The UpStream (Page 240)

Gabe Newell Says Steam Box Will Compete with Consoles for Living Room Entertainment

posted Sunday Dec 9, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Gabe Newell Says Steam Box Will Compete with Consoles for Living Room Entertainment

Gabe Newell, Valve's co-founder and managing director, has officially taken one too many medications. Either that, or he's finally snapped. I say this because he's been on a bit of a tear lately. First, Valve accidentally leaked some news about a rumored Steam Box, which is unusual for them, only for Gabe to turn around and deny it all. Then, Gabe said plainly that there would be no announcements at E3, only for the company to announce Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Since it happened the day before E3 officially started, we'll chalk that one up to a technicality. Lastly, he flat-out bashed the Windows 8 operating system during the Consumer Preview for being so different from Windows 7 that everything that was developed in the past five years would be time wasted. As an aside, earlier today I played Garry's Mod, Star Trek Online and Team Fortress 2 all on my upgraded Windows 8 Pro PC, via Steam, without any issues. Well, this week, he finally went overboard as Valve announced the nonexistant Steam Box, but also said that a PC is what everyone wants in their living room and it would take over consoles for both gaming and entertainment. Mr. Newell, I believe the Xbox 360 would first like to talk with you on being the center for all family gaming and entertainment, and they have NPD numbers to prove it.

It turns out that Gabe took the time at the Video Game Awards to officially say that the Steam Box hardware will be coming out and he believes it will be in every living room around the country. He also gives some interesting opinion as to why.

I think in general that most customers and most developers are gonna find that (the PC is) a better environment for them. Cause they won't have to split the world into thinking about 'why are my friends in the living room, why are my video sources in the living room different from everyone else?' So in a sense we hopefully are gonna unify those environments.

Well certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment. If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that's what some people are really gonna want for their living room.

Okay, so clearly Gabe has become so disconnected from reality for such a long time that he is stuck in the past. Lately, the push has been to get away from having to have a computer in the living room. At the very most, consumers were getting by with their laptop, using WiDi (wireless display technology), to connect it to a TV to play their movies or show off some pictures. More and more often, however, we're seeing products being introduced at the International CES that allow that same user to use their smartphone or Xbox 360/PS3 to accomplish the same goal, cable and adapter free. Having to put another piece of hardware in an already crowded entertainment center, in this day in age, just seems like a waste of time and space unless you're a business person. And that's not who this box is for.

This box is for the gamer. Perhaps the hardcore ones would put it in their living room, so long as they own the house or apartment, because we know moms and dads won't let the 12 hour League of Legends session occur in place of primetime TV. At any rate, though, I suppose we should talk details. What we know is that we should see something around late June of next year, which will have the term "Steam Box," or something similar, be more of a certification of hardware than a Valve-created machine, although we'll see that, too. Third party manufacturers will have to design a rig that meets Valve's design and technical specifications, and will come with Steam pre-loaded. I wonder what operating system they will decide to load on it, since Gabe now despises Windows so much. I heard Steam on a Mac works just as well, with about 10% of the game catalog available, so that should be perfect for Windows gamers everywhere.

For the actual tech specs, Valve, per usual, kept that under wraps. I'm sure it will be something more powerful than current-gen consoles and probably a step more than what we'll see in the PS4 or Xbox 3 (I refuse to call it the 720, because that's dumb). Either way, I doubt we'll see it put an end to console gaming, which is what everybody seems to think. Console gaming is gaining more popularity because it's easier to do and there's no upkeep or upgrading involved in the process. You turn on the console, everyone has the same specs, and you play. There's no viruses, no upgrading every six months to a year and no difference in the machine itself. I think that will be what keeps console gaming strong and growing each month. However, I do know that I will still be purchasing SimCity in March and we won't be seeing that on any Xbox or PlayStation for some time.

What do you think? Will this kill off consoles? I'd love to hear someone factually defend the other side. Drop some knowledge in the comments below.

RockStar Consortium Members Reunite With a Surprising New Member

posted Sunday Dec 9, 2012 by Scott Ertz

RockStar Consortium Members Reunite With a Surprising New Member

It has been 16 months since Google's public breakdown after losing the Nortel patent auction to the RockStar Consortium. RockStar, if you remember, was the group formed by Apple, Microsoft and others to jointly bid on, and subsequently win, the auction. The breakdown came when Google realized they had been invited to join, but refused the offer, leading to their ultimate loss.

Well, the main players in the Consortium are back together and once again invited Google to join, this time to purchase Kodak's patents. Google, having learned their lesson previously, seems to have agreed and the three largest players in the tech industry will be bidding together to take ownership of Kodak's patent portfolio.

No, this joining did not quite work out as pleasantly as it would seem. In reality, Google did try and bid against Apple and Microsoft originally, with the backing of a patent firm and several Asian smartphone manufacturers. Unfortunately for Google, Apple and Microsoft also had an investment company with them: Intellectual Ventures, and the opening bids were pretty close. Finally, Google's group decided there was no winning against MicroApple and and the two groups merged.

While Apple's patent suit against Kodak has not made negotiations less tense, Kodak knows there is probably no interested group on the planet with as much money to throw at this purchase than this one. Also, no one has more at stake in this auction than Apple, Google and Microsoft, who produce the three remaining viable smartphone platforms in the world.

As far as I'm concerned, these three coming together on the patents means there will be no future war between them on the usage of the patents. All three can use their ownership percentage to shield their manufacturers from outsiders and everyone can continue to include ever-improving camera technology on their devices. It is a win for consumers, a win for the consortium and a win for the manufacturers. Maybe these three should work together to promote innovation instead of legal action more often.

Nintendo Sets Time-Range on 18+ rated eShop Purchases in Europe

posted Sunday Dec 9, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Sets Time-Range on 18+ rated eShop Purchases in Europe

I don't exactly know what to do with this information, so I'll just get to it and let you decide. Nintendo of Europe has started preventing content rated 18+ from showing in the eShop, except during certain times. Those times? 11pm to 3am. Yes, that is right - if you want to purchase ZombiU, and we know you do, you cannot if it is during the day. It gets better, too. You cannot view the trailer, either.

A user, after experiencing the issue, contacted Nintendo. The company replied,

Dear customer,

We would like to let you know that Nintendo has always aimed to offer gameplay experiences suited to all age groups, observing carefully all the relevant regulations regarding content access that are present in the various European countries.

We have thus decided to restrict the access to content which is unsuitable to minors (PEGI) to the 11pm - 3am time window.

So, because children might see the content, the times are restricted to the exact times when children in the US, and therefore probably Europe, are most likely to be on their consoles playing games. Of course, no Nintendo customer has ever stayed up past their bed times to play videogames. I suppose that is only for Microsoft and Sony customers?

The best part - no amount of parental control settings will change it - the restriction is set in the store itself. That means, if you are a 24-year-old college student living in a dorm with no children anywhere around and want to play Assassin's Creed 3 for the first time between classes, you are totally out of luck.

So, after writing all of this, I still do not know what exactly to do with the information. Can anyone help me understand this? Please?

Virgin America Brings YouTube to In-Flight Televisions

posted Saturday Dec 8, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Virgin America Brings YouTube to In-Flight Televisions

As part of its commitment to expand its in-flight video offerings, Virgin America and YouTube have announced the availability of five high-profile YouTube channels on Virgin America flights. The content, provided to passengers for free, will be available on all US and Mexico flights whose planes are equipped with the video screens (about 25 percent of their fleet of planes).

While this certainly is a big expansion for Virgin America, it is also a big expansion for YouTube, which has never before had a distribution agreement with an airline. This brings the content to a very captive audience, who is desperately seeking distraction from the mundane event of flying. As someone who flies several times per year for the show, I can tell you the worst part of flying is trying to occupy yourself. We bring movies and books on tablets and laptops, but that requires prep work. Many times I have wanted to be able to watch my favorite YouTube channels or other online content, but am not really willing to pay for the Internet access (on those flights that require it). This is a great option, especially if you like those five channels.

Speaking of the channels, you are probably wondering who they are. Don't fret; I have the list right here! Blue (starring Julia Stiles) from WIGS, Crash Course from Geek & Sundry, H+ The Digital Series from Warner Bros., The Key of Awesome from Barely Political and Written by a Kid from Geek & Sundry. Obviously, in addition to YouTube, this is a huge deal for these content producers. With more distribution comes more viewers, and with more viewers comes more ad revenue.

Hopefully, as this program succeeds, YouTube and Virgin America will work together to bring more channels to the lineup. Obviously missing from the lineup is anything in the news chat category, including entertainment, technology, gaming or culture. I wonder where they could find a channel like that. Seriously, though, it would be good to see an expansion of categories offered, though it is a pretty exciting situation to have at least some of YouTube available to you for free on a flight.

Have you ever pined for free YouTube access on a flight? Let me know in the comments.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Lawsuit

posted Saturday Dec 8, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Lawsuit

File this one under "bizarre." Lucasfilm, new parent company Disney and distributor Paramount Pictures, have been sued over Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - and not for the obvious "it really sucked" reason, either. Instead, the companies are being sued for using the likeness of the Mitchell-Hedges skull, which is the missing fourth real world crystal skull, in the film without permission.

Now, while that might sound crazy on its face, it gets even crazier. The artifact in question is not currently in the possession of the person who brought the suit: director of the Institute of Archaeology of Belize, Dr. Jaime Awe. In fact, the artifact is not in the possession of anyone in the country, as it was stolen by treasure-hunters in 1924. This fact did not, however, prevent the suit from being filed, and damaged claimed. The good doctor claims that the use of the likeness without permission is unlawful and wants damages paid.

Oh, he also wants the skull returned - which I suppose is Disney's responsibility?

So, in recap: the director of an archaeology institute is suing for damages created by a movie about a real-world artifact because the item in the movie looks a lot like the artifact which is not under his jurisdiction, nor in his country for nearly a century, but should be returned by people who do not have it. And you thought the plot of the movie was convoluted and hard to follow... boy, were you wrong!

Sony's PS3 is Number One Player for Netflix Streaming

posted Saturday Dec 8, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony's PS3 is Number One Player for Netflix Streaming

The PlayStation 3 may not be getting love from new companies entering the video space but everybody knows that it is the number one Blu-Ray player. What people may not know is that the PS3 is also top dog in other video-related categories, which is interesting considering the amount of PS3s out there versus other Internet-connected devices.

Almost every Internet-connected device can stream videos from Netflix, too. However, we have been told this week that Sony's PlayStation 3, amidst all of the problems that plague the platform, is the leader for Netflix streaming among all hardware, including the Roku, Boxee and Apple TV. Netflix's CEO, Reed Hastings, said,

PS3 is our largest TV-connected platform in terms of Netflix viewing, and this year, at times, even surpassed the PC in hours of Netflix enjoyment to become our No. 1 platform overall. PS3 is a natural fit for Netflix in terms of developing and first deploying our most advanced features. We can transparently update our application with new features on a daily basis, and through the free PlayStation Network, people around the world can sign up for Netflix directly from their PS3.

Granted, the PlayStation Network being free is certainly a plus, where Xbox 360 users need a Gold Xbox Live account to access Netflix, but that can't be the only selling factor. Roku's are $79 and do not require a special subscription to access the same content. Perhaps it is those who are buying the PS3 for Blu-Ray that are almostly exclusively loading up a Netflix subscription as well. It could also be that not many people know what a Roku or Boxee Box is, and have opted to get one of the more commonly known, free, devices to stream video from. At any rate, Sony Computer Entertainment America's CEO, Jack Tretton, shared Hastings' delight on the news.

The PlayStation and Netflix communities both share a strong passion for high quality entertainment. Netflix provides a fantastic experience for watching TV shows and movies on PS3, and our joint development will continue to produce innovations for our customers that further demonstrate PS3 as the true home for entertainment in the living room.

With 30 million Netflix customers using a device to stream video, I'd be curious to see exactly how many PS3s are being pushing video to TVs. Tretton standing tall behind the PS3 being a "true home for entertainment" definitely speaks volumes, too. I believe Microsoft has been saying that for years now and has the resume and catalog to back it up. While being the top device for Netflix streaming sure is remarkable, Sony still has to make up about another 25 media partners in order to be in the same category that the Xbox 360 has been in for a while now. Perhaps this news will help them out with their revival plan and get Sony back on the right track. Outpacing the Wii, Xbox, Apple TV and Roku on the most popular video streaming service sure is a good start, so let's just hope they can continue to ride the momentum.

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