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LinkedIn Loses Battle To Block Access To User’s Profile Data

August 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A U.S. federal judge has ruled that Microsoft Corp’s LinkedIn unit will not be allowed to prevent a startup from accessing public profile data, in a test of how much control a social media site can wield over information its users have deemed to be public.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco granted a preliminary injunction request brought by hiQ Labs, and ordered LinkedIn to remove within 24 hours any technology preventing hiQ from accessing public profiles.

The case is considered to have implications beyond LinkedIn and hiQ Labs and could dictate just how much control companies have over publicly available data that is hosted on their services.

“To the extent LinkedIn has already put in place technology to prevent hiQ from accessing these public profiles, it is ordered to remove any such barriers,” Chen’s order reads.

HiQ Labs uses the LinkedIn data to build algorithms capable of predicting employee behaviors, such as when they might quit.

LinkedIn plans to challenge the decision, company spokeswoman Nicole Leverich said.

“We’re disappointed in the court’s ruling,” Leverich said. “This case is not over. We will continue to fight to protect our members’ ability to control the information they make available on LinkedIn.”

HiQ Labs called the decision an important victory for companies that rely on publicly available data for their businesses.

“HiQ believes that public data must remain public, and innovation on the internet should not be stifled by legal bullying or the anti-competitive hoarding of public data by a small group of powerful companies,” the company said in a statement Monday evening.

That sentiment was echoed by Falon Fatemi, chief executive of Node, a San Francisco startup that uses publicly available data and artificial intelligence to help companies identify potential customers.

The dispute between the two tech companies has been going on since May when LinkedIn issued a letter to hiQ Labs instructing the startup to stop scraping data from its service.

HiQ Labs responded by filing a lawsuit against LinkedIn in June, alleging that the Microsoft-owned social network was in violation of antitrust laws.

Can Rocket League Grow eSports

August 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The stories about esports going to the Olympics, or airing on mainstream TV, are exciting.

In itself, these moments are not that important to the future of competitive gaming. This is a modern sport, there’s no need for BBC broadcasts when millions are watching on Twitch. And as cool as it may be to see gamers at official sporting championships, these competitions are not suited to the complex nature of esports with all those different games.

Yet what these stories highlight is esports’ potential within the mainstream. The dream of seeing esports on the back pages of newspapers, taking prime time slots on Sky Sports and drawing in families around the world rooting for their favorite teams. Millions more watch football than play it – wouldn’t it be great if that was also true of Call of Duty?

Unfortunately, esports is not mainstream. The games are complicated, or violent, or both. Some are hard to follow, while the ones that are easier to grasp are often based on existing sports (such as FIFA or NBA 2K), and the nagging question there is why watch the virtual versions when you can see the real thing?

Last year I attended an event about esports targeted at mainstream media and Government. The organizers wanted to demonstrate esports on stage, but were unsure over which game to use – violent shooters or densely packed MOBAs were just not suitable.

When UK retailer GAME launched its Belong range of stores (effectively local esports areas within a shop) it was faced with a similar challenge. Most of the popular esports games are simply not appropriate to show in the middle of the day in a retail setting.

Both eventually hit upon the same answer: Rocket League.

The car football game is the perfect title for mainstream sports. It’s easy to follow as it is just soccer with cars, but also crazy enough that it can only be done in a video game.

“Rocket League launched in July 2015 and immediately community groups latched onto the game and started to create tournaments,” says Josh Watson, head of esports at developer Psyonix.

“So Rocket League esports was very much born from the community. It is that grass roots support that has made for a passionate community of tournament organizers and fans. Today we have several dozen community groups who are doing hundreds of online tournaments and events annually, so it has really ballooned up from the grassroots.”

VP of publishing Jeremy Dunham adds: “The conversations we’ve had directly with players… they want more opportunities for Rocket League to become a bigger esport. That is something we are focusing on a lot.

“One of the biggest mistakes people make in esports is that they only focus on the smallest possible audience, the 50 to 100 people who are good enough to make a living out of it. We want esports to feel more like little league or football, where people are playing at all levels, from childhood to the pros. That way there is always an opportunity to play Rocket League and be a part of something. That requires a massive plan and a lot of infrastructure, but we’re spending a good amount of time putting that in place.”

That plan is accelerating rapidly. Last year, Psyonix ran competitions in three regions (Europe, North America and Oceania), with $600,000 in prize money. It did well, with 6,000 teams taking part, 1m unique viewers and 10m channel views on Twitch.

Now Psyonix is trying to grow that rapidly, with a $2.5m investment in developing Rocket League as an esport.

The company has since added new in-game functionality, like an esports live button (so people can watch in-game). They’ve added new tournaments, expanded to new regions, offered in-game items to viewers, appeared at more major festivals and has signed deals with NBC, ESL, Gfinity, Dreamhack and a whole lot more.

It has developed the RLCS (Rocket League Championship Series) Overtime show, which airs every week. And its last esports finals became the most watched esport of that week, with 2.8m hours of viewership – 1m more than League of Legends.

“Some of the numbers we saw included 2.29m unique viewers, 208,000 concurrent viewers across seven broadcasted languages… so some pretty big numbers,” says Watson. “To put that in perspective, between Season 2 and 3 we had a 640% increase in video watched, 340% in peak concurrent viewers, 251% increase in social media impressions, and 208% increase in unique viewers. It is incredibly promising for the RLCS moving forward.”

The firm is even attracting non-gaming sponsors, with Old Spice, 7Eleven, Transformers: The Last Knight and Mobil1 all signing up to support their tournaments.

It all sounds good, but then esports figures always do. Millions of concurrent viewer numbers and outlandish prize pools have almost become white noise. It’s all good marketing for Rocket League, but is this actually a profit-generating endeavor?

“One of our focuses is on giving our community a place to play competitively,” Watson acknowledges. “It’s really about servicing this community. They’re hungry for this high level competition.”

Yet big flashy tournaments don’t really service the community. It gives fans something to watch, but ultimately it’s still prohibitive for anyone outside of the most elite gamers. Dunham and Watson keep using the term ‘grass roots’, so how are they looking to support that?

“There is this notion in esports about the path to pro,” acknowledges Watson. “We want to create this ecosystem where you are taking good players who might want to play competitively, but they’re really not sure how, to attending tournaments. We are trying to build out this path to pro, where it is clearly defined how you get to that top tier.”

 

“For RLCS season 4, we are shifting our focus to creating a sustainable environment for players and organizations,” Watson explains. “Teams will be incentivized to plan for the long-term, and the goal is to create an environment where players can hone their skills, which will improve the quality of the gameplay and it should also offer players, owners and sponsors the necessary security to invest in Rocket League for the long-term with confidence.

“We are moving to a promotion and relegation system. The RLCS is basically a big open tournament at the moment, and then it funnels down to the top eight teams, and if you make it to the top eight you can play in a group stage, which happens over a long period of time. What that doesn’t allow for is if you don’t perform well on the day of the qualifiers, then you’re out of luck. That is something we are trying to solve with the promotion/relegation system. Each region will now be comprised of 16 teams, with the top eight making it into the RLCS as we know it now… the top division. And the nine through 16 teams will have access to a challenger, second division. We are hoping to provide players the opportunity to compete at the highest level, whilst being able to cultivate talent for tomorrow’s stars. That means we will have 40 teams across three regions competing in the RLCS.”

“It’s in partnership with Tespa, which is a group that runs some notable collegiate experiences like Heroes of the Dorm,” Watson explains. “We launched with the collegiate Rocket League series in early July, and this is our soft launch into collegiate esports. It is where we are allowing players who are enrolled in colleges all over North America, to make teams of three and play in these competitive environments while earning prizes.”

Watson says he is open to expanding that beyond the US, assuming there’s the demand for it.

It’s certainly commendable, and Rocket League does have a certain simplicity about it that could see it go far. It’s now a case of Psyonix keeping that momentum going.

“One of our visions that we try to hold to is to create a premium sports product in the esports world,” Watson concludes. “That is something that drives us. We do think our game is one of the best suited games for esports in general.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is AMD’s Ryzen A Good Fit For Linux

August 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD has admitted that it has reports of segmentation faults from its Linux Ryzen customers.

Apparently when it fires off too many compilation processes, the machine suffers from what AMD calls a “performance marginality problem”.

It appears to only be affecting some Ryzen customers and only those on Linux. It is not an issue with Threadripper and Epyc processors are unaffected.

The numbers are so small that they will be dealing with the problem on a customer-by-customer basis, and its future consumer products will see better Linux testing/validation. It is calling for Ryzen customers believed to be affected by the problem to give AMD Customer Care a bell.

The Ryzen segmentation faults on Linux occur with many, parallel compilation workloads. These are not the workloads most Linux users will be firing off on a frequent basis unless intentionally running scripts like ryzen-test/kill-ryzen.

Generally, Ryzen Linux boxes have been working out when they are not operating under torture. AMD’s analysis has also found that these Ryzen segmentation faults aren’t isolated to a particular motherboard vendor.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft’s Surface Tablets Not So Reliable, Says Consumer Reports

August 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The breakage rate for Microsoft Corp’s Surface devices significantly outpaces that of other manufacturers’ laptops and tablets, Consumer Reports said, adding that it was removing its “recommended” designation for Surface products.

The non-profit publication surveyed 90,000 tablet and laptop owners and found that an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices would be presented with “problems by the end of the second year of ownership,” according to a study published on Thursday.

“If you are very concerned about how long your products are going to last, it might be better for you to go with a brand that has a higher predicted reliability,” Jerry Beilinson, electronics editor at the consumer goods testing publication, said in an interview.

Microsoft disputed the study, saying the company’s return and support rates differ significantly from the Consumer Reports study.

“We don’t believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners’ true experiences or capture the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation,” the company said in a statement.

According to the Consumer Reports survey responses, the Microsoft devices were found to freeze, unexpectedly shut down or have issues with their touchscreens, Beilinson said.

Altogether, the reliability issues made Microsoft a statistical outlier compared with other brands. Apple Inc had the most reliable devices, Beilinson said.

Microsoft entered the hardware market with its first Surface tablet in 2012. Since then, the company has released a series of new Surface tablets and laptops, including the well-reviewed Surface Pro, which launched in May.

The Surface devices serve as a face for the company and exemplify how Microsoft’s manufacturing partners can build hardware around the Windows 10 operating system. However, Surface is a small part of Microsoft’s overall revenue, and Surface revenue has declined year-over-year for the past two quarters.

Are Publishers Milking Gamers Being With Video Game Remasters

August 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Have you noticed how many remastered video games have been released lately?

Remastering music and film for newer formats has been standard practice in those industries for some time, and the games industry now has enough history behind it to mine older titles and bring them to either nostalgic audiences or players who are experiencing a classic IP afresh.

Given a market in which so many publishers are highly risk averse and costs are typically astronomical, it’s easy to see why the relatively low costs of remastering are so appealing. With consumers hungry for classic content, especially during this nostalgia wave we’re witnessing, it makes perfect sense for publishers to capitalize.

Looking at the UK charts, remasters of Mario Kart, Wipeout, Crash Bandicoot and Final Fantasy XII have all topped the charts in the last two months. And in the US, NPD told us that remastered/ported games have accounted for 11% of total dollar spending life-to-date for physical game sales on PS4 and Xbox One. Nearly 80 remastered/ported games have been released for PS4 or Xbox One (or both) since November 2013, representing about 15% of all titles released at retail for those consoles.

Recently, during Activision Blizzard’s earnings call, Activision Publishing boss Eric Hirshberg gushed over the success of Crash Bandicoot.

“We knew that there was a passionate audience out there for Crash…. but we had no idea – it’s hard to tell whether that’s a vocal minority or whether that’s a real mass audience until you put something out there. And Crash has surpassed all of our expectations by a pretty wide margin,” he said.

“And a couple of stats that underscore that point where it was the number one selling console game in June based on units, even though it was only available for two days during that month. And Sony reported this morning… that Crash is the most downloaded game on the PlayStation Store in July.”

Activision has enjoyed the fruits of remastering before with Modern Warfare Remastered, but you can bet it will look at more easy wins in this category moving forward. In fact, Activision’s counterpart, Blizzard, is planning on releasing a remastered StarCraft in the third fiscal quarter.

“This is a strategy that clearly has our attention… I think you can be confident that there will be more activity like this in the future with more great IP,” Hirshberg added.

As NPD analyst Mat Piscatella noted, publishers are able to offset some of the inherent risk in AAA development by pursuing the remastering trend.

“On average, remasters/ports sell less than games that are new to the platform, unsurprisingly,” he said. “However, given the dramatically lower development costs when compared to new game development, the ability to outsource porting to speciality houses which frees up internal development resources to create new games, and the ability to mitigate risk since a clear demand pattern exists to determine which games should be remastered, the benefits of the practice are readily apparent to publishers.”

Publishers we queried wouldn’t state exact costs, but it’s clearly something that can vary on a case-by-case basis. A much older title would likely need new artwork, whereas something closer to the current generation may only need a touch up with textures or polygons.

THQ Nordic, which has remastered properties like Darksiders, De Blob, Baja: Edge of Control and others, weighed in. “Age plays an important role here and if all the data is complete and accessible,” said director of production, Reinhard Pollice. “Also some projects are already set up in a way that they are perfectly fit for more advanced platforms than they were originally targeting. In general remastering pays off if you do it the right way.”

Sega, too, has had its share of remastering, especially for the PC with titles like Bayonetta and Vanquish. Rowan Tafler, head of brand for Sega Searchlight, the internal team at Sega Europe that oversees PC conversions, commented, “It’s not always a simple process, especially bringing classic titles to PC. With console development, you have reasonably fixed hardware standards – on PC, we need to ensure that the game runs well on a wide range of specifications and that can be a difficult process. Hardware moves on, so a lot depends on how the original assets are archived and whether they can be brought up to date.

“Of course, we need to make sure that development is profitable – that gives us the opportunity to keep doing what we’re doing – but the satisfaction really comes from doing right by our community and our catalogue.”

Satisfying the community is certainly a key goal in remastering, and listening to players’ desires is a helpful way to identify which games should get a modern makeover.

“I think that remastering comes from perpetual and existing interest in a property or brand,” said Tafler. “We’re not going to be able to reignite interest in something if the quality isn’t there in the first place. That wouldn’t be a good business decision.

“Does it increase interest and give players who potentially haven’t experienced the titles before an opportunity to play a title in its optimum form? Yes, absolutely. But we don’t perform a best practice conversion with the intent of piling all the profit into making a new game in the series or using the IP. That sort of decision would be made completely separately.”

THQ Nordic doesn’t always look at popularity, however. “Sometimes we believe also in titles that weren’t that popular in the first place, but we feel they deserve a chance,” Pollice noted.

He added that oftentimes there’s a belief that an old property that didn’t make a big splash can have a new lease of life as a remaster, or that a classic can gain legions of new fans who were just too young to have experienced it years ago. In a sense, by remastering a game, you’ve got built-in marketing for that franchise, which may one day lead to new entries for a series.

“That’s actually our very original thought about remastering a title,” Pollice continued. “We want to make first-hand experiences with the audience and a game’s fan base and understand their wishes and demands. We are fans ourselves of our own franchises but it’s always good to stay in touch with the community and listen.”

Remastering might seem like a cakewalk, but with 4K gaming starting to take hold on consoles, and with PC gamers already accustomed to extra high fidelity visuals, there are more challenges involved in revamping a particular title than you might guess.

“Sometimes it’s a technical challenge to make it look and feel like a recent game,” Pollice acknowledged. “Within these two fields there are tons of tiny challenges. For example, on Darksiders Warmastered Edition the biggest challenge was to remaster the cutscene. In Darksiders 1 the cutscenes were pre-rendered – even the original developers thought we are crazy to go into that.

“First of all, the data to render the cutscenes weren’t complete. So we had to re-create some pieces and puzzle them together as good as possible (actually there are a few tiny differences that are not really a big deal but they are there). Then the cutscenes used a very specific rendering set-up, sometimes custom-made for a given scene or even shot so that it looks cool. In the end it was a huge time-sink but we got those re-mastered – even in 4k on some platforms.”

Sega has gone through similar experiences with its projects. Tafler commented, “Our recent challenges have revolved around porting popular console games from the last 10 years – Valkyria Chronicles, Vanquish and Bayonetta for example – to PC. The format change and the expectation from PC gamers for these titles to be properly optimised for PCs presents our biggest challenge. Can we make run it with unlocked framerates? Can we implement fully optimised PC controls? Can we make it run at 4K? Can we deliver the best experience on a wide range of hardware?

“If the answer to all these questions is yes, then the project has potential. Ultimately, we want the communities playing these games to be able to have the best possible experience playing them.”

The benefits clearly outweigh any difficulties encountered for most companies. Remastering is here to stay. “As technology continues to evolve, I believe remasters and ports will only become more prevalent for the short to mid-term,” said NPD’s Piscatella. “First, we have creators making stories and characters that will continue to resonate. Allowing these characters to come to life through technological improvements is something that will continue to find an audience.

“Second, development of new game content is only going to get more expensive due to the higher fidelity technologies like 4K. Mitigating risk of new game development via releasing remasters/ports at low cost will continue to be attractive to publishers.

“Finally, franchises are more important than ever. Remasters/ports allow publishers to reintroduce characters and storylines before the release of a new game in a series, or allow new people to experience the full backstory without being forced to go to old console tech.”

He added, “In the long-term, the only risk to this remaster-friendly future is the advent of the Games as a Service model. I’m not sure what a remastered version of a live service game would look like, or if it would even be the least bit palatable to consumers.

“I believe we’ll get more of these games, that more dev houses will focus on this type of work as a speciality, and that consumers will continue to show a willingness to support quality remasters/ports.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Will Desktop Computers Grow Next Quarter?

August 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

While desktop demand was rubbish in the first half of 2017, it expected to start growing in the third quarter driven by new products from AMD and Intel for the gaming and high-end desktop markets.

Digitimes researchers, talking to suppliers, said that AMD and Intel will kick off a surge in buying. AMD’s new top-end 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and 12-core 1920X will hit the shops on August 10, while its 8-core 1900X is scheduled to be released at the end of August.

Several vendors have already begun accepting pre-orders for desktop models using AMD’s latest top-end CPU processors since the end of July, including the Alienware Area-51 Threadripper from Dell.

AMD recently announced its new Vega-based GPUs including the Radeon RX Vega 64, using liquid or air cooling modules, and Radeon RX Vega’s prices start from US$399. AMD offers free games and discounts on hardware including Samsung’s CF791 monitor as well as price-cuts on CPU/motherboard bundles to help consumers save up to US$300.

Intel is releasing its next-generation 14nm Coffee Lake processors in the near future and will initially launch products such as the Core i7 8700K. Coffee Lake will also force users to buy a nice new motherboard.

AMD and Intel are also seeing growing sales in the server segment. AMD’s EPYC 7000 series processors were unveiled at the end of June. Although the processor series currently only accounts for less than one percent of the server market, orders for related server makers have been picking up recently and are expected to stay strong in the second half of 2017 with players including Microsoft, Baidu, Dell, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Supermicro, Inventec, Wistron, Asustek Computer, Gigabyte Technology and Tyan eagerly promoting their systems.

Intel debuted its Purley server platform in July which is seeing strong orders from enterprises looking to replace their existing server systems. Some market watchers believe the replacement trend will last for a whole year and shore up Intel’s profitability and revenues.

Courtesy-Fud

Did AMD Delay Its Vega GPU For Volume

August 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

It appears that AMD has previously delayed the launch of its Vega GPU in order to have good volumes at launch.

According to HardOCP’s interview with AMD’s Senior Director of Global Marketing and Public Relations at RTG, Chris Hook, AMD has intentionally delayed the Vega launch in order to make sure that it  launchea with good volume. The recent popularity in cryptocurrency mining has affected AMD significantly and it was almost impossible to find some graphics cards, like the RX 580 or RX 570. Although there are still no precise details on Vega’s cryptocurrency performance and hash rate, a significant volume will certainly be swallowed by miners. 

The recent popularity in cryptocurrency mining has affected AMD significantly and it was almost impossible to find some graphics cards, like the RX 580 or RX 570. Although there is still no precise details on Vega’s cryptocurrency performance and hash rate it is safe to assume that at least some will go to that part of the market but, hopefully, previous decision to delay the launch of the Vega will also leave plenty of graphics cards for gamers as well.

With the launch of Vega, AMD has taken certain precautions in order to make sure that plenty of graphics cards will be reserved for gamers, like the newly introduced AMD Radeon Packs, which offer a bundle set of discount vouchers for motherboards, CPUs, monitors and game packs as well as apparently a healthy supply which should make sure that gamers will be able to buy shiny new Vega graphics cards from day one.

While there are still no performance numbers for the upcoming Vega graphics cards, AMD should have no trouble in selling its Vega stock, especially if the hash rate is right for miners.

Courtesy-Fud

Was The PS3 An Easy Tool For Developers

August 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The games industry moves pretty fast, and there’s a tendency for all involved to look constantly to what’s next without so much worrying about what came before. That said, even an industry so entrenched in the now can learn from its past. So to refresh our collective memory and perhaps offer some perspective on our field’s history, GamesIndustry.biz runs this monthly feature highlighting happenings in gaming from exactly a decade ago.

Was PS3 hard to develop for?

The biggest news from 10 years ago this month happened right up front with the delay of Grand Theft Auto IV from its October release window (that had just been announced at E3 the prior month) and would now arrive sometime in the February-to-April stretch of 2008. That was huge at the time, but delays happen, and it’s not the sort of thing we usually lead this column off with. In fact, the reason we’re going over it here is the possible reason for the delay.

The day after GTA IV’s delay was announced, long-time industry analyst Michael Pachter put the blame on the PlayStation 3, saying, “We think it is likely that the Rockstar team had difficulty in building an exceptionally complicated game for the PS3, and failed to recognise how far away from completion the game truly was until recently.” Combined with a contractual obligation to not launch the game early on one platform or the other, that meant pushing back all versions until the next year.

Granted, the deductions of an analyst aren’t confirmation, and Pachter doesn’t have a flawless track record when it comes to bold speculation. (Here’s one from later that same month that he might like back.)

That said, this was far from the only suggestion that developers were having difficulty with the PS3. Sony had already been chastising third-parties for not taking full advantage of the hardware, and it didn’t help having massive publishing partners like Electronic Arts publicly explaining why the PS3 version of Madden NFL was noticeably inferior. It’s particularly damning considering the company didn’t even attempt to refute the game’s inferiority in any way.

“In the case of the next-generation consoles, many publishers have been developing titles for the Xbox 360 for over three and a half years while everyone who publishes now for the PlayStation 3 with the exception of Sony has been developing for the PlayStation 3 for only a little over one full year,” the company said.

At least Ubisoft was a little more diplomatic, with Yann Le Tensorer, co-founder of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfare studio Tiwak calling the idea nonsense, and then basically repeating what EA had said.

“It’s not harder to develop on the PS3 than it is on the 360; it’s just a different console. Developers might say it’s harder because it just takes time to understand the technology. We’re still early in the lifecycle.”

By the time October rolled around and Midway delayed PS3 releases for BlackSite: Area 51, Stranglehold, and Unreal Tournament 3, the PS3’s reputation was essentially set in stone. And while Sony was able to overcome the PS3’s rough start and turn it into a very successful system over the long haul, the “hard to develop for” tag persisted for years.

Courtesy-GI.biz

AMD’s Threadripper 1950X Hits 5.2 GHz

August 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

During its Capsaicin event at the Siggraph 2017 show, AMD brought a well-known overclocker Alva Jonathan, who managed to push the new Threadripper 1950X up to almost 5.2GHz on LN2. 

It appears that the AMD Ryzen Threadripper will be quite popular among overclockers, at least judging from the score that Alva managed to get at the Capsaicin event at Siggraph 2017.

Now known under his Lucky_Noob call-sign, Alva managed to hit 5,187MHz and get a Cinebench R15 score of 4122 points. This is also currently a new world record for a 16-core CPU. 

Since Alva had to use a rather low memory speed of 2133MHz in order to get a better CPU core overclocking, we are quite sure that there will be even higher overclocking records in the near future. 

Of course, these scores and frequencies are only reserved for those with a lot of LN2 but at least shows that there is a lot of overclocking potential in AMD’s Threadripper HEDT CPUs.

Courtesy-Fud

Was Apple Profits Really As Good As The Wall Street Spin

August 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple managed to convince the world’s press it was doing ok despite falling iPhone sales, declines in China and a fall in profits by 14.6 per cent.

Apple appears to have also fobbed off concerns about delays of its new iPhone by revealing a marginal increase in sales of its existing effort.

The launch of the latest iPhone could potentially move to October or November, instead of September, due to production issues, but Apple did not want to talk about that. Instead it claimed that its sales of the current iPhone were higher than expected.

It told the press that phone sales were staggering 1.6 per cent, or 41.03 million higher in the third quarter.

The Tame Apple Press went mental, and long with averts for the coming iPhone sent the company’s sales up 6 per cent. To put this figure in perspective a 1.6 per cent difference in predictions is well below a three percent accounting margin of error.

To make matters worse the figures confirm that the iPhone cash cow is still dying. This is the the second quarterly drop in iPhone sales in its third quarter earnings.

The new sales figures include its most recent phone, the iPhone SE, a cheaper four-inch display phone. Considering the iPhone takes up nearly two-thirds of the company’s revenue, this isn’t good.

All that is different is that the drop was expected by analysts.

The real truth of the figures is that Apple reported revenue of revenue of $42.36 billion, down 14.6% year-over-year, and an earnings per share of $1.42.

Apple’s fourth quarter generally includes first-weekend sales of the company’s latest devices so the delay in the new phone is crucial.

The company said iPhone sales rose 1.6 per cent to 41.03 million in the third quarter ended July 1, above analysts’ average estimate of 40.7 million units, according to FactSet StreetAccount. Apple sold 40.4 million iPhones a year earlier.

The company’s net income rose to $8.72 billion, or $1.67 per share, in the three months ended July 1, from $7.80 billion, or $1.42 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $45.41 billion from $42.36 billion in the quarter, typically the company’s weakest. Analysts on average had expected $44.89 billion.

Other warning signs for Apple is that that its Chinese sails are going down the toilet. Apple needs China to keep its growth. Apple’s revenue from the Greater China region fell 9.5% to $8 billion in the latest quarter, as consumers switched to newer domestic offerings.

Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri did a good job spinning this news too. He said China sales appear to have stabilized after several quarters of much larger declines. In fact the region saw a 21.6% jump in the company’s services business – which includes the App Store, Apple Pay and iCloud – to $7.27 billion.

Courtesy-Fud

Battlefield 1 Still Going Strong

August 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Electronic Arts has released a few new snippets about its best-selling first-person shooter Battlefield 1.

The game has now engaged more than 21 players, hitting this milestone at the end of June. The updated figure comes from the publisher’s most recent quarterly financial report, spotted by GameSpot, and means Battlefield 1 has gained 2m new players over the past three months.

EA hopes to transform Battlefield 1 into a “content-rich live service”, giving it a longer tail than previous AAA shooters. Its efforts to achieve this have so far entailed two hefty expansion packs, the second of which – In The Name of the Tsar – is due for release in September.

Additional content is also teased in the financials, expected to be revealed at Gamescom later this month.

CEO Andrew Wilson described the new offering as “the richest Battlefield 1 experience yet”, adding that it will include “the all-out warfare, epic multiplayer battles and War Stories campaign that have defined the game, plus new maps, deeper progression, and additional fan-favorite game modes, all in a single package.”

It’s a safe bet this is either a third expansion, a Game of the Year edition or perhaps both, but means there could be a fresh retail release on the horizon to further grow Battlefield 1’s player base.

Electronic Arts has another first-person shooter heading to shelves before Christmas in the form of Star Wars Battlefront 2. Drawing on feedback from the previous game, and further pushing towards a service model, the publisher has decided to drop the Season Pass and make all additional content free.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is GTA-V A Gaming Phenomena

August 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

A lot of exciting things have happened in the games industry since 2013. That time has seen the mobile game space rise to maturity; it’s seen Sony return to console dominance with PS4, and Nintendo bounce from its greatest heights to its lowest ebb.

And yet one thing has stayed consistent throughout that entire four-year period. Through it all, Grand Theft Auto V has steadily, unstoppably continued to sell huge numbers every single week. In 2017 so far, it’s the best-selling game in the UK; in the United States it charts in fourth place.

Previous entries in the Grand Theft Auto series were, of course, landmark titles in their own right – both culturally and commercially. Their content sparked controversy and, from the point when the series shifted into an extraordinary open world with Grand Theft Auto 3, their enormous sales pushed them into a mainstream consciousness that had generally glossed over videogames up to that point. Grand Theft Auto came to be the series that defined perceptions of games in the 2000s, perhaps even more so than Mario or Sonic had done in the 1990s.

Grand Theft Auto V, however, has quietly gone beyond that and become something even more. I say quietly, because it’s not necessarily something that you see if you’re an ordinary game consumer. For most of us, Grand Theft Auto V was a game – a really great, beautifully made, fantastic game – that we played for a pretty long time a few years ago. We’ve moved on, though sometimes it comes up in conversation, or you see a really crazy stunt video on YouTube; it’s part of gamer consciousness, but arguably no more than a number of other superb games of the same era.

Yet unlike all those other games, GTAV keeps on selling. People keep walking into shops and buying it; 340,000 copies in the UK alone this year. The only way to explain those sales is to assume that they are representative of GTAV being purchased along with, or soon after, the upgrades being made by many consumers to next-gen consoles or higher spec PCs. Far more than its predecessors, the game has become a cultural touchstone – something that you simply buy by default along with a new game system.

Of course, individual game consoles have had must-own games before; how many people bought Halo with the original Xbox, or Mario 64 with the Nintendo 64? Never before, however, has there been a game like GTAV, which has served as a touchstone for an entire era of gaming. The closest point of comparison I can think of is something like The Matrix, which was the go-to DVD for people buying new DVD players in the late 1990s, or Blade Runner’s Directors’ Cut, which served a similar role for Blu-Ray. Nothing before now in the realm of videogames comes close.

Something we don’t know, however, is what people are actually doing with those new copies of GTAV; the huge question is whether they’re buying them for the game’s excellent single-player experience, or whether they’re diving into GTA Online. The online game has been a runaway success for publisher Take Two, and has definitely helped to prolong the longevity of GTAV, but it’s hard to quantify just how much it has to do with the continued strong sales of the game itself.

That question is important, because if people are primarily buying GTAV as an online game, it makes it a little easier to categorize that success. In that case, it would belong alongside titles like League of Legends, World of Warcraft or Destiny; enormous, sprawling games that suck up years upon years of players’ attention.

From a commercial standpoint, the industry is still a little unsure what these games are or what to do about them; they are behemoths on the landscape that everyone else needs to navigate around, but while many people share an intuition that they collapse revenues for other games in the same genre, it’s not entirely clear as yet what influence they really have on everything else on the market. If GTAV fits in with those titles, albeit on a level of its own to some degree, then it makes sense; it fits a pattern.

My sense, however, is that GTAV is something entirely different. It’s not quite, as Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick rather bombastically claimed at E3, that there are no “other titles… clustered around GTA from a quality point of view.” GTAV is a brilliant game, but it’s hard to support the claim that there’s nothing else out there of similar quality.

Rather, it’s that GTAV has struck a series of notes perfectly, stitching together a combination of elements each of which is executed flawlessly and which combined to make a game that is memorable, replayable, funny, challenging, and – vitally in this era – a never-ending source of entertaining video clips for YouTube or Twitch. Almost every aspect of GTAV is good, but there’s no single part you can point to and say, “this is why this is the game that defines an era.” The magic lies in the sum, not the individual parts.

And perhaps it’s something more than even that; perhaps GTAV isn’t just the right game, it’s also a game that’s appeared at the right time.

Think of the average age of a game consumer, which is well into the thirties at this point. Think of how games have come to be a part of our cultural conversation; no longer in a dismissive way, but as a field of genuine interest, a source of inspiration for other media, a topic of watercooler conversation. Think too of how videogames have begun to inform the aesthetics of the world, from the gloss of Marvel’s movies to the more obvious homages of Wreck-It Ralph or (god help us) Pixels. Somehow they’ve even managed to rope Spielberg into adapting inexplicably popular execrable teenage gamer fanfiction novel Ready Player One. Games are embedded as part of the world’s culture and, more importantly, part of how we talk about that culture.

GTAV arrived, in stunning, endlessly discussable, endlessly uploadable form right at the moment when that transition was being completed. There’s no way to quantify this, but I’ll wager GTAV holds a special record that’ll never go in Guinness’ book. I’ll wager it’s the most talked-about game of all time. Not because of controversy or scandal; it’s a game that’s just been talked about in conversation after conversation, four years of discussing stunts and jokes and achievements and easter eggs, until the game became embedded in our collective consciousness until it was The Game You Buy When You Finally Get A PS4.

There’s never been a game that occupied a place in the public consciousness quite like GTAV; but now that such a place exists for games in our collective cultural consciousness, perhaps it won’t be very long before more fantastic games roll up to take on similar roles.

Courtesy-GI.biz  

Is AMD Making A Comeback

August 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD has announced its Q2 2017 results and they are a bit better than Wall Street expected with $1.22 billion revenue versus an expected $1.16 billion.

AMD managed to score $1.222 Billion revenue or 19 percent year over a year from $1.027 Billion in the same quarter last year. Compared to the previous quarter, AMD had a 24 percent increase from $984 million to $1.222 billion. Traditionally, Q2 is not a fast quarter for CPU / GPU companies.

AMD had 33 percent non-GAAP gross margin. Non-GAAP operating expenses were at $381, 25 million in licensing gain and managed to decree its debt from $,.408 to $1,375 quarter to quarter. This is not a great difference quarter to quarter but year over year the debt dipped from $2,012 million to $1,375 in just a year.

This was enough to get AMD’s share price to rise to $15.50  or 9.85 percent up from the previous close. The jump mainly is a result of an expectation that the third quarter revenue will increase about 15 percent year over year. This could imply revenue about $1.50 billion, beating Wall Street predictions of $1.39 billion. Once again, people who should know things are surprised and didn’t do their homework well.

Operating income of $25 million doesn’t seems like a lot but compared to a $29 million loss in Q1 2017 it does look like an improvement.

The revenue on computer and graphics increased 51 percent year over the year and this means one thing. Zen is working quite well for the company as both Ryzen and Epyc. GPU sales of R500 series to miners contributed a lot, let alone the normal demand from mainstream gamers.

Net revenue in computer and graphics jumped to $659 million with $7 million operating income in Q2 17. A year ago, in Q2 2016, AMD made $435 million from the same segment with an $81 million loss in the process. Quarter over quarter, AMD jumped 11 percent.

Fudzilla expects that in Q3 2017 these numbers will further increase as Threadripper, EPYC.  Ryzen 3, EPYC and Vega will gain some traction too. All eyes are on Threadripper, EPYC as well as Ryzen 7 and 5 parts, that have a good chance of increasing profitability and gross margin.

AMD expects that the gross margin will rise from 33 percent in Q2 to 34 percent Q3 2017. The gross margin in financial 2016 was only 31 percent and you need higher margins to fuel your R&D and operations.

Quarter to quarter, AMD expects that Q3 might be 23 percent (plus or minus 3) and gross margin increase to 34 percent. Overall, 2017 can be up mid to high teens percent from $4.272 million revenue in financial 2016.

Lisa pointed out that AMD returned to non-GAAP net income profitability in the quarter, driven by strong growth in its Computing and Graphics segment.
The Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom segment for AMD showed a slight revenue decline of five percent year-over-year and increased 44 percent sequentially, due to seasonality. Microsoft will start shipping Xbox One X in November, featuring the semi-custom SoC from AMD. AMD reminded us that Sony recently passed a milestone of 60 million PlayStation 4 consoles shipped, meaning things are good in the console business.

Mayor PC OEMS have announced premium Ryzen-based desktop systems with wide availability for the back-to-school and holiday seasons. Ryzen 3 should start shipping later this week while Ryzen Threadripper should be available in early August.

Ryzen Pro is schedule for availability in Q3 and Ryzen Mobile following later this year to complete the circle.

Overall AMD is improving, and competition is a good thing. 2018 will definitely be an interesting year but we expect a lot of pressure from Intel and Nvidia for back to school and the holiday season.

Courtesy-Fud

Can Service Based Video Games Growing The Industry

July 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Long-tail console and PC titles designed to keep players engaged for years will grow the overall games market, rather than make it more difficult, according to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot.

The chief exec was speaking to a group of journalists today in the publisher’s Singapore studio, the team behind the upcoming pirate multiplayer title Skull & Bones. The game ties in with Singapore’s core focus, which is on both “HD content games” such as the Assassin’s Creed titles, and service-based titles such as its previous hit Ghost Recon Phantoms.

However, the market has become increasingly crowded with games designed to retain players over a longer period of time – whether it’s with the online persistent world of Destiny or the high replayability of Overwatch. Ubisoft itself has plenty of titles that fall into this category, such as Tom Clancy outings Rainbow Six Siege and The Division.

GamesIndustry.biz posited to Guillemot that not only will the publisher have to compel consumers to buy and engage with Skull & Bones, it also has to convince them to stop playing other titles and hope that no rival publisher releases a product that will draw people away from the pirate battler. How is the publisher approaching this challenge?

“It’s a good question,” he said. “There’s a good diversity in what people want to play. It’s not one game against the other. More and more people are playing games and they want different types of experiences. So, for sure, we’ll have to take people from other games, but after five years on one game they might want to try something else.

“Those types of games, we think we’ll be able to increase the number of people playing those type of experiences. The market is also going to grow quite a lot: more countries, more people in each country – because the cost to play those games per hour is less than we used to have. If you look at a 15-hour game that costs $60, that’s $4 per hour. Now you can play games for 200 hours, a thousand hours and still for $60, plus some investment in the game. It’s more like 20 to 40 cents per hour. So you can [justify] playing many of those games if you have time.”

The studio visit is part of a larger push from Ubisoft to highlight the advantages of developing games in South East Asia. Various presentations today cited the strengths specific to Singapore, such as its recognition of English as an official language, it’s high-quality internet, and the amount of tech-savvy recruits in the region.

We asked how Ubisoft expects the games landscape in Singapore to change in the next five years and what role the publisher hopes to play in that.

“It’s difficult to say [what will happen] in five years, but what we see in the short term is that we are here, Bandai Namco is here, and there is now more and more talent appearing around games companies [in Singapore],” said Guillemot.

“There is also a number of indies here, so we’re seeing a pool of talent growing. We think it will continue to grow quite a lot in the next few years, so for us while the talent is here it’s one of the best places for us to create high-quality games.”

Ubisoft Singapore MD Olivier De Rotalier added: “This year is very important for us with Skull & Bones and Assassin’s Creed Origins. We’re really showing that you can deliver very strong games and very promising titles from Singapore. That’s our role: to show that people can see strong success from here. So this year’s key for us.”

Guillemot observed that the evolution of Singapore as a games hub will also make it easier for the studio to recruit. But is Ubisoft not concerned that, as the city state becomes more appealing to international firms, it will find itself competing with Singapore branches for rivals like Electronic Arts?

De Rotalier said the studio is “not really worried because they’re not here”, while Guillemot predicted that “more competition will come from Chinese and Japanese companies.”

GamesIndustry.biz will have more from Guillemot in the next few weeks.

 

Courtesy-GI.biz

PC Shipments Still Declining

July 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Personal computer shipments slipped between 3% and 4% in the June quarter from the same period last year, a pair of research firms said after releasing their latest diagnoses of the industry’s health and well-being.

According to IDC, PC makers shipped a total of 60.5 million systems in the year’s second quarter, a downturn of 3.3%. That was somewhat better than the firm’s earlier forecast of a 4% decline for the period.

Rival Gartner, which also calculates shipments — but uses different criteria for what is, and what is not, a personal computer — pegged the year-over-year drop at 4.3% for the June quarter, adding that manufacturers shipped 61.1 million PCs in the three-month span.

More than 90% of the PCs were equipped with Microsoft’s Windows; the remainder were Macs running macOS and a smattering of systems with Linux pre-installed.

Gartner pointed out that the year-over-year performance was the 11th consecutive quarterly decline, and the lowest volume for a three-month period since 2007 — more signals, if any were necessary, that the business is mired in a depression of historic proportions and has made only feeble motions toward growth.

Both research firms blamed parts shortages, especially of memory chips and SSDs (solid-state drives), for pushing up costs, if not prices. Some manufacturers absorbed the increases, while others passed them along to buyers.

“In the business segment, vendors could not increase the price too quickly, especially in large enterprises where the price is typically locked in based on the contract, which often run through the quarter or even the year,” Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa said in a statement.

IDC analyst Linn Huang painted the big picture for PCs. “The continued erosion of the consumer market is the drag on the industry,” said Huang in an interview, referring to the extended depression. The only thing keeping the business from a complete collapse, Huang added, is the ongoing need for corporate PCs.

Both IDC and Gartner agreed on how the world’s PC makers rank in shipments for the June quarter. Each had Hewlett-Packard as the leader, with Lenovo, Dell, Apple and Asus following, in that order. Both research firms said HP posted the highest growth rate for the quarter compared to the same period the year prior, and that Asus’ and Lenovo’s shipments declined by the greatest percentages.

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