Tag Archives: Apple TV

Choice, can you choose?

Yes, we have that. Can we choose, can we not? It is not really our fault, until there was streaming we had it all (to some degree) and now, in the streaming universe, can we actually make that decision? Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV, Google TV, Sony Core, Canal Plus, HBO, Stan, if we chose them all, we are looking at around $100 per month, the bulk of all people cannot afford that, so they must chose. In that setting it pretty much sets the global population to Netflix and/or Disney Plus. That was before the price hike, there is every indication that we alternate the subscription or choose one, optionally two out of the eight. In all this Google TV is the odd duck,. It is a pricey $65 a month, making it immediately unaffordable for a lot of people at present, yet for that price you get 65 channels including CNN, ESPN and Nickelodeon. It basically becomes a global contender to Canal Plus and that is not all. If Google takes the quick road as Sky Channel did around 1989 in the Netherlands, they could get a much better solution. The Dutch (read: Rotterdam) were all charged via their energy bill but for a mere $5 a month, but that gave the people 12 channels overnight, and when you hand the solution over to a million subscribers you have wiggle space. Yet in that setting where will Netflix, Disney Plus and the others fall? It could change streaming overnight and the partnership that Google TV has with Sony implies that Google TV will be in too many houses with a Sony TV soon enough. So as 2021 will shake the streaming industry to its foundation, I wonder what will happen to Netflix at that point as it has invested well over $100 billion in its services. This is by no setting the end of Netflix, it’s pricing is affordable as long as there is one and Netflix does have a lot more, but what happens when Disney Strikes a deal with Google TV as well? That is a setting that Netflix is not ready for and they do not have the capital to change the venue as they currently have it. 

I cannot give you answers, I d not have any, but there is clarity that there will be a larger first strike streaming war, and as I see it, Stan does not have much of a chance to survive it, Canal Plus will take a massive hit as well, they have the benefit that they are cheaper, but only half the amount of channels, when they add the 5 movie channels the price is almost even. Yes, I reckon that 2021 will be a slaughterfest on streaming players and there is no real winner in sight, or perhaps better stated, there are too many unknown variables for me at present too make a definite conclusion, but when we see that the largest part of 300 million Americans cannot meet their payments, add to that 700 million Europeans, 68 million Brits and 1 billion Indians, we can safely assume that there will be a slaughterfest, with Netflix and Disney Plus being the most likely survivors, but this is set on shaky grounds, there is a lot that can happen, but the union of Google TV and Sony Core gives us the stage that there will be wounded all over this battlefield, and as I see it, a stage with original materials is needed, for me it means that someone might take a liking to 2 movies, and optionally 2 TV series as well, for me it does not matter, I am focussed on my 5G IP. Yet I reckon that even there there will be streaming intersections on nearly every level and as such Google TV has the option to have a cheap solution for those who cannot afford the full price, but that comes with advertisements. An affordable streaming stage with advertisements, a stage where the value of a player like Google could optionally skyrocket, but to what level remains a mystery for now. 

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Lessons to be learned

We all have our flings, a lot of ladies still have an ongoing fling with ‘Sex and the City’, Whilst the man cannot help themselves but to run to the nearest cinema when they see the calling card ‘007’ (also known as 003.5 when he was young). Loads of people (myself included) were nuts about Star Trek, many were Babylon 5 fans (me too) and a lot of us could not wait for what would come after Star Wars. Some franchises get to us and they capture us. The same for the Marvel characters. But over the years I learned that a binge fetish comes with an attached version of digital tummy bounce. Too much, even of a good thing is not always good. I know, I had my events, there was the evening with two T-bone steaks (1.2 Kg beef in total), there was the 6 mango pancakes occasion when having Yum Cha in Chinatown, there was the case of me and the 11 turkey tandoori drumsticks in Stockholm and the less said about me and a two litre jar of custard the better.  This happens with movies and TV series too. During the lockdown I had a binge with 19 seasons of Midsomer Murders, Star Wars 1-9 (plus Rogue One), NCIS season 1 through 15, as well as a revisit on Blu ray of ALL Marvel movies. 

They tend to weigh on us, it is like we accept the universe we watch, but we also understand that what we see is not real, for some reason the borders face during a binge, have you never noticed that? So when I saw ‘Disney ramps up Star Wars and Marvel franchises’ (at https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55269531), I had my concerns. Now, for those who love the binge, who love their passion of Star Wars, Marvel or Disney, I am fine with that, I wish you all the best (and loads of happy fun), yet the article gives us two parts.

The first is “it also announced price increases from February next year”, OK, £7.99 per month might not seem a big deal, but with unemployment the way it is, it will make a lot of people unhappy. Australia gives us $8.99AUD per month (or $89.99 per year) which is interesting as it implies that for a year, you get 2 months for free, it would make the stage more interesting, but overall, it implies that Australia is getting Disney Plus almost 50% cheaper than the UK (which translates to $14.04 per month), as such in this global age, a lot of people will not be happy. This was merely an observation, not a stage of discussion.

The second part is seen with “Disney said that it planned to offer 10 new TV series in its Marvel and Star Wars franchises over the next few years”, and yes, we have an issue with ‘over the next few years’, which is blatantly inaccurate. The hype creators gave us WandaVision, Loki, Hawkeye, WhatIf, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, as well as several movies (at least one title confirmed for 2022) as well as “roughly 10 Star Wars series are coming to Disney Plus, but it also gave some early details about a few of those series and other Star Wars projects”, which the Verge (at https://www.theverge.com/2020/12/10/22167976/disney-investor-day-2020-biggest-announcements-plus-marvel-star-wars-pixar-animation) gives us. 

We want to make it bout the money, but we need to look at the fact that a lot of people get to enjoy well over a dozen series in a setting that they LIKE, all whilst the US produced over 500 series last year that most of us (non-Americans) will not get to see. So is the stage of £2 (per month) really a lot? No, but it is the £7.99 (£80, or £96) a year that matters. You see, we all see the full time incomes, but there are plenty on £13,803 for part-time roles, which is not a lot, especially when the bills are paid.

Yet this is NOT about the money, consider the annual cost and consider the focal point of Disney Plus. There is off-course more to Disney Plus, but to have such a driven focal point can slap back to the owners. Yes, they are and should be proud of what they offer, but like gaming, we might have a favourite game, but at times we want something else and there are alternatives, but there is the snag for Disney, if the people turn away from Disney too often, someone will figure out to be a paying member two months a year and catch up on those months. What will Disney do, turn these paying customers away? 

The stage of annual fees versus returning fees will soon become a much more focussed debate and a focal point for revenue investigators all over, because it is not merely Disney that faces this consideration. In this, I have nothing against Stan, HBO, Netflix, Disney Plus, or Apple TV, but the people in a much larger setting have limited funds, they could consider one, some might consider a second one, but that is pretty much it, the quality of life in most of the Commonwealth and the EU is not in a good place. So whilst some are fighting over the pie, the consumer is considering another buffet

MonthChannel
JanuaryNetflix
FebruaryApple TV
MarchDisney Plus
April
MayNetflix
JuneApple TV
JulyDisney Plus
August
September
OctoberNetflix
NovemberApple TV
DecemberDisney Plus

In this setting we see three months a year, some might go for to month a year and optionally safe a little money, in that setting both Disney and Netflix will enter a tunnel of massive problems, their stage is not fitting the cost endured, you cannot make a case of $15,000,000,000 of costs a year and people merely coming for two months a year, the system will collapse and that is what Disney faces too. The people are lacking cash and optionally bandwidth too.

Do you think they will waste time on too much monthly fees, or will they wisen up and binge when they can, let’s not forget these executives promoted bingeing when it suited their needs, now it will not, and the spreadsheet deck that they hold does not permit the thought I am voicing here.

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The choice of a new religion

The Guardian had an interesting article yesterday by none other than Alex Hern. He and I look towards the gaming world in very different ways, it does not make him wrong and it does not make my view right. We have at times different views on things. That is the wonderful world of gaming, it is one of the few fields where the approach to any solution tends to be almost artistic, many views, none the same can still warrant true correctness or success. In ‘Apple wants the Apple TV to be a games console. But can it be trusted?‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/12/apple-tv-games-console-can-it-be-trusted), which is a very true piece. The subtitle states ‘Apple would like to see its new set-top box become the next Nintendo Wii. But it’s questionable whether the company really understands gaming‘, which is as true as it gets. I have been ‘connected’ to Apple systems in one way or another since 1990. One thing from the very start is that the Apple systems were always ahead in many ways, even in artistic ways, yet true gaming was never supported to the extent it should have been. One of my very first freelance jobs was to take a look at ‘Balance of Power’ (by Mindscape), I ended up checking it on the Mac as well as the Amiga. Another one was Shadowgate by the same makers. Even though these games were always worshipped, but on the Mac they seemed to be on the side, accepted as in existence, but never truly part of the ‘Apple’ environment accepted. It is hard to get it into words. You would have had to be there to understand it.

The quote “The problem is that games are treated as just another type of app by the company – albeit a very profitable type. The games store, for instance, is organised in exactly the same way as the rest of the app store, with prominence given to a few select apps and then three charts of top-selling paid games, most-downloaded free games, and “top grossing games”“, helps here. It is like a bunch of economists see games in the spreadsheet as deep green and those economists really like deep green (as in profit). Yet games is a lot more than numbers (something Ubisoft has an issue with too). To see Apple people look at games and advice their users on is like going to your accountant for sex guidance. That person gets off on spreadsheets and a balance books, for many people not the orgasmic solutions to embrace. Yet there is also a side where I have to disagree on.

Part one is “Similarly, in the newly-released guidelines for Apple TV apps, the company reveals that “the maximum size of an Apple TV app is limited to 200MB”, with no persistent local storage. In other words, apps must be lean, and they must download everything they show from the cloud“, part two is “The top-tier consoles right now ship their games on Blu-ray discs, which store at least 25GB and can rise to 128GB per disc (twice the total storage of the highest-capacity Apple TV“. Now, Alex speaks the truth and he is 100% correct. My issue is that quote 2 implies (he never really states it anything in that way) that size makes the game, that is wrong. Still there is a truth here. 200Mb is nowhere near enough for any decent game. If we look at previous games, like Metroid Prime on the GameCube, that game exceeds the 200Mb. Many games from the PC could get close to the 200Mb, but will in all likelihood exceed that part.

In addition, the statement “In other words, apps must be lean, and they must download everything they show from the cloud“, which now implies that we are all dependent on quality connection. A property that is even debatable in parts of Western Europe, the US, Canada and Australia. For Apple it must be good to know that at least Scandinavia and its 18 million people will see the bulk of Apple TV gaming. The second issue is “Unlike PC games, consoles have always been fairly locked down by the platform manufacturers. In a way, it’s “no sex, no drugs, only rock and roll” attitude is merely replicating the same approach that Nintendo has emphasised for years in its efforts to keep its games consoles family friendly“. Now I am all for family friendly games, yet some people want more than Mario Kart. Some want to play the master Sergeant (HALO). Some want to be in the wasteland (Fallout) or they want to sneak their ways around a city (Thief). Many of these games would never be allowed, with a massive portion of the gamers being 21+, they end up being nothing more than a nuisance to Nintendo and without a massive arsenal of IP that will not happen any day soon.

It is the final quote that is concern as well as the source of howl of deriving laughter “But its success as a games console would be handing yet more control of the medium to a company which fundamentally looks down on games and gaming. And that should concern anyone who likes to play“, wasting this level of resources on a system with no expertise on quality gaming will put a dent in the Apple coffers, in addition, once rejected by gamers, those at the helm will be forced to take a harsh look at their choices and their considerations. It seems that so far in new gaming only Elite Dangerous made it. If the iMac 5K would have one additional hardware update. If they had something in equal or exceeding the Radeon R9 295X2, the system would become something to behold, not just with Elite Dangerous, but in addition with games like No Man’s Sky (if it ever gets here). The iMac would be an option, the Apple TV is clearly not that option, beyond Minecraft there is not a lot that plays on the Apple TV. So do I disagree with Alex?

Actually no! When we consider his quote “Despite my concerns, there is the chance that the Apple TV could be good for gaming“, it connects to my thoughts that good gaming is not about the size (well not completely). Consider that some of the games that were a massive success on the Commodore 64, the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST can still be the games in the new generation systems like the Apple TV. The games by Sid Meier, games like seven cities of gold, some of the legends like Lemmings, Dune 2 (Command and Conquer), pretty much most of the games Peter Molyneux made (including Dungeon keeper), there are loads of other games. The opposite is also true, now we can get a pirates game Sid Meier could never offer when he did because technology stopped him. In equal measure quality gaming has dwindled as there are no limitations, so that game designers are no longer trying to squeeze the maximum out of a console. Tomb Raider is an example here. When we consider that Apple TV could get a market, whilst the hard core end games on consoles and PC remains, I state ‘Yes’, that is a definite option. Yet Alex does illustrate a side of Apple that the foundation of Apple should be ‘concerned’ with. “If you want to criticise a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical App. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store”, in all fairness there should be space for that approach, but it will hinder your business. You see, the guidelines at 15.1 state “Apps portraying realistic images of people or animals being killed or maimed, shot, stabbed, tortured or injured will be rejected“, which is nice but that pretty much sums up almost every game ever made, including New Zealand Story, where the little Kiwi loses health when he touches a spike. 15.3 makes any WW2 game a non-starter, unless Apple insists that Nazi Germany was never a real government where my response becomes: ‘good luck with that one!’

So, even though we can accept that guidelines are needed to keep certain groups (read children) free to wander on the app store selecting games. I get that, but as I stated before, it limits the Apple TV to the realm of Nintendo who already has a massive grip on its user base through several means, why would Apple TV wander in that field? It almost reads like Apple wants to add to the foundation of a failed system. The idea that was a write off in 2007, regarding a big fat fail in 2010, suddenly got the title ‘How Apple’s biggest failure could be one of its greatest accomplishments‘ in 2014 (at http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/saving-apple-tv-think-different/) we see: “Apple has a chance here to beat its competitors to the punch, first and foremost, by making sure that you can play every significant type of video file type that Apple TV doesn’t offer now. This will broaden the range of apps the device can support, and ensure they never have an issue like they did with Hulu again. They would also be wise to create a browser for the device, and to let users access its hard drive“, which is true, yet the article reads like a marketing approach to ‘new’ options for Apple TV and now a year later we see the games ploy. Is it truly about that, or is there a fear within Apple that they are being passed by, passed by those who had a clear goal and by growing in any direction they get to hold onto non-write-off a little longer.

I will let you decide on the parts that are a given, but are they truly a given? I must warn my own view that it is tainted and also clouded. There is a view that comes from true gaming and as such Apple TV does not add up to much, yet what is small can grow and as I stated, let true innovation grow through limitations. It gave us true pearls on three generations of consoles, innovations that seem to be missing in NextGen. Yes, there is still innovation, but not to the extent there was in the past. The idea that Apple starts it up again is partially pleasing. Pleasing because that is the one part that have been downplayed by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo to the larger extent, if you doubt that, then look at how many independent productions made it to consoles in the past. The fact that this year is a lot more about independents is not a given, it is a fab and no guarantee exists that independents will make it through in 2016 and 2017.

That is the part where Apple could grow, you see I personally believe that the next 12 years will be all about the small innovators. As larger players have become vultures, eating the small ones and carrion eaters as they devour their brands in the insane vision that growth comes from interactive innovation, large jumps are ignored. You only need to see the success of Markus the Notch and Minecraft to see that I am right. Will Sean Murray be the next one to show this? David Braben is on the right track to do so too and they are not alone. Even though Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is not likely to be the success others are becoming, the truth is that this game is innovative. Even though in respect to my Tomb Raider view that 10 hours of game play is not acceptable, it would be equally unacceptable to see a 6 hour story as a good thing (source: YouTube). Yet, it is a story and the challenge as such is too small. You only need to look back at the game Portal (by Rob Swigart) to see something a lot larger, even though not in an open world environment, the result as well as the story was truly unique. That does not make the game a failure or inferior, yet the truth remains that the challenge needs an upgrade. Too small, yet remains a true innovation compared what is out there. In all this my own perception is an issue for discussion too. Where is it a given that a 10 hour game is insufficient? I base it on past play and play that some games give, as such 10 hours of gaming just doesn’t hack it neither does 6 hours. Yet all this started with a new religion, one of gaming. not the worship of a controller, or the divination of a system, but the choice of what we believe is to be an open direction, a choice of innovation, because without innovation gaming seizes to survive and we get iteration of a given, in the artsy world gaming exists in, that part can never be allowed to remain in iteration. This is one of the core reasons why the iteration of Assassins Creed, the iteration of Lara Croft the raider of Tombs and Call of Duty will simmer down, will cease to be the cash cows they once were.

The future is all about true innovation in gaming, in that Apple TV could have a space if it opens the doors to independent developers. When we consider the iPad, it has had a nice collection of games and some are truly innovative, in all that IOS has a place and the Apple TV could bring it to the big screen (and I do mean on your TV). In the final part, I agree with Alex for the most, except for the part “a company which fundamentally looks down on games and gaming“. I am not certain it does. It seems to have an approach not unlike Nintendo. Do we look down on them? The question does remain when we see gaming as a religion. It could be the one religion that should be without a bible, which is fair enough, but what about the 10 commandments? Should we not consider some guidelines? Personally I state no, but then again, I started in a world where gaming was born, where it evolved. In all this gaming can evolve within any limited system (consider the 16KB VIC-20), as such any system can bring the joy of gaming, we only need to consider where we take gaming. Nintendo took a direction, there is nothing stopping from Apple taking it in the same direction. In my mind, it should be now and forever about innovation, because that is what draws us to a new game. Consider how Elemental Kingdoms took the concept of CCG and gave it a digital evolution, that is just one of many options, I hope many that are yet unemployed and it awaits the next visionary to create that path.

Who? That is up to the developer that dares to dream and make it reality.

 

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