The UpStream (Page 14)

Nintendo to shift focus from mobile games after Animal Crossing win

posted Monday Jun 22, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo to shift focus from mobile games after Animal Crossing win

A few years ago, Nintendo made an announcement that shocked the industry: they were bringing their intellectual property to mobile devices. Nintendo has allowed games based on its characters and world on other platforms in the past but has been resistant to the idea in recent years because of the negative experiences they've had. Despite their concerns, games featuring Mario, Animal Crossing, and Pokemon have all found their way to iOS and Android devices. That era might be coming to an end if a report from Bloomberg is accurate.

The move to mobile was a surprise to many, not just because of the past licensing issues. The Switch, which is designed to be both a home and portable console, was the new face of the company. Releasing games for mobile devices could potentially undermine the uniqueness of the Switch. However, the reality of the situation turned out to be the opposite. Sales of first-party Switch games cannibalized usage and sales of the mobile titles. Most notably, the release of the most recent Animal Crossing: New Horizons destroyed usage of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, its mobile companion. In fact, sales of the new title have driven Nintendo's shares to a 12-year high.

With that information at hand, it makes less sense for Nintendo to split its resources developing new titles for mobile and Switch when the best-case scenario for the company is to focus on its own platform, especially if it is generating more revenue. But, it appears that the decision could have been made last year. Since Mario Kart Tour released last year, there have been no mobile games in development. Instead, it seems the company will focus on maintaining the current mobile games and developing new titles for the Switch.

Are you going to miss new mobile titles from Nintendo, or is the experience on the Switch where they should focus?

Microsoft to kill Mixer, transition to Facebook Gaming partnership

posted Monday Jun 22, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft to kill Mixer, transition to Facebook Gaming partnership

Since Microsoft bought Beam and rebranded it Mixer, they have fought to compete with the more established services, like Twitch. While they have worked to attract users, such as signing Ninja to the platform, their moves have not been as effective as they had hoped. In that time, even Facebook has gotten in on the game and surpassed Mixer for active users. Unfortunately for those who are full-time content creators on Mixer, the road is coming to an end.

With this announcement, we see the end of Microsoft's first-party ambitions for videogame streaming. Microsoft said that they learned the amount of time required to maintain and grow an active streaming community was out of scale with the amount of time available. This is likely because of the company's shift to focusing on a different type of streaming with Project xCloud.

With the shutdown of Mixer coming in just a month's time, the company is partnering with Facebook Gaming to transition its community. The two brands have worked together to make the transition easy. Facebook has a dedicated transition plan, though the move is obviously not required. However, a lot of perks will transfer with content creators, such as partner status and monetization. Embers and Sparks will be worth double their value for the next month, and any unspent or outstanding subscriptions will be translated into gift cards.

After the cutoff, Mixer.com will redirect to fb.gg, which is Facebook's dedicated gaming hub, and Mixer apps will encourage viewers to follow their streamers over to Facebook. However, the transition is not required - apparently for anyone. That includes the streamers who were paid large sums of money to move from Twitch to Mixer, such as Ninja. According to reports from people involved in the move, exclusive partners were paid their entire contract and, as of midnight last night, are free to pursue new homes at any streaming platform.

For those of us here, we preferred Mixer to other platforms. The latency, especially on chat, was far less than Twitch, which made interaction between the streamer and community more natural. It is a shame to see the platform go, but it was only a matter of time before one of the competitors would tap out.

HBO Go is being retired, leaving some customers without access

posted Saturday Jun 13, 2020 by Scott Ertz

HBO Go is being retired, leaving some customers without access

With the official release of HBO Max, the confusion over the brand's streaming strategy has expanded. The expanded lineup became HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO Max. For customers and potential customers, the question over which service was which and who got which features was difficult to keep straight. In fact, in our last conversation about the topic on the show, even we weren't able to keep straight which was which. But, it's about to become far simpler.

The HBO Go app is the way that existing subscribers to the traditional HBO TV service can stream current and past HBO programming on their mobile devices, web, and smart TVs. As of the end of July 2020, the HBO Go platform will be retired in favor of the other two platforms. When HBO Go goes away, HBO Now will be renamed to simply HBO, but its features will remain unchanged. Replacing HBO Go for existing customers is HBO Max, which contains the existing content, plus new licensed content.

While getting HBO Max instead of HBO Go is a theoretical win, for some users it's going to be a major loss. Those users are owners of Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices. If you're keeping track of streaming statistics, you'll know that these two platforms represent 70 percent of streaming devices. Why is this going to be a loss for 70 percent of streaming devices? Because, while HBO Go is available on both platforms, HBO Max is not available. So, if you are a subscriber to HBO and reply on one of these devices to access your streaming content, you are about to lose part of your subscription.

To add insult to injury, the reasoning for sunsetting Go is that Max is "widely available." But, can the app be considered "widely available" if it is missing 70 percent of the streaming device market? We'll see if the company manages to get the app to these platforms before the end of July, but I wouldn't hold your breath.

Internet Archive shuts down National Emergency Library early

posted Saturday Jun 13, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Internet Archive shuts down National Emergency Library early

When the lockdown began, it created a ton of problems for nearly everyone. From food shortages to lost jobs, it affected everyone. But, one of the most visible things was the closure of schools and libraries, creating real problems for students. In an attempt to rectify the situation, the Internet Archive decided to clear out the waitlist for its ebook loaning program. They called the altered program the National Emergency Library, which made the ebooks in the library available to everyone for free, regardless of the availability of the titles. Now, that decision is having expected repercussions for the organization.

The Internet Archive did not get licensing to loan these books without restriction, in violation of the existing licensing agreement for these titles. As a result, four publishers (Hachette Book Group, Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and Penguin Random House LLC) filed suit against the organization for copyright infringement. The suit asks for an injunction against the Internet Archive from sharing copyrighted content and statutory damages, in an amount that could be as high as $150,000 per infringement. If that fine was to be levied, it would almost certainly end the organization.

Recognizing the potential cost of the suit, the organization has decided to shut down the program two weeks early. The Internet Archive sees the suit differently, claiming,

This lawsuit is not just about the temporary National Emergency Library. The complaint attacks the concept of any library owning and lending digital books, challenging the very idea of what a library is in the digital world.

This isn't quite reality, though, as libraries actually follow the law. The digital content that is lent through proper libraries is licensed through special programs for digital lending, whereas the Internet Archive decided to scan physical books and make them available to anyone for free without restriction. This will be an uphill battle for the organization if the publishers decide to follow through, now that the program is shut down.

Sony shows off PlayStation 5 games, but loses the thread on design

posted Saturday Jun 13, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Sony shows off PlayStation 5 games, but loses the thread on design

Sony certainly had a goal with its recent Future of Games event for the PlayStation 5: the games. And, if you watched the event, the company succeeded. You knew it was going to be a heavy game-focused event when it opened with Spider-Man Miles Morales and closed with Horizon Forbidden West. In the middle, the company showed off other big names from franchises like Resident Evil. In addition, new games made an appearance, such as Little Devil Inside. The event didn't focus on any single game type, but instead showed off a wide range of games.

But, for an event titled Future of Games, there was very little focus on the future. Instead, the event was very focused on now. Essentially, the event said, "Here's the console that's coming and the games that you will be playing right away." It's a very different approach to gaming from Microsoft, who has shown both the immediate future and their more long run plans. In addition to Xbox Series X, Microsoft has been showing off Project Cloud and the benefits of services like Xbox Live Ultimate. Sony seems to have no plans to play in these spaces.

However, while Sony wanted everyone to focus on the games, the real takeaway was the design of the console. The final design, which has been met with a lot of comedy, fits perfectly into this generation of consoles. While Microsoft has announced that the Xbox Series X is designed after some sort of Borg ship or possibly a mini-fridge, Sony has announced that their inspiration came from a Wi-Fi router. While the previous generation of consoles was designed to disappear into the woodwork, this generation is designed to stand out - for better or worse. These designs have created some of the best internet comedy in weeks - something that was in short supply.

Proposed robocall fine would be largest FCC fine ever uncollected

posted Saturday Jun 13, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Proposed robocall fine would be largest FCC fine ever uncollected

The world may be divided on most topics, but there is one thing we can all come together on: our hatred of robocalls. We've all been close to destroying our phones when the voice on the other end of a call says, "We've been trying to reach you about your car's extended warranty." The FCC has implemented some regulations to try and cut down on the annoyance. Among the regulations are an end to caller ID spoofing and the Do Not Call registry. While the measures may have actually resulted in fewer deceptive calls, some still work around it.

One such pair that ignored all of the rules is John C. Spiller and Jakob A. Mears, who operated a health insurance scam ring. They operated brands such as Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom, making more than 1 billion robocalls claiming to sell short term insurance options. According to the FCC's proposed fine against the duo,

The robocalls falsely claimed to offer health insurance plans from well-known health insurance companies such as Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and UnitedHealth Group. For example, one call stated: "Are you looking for affordable health insurance with benefits from a company you know? Policies have all been reduced nationwide such as Cigna, Blue Cross, Aetna, and United just a quick phone call away. Press 3 to get connected to a licensed agent or press 7 to be added to the Do Not Call list." If they did press 3, consumers were transferred to a call center with no affiliation to the named companies, where call center representatives then would attempt to convince the consumer to purchase an insurance product sold by one of Rising Eagle's clients. Rising Eagle's largest client, Health Advisors of America, was sued by the Missouri Attorney General for telemarketing violations in February 2019.

As part of the action, the FCC will be asking for a $225 million fine. The FCC, however, does not have the authority to issue the fine on its own, so it will need to go through a process. Traditionally, an agreement is reached somewhere lower than the proposed maximum. However, the FCC is not known for success in actually collecting on its fines. According to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel,

Over the last several years the FCC has levied hundreds of millions in fines against robocallers just like the folks we have here today. But so far collections on these eye-popping fines have netted next to nothing. In fact, it was last year that The Wall Street Journal did the math and found that we had collected no more than $6,790 on hundreds of millions in fines. Why? Well, one reason is that the FCC looks to the Department of Justice to collect on the agency's fines against robocallers. We need them to help. So when they don't get involved-as here-that's not a good sign.

So, do these policies work? For some, it may simply be the fear of any retribution that stops them from acting. For others, it appears the knowledge that nothing will happen that keeps the calls coming.

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