At present, that applies to the Unity Test Tools and the engine’s new graphical user interface system, which was demonstrated in the opening keynote of Unite 2014. The features will be available under the MIT/X11 license, giving users the freedom to “control, customise and extend” their functionality.
The source code for the components will be hosted on BitBucket, and Unity has prepared a guide for any interested open source contributors. The source for the Unity Test Tools is already available, with the GUI to follow.
“Beyond that, we don’t have a concrete plan, but we have a lot of things in the pipeline,” the company said in a statement. “These components will all be isolated from Unity in such a way that you can modify them and use your own modified version with the official public Unity release.
“Although Unity Technologies has been active in the open-source community for quite some time, this is the first time we’ll be opening the source to components of Unity itself.
“We’re excited to see what you do with it.”
Sources are suggesting that Activision is planning to launch an entertainment division that would be responsible for creating movies and TV shows based on Activision intellectual properties. The move might leave many scratching their heads if true since so many others have failed at trying to turn video game IP into gold.
Word is that CEO Bobby Kotick is taking to folks in an effort to secure the right talent to make this happen. Kotick has to be aware that this has not gone well for its competitors, but he apparently thinks that Activision IP is different and they will have no problem giving the people want they want.
Our take on this is that we will wait and see what happens, but it will not be easy to be successful, regardless of the IP that you have in your stable. The bigger question might be is it really worth the money and effort to try and make it work?
According to DFC, 92 per cent of PC game sales in 2013 were digital and it thinks this trend will continue and rise in 2014.
Gamers are starting to favour digital downloads over physical copies of the game, which is not really surprising given that who actually wants to own boxes and DVDs and manuals when all you really need is the game.
DFC Intelligence goes on to add that PC games outsold console games in terms of revenue so it means that channel is not the way gamers are playing. But then again the specs of consoles are well below PCs.
By his own admission, Andrew Wilson still “geeks out” at EA’s press conferences, despite his position as the company’s CEO demanding that he take centre stage. When we meet after the Gamescom media briefing, he enthuses in great detail and at considerable length about a FIFA 15 video demonstrating the capabilities of the new game’s goalkeepers. What that team has accomplished since he ascended to executive level, Wilson says, never fails to make him smile.
And Wilson has spent his first year in charge identifying the ways to spread that enthusiasm to EA’s customers. That hasn’t always resulted in success, of course: with Battlefield 4 the company stumbled once again on the unpredictable landscape of online gaming, and with EA Access it met with resistance from Sony on the grounds of value. In this interview, Wilson discusses both of these issues, and outlines EA’s renewed dedication to listening to its customers and following wherever that might lead.
Q: The last time we spoke you were still with EA Sports, and you’ve had a promotion since then – quite a big one, in fact. You’re coming up on a year as CEO now. Have we started to see evidence of the mark you wanted to make on the company?
AW: I think…no, I know that I didn’t approach this role thinking about making a mark or leaving a legacy. It wasn’t personal in nature. I took on the role because of how I feel about the company. This company has been very good to me and my family over the years, I loved the people I worked with inside the company and I loved the games we made together.
“Financial return is an outcome, but it shouldn’t be the objective. We’ve made a lot of decisions based on that over the last 12 months”
As I worked in the company in a variety of different roles, it became apparent to me that in some areas we’d lost our way a little bit. When I came in [as CEO] I really wanted to bring to the forefront the things that I thought made the company great, things that had delivered for us over the years. That really meant building this foundation of ‘player first’. I get that there are things we have to think about: we’re a big company, we’re a public company, we have shareholders, we have 8,000 people working for us. But all of that is for nothing unless you deliver for your number one constituency: the players. Without that, it’s for nothing.
Q: So the idea that the CEO is stuck trying to serve two masters, the shareholder and the customer, that isn’t how you see it, then?
AW: Financial return is an outcome, but it shouldn’t be the objective. Financial return is what happens when you achieve the right objectives. We’ve made a lot of decisions based on that over the last 12 months. We are engaging with our player-base more regularly, through more platforms to ensure that we’re doing what they want, and to make sure that we’re listening to them when we’re doing something that they don’t want. It’s as much about eliminating what doesn’t inspire or entertain as it is about the stuff that does.
Q: Is that how we should think about the problems that Battlefield 4 faced? You’ve publicly addressed the complaints already, but was that just a consequence of trying to deliver on an ambitious objective?
AW: If I promised you that nothing would ever go wrong [on future projects], that would be very disingenuous of me. The reality is that we come to work every day and challenge ourselves and our teams to do creative and innovative things. What I can say, however, is that living up to that commitment to engagement and action I mentioned before means that we will make tough decisions in service of the player.
Titanfall for Xbox 360 was coming in hot, it needed a few more weeks, and we moved it out of the fiscal year to get a great game. I don’t think we would have done that before. Need for Speed is a franchise we’ve released every year for 17 years – it’s as sure a thing as FIFA. But the team said that they couldn’t do what we challenged them to do in a year. It wasn’t possible, so for the first time in 17 years we decided not to launch a Need For Speed.
More recently, Battlefield: Hardline, moving out of the holiday quarter would traditionally be seen as catastrophic in this industry.
Q: Particularly that franchise. Battlefield 3 and 4 were both holiday releases.
AW: Yes, but it was the feedback. We brought gamers in earlier, we let them play the beta earlier. And the beta was very stable, so we’d solved a bunch of the problems that existed in Battlefield 4. But what people said to us was, ‘This is pretty cool, but we think you should go deeper. We want more out of this.’ So we’ve given the team more time. That’s a tough decision to make, and it has a financial impact in the near-term, but long-term, for the player and the franchise, that’s the right decision.
Q: Do you see EA Access in the same way? You’re the first publisher to pull the trigger on something like this on console. I remember a talk you gave at the Develop conference a few years back, where you held up services like Netflix as a model for the games industry to emulate. Was this idea in your mind all the way back then?
AW: It’s not completely the same, but yes. But, again, I wouldn’t take credit for that programme in its entirety. I’ve been involved in that programme, but we’ve got a great team that’s been looking at challenging the standard by which certain people access products. It’s early days – we launched it yesterday – but for what it’s worth all the positive intent is there. It will evolve, but what we’ve come to understand – and what I believed back then – is that this concept of, ‘I want to give you an amount of money each month that makes sense, and for that I want a bunch of cool stuff’, we want to live up to that.
Does that mean people will stop paying $60 for games? No, but there’s a big part of the population for whom that [EA Access] is the right context, that’s the right way for them to engage with games.
“There’s a big part of the population for whom EA Access is the right context, that’s the right way for them to engage with games”
Q: And potentially it’s a way for people who wouldn’t ordinarily play, say, Madden to get acquainted with the franchise. For a lot of people, FIFA and Battlefield would be enough to justify for the annual fee, and anything else is a bonus.
AW: Yes, but there will be many different types of players. For some people that will be how they want to play all content, for others it will form some part of it. There’ll be others who might use it just to trial games. Again, the price point is low enough that it’s pretty cool as a trial mechanism. We want to build a service that players can use in a way that makes sense to them.
Q: It gives the catalogue longevity, too, which is something that the games industry hasn’t been particularly good at.
AW: EA makes great games. Stuff that we made ten years ago is still good, and so in ten years time the games we’re making now will still be good.
Q: It’s early days, as you point out, but even in the near term are you planning to grow the selection on EA Access, to be additive?
AW: Absolutely. We wanted to launch it at a point where we could put things into the catalogue, into The Vault, and it would have value. We thought that four [games] was the minimum for the price-point, but we want to get to a place where you could play any number of games for that price-point. Over time, the value will just get better and better and better, in much the same way that Netflix does. When I started subscribing to Netflix, there was no House Of Cards, there was no Orange Is The New Black – there is now.
Q: I have been surprised at my preference for buying games digitally in the generation so far. I thought it would take a bit more time.
AW: Convenience is a wonderful thing.
Q: Is that sort of behaviour behind the decision to get EA Access out there now, this year? Is that transition happening faster than you expected?
AW: No. Listen, we – and certainly myself – have matured in the understanding over the years about how people consume content, irrespective of the industry. One of the stats that I hear frequently is that 40 per cent of music is still bought on CD. Now, I haven’t bought a CD in 14 years. I’ve bought vinyl, by the way, a bunch in the last 14 years, so I consume media in different ways through different business models based on what I’m looking for. The way my view has evolved, I’m a bit like you: I haven’t bought a disc for my PS4 or my Xbox One; I click a button and it turns up, and that’s good for me. But that doesn’t mean that everyone wants it the same way. I’ve moved from a belief that there will be one access model to rule them all, to the belief that our objective as a company is to provide access to our entertainment in ways that make sense to the growing population of players.
Q: Services like EA Access to make sense in the context of this generation, which seems to largely about choice, whether that’s variety of games, how you want to buy, how you want communicate with other players. The experience is very open now.
AW: One of the things that we’re learning as we make the digital transformation is that we don’t need to guess what players want any more. For the longest time we had to guess, and the first opportunity to find out whether you got it right or not was when you saw the game on the shelf. Now, we’re getting better at listening. We haven’t always been great listeners, but we’re getting better, and what that’s telling us is that people want choice. They want to be able to choose what’s right for them at a given moment in time. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all any longer. We’ve got to build a core platform, game engines and games that facilitate that.
Q: Are you concerned that Access will alter your customer’s perception of value? FIFA 14 is still a game that can be played all year whether the new one is out or not. That $60 has got to feel like a better decision than before, surely.
“We thought that four games was the minimum for the price-point, but we want to get to a place where you could play any number of games for that price-point”
AW: It doesn’t matter whether you spend a $1, $10 or $100,000, as long as you’re getting value from what you’ve spent then you’ll feel good about that. EA Access feels like tremendous value, and whether you continue to feel good about paying whatever it is for a frontline product comes down to our ability to to deliver value.
The commitment that we’re making to those frontline products is that they will be bigger, more engaging, service oriented, with new and dynamic content every time you log in. People are now playing FIFA and Battlefield all year round. When I started a game would get played for four weeks, and then it was on to the next one. The value that we deliver today, we have games that can be the only thing you play for an entire year.
Q: Certain products have started to feel out of time to me. I won’t mention the name, but I bought a game digitally that cost the same amount as, for example, FIFA, and it took me six or seven hours to finish and that was it. I felt cheated in a way that I wouldn’t have with the exact same game at this point in the last generation.
AW: That understanding of value is really, really important, and I’m trying to push that into the organisation – irrespective of business model. Back in the day it was all about delivering $60 of value; now, I want to deliver $1 of value if you want to spend $1, I want to deliver $10 of value if you want to spend $10. I want to deliver value on your investment and on your investment of time. As you get older you realise that time is the most important resource. Part of your issue with that other game is that it took six hours, and you didn’t feel the value returned. We should think about the investment of money, but also the investment of time.
Q: You’ve mentioned the value of EA Access several times, and obviously Sony came out and disagreed on that point. For now, at least, Access won’t be available to PlayStation customers. Was that disappointing, particularly with the reason Sony gave?
AW: What I can say is that we launched it yesterday. We believed when we launched it that it was great value, and gamers, for the most part, have fed back that it’s great value. We’re going to continue to put things into that service that make it even better value. It will evolve and go through lots of permutations over time as we listen and learn from players who engage with it. My hope is that we can deliver that kind of service to many millions of players for years to come.
The company reported Thursday that its net profit reached $214 million, while quarterly revenue increased 18 percent year-over-year to $10.4 billion.
Although better known as a PC maker, Lenovo has been making major gains selling mobile handsets in its home market of China. It is now the country’s largest smartphone vendor with a 12.5% share of the market, according to research firm IDC.
The second quarter was the first time Lenovo smartphones outsold its PCs, with 15.8 million units, the company reported on Thursday.
Lenovo’s handsets still aren’t making as much money as PCs. Almost half its revenue came from selling laptops, while its mobile devices division, which includes tablets, accounted for only 15% of its total revenue in the quarter.
The company’s PC business has in the past been helped by its huge presence in its home market of China. But in the second quarter, Lenovo reported that it was also making gains in PC sales to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
In those markets, the company’s revenue reached $2.8 billion, up from $1.9 billion a year ago.
Lenovo, which currently ranks as the number one PC vendor in the world, is trying to expand in servers and mobile devices. Earlier this year, the company announced it would acquire Google’s Motorola Mobility, and IBM’s x86 server business.
Lenovo is still working with regulators to get approval for those deals.
The chip maker said it is partnering with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, established by the actor and Parkinson’s sufferer in 2000, to conduct a multi-phase research study of the neurodegenerative brain disease. An estimated five million people globally have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the second-most-common neurudegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s.
The initial goal is to determine the feasibility of using wearable devices to monitor patients remotely and store that data in an open system that can be accessed by scientists.
In the next phase of the study, which will likely kick off in the fall, the foundation will set aside funds to explore how patients are responding to medication. Participants will be monitored via an array of wearable devices.
“As more of these devices hit the market, we can collect objective measurements and determine the efficacy of new therapeutics,” Sohini Chowdhury, a senior vice president for research partnerships at the foundation, told Reuters.
Clinical trials have been far too “subjective” in the past, she said. For instance, a patient might inform her doctor that she felt a tremor for several minutes, when it actually lasted a matter of seconds. In the future, Chowdhury hopes patients and their doctors will have more precise measurements via wearable devices about the “frequency and severity” of symptoms.
Chowdhury said the foundation will continue to raise funding to cover the costs of providing wearable devices to patients.
By using such devices, the foundation and other research groups can tap into a broader pool of patients for clinical trials, Chowdhury said. Today, many people with Parkinson’s disease are unable to participate in clinical trials because they do not live near a research facility.
But wearable devices offer a convenient way to track patients from their work or homes, allowing people in the most rural parts of the country to participate.
As it expands beyond the PC arena, Intel hopes to capture a share of the growing market for big data analytics and wearable devices in the health sector. Ron Kasabian, general manager of Intel’s Big Data Solutions group, said the data center and “Internet of Things” business units are exploring the sector.
“We’re exploring how to pull data out of devices in real-time,” he said. “We can mine data to improve research, and better understand the behaviors and progression of the disease.”
As we expected AMD will make custom ARM server chips for customers, much as it made custom chips for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 game consoles.
According to Sean White, an engineer at AMD, during a presentation at the Hot Chips conference in Cupertino, California, his outfit will consider customizing its 64-bit ARM server processor to meet specific customer needs as a market for the new type of servers evolves, and the company gets better visibility of usage models.
ARM chips are unproven in servers but the low-power processors have Web-hosting and cloud uses. AMD’s ARM server chips could go into dense servers and process such applications while saving power, White said.
“There are more and more of those applications that are showing up in big data centers,” White said. “They don’t want traditional high-end… database type workloads.”
AMD does seem to think that there is more mileage in providing customized chips for those who want a SOC something specific or include some unique IP. He provided the example of possibly customizing I/O and ports for specific customers. AMD last year also started putting more emphasis on the custom chip business after the PC market declined. The company is already recording strong custom chip revenue thanks to the game consoles, which are shipping in the millions.
AMD also shared the technical details of its first 64-bit ARM processor called Opteron A1100, code-named Seattle, at Hot Chips. The company has already started shipping the chips to server makers for testing. The first Seattle servers are expected to ship by the end of this year or early next year. One of the first servers with the new chip could be AMD’s own SeaMicro server.
The Seattle server chip has two DDR3 and DDR4 memory channels, which is half that of the typical four memory channels in its x86 server chips. The ARM chip will have up to 4MB L2 cache, with two cores sharing 1MB. A total of 8MB of L3 cache is accessible to all eight cores.
It will give ARM processors is ECC memory, which is important in servers to correct data errors. The 32-bit ARM processors did not have ECC memory. Each Seattle CPU will support up to 128GB of memory, totaling up to 1TB for the eight CPU cores on the Opteron A1100. The 32-bit ARM chips supported only up to 4GB of memory.
Word is circulating that the new BioWare IP which is rumored to be called Shadow Realms could be on EA’s agenda to finally be revealed at Gamescom. While rumors have been making the rounds for some time, so far EA has been mum about its existence.
We do know that EA’s is planning to provide more details on FIFA 15, Battlefield: Hardline, The Sims 4, Dragon Age Inquisition, and Dawngate at its Gamescom presser which will take place on Wednesday, August 13th at 9am BST.
While EA might reveal Shadow Realms, it is likely that BioWare has it on the release schedule for late 2015 at the soonest, but it is possible that it could even be a 2016 title. Let’s hope EA puts some of these rumors to bed and tells us what Shadow Realms is all about.
Activision Blizzard reported its financial results for the quarter ended June 30 today, revealing an unprecedented reliance on digital revenues.
The publisher reported revenues of $970 million in sales on a GAAP basis, 49 percent of which came from digital channels. On a non-GAAP basis (excluding the impact of changes in deferred revenues), the digital percentage was actually 73 percent of the company’s $658 million in sales. Activision attributed the digital strength to Blizzard’s lineup of titles (World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and Diablo III), combined with digital sales for Call of Duty.
However, not all of those digital sales drivers posted strong numbers for the quarter. World of Warcraft in particular lost about 800,000 subscribers over the period, and as of the end of June was down to a paying player base of 6.8 million gamers. However, Activision Blizzard characterized this decline as a “seasonal” dip in advance of the next expansion, Warlords of Draenor, which is set to launch later this year. The publisher likened the downturn to the subscriber losses that happened in 2012 ahead of the Mists of Panderia launch.
On a GAAP basis, Activision Blizzard revenues were down nearly 8 percent, with net income down 37 percent to $204 million. However, the publisher still beat its previous guidance. On a non-GAAP basis, revenues were up about 10 percent to $658 million, while non-GAAP net income was reported at $45 million, down 50 percent year-over-year.
The quarter’s performance gave Activision Blizzard enough confidence to update its previous guidance for the full year. For calendar year 2014, the publisher had previously forecast total GAAP revenues of $4.22 billion, but moved that up to $4.24 billion today. The company also projected earnings per share of $0.91, up from $0.89.
AMD’s upcoming Carrizo APU might not make it to the desktop market at all.
According to Italian tech site bitsandchips.it, citing industry sources, AMD plans to limit Carrizo to mobile parts. Furthermore the source claims Carrizo will not support DDR4 memory. We cannot confirm or deny the report at this time.
If the rumours turn out to be true, AMD will not have a new desktop platform next year. Bear in mind that Intel is doing the exact same thing by bringing 14nm silicon to mobile rather than desktop. AMD’s roadmap previously pointed to a desktop Carrizo launch in 2015.
AMD’s FM2+ socket and Kaveri derivatives would have to hold the line until 2016. The same goes for the AM3+ platform, which should also last until 2016.
Not much is known about Carrizo at the moment, hence we are not in a position to say much about the latest rumours. AMD’s first 20nm APU will be Nolan, but Carrizo will be the first 20nm big core. AMD confirmed a number of delays in a roadmap leaked last August.
The company recently confirmed its first 20nm products are coming next year. In all likelihood AMD will be selling 32nm, 28nm and 20nm parts next year.
AMD’s debt load is causing huge problems for the chipmaker — this quarter it had another substantial loss. The tame Apple Press has been claiming that AMD’s woes are caused by the fact it did not move to mobile as was directed by the profit Steve Jobs. They claim, along with some of the dafter analysts, that mobile computing has replaced the PC and companies that stuck to the “old technology” suffered.
However that does not explain how Intel made a stonking profit mostly because of its PC chip sales while its mobile division bled cash. The insistence that mobile was a replacement technology, rather than a parallel development which would not have been noticed if the economy had not tanked, is evidence of how many analysts and hacks drank the Jobs’ kool aid.
AMD’s problems are a lot more obvious. Each quarter it has to pay $49 million to service its huge debt pile. If it did not have to do this the company would have reported a non-GAAP operating profit of $67 million. In fact AMD’s revenue rose 24 percent to $1.44 billion in the second quarter. The company said its third-quarter revenue would rise 2 percent, plus or minus 3 percent, from the June quarter. That would be about $1.47 billion. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $1.44 billion in the second quarter and $1.57 billion in the third quarter.
AMD’s stock fell 15 percent in extended trade after the outfit said it had a net loss of $36 million in the June quarter, compared with a loss of $74 million, a year earlier. AMD has been expanding into non-PC markets like game consoles and low-power servers and it aims to obtain half of its revenue from those additional businesses by the end of 2015. It is also doing well in professional graphics.
Revenue in the Computing Solutions Group dropped 20 percent from a year ago, to $669 million, as microprocessor unit shipments declined. But notebook processor sales rose, while AMD sold fewer desktop processors and chipsets. GPU revenue declined as well, partially offset by a rise in chips sold into graphics workstations and add-on cards.
Named the Mediatek MT6795, the chip is designed for use by high-end device makers for upcoming Android 64-bit mobile operating systems like the recently announced Android L, with support for 2K display up to 2560×1600 resolution.
The chip also features a clock speed of up to 2.2GHz along with Corepilot, which refers to Mediatek’s technology that aims to deliver higher performance per Watt to save power, thus increasing battery life on mobile devices while not sacrificing performance and bringing on board the power of eight cores.
The SoC also provides 4G LTE support, Mediatek said, as well as dual-channel LPDDR3 clocked at 933MHz for “top-end memory bandwidth” in a smartphone.
Mediatek VP and GM for Europe Siegmund Redl told The INQUIRER in a media briefing that the announcement is in line with the industry’s growth in the smartphone arena.
“There has been a discussion about ‘how many cores do you really need’ and what is the benefit [of octo-core],” Redl said. “Quad-core is pretty much mainstream today and application developers are exploiting the fact they can do multithreading and pipelining and parallel computing with handheld devices.
“This will not change with octa-core. When we started to introduce the first octa-core we were showing off a game with very intense graphics and processing that needed the support of multiple cores and again this is the way the industry is going; you bring out the hardware and the software development follows that and takes advantage of it and the user experience is a smoother one.”
The firm claims that the SoC features multimedia subsystems that support many technologies “never before possible or seen in a smartphone”, including support for 120Hz displays.
“With multimedia we raised the bar in terms of recording frames per second, such as slow motion replay with 480 frames per second, for much better user experience,” Redl added.
Multi-mode wireless charging is also supported by the SoC’s companion multi-mode wireless power receiver chip.
The Mediatek MT6795, dubbed the chip for “power users”, joins the firm’s MT6752 SoC for mainstream users and MT6732 SoC for entry level users. It’s the 64-bit version of the 32-bit MT6595 SoC that was launched at Mobile World Congress earlier this year, which features four ARM Cortex A17 cores and four Cortex A7 cores as well as Imagination Technologies PowerVR Series6 GPU for “high-performance graphics”.
Redl said that existing customers that use the MT6595 today for devices that are soon to be hitting the market can reuse the designs they have for the older chip as “they have a pin compatible drop-in with a 64-bit architecture”.
Redl said Mediatek will make the MT6795 chip commercially available by the end of the year, for commercial devices coming in early January or February.
Late last year, Frank Gibeau switched roles at Electronic Arts, moving from president of the PC and console-focused EA Labels to be the executive vice president of EA Mobile. Speaking with GamesIndustry International at E3 last month, Gibeau said he was enticed by the vast opportunity for growth in the mobile world, and the chance to shape the publisher’s efforts in the space.
“One of the things I enjoy doing is building new groups, new teams and taking on cool missions,” Gibeau said. “The idea was that EA is known as a console company, and for our PC business. We’re not particularly well known for our mobile efforts, and I thought it would be an awesome challenge to go in and marshal all the talent and assets of EA and, frankly, build a mobile game company.”
It might sound a little odd to hear Gibeau speaking of building a mobile game company at EA. After all, he described EA as “the king of the premium business model” in the mobile world not too long ago, when the company was topping charts with $7 apps like The Sims 3 or raking it in with paid offerings like Tetris, Monopoly, or Scrabble.
“Two years ago, we were number one on feature phones with the premium business model,” Gibeau said. “Smart devices come in, freemium comes in, and we’re rebuilding our business. I think we’ve successfully gotten back into position and we see a lot of opportunity to grow the business going forward, but if you had talked to me about two years ago and tried to speculate there would be a company called Supercell with that much share and that many games, we wouldn’t even have come close.”
Gibeau expects that pace of upheaval to continue in the mobile market, but some things seem set in stone. For example, Gibeau is so convinced that the days of premium apps are done, he has EA Mobile working exclusively on freemium these days.
“If you look at how Asia operates, premium just doesn’t exist as a business model for interactive games, whether it’s on PC or mobile devices. If you look at the opportunity set, if you’re thinking globally, you want to go freemium so you can capture the widest possible audience in Japan, Korea, China, and so on… With premium games, you just don’t get the downloads you do with a free game. It’s better to get as many people into your experience and trying it. If they connect with it, that’s great, then you can carry them for very long periods of time. With premium, given that there are so many free offerings out there, it’s very difficult to break through.”
Unfortunately for EA, its prior expertise is only so relevant in the new mobile marketplace. Its decades of work on PCs and consoles translated well to premium apps that didn’t require constant updating, but Gibeau said running live services is a very different task – one EA needs to get better at.
“Our challenge frankly is just mastering the freemium live service component of what’s happening in mobile,” Gibeau said. “That’s where we’re spending a lot of our time right now. We think we have the right IP. We have the right talent. We’ve got great production values. Our scores from users are pretty high. It’s really about being able to be as good as Supercell, King, Gungho, or some of these other companies at sustained live services for long periods of time. We have a couple games that are doing really well on that front, like The Simpsons, Sims Freeplay, and Real Racing, but in general I think that’s where we need to spend most of our time.”
As Gibeau mentioned, EA has already had some successes on that front, but its record isn’t exactly unblemished. The company launched a freemium reboot of Dungeon Keeper earlier this year and the game was heavily criticized for its aggressive monetization approach. In May, EA shuttered original developer Mythic.
“Dungeon Keeper suffered from a few things,” Gibeau said. “I don’t think we did a particularly good job marketing it or talking to fans about their expectations for what Dungeon Keeper was going to be or ultimately should be. Brands ultimately have a certain amount of permission that you can make changes to, and I think we might have innovated too much or tried some different things that people just weren’t ready for. Or, frankly, were not in tune with what the brand would have allowed us to do. We like the idea that you can bring back a brand at EA and express it in a new way. We’ve had some successes on that front, but in the case of Dungeon Keeper, that just didn’t connect with an audience for a variety of reasons.”
The Dungeon Keeper reboot wasn’t successful, but EA continues to keep the game up and running, having passed the live service responsibilities to another studio. It’s not because the company is hoping for a turnaround story so much as it’s just one more adaptation to running games with a live service model.
“If you watch some of the things we’ve been doing over the last eight or nine months, we’ve made a commitment to players,” Gibeau said. “We’re sincere and committed to that. So when you bring in a group of people to Dungeon Keeper and you serve them, create a live service, a relationship and a connection, you just can’t pull the rug out from under them. That’s just not fair. We can sustain the Dungeon Keeper business at its level for a very long time. We have a committed group of people who are playing the game and enjoying it. So our view is going to be that we’ll keep Dungeon Keeper going as long as there’s a committed and connected audience to that game. Are we going to sequel it? Probably not. [Laughs] But we don’t want to just shut stuff off and walk away. You can’t do that in a live service environment.”
Much like EA’s institutional experience, there’s only so much of Gibeau’s past in the console and PC core gaming world that is directly relevant to today’s mobile space. But as the segment grows out of what he calls the “two guys in a garage” stage, EA’s organizational expertise will be increasingly beneficial.
“These teams are starting to become fairly sizeable,” Gibeau said, “and the teams and investment going into these games is starting to become much greater. Now they’re much, much less than you see on the console side, but there’s a certain rigor and discipline in approach from a technology and talent standpoint that’s very applicable… If you look at these devices, they will refresh their hardware and their computing power multiple times before you see a PlayStation 5. And as you see that hardware get increasing power and capability on GPU and CPU levels, our technology that we set up for gen 4 will be very applicable there. We’re going to be building technologies like Frostbite that operate on mobile devices so we can create richer, more immersive experiences on mobile.”
Even if mobile blockbusters like Candy Crush Saga aren’t exactly pushing the hardware, Gibeau said there’s still a need for all that extra horsepower. With the increased capabilities of multitasking on phones, he sees plenty of room for improvement before the industry runs up against diminishing returns on the CPU and GPU front. He likens today’s mobile titles to late-generation PS2 games, with PS3 and Xbox 360-level games just around the corner.
“As it relates to games, this is like black and white movies with no sound at this point, in terms of the type of games we’ve created,” Gibeau said. “We’re just starting to break through on the really big ideas is my personal view. If you look at games like Clash of Clans, Real Racing, even Candy Crush, they’re breaking through in new ways and spawning all types of new products that are opening up creativity and opportunities here. So I think computing power is just something we’ll continue to leverage.”
The best part for Gibeau is that the hard work of convincing people to buy these more powerful devices isn’t falling solely on the shoulders of game developers.
“The beauty of it is it’s not a single-use device,” Gibeau said, “so people will be upgrading them for a better camera, better video capability, different form factor, different user inputs, as a wearable… I think there’s so much pressure from an innovation standpoint between Samsung, Apple, Google, and Windows coming in, that they’ll continue to one up each other and there will be a very vibrant refresh cycle for a very long period of time. The screens get better, the computing power gets better, and I don’t have to worry about just games doing it like we were in the console business. Those were pretty much just games consoles; these are multi-use devices. And the beauty of it is there will be lots of different types of applications coming in and pushing that upgrade path.”
Panasonic and Intel have just announced that they will start making its SoC chips using Intel’s 14nm process.
Panasonic is joining Altera , Achronix Semiconductor, Tabula, Netronome and Microsemi on an ever growing list of Intel foundry clients. We expect that the list to expand over time. There have been some rumours that Cisco is planning to make its chips at Intel, too.
Keep the fabs busy
In our recent conversation with a few industry insiders we learned that Intel wants to keep its fabs busy and occupied. This is rather obvious and makes perfect sense as investing in a transition to a new manufacturing node cost a few billion dollars on a good day.
Intel has announced its Core M Broadwell processors that are coming in the latter part of this year and this will be just a fraction of what Intel plans to manufacture in its new 14nm fabs. Intel Airmont, Morganfield as well as Cherryview and Willowview Atoms, all 14nm designs, will also try to keep the fabs busy.
Lower power with 14nm SoC
Panasonic is planning to make 14nm next-generation SoCs that will target audio-visual equipment markets and will enable higher levels of performance, power and viewing experience for consumers.
The 14nm low power process technology with second generation Tri-Gate transistors will help Panasonic to decrease overall power consumption of the device. We expect that these SoCs to be used for future 4K TVs as well as the set-top boxes and possibly upscaling in Blu-ray players.
TSMC will start making 20nm chips later this year and Nvidia might be among the first clients to use it for its upcoming Maxwell 20nm GPUs. Other players will follow as Qualcomm has started making modems in 20nm and will soon move some of its SoC production to this new manufacturing node. Of course, AMD’s 20nm GPUs are in the works, too.
Intel’s 14nm is still significantly more power optimised than the 20nm process offered by TSMC and the Global Foundries – Samsung alliance, but Intel is probably not offering its services for pennies either.
Intel is known as a high margin company and we don’t see this changing over night. One of Intel’s biggest challenges in 2015 and beyond is to keep the fabs busy at all time. It will try to win more mobile phone business and it is really pushing to win its spot in the wearable technology market as phone market seems oversaturated.
Wearables offer a clean start for Intel, but first steps in any new markets are usually hard. Android Wear ARM based watches that just hit the market will complement or replace wearable wristbands like the Fitbit, based on an ARM Core M3. Intel wants to make shirts with chips inside and the more success it has in bringing cheap SoCs into our lives, the more chips it can sell. Panasonic will just help keep the fabs busy until Intel manages to fill them with its own chips.
ARM has announced two programs to assist Android’s ascent into the 64-bit architecture market.
The first of those is Linaro, a port of the Android Open Source Project to the 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture. ARM said the port was done on a development board codenamed “Juno”, which is the second initiative to help Android reach the 64-bit market.
The Juno hardware development platform includes a system on chip (SoC) powered by a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and dual-core ARM Cortex-A57 CPU in an ARM big.little processing configuration.
Juno is said to be an “open, vendor neutral ARMv8 development platform” that will also feature an ARM Mali-T624 graphics processor.
Alongside the news of the 64-bit initiatives, ARM also announced that Actions Semiconductor of China signed a license agreement for the 64-bit ARM Cortex-A50 processor family.
“Actions provides SoC solutions for portable consumer electronics,” ARM said. “With this IP license, Actions will develop 64-bit SoC solutions targeting the tablet and over-the-counter (OTT) set top box markets.”
The announcements from ARM come at an appropriate time, as it was only last week that Google announced the latest version of its Android mobile operating system, Android L, which comes with support for 64-bit processors. ARM’s latest developments mean that Android developers are likely to take advantage of them in the push to take Android to the 64-bit market.
Despite speculation that it would launch as Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google outed its next software iteration on Wednesday last week as simply Android L, touting the oddly-named iteration as “the largest update to the operating system yet”.