Archive for the ‘Xbox 360, Xbox One’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (June 16, 2019)

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

And we’re back, and this time, it hasn’t taken more than a month since the last WNR.

And that’s largely thanks to the fact that we have news, and that was at least partially thanks to the gaming expo, E3.

Copyright

But before we get to that, we have a piracy blunder to talk about, this time committed by the Swiss arm of broadcaster Sky.

In releasing the final episode of the hit show Chernobyl, Sky Switzerland used not the official subtitles provided by HBO, but the fan-made version released by a subtitle download site often used by pirates. This error was revealed because whoever decided to use the inappropriate subtitle file forgot to reveal the credits that were added to the subtitles by its creator, which also referenced subtitle download site Addic7ed.

Screenshot of Sky Switzerland's incorrect use of subtitles
Good of Sky Switzerland to keep the credits for the fan-made subtitles

The closing credits were removed, and the subtitle was re-synced with the official Sky stream, suggesting the person or persons responsible for this blunder had intended to use the downloaded subtitles, and it wasn’t just a simple case of uploading the wrong file to the server.

As expected, the folks at Addic7ed were a bit bemused by the whole situation, giving Sky a thumbs up for keeping the credits intact. Sky themselves weren’t laughing though, having described this whole affair as “totally unacceptable”.

Just out of interest, the Addic7ed site is blocked here in Australia by several ISPs due to its association with piracy.

Gaming

There were lots of things being unveiled at E3, but the piece of news that probably has the greatest impact on the next few years of gaming would be Microsoft’s reveal of their next game console, currently only known as Project Scarlett.

I once read an article that suggested Sony and Microsoft should join forces and just release a single game console. The reasoning was that as consoles advance, the so-called “competing” hardware will become more and more similar, that there really isn’t much of a point to having separate consoles.

That prediction seems to have come true. No, not the part about a joint Sony/Microsoft console (the “Xbox Station 720”?), but the part about the two consoles become more and more similar is spot on.

Sony’s PS5 announcement pointed to an AMD powered console with GDDR6 RAM, backed by an SSD drive with support for advanced graphical features like ray tracing, 120 FPS gaming and 8K output (most likely for video only).

And Project Scarlett will be an AMD powered console with GDDR6 RAM, backed by an SSD drive with support for advanced graphical features like ray tracing, 120 FPS gaming and 8K output (most likely for video only).

Screenshot from Microsoft's Project Scarlett launch video
Project Scarlett and Sony’s PS5 – virtually identical in announced specs

Oh, and both console launches stressed the inclusion of backwards compatibility. Microsoft does have an advantage here due to its head start in this department – it has run a backwards compatibility program for the Xbox One since 2015, and so it has promised backwards compatibility with all Xbox generations for Project Scarlett, not just for Xbox One games.

And if I have to guess, the pricing for both consoles will be similar, if not the same. Microsoft does have a solid-ish launch date of holidays 2020, as Sony has not yet confirmed a release date (but probably holidays 2020).

As for the prediction about a joint console – I don’t think that will ever happen. As similar as the next consoles will be from both companies, and as unprofitable the hardware will be (at least initially), there is still a “need” for separate consoles in order for both companies to have a chance to earn that lucrative licensing money. Puff Daddy was right.

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So we come to the end of this roundup. Have a great one until the next one!

Weekly News Roundup (December 2, 2018)

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Welcome to the final month of 2018. Where has it all gone? Or is it a case of “why did it take so long”? Regardless of which side you’re on, I think it’s safe to say that the fact that I’m talking about the calendar means I really don’t have anything more interesting to write in this intro, so I guess it’s best I just move on to the news, right?

Copyright

Google Auto-Suggest

Google’s piracy demotions system being exploited by scammers?

In case you need another reason as to why copyright take-down regimes are a bad idea because they’re too prone to abuse, well, I have another one for you this week. It appears that scammers have found a way to game Google’s anti-piracy demotion system in order to get malicious websites to rank higher for popular piracy related keywords.

The ingenious scheme involves sending bogus copyright take-down notices to Google, pretending to be well known entities such as Steam or Ubisoft, to remove game piracy related links from the rankings. To be fair, the links they’re asking to be removed do contain pirated content, and so any legitimate take-down notices containing the same links would have been removed. But the intentions behind these take-downs are not quite right, it seems, as with the real piracy links removed from the search results, the fake ones, the ones with malware, are now occupying higher positions on the search results and allowing the scammers to profit.

The scammers have obviously done their homework too, as they’ve submitted “DRM” take-downs, as opposed to the normal DMCA ones. DRM take-downs on Google do not allow the website owner to file a counter-claim, to defend their position (or to inform Google that the take-down notice was a fake one to begin with), and so the scammers have found a great way to get what they want without anyone being able to do anything about it. Many of the removed URLs do contain DRM breaking tools (cracks for games), but many do not.

But since this news story has been making the rounds, it seems Google have wised up to this little trick, and they’ve started flagging some of the take-down notices as potentially fake, although the removed URLs remain removed for the present.

Abuse of copyright take-down regimes isn’t really anything new, but it usually involves companies trying to destroy competitors.

High Definition

LG UP970

Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray players have doubled in numbers in 2018

This Christmas may be all about 4K, according to a new report by consulting firm Futuresource. The report shows that, with the average price of 4K UHD TVs now down to about the same level as a standard HDTV, adoption of these ultra high definition sets are speeding up. Global shipment of UHD TVs are expected to exceed 100 million units globally, with China being the biggest market. Even the pricier HDR enabled sets are selling well, roughly half of UHD TVs sold are now HDR capable.

Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray players are also increasingly popular, with this year doubling the number of units sold previously, and along with that, $360 million in UHD Blu-ray disc sales.

Streaming still remains the most popular way for people to obtain 4K content though, and by streaming, it mostly means Netflix at the moment. 4K broadcasts, on the other hand, remains rare. There are still some issues to be resolved in regards to broadcasts standards, and this may mean a lot of 4K UHD TVs are already obsolete (or require a very “last decade” solution, like a set top box, for future compatibility). For now, OTT (ie. streaming) still easily beats OTA (over-the-air), when concerning 4K.

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And on that note, we end the first WNR of December, and one of the last of 2018. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (July 15, 2018)

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

Welcome to another edition of the Weekly News Roundup. The World Cup is near an end, tears and cheers aplenty, but one can’t help but be disappointed at how things are run these days. Not to say that the World Cup isn’t an exciting event, it is, but it just all seems so sterilized and commercialized. The news about the English team being fined for wearing the wrong socks, from a sponsorship point of view, just proves something isn’t quite right with the game these days.

And what does that have to do with copyright, digital video and gaming news? Nothing really, but every WNR has to have an intro and, to be honest, I’m really struggling to write a “related” one this week.

And oh yes, there’s news to cover. There are a few stories to cover, but none are what you would call the most ground breaking news stories, so this WNR will still be rather short.

Copyright

Denuvo

Denuvo cracked again

Game crackers have won the latest bout with Denuvo, with well known game cracker Voksi cracking the latest version of the controversial anti-tampering system. Describing it as the “most bloated” version of Denuvo yet (with a 128MB game executable consisting of only 5-6MB of game code, the rest being Denuvo code), Voksi cracked the game ‘Puyo Puyo Tetris’ protected by v4.9++ of Denuvo, which then helped him to crack the bigger profile ‘Injustice 2’, which uses the same version of Denuvo.

This follows a recent trend of Denuvo failing to protect major titles after it had a great run, to be fair, over the last few years. It appears that a weakness has been exposed in Denuvo’s system and that Denuvo has not been able to effect a more permanent fix. Introducing more VM, encryption and obfuscation layers on top of Denuvo appears to only work in slowing down crackers, not stop them. And all of this is happening at the expense of resources.

Voksi’s grudge against Denuvo is well known and he (or she) has vowed to never stop cracking Denuvo (which he refers to as a “cancer”) until the protection is no longer feasible. With such bloat, and with the speed in which games are being cracked, it appears that particular moment may not be very far away.

High Definition

You know it’s a slow news week, for both us and Netflix, that they and us both report on this “new” download feature. The new “Smart Downloads” feature will automatically download new episodes for already downloaded shows, while deleting ones that have been watched to make room. It will only work via Wi-Fi and it will probably save you about 30 seconds of work if you had to do this manually, and some will probably turn it off because they don’t want Netflix to be downloading in the background without their knowledge.

Gaming

Dolby Vision

Dolby Vision comes to the Xbox One

Now here’s something slightly more interesting (emphasis on the word “slightly”), Dolby Vision support is coming to the Xbox One S/X. It’s already available for those that are part of the Xbox Insider program, as a preview, but if it works well, there’s no reason why it won’t be coming to a main update soon. Unfortunately, it only works with Netflix at the moment, and not with Ultra HD Blu-ray as you might expect it to, which is a bit strange.

For those interested, Dolby Vision is a proprietary, closed HDR format that offers several improvements over the more popular and open HDR standard, HDR10. There’s also a HDR10+, which aims to take on Dolby Vision, but in a “we don’t like to pay licensing fees” manner.

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So not too long, and not particularly important news stories, to be honest. But that’s all we have this week, so what can you do? See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (July 8, 2018)

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

So Digital Digest celebrated its 19th birthday last week, on July 4, which seems like a familiar date for some reason here in Australia. Who am I kidding? I deliberately launched Digital Digest 19 years and a few days ago on America’s birthday mainly because I know how bad my memory is and the only way I would remember the anniversary would be to piggy back it to another, more easily remembered one.

As for the reasons behind launching Digital Digest (then known as DVDigest)? It was mainly because I had become bored of answering the same questions on several message boards that I had been visiting and decided to put all the available information in one place so I can just link to it in my responses. Plus I could also host a few downloads for people to use on the GeoCities hosted site (sites, actually, since one account usually wasn’t enough to handle all the bandwidth required).

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the site, and so I suppose I should celebrate it somehow being that it’s such a nice and rounded number and all. The arbitrariness of it all …

High Definition

Netflix

Netflix is testing new pricing tiers that could mean price rises for many

The arbitrariness of Netflix’s subscription tiers comes to the fore this week as it was revealed the streaming giant was testing a new, top subscription tier that sounds a lot like the current, top tier, except at a higher price. Netflix’s proposed “Ultra” tier would cost $3.50 more than the current “Premium” tier and would offer exactly the same 4 simultaneous screen plan with 4K and HDR support. What would be different is that the “Premium” plan would drop support for HDR streaming (while still maintaining 4K streaming support), and may even drop the number of simultaneous screens to 2, while the “Standard” plan may end up only supporting 1 screen. In other words, it’s a $3.50 price rise for those that want to watch shows in HDR, and price rises for everyone who needs simultaneous streaming.

This somewhat cynical move might not happen, as I doubt Netflix can get away with something like this if they don’t call it a price rise. But Netflix does need to raise prices because licensing and producing content is expensive business and may get more expensive now that Disney is all about to acquire Fox and will definitely launch their own streaming product – without Disney and Fox’s content, Netflix will have to pay more for other studio’s content or pay even more to produce their own.

There is possibly the argument that content costs too much to license these days because Hollywood is making for losses in DVD and Blu-ray sales with profits from streaming despite not every title making it to a streaming platform. Most of the other streaming platforms, like Amazon, are not even anywhere near profitable due largely to excessive licensing costs, and I’m just not sure this is a wise long term strategy for Hollywood. What is happening is that the high cost of licensing, and particularly the headaches involved with global licensing, means that it’s often more economical for the likes of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon to make their own original content – this, eventually, could put Hollywood in a weaker position both in terms of direct revenue (more competition for eyeballs) as well as when it comes to negotiating future deals, much like how music labels are now at the whim of the likes of Apple and Spotify. In other words, short term greed may end up equaling long term pain.

Still, the idea of subscribing to one or maybe just two platforms that offers pretty much all the content I will ever want to watch, seems like a distant and impossible dream right now.

Gaming

Android Game TV Controller

Google may be getting into gaming in a big way

Google may be dreaming of something too: their own gaming platform. And as with the direction of all things these days, the new platform, codenamed ‘Yeti’, will be streaming, cloud based.

Game streaming, or cloud gaming if you prefer that term instead, isn’t something that’s widely used yet, but all the major players want a piece of it, as it definitely has some major advantages over how games are traditionally distributed. For one, there’s no need to go to a store to buy a retail disc package (which, for a popular game, may be sold out), install it and then install updates to play. Digitally purchased games removes the need to go outside, but it still means a lengthy download, followed by more updates. Both methods also require local storage space, which if you have a lot of games, will always be a problem.

And that’s all assuming you can afford the hardware to play it on – a latest generation console or a souped up gaming PC – both of which will be outdated by the time most of the good games that can take advantage of the hardware actually comes out.

So streaming removes these hurdles, as you can start playing a game in just a few minutes time, with no need to pre-download GBs of data. Plus, with the rendering done on the server level, your local piece of hardware won’t need constant upgrading or to be powerful at all in the first place. Google’s plan is that eventually, you should be able to start a new Chrome tab on any device you own and it will be able to stream-play any game at the highest quality level.

Of course, the major hurdle for this would be bandwidth, because even games these days are 4K and unlike movies and TV which can be pre-compressed to have low bitrate requirements, games are live and have to be encoded live, and so won’t be as efficient when it comes to compression (and games tend to have more motion than movies of TV shows, which further affects their ability to get compressed well). So when everyone has 100 Mbps connections, game streaming might become as normal as Netflix, but until then, it’s still not for everyone. But the major players all want to be in a position to be able to take advantage of this when the bandwidth does eventually catch up, and so this is why Google has Yeti, Nvidia has GeForce Now, Sony has PlayStation Now, Microsoft has that so far unnamed one that they just announced, and also the dozens of other lesser known platforms. Watch this space.

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Well, that’s it for the week. I just realised that it’s nearly 11 years since I started doing this weekly news roundup. The very first roundup started with these words: “This might become a regular feature on the blog (hopefully) if, unlike most of my other projects, I actually manage to keep it up for more than a few weeks”. Looks like I did manage to keep it going for “more than a few weeks”. Here’s to a few weeks more …

Weekly News Roundup (January 28, 2018)

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

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

Copyright

Blockchain

Can Blockchain make digital resales a possibility?

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

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

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

Denuvo

Denuvo in the headlines again

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

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

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

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Switch won Christmas!

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

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

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

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