The UpStream

Microsoft and Lionhead Make New Fable Free to Play on Xbox One and PC

posted Saturday Feb 28, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft and Lionhead Make New <i>Fable</i> Free to Play on Xbox One and PC

The term "free to play" has some pretty negative connotations. Casual and mobile games have certainly made the concept painful and expensive. Often, "free to play" games require large sums of money to actually play them, despite their name. That is why the decision to make new Fable free to play on Xbox One and PC initially sounds devastating to fans of the series. They have promised 3 tenants for the game.

The good news is, this is not the same kind of free to play. In fact, you will have free access to the entire game, not just small sections of the game, with paid locks on others. This is their first promise to players. Users will be able to earn silver in the game, giving the ability to purchase goods inside of the game. There will, of course, be paid items in the game, but nothing of consequence. These paid items will include things like cosmetic items, etc.

In addition to an open game, the company promises that the game will also be fair. This means that anything that is required to continue playing the game will be available in-game. This means that no portion of the game will require a purchase to advance, distancing itself from the normal "free to play" fare.

Finally, the company promises to be generous in the game. Mostly, the goal here is to make a game and a scenario that encourages a happy player community. The success of a game like this revolves entirely around the happiness of its players. Unfortunately, that is not always a goal of the development team for a game; if it was, gaming would be a significantly more entertaining place.

GameStop Moving in to RadioShack Locations

posted Saturday Feb 28, 2015 by Scott Ertz

GameStop Moving in to RadioShack Locations

By now, everyone knows that RadioShack filed bankruptcy a few weeks ago. As part of the bankruptcy, the company is closing bunch of stores and selling others to Sprint. Some of the stores that are being abandoned will transition to new owners, including GameStop.

One of GameStop's lesser-known brands, Spring Mobile, will be moving in to 163 of RadioShack's dark stores. Those stores do not sell videogames, as you might expect, but instead are AT&T authorized dealers. This 1,500 employee brand will be expanding from around 300 stores to more than 450 with this single transaction, making it a huge expansion for the company.

What is interesting about this transition is in business concept. These stores, which are currently under RadioShack's control, have for the past 10 years sold AT&T phones (and Cingular before them), along with Sprint and Verizon or T-Mobile (depending on the year). Under those circumstances, RadioShack was unable to maintain the cost of the stores, even with additional revenue options available.

This means that GameStop is hoping that, while limiting the product line available in the stores, they will be able to sell more of that product category than their previous tenants. The concept of limiting scope can be successful for retail, as other revenue options may actually be driving profits down. Over the past few years, however, RadioShack's revenue and profits came more and more from wireless sales. Here in the end, some stores reported 40% of their revenue from wireless, meaning that this isn't that big of a change in business model.

Will GameStop be able to make a successful move into stores that couldn't succeed on increasingly wireless sales with only wireless sales? What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.

YouTube Kids App Launches Tomorrow, Curates Child-Centric Content

posted Sunday Feb 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

YouTube Kids App Launches Tomorrow, Curates Child-Centric Content

Beginning tomorrow, YouTube will be making a YouTube app for kids, in order to keep them away from the random clips of twerking, drug experimentation and other content not suitable for children. Dubbed YouTube kids, the app will be available for Android devices at first, with more devices coming in the near future.

The app will revolve around content produced and targeted specifically for children. Shows from DreamWorks TV, Jim Henson TV, Mother Goose Club, Talking Tom and Friends, and Geographic Kids will all be available for their viewing pleasure. Even further, the app will feature a control set for parents to use, to set things like viewing time limits, toggling the search option and more.

With as questionable as YouTube's "Recommended Videos" section is after you select a video, it's understandable that parents were concerned as to what might auto-play after their selection. It's even more troubling when certain videos are purposefully mistagged in order to show up in other categories. You could imagine what problems can arise from that.

ConnectSafely's co-director Larry Magid was excited for the app to make its way onto devices. ConnectSafely is a nonprofit that is partially funded by Google, with the purpose of educating people about the basics of the Internet and best safety, security and privacy matters.

This is good for kids and parents. YouTube has done a good job providing curated content that's suitable for kids and easy for kids and parents to discover. There is no substitute for engaged parenting, but it never hurts to have a little help. As with any media, parents need to be sure their kids are getting a balanced diet, so it's good that Google included a timer to help limit how long a child can use the app.

The number of children who use YouTube as a media consumption platform has blown up in the last year, so it's only appropriate that they receive an app that filters out the garbage that sometimes (almost always) takes over the Internet.

T-Mobile Not Concerned with FCC Net Neutrality Proposal

posted Sunday Feb 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

T-Mobile Not Concerned with FCC Net Neutrality Proposal

T-Mobile receives a lot of flack from us, and rightfully so given their track record of line-crossings and deceptions. Based on that, it's only right to point out when the company is doing something right, so here we are.

Many big telecom companies have outright lied about how net neutrality laws would impact their businesses, even claiming huge increases in costs that will be passed down to customers. Some have even said they would have to cutback on their offerings and services. Sprint has already gone on record to say that the FCC's reclassification would not hurt Sprint as a company. Now, T-Mobile is mirroring that same sentiment.

T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said in an interview,

There is nothing in there that gives us deep concern about our ability to continue executing our strategy.

This was after T-Mobile's CEO John Legere said that reclassifying would be the wrong approach. However, his comments on Twitter were before the FCC's plan was released, and upon reading it, changed his tune and said that T-Mobile would not be hindered by the policy.

It's good to see two of the wireless carriers, albeit the smaller two, step up to add both levity and clarity to the whole net neutrality situation from a corporate perspective. The FCC's proposal should pass the Commission's vote this month, and having corporations on its side can only help the cause.

Lenovo Computers Shipped with Adware Superfish Pre-Installed

posted Sunday Feb 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Lenovo Computers Shipped with Adware Superfish Pre-Installed

The price of Windows laptops have come down for many reason. With the recent launch of Windows 8.1 with Bing, manufacturers no longer have to pay a royalty to Microsoft if they meet certain hardware requirements. Combine that with the ever-increasing revenue streams for manufacturers to place a bunch of garbage software and offers on new PCs, and the actual machine becomes inexpensive to users. Well, those exact pieces of software has enraged Lenovo customers and concerned security experts.

Superfish, a piece of software that comes pre-loaded on almost every Lenovo laptop from September 2014 up through January 2015 not including Thinkpads, is essentially adware that displays "relevant shopping advertisements" to consumers, even when they're on secure websites. It basically can be considered a hijacker of sorts, routing traffic through a certificate that allowed Superfish to see your traffic, and then display the ads. On Internet Explorer and Chrome, Superfish would even inject third-party ads into Google search results, without the end-user's permission to do so. As you could imagine, all of this is a potential problem and a huge security risk, especially if a firm leaks a finds and publishes a password that could let you unlock the certificate and bypass any encryption on your computer. And that's exactly what happened on the heels of Lenovo's forums filled with customer complaints. The password, by the way, was contained in the program's active memory and was no challenge to find and retrieve.

Obviously Lenovo was very concerned upon discovery of this news and took immediate action, right? Not exactly. The company first published a statement saying that they thought users would love to have this installed on their machines, and that it was "to help customers potentially discover interesting products while shopping." A noble idea in theory, yet clearly terribly implemented. After the company's initial response, Lenovo then posted a follow-up statement.

Superfish was previously included on some consumer notebook products shipped in a short window between September and December to help customers potentially discover interesting products while shopping. However, user feedback was not positive, and we responded quickly and decisively. Superfish has completely disabled server side interactions (since January) on all Lenovo products so that the product is no longer active. This disables Superfish for all products in market. Lenovo stopped preloading the software in January. We will not preload this software in the future.

Lenovo has also issued a removal tool to fully get rid of the software, as uninstalling won't completely remove it. Those unsure if the removal tool actually works can run a test created by researcher Filippo Valsorda. Lenovo is also working with Microsoft and McAfee, and products by those companies will automatically detect and remove the software in most cases.

Microsoft to Launch SDK Preview for Xbox One in May

posted Sunday Feb 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft to Launch SDK Preview for Xbox One in May

At Microsoft's Windows 10 event, there was quite a bit of conversation around the Xbox One and its capabilities as it relates to the new operating system. We knew with universal apps, we'd see a lot of interesting ways the Xbox One could be used, but we didn't have much detail on when we'd see the platform open up for this ability. This week, however, that changed as Microsoft announced new plans for an SDK preview for the Xbox One.

While we'll know a lot more in April at Microsoft's Build conference, the company said we will see an SDK preview launching in May. With that also comes the ability for current retail Xbox Ones to be converted into developer kits. Previously, you had to shell out some extra cash and be part of a special program to have access to the Xbox One dev kit. Now, everyone will be able to use their retail Xbox One, once converted, to test and publish apps. Even better, Microsoft also said that we'll finally have the ability to run third-party music apps in the background. This is huge news for any serious gamer, as it was a nuisance to have to snap your favorite music app to play alongside your game.

One question that remains unclear is Kinect usage with Xbox One apps. Not too long ago, Microsoft finally opened up the Kinect to developers to play with, but some devs have said that the entire feature set wasn't there. Others have said they were not impressed with the abilities made available to them. As of right now, we don't know if Microsoft will allow the Kinect to be used with universal apps, but if Cortana being embedded in every piece of Microsoft hardware has any indication of the support for voice controls, I'd imagine we'll see the Kinect be used as much as possible moving forward. I personally can't use the Xbox One without it.

In November, we'll start to see the switch to universal apps on the Xbox One. Developers can then submit apps to the platform using the new SDK from their converted retail units. Along with the November transition, we'll have Windows 10 moving to the Xbox One later on this year, with more information on that probably divulged at Build or E3.

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