Category Archives: Tech Slice
Less than a year after acquiring the primary video game branch of the legendary “Star Wars” franchise, Disney is closing LucasArts Entertainment Company.
According to a statement originally obtained by Game Informer, Disney is closing down LucasArts in order to move the company away internal game development, choosing instead to license the “Star Wars” IP out to a wider variety of third party developers than was presumably available in-house.
“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games,” the statement read. “As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.”
The fate of the upcoming action-adventure game “Star Wars 1313,” along with the full extent of the current layoffs from LucasArts, is unclear. The video game website Kotaku is reporting that LucasArts has laid off 150 employees so far and has cancelled “1313,” but another report from Game Informer claims that a representative from the company still thinks the game could come out through a licensing agreement.
The news comes after several years of diminishing returns for the struggling game developer. Despite the iconic stature of “Star Wars” in pop culture today, LucasArts’ core business strategy of developing and licensing games based on the popular sci-fi franchise has steadily declined in sales and critical reception. One of the most recent big-budget reboots of the franchise—BioWare’s massive multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) “Star Wars: The Old Republic”—was meant to be Electronic Arts’ response to the unprecedented success of Activision Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft” series. But after opening to initial praise from game critics and fans, the series failed to attract a significant audience to recoup EA and BioWare’s six year-long, $200 million investment, and the game was eventually turned into a free-to-play title in the hopes of drawing in more players.
As a developer, LucasArts has also struggled to retain top talent from competitors in the industry. The company attracted skepticism in the summer of 2012, for instance, when famed game industry veteran Clint Hocking (who had joined LucasArts after working on the “Splinter Cell” and “Far Cry” franchises) left his position without a single “Star Wars” game to show for his two years as a creative director.
Disney acquired LucasArts, along with Lucasfilm, last October for $4.05 billion.
Rockstar Games has announced that the newest installment in its famed/infamous “Grand Theft Auto” video game series will arrive in the spring.
Though Rockstar did not specify a date in its Tuesday announcement, the company said “Grand Theft Auto V” will launch worldwide for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and it will be “the largest and most ambitious title in the series to date.”
Rockstar has been releasing information about the (very) highly anticipated game at a trickle.
In addition to revealing the launch window, the developers said Tuesday that the game, which takes place in a re-imagined Southern California, will offer “the largest and most thriving game-world we have ever created set in the sprawling city of Los Santos and for miles beyond — from the tops of the mountains to the depths of the ocean.”
It will be “a world of unprecedented scale and detail bursting with life,” according to the press release.
“‘Grand Theft Auto V’ builds on everything we’ve learned about open-world game design,” Rockstar Games founder Sam Houser said. “We can’t wait to share it with fans.”
With that in mind, Rockstar said it will begin taking pre-orders starting Nov. 5. If you want a peek at what you’ll be pre-ordering, then check out the only trailer yet to be released for “Grand Theft Auto V.”
Gamers can finally start carjacking again.
“Grand Theft Auto V” will be released in the spring of 2013, publisher Take-Two Interactive announced Tuesday. The company’s Rockstar Games subsidiary confirmed earlier this year that the sequel to 2008′s hit “Grand Theft Auto IV” was in the works, but did not disclose a release date.
The spring timing is significant as Take-Two’s fiscal year ends on March 31. With spring not officially starting until March 20, it is very likely that “Grand Theft Auto V” will be released in the company’s fiscal 2014.
Many analysts and investors were uncertain whether the game would come out during the current fiscal year. While the lack of pre-release marketing so far made that appear unlikely, the company’s financial guidance seemed to indicate that it would.
Take-Two had previously told investors to expect net income of between $1.75 and $2 per share for its fiscal 2013, which ends March 31.
“My guess is that they lower guidance to break even… and say that GTA  is a Q1 ’14 launch,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter wrote in an email. “I don’t think that the stock gets hit unreasonably, but management’s credibility suffers further. People had no confidence the game was coming this fiscal year and they met expectations.”
Take-Two has a reputation in the video game industry for delaying planned release dates. However, it has been on a bit of a roll thanks to the recent hits “Borderlands 2″ and “NBA 2K ’13.”
It was not immediately apparent what investors thought of the news as the stock markets in New York were closed Tuesday due to Hurricane Sandy.
The extreme weather also caused Take-Two to delay the planned release Tuesday of its financial results for the quarter ended Sept. 30.
“Grand Theft Auto V,” which will be playable on Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360, is set in a fictional version of Los Angeles called “Los Santos.” Previous versions of “GTA” have been set in fictional versions of Miami and New York.
YouTube is looking at giving its original content channel partners the option to charge users for subscriptions, Robert Kyncl, global head of content at the Google-owned online video site said here Wednesday at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit.
If the site does go ahead with this approach, “the majority will be ad-supported, and there will be some that will be paid,” he predicted.
He later told THR that there are no set plans though and that it was too early to say when such subscriptions could be offered or at what prices.
Industry observers have previously wondered if and when YouTube could offer the subscription option as a potential revenue stream besides advertising.
Kyncl said YouTube’s goal for now continues to be “taking the friction out” of the ad process to maximize ad revenue for the site and its partners. Promising advertisers that they only pay when ads are actually viewed draws higher ad rates and benefits all sides, he said.
YouTube typically sells ads against the channels and keeps all revenue up until it recoups its original investment. After that, YouTube and the content partner split ad revenue roughly 50:50.
Kyncl also said that when offering content in a branded and popular context, it draws higher ad rates. For example, he said videos of dogs on skateboards may draw minimal costs per thousand advertisers of $2 or less, but that goes up to $20 when the dogs on skateboard appear on a branded Tony Hawk channel.
Earlier this week, YouTube added more than 60 new original content channels to its lineup, including some from international content partners. The news took the company’s original programming push to a more global audience.
In a session entitled “The War for the Living Room: The Internet Takes on Television,” Kyncl also predicted that mobile usage by YouTube users will continue to rise. About 50 percent of consumption in parts of the Arabic-speaking world already happens on mobiles, he said.
Asked about the increasing usage of mobile devices during TV viewing, known in the industry as the rise of the “second screen,” he quipped that for him, television rather than iPads or smartphones are the second screen.
If you find your 55″ 1080p TV set is just too small and pixelated, you’ll be thrilled to know the next generation of ridiculously enormous, ultra-high-resolution smart TVs are on the way. Get ready for 4K TV.
On Wednesday, Sony introduced the 84-inch XBR-84X900, a 3840 x 2160 resolution LCD TV. It incorporates a detachable 10-speaker audio system that offers “virtual” 5.1 surround sound. It also features built-in WiFi so you can slurp down video and music from Netflix, Pandora, and around 50 other providers through the Sony Entertainment Network.
The 84-inch display will provide a much more immersive, cinema-like experience for the home. But much to the chagrin of some cinephiles, the set also offers 3-D, which you’ll need to enjoy with the accompanying 3D glasses. Consumers have repeatedly shown that they’re not into popping on a pair of glasses just to attempt to enjoy 3-D at home.
For the unfamiliar, 4K resolution displays boast 8 million pixels and a resolution four times that of full HD. And the number itself can be a little confusing. 720p and 1080p displays are for the number of vertical pixels, but the 4K term refers to the number of horizontal pixels.
Previously the stuff of high-end projectors , 4K has made inroads into televisions as of late. LG introduced its own 4K television set at CES 2012. Other manufacturers like Sharp and Toshiba have released smaller 4K TV sets .
While there’s not that much 4K resolution video out there, Sony has a list of its 4K movie releases online. You can get a taste for the 4K experience with a handful of videos posted on YouTube .
Price and availability for Sony’s XBR-84X900 haven’t yet been announced, but it won’t be cheap. Toshiba’s 55-inch 4K set , announced last December, was priced at nearly $12,000. Sony says the set will ship some time this year.
Google’s $12.5b purchase of US phone maker Motorola Mobility has been completed days after it received approval from the Chinese government.
Chinese authorities said Google must keep its mobile software, Android, free for other device makers for up to five years.
The acquisition is Google’s biggest to date.
The internet search giant has also named a new management team for the phone handset maker.
Motorola is a leading manufacturer of smartphones and other devices.
Google’s takeover of the business allows it to move into the manufacturing of phones and tablet computers for the first time.
ahoo has joined the browser wars with Axis, its very own tool designed to enhance its search with a clear eye toward the rapidly expanding mobile Web.
Axis, the company announced late Wednesday, is a stand-alone app currently available for Apple mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad and on desktops as an add-on to established browsers like Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
Yahoo special project director Ethan Batraski wrote on the company’s search blog that “with a mobile-first focus,” the company “set out to completely re-think and re-design how users search and browse the Web.”
The result was Axis, a visual-rich tool that aims to combine searching and browsing into one experience. On mobile devices, a query returns thumbnail images of actual Web pages instead of a list of links. People can use the touchscreen to scroll and choose a page.
Although readers will have to wait until sometime in June — perhaps not coincidentally, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month — to learn which established DC Comics character will be reintroduced as gay, we already know at least two details: It’s a major character (better luck next time, Doll Man), and it’s a guy.
“One of the major iconic DC characters will reveal that he is gay in a storyline in June,” Courtney Simmons, DC Entertainment’s senior vice president of publicity, confirmed to ABC News following the weekend revelation by Co-Publisher Dan DiDio that the formerly heterosexual figure will become “one of our most prominent gay characters.”
With those 18 words, Simmons drastically narrows the list of candidates, eliminating such popular guesses as Vibe (he’s neither a major character nor an iconic one) and Hawkgirl (she’s a … she). However, Simmons’ quote also raises the question of just what DC considers “major” and “iconic.”
Fox News, ensuring plenty of website traffic, asks, “Could Superman be gay?” while across the Atlantic, the Daily Mail ponders, “Is Batman gay?” DC obviously won’t go that iconic — their Earth-2 counterparts are off the table, too — but beyond that, there’s the issue of how DiDio presented his announcement (or, rather, his response to a question from the Kapow! audience): The implication is that the character hasn’t yet appeared in the New 52, something supported this morning by Batman writer Scott Snyder, who clarified this morning on Twitter that “the announcement was ‘a character not seen since the relaunch will come out as gay.’” (He followed that with the assertion that “Bruce’s orientation is Gotham.”)
That even further reduces the list of contenders: We’re now looking for a major iconic male character who’s not appeared since DC’s linewide relaunch last August. But … we’re not necessarily holding out for a hero. Note that neither Simmons nor (apparently) DiDio said “superheroes”; they said “characters.”
Mobile phone maker Research in Motion has kicked off its annual conference by handing out thousands of prototypes for its next line of smartphones.
The devices – dubbed Blackberry 10 Dev Alpha – also offer a sneak preview of RIM’s new operating system.
Both the OS and the new range of handsets are seen as hugely important as RIM struggles to compete with Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.
RIM hopes it will inspire developers to create much-needed apps.
The prototype bears more of a resemblance to smartphones from competitors than many of its previous handsets.
The device comes without a keyboard, a feature which had previously set RIM apart from its rivals.
It is not the first time the company has relied on an on-screen keyboard, but a previous effort – in the Torch 9850 – was criticized in some reviews for being too cramped.
The firm was keen to stress that neither the hardware nor software released was a final version.
“The Blackberry 10 Dev Alpha is not a Blackberry 10 smartphone for end users nor does it run the final Blackberry 10 software – it’s been created just for our developer partners to help them prepare for the launch of Blackberry 10,” RIM said on its official blog.
“It’s important to get this prototype into the hands of our partners now so that you can help us deliver the type of high-quality content that will make Blackberry 10 so special,” it added.
Nick Dillon, an analyst with research firm Ovum, thinks that it could be a case of too little too late.
“Blackberry 10 has been a long time coming. It is a smart move to release a preview but the key will be getting it out as soon as possible,” he said.
Getting consumer-friendly apps made for the platform would be crucial, he added.
“These days it isn’t enough to have a good product. There needs to be a whole ecosystem around that product.”
Many see RIM as effectively starting from scratch with the new OS. Older handsets will not be able to run apps being created for the new platform.
According to a survey by research firm IDC, 16% of developers were “very interested” in creating apps for Blackberry products, compared to 89% for the iPhone and 79% for Android.
Blackberry World is taking place in Orlando, Florida. A separate conference just for developers is running alongside it.
Thorsten Heins, who took the chief executive job in January after his long-running predecessors Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis stepped aside, delivered the morning keynote at the event.
Is this scary or innovative? Almost reminiscent of a particular Star Trek Voyager episode (yep- we watched that).
We believe technology should work for you — to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t.
A team within our Google[x] group started Project Glass to build this kind of technology, one that helps you explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment.