The UpStream

Full Xbox Titles Streaming to PCs and Phones Soon [Rumor]

posted Saturday Sep 28, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Full Xbox Titles Streaming to PCs and Phones Soon [Rumor]

Microsoft demonstrated a prototype of a videogame streaming service this week at an employee meeting. Streaming Halo 4 to both a Windows Phone and a PC, they showed off what can be done with an Xbox title and the cloud. According to people familiar with the technology, the stream works incredibly well on both platforms, with a Lumia 520 coming in at only 45ms latency.

The demonstration, which is again still prototype, was demonstrated on both a low-end Windows hybrid and a Windows Phone using a standard Xbox controller and an accessory adapter. There is no branding for the service, again because of the development status, but it is clearly a response to Sony's acquisition of Gaiakai.

While Microsoft is billing this internally as a way to stream games to Windows devices, my money is on backwards compatibility for the Xbox One. Albert Penello, senior director of Xbox, previously said,

It could be more complicated things like rendering full games like a Gaikai and delivering it to the box. We just have to figure out how, over time, how much does that cost to deliver, how good is the experience.

Personally, I would love the ability to play full titles on my Windows Phone. I would also like to use an Xbox controller to play that title on my phone. Is this a technology that you would use? Let us know in the comments.

Netflix Makes Super HD Available to All

posted Saturday Sep 28, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Netflix Makes Super HD Available to All

Despite a fairly constant battle with ISPs, Netflix has unleashed its Super HD video quality to all streaming customers, regardless of the service provider. Previously, Super HD was only available to customers whose ISP had implemented Open Connect delivery system, but member requests have encouraged them to roll it out to all members.

What is Open Connect? It is a platform in which an ISP can have a direct, open connection directly to Netflix. Instead of having to connect through the vast pipelines of the Internet, the direct connection allows for a much better picture quality.

So, without Open Connect, how likely is it that a person will receive Super HD? According to Netflix,

The ability to receive Super HD depends on broadband quality and performance. Netflix members who subscribe to an ISP with a direct Netflix connection will get the best experience.

Of course Netflix is still trying to sell ISPs on Open Connect, which is completely free to ISPs, but they do believe that standard connections will be capable of Super HD. Super HD, which is a higher quality, less compressed video quality, is only available on certain titles and can only be streamed to certain devices.

If you are interested in whether or not your device is Super HD capable, you can find out here.

YouTube's Comments Section to Be Revamped, Featuring Google+

posted Wednesday Sep 25, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

YouTube's Comments Section to Be Revamped, Featuring Google+

YouTube has finally decided that the homophobic, racist and hate speech-laden bottom-of-the-barrel comments section of each video are no longer appropriate nor relevant. The Google-owned video sharing site has also found another way to shove Google+ into our faces, whether we like it or not. Straight from YouTube's blog, the company summed it up,

When it comes to the conversations happening on YouTube, recent does not necessarily mean relevant. So, comments will soon become conversations that matter to you. In the coming months, comments from people you care about will rise up where you can see them, while new tools will help video creators moderate conversations for welcome and unwelcome voices.

YouTube says that beginning this week, if you're a Google+ user, you'll start to notice YouTube comments popping up on your channel discussion tab. Later on in the year, YouTube says it will transition all video comments to a Google+-powered experience, as part of its way of connecting you with familiar faces. What this all boils down to is instead of seeing 100 attempts of a "first" comment, followed by an argument of which race is better (I prefer the 5k myself), you'll see more "via Google+" comments and threads show up at the top of the comment section.

At the least, it's a somewhat better way to eliminate the spam, hopefully, however savvy Internet users will recognize this as something similar to when Facebook started deciding which of your friends are worthy enough to appear in your Timeline. The good news is we do have more detail on some of the features we'll see in this transition to a new comment system.

  • Comments you care about move to the top: You'll see posts at the top of the list from the video's creator, popular personalities, engaged discussions about the video, and people in your Google+ Circles.
  • Join the conversation publicly or privately: You can choose to start a conversation so that it is seen by everyone on YouTube and Google+, only people in your Circles or just your bestie. Like Gmail, replies are threaded so you can easily follow conversations.
  • Better ways to moderate comments: You have new tools to review comments before they're posted, block certain words or save time by auto-approving comments from certain fans. These can help you spend less time moderating, and more time sharing videos and connecting with your fans.

This also sort of feels like Microsoft's meets an instant messaging service, where you can pull your friends into a conversation about a song, video clip or picture that you liked on the web. Perhaps it will make the comments section of YouTube videos exciting to read again. Adversely, it might just be another reason to avoid it altogether, as you'll be reading more comments from the same couple of people who are active on YouTube, who are also in your Circles on G+.

House of Cards Headed to... Redbox?

posted Saturday Sep 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

<i>House of Cards</i> Headed to... Redbox?

Sometimes I wonder if companies make announcements just to see if we will believe them or not. That is what we have here. Netflix has announced that their original series House of Cards will soon be available at Redbox, one of their biggest competitors.

This is all part of their attempt to transition from broadcaster to producer, the same thing that Hulu and Amazon have been trying. This is just an interesting approach to the concept, and a upping of the ante for the competitors. If you are going to challenge the industry through the competition, there is probably not a better Trojan horse than House of Cards.

With NINE Emmy nominations, this series can appeal to anyone through any service. Adding the "Netflix Original Series" bumper to the beginning and end of an episode turns the show from a great series to watch to an advertisement for one service on another. It's a little like seeing FOX commercials while watching a show on Adult Swim.

Will this undercover marketing work? Well, if the concept was bad, the broadcast networks wouldn't do it all the time. If it is successful, it can help CEO Reed Hastings accomplish his goal of having around 20 original programs running at any given time. Currently, in addition to House of Cards, they also have Orange is the New Black; only 10% of the way to his goal.

If you don't currently have Netflix and are interested in checking out this program, you will be able to through Redbox on October 8th. Once you fall in love, it might be time to get a Netflix subscription and check out the rest of the great content that is available.

3 Days in, $1 Billion Up for Rockstar Games

posted Saturday Sep 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

3 Days in, $1 Billion Up for Rockstar Games

If you have been paying attention to your social media feeds over the past 2 weeks, you already knew that Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto V was going to have a huge opening. If you read any of the reviews online, you could probably have guessed that it was going to have a record-setting release. But, how did it do in reality?

The fifth major installment in the franchise raked in $800 million in its first day of sales. That is an impressive number, especially with a development cost somewhere in the $250 million range. Now, not all of that money goes to Rockstar, as these are retail not wholesale numbers, but it is a good indication that development costs were paid off day 1.

The game hit its $1 billion mark on day 3, far ahead of the previous record holder. At the launch of Activision's Call Of Duty: Black Ops II, it took a then record-breaking 15 days to hit that mark. That is 5 times longer than the new Rockstar game took for the same milestone. CEO Strauss Zelnick said in an interview,

Grand Theft Auto is a cultural phenomenon and Rockstar Games continues to redefine what can be achieved in interactive entertainment. We are incredibly proud of the extraordinary critical and commercial response to Grand Theft Auto V.

Now, while the company has not announced plans to include the title on the upcoming Xbox One or PlayStation 4 consoles, there is logical speculation that it will be available, possibly at launch. If the company can maintain enough steam to sell the title again, or for some a first time, on the new consoles, investors will be all over the already successful developer for future titles.

BlackBerry Founder to Purchase Company [Rumor]

posted Saturday Sep 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

BlackBerry Founder to Purchase Company [Rumor]

One of the stranger topics in our world has been the concept of Co-CEOs. The most famous example of this odd concept is Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry). These two were replaced by Thorston Heins in 2012, but that transition has not panned out well. BlackBerry took forever to launch its BlackBerry 10 OS, which was plagued by marketing disasters, and that was the best aspect of the company's performance over the past year.

Currently, the company is considering sales of either the entire company, or parts, depending on what bidders might be interested in. Those bidders might be less interested as this week it was announced that they will see a $1 billion loss, which I assumed they spent on Grand Theft Auto V. With all of that said, there is one individual who might be interested in making a bid: former Co-CEO and founder Mike Lazaridis.

Reports suggest that Lazaridis has actually been in talks with two investment firms: Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group. If he gets his way, he might be able to pull a Dell and buy his company back. The important question here is, can the founder's return help the company?

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he revived the company from bankruptcy to a valuable corporation, but Jobs was fired by someone who wanted to take the company in a different direction. Lazaridis' departure was a direct response to the company's performance.

His return to the helm of the company could return the company to its glory days of the early 2000s, or it could continue down the path we have been seeing. Of course all of this is currently speculation, but BlackBerry definitely needs a new direction, and possibly their old direction of appealing to enterprise and not consumers under their former leader might be just what they need. It certainly couldn't hurt, right?

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