Archive for the ‘Nintendo Wii, Wii U’ Category

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.

High Definition

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).

High Definition

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)!

Weekly News Roundup (24 August 2014)

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. We have some good stuff in here, including a look at why movies flop, how to prevent piracy from happening, all the video game stuff from NPD to more Wii U misery, and my favourite, a look at if the original un-altered non-special edition original Star Wars trilogy films might be heading to Blu-ray soon.

Let’s get started!

Copyright

The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3 does badly at the box office. One ‘Expendables’ movie too many, too much competition due to other blockbusters, or pre-release piracy to blame?

What makes a movie flop? More specifically, what made ‘The Expendables 3′ a box office turd (relatively speaking)? According to the distributors of the film, Lionsgate, it was the pre-release piracy of the film that was ultimately responsible, and they’re even suing 10 individuals accused of downloading and sharing the movie. But maybe there are more tangible and more traditional reasons why movies like ‘The Expendables 3′ flops.

As one executive pointed out when asked about ‘The Expendables 3′ failure, if pre-release piracy does have an effect on box office results, it’s less likely to do with the actual download (or the number of people who downloaded it, and however many out of these people that will then not pay for a movie ticket), and more to do with the word-of-mouth effect.

Imagine, if someone downloaded a crappy pre-release version of a very cinematic movie like Gravity, really liked it and told their friends. Most of them will most likely go and pay to see the movie at the cinema rather than download the same crappy copy themselves. Even the original downloader, if he/she really liked the film, might pay to see it on the big screen properly. In this case, pre-release piracy probably doesn’t hurt the movie as much (but probably doesn’t help as much either, since positive word of mouth would have happened regardless of whether people downloaded it or watched it in the cinema and then told their friends about it).

But if the movie was crap, like say, oh I don’t know, the third movie released in four years, in a series that’s beginning to lose its novelty value, then perhaps word of mouth will only discourage others to pay for the movie, and instead, to download a pirated copy to sate their curiosity. In this case, the box office revenue would be negatively affected. But isn’t more the case of recycled movie ideas and badly made movies not getting the punishment at the box office that they deserved, because people were not more adequately informed of the movie’s said poor quality in the first place? If piracy does have this kind of effect, isn’t this a good thing for the industry, and for moviegoers, to force studios to be more competitive and to be more creative in coming up with the kind of movies that we, their customers, actually want? Hmm …

This is why financial losses due to pre-release piracy is hard to calculate. There are just too many reasons why a movie might flop, like competition (“Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, for example), the aforementioned franchise-fatigue, bad reviews, poor marketing, or even a misleading trailer, might all be reasons for the flop. Blaming piracy is easy though. Too easy!

One show that won’t be blaming piracy, mainly because almost no one is pirating it, is John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight news satire show. And there’s a very good reason why people don’t pirate it – it’s available on YouTube, even here in Australia, for free! Australia’s Gizmodo says, and I fully agree, that because of this, the show and its distributors, HBO, should be applauded for making content so easy to access, and the growing popularity of the show means HBO won’t be losing much in the process anyway.

High Definition

Star Wars on Blu-ray

Will we ever see the original unmodified Star Wars trilogy on Blu-ray?

Speaking of HBO, the premium cable channel may soon look towards Netflix for inspiration, as its HBO Go app may soon add other network’s shows to its original programming (kind of what Netflix has done, but in reverse). Unfortunately with HBO Go still tethered to a traditional HBO cable package, any real talk of being in competition with Netflix is still far too premature.

Possibly the most exciting news for me this week is that the original cuts of Star Wars may be heading to Blu-ray! Den of Geek looks at the evidence and tries to see if the rumours may have something to them. It’s a fairly long read, but with George Lucas having sold Lucasfilm to Disney, with the new Star Wars movie going for the look of the original trilogy rather than the CGI based prequels (thank goodness), and of course the clamour for a new 4K version of the film, there might be just enough there to suggest the original trilogy might just make its Blu-ray debut sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed!

Gaming

The July NPD results showed that the PS4 was yet again the top selling console in the key U.S. market, for the seventh straight month. Despite the Xbox One price drop and the continued strength of Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, the PS4 accounted for more than half of all hardware and game sales for next-gen consoles. The margin between PlayStation and Xbox appears to be growing bigger as well, with the PS4 and PS3 combined beating the Xbox One and Xbox 360 combined for the second straight month. Even Sony is finding it hard to figure out why so many people are buying the PS4, to the point where it has them worried.

PS4 with controller and PS Eye

Sony “worried” about the success of the PS4, and where future sales will come from

Not knowing why your console is a success can be just as “terrifying”, according to Sony, as not knowing why it is a failure (yeah, but tell that to Nintendo!). It makes planning for the future much harder, they say, and Sony are worried about exhausting all the sales derived from “core gamers” and don’t know where future sales might possibly come from.

But it’s still a nice problem to have, at least compared to Nintendo’s. Nintendo’s hopes of turning the Wii U into a more “hardcore gaming” friendly console does not seem to have worked, with Ubisoft this week announcing that they will stop releasing “mature’ games on the Wii U. So games from the ‘Assassin’s Creed’, ‘Far Cry’ and ‘Ghost Recon’ series will no longer feature on the Wii U, despite being available on the PS4 and Xbox One. Ubisoft says that there just aren’t enough sales of these types of games on the Wii U to justify making more of them, and the company will concentrate on family games like ‘Just Dance’.

In a similar announcement, Capcom says the Wii U will not be getting a new Street Fighter game that the other next-gen consoles will be getting. It’s kind of sad really. My first home console version of Street Fighter was on the SNES, which at that time, was every hardcore gamer’s preferred console. But Nintendo’s policy of having “no blood” in their games was already a sign of things to come, with Sega, and then Sony (and eventually Microsoft), having no qualms about violence in video games. It’s ironic that Nintendo is now trying to entice publishers to make these kind of games, and finding it quite difficult indeed.

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And with those last few words, we reach the 1,000 words count, which feels like a good time to stop. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (27 July 2014)

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

I’ve been catching up on my list of “to watch” movies, both on Blu-ray, and on my Netflix “My List”. I really wish there was a separate genre for disturbing or depressing films, instead of lumping them all together in the drama genre. It doesn’t feel right that movies as different as ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Enough Said’ both belong to the drama genre (at least according to the IMDb), or that a film as disturbing as ‘Blue Jasmine’ would also belong to the comedy genre. I watched ‘Blue Jasmine’ after back-to-back sessions of ‘City of God’ and ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, and if I hadn’t watched ‘The Muppets’ in between, it would have seriously disturbed my mood (and even so …). Be very careful when choosing to watch a drama, that’s my tip for the week.

(‘Enough Said’ was pretty sweet though, so it was a real mood redeemer thanks to great performances by the late and great James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus)

And yes, I did have time to do (some) work in between epic movie sessions.

Copyright

Google DMCA Stats

Quantity over quality, may be the strategy behind some rightsholders choosing to use Google’s DMCA process over more effective systems

This week TorrentFreak investigates why rightsholders are choosing to use ineffective Google DMCA take-downs as opposed to more efficient take-down tools, specifically the British based BPI. On one hand, rightsholders are submitting millions of take-down requests for URLs that are almost instantly recreated, but are refusing to work with tools that not only take down actual content/files, not links, but also keep them down.

One of the targeted file hosts, 4shared, is using a tool that is now owned by Spotify, that allows rightsholders to request any specific piece of content to be taken down – the tool will then automatically remove all related links to this piece of content, and even prevent future links from being created on 4shared. So it’s curious as to why the BPI and other rightsholders aren’t using this tool. 4shared thinks that the decision comes down to a public relations one. Millions of take-downs make better headlines than say working with a file host that you’ve been publicly admonishing, using a tool that makes piracy take-downs seem almost trivial. Piracy is supposed to be this billion dollar a year headache that cannot be solved without basically giving rightsholders total control over everything, so there is a need to be able to show how big the problem really is, and millions of taken down links will do that. The fact that these take downs are part of an endless game of copyright whack-a-mole, doesn’t really matter, neither is the fact that this does nothing to win the war on piracy.

It’s hard to win when you actually don’t want to win.

High Definition

My recent Netflix binge has made me pine for a private viewing mode on Netflix, hoping that the eclectic collection of films I watch won’t end up confusing the Netflix recommendation system. My wish may come true soon, as it appears Netflix is testing a private watching mode. The current workaround is to have a dedicated profile that you create and delete all the time, which also helps to ensure all the softcore porn you’ve been watching on Netflix doesn’t end up on your My List.

Samsung 3D active shutter glasses

PS4 and Xbox One both getting Blu-ray 3D playback in the next few weeks

Meanwhile, Netflix this week announced that they’ve broken through the 50 million users barrier, with nearly 14 million outside of the US. Revenue was up 25% as well, compared to last year, as the company focuses less on securing expensive licensing rights to films and TV shows, and more on original content.

Back to physical media, Microsoft this week announced that Blu-ray 3D support will finally be added to the Xbox One console, and a couple of days later, Sony followed with a similar announcement for the PS4. The PS4’s Blu-ray 3D support will arrive a little earlier than the Xbox One’s – next week versus some time in August. The one-upmanship continues for these two console heavyweights, which I guess is a good thing for the consumer.

Thus far, the lack of Blu-ray 3D support has been a bit more embarrassing for Sony than for Microsoft, considering Sony’s close links to the Blu-ray format (ie. it’s their format). So the update, coming via firmware version 1.75 next week, is most welcomed.

And if Sony can bring back DLNA support to the PS4, then I can finally start thinking about upgrading my PS3.

Gaming

It’s that time of the month again, and the NPD report for June shows a marked improvement for the Xbox One, thanks to the Kinect-removing inspired price drop, while the PS4 was still the best selling console for the month (that’s 6 months in a row).

PS4 with controller and PS Eye

The PS4 is still beating the Xbox One, despite sales doubling in June for the latter

Xbox One sales doubled in June compared to May according to Microsoft, but they’ve not been as willing to release sales data ever since they stopped having the top selling console (funny that). And so without knowing the May results, it doesn’t really tell us much. The only thing we know is that it wasn’t enough to allow the Xbox One to beat the PS4, and Sony will be really pleased with that.

Nintendo are happy too because the Wii U sold 140,000 units, which is a 233% improvement compared to the same month last year. There seem to be a new air of optimism for the Wii U, following the release of the new Mario Kart game, but it will take some time to confirm whether the recent sales bump is a sustaining one.

So everyone with some good news to report in June!

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That’s all for this week. See you soon.

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.