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

Weekly News Roundup (27 March 2016)

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Can’t believe it’s Easter already, and here I am, absentmindedly thinking it’s still 2015 from time to time.

Quite a bit of news to go through before we probably encounter the Easter/post Easter lull, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

Copyright

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray

People will still buy this disc even though a pirated copy is already available, almost two weeks before the official release date

Well, it was unfortunate and probably predictable, as the Blu-ray edition of Star Wars: The Force Awaken, not due on store shelves until another week and a bit, has been ripped and uploaded online illegally. I say it’s predictable because, as one of the biggest movie releases ever (and possibly a record breaker for Blu-ray too), there was just no way this wasn’t going to get leaked early, especially considering how many people will have had access to the retail discs before the embargo date. While the official release date isn’t until April 5th, stores that plan on selling the disc will most likely already have received stock, stock that has been made and packaged long before – all the steps on this production and distribution line will be vulnerable to leaks, and for a release this big, it would have been amazing if there wasn’t a pre-release leak.

With that said, will it really affect sales? Probably not. This is one of the biggest movies ever, and true fans will not be sated until they get their (my) hands on the retail Blu-ray package, the existence of an illegal pirated download is not relevant (we might still download it though) – they (I) would have pre-ordered their copy months in advance anyway, and they won’t be cancelling it for the rip. There might be a few lost sales here and there, but these people were never really that serious about buying the disc anyway, and it’s not going to make a huge dent on the predicted huge sales numbers.

High Definition

The Peanuts Movie Ultra HD Blu-ray

As UHD Blu-ray releases go, The Peanuts Movie wasn’t a popular one

Speaking of Blu-ray sales, the Blu-ray sales stats I published this week contains the first set of numbers for Ultra HD Blu-ray, and there are both good and bad news for the new 4K format.

The Peanuts Movie is one of the first new releases that happens to be released simultaneously on Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray, and long story short (actually, story isn’t that long anyway), not many UHD copies were sold at all. UHD discs for this movie were only 0.27% of total disc sales (which includes standard Blu-ray and DVD), or just under 0.5% of total Blu-ray sales (in other words, only one UHD copy was sold for every 203 standard Blu-ray copies, or 166 DVD copies).

Okay, perhaps this wasn’t the best movie to show off the UHD format, and according to disc buyers, it was ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ that was the UHD demo disc of choice. It had a much more respectable UHD sales share of 6.19% (so one UHD copy for every 6 Blu-ray copies sold, or every 8 DVDs).

It’s still early days, but it looks like its going to take some time before UHD Blu-ray becomes a major factor in disc sales.

Gaming

What might help accelerate UHD Blu-ray’s adoption would be if the PS4 was upgraded to support it – and this might actually happen, if you believe the rumours. Apparently, game developers are already being briefed on a new mode of the PS4 that will support 4K gaming (the current PS4 only supports 4K for images and video files), which necessitates the use of a new GPU. If such a major hardware change is to occur, then chances are, Sony might use the opportunity to also upgrade the optical drive in the PS4 to support Ultra HD Blu-ray. It will make the new PS4, dubbed PS4.5 (or PS4K, as I’ve read about it in some quarters), more expensive, but this “premium” PS4 would not be aimed at the budget conscious anyway.

I think it makes good sense for Sony to make this move, and if they do, it would also fill the rather obvious looking gap in Sony’s Blu-ray player line-up – the company does not even have any current plans to release a Ultra HD Blu-ray player at all!

Wii U Boxes

Wii U sales have been bad enough to maybe force Nintendo to bring the NX’s release date forward to 2016

So while Sony (and Microsoft) are all thinking about making their flagship consoles better, Nintendo might be trying to abandon it altogether in 2016. Reports, which was later somewhat weakly refuted by Nintendo, suggests the Japanese company is going to cut their losses and stop production of the Wii U in 2016. The PS4 has sold three times many units globally than the Wii U despite being released a whole year later, and the situation is not going to get any better. But with Nintendo’s next console not coming out until 2017, it’s extremely unlikely the company will end Wii U production before then – not unless they bring up the release date of the NX to 2016.

It’s actually not too difficult to see what went wrong with the Wii U. It wasn’t powerful enough compared to the other current generation consoles, it wasn’t cheap enough either thanks to the price war between Microsoft and Sony. And while it had a good stable of first party games, there were some obvious absentees (Zelda!), and third party support was lacking. It was probably lacking because the Wii U failed to bring anything really innovative to gaming unlike the Wii – the tablet controller is good, but is often underutilised, even by first party games – and third party developers just weren’t excited about what the Wii U brought to gaming (that’s not to say that the PS4 and Xbox One were innovative, they weren’t, but they didn’t have to be because they were superior in almost every other way).

So it’s a bit early to eulogise the Wii U, but let’s just hope Nintendo has learned their lessons and give us something that will either be revolutionarily different and/or powerful enough to make Sony and Microsoft look over their shoulders with nervousness. Plus better launch games (Zelda!)

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Okay folks, that’s it for this week. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of the WNR, Happy Easter, and see you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (13 September 2015)

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Not a lot of news this week, which might be related to the Labor Day holiday in the US. Or the fact that the quota for news stories might have all been used up (during the the very busy) last week.

So this won’t take long at all, I suppose …

Copyright

The Norwegian Pirate Party is ready to counter the country's new censorship regime

The Norwegian Pirate Party is ready to counter the country’s new censorship regime

Norway has started blocking The Pirate Bay, but they’ve chosen to do it on the DNS level, which makes bypassing the filter as easy as changing from your ISP’s DNS servers to a public one (like the ones from Google – this is probably recommended even if you’re not subject to draconian censorship regimes, from performance, reliability and security points of view). And to make users aware of how easy it is to ignore this latest misguided censorship effort, the Norwegian Pirate Party has launched their own public DNS server.

Okay, I admit, this isn’t the most enticing of news stories. But I was scraping the bottom of the barrel, and this story about rights-holders pursuing an utterly futile course of action that sets a dangerous precedent at the same time as having no positive consequences for anybody involved, was the best I could do this week.

That was until yesterday, when I glanced upon this story about a new app called Aurous that’s set to make music piracy as easy as Spotify. Not that Spotify is hard to use, and of course, you can use it without paying – but it’s also not as perfect as it could be, with not all songs being available and no offline/download mode unless you pay. This is what Aurous promises to make up, that and to also be pain in the ass for the music industry.

Aurous

Aurous wants to make music piracy easier than using Spotify

The early alpha versions of Aurous, available on pretty much all the major platforms including mobile ones, is still lacking many of the features that makes Spotify really cool – like discovery and radios, so from a usability perspective, Spotify does still have a few cards up its sleeve, even for the free version.

And there’s the “good enough” factor to consider. While Spotify may not be perfect, it might be “good enough” for most people to not have to bother going down the piracy route, even with something as easy to use as Aurous. The same cannot be said for movies and TV shows – as good as Netflix is, it just doesn’t have most of things you want to watch. This is why Popcorn Time, a similar concept except for video content, is such a hit and such a disruptive force for the industry, whereas Aurous may never achieve the same effect (and notoriety).

High Definition

Speaking of offline/download mode, and following last week story about Amazon Prime adding this feature to its streaming service, Netflix has responded this week by confirming that they’re not considering adding the same feature.

New Netflix UI

No offline mode coming, says Netflix

But I’m not sure I buy their reason for not adding this feature, which is that while users want the feature, most won’t use it because it’s too complex (since users will have to manage local storage, queue downloads, you lose the instant play ability, and since not all titles will support downloads, it adds to further user confusion). Users can always choose to not use the download feature if they find it too complex, so I don’t see what Netflix has to lose by adding the feature.

Actually, I do see what Netflix has to lose – money. Rights-holders will want more for the licensing rights to downloads, and licensing costs is something Netflix has been trying to reduce, either through producing their own original content and by ending content deals with the likes of Epix.

But users also have plenty of gain if they had access to an offline playback mode, even if it’s just for selected titles. Being able to queue up a few offline titles to watch could be a godsend for vacations to places with poor to non-existent Internet connections, for example. So perhaps Netflix should reconsider, and give users what they want (even if most might not actually use it, all the time).

Gaming

The August NPD results are in and the PS4 has won yet again. As usual, all the companies spun the results into something super positive for themselves (Sony didn’t have to do as much spinning, to be fair). Microsoft bigged up the Xbox One’s sales increase and its big release slate for the rest of the year, while Nintendo talked about the 3DS, Amiibo and Splatoon, but failed to mention the Wii U at all, which is probably for the best.

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So that was the week that was. A nice and quiet week, hopefully leading up to a nice and not so quiet week next week. See you soon.

Weekly News Roundup (23 August 2015)

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

So a week and a bit more back from vacay, and what happens? I get the flu, or some hideous mutated version of it. Eurgh. So this week’s WNR is going to be a bit more abbreviated than usual, since it’s very hard to type legible words when you’re coughing and sneezing at the screen all the time.

Copyright

BitTorrent Logo

The RIAA has a new target in its sights …

While this humble webmaster has difficulty writing coherent sentences, the RIAA apparently doesn’t have the same problem, as the copyright lobbyists for the music industry have written yet another letter (after writing one to CBS/CNET last week), this time to BitTorrent Inc, the makers of uTorrent.

The RIAA wants the company that developed the BitTorrent protocol to do more to fight piracy, which may includes building in a filter system for its popular uTorrent client in order to filter out pirated downloads. The RIAA’s letter cited all sorts of stats, all of which basically points to there being lots of piracy going on via BitTorrent. But in classic RIAA style blame shifting, they claim that BitTorrent Inc is somehow responsible for this.

BitTorrent Inc did invent the BitTorrent protocol, and they do publish one of the most popular BitTorrent clients out there, but at the end of the day, it’s just a file transfer protocol. HTTP is also just another file transfer protocol, and there’s a lot of pirated files being transferred via HTTP too, and downloaded via the most popular browser on the market, Google’s Chrome. This does not, however, mean that Tim Berners-Lee/CERN and Google should be made responsible for this, even if the ratio of legal/pirated content may be less of an issue on HTTP than on BitTorrent.

None of this finger pointing, whether at BitTorrent or CNET, actually addresses the question of why people pirate. And the answer to this question is a lot more complicated than “because they’re thieves” (especially when some the same “thieves” are also their best customers).

Windows 10

Microsoft’s ominous user policy changes may be a storm in a teacup, or something more sinister

Meanwhile, Microsoft is trying to make it less easy to “steal” games with an updated user agreement that apparently gives the Redmond firm the power to scan and disable “counterfeit games”. After our article on this was published, Microsoft issued a clarification that the newly added clause was mainly for security reasons, to allow Microsoft to remove “apps or content” whenever the company “deems your security is at risk”. I don’t know about you, but this statement seems even more ominous to me, especially the part about Microsoft affecting my “content”. Not to mention the fact hat security was not mentioned anywhere in the updated clause either.

One company that wish it had the legal authority and technical ability to disable content right now is Avid Life Media, the company behind Ashley Madison. The site’s data was hacked, posted online and exposed many who used the service to cheat on their partners. ALM is now using copyright law to try and remove the leaked data from online postings (sponge, a flood, trying to stop, etc…) – good luck with that!

What do I make of this whole situation? I guess it’s easy to sit here and laugh (plus cough and sneeze uncontrollably) at cheaters getting what they deserve, but the bigger issue for me is about the right to privacy. Those who cheat on their spouses may deserve the worst, but they may also have an expectation of privacy that we have to respect. Or do they give up this right because online data is well known for not being secure, and that users need to re-adjust their expectations as a result? This is something that I think deserves further debate.

Gaming

Another month, another NPD, and the PS4 once again beat the Xbox One, both in hardware and game sales. I think it’s safe to say that this will be the ongoing trend, and it’s probably not even worth mentioning NPD results unless something changes from this norm.

OUYE

It looks like the real deal, but don’t expect to play Call of Duty on this console

You might think all these monthly wins for the PS4 would be seriously depressing for the Microsoft camp, but it’s worth noting that the Xbox One is still selling better than the Xbox 360 at the same stage of their life-cycles. So it may be the case of the Xbox One being an excellent console, but up against an even better one in the PS4. The real losers in this generation, if the Wii U can even be considered to be in the same generation as the XBO/PS4, is Nintendo.

But what if you could combine the Xbox One and PS4 into the same console? Meet China’s OUYE, which rips off the outer casing of the PS4, rips off the Xbox One’s controller, and rips off the name and concept of Android microconsole OUYA. Note that Chinese company responsible for this monstrosity didn’t even bother to try and rip off the Wii U. Ouch.

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67 coughs, 32 sneezes later, we come to the end of this WNR. Oh I’m sure there will be more news next week, but whether I’ll be healthy enough to write them up is another matter. Eurgh.

Weekly News Roundup (24 May 2015)

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

Quite a lot of stuff to go through this week. But I have this feeling that next week will be really quiet – this kind of thing does tend to happen more often than not. I haven’t quiet worked out the psychology behind this, but things like holidays (Memorial Day in the US), weather can all have a big effect on news, I’ve found. Let’s see if I’m right next week.

Let’s get started …

Copyright

Industry solutions to the piracy problem. Sounds like a good way to get things done without government intervention, but there’s a reason why we have government to set rules. Because there are rules!

PayPal Logo

MPAA working with PayPal to freeze funds – but where is the due process?

Industry solutions is often just another way for big companies to work together with other big companies to screw us consumers, bypassing fairness, due process and all the things that are designed to protect us. So what happened to open source developer Andrew Sampson’s PayPal account, on the orders of the MPAA, shouldn’t come as a shock. Andrew made the mistake of doing something that pissed off the MPAA (by making the torrent search engine Strike), and also the second mistake of getting PayPal involved (by having a donation button, albeit only temporarily, on Strike’s website). The MPAA contacted PayPal, and now Andrew’s entire account is frozen, despite only a very small amount of money in his account having anything to do with Strike (the other funds come from his other non related projects).

And even if all of Andrew’s PayPal money was related to Strike, it shouldn’t mean that the MPAA and PayPal, without any sort of legal procedure, can freeze his account like this. There hasn’t been any legal documents, a court case, a judgement or ruling, and it’s all based on the untested assertions of the MPAA. And since when is making a search engine illegal?

None of this passes the fairness test, and because there’s no due process, Andrew has no avenue of appeal. So it will be 180 days before Andrew can access his own money, most of which were earned in a way that had nothing to do with the MPAA.

This is all part of the MPAA’s “going after the money” initiative, one that is ironically also supported by Google. This is because going after the money means the MPAA isn’t going after the content, which is where Google might get into trouble. Going after the content means search results filtering (something the MPAA wants, but Google has been able to successfully prevent so far), but it mainly means site blocking and shut-downs these days.

But according to the EU, shutting down access to piracy sites is not only not effective, but it also makes future copyright enforcement much more difficult. The study looked at the closure of German streaming site Kino.to, and found that shortly after the closure, existing sites and new sites filled the void left by Kino.to. This made the piracy scene much more fragmented, and also means it becomes harder and harder to control piracy (as opposed to dealing with one big site, you now have hundreds of smaller sites that you need to deal with).

The study also found very little movement towards legal alternatives following the shut-down, meaning that even if piracy was eliminated, the financial gain for rights-holders will be minimal.

In other words, shutting down piracy sites or censoring them is a costly exercise that has no real long term benefits, either in reducing piracy or increasing revenue. Won’t stop the likes of the MPAA from trying though.

EZTV

EZTV is no more – scammers manage to steal domain names in brazen heist

Not that I want to give the MPAA any ideas, but one of the oldest torrent groups this week did get shut down via a method that Hollywood has not tried yet – a scam! TV torrent site EZTV is no more because all of their domain names have been stolen by a group of scammers. This is the same group that managed to secure EZTV’s .it domain name a while back (that was due to improper actions by the registrar), and then apparently faked contact details to illegally obtain EZTV’s .se domain name. This was key because EZTV’s admin used the .se domain name as the primary email contact for all other registrant accounts, meaning the scammers were able to redirect emails meant for the admin to their own servers, reset all passwords to accounts that were signed up with that email (including other registrar accounts for EZTV’s other domain names), and successfully completing the “hostile takeover”.

Regardless of what you think about piracy, it’s a sad end for EZTV and also presents a current danger for downloaders who continue to use EZTV. It will be easy for the new “owners” of the site to inject malware and fake downloads into their index, even if EZTV’s accounts on other sites like The Pirate Bay have all been suspended on request from the original admin team.

Gaming

PS4 DualShock 4 Controller

Should Sony give the PS4 a price cut?

Is the PS4 due for a price cut? With the Xbox One beating the PS4 during the holidays and then again in April, all thanks to temporary and now permanent price cuts, Sony might be thinking that a price cut is exactly what’s needed to maintain momentum. And according to leaked documents, it might just happen sooner rather than later.

A document from Sony’s official retail loyalty site for their employees seems to point to a new $349 price tag for the PS4, which would bring it level with the Xbox One. Without the document being authenticated, treat all of this as a rumour for now, but it does make sense for Sony to consider a $50 price cut right now.

While the PS4 is still easily beating the Xbox One worldwide, the crucial US market is looking a bit more shaky for Sony. In the previous generation, Microsoft implemented a series of successful price cuts for the Xbox 360, despite it easily outselling the PS3 in the US, and this helped the console maintain momentum as the sales leader up to and until the PS4’s release. Sony could and should use a similar strategy to keep the Xbox One at arm’s length, and while hardware revenue will take a hit in the short term, having a strong sales lead will help revenue in the long term.

Wii U

Wii U not doing too well – but Nintendo says NX is not a replacement

Now you might notice that I haven’t mentioned the Wii U in quite a while. That’s because there’s really not much to mention unfortunately, with the Wii U doing rather badly in April (43,000 units, compared to the sales leader Xbox One’s 187,000). This suggests that Nintendo needs to bring out the Wii U’s successor pronto, but Nintendo president Satoru Iwata’s remarks that the Nintendo NX may not be a replacement for the Wii U (and the 3DS) does seem odd.

It might be just marketing talk, trying to position the NX as something revolutionary rather than evolutionary, but Iwata could also be hinting at the fusion of handheld and console gaming, something that the Wii U has already taken a step towards.

Whatever it is, it can’t come soon enough, as the Wii U is really struggling now. It had a reprieve thanks to Mario Kart, but with Zelda delayed until who knows when, the Wii U looks like a dead duck right now and the longer this drags out, the harder it may be for Nintendo to get a good start with the NX.

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Fans of streaming, and particularly Australian fans, don’t forget to visit streambly.com.au for more streaming related news stories, like Spotify’s new video content, Netflix’s new interface and live sports streaming – too much stuff to cover in detail in this week’s WNR.

See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (10 May 2015)

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

Happy Mother’s Day to my mum, as well as all mums around the world.

My Surface Pro 3 experiment is coming along well, I haven’t touched my old desktop all week. There are still some issues with my screen set up, as switching between the SP3’s screen and my monitor can sometimes make all the icons look weird (signing out and back in again is the only way to solve it). But largely, it’s great being able to take work with me around the house, as well as outside of it, and to switch between tablet, laptop and desktop without much effort at all.

Let’s get started with the news roundup …

Copyright

Roll of money

The MPAA is paying researchers for pro-copyright research

When MPAA prez Chris Dodd called for more unbiased research in the area of copyright, one might have thought that a new page had been turned by Hollywood’s copyright lobby, and that there might now be a genuine desire to find the root cause of the piracy problem. At least that’s what one might think, if one was not familiar with how the MPAA works.

So despite the publicly call for unbiased research, privately, the MPAA is doing the opposite – paying researchers for pro-copyright studies. We know what the MPAA are doing privately thanks largely to the leaked Sony emails (a goldmine of information on just how exactly Hollywood works, behind the scenes), but even if we didn’t, should we expect anything different?

The MPAA talks about trying to improve their public image, but it’s transparent stunts like these that give them a bad name. Instead of dealing with the very real piracy problem using facts and logic, it’s all rhetoric and scapegoating. Given that the MPAA has already decided who is to blame for the piracy problem (ie. everyone but themselves), do we really expect them to accept conclusions to studies that present a different view?

But just to show how far apart the MPAA is to the rest of the world, they’re the ones always complaining about how current copyright laws are not strong enough, when it’s clear that current laws are far too biased towards rights holders. The European Union, for example, understands that the problem with current copyright legislation is not that it’s too weak, but that’s it’s too anti-consumer, and they have a plan to make it fairer. Using geo-blocking as a way to control prices and maximize revenue will no longer be allowed, and content purchased within the EU will no longer be access controlled in EU member countries. For the MPAA, modernizing means putting in new copyright restrictions and penalties for new uses of content, but keeping pace with how consumers use content is the real meaning of modernization, and the EU’s plans are a step in the right direction.

The reason why the MPAA, the RIAA and others seems to be so far removed from the rest of us is because they have a fundamental misunderstanding of just why we have copyright. The copyright lobby believes copyright is solely a tool that helps to protect rights-holders earnings, but that’s not the end-goal of copyright at all. While the right for content creators to earn is important, the reason why creators should be rewarded is so they can keep on producing content. And not only do we want more content to be created, the end-goal of copyright is also to ensure the content is consumed, shared, debated freely (free as in freedom, not always in price), and that creativity is never stifled. Current copyright laws, in my opinion, fails to achieve these objectives, and major rights-holders are now using biased copyright laws to stifle consumption, sharing, debate and creativity.

Twitter's Periscope

Periscope – a new way to innovate, and not the minor piracy problems, should be the focus for rights holders

Take Twitter’s Periscope. The innovative live streaming app opens up a whole new level of creative sharing, but all of the attention has once again been focused on the copyright issue. Yes, people use it to share copyrighted content, but just like YouTube back when Hollywood was seriously hating it, there’s much more to Periscope than what a few users choose to do with it. It’s a point the co-founder of Periscope Kayvon Beykpour was trying make. Rights-holders have tried to make Periscope out to be this new scourge that needs to be killed off, even during the highly publicized Mayweather-Pacquiao fight (a pay per view event that was a prime candidate for live piracy streaming), only 30 take-downs were needed on a platform where hundreds of thousands of streams were happening.

Periscope is a new way to consume, share and debate content, and a new platform for creativity. It’s the kind of innovation that the pro-copyright old guard don’t understand, and so fear – so it’s no wonder that it’s become public enemy number one for them.

Gaming

White Xbox One

Microsoft’s Xbox One DRM snafu may help the PS4 become the best selling console in history

The PS3’s lead over the Xbox One is still growing, but perhaps at a slightly slower pace. This is largely thanks to the price cuts Microsoft introduced for the Xbox One, price cuts that seems to have put quite dent into the Redmond firm’s profit margins. Hardware revenue was down 4%, and it was only due to the better than expected performance of their Surface range that hardware revenue wasn’t down more (and as someone who has now completely switched over the the Surface Pro 3 for all my desktop, laptop and Windows tablet needs, I’m not at all surprised that this great little device is doing so well).

With so many missteps by Microsoft during the launch of the Xbox One, something that former EA CEO John Riccitiello pointed out this week, this could allow the PS4 to become the best selling game console in history if current trends continue.

Companies these days are increasingly addicted to having more control, but just like that other much more serious type of addiction, there should only be one response when companies, like Microsoft with the Xbox One, feels the urge to experiment with DRM: Just Say No!

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Another WNR done, again all completely on the SP3. See you next week!