Somehow CES 2022 is still happening in a little over a week, despite the single-largest surge in COVID-19 cases ever recorded in the United States. The electronics show will be far less enormous than usual, but not necessarily because organizers at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) wanted it to be that way. CTA president Gary Shapiro went as far as to post an extensive rant on LinkedIn (and in the Las Vegas Review-Journal) about why, exactly, CES is still happening. He says CES "will and must go on." Let's take a moment or two to read through Shapiro's op-ed. We promise it's worth the time. Here are some of our favorite ways in which the CTA president explains his reasoning:
1. If we do not cancel, we face the drumbeat of press and other critics who tell the story only through their lens of drama and big name companies. We suppose this applies to us (pretty meta of us). Anyway, it's pretty telling that Shapiro's leaning on "bad press" -- not the ongoing public health crisis -- as a reason to not cancel the show.
2. I will feel safer at CES with our vaccine and masking mandate than I do when I'm running every day errands, including food shopping! Sorry, what? CES is notorious for packing attendants in like sardines. What kind of grocery store is this man going to?
3. It may be messy. But innovation is messy. It is risky and uncomfortable. Well, sure, innovating isn't a clean process, but CES isn't actually fostering innovation. The innovation's already done before these companies arrive on the showroom floor.
4. For those who are vaccinated and willing to take the minor risk of Omicron and a quarantine, CES may be worth it. I'm sorry, did this man just refer to COVID-19 (you know, the one that's killed more than 2 million people) as a "minor risk"?CES also said today that it will end a day earlier.
VPNs, or virtual private networks, continue to be used by millions of people as a way of masking their internet activity by encrypting their location and web traffic. But on the modern internet, most people can safely ditch them, thanks to the widespread use of encryption that has made public internet connections far less of a security threat, cybersecurity experts say. "Most commercial VPNs are snake oil from a security standpoint," said Nicholas Weaver, a cybersecurity lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. "They don't improve your security at all...."
Most browsers have quietly implemented an added layer of security in recent years that automatically encrypts internet traffic at most sites with a technology called HTTPS. Indicated by a tiny padlock by the URL, the presence of HTTPS means that worrisome scenario, in which a scammer or a hacker squats on a public Wi-Fi connection in order to watch people's internet habits, isn't feasible. It's not clear that the threat of a hacker at your coffee shop was ever that real to begin with, but it is certainly not a major danger now, Weaver said. "Remember, someone attacking you at the coffee shop needs to be basically at the coffee shop," he said. "I don't know of them ever being used outside of pranks. And those are all irrelevant now with most sites using HTTPS," he said in a text message.
There are still valid uses for VPNs. They're an invaluable tool for getting around certain types of censorship, though other options also exist, such as the Tor Browser, a free web browser that automatically reroutes users' traffic and is widely praised by cybersecurity experts. VPNs are also vital for businesses that need their employees to log in remotely to their internal network. And they're a popular and effective way to watch television shows and movies that are restricted to particular countries on streaming services. But like with antivirus software, the paid VPN industry is a booming global market despite its core mission no longer being necessary for many people.
Most VPNs market their products as a security tool. A Consumer Reports investigation published earlier this month found that 12 of the 16 biggest VPNs make hyperbolic claims or mislead customers about their security benefits. And many can make things worse, either by selling customers' browsing history to data brokers, or by having poor cybersecurity. The article credits the Electronic Frontier Foundation for popularizing encryption through browser extensions and web site certificates starting in 2010. "In 2015, Google started prioritizing websites that enabled HTTPS in its search results. More and more websites started offering HTTPS connections, and now practically all sites that Google links to do so.
"Since late 2020, major browsers such as Brave, Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge all built HTTPS into their programs, making Electronic Frontier Foundation's browser extension no longer necessary for most people."
The remaster of a cult favourite 2010 PS3 game has topped the UK retail charts this week. Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 tops the charts, knocking FIFA 21 down to No.2. The last Nier game that was released came in March 2017 in the form of the acclaimed Nier Automata. This remake sold 50% fewer copies than Automata. 89% of sales were on PS4 and 11% on Xbox One. Digital sales are not included. Ultimately, it's a very quiet week for the boxed games market. Just 137,000 physical games were sold last week across the UK. It's so quiet that there's even a PC game in the Top Ten. Football Manager 2021, which sells primarily on digital platforms, is at No.6 after a 66% sales increase. The game benefitted from a £20 price promotion at UK retailers (namely, Currys). Also new this week is the MotoGP 21 video game at No.19. The Milestone title sold best on PS5, accounting for 37% of sales with the PS4 on 31%. Elsewhere, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury holds No.3 despite a 24% sales slip, Animal Crossing: New Horizons drops to No.4 after a 30% slide, and Mario Kart 8: Deluxe is at No.5 due to a 21% sales dip. Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 is No.1 in the UK | UK Boxed Charts | GamesIndustry.biz
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The man in line to take over Amazon later this year still believes the company can make a hit video game, despite several failed attempts. Bloomberg has shared details of an email from Andy Jassy to Amazon staff, expressing support for the internal games development team and further committing to its efforts. Jassy is currently head of Amazon's cloud computing division, but it was announced yesterday that he will take over as CEO of Amazon when founder Jeff Bezos steps down in the third quarter of this year. His email followed in the wake of a Bloomberg report about the troubles experiences by Amazon Game Studios, a division that reportedly costs the internet giant nearly $500 million per year to operate. The studio has made three attempts to launch a hit video game. Fantasy sports game Breakaway was abandoned before it reach beta testing, hero-based shooter Crucible was shut down just five months after launch, and MMORPG New World was delayed out of 2020 and is due to launch this spring. The company has reportedly also experienced issues with its proprietary game engine Lumberyard. Undeterred, Jassy wrote: "Some businesses take off in the first year, and others take many years. Though we haven't consistently succeeded yet in AGS, I believe we will if we hang in there."
Another week, another triumph for Nintendo in the UK boxed charts. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is No.1 once again, for the fourth time this year, despite a 13% drop in sales. Mario Kart 8: Deluxe stays at No.2 for the second consecutive week, with a 1% slip in sales. It was very nearly a Nintendo top three, but Ring Fit Adventure missed out on third spot by just 52 units. The fitness game's sales rose 34% week-on-week, but couldn't quite topple Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, which held on despite an 8% sales drop. The only significant new boxed game to come out this year (so far) is Hitman 3, and that game is now down at No.17 with a 54% slide in sales week-on-week.
The remake of 2003's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has been pushed back once again. The release has been pushed to "a later date" without clarifying what that might mean. Ubisoft announced the decision on Twitter, saying the delay will enable its teams to "deliver a remake that feels fresh while remaining faithful to the original." "Since announcing Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake in September, we saw an outpouring of feedback from you on his beloved franchise," Ubisoft added. "It is your passion and support that is driving our development teams to make the best game possible."
211.9 million games were sold across UK & Ireland, mainland Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in 2020, according to sales tracker GSD. GSD tracks games sold in boxes across multiple territories, and also counts digital download sales from most major games publishers (see the bottom of this article for full details). We have already done a specific analysis of the UK market, so for this analysis we will focus on all European markets where GSD tracks both boxed games and digital games, excluding the UK. These will include Benelux, France, GSA (Germany, Switzerland, Austria), Iberia, Nordics and Poland. For these markets, 123.7 million games were sold, which is a 19% jump over 2019. 58.7 million of those games were downloaded, which is a rise of 47% over the year before. Despite lockdown restrictions causing High Street stores to close, 65 million boxed games were sold across the various markets, which is a rise of 0.8%. In order to get a more accurate reading of the market share between boxed and digital, we have to remove countries that do not count both boxed and digital sales. We also have to subtract companies like Nintendo, Bethesda and CD Projekt, who do not share digital numbers with GSD. After doing that, we can see that 59% of games sold by tracked publishers were downloaded, with the remainder coming via physical sales. In 2019, less than 48% of sales were digital.
Ubisoft's biggest lineup of new releases has produced its biggest quarter ever. The publisher today reported its financial results for the holiday quarter, prompting CEO Yves Guillemot to call it "the strongest quarter in Ubisoft history by far." For the third fiscal quarter (the three months ended December 31), Ubisoft reported net bookings of just over €1 billion ($1.21 billion), up 120% year-over-year thanks to a packed slate featuring the cross-generation debuts of Watch Dogs: Legion, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Immortals Fenyx Rising, and Just Dance 2021. Last year's third quarter was headlined by the release of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Breakpoint and Just Dance 2020. Valhalla was said to be the biggest launch in franchise history, not in unit sales -- that still belongs to Assassin's Creed 3 with 12 million sold in its first few months -- but in terms of overall bookings and engagement. Just Dance also enjoyed a strong quarter, with Just Dance 2021 becoming the series' best-selling entry in six years, while even back-catalog sales in the franchise saw "a more than 200% surge." In a post-earnings call, Guillemot said he was "very happy" with the launch of the "family-oriented" Immortals and said it would have long legs. For Watch Dogs: Legion, Ubisoft was pleased with the reception from players and critics and saw an increase in engagement compared to Watch Dogs 2, but did not comment on how it actually sold. The raft of new releases likely shifted the company's digital-physical mix, as 59% of net bookings in the quarter were digital, compared to 77% in the same stretch of 2019.
Americans spent more on games to start 2021 than in any previous January, according to the industry tracking NPD Group. NPD today reported that US consumers combined to spend $4.71 billion on games last month, up 42% year-over-year. Hardware had the largest relative gains, up 144% year-over-year to $319 million thanks to the launch of new consoles and the continued strength of the Nintendo Switch. The Switch was the best-selling console in terms of systems sold last month, but the pricier PlayStation 5 took the top spot when looking at the dollar sales total. The Switch's unit sales were the highest seen in January since the Wii in 2010, while the PS5's dollar total was the largest since the Wii in 2009. Spending on game content across console, mobile, PC, cloud, and subscription services was up 36% to $4.17 billion. The full game sales charts saw little movement, with no new releases cracking the top 20 and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War retaining the top spot for the third straight month. Despite only launching in November, Black Ops Cold War is already the 20th best-selling game in terms of lifetime dollar sales since the NPD began tracking the numbers in 1995.
He warns that "Already, the planet is warmer, at just 1.2 degrees, than it has ever been..." But there's also some good news:Just a half-decade ago, it was widely believed that a "business as usual" emissions path would bring the planet four or five degrees of warming — enough to make large parts of Earth effectively uninhabitable. Now, thanks to the rapid death of coal, the revolution in the price of renewable energy, and a global climate politics forged by a generational awakening, the expectation is for about three degrees. Recent pledges could bring us closer to two. All of these projections sketch a hazardous and unequal future, and all are clouded with uncertainties — about the climate system, about technology, about the dexterity and intensity of human response, about how inequitably the most punishing impacts will be distributed. Yet if each half-degree of warming marks an entirely different level of suffering, we appear to have shaved a few of them off our likeliest end stage in not much time at all.
The next half-degrees will be harder to shave off, and the most crucial increment — getting from two degrees to 1.5 — perhaps impossible, dashing the dream of avoiding what was long described as "catastrophic" change. But for a climate alarmist like me, seeing clearly the state of the planet's future now requires a conspicuous kind of double vision, in which a guarded optimism seems perhaps as reasonable as panic. Given how long we've waited to move, what counts now as a best-case outcome remains grim. It also appears, miraculously, within reach....
The price of solar energy has fallen ninefold over the past decade, as has the price of lithium batteries, critical to the growth of electric cars. The costs of utility-scale batteries, which could solve the "intermittency" (i.e., cloudy day) problem of renewables and help power whole cities in relatively short order, have fallen 70 percent since just 2015. Wind power is 40 percent cheaper than it was a decade ago, with offshore wind experiencing an even steeper decline. Overall, renewable energy is less expensive than dirty energy almost everywhere on the planet, and in many places it is simply cheaper to build new renewable capacity than to continue running the old fossil-fuel infrastructure. Oil demand and carbon emissions may both have peaked this year. Eighty percent of coal plants planned in Asia's developing countries have been shelved... [I]n the fall, the U.K. pledged to ban nonelectrics by 2030 — a once-unthinkable law coming both too slow and much more quickly than seemed possible not very long ago. Similar plans are now in place in 16 other countries, plus Massachusetts and California. Canada recently raised its tax on carbon sixfold. Italy cut its power-sector emissions 65 percent between 2012 and 2019, and Denmark is now aiming to reduce its overall emissions 70 percent by 2030...
[F]or all their momentum, renewables still only make up 10 percent of global electricity production. But alarmists have to take the good news where they find it.... The author also spoke to Pulitzer Prize-winner environmentalist author Elizabeth Kolbert about her new book Under a White Sky:In her book, Kolbert sketches a spectrum of interventions, from electrifying rivers to using CRISPR to save endangered species to solar geoengineering, often called "solar-radiation management," by which aerosol particles are suspended in the stratosphere to deflect some sunlight back into outer space and artificially cool the planet. "There is a slippery slope here, you know?" she says. "And where does that end?
"But there are not a lot of great choices. We're not returning to a preindustrial climate — not in my lifetime, not in your lifetime."
Video games projects raised $23 million on Kickstarter in 2020, the highest total since 2015 and a 35% increase year-on-year. Interestingly, the number of crowdfunding campaigns for video games published on the platform was lower than in 2019 though, with a total of 1,331 compared to 1,403 the year before, according to the 2020 retrospective put together by Ico Partners. Out of those 1331 projects, 408 met their goals and were funded, the highest number since 2014. The majority of the projects had a funding target of under $50,000 (see graph below), and only six raised over $500,000. Among these were Kindred Fates, Sea of Stars, and My Time at Sandrock. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes raised over $3 million, making it the most successful video games campaign of the year, followed by The Wonderful 101: Remastered and Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, which both raised over $2 million.
Hitman 3 has taken No.1 in the UK boxed charts, with launch sales up 17% over its predecessor. Developed and owned by IO Interactive, Hitman 3's boxed release was handled by Square Enix, the company that previously owned the franchise before letting it go. The last game, 2018's Hitman 2, was published by Warner Bros. The PS5 version of the game was by far the dominant edition, accounting for 49% of sales. The Xbox version accounted for 27%, while the PS4 version made up 25%. Of course, this is just physical games, the majority of Hitman 3's sales will have taken place in the digital download space. Hitman's chart-topping debut means that Animal Crossing: New Horizons drops to No.2, although only 800 games separates the two titles. Animal Crossing's sales dropped 8% week-on-week.
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, taking office at a moment of profound economic, health and political crises with a promise to seek unity after a tumultuous four years that tore at the fabric of American society. New York Times:With his hand on a five-inch-thick Bible that has been in his family for 128 years, Mr. Biden recited the 35-word oath of office swearing to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution" in a ceremony administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., completing the process at 11:49 a.m., 11 minutes before the authority of the presidency formally changes hands.
The ritual transfer of power came shortly after Kamala Devi Harris was sworn in as vice president by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, her hand on a Bible that once belonged to Thurgood Marshall, the civil rights icon and Supreme Court justice. Ms. Harris's ascension made her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States and the first Black American and first person of South Asian descent to hold the nation's second highest office. The ceremony on a chilly, breezy day with a smattering of snowflakes brought to a close the stormy and divisive four-year presidency of Donald J. Trump. In characteristic fashion, Mr. Trump once again defied tradition by leaving Washington hours before the swearing in of his successor rather than face the reality of his own election defeat, although Mike Pence, his vice president, did attend.President Biden's speech:This is America's day. This is democracy's day. Few people in our nation's history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we're in now. To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words and requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.
Twitch has not only extended its ban on Donald Trump's channel indefinitely, it is also revising its policies following the attack on the US Capitol. The streaming site confirmed the permanent ban in a statement to IGN, going on to say that the events have prompted a reconsideration of its stance against hateful conduct, harassment and incitement of violence. Trump's channel was suspended earlier this month after a mob of his supporters breached the US Capitol, leading to the deaths of four people. "The President's statements continue to be interpreted as calls to action, and we are taking this action to remove the potential for harm to our community and the general public," the statement reads. "Twitch has clear rules that prohibit hateful conduct, harassment, or incitement of violence on our service, and we consider off-service events when making enforcement decisions. "However, the events of the past weeks have highlighted a gap with respect to rhetoric that encourages violence, regardless of whether or not it was directly streamed on Twitch. We will be updating our policies as a result of our consideration of this situation."
FIFA 21 was the best-selling physical game across the vast majority of Europe, according to a new report from GfK Entertainment. The evaluation is based on physical games sales across Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. According to the report, FIFA 21 was the biggest selling game of last year in 16 of the 19 countries surveyed, including the UK, Spain, Germany and Italy. The only exceptions were: Russia, where The Last of Us: Part 2 reigned supreme; Finland, where Minecraft took the top spot; and France, where Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the biggest hit. FIFA 21 continues the series' success, after FIFA dominated European retail in 2019, 2018 and 2017. Of more interest was Nintendo's performance, which held both the second and third best-selling games in Europe last year -- Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, respectively. Animal Crossing's success is perhaps no surprise given how well it has performed since launching in March 2020. The game reached the top three in almost half of the countries featured. However, despite being released as far back as April 2017, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe continues to be a huge seller at retail, taking a top three position in seven regions. It wasn't the only long-running title in the upper echelons of GfK's ranking
As Bethesda works on an Indiana Jones game, Ubisoft, too, is currently developing a game based on another Disney franchise. The team behind Ubisoft’s The Division series is working on a Star Wars game, a notable change of hands from EA, who has handled the IP exclusively since 2012. Wired exclusively reports Massive Entertainment has entered a contract with Lucasfilm Games, and while little information was given on the project, it is very early on in development, and is set to be an open world game.
In an interview with StarWars.com, VP of Lucasfilm Games' Douglas Reilly clarified that EA will also continue to work on Star Wars titles going forward, with several projects currently in the works. "We're really proud of the games we have created with EA," he said. "We will continue working with them and our relationship has never been stronger. While we may not have a lot of details to share at the moment, we've got a number of projects underway with the talented teams at EA."
Sales of video games in Australia surged 35% during the pandemic year. 15.8 million boxed and digital video games were sold in the market during 2020. That is according to GSD, which tracks boxed game sales plus digital game sales from most major games publishers (Nintendo and Bethesda are the notable absentees, see the bottom fo the article for the full list of participating companies). Unlike other markets, the dominant sector was the boxed games business, which accounted for 8.5 million games sold. That is actually a rise of 15% over the year before. However, the download market is accelerating faster, with 7.3 million games sold via Xbox Live, PSN, Steam and Nintendo Eshop, which is a rise of 68% over 2019. Of course, the comparisons are not like-for-like, with a few publishers -- particularly Nintendo -- currently not supporting the digital charts project. Therefore, to get a better understanding of the digital transition, we need to discount those companies from the data. By doing this, we can see that 58% of sales from tracked games publishers came via download stores, which is a significant changed from 2019, when the majority of games (55%) were sold in boxes.
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