The UpStream (Page 147)

GameStop Says Free Games Devalue Growing Digital Marketplace

posted Sunday Nov 23, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

GameStop Says Free Games Devalue Growing Digital Marketplace

GameStop, the company notoriously known for selling used games at almost-new prices, isn't very happy that Sony and Microsoft have been giving away free games with their consoles and during other promotions. The disdain is so intense that a GameStop exec spoke on the matter during a shareholder conference call this past week.

GameStop President Tony Bartel said in the call that, "What we produce has value, and we should protect that value." The message is rooted in the notion that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are often bundled with free games, and in other promotions, games are given to customers for no charge. How does this impact GameStop? Well, Bartel mentioned that "over $100 million worth of games have been digitally delivered for free in hardware bundles" as the company's estimation on the free handouts. And while I understand his slight frustration at the big two, here's where things go a bit south. He went on to say that once Sony and Microsoft decide to stop giving out games for free that,

...the industry will need to work together to continue to price goods in a way that sustains profitability and encourages a great innovation that this category needs.

This is the part of the story where every gamer's jaw collectively drops to the floor. This is all coming from GameStop, the company that has been selling $60 games for $54.99 and charging another $10 for the code required to play online. GameStop, the company that has been taking that $54.99 and not giving a dime of it to developers of the games they sell, and continue to boast its success in used game sales. GameStop, the company that now offers a credit card to help customers afford those used game purchases. It's the same company that has moved customers' new game reservation money to a used game purchase, without asking the customer for permission, because it will "save the customer money." Oh, and it's also the company that is considering doing all of the above with used DLC. I'm confused, but I think all of that is the opposite of "working together," unless "working together" means all of the GameStop stores working together to push everyone else out of selling games.

Bartel closed the call by adding,

We want to help ensure that our industry does not make the same mistake as other entertainment categories by driving the perceived value of digital goods significantly below that of a physical game.

To paraphrase, GameStop is scared of the console gaming world moving to digital says. If anything, the past five years of digital sales for PC games have proven that AAA titles selling for less money than full-retail can only be a good thing. Digital platforms like Steam and Origin have shown that holding weekend-long and month-long sales where games are slashed up to 75% off only boost sales and awareness to games. The lack of push to digital and the constant need for production plants are the main reasons we're still seeing $60 games for consoles, even for the digital copy. And then you add in GameStop's never-ending efforts to cut out the developers in the "pay money to people who deserve it" process. We can probably even place some blame onto GameStop for the insane amount of microtransactions in AAA games.

The difference in what GameStop is doing versus what GameStop is mad about is the fact that game studios have actively made the decision to offer up a game for free or in a bundle. The studios speak with Microsoft and Sony to hammer out details for a promotion and how it'll all work out. It's not like the Xbox One Marketplace is marking Sunset Overdrive down to $50 and then not giving the team at Sunset Overdrive their portion of the money.

If we're going to play this game, we need to call it like it is. Sony and Microsoft are working on attracting new fans to its product by offering big-name games for free. Those two companies are the masters at sales and promotions and do a great job year in and year out at keeping the gaming industry moving forward. And, apparently, GameStop is the master at shifting the blame to everyone else when it can't cash in on a popular idea in a new market.

The End of G4 Has Finally Arrived

posted Saturday Nov 22, 2014 by Scott Ertz

The End of G4 Has Finally Arrived

It has been 2 years since Comcast officially announced the the end of G4, with the cancelation of the network's two top programs, Attack of the Show! and X-Play, and the transference of Ninja Warrior to NBC. Since then, the former hosts have found new homes, including Adam Sessler's move to Revision3.

Somehow, the network is still on the air; at least as of the writing of this article. Comcast will shutter the network after November 30th, following 2 years of no new programming and no clear direction. After that time you will have to find somewhere else to catch hours of Cops reruns.

Founder and former CEO Charles Hirschhorn has taken this opportunity to raise money for charity. He has started an auction of G4 branded materials, including T-shirts and hats. The prices are higher than you might expect, considering the network has been dead for so long. Perhaps this is a sign that the network had more fans than thought, or perhaps this is simply nostalgia run rampant.

Either way, the brand only has a few more days of life. Will you, or do you already, miss what G4 was in its heyday? Let us know in the comments. For those of us who admired what G4 and TechTV managed to do, especially in their early days, and were even inspired by some of what happened, I know we miss what used to be.

EU Begins Making Moves to Break Up Google

posted Saturday Nov 22, 2014 by Scott Ertz

EU Begins Making Moves to Break Up Google

Google's government-related legal troubles have been numerous and varied. In the United States, they have been FTC investigation, with a potential antitrust suit incoming. In Europe, they are being watched and warned by France, along with fines.

Their biggest issues, however, have come from the European Union, which have been investigating Google's practices. Recently, they were ordered to create a way for EU citizens to remove themselves from Google's search index, which resulted in an interesting and larger than expected influx of requests. This week, though, it looks like the EU is really upping their focus on Google's practices, beginning the process of enforcing an antitrust breakup.

The European Parliament has a draft resolution calling for Google to break its search business from the rest of the company. It should be finalized next week, with a vote coming as soon as Thursday. The biggest issue with the resolution is that Parliament actually has no power to order a breakup. They are really just hoping that by passing the resolution, it will put pressure on the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, which does have that power.

Consumer Watchdog, an organization that has been highly critical of Google, was pleased with the move. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director told PCWorld,

This is exactly what needs to happen. Search should be separated from Google's other businesses. We called for this back in 2010 and the need to do this has become even clearer as Google's power has increased.

There is plenty of concern over the combination of Google's search business and others, such as YouTube and Google Shopping. Because of the combination, Google has the ability to place priority on their own offerings in search results rather than more accurate or relevant search results from their competitors. Because of this, it is understandable why the EU would want to separate this threat.

Unfortunately for Google, this separation would ultimately result in the end of the non-search business. Google is a company which has never quite figured out a business model and, instead, has relied on the Ponzi scheme of online advertising. That advertising money comes in largest form from search results. Without that revenue, Google could not continue to operate the rest of its businesses.

Could the EU force Google's separation? Would it ultimately end the company, or would Google abandon Europe entirely, as they did China? It would appear that we could have an answer as soon as Thursday.

Masked Player Owned All Competitors in Smash Bros. Tournament

posted Saturday Nov 22, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Masked Player Owned All Competitors in Smash Bros. Tournament

One of the best parts of the release of a new Super Smash Bros. game is the resurgence of tournaments, which are always fun. One of these launch-related tournaments was one for Super Smash Bros. Melee in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada that went quite unexpectedly. One contestant, who is only known as Falcomaster3000, competed in the 9 hour tournament without ever speaking. He registered for the tournament by signaling the use of a pen at the registration desk. He also wore a black ski mask the entire day.

If this unnamed, unidentified, masked competitor wasn't weird enough, it turns out his name was accurate. It turns out that the Falcomaster3000 WAS indeed a Falco master. After 9 hours of competition, Falcomaster3000 was the winner. In fact, it was fairly clear that, until the finals, this guy was never even challenged in his play. During those times he would choose Marth or Fox instead of his beloved Falco.

After finally winning, the crowd chanted for him to "take it off," which he did not do. Instead, still without speaking or unveiling his face, Falcomaster3000 left as mysteriously as he had arrived and played. There is no telling if this was some sort of plant, or a legit player who just wanted to mess with a room full of people; either way, it sure lit up Reddit.

Check out a video from someone who was there after the break.

Google Settles Patent Suit with the Rockstar Consortium

posted Saturday Nov 22, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Google Settles Patent Suit with the Rockstar Consortium

Do you remember the Rockstar Consortium? They were the group of tech companies, led by Microsoft, Apple, Sony and Ericsson, who bid together on Nortel's patents. The intention was to share the technology between the members of the group. You will notice that there is a big name missing from the group: Google. This was because of Google's decision, turning down the offer to join the group.

This decision turned out to be a bad one, as their unique bidding process ended in a loss. Shortly after the win, Rockstar filed suit against numerous companies, Google included. Those suits have been coming to a head this month. Earlier in November, the main unrelated company, Cisco, settled the suit with Rockstar to the tune of $188 million.

This week, the only truly important case ended when Google agreed to settle "all matters in controversy between the parties" in a filing with a federal court in Texas. This settlement is important because of what it means to the other high profile cases that are related.

Among the other active suits from Rockstar are ASUS, HTC and Samsung - all under suit for their involvement with Android. Google's operating system is the "product" that got them into trouble, and the "product" that they ultimately settled over. Do these other Google partners stand a chance defending themselves over a product whose owner decided they couldn't defend themselves? We will likely know for sure in the next few weeks, either as the cases settle or not.

Last Co-founder of The Pirate Bay Arrested in Thailand

posted Sunday Nov 9, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Last Co-founder of The Pirate Bay Arrested in Thailand

A little over two years ago Gottfrid Svartholm, one of the co-founders of The Pirate Bay, was arrested in his riverside home in Cambodia. He was then deported back to Sweden to face criminal charges. Then in May, co-founder Peter Sunde was apprehended at a farm in Sweden. That left one remaining co-founder who was still at-large and this week, he was brought in.

Fredik Neij, also known as TiAmo, was arrested in Thailand by border patrol after trying to head into the country from Laos. Border police said it was "easy to spot him" and it made the arrest simple. Interestingly enough, he has made this exact trip over 30 times before, even after having his passport revoked and an international warrant for his arrest.

Now, Neij has to face the (pirated) music from his sentence in 2009 that included $7 million US in damages from copyright infringements. As of right now, the co-founder is sitting somewhere in a Bangkok jail for just a brief stay before being sent to Sweden and handed off to their authorities.

It is interesting to note the parity between the founders of Pirate Bay and those of other sites like Napster and Kazaa. All illegal, however the TPB trio being handled much differently. VC firm Passion Capital's Eileen Burbidge pointed this out when Sunde was arrested.

The fact that Peter has been arrested in order to serve out a criminal sentence for his role in The Pirate Bay is such a stark contrast to where other individuals are at the moment such as Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker (two of the founders of Napster), or Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis (two of the founders of Kazaa).

All of these others are heralded as tech visionaries, wunderkinds and positive disruptors for their respective roles in peer-to-peer development, file sharing and how technology has impacted users' consumption of content and information. They are all now venture capital or angel investors, heralded as industry luminaries - and meanwhile two of the co-founders of The Pirate Bay are sitting in jail cells.

As for the site itself, it has been run a non-profit group that's registered in the Seychelles, a group of islands off the coast of Africa. The organization maintains the website, moves it when it has to and still holds true the vision of the founders. To date, The Pirate Bay has never removed a torrent.

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