from the other side? Sites continue to get taken down, operators sued, new laws passed. So basically the same old, same old game of whack-a-mole.

With access to even faster download speeds, Blu-ray rips and 4K downloads, once the domain of the most hardcore due to their 25 to 100 GB downloads, will become more popular. At least for those that are still bothering to download stuff.

High Definition

Unless you’re somehow immune to our cross-promotional efforts, you should know that we now have our own YouTube channel. We’ve taken everything we’ve learned over the years to focus on the niche of 4K upscaled (and sometimes, native 4K) content, mostly trailers, but also behind-the-scene clips and even music videos of our own creation. I can confidently say that our 4K uploads are some of the best you’ll see on YouTube, and that’s largely down to the effort we take to upscale the content from the best possible sources. None of this ripping from a muddy YouTube HD upload and then doing a simple bilinear 4K upscale, with so-called 4K uploads looking worse than the original HD version.

You can’t expect quality upscaled 4K if you’re not working from a pristine source

We’ve also learned a lot about not just how YouTube works (and how channels that focus on quality often lose out to channels that focus on speed), but also how the whole trailers game works (it’s way way more complicated than what I originally thought – there’s a real art to how to best promote a movie, and some studios are simply better at it than others).

And some trailers are just better than others, and here’s our top 10 for the year:

Check out our choice of the top 10 best trailers released in 2019, plus five more notable mentions

Moving away from shameless self-promotion, the home video landscape remains in flux as streaming takes over everything and anyone who is anyone is coming out with their own streaming product (and at the same time, taking their stuff off Netflix).

But the one that has the best potential to disrupt Netflix is probably Disney+ and so far, it’s going to take a while for this to happen, if it happens at all.

The Mandalorian is probably the best Star Wars anything since the original trilogy (okay, Rogue One was pretty good too), but with the first season now over, there’s nothing really on Disney+ that’s a must-see. The other Star Wars shows, and the Marvel originals are months if not years away, and in terms of catalogue content, only a tiny fraction of the Disney and Fox library is on there (and Disney is not in a hurry to add more).

The Mandalorian is the best thing to have happened to Star Wars in ages, and the one show on Disney+ that makes the service worth signing up for

At the same time, Netflix is releasing about 1,362 new shows and original films every month. And while many of them are completely missable shows, many are really quite fantastic. I just hope Netflix doesn’t run out of money soon, because their production costs are enormous and without theatrical runs for their movies, they’re missing out on a potential billion dollars in box office takings.

The current big debate over original IPs versus more and more superhero movies involves Netflix and other streaming outfits too. One side argues that Hollywood (and cinema chains) is too focused on the next Avengers phase or Star Wars, and not giving movies like ‘Richard Jewell’ a chance. The other side argues that superior movies like ‘Richard Jewell’ and ‘Uncut Gems’, both in cinemas right now, just don’t make economic sense when the inferior ‘Star Wars’ is obliterating them in terms of ticket sales. In the case of ‘Richard Jewell’, I know for a fact that Warner Bros. did promote it as much as its other movies (in terms of trailers, promotional clips, etc…), but moviegoers are just not biting.

The question that some have asked is that would ‘Joker’ have made so much money if it had been simply called ‘Arthur’ and was not based on DC Comic’s IP? Most likely not!

So can you really blame Hollywood for being unoriginal when unoriginal is what pays the bills? The same for cinema chains, who will always show more love to an uninspired Marvel film over a film like The Irishman.

I’ve uploaded some great trailers for some really interesting films this year, but they will never get as many views as says a Top Gun 2 trailer or a Wonder Woman sequel. The only exception is Christopher Nolan, who’s original films are more anticipated than even the most anticipated franchise titles.

The other raging debate is over the apparent focus testing of movies, and how it’s ruining creativity and originality. The re-designed Sonic is what started this debate, with many believing that the original design, as bad as it was, would have made a weirder and less mainstream film that would have lived on as a cult classic. A movie so bad, that it’s good.

Spare a thought for the talented cast and crew of Cats, a movie ruined by scarily-awful CGI

But then the horror movie known as Cats happened, and its director Tom Hooper appears to have ignored all calls for focus-testing and character re-designing, and well, we now know that perhaps some changes should have been made. If Paramount can avoid what happened to ‘Cats’ with a re-designed Sonic, as pandering as it was, then I think they would believe that it was a change worth making.

And finally, disc sales continue to slide, as even 4K Ultra HD can’t save physical media from being made obsolete by digital and streaming. I had promised to write our 2018 disc sales analysis almost a year ago, and it’s almost time to write another 2019’s. I’ll probably combine the two together, and I’m not making any promises, but hopefully, that analysis will be uploaded soon. Spoiler alert: Blu-ray disc sales have fallen, not as much as DVD sales, but still quite alarming despite the increasing popularity of 4K.

Gaming

I haven’t covered gaming news as much in 2019, but the three big stories are the continued success of Nintendo’s Switch, and the two new consoles from Microsoft and Sony, the funnily name Xbox Series X and the PS5.

Ultra HD Blu-ray Logo
Sony finally jumping on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray bandwagon

While I can go on about ray-tracking, 120 FPS gaming and SSD storage, but what interested me the most was the fact that Sony’s PS5 will finally support 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback, having skipped it in the PS4. I guess you can surmise that Sony now realise it was a mistake to not include UHD disc playback with the PS4, although they will argue that the cost of the drive and the fact that games are getting bigger and bigger were all factors in Sony deciding to jump aboard the UHD, and BDXL train. While I haven’t found any concrete information on what kind of disc drive the Xbox Series X will be using, but I would be very surprised if it turns out to not support UHD Blu-ray playback.

#Celebrate

On that note, we come to the end of this roundup, and (almost) 2019. Hope you all have a great time celebrating the new year, and may this new year be your best yet!

See you next year.

Weekly News Roundup (August 12, 2018)

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Hello again! Welcome to another edition of the WNR, where we look back at the week’s most important news stories. Or at the very least, the week’s most interesting stories. Or perhaps more succinctly, the most interesting stories that I managed to find in the week. Even more accurate, the most interesting stories that I managed to find and had to time write up this week.

So as you can guess, not a huge number of news stories to go through this week, but quality/quantity etc…

Copyright

Piracy Love

Those who pirate the most also buy the most, according to a new study

When you’ve covered copyright stories as long as I have, you start to see the same sort of news stories over and over again. So it was no surprise that this week, we had a story of yet another study that proves legal measures haven’t been at all effective, certainly not as effective as providing consumers with better legal options. The researchers found clear links between¬†“piracy and the availability and affordability of content”, but failed to find similarly clear links between the use of legal measures and a reduction in piracy, or additional revenue for rights-holders.

The researchers surveyed more than 35,000 people and found even more striking links. Most notably, they found that pirates, far from being no good freeloaders, are actually the people that spend the most money on buying legal content. On the other hand, people that don’t pirate at all tend to spend far less on buying legally. Which is why the much touted plan to kick pirates off the Internet, via three-strikes or other means, will end up leaving the best customers unable to buy anything.

The study also found an interesting outlier in German, where piracy did not decrease as much as compared to the other studied countries, despite an increase in better legal options. The researchers theorize that this may be because German already had a low piracy rate that that there was some kind of floor to any potential decrease. In other words, there will always be a portion of the population that will resort to piracy, no matter what measures are taken to prevent it.

But some measures do seem to work, in that it works to put the fear into those not toeing the official line. Nintendo’s recent lawsuits against ROM download sites appears to have had the desired effect, and one of the biggest ROM sites,¬†EmuParadise, has decided to take pre-emptive action by removing all ROM downloads from the site.

Crisis Force

Criminally underrated games are still being played via emulators and ROMs, but Nintendo has other plans

While it’s hard to argue against the dubious legal nature of ROMs in general, it’s sometimes hard to see where the harm is when you’re talking about obscure games that hardly anyone plays any more (and some games, weren’t even played that much when it came out). It’s true the likes of Nintendo and Sega are constantly republishing old games for release on their newer console platforms, but these are often remastered and reworked, and so it’s not quite the same as playing the original game on an emulator.

I guess it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for sites like EmuParadise to separate ROMs into these two categories, the ones that still have value commercially, and the ones that belong to the abandonware category, and only offer ROMs for the latter. But while possible, this might not be practical, as there are an awfully large number of ROMs to sort through.

I don’t know if other ROM sites will follow EmuParadise’s example and either close up shop or try and become a community about ROMs and legacy games, but not offer them for download. But I suspect more will follow, either that, or Nintendo will start suing more sites.

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And on that note, we come to the end of another WNR. I’ve asked my magic eight ball and it has told me that the next week will be filled with wonderful surprises, not just for me, but hopefully for all of you. Back this time next week see if I’m right.

Weekly News Roundup (July 1, 2018)

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

Welcome to the second half of 2018. My oh my, didn’t it go by fast? Actually, I completely understand that for some, maybe even many, it hasn’t seemed that quick, or even not quickly enough. Which just goes to show that time really is relative, and that we are heavily influenced by our perceptions, even when our perceptions are wrong at times.

What isn’t wrong is that we do have a few stories to cover, and so there’s definitely no time to waste (regardless of how quickly or slowly it passes for you).

Copyright

Roku FBI Warning

Roku’s anti-piracy measures have worked according to the company

We have a trio of copyright related stories in regards, to apps, streaming and gaming, three of the largest arenas when it comes to the digital world. Starting in no particular order, Roku has announced that they’ve succeeded in taming the beast that is piracy on their platform.

Roku has had a piracy problem so bad that it got banned in Mexico, of all places, and they’ve removed more than 400 organisations that have links to piracy on their platform, and who knows how many channels that were run by these organisations. Of course, some of these actions have led to unfortunately collateral damage (like when the Netflix and YouTube channels were removed accidentally), but there is no doubt that Roku is now a much more legal platform than when it started (although my feeling is that people who are using their Roku for piracy are using it wrong, or rather, there are better ways to get pirated content than from a Roku!).

The positive PR message is much needed from Roku, what with the streaming device industry now firmly in Hollywood’s sights. These days, preemptive action is the perfect¬†prophylaxis when it comes to avoiding the unwanted attentions of the copyright industry.

Nintendo Switch

Piracy on the Switch is possible, but dangerous

Nintendo is also taking preemptive action against what the company thinks might be a flood of piracy occurring on their Switch console, following the jailbreaking of the console earlier this year. The Switch now apparently has code that could ban an entire console from being able to connect to online services, if it detects that pirated games are being run on it.

It’s not the only thing that Switch pirates have to worry about, as apparently the custom firmware they’re using the run pirate games has its own copy protection mechanism that could brick their consoles. Apparently, even pirates are worried about piracy, in this case of their custom firmware that they’re selling (as opposed to being given away, like most of these types of things). As with most things piracy related, use at your own risk!

There’s also a risk that when you look at everything through the prism of copyright, that sometimes, you see more than what’s actually happening. This may have been the case with the story involving Google’s addition of metadata on Android apps that, some say, could be used as a form of anti-piracy DRM.

Never mind the fact that Android apps can already use a Google provided server based authentication DRM for paid apps, and that Google was pretty clear what the metadata is for. Of course, the cynic would say that Google would never say that their DRM was a DRM, because that would be met with a huge public backlash. But what Google says is also true and also an important point, is that by adding metadata support, it will allow offline distribution of Google Play store compatible apps. Previously, offline distributed apps would count as a separate entity to Play store downloaded apps, in terms of updates, licensing and tying into Google accounts.

So there’s definitely the possibility that metadata can be used by app publishers as a form of DRM, to restrict the sharing of “unauthorised” apps, but there are already means to do this, so perhaps the Google Play store aspect is the more important story here (as it would open the way for third party app stores to exist, that would be able to sell apps for developers and have those apps work in exactly the same way as an app downloaded from the Play store).

Perception matters.

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So that’s all we have for the week. All related, but all different as well. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (January 28, 2018)

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

Sorry about the lack of an update last week. Apart from a personal engagement that took a lot of time out of my schedule, the fact of the matter was that it was a very very quiet week and there was nothing to update on. Not so much this week though, as there’s plenty to talk. Like London buses.

Copyright

Blockchain

Can Blockchain make digital resales a possibility?

The first bus to arrive has to do with the new technology that everyone’s talking about lately: Blockchain. A new start-up wants to use the technology behind Bitcoin to allow people to resell their digital purchases, specifically movies. The people behind the digital store Robot Cache plan on using Blockchain to ensure that each unique copy of the movie/license could only be used/activated by one owner at a time. And this would facilitate the resale of digital content without the need for some kind of heavy handed DRM.

Assuming the technology actually works, which may be a big assumption at this stage, there’s no way rightsholder would allow this plan to come to fruition. A digital resale market would violate the terms of service, no doubt. And the way¬†Robot Cache may do it might cut rightsholders from getting a share of any revenue coming from such an enterprise, which the rightsholders also wouldn’t like. And finally, allowing resales could hurt direct sales, which again is something rightsholders would be up in arms about. So to sum up, rightsholders not happy!

But let’s forget about them for a second, is something like this a good thing for the consumer? You bet it is! We have the right to resell almost everything else we buy, so if the technical problems associated with reselling digital copies can be solved, why shouldn’t we have the right? Sometimes I feel, as consumers, we’ve been robbed of our rights when it comes to digital content. Just because it was new and different when it first came out, and that piracy was an issue, we lost the right to refunds, exchanges and resale. We’ve got some of it back, for example the ability to get a refund on Steam, but it’s been slow and hard work to claw back what was ours to begin with. So if something like Blockchain can help us get our rights back, then I’m all for it!

Denuvo

Denuvo in the headlines again

Another thing I’m all for is to see if the latest version of Denuvo can be cracked and removed. I’m not advocating this from a piracy point of view, but just as a curiosity given the claims of performance issues that some gamers have raised about this version of Denuvo – by removing Denuvo and then doing a side-by-side comparison, it will finally prove or disprove the theories surrounding Denuvo’s performance drain.

My wish was almost granted, but in the end, not really, as a workaround of sorts have been found for this latest version (version 4.8). But instead of cracking and removing Denuvo, the workaround simply disables most of Denuvo’s anti-tampering functions, and makes piracy possible for the game ‘Sonic Forces’. So while Denuvo is no longer doing what it’s supposed to do for ‘Sonic Forces’, it still does run in the background taking up resources, and so there’s still¬† no definitive answer to Denuvo’s potential performance issues, at least not yet.

In other Denuvo news, the company behind it has been acquired by global anti-piracy outfit Irdeto. This change is unlikely to affect Denuvo’s day to day operations though.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Switch won Christmas!

In gaming news, the eagerly anticipated (well, at least from me) December video games sales data has been released by the NPD, and in the US, it was Nintendo’s Switch that was clearly on top. This marks a great start for Nintendo’s latest console, and sets a new record as well for being the fastest selling console in US history.

When the Switch was first announced, I thought then that either this would be a brilliant gamble by Nintendo, or one of the biggest fails ever. Either people wanted a home based console that they can also take on the road, or it ends up being people’s idea of an under-powered portable console that’s been jerry-rigged to hook up to your TV. I think in the end, most people ended up in the former group.

In the same NPD report, the Xbox One did manage to beat the PS4 to second spot. The Xbox One always seems to have a good Christmas, but it hasn’t stopped the PS4 selling twice as many units so far.

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If my calculations are correct, we’ve come to the end of another WNR. Hope you enjoyed reading this issue. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (January 14, 2018)

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

2018 has properly started, and the reason I say this is because there are actually some news stories to talk about this week. Some news stories, not necessarily the best or most interesting news stories, but you know what, I’ll take what I can get after the last couple of quiet, quiet weeks.

Lets get this thing started.

Copyright

Spotify Logo

Spotify: Good for the consumer, or is it more of the same?

Netflix and Spotify have been labeled as a solution to the piracy problem. To be fair, this label has been mostly applied by the PR people at Netflix and Spotify, as the industry do not necessarily see these services as any kind of solution, at least not one that benefits them. For people who are file sharing though, both do represent a new way to get their content, legally, and in the case of Spotify, for free as well.

But according to one of the founders of The Pirate Bay, people shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security over the emergence of Netflix and Spotify, because for file sharers, these are not solutions but something much worse.

Peter Sunde says that the whole point of file sharing was to decentralise not only the way content is distributed, but decentralise the way it is controlled by of a powerful few. And Sunde says that with Netflix and Spotify, this problem hasn’t gone away, if anything, it’s become a little worse.

This is because the same companies that controlled things before still controlling things now, either through being shareholders of streaming platforms, or because they have agreements with them that sets the rules on how things are done. “The dependence is higher than ever,” says Sunde.

It’s hard to argue against Sunde’s concerns though, but I will add this. Through Netflix and Spotify, we as consumers are getting something that’s a little bit closer to what we want, and that’s a positive change. Because the “dependence” is still there, there is always the risk that we will lose what we’ve gained, but that’s why we, as consumers, have to be vigilant and not simply accept changes that are not to our benefit. And this is why piracy is actually a useful tool for consumers, because it’s something that’s always going to be there to force the major labels and movie studios to at least try and give us what we want, or else we have alternatives. The danger is that, through the loss of Net Neutrality and the invention of new technical measures, we might lose this alternative, this competitive pressure that forces the market to produce better products for us. And when that happens, we will no longer get a choice in how we get to consume content (and at what cost), and that will be a bad things from a consumer’s point of view (and eventually a bad thing for the entire industry if consumers become disinterested).

High Definition

Amazon Fire TV

Google and Amazon’s fight means bad news for Fire TV users

Speaking of the powerful few acting badly and hurting consumers in the process, Google and Amazon’s little dispute is now causing major problems for users of Amazon’s Fire TV device – they can no longer use YouTube! Google has accused Amazon of abusing its market power by not properly selling Google’s range of products on their website. In addition, Google says Amazon is refusing to add Chromecast functionality for its Prime streaming service. It all adds up to Amazon not playing fair with Google in an attempt to promote its own competing products (Fire and Echo range, which competes with the Chromecast and Google Home range), at least that’s what Google claims.

Google may have a point, but the next move by the Google seems a bit petty – they have banned Amazon’s Fire and Echo devices from working with the YouTube app. This seems to have forced Amazon to start selling the Chromecast again, but an agreement that settles this issue once and for all seems to be far away.

The problem is that Amazon is both a service provider (in this case, a retailer that helps sell your products) and also a product manufacturer. It’s not in Amazon’s interest to sell tons of Chromecast and Home devices in its store, because it will have come at the expense of its own Fire and Echo range. On the other hand, if it promotes its own range at the expense of other products, it’s failing in its duty as a service provider to these other manufacturers (in this case, Google).

But Google shouldn’t feel they have the moral high ground on this. Google does exactly the same thing with its search engine and app store. Google has been accused of favoring its own websites and services, YouTube or Shopping, over other competing websites when people search for something related. In this case, Google is both a service provider and a “manufacturer”, and it both provides a service for website owners and competes with them in the same space. It’s exactly the same thing that Amazon is doing, except when it’s good for Google, it’s not evil.

In the end, consumers are the ones being hurt, and again this comes from companies getting too big, having too much control over what we consume and how we consume it.

Sometimes though, big companies get together not to take away our choices, but to give us more. But this usually isn’t because they’re doing it out of the kindness, but it usually means that their own self interest has been affected in some way. And this is why Apple is joining the Alliance for Open Media to push the AOM’s AV1 video format, not because they truly want an open format, but because if AV1 succeeds, it will mean less royalty payments going forward for them (although Apple may already receive royalties due to patents owned by them from HEVC, AV1’s main competition, they will probably still end up paying less if a truly open format becomes mainstream).

For those who like to tinker around with video stuff, having another format like AV1 is great news. It’s still early days though, as hardware support (for both encoding and decoding) is severely lacking. For consumers, it probably doesn’t mean much – the money saved by companies not having to pay HEVC will not get passed down to us. And companies most likely won’t be able to escape HEVC completely, because too many applications already use it.

Sorry to go all cynical on you in this week’s WNR, but I definitely didn’t intend to go this way at the start, but that’s where we ended up. Funny how these things work.

Gaming

I’ll try to remove the cynicism from the next story though, even though there are obvious places where one can insert a eye roll or two. Unlike with the PS3, Sony has been very open to releasing sales data for the PS4 (I wonder why that is *rolleyes*), and it’s announced that 74 million PS4s have now been sold, making it the 10th best selling console of all time.

Nintendo Switch

The Switch is selling better than the Wii at the same stage

Despite these healthy numbers, and a very good holiday sales period (5.9 million PS4s sold around the world), most of the positive news stories has been focused on Nintendo’s Switch, which has sold more than 10 million units in just 10 months. It’s selling faster than the Wii was selling, and if it lasts, it could outsell the PS4 eventually. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the PS4 is already more than 4 years old!

As for Microsoft, they’ve been keeping pretty quiet on the Xbox One sales figures (and I wonder why that is *rolleyes*), only saying that sales are above their expectations, whatever that means. By all estimates, it’s selling half as many boxes as the PS4. So not as bad as the Wii U (21st best selling console of all time), but definitely not in the Xbox 360’s league (7th best selling console of all time). The Xbox One is currently estimated to be the 14th best selling console of all time, according to VGChartz.

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And with that, we come to the end of another WNR. See you next week when I promise to be far less cynical!