The UpStream

Xbox 360 Sales Decline, Still Leader

posted Saturday May 18, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Xbox 360 Sales Decline, Still Leader

Even though Nintendo's WiiU console is just starting its life and Microsoft's Xbox 360 is ending its own, Microsoft held its top spot last month. The company has held the spot for 28 consecutive months and even incredibly slumping sales can't stop the success train.

As of this moment we are only 3 days away from the Next Xbox reveal event and this, of course, has led to a major slowdown in Xbox 360 sales. In fact, the console sold only 130,000 units, which is a major downturn from 302,000 (February) and 261,000 (March) over the previous 2 months. Even with more than a 50% drop in sales, the console couldn't be touched in numbers.

The decline, of course, comes as no surprise. Since Sony's PlayStation 4 "reveal" event, all eyes have been on Microsoft. The event, which didn't show off any hardware, caused Larry Hyrb, Xbox Live's Major Nelson and, more importantly, Microsoft's Director of Programming for Xbox, to say "Announce a console without actually showing a console? That's one approach." Now, this has led everyone to believe we will see actual hardware from the software giant on Tuesday.

With hardware complete, we can almost certainly expect to see the Next Xbox console relatively soon. The reveal of the Xbox 360 S at E3 a few years ago ended in press leaving with the new device and product hitting store shelves almost immediately. I don't expect to see the same with the Next Xbox, but I do expect a quick turnaround. With all of that said, it is massively impressive that the 360 is still the top dog.

Make sure to check out The UpStream on Tuesday for a live blog of the reveal event as well as staff reactions.

EA Acquires Rights from Disney to Publish Star Wars Games

posted Tuesday May 14, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

EA Acquires Rights from Disney to Publish <i>Star Wars</i> Games

After Disney announced it was shutting down LucasArts following itsacquisition of the brand late last year, the entire gaming community wondered what would happen to the popular franchises and titles that came out of that studio. Disney went on record to say they were looking to set up licensing deals as soon as possible. Well, this may be bad news to some, but Electronic Arts has now brokered a deal with Disney to produce and distribute upcoming Star Wars titles. Disney and EA have put together a "new multi-year exclusive licensing agreement to develop and publish globally new games based on Star Wars characters and storylines."

Here's the info from the blog post by Frank Gibeau,

Today, The Walt Disney Company has announced that they have chosen EA to create new Star Wars experiences for gamers worldwide.

The magic of Star Wars is interwoven into the worlds, characters, planets and amazing battles. It is a universe that lends itself perfectly to gaming. Our agreement unlocks a whole new future of Star Wars games that will span consoles, PCs, tablets, mobile and more.

While we don't have any details to share today on specific titles, our development teams are already brimming with design ideas. The EA Studios that will develop these games are some of the most innovative and popular creative teams in the world, and include DICE and Visceral, in addition to the BioWare team, which is already developing for the Star Wars franchise. These imaginative teams will make games that may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories. Powering it all will be the Frostbite 3 development engine - guaranteeing incredible graphic fidelity, environments and characters.

In the official announcement, EA said that Disney will keep "certain rights to develop new titles within the mobile, social, tablet and online game categories" but EA will have the rights to put out games for all current platforms. Disney's co-president (I think the one that handles the "big picture" stuff) John Pleasants said,

This agreement demonstrates our commitment to creating quality game experiences that drive the popularity of the Star Wars franchise for years to come. Collaborating with one of the world's premier game developers will allow us to bring an amazing portfolio of new Star Wars titles to our fans around the world.

This is definitely an intriguing move on EA's part, as recently they've changed CEOs, while axing an entire gaming studio in itself, Playfish. At least we know that the DICE and Visceral teams are both very talented and are outside the doom that is their EA Sports developers. I just hope that each Star Wars character won't cost 300 Microsoft Points as DLC.

Aereo Files Complaint Against CBS for Whining About Court Upholding Ruling

posted Monday May 13, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Aereo Files Complaint Against CBS for Whining About Court Upholding Ruling

Things with Aereo are now heating up, as the company has been in headlines for the past few months. Most recently the NY Appeals Court upheld a ruling in favor of Aereo, which allows the over-the-air streaming service to remain in business, at least for now. This sparked so much outrage from the broadcasters that CBS threatened to become a cable station if Aereo doesn't shut down its operations. They also decided to trash Aereo in the process, calling the service "illegal" and other things that the court already found to be fair to date. Because of all of this, Aereo has decided to turn the tables on the broadcasters and aim their sights directly on CBS.

Obviously becoming annoyed from all of the lawsuits and threats, Aereo has filed a complaint, which states that CBS holding its OTA broadcast over Aereo and the rest of the country, along with filing a suit in each area which Aereo operates in, is going one step too far. To combat this, Aereo is also launching in Boston this week, and another 20 markets by the end of the summer. In the complaint, it says,

Such threatened follow-on suits would be an attempt to avoid or evade the District Court's rulings... by seeking "do-overs" in other courts. It is not proper for parties to attempt to re-litigate claims that are pending, let alone already decided... It would be highly inefficient and a waste of judicial resources.

Basically, Aereo is saying that CBS is whining about something that has already been decided and the fact that they are threatening to go to court yet again will only frustrate the courts, who will already agree with what has been ruled. CBS Communications Coordinator, Dana McClintock, even tweeted that CBS "will sue, and stealing our signal will be found to be illegal in Boston, just as it will be everywhere else." Aereo continues to state in the complaint that any further issues broadcasters would come up with about their streaming service should be brought to the attention of the New York federal court, where the hearings have been taking place. Allowing lawsuits to happen in each of their 22 markets would only give in to the "do-over" mentality of the broadcasters.

What it all boils down to is broadcasters fighting over the retransmission fees they feel they are owed. However, I would argue that if I was able to construct a big enough antenna to get New York over-the-air signals here in Tampa, I would do it without thinking twice. Luckily for me, Aereo exists and I'm able to watch OTA broadcasts without the need for that space needle. At any rate, the cable companies are definitely sweating now and we'll be sure to keep you in the loop as to what happens next, especially when Aereo opens up in Boston and beyond.

Microsoft Looks to Gain More Marketshare with Intro of Lumia 521

posted Sunday May 5, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Looks to Gain More Marketshare with Intro of Lumia 521

Microsoft's innovative Windows Phone 8 has been in the market for a while now, and while results haven't been exponentially overwhelming, there has been steady growth in the market share category. So far, flagship devices from Nokia, as well as great smartphones from HTC and Samsung have proven well worth it for those who have spent the $200+ on the handset, however, Microsoft is looking to further take some share from Apple by getting their operating system into as many hands as possible. How? By offering a less expensive option.

Coming in at under $150 and being available at Wal-Mart, the Nokia Lumia 521 will have a ton of exposure at a retail establishment that doesn't necessarily tout "high-end." Head of Windows Phone, Terry Myerson, said,

There is an opportunity for us to offer a very high quality device in the mainstream. That's where we've made progress in the last couple of months and it's a strategy we'll continue to explore in the United States.

The Home Shopping Network has already launched the Lumia 521 and it sold out in hours, proving the phone is hitting the exact demographic Microsoft has set it out for. On specs, it's got real 4G, a 4" touch screen, 5MP camera and HD resolution. Running on T-Mobile, the key reason it is being highlighted is because it won't require a long-term contract for you to acquire one at the sub-$150 pricepoint. All you'll need is a $30 unlimited data and text plan - just keep an eye on how much 4G data you're using, as it will be heavily throttled.

In the end though, Microsoft is sitting at 3.2 percent marketshare, with Apple having 39 percent and Android with 52 percent. Given that sales of Nokia WinPho 8 handsets are up 27 percent quarter-to-quarter, moving 5.6 million of the devices total, one could surely see sales rising even more after the rollout of the 521 into Wal-Mart. As a side note, WinPho has 20 percent market share overseas and has about 7 percent in the UK.

On the move to go with T-Mobile for this smartphone instead of the other big companies, who haven't chosen to go with a non-subsidized option, Myerson said,

It (subsidization) is a compelling business model for them. If you are Samsung, Apple, AT&T or Verizon, it's where everything's working, you are growing share, you are growing profits. If you are an incumbent with a successful business model, you're not going to be jumping to throw it out.

Are you in the market for a new phone and are with T-Mobile? Are you looking at the Lumia 521? Tell us that, plus all of your thoughts on Microsoft getting into the lower-end of the smartphone market in the comments below.

Nintendo Steps Up and Offers Refurbished Devices Directly From Their Site

posted Sunday May 5, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Nintendo Steps Up and Offers Refurbished Devices Directly From Their Site

Here's something GameStop isn't going to appreciate, and no, it isn't another exec robbing them of millions. Instead, another company has decided that it has had enough of GameStop taking billions of dollars from console manufacturers and game development studios. Nintendo has rolled out a new way to get a hold of refurbished hardware and you won't have to go to the used games store to do it. Now you can buy Nintendo-certified refurbished 3DS and DSi XL devices directly from Nintendo via their new "Authentic Nintendo Refurbished Products" website and program.

On the site, Nintendo talks about ensuring you get a great device when you buy refurbished, instead of the crapshoot that can sometimes be the GameStop second-hand products.

Authentic Nintendo Refurbished Products are the only refurbished products in the market that have been cleaned, tested, and inspected to meet Nintendo's high standards. They come with a one year warranty - the same warranty we offer on our new products. These products are only available directly from Nintendo. Authentic Nintendo Refurbished Products are guaranteed to be fully functional, but may have minor cosmetic blemishes.

As we've been saying for years, GameStop has been responsible for a good portion of the argued downfall of the gaming industry. With Nintendo stepping in and selling used products directly from their site, it might cause a little bit of tension and loss and sleep within the exec circle of GameStop. Even better, Nintendo's units come with a one year manufacturer warranty and are around $30 cheaper than what you'd find at that other store.

So, could this slowly be the decline of GameStop after years of forcing developers to implement things like online passes? Will you buy directly from Nintendo instead? Let us know in the comments below.

Qi Charging Comes to Ikea - Kind Of

posted Saturday May 4, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Qi Charging Comes to Ikea - Kind Of

Since we first brought you information about the Qi wireless charging standard, the hope of a wireless world has been in the back of my mind. While we saw creative uses like a fully Qi countertop that can run a skillet anywhere, instead of needing a dedicated cooktop, what we have not seen is any of these cool uses come to market.

We have, luckily, seen a number of devices implement the technology, such as the Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X, but only the Verizon version. The closest we have gotten to accessories, however, is the Palm Touchstone-style charging pads - no counters, desks or nightstands. That is, until now.

Thanks to a DIY project found on YouTube, you can turn an inexpensive Ikea nightstand, or any piece of furniture you're willing to cut into, into a charging surface with just a Nokia charging pad and a little time. A pair of videos explains both how to create the modification, as well as discusses any health-related inquiries, such as the effects of having an inductive charger so close to your head (for the record, there is nothing unsafe about it).

If you are the kind of person who enjoys projects and wants to give this great one a shot, hit the break and check out the videos. Make sure to let us know how your project has gone. I'll update on my process as well, as I intend to give it a shot.

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