Archive for the ‘Xbox 360, Xbox One’ Category

Weekly News Roundup, Looking Back at 2017 (December 17, 2017)

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Sorry for the lateness of this roundup. Two things happened. One, I was an idiot and slammed the car door on my left index finger, and so typing, while not impossible, became not quite a pleasant experience. And two, there really wasn’t much going on. So the originally plan was, before the finger ouchie, was to do a kind of brief roundup for the year. That is still the plan, but I’m afraid it will be even briefer now.

Let’s get started.

Copyright

So a lot has happened in terms of copyright news, and and in another aspect, not much has happened. Hollywood and the music industry are still going after the “bad guys”, only the bad guys will change from time to time (the lack of any effect on piracy, remains unchanged).

YouTube Targeted

YouTube is destroying the music industry according to the music industry

For the music industry, YouTube is now the new enemy number one, after having bit of a whinge at Spotify last year. Both YouTube and Spotify have virtually ended piracy as a thing, but because the music industry doesn’t make as money from these platforms as they like (kinda their own fault for not inventing these platforms, the ones that their customers had pleaded for them to introduce, and leaving it for the tech heads to disrupt the industry), they hate it.

They do have a point. As I’m typing this, I’m listening to The Last Jedi soundtrack on YouTube, an official legal upload by DisneyVEVO. There will be lots of people like me that, because of the availability of free listening, won’t bother to pay for it. And the ad money that these uploads make, won’t amount to much I suspect (the same ad for the movie Ferdinand playing over and over again hasn’t made me want to watch it). But in the past, people like me might have just pirated the soundtrack which means no revenue for the labels. So you win some, you lose some. And perhaps there will be others that actually buy the music after hearing and liking it on YouTube or Spotify.

But the fact of the matter is that streaming now accounts for the majority of the music industry’s income, income that has shrunk a lot since the heydays of CDs. People not willing to pay as much for music is now a reality, regardless of who is to blame (and maybe the greater availability of entertainment, from Blu-rays to Netflix to mobile gaming to social media, none of which existed during the peak of CD sales, has had a greater effect than piracy or even the move to digital). Accepting the reality and trying to adapt to it is a much better strategy than complaining about the present and reminiscing about the “good old days”.

MXQ Player

Kodi boxes were public enemy number one

For Hollywood, they too have a new Boogeyman in the form of Kodi boxes. Kodi boxes makes piracy too easy, argues the MPAA. This is true, but it wasn’t as if piracy was rocket science to begin with (especially if you have a geeky boyfriend/girlfriend/brother/sister/cousin/friend that can help you out). The real reason the MPAA is going after Kodi box makers is that it’s easy. These people usually have a traceable bank account, maybe even a real business address, and so it’s so much easier than going after Torrent sites and private trackers.

Going after someone, particularly an easy target that you can take to court and win easy cases against, makes the industry feel they’re doing something, and makes the MPAA relevant. It has no actual effect on anything though, because all that will happen is that we’ll begin to see a lot more Kodi box makers emerge from the traditional markets that are out of the jurisdiction and reach of the MPAA. People will also now learn how to make their own Kodi boxes, which isn’t too hard to begin with (again, the geeky boyfriend/girlfriend/brother/sister/… comes in handy).

HBO Hack

Hacking became a new source for pirated content

Hacking has become a real problem for Hollywood though, with the high profile HBO hack coming to mind. It’s not as disruptive as say general piracy, but in many ways, it is much more damaging. Not just the leak of unreleased content, but also emails and other data that studios would liked to have remained private.

There is also renewed attack on Safe Harbor protection, not just in the U.S., but in Australia too. Hollywood is seeking to erode the legal protection offered to tech companies, protection that has been essential in the creation of platforms like YouTube and Facebook. To be fair, this line of attack is not new, but Hollywood and the copyright industry are getting closer to rewriting copyright law than ever before.

And finally, the Weinstein expose will hopefully have a positive effect on the perverse and unhealthy culture in Hollywood and elsewhere.

High Definition

Disney content on Netflix

Disney (and Fox) will be a real threat to Netflix

The biggest disruption to business as usual in Hollywood in 2017 may have only occurred in the last few days, with the news that Disney will buy Fox. Two huge studios are now just one mega huge studio, and that has wide ranging effects on all parts of the industry. With Disney already announcing they’re coming after Netflix, the acquisition of Fox means they now have the content to mount a real battle. There is also Hulu, which has had a great year thanks to The Handmaid’s Tale. Hulu is co-owned by Fox, Disney and a few others – it will now be majority owned by Disney, and is already a threat to Netflix and Amazon.

And the timing of the acquisition and the move into the streaming market couldn’t be more better. With the physical media business, one that Disney dominates thanks to its mega franchises, losing steam again in 2017 after a brief hiatus in 2016, the signs are already there. Ultra HD Blu-ray has done well actually, but it was always a niche market and the declines in standard Blu-rays and DVDs cannot be ignored (sales dropped by 8.5% and 15.7% respectively for Black Friday).

2017 probably marked the end of 3D as a serious format on home video as well, with fewer and fewer 3D TV sets being produced, and not that many movies being released either.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch Mario Odyssey Bundle

The Nintendo Switch is the must-have toy for Christmas

Gaming also saw some big changes in 2017. Two big new (or newish) consoles were released in 2017, the Nintendo Switch and the Xbox One X. But only one of these will be the must-have item for Christmas, and that’s the Nintendo console. The hybrid nature of the console, the line-up of great games (Zelda in particular), and the same-old-same-ness of the PS4 and Xbox One offerings really helped to convince many that the Switch is the one to have. Just about every Christmas ad I’ve seen for department store or online retailers, or even credit card companies, feature the Switch as a much wanted gift. This is just a reflection of reality, but at the same time, it’s great promotion for Nintendo.

It was a big gamble for Nintendo, and I’m happy for them that it paid off. Creativity and risk taking is something that the gaming industry lacks sometimes, and so it’s always nice to see innovation win the day, rather than just better graphics and higher framerates.

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I know it’s not much of a roundup, and I’m sure I’ve actually missed talking about most of the things that have happened this year, but you know how hard it is to type without your left index finger? Actually not as hard as I thought it would be, but still hard. Until next week or when my finger heals a bit more, have a great one!

Weekly News Roundup (October 22, 2017)

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Sorry again for the hiatus last weekend, a combination of not much happening, and too much happening in my personal life, meant that writing a WNR was just not going to work out.

Luckily, there’s more news and less other stuff this week, and so here’s we are again.

Copyright

There’s more Denuvo news, and you guessed it, it’s not good news for the anti-tampering/piracy system. Two more games have been cracked this week, and both were cracked in about 24 hours. I think it’s safe to say that the current version of Denuvo is no longer viable, and unless Denuvo the company can bring out a major new revision that changes things enough to make whatever the current method of cracking obsolete, then things are not looking good for the protection system that was once hailed as unbreakable.

So in terms of PC game piracy, it seems we’re back to the drawing board. With mobile gaming moving away from the pay-to-play to a free-to-play model, which has made piracy redundant (although hacking/cheating to get in-game premium currency remains a thing), perhaps it’s something PC game makers need to consider. Or at the very least, ditch the use of bad user experience, processor intensive, and hardly working protection systems.

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MXQ Player

Kodi boxes are in the spotlight again

The MPAA has finally decided to go after Kodi box makers, that’s not surprising. What was surprising was that Netflix and Amazon decided to tag along too. Or perhaps this isn’t surprising either, because both streaming giants are now very much in the content production game, and they want to protect their content too.

This lawsuit is by no means a certain victory for the content creators though, if the Kodi box maker in question, TickBox, decide to fight this thing in court. TickBox can argue all they’ve done is install a bunch of freely downloadable software into an Android box. The software may do things that are illegal, but TickBox has nothing to do with that. Against TickBox is the fact that their website seems to promote the device as something that can replace paid for content, so they cannot argue that they aren’t aware of the piracy nature of the apps they package with the device.

It’s worth keeping an eye on this, but I suspect the makers of TickBox will be keen to make a deal, as opposed to taking this thing further.

High Definition

iTunes 10

Could a new way to distribute video undercut Apple’s profits?

Here’s something that could possibly challenge the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google, and to a lesser extent, Netflix and Hulu. White Rabbit is a new video distribution system that aims to connect consumers directly to content creators, bypassing the “middlemen”. White Rabbit uses the same Blockchain technology that helps to drive Bitcoins, and instead applies the transparent transaction principle to buying movies and TV shows. White Rabbit aims to separate the distribution to the financial transaction, so they a company like Apple and Google won’t have as much power to dictate pricing and revenue sharing, just because they happen to run a download/streaming service.

Instead, content holders get the majority share of revenue, directly from consumers, and multiple outlets can provide the download/streaming ecosystem, bringing more competition, and less monopolisation, to the marketplace. It’s easy to see that this paradigm shift can apply to not just video, but practically any kind of digital delivery.

Not sure how this could apply to subscription streaming though, but the idea behind Blockchain is solid and can apply to any kind of transaction system if you want transparency, and fraud prevention.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch was on top again in September

The Nintendo Switch was on top yet again in September, after winning August and July, This makes it 5 out of 7, the number of months it has won since it’s release. This news doesn’t actually come from the NPD, which usually releases these things, but directly from Nintendo themselves, due to a “data issue” that delayed NPD’s September report.

Regardless, it’s a very impressive set of results for Nintendo. The release of the Xbox One X in November won’t really change things, I suspect, due to the console’s high cost and niche factor. The holidays tend to favour the big two, but the momentum is with the Switch and it could become the “must-have” video game hardware for the season, just like the Wii was back when.

Time will tell …

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That’s it for the week, a nice collection of stories that I hope was interesting enough for you. See you next week!

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.

Copyright

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 (June 18, 2017)

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

How are you on this frosty Sunday morning? Hope the week has been good to you. Once again, we take a look at the most interesting news of the week, and for once, we actually have a few to go through. So let’s get started!

Copyright

Just what is going on? More Ultra HD Blu-ray rips have started to appear on the usual download sites, and nobody seems to know just how exactly

Inferno Ultra HD Blu-ray Cover

More Ultra HD Blu-ray titles have been ripped and uploaded online

they were ripped. It appears unlikely that UHD Blu-ray’s main copy protection mechanism, AACS 2.0, has been ripped, since this would be big news and news that any cracking group would likely share. So this then leaves the possibility of some kind of workaround or flaw that exists, that is allowing these heavily protected discs to be ripped.

This reminds me of the HDFury incident from last year, where HDCP protected 4K streams were being ripped and the mystery behind the ripping was solved when Hollywood launched a major lawsuit against the company that made HDFury, a device that allowed HDCP 2.2 to be ripped.

So it remains absolutely possible that there may be some kind of workaround for ripping AACS 2.0. Perhaps a software player that has an exploit, that kind of thing.

Stay tuned for more info.

Also in copyright news, but not really copyright news, Sony have come up with a brilliant new idea that has many Hollywood artists angry. Sony plans to release family friendly “clean versions” of films with selected digital purchases, removing profanity, sexual references and violence from these films.

Some say this isn’t a big deal because these versions already exists for TV broadcasts and on flights and nobody has made a big fuss over them. But others says this kind of censorship takes the creative decision out of the hands of filmmakers, and it usually means a poor and really obvious job (lots of calls of “mothers”, for examples) that’s to the detriment of the film itself. And while this kind of things was tolerated for TV broadcasts and airlines due to their specific legal requirements, Sony have done this without any kind of significant legal or moral pressure, and this is what also makes artists angry.

Storm in a teacup? Or storm in a motherfu**ing teacup? Don’t know.

Gaming

Xbox One X

The Xbox One X, side by side here with the Xbox One S, is smaller and more powerful

So the big gaming news of the week centers around E3 and the official launch (or is it the second official launch) of the Xbox One Scorpio, now known as the Xbox One X. Most of the details about Microsoft’s upgraded Xbox One is already known, but we didn’t know the name (see previous sentence), the price (USD $499) and what it will look like (black monolithic box). And now we know these things.

The only major surprise was that Microsoft managed to build a 4K console and fit it into a box smaller than the now entry level Xbox One S, and that’s kinda cool.

At $499 though, it’s asking a lot of gamers, many of whom only recently shelled out for a Xbox One or PS4, but that’s the price of 4K I guess (and it’s still cheaper than building your own 4K gaming PC).

A lot of critics are warning that the ‘X’ won’t be a success because it’s too expensive and hardly anyone has a 4K display. This is true, but Microsoft isn’t just building the console for today (or November 7, when it is released), it’s building it to last until the next console generation starts in about 3 years or so. At that time, I think we may look back on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X and be able to point to only one of them as a true 4K gaming console.

Of course, this relies on games being able to take full advantage of the 6 teraflops of power the Xbox One X offers – developers have so far not produced the goods for the PS4 Pro when it comes to making the case for the the console existing at all (but 1 in 5 PS4 buys today is a Pro, so that’s not too bad – overall, 60 millions PS4s have already been sold), but they may have a bit more to play around with in regards to the ‘X’.

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