Archive for the ‘NPD Analysis’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (September 24, 2017)

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Despite almost being a month in, we finally had a taste of the real spring in the last two days. Unfortunately, winter is back for today, which means it’s back to layers and layers of clothes while my hands freeze typing up this roundup.

We have a few things to go through today, not too much, so let’s get started.

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Die Young

A better way to fight piracy than releasing the hounds

It must be a real bittersweet moment as a game developer when your new game, the one that you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into, gets uploaded to a piracy site. On on the one hand, it’s a recognition that your work is worth someone’s time to crack and upload (and to download), that you may be on the right track with producing something that everyone will like. On the other hand, you know, piracy.

But for “early access” games such as ‘Die Young’, there’s an added problem with early access piracy – you get gamers playing unfinished versions of your game (often without knowledge that it’s unfinished) and perhaps getting a bad impression of the quality of the game, and as a developer, you don’t get valuable feedback in regards to bugs, missing features and other things that’s the whole point of “early access”.

So when the makers of ‘Die Young’ found their game pirated online, they did the only thing that made sense to them – release a free version of their game! So now, if you want to play Die Young, you have three options – to pay for it via Steam Early Access (where you’ll always get the latest released version), get the completely free and DRM-free version directly from the official site, or get an old version of the game from piracy sites. This means the last option, the piracy option, is now the worst of the available options. And that, I think, is the way it’s supposed to be.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Switch is selling well for Nintendo

The Nintendo Switch is selling very well at the moment. It was the best selling game console for August, after winning July too, and winning four out of the last six months. By “winning”, of course I mean beating the PS4, and it’s quite a turnaround for Nintendo, having had so few this types of victories for the Wii U.

The PS4 is still the best selling console in 2017, and it will probably finish 2017 this way. We’ll see when the holidays come around whether Nintendo can fix their supply issues and have a fantastic holidays sales period and endanger the PS4’s status as the best selling console for 2017. Also, can the Xbox One have a say with its Xbox One X? Dubbed the most powerful console ever made, will this be enough to get the hardcore gamers on board, or is it already too late for this generation? Will its “Xbox One X Enhanced” game list be good enough to convince gamers to upgrade?

All in all, it’s going to be an interesting end of the year for this console generation. May the best console win!

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No more typing. Finger frozen. Must. Get. Warmer.

Weekly News Roundup (July 23, 2017)

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

Back again after another small break last week. I actually flew to Sydney to watch my beloved Arsenal play, and it was a great trip. Luckily, not too much happened in terms of news, so we can just continue on this week as if nothing has happened (and nothing did happen, I promise).

Copyright

Game of Thrones Pirates

The only real pirate *in* Game of Thrones, but lots of pirates *for* the show in real life

Winter has truly come here in Australia, and it has also come to Westeros. While a little bit later than usual due to the shortened season, the season premier of Game of Thrones has once again caused a piracy frenzy. While lots of people are still illegally downloading to find out what Arya, Jon, Daenerys, Cersei et al. have been up to, not as many people are doing it via torrents, it seems.

Just like with legal viewing options, streaming seems to be taking over. And it’s not hard to see why. Streaming is more convenient, works better on mobile devices, does not require extra time to download, and most importantly, is less likely to cause the viewer legal problems.

So for all the effort rightsholders have put into going after torrenters (and HBO have already started to crack down on them for the season 7 premier), the only net effect it seems is to drive them to find alternative ways to pirate, ways that can’t be monitored. If anything, this has helped to create piracy solutions that are actually much more convenient that before, and possibly more convenient than the legal streaming options. And this is not a good thing.

The piracy surge was also made worse by HBO’s servers meltdown. In Australia, our only legal source for the new episode had its own technical difficulties with many unable to stream the show during prime time viewing hours. Making piracy look like the better option (irregardless of the price), again, not a good thing.

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Okja Poster

Christopher Nolan not a fan of how Netflix chooses to release original productions like Okja

Also not a good thing, according to legendary director Christopher Nolan, is Netflix. Or more specifically, the way Netflix likes to release its original theatrical productions in theaters and also online at the same time. The director behind big blockbusters such as ‘Interstellar’, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and the more recent ‘Dunkirk’ thinks it’s a rather pointless exercise to do simultaneous releasing, at a time when all the major studios are trying to find ways to bring forward digital releases.

Instead, Nolan says that Amazon’s approach of having a 90 day exclusive window for releases before it becomes a free-for-all on their own streaming platform is the way to go.

While I do agree with Nolan that the theatrical experience is unique (and you have to say, Nolan’s films deserve to be seen on the biggest screen you can find), giving movie lovers another option via streaming is ultimately good for the consumer and a great way to fight piracy. But Nolan touches on a great point in that the “straight-to-Netflix” release isn’t too far from a “straight-to-video” release, and it devalues the film in question. It makes me feel like the movie must not be a very good one if it’s already straight to Netflix, even though in many cases, it’s probably a pretty good one if it doesn’t star Adam Sandler (I kid, I kid, but also not really?).

Still, there hasn’t been a Netflix original movie that’s on the scale of something like ‘Dunkirk’, and there may never be, simply because not even Netflix would want to risk releasing such a high budget movie direct to streaming, for fear it may anger the cinema chains as well as the previously mentioned “cheapening” effect.

Gaming

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

PS4 back on top after a few months of Switch fever

The Nintendo Switch’s honeymoon period is well and truly over, with the PS4 getting back on top not just in May, but also for June’s NPD report. It was, according to the NPD, the best June ever for the PS4. Sony will be hoping the momentum will carry them through and past the release of the (potentially too expensive) Xbox One X towards the end of the year. Otherwise, the introduction of a “real” 4K game console could reverse fortunes for Microsoft, who have never really recovered from their “all our games are digital, and you can’t trade them – plus our console is clearly not as powerful as the PS4” SNAFU from before the Xbox One launch.

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That’s all I have for you this week. Much better than the nothing from last week, I hope. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (May 21, 2017)

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Sorry for the brief hiatus – stuff got into the way (more dental stuff as well) and I just couldn’t rush out a WNR last week. But it’s all good now, and we have lots to go through this week, so let’s get started.

Copyright

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Poster

Is Star Wars: The Last Jedi the film that hackers have stolen from Disney?

The new trend in piracy appears to have shifted to one of hacking, theft and blackmail. Following the theft of Netflix’s ‘Orange is the New Black’, a story I covered a few weeks ago, it appears Disney has become the latest victim of this trend. Disney boss Bob Iger revealed that hackers claims to have stolen one of the studio’s unreleased films and have threatened to release it publicly if a ransom demand, in BitCoins, is not met.

Iger did not reveal the name of the film, but did categorically ruled out meeting the hacker’s demands, which means the hackers might soon release the film online and we’ll all know then what film it was. It’s also unclear whether this is related to the Netflix theft, although based on the Twitter account of the Netflix hacker, it’s probably not the same guy (he did not mention anything about having hold of Disney content).

Many are speculating as to which movie was stolen, but with Disney’s line-up for 2017 including the likes of ‘Cars 3’, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, Disney better hope it’s not one of these mega blockbusters that ends on being leaked on torrent sites.

Speaking of being leaked on, Netflix’s new Android app, or rather Google’s Play store, is preventing those with rooted phones from downloading the latest update. Those with rooted phones are being met with a message stating their phone is not compatible, and this is most likely due to the new DRM requirement of the updated Netflix app.

The issue isn’t that bad though, since users can always sideload the Netflix app and it will run perfectly on rooted phones (so it’s really just the Play store being a d*ck, and not letting rooted phones from updating) – assuming you can find a secure place to download the Netflix app.

As for what’s actually new in the app, there’s a huge new feature for users of LG’s G6 phone. It is one of the first phones to support Dolby Vision HDR, and the new Netflix app will be able to take full advantage of the phone’s gorgeous screen. Samsung Galaxy S8 owners like myself got prematurely excited when the HDR logo started showing up on our phone too (which also supports HDR, but not Dolby Vision), but it turns out it was just a mistake and that the streams weren’t happening in HDR.

The HDR update for the S8 and S8+ will be coming soon, most likely, and I can’t wait!

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LG G6 Dolby Vision Comparison

Dolby Vision promises better, more colors, and more vivid pictures than even HDR10

Speaking of Dolby Vision, the first Dolby Vision enabled Ultra HD Blu-ray movies will be coming in June, first from Universal and then from Lionsgate. Universal will release ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Despicable Me 2’ while Lionsgate has chosen ‘Power Rangers’ to showcase just how awesome Dolby Vision will be (assuming you have a good TV to show it off).

I haven’t covered HDR as much as I should here, so I copy/paste a section from the above news article to explain the difference between Dolby Vision and the HDR used by most currently available UHD Blu-ray movies, HDR10.

Dolby Vision offers several improvements over the open HDR10 standard, including greater color depth (12-bit vs HDR10’s 10-bit), support for a brighter picture (1,000-4,000 nits vs always 4,000 nits) and Dolby Vision enabled TVs feature a special chip that knows the TV’s own capabilities and helps these displays produce the best possible reproduction of the film compared to the original masters.

In other words, while HDR10 is a more open standard that’s easier to implement, Dolby Vision should offer a better picture quality with all things being equal. And don’t discount the extra 2 bits in color depth – this turns out to be an increase of 67 billion colors being represented! The brightness support also means that DV requires everything to be mastered at 4,000 nits, whereas HDR10 content can make do with only 1,000 nits (of course, whether your TV can support such a high nit count is another question).

DV also has better tone mapping (thanks to that special chip), and support for dynamic metadata that allows for scene by scene optimization of the picture.

But for now, HDR10 has the better hardware support, greater quantity of content, and for most people, it’s already awesome enough.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Switch is a top seller!

Speaking of being awesome enough, the Nintendo Switch has outsold both the PS4 and Xbox One again in April, despite there being stock shortages. And despite only being released two days before the end of the April NPD reporting period, Nintendo’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was the top game seller for the entire month as well.

It’s quite a turnaround for Nintendo, which hasn’t been top of any chart for a very long time. Whether it will last, is anybody’s guess, but whatever you say about the Switch, it’s definitely something different compared to the offerings from Sony and Microsoft.

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That’s all I have for this week. Have a great one!

Weekly News Roundup (April 23, 2017)

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Welcome to a brand new week on the WNR, where we bring you all* the latest news and happenings in the world of digital video, Blu-ray, gaming and everything else. It looks like I survived my wisdom teeth surgery after all, sorry about the lack of updates the week before (too busy barfing from postoperative nausea).

I’m writing this WNR a little bit later than I usually do on Saturday because I just picked up my new Samsung Galaxy S8+ and have been playing too much with it. It’s a really nice, I can’t say little but it definitely doesn’t feel too big, phone, with a gorgeous screen that doesn’t seem to end (gaming and watching movies, particularly those in the wider aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is a fantastic experience).

But no time to play time, it’s time for work, and there’s quite a bit to go through this week too, so let’s get started)

(* “All” is defined as the news stories I found interesting and/or had time to write up)

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2Dark

2Dark’s updated Denuvo protection cracked already

The cat and mouse game between anti-tampering system Denuvo (ie. DRM) and game crackers continues afoot with Denuvo releasing an updated version, dubbed v4, of their system. Unfortunately for Denuvo, it only took a month for the first game to be protected by v4, 2Dark, to be completely cracked – something that others had thought would take a lot longer.

While this does not mean all games with Denuvo v4 will be easily cracked from this point onwards – each game needs to be cracked individually – it does mean that crackers possibly have found an entry point into the system and it will make it easier to crack other games that are scheduled to use v4, including Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, Dead Rising 4, Nier: Automata, Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, and Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Of course, being protected for a month is still better than nothing and one could argue that a month is actually all that’s needed for a game, as that’s why most of the sales happen. However, it seems with each cracked game, crackers improve their technique and reduce the time needed to crack the next one. So if Denuvo v4 only manages to protect Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 for a couple of days, then perhaps publishers won’t be so keen to use Denuvo unless they can get some kind of money back provision in their contract.

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PowerDVD 17

PowerDVD 17 has UHD, VR and other cool stuff … but you’ll need the hardware to match

It’s been a long time coming, but there’s finally a way to play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies on your PC. And if you have one of those fancy PC based VR system, then you can watch your favourite movies in a VR environment too (or watch immersive 360 degrees movies).

I am talking about the latest and greatest version of PowerDVD, now in version 17 (I remember talking about it here on Digital Digest way back when the software was still in 0.x version). If you get the Ultra version, which is still at the $99 that it has almost always been, then you’ll have access to all these fancy new features.

Of course, you’ll still need the hardware, and that’s when the problem starts. The latest Kaby Lake CPU, the latest integrated Intel GPU or a GTX 970, and an Ultra HD Blu-ray reader drive are your *minimum* requirements, so it’s by no means accessible for everyone. And that’s just for Ultra HD Blu-ray – you’ll need more hardware for VR.

But if you’re rich and you already have all of these, than PowerDVD 17 Ultra is a must-buy. A must-buy mainly because it is the only thing you can buy that will play UHD discs.

While Disney is still saying away from UHD, unfortunately, Rogue One’s Blu-ray release was still a big one. Just not as big as The Force Awakens, which is not surprising. The 3D edition of the movie also sold really well despite it being a Best Buy and Target only exclusive. If it had been available on UHD, I think the UHD results would have been amazing. Not as amazing as Planet Earth II from the previous week, but still amazing. Come on Disney, pull it out!

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch outsold the PS4 and Xbox One in March

If you’re also rich, you’re probably one of the million or so people that already have Nintendo Switch. Not to say that the Switch is expensive, it’s quite good value for what you’re getting, but you’ve either already spent a load on a Wii U and games or you’re coming from the PS4/Xbox One camp, which means the Switch is another thing you have to buy, and given what has happened with the Wii U, you might be a little bit cautious.

But there doesn’t seem to be a need, since all reviews point to the Switch as an excellent, fun system that gives you something the others can’t. And it seems a lot of you agree, as it was the best selling console in March, at least in North America, easily beating the PS4 and the Xbox One.

This may not hold up for the coming months, since the Switch’s game library is still quite small (although I found the fact that more Zelda games have been sold than the total number of consoles to be quite interesting – are people buying games before they buy the Switch?).

But poor Xbox One, relegated to third place. Scorpio can’t come soon enough for Microsoft, and even then, success is not guaranteed. It might be the most powerful console in history when it’s released, but if it’s also twice as expensive as the PS4 Slim, then you can forget about it.

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You can also forget about me getting a lot of work done in the next few days, as I’ll be playing with my S8+ and the Gear VR. Actually, I will most likely be doing the vacuuming and house work, but that doesn’t sound very cool does it?

Weekly News Roundup (March 26, 2017)

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. Sorry for the little break last week, but things are back to normal now, and we actually have a bit of news to go through too.

They say that no news is good news, but sometimes having news is good news too.

Copyright

And sometimes piracy is a good things too, at least according to music superstar Ed Sheeran. In an interview with CBS, Sheeran opened up about his rise to success, and he wasn’t embarrassed to admit that piracy played a big role in his early successes.

Spotify Mobile

Legal streaming options means file sharing no longer exists, says Ed Sheeran

Sheeran says that is was university students in England, sharing his music on file sharing networks, that helped him get noticed. “I know that’s a bad thing to say, because I’m part of a music industry that doesn’t like illegal file sharing,” said Sheeran.

However, Sheeran says that musicians today may no longer need file sharing to get noticed and that fans no longer need to download illegally, all thanks to the availability of legal streaming platforms.

In other words, piracy has always been used as a discovery platform, and that’s its main redeeming feature. With legal streaming via YouTube and Spotify is taking on piracy in a big way, these platforms also now act as discovery platforms, both for musicians to get noticed and for music fans to find new artists to listen to.

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A little update on a story from a month ago when Google’s Chrome removed the ability to disable the controversial Widevine DRM. Thanks to “user feedback” (also known as angry and vocal complaints), Google has re-added the ability to disable Widevine, as well as other plug-ins that were made mandatory with the version 57 update. Who says complaining doesn’t work?

Gaming

With the PS4 back on top after a couple of months of Xbox One victory (thanks to the Xbox One S) in the hugely important U.S. market, the global picture still sees Sony on top, rather comfortably.

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

The PS4 is still comfortably beating the Xbox One

The PS4 is still enjoying almost a 2-to-1 sales margin over the Xbox One according to the latest IHS Markit report, with 53 million PS4s already sold compared to only 27.6 million Xbox Ones.

March’s NPD report will be extremely interesting, due to the introduction of the Switch. Nintendo seems to be onto a real hit with the hugely popular (and instantly out of stock) Switch, and it will give the Sony, Microsoft duopoly a real run for its money.

Will you switch to the Switch? Or keep on playing with the PS4, or keep on spending one on one time with your Xbox One?

Sorry for the lame play on words, it’s been a long week.

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What hasn’t been that long is the length of this WNR. But why waste words when you don’t need to. Especially when you’re not being paid by the word. See you next week!