Two big stories in the games world today.
Two big stories in the games world today.
First up: a wave of expected cuts hit Disney Interactive today. 700 lay-offs as the Mouse House consolidates its interactive division. Variety has the nuts and bolts details, but the gist of it is this: Disney is focusing its efforts. Disney Interactive has a broad mandate: everything from websites to mobile and console games. A younger company might structure such business units differently, rather than aligning them all under the same structure.
Disney Interactive found one of its biggest successes yet in the form of Disney Infinity, the console game that mixes collectible figurines with video game play, this past holiday season. There’s no reason to expect that this franchise will be particularly hurt by the cuts, even with 26% of the total staff of Disney Interactive being let go.
Mass layoffs are a fairly common occurrence in the games industry; which isn’t to say they are any less painful for those who find themselves with pink slips. It does serve as an abject lesson for those who enter the industry with stars in their eyes. The business involves absurdly long hours as a game is rushed to market, and when the release date hits the ax often follows soon after.
Game production at large studios resembles the rhythm of film and television production in this way. Staffing is ramped up as production heads towards release, and then the team is winnowed back down when the job is through.
The other big news: Sony’s Jack Tretton, the face of Sony Computer Entertainment America as its CEO and President, is stepping down. He’s been with the company from the beginning, and has played a key role in the launch of every Playstation console. 19 years on the job seems to be the limit, however.
This turn was unexpected by the gaming press, and comes on the heels of the news that the fan-favorite creator of the Uncharted series has left the Sony owned Naughty Dog studio. IGN reports that Henning was forced out of the studio as part of an internal power struggle.
This is supposed to be the quiet months for the games industry, but I guess those don’t happen anymore. Next week Titanfall hits, which Microsoft needs to be a smash hit in order to change the industry narrative over the new generation of consoles.
Newsweek claims that they have found the elusive founder of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, and have released a cover story online that is a thrilling piece of investigatory journalism.
Newsweek claims that they have found the elusive founder of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, and have released a cover story online that is a thrilling piece of investigatory journalism. According to Newsweek’s Leah McGrath Goodman the name isn’t a pseudonym as many have assumed, but the birth name of the actual founder. This is taut writing with the kind of details that make for great storytelling:
Mitchell suspects Nakamoto’s initial interest in creating a digital currency that could be used anywhere in the world may have stemmed from his frustration with bank fees and high exchange rates when he was sending international wires to England to buy model trains. “He would always complain about that,” she says. “I would not say he writes flawless English. He will pick up words and mix the spellings.”
This is the kind of piece most journalists would give their eye teeth to write. Of course, the amount of work involved–searching the National Archives, for example–isn’t the kind of thing that 12-piece-a-day Gawker writers could get around to.
On the other side of the coin (ugh, sorry) there’s the ethics questions about choosing to run photos of this Nakamoto and his house, along with the names of his family members and other identifying information. The initial contacts with Nakamoto were conducted under false pretenses before turning to the subject of Bitcoin. The comments section of the piece goes crazy over the photos and other details–”doxing” in hacker-speak–accusing Newsweek of essentially serving this guy up for possible assassination.
Read the rest
Facebook has the singular goal of connecting everyone, everywhere.
Facebook has the singular goal of connecting everyone, everywhere. With connection comes commerce, so it should come as little surprise that you can arrange to buy all kinds of interesting thing from Pokemon cards to guns.
That’s right: there’s all kinds of guns being sold on Facebook, usually by savvy traders looking to get around bureaucratic restrictions like those pesky background checks. Not so fast, Tex, says Sheriff Zuckerberg. The law’s the law online and off. Here’s how the ink stained wretches down at Ars Technica describe Facebook’s efforts to clean up the town:
Under its new rules, Facebook will respond to reports of a private firearm sale with a message to the seller that the sale needs to comply with the relevant laws and regulations. The site will also require Facebook pages that are “primarily used by people to promote the private sale of commonly regulated goods or services” to include a boilerplate about complying with laws, said Monica Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook.
On the more pedestrian side of things: I know that folks in the trading card game community are using Facebook as an alternate to eBay. Why? The lack of fees. It’s enough to make one wonder just what is going on in the dark alleyways of Facebook.
We’ve been keeping pace with director Ondi Timoner’s latest work as the two time Sundance winner documents the entrepreneurial spirit in technology and the arts.
We’ve been keeping pace with director Ondi Timoner’s latest work as the two time Sundance winner documents the entrepreneurial spirit in technology and the arts. Timoner gathers series of short films and web episodes under the title A Total Disruption, and the latest piece will make its debut at South By Southwest this Saturday.
Obey The Artist follows Shepard Fairey, the famed graphic artist best known for both his street art and the iconic “HOPE” poster featuring President Obama, he turns a photograph into a 12 foot mural. Following the ATD bent, the short “explores how technology, politics and music inform Shepard Fairey’s iconographic work.”
The short, which is part of the ATD Chief Executive Artist sub-series focusing on entrepreneurial artists, will premiere at the Topfer Theatre at ZACH in Austin at 2:15PM local time on March 8th.
Head and spinal trauma are especially damaging because medical science hasn’t had a reliable way to replace neurons, the critical biological cell that transmits information.
Head and spinal trauma are especially damaging because medical science hasn’t had a reliable way to replace neurons, the critical biological cell that transmits information. Now researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have created found a way to generate new neurons in living mammals without using stem cells.
From Kurzweil A.I.:
Spinal cord injuries can lead to an irreversible loss of neurons, and along with scarring, can ultimately lead to impaired motor and sensory functions. Scientists are hopeful that regenerating cells can be an avenue to repair damage, but adult spinal cords have limited ability to produce new neurons. Biomedical scientists have transplanted stem cells to replace neurons, but have faced other hurdles, underscoring the need for new methods of replenishing lost cells.
Science is a long way from using this as a therapy for Alzheimer’s and other neurological related problems, but this kind of breakthrough gives hope that quality of life may one day be as extensible as term of life currently is.
Bop.fm launched out of beta back in December, offering playlists that source songs from multiple music sharing services, including YouTube, SoundCloud, Rdio, Spotify and most recently, Dr.
Bop.fm launched out of beta back in December, offering playlists that source songs from multiple music sharing services, including YouTube, SoundCloud, Rdio, Spotify and most recently, Dr. Dre’s Beats.
A fun fact to consider: adding YouTube in Bop.fm’s list of music players means that you will not only get playlists from the unsigned “YouTube famous” artists, but you’ll get a music video and even special live or studio performances thrown in the mix.
The platform also has a player for web publishers that’s currently in use on Rap Genius.
In Banished, you build gentle hamlets of wooden and stone houses. That's a contrast to the bustling urban centers of many city-building sim games, but the pace is no less hectic. ShiningRockSoftware
‘Indie Watch’ is the weekly indie game review segment from NPR’s All Tech Considered.
‘Indie Watch’ is the weekly indie game review segment from NPR’s All Tech Considered. Here’s a taste of the latest from Steve Mullis, Web producer at NPR. Follow their gaming Tumblr, NPR Plays.
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
That famous line, said by Tim Robbins in the film The Shawshank Redemption, perfectly summed up his character’s struggle and subsequent escape from the titular prison. It also, however, perfectly encapsulates the feeling of the game Banished, a new indie city-builder from Shining Rock Software.
The game places you in charge of a small band of villagers, banished from somewhere for unknown reasons, who are now tasked with starting their own town from the ground up. The goal is simple: survive. They must gather the proper resources, build houses, grow food and basically make a livable community so they can start popping out babies.
It’s this emphasis on simple survival that sets Banished apart from city-builder games that have preceded it.
Check out the rest of Steve’s review at All Tech Considered.
Remember a week ago when everyone was sure that Apple was in talks to buy Tesla?
Remember a week ago when everyone was sure that Apple was in talks to buy Tesla? We were all so naïve back then.
I say this because Apple announced their iOS in the Car initiative, rebranded as “CarPlay” via Press Release and a big splashy website section (that’s what the image above is from). A whole host of car manufacturers have signed on for the program that will integrate iPhones directly into in-dash infotainment systems. This is an important play for Apple, as this is about more than just extending Siri into cars. This is about the looming Internet of Things, and what operating systems will be competing for deep integration with all of our lives.
Low stakes, for sure.
Apple’s chief rivals–that would the mega combo of Google and Samsung–have announced a “premium Chromebook.” Chromebooks, you’ll recall, are the entry-level laptop class that rely on Google web services for just about everything. In a “run away from Apple at top speed” design decision the new Samsung Chromebooks feature a faux-leather look. Just in case you want your computer to have that Rust Cohle ledger of doom vibe.
Last, but not least, Microsoft let slip some more details about their answer to Siri for Windows Phones: Cortana. The Verge has some screenshots of the new player in the “intelligent assistant” field, this one based on the popular Halo character. To heck with the phone version, I say, get this into the Xbox One.
NPR’s Aarti Shahani had a report on this past Friday on a cellphone company that is touting its wares as being more secure than the average smartphone.
NPR’s Aarti Shahani had a report on this past Friday on a cellphone company that is touting its wares as being more secure than the average smartphone. The Android device and company are called Blackphone, and the founder is a former Navy SEAL.
The pitch for the device goes a little like this:
Take apps that look free but mine your data to earn big dollars. Facebook tries to get your contacts, Google Maps tries to get your geolocation, Pandora gets your music preferences. Blackphone has a default setting: no — unless you proactively choose yes.
Blackphone also rebels against smartphone norms. Say you want to spend Sunday afternoon lost in a coffee shop or a clothing store. You might think you’re off the grid, but your phone, using Wi-Fi, is talking to beacons “finding out where you’ve been, making offerings to you,” [founder Mike] Janke says. “What Blackphone does, it’ll automatically stop that beacon activity, shut off any Wi-Fi pinging to protect you from those type of stalking things.”
Shahani makes it clear that this isn’t NSA-proof technology we’re talking about here, and throws some cold water in the back end of the report on Blackphone’s hype. I’d be suspicious of any claims of security on a device that uses the public networks.
Now if the pCell technology that was introduced by Steve Perlman recently becomes a real standard then we can talk about secure cellphone communications.
Two weeks ago the talk of the Internet was a frustratingly addictive game called Flappy Bird.
Two weeks ago the talk of the Internet was a frustratingly addictive game called Flappy Bird. You probably remember it dimly by now, perhaps even with a bit of wistful nostalgia for the top of the month. In the weeks since it was pulled from the App Store by its creator for being “too addictive” we’ve heard nary a peep about it.
That, I suppose, is the thing about Internet Fame; the fickle nature of which I can’t help but think contributed to game designer Dong Nguyen’s decision to take his game off the market. There’s no way that Nguyen, a lone programmer working in relative obscurity in Vietnam, could be ready for the deluge of attention–much of it negative–that came with the sudden success of the game. Especially such an unlikely game as Flappy Bird.
The indie game scene online can occasionally feel like a social experiment being run by sadistic Stanford grad students who never signed their ethics pledge. For every game creator who rises from obscurity to be lauded, there seems to be another one who is torn to shreds by the peanut gallery. The documentary Indie Game: The Movie does a pretty good job of showing just how fickle fans can be.
In this way the indie game scene is a microcosm of social media as a whole, which has given everybody with an internet connection the opportunity to discover what celebrities have known for years:
Fame kinda sucks.
Read the rest