The UpStream (Page 144)

Hatred Receives AO Rating, Future Unclear

posted Sunday Jan 18, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Hatred Receives AO Rating, Future Unclear

Hatred, a third person killing simulator, has received an Adult Only rating from the ESRB. The information comes to us via a developer on the game's forum, whose post said,

Well, I'm not quite convinced why Hatred got AO rating while it lacks any sexual content, but it's still some kind of achievement to have the second game in history getting AO rating for violence and harsh language only.

The title is actually the third game to receive the AO rating for only violence, but that statistic aside, it does not spell success for the title. One of the previous titles, Thrill Kill, was canceled before release by Electronic Arts after purchasing the publisher and objecting to the content. The other game, Manhunt 2, was edited to allow its release at all, before being patched by gamers.

The AO rating is important for a number of reasons, but foremost is that Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony all have policies of not allowing games with AO ratings on their platforms. Even Value has a policy against AO titles on Steam, which is why Manhunt is available on the platform, but the sequel is not. Even retail sales are troubled for PC, as Gamestop, Target and Walmart will not carry the title for PC, either, if it retains the AO rating.

So, this leaves a difficult decision for the company: either alter the game to drop the rating or try to release the game for PC only without the support of anyone. Manhunt decided to go for a hybrid approach: they released a version of the game with everything intact for the PC, but released an altered version of the game for consoles. The future of the game is unclear at this point, but a comment on the forum says,

I would prefer to get a standard M+ rating, because with AO we will have problems to get to consoles in the future, but on the other hand I think you guys (our fans) would be disappointed with it.

So, the developers, or at least one, would prefer to keep the game intact, but a decision like this often comes down to money. While it is a different world 7 years later, and the game could be successful because of press received from the issue, it is more likely that the publisher will decide to alter the game to allow for mass release.

The Rapid Up and Out of an Online Startup

posted Saturday Jan 17, 2015 by Scott Ertz

The Rapid Up and Out of an Online Startup

Earlier this week, the world was introduced to a new website which promised to ship your enemies glitter. The site describes its process as,

We've had enough so here's the deal: there's someone in your life right now who you ******* hate. Whether it be your ****** neighbour, a family member or that ***** Amy down the road who thinks it's cool to invite you to High Tea but not provide any weed.

So pay us money, provide an address anywhere in the world & we'll send them so much glitter in an envelope that they'll be finding that **** everywhere for weeks. We'll also include a note telling the person exactly why they're receiving this terrible gift. Hint: the glitter will be mixed in with the note thus increasing maximum spillage.

The story was picked up by all kinds of sites, such as FastCompany, Mashable, USA Today, Yahoo and more. After all of the publicity, it turns out that this literally days-old website had so many orders that they were unable or unwilling to keep up with it. In fact, before shutting down new orders, he had racked up over $20,000 worth of sales and over 2.5 million page views.

Those numbers were too much for the owner, though, as new orders were shut down and the site has been put up for auction. At the time of writing, the auction has reached over $70,000 with over 330 bids. Included in the auction is the domain, the software and all emails received about orders and interviews.

If you are an entrepreneur type or just plain sick, this might just be the business for you.

YouTube Tries to Lock Up Top Creators, Offers Incentives for Exclusive Content Amidst Heavy Competition

posted Sunday Dec 14, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

YouTube Tries to Lock Up Top Creators, Offers Incentives for Exclusive Content Amidst Heavy Competition

YouTube has been having some stiff competition lately. Between up-and-comers like Vessel and Hitbox, Amazon picking up Twitch for just under $1 billion and Vimeo locking in some content deals, YouTube has merely been able to ride out the storm. That's been the case for a while, with many YouTube stars leaving the site for greener pastures, in both viewers and money. Now, the video-streaming site is fighting back with Google's really big wallet.

In a move that should've happened a few months ago, Google is targeting its biggest and most popular content creators, in hopes that with enough cash, the talent will stay on the platform. Specifics of the deals differ from person to person, but in General, YouTube has been asking each channel to post exclusively to YouTube for a period of time before putting the video on other sites. Some top channels have even been offered cash incentives to create additional content for YouTube only.

Oddly enough, YouTube seems to be most concerned with Vessel, a video start-up that hasn't launched yet but is backed by former Hulu CEO Jasaon Kilar. Vessel has been one of the more active companies gunning for the giant's top tier talent. Vessel currently has $75 million in venture capital and should be finalizing its program lineup before the year it out.

One YouTuber who has requested to remain anonymous has said that, "I would like to remain on YouTube. But some of the competing offers are incredibly attractive."

CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojciki, recently spoke at a Recode event and openly admitted to incentives being offered to popular channels but declined to provide details. All of the conversation, however, was surrounded by the idea that YouTube would launch a paid subscription. With Vimeo already offering that and Vessel getting ready to launch, a YouTube spokesperson added to that point by saying that the company has been supporting its content creators from the beginning, and it has ""been increasing that support through a broad range of activities including marketing and content funding."

It's hard to say what will happen at this point, but with as much competition that's been circling the YouTube ship for a while, this was bound to happen sooner or later. If enough offers are thrown around and enough talent leaves, YouTube may lose its top spot as the go-to place for video in the very near future.

FTC Finalizes Settlement with Google to Refund $19 Million in Unauthorized In-App Charges

posted Sunday Dec 14, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

FTC Finalizes Settlement with Google to Refund $19 Million in Unauthorized In-App Charges

Much like the lawsuit earlier this year with Apple having to refund purchases made by children, Google is now under fire for the same thing. The FTC has finally settled with Google over the identical matter, and Google will be contacting customers starting next week in order to discuss potential refunds of in-app purchases.

The FTC proposal in September has assigned Google to hand out at least $19 million in refunds to customers who, essentially, were allowing their children to make purchases on their devices without securing their credit card information. It should also be noted that many apps did not require a PIN or password prior to making an in-app purchase. Because of this, the FTC has decided that, like Apple, Google will be responsible for the total cost of any purchases made without parental authorization.

As per the settlement, Google does not have a cap on the final amount it will have to pay out, but it will have to be at least $19 million. If somehow Google refunds less than that, the balance will have to be sent to the FTC instead. The ruling also placed a limit on the age of the claim, with in-app purchases having to be made in 2011 or later. Customers will have a one-year windows to request a refund from the time Google sends them information on how to proceed.

It is also interesting to note that there were a total of 16 public comments made on the proposed settlement between the FTC and Google. They are definitely worth reading in order to provide some perspective on the case as a whole. In one of the cases, a parent set up a restricted access account for her child, yet she was still able to make purchases within a game without authorization.

In the end, it looks like Google will escape for about $12 million less than Apple did, at least at the minimum. Does this ruling affect you? Will you be making a claim to Google for some unauthorized charges? Let us know in the comments below.

More News on Verizon's 3G Network Retirement Plans

posted Sunday Dec 14, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

More News on Verizon's 3G Network Retirement Plans

Last week, a New York native noticed a sudden drop in 3G service on his Verizon phone and, upon further researched, discovered that Verizon was testing out retiring its 3G network. While no official timeline was announced, the tests opened up a bunch of speculation. This week, Verizon has announced it has selected 10 test markets where the company will be retiring the 3G network in favor of LTE.

The tests have already begun in Manhattan and Cleveland. When pressed, VP of network operations Mike Haberman would not give out the exact cities, but did mention that the rollout to LTE will happen on PCS bands once used for Verizon's EV-DO services. Unlike in the not-so-public testing accidentally found by a resident in NYC, the exec admitted that this type of testing will be expanding to other locations as well.

Virtually all our devices now are 4G LTE. We do sell a lot of phones and people tend to upgrade their phones fairly often. If you see Apple's complete lineup, it's all 4G.

Along with these tests we'll see Verizon also testing carrier aggregation, which is the ability to combine the eventual three LTE networks' transmissions. Devices will need to be created to support the technology, but Haberman said we should expect to see those in the next year. AT&T has already implemented carrier aggregation in major cities.

Haberman also said that Verizon will be supporting EV-DO up to December 31st, 2019 at the earliest. That would probably be due to the sheer amount of flip-phones that are seen at family gatherings, as we mentioned last week on the show. That simple observation plays into the fact that lots of people still use 3G, however 80 percent of Verizon's data is running on LTE.

So while this isn't a ground-breaking announcement, it is definitely interesting to follow this story as it develops. Moving forward with wireless technology at such a rapid pace is a bold and aggressive move, but one that could really push the envelope, so long as users are able to upgrade and make the transition easily.

Google's First Service Shut Down Because of Google Tax

posted Saturday Dec 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Google's First Service Shut Down Because of Google Tax

Between trying to break up the company, and punishing their profits, Google has had a rough time in Europe, but thus far they have managed to maintain all of their services. The consistent European onslaught of Google has officially claimed its first victim, however.

Spain has implemented a new law that requires that anyone who republishes news content, including the quick blurb in a search result, is required to pay for that right. Now, I will tell you that a lot of our readership is driven by news aggregators and search, including Bing and Google. The fact that a short bit of the article is provided in the result only encourages people to come to the site and read the rest. Spanish publications do not agree, and so explains the law.

As a result of the new law, Google will shut down its Google News service in Spain. Google said in a blog post responding to the law and explaining their position,

Sadly, as a result of a new Spanish law, we'll shortly have to close Google News in Spain. Let me explain why. This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not. As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable. So it's with real sadness that on 16 December (before the new law comes into effect in January) we'll remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and close Google News in Spain.

Spain's law is not the first of its type, though it is the first of its depth. In Germany, publishers are entitled to up to 11 percent of revenue generated from Google News, which as you just read does not generate any revenue. Even if publishers could prove revenue, they are required to collect on it themselves without any interaction from the government. That is not the case for Spain. In the event the law is violated, including the republisher failing to pay the required licensing fees, a penalty of more than $750,000 can be levied from the government.

It will be interesting to see how widely this law is applied and enforced. Facebook provides services similar to that of Google News. For example, on the right side of your feed is a trending section. When clicking a topic, you get a snippet of the article in question. In fact, as you scroll down, you can get a snippet from many articles relating to the topic. This would technically violate the new Spanish law, but my expectation is it will not be prosecuted.

The law was intended specifically to punish Google for not making any money by driving readers to publishers who do make money from said readers. While that makes absolutely no sense, that has not yet been a requirement for passing Google-related laws in Europe. Because of that, I suspect that Facebook will be safe, at least until they become the next target of the European Union.

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