Since its introduction, SimCity Social has been a pretty big hit. Several of us here have been playing since the very beginning, and have dedicated more time than I think any of us would like to admit. This, and other Playfish titles, have all been popular enough that even Zynga was frightened enough to rip them off wholesale.
Former CEO John Riccitiello believed in PC titles enough to say,
Just five years ago people said that the PC game business was in a radical state of decline because NPD said it was down 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, year-in year-out... The fastest growing platform for video games today is the PC, but it's growing through subscriptions, through micro transactions and through downloads.
Apparently this doesn't involve Playfish's social offerings, or the company is trying to reverse his decisions. As a result, the company has announced it will shutter all of the Playfish social offerings, including SimCity Social, The Sims Social, NHL Superstars and Madden NFL Superstars. Each game got an identical message, with only the game titles and in-game currency being changed.
The community response has been exactly what any thinking person would expect: outrage. Most people commenting on the Playfish forums are demanding their money back for the diamonds, or whatever currency their game used, they purchased. Many others are saying that they will never play another EA title, or at least another EA online title, if this is going to be how they treat their players. There has also been a lot of references to the recent award that The Consumerist recently gave to EA, Worst Company In America, which they won in part because of the poor support for their products.
There is good news: EA has promised a special offer to affected players to get them into EA's other studio - PopCap. Based on the comments, however, it probably won't matter.
Are you affected by this shut down? Will you transition to PopCap or has this turned you off to EA social titles? Let us know in the comments below.
As everyone in the world knows, domain registrations expire annually. Now, you also have the ability to purchase multiple years at a time, making the process easier for the owner. With most registrars you can even setup automatic renewals so that you don't even have to interact with it manually. Somehow, with everything in place to make it easy to avoid, Regions Bank, an FDIC insured bank in 16 states, failed to renew their domain this week.
On Monday, customers began complaining about being unable to access their accounts online and, instead, were being shown a landing page. A spokesperson for Regions Bank said,
We are experiencing an intermittent network issue that is impacting some customers' ability to access our web site…We are working to resolve this issue quickly and apologize to our customers.
Actually, what happened is your domain expired. It isn't an intermittent network issue - it is a billing failure. When it happened, Network Solutions put up a temporary landing page, reminding the company to renew its domain. In the late morning, the company finally renewed with Network Solutions, hours after the initial issues were reported.
If you are a small business or an individual, the possibility of a domain expiring are a little more expected. This, however, was a bank - the people with the money who control ONLINE BILL PAY that forgot to PAY their ONLINE BILL. All of this is pretty impressive. At least we have another 10 years before this is a problem again, and there is almost no chance they will still be called Regions in a decade.
LulzSec, the group responsible for part of the Sony server breach in June of 2011, is in the news again this week. The hacker Recursion, or legally known as Cody Kretsinger, pleaded guilty in April of last year for conspiracy and illegal impairment of a protected computer. He told the court that he was the one responsible for accessing the Sony Pictures website and then passing the information over to the heads of LulzSec, who then posted the data on Twitter and LulzSec's website. One year later, and it's time for sentencing.
Thom Mrozek, the spokesman for the US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, said that the 25-year-old has been sentenced to a year in prison and then home detention immediately after his time served. Kretsinger was additionally sentenced to serve 1,000 hours of community service upon his release from jail. Mrozek also said that Recursion, along with LulzSec as a whole, has cost Sony over $600,000, and with his guilty plea, he will have to pay $605,663 in restitution. No word on if Kretsinger's punishment has been reduced from him agreeing to work with authorities to give up others who are part of the organization as well.
This all comes on the heels of one of the leaders of Anonymous, Sabu, being caught by the FBI and the agency being able to flip him to provide information of other guilty parties in exchange for a lesser sentence. Sabu pleaded guilty to several charged all related to hacking and then gave up the names and addresses of those he knew were directly related to other Anonymous operations. Hector Monsegur, his real name, faces up to 124 years in prison for all of his wrongdoings, however because of the agreement, he is said to only serve a portion of that upon sentencing. His final hearing will be in August of this year, a year after his original sentence hearing was scheduled, only to be adjourned twice.
Ericsson and Microsoft have come to an agreement over Microsoft's IPTV asset, Mediaroom. In a deal worth close to $200 million, Ericsson will be acquiring Mediaroom to allow Microsoft to focus on continuing with the Xbox being the center for all family entertainment. Mediaroom is a company that makes software that communication businesses use to send TV signal over the Internet, with one of their biggest projects being the AT&T U-Verse service.
Per Borgklint, Senior VP of Ericsson said,
Mediaroom is the leading platform for video distribution deployed with the world's largest IPTV operators. This strategic acquisition positions Ericsson as an industry leader thanks to the skills and experiences of the talented people of Mediaroom combined with Ericsson's end to end service capabilities.
With the acquisition, Microsoft will put to rest a twenty year mission to bring itself to the forefront of the IPTV space. Ericsson will now pick up the business and the technology, and the deal should finish up later this year. The company, who is already the world's biggest mobile networks maker, will become the IPTV leader as well, owning 25 percent of the market. A statement from Microsoft said that 400 people are employed at Mediaroom, and that it is used by more than 40 operators and powers 22 million set-top boxes across the globe.
Corporate VP of Microsoft, Tom Gibbons, was pleased with the transition of Mediaroom over to Ericsson.
We are proud of the number one IPTV market position that we have achieved with Mediaroom. Ericsson's complementary portfolio of TV and networking services will help drive the future growth and development of Mediaroom. Ericsson is positioned to be a valuable strategic partner for operators and TV service providers around the world as the IPTV market evolves.
On the Microsoft Blog, Yusuf Mehdi made it clear that this move will remove all distractions from Microsoft and will put all of the spotlight on improving Xbox's entertainment and media offerings.
With the sale of Mediaroom, Microsoft is dedicating all TV resources to Xbox in a continued mission to make it the premium entertainment service that delivers all the games and entertainment consumers want - whether on a console, phone, PC or tablet. And with 76 million Xbox 360 consoles around the world with 46 million Xbox LIVE members, it is a mission that gets us out of bed in the morning.
Some have been suspecting that the Xbox could transition into its own set-top box or TV service. Microsoft already lets Verizon, Comcast and U-Verse customers (obviously) use the Xbox as a set-top box, but has the time come for Xbox Cable TV? We've said on the show that Microsoft could offer an Xbox Platinum membership, which would include Xbox Music and Video, and this additional service could be a nice bundled feature for the higher-priced tier. What do you think? Could we see Xbox TV in the future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
For those who have been following us for a long time, you'll know that we're huge fans of Monster Cable. Say what you will about their cables (and we'll argue most of those points in a logical and scientific way at another point in time), but their headphones are really becoming unmatched by any other product. After departing from the Beats brand, the Head Monster, Noel Lee, had to look elsewhere to find names, looks and styles that could really captivate a new audience to let them experience an astonishing audio experience. Mr. Lee calls this Pure Monster Sound. This year at the International CES, we saw a whole new lineup of headphones coming to consumers this year, but it seemed like a certain genre was missing from the pack: Latin music. Starting today, however, Monster, along with Target, have filled that void.
Monster has teamed up with Target and GRAMMY-Award winning producer Emilio Estefan to introduce the Sound Machine by Monster headphones. Target will have a 60-day exclusivity with these higher-end models, with the on-ear and over-ear models priced at $149.99 and $249.99, respectively. With Latin music in mind, which is high in percussion and hard-hitting sounds, the Sound Machines help grow the relationship Target and Estefan have already created over the course of the past year and a half. On these headphones and the expanded partnership, Target's divisional merchandise manager of entertainment, Anne Stanchfield, said,
Emilio Estefan is an icon in the music industry as well as the Latin community, and our partnership has been met with great excitement. With the introduction of Sound Machine by Monster headphones, we are expanding our relationship to include a product Emilio played a role in creating.
The Head Monster also spoke on how working with Emilio Estefan will help Monster grow in a more diverse way.
Emilio Estefan's music has been and continues to be a tremendous influence on musicians all over the world. Being able to work with him to create Sound Machine by Monster headphones has been inspiring for everyone here at Monster, and thanks to our valued partnership with Target, we are looking forward to being able to bring Target guests a new way to enjoy all the music they love, with a unique headphone that epitomizes the heart and soul of Emilio's art.
Estefan added that the Sound Machine headphones cater exactly to the music that he produces it really brought together the "blend of rhythms that are synonymous with our culture and our city (Miami)."
After last week's appeal hearing, the over-the-air video streaming service, Aereo, won their appeal, we talked on our show about how this could change the media industry as a whole if everything stays in Aereo's favor. However, we didn't think the broadcasters would be so arrogant as to throw out idle threats like CBS has.
This week, CBS said they would have no problem in cutting off its free, over-the-air stream of its networking programming if Aereo isn't put to rest. CBS' Leslie Moonves said at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Vegas that they'd have no issue in turning into a cable channel to combat these "illegal practices." Moonves added that CBS agrees with everything Chase Carey, from News Corp, had to say about Aereo's business.
We won't just sit idle and allow our content to be actively stolen. It is clear that the broadcast business needs a dual revenue stream from both ad and subscription to be viable... One option could be converting the Fox broadcast network to a pay channel.
For now, Moonves is only talking about doing this in the New York metro area only, however he said this would all happen if the revenue streams start to decrease. We can put aside the fact that Aereo has said they're expanding to two dozen more cities by the end of the year. So, there's a couple of things here. First, as we talked about last week, even when someone is using Aereo, the broadcasters are still making their money per viewer, which proves that, as mentioned before, these TV execs have no clue how new, Internet-based operations work. Second, nobody has said a single word to Slingbox, whose product pretty much resembles that of Aereo's business model, except Aereo is handling the hardware for you so you don't have to set up the box or antenna anywhere.
Lastly, at the end of the day, if one were to really consider this decision from a financial standpoint, there is a huge majority of people who use the free, over-the-air broadcast of companies like CBS because they cannot pay for cable or satellite TV. Making a move to switch to a cable channel could, in certain cities, quickly erase over half of the current viewership, especially in places like the greater Tampa, Florida area, where there are a high number of mobile home parks and half-year residents, who watch only channels they can get on their antenna.
So, is this a path CBS, or any other broadcast should take? Or are they merely talking a lot but actually saying nothing at all? Do you think any action will be taken? To me, it feels like the broadcasters are a little bit scared of the not-so big, bad wolf called the Internet. If people can watch more channels in more locations, isn't that better for everyone involved? Let us know your thoughts to those questions in the comments below.