HBO Cuts The Cable

A lot of folks have demanded it, and it appears that HBO has finally listened – HBO will be available next year as a standalone service, without the need to buy a cable subscription.

Chairman and CEO Richard Plepler responded to the thousands of requests from fans and stated that the cable channel will launch its own independent streaming service next year to compete with the likes of Netflix and Hulu Plus.

“That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be untapped,” he said. “It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO.”

A service in conjunction with “current partners” will be put together for the U.S. market next year, although Plepler stopped just short of confirming what kind of monthly subscription price plan would be put in place. He also didn’t confirm what kind of technology the service would use, although the “partners” could certainly help out on that front.

“All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them,” he said.

Between demands of the fans, a slight decrease in pay TV buys, and the rise of Netflix’s business model, it shouldn’t be a surprise that HBO has finally caved in to the demand of introducing a streaming service, especially one that could base its success around such exclusive programming as Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and the returning Game of Thrones.

Now the only question comes with the price. In some markets, HBO packages can go for as high as $60 a month. Obviously, HBO Go would have to go for a lesser price in order to seem more like a value, but there’s a question as to whether the service would just be home for HBO original programming, or also movies and specials that make their premiere on the channel.

We’re likely to find out more information come early next year. But it’s nice to see HBO make the move after so many months of “will they, won’t they.”

‘Friends’ Coming To Netflix Next Year

Could we be watching any more Friends

Even after the end of the popular Thursday night sitcom following ten seasons of laughs, Friends continues to be a phenomenon in syndication, with timeless episodes being aired on the likes of TBS, Nick at Nite and local syndication. Now, Ross, Chandler and the rest of the gang will soon be making their way to another avenue – streaming.

Netflix has announced today that all 236 episodes of the popular show – yes, including particular favorites – will be available to stream on the service starting January 1st, 2015. This is the latest move by the network to bring in new audience members, although it’s really had no problem beforehand with such original programming fare as Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards, along with popular favorites like Breaking Bad and Arrow.

To help celebrate the announcement, during the recent re-opening of the Central Perk coffee house in New York (to commemorate the show’s recent anniversary), Netflix put together a new ad featuring The Rembrandts performing an acoustic version of the show’s theme song, “I’ll Be There For You.” In addition, the ad also features an appearance from a long-time favorite side character on the show, Gunther. You can watch it below…and, relax, there’s no sign of Janice.


Warner Bros. Slates Superhero Movies

Considering how marketable the Marvel Universe is with movies – Guardians of the Galaxy has managed to clean up over $650 million worldwide – Warner Bros. is looking for its own cut of comic book profits, as it has announced no less than 11 new DC Comics-based films to come between 2016 and 2020.

The news was revealed during a Time Warner investors meeting this morning, with CEO Kevin Tsujihara confirming the existence of all 11 films. Along with separate releases featuring top superstars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Shazam) and Jason Momoa (Aquaman), two Justice League films, to be directed by Man of Steel helmer Zack Snyder, have also been planned, according to IGN.

Here’s how the whole slate looks between 2016 and 2020:

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, directed by Zack Snyder (2016)

Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer (2016)

Wonder Woman (2017)

Justice League Part One, directed by Zack Snyder (2017)

The Flash, which will star Ezra Miller in the lead role (2018)

Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa (2018)

Shazam, featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (2019)

Justice League Part Two, directed by Zack Snyder (2019)

Cyborg, starring Ray Fisher (2020)

Green Lantern (2020)

Another interesting wrinkle with this announcement is the reboot of Green Lantern. Warner Bros. previously released a feature-length film in 2011 featuring Ryan Reynolds in the lead role. Unfortunately, it was met with harsh criticism and failed to make back its rumored $300 million budget, leading Warner Bros. to the idea that a reboot more loyal to the comics was in order.

Comics in Hollywood are big business for DC Comics right now. Prior to these announcements, a number of its products have been licensed for TV shows, including CW’s The Flash (which has big audience numbers right alongside popular TV show Arrow), Fox’s Gotham and NBC’s Constantine, which will premiere later this month.

Now the only question is if it can keep up with the success alongside Marvel, who recently announced that Robert Downey Jr. would be joining the cast of the third Captain America film. Not to mention the heavy buzz going into next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Winner Of The Console Wars

The news that Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter broke earlier this week was stunning: Apparently Microsoft sold 325,000 Xbox Ones in September, beating out Sony’s 250,000 units of PS4’s sold (both numbers are for U.S. retail sales only). Sony has beaten Microsoft every single month since the two consoles launched last year, and the upset is stunning. Is this a fluke, or will Sony come back to #1 Can dark horse Nintendo ride on the back of Super Smash Bros. to retake the #1 slot Who will win the console wars this holiday season

Before you start placing bets, it’s important to realize that we already know who the winner will be, if you’re counting numbers of units. The answer isn’t Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo. It’s Apple, followed by Amazon, Google, Samsung and a few others — because tablets will be outselling any of the traditional game consoles by at least an order of magnitude (that’s 10x for those who don’t normally deal in astronomical numbers).

Wait a minute — tablets aren’t consoles! Maybe not in the traditional form factor, but in the minds of consumers who will be buying hardware this holiday, tablets will be considered right alongside of consoles. And most families will be buying one or the other — not everyone has the money or the desire to buy two pieces of hardware that can easily run into hundreds of dollars. Parents especially will be weighing consoles against tablets when making holiday hardware purchases, and traditional consoles have a number of disadvantages.

In order to understand how this might be the case, let’s look at the cost comparisons first, because that’s often where people start. In the $99 to $150 range, we have microconsoles like the Amazon FireTV and the new PlayStation TV, as well as other Android-based consoles like the Ouya. The PlayStation TV can play nearly any PS Vita game, plus with PlayStation Now it will have available a large number of old PlayStation games. Certainly in terms of deep games the PS TV has it all over its microconsole rivals — except for price. Games for the PS TV are going to be in the range of $20 to $40, for the most part. Meanwhile, the FireTV is getting an increasing number of interesting games, many of which are free or somewhere in the $3 to $7 range.

Compare either of those to Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablets, which start at $99 for a 6″ tablet at $139 for a 7″ tablet, both of which have pretty nice screens and an excellent array of not just games, but books, movies, TV and music, along with parental controls. Or the FireHD Kid’s Version, which somes with added case protection and an unlimited 2 year if-it-breaks-we’ll-replace-it warranty. Of course, there are plenty of lesser known brand names in the same price range. Yes, these tablet consoles don’t have the same game, but there are thousands to choose from (mostly free or nearly so), and these things are portable, too. Handheld consoles like the 2DS for $130 or the 3DS for $150 have a good selection of great games, but again those games are going to run you $20 or $30.

Parents who aren’t terribly familiar with the types of games available may well choose tablets, based on the availability of low-cost games and the much broader utility and portability offered by tablets.

When you get into the $200 to $300 price range, you start comparing more premium tablets (like an iPad Mini or a Samsung Galaxy or a Google Nexus 7) with last-gen consoles like the Xbox 360, the PS3, and the Wii or even the Wii U. Again, the tablets have greater general utility and portability, while the consoles have the hardcore (but expensive) games.

At the high end of $400 to $500, you get into the top end of tablets like the iPad Air and begin comparing that purchase to an Xbox One or a PS4. The difference in games is stark – but an iPad is a go-anywhere, do almost anything kind of tool that will be a much easier sell to a dubious, non-game-playing spouse. And if you’re serious about gaming, what about Nvidia’s new Shield tablet and controller, designed for the hardcore gamer and also a great tablet

While the games seem to be a key differentiation, even that is eroding. You can now find older console games like the Final Fantasy series or BioShock on consoles, and more will be coming. Blizzard’s hot card game Hearthstone is racking up amazing numbers on mobile, and converting many hardcore gamers to that new form of console. Check out this list of 21 great games for iOS, and this list of 87 great games for Android — you’ll find plenty of familiar names there, as well as some terrific new ones. Great gaming experiences are right in front of you, even for hardcore gamers. Try Kingdom Rush out for some simple tower defense fun, but the strategy gets very interesting.

Even new games like Skylanders: Trap Team now have a tablet version identical to the console version, complete with Bluetooth controller — at the same price as the traditional console version of the game. Minecraft Yeah, mobile’s got a version of that. If you have kids in the right age range, the idea of a tablet where they can be off in their room playing Skylanders, liberating your TV for your usage, may be a killer app.

When we’re talking about winning the console wars, it’s really about numbers. Apple sold over 26 million iPads in the fourth quarter of last year, and it will likely do that again with new iPad models on the way. Xbox One or PS4 sales will probably be in the 2 million range, so Apple has them beat by ten times. Amazon will probably sell 10 million Fire tablets over the holidays, though it’s hard to tell since they never release numbers. But in any case, it’s clear that tablets will easily conquer hardware sales numbers.

Sure, but are tablets really gameplaying devices When Digi-Capital reports that 67 percent of tablet time is devoted to playing games on them, and it’s by far the most popular app category, I think we can say the answer is yes. And since 75 percent of all app revenue is coming from games, the billions of dollars in mobile gaming is looking pretty competitive to consoles. While tablet game revenue won’t be passing console game revenues for a while, the gap is closing.

The console wars are pretty much decided, and tablets are the winners. The only question for game publishers now is how they’re going to take advantage of it, and how fast they can move over.

Mozilla And Humble Bundle Bring Indie Games To Browsers

The potential of games to run in any browser, anywhere, has been a dream for many years in the gaming industry. What if there were no massive downloads, finicky installation procedures, or demanding ports to different platforms? Developers could have an unparalleled reach for their games if anyone could play it just by going to the right web address.

Of course, the practical difficulties to implementing this dream were massive. The performance of browsers would mean that few games beyond a simple solitaire would be playable, and where’s the market for that these days? Fortunately, many people have been hard at work finding solutions, and the advent of the new WebGL announced earlier this year promised near-native speeds for browser-based games. Still, we’d have to see all the major browsers support that, and then more work on the part of game developers. And even if all the technical problems were solved, how would potential players find out about this?


Enter Mozilla, acting in concert with Humble Bundle, offering a package of indie games that will run right in your Firefox or other WebGL compliant browser (including Chrome) on Windows, Mac and Linux. The Humble Mozilla Bundle is powered by asm.js, and gamers can pay what they want, support non-profit organizations and seamlessly play games right in their browser.

If you haven’t been following the amazing success of the Humble Bundle, the site started as a way to generate some sales for indie game developers as well as raise money for charity by offering a bundle of games for a price picked by the buyer. The buyer can also pick the charity being supported, and vary the ratio of how the money is allocated between developers and charity. The concept proved to be a viral marketing smash, and continues today with bundles every couple of weeks, now having extended into multiple platforms and even other product categories. The Humble Bundle has raised well over $50 million in its four years, with over $20 million to charity.

As a marketing tool, the Humble Bundle has been a terrific way for indie developers to get exposure for games and generate some added sales. Now the technology is making it even easier to play these games. The [a]listdaily spoke with Humble co-founder John Graham and Mozilla director of product management Bill Maggs about the Humble Mozilla Bundle and what it portends for games.

[a]listdaily: Tell me about what the Humble Mozilla Bundle accomplishes.

John Graham: We are now able to take eight awesome indie games into the browser and make them playable right there. We’ve always wondered when that time would come. For other types of media, you just go there and the browser just handles it. You’re viewing or listening or watching right there. For gaming there’s been no real precedent for that, not when it comes to hardcore, accelerated PC gaming. This is an opportunity to really bring that same ease of use and make playing a game as easy as watching a video. That’s what gets us really excited. Mozilla has been working really hard creating the asm.js library that’s really making it all possible, so games can be recompiled for this system and run really nicely at near-native speeds right in the browser.

Bill Maggs: Mozilla has wanted to do this for a long time, the technology base has been coming together, and now WebGl is running everywhere, even on iOS 8. That’s a really important step. Now we can take the code that developers write in C++ and compile it directly into Javascript that runs in every browser, but is optimized to run in Firefox as well as other major browsers. It makes for the first-class hardware -accelerated experience that gamers really want.

[a]listdaily: The promise of WebGL is finally being delivered, isn’t it?

John Graham: We’re certainly excited about it, and this is only the beginning. We wanted to create that base level, and evangelize that base level of customer experience where you show up and you’re playing games in the browser, but there’s a whole wealth of features that’ll be very exciting for the future. In the future, the same way a video knows which device is accessing it across computers and types of hardware, to do things like detect resolution and give you what you want, there’s no reason games couldn’t do that to.

[a]listdaily: Potentially, then, you could have a game that’s playable on mobile platforms as well as PC by detecting the platform and changing the controls available, couldn’t you?

Bill Maggs: One thing that Humble has done that’s really pretty good is they’ve worked with a lot of their developers to get a standard approach that works for PC games that essentially abstracts the hardware in a pretty standard way. There are projects under way that we’ve done at Mozilla to make it possible for anybody with a game controller to just plug that controller into their computer and just have it work. A lot of these controllers are popular on console, it would be neat to have them usable in your browser too.

[a]listdaily: What are developers looking forward to with this technology and the Humble Bundle?

John Graham: We’ve found in the past when we do something new that shakes up the model a little bit, we tend to generate a lot of natural buzz around the promotion that we’re doing, and that’s something developers are interested in. We’ve built up some good will in general around cultivating new platforms. We’ve got nearly 100 games ported to Linux now, but this is a frontier that’s kind of like Linux but even larger in terms of the potential and ease of access for everybody. It really feels like the precipice is something huge, when you think about how many people really use a browser versus what really big user bases there are in the industry. Browsers are just so much bigger. We’re talking hundreds of millions of users, maybe billions versus less than a hundred million Steam users. How many of these would be gamers that would get into all this beautiful content that’s out there but just haven’t wanted to deal with the existing ecosystem

Bill Maggs: The technology is there, and innovative companies like Humble Bundle have figured out ways to build viral marketing events around great content that people just literally didn’t know was available for PC. We thought, what a great opportunity to take every single person who opens a home page on a browser to be able to identify what part of this big audience out there wants to play games this way. We thought it would be a novel idea to take one of the game developers in this bundle to make a playable game for us that we can put in the snippet. The entire 3D game, with all the assets and everything, only takes up 180K. When it comes out we think a lot of people will be blown away by it.

Xbox One Outsells PS4 In September

With the console war set to heat up again over the holidays with a number of exclusives, what happens month-after-month is pretty vital leading into October onward. Michael Pachter, an analyst for the video game market, believes that Microsoft could very well have a jump leading into this period.

VentureBeat reported on Pachter’s note, indicating that the Xbox One has managed to outsell the highly popular PlayStation 4 console for the first time in quite a while, selling 325,000 units for the month of September, compared to Sony’s 250,000 in sales.

That’s an interesting number, especially considering the promotional push Sony and Activision put behind the action-packed shooter Destiny, which featured exclusive content on both PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. With the help of marketing, the game became a best seller, and also provided the PS4 with a sales boost in European markets.

However, Destiny may not be the big title to drive the holiday season, as Pachter also analyzed the sci-fi shooter. Despite its popularity, the game is no Grand Theft Auto, according to Pachter (who’s referring to last year’s best-selling Grand Theft Auto V, which was a big hit for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3).

“Last September, Take-Two announced worldwide retail sell-through [sales to consumers] for [GTA V] of over $800 million on day one and over $1 billion for the first three days,” says a Wedbush investor note by Pachter, according to GamesIndustry International. “[Those are] both industry records. This September’s biggest release, Activision Blizzard’s Destiny, had day one sell-in to retailers of over $500 million, a record for a new franchise, with sell-through to consumers of over $325 million in its first five days.”

So that’s a positive, right Not entirely. “We estimate Destiny’s NPD unit sales figures for September will be 2.75 million units. That’s well below Grand Theft Auto V’s roughly 7 million unites last year.”

As a result, Pachter believes the market will see a 42 percent drop in game sales compared to the previous year…although big titles on the way could still assure a strong holiday season. (That’s including the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of GTA V, which are set to arrive on November 18th.)

Millennial Spending Grows, But Oddly

Millennial spending can be hard to gauge at times, mainly because of its unpredictability. Case in point — households with millennials tend to spend less money on average than general ones in the United States, but still have large expenditures. According to a report from eMarketer, this is likely to lead to annual spending around $1.4 trillion within just a matter of years, by the time 2020 rolls around.

This report, titled “Adult Millennials as Consumers: Sifting Through the Contradictions in Their Shopping Behavior,” goes over expected spending and purchase habits across a variety of U.S. Internet users, and is broken down by generation. As expected, millennials play a big part in that, as 60 percent plan to reduce spending on eating out at restaurants if that means getting closer to ideal purchases. Gen X members are in the same percentile, while baby boomers and seniors are at 55 and 45 percent, respectively. Spending less on entertainment also plays a big part.

However, the report also shows that millennials are likely to invest more money in certain purchases, as well as take prolonged vacations. The percentage gets smaller when it comes to buying new “stuff,” such as a computer, a house or condo, or even a new business, going down to around 29 percent, 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Millennials also seem keen on spending more on general experiences rather than general “stuff,” according to a 2014 report from The Intelligence Group. This audience would be “the first generations of NOwners, or those who prize access over ownership.”

Another poll by Zipcar, conducted late last year, pointed out that 61 percent of 18 to 34 year olds polled prefer “experiences” over “possessions,” and an older proportion of the audience said close to the same thing.

More details on this report can be found here. But it seems millennials are living more “for the now” than investing in too many items for the future.

Image source

NewHive Welcomes Creativity In Social Networking

When it comes to social networking, most people follow a formatted line, with areas for text, links and places to put their video and pictures. However, with the introduction of NewHive, CEO and co-founder Zach Verdin sees a little something different, according to an article from Fast Company.

Verdin sees the power of a “blank white page,” feeling that it’s the ultimate opportunity for those to create something remarkable with their social experience. “Look, I love Twitter,” says Verdin, who specializes in urban design. “But Twitter for me is, like, random quick thoughts on the subway, or when I’m hanging out with friends and want to do a quick post.”

With NewHive, Verdin sees something different – and unique. “NewHive for us was this blank white screen. It was this moment for pause in this constant stream of information and self-expression.”

Based more on browser rather than mobile, the site enables users to create as they go along, so that they can create a social experience that fits more into who they are, rather than relying on a pre-made format.

The site has actually been in the works for years, between Verdin, Cara Bucciferro, Abram Clark and Andrew Sorkin. It dwelt in conception for years until 2012, when the team was able to raise $100,000 from friends and family to finally bring it into fruition.

NewHive isn’t just a tool for creativity, but also flexibility, as there are no real limits to hold back when it comes to making something that identifies with someone. It’s just a matter of what a person is willing to put into it.

Some people have already put it to good use, including industrial noise artist EMA, who utilized the site to create audio-visual mix tapes and interactive “zines” for her audience. Educators are getting some drive out of it as well, including UC Davis linguistics department member Patrick Farrell, who uses it in the classroom for educational purposes.

Verdin didn’t report just how successful NewHive is yet, but did express how user-friendly it can be. “For people who use NewHive a lot, it’s replacing tools they used,” he said, “things they’d use Adobe for. It’s replacing DreamWeaver for a lot of our users.

“We want the people who use NewHive to own their data,” Verdin wrote on his NewHive page. “Instead of selling their information, we choose, instead, to make money through the tools we’ve built and what people choose to do with them. We believe in the power of our tools, as well as the artists we invest in–and that they make things that people will want to buy. That is how we plan to make money.”

We certainly wish them the best of luck. Interested parties can check out NewHive here.

Xbox One Takes Vine To The Big Screen

The long-awaited Vine app has launched on Xbox One in 34 countries today for Xbox Live members to view and share content more easily from the comfort of their home. As the first Vine app ever created to scale for TV, Vine’s integration will allow users to make short gameplay videos too, providing an alternative to streaming on Twitch.

Kinect voice and gesture controls are able to be used with the Vine app to play, pause and search for videos in the platform. There will also be dedicated channels like Art, Music & Dance, Comedy and others to adapt the viewing experience to TV.

Here’s what it looks like:

Mobile Spending Sees Older Audience

Think that mobile gaming is attracting a younger audience? Actually, according to a story from GamesIndustry International, it’s the opposite.

A report from Unity-owned mobile gaming firm Everplay provided more information on who’s actually spending money in the mobile game market. Across over 3,000 people, the survey shows that an older audience provides the biggest boost, with $6.07 spent per party per month across the 35-44 year old demographic. The 18-24 year old market was a runner-up, but with nearly half the amount at $3.73 spend on a monthly basis.

Men make up a majority of that audience, spending $5.63 per month compared to women spending $3.49 in the same period. The average comes out to around $4.58.

Out of those surveyed, those who played more often spent the most money, while casual players didn’t even come close to the one-dollar mark, spending around $.66 per month. More avid players came closer to $15.15 spent per month, averaging over ten hours of gameplay.

By comparison, 59 percent of players didn’t spend a single cent on their mobile game experiences, while less than 1 percent were considered the “whales” of the group, spending $50 or more on a monthly basis. Out of those experiences, those involving competitive play seemed to be the biggest draws.

The chart below breaks down spending by demographic, including how much is spent by age and gender, as well as monthly spending and time utilized in playing said games.

There’s also a breakdown of where the social angle lies, with 32 percent interested in sharing tips and tricks for their favorite games, followed by discussion in dedicated forums, providing video replays for others to view, and sharing screenshots of their games in action. Not every game provides these options, so it’s easy to see where tips and tricks would be more popular.