Tag: Xbox

Machinima in hot water for Xbox campaign

xbox-one-featured-imageThe outfit which helped market Microsoft’s Xbox One, is in trouble with the regulator for paying up to US$30,000 for video endorsements.

The FTC is looking into Machinima’s antics as part of an alleged deceptive advertising investigation.

Machinima paid two Xbox One endorsers a total of US$45,000 for producing YouTube videos. It also promised to pay a larger group of so-called online influencers $1 for every 1,000 page views, up to $25,000, the FTC said.

The company did not ask the influencers to disclose the payments, the agency said.

The failure to disclose payments for what the FTC called “seemingly objective opinions” violated the FTC Act. The agency’s endorsement guides, updated in 2009 to cover online endorsements, require disclosure of paid endorsements.

In a proposed settlement with the FTC Machinima is prohibited from engaging in similar marketing campaigns and would be required to clearly disclose paid endorsements.

Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said that when people see a product touted online, they have a right to know whether they are looking at an authentic opinion or a paid marketing pitch.

Machinima insists that it does not do that sort of thing now. The FTC’s complaint stems from company activity in 2013, before a change in management in March 2014.

“Machinima is actively and deeply committed to ensuring transparency with all of its social influencer campaigns. We hope and expect that the agreement we have reached today will set standards and best practices for the entire industry to follow to ensure the best consumer experience possible.”

Machinima and its online influencers were part of an Xbox One marketing campaign, managed by Starcom MediaVest Group, the ad agency hired by Xbox maker Microsoft, the FTC said in a press release. Machinima guaranteed Starcom that the influencer videos would be viewed more than 19 million times.

A small group of influencers were given access to pre-release versions of the console before its launch in late 2013, the agency said. Two paid endorsers, one receiving $15,000 and the second receiving $30,000, produced YouTube videos that garnered nearly 1 million page views combined.

The FTC has closed its investigation into Microsoft and Starcom, it said. While both companies shared responsibility for the failure to disclose endorsements, the commission’s staff considered the payments to be “isolated incidents” that happened in spite of, not in the absence of, policies designed to prevent them, the agency said.

Both companies also moved quickly to end the Machinima payments, the FTC said.

Microsoft Xbox SDK leaked by open sourcers

rms-meets-open-sauce-detail (1)Software giant Microsoft has had the embarrassment of having its Xbox One SDK leaked to the great unwashed by an open sauce group calling itself H4LT.

H4LT insists that it is not a hacker group, but is distributing the SDK to improve the software.

“Progress is achieved faster than alone. Something kept between us will not achieve anything. Share it with the community equals creativity and research. Shared is how it should be. The SDK will basically allow the community to reverse and open doors towards homebrew applications being present on the Xbox One,” the group announced to Hot Hardware .

The SDK for any given product is available behind some degree of registration and does not necessarily cost users. So getting your paws on a copy was not a matter of sneaking it out of a heavily guarded back vaults using minis.

The SDK includes Microsoft’s Pix which shows that the Xbox One’s has an optional seventh core for game programming. There are also multiple Xbox Kinect tools, including the Kinect Studio and the Kinect Visual Gesture Builder.

Kinect also has an app for testing and creating applications that listen for speech.

The group has also claimed that once the SDK is out, people who have knowledge or has in the past reversed files related to the Windows 8 operating system should definitely have a go at reversing some files in there.

The Xbox One is practically a stripped Windows 8 device and has introduced a new package format that hasn’t had much attention. This format is responsible for updating the console and storing applications Games are under the category of ‘Applications’ on the Xbox One and is a modification of Virtual Hard Disks.

Sony gets hacked again

wargames-hackerReports said that Sony has come under a fresh cyber attack following the break in which crippled Sony Pictures two weeks ago.

The Financial Times reported that the PlayStation store was downed earlier today for a couple of hours.

A gang that dubs itself the Lizard Squad has claimed that it is responsible for the hack – and the attack may be nothing to do with the Sony Pictures incident – blamed by some on North Korean hackers.

The Lizard Squad made a similar attack on Microsoft’s Xbox Live service last week, according to the FT.

North Korea said yesterday that it wasn’t responsible for the attack on Sony Pictures, as we reported elsewhere today.

Sony is so far unable to say whether the latest hack attack has resulted in personal or corporate information being stolen.

Assassins bemoan poor console chip performance

assassins-creedAssassin’s Creed Unity senior producer Vincent Pontbriand has waded into AMD’s console performance saying that his new game’s 900p frame rate and 30 fps target on consoles is a result of weak CPU performance.

He said that while the GPUs on the machines are really powerful and the graphics look good, the game was technically CPU-bound and the CPU has to process the AI, the number of NPCs we have on screen. All these systems running in parallel.

Speaking to Hot Hardware, Pontbriand  said game designers were quickly bottlenecked and it was a bit frustrating.

“We thought that this was going to be a tenfold improvement over everything AI-wise, and we realised it was going to be pretty hard. It’s not the number of polygons that affect the framerate. We could be running at 100fps if it was just graphics, but because of AI, we’re still limited to 30 frames per second,” he said.

The comments are being seen as damning AMD’s APU. The Jaguar CPU inside both the Sony PS4 and Xbox One has a relatively low clock speed and, while both consoles may offer eight threads on paper, but it appears that games can’t access them.

Pontbriand said that one thread is reserved for the OS and several more cores will be used for processing the 3D pipeline. Between the two, Ubisoft may have only had 4-5 cores for AI and other calculations. This means that the performance is about the same as the last generation of Xbox 360 and PS3 CPUs.  In fact these were clocked much faster than the 1.6 / 1.73GHz frequencies of their replacements.

To be fair it is hardly AMD’s fault. Microsoft or Sony could’ve specced out a variant of the core clocked at 2-2.4GHz and boosted total CPU throughput, but they didn’t. The programmable nature of the GCN architecture inside the Xbone and PS4 is meant to compensate for the relatively lightweight core, but AI calculations may simply be beyond this.  GPU calculations tend to be high latency, and AI typically requires fast response times.

Microsoft about to buy Minecraft outfit

showposter_1354981054Software giant Microsoft is close to inking a deal to buy Mojang the Swedish company behind the  “Minecraft” video game.

It is believed that Microsoft will have to write a $2 billion cheque for the company and everything could be announced as early as this week.

“Minecraft” is a game where players build structures with blocks to protect against nocturnal monsters which is a little like what Microsoft has been doing, without much success, in the mobile market.

The deal will add to Microsoft’s Xbox video game business, at a time when the competition in the video game console market is heating up.

Acquiring Minecraft gives Vole control of an online world that has become a blockbuster despite breaking a lot of the rules. Minecraft’s blocky graphics are crude it also is sold the old-fashioned way — by charging people to buy a copy.

The price varies depending on what kind of device people use to play the game, ranging from $7 on mobile phones to $27 for computer versions. A version of Minecraft for Microsoft’s Xbox, which has been a top seller for the console, costs $20.

The business is already lucrative. Mojang’s revenue was about $360 million last year, up 38 percent from the year before.

Mojang was co-founded by Markus Persson, who has said in the past that he did not want to sell the company or take money from outside investors.

Redmond has shipped five million Xbox One units to retailers worldwide since the launch. In the same month Sony   sold more than 7 million PlayStation 4 units and was struggling to keep up with consumer demand, so it must be hoping that Minecraft will drive more traffic to its console.


Sony bemused at PS4 success

PS4Even the marketing people at Sony can’t work out why its PS4 is selling so well.

Sony is cleaning Microsoft’s clock in the console wars despite the fact that the two products are pretty much the same spec with the same price.

It has sold more than 10 million PS4 consoles have been sold in the nine months since launch. It’s a bigger number than anyone anticipated, and even  the president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida, doesn’t know why.

He was a bit nervous because he did not completely understand what’s happening. Sony has had marketing people look into this early success, and have found that a lot of PS4 owners did not own a PS3, or any last-gen console at all.

He said that normally when you see a great sales number, instinct tells us we should be concerned about future sales. If Sony sold this number of units at this stage in the game there would be no more consumers it can sell to in the future.

It seems that is not the case and a lot of the PS4s are being flogged to those who have never owned one of Sony’s consoles in the past.

It does not answer the question why, but according to our nephew it is because the Xbox does not have as many good games as the PS4 yet.

AMD to cut reliance on PC chips

AMD, SunnyvaleAMD might be on the verge of its biggest strategic shift in ages, as it starts to embrace ARM processors and more frugal chips. The company hopes to make as much as half of its money from console chips and ultra-low power processors by 2016. That is on top of ARM-based server chips which are already in the works.

At the moment, AMD generates the vast majority of its revenue from x86 processors and GPUs, but this year it is expected to ship millions of custom APUs for gaming consoles. On Tuesday the company launched a range of embedded x86 chips based on the new Jaguar core, but it also hinted at upcoming embedded chips based on ARM designs.

AMD already made it clear that it intends to use upcoming 64-bit ARM cores in its server parts, but the decision to design embedded APUs with ARM cores could have far reaching implications. In technical terms, these chips will have a lot more in common with consumer application processors than server chips. They are also expected to feature the latest generation Radeon graphics. In other words, AMD will develop ARM based SoCs, but it is still unclear whether it will target the consumer market.

Several years ago AMD sold its Imageon mobile graphics division to Qualcomm, and Qualcomm put it to good use, churning out millions of mobile SoCs with Adreno graphics, courtesy of AMD IP. However, AMD insists that it could catch up with relative ease.

Sasa Marinkovic, AMD’s Technology Marketing Lead, told Forbes that chip architecture at the time of the Imageon sale was full of bottlenecks and it has moved along since then.

“We sold some graphics IP, but we didn’t forget how to build it,” he said.

AMD already has some x86 designs capable of hitting sub-5W thermal envelopes required by tablet manufacturers, such as the 4.5W Temash SoC. However, ARM based chips could offer even better power efficiency and end up with sub-3W TDPs.

On the console front things are looking even better. AMD expects sales of custom APUs for the Playstation 4 and next-gen Xbox to account for 20 percent of its revenue by the end of the year. Similar chips based on the Jaguar core are coming to the consumer market as well.

Microsoft shakes up UK Channel management

msMicrosoft has confirmed that it has made changes to its UK channel senior management team.

The company released a statement late yesterday afternoon following rumours of the shake up, confirming that Clare Barclay, had been promoted from her current position as Senior Director of SMB to General Manager of SMS&P Small, Medium Solutions and Partner Group).

Barclay, who in February told ChannelEye that Microsoft’s resellers where embracing the cloud, replaces Barry Ridgway who has accepted a new role as the SMSG (Sales, Marketing, Services Group) Vice-President for Microsoft in Latin America.

Clare joined Microsoft in 1998 as a Marketing Manager in SMS&P, having come directly from the Channel. She then progressed to roles within Partner Sales, prior to broadening her career in Services and EMEA.

She said in a statement she was “thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead the SMS&P business and work more closely with Partners and Customers”.

However, it’s not good news for all Microsoft’s employees. Yesterday one of the company’s creative directors at Xbox resigned following a Twitter mishap

Adam Orth, who had worked at the company since February last year, was forced to voluntarily resign after Game Informer shared a rumour that the next Xbox would require an active internet connection at all times, last week.

Orth then followed up the article making some very open comments on the matter on Twitter.

His comments seemed to have upset head honchos at the company, which, according to Game Informer, read him his rights before forcing him out.