News from the video game industry for the week of December 14
Every Sunday, Electronista and MacNN put together a one-stop article for some of the major news in the video game industry in the past week. In this week's edition of the Weekly Game Replay, we look at Valve's handling of Hatred on Steam Greenlight, Mojang and Telltale Games team up for a narrative-based Minecraft game, a judge gives the go-ahead on a Killzone resolution lawsuit, World of Warcraft is exploring in-game purchasable game time tokens, and Majesco Entertainment's receiving an investor cash infusion.
US continues to claim NK responsible for Sony hack, pirate release of movie possible?
In an interview recorded on Friday, President Obama clarified his remarks last week regarding the Sony Pictures hack. The president denies swirling discussions about the hack being an act of war, and called it "an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive." Additionally, late Sunday, tweets purport that hacker collective Anonymous is about to wade into the fray against North Korea for its role in the event.
Jim Hood claims MPAA has no sway, despite taking MPAA funds
Google has launched its own legal effort to stop Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood's effort with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to pin the search engine as the cause of the world's piracy problem. Google claims in the court filing in Mississippi's district court that Hood has filed a "burdensome, retaliatory" subpoena against it, which would require a massive financial and labor effort to comply, for no real gain other than extra-judiciary punishment. Hood has responded, and is "calling a time out, so that cooler heads may prevail."
Six movie studios, including Sony, provided $500,000 per year for the MPAA's campaign against Google
In the past weeks, quite a lot has been revealed about Sony's role in ongoing anti-piracy efforts due to the leak of emails as part of the fallout of the North Korean-based GOP attack on the studio. In a post on Thursday on the Google Public Policy Blog, Kent Walker, Google SVP and general counsel, outlined even more leaks that describe a combined and carefully planned effort by Sony and five other studios that began this year to provide funding and legal support for the MPAA's efforts to court State Attorney Generals and target Google directly.
FBI, diplomats had previously denied direct North Korean involvement
US government officials now believe North Korea is, in fact, behind the attack of Sony Pictures Entertainment's computer system and subsequent data leaks, according to reports. The government is also said to be preparing to make an official statement about its findings, which may arrive as soon as tomorrow, though apparently there is still some internal debate as to what kind of response to make to the insular country. Previously, the FBI had said it had "no evidence" of a direct North Korean connection, though the country was suspected from the outset.
Google Glass-style Sony headset clips onto existing eyewear, sunglasses
Sony has unveiled its own take on the Google Glass wearable concept, with a similar heads-up display. The Single-Lens Display Module is a two-section unit which can be temporarily attached to a normal pair of glasses or sunglasses, providing a small Glass-style OLED screen to one side of the user's field of view which can be used to show various kinds of data useful to the wearer at that moment.
'Christmas dump' incoming with more 'interesting' Sony Pictures data
Months before the hacker intrusion on Sony Pictures' network, analyst firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) performed an analysis on the company's security, and found it lacking. More than 100 devices were found to be unmonitored by corporate security following an incomplete transition from a private security firm to an in-house team. As a result, any Sony response to network intrusion would be, in the words of the auditors, "slow, fragmented, and incomplete, if it would even happen at all." However, corrective actions proposed by PWC seemingly went undone, which left the doors to the company open, sometimes literally, facilitating the attack.
NPD claims 1.2M Xbox One consoles sold in US in November
Microsoft has beaten Sony for the first time in a long while, in terms of console sales. Sales data from NPD reveals that the Xbox One outsold the PlayStation 4 in the United States for the month of November, with the pre-holiday spending breaking a sales streak Sony has enjoyed since the launch of its console in the country last year.
Leading theories of state sponsored attack put forth by Sony, others in doubt
The assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's cyber division, Joe Demarest, has declared that the government of North Korea, at least, doesn't appear to be the instigator of the Sony Pictures attack. Speaking at a cybersecurity conference, the chief said that despite the attack package being compiled in Korean "there is no attribution to North Korea at this point."
Continued data leaks, attacks threatened if movie release halted
Hackers behind the Sony Pictures intrusion have made a more public demand for the company to stop the release of an upcoming film. The demand from the "Guardians of Peace" is accompanied by another large release of internal data, with information about aliases used by celebrities, as well as more contact information for the stars and their assistants.
Series of attacks mirrors similar incidents by same group in August
Sony has suffered its second major hacking incident in recent weeks, with its PlayStation console users being the target this time. The company's PlayStation Network services were knocked offline late last night before returning to normal earlier this morning, in an attack which coincides with the 20th anniversary of Sony's original game console release.
News from the video game industry for the week of November 30
Every Sunday, Electronista and MacNN offer up some of the news direct from the video game world in one article. During this week's Weekly Game Replay, we look at a slew of news from the PlayStation Experience and Game Awards in Las Vegas, the leak of the next Assassin's Creed game, Australian stores pulling Grand Theft Auto 5, a new studio from 2K Games, and gameplay footage from the upcoming Legend of Zelda Wii U game.
Apple, Samsung, HTC among identified parties
Taiwan's National Communications Commission has found 12 cellphone makers to be violating the country's Personal Information Protection Act, according to the Wall Street Journal. PIPA covers the "collection, processing and use of personal information"; the NCC has yet to say exactly how the companies broke regulations, but does explain that it discovered the issue while investigating charges that Chinese firm Xiaomi was collecting and transmitting user data without permission.
TV From Sky app goes live on PlayStation 4 in UK
British broadcaster Sky has added its streaming app to the PlayStation 4. Named TV From Sky instead of the usual Sky Go brand, the app provides online access to a number of live Sky television channels, as well as a wide selection of on-demand and catch-up TV shows via the console, for subscribers of the satellite television service.
FBI gives guidance to major US corporations, including who to notify during attack
While not specifically naming any names, the FBI has warned that a major cyberattack has taken place against US businesses in the last two weeks. The advisory, likely given in the wake of the enormous Sony breach, gives some details about the tools used in the assault, and provides advice to the businesses on how to respond to the package, which includes informing the FBI.
Fury, Annie, other leaked films shared over 1M times collectively
A number of Sony movies have been leaked following the Sony Pictures hack last week, according to reports. At least five movies are circulating on file-sharing sites, and while unreleased films including Mr Turner and Annie are being pirated before a theatrical release, the recent Fury is claimed to be receiving a considerable amount of attention, despite still being shown in cinemas.
Rumored Sony e-paper watch to focus on style, not competing with smartwatches
Sony may be working on a smartwatch using e-paper for release next year, according to a report. Said to be part of a "venture-style approach" to product creation by Bloomberg, the electronics company is apparently making the device in preparation for a release sometime next year, though it may not offer the same level of functionality as Sony's existing smartwatch offerings.
Advertising promised 'game changing' features in ads, Sony never delivered
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Sony Computer Entertainment America reached a settlement today over advertising promises that were made for the PlayStation Vita leading up to its launch in February 2012. According to the FTC, Sony and advertising agency Deutsch LA promised "game changing" features in a 2011 ad campaign that misled consumers.
Three-year plan involves increasing revenues in Sony PlayStation, device arms
Sony is reducing the number of different products it will be shipping in the future, following poor quarterly financial results. The $1.2 billion loss in November has prompted the company to make a similar change as a recent Samsung announcement, but rather than just cutting down its smartphone range, Sony will also be shrinking its line-up of televisions.
Rumor claims Xperia Z4 to have 5.4-inch Quad HD-resolution display
Sony's next iteration of the Xperia mobile device line could be unveiled as early as January, according to a rumor. It is claimed the Xperia Z4 and a larger Xperia Z4 Ultra will be shown off during CES at the start of next year, barely four months after the company revealed the Xperia Z3 range, and almost two months before the first-year anniversary of the Xperia Z2's launch.
Buys rights from Sony for reported $30 million; Boyle still to direct
As a follow-up to a story we reported on last week, Universal Studios has officially bought the rights to the Steve Jobs biopic already in pre-production from Sony, which had placed the project in "turnaround" on Thursday. Universal is said to have paid Sony $30 million to transfer the picture to the latter's control, retaining director Danny Boyle and reportedly confirming actor Michael Fassbender to play the lead role. There is still no firm announcement on when shooting will commence.
Starbucks adds Powermat wireless charging to 200 San Francisco stores
Starbucks is expanding its wireless charging efforts, by adding more Duracell Powermat charges to 200 locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, ahead of plans to offer it across the United States and possibly in Europe and Asia by next year. For customers without a compatible wireless charging device, Duracell Powermat "Rings" will be available to borrow and return for each visit, or can be bought for $10 each.
Improved image stabilization, autofocus speed touted in Sony A7 II
An updated version of the Sony Alpha 7 has been launched in Japan. The A7 II is a 24.3-megapixel full-frame mirrorless camera and the first of its kind to have a five-axis sensor-shift image stabilization system, one which is said to reduce shake by up to 4.5 CIPA-standard stops, and is capable of automatically combining it with the in-lens stabilization of an E-mount lens with OSS.
Project has seen original director, star, now studio drop out in pre-production
The Sony-backed Steve Jobs biographical movie, based in part on Walter Issacson's biography of the Apple co-founder, has proven to be nearly as mercurial as the reputation of its subject. In recent weeks, not one but two rumored stars of the project have dropped out, the original director was replaced with an Oscar-winning substitute, and now -- according to trade magazine Deadline -- Sony has put the film in "turnaround," offering it to sale to other studios, with Universal said to be making a play for it.
Device might allegedly reach 'DSLR-quality imagery'
The next-generation iPhone may represent Apple's "biggest camera jump ever," says Daring Fireball's John Gruber. In a recent podcast episode, Gruber explains that "a birdie of a birdie" tells him that the camera will adopt a "kind of weird two-lens system where the back camera uses two lenses and it somehow takes it up into DSLR-quality imagery." That could imply a camera similar to the one in the HTC One M8, which uses an extra lens to provide more image data and enable post-processed focus shifts.
Ecobee3 gains shelf space alongside Honeywell smart thermostat
Starting on Monday, Apple Stores are now carrying at least one rival to Google-owned Nest's self-titled smart Learning Thermostat. The Ecobee3 offers an advantage over the Nest in terms of multi-room support, utilizing sensors that can be bought separately to bring more intelligent energy management to the full home rather than relying on a single point of reference. Like Nest and Honeywell's rival entry, the smart device can be managed through a smartphone app from anywhere with a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. The Ecobee3 sells for the same price as the Nest, $250.
New 21MP Exmor RS sensor adds HDR still images, faster focus on moving objects
Sony has unveiled a new model in its Exmor RS imaging sensor range for smartphones and tablets. The Exmor RS IMX230 module is a 21-megapixel model similar in size to those used in the Xperia Z2 and Z3 ranges, but it is claimed to be the first CMOS sensor for smartphones to have onboard image plane phase detection autofocus signal processing, allowing for quicker focusing on fast-moving objects.
PlayStation Vue to offer around 75 channels, cloud storage of shows
Sony has unveiled its rumored Internet TV service, one which will launch this month in the United States as a beta. PlayStation Vue will allow owners of Sony's game consoles to watch a variety of locally-available television channels, along with on-demand and catch-up functionality, and the ability to store some television programs on the cloud.
LG G Watch R available to purchase on Google Play for $299
LG's G Watch R is now available to purchase from Google Play, just as the smartwatch is about to appear in stores in the United States. The Android Wear smartwatch, complete with a 1.3-inch round P-OLED display and a heart rate monitor, finally joins the original G Watch on the Google online store, though it is priced at a rather expensive $299.
Strong sales of PlayStation 4 not enough to reclaim profitability
Earlier this week, Sony reported its quarterly earnings, missing already-bad Wall Street estimates. Friday, Sony reported a staggering $1.2 billion loss, even with the company having unloaded its television and PC operations. The only bright spot in Sony's future appears to be the PlayStation 4. Much of the bad news came from an operating loss of 172.0 billion yen ($1.6 billion) attributed to the company's mobile communications segment. This compares to an operating profit of 8.8 billion yen in the same quarter a year ago.
Jessica Chastain could take unidentified role
Actor Seth Rogen may have been cast to star as Steve Wozniak in Sony's upcoming Steve Jobs biopic, sources tell Variety. Rogen is best known for his comedy roles, starring in movies like Neighbors and This is the End, but he has also appeared in dramas such as 50/50. The sources add that Jessica Chastain is under consideration for the movie as well, but what role she might play is unknown.
Android software updates for more manufacturers revealed
More manufacturers have revealed which of its devices will be getting the upgrade to Android Lollipop in the future. Nvidia, HTC, and Sony have all confirmed their support for Android 5.0, though a rumor suggests that Google's own Nexus 7 Wi-Fi and Nexus 10 will be the earliest existing Nexus devices to gain the software update.
News from the video game industry for the week of October 5
Every Sunday Electronista and MacNN round up some of the important pieces of news in the video game industry from the previous week. This week, we take a look at some statistics regarding the number of players in Destiny, issues with the launch of Driveclub, free next-generation copies of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare for customers buying it on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, as well as some other notable news bits and upcoming releases.
Exclusive version of Xperia Z3 heading to Verizon alongside Sony SmartWatch 3
Two more Sony devices will be added to Verizon's mobile device roster later this month, the carrier has revealed. A repackaged version of the Xperia Z3 will be going on sale, a smartphone called the Xperia Z3v, while the company's Android Wear device, the SmartWatch 3, will also be heading to the carrier's stores in due course.
Sony Digital Paper e-ink tablet lowered in price by $100 to under $1,000
Sony has lowered the price of its Digital Paper e-ink tablet aimed at legal professionals and educators, though not by much. The tablet, complete with a 13.3-inch 1,200x1,600 e-ink display equipped with stylus input, a three-week battery life, and Wi-Fi connectivity, is said by The eBook Reader to have dropped from $1,100 to $999.
PlayStation Now will be available on PlayStation TV from October 14th
The PlayStation TV set-top box will have PlayStation Now from its launch on October 14th in North America, the PlayStation Blog has confirmed. Opening as an open beta, the streaming service will also be made available to owners of the PlayStation Vita handheld console, with the service said to offer rentals of over 150 PlayStation 3 games, with cloud storage used for save games, and online multiplayer support also included.
Sony's prepares to shut down PlayStation Home in all regions in March 2015
It appears that Japan and Asia regions won't be the only areas losing PlayStation Home next year. Community managers have posted on the PlayStation Home community boards in the North American and European regions, claiming that the service is shutting down on March 31, 2015. The date is the same that was previously announced for the Asia and Japan regions, though at the time Sony specifically denied that any other regions would be shuttered.
Sony rolls out the open beta test of the game rental service to PlayStation 3 owners
PlayStation 3 owners wanting to get a taste of PlayStation Now finally have their chance, as Sony rolled out the open beta of the program out to the last-generation console last week. Residents of the United States and Canada with the nearly eight-year-old system can now rent more than 150 titles, rather than paying full price for games that may only be played for a few days. Pricing varies for each rental period and game, but Sony recently reduced the price for the four-hour rental period.
Change in focus to high-end smartphones follows Sony financial guidance warning
Sony is effectively giving up on the low and mid-range smartphone market, in order to focus on high-end mobile devices like the Xperia Z3 range, a report claims. The manufacturer is apparently making the change after releasing new financial guidance it would make a loss of $2.1 billion for the fiscal year, itself partly caused by dismal smartphone sales throughout the year.
PlayStation TV includes PS Now, in-home PlayStation 4 streaming
Sony will launch the PlayStation TV in North America from October 14th, it has revealed. The micro-console, capable of streaming games from the PlayStation 4 similar to the handheld PS Vita, will be able to play titles from a catalog of nearly 700 games from launch day, with one report hinting that more capabilities could be on the way.
Move brings OS X compatibility, wider Windows penetration
Sony has shifted delivery of its Video Unlimited service for computers away from a discrete application, and onto a web-based player. In allowing browsers to play back video for the first time, Sony has opened up the service for OS X as well as a wider array of Windows-based devices.
Sony cameras, 3D TVs, Harman Kardon earbuds and more
Right now at Amazon, save 44 percent on the Sony NEX-6L/B compact interchangeable lens digital camera in black. It was $898, but has been reduced to $500 and is eligible for free two-day shipping. That discount makes this the best price we have seen anywhere by about $230. This digital camera features 16MP resolution, with 10fps burst shooting, Full HD video, interchangeable e-mount lenses, fast hybrid auto focus, Wi-Fi sharing, multi-interface shoe, built-in HDR mode, dual format media card slot, and tons more.
SmartEyeglass adds hologram optics to Google Glass concept
The Project Morpheus virtual reality headset is not the only head-mounted device under development by Sony. The manufacturer has revealed a prototype of a headset similar to Google Glass called SmartEyeglass, though while Google's effort relies on a small screen off to the side, Sony is opting for something more ambitious, and less discrete in terms of design.
Move essentially guarantees Sony will take massive loss on the year
Sony has revised -- downwards -- its financial guidance for the quarter, and intends to take a 180 billion yen ($1.7 billion) "impairment charge" as a result of overestimating smartphone sales. The revision will take a serious bite out of earnings, with the company now expecting to take a loss for the fiscal year of $2.1 billion dollars, versus the possibility of returning to profitability.
Sony's new cross-platform game Run Sackboy! Run! toe available on iOS
Sony Computer Entertainment has announced the release of its new platform-survival game, Run Sackboy! Run!. Featuring a personified vacuum cleaner as the storyline's central antagonist, players rush to evade the Negativitron using tap and swipe gestures, navigating through three LittleBigPlanet series worlds. By collecting bubbles throughout the course, players can buy special costumes and upgrades that lead to maximized scores.
Sony Action Cam Mini lighter than earlier models, connects to Ustream
Sony's latest camera designed for sports and action videography has been launched, claimed to be the company's smallest version yet. The splash-proof Action Cam Mini weighs just 63 grams (2.2 ounces) and is two thirds the size of earlier models, with Sony also introducing the ability to stream video live via Ustream and other services at the same time as recording footage to a memory card.
Sony QX1 has 20.1-megapixel APS-C sensor, can take E-Mount lenses
Sony surprisingly launched two "lens-style" cameras at IFA, rather than the single device was originally rumored. The QX30 is similar to the original QX10 and QX100 launched one year ago, but adds a 30x zoom, while the QX1 allows users to attach any E-Mount lenses they already own, giving the photographer more customization options.
SmartWatch 3 uses Android Wear, SmartBand Talk adds voice control
As expected, Sony has launched two wearable devices at IFA during its main press conference. The SmartWatch 3 continues the SmartWatch line but switches over to Android Wear rather than Sony's own software, while the SmartBand Talk is a lifelogger which adds a display and voice control to the previous model's spartan design.
New line all Playstation 4 remote compatible, waterproofed
Sony Mobile Communications today introduced its new Xperia Z series flagship smartphones -- the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact. The former is a 5.2-inch phone, and the latter a 4.6-incher, but both come with similar internals. The company claims that both are waterproofed, have "enhanced camera experiences and applications," and have an up to two-day battery life. Also debuted was the Xperia Z3 Tablet compact, the only tablet with PlayStation 4 Remote Play.
Smartphone-controlled Sony QX1 can use existing E-Mount lens range
Sony's QX Smart Lens line of combined sensors and lenses controlled by smartphone may be joined by a third device. Leaked images show what is rumored to be called the QX1, a replacement camera for smartphones which allows for the use of E-Mount lenses, rather than the 3.6x and 10x optical lenses used in the QX10 and QX100.