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DVD Catalyst Newsletter 107 - Smurfberries




Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 107.

Some big things on the web this week. One in particular, while deeply connected to big technology corporations of which we use products from on a daily basis, is politics related, and that is an area I stay away from. If you are interested in reading more about that, I would suggest to visit one of the bigger technology-related websites such as Arstechnica, CNN, Engadget, The Verge etc.

Lets start with other tech news:


Tech News:


This week one of the biggest technology expo of the year, Computex, was held. Technology companies, big and small showed off their stuff to the public and of course each other.

Intel just released its latest processors to the masses, so a large collection of laptops, ultrabooks have been refreshed to include the new upgrades.

With tablets getting more and more mainstream, companies like Asus and Acer showed a cheaper line in order to make them more accessible.

But, while there were some new ideas on display at Computex, such as nVidia's Shield, the majority seemed to be more of an upgrade of existing ultrabooks, TV screens, and other devices rather than something groundbreaking new.

With E3 around the corner, I'm sure Sony and Microsoft will do their best to wow the public with what they have been working on for the last couple of years.

Plants vs. Zombies 2

Plants vs. Zombies 2 - The Official Site for News & Updates

Earlier this week, Popcap (finally) announced Plants vs. Zombies 2.

Scheduled for a release on July 18th for Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad first, it will be released as a free game with in-app purchases, which seems to be the more favorable release type for games these days.

The first Plants vs. Zombies turned into one of the most popular games, and is one I consider to be among great classics like Tetris and Peggle, and (I think it was) $20 for its original PC release was just perfect.

While free is of course cool, I just hope there will be a reasonable way of upgrading the game to a full version. Many Free-To-Play games are geared towards the need to pay to be able to actually enjoy the game, and even then, prices for the items you want cost more than what you would normally pay for a game. More about in-app purchases below.

Google Play slowly overtaking Apple Appstore.

Google Play Store set to overtake Apple's App Store in number of app installs

While Apple had a bit of a head start, with 1.5 million activations a day (Eric Schmidt: Google now at 1.5 million Android activations per day), it was only a matter of time before Google caught up with app installs. While the Apple users on average install more apps on their devices, the larger amount of Android devices more than makes up for that.


The controversies before actual release on the XBOX One continue.

Yesterday, Microsoft published some articles on the web to clear things up a bit.

*Always connected:
Xbox Wire

Internet is required, but on your own system, once every 24 hours minimum, otherwise gaming will be blocked until you are online again.

*Game Licensing:
How Games Licensing Works on Xbox One

Games will be available both in disc and digital form, and, based on the article, it seems that buying a physical one will result in access to the digital one as well, which is nice.

Family members (up to 10) are also able to play the games you have in your account, which is quite interesting. Rather than borrowing a physical disc, I guess if you make your buddies family members, you can buy one copy and play with 9 of your buddies at the same time.

*Kinect camera privacy:
Xbox Wire

The Kinect system has become a very important part of the XBOX, and with the XBOX One, it is even more integrated than ever. Even when you turn off the XBOX, Kinect is listening so that you can turn on the XBOX with a voice command.

With the Kinect always being on, there are some privacy concerns, and if you combine that with the information that flooded the web this week regarding big cell phone and internet companies, having a camera and microphone in the XBOX One that is always on, along with a high-speed internet connection being mandatory is a bit worrying.

Who knows who is looking at you while you are playing Kinectimals.


Tools4Movies News:

Due to some personal things in life, it's been a couple of weeks since I last updated my apps, but I have been working on an update for both DVD Catalyst 4 and MovieGallery whenever I had time.

For DVD Catalyst, aside from the addition of new device profiles, I have been making some changes to the organization of profiles. In particular the "Android" device group needed a change due to the sheer amount of different ones listed there. If you select "Android" in the first video player device dropdown, it can take a while for it to display them. In the upcoming update, the Android group will be split into multiple sub-groups, Android, Android HQ and Android Fast. As a result, it will load a lot quicker.

In addition to the profiles, I also implemented a theme selection, currently containing a choice of 2 themes, the default dark one, and a light grey one, and will be adding more in future updates.

I am also working on a MovieGallery update, which will include some additional features to make your video watching experience a bit easier to use.



Free stuff:

I mentioned this in a few newsletters over the years, but since it has been a while, I figured it was time for another one.


It contains a large collection of free movies and TV shows, and many of them are already in MP4 format, ready to be streamed and/or downloaded to your Android, Apple, Blackberry, Windows tablet or Smartphone.
Download & Streaming : Moving Image Archive : Internet Archive

In addition to free videos, it also contains a large collection of eBooks in a variety of different formats. Classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver's Travels and many more, and in all the common eBook formats.
Free Books : Download & Streaming : Ebook and Texts Archive : Internet Archive



Next Generation Game Systems

Just like many others, I was a bit disappointed with the XBOX One and the PS4 reveals. The focus from both Sony and Microsoft appeared to be more on making their upcoming consoles more social rather than delivering a truly next generation gaming platform.

For me, a gaming console is just that, a simple device, ready to use whenever you feel like using it. The good old Sega Genesis and Super NES had it right. True plug and play, no crazy loading times or an hour to install or update the game, just flip the switch, wait 5 seconds and grab the controller.

The current generation of gaming systems still holds true to some of its roots. No online requirement, but it's there if you want to use it. Updates only needed if you do go online.

With the next generation of systems things will be different. Both Sony and Microsoft are hoping to make their devices a bigger part of the living room. Not just games, but replace the Bluray player and possibly even the TiVo.

Going all-in-one with these systems will reduce some clutter in the living room, it is a very risky move. If, and then I'm thinking back at the (Red Ring) issues with the launch of the XBOX360, something goes wrong, either hardware or software, the entire device, and thus everything it replaced, is non-functional.

So what should the next generation of gaming look like?

For a few years, 3D was going to be the next big thing, but while it worked for some people, it was more hype, and interest from the market has dwindled down a bit. What they should have done was something a bit more revolutionary, such as what Sega did, 22 years ago:

Time Traveler (video game) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Imagine a Battlefield or Medal of Honor game displayed all around you, hologram-style, or even a soccer game,
World disappoints us once again: Japan loses 2022 3D holographic World Cup bid

In-app purchases.

If you play any games on your smart phone or tablet, you have likely run into these. A cool free game, and when you get into it, it asks you to pay in order to progress.

While widely popular these days, the concept has been around for a long time.

I remember the free software demo's bundled with computer magazines back in the day. Trial versions of software on cassette or floppy, and later on CD and even DVD, enabling you to play a few levels to give you a taste, and you could then order a code to turn it into a full, unrestricted version.

Then companies started to split their app functionality into separate parts. You could purchase/download a core application with the main functionality, but for additional functionality, an additional fee needed to be purchased to enable it.

Now these "optional" purchases have become one of the most lucrative business models for game developers.

Releasing a full version of an app or game in to the public often results in the game getting pirated, and while there are solutions to prevent this from happening, these protection systems always result in more complications and thus more work for the developer.

If the app is released for free, there is obviously no reason to pirate it, but there needs to be some way for the developer to get paid for the time invested.

A few years ago, in-app advertising was quite popular. Companies like Rovio made millions this way with their Angry Birds series, and while ads are still used by developers to try and make a few bucks, ad blocker apps drastically reduce the income.

With in-app purchases, pirating the game doesn't work, since the main game is already free. Ad blockers also don't help, because there are no ads. Just an internal store-system that ties the in-app purchases to your account, and only your account.

With the app being free, it becomes accessible to anyone, and gets a lot more exposure. While not everyone will make use of the in-app purchase options, with a lot of people playing it, chances that quite a few of these will.

This part is all perfectly fine with me. As a developer myself, I've been thinking of in-app purchases as well, especially considering that the apps I develop always find their way onto torrent websites fairly quickly.

The problem is that some developers go too far. A few years ago, purchasing smurfberries became quite popular with children playing a Smurf's Village game. Parents were unaware of the in-app purchase system, and became quite surprised with high-dollar credit card statements at the end of the month.
FTC investigating Smurfberries, other in-app purchases | iMore.com


While people are a bit more aware of these options, and companies such as Apple and Google putting up warnings and suggestions on how to turn this off, things have changed little since then though.

The video and the smurfberries are extreme examples. The "game" in the video is clearly made to get money with little effort, but even though the Smurfs Village is a likable game, just the thought of paying $100 for something in-game, and it being a consumable item no less, is beyond me.

Even a big new free to play MMO release such as Marvel Heroes has some crazy prices for its optional content:
Marvel Heroes Avengers Assemble Pack on Steam

4 characters to play with for the free Marvel Heroes game, with each 2 costumes, and it includes 10 fortune cards (each being a random gift), all for only $85.

Of course individual character purchases can be made as well, and at $20. it seems fairly reasonable to be able to play the game with your favorite character, but considering that the games predecessors (Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2) were released at the $50-$60 mark and contained a bunch more characters to choose from, the numbers seem a bit off.

But it is the social aspect that makes it even more lucrative for developers. While not so much anymore, Zynga's Farmville, with its Facebook connection, resulted in competition with friends and family. Trying to do better than someone on your friends list, and the constant lure of what you need to beat them, instantly accessible to you if you pull out your credit card. If you do it once, they make it even easier by keeping your card on file. Wait a week for your crop to grow, or pay only a few bucks and get that one piece for your farm right now.



And that is it for this week's newsletter.

Thanks again for reading, and see you next week.



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