Archive for the ‘NPD Analysis’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (October 16, 2016)

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

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

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

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

Anyway, on to the news for the week …

Copyright

RIAA Logo

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

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

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

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

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

Gaming

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

Wii U

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

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

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

Xbox One S

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

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

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

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

Weekly News Roundup (September 18, 2016)

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

And I’m back! Sorry for the long hiatus, but I’m now back from vacation, refreshed and ready to give you another few hundred words every week that you probably won’t want to read. It’s good to be back!

Gonna keep it short though, still coming back from jet lag so the mind’s not so sharp.

Copyright

The Hateful Eight

Want to watch The Hateful Eight in 4K? Piracy is your answer!

This is what happens when you don’t serve market demand. With no legal way to watch Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’ in 4K, pirates have stepped up to the plate and delivered. Just how exactly they did it, is a bit of a mystery. It may have been sourced from a legal Russian site, but how the encryption was broken, if it was broken, is the subject of much speculation.

In any case, fans of the film can now watch it in 4K, the way it was intended to be watched, and the powers that be that made the decision not to make it available to buy or rent in 4K have nobody to blame but themselves.

The wider implication from this release is that a widely used copy protection scheme could have been broken for the very first time, which may signal a new flood of top tier content, in top tier quality, flooding the piracy scene in the short term.

Gaming

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

Two new PS4s, but no Ultra HD Blu-ray for either …

So a lot has happened in gaming while I was gone. Sony has finally let the cat out of the bag, the same cat they kept hidden at E3 for (what now appears to be) no reason at all. The PS4 Slim and Pro have been officially unveiled, the former is already available, while the latter comes in November, a full year before Microsoft’s own upgraded Xbox One arrives.

Thanks to an active rumour mill, there weren’t any real surprises except for a biggie – the PS4 Pro, which has been upgraded with 4K in mind, won’t play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. This is because the upgraded PS4 won’t have an upgraded Blu-ray drive capable of reading these higher capacity discs, even though every other part of the hardware is more than good enough for UHD playback.

The decision to leave out UHD Blu-ray playback is compounded by the fact that the Slim’s main rival, that’s already on the market for the same price, already has UHD Blu-ray playback. Microsoft has pulled off a masterstroke in deciding to go down the UHD route with the Xbox One S, something nobody expected, not when the S is marketed at a price that’s cheaper than most standalone players on the market.

Deadpool on Ultra HD Blu-ray

The Xbox One S can, but the PS4 Pro can’t – Ultra HD Blu-ray movies like Deadpool won’t work on the PS4

It’s definitely a surprising omission from a company that once risked too much to include playback of a new disc format with their brand new console. Perhaps the mistake of including Blu-ray playback with PS3 (which delayed the console’s release and led to the console’s notoriously high launch pricing) is what prevented Sony from including UHD Blu-ray playback with the PS4 Slim or Pro. Also surprisingly, Sony has shown little interest in UHD Blu-ray, with their first standalone player not even coming until next year (and it’s a premium, high-end model to boot) – the slow ramp up to UHD may also explain why Sony was just not ready to include UHD Blu-ray in the upgraded PS4s.

Also disappointing fans slightly is the fact that the PS4 Pro’s hardware upgrade, while significant, won’t be able to compete with the Xbox One “Scorpio” when it’s available in 2017. Bragging rights still count for a lot in 2016 (and 2017), and it could be the case that for the rest of this console generation, the Xbox One will bcome the more powerful console (and the one more capable of handling games in 4K).

And to make things worse for Sony fanboys, the Xbox One beat the PS4 in sales again in August – that’s two months in a row. Of course, Sony will probably reclaim the throne in September when the Slim goes sale

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That’s all we have for the week. It’s good to get back into the swing of things, even if it means swapping the nice warm Mediterranean for wet and freezing Melbourne.

Weekly News Roundup (15 May 2016)

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Another quiet week, so I think we can get through everything in double quick time. A late apology for last week’s wonkiness, had a server hardware problem that was compounded with a software problem, but everything was back up again after two nights of lost sleep. Ah well, these things have to happen from time to time, even if it’s just to test our redundancy and backup process (which did okay, but could be and will be improved).

Let’s get started before the server blows up again.

Copyright

The Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay’s Swedish domain names will soon go offline, but nobody really cares anymore

The Pirate Bay’s Swedish domain names, you know the ones that end in .se, are in the news again as a Swedish appeals court upheld an earlier ruling that would have seen the domain names seized. To be honest, this was always likely to happen, ever since prosecutors in Sweden started making noises about domain seizures, and as a result, The Pirate Bay is no longer depending on the .se domain names.

What’s confusing now is finding out who actually owns the domain names. Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij is the designated contact for the domain names, but he denies owning them – this is not unusual, the real owners can write in anyone as the owner, as long as the domain’s administrative contact emails point to the right person. Neij is suggesting he may appeal the verdict.

While all of this will have zero effect on the operations of The Pirate Bay, what this does show is how pointless legal proceedings against piracy sites can be at times. It has already taken years, and will most likely take even more time, to just seize two domain names – domain names that aren’t even used much anymore. It’s incredibly hard, and I assume costly, to keep things off the Internet or to prevent people from accessing something, and you’ll get a better return if you address the real reasons behind piracy and reduce or eliminate the need for piracy.

The same goes for HBO’s valiant, but ultimately futile attempt to keep Game of Thrones piracy off the Internet, by warning downloaders and removing torrents. While they, as the rights-holders, have the right to do all of this and more, it’s probably just easier to ensure people can watch your shows without having to jump through hoops or to get a second mortgage – or in Australia’s case, do both.

Which is why an Australian GoT fan has offered to pay HBO $10 per episode so he can continue to download illegally, because the legal alternatives, he says, is just not good enough. With the country’s sole pay TV operator having an exclusive lock on the show, with iTunes and Google Play locked out until the end of the season, GoT fan John Hyslop would rather (over) pay for illegal downloads than be subjected to the pay TV monopoly, and being forced to pay for channels that he doesn’t want (there’s no standalone product that would grant John access to GoT or HBO shows in general – you’ll have to bundle 40+ other channels in order to be able to watch the latest episodes). So in John’s case, it’s not even about the cost, which is high, but about the unfairness of it all.

If HBO doesn’t address this by being tougher on its partners about what they can and cannot do with their programming, I’m afraid more and more people will feel justified in downloading illegally.

Gaming

Metal Gear Solid V PS4

The PS4 (and Xbox One) are so good value that sales may have reached saturation faster than any other previous generation

It may or may not have been a while since I last reported on the NPD’s US video game sales results. Mainly because nothing ever actually changes. But this week being such a light week, and I actually managed to remember reading something about the NPD results this week, so I thought I should share. The PS4 won again, but hardware sales are down on a couple of reasons. The relative cheapness of the consoles is contributing to the lower dollar sales results, and both major console’s faster adoption rate (thanks largely to lower launch prices that has continued to drop ever since) means that sales may have reached saturation faster than in previous generations.

This probably explains both Sony and Microsoft’s intent to produce a “half generation” upgrade for their respective consoles. If people are willing to upgrade much more expensive phones at yearly (or at least bi-annual) intervals, then I guess Sony and Microsoft’s thinking is that maybe the same formula could be applied to game consoles at a slightly longer interval.

I’m personally not sure it will work though. Upgrading a phone is one thing, but other consumer electronics have never been upgraded in this way and gamers may not appreciate what appears to be a cash grab mid-generation.

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Short and sweet. Well, at least short. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (15 November 2015)

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

First things first. Our hearts and thoughts are with all of those affected by the tragic events in Paris. It’s times like this that makes you truly reflect what’s important in your life, and makes you appreciated all the little things that make life a simple joy. As for what happens now, I really don’t know, but I do hope that we start discussing the tough questions, the ones about why it has become too easy for young people to want to be, and to actually be radicalized, and also to seriously examine what the best course of action is when you’re fighting an enemy that’s mostly just an idea. An insidious, evil idea, that somehow has become far too attractive for far too many.

It’s hard to still consider anything that I usually write here important after the events in Paris, but we all have to continue doing what we have to do, what we want to do, to continue to love, to show compassion, to be kind and understanding – that’s how we show those that want to divide us that they will never win.

Copyright

Privacy

There’s no room for privacy concerns according to the MPAA

Now, I’ve written a lot over the years about the piracy issue. From time to time, when I’m especially tired or drunk or both, I accidentally write ‘privacy’ instead of piracy. So instead of writing “The MPAA hates piracy”, I might write “The MPAA hates privacy”. Fortunately, this is now much less of a problem because the MPAA now also hates privacy (not a typo).

Those pesky Europeans and their privacy laws that protect their citizen’s rights, are giving the MPAA a headache when it comes to going after the pirates. The MPAA made the complaint to the USTR, something they do every year to let the US Trade Representative know all the things that annoy Hollywood around the world. But the EU’s new directives that adds extra privacy protection to IP addresses and the removal of mandatory data retention, means that the MPAA now has to work a lot harder to get what they want. Just exactly what that is, I’m not sure, because it sounds like the MPAA is mad they’re no longer able to go after individual downloaders, but that has never worked to stop piracy, and to be fair, the MPAA has never engaged in this kind of legal activity. If they wanted to go after the piracy site operators, then they already have the tools to do that (see the Popcorn Time/YIFY story last week).

So basically, it’s just the MPAA trying to blame someone or something else for their woes. Something they’ll do again this time next year.

High Definition

DVD vs Blu-ray vs 4K

4K is gaining momentum, but discs are on the slide

Moving on to digital video stuff, it appears that sales of Ultra HD TVs have gotten off to a good start, despite the relatively small amount of available Ultra HD/4K content.

(While I’m here, I would just like to further clarify the differences between the term “Ultra HD”, which is more of a marketing term, and 4K. 4K refers to 4000 horizontal pixels of resolution, most commonly available in the resolution 4096 x 2160. Ultra HD is actually just shy of 4K, in the more accessible 16:9 resolution of 3840 x 2160 – basically double both the horizontal and vertical resolution of 1080p. The more you know!)

There definitely doesn’t seem to be the kind of price premium you usually associated with new tech that’s with 4K TV (I managed to pick up one, albeit a budget crappy one, for less than $300 just recently), and while the much needed content hasn’t yet arrived in disc form, it’s already available via streaming.

And that’s exactly the problem facing discs at the moment, with the latest Q3 home entertainment earnings report showing that, for the first time ever, revenue from streaming has risen above that for packaged media. In fact, almost everything related to digital was on the up, while almost everything related to packaged media was on the slide.

When everything was added up together, total revenue was little changed, which just goes to show that the transition seems to be going smoothly.

Gaming

Xbox One Halo 5 Edition

Halo 5 has helped the Xbox One beat the PS4 in October

The October NPD results are in and once again the PS4 was the best .. wait a second, that’s not what actually happened. The Xbox One has finally managed to break the PS4’s winning streak by becoming October’s best selling console in the US market. The win was largely due to the release of Halo 5, a Xbox exclusive that always helps to drive console sales. With Forza Motorsport 6, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, and with backwards compatibility and a major dashboard update all coming, there’s definitely some momentum building for the Xbox One. Microsoft will be hoping that these new additions in these established franchises, and the BC, will help convince the huge number of Xbox 360 owners who haven’t upgraded to upgrade.

While I’m here, I guess I also have to mention Fallout 4, considering my preoccupation/obsession with the previous game in the series. I haven’t played the game yet, haven’t even purchased it (other than the Xbox One Pip-Boy edition in order to get the Pip-Boy – the PS4 and PC editions were sold out when I found out about it, so I had to make do with the Xbox One edition even though I don’t own a Xbox One) – I will do both when I get some free time, and if I managed to get more free time, I might even play it on my brand new dream gaming PC that I plan to build from scratch (a side project that I’ve been eyeing for some time now).

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That’s it for the week. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (25 October 2015)

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

How can I start this intro without mentioning the release of the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. Wow! Wow! Wow! I feel like crying!!

Now it has to be said that the Phantom Menace trailer was also awe-inspiring, so there’s still plenty of room for disappointment when the movie hits cinemas screens on the 17th of next month. But if they’ve even learned half of the lessons from the prequel disasters (lesson one: write better dialog), then this new Star Wars movie, one that I’ve been personally awaiting since my teenage days, will be a huge hit.

But there’s still plenty of time to hype up the new movie, because right now, we have to look at this week’s news stories.

Copyright

BrowserPopcorn

It came, it saw, and it was shut down. BrowserPopcorn just wasn’t meant for this world …

Popcorn Time is the one headache for rights-holders that refuses to go away, and this week, the headache appears to have gotten just a little bit worse. Introducing BrowserPopcorn, a web app that gives you the full functionality of Popcorn Time (ie. Netflix for pirates) without having to install a damn thing. Well at least that was supposed to be the case before the MPAA got wind of it and took swift action, threatening the developer with lawsuits unless the site was pulled down. And it was.

Not that BrowserPopcorn, based on how it actually works, would have been a serious threat anyway – the way it worked by proxying torrent download via its own dedicated servers, meant that it could only support a few hundred users at a time without borking under the pressure.

A further confusing week for Popcorn Time continued when one of the main variant of the popular app (there are many variants due to the open source nature of the application) was permanently taken offline due to developers, fearing lawsuits themselves, left the project and when the app’s domain name was lost (perhaps only temporarily). It appears that someone (I think we can all guess who) was messing with the site’s domain name services as well.

And to make matters even more complicated, the website of torrent site and release group YTS/YIFY has been down for most of the week (possibly due to a DDoS attack). And because it was the main torrent source for most Popcorn Time variants, this meant that many apps simply refused to work.

It’s all very confusing, and it’s hard to believe this sustained and multi-pronged attack on anything Popcorn Time related isn’t coordinated at some level (although it really could be just a coincidence, who knows).

For others seeking a little bit more morally acceptable way to watch content for free, there was bad news too this week in the wake of the BBC blocking VPN access to its iPlayer catchup service. The BBC seems unconcerned that the blanket ban will block access to UK users using VPNs for reasons other than geo-unblocking. The BBC makes money by licensing content to overseas providers such as Netflix, and with the Beeb announcing plans to launch their own subscription streaming service in the US, I guess the time was right to crackdown on overseas iPlayer usage.

Gaming

White Xbox One

The Xbox One might have to get used to playing second fiddle to the PS4

The September NPD results has the PS4 winning yet again, and with the PS4 price cut, it doesn’t look like this will change anytime soon. Microsoft is still holding onto their “solid year-over-year growth in console sales and strong engagement on Xbox Live”, which I guess is better than nothing. The Redmond based firm needs to start getting used to coming second in this generation, maintaining a solid platform so they can try again next-gen, hopefully this time without any DRM snafus.

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That’s it for the week. Look out for my re-upload of the new Star Wars trailer on Digital Digest. Not that it’s really needed, since I believe it’s available to watch, stream or download on literally every single website on the web right now, but how can I call myself a Star Wars fan if I don’t make the trailer available right here?

Update: The trailer has been uploaded. As a bonus, I also have the HEVC version of the trailer here.

See you next week!