Tag Archives: Netflix

When the old is new again

Finally the news is there; on December 3rd people from the later generation can finally see what the first PlayStation was like. You might think that there is no value in that, especially as the machine is there just before Christmas for $159. What is remarkable is the amount of games I had hoped to see and we will only get 20 games. But not to fret, the 20 games include Final Fantasy VII (not my favourite game), Metal Gear Solid, Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, Rayman, Resident Evil Director’s Cut, Syphon Filter and Tekken 3. Each of these titles would have been worthy of the full price, so to get them all is so worth it, every penny of it. There are other titles, but this is the cream of the crop and even as I was never an FFVII fan, it is for that generation the pinnacle of Final Fantasy, a claim made by many.

Some will state that the very first GTA is also a classic, for me it is merely to see how far the game evolved over 5 cycles. It goes further, even as there has been rustling in the weeds, there is still no official confirmation for the N-64 mini; you might think that this would push Nintendo across and even as we have seen certain patents to optionally revamped N-64 hardware, there is still no official confirmation.

For me it is more than merely a sentimental journey. It should be the momentum to open the eyes of any optional game designer on how far games had gotten three cycles ago. In this stage that we were merely stopped by resources and in the end we get to see that the lack of resources made the game designers a lot more creative in adapting technology to the max. Even as I irritatingly got confronted last night with the Far Cry failure and taking into account “Far Cry 5 is a game that takes excess as ethos, yet, in pursuing that goal of more-more-more, stretches itself so thin as to offer up nothing at all” (source: Vice), we need to contemplate when is more actually less in the end? In my case it is the stage of adding more and more in Far Cry 4 that got to me (trying to get a few more achievements by replaying the game). It is my personal believe that Ubisoft should give both devices to the game developers and see if they learn something from it. The demonic precision and challenge that is known as Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey is perhaps the most visible one. As puzzles go, I have never met anyone who without cheating and hacking got all 100. And even as I do not oppose people seeking the internet solutions, I have never met anyone who got all 100 in one play through; it might not even be possible. To get this on a system with 2 MB RAM and 1 MB VRAM, with a disc that stores 650MB that is the lesson right there. Now we do not want a copy of that game, but the ability to give something that is still revered 21 years later, that does count. I don’t expect Ubisoft, or many others to ever pull it off, yet does not also show our growing common lack of creativity?

Personally I thought Tenchu Z, not the greatest game, was still an awesome stealth game to play. The Xbox360 gave us a cool version of a 1998 game. Even as the score was a mere 56%, the fact that no one took that to the next level is a surprise. Even as the game had issues, it also had clear promise and direction towards a much better game. There are several reviews that have given since that Tenchu Z was underrated and I support that. It reflects back to the PS mini as we see (for all valid reasons) that Soul Edge and the Tombraider games might be missing, we do see an amazing classic Resident Evil Director’s Cut, that whilst the remake of Resident Evil 2 is about to launch, showing us what a dedicated fan can do when he gets his hands on a true classic. No matter how we view this, the first two set the bar high enough making it impossible to equal for several years and that took some doing. The remake is not merely a remaster; it gives new light to hardware what it can achieve when it is kicked to a higher level. Its application of torches (what the original did not do) as well as the challenge of limitation and choice pretty much made me shit my pants and for a video game to achieve that takes effort and dedication.

The danger is that someone merely makes a new version. I did not mind that, especially in the case of Loderunner (CBM64), or The Sentinel that when it got converted to PC, with music by John Carpenter himself, I was delighted to still feel the buzz of playing that game. Yet is it not time to add 20 years of games evolution and max out games that can be taken to the next stage? Even as we eagerly await the remake of System Shock (and hopefully System shock 2), we need to see that the older systems do have gems that still await their turn in getting a polishing and technological upgrades. I believe that Seven Cities of Gold (Amiga) could have all kinds of educational insights, not unlike the original SimCity did. The same could be said for Richard Garriott and a trilogy of his achievements (Ultima 3, 4 and 5), Ultima (6) and Ultima 7+7b in the third part. The power of one island with all games over time, a place 9 times the size of Skyrim with 6 main stories and close to a hundred side stories, it could optionally equal AC Odyssey in time to complete. We are already seeing an upcoming version of the Bards Tale, so the idea is not that novel, yet I see that the main players are still not looking into that direction, which is a shame. When a reviewer from PC Gamers gives you: “Three hours into the beta of The Bard’s Tale 4, I realized how late I’d stayed up puzzling my way through the labyrinth beneath a wizard’s castle“, you should be able to consider that these remasters and remakes are a clear golden path to good gaming and we all want good gaming. I personally believe that whilst we admire all the things Bethesda has done, I believe that it was The Witcher 3 that truly gave the RPG bar a nudge into a much higher direction and those who played it want a lot more than we had in the past. I believe that this is driving the players (and perhaps their desire to get Cyberpunk 2077 as soon as possible). I loved every moment of Bethesda RPG gaming and still do (after playing those games for well over 5000 hours), yet it missed a part (unintentionally), even as Bethesda was all about you shaping your character and the world around you, Project Red gave us Geralt of Rivia to play and the person that he is a pure blend of light and dark that we found overwhelmingly addictive. Project Red got the jackpot with that character and pretty much all the gamers want more of him, or perhaps better stated a taste of someone else like him.

So how can we evolve gaming? I do not believe it is better hardware; it never was about the hardware. When you consider the GameCube, it had 24MB RAM, 16MB of DRAM a 1.5GB RAM optical disc (30% of a DVD) and even today finding something that equals Metroid Prime (one and two) is pretty impossible. It is about the quality game and we need a new generation of game developers to open that gaming superhighway, and this is where the PS mini can open doors. You see Creativity is within a person, you can polish it, you can teach that person skills to tap into that creativity, yet when that person cannot tap into creativity, the best thing we can hope for is a new version of a spreadsheet program.

Limitations drives creativity, but it needs to be within that person. Here again we need to go to Ubisoft, because the game ‘With Honor‘ shows that Jason Vandenberghe has creativity and loads of it. It was not my game because I prefer to play alone, I am not a multiplayer gamer, and With Honor was all about multiplayer, which is fair enough. It might not have been the game for me, but I was pretty amazed with the game. We can Monday morning quarterback that game all we like, yet in the end it was a well-made game. Here too I believe that the 80% score was underrated (by close to 12%), and that is whilst I am no fan of multiplayer games.

I believe that Ubisoft is sitting on a hundred million dollars of underestimated or neglected potential and even as we accept that making games costs a lot of money, sitting on a chest worthy of funding a dozen games, a chest that is collecting dust seems like such a waste. Consider that Far Cry 5 81% could have easily added 10%, how much sales was lost because of that? In this I add parts of a list called ‘14 Ubisoft Video Games – Ranked From Worst to Best‘ and see what could have been done better.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity. There is no avoiding that title, the QA, the testing and the AI bugs were a joke. This game should not have been released before proper testing would have been done, but we have been here a few dozen times, so let’s move on.

Zombi (PS4 Edition). A game that was actually better on the WiiU, can we get any clearer, a decent idea was not properly set forward making it a joke. This went beyond testing, I can only speculate that it was never properly programmed and the original had loads of potential, for the limitations of the WiiU, the makers actually got a whole lot further, even as the random spawning had a few knockbacks of their own the end result on the PS4 was pretty much completely unacceptable.

Watch Dogs. I had this as a day one order (with the PS4 launch), so I was miffed. It went further in the game with programmed settings and a few other quirks (a lot of them) the game fell short in many ways (that is even beside the delay that outstretched any pregnancy), yet the concept was pretty good, I made the AC1 comparison that as an original it had potential and just like AC2, the game would make or break. Watchdogs two was weird in some way, but it was so much better, the second game made the franchise, so that was good. The first game had a good story, we all could relate to it, yet some parts were too awkward and it never got fixed or improved.

The Division. Again a multiplayer game, which was not my thing, yet the story line, was immersive and people around me really went for the game. So as we passed a few quirks and bugs (blocking the door being the most visible one), we see a game that in its first premiere has loads of potential, potential brought to light, yet these flaws were not deadly and that too is important to recognise. the two parts that Forbes gives us is “As excited as I am that The Division has matchmaking for every single activity, for daily missions, it’s a complete and utter disaster“, as well as “I mean it is literally bugged to all hell where you are lucky if you can even start a game, much less finish one”. They are both indicatory of larger failings and beta playtesting to a much larger extent might have shown the weakness, yet the biggest issue in these games will be hackers and cheaters. I do not mind that they are around, but when I get fleeced for everything I have, it becomes annoying really fast. Still it is a franchise with optional forward momentum, that too much be recognised.

Far Cry 3. We need to look at this, as it is quintessential the best Far Cry ever, the main adversary Vaas Montenegro (brilliantly voiced by Michael Mando) is amazing, the graphics are good, the stealth is stellar and the challenges are equally from out of this world. Chasing all these objects are well overboard (not in a good way) and the stage of cell towers and outposts are pretty amazing. the ballistics are a problem as I have never seen any tiger walk away from a .50 headshot let alone 2, but if that is as bad as it gets we have a winner here and that is exactly what it was, a winner. From this it was downhill, 4, Primal and 5 are nowhere the third puppy (neither were one and two for that matter) and even as 5 is a step forward in many directions, the game in the end was not a better end product. This ended as Vice gave us: “Far Cry 5 is a game that takes excess as ethos, yet, in pursuing that goal of more-more-more, stretches itself so thin as to offer up nothing at all” and they are right.

Assassin’s Creed II. The game that should be regarded as the franchise starter of the AC range is brilliant, even as there are a few issues; the game was so far forward from AC1 that we eagerly forgot about the flaws we saw. The game in every respect shows that it is the fortune maker for Yves Guillemot and his two baby brothers (Michael and Gerard). Even as AC Brotherhood was more of the same, it was still forward momentum in a few ways. These two games were the start of an addiction but also the end of the original push forward, in the end what came after was more of the same with too little forward momentum, It actually reflects TombRaider, which after the second one was trying to be too clever and ‘deceptive’ with twists, yet we never got something really new, just more and that would not change until the definitive version was released.

In the end we could also look at Splinter Cell and how that went not forward, but more and if you love stealth, you will love more, yet in blacklist the ball was dropped by too far and that is what hampered Ubisoft. This is seen when you consider that the ratings went from 94%, to 89%, to 85% and 84%. I would have thought that after the second rating alarms would have been raised, they might have been, but they did not work. It is this path that needs to be reflective in all this, because if we consider Watchdogs 3, Whatever AC comes next, the Division 2, Far Cry 6 and Hopefully another Splinter Cell, Ubisoft needs to consider on how to make the games actually better, not merely bigger, or give us more of the same. the story will be everything, yet the playability with have a massive weight on the vision handed to the players that is where a few dozen million Euros are hidden and Ubisoft might lose out on that; the amount of missed money represents well over 50 of my life time earnings, so I think that some of the people behind the players need to take a serious look on how to secure said optionally lost funds. I see it in another direction, if my mind can construct a virtual foundation of (an imaginative) Elder Scrolls VII within eight hours, how many opportunities did some designers lose by not truly investigate the projects they were working on? I might have been in games since 1984, but I know I am not the best, I have met the best (Peter Molyneux, Richard Garriott and Sid Meier) and I know they surpass me by a lot, yet I have the drop on some developers today and that saddens me. They should be running loops around me without breaking a sweat.

The gaming world is ready for new unique games and new franchises, even as some of the older games might point the way, we see that finding a new game, and actual new original game is a hard thing to do, it can only be done by a dreamer, a dreamer that others will listen too, an artist to give view to the dream, a programmer to set the stage and a writer to translate the dreams into stories, even as the writer and the dreamer are likely the same person, the place where the two acts are done is likely to be different and until that part is recognised, the making of any new 90%+ franchise will remain out of reach for all developers like Ubisoft. If you doubt that part, merely look at the history of a game called Lemmings. I tested it initially and I remember on how Psygnosis got to the game in the first place, so when you think that all good games are a calculated results of proper investigation, think again. A game released in 1991, whilst we still see today: “The best Amiga game of all time (2011)“, you better believe that artsy has everything to do with it. This is quite literally the shit that gamers live for, how else can you explain the desire after decades for a game like System Shock (or the remake of FFVII for that matter)?

If there is one part that must be told, than it would be the part that I never saw coming. For that we need to look at the Xbox360. I never knew the game, so I got caught off guard. I initially did not buy it as I was playing Bioshock 2 and awaiting both Fable 3 and New Vegas. So when I heard the score, I got curious. One gave it 90% the other 83%, this piqued my curiosity and it was not disappointed. They say that 97% liked this game and that should have been the rating. Mikael Kasurinen, Sam Lake, Mikko Rautalahti and Petri Järvilehto surpassed themselves and many game designers with Alan Wake. The game was everything we hope for and more, the setting of a mere danger by being in the dark was a direct original approach to our primal fear (even in games) and Alan Wake did use that to the max. It was an amazing stage of open world and level challenge all into one and your life does depend on the power of a battery here, so there was that to get worried about. Alan Wake also shown that the creative dreamer will always have the advantage over the stage of calculated new versions of a franchise. Even as Alan Wake might have that fear to deal with, the original was more challenging than many other developers were able to give us and Microsoft Studios actually created an instant classic on launch day, something not many game developers have ever achieved.

I never saw it coming, so I do not hold all the wisdoms, I will not even make such a claim even as the article might imply it. The fact that a game like Alan Wake could surprise me to such a degree is also the reason why I am still a gamer, just like a junkie hoping for its next fix of amazement. The nice thing here is that it is a lot cheaper than either Heroin or Cocaine, so there is that benefit for any gamer too.

We seem to chase the old to get a new version because of that feeling of amazement, which is good in one way (especially the owners of the IP), yet the lack of true new IP is also a worry for the gamers and getting the right developers and creating the right programmers is not about giving them all the resources, but to teach them how to overcome shortcomings in current architecture. It is not the programmes that maximises a system we need, it is the one who gets it done on a 75% system that is the one we need to get. Merely because that game will be lean, it will be mean and it will still transgress the borders that a seasoned programmer did not consider. to be able not to merely to make a stronger game, but to set a proper stage where replaying that game is just as rewarding as playing it the first time, that is the classic of tomorrow going home with a 95%+ rating and taking home the coffers of gold. This is what all the game developers need and some are in the process of getting there; it would be a shame if players like Ubisoft and EA games miss out because they were not willing, or able to go that distance.

And as a gamer as well as a dreamer, consider the game when you add AI in the mix, not the AI of the enemy, but the AI that you as the gamer get to shape. In this we need to consider an oldie like Sundog, Frozen Legacy by FTL Games (the maker of the legendary Dungeon Master and Oids). Now consider that the game starts with only you, but as you shape the AI, you can hand your navigation skills to an android and grow your crew. The game will only be as good as you are. As you grow the positions on the ship upgrade the ship and get a larger one. You will need to get more knowledge and only when you have one placement over a certain percentage an android can take over. You have to be the navigator, helmsman, the tactician and the engineer. You need to master one role after another, downloading your skill enhancements into the android and growing a crew, not programmed intelligence, but your game interactions that are transferred to the android. What game thought of that? Actually Epyx had a game called Chip Bits, yet I don’t think it ever made the light of day.

If such an addition is added to a game like Elite Dangerous when you upgrade from a 31 meter Eagle fighter to an 88 meter Python (see Image), how many hundreds of hours of gameplay would that get you? Elite Dangerous now has 30 playable ships and you have the option of ‘merely’ flying the ship, yet what extra will you get when you are adding functions and you have to repair the ship under combat conditions? A side that Sundog had to the minimum degree and with 1MB RAM the Atari ST did not get far, yet it gave us more than some games currently do, is that not weird either?

There have been so many games between 1984 (CBM-64) and 2005 (Xbox360), a timeline filled with gems, many of these gems could be the foundation of jewelry that is multifaceted, colourful and challenging in so many ways. Many of these are not merely remasters; they could be the foundation of new and optionally uniquely new IP.

In this, the CEO of Ubisoft might have stated it the best when he said: “There will be one more console generation and then after that, we will be streaming, all of us“, that might be true, so getting to new IP now makes perfect sense, in many ways. to do that in the streaming age is a dangerous move for a few reasons, mainly because the streaming power will not be with the gaming side of things, it will be with the telecom providers and there have been more than just a few indicators that this will start in the most rocky of ways, especially outside of metropolitan areas. I have had this issue a few times to a smaller degree, yet as we consider that this is 2 weeks old “Optus say it is congestion but can’t explain how you can get 100 mbs and then the next minute you have a dropout. They appear to be doing nothing as they can’t say how long it will take to fix or what they are doing to address the issue. Have been a customer for over 25 years but the last 6 months the service has been substandard“, I believe that this goes (a lot) further than just one provider, congestion is increasing all over the global field and until some telecom providers (multiple providers) get their house in order and up their game, streaming games will become more and more hazardous over time, it will take years to get this environment a lot better and 5G is not making it any easier. So the next generation of consoles is the best time to maximise IP, because the IP after that will end up not having as much value as the blame game between telecom providers and game developers are likely to flare and they will flare up all over the planet (or is that this planet).

It goes beyond mere gaming. You see The Network Congestion 2030 project, launched in 2009 (for airports), was designed as a two phased approach towards solving congestion issues, yet when we see that approach in the Netherlands we see “Unlike the Telecommunications Act, the Regulation furthermore allows Internet Service Providers to take reasonable traffic management measures, e.g. to avoid imminent network congestion. Such measures must be transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate, and may not be based on commercial considerations. The Telecommunications Acts allows Internet Service Providers to intervene in the Internet data flows only if a data accumulation must be controlled. A frequent criticism of the Regulation is that it is difficult to monitor traffic management measures aimed at avoiding imminent congestion, which may give rise to abuse. An example in the Netherlands related to network congestion is the ACM’s decision of 2013 to put an end to its investigation of the restriction of free Internet in trains by T-Mobile. ACM concluded that the blocking of certain internet services by T-Mobile was permissible to prevent “traffic jams” on the network“, with the mention of ‘may not be based on commercial considerations‘ we see the optional impact on gamers, because these systems have not been tested with millions of gamers streaming, in European terms even tens of millions. Netflix had a dramatic growth (after this entire issue started) and as gamers do the same added to that same construction devoid of much larger expansions the impact will be there and it will be there very visible; throttling streams will make them collapse and that is where we see that down the track the impact on gamers will be much larger and they are for now, not even considered.

So as the old becomes new, we see new challenges and other obstacles that are now not in the hands of non-gamers, but they will be the moment that streaming congestion becomes the daily reality of every gamer.

So the need of being able to be creative and set the stage for a 75% resource solution would at that point become crystal clear at the moment the situation emerges. Merely a new iteration of complications to solve in addition of all the other corrections needed. At that point to have a much better QA will be essential for the IP holder not to go bust almost overnight. You merely have to consider the Division launch day crash and the idea that this could happen once a month at the very least in that new setting. It will be something that is not the fault of Ubisoft, not the fault of the designers, it will merely be the impact of congestion and the telecom provider will mention that they are sorry, but it is out of their hands and they cannot explain to you why it happened.

Oh and this issue is as stated a global one, in the end you cannot blame the game makers when the issue is that your gaming evening depends on something like the Comcast outage map. When you see: “Comcast/Xfinity is reporting a widespread outage in the south suburbs” and you miss out on the season challenges of whichever game you are playing because of: “An aerial pole in Harvey was reportedly struck, damaging 288 cables, according to Comcast officials. The outage is expected to last until approximately 3:30 pm” and you can forget about gaming that day, that is when you get the first moment of irritation with streaming. In single play you can still get your gaming on, games like Elite Dangerous fall away that day and starting Fortnite becomes a foregone illusion. When all games become a streaming experience you might in the end only end up having Minecraft in offline mode available, a great game, yet when it is the only game it is more likely than not the evening you never banked on, or hoped for.

 

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Taxation solved the old way

Yes, that is a nice weird way is it not? It all started yesterday when I was confronted in the Guardian with: ‘‘McMafia’ law: woman who spent £16m at Harrods is jailed banker’s wife‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/10/wife-of-mcmafia-banker-with-16m-harrods-spending-habit-named). The article by itself was not the issue; it woke up a spark in me. Now, I have nothing against wealth, I do not have any and that is fine (for the most mind you). Yet we all have ‘duties’ that we should be bound to and that is fine for the most as well. So as we understand that the UK is close to two thousand billion in debt, does it not seem fair that we all pay our share? From the HRMC point of view, especially those who should be regarded (to its wielding commander Jon Thompson, formerly Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence) as an HRMC positive and subjects of interest. So as such, it was interesting to read that Zamira Hajiyeva, wife of Azerbaijani banker jailed for defrauding his state-owned bank out of as much as £2.2bn gets to live her life with a monthly spending spree of well over £100,000 a month at Harrods alone. So as we are introduced to: “The court of appeal has lifted a veil of secrecy to allow the publication of details of the UK’s first unexplained wealth order (UWO), in which the National Crime Agency alleges that stolen funds were used to buy a £11.5m, five-bedroom property in Knightsbridge, 100 yards from the doors of Harrods“. How is this even possible? And when you consider “The NCA also claims suspect cash funded the £10.5m purchase of Mill Ride golf and country club in Ascot via a company based in Guernsey. The Knightsbridge home was allegedly bought via a firm in the British Virgin Islands, which the NCA alleges is controlled by Hajiyeva“, which for me implies that she will optionally be my neighbour (or nearby neighbour) in the future (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). So when we are casually told that “Hajiyeva’s lawyers had convinced a judge to impose reporting restrictions that prevented the woman, her husband, his bank or their nationality from being reported“, I merely contemplate on how the HRMC has been wasting the time of too many people. When we see that a court ruling gives us: “Hajiyeva could only be referred to as “Mrs A”“. How does any of that make sense? So after well over ten years we see: “The court also heard that Hajiyeva had access to a $42m Gulfstream G550 jet and had a wine cellar stocked with some of the world’s most expensive bottles. Mr Justice Supperstone has ordered that Hajiyeva must comply with the UWO and explain how she amassed the money used to fund the property purchases. If she is unable to prove the legitimate source of the funds, the properties could be seized“. You would think that I care, but I do not, because it all dwarves against ‘Facebook’s UK tax bill rises to £15.8m – but it is still just 1% of sales‘, which implies that the HRMC did more damage to the UK treasury in one year then the labour party could have achieved in a decade of ambitious overspending. OK, that was an exaggeration, but the message is clear. This is an amazing amount of wrong issues regarding corporate taxation and it is time that it is addressed. The mere fact that certain political players have been paying a fast and loose game whilst we all facilitate to keep the treasury coffers in deep debt is just too large an issue. So when we see: “Margaret Hodge, a Labour MP and former chairman of the public accounts committee, said it was “absolutely outrageous that Facebook’s UK tax bill is 0.62% of their revenue here; on an income of £1.2bn they really should be paying much more than £7.4m”“, we can agree that Margaret Hodge is not whistling Dixie, yet her own party did their share of damage between 1997 and 2010, if they had ACTUALLY stepped up to the task, this situation might not have as dire as it seemingly is at present. So both isles are in the wrong here and have been so since close to 1995. When I see: “The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has pledged to push ahead with a new “digital services tax” to force the US firms to pay more tax. He said the UK would introduce its own levy if other countries fail to follow through with a globally coordinated tax plan” I would optionally refer to him as a pussy and a whimp. You see, this could have been solved by taxing at the moment of sales, in the country of the purchasing customer from the get go. Sales tax on anything sold, online through ITunes, Google Play, Facebook and all parts. It would have been so simple, but we see: ‘the UK would introduce its own levy if other countries fail to follow through with a globally coordinated tax plan‘ sounds nice, but that takes years and by the time it is implemented there is a new administration and we see delays and other objections; politicians (mostly) with the spine of a paperback, not one solid spine among them. It has gone on for way too long.

So how does one compare to the other?

Consider: “Hajiyeva is the wife of Jahangir Hajiyev, 57, the former chairman of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan. In 2016 he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for defrauding the bank out of up to 5bn manat (£2.2bn)“, so someone walks into the UK, her husband in jail for allegedly stealing over £2,000,000,000, his wife is  spending well over £100,000 a month for over a decade in one shop alone and no one acts? You tell me! Who has been on social services in the UK and got a sly look for spending an additional £200 on a birthday? And it gets better! That we get from Out-Law (at https://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2018/october/new-uk-offshore-tax-evasion-and-avoidance-measures-/). Here we are ‘treated’ to: “longer time limits for assessment are being introduced for those who do not voluntarily settle past non-compliance. Criminal prosecutions will also be easier. A register of people with significant control over non-UK companies owning UK real estate is to be introduced in 2021. It will also become mandatory to disclose cross border tax planning“, so the wealthy and the creative with access to accountant and tax lawyers will get three years to plan additional barricades and avoidance discussions, as well as contemplate life outside of the UK.

So how long until we get the news that delays and bad investment timing rears its ugly head from some MP who is required to keep the wealthy just where they are? After all how can we ever afford: “£65 per person including a glass of Harrods Premier Cru Brut, NV Champagne“, well the answer is simple merely because a rough 78.4% of the British tax paying audience will never really be able comfortably be able to afford that unless they give in on essential needs, optionally for months.

In all this there is a wave of not mere injustice, it is seemingly a wave of facilitation towards the overly wealthy, criminal or not. The fact that we are seemingly lulled to sleep by too many is an additional worry. So even as we thought that the police was on top of things with the August article of the Daily Mail (not the greatest source, mind you) giving us: ‘Roll up, roll up for the criminal auction! More than £2.4million worth of crooks’ ill-gotten gains to go under the hammer including a house, diamonds, emeralds, a luxury‘ and we see: “Luxury ill-gotten goods with an estimated value of £2.4 million that were once owned by criminals are set to go under the hammer this month. The expensive items that were seized by police include Rolex watches, gold jewellery, Cartier and Hermes belts and a diamond worth £22,000“, yet this optionally alleged spender of ill-gotten gains (Zamira Hajiyeva) got to spend 15 times the confiscated auctioned amount all by herself, which includes the five-bedroom property in Knightsbridge, and a lot more that is not part of the amount I mentioned here. So, even as we are introduced to a banker who has the wealth levels of a Rothschild, we are seemingly in the dark how this is achieved. You see, I do not care about her or her husband and how they got to do it, I truly do not. The fact that for well over a decade this level of facilitation is possible in the UK and Europe is just insane. And the issue is not that there is an optional solution from 2021 onwards. Italy did something ‘innovative’ years ago. There we see: “For at least a decade, the European Parliament has approved documents that specifically ask to extend the offence of mafia association to all member states – a law that is known as 416 bis in the Italian penal code. The parliament also calls to allow unexplained assets to be confiscated, even without a criminal conviction, which is another cutting-edge “innovation” of Italian legislation to combat organised crime. But these documents, despite being approved by the parliament, have all remained dead in the water due to the opposition of several member states, and despite constant requests from Europol and Eurojust – the EU’s police and judicial cooperation agencies.” Let’s call this: ‘all shout and no progress, welcome to the EU‘, or as we saw it in the US in the 70’s with their mafia cowboy senate events, all air and no prosecution. That is what we face and before we consider going after Zamira Hajiyeva, consider that politicians are enabling Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google to get away with hundreds times more then we could ever collect from the Hajiyeva family. Are you still wondering why government treasury coffers are so empty? So as we were treated in March to ‘The European Union will propose a 3% tax on digital revenue this week‘, the fact that it is below 10% should be hanging offense, a hanging offense for the majority of ALL EU politicians mind you. It is time to get serious, but we are shouting against a group of people who need that FAANG group for juicy connections down the road, so I do not believe that something actually will be achieved before 2030, and as the head of Facebook northern Europe, Steve Hatch gives us: ““By the end of 2018 we will employ 2,300 people in the UK and we are doubling our office space in London’s King’s Cross, with capacity for more than 6,000 workstations by 2022. “We have also changed the way we report tax so that revenue from customers supported by our UK teams is recorded in the UK and any taxable profit is subject to UK corporation tax.”“, we are already seemingly informed of an optional one year delay regarding cross border tax planning for Facebook. Funny how that would work out, is it not?

so when you read another headline like: ‘Fury as Starbucks pays just £4.5m tax on £162m profits‘, you might feel that there is a need for fury, also realise that there will be no results, not any day soon and that should anger you a lot more and the Labour side is just as guilty as the Conservatives are, I would claim that Labour is more guilty because at the dawn of the digital age they had the option to set up a fence from the very beginning and they decided not to do that, or claim to do and fail to do, whatever seems more correct to you.

So as you were contemplating how naughty some bankers are, consider how weak politicians have been for the longest times as billions that should have been collected got facilitated for and pushed to the board of directors of corporations in America (read: their ‘fat cat’ bonus).

In the end, we could use statistics and get creative, when we consider that between 1620 and 1725, women without brothers or sons to share their inheritance comprised 89 percent of the women executed for witchcraft in New England. When you consider that, do you still think that those witch trials in Salem were stupid and narrow minded? Perhaps they were in the end really creative in legislatively through allowed legal means, acquiring large shares of wealth, who was going to stop them? Perhaps Facebook with a: ‘share if you care’ option?

Nowadays we see that ‘criminal’ has become for the most a person who got convicted, because they did not have the right tax lawyer & barrister in his/her arsenal, how the times have changed. In this we merely have to hold a candle to the thoughts of Oscar Wilde who stated: “Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike“. So as our acceptance of wealth and money takes over, morality becomes a mere obstruction towards further gains.

I should have applied to Mossack Fonseca with my Law degree when I had the chance.

 

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The future arrived Yesterday

I was at an interesting gig yesterday. I was introduced by a friend to several new options to engage with an audience, and options to interact in engagement, not mere presenting, we got to see true engagement. Several solutions that by them self are impressive enough, but combine the abilities we see options for engagement that will knock the socks off from players like Marvel and Nintendo, options that large players like Microsoft set aside for too long, options missed by some players as they are pushing for similar results again and again. Yet like the failures of Ubisoft in the past, as I stated it ‘a game that was designed to not be a failure will in equal measure never become a true winner‘, Ubisoft learned that the hard way with the their Assassins Creed franchise and now, we see opportunities that EA Games could get with FIFA19 and micro transactions, not just that, the act of engagement would allow for plenty of additional visibility towards groups that are currently not considering certain products. Engagement has always been the primary key in that and I saw a truckload of that, much of it in a new wardrobe that fits basically everyone.

So even as some are given to be a display towards retail, they have the ability to be much more, this is a marketing dream and all available for so many participants before this year’s Christmas shopping spree sets in. Options that are more than just engagement, they are optional content distributors, unlockable gems that people in certain areas love, a simple image that can immediately translate with you in the foreground and your destination in the background, combined send as a postcard to your mobile on the spot.

It is a simple setting, where an RFID scanner that could instantly reveal what the Nintendo Amiibo offers to the customer in store, not relying on dodgy third party lists, one Nintendo list and places like EB Games could in store reveal what the person is buying. The applications are here and not in the stores, not used by players that could gain the brand additional momentum, so what gives?

Well, for the most retail and larger places are seeing these devices and solutions as a cost, which they are (to some degree), but they in equal measure forget the opportunity that they bring. If we consider Market Watch (which I question), we see the setting that the games market, in particularly the Augmented reality Gaming Market, we see a forecast where we are treated to According to Infoholic Research, the “AR Gaming Market” is expected to reach $284.93 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 152.7% during the forecast period 2017-2023“, I still think that this is ludicrous, I have zero percent faith in that, or to state this that I am predicting that this is 100% wrong. Gaming is a 135 billion dollar market globally, if we get “expected to reach $75 billion by 2023“, then this would be an awesome result for AR gaming. I am certain that Infoholic Research did not just get their wires crossed; I feel that they are buttering someone’s bread on both sides. In both normal gaming and gambling, we see that there is a trend on the rise and some of the systems shown yesterday can grab in on these potential markets in several ways, it is up to the creative marketing mind in the larger places to use this not merely for branding, but also for creating awareness and grow interest through engagement.

Consider that this goes further than mere advertising and branding, consider the information kiosks, you might wonder what a mere information kiosk could add. The new generation can also scan you or what you are holding. A logo, a brochure, or merely a QR code. These parts can immediately be converted to a shop with location, a digital travel brochure that can be interacted with on the screen or merely a QR code that your mobile device can scan, giving you the app, the additional information or a mere YouTube video to watch. All options actively available now and when you place such solutions in a place like Neom (for those not in the know) “Neom is a planned 26’500 sq. km transnational city and economic zone to be constructed in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia close to the border region of Saudi Arabia and Egypt“, and Saudi Arabia has set aside 500 billion for the creation of that city. The option of being the first and more important, setting up the 5G hub allowing a primary spot for a 5G growth in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a place where Huawei is already roaring to set up shop, they have the lead there, and now consider that the push from the Saudi Arabia government is all about being ahead of the rest, the smartest of all smart cities and it will not take long before they realise that to get ahead of all the others you need to be willing and ready to have solutions for engagement there, primed, active and ready to grow. More important, three months ago, we were treated to “Chinese tech conglomerate Huawei is already committed to training 1,500 local engineers over the next two years“, so this is one place where Telstra got in way too late, as did the European players. The hub for a 120 million customer 5G population, when I mentioned this in the beginning of this year I was not kidding. Now we see that certain paths have started, we need to look at how you can get a smart city population to engage, because that is the trigger for growth. This directly relates to gaming as gaming is the big equaliser here, it has always been that, as early as the early 90’s. For 25 years I have seen how gaming and engagement lowered the threshold for those nervous about technology and yesterday I saw a whole range of engagement opportunities. Not merely interactions and RFID application in other ways to show interaction, but a setting where it pushes non-personalised data to a tenfold and that data can push the curiosity towards engagement for everyone.

When he European commission gave us the ‘What 5G is about‘ most looked at it and thought ‘Nice!’ what they missed is that is goes beyond mere RFID and Domotics. The direct interactions of Smart Wearables, Smart Mobility, Smart Grids and Smart Parking show that when the car is low on fuel (or an almost empty battery is you have a Tesla), the SATNAV will reveal the closes fuel point, or warn you if you cannot make it to the homestead, the smart wearable can link directly to health care, the nearest pharmacy, the doctor allowing for a prescription on the spot, the phone that now shows a map and receives the information YOU wanted to engage with from a kiosk that is now also a data hub and transfer point of information, all on the fly without YOU having to type anything, all done intuitively on the spot. In all this, you remain in charge of your data and (except for the healthcare part) all null and void of actual personal data.

 

Let’s take this to a next level, some have seen something like this, it looks like an old amplifier volume knob, but it is actually a Bluetooth speaker, place it on nearly any table and it becomes an amazing speaker, yet the next level is not merely a speaker, it is also perfectly placed to be a data hub. Now combine that with a sheet of Perspex as a display (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdDAG0uwg3s), when we combine the three, we get the information on the kiosk, transferred instantly to your ‘speaker’ that is also the data hub and displays the information on that sheet display, wearable or other option. Maps, data, and brochures, all instantly available; Google already owns that solution, a solution that is merely awaiting implementation. A setting driven by what I would call ‘dumb’ smart devices. All the fear of personal data gone and total interactivity remains, engagement and the ultimate lure that draws consumers into your business; that is what engagement allows for, no other way will get that great result because that is the advertisement of tomorrow, not the data they hold, but the curiosity that they bring, all linked to the need for engagement. All those people, millions, who would walk in because your window had something interesting to show, yet now it is not your window, your window is also in every data kiosk, every advertiser point and every screen.
It is no longer about the mobile, people are less trusting with their data, but a smart (dumb) device, their watch, their Pendent or ring, now a data hub and consider that the 15 mm for a micro SD fits into rings, pendants and watches, all optional long term data hubs on the go, without any long interaction and we can get 32 GB for a mere $5. Picking up the ideas and interacting from place to place, our shopping needs and information on the fly when YOU want it; the data kiosks merely one of many places to interact with the addressed needs everywhere.

All settings not yet available in such an advanced state and all options out in the field for those willing to be the enterprising in the new places where they are willing to spend $500 billion in total, to make a next gen tech hub a reality. Or as Jeremy Irons stated in Margin Call: “There are three ways to make a living in this business. Be first, be smarter, or cheat“, he said it and I agree, it is always best to be first and whilst some are still trying to market what they are trying to set as 5G, we see that Huawei who are setting the stage on what 5G could be, Huawei s in the implementation stage of preparing the engineers of setting it all up in a live environment. So whilst America is still in anti-China mode, we see “Now, the whole industry is taking the final sprint towards 5G commercialization. The completion of SA specifications which complements the NSA specifications, not only gives 5G NR the ability of independent deployment, but also brings a brand new end-to-end network architecture, making 5G a facilitator and an accelerator during the intelligent information and communications technology improvement process of enterprise customers and vertical industries” and Huawei has already started in Saudi Arabia, so my other prediction is coming to pass as well, By Q1 2019, Saudi Arabia will become a market leader in 5G and will connect with Europe soon thereafter. In all this Australia things will go from bad to worse, especially as we cannot tell whether we need to consider if people like John Watters, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Strategy Officer of cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc is bedding Telstra or the USA, the fact that no one has been able to produce any clear evidence in Huawei’s ‘dependency’ on the Chinese government and the overly fearful US Tech as well as Telstra in all this is more than what I consider to be merely a sham, they are currently quite the opposite of embracing engagement and new tech, it will end the end make them look like the fools they should have been trademarked as in 2017.

So as we might remember Telstra at IT News with “Telstra said in a slide deck that “full commercial deployment of 5G in capital cities, major regional centres and other high demand areas” would occur in financial year 2020“, we can now see that they will be almost a year behind Huawei. Al this angers me, merely because it stops advancement and innovation, which makes Saudi Arabia the one remaining golden opportunity for true 5G innovation and yesterday’s presentations showed me how much many more avenues can be approached, because some of the innovations are out here today, in some cases, merely linking the solutions remain. It is important that we consider the Huawei part a little longer, it is important because 5G is so crucial to all this. When we see the article (at https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/59w49b/huawei-surveillance-no-evidence), we see that the title gives us: ‘There’s No Public Evidence Huawei Spies on Americans‘, in addition we see “Huawei’s efforts to make inroads in the U.S. quickly resulted in numerous allegations over the company’s alleged connections to Chinese intelligence. Despite breathless hysteria, numerous investigations (one 18 months in length) found absolutely no evidence of such a threat.“, as well as “a follow up report by Reuters indicates that there has been pressure applied on U.S. telcos to avoid doing business with Huawei, with companies like Verizon and AT&T being told they risk losing their lucrative government business contracts if they strike deals with the massive Chinese multinational“, when we complete it with ““We knew certain parts of government really wanted (evidence of active spying),” one person familiar with the probe told Reuters at the time. “We would have found it if it were there”“, now we see the parts missing, in all this the Australian government needs to be optionally seen as a dog collar without a leash around the neck of a rabid dog named USA. This all smells like AT&T and Telstra in desperate need to not get drowned by an actually innovative technological opponent, who did just that, they became truly innovative. We need Huawei in all this more then most can comprehend.

To get this a little better, we need to look at ‘Media Engagement and Advertising Effectiveness‘ by Bobby J Calder and Edward C Malthouse. Here we see “Traditionally, marketers have thought about advertising as a process of translating a brand, expressed as a benefit, a promise to the consumer, a value proposition, or a positioning in the consumer’s mind into a message that is delivered to the consumer through some medium. This advertising will be effective to the extent that the consumer values the brand idea and the message does a good job creatively of communicating the idea“. Yet when we consider it more fully, we see: “It is engagement with a TV program that causes someone to want to watch it, to be attentive to it, to recommend it to a friend, or to be disappointed if it were no longer on the air“, through engagement, the TV Series Lucifer was not cancelled, it moved from Fox to Netflix, merely by the acts of engaging fans. Engagement can be that powerful and it goes beyond merely revitalising a TV series, it will be the bread and butter for most companies as growth is often seen as  linear with ‘advertising’ whilst we have to accept that exponential growth can only be achieved with an actual engaging audience. Because like in Facebook, that one engaging person is linked to dozens, if not hundreds of others, and their actions are more easily accepted by their close connections then the one advertisement is. In two stages this is seen that one engagement is optionally 900 hits in a low estimation, versus a mere advertisement that gets 5% out of 10,000 shows, so it took 10,000 attempts to get 500 people taking a second look, whilst one engagement event could be the start of 900 instant opportunities, so which option would you more likely turn to?

Yet, we must also be aware of the negative side in engagement. Calder and Malthouse give us that with: “Intrusion may produce a negative response from consumers because the advertising harms the experience of the media content. This in turn could lead to a negative reaction to the advertising, compromising its effectiveness. The consumer may feel that the ad has intruded on the experience with the content and accordingly may have a less positive reaction to the ad“, so in this the interactive kiosk becomes again not merely a vehicle, but THE vehicle in all this and Time is the one currency that is at the centre of it all, it is time that usually and largely triggers the intrusion emotion (waiting, or idle time tends to do that). With the smart ‘dumb’ devices, the automatism of storage whilst the interaction is merely a second, perhaps even two seconds. The element of intrusion decreases and engagement remains, or optionally even increases. It is achieved as the advertisement is not the focal point, but merely part of it and the experience is not impeached, as we get 125Mb in that one second, we get the brochure, the movie clip, the setting, the review and the applicability; all available to watch at our leisure and when we want to decide what to see and how to watch it. So from a $5 32GB Micro SD card, we can get more with a $100 200Gb card, and that is now, in 2-3 years we can get 5 times that storage for the same price. In this non-personalised interaction setting, we achieve to get heaps of analytical information whilst driving engagement. So in that we are confronted with all the latest trailers by merely passing a cinema. And we can just leisurely watch what we need and wipe the rest. It is a brand new day and those ahead in the game get to set that stage of new tech needs for an entire population, engagement is the key element to drive all that.

The future arrived yesterday, whatever will we get treated to tomorrow?

 

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Upping the game

Today started with a nice revelation, Microsoft has taken the sales offensive. Even as we were treated to ”Bethesda’s online action role-playing game “Fallout 76” won’t be available on Valve’s Steam platform during beta or when it launches on November“, the story changes when we look at the PC games in the Microsoft store we see: “Pre-order to get access to the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A.“, so it seems that Microsoft is setting the bar really high, in addition for that part the game is equally available on launch day for those who have the Microsoft Game Pass. The Game Pass is $11 a month solution (in Australia); you get no option to buy the pass for a year (as far as I could tell), which is a drag, and you better have the download options (not to mention the storage) before you commit to it, but there is no denying that it is a deal that is way too good to be true. Microsoft even offers a 14 day free trial, which implies that the games are only available to play as long as you are a member (this is speculation!), not unlike the PS Plus setting. The pass has XB1 and Xb360 backward compatible games and it is a HUGE list. It includes a list of the upcoming top games to be released this year makes the Game Pass an essential choice. The Pass at roughly $130 for a year) will include well over $600 of AAA+ top games, yet to be released in 2018. So apart from the download hassle the pass represents hundreds of dollars of saving in this year alone. I personally believe that they messed up some of the visibility and marketing, but that was their choice. The smaller issue is the backward thinking cap of the US, for people outside of the US (Australia for example) games (when bought outright) are roughly 28% more expensive (and that is after I corrected for the exchange rate). There are also ‘shadows’ here. I do not believe it to be, but there are. For example one source gave me “These eleven Xbox Game Pass games are “leaving soon”“, I cannot tell whether they will also be removed if you have added them to your library (so check this when you decide), the second shadow needs to be mentioned as the quote was: “Personally, paying for the Xbox Game Pass program and Xbox Live Gold is quite a monthly cost“, which is ABSOLUTELY BOGUS! The Xbox Live is a service subscription to play multiplayer, so if the Game Pass title has that, then yes, you will need Xbox Live as you always would have needed it. For the simple player part it is not needed, just as the setting is today. In addition ‘quite a monthly cost‘, is silly to say the least, even on a budget, the setting is that you have Xbox live $80 and Game Pass $130, gives us full and complete access to $12,000 worth of games for $210 a year, anyone debating whether that is expensive needs to get their heads examined. Now, there is no way that you will like all games that would be silly. Yet the setting now allows for you to try games at $0 that you would never have bought in the first place, a setting where you can grow the games dimension that you are in. I believe that to be a really great setting. The part not mentioned is of course the downloading time and subscription fees of the internet, even as those prices have been going down, or better stated giving you more download at the same price, it is a cost you need to consider, yet at the setting where you get access to $12,000 in games, which represents more than I have ever bought in a lifetime across the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One together is an astounding part you must remember. If only Microsoft had thought that hard drive issue through in 2012, things would be even better for them. I still see that as the one Achilles heel in all this, yet with the rumoured new Console (Project Scarlett) announced for 2020, we do know that Game Pass is a long term setting of gaming for Microsoft and whatever sets the console will be optimised for the billions that Game Pass will bring in. In all this we might ramble too early on the storage issue, but it is an issue Microsoft knowingly and willingly ignored and in all this ‘the most powerful console in the world‘ is impacted through it. In addition, I have had the longest issue with Microsoft marketing (for various reasons, so as Microsoft states in Windows Central: “Xbox Scarlett hardware will ‘set the benchmark’“, I tend to get nervous, you see, they have no idea (well some idea) on how gaming evolves, yet in the end, we will not know what will be available by 2022, so at that point any console will be merely on par, 14 months after it is bought. I moved to console gaming as the update for a PC in 2002 went overboard. Processor and graphic card showed that you would need $2500-$3000 to be up to date for high end gaming and that got you roughly 24 months at best. So gaming with the additional $200 a month, as well as updating drivers, patching and whatever else needed made me move more and more towards consoles and the Xbox 360 delivered perfectly for almost 8 years (at $700), so the cost of living was set to the games bought not to the additional cost of upgrading the hardware to play games. An awesome setting, Yes there was the one off for the hard drive (from 20 to 120 gigabyte, at $119 at that time), but it was well spend. In the end I bought 2 Xbox 360’s, the second one was essential as I got another red rings of death 75 hours before the release of Fallout New Vegas, so I went: “Eff That!” and got the one with the 250 GB drive and it still works, so apart from a high blood pressure event once, the Xbox 360 was a golden choice for any gamer. I also had the PS3, which had the option to upgrade the drive as the PS4 had, so in all this the entire hard drive issue was out there for 12 years, ignoring that part (as well as always online bullying) angers me, because there was never any need, for none of it.

Why does it matter?

It is a level of orchestration, pushing people into a direction before they are ready (and perhaps they never will be). In this Cambridge Analytica is a larger hurdle then anyone imagined and the gamers are sketchy under the most stable conditions. Hackers, phishers, cheaters and trolls are always around the corner and it is best seen when you investigate ‘League of Legends’, I never played the game, but the amount of messages giving way that the victims of bullying and trolls are worse off than the perpetrators is why there should be an online ‘off’ switch. It is essential because the resources needed are allegedly not used correctly (debatable if that would have been possible), and the systems do not have the settings to protect players. The option to just play offline for a while is perhaps the only pressure valve that works (not on all games though), so when we look at MailGuard and we get it in regards to Office 365 (just one day old): “The cunning thing about this phishing scam is that once the victim has entered their username and password, the fake login page redirects them to a genuine Microsoft website, so they think that nothing is amiss. Meanwhile, the criminals have collected their login credentials and are able to steal their online identity for all kinds of nefarious purposes, like fraud, invoice falsification and malware spamming“, Microsoft needs to realise that they have a larger issue and they cannot fix it (basically no one can). Well it is possible, some of the kids involved have been identified, and by shooting them in the back of the head and leaving a message with the parents to start taking notice of what their kids are doing you get change, although some might find it a bit extreme (an issue that is probably a setting for the eyes of the beholder).

Why the extreme example?

The issue is not merely being online, the issue is that too much is online and even if we wanted to apply Common Cyber Sense all the time, there will be a hiatus and when it comes, it will be at the wrong moment in the wrong place. At present the actual success rate on finding and convicting cyber criminals is less than 2%, it is even less when we realise that not everything gets reported. It is in that atmosphere that game streaming is about to be set to a much larger extent. A setting that is based on mere authentication and not on non-repudiation (uncertain how achievable that is at present). You show me a company that guarantees you 100% safety and I will introduce you to someone who is lying to you. As the gaming industry is a $100 billion plus market, the issue was forever that gaming was low impact (for the most), people had more often than not a physical copy, there were more and more parts that one had to overcome, so for cyber criminals it was not an interesting market. Yet with the upcoming changes to the gaming environment it changes, all is online, all is set on central servers and that is when BlackMailWare and RansomWare will become a much more lucrative business for those targeting gamers. Even when you think it does not happen, what happens when your online account gets scrambled, your passwords changed from the outside and for a mere 0.01 bitcoin you can get it back. Systems like that are already used, some will consider that paying $88 is preferable to waiting and losing scores, statistics and access to files with the logs of hundreds of hours of playing a game. When you see the time some invested on games like Diablo 3, Skyrim, Fallout 4 and now upcoming Fallout 76 you get the optional setting where ransom might be successful. And the setting of ‘always online’ makes the threat to console gamers a lot more realistic. You merely have to google the issues on League of Legends and World of Warcraft to see the impact and it is much larger than some think it is. You think it is simple and an adult thing to live with, yet when Microsoft has to explain that danger 250,000 times to the non-technological mother and father of a 16 year old playing and suddenly losing all access, perhaps being permabanned in the process as well, at that point the game changes quickly.

Having a decent non-repudiation solution in place might limit the damage to a larger extent, but that system does not exist for gamers, mere authentication and even when upgrading the issue is not the 100 that do, it is the 15,000,000 who haven’t. this is part of the setting that Microsoft faces and it is facing it on a daily basis with Microsoft 365, where the users are (for the most) adults, so when we get to the console it becomes a different setting. This is why the console evolution is a little more treacherous. When the gamer has the option to remain offline (when needed) he/she has options, when forced online they fall away. Sony got hacked a few times (at least twice), with millions of accounts and the details in the open, the damage was larger than some expected and I reckon that most avoided damage was because the overwhelming amount of gamers had physical copies of the game. So offline gaming was never impacted, merely the multiplayers losing a few days of access.

Now, with Game Pass that would not be an issue and the optional overall damage of $210 (two subscriptions) are easily tended to, in the worst case scenario you pay for it twice and a few weeks later it is either refunded, or you are all paid up for +1 year.

Now, let’s change the setting that the Business insider gave us one month ago. With ‘A desperate hacker tried selling US military files for $150 — only to find no one wanted them‘ (at https://www.businessinsider.com.au/hacker-us-military-drone-files-for-sale-2018-7), this seems hilarious, until you consider the following facts, the first one is “The hacker, who is believed to reside in a poverty-stricken country in South America, said his internet connection was slow and that because his bandwidth was limited, he did not download all the files prior to finding a willing buyer“, so it is in a low yield place, the second one is “The hacker also tapped into live footage of surveillance cameras at the US-Mexico border and NASA bases, and an MQ-1 Predator flying over the Gulf of Mexico“, we still have a sense of humour, live camera watching! Yay! Now we add “the vulnerable computers were taken offline, which inadvertently cut off the hacker’s access to the files“, OK, it happens, sometimes a computer has a missed security patch. Now we add ‘a maintenance manual for the MQ-9A Reaper drone, a list of airmen assigned to a Reaper drone unit, manuals on how to suppress improvised explosive devices‘, is seems harmless, right? Yet when you consider that this was a professional setting where the person had access to “documents belonging to a US Air Force service member stationed at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, and documents belonging to another service member believed to be in the US Army“, we see the setting where Military security was circumvented, from a close to powerless place into Military hardware. so when we are confronted with “enough knowledge to realise the potential of a very simple vulnerability and use it consistently“, we see the first part, the second part was given with “The Netgear router vulnerability, which dates back to 2016, allowed hackers to access private files remotely if a user’s password is outdated. Despite several firmware updates and countless news articles on the subject, thousands of routers remain vulnerable“, this is a setting involving adults (one would hope), they cannot get their heads right and you are submitting teenagers and gamers (in a non-professional setting) to those exploitations. Microsoft can market all it can, and to some extent they can fix some parts, but the ‘always online‘ will still be out there and that is where the damage gets to the people.

The prosecution fail rate makes it cool and interesting to go after gamers and the many hours of having to download games will at some point present an opening for hackers, that market is growing and it will hit gamers, there is close to 0% avoiding that.

The question becomes, how ready will Microsoft be? How much resources will be impacted on their customer care and customer service when it hits? The Xbox 360 gave them the red rings of death issue (which went it happened to me was fixed awesomely, it merely took 3-4 weeks), which is acceptable as a new console was shipped to me. The setting when it is in cyberspace, the game changes as a million accounts could be affected. Some hackers will be creative and resort to a low corruption setting (like the dBase virus), some will merely download and wipe, the fact is that even if it is resolved, it will take time to resolve and that is where gamers lose patience really really fast. My setting to buy another console to fix it is one example (I had the funds when it happened), yet what happens when you are in the middle of a Diablo 3 season, which is time restrained and someone ransoms your access? In current setting the damage is partially avoidable; the new Scarlett setting leaves the partial part up for debate. In addition, as the number of people resorting to that path increases, the interest to mess with that part becomes a lot more interesting to Cyber criminals.

In this we need to look at the other side too, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) gives us “cybercrime is costing the Australian economy up to $1 billion annually in direct costs alone“, when we look global, we see Experian with the quote: “Ransomware attacks, data breaches, theft of intellectual property, sales of counterfeit goods and other illicit activities are generating at least $1.5 trillion in annual revenue“, so globally, when gamers are added to that list of victims, how high will that priority be? Do you think that they get prime time consideration, or will the party line become ‘the best and easiest thing to do is to just start again‘, I was told that by Microsoft when my Xbox one profile got somehow damaged in the first year. Now try the setting with access, invested cash and time and tenfold the amount of open targets. From my personal point of view, when there is an Office 365 impacting against the Xbox Red accounts wiped, how many resources will Microsoft have? I am certain that the business customers get first dibs on whatever they need. Now this last part does not count against Microsoft, it is merely the lesser of two high cost evils, it is reality.

Even as Microsoft is showing that it is upping the game on gaming and consoles, it is also upping to optional damage and hardship to gamers. I say optional, because in the first, we have no idea what that red box will be doing, we have no idea what the settings are for near future gaming (in 16 months) and we do not know how certain changes will actually impact the gaming sphere, but Sony has shown us that the dangers are real.

In the end, we see that Microsoft is upping the game when it comes to gaming, there is no denying it, yet how the future will pan out and whether Microsoft has truly upped the game for gamers is still to be determined. That is not a negative thing, because any expectation for the future is merely speculation, yet the dangers to their gamers will increase by a lot and that part remains the question mark in all this. Some could have been prevented by a lot, but Microsoft is clearly steering into a settings where adherence to ‘always online‘ is the setting they demand, one way or the other. Even if the prison has golden bars, it remains a prison and that part needs to be clear. The fact that gamers do not get the choice in the matter is what matters, not only from the cyber threat side. Congestion is a growing concern on a global scale. Even as Bill Morrow, Chief Executive of NBN Co. was idiotic enough to initially blame gamers for the congestion, the truth is that against 4K Netflix and YouTube, gamers are not even a blip on that radar, yet congestion is a present and growing issue, so there is a problem there too. The system is already under pressure and globally 200 million gamers when a large slice of that pie is set to the streaming and virtual copies of games only come into play, congestion will rear its ugly head and those gamers become more than a mere blip. Consider that Bethesda shipped 12 million units to retailers within the first 24 hours of Fallout 4, and consider that a large chunk of these people will immediately download the game on launch day of Fallout 76. so optionally up to 12 million people all downloading a game that is also stated to be 4K, so we are looking to around 100 GB download, that is merely one game title, it will be in a time when there is plenty to download and even now, as we accept that most are physical copies, the truth is that gaming in that way will add to the congestion in a really big way. Most providers are not ready and it will impact the gamers, Netflix users and Stan (the list goes on for a long time) are merely part of all this traffic. I named Bethesda and they are merely one of many players in all this. Microsoft, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and Electronic Arts; all people pushing (or getting pushed) towards the virtual release only side of things down the track.

Why does this matter now?

One of the big events QuakeCon 2018 starts tomorrow and that will also be the place where more specific information will be given by the actual makers on more than one title by the way. It will be important on how games are moving forward. It is not merely Fallout 76 (one of the biggest titles anticipated) that is in the upper limits of gaming on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation; it would potentially give the direction of where they are going with the Elder Scrolls VI. Merely two Bethesda games that literally has millions of followers, so there is an essential need to take notice of Bethesda for several reasons. This reverts back to Microsoft, because Bethesda games have a huge following on all platforms. It also means that in that setting (set against the rumour that Fallout 76 is online multiplayer only, yet you can play the game alone) any congestion will topple game joy completely. We know that there is enough experience with Elder Scrolls Online, so it is not the setting that Bethesda is going in blind in any of this, but at the same time the gaming dimension is changing at the same time, so that change is impacting in more than one way; that is the push that Microsoft is going for, which is all fine, yet at that that point we will be faced with more outside interference factors and congestion is a real factor, one that players will be confronted with to a much larger degree in the near future.

If Microsoft gets that all right, then it will be picking up momentum in a scary way and at that point the question will be, can Sony match this? I personally love that part, if we see a setting where Sony and Microsoft push each other to new heights is great because in all this, the gamer ALWAYS wins! And over time this push is a realistic one, yet in some places we will optionally see a time where the providers cannot match what the consumers need and that is a new setting for many gamers. In the past we merely accepted what was available, in the new setting you get to play based on what you pay for and that is something we have not been confronted with. Anyone thinking that this will not happen; think again! It might be the selling point for people to switch providers, but there will be a clear setting of borders, borders that set what you can do and that is where we see the overall cost go up, yet to what extent is a clear unknown for now.

 

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It’s a bulletpoint

We all have these days. We have moments where we are confronted with superiors (or bosses) who seem to be able to do anything based on a one page memo that is drenched in bullet-points. It was an almost Neanderthal moment in management when those (getting tertiary education) were all brought up with the belief system that a memo is one page (which I can partially agree with), yet that memo should merely consist bullet-points that bring the goods.

I always thought of that part as an absolute load of bollocks. I can agree that sometimes luck works in our favour and that is exactly what happens, they are however rare. You see, the bullet-point might be correct to some extent, but you can only see part of the view with bullet-points. An actual tactical or strategic business setting is properly set in a SWOT analyses. If it is a serious action, that is what you need, because the boss requires the opportunity, yet he must also know the threat and the weakness. Some decisions are merely based on the balance of merits; do the strengths and opportunity outweigh the weakness and threat? That is the game we face in most business ventures and as they move forward. The Netflix balance, the ‘Nine+Fairfax=NEC’ setting, the setting that we saw in Natixis, Ubisoft and Verizon. The last one is apparently not focussing on big Mergers, that is, until we get the allegedly implied news in upcoming October, when in the black out period of Verizon Hans Vestberg will make an interesting announcement. This is not merely about the ‘fast-growing global market‘, this will be about the upper hand and those with the data will have the upper hand, plain and simple.

So when we go back to 2018, where the state of the union treated us to ‘President Trump claiming the military defeat of ISIS‘, yes, also I have a bridge to sell you, nice view of the Tower of London, going cheap! In that same setting we see the New Yorker giving us: “Trump was holding a press conference, a few blocks away, with the Presidents of the three Baltic states. He was visibly angry when asked about Syria. “I want to get out,” he said, his voice rising. “I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation. We will have, as of three months ago, spent seven trillion dollars in the Middle East over the last seventeen years. We get nothing—nothing out of it, nothing.” He called it “a horrible thing.”“, here I have to say that he was not entirely incorrect. There is no return on investment. In a war against terrorists, unless you are willing to become, or unleash the monsters, any fight against monsters is a cost, and will remain a cost; there will be no return on investment.

Unless you are willing to properly strike back, this fight will go on and on. The events in the New Yorker were in April 2018, three months after the so proclaimed not really existing victory. The New Yorker brought the news one day after Haaretz gave us: ‘Trump’s White House Says Military Mission to Eradicate ISIS in Syria ‘Coming to Rapid End’‘, a rapid end and not in a good way. Haaretz also emphasises on “Trump said Tuesday that he expects to decide “very quickly” whether to remove U.S. troops from war-torn Syria, saying their primary mission was to defeat the Islamic State group and “we’ve almost completed that task.” Trump’s national security team is advising against a hasty withdrawal even as he makes his preference clear: “I want to get out.”“. that was the setting in April, now a mere 84 days later we are treated (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/25/dozens-dead-suicide-attack-syria-sweida-isis) to ‘Surprise Isis attacks leave more than 200 dead in south-west Syria‘, several credit cards will not charge interest the first 90 days, not ISIS, the interest was served quick, to the point and basically deadly precise. The by-line giving us ‘Suicide bombers strike targets in Sweida city and launch simultaneous raids on nearby villages‘. That is the setting less than 24 hours ago and the directness of the attacks imply that we will see more over the next 4 days. This is not a quick hit and run, this is a message to President Trump that his Trumpet is false and full of lies.

As we are confronted with “The militants are also believed to have kidnapped dozens of people and taken them back to their hideouts. Local sources said the attacks began almost simultaneously in the early hours of Wednesday, between 3.50am and 4.30am“, we see a setting of coordination, creativity and direct action. Not merely proving that the State of the Union setting was wrong, it is a setting that implies that a lot more resources are required. In addition, it also proves that we need to shift gears and reactivate the monsters that can take care of business. This is not the theater of Chicago windy city makers; this is the battleground of people like Academi and the Wagner group. Yes, there is a case where it might be better that the actual governmental military organisations do the work, but it seems that America did not have the stomach for it, the Europeans and NATO are locked in everlasting debates and Israel is eager to stop it all, but that means a direct was with Syria, which it prefers not to be in. So there are not too many options at present. Even as the media at large is setting the stage on a Putin-Trump option, we see in equal measure on how Assad won and Trump is fine with that. We get loads of writing, but none of it reflects a solution and with all the papers all printing the same photo, all claiming a death count that is somewhere between 200-220 we are told that the count is high, yet they do not give us that this happened 35 Km from Jordan, 90 Km from Damascus and 90 Km from Israel. I think that the message from ISIS is clear. There is an issue; ISIS is still a player in the region and yes, from all we can tell ISIS with this one act melvined President Trump pretty much on the spot.

Yet everyone’s question will be how to counter this and deal with ISIS. From my point of view we see a setting that cannot be resolved the way it has been, it requires a different scope of activities and a very different level of investigation and intelligence analyses. That evidence is seen in the way the surprise attack went through and pretty much every part of it was a success (form the ISIS point of view), giving is to wonder how incomplete the current level of intelligence data is to begin with. We were aware that there is too much intelligence ego in Syria (or Iraq for that matter). Even now, in the last few months as sources go out and admit (or proclaim) intelligence failures in Israel, the US, NATO et al. Even as the Syrian nuclear reactor is the most visible one, the quality of the workers gathering the data, often in am allegedly precarious double agent setting tend to be not the greatest sources of intelligence. A less reliable source is seen in open source intelligence where we can get a taste of some things happening, but for the most the reliability is too low to be of operational use, even after the facts deeper digging tends to show issues that after the fact seemingly it could only have contributed towards failure, not towards success.

Iran is the second setting where some go from the balance of probability in a algorithm setting that dictates the tactical push forward, yet the people involved tend to forget the oldest IT setting in any data analytical collective where the protocols of GIGO are in effect, a given law that dates back to 1982 when I was in the Middle East for my own adventure. I always see (or better stated I have seen too often) that the officer’s response of GIGO would be: ‘some of it can be used‘, yet the setting Garbage In Garbage Out is merely the setting that as Garbage was accepted, all data involved becomes tainted, or is tainted. Those who bring you ‘some of it can be used‘, tend to rely on the creation of truths by aggregating false flags. So the setting where: ‘he never relies on computers’, we get ‘must create notes on their intelligence’. The one setting where he does not use computers because the person was dyslexic was overlooked. Aggregated data can be useful against the singular observation in a timeline, it gives the unit against the volume, but if one false flag was false, the others lose value and the column setting is no longer reliable. GIGO is devastatingly simple and pretty much always a given truth (or is that a confirmed non-false?), yes, I am at times that funny.

this now takes us to a setting almost three weeks ago in the Washington Post (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/07/09/russia-and-the-u-s-have-common-interests-in-syria-but-it-may-not-matter), where we see: “Last week, national security adviser John Bolton said that the meeting could offer a “larger negotiation on helping to get Iranian forces out of Syria” and that an agreement could be “a significant step forward” for U.S. interests in the Middle East“, it is a statement that I cannot agree with. You see, even as Iran in Syria is an issue for Russia, it is not the same where Iran is an American problem, pure and simple. Russia has a setting where it wants to waste as much of the resources that NATO and America have, plain and simple. There is plenty of data proving that. I have nothing against John Bolton, I do not know the man, but I know he has been out of ‘circulation’ for almost 12 years. He is however not that devious. He sails a straight course (a commendable setting), in this he was always against the Iranian deal, he has been advocating regime change for both Iran and North Korea. It does not matter whether he is neoconservative, pro-American, or a nationalist. The settings that are clearly out and visible is that he has placed his country before his personal interests again and again and that is always a good thing (a lesson Democrats should learn at some point), yet when we look at Politico (at https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/25/bolton-cabinet-meetings-mattis-pompeo-trump-740429), he is also doing something dangerous. It is seen in part with: ‘Cabinet chiefs feel shut out of Bolton’s ‘efficient’ policy process‘, followed by “Defense Secretary James Mattis has gone so far as to draft a letter requesting the national security adviser hold more gatherings of agency and department chiefs“, this is followed by ““He doesn’t want to ‘meeting’ an issue to death,” said one White House official. “He wants to make the bureaucratic process more efficient so that decisions can be made at the principals level.” But across the U.S. national security establishment, there’s a growing sense of a breakdown in the policy process since Bolton took over the National Security Council on April 9“. From where I am sitting, it creates a different friction. The different stations always had their own way of registering intelligence and it is in the misinterpretation of each of the used Thesaurus, that is where the data gap is starting to form, an international data point is not seen the same by the NSA, DIA and CIA. This gets me to my party favourite, what is another word for ‘Thesaurus‘? It is funny when you think of it, because as there is no synchronicity between Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA Gina Cheri Haspel and National Security Advisor John Bolton, they only think there is synchronised thinking (they nearly always do). So now we have the hats of the big cheeses in a similar direction, but not in the same direction, it gives us the issue that there are losses, losses in intelligence, losses in data and losses in translations, and lets not forget an overall loss of quality. That tends to be a much larger problem, and that problem will hit the desk of Director of the FBI Christopher Wray a little sooner than he bargained for. It also sets a very dangerous precedent. You see, it is mishaps like this that caused the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. I see it as a setting where people that need to act are getting more than one version because of the lacking intelligence cohesion, which was never great to begin with is now in a setting of decay. I get where John Bolton is at, but the red tape has one setting which is intelligence quality, that is now too in a stage where the Dodo went. You see, the politico quote ‘cutting unnecessary bureaucratic red tape, pushing the nitty-gritty discussions to lower levels‘ shows the foundation of a good thing, but pushing certain issues to a lower level also means that the accountability and responsibility is brought down, whilst at the same stage, the essential lack of security clearance at that level also stops optional security leaks and as such some information will not be available at lower levels. So if ISIS decides to become surprisingly creative again and we see in a future news setting that they decided to visit Al-Umawyeen St, Amman, Jordan, We will see an entirely new escalation, one that President Trump cannot walk away from, in equal measure, if the changes by John Bolton enabled that scenario, we will see another setting where a National Security Advisor will immediately go into retirement and focus on his family life (the present assigned young-ling is 69 after all, so that excuse will be readily accepted).

So the shorting of the memo’s relying on bullet points, whilst setting the strategic placement of people to be placed at the point of a bullet is not so far-fetched, is it? Even as we will soon see that this gets paraded as a once off event, a rare option where ISIS got lucky. Remember that this was not merely an explosion. It was that, in addition the abduction of people and activities in other places as well that it all went down at the SAME TIME. It was not merely coordination; it required funds, facilitation of events and goods that were available at the right time. Should you consider my folly (never a bad thing to do), consider the one setting that we did not get to see in the news. The distance from the Zaatari Refugee camp to Al-Umawyeen St, Amman, Jordan is a mere 60,224 metres; I have actually walked that distance, so when we consider the dangers in place and we accept that there are ISIS sympathisers in Zaatari (we do not know how many), the one issue that the US cannot allow for is any more miscommunication between intelligence operations. On the plus side, if it does happen, Hollywood can do another movie, John Krasinsky was awesome in the Benghazi story, and he could prepare his Jordanian language skills if he reprises his role at: The Markaz, Arts Center for the Greater Middle East 1626 N. Wilcox Ave, Suite 702 Los Angeles, CA 90028.

You see there is something in this setting for everyone, whilst me successfully avoiding bullet points until the very end, how crazy was that?

#BulletPointsAreAlwaysInaccurate

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Circling the wagons

I had not expected a follow through on yesterday’s thoughts, but here we are. It seems that there is a business dispute between UKTV and Virgin Media. The Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/jul/22/four-million-virgin-media-customers-lose-uktv-channels-dave) gives us: “after Virgin sought what UKTV called a multimillion pound cut in fees, leaves fans of shows including Judge Romesh, Harrow and Red Dwarf unable to watch some of their favourite programmes“. Let’s be clear, this is a business decision, so when Virgin wants a 7 figure fee cut, there must be something behind it, should there not? In addition, we need to offer in opposition, that reporting on (as quoted) “According to UKTV, “around 4 million households” were no longer able to access the channels after the midnight deadline passed” should also have an impact on advertising, as you are broadcasting to 4 million less viewers, so there is that in the mix too. Is it merely pricing?

The quotes: “Virgin Media has accused the broadcaster of seeking “inflated sums” to provide its paid channels and linking those to provision of free channels such as Dave and Home“, as well as “Steve North, the head of comedy and entertainment for UKTV, said the company provided thousands of hours of on-demand content to Virgin, with viewings of its programmes, such as Taskmaster, via the service up by a third over the year“, finally we need to add the part mentioned much earlier in the story. With: “The BBC holds back the video-on-demand rights to its programming, instead selling them to players such as Netflix. Virgin Media said this strategy was no longer acceptable as viewers expect to be able to watch shows on demand” we see a linked part in all this, and perhaps also the part where Virgin Media dropped the ball. You see when we see ‘viewers expect to be able to watch shows on demand‘, which I thought was a silly thing to mention, because of the mere fact that Virgin Media was unable to manage the expectations of their customers is a much larger fail. It is a first duty in support and customer care to manage expectations, some use SLA’s, some use other methods (like pricing), but managing expectations was never on the plate of UKTV. We can argue in addition that as viewing was up by 34%, fees would go up, but in addition, so would advertisement revenue. When you report that programmes are watched be an additional 34%, you have an advertising selling point. The question becomes was this merely about fees?

The BBC mentions the Netflix challenge, as well as a picture of a relaxed Greg Davies sitting in a chair (who is apparently no longer trying to destroy the city of Tokyo). Yet the article gives us two points, the first is: “On Twitter, Darren Woodward said he was “gutted” not to be able to see Taskmaster, while Tom Langdon was one of a number of subscribers to wonder whether his monthly bill would be reduced because they could no longer watch the show“, and the second is: “Richard Blunt from Birmingham told the BBC: “Practically all the stations we watch on Virgin have now been withdrawn. I think we will give it a couple of weeks, hoping that the decision is reversed, before deciding whether to stay or to go.”” The entire setting could now escalate in very different manners, not all good for Virgin, actually none of them good for virgin. Even as the Guardian article ends with: “The 10 channels are still available on other TV platforms including Sky, BT, Talk Talk, as well as Freeview and Freesat. Viewers can also watch them online via UKTV Play“, we need to see that this is merely a first step. I personally believe that UKTV has figured out a few things and in this, it has options that go further than merely a fee. The fact that 4 million users are in a setting where there is 34% growth, that is a section that Netflix (and others need), so this is not merely about money, I believe that there is a shift happening. I knew that this would happen, that part is clearly seen in the Netflix pressures. That we would see it shown the very next day was not on my calendar.

So when I decided to dig a little deeper, I found an article (at http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2018/07/uk-tv-networks-are-looking-at-creating-a-british-netflix-to-combat-falling-viewing-figures/), which gave us 5 days ago: ‘UK TV Networks Are Looking at Creating a ‘British Netflix’ to Combat Falling Viewing Figures‘, so was that a self-fulfilling prophecy or not? So as the article ends with “BBC News reports that the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have already had early conversations about the possibility of working together to create a combined streaming service with the potential to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime TV. Whether such a thing will come to fruition currently remains a mystery, but considering the shifting trend to online media, it seems a likely step that broadcasters will eventually have to take to remain relevant“, we see exactly the play that seems to be unfolding now, and from the pressures shown, there is every chance that through pressures applied, this new venture starts with a rather delicious slice of 4 million viewers leaving Virgin. Even as some stated that they will see in a couple of weeks, the sooner this shift happens, the more power Virgin loses, implying that Netflix will not merely grow business, it has the option to grow an advertisement branch much larger overnight as well giving them more options.

Even as we agree that some changes are about to happen, we need to realise that the UK will have a new venture in ‘package deals‘. The quicker that Sky TV and other shops include the UKFlix side of things, the quicker momentum can be gained. It is in this setting that it can grow in the UK as well as gain momentum in Western Europe, where UKTV has always found happy recipients of the series that UKTV fathered and promoted.

It does set a new tone on where places like Virgin Media are going. The UK always had a little saturated niche in all this, the fact that the Netflix equation unsettled the walls in place making it a dog-eat-dog battle field, is both good and bad, the good is that overall the pricing will become interesting to households, the bad is that those with the larger budgets can overturn whatever independence remains. It will be a fight where those with the biggest wallets will be able to out buy whatever is in play and that is not always the positive outcome for households on a budget. The issues that follow soon after that is as one is diminished, how far can it go abroad? The direct setting for the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Scandinavia is also added to the board, because a shift like that tends to move outside of the borders. for example in Sweden where 50% is set by SVT1, SVT2 and TV4 gives options for growth, especially when you consider that Disney and Fox each have less than 1%. The same we see in Norway where 50% is with NRK1 and TV2. They are all markets with options for growth; from an advertising view Norway is more of a nightmare. The two large cities merely represent 14%, whilst the villages 11th in size and smaller are less than 50,000. This is different in Sweden where the four largest cities are 25% of the population and a chunk of the smaller places are still a lot larger than most places in Norway, Sweden has twice the population, but they also have that population in larger communities. These are all elements that have an impact on growth, so that is one side and merely one side. You see Netflix and their methods are rubbing off on the other players and that is where Scandinavia becomes a much more interesting market. The land that gave us Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö and their fiction in the 60’s and 70’s; the land that had Pippi Longstocking and the White Stone for the kids, whilst giving the adults Beck and Swedish Dicks is a treasure trove of IP and that is very much on the mind of the decision makers behind the screens. You see, getting the right IP is half the distance towards profitable series, and there is plenty to find in places like Scandinavia and Australia. They have built quite the score list. That setting needs to be on the forefront of all the board member minds. Getting decent writers for new series is one thing, resettling an existing gem comes at 40% less cost, whilst upgrading a series to today can score places like Netflix millions of viewers with minimum expenditure, when we consider the 8 billion that they are setting in now, delaying one series and replacing that with 10 retrenches that are unknown in the bulk of their places is a way to quickly fill needs, to up the amount of IP and the value it represents as well as open up new doors to other ventures. You merely have to see the impact of the TV series Humans, which got the makers the British Academy Television Craft Award for Best Digital Creativity, as well as a 94% rating is what matters to those in the boardrooms and even as they missed out on Humans, there is plenty to find in some of these places. The relaunch in Sweden of Beck is one part, getting that to the Netflix audience is potentially an additional market to tap in to. In the end, merely buying IP is an option and I personally see is again as short sighted, it is the interaction and engagement of these markets where new innovative IP becomes an option. You merely have to look at the past on the history of the 70’s series Kung Fu to see that the creation of IP that shines for decades is seen. And they are not alone, especially when it comes to TV series for the younger viewers. Sweden had several series like the ones mentioned earlier, the Dutch had the still immortal ‘Kunt U mij de weg naar Hamelen vertellen meneer?’ loosely based upon the ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’, even as the materials were lost over time, that TV Series is still remembered 48 years later, that’s IP that sets a provider apart from all the other players! As such growing interactive markets, not merely acquiring IP, whilst at the same time investigating what IP is close to readily available is what pushes the Netflix investment invoice of $8 billion a year down, whilst creating content that will be around for a long time. As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog ‘Chivalry vs Rivalry‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/07/22/chivalry-vs-rivalry/), we need to consider “The value of those rights has now spiralled, which has pushed up Netflix’s content budgets and fuelled its drive to produce its own content“, that is still going on, so the one moving fast into areas and setting the stage to acquire the IP, that is where it will be at in 3-4 years, so whomever moves now ends up having the home field advantage, giving additional rise to production settings that are currently a steal at twice the price, yet as the impact of digital content and growth becomes more and more visible, the other players will circle their wagons faster and more determined to get either much better prices, or become players in this field themselves. the moment that all this IP hits 5G and goes global, at that point the entire game changes for all the players involved, so getting there sooner is what it will be about and from what I personally expect that visible push will be all over the news with some frequency no later than 2019.

 

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Chivalry vs Rivalry

The news is still hanging onto several things that are playing. This is not a bad thing; this is the setting as news moves forward and remains news. Even when we consider the events in Saudi Arabia, where we get the Guardian quote: “Saudi Arabia has rushed to boost oil production under pressure from US President Donald Trump – only to discover that global markets might not need it yet, according to some financial experts“, we see that certain players do not tend to use a presidency as a tool, so the quote might be correct, but there is a game in play, played between Donald Trump and Wall Street. So far it works, because everyone thinks he is an idiot, that is the popular story, but I am not convinced. This is direct and it is with purpose, so something else will rear its ugly head soon enough. Yet this is not about that. You see, when it comes down to chivalry versus rivalry, we see that chivalry is dead, it has no place anymore. Even as Saudi Arabia wanted to come to the aid of America, we see the news that “the Saudis are struggling to sell as much extra oil as they’d hoped and are privately fretting that they may have opened the taps too quickly, according to people briefed by Riyadh in the last few days“, it this merely an American ply to keep the reserves maxed so the President can haul away a cheap political victory as heating prices remain low this coming winter?

Even as the Independent offers: “Societe Generale’s Mr Wittner, said: “We have hardly started to see a reduction in flows from Iran. Though there’s a lot of crude coming out from Saudi Arabia now, spare capacity is really going to be the big issue going forward. And spare capacity is getting very tight very quickly.”“, I am not convinced that this is about Iran; this is about keeping prices down over the next 8 months. The flow fall of Iran is merely a nice bonus. Even as we start on oil, we now see that a similar fight is going on in entertainment, the actual issue. In the light of Netflix against the world, we see a few changes that are now more adamant and also impacting us all. The Guardian starts the event with: “Below-par subscriber numbers last week were bad news for a service that must keep growing to survive. How will it respond?“, yet the story is not there. You see, from my point of view, 100 million subscribers is nothing to sneer at and the saturation makes new members a much harder setting, it is by no means the setting for a down draft. Even last week, when I wrote ‘Pushers of media value‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/07/17/pushers-of-media-value/), I was confronted with several responses, that I was crazy, that there was no saturation. Yet now we see in the Guardian: ““Netflix’s big challenge is maintaining growth worldwide while its customer base saturates in core western markets,” says Richard Broughton, analyst at Ampere. “Netflix is having to work ever harder to gain new subscribers.” The low-cost nature of the streaming service – a premium subscription costs £9.99 per month in the UK and $13.99 in the US – means that it needs inexorable growth to pay for its content“, so apparently with ‘while its customer base saturates in core western markets‘ my setting shows to be the correct one. Now that we have that out of the way, and for now I ignore the one market that Netflix ignored in the UK and a few other places, worth close to an additional £15 million a month, we see that Netflix is for now all about the “it costs a lot of money to attract a Hollywood star such as Will Smith to a sci-fi film like Bright – and in recent years it has been raised by about $1bn annually. Netflix is stuck in a costly and precarious cycle“, Netflix has chosen a short term solution that will go nowhere in about 3 years.

It is the setting of the man who makes a deal with the devil, to bring 10 souls a day to stay out of hell, and accepting a 20% annual increase, as a sales director he accepts it, because he knows it can be done, yet souls are not revenue and in 3 years he needs to have accumulated 12,230 souls. After 6 years it is up to 34,200. A setting that started with 10 souls has now been increased to 25 a day, no option to fail. Greed is like that, it has no problems, because in the end the house wins or collapses, until the second happens, all serving the house are in a spiral of servitude with sliding morals. You see, the first 10 years seems fine, but after 10 years the daily soul quota has gone up to 51 a day and after that it gets interesting with decennial party where 319 souls a day will be required. That is the game everyone forgets about, steps absent of long term vision with in the end the executive having to hand over his soul, no matter what. The house of greed always wins!

Netflix is now in that downward spiral, not when it comes to members, but the setting to gain followers, set against the tides of resources, that is the war they cannot win, not until they resist temptation and take it to a very different level. They have the option and the means, but will they be willing to take the plunge?

Rivalry

This is the setting of greed, rivalry is everything, because now that Netflix has shown the value, now that the others are seeing that the setting is not merely revenue, it is massive profit for the one holding the data, that is the setting that we now get with: “Netflix was able to get hold of the rights to TV shows and films on the cheap. Rights owners and future rivals had not identified the global potential of subscription video-on-demand rights, and Netflix prospered. The value of those rights has now spiralled, which has pushed up Netflix’s content budgets and fuelled its drive to produce its own content“, there are solutions and the nice part is that both the UK and Australia have a leg up in all this, they have an advantage if the proper person gets the parties working together, but can they realise the potential that is still out in the open for the next person to grab?

I am certain that the issue is there, but sees it? I am not giving away the plot here, because there are three aces up for grabs, the question is whoever holds the fourth ace is in the running to get the clean sweep. Yet, the second party is Netflix, are they up to the task to get set up for the chop? That is the game, it is not merely winner takes all, failure is at this stage slightly too dangerous. It took me a day to realise the opportunity, because even as an IP master, I had to wonder how far it could be stretched, yet it can in the Commonwealth and as far as I can tell in the US as well, so this gives Netflix the option, however, to get this up and running, they need to truly focus. It cannot be half baked!

The next pitfall

With “Youth-targeted shows such as Stranger Things and Thirteen Reasons Why have been major hits, but Netflix faces some of the same pressures caused by the rapid generational shift in viewing habits“, that is true, but in that same setting, we see that in some cases everything old is new again, so there is space and place to grow and to do that, a first step is needed, but are the shareholders willing to play the longer game, a game that could potentially grow value by 400%? The long game is not something that shareholders are good at. They believe in short term gratification (not just on 42nd street mind you), so the game is optionally out of the hands of the Americans, giving the UK and Australia now a partial advantage over America on the entertainment business and there is plenty of famous entertainers here, beyond the Australian King and Queen (Geoffrey Rush & Cate Blanchett). This gets us to the final part in all this. The quote “Netflix’s long-term strategy is that it has to increase its revenue from subscribers; it needs to move into those content genres to replicate the journey of traditional pay-TV companies,” says Mulligan. “You need a full suite of content if you want to be a real substitute, not just an additive service.”” we see here is a dangerous one. I do not completely agree with Tim Mulligan, analyst at MIDiA Research. You see, he relates Netflix back to TV, yet we all forget that Netflix is not merely new, it is in a position to become more than: ‘the large new kid on the block‘, yet what Tim fails to see is that Netflix is optionally the new cornerstone of entirely different block, Netflix has been setting new grounds, but the inconceivable still exists, Netflix and rivals have the option to become the rulers of Tinsel town II, a setting that scares Hollywood and the large players in cinematography. They know that this is still a reality that they face and it makes every analyst take a 90 degree turn, but the reality is that short sighted on what makes for any Tinsel town is the opportunity that hands Netflix the goods. Whilst the realisation of avoiding ‘value of those rights has now spiralled, which has pushed up Netflix’s content budgets and fuelled its drive to produce its own content‘ is clearly there, the fact that no one sees the options available is equally disturbing, are they not seeing it, or are they too scared and pushing away FROM it, two very different realities. and one is a steal to own if you see beyond the 4 lines that makes the square that some analysts put you in, realising that lines on a map mean nothing to the map itself, only then can you embrace the new course where those talking the leap have an option (if ALL the conditions are right) to become the new rulers of a market no one saw coming in the first place.

That is what separates the visionaries from the second rate followers.

 

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