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The Rumor was True: Verizon Purchases Video Service OnCue from Intel

posted Sunday Jan 26, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

The Rumor was True: Verizon Purchases Video Service OnCue from Intel

The rumor from back in October of Verizon picking up Intel's OnCue, a web-TV service, has actually come to fruition this week. Verizon officially announced that it will be purchasing Intel Media, Intel's media assets, in its entirety.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, however we do know that Verizon gains access to all intellectual property rights that are used to make OnCue work. Verizon also said it will be working on keeping all of the 350 employees on the project. Both the management team and the Santa Clara office will also stay with Verizon, so for the most part, business will be as usual. Pending the standard approvals from the different commissions, Verizon looks to finish the acquisition by the end of this quarter.

On the purchase, CEO of Verizon Lowell McAdam, said,

The OnCue platform and team will help Verizon bring next-generation video services to audiences who increasingly expect to view content when, where and how they want it. Verizon already has extensive video content relationships, fixed and wireless delivery networks, and customer relationships in both the home and on mobile. This transaction provides us with the capabilities to build a powerful, capitally efficient engine for future growth and innovation. We will have the opportunity to enhance, expand, accelerate and integrate our delivery of video products and services to better serve audiences on a wide array of devices.

Unlike Verizon's latest video-streaming partnership with Redbox, the idea with this purchase is to fully integrate it with FiOS video to try and make FiOS a more viable and attractive option to consumers. Verizon also said the company will be looking to enhance current FiOS offerings with better search and discovery, user interaction and improve other areas all with the technology purchased from Intel. Combine this with the previous announcements of Verizon purchasing upLynk and Edgecast, both leaders in the video encoding and content delivery spaces, and Verizon is poised to really take over the video-on-demand market in the coming year.

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Xbox Entertainment Studios Adds to Its Talent Collection

posted Saturday Jan 25, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Xbox Entertainment Studios Adds to Its Talent Collection

Microsoft is taking its commitment to entertainment seriously. First we have the obvious enhancement to the entertainment platform on Xbox One, which has received a special place in history for acknowledging the way people used their Xbox 360 and still getting insulted for doing so. Then came the Xbox-exclusive documentary series, headlined by the history of Atari.

When it comes to exclusive, in-house content, we also learned during Microsoft's E3 2013 press conference that a Halo franchise TV production was in the works, with Stephen Spielberg at the helm. That isn't where the story ends, however, as Microsoft has picked up another well-known program developer to add to the Xbox Entertainment Studios family: Ari Mark.

Mark is known for his work in creating Comic Book Men, Game of Arms (which will debut shortly), The Pitch and Talking Dead, all for AMC. There is no exact word from Microsoft or Mark on exactly what his responsibilities will be, though XES has said he will be in charge of unscripted content, something he obviously has a lot of experience with.

Among his expected duties will be overseeing XES's documentary series, in which Simon and Jonathan Chinn are involved. Hopefully XES will also be looking to expand its original programming with unscripted series focused around Microsoft-related franchises, such as a Talking Dead-style show surrounding the new Halo TV series.

There is a lot of content in the Microsoft world that could make for good unscripted content. What would you like to see brought the platform? Give us your suggestions in the comments.

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Gmail Outage Sends Thousands of Blank Emails to Hotmail Account

posted Saturday Jan 25, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Gmail Outage Sends Thousands of Blank Emails to Hotmail Account

Apparently, because of a glitch in some Google code somewhere that appeared only after the Gmail outage this week, a simple search for Gmail on Google will give you the unfortunate ability to email David S. Peck of Fresno, California. Who is Peck, you might ask? Some guy who happens to have a Hotmail account that is, for whatever reason, pre-populated into a compose window on the search results page.

According to Peck, he has received several thousand emails with no subject or body, simply a Google account in the from line. As of yesterday, I was personally able to reproduce the bug, but today it seems to have been masked from the search results. It could have to do with Gmail being back up and running, or it could be a hidden result because of the issue.

Peck said,

I've been getting thousands of no-subject, blank emails. 500 of them come every hour, I can't stop them. They're coming so fast, I want to stop them. I deleted everything last night and woke up this morning and had 1,900 new emails. Only two of them were emails I cared about.

As if this isn't bad enough, Peck may not be the only one affected. In fact, reports of several other individuals having their email addresses populated into the same compose window have been reported. As it turns out from a response from Google sent to Tech Crunch,

Due to a technical glitch, some email addresses on public webpages appeared too prominently in search results. We've fixed the issue and are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

It is safe to assume that, if an email address appeared anywhere in the top 10 results, it would populate into that box. As the day went on and more people found out about Mr. Peck, his name became more and more likely to be in that window, but earlier in the bug it would have been affected by your personalized search results.

This is a weird "technical glitch" that I am unable to figure out how it came about. It seems like it would have had to be somehow on purpose, possibly implemented during testing and published on accident. What really baffles me is how someone's Hotmail address would be in the top results for the word "gmail" on Google's own search engine. Leave it to Google, though, to use their search engine to accidentally promote a competitor's user.

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King.com Gets a Big Head, Trademarks Everything

posted Saturday Jan 25, 2014 by Scott Ertz

King.com Gets a Big Head, Trademarks Everything

It wasn't long ago that King.com (hereafter referred to as just King, as this is not 1997) began to rule the casual game universe, having dethroned Zynga as top dog. Apparently their quick rise in popularity has given the company an Electronic Arts-style ego. Let's take a look at what they have done just this week, shall we?

First, the company successfully received a trademark on the term "candy" in regards to similar games. While this may seem odd, the context is the thing that matters here. King is probably just trying to prevent Candy Crush Saga rip-offs, of which there are many, all using the word "candy" in their titles. They have already filed against one app in Apple's App Store titled All Candy Casino Slots - Jewels Craze Connect: Big Blast Mania Land. While this keyword rich title seems to focus little on the candy word, the icon simply says "Candy Slots" which was their undoing.

Following on the trademarking on "candy" comes an attempt to trademark "saga," a feat that will be significantly more difficult for the company. Its current project is trying to defeat the trademark filing for The Banner Saga, a game that has absolutely nothing to do with any of King's own titles. After the inevitable outlast, King responded with a statement,

King has not and is not trying to stop Banner Saga from using its name. We do not have any concerns that Banner Saga is trying build on our brand or our content. However, like any prudent company, we need to take all appropriate steps to protect our IP, both now and in the future.

In this case, that means preserving our ability to enforce our rights in cases where other developers may try to use the Saga mark in a way which infringes our IP rights and causes player confusion. If we had not opposed Banner Saga's trade mark application, it would be much easier for real copy cats to argue that their use of 'Saga' was legitimate.

This is an important issue for King because we already have a series of games where 'Saga' is key to the brand which our players associate with a King game; Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and so on. All of these titles have already faced substantive trademark and copyright issues with clones.

King doesn't want to prevent them from using the name, only from owning it legally? That would prevent them from being able to protect against copycat apps, the very thing that King themselves is doing with their own trademark on "candy." Apparently in England no one has ever heard the term "double standard" - either that or King already owns the trademark on it.

After all of this, you would think King couldn't come up with any more bad ideas, right? Wrong. This bad idea comes from 2009, but came to light this week thanks to a developer that King hired to develop a game titled Pac-Avoid. The game is a blue Pac-Man collecting coins and avoiding ghosts. The coins can be traded for power-ups, and ghosts can be killed after a power pill. While the game sounds a lot like Pac-Man (minus the color), it sounds even more like Scamperghost, a game created by Stolen Goose for MaxGames.com.

In fact, the games are almost identical. If the comments from Scampershost designer Matthew Cox are correct, it was all on purpose.

We were in talks with Lars Jörnow at King.com to license our Scamperghost game. Before the deal was closed - and certainly before any contracts were signed - MaxGames.com made a better offer, so we thanked King for considering our game and politely ended our negotiations.

As the story goes, King was offended and hired Epic Shadow Entertainment to clone the game for a mere $3,000. Epic Shadow shouldn't have done it, but King allegedly lied about the nature of the deal's cancelation, leading to them feeling as if they were in the right. Venture Beat has a complete recounting of the story here. It is definitely worth the read.

The question this brings up is, is it impossible for a game company to see success without losing their minds? Discuss in the comments.

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Rdio Offers Up Totally Free Listening for Web Users

posted Sunday Jan 19, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Rdio Offers Up Totally Free Listening for Web Users

If you thought that Spotify going free for mobile and tablets and Beats getting ready to enter the music-streaming space were both pretty big deals, Rdio hopes you didn't forget that they were doing big things, too. Following its announcement from October to offer free radio iOS and Android, this week Rdio has looked to put the final nail into the Pandora coffin by offering up free music for the web.

Already launched, Rdio will open up its 20 million songs to anyone who can access the Internet, for free. Rdio said it is also including new in-stream messaging to the service for those using the free version. "These new ads are short and sweet," Rdio said in the blog post, and those streaming music for free will hear things like new features, messages from partners and reminders of exclusive content to Rdio.

This is an improvement over the former subscription plan of $9.99 per month for unlimited listening, with a free trial that limited you to either six months or a certain duration of listening, whichever came first. There are still some limitations to consider if you're looking to sign up for the totally free experience. First, those listening for free won't be able to set their own playlists or browse via specific artists or songs. Instead you'll have the option of selecting to a huge list of presets. In comparison, Spotify allows free music to those on tablets, with ads, but those users can't save music for listening when they aren't connected to the Internet.

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Nintendo Looking Into Mobile Gaming

posted Sunday Jan 19, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Looking Into Mobile Gaming

The effects of mobile gaming on more traditional gaming have been well known for years, but Nintendo has fought this trend with all they have. Unfortunately, this has not worked out, with the Wii U being a sales disaster. The sales have been so bad that Nintendo has updated their annual financial forecast from $950 million in profit to $335 million in loss.

Even with these challenges facing the company there have been some successes. For example, the top console of 2013 was the Nintendo 3DS family. Nintendo has decided to accept their new position in the gaming community and embrace mobile gaming.

Satoru Iwata, international president of Nintendo said,

Given the expansion of smart devices, we are naturally studying how smart devices can be used to grow the game-player business. It's not as simple as enabling Mario to move on a smartphone.

If we think 20 years down the line may look back at the decision not to supply Nintendo games to smartphones and think that is the reason why the company is still here.

Obviously Nintendo is not the first to mobile-enable their franchises. The Xbox brand is available on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles, Windows 8 computers and Windows Phone devices. The PlayStation brand is available on the PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles and select Android phones. Obviously, major publishers have also published major franchise games themselves directly to mobile platforms.

So, what would a Nintendo mobile expansion look like? We don't exactly know. Iwata said,

We must take a skeptical approach whether we can still simply make game players, offer them in the same way as in the past for 20,000 yen or 30,000 yen, and sell titles for a couple of thousand yen each.

It seems that they are even considering even abandoning first party hardware in favor of a mobile gaming platform for existing mobile devices. Would they start with just a simple port of existing titles or would they have a whole new suite of titles just for the new platform? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: it can't go any worse than the Wii U.

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